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    Mormonism.ca - Story Of

In Illinois

A State Of Civil War
After Smith's Death - Rigdon's Last Days
After The War
Attitude Of The Mormons During The Southern Rebellion
Beginning Of Active Hostilities
Blood Atonement
Brigham Young
Brigham Young's Death - His Character
Brigham Young's Despotism
Colonel Kane's Mission
Early Political History
Eastern Visitors To Salt Lake City - Unpunished Murderers
Even More On The History Of Mormonism
Even More On The Religious Puzzle
Facility Of Human Belief
First Announcement Of The Golden Bible
From The Mississippi To The Missouri
From The Rockies To Salt Lake Valley
Fruitless Negotiations With The Jackson County People
Gentile Irruption And Mormon Schism
Gifts Of Tongues And Miracles
Growth Of The Church
History Of Mormonism
How Joseph Smith Became A Money-digger
In Clay Caldwell And Daviess Counties
Introductory Remarks
Last Days At Kirtland
More On Mormonism Social Puzzle
More On The History Of Mormonism
More On The Religious Puzzle
Mormon Treatment Of Federal Officers
Mormonism The Political Puzzle
Nauvoo After The Exodus
Notes On The History Of Mormonism
Organization Of The Church
Preparations For The Long March
Progress Of The Settlement
Public Announcement Of The Doctrine Of Polygamy
Radical Dissensions In The Church - Origin Of The Danites - Tithing
Renewed Trouble For The Mormons - The Burnings
Rivalries Over The Succession
Sidney Rigdon
Smith A Candidate For President Of The United States
Smith's Falling Out With Bennett And Higbee
Smith's First Visits To Missouri Founding The City And The Temple
Smith's Ohio Business Enterprises
Smith's Picture Of Himself As Autocrat
Social Aspects Of Polygamy
Social Conditions In Nauvoo
Some Church-inspired Murders
The Building Up Of The City - Foreign Proselyting
The Camps On The Missouri
The Different Accounts Of The Revelation Of The Bible
The Directions To The Saints About Their Zion
The Evacuation Of Nauvoo - The Last Mormon War
The Everlasting Gospel
The Expulsion From Jackson County The Army Of Zion
The Expulsion Of The Mormons
The Fight Against Polygamy - Statehood
The Final Expulsion From The State
The First Converts At Kirtland
The Following Companies - Last Days On The Missouri
The Foreign Immigration To Utah
The Founding Of Salt Lake City
The Hand-cart Tragedy
The Institution Of Polygamy
The Last Years Of Brigham Young
The Mormon Battalion
The Mormon Bible
The Mormon Purpose
The Mormon War
The Mormonism Of To-day
The Mormons In Politics - Missouri Requisitions For Smith
The Mormons' Beliefs And Doctrines Church Government
The Mountain Meadows Massacre
The Murder Of The Prophet - His Character
The Nauvoo City Government - Temple And Other Buildings
The Peace Commission
The Pioneer Trip Across The Plains
The Political Puzzle
The Political Puzzle Continued
The Reception Of The Mormons
The Reformation
The Religious Puzzle
The Religious Puzzle Notes
The Settlement Of Nauvoo
The Smith Family
The Social And Society Puzzle
The Social Puzzle
The Social Puzzle Notes
The Spaulding Manuscript
The Suppression Of The Expositor
The Territorial Government - Judge Brocchus's Experience
The Witnesses To The Plates
Translation And Publication Of The Bible
Uprising Of The Non-mormons Smith's Arrest
Wild Vagaries Of The Converts


