Major JOHN H. HIGBEE gave the orders to kill them all.
"Higbee, I wouldn't do this to you," a wounded apostate pleaded with the man he recognized as a Cedar City Elder. "You would have done the same to me or just as bad," Higbee reportedly said before cutting the man's throat.
JOHN H. HIGBEE, a MORMON SHOOTER and CLUBBER, a major in the
Iron County Militia , first counselor to Isaac C. Haight , and the man
who ordered the killing to begin, Higbee was born in 1837 in Ohio.
Persecuted for their religious beliefs, the family moved to Missouri
in 1833, where they were forced to move several times before finally
resettling in Illinois in 1838.By 1846, they were once again forced
from their settlement and the following year, John's father,
John S. Higbee joined the company of Mormon pioneers who led the
western migration, arriving in the Salt Lake Valley.
In 1853, he married his first wife, Mary Clark, who would bear him
11 children. The couple then moved to Cedar City, where Higbee became a counselor to Isaac C. Haight and became a major in the Iron County Militia . It was in this role that he ordered the killing to begin at the Mountain Meadows Massacre by demanding: "Do your duty!"
Afterwards, Higbee retained his militia command, but when the U.S. Government began an investigation in 1858, a warrant was issued for his arrest. In the meantime, Higbee moved his family to the new settlement of Toquerville. However, investigations and follow-up was halted as tensions began to brew towards the Civil War .
In 1860, he married a second wife, Eunice Blanden, who eventually bore him eight children. Higbee led a number of militia operations during the Black Hawk War of 1866. Under public pressure, Higbee was excommunicated from the Mormon Church in 1870, but by 1874, he had moved back to Cedar City, as President of the United Order. The same year he was among nine Iron County Militia men indicted for murder stemming from the 1857 massacre. As arrests were made, Higbee, Isaac C. Haight and William Stewart fled with rewards of $500 posted on their heads. By the 1880s, interest in the prosecution had waned and he returned to Cedar City. Years later, when Utah achieved statehood in 1896, all local court charges were dismissed against Higbee. None of the more than 50 participants in the massacre were ever disciplined by the Mormon Church. Only John D. Lee ever stood trial. He was convicted and executed in 1876. At the age of 77, Higbee died in Cedar City.