The Mountain Meadows Massacre and "poisoned springs"

Scientific testing of the more recent, anthrax theory

Ugo Perego, Alessandro Achili, Jayne Ekins, Lucio Milani, Martina Lari, Elena Pilli, Alexis Brown, Erin Price, Spenser Wolken, Molly Matthews, Christina Allen, Talima Pearson, Norman Angerhofer, David Caramelli, Tim Kupferschmid, Paul Keim, Scott Woodward

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

It has been recorded that one of the possible causes that eventually escalated into the 1857 manslaughter at Mountain Meadows in Southern Utah was the poisoning of an open spring by the Fancher–Baker party as they crossed the Utah territory on their way from Arkansas to California. Historical accounts report that a number of cattle died, followed by human casualties from those that came in contact with the dead animals. Even after the Arkansas party departed, animals continued to perish and people were still afflicted by some unknown plague. Proctor Hancock Robison, a local 14-year-old boy, died shortly after skinning one of the “poisoned” cows. A careful review of the historical records, along with the more recent scientific literature, seems to exclude the likelihood of actual poisoning in favor of a more recent theory that would point to the bacterium Bacillus anthracis as the possible cause of human and animal deaths. In order to test this hypothesis, Proctor’s remains were exhumed, identified through mitochondrial DNA analysis, and tested for the presence of anthrax spores. Although preliminary testing of remains and soil was negative, description of the clinical conditions that affected Proctor and other individuals does not completely rule out the hypothesis of death by anthrax.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-83
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Legal Medicine
Volume127
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes

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Anthrax
Poisoning
Literature
Bacillus anthracis
Plague
Spores
Mitochondrial DNA
Soil
Bacteria
Grassland

Cite this

Perego, Ugo ; Achili, Alessandro ; Ekins, Jayne ; Milani, Lucio ; Lari, Martina ; Pilli, Elena ; Brown, Alexis ; Price, Erin ; Wolken, Spenser ; Matthews, Molly ; Allen, Christina ; Pearson, Talima ; Angerhofer, Norman ; Caramelli, David ; Kupferschmid, Tim ; Keim, Paul ; Woodward, Scott. / The Mountain Meadows Massacre and "poisoned springs" : Scientific testing of the more recent, anthrax theory. In: International Journal of Legal Medicine. 2013 ; Vol. 127, No. 1. pp. 77-83.
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abstract = "It has been recorded that one of the possible causes that eventually escalated into the 1857 manslaughter at Mountain Meadows in Southern Utah was the poisoning of an open spring by the Fancher–Baker party as they crossed the Utah territory on their way from Arkansas to California. Historical accounts report that a number of cattle died, followed by human casualties from those that came in contact with the dead animals. Even after the Arkansas party departed, animals continued to perish and people were still afflicted by some unknown plague. Proctor Hancock Robison, a local 14-year-old boy, died shortly after skinning one of the “poisoned” cows. A careful review of the historical records, along with the more recent scientific literature, seems to exclude the likelihood of actual poisoning in favor of a more recent theory that would point to the bacterium Bacillus anthracis as the possible cause of human and animal deaths. In order to test this hypothesis, Proctor’s remains were exhumed, identified through mitochondrial DNA analysis, and tested for the presence of anthrax spores. Although preliminary testing of remains and soil was negative, description of the clinical conditions that affected Proctor and other individuals does not completely rule out the hypothesis of death by anthrax.",
author = "Ugo Perego and Alessandro Achili and Jayne Ekins and Lucio Milani and Martina Lari and Elena Pilli and Alexis Brown and Erin Price and Spenser Wolken and Molly Matthews and Christina Allen and Talima Pearson and Norman Angerhofer and David Caramelli and Tim Kupferschmid and Paul Keim and Scott Woodward",
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Perego, U, Achili, A, Ekins, J, Milani, L, Lari, M, Pilli, E, Brown, A, Price, E, Wolken, S, Matthews, M, Allen, C, Pearson, T, Angerhofer, N, Caramelli, D, Kupferschmid, T, Keim, P & Woodward, S 2013, 'The Mountain Meadows Massacre and "poisoned springs": Scientific testing of the more recent, anthrax theory', International Journal of Legal Medicine, vol. 127, no. 1, pp. 77-83. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00414-012-0681-y

The Mountain Meadows Massacre and "poisoned springs" : Scientific testing of the more recent, anthrax theory. / Perego, Ugo; Achili, Alessandro; Ekins, Jayne; Milani, Lucio; Lari, Martina; Pilli, Elena; Brown, Alexis; Price, Erin; Wolken, Spenser; Matthews, Molly; Allen, Christina; Pearson, Talima; Angerhofer, Norman; Caramelli, David; Kupferschmid, Tim; Keim, Paul; Woodward, Scott.

In: International Journal of Legal Medicine, Vol. 127, No. 1, 2013, p. 77-83.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

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