"Newel Knight's Journal," Classic Experiences and Adventures
(Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969), pp. 46-104.
[MY BIRTH AND PARENTAGE–MY FATHER’S BUSINESS–HE EMPLOYS JOSEPH SMITH, JUN.–CHARACTER OF THIS YOUTH–I START IN BUSINESS FOR MYSELF–MY HEALTH COMPELS ME TO CHANGE OCCUPATION–JOSEPH SMITH, JUN., A CONSTANT VISITOR AT MY HOUSE–HE RELATES HIS EXPERIENCE–HIS STATEMENTS LEAVE NO ROOM FOR DOUBT IN ME–HE IS BITTERLY PERSECUTED.]
I was born September 13th, 1800, in Marlborough, Windham County, Vermont. My father’s name was Joseph and my mother’s maiden name was Polly Peck.
My father moved into the state of New York, when I was nine years of age, and settled on the Susquehanna River, near the bend in Chenango County, town of Bainbridge, and stayed there two years. He then moved down the river six miles into Broome County, town of Colesville, and there remained nineteen years.
My father owned a farm, a gristmill and carding machine. He was not rich, yet he possessed enough of this world’s goods to secure to himself and family, not only the necessaries, but also the comforts of life.
His family, consisting of my mother, three sons and four daughters, he raised in a genteel and respectable manner, and gave his children a good common school education.
My father was a sober, honest man, generally respected and beloved by his neighbors and acquaintances. He did not belong to any religious sect, but was a believer in the Universalian doctrine.
The business in which my father was engaged often required him to have hired help, and among the many he from time to time employed was a young man by the name of Joseph Smith, Jun., to whom I was particularly attached. His noble deportment, his faithfulness and his kind address, could not fail to win the esteem of those who had the pleasure of his acquaintance. One thing I will mention, which seemed to be a peculiar characteristic with him in all his boyish sports and amusements; I never knew any one to gain advantage over him, and yet he was always kind and kept the goodwill of his playmates.
I continued to live with my father until I was twenty-five years old, or nearly so; and on June 7th, 1825, I married a respectable young lady, by the name of Sally Coburn. Her health was rather delicate. She had long held an honorable position in the choir of one of the most respectable churches in the vicinity; her father was a musician, and spent much of his time from home, which threw a heavy burden upon her mother in raising the family; this, however, she bore with much patience.
On leaving my father I went a few miles distant and put in operation a carding machine, but I soon sold it, and afterwards became engaged in running a gristmill. During this time my wife gave birth to a child, which did not live and her sufferings were very great. I found my health was gradually declining, and was advised to leave the mill, as it did not agree with my constitution to work in it. I had no taste for farming, so I continued in the mill business until the physician told me I had the consumption, and he thought my case doubtful. I applied to a skillful Indian doctor, from whom I obtained some relief, but was obliged to change my business, and I moved back to Colesville, near to where my father lived. In settling up my business affairs I suffered a heavy loss, and this, with the expenses incurred by my sickness, considerably reduced my pecuniary affairs. But I was not discouraged, for all my labor prospered in my hands, and I again entered into business.
My oldest brother, Nahum, was married, and lived close at hand; also my sisters Esther and Anna, with their husbands William Stringham, and Freeborn Demill, so that I was happy, not only in the society of my father’s immediate family, but also of many relatives who lived in the same vicinity. Peace, prosperity and plenty, seemed to crown our labors, and indeed we were a happy family, and my father rejoiced in having us around him.
During this time we were frequently visited by my young friend, Joseph Smith, who would entertain us with accounts of the wonderful things which had happened to him. It was evident to me that great things were about to be accomplished through him–that the Lord was about to use him as an instrument in His hands to bring to pass the great and mighty work of the last days. This chosen instrument told us of God’s manifestations to him, of the discovery and receiving of the plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated, of his persecutions for the gospel’s sake, and many other items of his eventful life.
So honest and plain were all his statements that there was no room for any misgivings with me on the subject. Besides, I found by reading and searching the Bible, that there would be a great falling away from the gospel as preached and established by Jesus and His apostles, that in the last days God would set His hand again to restore that which was lost. Then why should anyone persecute this boy? I could not. Yet, to my certain knowledge, many did; and those who professed to be preacher’s of the gospel, were often his vilest persecutors; and notwithstanding they all professed to doubt the reality of his having the plates of which be had spoken, yet so eager were they to get them from him, that it was only by the Lord, or a kind angel, warning him from time to time of the pursuit of his enemies, that he was enabled to preserve the sacred records. In fact, it seemed very much like it was with Joseph and Mary, the mother of Jesus, being warned of God to flee from place to place, to save the young child; so has Joseph Smith been warned many times, and then barely escaped his pursuers. Of this I can bear a faithful testimony.
[JOSEPH SMITH’S PERSEVERANCE–ORGANIZATION OF THE CHURCH–JOSEPH SMITH VISITS ME–HIS OWN ACCOUNTS OF HIS VISIT–HE ASKS ME TO PRAY–I REFUSE–I GO TO THE WOODS AND TRY TO OFFER UP PRAYER–AM ATTACKED BY A DEVIL- -CURIOUS ACTIONS WHILE THUS AFFLICTED–THE PROPHET CASTS THE DEVIL OUT –THE SPIRIT OF GOD SHOWS ME GLORIOUS THINGS–THIS MIRACLE WITNESSED BY MANY PERSONS.]
Joseph persevered, and the Lord raised up friends who aided him in the great work of translating and printing the record which the unsealed part of the sacred plates contained. The title given to the book being THE BOOK OF MORMON.
On the sixth day of April, 1830, by revelation and commandment from God, a Church was organized, called, “The Church of Jesus Christ,” which consisted of only six members, viz., Joseph Smith, Jun., Oliver Cowdery, Hyrum Smith, Peter Whitmer, Jun., Samuel H. Smith, and David Whitmer.
On Sunday, April 11th, 1830, the first public discourse, preached by a Latter-day Saint, was delivered by Oliver Cowdery, at the house of Peter Whitmer, Sen. During the same month the prophet honored me with a visit, during which time I received a great manifestation, one long to be remembered, and in order that my children may know how the Lord has dealt with me I will make this extract from Joseph Smith’s history.
“During this month of April I went on a visit to Mr. Joseph Knight, of Colesville, Broome County, New York, with whom and his family I had been previously acquainted, and of whose name I have made mention as having been so kind and thoughtful towards us, while translating the Book of Mormon. Mr. Knight and his family were Universalists, but were willing to reason with me upon my religious views, and were as usual friendly and hospitable. We held several meetings in the neighborhood, we had many friends, and some enemies. Our meetings were well attended, and many began to pray vocally to Almighty God, that He would give them wisdom to understand the truth. Among those who attended our meetings regularly, was Newel Knight, son of Joseph Knight. He and I had many serious conversations on the important subject of man’s eternal salvation; we had got into the habit of praying much at our meetings and Newel had said he would try and take up his cross, and pray vocally during meeting; but when we again met together he rather excused himself.
I tried to prevail upon him, making use of the figure, supposing that he should get into a mudhole, would he not try to help himself out? And that we were willing now to help him out of the mudhole, he replied that provided he had got into a mudhole through carelessness, he would rather wait and get out himself than have others help him, and so he would wait until he should get into the woods by himself, and there he would pray. Accordingly he deferred praying until the next morning, when he retired into the woods; where (according to his own account afterwards) he made several attempts to pray, but could scarcely do so, feeling that he had not done his duty, but that he should have prayed in the presence of others. He began to feel uneasy, and continued to feel worse both in mind and body, until upon reaching his own house, his appearance was such as to alarm his wife very much. He requested her to go and bring me to him.
I went, and found him suffering very much in his mind, and his body acted upon in a very strange manner. His visage and limbs were distorted and twisted in every shape and appearance possible to imagine; and finally he was caught up off the floor of the apartment and tossed about most fearfully. His situation was soon made known to his neighbors and relatives, and in a short time as many as eight or nine grown persons had got together to witness the scene. After he had thus suffered for a time, I succeeded in getting hold of him by the hand, when almost immediately he spoke to me, and with great earnestness requested of me, that I should cast the devil out of him, saying that he knew he was in him, and that he also knew that I could cast him out. I replied, if you know that I can, it shall be done, and then almost unconsciously I rebuked the devil; and commanded him in the name of Jesus Christ to depart from him; when immediately Newel spoke out and said that he could see the devil leave him and vanish from his sight. This was the first miracle which has been done in this Church, or by any member of it, and it was done by God, and by the power of godliness; therefore let the honor and the praise, the dominion and the glory, be ascribed to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, forever and ever, Amen.
“The scene was now entirely changed, for as soon as the devil had departed from our friend, his countenance became natural, his distortion of body ceased, and almost immediately the Spirit of God descended upon him, and the visions of eternity were opened to his view. He afterwards related his experience as follows: `I now began to feel a most pleasing sensation resting upon me, and immediately the visions of heaven were opened to my view. I felt myself attracted upwards, and remained for sometime enwrapt in contemplation, insomuch that I knew not what was going on in the room. By and by I felt some weight pressing upon my shoulder and the side of my head; which served to recall me to a sense of my situation, and I found that the Spirit of the Lord had actually caught me up off the floor, and that my shoulder and head were pressing against the beams.’
“All this was witnessed by many, to their great astonishment and satisfaction, when they saw the devil thus cast out, and the power of God and His Holy Spirit thus made manifest. As soon as consciousness returned, his bodily weakness was such that we were obliged to lay him upon his bed and wait upon him for some time. As may be expected, such a scene as this contributed much to make believers of those who witnessed it, and, finally, the greater part of them, became members of the Church.”
[I AM BAPTIZED–FIRST CONFERENCE OF THE CHURCH–REMARKABLE VISIONS–THE PROPHET VISITS THE COLESVILLE BRANCH–HOLDS MEETING–PERSECUTIONS BEGIN–A PRESBYTERIAN PREACHER TRIES TO MISLEAD MY SISTER-IN-LAW, BUT FAILS–BAPTISMS–MOB GATHERS–JOSEPH ARRESTED BY CONSTABLE–WICKED MEN LIE IN AMBUSH FOR HIM–HE IS DELIVERED FROM THE MOB BY THE CONSTABLE –HIS UNJUST TRIAL–HE IS ACQUITTED.]
During the last week in May I went on a visit to Fayette and was baptized by David Whitmer. On the first day of June, 1830, the first conference was held by the Church. Our number consisted of about thirty, besides many others who came to learn of our principles, or were already believers, but had not been baptized. Having opened the meeting by singing and prayer, we partook of the emblems of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. A number were confirmed who had lately been baptized, and several were called and ordained to various offices in the Priesthood. Much good instruction was given, and the Holy Ghost was poured out upon us in a marvelous manner. Many prophesied, while others had the heavens opened to their view. It was a scene long to be remembered. I felt my heart filled with love, with glory, and with pleasure unspeakable. I could discern all that was going on in the room and a vision of futurity also suddenly burst upon me, and I saw, represented, the great work, which, through the instrumentality of Joseph Smith, was to be accomplished. I saw the heavens opened, I beheld the Lord Jesus Christ seated at the right hand of the Majesty on High, and it was made plain to my understanding that the time would come when I should be admitted into His presence, to enjoy His society for ever and ever.
Such scenes as these were calculated to inspire the hearts of the Saints with joy unspeakable, and fill us with awe and reverence for that Almighty Being, by whose grace we had been called and made the happy partakers of such glorious blessings as were poured out upon us–to find ourselves engaged in the very same order of things as were observed and practiced by the holy apostles of old. To realize the importance and solemnity of the great work which had fallen upon our young friend Joseph, and to witness and feel with our natural senses the like glorious manifestations of the power of the Priesthood, the gifts and blessings of the Holy Ghost and the goodness and condescension of a merciful God unto such as obey the everlasting gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, combined to create within us sensations of rapturous gratitude and inspire us with fresh zeal and energy in the cause of truth, and also to confirm our faith in Joseph Smith being the instrument in the hands of God to restore the Priesthood again to man on earth and to set up the kingdom of God, which shall never more be overcome.
