Friday, May 5, 2017

Dark Deeds of Utah

   Utah is well known for open spaces, beautiful scenery, and good people. So how is it that such a beautiful and peaceful place became the bloody end for 120 men and women back in 1857? Simple. I would say it was fear and paranoia.
  Utah was settled in 1847 by Mormon pioneers that fled Illinois to start a life where they could live without persecution for their beliefs. There were many things about the church that set the Mormon's apart from other religions but the fact that they practiced polygamy, which is illegal in the United States, caused a rift between the Mormon's and their neighbors. Peace turned to violence and the Mormon's were forced to leave. This wasn't the first time either. They had been pushed out of Ohio for the same reasons in 1833 but in Illinois the violence escalated to murder when church leader, Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum were murdered in the Carthage jail. Brigham Young led his people west and settled what is now Salt Lake City to start fresh but trouble just seemed to follow.
 By 1857 the then Utah Territory had filled with Mormon settlements as the church expanded their reach throughout the area. The U.S. government had been keeping tabs on the Mormon's and rumors spread that the government was sending troops into the area, which they did. Settlers were put on alert and tensions rose. But soldiers weren't the only people entering the territory. Other settlers passing through to California made regular stops throughout the region for supplies as they made their own treks to the west. One such group of emigrants from Arkansas would unfortunately not make it to their destination. A group of 50 to 60 men from the local militia attacked and murdered 120 men and women in a small grassy valley in Southwestern, Utah. The militia even convinced a few of the local Native Americans to help with the attacks in hopes that they could blame the tribe for the attacks later.
  Church members had been asked to stockpile and hide their ammunition and supplies in case they were needed when the military arrived. This made it difficult for emigrants to resupply as they traveled through the territory and led to frustration and heated words. These words would prove fatal in the end because from what I can tell there really was no other provocation. Like I said, it seems to be an unfortunate and sad event caused by fear and paranoia from people that had already had a tough life. No excuse. This was a terrible tragedy carried out by a group of men of their own volition and without the consent of the church.

 Even today the site is secluded and looks much like it did back in 1857 and it seems the details of what really happened during this event will never fully be known or understood. We spent about a half an hour waling around the monument and reading the story. To get more details on this strange incident you can check it out here and here.

Next week we'll visit somewhere a lot more cheery. See you then.

Brandan 

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