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Pre-Halloween Mormon Massacre

How do you write a Mormon-themed Halloween post?  Thanks to SamBee at StayLDS, I was reminded that Oct 27 marks the 173rd “anniversary” of the Extermination Order.  Even more gruesome is the fact that today, Oct 30, is the 173rd anniversary of the Haun’s Mill Massacre–a true horror-story fit for any Halloween tale.

I am always a bit puzzled by statements like this one made by GBSmith: “I remember believing for years that the saints were totally innocent in the Missouri business and victims, pure and simple, of Governor Boggs and the mob. Too bad it wasn’t true.”  Well, there is plenty of blame to go around both on the Missouri side and on the Mormon side.  Cooler heads certainly did not prevail.  Kenny Ballentine put together a documentary on the Missouri problem, and I blogged about it previously when I discussed his documentary film titled, Trouble in Zion.

Mormons weren’t blameless.  Missouri mobs weren’t blameless.  Here are some key events leading to the Haun’s Mill Massacre.

1)  July 1833, WW Phelps published an article in the Evening and Morning Star that Mormons wanted to welcome people of all color.  This is the reason the Missourians were upset.

2)  July 20, 1833.  Bishop Partridge is told to leave Jackson County immediately.  He refuses and is tarred and feathered.  Mobs destroyed the Mormon printing press in retaliation of the Phelps article.  Three days later, Partridge signs an agreement to leave the county.

3)  Oct 31-Nov 7.  Missourians incite hostilities against the Mormons.  Mormons flee Jackson County for Clay County.

4) In 1836, the Missouri legislature declares that Caldwell County will be set aside for Mormon settlement.  (This is the home of Far West.)  Non-Mormon Alexander Doniphan brokers a deal in the Missouri legislature to create the county.  This is partly to make a home for Mormons in recompense for Jackson County, but Alex Baugh has referred to this as a “Mormon reservation”.  Mormons were not supposed to settle anywhere outside of this county.

5)  In 1838, Joseph leaves Kirtland under the cover of night due to the Kirtland Bank Crisis.  Upon arriving in Missouri, he finds dissent among Missouri Mormons as well.  John Whitmer, David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery, and WW Phelps are excommunicated.  Many of these dissenters opposed living the Law of Consecration.  Non-Mormons find the excommunications another reason to dislike Mormons.

6)  June 17, 1838.  Sidney Rigdon issues the “Salt Sermon.”  In the sermon, he referenced the scripture about “salt that has lost it’s savor”, and essentially issued an ultimatum that Mormon apostates should leave the county or be forcibly removed.  Most of the dissenters move south to Ray County, and find sympathy with anti-Mormons.

7)  July 4, 1838.  Rigdon issued another fiery patriotic sermon stating that the Mormons and Missourians would wage a “war of extermination…one party or the other”.  It seems the subsequent Extermination Order by Governor Boggs wasn’t quite what Rigdon had in mind.

8|  Aug 6, 1838 – Mormons in Daviess County were prevented from voting.  The Whig candidate said Mormons were only supposed to live in Caldwell County and should be ineligible to vote.  He was concerned that Mormons would vote for the Democratic Candidate, because Mormons were overwhelming Democrats back then.  A big brawl broke out that has often been called a “battle”.  There were exaggerated rumors that Mormons were killed.

9)  Aug 19, 1838 – Following the election, Missourians decided to expel Mormons from DeWitt, in Daviess County.

10)  Oct 18, 1838 – The Mormons decide to retaliate for the first time.  Known as the Daviess Expedition, a group of Danites (a secret Mormon militia group) led an effort to expel Missourians from Gallatin, Millport and Grindstone Fork.   Mormons plundered the property and burned the stores and houses to the ground.

11)  Oct 24, 1838 – The Battle of Crooked River.  Mormons attack and scatter the Missouri Militia.  Many of the Missouri Militia erroneously believe all others are killed.  Only 1 Missourian was killed, but 2 Mormons were killed:  LDS Apostle David Patten (known as “Captain FearNot”) and Danite leader Gideon Carter; 9 other Mormons were wounded.

12)  Oct 27, 1838 – Governor Lilburn Boggs issues the Extermination Order; “the Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the State if necessary for the public peace…”

13)  October 30, 1838 – The Hauns Mill Massacre; 18 Mormons are killed, ranging in age from 10-year old Sardius Smith, to 62 year old Thomas McBride.  These 2 deaths were particularly gruesome.

  • After surrendering his weapon, 62 year old Thomas McBride was hacked to death with a corn knife.
  • An enraged Missourian leveled his gun against the 10 year old boy’s head, and after proclaiming that ‘nits become lice” pulled the trigger, killing Sardius Smith instantly.

There is plenty of blame to go around both on the Missouri side and on the Mormon side.  Cooler heads certainly did not prevail. Previous to these terrible events of 1838, Mormons tried several times to get Governor Boggs to step in, but Boggs consistently said that he could do nothing.  When Mormons took matters into their own hands, Boggs issued the Extermination Order.  Certainly Boggs handled the situation poorly.

Obviously, Mormons have moved on from this tragedy, with no commemoration of these terrible events and Halloween.  Do you think it is wise to ignore this Halloween tragedy?

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