The Story Of The Mormons

A State Of Civil War
After The War
Attitude Of The Mormons During The Southern Rebellion
Beginning Of Active Hostilities
Blood Atonement
Brigham Young's Death - His Character
Brigham Young's Despotism
Colonel Kane's Mission
Early Political History
Eastern Visitors To Salt Lake City - Unpunished Murderers
Facility Of Human Belief
First Announcement Of The Golden Bible
From The Mississippi To The Missouri
From The Rockies To Salt Lake Valley
Fruitless Negotiations With The Jackson County People
Gentile Irruption And Mormon Schism
Gifts Of Tongues And Miracles
Growth Of The Church
How Joseph Smith Became A Money-digger
In Clay Caldwell And Daviess Counties
Last Days At Kirtland
Mormon Treatment Of Federal Officers
Nauvoo After The Exodus
Organization Of The Church
Preparations For The Long March
Progress Of The Settlement
Radical Dissensions In The Church - Origin Of The Danites - Tithing
Sidney Rigdon
Smith's First Visits To Missouri Founding The City And The Temple
Smith's Ohio Business Enterprises
Social Aspects Of Polygamy
Some Church-inspired Murders
The Camps On The Missouri
The Different Accounts Of The Revelation Of The Bible
The Directions To The Saints About Their Zion
The Everlasting Gospel
The Expulsion From Jackson County The Army Of Zion
The Fight Against Polygamy - Statehood
The First Converts At Kirtland
The Following Companies - Last Days On The Missouri
The Foreign Immigration To Utah
The Founding Of Salt Lake City
The Hand-cart Tragedy
The Last Years Of Brigham Young
The Mormon Battalion
The Mormon Bible
The Mormon Purpose
The Mormon War
The Mormonism Of To-day
The Mormons' Beliefs And Doctrines Church Government
The Mountain Meadows Massacre
The Peace Commission
The Pioneer Trip Across The Plains
The Reformation
The Smith Family
The Spaulding Manuscript
The Territorial Government - Judge Brocchus's Experience
The Witnesses To The Plates
Translation And Publication Of The Bible
Wild Vagaries Of The Converts



Renewed Trouble For The Mormons - The Burnings








The death of the prophet did not bring peace with their outside
neighbors to the Mormon church. Indeed, the causes of enmity were
too varied and radical to be removed by any changes in the
leadership, so long as the brethren remained where they were.

In the winter of 1844-1845 charges of stealing made against the
Mormons by their neighbors became more frequent. Governor Ford,
in his message to the legislature, pronounced such reports
exaggerated, but it probably does the governor no injustice to
say that he now had his eye on the Mormon vote. The non-Mormons
in Hancock and the surrounding counties held meetings and
appointed committees to obtain accurate information about the
thefts, and the old complaints of the uselessness of tracing
stolen goods to Nauvoo were revived. The Mormons vigorously
denied these charges through formal action taken by the Nauvoo
City Council and a citizens' meeting, alleging that in many cases
"outlandish men" had visited the city at night to scatter
counterfeit money and deposit stolen goods, the responsibility
for which was laid on Mormon shoulders.

It is not at all improbable that many a theft in western Illinois
in those days that was charged to Mormons had other authors; but
testimony regarding the dishonesty of many members of the church,
such as we have seen presented in Smith's day, was still
available. Thus, Young, in one of his addresses to the conference
assembled at Nauvoo about two months after Smith's death, made
this statement: "Elders who go to borrowing horses or money, and
running away with it, will be cut off from the church without any
ceremony. THEY WILL NOT HAVE SO MUCH LENITY AS HERETOFORE."*

* Times and Seasons, Vol. V, p. 696.


A lady who published a sketch of her travels in 1845 through
Illinois and Iowa wrote:--

"We now entered a part of the country laid waste by the
desperadoes among the Mormons. Whole farms were deserted, fields
were still covered with wheat unreaped, and cornfields stood
ungathered, the inhabitants having fled to a distant part of the
country . . . . Friends gave us a good deal of information about
the doings of these Saints at Nauvoo--said that often, when their
orchards were full of fruit, some sixteen of these monsters would
come with bowie knives and drive the owners into their houses
while they stripped their trees of the fruit. If these rogues
wanted cattle they would drive off the cattle of the Gentiles."*

* "Book for the Married and Single," by Ann Archbold.


