|History of Caldwell County,
As written in the 1876 Atlas
of Caldwell County Missouri
The Mormon War
Mormons as a people were honest, sober, and industrious, but the object of the leaders was
to make money and obtain power. Joe Smith and his brother Hyrum, with the church's
funds purchased of the government large bodies of land around Far West, which they did not
scruple to sell their followers at exorbitant prices. When the leaders set the example of
speculating in the devotion of the people, it is scarcely to be wondered at if their sub
ordinates went to greater extremes to fill their purses. And if they had but little
respect for their obligations to each other, they had less for the laws of the State, or
the rights of their Gentile neighbors. Some of their daring leaders boldly taught the
doctrine that the Lord had given the earth and the fullness thereof as an inheritance to
His people, and that they were His people, and had a right at pleasure to take what
pleased their appetite or fancy.
At the time of the difficulties in Jackson County,
Joe Smith organized a band of men, called the "Army of Zion", to protect his
people against the assaults of their enemies. Amongst these were many who were too lazy to
earn a living by the sweat of their brow. Desperadoes and vagabonds joined this band for
the purpose of plundering. Squads of them strolled about the country, threatening the men,
intimidating the women, and appropriating in the name of the prophet any property which
pleased their taste.
As the Mormons largely outnumbered the
Gentiles, they elected to all offices of honor and trust persons of their own faith. Smith
was careful that the persons selected should be subservient to the will of himself and his
apostles. The Gentiles complained that it was impossible for them to obtain a fair hearing
before the Mormon magistrates and juries; that the trials were farces; that the leaders
taught, and the members acted on, the principle that Gentiles had no rights which a Mormon
was bound to respect; and that not the merits of the cause, but the creeds of the con
contestants, determined which way the scales of justice should turn.
Whether these complaints were true or false, they were
believed by many, and naturally excited deep indignation a against the Mormons. Tales of
debauchery, theft and murder were told of them, and their expulsion from the country de
demanded. These bitter feelings engendered brawls and riots. Crowds of excited fanatics
pelted obnoxious Gentiles on the streets of Far West with clubs and stones. In
retaliation, armed Gentiles rode into public meetings where their lawless conduct was
being denounced, seized the speakers, and applied the lash until blood trickled. down
their backs. Both sides ceased to resort to legal methods for the enforcement of their
rights. Amidst so much excitement and in subordination the civil authorities were
powerless to enforce the laws and punish offences.
Finally, in 1838, the discord became so great and outrages so
frequent, that the State authorities felt it their duty to interfere. Governor Boggs
issued a proclamation calling out the militia to aid in restoring order and enforcing the
laws. The militia were placed under the command of Generals John B. Clark, David R.
Atchison, and Alexander W. Donophan. General Doniphan's brigade advanced at once toward
Far West. The main body of the Army of Zion, under the command of George W. Hinkle, whom
Smith had designated as commander-in-chief of the Mormon forces, was held in reserve at
Far West to be used as emergencies might require. Smaller bodies were thrown forward to
guard the approaches from the south and east.
The First fight occurred on a branch of Crooked River, near
Randolph McDonald's, in the south-western part of the County, between a company of Ray
County militia, numbering about sixty-five men, under the command of Captain Bogard, and a
body of Mormons numbering about one hundred and fifty, commanded by Chas. W. Patton, to
whom the Mormons had given the name of 'Thunderbolt'. The militia had taken one Mormon a
prisoner, and were encamped in a bend of the creek, when the Mormons made a night attack
and succeeded, after an obstinate resistance, in driving the militia a cross the creek,
which was quite deep at that point. The militia lost two or three in killed, and five or
six wounded. The Mormon prisoner was killed by the shots of his friends. The Mormon loss
is not known, but is supposed to have been greater than that of the militia. Bogard's
company was the advance guard of Doniphan's command, which reached the battlefield a
couple of days afterwards.
On the next day an engagement was fought at Haun's Mill on
Shoal Creek, south of Breckenridge. At that point a Mormon outpost, entrenched in the
mill, and a blacksmith's shop, was attacked by the Livingston County militia, under Capt.
Comstock. After a brief struggle the Mormons threw down their arms in token of surrender,
but one of the militia-men having been severely wounded, his comrades were so enraged that
their officers were unable to check them until eighteen of the Mormons were killed and a
number wounded. Haun, the proprietor of the mill, was killed, and with the rest of the
dead was buried in a well that stood near by.
The result of these encounters destroyed the confidence of
the Mormons and caused Joe Smith to propose terms of capitulation to General Doniphan, who
arrived the next day. After some negotiation, it was agreed that the Mormons should
surrender their arms, deliver up their leaders for trial, and withdraw from the State.
Accordingly Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith, Sidney Rigdon, Lyman Wright, Amasa Lyman, W.W.
Baldwin, and General Hinkle were taken before Judge King, at Richmond, for examination.
Sidney Rigdon was released, but the rest were committed to jail to answer an i.ndictment
for treason against the State. After an indictment was preferred, they obtained a change
of venue to Boone County. While on their way to Columbia under a military guard, they
bribed their guards and escaped.
Crosby Johnson, An Illustrated Historical Atlas of Caldwell County, Missouri.
1876. Edwards Brothers
Change of County Seat
Burning of Records
Since the War
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