The Relationship of the Mountain Meadows Massacre of the Fancher Wagon Train and the Destruction by Indians of the Smith Train which Departed Carroll Co., Ark., Shortly after the Fancher Train

 The following manuscript, by Wesley C Smith, received 26 Apr 2001 and transcribed 27 Apr 2001

My name is Wesley Smith and I am descended from John Sherman Baker (Aaron, John) and his wife Louvencia Elvirene [Weaver] Baker thru their daughter, Sarah Melissa. Sarah was my great-grandmother.

From the time of their deaths, and even before, there have been stories told and written by Carroll Co., Arkansas historians and some relatives concerning Baker/Weaver involvement in the infamous Mountain Meadows Massacre. Some of these writers used an abundant amount of poetic license, while stories changed among family and friends as they were passed down from generation to generation.

In the early 1950’s, my uncle, Earl Smith, began a search for the actual historical events as they related to the Fancher/Baker emigrant train and as they related to his Baker/Weaver family. Earl was born in 1905 and was spellbound as he heard his great-grandmother, Elvirene, tell about the attack on their train and their subsequent escape. He came to realize in later life, however, that the events she related did not match the recorded events of Mountain Meadows. Hence, the search for the facts. Twice, he went to Utah and interviewed descendants of John Doyle Lee and Jacob Hamblin, men associated with the massacre. At the same time, he was reading what he could concerning Mountain Meadows and searching libraries and archives.

John S. Baker and Elvirene [Weaver] Baker, with their two children Sarah Melissa and William W., had planned to join the Fancher train when it left Carroll Co, Arkansas about the end of April, 1857. An attack of erysipelas, however, kept John from leaving with that train. Also planning to go with them, was Elvirene’s father and mother, C. R. (Cannon Roar) and Abigail [Bolton] Weaver and their children: Lorenzo Dal and his wife Mary [Fanning] Weaver; Alfred “Pink”; Mary Catherine and her husband, Jacob Houston; Sarah Malissa; George Ann; Henry Edward; Ruth; and Julia Ann. The Weaver’s oldest son, William, was already in California.

On May 10, 1857, these families, along with a few from Barry Co., Mo., started their trek toward California, with full intention of catching and joining the Arkansas train. Upon reaching Ft. Riley, Kansas, they learned that they were only 100 miles behind the Fancher train. At the time of their attack, June 6, 1857, they were approximately 80 miles NW of Ft. Riley on the Republican River near the Nebraska line and by their estimation, two days behind the Arkansas train. This was probably a pretty close estimation, because it is a known fact that the Fancher train was near O’Fallon’s Bluffs in Nebraska on June 11th. Backtracking for five days would put them near Ft. Kearney, Nebraska, or about two days travel from Republic, Kansas.


Affidavit of John S. Baker, Dec. 27, 1912, relative to the Mountain Meadows Massacre:

 In the matter of the claim of the Survivors of the Mountain Meadows Massacre, at the Mountain Meadows Utah Territory in September, 1857, Seventeen in number, and their heirs, against the United States Government.



 I, John S. Baker, first being duly sworn upon my oath state that my name is John S. Baker and I am eighty-one years of age (81) and reside near Berryville, Carroll County, Arkansas, and have resided here 76 years, never away except for a few months, when about the 10th of May, 1857, my wife two children and I joined other emigrants of ten men, some had families, of Barry County, Missouri to make the trip across the plains to California. We had about 165 head of cattle, and about 5 head of horses and mules, 40 head of cattle, were work oxen, making 20 yoke of oxen. I had 3 yoke of oxen and one wagon, - my own property.

Our train was in command of Sam Smith of Barry County, Mo. We started out on the same route that the Train from Carroll County, Arkansas were on, commanded by Captain Alexander Fancher and Jack Baker, who were killed at the Mountain Meadows Massacre in 1857, together with the 120 men, women and children with them massacred.

We desired very much to overtake the Train from Arkansas, and used all speed and effort, in our power, to do so. We were about 100 miles behind the Arkansas Train of Emigrants when we arrived at Fort Riley, Kansas.