A trial concerning the title to some land in Adams County in that
year brought out the fact that there existed in the Mormon church
what was called a "Oneness." Five persons would associate and
select one of their members as a guardian; then, if any of the
property they jointly owned was levied on, they would show that
one or more of the other five was the real owner.

While the Mormons continued to send abroad glowing pictures of
the prosperity of Nauvoo, less prejudiced accounts gave a very
different view. The latter pointed out that the immigrants, who
supplied the only source of prosperity, had expended most of
their capital on houses and lots, that building operations had
declined, because houses could be bought cheaper than they could
be built, and that mechanics had been forced to seek employment
in St. Louis. Published reports that large numbers of the poor in
the city were dependent on charity received confirmation in a
letter published in the Millennial Star of October 1, 1845, which
said that on a fast-day proclaimed by Young, when the poor were
to be remembered, "people were seen trotting in all directions to
the Bishops of the different wards" with their contributions.

We have seen that the gathering of the Saints at Nauvoo was an
idea of Joseph Smith, and was undertaken against the judgment of
some of the wiser members of the church. The plan, so far as its
business features were concerned, was on a par with the other
business enterprises that the prophet had fathered. There was
nothing to sustain a population of 15,000 persons, artificially
collected, in this frontier settlement, and that disaster must
have resulted from the experiment, even without the hostile
opposition of their neighbors, is evident from the fact that
Nauvoo to day, when fifty years have settled up the surrounding
district and brought it in better communication with the world,
is a village of only 1321 inhabitants (census of 1900).

Politics were not eliminated from the causes of trouble by
Smith's death. Not only was 1844 a presidential year, but the
citizens of Hancock County were to vote for a member of Congress,
two members of the legislature, and a sheriff. Governor Ford
urgently advised the Mormons not to vote at all, as a measure of
peace; but political feeling ran very high, and the Democrats got
the Mormon vote for President, and with the same assistance
elected as sheriff General Deming, the officer left by Governor
Ford in command of the militia at Carthage when the Smiths were
killed, as well as two members of the legislature who had voted
against the repeal of the Nauvoo city charter.

The tone of the Mormons toward their non-Mormon neighbors seemed
to become more defiant at this time than ever. The repeal of the
Nauvoo charter, in January, 1845, unloosened their tongues. Their
newspaper, the Neighbor, declared that the legislature "had no
more right to repeal the charter than the United States would
have to abrogate and make void the constitution of the state, or
than Great Britain would have to abolish the constitution of the
United States--and the man that says differently is a coward, a
traitor to his own rights, and a tyrant; no odds what Blackstone,
Kent or Story may have written to make themselves and their names
popular, to the contrary."

The Neighbor, in the same article, thus defined its view of the
situation, after the repeal:--

"Nor is it less legal for an insulted individual or community to
resist oppression. For this reason, until the blood of Joseph and
Hyrum Smith has been atoned for by hanging, shooting or slaying
in some manner every person engaged in that cowardly, mean
assassination, no Latter-Day Saint should give himself up to the
law; for the presumption is that they wilt murder him in the same
manner . . . . Neither should civil process come into Nauvoo till
the United States by a vigorous course, causes the State of
Missouri and the State of Illinois to redress every man that has
suffered the loss of lands, goods or anything else by expulsion .
. . . If any man is bound to maintain the law, it is for the
benefit he may derive from it . . . . Well, our charter is
repealed; the murderers of the Smiths are running at large, and
if the Mormons should wish to imitate their forefathers and
fulfil the Scriptures by making it 'hard to kick against the
pricks' by wearing cast steel pikes about four or five inches
long in their boots and shoes to kick with, WHAT'S THE HARM?"
Such utterances, which found imitation in the addresses of the
leaders, and were echoed in the columns of Pratt's Prophet in New
York, made it easy for their hostile neighbors to believe that
the Mormons considered themselves beyond the reach of any law but
their own. Some daring murders committed across the river in Iowa
in the spring of 1845 afforded confirmation to the non-Mormons of
their belief in church-instigated crimes of this character, and
in the existence and activity of the Danite organization. The
Mormon authorities had denied that there were organized Danites
at Nauvoo, but the weight of testimony is against the denial.
Gregg, a resident of the locality when the Mormons dwelt there,
gives a fair idea of the accepted. view of the Danites at that
time:--

