Summarized by Kent Larsen
Mountain Meadows Relics Raise New Controversy
BERRYVILLE, ARKANSAS -- Six buttons recovered last summer at the site of the
Mountain Meadows Massacre have led to a new controversy between the LDS
Church and some of the descendants of the victims. The Church plans to
donate the buttons and other relics to a Berryville, Arkansas museum in
September. But some of the descendants say that the Church doesn't own the
relics, and therefore can't make the donation.
The buttons were accidentally uncovered along with the remains of 29 of the
victims during construction of the most recent memorial at the site in spite
of efforts to not disturb any of the remains. The remains were reburied at
the site on September 10th, , but other evidence, including the buttons, a
bolt and fragments of pottery, were retained.
Some of the descendants have now asked the state of Utah to rule on the
ownership of the artifacts, saying that the LDS Church should not be given
ownership. "What we have to ask ourselves is, is this finder keepers? If so,
other graves will be disturbed as well," said Scott Fancher of the Arkansas-
based Mountain Meadows Monument Association. The association is seeking to
have the LDS Church-owned land and neighboring land owned by private
individuals designated a national landmark and placed under US Government
The LDS Church's Glen Leonard, director of the Church Museum of History and
Art, says he has now asked the archaeologists employed by the Church to rule
on the legal issue of ownership. He says the Church just wants to return the
relics, "We made a decision long ago that these artifacts should be returned
to the people of Arkansas. They belong to the ancestors there, and those
were our plans all along," he said.
Leonard says that he has been told that under Utah law the artifacts belong
to whoever owns the property where the items were discovered. But Fancher
says that the law shouldn't allow that. "We have always contended that the
whole area is a graveyard, not an archeological site. There are several
other grave sites out there, and under this philosophy, they can just keep
The current plan has the Church donating the artifacts to the Carroll County
Historical Society Museum, which has already purchased a special display
case for the artifacts. "Its wonderful that these items will be returning to
Arkansas after all these years," said Shirley Pyron, president of the
Carroll County Historical and Genealogical Society, which runs the museum.
"It's only a little handful of all that's left of 140 lives. It's not much,
but it brings home to us that this event really did happen."
Relics of 1857 massacre to be returned to state
Little Rock AR Democrat-Gazette 7Aug00 N1
By John Magsam: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette