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Jimmy Evans: An Historical Fiction Based on Mountain Meadows Massacre of 1857

Phyllis is an enthusiastic researcher, reader, and writer of history. Historical fiction based on actual facts is her expertise.

Baker-Fancher Party

Wagon Train entering Mountain Meadows in Utah Territory, 1857.

Wagon Train entering Mountain Meadows in Utah Territory, 1857.

Mountain Meadows Massacre 1857

Jimmy Evans does not remember the horrific incident that left him an orphan at the age of nine. On September 11, 1857, the Utah Mormon Territorial Militia and Paiute Indians committed a mass slaughter of 120 members of the Baker–Fancher wagon train.

Seventeen children were spared from murder and farmed out to Mormon families in the Iron County District to be used for labor. One of those children was Jimmy Miller. His last name was changed by the Evans family who took the boy for help on their farm.

Three years later, Jimmy Evans ran away and joined the Pony Express. He had no memory of his family or the massacre. The trauma he suffered and a bad head wound left Jimmy with amnesia.

The Miller family was on their way to southern California to live near their eldest daughter, Rebecca. Their dream to reunite with Rebecca was not to be for Jimmy's parents and three sisters were murdered in the massacre. Jimmy is unaware of, his eldest sister Rebecca, who is married to Captain David Allen of the United States Cavalry at Fort Tejon, California. David promised Rebecca he would find her lost brother Jimmy and has spent three years looking for him.

Jimmy Evans, May 1860

Jimmy Evans did not like to sleep. Nightmares haunted him almost every time he fell into a deep sleep. Images of dead people and angry men flashed through dreams like a flicker reel. He would rather be out riding his Pony Express route on a fast horse. When he was racing through the desert with the wind on his face and watching for trouble from the Indians, the horrible memories of nightmares were forgotten.

"Jimmy!" Captain David Allen gently tapped Jimmy's cot with the toe of his boot and made the staccato sound of the Northern Pygmy-Owl, one of their favorite bird calls. That was the first thing David and Jimmy found they had in common. Both of them were good at bird sounds and they practiced guessing the bird's call the other one was mimicking.

"Hey, Jimmy. Gotta get up and grab some breakfast before you go back to ridin'. The next rider will be here in about an hour for his day off."

They were at the Egan Canyon Pony Express station which was a home-station for Jimmy where he was given room and board. He spent every night and could spend two days a week off at the station. His route ran from Egan Canyon, Nevada to Dry Creek, Nevada then back to Egan Canyon. It was 75 miles round trip through hostile Indian territory and during the Paiute Uprising of May and June 1860. Jimmy was given the dangerous route because he was the fastest and most skilled rider on the team, plus, being on his own since the age of nine made him tough as nails and he had no fear of anything except those nightmares.

"Yeah, I'm up," Jimmy groaned as he struggled to turn over. "Been awake a few hours. My head is poundin' like a hammer."

David was at the table and leaned over to hand Jimmy his coffee. "It's hot and strong with the taste of stable aroma just the way Ol' Jake likes to make it." David and Jimmy had become very close since they met each other several weeks earlier. It had taken David almost four years to find the one missing child of the Mountain Meadows Massacre. It did not take long for David to realize that Jimmy Evans was actually Jimmy Miller, his wife's lost brother.

"Good. Hope he made a lotta coffee, I need it," Jimmy swung his legs off the bed as he sat up, his stockinged feet landing right into his boots. He sat there hunched over with one elbow on a knee while slowly drinking his coffee. Jimmy is young, slender, and physically well-built, though small for his age. Yet at times he gave the impression of being far beyond his young years.

"Bad dreams again?" David took the pot off the wood burner and poured more coffee. "You never told me what it's all about. Wanna get it off your chest? It won't help to keep it tied up inside. It's like tryin' to keep a good horse locked up in the stable and its just itchin' to break out and run. If you don't let it out it can destroy itself."

Jimmy lowered his head and ran a hand through his long golden hair. He looked up at David, his blue eyes filled with tears about to tumble out. "I don't rightly know," his face was all scrunched up with emotional pain. "But, I am left with this pain inside me after my dreams. Somethin' in me hurts and I don't know why. It's like I miss somethin', like lonesome, ya know? Then when I go out ridin' I forget about it and I'm okay - till the next time I sleep."

"What are the dreams about?"

Lots of Angry Men

Jimmy tilted his head and looked puzzled. "Men, lots of angry men, and screamin' ... women screamin' and babies cryin'. And I see a little kid callin' for his mother. Blood is everywhere. The kid looks like me, only little. I just don't understand it, don't know why these things are in my head when I sleep," he shook his head as if to clear it out then he stood and walked over to the window. With both hands on the sill, he gazed outside to the desert.