"They were bound together with oaths of the most solemn
character, and the punishment of traitors to the order was death.
John A. Murrell's Band of Pirates, who flourished at one time
near Jackson, Tennessee, and up and down the Mississippi River
above New Orleans, was never so terrible as the Danite Band, for
the latter was a powerful organization, and was above the law.
The band made threats, and they were not idle threats. They went
about on horseback, under cover of darkness, disguised in long
white robes with red girdles. Their faces were covered with masks
to conceal their identity."*

* "History of Hancock County." See also "Sketches and Anecdotes
of the Old Settlers," p. 34.


Phineas Wilcox, a young man of good reputation, went to Nauvoo on
September 16, 1845, to get some wheat ground, and while there
disappeared completely. The inquiry made concerning him led his
friends to believe that he was suspected of being a Gentile spy,
and was quietly put out of the way.*

* See Lee's "Mormonism Unveiled," pp. 158-159, for accounts of
methods of disposing of objectionable persons at Nauvoo.


William Smith, the prophet's brother, contributed to the
testimony against the Mormon leaders. Returning from the East,
where he had been living for three years when Joseph was killed,
he was warmly welcomed by the Mormon press, and elevated to the
position of Patriarch, and, as such, issued a sort of
advertisement of his patriarchal wares in the Times and Seasons*
and Neighbor, inviting those in want of blessings to call at his
residence. William was not a man of tact, and it required but a
little time for him to arouse the jealousy of the leaders, the
result of which was a notice in the Times and Seasons of November
1, 1845, that he had been "cut off and left in the hands of God."
But William was not a man to remain quiet even in such a retreat,
and he soon afterward issued to the Saints throughout the world
"a proclamation and faithful warning," which filled eight and a
half columns of the Warsaw Signal of October 29, 1845, in which,
"in all meekness of spirit, and without anger or malice" (William
possessed most of the family traits), he accused Young of
instigating murders, and spoke of him in this way:--

* Vol. VI, p. 904.


"It is my firm and sincere conviction that, since the murder of
my two brothers, usurpation, and anarchy, and spiritual
wickedness in high places have crept into the church, with the
cognizance and acquiescence of those whose solemn duty It was to
guardedly watch against such a state of things. Under the reign
of one whom I may call a Pontius Pilate, under the reign, I say,
of this Brigham Young, no greater tyrant ever existed since the
days of Nero. He has no other justification than ignorance to
cover the most cruel acts--acts disgraceful to any one bearing
the stamp of humanity; and this being has associated around him
men, bound by oaths and covenants, who are reckless enough to
commit almost any crime, or fulfil any command that their
self-crowned head might give them"

William was, of course, welcomed as a witness by the non-Mormons.
He soon after went to St. Louis, and while there received a
letter from Orson Hyde, which called his proclamation "a cruel
thrust," but urged him to return, pledging that they would not
harm him. William did not accept the invitation, but settled in
Illinois, became a respected citizen, and in later years was
elected to the legislature. When invited to join the Reorganized
Church by his nephew Joseph, he declined, saying, "I am not in
sympathy, very strongly, with any of the present organized bands
of Mormons, your own not excepted."

By the spring of 1845 the Mormons were deserted even by their
Democratic allies, some three hundred of whom in Hancock County
issued an address denying that the opposition to them was
principally Whig, and declaring that it had arisen from
compulsion and in self-defence. Governor Ford, anxious to be rid
of his troublesome constituents, sent a confidential letter to
Brigham Young, dated April 8, 1845, saying, "If you can get off
by yourselves you may enjoy peace," and suggesting California as
opening "a field for the prettiest enterprise that has been
undertaken in modern times."

