What do U.S. Senate candidates Mike Lee and Sam Granato have to do with the murder of 120 emigrants passing through Utah territory in 1857?
Mike Lee's connection to the Mountain Meadows Massacre is pretty straightforward. His great-great-grandfather, John D. Lee, was made a scapegoat for this darkest episode in Utah history.
The facts of the tragedy are known a wagon train was ambushed and massacred by Iron County Mormons and their Indian allies. The Fancher party out of Arkansas had the ill fortune to be passing through when Mormons were gripped by hysteria fears that an approaching federal army was coming to deal out blood and destruction.Â
The descendants of John D. Lee forever maintain that their forebear the only one ever tried and executed for Mountain Meadows was not the prime mover and personally killed no one. They received a measure of vindication when the LDS Church posthumously restored Lee's membership in 1961.
A person is not responsible for his or her ancestor's acts. But after the John D. Lee connection fell from the Mike Lee closet, a whole lot of other interesting bodies tumbled out as well, demanding attention.
For example, John D. Lee's son, J. David Lee, had two daughters who married into the greatest political dynasty in the West, the Udalls.
A son of J. David would be Mike Lee's grandfather. So Mike Lee is a cousin to both Democratic Udalls currently in the U.S. Senate (New Mexico, Colorado), as well as cousin to former U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.), whose mother is a Udall.
Tug on the Udall thread a little more and you'll come to the founder of the clan: David King Udall, a Mormon polygamist who helped settle Arizona.
In 1885, he was indicted for perjury after swearing out an affidavit to support a land claim of his neighbor, Miles Romney.
Surprised to learn Miles is the Romney grandfather of Michigan governor and 1968 Republican presidential candidate George Romney, and therefore great-grandfather to 2012 hopeful Mitt Romney? No?
Bet you don't know that family lore has David King Udall bailed out of jail by Baron Goldwater, father of 1964 presidential candidate Barry Goldwater.
Tried and convicted of perjury, David King Udall was pardoned by President Grover Cleveland after serving five months of a three-year sentence. (David King Udall always vigorously asserted his innocence, claiming he had been railroaded by organized anti-Mormons who described Mormons in Arizona as a disease for which "the rope and the shotgun are the only cure.")
Sam Granato's connection to Mountain Meadows is through a minor character. His ancestor on his mother's side, William Leany, was, like John D. Lee, a southern Utah pioneer: The two certainly knew each other.
While on a mission years earlier in Tennessee, Leany had been shown kindness by a man named Aden.
In a tragic turn worthy of Shakespeare, Aden's son, William, was with the Fancher party in 1857 as it passed through Utah on its way to California. He stopped to visit Leany and have dinner. On parting, Leany broke a Mormon embargo on trade with the emigrants by giving the boy some vegetables.
Word of the disobedience reached William H. Dame, head of the militia, local church leader and genuine villain in the events about to transpire.
"Dame sent a pack of his dogs to kill me in my own dooryard," Leany remembered. Beaten savagely with a fence post, Leany survived but was impaired for life. A few days later Dame ordered the militia to Mountain Meadows.
Young Willliam never made it to California.
Pat Bagley is the editorial cartoonist for The Salt Lake Tribune. His brother, Will Bagley is author of Blood of the Prophets: Brigham Young and the Massacre at Mountain Meadows. The events of 1857 are also described in Massacre at Mountain Meadows by Ronald W. Walker, Richard E. Turley and Glen M. Leonard.