Commentary on the Background of the Trials of John D. Lee
John Doyle Lee surrounded by contemporaries at his 2nd trial
Commentary written by Verne Lee
JOHN D. LEE Second TRIAL
by Verne Lee
The indictment and subsequent trials of John D. Lee for participation in the Mountain Meadows massacre, evolved from elaborate schemes of a group of highly motivated men who had banded together to promote their political ambitions in the territory of Utah during the decades of 1860 and 1870. With close ties in Washington D.C., this relatively small coalition aimed at ascendancy over the Mormon community in Utah through control of political processes and economic resources, intending to transport themselves into the twentieth century in command of what was identified at the time, as one of the richest economic plums in the western United States.
The information presented here, may to some readers seem lengthy and at first glance irrelevant; but persevere, it is information necessary in unraveling a web of conspiracy, intrigue, fraud and deception in which the tragedy at Mountain Meadows was used, like the Mormon practice of polygamy and the alleged doctrine of blood atonement, and other seemingly unorthodox principles and practices by the Mormons, as a resource or tool in promoting the agenda of this ambitious cartel.
Ulysses S. Grant was inaugurated President of the United States three years following the end of the Civil war. His administration subsequently achieved some successes. The national debt was reduced and some war claims were settled against Great Britain, but it is generally recognized that political corruption spread to all levels of government during his term in office. In the south, arrant opportunists and Northern adventurers known as carpetbaggers dominated state governments. In Northern cities, political machines such as the Tweed Ring in New York made huge profits from graft on city contracts. Scandals eventually came to light at all levels of government. President Grant, it is conceded was honest but his appointees were often men of low standards.1
Grant's feeling toward Mormons in the Territory of Utah was exemplified by his attitude concerning the "Twin relics of barbarism"… with the states' rights issue settled in the south, he was satisfied that the first relic, slavery, was abolished. But its so-called twin, polygamy, he was led to believe was a national disgrace. The practice of polygamy among the Mormons continued in Utah during the war despite passage of federal anti-Mormon legislation in 1862 (Morrill Antibigamy Act). Lincoln, who was president at the time, had signed the law, but was so preoccupied with the southern rebellion that he lent no enforcement and told a Mormon church representative "You tell Brigham Young if he will leave me alone I will leave him alone”2. But now, it was felt by Grant, that the time had come to rid the national escutcheon of this odious desecration of religious freedom.
At the close of the Civil War (1865), the population of the Territory of Utah was about 85,000 souls. Of these, an estimated 15% or some 12,500 were non-Mormons, gentiles as they were designated3. Since the overwhelming Mormon majority controlled the territorial judicial machinery, it was unlikely that an all-Mormon Grand Jury, selected by Mormon territorial marshals and Mormon judges would indict those arrested for polygamy under the Morrill Act. Probate courts, presided over by Mormon judges had jurisdiction in both civil and criminal cases. By 1868, when Grant was inaugurated, not one person had been convicted under the existing legislation. No one had even been indicted. Nevertheless, polygamy eventually became the core issue of the struggle for political control of the territory.
Gentiles, occupying the minority position, relied heavily in their opposition, on Utah's territorial status. So long as Utah remained a territory, the federal government retained control of political reins through presidential and congressional power. Congress, if its members chose, could pass any federal law that seemed to suit their purposes, within bounds of constitutional limitations, or disallow selected territorial laws if they felt so inclined. The president held, by force of law, the right to appoint executive and judicial officers, i.e., the governor, federal judges, federal marshals and other minor officials, such as director of the office of the federal land registrar.
Few administrative appointees in Utah prior to the mid-1860's seemed to be amicable to the peculiar practices of the Mormons; most of them were personally opposed, in some degree or other, to the notorious Priesthood hierarchy and lifestyle of the membership of the Mormon Church. Some carried their opposing views and corollary actions to epic proportion in their interpretation and administration of the law.
Gentiles living in Utah at this time, who were opposed to the majority Mormon position, formed associations for purposes of more effectively presenting their views. One faction of this group became exceptionally proficient in advancing their aims by manipulating powers of the federal government through effective lobbying of congressional delegates. Over time, they were able to hone this expertise to a keen edge, but unfortunately their mode of operation was often characterized by fraud and deception. Their presence and influence within government circles nevertheless, was demonstrated in the territory through effective:
- placement of selected federal appointees to dominant positions in the territory
- introduction of coercive legislation in Congress
President Grant, in keeping with his ''Twin Relics" disposition, adopted an aggressive approach to the "Mormon problem" with his appointment of General J. Wilson Schaffer as Governor in 1869 and James B. McKean as chief justice. Both were personally acquainted with the president; both proved virulently anti-Mormon and both eventually compounded corruption in Utah characteristic of Grant's administration elsewhere in the country.
That same year, a group of Utah citizens, gentiles, joined together to organize the Liberal Party, meant as political opposition to the established Mormon majority. Their way of doing things though proved to be more than mere surface politics. They sought from the beginning to minimize and eventually crush the power of the Mormon priesthood that they believed formed what was referred to as a "ghost government," led by the so-called Mormon "Council of Fifty." The liberal opposition believed this underground form of Mormon government illegitimately dominated the lives of all citizens in Utah. Judge McKean and Governor Shaffer both became part of this movement4. Another was General Patrick Connor, former commander of military forces in the territory. He brought with him all the baggage of bitterness and hostility that had been developed during his tenure as military commander in Salt Lake several years earlier. During those years, chronic enmity had developed between himself and the Mormon Church leader Brigham Young; they became bitter foes, so that on his return to the territory as one of Governor Shaffer's appointees, he simply took up where he had left off. Other leaders of this dissident group, included several prominent non-Mormons most of whom were federal political appointees, and later included a few notable members of the church.5
They immediately took the offensive by seeking to overthrow Mormon dominance of the judicial system. Robert N. Baskin, a young lawyer at the time and soon to become a principal prosecutor in the first trial of John D. Lee was sent, shortly after their organization, to Washington to lobby for congressional legislation. His efforts spearheaded a decade of hostile attempts by this ambitious consortium, to achieve their political objectives.
General George R. Maxwell, who was to become the U.S. Marshall and prime mover in the arrest and incarceration of John D. Lee was another prominent member and the first of several liberal candidates who tried unsuccessfully to unseat Mormon delegates to Congress. At the time he ran for congressional office, he held the position of Registrar of the land office in Utah. He later received his appointment as U.S. Marshal through the influence of his friend, and fellow traveler in the cartel, Judge James B. McKeane. 6
By the end of 1869, this group had developed a well-defined nucleus of opposition against the Mormon majority, and was recognized as a militant anti-Mormon conspiracy. Their goal of complete control of the political agenda in the territory was made evident from the program they ultimately pursued. The combined soon came to be known as the "Utah ring".7 Their goal was to dismantle what they perceived as a Mormon dominated ecclesiastical power base and force Mormon citizens to abandon their allegiance to church leadership, affording legal means for the ring to control the fate of the territory as it achieved statehood.
They would do this through an attack on the moral rationale of some of the peculiar beliefs held by the Mormons. The prime target became the concept regarding the institution of marriage. Polygamy, which was practiced by Mormons at that time, was held in low esteem by almost everyone outside the territory of Utah, and so would seem to be a select vehicle through which their program could be cultivated. They would seek special congressional legislation to make the practice unlawful, arranging for punishment of the lawbreakers, as well as punishment for those who even advocated its practice.
Legislation resulting from these efforts would be a challenge to basic constitutional rights, that if enacted, would deprive the greater part of Utah's citizens of all entitlements, including the right to vote. Those who were left with voting privileges, the gentile minority, could then vote in whomever they chose in a new state government. From the first, this was Baskin's primary reason for presence in Washington.
When the scheme was recognized, some of the nation's leading newspapers, though they were not often sympathetic to the Mormon cause, carried scathing denunciations of the intent of those who were engaged in these unconstitutional purposes.
"This conspiracy began with the advent of the existing herd of federal mercenaries to Utah. It crystalized under the agitation of the Cullom bill which was drawn in Salt Lake. The object was to break down the political power of the people who had conquered Utah from a desert waste…this was necessary to enable these malignants to occupy, possess and control it. With the fall of Mormon power McKean, Woods & Co. were to bring Utah into the Union as a state, and become senators of the United States, and heroes in a land already suffering from a surfeit of such. The Cullom bill failed. Far-fetched edicts of the law, promulgated through stump speeches from the bench, likewise failed. The scepter not yet grasped, was departing. Something must be done. Criminal statutes must be invoked. Proofs of crimes other than that of polygamy must be secured. But before this is permitted, in pursuance of a deliberate plan, decisions must be promulgated whereby under a thin disguise, Mormons, on account of their religious beliefs and practices, must be excluded from juries which would be thus necessarily constituted of their deadliest enemies, men who would do the known wish, if they did not obey the actual behests of their desperate masters. And this is but a brief outline of a conspiracy which aims, at whatever cost, to destroy men and institutions in [the Utah Territory]”8.
