How Circleville Remembers
University of Utah — Member ΦΑθ-AP
Published in Utah Historical Review, Vol IV.
In late April 1866, residents of the small Mormon settlement of Circleville slit the throats of sixteen unarmed Paiute Indians. Ashamed, or perhaps afraid of native retaliation, the perpetrators of the massacre used the cover of night to secretly bury the dead. The event, later known as the Circleville Massacre, has gained notoriety for the duplicitous behavior of Circleville residents. After the dust settled, the greater community of Utah came to condemn the dark event. Even so, the Mormon Church, the town of Circleville, and the Paiute Tribe have never made an official statement concerning the historic event. The town of Circleville remains devoid of any official remembrance. Newspaper articles and flyers celebrating pioneer life and the founding of Circleville make no mention of the massacre, leaving many Circleville residents with little to no knowledge about their community’s history. The Circleville massacre is, a century and a half later, at risk of being forgotten. I argue that the town of Circleville has specifically crafted its own narrative in an attempt to erase the history of the massacre. By applying theories of collective memory and group identification, this paper will develop a deeper understanding of how the silence surrounding the Circleville Massacre, and the conflicting memories that exist, have shaped this community’s sense of its own history.