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Maintaining the serenity of the grounds of the Mountain Meadows Massacre and burial site is obviously an emotional issue for descendants of the massacre; although, there are several reasons it should be protected from the intrusion of high-voltage power lines proposed by Rocky Mountain Power.

It is now a National Historic Landmark because it is a part of our nation's history — a symbol of the courage of our pioneers, both Mormon and non-Mormon, who settled the western United States. For this reason alone, it holds significance for all of us.

Also, the heated debate in our country today regarding mosques being protected under the First Amendment to our Constitution brings home the need to maintain historic places such as the one at Mountain Meadows.

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints perceive the tragedy to be a direct result of their history of persecution and ostracism. It is imperative that this site remain undisturbed so that future generations have a place to contemplate the repercussions of threats against people's individual freedoms.

I descend from the younger brother of Captain John "Jack" Twitty Baker, co-leader of the wagon train whose members were killed at Mountain Meadows. Many of us still live on or around the original home place of Captain Baker in New Market, Ala., settled in 1809. My grandfather (1879-1970) is the son of Captain Baker's brother.

While it happened more than 150 years ago, the tragedy is still generationally close. My grandfather was born just 22 years after the massacre.

He often shared memories of his father, Allison Woodville Baker (1838-1918), and his anguish over the deaths of "Uncle Jack" and his family. He grieved throughout his life for the lack of an appropriate burial of his family and for never knowing exactly what had happened.

A clear-glass bottle of water sat on the fireplace mantel at my grandfather's house. Touching it, holding it, or moving it was not allowed. The water came from the spring at Mountain Meadows where the emigrants gathered their wagons in defense of the attack. It was a sacred reminder of our loss.

My grandfather, whom we called Daddy-Pete, required each of his grandchildren to read The Mountain Meadows Massacre by Juanita Brooks the summer before we entered the eighth grade. I suppose he hoped we had garnered enough intelligence by that age to grasp the significance of history.

This led to many heated family discussions and debates in which Daddy-Pete always had the last word. Those words were not about revenge, but about tolerance, the search for truth and the universal struggle of forgiveness. The quiet times I spent with my grandfather and our many talks had an enormous impact on my view of life.

Young people today are likely to put me in the "old lady" category. Ah, but with age comes wisdom. I have come to realize how much we all need peaceful, solitary places to visit in nature to contemplate the power of important ideas, ideas like grace and tolerance, and the power we have to shape our own unique personal histories.

We want Mountain Meadows to be that place for all the citizens of Utah, not just the descendants of the people who died there.

Catherine Baker is a freelance writer published in the Chicago Tribune and the Nashville Tennessean. She can be reached at