Over the next few years (1869 to mid-1870's), a plethora of bills were introduced in congress to do just that. Although the bills were proposed by legislators from various eastern states, composition of most of the documents could be attributed to the pen of Mr. Baskin.
The most obtrusive of this string of legislation would have invalidated constitutional rights of Utah citizens. The Cullom Bill mentioned in the newspaper article above is exemplary. Though submitted by Representative Shelby M. Cullom of Illinois, it was recognized to be the work of lobbyist Baskin of Utah. The proposal was multi-faceted in its demands; it would have:
- Subjected the territory to greater federal control by enlarging the Governor's (J. Wilson Shaffer) appointive power to include rights historically left to the state or territory, including the appointment of all local judges, notaries, and sheriffs
- Denied territorial probate courts, that had been legally empowered by the Organic Act of the Territory of Utah in 1852, of all criminal jurisdiction and placed the selection of jury panels in the hands of federal appointees
- Prescribed fines and imprisonment for both polygamy (the act of marrying again while a wife is still living) and cohabitation (the act of living together with two or more women concurrently)
- Excluded believers in plural marriage from jury service in such trials; exempted such offenses from the statute of limitations and permitted wives to testify against husbands
- Barred polygamists from naturalization from voting and from holding public office
- Authorized the President of the United States to employ military force if and when necessary to implement the provisions of the law.9
The bill passed the House but the Senate refused to accept it.
When James B. McKean received appointment as chief justice of Utah and Judge of the third U.S. District Court, anti-Mormon sentiment escalated. He privately stated his feeling about the assignment to a close friend, Judge Louis Dent, brother-in-law of President Grant, in these words:
"Judge Dent, the mission which God has called upon me to perform in Utah, is as much above the duties of other courts and judges as the heavens are above the earth, and whenever or wherever I may find the local or federal laws obstructing or interfering therewith, by God's blessing I shall trample them under my feet.”10
Driven by these despotic opinions, when he reached Utah and assumed his position on the bench, he proceeded to apply the law with missionary zeal. The son of a minister of a leading Christian denomination, he held deep religious convictions and set about his business, seemingly sincere in his effort to strike a significant blow for the Christian cause. He began his trampling of local and federal laws by disallowing the territorial marshal to impanel juries, and illegally placed selection of such juries in the hands of the U.S. Marshal. Polygamy cases over which he subsequently presided were treated as though the Cullom Bill, which had been rejected by Congress, had actually been passed and was currently the law of the land.
Under these illegal circumstances there followed numerous convictions. Brigham Young and other prominent church leaders, charged with lascivious cohabitation, were indicted in 1871. John D. Lee was included in the same writ.11
McKean announced that, in the matter of the case against Brigham Young, while the indictment listed Young as defendant, it was, he matter-of-factly explained, a case of " … federal authority versus polygamic theocracy … a system is on trial in the person of Brigham Young."
Once however, the first such case reached the U.S. Supreme Court (Clinton vs. Englebrecht, April 15, 1872)12 it was immediately thrown out on the basis that the jury had been improperly impaneled, and all such cases, 130 of them were cancelled.13
With failure of the Cullom Bill, more failures followed. The Senate and House were bombarded with proposals from its members that would, they calculated, solve the "Mormon problem". The Utah ring, through the years 1872-74, kept a lobbyist at the doors of congress constantly pushing for special legislation. Those bills that succeeded in committee failed either in the House or Senate or in both places. Each contained the common idea in one form or another depriving Mormon citizens of Utah the right to participate in self-government.14
One bit of imaginative legislation would have carved the Utah Territory into four slices; one strip going to Nevada, another to Colorado, and a third to Wyoming, leaving a final narrow strip scarcely a hundred miles wide and four hundred miles long as the territory of Utah. The bill was quietly discarded however when it was realized that by adding the pared strips to the surrounding states, those states would then be dominated by the Mormon vote, as the Mormon population of the ceded land amounted to a greater majority than any of the states could expect from the original nonMormon population. "Rather than divide and conquer" its author lamented, "the situation would be, divide and be conquered by the Mormons."
With consistent failure in getting up legislation to move their schemes forward, the liberals developed a new strategy. In addition to continued efforts to disfranchise Mormons of their voting rights, they would strive to demonstrate Mormon incompetence in self-government. Their best effort would be through discrediting church leaders, presenting them as common criminals, untrustworthy, un-American and dishonest. To do this they attempted to saddle all the crimes that had ever occurred in the Territory on these leaders. Among other stories, covert operations of a secret group known as Danites, controlled by Brigham Young and his "malfeasant Mormon Priesthood" were forwarded to eastern newspapers. Many of these narrations were filled with misstatements, exaggeration and outright fraud. But mysteries of blood atonement and polygamous entanglements made for exciting reading. Newspapers and magazines throughout the country were quick to snatch them up and hurry them to their printer.15 Case after case of unsolved capital crimes were recycled and amazingly unraveled and laid at the feet of Brigham Young, the First Presidency and Quorum of Twelve. One such was the Mountain Meadows massacre.
As these events developed, there occasionally appeared perceptive newspaper editorials.
"The whole thing [i.e., the 'Mormon trouble') is instigated by a 'ring' of Republican politicians, who are looking to the speedy admission of Utah as one of the states of the union. These small fry, popinjay politicians, and would-be statesmen, know full well that they will have no show for promotion until the Mormon power is broken. Hence it is that they seek to create a civil war by means of packed juries, unprincipled judges and perjured witnesses. Of course, if they determine that no Mormon shall sit on a jury to try Young, as all were excluded from the grand jury, he will necessarily be convicted. Having the judge and marshal they can pack a jury to suit themselves. If they can send Brigham to prison, and induce the people to rise up and liberate him, and thus produce a conflict, Utah will be at once admitted as a state, and under the protection of federal bayonets, these mischief makers can have themselves elected senators, congressmen, etc., just as the thieving carpet-baggers did at the south. The whole affair is a disgrace to the American name. That a vile little clique of corrupt politicians should be permitted to use the power of the government to embroil a peaceable community in civil strife, to gratify their personal greed for place and plunder, is an outrage upon decency, humanity and justice.”16
The arrest and subsequent trials of John D. Lee were closely related to this rash of malicious propaganda, and the federal legislation that followed.
Since it was almost impossible under the territorial act of 1852 to impanel a jury that was not all Mormon, there was little incentive on the part of federal officials to pursue assailants in the Mountain Meadows atrocity. The only measure to successfully pass through congress in the decade of the 70's, having anything to do with Utah was the Poland Bill; but it was precisely what was necessary for the purposes of the Utah ring, as it provided the very leverage they needed to achieve a measure of success toward their objectives against the Mormons. Signed into law by President Grant on June 23, 1874, it gave the United States district courts exclusive civil and criminal jurisdiction while limiting the probate courts to matters of estate settlement, guardianship and divorce18. It abolished the offices of territorial marshal and attorney general, and most importantly, required jury lists, formerly drawn by the territorial marshal, to be selected by the district court clerk (a federal position) and the local probate judge (a Mormon). It was presumed by congress that under this system, there would be more equity in selection of jury lists as gentile and Mormon names would be added alternately.
Prodded by mounting pressure of manipulated public opinion, and passage of this act, the Attorney General of the United States finally gave his approval to a campaign to net at least one Mountain Meadows massacre participant. Several names appeared on the resultant indictment; John D. Lee was one of them. He was placed under arrest less than five months later. In 1875, there were several changes in federal appointee ranks. One was Judge McKean. So enthusiastic and excessive was the Judge in his assaults, and so loosely was the law applied in his court, that with the broad coverage given by the national news media, he became a conspicuous embarrassment to the administration in Washington and he was replaced. 20
A few months after his dismissal, John D. Lee's first trial at Beaver City commenced under the jurisdiction of Judge Jacob Boreman. Following the formula for the selection and appointment of jurors in the new law (this was the first jury to be empaneled under the Poland law), four non-Mormons were selected.