Soon after conference Joseph Smith the Prophet, accompanied by his wife, Oliver Cowdery, John Whitmer and David Whitmer, came to Colesville to make us a visit. There were many in our neighborhood who believed, and were anxiously waiting for an opportunity to be baptized. Meeting was appointed for the Sabbath, and on Saturday afternoon we erected a dam across a stream which was close by, with the intention of baptizing those who applied on Sunday, but during the night a mob collected and tore away the dam. This prevented us from attending to the ordinance of baptism that day. It was afterwards ascertained that the mob had been instigated to this act of molestation, by certain sectarian priests of the neighborhood, who began to think their craft was in danger, and took this plan to stop the progress of truth. The sequel will show how determinedly they prosecuted, their opposition, as well as to what little purpose in the end.
The Sabbath arrived, we held our meeting, Oliver Cowdrey preached, others bore testimony to the Book of Mormon, the doctrine of repentance, baptism for the remission of sins, and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, etc. In the audience were those who had torn down the dam. They seemed desirous of giving us trouble, but did not until after the meeting was dismissed, when they immediately commenced talking to those whom they considered our friends, to try to turn them against us and our doctrine.
Among those present I will mention the case of one young lady–Miss Emily Coburn, my wife’s sister. The Reverend Mr. Shearer, a divine of the Presbyterian faith, who had considered himself her pastor, understanding that she was likely to believe our doctrine, came to labor with her a short time previous to our meeting. He spent some time without being able to persuade her against us, and then endeavored to have her leave her sister’s house, and go with him to her father’s, who lived ten miles distant: for this purpose he had recourse to stratagem, he told her that her brothers were waiting for her at a certain place and wished her to go home with them. He succeeded thus in getting her a little way from the house, when, seeing that her brothers were not waiting for her, she refused to go farther with him. He thereupon took her by the arm and tried to force her along; my wife, her sister, was soon with them, and the two women being one too many for him he was obliged to sneak off without accomplishing his errand, after all his labor and ingenuity. Nothing daunted, however, he went to her father, and represented something to him, which induced the old gentleman to give him a power of attorney. Thus armed he returned, and as soon as our meeting was out on the Sunday evening, he served process upon her, and immediately carried her off to her father’s residence. All his labor was in vain, however, for the said Emily Coburn in a short time afterwards was baptized and confirmed a member of the Church.
Early on Monday morning we were on the alert, and before our enemies were aware of it, Oliver Cowdery proceeded to baptize Emma Smith, Hezekiah Peck and wife, Joseph Knight and wife, William Stringham, Joseph Knight, Jun., Aaron Culver and wife, Levi Hall, Polly Knight and Julia Stringham. But before the baptism was entirely finished, the mob began to collect again. We retired to my father’s house, and the mob, which numbered about fifty surrounded the house, raging with anger, and apparently wishing to commit violence against us. So violent and troublesome were they, that the brethren were obliged to leave my father’s house and they succeeded in reaching mine. The mob who soon found where they had gone, followed them and it was only by great prudence on our part and help from our Heavenly Father that they were kept from laying violent hands upon us.
A meeting had been appointed for the evening to confirm those who had been baptized in the morning. The time appointed had arrived, and our friends had nearly all collected together, when, to our great surprise and sorrow, the constable came and arrested Brother Joseph Smith, Jun., on a warrant charging him with being a disorderly person, and of setting the country in an uproar, by preaching the Book of Mormon. The constable soon after he had arrested Joseph, told him that the plan of those who had got out the warrant for his arrest, was to get him into the hands of the mob who were now lying in ambush for him, and that he, the constable, was determined to save Joseph from them, as he found him to be a different person to what he had been represented. This proved true, for they had not proceeded far from the house, when the wagon in which Joseph and the constable were riding, was surrounded by the mob, who seemed only to await some signal from the constable, but to their great discomfiture, he gave the horses the whip and was soon out of their reach. As the constable was driving briskly along, one of the wagon wheels came off, which accident left them almost in the hands of the mob, who had pursued them closely. But the constable was an expert man and managed to get the wheel on again, before the mob overtook him, and soon left them in the rear once more.
He drove on to the town of South Bainbridge, Chenango County, where he lodged Joseph in an upper room of a tavern; and in order that all might be safe for himself and Joseph, he slept, or laid during the night with his feet against the door, and kept a loaded gun by him, (Joseph occupied a bed in the same room) and declared that if they were unlawfully molested he would fight for Joseph, and defend him to the utmost of his ability.
On the following day a court was convened for the purpose of investigating the charges which had been made against Joseph Smith, Jun. On account of the many scandalous reports which had been put in circulation, a great excitement prevailed.
My father, Joseph Knight, Sen., did not let pass this opportunity of doing all in his power to assist this persecuted boy. He went to two of his neighbors, James Davidson and John Reid, Esqs., respectable farmers who were well versed in the laws of their country, and retained them in behalf of Joseph during his trial.
The trial commenced among a crowded multitude of spectators, who generally seemed to believe Joseph guilty of all that had been alleged against him, and, of course were zealous to see him punished for his crimes.
Among the many witnesses called up against Joseph, was one Josiah Stoal, a gentleman for whom Joseph formerly worked. He was examined as follows:
Question–“Did not the prisoner, Joseph Smith have a horse from you?” Answer–“Yes.” Q.–“Did he not go to you and tell you an angel had appeared unto him, and told him to get the horse from you?” A.–“No; he told me no such thing.” Q.–“Well, how did he get the horse from you?” A.–“He bought it from me the same as any other man would do.” Q.–“Have you had your pay?” A.–“That is not your business.”
The question being repeated, the witness replied, “I hold his note for the price of the horse, which I consider as good as the money, for I am well acquainted with Joseph Smith, Jun., and know him to be honest, and, if he wishes, I am ready to let him have another horse on the same terms.”
Mr. Jonathan Thompson was next called and examined.
Question–“Has not the prisoner, Joseph Smith, Jun., had a yoke of oxen of you?” Answer–“Yes.” Q.–“Did he not obtain them from you by telling you that he had had a revelation to the effect that he was to have them?” A.–No; he did not mention a word of the kind concerning the oxen; he purchased them the same as any other man would.”
After several more similar attempts the court was detained for a time in order that two young ladies, daughters of Josiah Stoal, with whom Joseph had at times kept company, might be sent for, in order if possible, to elicit something from them which could be made a pretext against Joseph. The young ladies came, and were each examined as to his character and conduct in general, but in particular as to his behavior towards them in public and private; they both bore such testimony in Joseph’s favor, as to leave his enemies without a cause for complaint. Several attempts were made to prove something against Joseph, and even circumstances which were alleged to have taken place in Broome County were brought forward. But these Joseph’s lawyers would not admit against him, in consequence of which his persecutors managed to detain the court until they had succeeded in obtaining a warrant from Broome County. This warrant they served upon him at the very moment he had been acquitted by the court.
[JOSEPH’S SECOND ARREST–CRUELTY OF HIS GUARD–HIS TRIAL–I, WITH OTHERS, AM CALLED AS A WITNESS–CHAGRIN OF PROSECUTING ATTORNEY–ELOQUENCE OF JOSEPH’S LAWYERS–THE CONSTABLE BEGS JOSEPH’S FORGIVENESS FOR HIS CRUEL CONDUCT–HE DELIVERS THE PROPHET FROM THE HANDS OF THE MOB–THE ACQUITTAL–AT MY HOUSE OUR LEADERS ARE AGAIN PERSECUTED–THEIR ESCAPE–NAMES OF OUR LEADING OPPONENTS.]
The constable who served this second warrant upon Joseph had no sooner arrested him, than he began to abuse him; and so heartless was he, that, although Joseph had been kept all day in court without anything to eat since the morning, he hurried him off to Broome County, a distance of about fifteen miles, before allowing him to eat. The constable took him to a tavern, where were gathered a number of men, who used every means to abuse, ridicule, and insult him. They spit upon him, pointed their fingers at him, saying, “Prophesy! prophesy!” and used their utmost ability to pain and torment his mind; and thus did they imitate those who crucified the Savior of mankind, not knowing what they did.
The tavern was but a short distance from Joseph’s own house; he wished to spend the night with his wife, offering to give any bail desired, for his appearance; but this was denied him. He applied for something to eat. The constable ordered him some crusts of bread and some water, which was the only fare he received that night. At length he retired to bed; the constable made him lie next to the wall, he then laid himself down, threw his arms around Joseph, as if fearing that he intended to escape; and in this not very agreeable manner was Joseph compelled to spend the night. Next day he was brought before the magistrate’s court of Colesville, Broome County, and placed on trial. His friends and lawyers were again at his side, and his former persecutors were arrayed against him with the rage and fury of demons visible upon their countenances, and manifested in their actions. Many witnesses were again examined, some of whom swore to the most palpable falsehoods, just as those had done who appeared against him the previous day. But they contradicted themselves so plainly that the court would not admit their testimony. Others were called who showed by their zeal that they were willing to prove anything against him, but all they could do was to tell some things they had heard somebody else say about him.
They proceeded for a considerable time in this frivolous and vexatious manner, when finally I was called upon, and examined by Lawyer Seymour, who had been sent for specially for this occasion. One lawyer, Burch, was also retained on the prosecution, but Mr. Seymour seemed to be a more zealous Presbyterian; and seemed more anxious and determined that the people should not be deluded by anyone professing godliness and not denying the power thereof.
As soon as I had been sworn, Mr. Seymour proceeded to interrogate me as follows:
Question.–“Did the prisoner, Joseph Smith, Jun., cast the devil out of you?” Answer.–“No, sir.” Q.–“Why, have you not had the devil cast out of you?” A.–“Yes, sir.” Q.–“And had not Joseph Smith some hand in it being done?” A.–“Yes, sir.” Q.–“And did he not cast him out of you?” A.–“No, sir, it was done by the power of God, and Joseph Smith was the instrument in the hands of God on this occasion. He commanded him to come out of me in the name of Jesus Christ.” Q.–“And are you sure it was the devil?” A.–“Yes, sir.” Q.–“Did you see him after he was cast out of you?” A.–“Yes, sir, I saw him.” Q.–“Pray, what did he look like?”
(Here one of the lawyers on the part of the defense told me I need not answer that question). I replied:
“I believe, I need not answer you that question, but I will do it if I am allowed to ask you one, and you can answer it. Do you, Mr. Seymour, understand the things of the Spirit?”
“No,” answered Mr. Seymour, “I do not pretend to such big things.”
“Well, then,” I replied, “it will be of no use for me to tell you what the devil looked like, for it was a spiritual sight and spiritually discerned, and, of course, you would not understand it were I to tell you of it.”
The lawyer dropped his head, while the loud laugh of the audience proclaimed his discomfiture.
Mr. Seymour now addressed the court and in a long and violent harangue endeavored to blacken the character of Joseph, and bring him in guilty of the charges preferred against him.
Messrs. Davidson and Reed followed on Joseph’s behalf. They held forth in true colors the nature of the prosecution, the malignity of intention, and the apparent disposition of the prosecution to persecute their client, rather than to do him justice. They took up the different arguments that had been brought forward by the lawyers for the prosecution, and having shown their utter futility and misapplication, they proceeded to scrutinize the evidence which had been adduced, and each in his turn thanked God that he had been engaged in so good a cause, as that of defending a man, whose character stood so well the test of such a strict investigation. In fact, these men, although not regular lawyers, were, upon this occasion, able to put to silence their opponents, and convince the court that Joseph Smith, Jun., was innocent. They spoke like men inspired of God; while those who were arrayed against Joseph, trembled under the sound of their voices, and shook before them as criminals before the bar of justice. Disappointment and shame were depicted on the faces of the assembled multitude, who now began to learn that nothing could be sustained against Joseph. The constable, who had arrested Joseph, and treated him in so cruel and heartless a manner, came forward and apologized and asked his forgiveness for the ill-treatment he had given him, so much was this man changed that he told Joseph the mob had resolved, if the court acquitted him, that they would take him, tar and feather him, and ride him on a rail; and further, that if Joseph wished, he would lead him out another way, so that he could escape in safety.
