The most terrible fate that ever befell a caravan on the Old Trail was that known to history as the Mountain Meadows Massacre.
The story of this damnable, outrageous, and wholesale murder is as follows:—
In the spring of 1857 a band of emigrants numbering one hundred and thirty-six, from Missouri and Arkansas, set out for Southern California. The party had about six hundred head of cattle, thirty wagons, and thirty horses and mules. At least thirty thousand dollars worth of plunder was collected by the assassins after the massacre.
Owing to the impending war between the United States and the Mormons, the Saints had been ordered not to furnish any emigrant trains with supplies. In view of this fact the leaders of the train found it difficult to get provisions for the party after reaching the territory occupied by that sect. The party reached Salt Lake and camped about the end of July, but finding the Mormons in so unfriendly a mood, decided to break camp and move on. Continuing their journey, they proceeded to Beaver City, thence to Parowan, where they obtained a scanty supply of provisions.
Arriving at Cedar City, they succeeded in purchasing about fifty bushels of wheat, which was ground at a mill belonging to John D. Lee, formerly commander of the fort at Cedar, but then Indian agent, and in charge of an Indian farm near Harmony.
About thirty miles to the southwest of Cedar are the Mountain Meadows, which form the divide between the waters of the Great Basin and those which flow into the Colorado. At the south end of the Meadows, which are four to five miles in length and one in width, but here run to a narrow point, is a large stream, the banks of which are about ten feet in height. Close to this stream the emigrants were encamped on the 5th of September, almost midway between two ranges of low hills some four hundred yards apart.
It was Saturday evening when the trains encamped at Mountain Meadows. On the Sabbath they rested, and at the usual hour one of them conducted divine service as had been their custom throughout the journey.
At dawn on the following morning while the camp-fires were being lighted, they were fired upon by Indians, or white men disguised as savages, and more than twenty were killed or wounded, their cattle having been driven off by the assailants who had crept on them under cover of darkness. The men now ran for their wagons, pushed them together so as to form a corral, and dug out the earth deep enough to sink them to the hubs; then in the centre of the enclosure they made a rifle-pit large enough to contain the entire company. Thereupon the attacking party, which numbered from three to four hundred, withdrew to the hills, on the crest of which they built parapets, whence they shot down all who showed themselves outside the intrenchment.