Early in the proceedings, it became clear that prosecution, members of the Utah ring, would use the trial as another vehicle in their continuing attack on the institution of the church and its leaders. Throughout the two weeks the trial continued, both Messrs. Carey and Baskin, U.S. attorneys for the prosecution, boldly charged Brigham Young as an accessory before the fact, accusing him of violating his oath of office.21 It was quickly recognized as a personal assault on the Mormon leader and the institution he represented. Prosecution of the prisoner was secondary to the objectives of the prosecutors.22
Many of those in attendance could only stare in disbelief at the Assistant District Attorney, as he delivered prosecution's closing arguments, vilifying President Young and denouncing the Mormon Church and their "iniquitous grease vat of the endowment house”.23 Brigham Young had been absolved a few months before, of allegations in Judge McKean's third district court, of seven counts of murder, some of these dated back more than twenty years to the early 1850’s. He was currently enmeshed in divorce proceedings, encouraged by the ring, of one of his wives, Ann Eliza Webb, and would soon be sentenced to imprisonment and payment of fines.24 The current trial, supposedly to hear testimony against John D. Lee, became the instrument in accusing Young of another criminal involvement.
With both federal prosecutors and those sitting in judgment, pursuing any remote charge or fabrication against President Young they could muster, he was being continually hailed into court during these years. The hearings against John D. Lee proved to be a sham, nothing more than another attempt to criminally implicate him. With such an inappropriate and scathing verbal lashing against the Mormon Church and its leader as Mr. Baskin delivered in his closing statements, there was no jury in the territory that would agree on a verdict against John D. Lee (and ostensibly, Brigham Young and the Church).25 One can only imagine the enormous burden of pressure under which the beleaguered church leader at this time labored.
As expected, the eight Mormon jurors held fast for acquittal. The four non-Mormons voted the prisoner guilty. Judge Boreman announced a mistrial and ordered the accused remanded to the prison in Salt Lake City while awaiting a new hearing.28
In the late evening of August 9th, 1875, John D. Lee climbed into an open carriage to begin the journey from Beaver city north, to the territorial prison. He was escorted by the federal marshal, General George R. Maxwell and four guards, three of whom were soldiers, stationed at Fort Cameron. The fourth was the notorious alleged outlaw William Hickman, 27 who was free from indictment for various crimes, because he had turned state’s evidence and was given his freedom…and apparently a job in the U.S. marshal's office.
Ironically, John D. Lee, while on a mission in Tennessee thirty years previous, had baptized Hickman and his wife Mary Ann into the Mormon Church.28
At the little Mormon town of Nephi, the southern railhead, the entourage boarded the train for the balance of the journey to Salt Lake. In describing the three day trip in his journal, John D. Lee drolly writes on August 12, that "Every station was crouded [sic] with spectators, anxious to se[e] that wonderful man, John D. Lee of whom so much is said. 4 hours ride brought us to Salt Lake City."
He was taken directly to the Marshal's office, where a large crowd anticipated his arrival. As the group became larger and more vocal, the officers feared that a demonstration was developing in behalf of the prisoner. Without further delay, they hustled him to a carriage and set out immediately for the penitentiary.
Lee had arrived in Salt Lake almost a year to the day after his initial capture at Panguitch in mid-August, 1875. His transfer to the Salt Lake facility had been required because the only prison in the south was at the military post of Fort Cameron. As a civilian, Lee could not appropriately be guarded by the military29, and there were no funds in the budget to hire civilian guards.30 He was to have been kept in Salt Lake for only a few weeks after which it was intended he be transferred back to Beaver for his second trial. But he remained in Salt Lake ten months.
With discovery of lack of funding with which to provide guards at Beaver, it was found that the judicial system in Utah particularly the court at Beaver was in fiscal crisis. Much to the chagrin of the court and its officers, resources were not only unavailable for payroll for guards, but, more importantly, there was nothing available with which to prosecute pending trials. Certain funds set aside by the Justice Department for use of the second district court had somehow disappeared.31
Investigation of the records revealed $13,200 missing from government accounts, money intended for use in operating the court. It had been illegally dispersed elsewhere. General Maxwell was responsible for these funds, and suddenly found himself in serious trouble. Despite intervention of influential friends, Maxwell was relieved of his position.32 Sumner Nelson was selected to replace him.
Still another significant personnel change among government appointees was in the making. This would have a direct and crucial bearing on the fate of John D. Lee. U.S. District Attorney William Carey who had prosecuted Lee's case in the first trial, like other associates of the court, was experiencing problems, and soon joined Marshal Maxwell and Judge McKean in the ranks of the unemployed. His assistant Robert N. Baskin went with him.33
Carey's replacement was an attorney named Sumner Howard, who selected Presley Denny as his assistant. These two would continue the prosecution of John D. Lee in his second trial.
Lee was not the only Mountain Meadows prisoner in the territorial prison at that time. William H. Dame had been arrested at Beaver prior to Lee's capture in 1874 and the two had subsequently been held under the same roof at the Fort Cameron guard house. Dame had been transported to Salt Lake a few months after Lee's transfer. A third alleged participant, William Adair, had been apprehended in 1875 and brought to the Salt Lake facility to share residency.
With the court in bankrupt condition, and three major trials pending, the September date for opening at Beaver was missed. This was a distinct embarrassment. Cancellation of hearings meant longer terms for prisoners prior to being given opportunity to defend themselves and a potential infringement of constitutional rights.
It had been almost a full year since John D. Lee's first trial. William Dame's situation was worse; he had been imprisoned almost two years with no formal hearing. His attorney had finally issued a writ of habeas corpus and he would have to be released if he was not soon brought to court. In addition, several months had elapsed since Adair's apprehension and detention.
Forced to skip the September, 1875 session, it was determined the court must put off the next date as well. That would have been May, 1876. Judge Boreman then made the decision to release the prisoners on bail. He set the bond for Dame at $20,000, $15,000 for Lee and $10,000 for Adair. They were to present themselves for trial at the September, 1876 session.34
Before Lee's second trial, members of the Utah ring sought tenaciously to persuade Lee, during his extended imprisonment, to make a "full confession" of the massacre.
They encouraged him by promising they would stand by him if he would "tell all"; that he would be released from prison, as Hickman had been, a free man, if only he would tell that Brigham Young was the real prime mover in the massacre.
William Stokes, the Assistant U.S. Marshal who had arrested Lee for example, visited him on September 23rd, accompanied by his superior, George R. Maxwell.
Stokes and Lee had a long talk during which time Maxwell remained silent. Stokes strongly advised Lee to accept the offer of the court to give him his freedom in exchange for a confession involving Brigham Young.
After more discussion and consideration, Lee said he couldn't do it; that he would not perjure himself by testifying to things that he didn't know were so. "I would rather take my chances with what I know to be true," he added.
Stokes replied, "…that won't satisfy the court. They can prove more than that by others, and they won't let you go Mr. Lee, unless you give more information than they already have."
Lee stood firm though, as he said, "then you must take your own course."
A t that point Maxwell entered the conversation. Clearly he was provoked with Lee's decision and angrily changed the subject, "Do you still wear your Mormon endowment robes?" When John replied in the affirmative, he spat out, "You've been excommunicated…kicked out of the church! I wouldn't believe the word of any man that would continue to wear them under those circumstances!"
John's reply was brief, "You have a right to your opinion Marshal, as I have to mine." With this, Maxwell stalked out. Following a few minutes additional discussion, Stokes suggested that Lee give their proposal some thought; that he would be back the next day. He then left.35
John was now alone. As he sat dejected at the table, he described his feelings in his journal. The four stark walls of his cell combined with the heavy heat of the late summer air, seemed to reflect the anguish that now fell upon him. His mind drifted to his past life, of his boyhood in Illinois. The details of that early time came vividly to him in panoramic sequence; his life in Kaskaskia, working as a mail carrier in southern Illinois, his experience as a soldier in the Blackhawk War; then marriage in 1832 to Agatha Ann Woolsey. He and Agatha had joined the church shortly thereafter.
His mind then focused on the future, reflecting a picture of darkness, gloom and despair. Almost overcome with these emotions, he struggled to hold back an overwhelming feeling of grief as he thought of his family.
He next describes a sudden revitalizing force that seemed to penetrate his mind and body, and he experienced a euphoric feeling of hope and assurance that transcended all preceding dark thoughts. Then, as he reflected on a better life to come, he resolved "that he must do what is right and let the consequence follow!" If it was his blood they were after, he would let them have it; but he would never, worlds without end, perjure himself at the expense of others who were innocent!36
The next day, Stokes returned. As he entered the cell, John indicated a chair across the little table at which he was seated, and Stokes sat down. Following a few cordial words of greeting, Stokes asked, "Have you reached a conclusion, Mr. Lee? Are you going to place the saddle where it belongs and walk out of here a free man?" Lee replied quietly that he was duty-bound to make a statement. "The whole church", he reflected, "seems to be accused of the Mountain Meadows affair."
He looked at Stokes and said, "Yes, I'll tell you the whole truth…nothing more, that the blame may rest where it justly belongs." At these words, Stokes entire focus was on Lee and he leaned forward in anticipation. "You can inform Judge Cary, Mr. Baskin and Marshal Maxwell that if the truth will satisfy them, they can have it."
