Every American knows what happened 10 years ago on September 11th. But, how many Americans, or even Utahans, know what happened 154 years ago on the same day? Well, a new National Historic Landmark dedicated this past Sunday, September 11, is a strong reminder of just how deeply rooted we are to the past.

On September 11, 1857, 120 members of the Baker-Fancher wagon train, en route from Arkansas to California, were massacred by Mormon Militia. Only 17 young children survived. These children were eventually returned to their families back east and grew to have children and grandchildren of their own. For years three separate descendant organizations tried to gain landmark status for the site of the massacre. Finally, in 2008, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints assisted these groups by filing for landmark status and helping push for approval. This past Sunday that landmark was dedicated.

While the Church has never officially apologized for the events of that fateful day, current leaders have expressed both regret and remorse over the incident. As details regarding the massacre have come to light over the past few years, many church members have expressed their sympathy over the tragedy. For many Church members, the Mountain Meadows Massacre is especially poignant since some of its participants, along with so many of the early Utah Mormons, had suffered similar pains and loss at the hands of mobs and militia not very many years before. That very suffering is what drove the Mormons to the Utah territory. To have some of their own participate is a similar act was, perhaps, was too much to bear at that time. Now, however, the truth of these tragic events have been revealed. Some expressed feelings that the new landmark status signifies a ‘reconciliation’ between the Church and descendents of all parties.

Descendents of the those 17 children are closely bonded to their ancestors through their efforts to reveal their story. These and similar stories of the past are what tie us to our ancestors. For better or worse, the struggles and decisions of our ancestor have partially shaped our lives. We feel a connection to our forefathers. Uncovering and revealing their stories brings us closer to them. Discovering the truth of their lives, for better or worse, can help define us, and if we choose to learn from the past, make us a better person.

Sources:

“Utah massacre site dedicated as national landmark;” Associated Press; FoxNews.com.

Mountain Meadows Massacre segment, Doug Wright Show; KSL Raido 1160am; aired Monday September 12, 2011.