Missing link to massacre? Unauthenticated text scrawled on lead sheet implies Brigham Young ordered 1857 slayings
By Joe Garner, News Staff Writer
A clue found last month in southern Utah could link Mormon leader Brigham Young to the Mountain Meadows Massacre of some 120 Arkansas immigrants in 1857.
A sheet of lead with writing scratched into it, found Jan. 22 below several inches of dirt and rat droppings, purports that the church president ordered the slaying of pioneers in a wagon train bound from Arkansas to California.
The unauthenticated text seems to be a confession by J.D. Lee that he was among the men who slaughtered the families in the wagon train led by Alexander Fancher and John Baker.
Asking for God's mercy, Lee allegedly wrote that he was "willing to tak(e) the blame for the Fancher." The sheet says the atrocity was "on orders from Pres(ident) Young thro(ugh) Geo(rge) Smith."
The National Park Service issued a press release Monday with details of the lead sheet, after a story about the massacre was published in the Rocky Mountain News.
A National Park Service volunteer found the lead sheet while preparing for stabilization of the old fort at Lees Ferry, part of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, said National Park Service spokesman Rick Frost. Lee operated the ferry at the river crossing.
"The object may or may not have some historical significance, depending on its authenticity," said park Superintendent Kitty L. Roberts.
The National Park Service's Western Archeological and Conservation Center in Tucson was unable to authenticate the lead sheet, Frost said. The center returned it to Glen Canyon, "where it is being held under lock and key while we work on methods of testing it," he said.
"There's just no way right now to determine if it is an authentic historical artifact, and there's no way to determine how long it may take," he said.
Frost said it was "pure coincidence" that the lead sheet was found just weeks before the 2002 Olympic Winter Games focused the world's attention on Utah and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"It was found when it was found," he said.
Church officials have denied Young's role in the slaughter that has sparked a continuing legal and political controversy in Utah.
Young "definitely did not order" the massacre, said Glen M. Leonard, director of the Museum of Church History and Art.
February 26, 2002 Rocky Mountain News.