Stokes could hardly believe what he was hearing. "We've finally got him!" he exulted, his spine was now tingling with exhilaration, but he forced himself to remain outwardly composed. "I didn't think he'd do it", he thought, "but I believe the old man is going to be bought."
His eyes were now riveted on Lee, expecting his next words to contain the names of Isaac Haight, William Dame, maybe George A. Smith, or even Brigham Young himself. "I have weighed the matter carefully", John said quietly, "and am resigned to my fate."
"Get on with it!" Stokes wanted to shout.
As Lee continued, his voice grew more resolute and his words more distinct. What he then said caused Stokes for a moment to sit back speechless in his chair and gaze in disbelief.
"This is what I intend doing....I have concluded to take up winter quarters in this prison and there remain until I rot and be eaten up with bedbugs before I will dishonor myself by bearing false witness against any innocent persons. You can tell them that.”37
Stokes arose angrily from his chair, declaring that Lee was signing his own death warrant, and with that strode out of the prison.
A month later, Marshal Maxwell visited Lee. Obviously he was provoked with John's non-cooperative attitude. "I have never tried to befriend a person more than I have you," he told Lee, "with as little success." "You are going to stick to the GD Mormons instead of your real friends until it will be too late." He continued, "Judge Boreman intends to let you go if you'll only tell what you know. But no! It appears you'll hold out until it's too late."
John's voice was firm and even as he replied, “I understand my own business, and am a better judge of what I know than any other person. You don't want the truth. As for lies, you'll have to call on someone else besides me, to tell them. I would rather choose to die like a man than to live the life of a villain. I am determined that I will make my own decisions. All that I ask of you General Maxwell, is that you treat me under these circumstances, as any American should be treated. I want nothing more”38.
There were other instances such as this, but these serve to show the intensity of the pressure Lee was under during this period, to put the blame for the massacre on Brigham Young.
The second trial proved to be an unnerving event for our ancestor. It began with selection of an all Mormon jury. Many wondered at this. One of the prime concerns of prosecution previously had been that a fair decision could not under any circumstances be rendered with Mormon jurors hearing evidence against their brethren.
The indictment against Lee and others, in 1874, had been issued following passage of the Poland Act. One feature of the new law changed the method of jury selection allowing opportunity-balanced selection of jurors in criminal cases. Why would the prosecuting attorneys now permit such a lop-sided choice, when they were able to control at least half the panel as had been done in the first trial? Why weren't there some Gentiles included? Was this some sort of conspiracy?
As John D. Lee pondered upon this, he recalled a conversation of a year ago with Marshal Maxwell, in which Maxwell had described the danger for John of an all gentile jury. The Marshal had warned him, that if laws were enacted to allow such to happen, he would surely be convicted. He went on, John remembered, urging him to turn states evidence before it was too late, and the court would give him his freedom. The dialogue is recorded in Lee's journal:
"About 1 pm, we started for the city. Edward Allen, guard, went with us. Gen. Maxwell and I sit together in a back seat and talked. He told me that he was a true and a warm friend to me, and would stand by and protect me, if only I would be a friend to myself and get my liberty,instead of endangering it through procrastination, with the vague hopes of getting a change of venue and a new trial. The Judge of the 2nd Judicial District will not grant a change of venue to another District. He will call in another Judge to sit on my case, should I claim a change, and if I took that step, it would deprive me of trial this fall . I could not possibly get a trial till next spring, and by that time Congress will most likely amend the Jury act, granting the power to the Marshal [to] summons a Jury independent of Mormons."
The Poland Act had been signed into law the year before, so Maxwell was here probably trying to coerce John into a confession by implying that the Act would be amended so that the U.S. Marshal would be able to appoint an all gentile jury.
Maxwell continued, "Your chances will then be worse than ever, and in the meantime your substance will be wasting away and your family suffer still more, and all this in consequence of your s[c]reening others, and thereby bring unnecessary suffering and distress upon myself and family … suffer myself to be made a witness on the stand in the trial of Dame and others and a nole [nolle] will be ruled in my favour.”40
No such amendment as that which Maxwell suggested was made to the law. The list of potential jurors for Lee's trial was selected per mandates as currently written … by the U.S. Marshal and the local probate judge. Attorneys for each side then made selections from this list.
Gentiles could have been chosen as jurors by the prosecution, but incredibly they weren't; not one was selected for the panel. The final slate was all Mormon!
Lee questioned why the prosecuting attorneys would allow such a thing to happen. Was it their intent to let him go? Surely they must realize that an all Mormon jury would never convict him.
With Carey and Baskin no longer involved, the new attorneys, Messrs. Howard and Denny were plainly taking a different approach.41
Nevertheless, Lee knew that they would had to have been convinced that such a jury would be sympathetic to their aims to allow such a one sided selection of jurors, unless, in fact they were going to allow him to go free. But if that were the case, they would not have gone to trial. They would have simply dropped the charges. Could an agreement have been made between prosecuting attorneys and Mormon leaders in which Mormon leaders would influence the decision of an all-Mormon jury? If so, what decision would that be and what would be their motivation?
John then remembered that a few days before the trial, some of his children had come to him with a troublesome story. They maintained there were certain serious irregularities in selection of the jury, that it was "rigged" and he was being abandoned. 42 This couldn't be, he had responded, for he had consistently maintained that the decisions made at Mountain Meadows were not his, that others who held the reins were more culpable than he, and that such a turn of events was unthinkable. He knew that President Young and other local church leaders in Southern Utah were aware of this. But still, he remembered how he felt at the time of his arrest. He had made an entry in his journal then, expressing such feelings of being placed in such a vulnerable position, that like a piece of "jail house beef", he had been "kicked and cuffed and sorely abused", that he and the old bull upon which he was dining were "both creatures of some note," the bull was food for prisoners and he the scapegoat.
He then recalled how he had dismissed the warnings of his children, and told them that to believe his friends and brethren would betray him had not been worthy of consideration.43
Juanita Brooks, in her book The Mountain Meadows Massacre written ninety years later, recognizes the change in strategy and method of attack by the prosecution. She writes: "Even the most cursory examination of the court records will show that between the first and second trials, something happened.”44
And her observation appears accurate. Something did happen, but what?
More than sixty years ago, in 1931, this question was on the minds of a group of Lee family members. With very little to go on, they set out searching for answers. Some of the jurors still living, although advanced in age, were found, visited and questioned about circumstances relative to their selection. Their notarized statements, though given many years after the fact were incredible! They revealed how they were especially selected wearing identifying markers enabling the attorneys to recognize them and include them on the list. They tell of explicit instructions regarding the verdict to be handed down. If their testimony is to be believed, the guilt or innocence of John D. Lee was determined before his second trial ever commenced.45
Robert N. Baskin bluntly stated his opinion: "When I learned from the newspapers that all the Gentiles had been challenged off the jury, and that Daniel H. Wells was present at the trial, I stated then that John D. Lee was doomed … I have not the least doubt that … Brigham Young entered into an arrangement with District Attorney Howard, that a Mormon Jury should be impaneled to convict Lee…”46
Such evidence of behind-the-scenes negotiations is found in some correspondence dated shortly after the second trial, originating with District Attorney Sumner Howard and Marshal William Nelson. The letter is addressed to U.S. Attorney General Alphonso Taft. Attorney Howard and his assistant, Presley Denny had been severely criticized by Robert N. Baskin and company, for conducting Lee's second trial as they did. District Attorney Howard was writing a rebuttal to these remarks.
Dated: September 23, 1876
To: Alphonso Taft, Attorney General
The Department of Justice, Washington D.C.
