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Descendants hail landmark status for massacre site

 

JENNIFER DOBNER

Published: Jul 1, 2011 4:30 PM

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Descendants of massacre victims at a Utah site say the elevation of the Mountain Meadows area to national landmark status brings some healing.

 

The 760-acre site marks the spot where 120 members of an Arkansas wagon train were shot and killed on Sept. 11, 1857, by a Mormon militia. The Baker-Fancher wagon train was on a stop-over in the meadows on their way to California when it was attacked.

 

Seventeen young children survived and were taken into Mormon homes. The children were later returned to relatives in the southeast.

 

The meadows site, which sits 30 miles north of St. George, was elevated to a National Historic Landmark on Thursday by the U.S. Interior Department.

 

"There's not a lot you can do for folks that's been gone 150 years but remember them and honor them in the highest possible way and tell their story in a historically correct way," said Phil Bolinger, the Hindsville, Ark., president of the Mountain Meadows Massacre Foundation. "For me personally, it's closure because we've all come together for this one goal and there's been a lot of healing."

 

The foundation, along with the Mountain Meadows Association and the Mountain Meadows Massacre Descendants has individually worked for national recognition and protections for the site for more than decade.

 

They'd also fought for years to wrestle an apology for the massacre from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which for decades denied or downplayed the faith's role in the massacre, with explanations that church leaders did not have any advance knowledge of the attack.

 

No apology has ever come, but in 2008 - a year after a church official expressed "regret" for the Mountain Meadows event - the church joined forced with the descendant groups to pursue the landmark status designation.

 

For association president Terry Fancher, those efforts speak louder than any words.

 

"Words wouldn't be as strong as the actions they've taken and I think will continue to take in the future" said Fancher, of Braintree, Mass., whose father and grandfather had talked about national recognition for the meadows as far back as the 1950s.

 

Fancher said he finds evidence of healing in the unanimous decision to ask the church's assistant historian, Richard Turley, to lead a dedication ceremony of the bronze national landmark plaques that is planned for September.

 

"That wouldn't have been possible years ago," Fancher said.

 

Turley called the designation "great news" and expressed gratitude for the collaboration with the descendant groups and federal agencies that worked on the landmark project.

 

"People will still have and should have their own version of the Mountain Meadows story, but this designation is a general recognition of the importance of the event in history," said Turley.

 

The Mountain Meadows site has long been on the National Register of Historic Places, but landmark status will elevate the massacre story, which has often been left out of histories of the western migration of pioneers, to a new place in American history.

 

"This is part of a larger story that had to do with the relationship between the church and the dominant society. That relationship was frequently violent and had been played out from New York all the way across the U.S. into Utah," said Lysa Wegman-French, a U.S. Forest Service historian based in Denver.

 

"Recent scholarship has brought new information to this very complex story," she added. "What the nomination does is draw on that scholarship to say, this is important."

 

The landmark site includes a rock cairn monument at the site where the five-day siege began, a hillside memorial inscribed with the names of the known dead and an area known as the upper graves to the north. The site is part of a 2,500-acre rolling green valley, which includes several known mass grave sites.

 

Much of the land is privately owned by the church and some is held by the U.S. Forest Service.

 

Patty Norris, the president of the Mountain Meadows Massacre Descendants, said the landmark designation cements a new, and hard-won partnership between the descendant groups and the church that will preserve the massacre story far into the future.

 

"People need to know what happened here and some of the reasons behind it," said Norris, of Omaha, Ark "It's not about pointing a finger. It's about the truth. That's what history is about."

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The massacre is not one of the high points of LDS history. The meadow itself is beautiful, but a bit eerie if you know the history.

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Guest Anonymous

For anyone descended from one of the wagon train survivors or victims, I wouldn't think that a lame-ass "expression of regret" would be good enough

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They'll never get an apology from the Mormon church. They never admit they're wrong. But I'm sure our resident Mormons will soon be posting to tell me and you that we're just SOOO wrong about Mormons! Fortunately, I won't have to read it because I have them on ignore. LOL

Mormons love to act towards the world like they're such great people. A little digging into the religion's history shows how untrue that it is. I have several Mormon family members, and I've seen some pretty terrible things out of them.

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I think the hafl-assed comment about regret is all anyone will get from the Mormon church, as they would rather people just forget about the massacre as it was one of the lowest points in Mormon history. If September Dawn had been a better movie than it was, more people would have actually seen it.

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This is still a live issue in Utah, here's a few somewhat related thoughts on the matter.

One of my friends wryly commented that if all the people who claimed they were just "holding the horses" at Mountain Meadows actually WERE holding the horses, there would have been nobody to shoot the Fancher party.

When I lived in Utah in the 90s, there was an incident at Mountain Meadows where a backhoe exposed a gravesite. The evidence taken from that site indicated for once and for all that this was not a Paiute massacre (as had been alleged for over 140 years), but actual murder in cold blood at point blank range.

Here's a couple of articles about the archaeology of Mountain Meadows:

http://www.archaeology.org/online/featu ... adows.html

http://www.archaeology.org/online/news/mormons.html

There are two groups of descendants of the Fancher party, one is very friendly to the Mormon church and the other is much less so. I believe these articles are from the latter site (which is actually chock-full of MMM stuff):

http://1857massacre.com/MMM/142-year-old-wound.htm

http://1857massacre.com/MMM/voices_of_the_dead.htm

And finally, I worked in commercial real estate in the late 90s in SLC. Some of the things we did were to loan on building Section 8 housing (banks got tax benefits for doing that). I remember one project we were working on was called "Mountain Meadows Apartments." Whoops. That got changed to "Valley Meadows Apartments."

And Richard Tur(d)ley can kiss my fat white ex-Mormon ass. He got a friend of mine fired from his job when he was just short of making retirement, and he meddled inappropriately in the affairs of a grown woman and her parents. He doesn't have much in the way of morals...back when he was trying to claim that 60 boxes of former Mormon church historian Len Arrington's documents actually belonged to the Mormon church, he violated the terms of the deposit of Arrington's diaries, which were to be sealed until a future date, and read them. As a result, instead of 60 boxes of documents, he got a half-box. *ssh*t. And no, I don't believe a g*d* word Tur(d)ley has to say on much of anything.

tl;dr Random comments about Mountain Meadows and a rant about Richard Tur(d)ley.

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They'll never get an apology from the Mormon church. They never admit they're wrong. But I'm sure our resident Mormons will soon be posting to tell me and you that we're just SOOO wrong about Mormons! Fortunately, I won't have to read it because I have them on ignore. LOL

Mormons love to act towards the world like they're such great people. A little digging into the religion's history shows how untrue that it is. I have several Mormon family members, and I've seen some pretty terrible things out of them.

Have any of you read Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer? I learned a lot about this incident and other parts of Mormon history from that book. I found it pretty eye-opening.

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