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Mountain Meadows Massacre Artifact Now Believed To Be A Fake

Keith Jeffreys

The following article is from Frontlines, Free Inquiry magazine, Volume 22, Number 4.

A lead scroll inscribed with an alleged confession to the Mountain Meadows Massacre by convicted murderer John D. Lee is now believed to be a fake. The artifact, discovered in January 2002 by a National Park Service volunteer working on a stabilization effort of historical buildings at Lee's Ferry on the Colorado River, was declared a fake in separate statements by forensic document examiners George Throckmorton of Salt Lake City and William Flynn of Phoenix, Arizona. 

The scroll measuring approximately 12 by 16 inches is inscribed with a confession that stated the murder of over 120 California-bound Arkansas emigrants by members of a Mormon Militia was committed "On orders from pres [sic] Young thro [sic] Geo Smith." George A. Smith was an Apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who traveled extensively through Southern Utah preaching the reformation and preparing "Zion" for the second coming of Jesus Christ during the period preceding the tragic event. The inscription also reads, "by my own hand, J.D. Lee - Jan 11 - 1872." 

After a thorough authentication effort coordinated by Chris Goetze, lead archeologist of the Glenn Canyon National Recreation Area, both document examiners arrived at the same conclusion upon reviewing known Lee handwriting samples. 

In a recent letter, William Flynn writes: "Considering the consistent significant differences found in the questioned writings on the scroll with the known writings of John D. Lee and the minimal affect of the lead on one's writing, it is the opinion of the undersigned that the handprinted data and signature appearing on the "Lee Scroll" were not executed by the maker of the known John D. Lee writings."

Samples of Lee's writings are extensive. As the adopted son of Brigham Young, Lee, along with many of his 19 wives colonized much of southern Utah and northern Arizona, keeping diaries and in 1871 chiseling a petroglyph in a rock. After warrants were issued for his arrest for participation in the crime, Lee was excommunicated by LDS Church officials. While in exile, Lee moved to the Colorado River to establish a profitable river crossing. Captured by federal authorities in 1874, Lee was tried twice for leading the massacre. He was found guilty of murder in the second trial and executed by a firing squad at Mountain Meadows in 1877. 

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This page was last updated 02/13/2004

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