Shallow grave yields details of Mormon-Goshute massacre in Nephi
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - The remains of seven American Indians unearthed
by a home builder show several were shot point-blank in the head by
Mormon settlers seeking revenge during a period of pitched violence in
1853, says scientists who plan to release their findings on Friday.
The bones were discovered by contractors digging in Nephi, about 70
miles south of Salt Lake City, last summer for a house that now stands
over the site.
The victims, all males about 13 to 35 years old, are believed to have
been Goshute Indians who were unwitting casualties of the Walker War,
a nearly yearlong clash between Mormons and other Indian tribes under
the leadership of Ute Chief Walkara.
"These Indians just happened to be in the wrong place," said Ron Rood,
an assistant state archaeologist who retrieved the bones, scraps of
clothing, copper ornaments and a lead bullet from inside a skull.
By one account, the Oct. 2, 1853, killings were in retaliation for the
ambush a day before of four Manti, Utah, farmers hauling wheat to Salt
Lake City by oxen. That attacked occurred at Fountain Green, about
halfway between Manti and Nephi.
Manti is about 30 miles southeast of Nephi, a gateway to the Wasatch Front.
The massacre occurred during a summer and fall of bloody conflict
between Mormon settlers fanning out from the Salt Lake valley and
"There were a whole series of tit-for-tat killings," he said.
Rood said his findings refute an account by a Mormon militia regiment
that the Indians approached Nephi refusing to drop their weapons and
attacked first, hitting a settler with an arrow.
"A discovery like this allows the victims to tell their story," Utah
state archaeologist Kevin Jones said.
Four of the victims were shot in the head. All of the victims showed
defensive wounds. The hands of one Indian were tied behind his back.
Several showed evidence of blunt-force trauma.
Their bodies were heaped into a shallow grave about 3 feet wide, Rood said.
The grave was covered by a cedar plank and several feet of sediment
from flash floods over the years. By last August it yielded to heavy
equipment digging a hole for a foundation.
Contractors stopped the excavation to call police and a medical examiner.
The event had been recorded in historical accounts as involving Isaac
Morley, a leader of 225 settlers sent to Nephi by Brigham Young, the
second president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"We have the personal journals of two women who witnessed this event
and described it as a heinous act of murder," said Rood.
"This is a great example of archaeology and history coming together."
Rood teamed up with Derinna Kopp, a forensic anthropologist at the
University of Utah.
Their investigation will be the topic of a lecture Friday night at a
conference of the Utah Statewide Archaeological Society at Utah Valley
State College in Orem.
Springville, Utah, historian D. Robert Carter plans to set the stage
for Rood with an overview of settler and Indian conflict in Utah
Friday's lecture is scheduled for 8 p.m. at the McKay Events Center at UVSC.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)