Massacre At Mountain Meadows by Ronald Walker, Richard Turley Jr, Glen Leonard

When we hear the date of 9-11 or September 11th, we have memories of a horrific event in our history.  What you may not know, is that this was not the first September 11th on record for being a horrific event. 

On September 11, 1857, more than 120 men, women, and children who were traveling by wagon train from Arkansas to California were murdered by Mormon militiamen and Paiute Indians at Mountain Meadows in southern Utah (35 miles south-west of Cedar City). 

At the time, the massacre lasted five days, ending on September 11th when John Lee entered the meadows with a white flag and convinced those of the wagon train to surrender peacefully.  Once he escorted the men, women, and children out of the safety of their wagons, he gave a signal and they were attached by the militia and indians and killed.  (*Note – John Lee was the only man tried, convicted, and executed for his role in the massacre).

Following the massacre the perpetrators hastily buried the victims, leaving their bodies vulnerable to wild animals and the climate. Local families took in the surviving children, and many of the victims’ possessions were auctioned off. Investigations, temporarily interrupted by the American Civil War, resulted in nine indictments during 1874. Of the men indicted, only John D. Lee was tried in a court of law. After two trials Lee was convicted and executed.

How could basically good people commit such an act? 


Four of the nine Utah Territorial militiamen of the Tenth Regiment
“Iron Brigade” who were indicted in 1874 for murder or conspiracy
(Not shown: William H. Dame • William C. Stewart • Ellott Willden • Samuel Jukes • George Adair, Jr.)
Isaac Haight.jpg John H. Higbee.jpg
photograph of John D. Lee

Image via Wikipedia

Philip Klingensmith.jpg
Isaac C. Haight—Battalion Commander—died 1886 Arizona Maj. John H. Higbee, said to have shouted the command to begin the killings. He claimed that he reluctantly participated in the massacre and only to bury the dead who he thought were victims of an “Indian attack.” Maj. John D. Lee, constable, judge, and Indian Agent. Having conspired in advance with his immediate commander, Isaac C. Haight, Lee led the initial assault, and falsely offered emigrants safe passage prior to their mile-long march to the field where they were ultimately massacred. He was the only participant convicted. Philip Klingensmith, a Bishop in the church and a private in the militia. He participated in the killings, and later turned state’s evidence against his fellows, after leaving the church.

as found at wikepedia

I had never heard of this until I found this book in audio format at audible.com.   I was interested in knowing more about this event in our history that I knew literally nothing about. 

What I found within this ten and half hour audio was a lot of history prior to the massacre.  While the audio starts with a graphic description of what was found at Mountain Meadows even years after the event, it quickly backtracks years before the event and perhaps covering what is believed to have caused the massacre to happen.

At the time, the massacre lasted five days, ending on September 11th when John Lee entered the meadows with a white flag and convinced those of the wagon train to surrender peacefully.  Once he escorted the men, women, and children out of the safety of their wagons, he gave a signal and they were attached by the militia and indians and killed.  (*Note – John Lee was the only man tried, convicted, and executed for his role in the massacre).


As I listened to this audio it seems so many things played a part in this tragedy.  Politics, war hysteria, misinformation, misunderstandings, personal vendettas,  and Mormons themselves were being heavily persecuted and attached in these times.  Many had moved from state to state trying to stay alive. 

All in all this is a heartbreaking, awful event, where so many people of all faith and all race suffered – even beyond the event itself.   No one can possibly know all what drove what happened that day to happen.  I appreciated  that all three of the authors on this book are Mormon and told as accurate account of what happened that day as they could.  Much research was done to tell this historic event.  As hard as it is to listen to, I think it is an important part of our history and I am glad I took the time to learn about this. 


Amazon Rating

The 2011 WHERE Are You Reading Map has been updated to include Massacre at Mountain Meadows


I purchased this audio from audible.com


In September of 2007, 150 years after the massacre, this article was released in Ensign Magazine

A fictional movie called September Dawn is based loosely on the Massacre At Mountain Meadows

About Sheila (Book Journey)

Bookaholic * Audio Book Fan *Bike Rider *Rollerblader *Adventure Seeker *Runner*Coffee lover *Fitness Fan * Movie junkie

Posted on April 19, 2011, in audio review and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 28 Comments.

  1. This is a really interesting book to me, as my husband’s family is descended from the lone Fancher child who survived this massacre. I didn’t realize it was on audio now! I’ll have to look into getting it downloaded.

  2. I knew nothing about this event! Thanks for sharing a little bit of history with us!

  3. What I love about book blogging, one of the things anyway, is that I’m constatnly being exposed to non fiction books that I would never have come into contact with any other way. Whether they are books I read or another blogger, I’m learning so much about people and events I’ve either never heard of before (like this one) or don’t know much about.

    Thank you for the review and I’ll be getting ahold of this book, hopefully soon.

    • I am so glad Ryan and I agree with you…. my endless search for awesome reads takes me all over the map in my reading but I love the diversity – and what I learn along the way 🙂

      Thanks for joining me friend!

  4. I knew about this terrible historical event, but I had no idea that it happened on September 11. I watched a 2007 film called September Dawn that was about this event. Jon Voight was one of the stars in it. It was pretty good. I may have to check into reading this book.

    • I have not seen September Dawn Michelle but heard it was based loosely on this event – a fictional tale kind of like the Titanic movie where they mixed a love story into it.

      I am going to see if Netflix has it.

  5. I don’t think this one’s for me …

  6. I have never heard of this bit of history before, but am curious about why it happened. It really is odd what people will do, especially if they are acting as part of a group.

  7. I had never heard of this event until, I think it was you mentioned the book a week or two. It sounds fascinating in that how could it have possibly happened kind of way. I’ll have to see if our library has a copy.

  8. I didn’t know there was a book written by Mormons that told about this tragedy. I’ll certainly look for it because I’d like to know more about it.

  9. how awful! i have never come across this piece of history before.

    september 11 was also the day hurricane iniki destroyed the hawaiian island of kauai where i live.

  10. We have this book in our home, I purchased it for my husband’s birthday recently. I need to add it to my tbr list.

  11. Up until recently, I hadn’t heard of this event, but within the past couple of months, I’ve seen it mentioned and even read a book that touched on it (Phoebe). I really must look into it more.

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