We pressed on, on the same trail and route of the Arkansas Train, and the Shian (sic) Indians attacked us on the North Fork of the Kansas River in Colorado, and killed four of our men, wounded one woman and one man, and took all our property, everything we had on earth, except the clothes we had on our persons.

Thirteen of us, including women and children, made our escape, and came back to Fort Riley, Kansas; then and there, we heard through a Government Dispatcher or Agent of the said Arkansas Train of Emigrants being all massacred and killed at Mountain Meadows, Utah Territory, by Mormons and Indians. I do not know the exact day or month that the Massacre occurred, can’t remember, -but I know it was in the year 1857, and before or soon after the Indians attacked us, that I first heard of the Massacre.

We returned to our homes in Carroll County, Arkansas the last of September, 1857, to the best of my recollection.

The Arkansas Emigrant Train had about 900 head of cattle, a large number of horses and mules, wagons, carriages, and buggies and was estimated and said to be the best equipped and fixed the wealthiest train of emigrants that had ever crossed the plains prior to that time.

After the massacre, I saw seventy or eighty head of good cattle, mostly cows at Ogden, four miles from Ft. Riley, Kansas; they were loose cattle, - the people said that these cattle had returned there from the Arkansas Emigrants’ herd or drove of cattle. Major Thomas, Commander of the U.S. soldiers at Ft. Riley at that time, took possession and charge of said cattle and had them valued and turned into the Government herd of cattle.

I made application and claim for my cattle and property that said Indians took from me at said place in the year 1857, against the U.S. Government in the year 1900, and was allowed the sum $400.00m and was paid that amount by an agent of the U.S. Government in the year 1900.

I knew some of the emigrants in the Arkansas Train who were massacred at Mountain Meadows, Utah in the year of 1857 by reputation before they left Arkansas in spring of said year, to-wit: Capt. Alexander Fancher, Jack Baker, Laffoon, and some of the Dunlaps. Some of them were known to be wealthy men then for this country, when they sold their farms and lands and left for California in the Spring of the year, 1857.

I am not related by blood or marriage to any of the said Emigrants nor to any of the Seventeen Survivors of said Massacre and I have (no) interest in said claim.

                                                                                                      (His mark)

                                                                             (Signed) John S. (X) Baker

 Attest:             J.P. Fancher

                        J.O. Molloy

Sworn and subscribed to before me this the 27 day of December, 1912

                                                                                    Geo. M. Baines, Notary Public,

                                                                                    Carroll County, Arkansas

 My Commission expires Feb’y 3, 1914

 Letter from the General Accounting Office, Washington D.C.:


Washington 25

Division of Audits

DA-RI-JPO                                                                                         May 8, 1953

Mr. Earl L. Smith

            Locust Grove, Oklahoma

Dear Sir:

Further reference is made to your letter dated December 20, 1952, and prior correspondence, relative to John S. Baker, a surviving member of a wagon train attacked by Indians about 80 miles out of Fort Riley, Kansas.

An Examination of a document of the Court of Claim, Washington, dated February 14, 1900, shows the following information:

“John S. Baker Vs. The United States and the Cheyenne, Tribe or Nation of Indians. At a Court of Claims held in the City of Washington, on the 5th day of February A.D. 1900 judgment was ordered to be entered up as follows: The Court, upon due consideration of the premises, find in favor of the claimant, and do order, adjuge, and decree that the said John S. Baker have and recover of and from the United States and the Cheyenne, Tribe or Nation of Indians, committing the wrong for which this judment is rendered, the sum of Six Hundred and eight six dollars. ($686), of which sum there is allowed William B. King, Esq. The claimant’s Attorney, for prosecuting said claim, the sum of One hundred and two dollars. ($102)”.

 The above amount was allowed by Certificate of the Auditor for the Interior Department, Claim No. 28612, on June 25, 1900.

Further, it was certified by the Clerk of the Circuit Court, Carroll County, Arkansas, March 20, 1900, the address of John S. Baker as Berryville, Carroll County, Arkansas, and the age as 69 years.

There has been found no other information relative to the matter.

