The LDS Church leaders in Iron County, Utah were pressing for action against the Fancher Wagon Train occupants who, according to them, had caused serious problems along the California Road as they passed south through the Utah settlements in their migration to southern California in September, 1857.
A group of younger men in the train had caused serious mischief in Beaver and Cedar City, and some had been arrested at gunpoint bragging they had one of the guns that killed Joseph Smith at the Carthage, Illinois jail in 1844, Smith was the prophet of the LDS faith. Now the wagons had ventured to the Mountain Meadows south of Pinto. But, while camped there, to fatten their cattle for the harsh trip across the Nevada desert, they had been attacked by Paiute Indians.
A counsel was held in Cedar City with most of the male leaders of Iron County in attendance. Many wanted to take the Iron County Militia to the Meadows and finish the job, after all, the U.S. Army had a battalion heading for Utah to fight the Church and perhaps with orders to destroy the population – just as the residents of Missouri had tried in the 1830s. Most of these immigrants were from Missouri. But many in the group had cooler heads and objected to any such plan without further guidance from the Governor of the Territory and President of the Church, Brigham Young.
There was no telegraph in the area at the time. Communication between settlements and the Territorial Capitol in Salt Lake City was handled by horseback couriers. The ride, even at the full speed of horseflesh, and with changes of mounts every fifty miles or so, would take a week’s time at the minimum. Still, by unanimous consent the council agreed to send a letter asking for guidance.
James Haslam was a young carpenter and plasterer in Cedar. He was a strong, burley 31-year-old. Most express riders chosen to take on such a task were small, willowy men in their teens or early twenties. Jim exuded a bright personality. He was always willing to help anyone in the settlements, and he was skilled with his strong hands.
When the leaders asked him to make the ride, he readily agreed even though it was not a particularly opportune time for him to leave. Crops, especially wheat and fruit, was just coming into harvest time, and he was working on a number of construction projects that were keeping him busy. Still, if the town needed him to ride, he was ready.
Jim rode as fast as his steeds would carry him. Every fifty miles he changed horses as quickly as he could dismount, grab his pouches, mount a fresh horse and hit the road again. The letter Jim received from Isaac B. Haight, addressed to the Governor was delivered by the courier three days after Jim left Cedar City, and the courier rested in an outer room while the recipient read its contents. But for some reason, the document he carried disappeared after Young had read it. It was never seen again.
Brigham Young’s written response was swift and exact: the people of Iron County and Washington County were to take no action against the emigrants. They were to allow the wagon train to exit the Territory unmolested. They were to make every effort to pacify the Indians on the ground. Jim read the letter carefully. If, for some reason, it was lost in transit, he could still narrate the response.
This letter is also not extant. No one has come forward with it since its delivery.
Jim Haslam was directed by Brigham Young to rest a few hours at the Beehive House. He then mounted a fresh horse and began his journey back to Cedar City. He changed horses in Provo, again in Nephi, then in Fillmore, also Beaver. He stopped in Parowan and changed horses but didn’t show his communique to anyone there or along the way. In Cedar he delivered the document to Isaac B. Haight, President of the LDS Stake, and waited while he read it.
It was obvious from the look on his face that Haight didn’t like the contents. At this point in time, the directions couldn’t be followed. Between the time Haslam left for Salt Lake City and the time he returned the massacre at Mountain Meadow had already taken place.
How could that have happened? We’ve look at that next time.