Introduction

Clark V. Johnson, ed., Mormon Redress Petitions: Documents of the 1833–1838 Missouri Conflict, (Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1992), xvii–xxxiv.

Intr​oduction

About a year after she was forced to leave Missouri, Philindia Myrick wrote:

The mob came a ponus in the after part of the day with Mr Cumstock at thare hed and commens fireing on helpless men womens and children and thare was fifteen killed and was burried in one hole the next day and others wounded sum mortally and amung whom was my husband Levi N. Myrick instantly killed and also a child of mine mortaly wounded who died about 4 weeks after.

Philindia was among the 12,000–15,000 members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, nicknamed Mormons, who fled from Missouri after Governor Lilburn W. Boggs issued the Extermination Order, which required all Mormons to leave the state or be killed. The above passage is taken from an affidavit she filed on 10 January 1840 recounting her experience during the Haun’s Mill massacre. Philindia Myrick’s affidavit is representative of the almost 800 declarations made by some of those members of the Church who were driven from Missouri during the fall and winter of 1838–39.

The Mormon expulsion from Missouri is one of the most violent stories of religious persecution in U.S. frontier history. The collection of affidavits, or petitions for redress, provides a detailed account of the persecution of the Saints in Missouri as recorded by those who suffered there, but it also reflects the cultural, economic, social, and spiritual activities of the Saints who were present on the Missouri frontier in the 1830s.

Historical B​ackground

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints began settling western Missouri in 1831, at a time when small, utopian religious communities dotted the land west of the Allegheny Mountains. Their prophet-leader, Joseph Smith, dedicated several sites in Jackson County for the future use of the Church, and with determination the Saints began to build their homes (HC 1:191–202). But as early as April 1832, trouble arose between the Mormons and their Missouri neighbors. The Missourians felt their society was threatened by the continual influx of Mormons. Religious customs which united the Latter-day Saints socially, economically, and politically irritated the Missourians, and in 1833 mobs drove the Mormons from Jackson County. Most of the exiles settled in Clay County, but some moved north and east into the counties of Ray, Clinton, LaFayette, Carroll, Chariton, Randolph, Monroe, and into areas that later came to be known as Daviess and Caldwell counties. This brief respite lasted a few years, and the Mormons built homes and planted crops. Then in 1836, in response to continual Mormon immigration from the eastern states and agitation by Jackson County residents, mobs again began to gather against the Latter-day Saints.

In the years 1836–37, the citizens of Clay County undertook action to relocate the Saints in an unsettled part of Missouri (Times and Seasons 1:51). The Mormons moved to an area created for them by the Missouri legislature that became known as Caldwell County (Grant 22). Again they built homes and established farms and businesses; however, they knew little rest, for during the summer and fall of 1838, mobs once more came against them, and the violence escalated into the so-called Mormon War, which culminated in the expulsion of the Mormons from the state.

As an outgrowth of the Mormon War, Joseph Smith spent the winter of 1838–39 confined to jail in Liberty, Missouri. While imprisoned, he instructed the Saints to assemble all their grievances against Missouri, to organize a committee, and to present the information to the U.S. government (D&C 123:1–6). Joseph sent word to the Saints to prepare affidavits of their recent experiences with the design of securing redress from the federal government for the losses they had suffered in Missouri at the hands of mobocrats. In 1839, Church members commenced writing affidavits of their Missouri experiences and swearing to their authenticity before civil authorities, including justices of the peace, clerks of the court, clerks of the circuit court, clerks of county commissioner’s courts, and notary publics in two counties in Iowa and ten counties in Illinois. Thus the Saints took every precaution to send sworn, legal documents authenticated by the seals of local government officials. They even sent documents authenticating the officials themselves. During the ensuing years the Mormons presented these documents to the federal government in an effort to obtain reparation for their sufferings in Missouri.