                                                                         Very truly yours,

                                                                         M.E. Miller (handwritten)

                                                                         Chief, Records

Information Section



Author: I.O. Savage

Published by: Beloit, Jones, & Chuldsic – 1901

(State Library, Topeka, KS in 1951)


It is an undisputed fact that during its early settlement no part of Kansas suffered more severely from Indian raids and depredations than the Solomon, Republican, and White Rock Valleys. The pioneer settlers were disturbed by them with more or less frequency for nearly ten years.

During the war, and even as far down as 1869 and 1870, the settlers were almost constantly harassed by the Indians, their crops destroyed, cattle and horses driven off, and occasionally a settler butchered.

We are indebted to A.B. Whiting, formerly of Clay County, but now living in Topeka, for the following account of an Indian massacre committed in Republic county, near the present town site of Republic City in the year 1857, nearly four years prior to the first settlement of the county.

The overland emigration to California and Oregon in 1857 was immense. During May and June in that year, the trails leading westward across Kansas were crowded with the trains and herds of the emigrants. So heavy was the travel on the old Mormon trail leading northwest from Fort Riley, that for many days it moved in three or four parallel columns. This rush of stock led some few trains to try the new route, barely marked by a government train in 1855, up the Republican valley, but soon to be opened and bridged between Forts Riley and Kearney, as the chance for grass was much better by this route.

A party of twenty-five men, women and children, from Arkansas, with eight wagons, four hundred head of stock, and some few saddle horses, took this route; and early in June passed by the frontier settlements, and traveled leisurely up the Republican valley, now an ocean of grass, dotted with the bright spring flowers.

Ignorant of the dangers of the route, and reveling in the abundance of game and fish which this route afforded, and improving the opportunity to recruit stock and teams before they should reach the regions of scanty forage, they were loath to leave the beautiful, happy valley. The watchful eyes of the savages were upon them; and their neglect of setting guards and enforcing semi-military discipline soon revealed to the Indians, who were dogging the train, that it could be surprised and robbed with small danger to the attacking party.

The train camped for the last time in the valley at that point in Republic county where the old Military road left the Republican and struck across the prairie for the Little Blue, more than one hundred miles from Fort Riley. This point was at, or near, the present site of Republic City. Just as the train was hitching up to roll out of camp in the early morning, the Indians charged, shouting through the train and shooting in every direction, to stampede the stock and drive the owners from the train. All was disorder and confusion, and little resistance was made. They fled from the train, many of them just as they arose from their beds. Smith, the captain and largest owner, in attempting to escape on a horse, was shot, his body stripped of valuables, and mutilated in a shocking manner.

Four of the men in the train were killed, others wounded, one young woman very seriously. But plunder, not blood, was the object of the Indians; and, as soon as the whites left the train, they left them to their fate and ransacked the wagons. A keg of whiskey found among the loading, soon had the whole band engaged in a drunken revel; but, while the emigrants saw from the hills, the Indians drunk to helplessness, they dared not attempt to recapture the train.

Their drunken orgies over, the Indians loaded their ponies from the train. The wagon covers were stripped off, sacks of flour, meal and dried fruit were poured on the ground that the bags might be carried away, the clothing packed on the ponies, and, driving the herd of stock, they started for their camp – wherever that might be.

The events of after years satisfied the settlers in the Republican valley that this robbery was committed by the Pawnees, nominally, friendly, but ever ready to rob and murder when they thought it would be charged up to the Sioux, Cheyennes, and other hostile tribes on the plains.

Meanwhile, the emigrants turned away from the train without food, or means of procuring it; with half the men in the party killed, including the captain; with several children, the wounded woman to care for, and ninety miles from the settlement – were in danger of starvation.