After all the efforts of the people and court to sustain the charges brought against Joseph proving an entire failure, he was discharged and succeeded in making good his escape from the mob through the instrumentality of his new friend, the constable. It was truly a source of great joy to us to know that Joseph was once more out of the hands of his persecutors.
After a few days the prophet, accompanied by Oliver Cowdery, came to my house, intending to confirm those who had been baptized. These servants of God had scarcely arrived when the mob began to collect, and so violent were they, that it was thought best for Joseph and Oliver to make their escape lest they should suffer at the hands of our enemies. They left without taking any refreshment, the mob closely pursuing them, and it was ofttimes as much as Joseph and Oliver could do to escape them. However, by traveling all night, excepting a short time when they were forced to lie down and rest themselves under a tree, alternately watching and sleeping, they managed to get beyond the reach of their pursuers. Thus were they persecuted because of their religious faith, in a country, whose constitution guarantees to every man the right of worshiping God according to the dictates of his own conscience; and by men, too, who were professors of religion, and zealous to shield themselves under the broad folds of our glorious constitution, though they could so wantonly deny it to others.
I will here name a few of the most forward instigators of this unhallowed persecution. Cyrus McMaster, a Presbyterian of high standing in his church. He at one time told Joseph personally that he considered him guilty, without judge or jury. The celebrated Dr. Boyington was another, also a Presbyterian. And a young man by the name of Benton, of the same religious faith, swore out the first warrant against Joseph.
I will say, however, that amid all our trials, that the God who delivered Daniel and the three Hebrew children, and preserved them upon the earth in spite of all their persecutors, preserved the Prophet Joseph from suffering death, at the hands of those who were his sworn enemies, and who did all in their power, both in private and public, to destroy him. The Lord who well knew our weak state, blessed us, by giving us His Holy Spirit to comfort our hearts, so that our faith in the restoration of His gospel to man on the earth, through the instrumentality of Joseph Smith, Jun., remained firm and unshaken.
[I VISIT JOSEPH AT HARMONY–REVELATION CONCERNING THE SACRAMENT–PERSECUTIONS AT HARMONY–THE BRETHREN VISIT ME–GOD BLINDS THE EYES OF THEIR ENEMIES THE PROPHET MOVES TO FAYETTE–FALSE REVELATION–BOGUS STONE–FALSE DOCTRINE OVERCOME–HYRUM SMITH VISITS ME–I LABOR IN THE MINISTRY WITH HIM–MY AUNT’S AFFLICTION–REMARKABLE MANIFESTATION OF GOD’S POWER.]
In the beginning of August 1, in company with my wife, went to make a visit to Brother Joseph Smith, Jun., who then resided at Harmony, Penn. We found him and his wife well, and in good spirits. We had a happy meeting. It truly gave me joy to again behold his face. As neither Emma, the wife of Joseph Smith, nor my wife had been confirmed, we concluded to attend to that holy ordinance at this time, and also to partake of the sacrament, before we should leave for home. In order to prepare for this, brother Joseph set out to procure some wine for the occasion, but he had gone only a short distance, when he was met by a heavenly messenger, and received the first four verses of the revelation given on page 138, of the Doctrine and Covenants (new edition), the remainder being given in the September following at, Fayette, New York.
In obedience to this revelation we prepared some wine of our own make, and held our meeting, consisting of only five persons, namely, Joseph Smith and wife, John Whitmer, and myself and wife. We partook of the sacrament, after which we confirmed the two sisters into the Church, and spent the evening in a glorious manner. The Spirit of the Lord was poured out upon us. We praised the God of Israel and rejoiced exceedingly.
About this time the spirit of persecution began to manifest itself against us in the neighborhood where Joseph lived, which was commenced by a man of the Methodist persuasion who professed to be a minister of God. And so crafty was he, that he succeeded in influencing Mr. Hale, father-in-law to Joseph, so that he would no longer give him protection, although he had promised to do so.
Brother Joseph intended to visit the Saints at Colesville on Saturday the 21st of August, and on my return, arrangements were made for the brethren and sisters to meet on that day, if possible, without letting our enemies know anything about it. But Brother Joseph was prevented from keeping his engagement on this occasion, but wrote a letter in which he explained the cause of his not coming: the conveyance in which he intended to make the journey did not arrive from the west; and the distance was too great to walk. He exhorted the Saints, in a very excellent letter to remain faithful and true to God, and prophesied that the wrath of God should soon overtake their wicked persecutors.
On the 29th, however, Brothers Joseph and Hyrum Smith, and John and David Whitmer came to fill the before-mentioned appointment to hold meeting and to confirm those who had been baptized in June previous. As they well knew the hostilities of our enemies in their quarter, and also knowing it was their duty to visit us, they called upon our Heavenly Father in mighty prayer that He would grant them an opportunity of meeting with us; that He would blind the eyes of their enemies that they might not see, and that on this occasion they might return unmolested. Their prayers were not in vain. A little distance from my house they encountered a large company of men at work upon the public road, among whom were found some of our most bitter enemies who looked earnestly at the brethren but not knowing them, the brethren passed on unmolested.
That evening the Saints assembled together and were confirmed, and partook of the sacrament. We had a happy meeting, having much reason to rejoice in the God of our salvation, and sing hosannas to His Holy name.
Next morning the brethren set out on their return home, and although their enemies had offered a reward to any one who would give information of their arrival at our place, they got clear out of the neighborhood, without the least annoyance, and arrived home in safety. It was not long, however, after the brethren had left us, when the mob began to collect together and threatened and abused us in the most shameful and disgusting manner during the remainder of the day.
Soon after this I took my team and wagon to Harmony to move Joseph and his family to Fayette, New York. Mr. Whitmer having heard of the persecutions which had been raised against Joseph in Harmony, had invited the prophet to go and live with him. About the last of August, Joseph arrived at Fayette amid the joy and congratulations of friends and brethren.
Our business affairs did not suffer materially although we had met with so much opposition and persecution, and we were still able to live and aid the work of God.
After arranging my affairs at home, I again set out for Fayette, to attend our second conference, which had been appointed to be held at Father Whitmer’s, where Joseph then resided. On my arrival I found Brother Joseph in great distress of mind on account of Hyrum Page, who had managed to get up some dissension of feeling among the brethren by giving revelations concerning the government of the Church and other matters, which he claimed to have received through the medium of a stone he possessed. He had quite a roll of papers full of these revelations, and many in the Church were led astray by them. Even Oliver Cowdery and the Whitmer family had given heed to them, although they were in contradiction to the New Testament and the revelations of these last days. Here was a chance for Satan to work among the little flock, and he sought by this means to accomplish what persecution failed to do. Joseph was perplexed and scarcely knew how to meet this new exigency. That night I occupied the same room that he did and the greater part of the night was spent in prayer and supplication. After much labor with these brethren they were convinced of their error, and confessed the same, renouncing the revelations as not being of God, but acknowledged that Satan had conspired to overthrow their belief in the true plan of salvation. In consequence of these things Joseph enquired of the Lord before conference commenced and received the revelation published on page 140 of the Doctrine and Covenants, wherein God explicitly states His mind and will concerning the receiving of revelation. Conference having assembled, the first thing done was to consider the subject of the stone in connection with Hyrum Page, and after considerable investigation and discussion, Brother Page and all the members of the Church present renounced the stone, and the revelations connected with it, much to our joy and satisfaction. The sacrament was then administered, a number were confirmed, many were ordained, and a great variety of Church business was transacted.
During this time we had much of the power of God manifested among us and it was wonderful to witness the wisdom that Joseph displayed on this occasion, for truly God gave unto him great wisdom and power, and it seems to me, even now, that none who saw him administer righteousness under such trying circumstances, could doubt that the Lord was with him, as he acted–not with the wisdom of man, but with the wisdom of God, the Holy Ghost came upon us and filled our hearts with unspeakable joy. Before this memorable conference closed three other revelations besides the one already mentioned were received from God by our prophet, and we were made to rejoice exceedingly in His goodness.
Soon after this conference Brother Hyrum Smith, wife and family came to Colesville, to live with me, but most of his time, as also that of my own, was spent in the villages around, preaching the gospel wherever we could find any who would listen to us, either in public or private. A few believed and were baptized, among whom was Emer Harris, brother to Martin Harris, who proved to be a useful laborer in the vineyard.
Many raged and persecuted us, doing all in their power to stop the progress of the work. But we moved steadily ahead, putting our trust in the Lord God of heaven.
On the 14th of October, Brother Hyrum Smith and I held a meeting at my uncle Hezekiah Peck’s. Brother Hyrum had great liberty of speech, and the Spirit of the Lord was poured out upon us in a miraculous manner. There was much good instruction and exhortation given, such as was calculated to encourage and strengthen the Saints in this their infantile state. At this meeting, four persons came forward and manifested their desire to forsake all, serve their God in humility; and obey the requirements of the gospel.
After the close of the meeting, Brother Hyrum and myself intended going to spend the night with one of the brethren who lived a short distance from my uncle’s, but as we were ready to start, the Spirit whispered to me that I should tarry there at my uncle’s all night. I did so, and retired to bed, where I rested till midnight when my uncle came to my room and desired me to get up, saying he feared his wife was about to die. This surprised me, as she was quite well when I went to bed. I dressed myself, and having asked my Heavenly Father to give me wisdom, and power to rebuke the destroyer from the habitation, I went to the room where my aunt lay. She was in a most fearful condition; her eyes were closed, and she appeared to be in the last agonies of death. Presently she opened her eyes, and bade her husband and children farewell, telling them she must die for the redemption of this generation, as Jesus Christ had died for the generation in His day. Her whole frame shook, and she appeared to be racked with the most exquisite pain and torment; her hands and feet were cold, and the blood settled in her fingers; while her husband and children stood weeping around her bed. This was a scene new to me, and I felt she was suffering under the power of Satan–that was the same spirit that had bound and overpowered me at the time Joseph cast him out. I now cried unto the Lord for strength and wisdom that we might prevail over this wicked and delusive power. Just at this time my uncle cried aloud to me, saying: “O, Brother Newel, cannot something be done?” I felt the Holy Spirit of the Lord rest upon me as he said this, and I immediately stepped forward, took her by the hand, and commanded Satan, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, to depart. I told my aunt she would not die, but that she should live to see her children grown up; that Satan had deceived her, and put a lying spirit in her mouth; that Christ had made the only and last atonement for all who would believe on His name; and that there should be no more shedding of blood for sin. She believed and stretched forth her hand, and cried unto me, and Satan departed from her.
After laboring for some time in this vicinity, we returned to my home, found our wives well and in the enjoyment of the Spirit of the Lord. We also found Brother Orson Pratt awaiting us, who had been called by the prophet to labor with us in the Ministry.
[SIDNEY RIGDON’S CONVERSION–THIRD CONFERENCE OF THE CHURCH–THE SAINTS COMMENCE TO GATHER–AN ACCIDENT–MY AUNT’S DREAM–ITS FULFILLMENT–MISSOURI CHOSEN FOR A GATHERING PLACE–MY MOTHER’S WISH–REFLECTIONS ON THE PAST AND PRESENT–TEMPLE SITE LOCATED–LABORS COMMENCE–THE FIRST DEATH.]
Brother Oliver Cowdery had been called by revelation to go with Parley P. Pratt, Ziba Peterson and Peter Whitmer, Jun., to preach to the Lamanites. Parley P. Pratt had belonged to the same church as Sidney Rigdon, and had been sent by his sect on some business to New York state, and while there he heard, and embraced the gospel, was ordained an Elder and immediately sent on this mission. Having been acquainted with Sidney Rigdon, he called on him, presented the Book of Mormon to him as a revelation from God, and before these brethren moved on to the fulfillment of their mission, Sidney Rigdon, with a large number of the members of his church, was baptized. The success of these brethren was immense. They preached in all the towns and villages on their road, bearing a faithful testimony wherever they could be heard.
In December, Sidney Rigdon visited Joseph Smith, Jun., to inquire of the Lord what he should do. This was a very pleasant meeting, and, by the voice of revelation, these brethren were called to labor together even from their first acquaintance.
A new year dawned upon us, with everything around us bright and cheerful, and the prospects ahead such as to give us joy. In the midst of persecution we rejoiced, knowing that our God was with us, and His great work would roll on, and man could not stop its progress.
On the 2nd of January, 1831, the third conference of the Church assembled. Many of the Saints came together from the region around, and much good instruction was given. The Saints manifested unshaken confidence in the great work which they were engaged, and all rejoiced under the blessings of the gospel. Considerable business was transacted for the Church.
It was at this conference that we were instructed as a people, to begin the gathering of Israel, and a revelation was given to the prophet on this subject.
Having returned home from conference, in obedience to the commandment which had been given, I, together with the Colesville Branch, began to make preparations to go to Ohio. Towards the latter part of January Brother Joseph Smith and wife, Sidney Rigdon and Edward Partridge started for Kirtland, Ohio.
As might be expected, we were obliged to make great sacrifices of our property. The most of my time was occupied in visiting the brethren, and helping to arrange their affairs, so that we might travel together in one company. Having made the best arrangements we could for the journey, we bade adieu to all we held dear on this earth and in the early part of April started for our destination.
We had proceeded but a few days on our journey, when I was subpoenaed as a witness, and had to go to Colesville. On arriving there it was very evident that this plan had been adopted by our enemies to add a little more to the persecutions already heaped upon us. The whole company declined traveling until I should return.
Soon after I left, my aunt, Electa Peck, fell and broke her shoulder in a most shocking manner; a surgeon was called to relieve her sufferings, which were very great. My aunt dreamed that I returned and laid my hands upon her, prayed for her, and she was made whole, and pursued her journey with the company. She related this dream to the surgeon who replied, “If you are able to travel in many weeks it will be a miracle, and I will be a Mormon too.”
I arrived at the place, where the company had stopped, late in the evening; but, on learning of the accident, I went to see my aunt, and immediately on my entering the room she said, “O, Brother Newel, if you will lay your hands upon me, I shall be well and able to go on the journey with you.” I stepped up to the bed, and, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, rebuked the pain with which she was suffering, and commanded her to be made whole; and it was done; for the next morning she arose, dressed herself, and pursued the journey with us.
We arrived at Buffalo without any further trouble, where we were to take passage on board a sloop for Fairport, Ohio. But the wind blew from the lake and filled the harbor with ice, so that we were detained nearly two weeks. When we set sail on the lake, the winds continued boisterous, and the vessel was tossed about in such a manner that nearly all the company were sea-sick, which made it rather a disagreeable voyage. We arrived safely, however, at our destination.
On our arrival it was advised that the Colesville Branch remain together, and go to a neighboring town called Thompson, as a man by the name of Copely had a considerable tract of land there which he offered to let the Saints occupy. Consequently a contract was agreed upon, and we commenced work in good faith. But in a short time Copely broke the engagement, and I went to Kirtland to see Brother Joseph, and to attend conference, which had been appointed to be held on the 6th of June, 1831.
Conference convened. The Elders, from various parts of the country where they had been laboring, came in, and the power of the Lord was displayed in our midst. A number were ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood, and the hearts of the Saints rejoiced in the rich blessings bestowed upon them.
We now understood that this was not the land of our inheritance–the land of promise, for it was made known in a revelation, that Missouri was the place chosen for the gathering of the Church, and several were called to lead the way to that state.
A revelation was also given concerning the gathering, on the receipt of which we, who constituted the Colesville Branch, immediately set to preparing for our journey, and on the third day of June, I took passage with the Colesville company at Wellsville, Ohio, and arrived at St. Louis, Mo., on the 13th. On the 18th we took passage on the steamer Chieftain for Independence.
My mother’s health was very poor and had been for a considerable time, yet she would not consent to stop traveling; her only, or her greatest desire, was to set her feet upon the land of Zion, and to have her body interred in that land. I went on shore and bought lumber to make a coffin in case she should die before we arrived at our place of destination–so fast did she fail. But the Lord gave her the desire of her heart, and she lived to stand upon that land; where we arrived on the 25th of June.
This was the first branch of the Church which had emigrated to the land of Zion. I found it required all the wisdom I possessed to lead the company through so long a journey in the midst of their enemies, yet so great were the mercies and blessings of God to us, that not one of us was harmed.
Brothers Joseph Smith, Jun., Sidney Rigdon, Martin Harris, Edward Partridge, W. W. Phelps, Joseph Coe, and A. S. Gilbert and wife, had started for Missouri on the 19th of June, and arrived at Independence about the middle of July. We were glad to find these brethren in good health and spirits, and it was indeed a joy to meet them once more.
But our feelings can be better imagined than described, when we, found ourselves upon the Western frontiers. The country itself presented a pleasant aspect with its rich forests bordering its beautiful streams, and its deep rolling prairies spreading far and wide, inviting the hand of industry to establish for itself homes upon its broad bosom. And this was the place, where the Lord had promised to reveal unto us where to build up, establish–where the New Jerusalem should Zion should be and our hearts went forth unto the Lord desiring the fulfillment, that we might know where to bestow our labors profitably. We had not long to wait, for during the month the Lord gave a revelation to Brother Joseph, designating the spot.
Being no longer at a loss to know where the exact spot for the building of the temple and the city of Zion was, we immediately prepared for our labors. On the 2nd day of August, Brother Joseph Smith, Jun., the Prophet of God, assisted the Colesville Branch to lay the first log as a foundation for Zion in Kaw township, twelve miles west of Independence. The log was carried by twelve men, in honor of the twelve tribes of Israel. At the same time, through prayer, Sidney Rigdon consecrated and dedicated the land of Zion for the gathering of the Saints. This was truly a season of joy and rejoicing to all the Saints, who took part in, or witnessed the proceedings.
On the 3rd of August the spot for the temple, a little west of Independence, was dedicated in the presence of Joseph Smith, Jun., Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, Edward Partridge, Martin Harris, Joseph Coe, and myself.
On the 4th, the first conference held in the land of Zion, convened at the house of Brother Joshua Lewis, in Kaw township. The Colesville Branch was present, and much good instruction was given, and we felt to give thanks to that God who had brought us out of the land of our nativity and planted us in the land of Zion.
On the 6th, my mother died. She quietly fell asleep rejoicing in the new and everlasting gospel, and praising God that she had lived to see the land of Zion and that her body would rest in peace, after all the suffering she had endured from the persecutions of the wicked.
On the 7th, Brother Joseph attended the funeral, and addressed us in an impressive and consoling manner. This was the first death that had occurred in this church in this land.
On the 9th, in company with several Elders, Brother Joseph Smith Jun., left Independence to return to Kirtland. They went down the river in canoes.
[MY APPOINTMENT–A VISIT FROM JOSEPH–ACCORDING TO JOSEPH’S PROMISE, MY WIFE BEARS ME A SON–NEW REVELATIONS–MY AUNT OVERCOME BY THE EVIL ONE–SHE MISLEADS MANY–HER ANGUISH AND RESTORATION.]
The time now passed in our common labors, in building houses, plowing, sowing grain, and all other labors necessary to build up a new country. We were not accustomed to a frontier life, so things around us seemed new and strange and the work we had to do was of a different nature to that which had been done in the East. Yet we took hold with cheerful hearts, and a determination to do our best, and with all diligence went to work to secure food and prepare for the coming winter.
I had been appointed to preside over the Colesville Branch in this place. We passed the winter in a tolerably comfortable manner. Our meetings were well attended, the hearts of the Saints were united, and peace and happiness abounded.
On the 24th of April, 1832, Brother Joseph Smith visited us at Independence, and on the 26th, called a general council of the Church. Business of much importance was transacted, among which was the public acknowledgement by the Church of Joseph’s true position as President of the high priesthood. He had been ordained to that position in the previous January and now the right hand of fellowship was given him by the Church in the capacity of its Bishop. The Spirit and power of God were manifested in our midst, and those who had difficulties, settled them, so that the blessings of the gospel flowed without restraint. The brethren were full of good instructions, and we felt ourselves renewed in spirit.
Brother Joseph did not forget his old friends of the Colesville Branch, and he came the twelve miles to visit us; we welcomed him heartily and were greatly rejoiced to see his face once more, and to shake him by the hand. He remained with us two days, and returned on the 30th to Independence, where he again sat in council with the brethren. Arrangements were made for printing the book of Doctrine and Covenants, and the Hymn Book, also for establishing a store by which the Saints could be supplied with whatever they needed, through the channels of the Church. It was also arranged that the Saints in Ohio should be supplied with stores in a similar manner. This gave great satisfaction to the brethren generally.
On the 14th of October, my wife bore me a son. She had never before given birth to a living child, and the doctors who had attended her before, had said it was impossible that she should. But Brother Joseph blessed her and said she should have the desire of her heart. She never doubted the prophet’s words, and as soon as her son was born she desired him to be called Samuel, for she said she had asked him from the Lord. My wife soon recovered from her sickness.
Brother Joseph from time to time sent copies of revelations to me for the benefit of the branch over which I presided in common with all the Saints in Zion. On reading one of these revelations to the branch, my aunt of whom mention has been made, arose and contradicted the revelation, saying it must be taken in a spiritual light. She went to such a length that I felt constrained to rebuke her by the authority of the priesthood. At this she was angry, and from that time sought to influence all who would listen to her. The result was a division of feeling in the branch, and her husband partook of her spirit until he became so enthusiastic, that he went from branch to branch crying, “hosanna, glory to God! Zion is redeemed! and blessed is he that bringeth good tidings to the people!” Sister Peck at length began to feel the weight of what she had done, but she could not recall it. She seemed racked with great torment, her mind found no rest, until a burning fever brought her to a sick bed. She sent for several of the Elders to administer to her, but found no relief. At last she sent for P. P. Pratt, Lyman Wight and myself, we laid our hands upon her and administered to her, after which she looked up in despair and said she hoped I would deliver her from the awful state she was in. Her whole frame was racked with intense anguish while her mind seemed almost in despair. Brother Parley said to me: “Brother Newel, you must do something for her.” My soul was drawn out in pity for her, yet I knew not what to do. I felt impressed to call the branch together that evening.
When the meeting had been opened as usual, I arose, not knowing what to do or what to say. After requesting the prayers and united faith of all present, the Spirit of the Lord came upon me, so that I was able to make plain the cause of Sister Peck’s illness–that she had risen up in opposition to the priesthood which had been placed over that branch of the Church, and contradicted the revelations of God, and that by the sympathies shown her, a division of feeling had gained advantage over them, until Sister Peck had fallen completely under the power of Satan, and could not extricate herself. I told the brethren and sisters, if they would repent of what they had done, and renew their covenants one with another and with the Lord, and uphold the authorities placed over them, and also the revelations which the Lord had given unto us, it would be all right with Sister Peck, for this would break the bands of Satan and make us free. I had no sooner closed my remarks than with one united voice, all came forward and agreed to do so. I then went to Sister Peck, and in the name of Jesus Christ, and by virtue of the Holy Priesthood, commanded the evil powers to depart from her, and blessed her with peace and strength, both of body and mind. I then dismissed the meeting and told the family to go to bed, and rest as usual, and all would be well. Early the next morning I called to see her, she stretched out her hand as soon as she saw me, and said, O, Brother Newel, forgive me! I did not believe one word you said last night, but when I awoke this morning I found I was not in hell. Her rejoicings were very great, and union again prevailed with us, and we all felt we had learned a lesson that would be of lasting benefit to us.
On the 6th of April, 1833, the Church met together at the ferry on Big Blue River to celebrate the Church’s birthday. This was the first celebration of the kind and the Saints felt their privilege and enjoyed themselves in the worship of their Heavenly Father, and praised His holy name. The brethren returned to their homes renewed in spirit, and rejoicing in heart. Such peace and happiness were not however, to continue long without an interruption from our enemies, for when the Saints rejoice, the devil is mad, and his children and servants partake of his spirit. This was proven in this instance, for before this month had closed, a most dreadful and diabolical spirit of persecution manifested itself all around us. An immense mob collected together expressing a determination to drive us from our homes for they would not allow the “Mormons” to live in their midst.