David saw Jimmy's shoulders jerk a few times and knew he was crying, so he stayed quiet to give him time to pull it together. He was hoping Jimmy would start remembering the past and who he is. David could tell Jimmy the whole story, but knew how important it was for Jimmy to remember. Mat, David's brother, said that Jimmy had suffered an extremely traumatic experience which caused amnesia.

"If we tell him who he is and that he witnessed his whole family being murdered, he most likely would not believe it and lose trust in us. Then he might run away and when the truth came out, he would be alone and probably go insane," Mat had explained.

"I know how much you want to help Jimmy and take him home to Rebecca. She is your wife and Jimmy's only living relative. You want to heal her pain over losing her family and not knowing where her lost brother is, but, believe me, David, I know what I'm talking about. I helped treat a patient with amnesia in med school. And, as much as it will hurt and scare Jimmy, he has to remember on his own and we have to be here to help him through the horror of it."

Mountain Meadows Massacre

Mormon Militia and Paiute Indians Attacking Baker-Fancher Party

Mormon Militia and Paiute Indians Attacking Baker-Fancher Party

Helping Jimmy to Remember

David is a Captain in the army under the command of Major James H. Carleton and K Company of the 1st Dragoons of Fort Tejon in southern California. His orders were to keep an eye on and report to his commander on Indian activity along the Nevada section of the Pony Express route which, as fate would have it, was Jimmy's route. Mat is one of the doctors in David's regiment. David requested that Mat accompany him on the assignment he was on and their commander approved the request.

Now, as he watched Jimmy, David realized he had grown quite fond of the boy. Something else occurred to David and his thoughts jumped to a year ago when Major James Carleton and his dragoons were under orders to bury the victims of the Mountain Meadows Massacre of 1857.

The victims were of the Baker-Fancher Wagon Train who started their journey in Carroll County Arkansas. David knew that Jimmy had been one of the seventeen children who survived the massacre. Jimmy would have been about eight or nine when it happened, but he was small for his age and could have been mistaken to be much younger by the Mormons when the children were assigned to families.

After a few minutes, David spoke quietly. "How old are you, Jimmy?"

"Thirteen or fourteen I think."

"Do you remember where you are from, or anything about your family?"

Jimmy thought for a long time, staring outside to a distant place in his mind. He spoke slowly and haltingly.

"I don't remember anything afore 'bout three years ago when I lived on a big farm somewhere and helped take care of the horses. I didn't speak for a long time, couldn't speak, I tried, but nothing would come out and I would just cry. I worked for Mr. Evans and he taught me how to ride. He told me my name was Jimmy Evans. I know he and his wife were not my parents, but I couldn't remember my name or any other family. Mr. Evans told me he knew nothing about me or my family."

Surviving Children

David's thoughts strayed back to 1859 when he had been assigned to recruit several soldiers and organize an investigation into the surviving children of the Mountain Meadows Massacre. They were able to identify all the children and when the Governor gave orders to return them to Arkansas and their relatives, David and his troops escorted them home.

There was one child missing, and that was Jimmy Miller. It was part of David's investigation to find Jimmy and do what he could to reunite Jimmy with his only surviving relative who was David's wife, Rebecca.

David wanted to tell Jimmy what he knew, but he was hoping the boy would remember the truth instead of hearing someone tell him and not know what to believe. Jimmy did not trust anyone and if he was told something he never knew, his piercing sky blue eyes would just stare at the speaker in a warning to stay away. Jimmy was one who had to find out truths on his own, so David had to find a way to build trust with the boy, and soon. The regiment was to return to their fort in California in two months and David wanted to take Jimmy with him, to let the boy know he was going home to family.

Jimmy's voice brought David's thoughts back to the present. "I slept in a room above the stables," Jimmy recalled those lonely nights when he was confused and frightened. "Mr. Evans and his wife had two little kids who slept in the house with them. I was lonesome and cried easily, but didn't know why. I was with them for 'bout three years then ran away one night. I didn't know where to go 'cause I had no one to go to. I joined the Pony Express two months ago. I loved my job right off 'cause I could keep runnin'. Every time I'm out on the route I am runnin' away from something and the faster I ride the better I feel."

David could tell Jimmy was crying because he kept sniffing and wiping his eyes with a sleeve.

"Jimmy, maybe it is not so much you're running away from, but might be you are running to something."

Jimmy turned around and looked confused. "What do ya mean by that?"

"Maybe you are trying to find some truths of who you are and what you can remember further back than three years ago. Then you could understand why you were so lonesome and cried so much,"

David hoped he was not pushing too hard to help Jimmy remember because Jimmy now looked more confused and a hint of distrust crept into his eyes.

To be Continued

Please see Jimmy Evans: Nightmares of Mountain Meadows Massacre for part two.

© 2020 Phyllis Doyle Burns