Two men started for help. Without food or rest, and almost dead from exhaustion, they reached the settlement in three days, coming to the house of Moses Yonkin, in eastern Clay county. The settlement was very small, few horses were in the country, and a sack of flour was very hard to find; but as soon as a team could be got together, bullets run, and provisions found, Moses and Wm. Yonkin and A.B. Whiting started up the valley, while word was sent to Fort Riley asking for help, and the country was scoured to follow those on the way; but so scarce were horses, that in twenty miles only three could be found for the trip. And now the relief party began to meet the emigrants in bands of twos and more, the strongest first, as they straggled toward the settlement, but so scared, crazed and bewildered that they fled and hid from the friends who were bringing them relief. The sixth day after the attack the relieving party found the last of the emigrants about thirty miles from the scene of the butchery. An old white-headed woman, her long hair streaming in the wind, almost borne on the shoulder of her son, he fainting from the wound of a poisoned arrow that afterwards caused his death,  having on his other arm a couple of old muskets and a fire brand in his hand, both haggard, dirty, bloody and wild – they presented a spectacle once seen never to be forgotten. And when the certainty of help and relief came to them, their utter prostration and helplessness told, as words could not, the sufferings they had endured.

It is a sufficient commentary on the admininstration of James Buchanan, that in a case like this, with six companies of cavalry at Fort Riley, not a man nor a gun, nor a ration, could be had for the relief of this unfortunate party til after a handful of poor frontier settlers had gone out, gathered them up, and brought them to the Fort. And this is only one of many instances where frontier settlers in Kansas, and notably in Republic county, “stood picket” for the United States troops, who were placed near the frontier ostensibly for its protection.

The survivors of these emigrants mostly returned to Arkansas, a few, however, remaining in Kansas.



Author: F.G. Adams, Waterville, Kansas – 1873

(State Library, Topeka, Kansas in 1950)


The scene of one of the earliest Indian incidents occurring in the homestead country, was some fifteen or twenty miles northwest of Belleville, in the Republican valley. It occurred in 1857. That year the government opened a military road from Fort Riley to Fort Kearney, passing up the valley of the Republican into Nebraska, then crossing over the divide to Kearney. California emigrants hearing of this movement, anticipated the opening of the road and commenced traveling up the valley, before the streams were bridged.

In June, 1857, a train of emigrants from Arkansas for California, composed of twenty-five persons, men, women and children, having eight wagons and 400 head of cattle, passed up the valley. Some time after passing the settlements, which then only reached the lower part of Clay county, the party put out a guard at night. They seem, however, to have had little fear of Indians, for once or oftener, they thought they discerned in the darkness, men lurking about – and in fact one morning the lariat ropes of some of their horses were found cut. But the only thought awakened in the minds of these people was that some of the white settlers they had passed had been following for the purpose of stealing their horses.

One morning early, just as the party was breaking camp, and the men were hitching up their teams, Indians appeared on the bluff-top nearby, and commenced firing. This threw the camp into a panic. The Indians discovered the effect produced, and immediately made a charge upon the train. The party made little or no resistance, but fled. Four men were killed and one woman was badly wounded. One of the killed was the captain of the train. A man named Smith, who, while fleeing with the rest was shot from his horse. The Indians made but little pursuit, but quickly abandoned it to plunder the train. The people, some of them, after going down the valley for some distance and finding they were not being pursued, halted, and gathered courage to return, thinking to make a fight for the recovery of their property. They went upon the hills to look upon the scene of their disaster from the same point from which the attack had been made. There they found that the Indians were engaged in a drunken revel. Having found whiskey in the wagons, they had given themselves up to revelry over their booty. And thus the savages passed a day: drinking til they all were deadly intoxicated, and then stupidly lying about in the midst of the scene of murder and pillage. The terrified white men were so irresolute and timid that they did not dare to attack the Indians, even while they were lying stupified with liquor, but lingered, til fear induced by the returning animation of their enemies, caused them to flee again down the valley, toward the settlements, abandoning their property, and the unburied bodies of their slain companions.

It was over eighty miles to the nearest settlement known to those people, and every horse belonging to them had been captured or stampeded by the savages. It was consequently several days before the first man fleeing from the scene of murder reached the house of Moses Younkin, then the uppermost settler in the Republican valley.

Younkin and his brother William, together with A.D. Whiting, now of Milford, Riley county, but then living a little further up the valley near Younkin, after having sent word of the massacre to the settlers below, made hasty preparations and went toward the scene of disaster. After one day’s travel up the valley they began to meet the straggling people, weak and nearly overcome with fatigue and hunger. They had not had food since the morning of their terrible calamity.