Sir: The trial of John D. Lee indicted for murder committed at the Mountain Meadows in September 1857 has just been held at this place and the result is a verdict of guilty of murder in the first degree. The result seems to be displeasing to certain factionists here who have heretofore conducted this case and those connected with them with the "Mountain Meadow Massacre" with reference more to outside masters than to the cause at bar. It has been their public boast that the former trial of John D. Lee in July 1875 was not for the purpose of convicting the prisoner, but to fix the odium of the Mountain Meadows butchery upon the Mormon Church. The results [illegible] the call for a large amount of public money, and no result except the advancement of certain schemes and aspirations of local politicians whose attitude is that of uniform condemnation of the administration and its appointees. In the trial just concluded, the case of John D. Lee and that alone was tried. It became apparent early in the investigation that there is no evidence whatever to connect the chief authorities of the Mormon Church with the massacre, on the contrary those authorities produced documents and other evidence showing clearly that not only was that great crime solely an individual offense on the part of those who committed it, but that the orders, letters, proclamations, etc., which issued from the central Mormon authority which was also at that time the Territorial authority were directly and positively contrary to all shedding of blood, not only of emigrants passing through the territory, but also forbade the killing of the soldiers of Johns[t]ans Army which was marching on Utah. Being satisfied of this, the prosecution laid the case before the Mormon leaders and ask their aid in unravelling the mystery of this foul crime. THAT AID WAS GIVEN (emphasis is the author's) and the horrid testimony is public from the mouths of eye witnesses, convicting the prisoner without the shadow of doubt. Those whose thunder is stolen by this conviction and the fixing of the crime where the evidence places it, and who failed in the same prosecution before, are exceeding angry, and are making to the public such misrepresentations as their malice suggests and are said to be also forwarding certain of their statements to Washington.47
The prosecution, writes the District Attorney, conferred with Mormon leaders, explaining their strategy in pursuing the case and asked for assistance in its conclusion … "that aid was given", writes Mr. Howard.
The prisoner, when he then went to trial, was peremptorily convicted … so completely that it was obvious after prosecution rested, that any effort of rebuttal would fail. On the one hand, each witness gave crushing testimony against the accused, while on the other, accusations of complicity or even insinuations of such against Brigham Young and other church leaders that had so characterized the first trial, were completely absent.48 The testimony of six Mormon witnesses evoked a unanimous guilty verdict from a twelve man all-Mormon jury. A decision under the circumstances that very few, if any, thought possible.
It must be conceded that something unusual did happen, as Ms. Brooks avers in her book. That something, it appears, was a negotiation and an agreement that if the prosecution would prosecute the prisoner and him alone, the jury would "cooperate" in his conviction.
A week following Sumner Howard's letter quoted above, Mr. Howard wrote a second letter to the Attorney General. In this correspondence, he sought to convince Mr. Taft that if funds were made available, the capture of others involved in the massacre could quickly be accomplished. The following paragraph of the letter establishes Mr. Howard's impression of the position the authorities of the church took in the matter of Lee's second trial: "the conviction of Lee, his abandonment by the Mormon authorities and the apparent acquiescence on his conviction is working its intended results…”49
(Therefore, he reasons, funds ought to be made available so that others involved might be captured and prosecuted in like manner.)
It appears that Mr. Howard not only believed that Lee was abandoned by the church, but that their yielding attitude contributed significantly to the guilty verdict brought back by the jury.
If, in the beginning, John D. Lee had wondered at selection of an all-Mormon jury, such concern changed to anxiety, bewilderment and finally to shocking reality as Mormon witnesses presented their incriminating evidence.
There were only six of them, but the testimony they gave was devastating. Whether or not they perjured themselves is speculative, but it is certain that they willingly allowed themselves to be led by the prosecution to say the things that would be most damaging to the defendant. Through the balance of the trial, the accused sat facing the court in grim silence. Long before the guilty verdict was rendered he came to the bitter realization that he had not only been abandoned, but saddled with sole responsibility for the wholesale murder of a hundred and more victims in the terrible ordeal at Mountain Meadows.
Confronted with hopelessness of any defense under these circumstances, he forbade any presentation or rebuttal from his attorneys. It seemed that for John D Lee, this was the final blow, the coup de grace. He was, by now sixty-four years of age. The decades of physical toil on the western frontier, under the rudest of circumstances had taken their toll, though the mental anguish suffered over the immediate preceding years, from his prison experience, probably dealt an even greater blow to his persona both mind and body than all combined physical hardships of the past.
As the trial unfolded and he witnessed what seemed to him the ultimate betrayal and social abandonment of old friends and brethren, he became resigned to his fate. He could bear the obliquities of enemies of the church but when close friends and pioneer comrades whom he had served, and with whom he had shared persecutions, drivings, and experiences of settling new lands turned against him, then all was lost.
This became painfully clear as he realized that his dearest friend and mentor, he whom he had sought so diligently to please and to emulate, his adoptive father … when Brigham was included in those removing the hand of fellowship, the gut-wrenching reality of his abandonment was full circle. John D. Lee, as he himself expressed it, could now trust only in "the solemnities of eternity."
It remained now to be seen whether he had the will to continue in his commitment of doing what he perceived to be right, letting the consequence follow.
Confronted with such a seemingly beclouded experiential tragedy, it is understandable that some of his posterity have difficulty accepting the fate of their ancestor. On learning the details of his last years, some have come to feel that if the clouds could be dispelled it would be found that it was by order of Brigham Young himself that the jury was rigged, if it in reality was rigged and that in any case, if he had so chosen he could have saved our ancestor from the firing squad and the odium of disgrace that followed.
What was John D. Lee's immediate reaction to what he saw as total betrayal? He had resolved to do what is right as he perceived the right. So far he had maintained his integrity. The response from those in the institution he had sought to do right by, in return, from his point of view, had grossly betrayed him and he was deeply hurt.
It is important to our purposes here to note that despite these feelings, in all his remarks, John D. Lee never blamed Brigham Young or the church for anything, except, as Leonard Arrington writes, (1) his excommunication, which he thought he did not deserve, and (2) that Brigham Young, did not visit him to comfort him while he awaited execution.50
Years of anti-Mormon propaganda and conspiratorial intimidation, seemed to have coalesced in the decade of the 1870's to culminate in a condition that threatened the very existence of the church as a bona fide corporate entity. The words of John Taylor, senior member of the Council of Twelve before the death of President Young, tersely describe its critical position: "We are placed, not by acts of our own, in a position where we cannot help ourselves. We are between the hands of God and the hands of the government of the United States”51
Lee realized how the tragedy of Mountain Meadows, even after twenty years, was casting a long shadow on the stability of the church. He in fact expressed this understanding on several occasions, saying that the entire membership was accused of the massacre.
The effects of it were like a cancer, a ceaseless torment, threatening both from without and within and continuing to grow worse, affecting every operating facet of the institution. Faced with this critical condition, unless there was reconciliation for the tragedy by those involved, the malignancy could, if not excised, become the catalyst to something far worse.
Under these circumstances, Lee should have understood, if he did not, that Brigham Young would consider his first responsibility to be his Apostolic calling as Prophet of God. All else was secondary. Decisions made were based on this premise. As President Taylor implies, the choices were very narrow.
Could the church president have done any differently than he did? Could he have saved John D. Lee? Given the limited alternatives, it is doubtful. President Young was enmeshed in stabilizing a reeling institution that was seen by him as the kingdom of God upon the earth, charged with responsibility for the gathering of modern Israel in preparation for the second coming of the Lord, and his millennial reign. The potential for fulfilling such formidable commandment was in serious jeopardy. To put it into perspective, John D. Lee's concern was for the eternal welfare of his family and although it was a large group, it was nowhere near that with which President Young was burdened. His included the responsibility, welfare and continuation of the entire community of the church and it's divinely mandated mission.
With possible destruction of the kingdom at stake, it is difficult to imagine practical alternatives President Young could have summoned in the trial of John D. Lee that would have afforded freedom for our ancestor without jeopardizing to the point of destruction the institution to which both were so dedicated. Given these circumstances, if any of Lee’s posterity feels his forefather was the only one who suffered, he is mistaken.
Nevertheless, John D. Lee was hurt terribly by this ordeal. Beginning with his excommunication in 1870, the pain spread not only throughout the network of his extensive family, but extended to friends, acquaintances and the general public, not just in Southern Utah, but throughout the entire territory. Some of his wives, informed by church leaders that they had no hope in the eternities with John D. Lee, abandoned him and remarried. Among his friends, he became a social outcast. In business relationships, his personal assets and properties were considered "fair game" by those who had a penchant for robbing and plunder.
His indictment, trials, pronouncement of guilt and eventual execution illimitably compounded the suffering. He was branded a cruel, cold-blooded murderer by those who were ignorant of the man's character and of the countless services he had performed over almost forty years in behalf of the saints.
The thought of the probable effect the disgrace of his execution would bring upon his immediate family and descendants was John D. Lee's greatest sorrow. That burden alone is more than any man could be expected to bear. His family was among the three largest in the church. Sixty four sons and daughters, only eclipsed by two others, each with sixty-five. Fifty of Lee's children were living at the time of his execution.
Despite his last advice that they remain with the church, in the clouded versions of the Mountain Meadows tragedy, his part in it, and the subsequent conviction, the reaction among his family was mixed. Some remained silent with the assurance that in the eternal scheme of things, all things work for the good of those who love and serve the Lord. Others remained loyal to the church, but declined recognition of ancestral ties with John D. Lee. Some of these changed their names, and raised their children in ignorance of familial ties with the Lee family. Still others took more extreme measures, their opinions having a compelling influence on the way they lived the balance of their lives.