On hearing this news, a number of the brethren met together and prayed to God to overrule the wicked designs of the mob meeting, that they might not have power to agree upon their plans, or to execute their wicked threats. They broke up in a regular row, and for time all was well. As might be expected, this caused considerable uneasiness among us, and it required great wisdom and care on our part to keep the Saints quiet, and to keep them at their labors.
In the meantime the Lord had given a commandment to Zion to build a temple to His holy name.
[MR. PIXLEY’S BITTERNESS–OUR ENEMIES MAKE PLANS FOR OUR OVERTHROW–THEIR RESOLUTIONS–OUR PRINTING OFFICE DESTROYED–BRETHREN TARRED AND FEATHERED–OUR APPEAL TO THE GOVERNOR–HIS ADVICE–SAINTS DRIVEN- -UNEXPECTED ENGAGEMENT–SEVERAL KILLED AND WOUNDED.]
While peaceful pursuits characterized the doings of the Saints, the mobocratic spirit of our enemies was but slumbering for a short time, and the uneasy, restless spirit of the people would occasionally manifest itself, until, at last, in July it again burst forth. The sectarian priests and missionaries around us were among the first to come out both secretly and openly against us. Among the more active of these was a Mr. [Benton] Pixley, who did not content himself in slandering us to the people of Jackson County, but also wrote to eastern papers, telling horrible lies about us, with the evident intention of rousing a spirit of hatred against us. His talk was of the bitterest kind, his speeches perfectly inflammatory, and he appeared to have an influence among the people, to carry them with him in his hellish designs. Nor did he confine his actions to the white settlers, but tried to stir up the Indians against us, and used every means in his power to accomplish his purposes.
His efforts were seconded by such men as Reverends [Isaac] McCoy, Fitzhugh, Bogard [Samuel Bogart], Kavanaugh, Lovelady, Likens, Hunter and others; and by their perseverance, at last the public mind became so excited, that on the 20th of July a meeting was called and largely attended by not only the rabble of the county, but also by men holding official positions. A full account of this proceeding was published, and it was stated among other imaginary evils that we were poor, and that the members of our Church who gathered from various places did not possess much of this world’s goods, which was, apparently, a crime in their estimation. We were also accused of believing in the gifts and blessings of the ancient gospel. Other things were enumerated, when it was resolved that “no Mormon shall in future move and settle in this county; that those now here shall give a definite pledge of their intention to move out of the county within a reasonable time; that the editor of the Star be required forthwith to close his office and discontinue the business of printing in this county; that the Mormon leaders here are required to use their influence to prevent any further emigration of their distant brethren to this county, and to counsel and advise their brethren here to comply with the above requisitions, and that those who fail to do so, be referred to those of their brethren who have the gift of divination and of unknown tongues to inform them of the lot that awaits them.
“These resolutions were read, considered and unanimously adopted. It was thereupon agreed that a committee of twelve be appointed forthwith to wait on the Mormon leaders, and see that the foregoing requisitions be strictly complied with by them and upon their refusal, that said committee do, as the organ of this county, inform them that it is our unwavering purpose and fixed determination, after the fullest consideration of all consequences and responsibilities under which we act, to use such means as shall endure their full and complete adoption, and that said committee, so far as may be within their power, report to this present meeting.
“The following gentlemen were named as said committee: Robert Johnson, James Campbell, Col. Mores Wilson, Joel F. Chiles, Hon. Richard Fristoe, Abner T. Staples, Gad Johnson, Lewis Franklin, Russel Hicks, Esq., Col. S. D. Lucas, Thomas Wilson and James M. Hunter, to whom was added Col. R. Simpson, chairman.
“After an adjournment of two hours, the meeting again convened, and the committee of twelve reported that they had called on Mr. [W. W.] Phelps, the editor of the Star, Edward Partridge, the Bishop of the sect, and Mr. [A. S.] Gilbert, the keeper of the Lord’s storehouse, and some others, and that they declined giving any direct answers to the requisitions made of them, and wished an unreasonable time for consultation, not only with their brethren here, but in Ohio.
“Whereupon it was unanimously resolved by the meeting that the Star printing office, should be razed to the ground and the type and press secured. Which resolution was, with the utmost order, and the least noise and disturbance possible, forthwith carried into execution, as also some other steps of a similar tendency; but no blood was spilled nor any blows inflicted. The meeting then adjourned until the 23rd instant, to meet again to know further concerning the determination of the Mormons.”
In the meeting of the 23rd another committee was appointed to wait upon our leaders and learn from them what course they intended to pursue. At the meeting of this committee and our brethren it was stipulated that our people should leave the county before the 1st of January following, and that those who were then on the way to Zion should only remain sufficiently long to make a selection of another home.
In the minutes of their meetings the mob neglected to tell of the outrages inflicted on the persons of Bishop Partridge, Elder Charles Allen, and others, the two former of whom they took (after demolishing the printing office) to the public square, and tarred and feathered them, making at the same time the most horrid threats, merely because they would not renounce their religion. They have not told of the solemn covenant entered into by the mob, wherein they pledged their lives, their bodily power, fortunes and sacred honors to drive the Saints from Jackson Co. They have not set forth the unholy combination entered into, to lay waste and destroy the property of the Saints, and to drive them forth from their prosperous settlements which were being built up. But all these things are known to God and many of the Saints, and although the participators fail to record these things, they are written where it is beyond the power of men to erase them, and where our enemies will one day hear them read.
In the latter part of September Brothers [Orson] Hyde and [John] Gould came to us with counsel and instruction from Brother Joseph, so that they might help us in our unpleasant circumstances. It was decided to petition Governor Dunklin for redress and protection, and Brothers Orson Hyde and W. W. Phelps were sent to Jefferson city for that purpose, bearing a document setting forth our grievances, and giving details of the shameful proceedings of July.
The governor received these brethren courteously, but gave them no answer at the time as the attorney general was absent. He stated that he desired to maintain law and order in the state, and was willing to do anything in his power to assist in the protection of the Saints. He subsequently wrote:
“No citizen, nor number of citizens, have a right to take the redress of their grievances, whether real or imaginary, into their own hands; such conduct strikes at the very existence of society, and subverts the foundation on which it is based. Not being willing to persuade myself that any portion of the citizens of the state of Missouri are so lost to a sense of these truths as to require the exercise of force, in order to ensure respect for them.
“After advising with the attorney general, and exercising my best judgment, I would advise you to make a trial of the efficacy of the laws; the judge of your circuit is a conservator of the peace. If an affidavit is made before him by any of you, that your lives are threatened and you believe them in danger, it would be his duty to have the offenders apprehended and bind them to keep peace. Justices of peace in their respective counties have the same authority, and it is made their duty to exercise it. Take, then, this course; obtain a warrant, let it be placed in the hands of the proper officer, and the experiment will be tested whether laws can be peaceably executed or not. In the event that they cannot be, and that fact is officially notified to me, my duty will require me to take such steps as will enforce a faithful execution of them.”
This communication comforted the hearts of the brethren, for they felt they were not entirely left in the hands of the ruthless mob, but that they would be protected in their rights. They renewed their labors and felt to rejoice before their Heavenly Father. In the meantime the brethren in Independence retained four lawyers from Clay County, named, [William T.] Wood, [Amos] Reese, [Alexander] Doniphan, and [David R.] Atchinson, with a fee of one thousand dollars. As soon as the mob heard of this they became very much enraged. They disregarded the compact and assembled together vowing vengeance on all the “Mormons,” being determined that we should leave forthwith. From the 31st of October until the 4th of November, there was one continual scene of outrages of the most hideous kind. The mob collected in different parts of the county and attacked the Saints in most of their settlements, houses were unroofed, others were pulled down, leaving women and children, and even the sick and the dying exposed to the inclemency of the weather. Men were caught and whipped or clubbed until they were bruised from head to foot, and some were left upon the ground for dead. The most horrid threats and imprecations were uttered against us, and women and children were told, with cursings, that unless they left the country immediately they should be killed.
The brethren had to get together to protect themselves, and they went from place to place to assist those who were threatened. In some instances these parties, when marching to the relief of their brethren, were intercepted and flagrant outrages committed upon them. Things continued in this state until the 4th of November, when the mob were hunting a small party of our brethren, and breaking down, and feeding upon our crops, and otherwise destroying them. While fifty or sixty were thus engaged, about thirty of the brethren came upon them and a battle ensued. As soon as the mob saw the brethren coming, some of them called out, “Fire, G-d d—m ye, fire!” and several shots were immediately fired into our party, which were promptly returned, when the mob fled, leaving some of their horses in one of the corn fields, and [Hugh] H. L. Brazile and Thomas Linvill dead on the ground. We also learned that several of their number were wounded.
We had two or three wounded. One, a young man named [Andrew] Barber, received a mortal wound; he was the first man in this dispensation, who was martyred for the truth’s sake. Another, Philo Dibble, was wounded in the abdomen at the first discharge; he was examined by a surgeon of great experience, who had served in the Mohawk war, and he said he never knew a man to live who was wounded in such a manner. The next day I went to see Brother Dibble, and found the house where he lay surrounded by the mob. I managed to get in, and went to the bed; two men came and seated themselves at the door; as I looked upon Brother Dibble lying there in extreme agony, I drew the bed curtains with one hand and laid the other upon his head, praying secretly to our Heavenly Father in his behalf. I then left, as I did not wish to put myself into the power of the mob; and the next day business took me some ten miles from the place, where I met Brother Dibble making his escape from the county. He told me that as soon as I placed my hand upon his head, the pain and soreness seemed gradually to move as before a power driving it, until in a few minutes it left his body. He then discharged about a gallon of putrid matter, and the balls and pieces of clothing which had passed into his body.
My mill was doing business for the people generally, yet the mob was not disposed to let it escape their fury, and we were obliged to guard it day and night. On one occasion, when two or three companies of the mob were in the neighborhood, they sent two of their number as spies to learn our situation. Parley P. Pratt, who was on guard at the mill, on seeing them, went and accosted them, when one of the two raised his gun and struck Brother Pratt on the head, cutting a large hole, but Brother Pratt called to his men, who took the two spies prisoners, and disarmed them for the night, but the next morning returned their arms to them, and let them go without doing them any injury. Thus did we leave the result in the hands of the Almighty.
[MCCARTY’S CASE–JUSTICE DENIED US–THE SUFFERINGS OF THE SAINTS– THE BRETHREN DISARMED–JOSEPH’S OPINION OF GOVERNOR BOGGS–CORRESPONDENCE BETWEEN THE STATE OFFICIALS AND OUR PEOPLE–OUR PETITION TO THE GOVERNOR.]
The brethren at Independence did their best to follow the advice given in the governor’s letter. They caught one, [Richard] McCarty, while in the act of breaking in the doors of Gilbert and Co.’s store, and throwing the contents into the street, and went to issue a warrant against him; but Samuel Weston Esq., would not issue it, and McCarty was freed. He immediately turned around and sued Brothers [A. S.] Gilbert, [William W.] Phelps, [William] McLellin and others for assault and false imprisonment and they were sent to jail. Several of the brethren then went to Lexington to see the circuit judge, while two others called on Mr. Silvers, who refused to issue a warrant, for his craven heart feared the mob. This he afterwards acknowledged. The brethren who went to Lexington were more successful. They obtained a warrant after some delay, but by the time they reached Independence it was perfectly useless, for the whole country was up in arms, and all the Saints could do was to protect their wives, children and themselves from utter extermination. The mob declared that no warrant should be served, for they would kill the man that dared attempt it; neither should there be any civil processes at law, for those who dared commence them should die. On one occasion when the brethren tried to issue a peace warrant, and the Justice of the Peace refused, the governor’s letter was read to him when he replied, I don’t care a d–m for that.” Thus were the courts of law closed against us, and justice descended from her lofty seat to mourn in sackcloth and ashes.
