Mountain Meadows Massacre Investigation
Treasures in America has a long history with this story
Documented by Timothy Draper
Mountain Meadows… There’s a lot of history there and I’ve been caught up in the middle of it since 2010. I never meant to get involved the way I did. I was looking for lost history and a treasure that is nearby. A historical treasure hunter must always do his research first before heading out in the field to find that pot of gold, but what I found was much bigger than treasure. I found much, much, more.
It all started at the end of the summer in 2010. I had just relocated to St. George, Utah and I was 30 years old looking for the next chapter in searching for my riches. I spent a lot of time looking for clues to anything that may land me a lead to some treasures. I was going to Dixie State University at the time and it was easier to get my hands on more books and archives. Within 3 months, I found some leads that explained that there had been Spanish activity along with some mining in the 1800s near Enterprise, Utah. At that time, I headed out in the field to get a glimpse of the area.
The more research I did the more interesting things I found. I started searching through old forums and social media posts trying to find out if others were talking about lost mines and treasures. Then I got a hit. Local people were talking about some lost mines nearby the Mountain Meadows area on a forum and lost mines have always been my thing. I also finally found some information about a lost ledge of gold nearby and much more. Now I was hot on the trail. I knew I couldn’t take on the task of exploring in this area alone, nor did I want to, so I began doing a little prospecting of my own for a partner. Another 6 months or so went by and after many attempts to find someone that could share my adventure, I found Brandon Beneventi. He was very motivated and good in the outdoors, plus he’s a very intelligent guy with lots of knowledge and seemed to enjoy problem-solving.
Now we were ready, we did the one thing that I knew would work to get us somewhere, and that was to get boots on the ground and start looking and exploring for clues. We spent the next two years looking for anything that was not natural, and we did a very good job! We found many things that helped prove that the Spanish were indeed mining in the area, hundreds of years before us, and found some clues to the Pioneers mining near and around the Mountain Meadows area. The battle wasn’t over though, not by a long shot. The problem was, we found rock monuments, tree symbols, rock structures, and more, but we couldn’t find any signs of the mines. That’s when I really became a Historical Treasure Hunter. I realized that yes, we had found clues, but what we were missing was the real untold history.
I spent the next year with my nose in books, researching on the internet, and visiting city records, and anything else I could think of. That’s when I found the story of the massacre at Mountain Meadows. I still didn’t really want the massacre story, but in order to track down my clues, I had to learn everything that I could about the area. For the next few years, we went out in the field and searched and searched. And after every time, when I came home, I researched some more. Brandon and I were going out almost every Saturday and hiking the area.
After all this time learning about the area, I was surprised at how much lost history information I had gained. Some local people knew I was becoming a person with some really good info and that’s how I got involved with the investigation between the LDS church, landowners, Arkansas families, & Utah News. In October of 2015, I saw that an Archaeologist named Everett Basset made a statement with Utah News saying that he found the real grave sites of the murdered Arkansas people. I read his statement about these “new” gravesite discoveries, from what I knew myself, it caught my attention and made me want to check it out for myself. LeeAnn and I headed out to the area to see what we could find. Within a couple of days of digging around, I coincidentally was contacted by both St. George News, and KUTV Channel 2 asking if they could interview me. I accepted, but I explained to them that I would need some time to develop my own opinion of the story and Bassett’s claim before I’d be willing to appear on any news channels. This took me roughly 3 weeks of investigating to get a pretty good idea about what I felt was going on. About a year prior to this, I had been helping a group of ghost hunters called, ‘The Spirit Stories’ so this whole ‘showing up to the massacre site and setting up for an investigation’ was starting to feel like a habit for me.
