Mormon History, Missouri
Jackson County Missouri was the place that the Lord revealed to the
prophet Joseph Smith where Zion would be built. At the time the
revelation was received the Mormon Church also had a settlement in
Kirtland, Ohio and the Church was divided between the two sites. A Mormon temple site was dedicated in Independence and land was bought in the county. Soon about 1,000 Latter-day Saints converted by Mormon missionaries
had immigrated to the site. Parley P. Pratt recorded, "There was a
spirit of peace and union, and love and good will manifested in this
little Church in the wilderness, the memory of which will be ever dear
to my heart."1
But Mormon history
repeated itself as peace did not last long and soon the Mormons were
persecuted just as they had been in New York. As local residents feared
the growing population and the practice of Mormonism
they demanded the Saints leave. When leaders refused they attacked
the newspaper office and destroyed it. Two young girls Mary Elizabeth
and Caroline Rollins risked their lives to rescue the unbound pages of
the Book of Commandments that contained revelations to Joseph Smith
from God. The sisters ran into the street and gathered as many pages as
they could. Mary Elizabeth recalled, "We ran as fast as we could. Two
of them started after us. Seeing a gap in a fence, we entered into a
large cornfield, laid the papers on the ground, and hid them with our
persons. The corn was from five to six feet high, and very thick; they
hunted around considerable, and came very near us but did not find us." 2 At the same time the mob tarred and feathered Bishop Partridge and Charles Allen.
The Mormon Church
sought help from the government and local military leaders were told to
disarm both sides. But Colonel Pitcher's sympathies were with the mob.
He took the weapons of the Saints and delivered them to the mob leaving
them defenseless against the mob, which attacked again. Finally the
Saints were instructed to leave their homes and flee to Clay County.
After a brief stay the Mormons were asked to leave the county and
moved to Far West, Missouri where the corner stone for another Mormon temple was laid and never completed. It was not long before persecutions began again.
"A mob of 100 people at the election polls in Gallatin, Daviess
County, would not let the Saints cast their ballots. This led to a
brawl in which several people were injured." 3 Governor
Boggs brought in the state militia to keep the peace. But Captain
Bogart was allied with the mob and kidnapped three Mormons. A fierce
battle waged between the militia and the company of Latter-day Saint
militia that was sent to rescue the men. Men were killed on both sides.
"The death of a militiaman in the Battle of Crooked River, along
with other reports, was employed by Governor Lilburn W. Boggs in
formulating his infamous 'extermination order.' That decree, dated 27
October 1838, stated in part, 'The Mormons must be treated as enemies,
and must be exterminated or driven from the State if necessary, for the
public peace—their outrages are beyond all description.'"4
reports that three days after the extermination order was issued a mob
of two hundred men attacked the community of Haun's Mill. In an act of
treachery the mob called for all men who wished to live to run into the
blacksmith shop. Then they proceeded to fire into the building killing
or wounding all those inside.
Shortly after the massacre Joseph Smith
and other leaders were imprisoned in Liberty Jail. Joseph Smith wrote,
"The Judges have gravely told us from time to time that they knew we
were innocent, and ought to be liberated, but they dare not administer
the law unto us, for fear of the mob." 5 To save face
someone with authority arranged for the prisoners to escape and they
fled to Illinois where the Saints greeted them.
While they were imprisoned about 8,000 Mormons
left Missouri to escape the extermination order and fled to Illinois.
Suffering extreme hardships as they traveled during the cold of winter.
Early Mormon history in Missouri had reached its end.
(1) Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, ed. Parley P. Pratt Jr. (1938), 72.
(2) Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner, Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine, July 1926, 196.
(3) 35448, Our Heritage, 4: Establishing Zion in Missouri, The Early Years in Missouri
(4) 35448, Our Heritage, 4: Establishing Zion in Missouri, The Early Years in Missouri
(5) “Copy of a Letter from J. Smith Jr. to Mr. Galland,” Times and Seasons, Feb. 1840, 52.