THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE
March 5, 2002
A mysterious sheet of lead allegedly inscribed by Mountain Meadows Massacre participant John D. Lee temporarily will be on display to the public Friday at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area headquarters in Page, Ariz.
The weathered lead scroll was discovered Jan. 22 buried inside Lee's Ferry Fort by a National Park Service volunteer who had been assigned to remove rat dung from the stone fortification southeast of Kanab.
Dated Jan. 11, 1872, the inscription apparently refers to the 1857 mass murders of 120 Arkansas emigrants and places blame for the Mormon-led attack on then LDS Church President Brigham Young. Lee was the only person ever convicted for the attack and was executed by firing squad at Mountain Meadows in 1877.
Park Service officials have been unable to authenticate the object and have cautioned it could be a hoax, planted to fuel historic speculation that Young had a direct hand in arranging the attack on the California-bound wagon train. The massacre happened at a point in Utah territorial history when Young's empire of Deseret was on the verge of U.S. military occupation to quell a "Mormon uprising."
Since announcing the discovery last week, Glen Canyon officials have fielded numerous requests to view and photograph the scroll. It will be displayed to the public Friday from noon to 3:30 p.m. at park headquarters, 691 Scenic View Drive in Page.
Curators at the Western Archaeological and Conservation Center in Tucson, Ariz., examined the scroll and were unable to determine the age of the lead sheet, which measures 31.5 centimeters wide and 39.5 centimeters long. Glen Canyon National Recreation Area Superintendent Kitty Roberts said her staff is contacting other conservation experts within the National Park system for help in determining where the lead was mined in the hopes of dating the metal. The sheet was apparently cut from a larger piece of lead, which was a customary staple at 19th century trading posts for settlers who fashioned their own bullets from the soft metal.
No analysis of the all-capital-letter inscription has been performed, although those who have viewed the scroll noticed the similarity between Lee's signature on the lead sheet and the signature he scratched on a rock cliff at House Rock Springs near Lee's Ferry two weeks earlier on Christmas Day, 1871. In both instances, the "stems," or major vertical structures of the characters, in "J.D. LEE" are made with dual lines.
Gretchen Voek, a metals specialist and curator at the Western Archaeological and Conservation Center, said the center staff examining the scroll also noticed the similarity to the House Rock Springs signature but cautioned the photograph of the rock inscription has been widely published and could easily be duplicated.
Park Service officials also have noted the scroll was found inside a structure that was built two years after the date inscribed on the object.
According to records of the May 1874 general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in St. George, Young ordered the fort built at Lee's Ferry as a trading post for Navajos.