Appeal​s to Congress and Explanation of Organization

The petitions indicate that the Nauvoo Saints made at least three and probably four separate attempts to obtain redress from Congress (Richards 520, 522, 524; HC 4:250–51). These appeals are the basis for this book’s organization-petitions have been grouped according to the appeal with which they were sent. Organizing the book in this way has necessitated that judgments be made as to which appeal each petition belongs. These decisions were not always clear-cut, but the basis for them is explained below.

Church leaders made the first appeal beginning late in 1839 (Richards 520). Joseph Smith led the Mormon delegation, which originally consisted of Elias Higbee, Sidney Rigdon, and Orrin Porter Rockwell; Robert Foster later joined the group as a physician to Sidney Rigdon. The Prophet and Higbee were the first members of the delegation to reach Washington, D.C., arriving 28 November 1839. On the following day they met with President Martin Van Buren, who showed some sympathy, but offered no assistance. By 23 December 1839, Rigdon, Foster, and Rockwell had arrived in Washington, D.C. Together the five members of this delegation made every effort to place the Mormon cause before the U.S. Congress. Besides the introductory memorial signed by Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and Elias Smith, they presented 491 individual claims to Congress (HC 4:74). Nothing came from these attempts. Frustrated by their lack of success, Joseph, Porter Rockwell, and Dr. Foster left Washington late in February 1840 (HC 4:81). Rigdon and Higbee remained in Washington a few weeks more continuing the effort. However, nothing came of this final attempt, and Higbee returned to Nauvoo, followed shortly by Rigdon.

For purposes of organization, I have designated all petitions that are dated 1839 or 1840 and found in the LDS Historical Department’s collection as part of the first appeal. This judgment is based on the fact that after the government failed to offer redress, Elias Higbee retrieved the petitions. It would make sense, therefore, that the petitions of the first appeal would be found in the Church’s possession.

Documentation is scant on the Saints’ next two attempts to obtain redress, one beginning in late 1840, and another beginning in early 1842. In fact, the petitions that are in the National Archives in Washington, D.C., were not known to exist until Paul Richards discovered them in the late 1960s or early 1970s (Richards 520). History of the Church records that in November 1840 Elias Higbee and Robert B. Thompson, acting under the direction of the Prophet, submitted a memorial and probably some individual claims to Congress (4:237). The location of the Higbee-Thompson memorial is not known, and no individual petitions were filed with Congressional documents of 1840 or 1841. A description of the missing memorial given by the Prophet Joseph Smith seems to indicate that the Higbee-Thompson memorial was essentially the same as the 1842 and 1839 memorials (HC 4:237). In 1842, another memorial, signed by Elias Higbee, Elias Smith, and John Taylor, was presented to Congress, probably as an introduction to more individual petitions (Richards 522- 23). In contrast to the first appeal, there is no record that the petitions of subsequent attempts were ever retrieved from Washington. Therefore, I have designated all of the individual petitions found in the National Archives, along with the memorial signed by Higbee, Smith, and Taylor, as the second appeal. This is done recognizing the fact that the individual petitions now held in the National Archives may have been sent in at different times.

The third appeal was quite different from the preceding appeals in that it did not include individual petitions, but instead was one summary petition signed by 3,419 people. It was prepared in Nauvoo in the late fall of 1843 (HC 6:88). Orson Pratt, Orson Hyde, and John E. Page presented the memorial to Congress during the winter and spring of 1844 (Page; HC 6:286). In spite of help from the Illinois Congressmen, this attempt also failed; Orson Hyde wrote on 9 June 1844 that Congress had rejected the petition (Hyde). He was also unsuccessful in getting help directly from President John Tyler. Finally, on 11 June 1844, Hyde wrote, “We are now thrown back upon our own resources. We have tried every department of Government to obtain our rights, but we cannot find them” (Hyde). This massive petition was never retrieved by the Saints, and was lost in the National Archives until it was discovered along with the petitions of the second appeal.