Luckily, LeeAnn and I found a couple of landowners that had land that butts up with the LDS Church’s property where the Mountain Meadows monument stands today. Unexpectedly, they weren’t just landowners, their family had been in possession of the land clear back to the time of the massacre itself. When I learned this, I knew I had just hit a gold mine of information. To gain knowledge from a person whose family had been connected with the Massacre, and to hear his stories passed down from generations was bigger than the Archaeologist “claiming” he found the real gravesites. Not only did I now have newfound information from a very reliable source, but he also told me where the so-called “new” graves sites were, and that he would like to take me there, just like he took Bassett. For the next few days, I talked with this landowner. We had several phone calls back and forth with questions and more info, and he even invited me and LeeAnn into his home to show us some books and articles that had been kept in his family. At one point, he said something to me that I was not expecting at all. I assumed that he was just being polite and helping us out and that we were intruding on his personal time, BUT he told me that he respected what I was doing, he liked that I was looking for the real truth and that he wanted to help, but asked that his name to be kept confidential, so from this point on we’ll call him “Joe.” Joe explained that he was helping me because he wanted the truth to come out. Now I was hooked! I was on a mission to hear and see everything that he was willing to share.
On the first day that we were able to meet up, Joe took LeeAnn and I to the first of two sites that he had shown the Archaeologist. He gave us some time to let us look around and gather an opinion of what we thought about the area. It was a ravine that looked to me like a dried-up riverbed or stream at one point. There was a big pile of rocks, that had obviously been put there by someone at some time. Our first impression of this big rock pile was that it was made to divert or slow the water flowing through the riverbed. He told us that when he brought Bassett (the archaeologist) here, he instantly felt like they were gravesites. It seemed strange to me that the military would drop bodies into a riverbed from above and then pile rocks on top of the mangled bodies and bones to bury them. After we had a chance to get a good look around, the landowner said, “Now let me take you to where the real buried sites are!” I told him I’d love to see what he had to show me. That’s when my take on the story turned in a whole new direction. Not only did he show us a few areas that hadn’t been marked by modern-day monuments, but we also found very old rock monuments that seemed to have been knocked down and left in time to slowly disappear. I took my photos, wrote down my findings, and thanked Joe for being so helpful and willing to share with me the same information that he claims to have shared with the Archaeologist. Joe explained to me that nothing he had just told/showed me was in ANY of Bassett’s reports to the News. He stated that he just wanted people to know the TRUTH and the descendants of the Arkansas people were welcome to come and sit at the real monuments of their deceased family members.
I went home to re-read the news reports from Bassett and found that Joe was correct. The information I had just learned from the same source was not included.
After researching the story on my own, I found a couple of old pictures that were taken only a few years after the massacre in 1857. The pictures showed a couple of rock monuments that Joe claims were built by the military and then later kicked down and destroyed by a main LDS Church member himself. Joe told me that after the rock monuments were kicked down, Brigham Young ordered that the wagon train would be slightly moved around the murder site so, after time, the burial site would be lost. When I reviewed these pictures, I remembered Joe telling me that his descendants talked about people coming from all over Utah to take pictures of the rock monuments. He was told by his Grandfather that it was a big deal to them. People would spend all day long dressing up nice and taking pictures of these sites so they could go home and tell everyone that they were there, at the Mountain Meadows Massacre site. As you can see in the picture to the left, the man does appear to be dressed in the fashion that he explained.
Before the end of the week, I was contacted by another landowner, and this was a call I was not expecting whatsoever. This second landowner who we’ll call Bob, for now, started explaining to me that Joe told him about me and that he wanted to reach out to me because he needed my help. He then asked me if I would meet him at his home in Santa Clara and sit down to talk with him. When LeeAnn and I entered his house, I was surprised once again. He quickly jumped right into the nitty-gritty of the story and told me that many people have been talking with him. The Arkansas families of the murdered descendants, the Leaders of the LDS Church, and Utah News channels have been blowing up his phone for days. When I asked him why he explained that Bassett’s claim of the “newfound” gravesites was on his land. He then stated that it was causing a lot of friction because now the public was asking him to give up those parts of his land so that the Arkansas families could build new monuments for the dead. On his own land. He then told me the same thing that Joe did, that he would like his name kept off the record. I explained to him that I would be going live the next day with the news channels and that I will keep his name confidential as well. I told him that I will only give newfound information and mention no names of the source. Once we had an agreement, he pulled out some confidential court papers that were given to him by the attorney who was representing many of the Arkansas families. The legal papers were requesting that Bob GIVE up parts of his land to the Arkansas people so that they can build monuments for their deceased ancestors for the first time in the Mountain Meadows Massacre history. He was very upset about this and was asking for my opinion and help on what he should do. I sure didn’t have an answer for him, but none of what was happening seemed right or fair to me, especially since I didn’t agree with this new claim in the first place.