Their immediate necessities were supplied, and the three men pushed on to give the same relief to others they should meet. The last of the straggling party were found five miles above the present site of Lawrenceburg, Cloud county, and some thirty miles from the scene from which they were fleeing. They were a wounded man and his mother – an old woman sixty years of age. They were the mother and brother of Smith, the train captain, who had been shot and killed from his horse. These two persons had been so many days wandering, in constant terror, without food or shelter, scarcely knowing whither they were going, that they were fairly crazed. The woman had become so weak that she could scarcely walk, and the son at intervals had carried her – meantime carrying two guns, the only articles they had brought from the train, save their scanty clothing. One of the guns was entirely worthless – but the man carried the two weapons in the vain notion that a show of firearms would save him from a further attack of the savages.

When these poor people saw Whiting and his companions approaching, they endeavored to flee – the man vainly seeking to carry his mother as if to a place of safety from enemies. They even succeeded for a time in concealment, in ravines and in the brushwood.

A most pitiable sight these two poor, terrified and famished people presented. The old woman, with her long gray hair hanging over her shoulders as her son struggled to carry her forward – both with wild, haggard and terrified countenances as they looked upon the men whom they supposed were savages, still seeking their lives – presented an exhibition of distress, misery and abject terror, almost unparalleled.

The woman, under kind treatment, recovered. The poisoned wound of the man healed. But the venom from the arrow point had infected his system, producing disease, from which, some months afterwards, he died. The destitute people were taken to Fort Riley, where their wants were provided for. The settlers then in a body, to the number of twelve, went up and recovered some three hundred head of the cattle. The survivors of the emigrants mostly returned to Arkansas. A part of them remained in Kansas.


THE KANSAS WEEKLY HERALD – Leavenworth City, Kansas – June 20, 1857, quoting from the MO. REPUBLICAN, June 16

Indian Hostilities on the Plains – An Emigrant Train Attacked and Destroyed – Four Men Killed – Two Men and One Woman Wounded –

Near Fort Riley, June 9, 1857 – Our quiet community has just been thrown into considerable excitement by the news that the Indians, supposed to be the Cheyennes, have attacked a small party of emigrants about eighty miles west of Fort Riley, and killed four men and wounded two men and one woman. One of the survivors, Mr. A.P. Weaver, has reached this place and makes the following statement: “About eighty miles from the Post on the Republican fork of Kansas river, my party had just left camp on the morning of Saturday, the 6th of June, 1857, about 9 o’clock a.m. About 150 Indians mounted, charged on our train and surrounded it; they commenced firing on our men; they killed four men of our party. After their guns were discharged, the Indians retired to a creek close by and continued their fire until we left the wagons. Before we had got out of sight they had emptied the wagons; a part of them pursued us. Our party consisted of ten men, eight women and ten children. I left the party coming down in this direction with two men and one woman wounded, all on foot and out of provisions. One of the four men killed was endeavering to escape but was overtaken, and the last that was seen of him the Indians were dragging him by a lariat.”

“The names of three of the men killed are S.D. Weaver (incorrectly transcribed, should be L.D.), M. Lewis and Sam Smith. The wounded are J. Houston, J. Smith and a woman name unknown. Capt. Hendrickson, with two companies of the 6th Infantry, who had just arrived here from Fort Leavenworth, has gone out to bring in the survivors. As his command is on foot it will be impossible for him to pursue the Indians, who are all well mounted.

“This may be looked upon as the commencement of the Cheyenne war. Col. Sumner has gone out after this tribe, but one portion of his command is on the Arkansas and the other on the Platte, two hundred miles apart, so that the Indians have a fine chance of slipping in between and getting in his rear, which, it appears they have done. As the emigration crossing the plains this year is very large, there will be a great loss of life and property unless the Government promptly sends an additional mounted force in that direction. Instead of sending such an unnecessarily large number of troops to Utah, a portion should be sent to chastise the Indians who are murdering and robbing our citizens at our very doors.”



