Recently there have been a few books that have covered this. The most comprehensive (and accurate) probably being Patrick Mason's Mormon Menace. But even Mason's book describes the fears and anxieties of the US population in general, and the post reconstruction south, and how it influenced LDS missionary efforts. I wanted to describe the events from the point of view of the people in Tennessee: primarily the converts and their family and friends. But also the individual motivations of the vigilantes in Lewis County, and how the two groups intertwine before and after the massacre.
The biggest hurdle to this was that most of the residents of the Lewis County area were illiterate. They didn't really leave writings that described their thoughts and feelings. So what am I left with? Mostly missionary journals and letters, newspaper articles, period personal interviews, and family tradition. Overlaid on top of these hints are civil records; War records, census records, marriage records, etc.
While there is a systematic way of trying to collect some of the information, a great deal of it appears to be dumb luck. In 1949 a sister-in-law of Jim Conder recorded her thoughts on the massacre. The recording was found in the attic of one of her grandchildren and forwarded on to me. Descendants of branch members and vigilantes have read my blog posts and shared their family traditions on what happened. Some I have not used as they directly contradicted eyewitness accounts. Not all stories are of equal value. Others I kept as an indication of how a true story can be twisted just a little bit, but still be essentially correct. Last week a descendant of a cousin of one of the non Mormon families in the area emailed me out of the blue with some great family stories. Nothing earth shattering, but it helped put the family actions in context.
All that goes to say that I am going to upload my final manuscript to an on demand publisher shortly. And on August 10th, I'll make it available for purchase. I'll post a link on the left sidebar for those interested in a copy.
1 month ago