The next day I completed my news interview and it aired 2 days later. KUTV was advertising their 6 o’clock show with commercials all day stating, “Tonight at 6. Have new graves been found at Mountain Meadows?” In this interview, I feel like they wanted me to be the guy that was saying Bassett is wrong and, in a way, I was, but not in the way they edited the interview. A couple of days or a week or so went by and I received another phone call from Bob. He explained that LDS church officials and historians were coming down from Salt Lake City and wanted to meet with him the next day at the Mountain Meadows site and asked if I would meet him there. I wasn’t sure why I was going exactly, but I was on his side and he sounded like he really wanted me there, so I wanted to show up and support him.
We met at the massacre site the next day and I didn’t get the welcoming handshake that often happens when meeting with LDS members. When Bob introduced me to the church officials, they seemed very taken back that I was even there. One of the men said, “Yeah, I know who you are. You were on the News yesterday.” I don’t know why, but I felt like they didn’t want me there which made me even more curious as to what this was all about. We all hopped into 2 separate cars and made our way to the newly discovered rock piles. When we got out of the cars, I listened to the conversations for a few minutes, trying to piece together where this was going, and then when I spoke up to point out a few things to the church officials, once again, I felt like they didn’t want me there nor were they interested in hearing my opinions on the matter. They weren’t really listening to Bob either. We walked down to the first site to look around and I noticed that they clearly had their own agenda and that they seemed to be looking for something specific and they needed Bob there for permission to do so on his property. Pretty much the whole trip was rather uncomfortable, and I felt like it was a big waste of time. At the end of the tour, one of the men turned to me and said, “Don’t you have a site that you think is the real burial site?” I told him, “Yes, I know where the Men’s murder site was and that there’s still evidence of the original rock monument.”
I told them I would take them there, thinking that maybe they will see what I see, and I can show them the old pictures of the freshly built monuments. When we arrived, they point out that it was on the property that the LDS church-owned, which I was aware of. Again, they were just quiet when I explained the situation to them. When it was all said and done LeeAnn and I headed home and the conversation wasn’t a very clear one for sure. LeeAnn and I both talked about how weird that meeting was. The church officials were near to the point of being rude and unclear of their intentions.
Roughly three days later, I filmed with St. George news and I had the camera on me the whole time. I was able to tell my story the way I wanted and needed it to be told. I felt good about it. I felt like I gave it my best shot to explain what I had learned and what Bob and Joe told me, and that the story was finally told.
A couple of days later, I was back at Mountain Meadows site again, this time filming for the Spirit Stories. I had filmed with them before as I have mentioned earlier, and they wanted an update on my new discovery of the rock monuments of the murdered men and boys. Within a few minutes after arriving, the cameras were rolling, and I was walking as I was explaining what I was about to show them. When I approached the rock monuments, I noticed that there were tire tracks in the wild grass. It looked to us like someone had driven a vehicle right up to the same spot where my discovery was. When I got to the area, I noticed the rocks were missing! My mind was racing instantly with thoughts like I’m in the wrong place… Maybe a few more feet away… What is going on… After about 20 minutes, I knew for sure that someone had driven a truck up to the rock pile and took the rocks away! These were very old rocks that had been there a LONG time! I was very upset! I couldn’t believe that someone would do that! The camera guys stopped filming and we all noticed that there was nothing to show or prove anymore. My evidence was gone! On my way home, I just couldn’t get it out of my mind. Then I came to realize, I had only shown a few people that spot. The two people from St. George News, the second landowner Bob, and the 4 church officials. The cameramen from St. George News was very careful not to give away the location in the news clip and I very much doubt that viewers were able to figure out the location. Plus, why would anyone do that unless there was a hidden motive to do so?
Still today, I’m not sure who removed my evidence and it’s still something that I think about now and then. There’s still so much to tell everyone but there’s no way to put it all in this story now. There is a treasure hidden in the Mountain Meadows area and I have so much more information than the massacre story as well. To learn more please continue to follow Treasures in America and we’ll release more info on this matter. I think I have learned from this situation; I know why people keep things like this a secret. People destroy and take your treasure away when you’re not looking. More to come! Find Your Adventure.