But what more could be expected? for at the head of the mob were found the judges, lawyers, justices of peace, sheriffs and their deputies, constables, jail keepers, and county clerk.
Every attempt made by the brethren to obtain assistance enraged the mob to a greater degree, and none could remain in their midst and feel that life was safe. While Brothers [A. S.] Gilbert, [Isaac] Morley and [John Corrill] Corvill, were being conducted back to jail by the deputy sheriff after meeting with the brethren and persuading them to leave the county, a number of the mob overtook them, and although the deputy sheriff told his name, and the names of his prisoners and called on them in God’s name not to fire, yet two of them raised their guns and fired at Brother Gilbert, the one snapping and the other missing fire.
This was caused by the rumor that had reached Independence concerning the battle. It was said that twenty of the mob had been killed and a number wounded, the news flew through the county as on the wings of the wind, and men who were peaceable before, now rushed into Independence determined to massacre the Saints. It was indeed a scene of wild confusion.
The next day the fury of the mob was in no way abated and the Saints saw that their lives could be saved only by flight; consequently men, women and children fled from their homes, some in one direction and some in another. One large party of women and children, protected only by six men wandered into the prairie south, and their tracks could be followed by the blood stains on the ground, the prairie grass had been burnt, and the sharp stubble lacerated their uncovered feet, cutting and wounding them in a terrible manner; thus they wandered about for several days with nothing but the broad canopy of heaven to shelter them. Some went to the Missouri River intending to cross over into Clay County, for they had already proven that the people in the adjoining counties were far from being their friends. Thus homeless, and without means of taking much to sustain them did the whole Church in Jackson County flee before the mob, and at night those who went to the river camped in the rain which poured down in torrents; the frail mother, the helpless infant, the sick and the dying, all alike without the means to shelter themselves from the storm. One man by the name of Bennett opened his house to a number of women and children who were making their way to the Missouri.
While this was going on, about one hundred of the brethren had volunteered to go to the protection of their brethren in Independence. When they had got within one mile of the place they halted and sent in to learn the situation of the mob. They found that Colonel [Thomas] Pitcher had put himself at the head of the mob and called them the militia, expecting by this stratagem to be able to better carry out the hellish plans of our enemies. Governor [Lilburn W.] Boggs, also gave the mob his influence, and indeed it was thought he was the grand moving spirit through the whole affair.
As the brethren in Independence were not in the danger that was reported, Colonel [Lyman] Wight thought it best to have his men remain in the woods around during the day. By some means Colonel Pitcher heard of this arrangement. He was both terrified and angry. He, however, sent to the brethren and demanded their arms, saying, that it was intended to disarm both parties; fifty-one guns, one sword and one pistol were delivered up to him, for although the brethren felt to resist the mob to the utmost in the defense of their wives and children, this demand being made under the color of law, it was complied with. But no sooner was this known than the mob broke forth from the ranks of the pretended militia and were bolder than ever. Knowing that the Saints were now without arms, they rode through the country in small bands pillaging houses, insulting women, whipping men and threatening two-fold vengeance.
In the midst of this terrible excitement several of the leading Elders offered themselves and their lives, for their brethren if that would satisfy and let the rest remain in peace. The answer was, “No; but every one must die for himself.”
I must not omit to mention one act of cruelty, which, if possible, seems to surpass all others. In one of the settlements were four families of very old men, infirm and very poor. They seemed to think that they would not be molested and so remained behind, but no sooner did the mob learn of it, than they went to their houses, broke their windows and doors, and hurled great stones into their rooms endangering their lives; thus were these poor old men, and their families, driven before the ruthless mob in midwinter. These men had served in the revolutionary war, and Brother Jones had been one of General Washington’s body guard, but this availed them nothing, for they were of the hated people. Thus were all the Saints compelled to flee into Clay Co., where the sympathies of the people were extended towards them.
The Colesville Branch, as usual, kept together and formed a small settlement on the Missouri bottoms, building themselves temporary houses; a few other families settled with us; and the Saints all around built themselves places of shelter for the winter. But the scenes that were endured, at the river side, immediately after the flight, beggars description. Yet the Saints did not forget to return thanks unto Almighty God for deliverance from the hands of their vile enemies and to seek His protecting care for the future–that He would soften the hearts of the people to whom they had fled, that they might find among them something to sustain themselves.
Although Governor Boggs did not come out and show himself openly in his true colors we have sufficient evidence that he sanctioned all the movements of the mob and even directed them. He it was who put in motion the movements of July, and continued his exertions until he had accomplished all his hellish designs. As Brother Joseph said, “the great change that may appear to some, in the views, designs and craft of this man, to rob an innocent people of their arms by stratagem, and leave more than one thousand defenseless men, women and children, to be driven from their homes, among strangers in a strange land is so glaringly exposed in the sequel that all earth and hell cannot deny that a baser knave, a greater traitor, and a more wholesale butcher, or murderer of mankind ever went untried, unpunished, or unhung.” But Governor [Daniel] Dunklin was a gentleman and seemed disposed to do what was right. Brothers Phelps, Gilbert and McLellin went into Clay County and made affidavit of the outrageous scenes in Jackson County; and expressed the same to the governor who immediately ordered a court of inquiry to be held in Clay County for the purpose of investigating the whole affair, and meting out justice to all, and the attorney general wrote to the counsel employed to prosecute the mob, advising our people to organize themselves into regular companies and then apply to the governor for weapons of defense. He was of the opinion that the governor would not only furnish us arms and ammunition, but also troops to assist us in maintaining our rights, if we would only make application therefore.
About the same time Judge [John F.] Ryland also wrote, on the authority of the governor, to one of our counsel, saying among other things that he was determined to investigate the causes of the recent disturbance and “take steps to punish the guilty and screen the innocent.”
In reply to these communications Elder A. S. Gilbert wrote to the governor of Missouri as follows:
Liberty, Clay County,
November 29th, 1833.
“Dear Sir–Yesterday I saw Mr. Doniphan, an attorney of this place who informed me that he saw the attorney general, Mr. Wells, in Saline County, last Saturday week and that Mr. Wells had acquainted him with your intention of ordering a court of inquiry to be held in Jackson county, in relation to the late riotous proceedings in that county. Mr. Doniphan is of the opinion from the conversation he had with Mr. Wells, that said order will be suspended till a communication is received from our people, or their counsel. This is therefore to acquaint your excellency, that most of the heads of our Church had an interview yesterday on the subject of an immediate court of inquiry to be held in Jackson County, and by their request to me, I hasten to lay before your excellency serious difficulties attending our people on an immediate court of inquiry being called.
“Our Church was at this time scattered in every direction; some in the new county of Van Buren; a part in this county, and a part in La Fayette and Ray Counties. Some of our principal witnesses would be women and children, and while the rage of the mob continues, it would be impossible to gather them in safety at Independence, and that your excellency may know of the unabated fury with which the last remnant of our people remaining in that county are pursued at this time, I here state that a few families, perhaps fifteen or twenty, who settled themselves more than two years ago on the prairie, about fifteen miles from the county seat of Jackson county, had hoped from the obscurity of their location, that they might escape the vengeance of the enemy through the Winter, consequently they remained on their plantations, receiving occasionally, a few individual threats, till last Sunday, when a mob made their appearance among them; some with pistols cocked and presented to their breasts, commanding them to leave the county in three days, or they would tear their houses down over their heads, etc.
“Two expresses arrived here from said neighborhood last Monday morning, for advice and the council advised their speedy removal for the preservation of life, and their personal effects. I suppose these families will be out of the county of Jackson this week. In this distressed situation, in behalf of my brethren, I pray your excellency to await a further communication which will soon follow this, setting forth among other things the importance of our people being restored to their possessions, that they may have an equal chance with their enemies in producing important testimony before the court, which the enemy are now determined to deprive them of. Trusting that your excellency will perceive the agitation and consternation that must necessarily prevail among most of our people at this day, from the unparalleled usage they have received and many of them wandering at this time destitute of shelter.
An immediate court of enquiry called while our people are thus situated, would give our enemies a decided advantage in point of testimony, while they are in possession of their own homes, and ours also; with no enemy in the county to molest or make them afraid.
“Very Respectful ly,
Your Obedient Se rvant,
A. S. Gilbert.
“To his Excellency Daniel Dunklin, Jefferson City, Missouri.”
“I have seen and read the above letter, and on reflection, I concur entirely in the opinion therein expressed. I also think that at the next regular term of the court, an examination of the criminal matter cannot be gone into, without a guard for the court and witnesses. (Signed.) Amos Reese.”
Those mentioned in this letter as having been threatened on Sunday the 24th, fled into Clay county, and encamped on the Missouri River. There were about one hundred and fifty men, women and children.
We had sent reports of their proceedings to Brother Joseph Smith and the brethren in Kirtland, but it appears that in some particulars they did not agree, being given by different persons, so Brother Joseph wrote seeking correct information, and for documents. He also sent comforting news to the Saints reminding all that it is only through great tribulation, that the blessings are received.
On the 6th of December, a petition and letter were sent to Governor Dunklin asking for aid and protection. We also asked that a court of enquiry might be established to investigate the whole matter and bring the offenders and law-breakers to justice. We thus showed that we intended to maintain our rights to our inheritances, so that if we should be deprived of them for any length of time, the responsibility would not rest upon our shoulders.
The season was very severe and many persons suffered for the necessaries of life, but we were not forgotten by God nor by our co-religionists in Kirtland, and the sympathies of the Saints were like balm to our wounds.
We were soon pained with news that reached us from Van Buren County. It seems that in the general flight of the Saints some few families went south into Van Buren County and commenced to open and improve farms, build houses, etc. They had taken their winter’s provisions with them and thought to make themselves homes, but the citizens rose up and without scarcely giving warning commenced to destroy all their stock and goods, and these Saints once more had to flee for their lives, and seek refuge among their brethren, who also were exiles.
[COURT IN JACKSON COUNTY–OFFICERS AWED BY A MOB–ZION’S CAMP–MOB MEETING–“A MAN STABBED”–CAMPBELL’S HORRIBLE FATE–GOD INTERPOSES IN BEHALF OF ZION’S CAMP–THE CHOLERA–I GO TO KIRTLAND–MY LABORS THERE–RETURN TO CLAY COUNTY.]
The year 1834 opened upon the Church, in Missouri, with no flattering prospects. The Saints were scattered in every direction, awaiting the action of the government and courts to settle their difficulties with Jackson County. On the 1st of January a conference was held, Bishop Partridge presiding, when everything possible was done to comfort the hearts of the distressed, and to help them in their afflictions.
On the 9th Brother Gilbert wrote again to Governor Dunklin, explaining the wishes and condition of the Saints, and suggested that the principal leaders of the Jackson county mob be bought out, as he thought it would help to bring about peace and give the Saints repossession of their lands, houses, and properties, without the intervention of an armed force.
The governor answered this communication in a very gentlemanly manner, and also gave his views in regard to the best method to pursue under the unpleasant circumstances. In accordance with his instructions Judge [John F.] Ryland proceeded to hold court in Jackson County, and as it was imprudent to call the witnesses, or proceed with the investigation, without a sufficient guard, Captain [David R.] Atchinson was called on for his company, the “Liberty Blues,” to do duty. The brethren who were subpoenaed were met on the banks of the Missouri by this company and guarded to about a mile from Independence where they camped for the night. So great was the excitement in Jackson County, that it was thought necessary to have more men, and an order, or requisition, was made on Colonel Allen for two hundred more. The mob made a bold stand, and began to collect in bodies, pledging themselves to the death, that no arrests should be made, but that they would defend each other to the last. On the 24th of February, the brethren, and their military escort went into Independence and were quartered in the old store of S. Flomuoy, where they were visited by the attorney general and the district attorney, and told that all hope of a criminal prosecution was at an end. Thus were the officers of the civil law, even when supported by the military, awed by a mob, and the great promises of the governor and Judge Ryland fell to the ground, and the strong arm of justice became weak and fell powerless to her side.
