Fancher train moved westward from Cedar City with hungry bellies, injured
feelings, and jaded stock to Mountain Meadows, a well-known and much-needed
campsite on the old Spanish Trail/California Road used by travelers
to and from California until well into the present century. It was on
the edge of the much-feared desert area between Utah and California.
It is located in the southwest corner of Utah, about thirty-five miles
southwest of Cedar City via the old pioneer road (fifty-four miles via
the current paved highway), and thirty-two miles northwest of St. George.
The shape of the meadows area resembles an elongated diamond, approximately
six miles long and one and one-half miles wide; it is divided into northern
and southern halves by a low bald ridge, which John C. Fremont identified
as the south rim of the Great Basin and measured at 5,280 feet above
sea level. This ridge is almost imperceptible and divides the drainage
area--the south half of which eventually reaches the Pacific Ocean via
the Colorado River. Mountains surround the meadows.
that time, the Meadows were covered with a variety of grasses fed by
numerous springs of clear water, and the area was considered by Parley
P. Pratt to be one of the most delightful places on the entire route.
The Fancher train, and other travelers who may have joined or followed
them, arrived there the first week in September, anticipating a few
days of recuperation. Some of the emigrants probably continued another
four and one-half miles south to Cane Springs, the site of present-day Central. At dawn the following Monday, 7 September, the Fancher train
was brought under siege by Indians and militiamen disguised as Indians.
Those camped at Cane Springs were also attacked and evidently retreated
to the Mountain Meadows. The wagons were drawn into a circle with their
wheels chained together, and then were lowered to the ground; firing
pits were dug and the dirt thrown under and into the wagons, making
a strong defensive barrier. Seven were killed and sixteen wounded in
the first assault; however, the party resisted the siege for five days
although they were pinned down and isolated from firewood, water, game
food, and outside help. By Friday, 11 September, low on water and ammunition,
they were in a helpless condition.