One daughter, Nellie (through Rachel Woolsey), with an especially close relationship with her father while growing up, was certain that John D. Lee, as he consistently maintained, was not responsible for the decisions that brought on the tragedy of 1857. She could not or would not be turned from her opinion that her father was betrayed in a most crass manner by Brigham Young and a "rigged" jury that unjustly sent him to a firing squad. Nellie retained her bitter animosity toward Brigham Young for the balance of her life, and she and her family became totally inactive in the church her father had supported! 52
In contrast, her brother, John Amasa Lee, who was born a few years after the Mountain Meadows experience, was well aware of the rhetoric of betrayal, but held an entirely different view than his sister. Although he and a number of his brothers could not speak of their father's connection with the massacre without tears streaming down their faces, John Amasa remained steady in his affiliation with the church. In mid-life, he was ordained a Bishop and served faithfully for twenty years in that role.53
John David Lee, through Lavina Young was another who remained stalwart. His daughter, Ettie Lee, tells of receiving a letter in 1953 from a former missionary companion of her father, who, as a young man had served a mission in Great Britain. The letter told about John David's experience of being with his father, John D. Lee, the next to the last night before his father was executed.
"He gave me some insight into your grandfather's connection with that sad occurrence [the Mountain Meadows massacre]. His father assured him that he was not afraid of death; that his hope was that his execution would turn the attention of our enemies to him and in so doing, they would stop trying to involve the church in that lamentable affair. His father told him to remember always that this is the Church of Jesus Christ … and that he was willing to give his life if it might safeguard Christ's Church here upon the earth. Your grandfather's chief concern, he told me, was that his family might be embittered because of his death. He prayed that all would accept his sacrifice and would love the church as he loved it”54
Another with the same message, written by a daughter-in-law expressing her pride in being a member of the family. She tells substantially the same story, about a time shortly before his execution when he stayed in her home over night. With assurance that death held no fear for him, he expressed hope that his execution would be reason for abatement of attacks on the church, that his execution would be considered recompense for the tragedy at Mountain Meadows; and that the family members would not allow his execution to be cause for withdrawal of membership.55
Interestingly enough, the date ordered for John D. Lee's execution was the longest in terms of number of days between sentencing and execution of any such judgment in Utah history. This was done in order to seek further to break his will and give him ample opportunity to present a "full expose of others involved in the tragedy" and thus gain his own freedom. Rather than doing this though, in the six month interim, he wrote the history of his life.
William Dame and George Adair, who had been imprisoned with Lee were released during the latter's trial. On September 14, 1876, on motion of the District Attorney, their indictment was quashed, as the evidence, it was noted, did not justify their prosecution.56
Sometime before his execution in March, 1877, at a time when Brigham Young was visiting the southern settlements and was in St. George, John was urged by some of his friends to go to Brigham and patch up any differences that might stand between them. Whether the story is myth or fact, his reported response was in keeping with his character and indicative of the depth of his faith and propensity for prophecy, when he replied, "Brother Brigham will not outlast me six months in this life, then we will take care of any differences we might have on the other side."
President Young left St. George, on his return trip to Salt Lake on April 16th. On August 23rd, following a Thursday night meeting, he became suddenly ill, experiencing violent cramps in his abdomen. Less than a week later he died. His doctors listed cause of death as cholera morbus, but modern diagnoses indicate that he likely expired from a ruptured appendix and the infection that followed. His death occurred five months and one week following John D. Lee's execution.
John D. Lee held deep spiritual convictions, living much of life on a high spiritual plane. His faith in those beliefs, the record shows, was unshakeable. Against tremendous forces, he had been tried in his last years as few men have been tried, maintaining his beliefs through it all to the last moment.
He stated in several instances after the fatal judgment, that death held no fear for him. When the time came, he in fact did seem prepared. The words he spoke, his self-possession and demeanor at the last, all his actions, both spoken and unspoken demonstrated the depth of his faith. He believed firmly that life as continued on the other side, meant merely stepping as it were, through a veil, and although far more glorious and sublime, it is an extension of one's mortal existence on earth.
Brigham Young deeply suffered the catastrophe and aftermath of the Mountain Meadows tragedy. Many years after Lee's death, Anthony W. Ivins reported to members of the Lee family that he had been sent as a witness, by President Young, to observe the ordeal of the execution of John D. Lee. He told the family that later, when in President Young's office, he described the end for Lee, "Brigham Young fell to his knees and wept like a baby, saying, 'John said he would always stand between me and the mouth of the cannon, but when it came right down to it, I was afraid he would not.”57 Ironic as some of the classic Shakespearian tragedies so brilliantly presented in southern Utah in our own day, when the fell blow came for Lee, it is conceivable that Brigham experienced in classic Shakespearian tradition the same tragic fate; the fierce thrust of the dagger plunging symbolically, deep into the depths of his own heart with such furor as to cause him to sink to his knees weeping when told of the execution of his old friend.
Whatever Brigham Young's role in the trials and execution of John D. Lee, if any, it was played out only because, in his mind, there was no conceivable alternative. If it was, in fact, he who made the decision to sack Lee, who arguably, was his nearest and dearest friend outside the circle of the Twelve Apostles, it is sure that he did so only after careful and regretful consideration of all sides of the desperate situation.
Shortly after conclusion of the Lee trial, the Utah ring, having accomplished few of its goals faded and soon, as an operational entity, became defunct. Judge Boreman, who presided in both of Lee's trials is described as "the last lingering remnant of the McKean ring".58
The liberal party, however, endured. U.S. presidents who followed Ulysses S. Grant continued to attack the Mormon concept of plural marriage. Rutherford B. Hayes when visiting Utah in 1880, associated almost exclusively with members of the liberal party, all but ignoring those representing the majority of citizens in the territory. Successive holders of the office dealt in similar manner with the "Utah question". It would be more than twenty years in the future that Utah would be granted statehood, but the attitude of malevolence on the part of federal officials would continue far into the twentieth century.
Did the trial and execution of John D. Lee serve the purposes for which he had been brought to the bar? From the standpoint of the members of the Utah ring, that had sought so flagrantly to break his will and persuade him to implicate leaders of the church in the Mountain Meadows debacle, his execution achieved nothing. It likewise did very little in succeeding years to mitigate feelings of hatred and revenge against the church and those who had participated in the Mountain Meadows atrocity. Perhaps in the final summation, the only real success, at least in the eyes of many of his descendants, was achieved by the convicted man himself. Tried during those years as if in a fiery furnace, the manner in which he conducted himself and withstood such a formidable challenge to honor, integrity and moral courage, in the end, rendered such withering flame an elevating refiners fire.
1 The World Book Encyclopedia, (Field Enterprises Educational Corporation, Chicago, 1965), vol.8, p.307.
2 Gustave 0. Larson, Utah's History, Richard D. Poll, General Editor, (Brigham Young University Press, 1978) ch. 13, p.244
3 Poll, op.cit.,(from United States Bureau of Census, Utah Vital Statistics) table D, p.698.
4 Dale Morgan, The State of Deseret, (Utah State University Press and the Utah Historical Society, 1987), ch. IV, pp.91-118. The entire chapter deals with the "Ghost Government of Deseret."
5 Orson F. Whitney, History of Utah, (George Q. cannon & Sons, Salt Lake City, 1893) v.2, p.624-626.
6 Review George Maxwell as Land Resitrar:Comp Hist. p.451
7 Brigham H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of the Church, (Deseret News Press, Salt Lake City, 1930), V.5, pp.317, 318.
8 Omaha Herald, Oct. 4, 1871, quoted in footnote 7 Comprehensive History of the Church, v.5, p.392-3
9 James B. Allen, "The Unusual Jurisdiction of County Probate Courts in the Territory of Utah" Utah Historical Quarterly, vol.36, no. 2, p.132, Spring issue, 1968, Also op.cit., Utah's History, pp.250, 251.
10 Roberts, op.cit., vol.5, p.448.
11 John D. Lee, A Mormon Chronicle. The Diaries of John D. Lee, edited by Cleland and Brooks, (University of Utah Press edition of 1983), vol.2, p.174.
12 Clinton vs. Englebrecht, April 15, 1872.
13 Leonard J. Arrington, Brigham Young, American Moses, (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1985), p.371, 372.
14 Roberts, op.cit., vol. 5, pp.433-440 for discussion of Wade, Cragin, Logan, Frelinghuysen, Wheeler, Voorhees bills.
15 Bunker and Bitton, The Mormon Graphic Image, 1834-1914, (University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City, 1983), pp.33-48.