Our witnesses were cautioned not to go before the grand jury, it being intimated that they might be in danger. Thus did these two men, with the circuit judge acknowledge that mob violence was superior, in Missouri, to both the civil and the military powers; for it was not long before Captain Atchinson received word from Judge Ryland that neither he nor his men were wanted any longer in Independence, and the witnesses were marched off to the tune of “Yankee Doodle,” to carry to their brethren the news that justice had taken her flight before the fury of the rabble, and her ministers had not power to maintain her rights. They must now look to a higher power for redress, or bear their wrongs as best they can.
The mob continued their depredations wherever they could find an opportunity, not sparing the aged nor the weak, but abusing all alike. Father Lindsay is mentioned as being driven from his home, and then his house pulled down, and its contents destroyed or stolen.
Having seen that through the imbecility of the law, or the secret connivance of its administrators, there was no possible chance of obtaining redress, and being protected in our rights, it was next decided upon to petition the president of the United States, in accordance with the revelation given to that effect. An able document was drawn up and sent to that officer, but it availed us nothing. We also wrote to the governor, asking him to issue an order to have our weapons, of which we had been deprived in November last, restored to us. But, notwithstanding the orders of the governor to Colonels [Samuel] Lucas and [Thomas] Pitcher, we never received our arms, but they were taken and distributed among the mob.
Our brethren in Kirtland, on hearing of our sufferings, did all in their power to help us; and immediately on receiving the revelation concerning the redemption of Zion, began to gather together young men and middle-aged men to come to our relief.
We received the news of the coming of these brethren with much joy and thankfulness.
When the news got abroad of the movement, the mob once more became infuriated. They got together in large bodies, armed and provided themselves with cannon. Hundreds from the surrounding counties volunteered to help them in case Governor Dunklin should attempt to restore us to our homes, which he had said he would do as soon as enough of our brethren came together to enable us to protect ourselves in them.
In the midst of this intense excitement, Judge Ryland called a meeting of the brethren, citizens, and the Jackson County mob, with a view of an amicable adjustment, as he said, of our difficulties.
On Monday, June 16th, about one thousand citizens of Clay County, and a few from Jackson county, assembled in the courthouse, in Liberty, according to appointment. Judge [Joel] Turnham was appointed moderator, or chairman.
Judge Ryland used his best endeavors to allay the angry feelings of the mob, and to effect an adjustment of our difficulties in his own way, but not to our satisfaction.
A document from our opponents was introduced by war speeches by S. C. Owens and Rev. M. Riley, who, even in this meeting, advocated the idea of driving us from Clay Co. But Gen. Doniphan and Judge Turnham defended the cause of right, begging that the people of that county would not disgrace themselves in the manner Jackson County had done; but let the “Mormons” remain in their midst and enjoy equal rights with them, “for,” he said, “they are good citizens, and even better than many of the old settlers.”
Gen. Doniphan said: “The Mormons have armed themselves, and if they don’t fight they are cowards. I love to hear that they have brethren coming to their assistance, greater love can no man show, than he, who lays down his life for his brethren.”
But such was the excitement caused by this discussion that a row and fight appeared certain, and many seemed to be preparing for it all over the room. The confusion was increasing, when somebody called into the room, “A man stabbed!”
There was a sudden rush to the spot, when it was found that a quarrel between two Missourians had ended in one of them being severely wounded. This broke up the meeting and gave the brethren a chance to state in writing why they could not accept the propositions offered.
At the meeting a report was circulated that an army of our brethren was coming to help us, and to go into Jackson County by force. All kinds of strange stories were set afloat, and a small party, with [Samuel C.] Owens and [James] Campbell at their head, went directly to Independence to collect an army to go and prevent their entering Clay County. Campbell swore, while adjusting his pistols in the holsters, “The eagles and turkey buzzards shall eat my flesh if I do not fix Joe Smith and his [Zion’s Camp] army, so that their skins will not hold shucks, before two days are past.”
They sent word to Richmond, Ray County, and had their agents working in Clay County, intending to raise force sufficient to annihilate our brethren. About two hundred volunteered in Jackson, seventy in Clay, and fifty in Ray Counties, and were to form a junction near Fishing River Ford. Their plans were all laid, as they thought, to enable them to accomplish their purpose, but the Lord [miracles} interposed His strong arm, for the preservation of our brethren, and while the mob were crossing the river to the north side, a squall met them on their return so that they were delayed; some attempted to cross the river after dusk, so great was their anxiety to be at their hellish work, but when near the middle of the river the boat sunk, and seven out of twelve men were drowned; among them was James Campbell, who had made use of such a terrible oath in the day. He floated down the river, and, lodging on some drift wood, his flesh was eaten by the eagles and turkey buzzards; thereby fulfilling his oath, and feeling the vengeance of an offended God. S. C. Owens came near being drowned, and was glad enough the next morning to make his way to Independence. Those who had crossed the river the day before, returned to join their companions in the morning, and felt glad that they had escaped with their lives. Immediately around our brethren was the protecting hand of the Almighty, and at the approach of the mob from Ray County, a tremendous hail and thunder storm raged, pelting them severely even to the cutting of holes in their hats; their ammunition was perfectly soaked, and they were glad enough to get back home. During this time scarcely any hail fell in the camp of the brethren, but all around them could be seen the work of destruction–limbs of trees were cut off by the storm, and trees themselves were twisted like withes.
In the morning Big Fishing River had raised forty feet, and our enemies said that Little Fishing River raised thirty feet in thirty minutes. Thus were our brethren preserved from their enemies.
On the night of the 28th the cholera, of which the brethren had been warned by the servant of God, broke out in Zion’s Camp. About twelve o’clock cries and groans were heard from those who had been taken sick, and they fell before the destroyer. So violent were the attacks that in some instances those who were on guard, fell with their guns in their hands; and it was only by great exertion that we were able to take care of the sick and dying. In the morning the camp was divided into small bands and dispersed among the brethren. Out of sixty-eight taken by the disease, thirteen died, among whom was A. S. Gilbert. The rest recovered, for an effectual remedy was discovered, namely, to dip the patient in cold water, or pour it copiously upon him. This stopped the cramp, purging and vomiting. Whenever this remedy was adopted in season it did not fail to cure. We were indeed sorry to see our brethren who had come so far–one thousand miles–to our relief thus fall before the hand of the destroyer.
The summer passed without anything special transpiring. The inhabitants generally manifested a kind feeling towards the Saints; yet, owing to the exposure of the previous winter and the hunger and privation, which the brethren had suffered, many of them were afflicted with fever and ague.
I began to make preparation to go on my appointed mission to Kirtland; but it seemed as if a struggle had commenced. Both my wife and myself took the fever and ague, also my aunt, Esther Culver; she was an aged woman, whose husband had died previous to our exile from Jackson County, and whom I had taken into my family as she had no child to care for her.
On the 15th of September, Sally, my wife, died; truly she died a martyr to the gospel of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. She was of a frail constitution, and the hardships and privations she had to endure were more than she could survive. A short time previously she had given birth to a son, which had also died.
My health continued poor, so that I could do but little work until the time had arrived for the Elders, who had been called to go to Kirtland, to start. I made the best arrangements I could for the care of my little son Samuel and aged aunt; and in company with a number of my brethren, got on board some canoes, which we had got for the purpose, and floated down the Missouri river. We traveled on the river by day, and at night camped on its shore. I was hardly able to walk when I started on this journey but my strength gradually increased. When we had got far enough from those who were so bitterly prejudiced against the gospel, that we could get a hearing, we left our canoes and parted, traveling two by two preaching the gospel to those who would listen to us.
I arrived in safety in Kirtland, in the spring of 1835, and commenced labor on the [Kirtland] temple, where I continued to work until it was finished, and ready for the endowments.
On the 24th of November I was united in the holy bonds of matrimony with Lydia Goldthwait [Goldthwaite] by the Prophet Joseph, this being the first marriage ceremony that he ever performed.
I remained in Kirtland until the temple was finished and dedicated. I then received my anointings, and was also a witness to the great manifestations of God’s power in that sacred edifice.
On Thursday, April 7th, 1836, all things being ready, Lydia and I started for Clay County. Brother Hyrum Smith let me have his horses to go to Liverpool, on the Ohio river, where we were intending to take passage on a steamer for our destination, the roads were very muddy. On the 9th in the afternoon it rained very hard, and we stopped, before night, at a sectarian priest’s, who treated us with great politeness until in the evening while we were sitting with the family in the parlor, in the course of conversation it was mentioned that we were “Mormons.” The family immediately left the room, and the reverend gentleman politely informed us, that if it had not been raining so very heavily, he would have at once put us out of the house. As it was we were introduced into the kitchen, where we spent the night, and early the next morning I got my horses in readiness, paid my bill, and bade this sectarian host adieu. We traveled several miles, when we came to a house, where we got breakfast, and were kindly treated. Soon after resuming our journey we found ourselves in deep water, for the road was flooded for a long distance, and it was with difficulty that I could pick out the way; as I attempted to cross a bridge the logs rolled from under the horses, and I was barely able to rescue them by detaching them from the wagon. I then got Lydia on one of the horses and took her across to dry land, but had to leave the wagon for the night.
The water had abated by the 11th, and we continued our journey to Liverpool, Ohio, where we were compelled to remain a few days. We finally arrived in Clay County on the 6th of May.
[SAINTS MOVE TO CALDWELL COUNTY–PERSECUTIONS BEGIN ANEW–CAPTAIN BOGART AND HIS MOB–THE BATTLE–HAUN’S MILL MASSACRE–COLONEL HINKLE’S TREACHERY–THE BRETHREN IMPRISONED.]
When the Saints were driven from Jackson County, the people of Clay County kindly permitted us an asylum in their midst and many individual acts of kindness might be recorded in their favor; but the more turbulent spirits among them began to stir up anger against us, and the smoldering embers of persecution began to show signs of blazing forth again. However, there were many gentlemen who were desirous of peace, and who tried to sooth and quell the spirit of mobocracy.
During June and July, 1836, meetings were held by our people as well as by those who desired our removal to some other locality, and it was finally decided, after due deliberation, that the Saints should again move. This time the place of refuge chosen was Caldwell Co., and immediately the exodus began.
My personal affairs were such that I could not move with the majority of the Saints but was compelled to remain until February, 1838, when I was able to leave Clay County entirely free of debt, and with a little means on hand. I felt much gratified, however, at being able to greet the Prophet Joseph, and several other brethren, who arrived in Far West with their families on the 14th of March following my arrival.
These brethren had come from Kirtland to shelter themselves from the heavy storm of persecution that had set in upon them there, and which was started by apostates. The mob had followed them on the road, armed, and with murder in their hearts. Frequently the brethren had to hide themselves in their wagons, their pursuers were so close upon them; and on two or three occasions they were together in the same house. Once they remained all night in the same building with only a partition between them, and the oaths and threats of their enemies could be distinctly heard. Late in the evening these fiends went into the room where the brethren were and examined them, but although they were very well acquainted with the brethren, they decided it was not them.
The Saints were not, however, destined to remain long in peace in Caldwell County. Their enemies who lived in the adjoining counties could not bear the idea of the “Mormons” becoming prosperous and they therefore began to arouse public indignation against them. Every unjust act of which wicked men could conceive was perpetrated against us in the vain hope that we would retaliate on our opposers, and thereby afford an excuse for extermination. But we calmly submitted to the numerous indignities heaped upon us, feeling that it was better to suffer wrong than to do wrong. Our people made many concessions to the mob in the hope of pacifying them, but it was useless.
In this instance, as in the Jackson County mobbings, the principal instigators were priests of various denominations. On the 24th of October, Captain Bogart, a Methodist priest, marched a company of men towards Far West with the avowed intention, to use his language, of giving our city “thunder and lightning” before noon of the next day. On receipt of this information from Brother Parson [Moret Parons], who had watched the movements of [Samuel] Bogart, and seen him camp on Crooked River, a company of seventy-five volunteers went out to disperse the mob, and retake three prisoners, whom the mob had kidnapped from their homes, and to prevent the descent upon Far West.