An era of the most disgraceful outrages that marked any of the
conflicts between the Mormons and their opponents east of the
Rocky Mountains began in Hancock County on the night of September
9, when a schoolhouse in Green Plain, south of Warsaw, in which
the anti-Mormons were holding a meeting, was fired upon. The
Mormons always claimed that this was a sham attack, made by the
anti-Mormons to give an excuse for open hostilities, and
probabilities favor this view. Straightway ensued what were known
as the "burnings." A band of men, numbering from one hundred to
two hundred, and coming mostly from Warsaw, began burning the
houses, outbuildings, and grain stacks of Mormons all over the
southwest part of the county. The owners were given time to
remove their effects, and were ordered to make haste to Nauvoo,
and in this way the country region was rapidly rid of Mormon
settlers.*

* Gregg's "History of Hancock County," p. 374.


The sheriff of the county at that time was J. B. Backenstos, who,
Ford says, went to Hancock County from Sangamon, a fraudulent
debtor, and whose brother married a niece of the Prophet Joseph.*
He had been elected to the legislature the year before, and had
there so openly espoused the Mormon cause opposing the repeal of
the Nauvoo charter that his constituents proposed to drive him
from the county when he returned home. Backenstos at once took up
the cause of the Mormons, issued proclamation after
proclamation,** breathing the utmost hostility to the Mormon
assailants, and calling on the citizens to aid him as a posse in
maintaining order.

* Ford's "History of Illinois," pp. 407-408.

** For the text of five of these proclamations, see Millennial
Star, Vol. VI.


A sheriff of different character might have secured the help that
was certainly his due on such an occasion, but no non-Mormon
would respond to a call by Backenstos. An occurrence incidental
to these disturbances now added to the public feeling. On
September 16, Lieutenant Worrell, who had been in command of the
guard at the jail when the Smith brothers were killed, was shot
dead while riding with two companions from Carthage to Warsaw.
His death was charged to Backenstos and to O. P. Rockwell,* the
man accused of the attempted assassination of Governor Boggs, and
both were afterward put on trial for it, but were acquitted. The
sheriff now turned to the Nauvoo Legion for recruits, and in his
third proclamation he announced that he then had a posse of
upward of two thousand "well-armed men" and two thousand more
ready to respond to his call. He marched in different directions
with this force, visiting Carthage, where he placed a number of
citizens under arrest and issued his Proclamation No. 4., in
which he characterized the Carthage Grays as "a band of the most
infamous and villanous scoundrels that ever infested any
community."

* "Who was the actual guilty party may never be known. We have
lately been informed from Salt Lake that Rockwell did the deed,
under order of the sheriff, which is probably the case."--Gregg,
"History of Hancock County," p. 341.


"During the ascendency of the sheriff and the absence of the
anti-Mormons from their homes," said Governor Ford,* "the people
who had been burnt out of their houses assembled at Nauvoo, from
whence, with many others, they sallied forth and ravaged the
country, stealing and plundering whatever was convenient to carry
or drive away." Thus it seems that the governor had changed his
opinion about the honesty of the Mormons. To remedy the chaotic
condition of affairs in the county, Governor Ford went to
Jacksonville, Morgan County, where, in a conference, it was
decided that judge Stephen A. Douglas, General J. J. Hardin,
Attorney General T. A. McDougal, and Major W. B. Warren should go
to Hancock County with such forces as could be raised, to put an
end to the lawlessness. When the sheriff heard of this, he
pronounced the governor's proclamation directing the movement a
forgery, and said, in his own Proclamation No. 5, "I hope no
armed men will come into Hancock County under such circumstances.
I shall regard them in the character of a mob, and shall treat
them accordingly."

*Ford's "History of Illinois," p. 410.


The sheriff labored under a mistake. The steps now taken
resulted, not in a demonstration of his authority, but in the
final expulsion of all the Mormons from Illinois and Iowa.





Next: The Expulsion Of The Mormons

Previous: Brigham Young



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