Welcome to the Read Rinaldo Blog. Over the next eight weeks this site will analyze eight different people involved in the Mountain Meadows Massacre of 1857.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS or Mormon) began in rural New York, moved to Kirtland, Ohio, then to Nauvoo, Illinois before stopping in Utah Territory. The LDS experienced a great deal of persecution at each location before settling in the distant and unpopulated Utah Territory. The persecution in Illinois included gunfights between locals and the Mormon Militia, eventually named Avenging Angels or Danites. The Mormons stockpiled weapons for these encounters. Having to guess at the cause of these fights from what I know about humans, I suspect the locals and the Mormons share fault for reaching this level of violence. Prophet Joseph Smith, LDS originator and leader, died when a mob of gentiles lynched him (Mormons define gentiles as non-Mormons). Brigham Young filled the void atop the LDS hierarchy and moved the Church to Utah.
During Brigham's leadership, approximately 150 Arkansans were slaughtered during a four day siege of their encampment in 1857. Eerily, though the siege lasted from September 7th to September 11th, nearly all of the emigrants died on September 11th. This ranked as the most deadly killing of Americans by Americans outside of the Civil War until the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. Local Mormons allegedly committed this atrocity. In 1999 two men digging with a backhoe unearthed bones at Mountain Meadows. Forensic scientists flocked to the area to quickly study the remains. Within days Governor Mike Leavitt ordered the bones reburied. Interestingly, Mike Leavitt is allegedly a direct descendant of one of the killers at Mountain Meadows in 1857. Mormons consider lineage of vital importance, and one's ancestry is something a faithful Mormon would definitely know. Please note that despite Mormons blaming local Paiute Indians for the killings, the scientists definitively concluded that every death they could account for happened with bullets, something the Paiute tribes in the area did not possess. Science, the limited federal investigation in the years following the massacre, and the surviving historical record irrefutably declares that Mormons killed these travelers. In 2007 the LDS officially expressed regret that the local Mormons participated in the massacre, but failed to admit sanctioning these murders.
I, Joseph Rinaldo, personally conclude that the Mormons living in the Mountain Meadows region of Utah in 1857 slaughtered approximately 150 people in a wagon train and operated under Brigham Young's orders.
Many wagon trains passed through this area, and the locals always welcomed them, as will be explained below. A few of the members slaughtered in the Fancher-Baker wagon train had travelled through Utah a few years previous and found the locals warm and welcoming. No account from 1857 to today has ever accused the wagon train of attacking the local whites or Paiutes. Therefore, the siege had to be unprovoked. Why would Mormons surround a wagon train for FOUR days killing every man, woman, and child over the age of seven?
Wagon trains provided goods that people could not make for themselves on the frontier; for example, guns, ammunition, fry pans, etc. The people living along the wagon paths traded perishable goods such as flour for the aforementioned items. Killing everyone in the Fancher-Baker wagon train gave the killers everything the emigrants owned. A short-term success, as once word got out, future wagon trains used other routes, depriving the Mormon settlers on this Utah Territory path of any future chance to trade for metal products: a devastating, nearly suicidal, choice from a frontiersman perspective. Conversely, Brigham usually gained nothing from wagon trains. However, for many years after the massacre, Brigham and his 24 wives regularly rode in the fine wagons previously belonging to the Fancher and Baker families. His wives often wore the best dresses of the dead women, assuming the clothes had no blood stains. Numerous eyewitnesses made this assertion and others about Mormon women wearing these garments, most notably, children who survived the massacre and saw their mothers' dresses.
Brigham Young believed these wagon trains posed a threat to his Mormon way of life. To him gentiles all fell into the category of enemy like those that murdered his Prophet, Joseph Smith. Several apostate Mormons later admitted that the Arkansans were intentionally directed to Mountain Meadows where the hills surrounding the spring-fed meadow provided the perfect spot for an ambush. Only one man in Utah Territory in 1857 commanded enough power to orchestrate this chain of events, and that was Brigham Young.
The LDS often cites a letter from Brigham to the southern Utah Territory settlers dated September 10, 1857 as proof that he did not instruct the Mormons to kill the emigrants. Why write a letter telling people not to bother a wagon train when the wagon train's arrival is a welcome event? Such a command is preposterous in the extreme. The locals wanted wagon trains passing by, and many witnesses who fled Utah after the massacre swore this letter was written well after the event, and the settlers of southern Utah never saw it.
The one man executed (he would say sacrificed) for the murders claimed to be working at Brigham Young's command. More on John Doyle Lee in the next Read Rinaldo profile.