In his review of Massacre at Mountain Meadows: An American Tragedy, Jared Farmer concluded by stating, “While Mormon history is markedly better because of their work, it will be much better still when historians put the massacre to rest and move on.” Farmer has a point. Current scholarship has discovered as much of the truth of the events leading up to the massacre as we are likely to learn. The appearance of an eyewitness account from a dusty trunk in someone’s attic may someday add to our understanding, but the limit of new accounts appears to have been reached for the time being. But that does not mean we are ready to “put the massacre to rest.” Many questions remain, particularly surrounding the aftermath of the massacre. For example, what efforts were made to bring criminal charges against the perpetrators?
History speaks most compellingly when it speaks in the words of the people who were there. Mountain Meadows Massacre: Collected Legal Papers provides lucid access to some of history’s long-dead voices, refining our understanding of postmassacre events and making the path ahead easier for scholars. The documents collected in the two volumes and the online trial matrix provide a basis for examining such issues as settler-Indian relations, relations between governments and minority religious groups, mass killings, frontier justice, and frontier trial practice. From the massacre itself to the investigations, manhunts, and trials; from the absence of Indian voices in the legal process to Lee’s execution at the massacre site, the fallout of the Mountain Meadows Massacre is emblematic of the Wild West.