On the following morning about daylight sixty of the brethren reached the ford on the Crooked River, and dismounting their horses left them in charge of a few brethren, and then went to look for the encampment. The enemy watched the approach of the brethren, and greeted them with a round of musketry. As soon as the brethren saw the position of the enemy Captain David W. Patten ordered a charge, and the two parties engaged in a hand to hand fight, when the enemy retreated, and while pursuing them Captain [David W.] Patten was mortally wounded, two or three of the brethren [Patrick O’Banion and Gideon Carter] were killed, and Bogart must have lost quite a number although he only reported one.
The report of this battle spread through the country and created quite an excitement. Rumors were afloat that Bogart’s company had been massacred, and the whole country was in commotion. This was followed on the 27th by the infamous exterminating order of Governor Boggs. Before sufficient force could be collected to carry out Governor Bogg’s instructions, a party of men who had collected from Daviess, Ray, Livingston, Carroll, and Chariton Counties, led by some of the principal men of those places, made a descent upon Haun’s Mill, where a company of our brethren and sisters were camped. The enemy numbered two hundred and forty mounted men. Immediately on riding up they poured a volley from a hundred guns into our little band who had principally taken refuge in the blacksmith shop. The massacre became general, and but few escaped the fury of those inhuman wretches. Boys, eight, nine, and twelve years old were murdered even while begging for mercy, and a young lady, while fleeing from the mob, was shot through the hand, and fell, fainting over a log, into which her would-be murderers lodged about twenty balls.
The mob now grew bolder and bolder, and committed depredations upon the settlements in Caldwell and Daviess Counties, so that our people had to flee into Far West from all quarters to save themselves. Many could not get into houses, and had to take shelter in wagons, tents, and under bedclothes, and while in this situation we had a severe snow storm, which rendered their sufferings intense.
On the 29th, the news reached the city that a large number of troops had advanced into our county, and committed great depredations. It was thought advisable to send out a company of about one hundred and fifty men to ascertain the situation of affairs. On the 30th, these troops showed themselves before the city, and immediately the brethren flew to arms, with the determination to defend their wives and children to the last extremity. The troops withdrew to about a mile from the town and camped. Those who had been sent out were on the other side of the troops but came into the city about sundown, in two parties. These brethren without going to their homes joined the ranks of the brethren, and assisted to barricade and fortify the town.
A white flag was sent by each party, but judge our surprise, when on enquiring their designs, our flag-bearer was informed that they wanted three men out of our city, and then they designed to massacre the rest.
The day following a flag was sent by the enemy, and some of our brethren went and learned that they were commissioned by the chief executive, and that their commission authorized them to exterminate the Mormons en masse, and they had three thousand troops to carry these orders into effect.
Colonel [George M.] Hinkle went out to meet a flag of truce and secretly made arrangements to deliver up the Church leaders to be tried and punished; to have the property of the Saints delivered over to pay the expenses of the expedition and the damage done to them, and arranged that the Saints should leave the state, and their arms should be delivered up to the enemy.
In the evening the first step in this base treachery was taken. Colonel Hinkle represented to Brother Joseph and others that the officers of the militia desired an interview in the hope that the matter might be settled without carrying out the exterminating order. They complied with the request, and were delivered up to the mob by Hinkle, and claimed as prisoners of war. They were put into a small hollow square, and strongly guarded; and the enemy set up a most horrid yell, and continued it for hours; the noise was past description, and had there been ten thousand wolves yelling for their prey it would not have been worse.
On the morning of November 1st, Hinkle took another step to carry out his nefarious designs. The bugle sounded for the brethren to assemble, armed and equipped. Every man went out well armed and was paraded and delivered over to the enemy. The brethren were surrounded and required to surrender their arms, and were then guarded all day while the rapacious soldiery went from house to house, plundering, pillaging, and destroying, and even driving many helpless women and children from their homes, and committing deeds even worse than these in some instances.
A court-martial was held by the officers and priests, and without being heard in their own defense, the brethren were sentenced to be shot on Friday morning on the public square in Far West, in the presence of their wives and families. At this unprecedented action General Doniphan objected, saying he would have nothing to do with such cold-blooded actions, and he would draw off his brigade from the army. This probably saved the lives of the prisoners, as the sentence was changed and the prisoners were taken to Independence, Jackson county.
The designs of the enemy were, without doubt, to destroy the brethren when they arrived there, but the Lord did not suffer it, for their work was not yet finished. They were thrust into prison and held until a demand was made by General [John B.] Clark to have them forwarded to Richmond, where they underwent a mock trial and were remanded to Liberty Jail to await a further investigation.
On November 6th, General Clark paraded the brethren at Far West and delivered a most insulting speech, requiring the fulfillment of Colonel Hinkle’s stipulations in full, and telling us to get out of the state as quickly as possible; also that we need not look to see our prophet or his brethren any more who were in the hands of the militia, “for,” said he, “their fate is fixed, their die is cast, their doom is sealed.”
Although our arms had been taken from us and treaties made that we should remain in peace until the spring, yet small parties of armed men, were continually making incursions into Caldwell county, insulting our women, driving off our stock; and plundering wherever they could get a chance. Even life was not held sacred, and Brothers [John J.] Tanner and [William] Carey were grossly misused while prisoners, the latter having his brains dashed out with a gun.
Our persecutions did not abate in the least and it seemed as though all hell was aroused to do us injury. The brethren confined in Liberty Jail after being subjected to the most terrible indignities during their six month’s imprisonment, finally succeeded in making their escape and soon joined the body of the Saints.
[I MOVE TO COMMERCE–NO SAFETY FOR THE SAINTS–JOHN C. BENNETT’S WICKEDNESS–THREATS OF THE MOB–WE START FOR THE WEST–DEATH OF THE AUTHOR]
Again I prepared to leave my home and with my family gather to Commerce, which was the place that had been chosen for the future location of the Saints. Some few families had already gone there and a nucleus of a “Mormon” town had been formed.
I soon selected a piece of ground and commenced to build a home for myself, but before many days had passed I was advised by Brother Joseph to assist in the erection of a flouring mill, so that the Saints might thereby be benefited. I therefore ceased my own operations and began the new labor to which I had been assigned. From that time until I left Nauvoo with the Saints to find a home in the barren wilds of Western America, I was engaged more or less in the building and working of grist and saw mills for the benefit of the Saints. Sometimes I was without the necessaries of life, being bereft of the food and clothing which my family needed; sometimes I was surrounded by not only the necessaries but also the comforts of life; sometimes I rejoiced in the society of my friends, and sometimes enemies surrounded me, seeking my destruction because of my religion. But in the midst of these varied circumstances I never felt to doubt the truth of the gospel or the divinity of Joseph Smith’s mission.
The persecutions of the Saints in Missouri soon began to be reenacted in Illinois, where large numbers of our people had settled and built up the beautiful city of Nauvoo. Our enemies of the former place would not allow us to enjoy peace in the latter, but did everything in their power to arouse public indignation against us. Men who professed to be members of the Church also turned away from the truth and sought to injure the work. Notable among this latter class was John C. Bennett. He came to Nauvoo and joined the Church; with considerable ostentation he brought himself before the people, and seemed to enter into the work with a wholeheartedness which was quite commendable. He was instrumental in obtaining the charter for Nauvoo, the legion and the university; was elected mayor of the city, major general of the legion, and chancellor of the university. He defended the Prophet Joseph by writing over the non de plume of “Joab, general in Israel,” and was altogether a popular man, and run a rapid race. But he was only an adventurer, and his deeds of evil were eventually brought to light; for no sooner had he attained to these responsible positions than he sought to use the influence they gave him to accomplish his evil designs, and gave himself up to practices, not only diabolical in themselves but ruinous to the souls of those he entrapped. Thus he brought great scandal upon the Church, by seeking to destroy the innocent and virtuous; and when his acts were questioned by his intended victims he asserted that Joseph taught and sanctioned such doings. If his own assertions were not sufficient then he called on some of his tools–men he had in league with him–to bear testimony to his base lies. In this manner his deeds were brought to light, and then he used all his power to injure those whom he had before defended, and sought to bring about a renewal of the persecutions.
Through the instrumentality of persons of this class, the sufferings of the Saints were renewed. Many of the brethren were kidnapped from their homes and were abused in a most shameful manner, while others suffered imprisonment on trumped up charges that could not be sustained in court. One day the arrest of an apostate–Augustine Spencer–for an assault on his brother, Orson, was attempted in the neighborhood of Brother Joseph’s home. Some trouble ensued and in the same Charles Foster attempted to shoot the prophet, who was near at hand. Both he and Higbee said they would consider themselves the favored of God if they could but kill “Joe Smith.” Thus was our leader in constant danger for the sake of his religion, and from this time until his death, the horrors of which are known to all, on the 27th of June, 1844, his life was one continued scene of trial, hardship and persecution. His followers found no rest from their oppressors; they had no rights, according to popular judgement, that should be respected, and after we had agreed to leave Nauvoo and go to the Rocky Mountains, the mob would not leave us unmolested so that we could arrange our business. One man by the name of Bostwick came to the city to warn Amos Davis and others living there, but who did not belong to us, to move their stores out of the place if they wanted to save them, “for,” said he, “this city shall be laid in ashes; and Brigham Young shall be taken if I have to go to hell to raise troops enough to take him.” In this affair the Lord overruled in behalf of His people, for as this wicked man was returning to Madison he fell through the ice and was drowned; and as he was the leading man among our enemies around Madison it put an end to their operations.
The troops of Carthage, with the United States Marshall at their head, were almost constantly in our city, with warrants for the apprehension of the twelve and others of the brethren. These warrants had been sworn out under false pretention, being nothing else but malicious and vexatious proceedings. But in vain did they search, for the Lord was our shield and our protector. At one time these men attempted to search the temple, but the glory of God was there, and came upon them insomuch that they were glad to get out again.
Surrounded by such circumstances the Saints were glad to flee from their homes, feeling that it was much better to be at the mercy of the elements than that of a ruthless mob. Those, therefore, who were able soon fitted themselves out and started to traverse the barren prairies in the west. I was blessed of the Lord insomuch that I was among the first to leave Illinois in search of another home. We had, however, scarcely got beyond the reach of our enemies before an improper spirit began to manifest itself among the Saints caused by the actions of Wm. Miller who was a bishop in the Church. His conduct finally became so improper that he was called up before the high council and was censured for his unrighteous deeds, but this had scarcely any effect upon him, and he did not heed the counsels of his brethren at all. He finally returned to the companies that were behind us. He shortly afterwards apostatized.
We were, at this time, in a country which was claimed by the Indians,; and where law and restraints were unknown. It was therefore necessary for us to use the utmost caution, so as not to enrage the owners of the soil. The Pawnees, Poncas, Sioux and other Indian tribes permitted us to pass through the country almost unmolested. We sought their friendship and they gave it, and many friendly meetings were held with our Lamanite brethren.
[Brother Knight’s journal ends here, his wife, Lydia, adding the following:
“On Monday morning, January 4th, 1847, Brother Knight, whose health had been failing for some time, did not arise as usual, and, on my going to him, he said, “Lydia, I believe I shall go to rest this winter.” The next night he awoke with a severe pain in his right side, a fever had also set in, and he expressed himself to me that he did not expect to recover. From this time until the 10th of the month, the Elders came frequently and prayed for my husband. After each administration he would rally and be at ease for a short time and then relapse again into suffering. I felt at last as if I could not endure his sufferings any longer, and that I ought not to hold him here. I knelt by his bedside, and with my hand upon his pale forehead asked my Heavenly Father to forgive my sins, and that the sufferings of my companion might cease, and if he was appointed unto death, and could not remain with us, that he might be quickly eased from pain and fall asleep in peace. Almost immediately all pain left him, and in a short time he sweetly fell asleep in death, without a struggle or a groan, at half past six on the morning of the 11th of January, 1847. His remains were interred at sunset on the evening of the day he died.
“It was the 3rd of October, 1850, before, I had the privilege of entering the valley, but my joy in arriving here has been unbounded.”]