A Young Folks' History of the Church by Nephi Anderson - HTML preview

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Persecution In Jackson County

 

A great many of the old settlers of Jackson county, meaning those who were there before the Saints, were of a shiftless, ignorant class from the Southern States. They made but little improvement in their homes, being content to live in small, log huts, many of them without windows or board floors. They all believed it right to have negro slaves. They were also eager to hold public office.

At that time there were also many persons in western Missouri who had fled from the east on account of crimes which they had committed. Being near the boundary line of the United States, these persons would need only to cross the line into Mexico to be safe if an officer should come after them.

You will readily see by this what kind of neighbors the new settlers had. Of course the Saints could not join with these wicked people in their horse racing, Sabbath breaking, idleness, drunkenness, and other things which the Missourians took delight in. Most of the Saints were from the Eastern and Northern States and did not believe in slavery. They worked hard, and as the land produced good crops, they were soon prospering, while their idle neighbors remained in poverty.

All this naturally led the Missourians to hate the "Mormons," and as early as the spring of 1832 they began to molest them by throwing stones into their houses, etc. That same fall mobs began to come against the Saints, burning some of their hay and shooting into their houses.

In April, 1833, the mobbers held a meeting at Independence to discuss plans whereby they could rid the county of the "Mormons." However, the meeting broke up in a row. July 20th, they held another meeting which was more successful. An address was read to the people wherein the Saints were falsely accused of all manner of wrong doings. It also set forth that no more "Mormons" must settle in Jackson county; that the "Mormons" already there should be given a reasonable time to sell their property and then remove; that the printing of their paper must cease; that the stores of the Saints must close up their business as soon as possible; and that the leading brethren should use their influence to have the Saints comply with these requests. The meeting agreed to all this and a committee was appointed to wait on the leaders of the Saints to see what they would do about it. When the committee called, the brethren asked for time to consider the matter, but fifteen minutes only were given them. Nothing could be done in that short time, so the committee went back to the meeting and reported.

The mob then broke loose, yelling like a band of wild Indians. They went to the house and printing office of W.W. Phelps, forced Mrs. Phelps and the children, one of whom was sick, out of the house and threw the furniture out in the street. They then destroyed the printing press and tore the office down. Then they went through the town hunting for the leading brethren. They caught Bishop Edward Partridge and Charles Allen, dragged them to the public square, stripped most of their clothes off, and then smeared tar all over their bodies. This ended that day's work, and the frightened women and children who had fled to the woods came back to their homes.

The third day after this a mob of five hundred men came into Independence. They were armed with guns, knives, and whips, and they swore they would kill or whip all whowould not agree to leave. The leading brethren, seeing that it was no longer of any use to plead or resist, made an agreement with the mob that they with their families would leave the county by the first of January, and that they would use their influence in trying to induce the rest of the Saints to leave, one-half by January 1st, the rest by April 1st, 1834. They were also to use all the means they could to prevent more of the Saints from settling in the county. The mob for their part agreed not to persecute the Saints while this was being done.

The mob, however, did not keep this promise, but daily broke into houses and abused the inmates.

The Saints now appealed to the highest officer of the state, Governor Dunklin, for protection. He told them that the laws were able to protect everybody in their rights, and advised the Saints to have those arrested who threatened them, and have them tried in court for their misdeeds.

This, seemingly, was very good advice, and would have worked all right under other circumstances; but when it is remembered that the very officers—the constable who would have to do the arresting, the judge who would try the cases, and in fact all concerned—were men who were themselves leaders of the mob, you will see how useless such a course would be. However, the Saints engaged four lawyers to protect them in the courts.

This made the mobbers more angry than ever, and they made preparation for further action against the Saints.

"We will rid Jackson county of the "Mormons"," they said, "peaceably if we can, forcibly if we must. If they will not go without, we will whip and kill the men; we will destroy the children, and abuse their women."

The Saints now resolved to defend themselves, and the men gathered in small bodies, armed with guns.

On the night of October 31, 1833, a mob marched to the Whitmer settlement of the Saints where they whipped several of the brethren to death, drove the women and children into the woods, and tore the roofs from about a dozen houses.

The next night an attack was made upon the Saints living at Independence. A party of brethren went to the aid of the Saints, and found a mob tearing down the store of Gilbert, Whitney & Co. The mobbers fled, but the brethren captured one of them in the act of throwing brick-bats through the window. They brought him to a justice of the peace to have papers made out for the mobber's arrest. The justice would not do it, so the man was released. Three days after, this same mobber had the brethren arrested. It was no trouble for him to get papers from the same justice. As one of the brethren remarked at the time, "Although we could not obtain a warrant against him for breaking open the store, he had gotten one for us for catching him at it!"

Topics.—1. The character of the early Missourians. 2. Mobbers' meetings in Independence. 3. Work of the mob.

Questions and Review.—1. From what sections did most of the early settlers of Missouri come? 2. From what section did the Saints come? 3. What difference of opinionexisted between the people of the north and the people of the south? 4. Why did the Missourians hate the "Mormons?" 5. Why did many outlaws come to Missouri? 6. What did the mobbers want the Saints to promise? 7. What advice did Governor Dunklin give? 8. Why did the law not protect the Saints? 9. How was Bishop Partridge abused? 10. Tell about the arrest of the four brethren.