Some of the petitions included in this book are not grouped into any of the three main appeals. The first of these is the group of published accounts. These were published and circulated and must have been sent to Washington at some point since they are part of the National Archives Collection. They may have been sent along with an appeal, but since there is no record of such an appeal, and since they are unique in that they were published, they have been given their own part in this book. Another of these odd groups is made up of those petitions that were sworn before the Municipal Court of Nauvoo but never were sent to Congress. There are also a few petitions that were written after the third appeal: thirteen individual petitions are dated 1845. These seem to indicate that the Saints intended to make another, later appeal to the federal government, since they are similar to those petitions prepared in 1839 and 1840. Finally, there are those petitions which were not dated and could not be grouped with a specific appeal.

Collections and Locations of Petitions

The two main locations where original, handwritten petitions are found are the National Archives in Washington, D.C. and the LDS Historical Department in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Copies of the original petitions from the National Archives are found in the BYU Archives.) There are a few other sources for the petitions in this collection, including the Journal History of the Church, the History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Joseph Smith Collection, and the Wilford C. Wood collection.

Most of the petitions were found in the Salt Lake collection, which includes 538 petitions (670 total documents); many were written in 1839 and 1840, but some were written as late as 1845.

There are 218 petitions in the National Archives. Most of these petitions are dated 1840. The National Archives’ collection also includes some documents that are not petitions but are still related to the Missouri experience. These documents have been included in the final chapter of this book.

The History of the Church includes 40 petitions; the originals of most of these have been found in the Salt Lake Collection. The Journal History of the Church records 53 petitions, many of which are copies of petitions found in Salt Lake. The Joseph Smith Collection includes five petitions.

Just before publication of this book, another petition was discovered among the papers in the Wilford C. Wood collection. This collection consists of documents found in the cornerstone of the Nauvoo House in Nauvoo, Illinois. When Joseph Smith placed the printer’s-copy of the Book of Mormon manuscript in the southeast cornerstone of the Nauvoo House, there were other documents also placed with it (Jessee 259–78). In 1882 Lewis C. Bidamon, husband of Emma Smith, removed the documents from the cornerstone when he tore down the east wing of the Nauvoo House. On 27 September 1882, it was reported that

The stone was in the foundation . . . and in the center of it was a square cut chest, about 10x14 inches, and eight inches deep, covered with a stone lid, which fitted closely in a groove or shoulder at the top, and cemented around the edge with lead that had been melted and poured in the seam. On removing the lid, which was done with some difficulty, the chest was found to be filled with a number of written and printed documents, the most of them mouldy and more or less decayed (Jessee 265).

Among these was a fragment of a Missouri petition written by Lyman Wight.

It is difficult to determine the total petitions actually submitted to Congress. While in Washington, D.C. in 1840, Joseph Smith presented to Congress “about 491 claims against Missouri . . . leaving a multitude more of similar bills” (HC 4:74). This information was taken from a register prepared for Joseph Smith by Thomas Bullock. The register is five pages long and contains the names and amounts each petitioner hoped to receive as compensation from the federal government. On the final page Bullock totals the dollar amount claimed by the Saints, $2,381,984.51, and writes in parentheses, “491 bills.” This notation represents an error of 10 bills, for there are only 481 names listed on the register. The compilers of the Journal History of the Church also included a register of people who swore similar affidavits against the state of Missouri. This register is similar to the one prepared by Bullock, but it does not include the names of all the petitioners on the Bullock register. Its list of 482 names includes 11 names not on Bullock’s list. Comparing the registers with the various petitions shows that there are 208 petitioners who are not listed on the registers and that 36 names are listed for which no petitions have been found.

These 36 lost petitions call attention to the fact that this collection is not complete. Still more significant is the fact that many more people suffered in Missouri than wrote petitions. As a group the petitions give an overview; they do not give a comprehensive account of the suffering or damages the Saints’ sustained. It is estimated that 12,000–15,000 Saints were driven from Missouri. This collection represents petitions made by only 678.

This book contains 773 petitions written by 678 petitioners (121 people wrote two or more petitions). There are 49 petitions that are duplicated in one or more collections which fact accounts for the discrepancy between the number of documents in each collection and the total number of petitions in this study.