16 Roberts, op.cit., p.393, quoting san Francisco Examiner, October 1871.
17 Letter from Judge Hawley to Geo. Williams Nov. 9, 1872, (photo copy in possession of author)
18 Poll, op.cit., p.252.
19 Arrington, op.cit., p.385. Other names appearing on the indictment were William H. Dame, Isaac c. Haight, John M. Higbee, George Adair, Jr., Eliot Wilden, Samuel Jukes, Philip K. [Klingensmith] Smith, William c. Stewart. See Orson F. Whitney, op.cit., vol.2, p.783.
20 Roberts, op.cit., p.446.
21 see transcript of first trial of John D. Lee, Huntington Library, San Marino, California, copy in possession of author.
22 Arrington, op.cit., p. 385-6.
23 Robert N. Baskin, Reminiscences of Early Utah, (n.p. 1914), pp. 132-136. (Baskin's closing statement at Lee's first trial).
24 Roberts, op.cit., pp.442-443; also Arrington, op.cit., pp. 333-34, 373.
25 Leonard Arrington, article from Huntington Library Quarterly for reasons why Arrington feels it is incorrect to conclude that Mormon officials conspired with the government to "sacrifice" John D. Lee
26 op.cit. transcript of first trial.
27 Brooks, op.cit., vol.2, pp.343-346 for account of departure from Beaver to Salt Lake.
28 John D. Lee, unpublished journals, 1840, typescript copy in possession of author.
29 Letter from U.S. Marshal requesting funds to guard Beaver prisoners by military; copy in possession of author.
30 Brooks, op.cit., val. 2, p.368. Lee is told that Dame was transferred to the penitentiary at Salt Lake because it was too costly to guard him at Beaver. The fact is there was no money in the budget to hire guards, particularly only one prisoner.
31 Brooks, op.cit., p.401, 405. Orson F. Whitney, op.cit., vol. 2, p. 804.
32 Brooks, op.cit., ibid., vol.2, p.410. Oliver O. Patton, Registrar of the U.S. Land Office, Marshal Maxwell's friend and successor in that position, sought to defend the marshal. He appealed to Edward Pierpont, the U.S. Attorney General with a letter dated November 1st, 1875, photocopy in possession of author. Patton provided subscription to the Salt Lake Herald newspaper for John D. Lee during Lee's imprisonment, for which Lee was most grateful.
33 The author could find no documentation telling reasons for dismissal of William Carey as U.S. Attorney. It is suspected that it had something to do with economics of living. U.S. Attorneys throughout the United States received a salary of just $250 per year. That alone would be cause for abandonment of the job by Carey, if it was he who initiated the move. An article in Utah Historical Quarterly, Summer 1985 issue, by Stephen Cresswell examines this problem; entitled "The U.S. Department of Justice in Utah Territory, 1870-90." When John D. Lee returned from his leave on bail to Beaver in September, 1876, Attorney Sumner Howard was the new U.S. Attorney and prosecutor in Lee's second trial.
34 Brooks, op.cit., p.460.
35 Brooks, op.cit., p.368.
36 Brooks, ibid.
37 Brooks, op.cit., p.369.
38 Brooks, op.cit., 379.
39 See footnote 9 above.
40 Brooks, op.cit., pp.352-352.
41 Read transcript, 2nd trial; compare with strategy in first trial.
42 Copy of letter from Amora to John D. Lee. Author has photocopy.
43 Brooks, op.cit., p.382.
44 Juanita Brooks, The Mountain Meadows Massacre, (Universtiy of Oklahoma Press, 1962), p.l94.
45 Documents of Edna Lee Brimhall, copies in possession of author.
46 Baskin, op.cit., p.l36.
47 Letter dated September 23, 1876, to Attorney General Taft, over signatures of Sumner Howard and William Nelson; photocopy in possession of author.
48 Transcript of second trial.
49 Letter dated October 4, 1876, to Attorney General Taft, over signature of Sumner Howard, photocopy in possession of author.
50 Arrington, op.cit. Huntington Library Quarterly.
51 Poll, op.cit., p.234.
52 Personal knowledge of author.
54 Manetta Prince Henrie, Descendants of John Doyle Lee, (n.p., 1960), pp.668-669.
55 Copy of letter in possession of author.
56 Whitney, op.cit., p.822.
57 Edna Lee Brimhall, op.cit. file of photocopies in possession of author.
58 Whitney, op.cit., p.820.
Mountain Meadows Memorial Address
Mountain Meadows Memorial Address
Mountain Meadows Monument Rededication Remarks and Dedicatory Prayer My dear friends, all of you who are here, together with those in Arkansas and elsewhere who have joined with us. This is a solemn and significant occasion. I come as a peacemaker. This is not a time for recrimination or the assigning of blame. No one can explain what happened in these meadows 142 years ago. We may speculate, but we do not know. We do not understand it. We cannot comprehend it. We can only say that the past is long since gone. It cannot be recalled. It cannot be changed. It is time to leave the entire matter in the hands of God who deals justly in all things. His is a wisdom far beyond our own. I first came here nearly 50 years ago. When my father turned 85, I brought him down to southern Utah. We visited this place. There was no one else around. My father said nothing. I said nothing. We simply stood here and thought of what occurred here in 1857. The rock cairn was here. Weeds rustled in the breeze. We walked back to our car without speaking. We knew this ground was hallowed, and we were reverent and respectful. I came here again in 1990. We met on the campus of Southern Utah University in Cedar City. That too was a day of solemnity and reconciliation. There were a number of speakers. Some were descendants of the Fanchers and Bakers. Some were descendants of John D. Lee. I was not related in any way to either side. I came here representing the Church. We heard from an old Indian. We heard from those who came from Arkansas. I spoke. But perhaps the most impressive thing to me on that occasion was when Rex Lee, then president of Brigham Young University and who has now passed away asked all to stand and join hands in a gesture of friendship. We felt a spirit of peace on that occasion and a spirit of appreciation one for another. We then traveled to the marker on Dan Sill Hill. I spoke a few words and offered a prayer of dedication there. We then came to this area. Many people had been here immediately before us. The weeds were all tramped down. We had a brief exercise here. I came here again last year. I was shocked by what I found. The wall of the cairn was beginning to slip in the direction of the small stream in the gully. The weeds were tall. There was an ugly barbed-wire fence around this site. I knew that the Church owned this ground. I said to myself, "You must do something to make this a more beautiful and attractive and lasting memorial. This is a sacred place." I thought much of what we might do. I had our architectural department work on some drawings. I called a meeting in the Church Administration Building. Burr Fancher was there. Ron Loving was there. Verne Lee was there, and a number of others. I expressed my feelings on that occasion to the effect that I felt very strongly that the Church should do something to beautify this place. We owned the ground. This was a sacred place of remembrance for many people. I made alternative proposals and then asked you of the Mountain Meadows Association and the people of Arkansas to look over the alternatives and tell us what you would like to see here. You came back with the suggestion that the stone walls be preserved, but that they be capped with dressed stone, denoting both the old and the new. When the responses were in and you had expressed your desires, the Church went to work. We have spent a very substantial amount of money on what has been accomplished here. The walls of the cairn have been rebuilt and stabilized. The dressed stone has been placed along the top of the walls. We have not spared expense to do it right and to do it in a fashion that will remain through the years. We have gone to great effort and cost to secure water and electricity. We have fenced it in an attractive and secure manner. The path has been re-graded and improved. We have worked with the Forest Service and the county to make it more accessible. Many, many people have participated. Volunteers have worked very hard. We are grateful to everyone. Dr. Glen Leonard has directed most of the work and has seen that it was properly done. As you know the remains of some who lost their lives have now been laid at rest within these solid stone walls. We intend to maintain this memorial and keep it attractive. I am an old man now, in my 90th year. I am grateful that I have had the opportunity to further this effort. All of my associates of the First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles of the Church are united in what we have done. I sit in the chair that Brigham Young occupied as President of the Church at the time of the tragedy. I have read very much of the history of what occurred here. There is no question in my mind that he was opposed to what happened. Had there been a faster means of communication, it never would have happened. That which we have done here must never be construed as an acknowledgment on the part of the Church of any complicity in the occurrences of that fateful day. But we have an obligation. We have a moral responsibility. We have a Christian duty to honor, to respect, and to do all feasible to recognize and remember those who died there. May this cairn stand as a sacred monument to honor all of those who fell, wherever they might have been buried in these Mountain Meadows. The Church is stable. It grows stronger every day. It will be here for as long as the earth lasts, and it will take care of this place. May the peace of heaven rest upon this hallowed ground and may no evil hand do damage of any kind. May all who visit here do so in a spirit of reverence and respect for the honored dead. One hundred and forty-two years have now passed All who knew firsthand about what occurred here are long since gone. Let the book of the past be closed. Let peace come into our hearts. Let friendship and love be extended. May the peace of heaven be felt over this hallowed ground is my prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, amen. Now, my dear friends, if you will close your eyes and bow your heads I will ask you to join in a prayer of dedication. DEDICATORY PRAYER O God, our Eternal Father, gathered before Thee in this hallowed place, we unitedly bow our heads in a prayer of dedication. We know something of what occurred here 142 years ago. But our knowledge is limited. We cannot understand it. We lack the ability to comprehend it. We are all sons and daughters of Thine, bound together in brotherhood and sisterhood, for Thou art our Father and our God. We are all Christians. Our great Exemplar is the Lord who said, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you. . . Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" (John 14:27). Forgive our sins. Take from our hearts bitterness and rancor. Instill within us a spirit of love, an outreach toward one another. Kindle the fires of understanding and respect. Help us to rise above the evils of the past. Give us strength to put them behind us and replace them with a spirit of tolerance, and mutual respect. The fires of bitterness and suspicion have burned long enough, O Lord. Let the sunlight of goodwill shine upon us. Dry the tears of those who have wept over these events. Open their eyes to an understanding of Thine all-encompassing love. Touch their hearts with a feeling of appreciation one for another as we mingle together on this day of reconciliation. There has been enough of weeping and grieving. This is the time to take upon ourselves the mantle of Thy Beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave His life as a ransom for the sins of all men. We, as Thy servants, have done all we know how to do to enshrine in this sanctuary the memories of the victims. May we honor those who died here by extending the hand of friendship toward those of this generation who are innocent of the past and have shown their desire to heal the wounds of bitterness. Now, may we work together as Thy sons and daughters in that spirit of which Abraham Lincoln spoke when he said, "With malice toward none, with charity for all, . . let us bind up the wounds" (Abraham Lincoln , Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865) Let us go forward from this day with a renewal of love and an expression of friendship. In the authority of the holy priesthood and in the name of Jesus Christ, I dedicate this sacred burial place, and all other burial places unknown, that arose out of the tragic events that occurred here. May this memorial stand through the years as a place held sacred by all who visit it, we humbly pray in the name of Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of all mankind, amen.
