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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
- The Homestead Act
- Brigham Young and the Mormons
- The events leading to the Mountain Meadows Massacre
- The people involved in the Mountain Meadows Massacre
KEY FACTS AND INFORMATION
Let’s find out more about Brigham Young, the Mormons and the Mountain Meadows Massacre!
- The Homestead Act enabled the Mormon migration and occupation of Utah after they were forced out of Illinois.
- John Smith, Brigham Young’s father, was the founder of the Mormon Church, officially known as the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints.
- The Mountain Meadows Massacre posthumously taints the exemplary leadership demonstrated by Brigham Young in leading the Mormons out of Illinois and towards preservation and success in Utah.
The Homestead Act
- In 1862, the Homestead Act became law.
- It significantly contributed to the opening up of the western region by providing highly subsidised public land for all, including freed slaves.
- Abraham Lincoln signed the Homestead Act on May 20,1862.
- In the 1850s, there was an urging enactment of homestead legislation by notable persons such as Horace Greeley (New York Tribune editor), different organisations, and other labour unions.
- Ohio Sen. Benjamin Wade pertained the first homestead bill, which was presented by the Congress in 1846, as the “great question of land to the landless”.
- Homestead Act was finally passed by the Congress in 1860 but was vetoed by Democratic Pres. James Buchanan.
- According to the Southerners who opposed the Homestead Act, there would be antislavery with those people living in the territories and also, employers argued that it would consume the
labour market, resulting in increased wages.
- People could apply for up to 160 acres, and they were required to put up self-sustaining homes (homesteaders).
- Once successful, and after five years, the homesteaders could apply for confirmation of the title of land.
- The only personal requirement was that the homesteader must be either the head of a family or 21 years old.
- Eligible people included US citizens, freed slaves, new immigrants planning to become naturalised, single women, and people of all races.
- Those homesteaders who were head of the household or 21 years of age needed to certify that they never borne arms against the US.
- Two neighbours or friends also needed to certify to the government that the applicant met the requirements.
- The Mormon migration and occupation of Utah was under the terms of the Homestead Act.
Brigham Young and Exile to Utah
- Brigham Young, who was born in 1801, was a professional carpenter and painter.
- He was baptised as a member of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1832 and was appointed as an apostle in 1835.
- Brigham Young’s father, John Smith, was the founder of the Mormon Church officially known as the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints.
- Young also established the Perpetual Emigrating Fund Company which assisted approximately 80,000 converts to migrate to Utah from Great Britain, Scandinavia, and continental Europe.
- He also committed to building the transcontinental telegraph line that connected all Mormon villages with one another and to Salt Lake City.
- He also pledged to prepare the roadbed for part of the transcontinental railroad line, and organised railroads for rail transportation.
- However, on their journey to present-day Utah, a group of Mormons under the leadership of Brigham executed 120 unarmed non-Mormon emigrants.
- He and the Mormon Church were forced to vacate their homes in Illinois for Salt Lake valley in 1847.
- Smith was later executed by an angry mob of religious extremists while he was in prison.
Mountain Meadows Massacre
- President James Buchanan received multiple reports of Utah’s disloyalty and sent a group of soldiers to assert federal authority over the state of Utah.
- For the Mormons, memories of their fate in Illinois drove them to fear and panic.
- Brigham Young, who at the time was both Governor and head of the Church, prepared his people to fight the oncoming army.
- His representatives travelled across the area impressing upon his people not to sell trade to the Gentiles, meaning non-Mormons.
- He asked Native Indians to join him in a possible fight against the federal army and sanctioned Indian raids against non-Mormon wagons trailing the territory.
- A group known as the Baker-Fancher Party, having come from the Arkansas state, found themselves repeatedly clashing with the Mormon settlers as they made their way through the settlement.
- Angry and frustrated at not being able to access supplies for their company, some made threats against the settlement’s mayor Isaac Haight who then ordered John D. Lee to recruit local Paiute Indians to ambush the Arkansas Company.
- On 7 September at the Mountain Meadows, Haight and the militia attacked the company where they camped to rest and freshen their animals before heading across the desert to San Bernardino.
- During the attack, it became obvious the emigrants outnumbered the militia though the latter managed to seize wagons and provisions that the company were carrying.
- The Mormons tried to blame the incident on the Indians, but the company was able to see through the disguise and knew that the Mormons were involved.
- Haight, through a letter, requested advice from Brigham Young but instead of waiting for a response planned the execution of all the people in the company.
- On the pretext that the mayor would protect them from the natives, Haight and Lee tricked them into journeying without their weapons and the emigrants were mercilessly attacked. Some were shot at point-blank range; others were stabbed or had their throats cut.
- Haight, together with other conspirators, was indicted and excommunicated from the Mormon Church, after which Haight went into hiding.
- Lee, on the other hand was executed for the massacre, but many still hold Young responsible for the incident since his leadership style was very authoritative and it is difficult to imagine Haight or Lee would orchestrate and execute such an action without the approval of Brigham Young.
- The massacre continues to taint Young’s legacy.