Contents of the Petitions

Although all of the Missouri Redress Petitions relate to the Mormon experience in Missouri, their contents are quite varied. The earliest event described in the petitions is the 1833 mobbing in Jackson County; the latest is the 1838 persecution caused by Governor Lilburn W. Boggs’s Extermination Order. A few petitions are general narratives of the Mormon experience in Missouri, while most are accounts of individual losses and personal suffering. The general narrative petitions include Parley P. Pratt’s and John P. Greene’s published accounts, the introductory petitions that were sent with the first and second appeal, the scroll petition of the third appeal, and the six testimonies given before the Municipal Court of Nauvoo in 1843. Even among the individual petitions the contents differ. The affidavits of the first appeal contain simple bills or statements of property loss. The petitions of the second appeal describe the suffering and personal atrocitites perpetrated upon individual Latter-day Saints by the mobs.

In addition, the petitions give insights about the petitioners themselves. Of the 678 petitioners who personally filed affidavits, 70 were women and 607 were men. At least 25 men and 10 women were illiterate, making their mark instead of signing their names. Twenty-five witnessed the Haun’s Mill massacre or arrived shortly after the event; 8 claimed personal knowledge of the events and sufferings at DeWitt; 5 were at the Gallatin election; 3 described the events at Crooked River; and 23 were at Adam-ondi-Ahman. An astounding 106 men and 3 women claimed that they were taken prisoner by the Missouri militia or mobs.

These documents range from a few lines, such as the petition sworn by Stephen Blackman, to long narratives, such as the petition prepared by Joseph Smith. The detail in them varies tremendously; Stephen Blackman’s is very concise:

State of Missouri Dr to Stephen Blackman For damage and loss of property by burning and being driven from the State $150 For damage by loss of Son there is no earthly consideration can compensate

 

Stephen Blackman

 

Then there are petitioners who give elaborate accounts of the losses they suffered in Missouri. Nahum Curtis is very specific:

 

May 13th 1839

An account that I Nahum Curtiss have against the State of Missouri in Consequence of Mobocracy

To expenses moveing from the State of Michigan to the state of Missouri 

$50.00

To Eight weeks that it took me to go with my family from Michigan to Missouri at $1 per day

48.00

To Eight weeks time each for my Two boys

96.00

To Loss on Land which I sustained in consequence of being driven from Missouri 

1520.00

To Loss of time for myself and son in time of waring against the Mob six months each at one dollar per Day each

312.00

To Loss on Corn potatoes & oates and hay

150.00

To Loss of ploughs  

5.00

To Loss on Cattle and Hogs 

55.00

To one horse Taken by the Militia 

50.00

To Loss of wagon in Consequence of mob Stealing it from me  

20.00

To Expenses Moving from Missouri to Illinois

25.00

To waggon & team Moveing me to Illinois  

40.00

To Money & property given to help the poor

50.00

To teams to help the poor out of the state of Missouri to Keep them from being killed by mob 

40.00

 

   $2,461.00

I Shall not put any price upon my sufferings as your honorable body will Consider that I was a fellow Sufferer with the Rest and when you Judge what others ought to have you will consider that I had ought to have an equal porportion with the Rest

Nahum Curtis.

 

Of the 678 petitioners, 98 make no monetary claim against Missouri. The remaining 576 (85 percent) claim a total of $2,275,789, for an average of $3,761 per person. Simons Curtis claimed the smallest amount, 63 cents, while Edmund Nelson claimed $5,000 for loss of property and $500,000 for lost of liberty. Claims in land total $197,911; claims for improvements and property, defined as livestock, houses, personal property, etc., come to $197,127; and non-specific claims total $92,339. This last figure does not include Joseph and Hyrum Smith’s claims for $100,000 each, with no breakdown of expenditures. Their claims are made more reasonable by the fact that the Prophet Joseph paid more than $50,000.00 in lawyer’s fees while in Missouri (HC 3:327).