Head Quarters, Troops Serving in Kansas

Fort Leavenworth, June 25, 1857


I have just received an official communication from Brevet Major Armistead, Commanding Fort Riley, giving information that an emigrant train had been attacked on the 6th of June about 9 o’clock a.m. by a party of 150 mounted Indians, who charged the train, surrounded it, & commenced firing, killing four men & wounding one woman.

This happened on the Republican fork of the Kansas river, about eighty miles from Fort Riley, on the road laid out by Lieut. Bryan, Top. Engineers.

The persons with the train consisted of 10 men, 8 women & 10 children. The onset of the Indians was so fierce, that they were driven from the wagons which fell into the hands of the Indians – But two men have returned to the settlement, their names are C.R. Weaver and A.P. Weaver. Those killed were L.D. Weaver, M. Lewis, Sam Smith, and E. Garrison – J. Houston, J. Smith, and one woman wounded.

A large fire was observed in the evening after the attack, in the direction of the train, supposed to be the burning of the wagons by the Indians.

One of the men killed was dragged off by a lariat being thrown around his neck. The most fearful apprehensions are entertained as to the fate of the women & children of this party.

It is evident these Indians have observed Colonel Sumner’s command pass beyond them, & have then returned to commit these outrages upon the public roads – This business will complicate very much the movement upon Utah.

No particular tribe is named in connection with this affair.

I am, Colonel, very respectfully

                                                            Your Ob’t Serv’t

                                                            Wm. S. Harney

                                                            Colonel, 2nd Dragoons & Bv’t Brig

                                                                        General Commanding

Lieutenant Colonel J. Thomas

Assistant Adjutant General

Head Quarters of the Army

New York City


Statement by Earl L. Smith:

“In 1950, and again in 1955, I traveled west in search of history concerning the Mountain Meadows emigrant train and also the group from Carroll County which were attacked in Northwestern Kansas. Family tradition had it that this attack occurred in Utah.

From my search at the Kansas Historical Society at Topeka and from the National Archives, I learned that the massacre occurred at that point where the new road laid out by Lieutenant Colonel Francis Bryan in 1855, leaves the Republican river valley and leads northwest across the prairie toward the Little Blue river.

I found the place where I believe the caravan camped. It is on a little creek named Otter Creek, about a mile from where the creek flows into the Republican. This little creek drops off the prairie into a small valley one quarter mile wide and is surrounded by a clay or dirt bank about 20 feet high on the north, but not quite so high on the south. The old road lead out north through a gap in the bank or bluff and left the valley for the Little Blue and Fort Kearney. I think the “bluff” from which the attack occurred was this dirt bank which extended about one half mile. According to old timers I talked with, it is the only thing which could be called a bluff within several miles. In 1857 I am sure it would have been an ideal camp site. Now, the small creek only runs part time.

I refer to names and places mentioned in the material herewith, assuming you have already read it all. I visited the Moses Younkin farm and home, now owned by nondescendant. It is a beautiful farm on the Republican river. A cemetery has the graves of some Younkin children and Moses Younkin’s wife. I also visited the William Younkin homestead, also a fine farm. A few Younkins still live in the valley in Millford. I visited a great nephew of Moses, who was then a old man of near 70 years. He remembered hearing his forebears talk of the massacre, but knew little details. He told me that after Moses’ wife died he became restless and moved west. I believe it was Oregon, and was later killed there in an Indian attack.

I have wondered if there are any graves or markers anywhere to mark the place where the bodies of the four murdered men were interred. I walked around over an acre or two of the camp site but found no sign of a grave. The bodies may never have been buried. It was four years before any settlers came into this vicinity, which is about a mile northeast of the present town of Republic.”

                                                                                          Earl L. Smith

I hope the above documentation will clear up misconceptions about the John S. Baker family connection with the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Of the twenty-five in his party, John’s family along with his in-laws (the Cannon R. Weaver family) comprised the majority.

The loss of Sam Smith, E. Garrison, M. Lewis and Lorenzo Dal Weaver was a major blow to these emigrants, not counting the loss of their livestock and possessions. The survivors, however, were blessed in that they were attacked only miles before they caught the Arkansas train. No adults survived Mountain Meadows!

Wesley C. Smith


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