Validity Of Scroll Examined ... 02/26/2002
The Salt Lake Tribune
Date: 02/26/2002 Edition: Final Section: Utah Page: B1
Alleged Lee note links Young to massacre;
Scroll: Officials Trying to Find Out If It's Real BY CHRISTOPHER SMITH THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE
In what may be a hoax or a historic puzzle piece, the National Park Service is attempting to authenticate a lead scroll allegedly inscribed by John D. Lee that claims LDS Church leader Brigham Young ordered the Mountain Meadows Massacre.
Lee was the only person convicted and executed for the 1857 Mormon-led mass murders of California-bound emigrants at Mountain Meadows in southern Utah. There has been longstanding speculation about whether there was collaboration between Mormon zealots in the south who carried out the attack and leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the north who disavowed any prior knowledge of the plot.
The Park Service notified LDS Church officials Monday of the discovery.
"The National Park Service is taking the right approach in seeking to learn whether the object is authentic," said Glen M. Leonard, director of the church's Museum of Church History and Art in Salt Lake City.
Park Service officials had not previously publicized the Jan. 22 discovery of the scroll at Lee's Ferry in the hope they could determine whether the material actually dated to the period when Lee was alive.
"We have taken this down to Tucson to the Western Archaeology and Conservation Center and they were unable to determine when the lead sheeting was made," Glen Canyon National Recreation Area Superintendent Kitty Roberts said Monday. "We are taking it one step at a time, to determine if we can date the lead sheeting and then we can progress to determine whether or not it is authentic. Right now, we just don't know."
Roberts said her staff is working with specialists to determine the source mine for the metal in the hopes it will yield a clue. The lead scroll was buried under several inches of accumulated rat feces near the fireplace inside Lee's Ferry Fort on the Colorado River southeast of Kanab. A Park Service volunteer was removing the droppings to prepare for a stabilization project on the structure, which has been closed to the public for several years.
"When he found it buried in there, he thought it was an old piece of leather, rolled up," said Glen Canyon spokeswoman Char Obergh, in Page, Ariz.
The corroded metal sheet was inscribed with the cryptic message shown in the box at right. Ê
Lee moved to the mouth of the Paria River in December 1871 and began operating a ferry boat at the location the following month. His relocation to the remote crossing was a sort of banishment by LDS Church leaders, who feared his role in the killings would implicate other officials.
Lee was executed by firing squad at Mountain Meadows on March 23, 1877, after his second trial and conviction for murdering adult members of the Fancher wagon train party. At the time of his death, he claimed of being "treacherously betrayed and sacrificed" for the killings by Young and other Mormon officials, including Mormon militia commander William H. Dame, militia Maj. John M. Higbee and LDS Apostle George A. Smith.
"If this [scroll] is legitimate it's profoundly significant," said journalist Sally Denton of Santa Fe, N.M., who viewed the object while doing research for her forthcoming book, American Massacre. "By far the most important question all along was the relationship between the fanatics in the south and the church hierarchy."
W.L. "Bud" Rusho of Salt Lake City, co-author of Lee's Ferry, Desert River Crossing, said the inscription has the ring of apocryphal tales of Young's complicity.
Sounds like a hoax to me," said Rusho. "It's like the story [1920s trail historian] Charlie Kelly used to tell about a guy who got sick and stayed with the Lees and he found a footlocker with letters in it, including one that said, 'Kill the emigrants.' "
Adding to the questions of authenticity is evidence the fort where the sheet was found was built in 1874, two years later than the date on the inscription.
"We're trying to determine whether this is fact or fiction," said Roberts of Glen Canyon. "Either way, I would have to say it is a fairly unusual find."
Text of scroll allegedly left by John D. Lee