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Group seeks historical recognition
September 27, 2007
By David Holsted, Times Staff
Descendants of the victims of the Mountain Meadows Massacre want to see the spot where their ancestors died designated a national historical site.
"We're not anti-Mormon. We're pro-history," Harley Fancher said. "We're seeking Federal protection under a historical marker."
Harley Fancher of Omaha holds a copy of The Salt Lake Tribune which proclaims an apology by the Mormon Church for the 1857 Mountain Meadows massacre
Harley Fancher of Omaha holds a copy of The Salt Lake Tribune which proclaims an apology by the Mormon Church for the 1857 Mountain Meadows massacre. Fancher was in Utah for a memorial ceremony observing the 150th anniversary of the event which took the lives of 121 immigrants from Arkansas. Fancher is a descendant of Capt. Alexander Fancher, one of the leaders of the ill-fated party. (Staff Photo/David Holsted)
Fancher is the secretary of the Mountain Meadows Monument Foundation and a descendant of Alexander Fancher, one of the leaders of a group of Arkansas immigrants headed for California in 1857. On Sept. 11 of that year, at a spot in southwest Utah, 121 men, women and children were massacred by Mormons after they had been assured of their protection. Only 17 small children survived.
Harley Fancher was one of more than 400 people who were present at the massacre site to take part in a 150th anniversary memorial. The land is currently owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or Mormon Church.
The victims were later buried in mass graves by U.S. Army troops. The graves, Fancher said, have bronze markers. Replicas of the markers can be found at the Mountain Meadows Massacre memorial in Carrollton.
According to Fancher, Mormon officials from Utah have accepted an invitation to come to Carrollton to view the memorial.
The memorial service was highlighted by a symbolic covered wagon trip to the massacre site. Pulled by Belgian horses, the wagon was driven by Phil Bolinger of Hindsville, who is MMMF president and a descendant of Alexander Fancher. Accompanying the wagon were horsemen carrying the American and Arkansas flags, representing Arkansas' return to the meadows. Completing the procession were descendants of the 30 families that died at the meadows. They carried flags with the family names on them.
In support of its desire to see the meadows named a national historical site, the MMMF brought to Utah letters of support from Arkansas governor Mike Beebe, Arkansas Third District Congressman John Boozman and U.S. senators Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor.
"It is very important to many of my constituents in Arkansas that the location be recognized and cared for in a respectful and historically significant way," Boozman wrote in his letter.
Also brought along to be presented to Mormon Church president Gordon Hinckley were petitions signed by members of the Arkansas State Legislature, as well as several hundred descendants of the victims of the massacre.
Descendants of Alexander Fancher alone numbered at least 85.
According to Harley Fancher, the MMMF's request to have the meadows designated a historical site was met with a less than enthusiastic response by Mormon leaders.
"They said 'We're not ready now. We need to take the proper steps,'" Harley Fancher said. "What are they waiting for? It's been 150 years."
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