Saturday, September 11, 1999
President Gordon B. Hinckley
Mountain Meadows Monument Rededication
Remarks and Dedicatory Prayer
My dear friends, all of you who are here, together with those in Arkansas and elsewhere who have joined with us.
This is a solemn and significant occasion. I come as a peacemaker. This is not a time for recrimination or the assigning of blame. No one can explain what happened in these meadows 142 years ago. We may speculate, but we do not know. We do not understand it. We cannot comprehend it. We can only say that the past is long since gone. It cannot be recalled. It cannot be changed. It is time to leave the entire matter in the hands of God who deals justly in all things. His is a wisdom far beyond our own.
I first came here nearly 50 years ago. When my father turned 85, I brought him down to southern Utah. We visited this place. There was no one else around. My father said nothing. I said nothing. We simply stood here and thought of what occurred here in 1857. The rock cairn was here. Weeds rustled in the breeze.
We walked back to our car without speaking. We knew this ground was hallowed, and we were reverent and respectful.
I came here again in 1990. We met on the campus of Southern Utah University in Cedar City. That too was a day of solemnity and reconciliation. There were a number of speakers. Some were descendants of the Fanchers and Bakers. Some were descendants of John D. Lee. I was not related in any way to either side. I came here representing the Church. We heard from an old Indian. We heard from those who came from Arkansas. I spoke. But perhaps the most impressive thing to me on that occasion was when Rex Lee, then president of Brigham Young University and who has now passed away asked all to stand and join hands in a gesture of friendship. We felt a spirit of peace on that occasion and a spirit of appreciation one for another.
We then traveled to the marker on Dan Sill Hill. I spoke a few words and offered a prayer of dedication there. We then came to this area. Many people had been here immediately before us. The weeds were all tramped down. We had a brief exercise here.
I came here again last year. I was shocked by what I found. The wall of the cairn was beginning to slip in the direction of the small stream in the gully. The weeds were tall. There was an ugly barbed-wire fence around this site.
I knew that the Church owned this ground. I said to myself, "You must do something to make this a more beautiful and attractive and lasting memorial. This is a sacred place."
I thought much of what we might do. I had our architectural department work on some drawings. I called a meeting in the Church Administration Building. Burr Fancher was there. Ron Loving was there. Verne Lee was there, and a number of others. I expressed my feelings on that occasion to the effect that I felt very strongly that the Church should do something to beautify this place. We owned the ground. This was a sacred place of remembrance for many people. I made alternative proposals and then asked you of the Mountain Meadows Association and the people of Arkansas to look over the alternatives and tell us what you would like to see here.
You came back with the suggestion that the stone walls be preserved, but that they be capped with dressed stone, denoting both the old and the new.
When the responses were in and you had expressed your desires, the Church went to work. We have spent a very substantial amount of money on what has been accomplished here. The walls of the cairn have been rebuilt and stabilized. The dressed stone has been placed along the top of the walls. We have not spared expense to do it right and to do it in a fashion that will remain through the years. We have gone to great effort and cost to secure water and electricity. We have fenced it in an attractive and secure manner. The path has been re-graded and improved. We have worked with the Forest Service and the county to make it more accessible.
Many, many people have participated. Volunteers have worked very hard. We are grateful to everyone. Dr. Glen Leonard has directed most of the work and has seen that it was properly done.
As you know the remains of some who lost their lives have now been laid at rest within these solid stone walls. We intend to maintain this memorial and keep it attractive. I am an old man now, in my 90th year. I am grateful that I have had the opportunity to further this effort. All of my associates of the First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles of the Church are united in what we have done.
I sit in the chair that Brigham Young occupied as President of the Church at the time of the tragedy. I have read very much of the history of what occurred here. There is no question in my mind that he was opposed to what happened. Had there been a faster means of communication, it never would have happened. That which we have done here must never be construed as an acknowledgment on the part of the Church of any complicity in the occurrences of that fateful day.
But we have an obligation. We have a moral responsibility. We have a Christian duty to honor, to respect, and to do all feasible to recognize and remember those who died there. May this cairn stand as a sacred monument to honor all of those who fell, wherever they might have been buried in these Mountain Meadows.
The Church is stable. It grows stronger every day. It will be here for as long as the earth lasts, and it will take care of this place. May the peace of heaven rest upon this hallowed ground and may no evil hand do damage of any kind. May all who visit here do so in a spirit of reverence and respect for the honored dead.
One hundred and forty-two years have now passed All who knew firsthand about what occurred here are long since gone. Let the book of the past be closed. Let peace come into our hearts. Let friendship and love be extended. May the peace of heaven be felt over this hallowed ground is my prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Now, my dear friends, if you will close your eyes and bow your heads I will ask you to join in a prayer of dedication.
O God, our Eternal Father, gathered before Thee in this hallowed place, we unitedly bow our heads in a prayer of dedication. We know something of what occurred here 142 years ago. But our knowledge is limited. We cannot understand it. We lack the ability to comprehend it. We are all sons and daughters of Thine, bound together in brotherhood and sisterhood, for Thou art our Father and our God. We are all Christians. Our great Exemplar is the Lord who said, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you. . . Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" (John 14:27).
Forgive our sins. Take from our hearts bitterness and rancor. Instill within us a spirit of love, an outreach toward one another. Kindle the fires of understanding and respect. Help us to rise above the evils of the past. Give us strength to put them behind us and replace them with a spirit of tolerance, and mutual respect.
The fires of bitterness and suspicion have burned long enough, O Lord. Let the sunlight of goodwill shine upon us. Dry the tears of those who have wept over these events. Open their eyes to an understanding of Thine all-encompassing love. Touch their hearts with a feeling of appreciation one for another as we mingle together on this day of reconciliation. There has been enough of weeping and grieving. This is the time to take upon ourselves the mantle of Thy Beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave His life as a ransom for the sins of all men.
We, as Thy servants, have done all we know how to do to enshrine in this sanctuary the memories of the victims. May we honor those who died here by extending the hand of friendship toward those of this generation who are innocent of the past and have shown their desire to heal the wounds of bitterness.
Now, may we work together as Thy sons and daughters in that spirit of which Abraham Lincoln spoke when he said, "With malice toward none, with charity for all, . . let us bind up the wounds" (Abraham Lincoln , Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865) Let us go forward from this day with a renewal of love and an expression of friendship.
In the authority of the holy priesthood and in the name of Jesus Christ, I dedicate this sacred burial place, and all other burial places unknown, that arose out of the tragic events that occurred here. May this memorial stand through the years as a place held sacred by all who visit it, we humbly pray in the name of Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of all mankind, amen.