Some 232 petitioners state that they had purchased a combined total of 6,501 acres of land and asked for $55,046, making the average claim for land $237.27. This is less than $9 per acre, which was not high for land in Missouri in 1839. In their 1839 petition, Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and Elias Higbee state that land cost from $10 per acre for undeveloped prairie land to $425 per acre, depending on the location and improvements. Some of the land purchased by the Saints was called “congress land,” which could originally be bought at $1.25 per acre; however, some paid between $5 and $415 per acre for congress land and received preemption certificates which gave them the right to purchase the land when the federal government placed it on the market. In the meantime, they settled the land, tilled the ground, and built houses and barns, thus increasing the value of their property. The petitions indicate that most of the Mormons owned at least one town lot and forty acres. A few owned eighty acres. Only a very few owned several hundred acres, and they had lived in Missouri for several years.

Many of the petitioners indicate that they lived (and owned land) in more than one county during their sojourn in Missouri. The petitions show 119 Latter-day Saints owned land in Jackson County. Once they were driven from Jackson, they dispersed in every direction: 125 purchasing property in Clay County, 91 in Daviess, 25 in Ray, 19 in Carroll, 13 in Clinton, 7 in LaFayette, and 4 in Livingston counties. Van Buren, Randolph, and Chariton counties each had 3 land-holding Mormon families. An analysis of all of the petitions indicates that Mormon immigration did not cease even though there was persecution. By the summer of 1838, there were 4,900 people living in Caldwell County (Allen and Leonard 107). Among them were 290 petitioners who owned property.

Probably the reason the Mormons owned so little property overall was their recent arrival in Missouri. Of the 176 petitioners who indicate the year they arrived in Missouri, 58 had come between 1831 and 1836, and 126 had entered the state between 1837 and 1838. One claimant arrived as late as 1839. Thus, the majority of the petitioners arrived in Missouri just in time to be expelled; several indicate that they were detained by mobs while on their way to settle in Far West.

In spite of the fact that the Latter-day Saints owned relatively little land, much of it was taken from them. Albern Allen’s 1840 petition is typical of many who claim they lost lands in Missouri. His affidavit indicates that he was foced to sign over his property to the Missouri militia at Far West. Like most of the Mormons in Caldwell County, Allen did not possess the deed to the land he farmed. Rather, he had been issued a preemption certificate, also called a duplicate, which he was forced to sign over to the mobbers. Allen claims he lost eighty acres. His petition is one of the few that defines his property in the precise terms used in the county records:

N.E 1/4 of S. W. 1/4 of Section 32 Township No 56 Range 28 North of the base line and west of the 5th princepal Meridean also the NW. 1/4 of the South E 1/4 of Section 32 Township 56 Range 29 North of the base line of the 5th principal Meridian.

Most striking about the petitions are the testimonies of personal suffering that they contain. At least 73 petitions note that the mobs whipped, beat, and abused members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Charles Hulett describes the beating of his son. Perry Keyes relates that thirty men beat his father “with there gunns and ramrods.” He also describes how a mob attacked him while he was on the prairie hunting horses:

Controll and one of his men by the name of Yocum held me while one of the others by the name of John Youngs whipped me he gave me 23 lashes with a cowhide and all this for my religeon for I am a member of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints commonly called Mormons

Keyes says they whipped him “untill I was scarsely able to stand,” and adds that a mob also whipped Barnet Cole and Lyman Leonard.

Smith Humphrey writes that he had purchased a farm near the town of DeWitt in the summer of 1838 and planned on settling there permanently. He states that he was an eyewitness to much that happened there. Humphrey notes that on 19 August 1838 he was taken prisoner by a force of about one hundred men commanded by a Colonel Jones. During the time he was a prisoner, the mob declared that they were going to “drive them [Mormons] from that Co[unty].” Humphrey further swears that in the first days of October of the same year, he arose early one morning and found that his “Stables had been Set on fire by some unknown hand during the night.” He wrote that he was then met by a party of 12 armed men commanded by Capt Hiram Standly who took me a prisoner back to my own house & there compelled me to remove my goods from my house by their help in the presence of my self & family Set fire to & burned my two blocks of houses.

When his family was driven from his home, his wife was “sick with the ague.” The mobbers forced them to move into town where they remained until 11 October 1838. According to Humphrey, the mob laid siege to DeWitt, fired into the town, and harassed the citizens “by night & by day.” The people of DeWitt petitioned local county officers for help, but received none. Finally, sick and starving, they abandoned DeWitt and moved to Caldwell County, where they arrived 13 October 1838. Humphrey writes that “one woman died on the road.”

Truman Brace describes his experience with a mob of fifty men who caught him hauling a load of wood on the prairies: “One of them named J Young asked me if I believed the book of Mormon; I told them that ‘I did.’” They then demanded that Brace leave the county, whereupon he “told them I had neither teams or means to take me and my family away.” Young threatened to shoot him, but others in the mob prevailed. Young, “then took an axe gad which I held in my hand and commenced beating me with the same. I suppose I received about fifty strokes.” This whipping apparently occurred not far from Brace’s home since his wife and daughter witnessed his plight and “entreated the mob to spare [his] life.” Brace then made his way into his house, but the mob followed him and the abuse continued.

Tarlton Lewis had been converted to the Church about two years before he moved to Missouri in the fall of 1837. He located himself within one mile of Haun’s Mill and was wounded at that massacre. Of his experience at the mill he writes:

I looked and saw a number of armed men rushing out of the woods on Horseback at the distance of twenty or thirty rods off Their number I judged to be between two hundred and two hundred and fifty. Two of our brethren made signs and cried for quarter, but their entreaties were not heeded The company began to fire upon us instantly.

Lewis and other men took shelter in the nearby blacksmith shop. The women and children fled to the woods or crossed the mill race where they found shelter in the brush and trees on the far side. The blacksmith shop, instead of being a shelter, soon became a death trap. Lewis writes, “I staid there until six or eight had fallen around me being Shot down by balls, which came through the Cracks. Six of us left the shop about the same time and were the last that left it.” Of those six who fled the blacksmith shop, Lewis writes that they were “all either killed or wounded. . . . I was shot through the shoulder.” The day following the massacre, the survivors, mostly women, buried their dead. Lewis states that “there were fifteen killed,” and “ten or eleven men two boys and one woman Wounded.” He further testifies that the mobbers continued their harassment of the survivors as they repeatedly visited the settlement during the weeks that followed:

While I was confined with my wound; companies of Six or Eight came to my house three or four times Enquiring for arms and threatning to take me a prisoner and carry me off. Twice they Examined my wounds to see if I were able to be moved but concluded that I was not.

Nathan Knight, also a victim of the Haun’s Mill incident, estimates the mob forces at 300 men, all mounted on horses. He heard the men commanded “to halt and form a line of Battle,” and says the men “immediately commensed firing as they came into line.” Knight swears that the mobbers frequently screamed out, “‘kill all’ ‘Spare none’ ‘give no quarters.’” He describes the plight of the women and children as “wholly destitute of any presence of mind,” saying that they were “screaming murder &c &c.” With bullets “flying in every direction,” he “saw many of his friends lay bleeding in their gore.” [1] He further testifies that “he cried for quarters” to which the mobbers replied, “We have no time to quarter you, but god damn you we will halve you presently.” Though severely wounded, Knight saved his own life by rising to his feet and “through their thickest fire made his way several rods over a hill” and secreted himself in a thicket. For six weeks he hung between life and death, and although he lived, he remained a cripple the rest of his life.

One of the most descriptive petitions regarding personal abuse suffered at the hands of mobocrats is sworn by William Seely, who states that he moved his family to the state of Missouri in March of 1838. He purchased congress land in Daviess County. On 10 October 1838, a mob came to his home and forced him to sign away his property and move to Caldwell County, Missouri. On 24 October 1838 he went to Bunkham’s Strip to see a “Mr. Pinkham on business.” Seely wrote that while at Pinkham’s,

He was Surprised & made prisoner by Some armed men. he was Stripped and Searched to see if he had any arms, by which he lost a Jack-knife the only weapon, offensive or defensive which he had about him; the armed men he believes were fifteen in number, two of whom Caught him by the Collar, thrust him out of doors, dragged him over a pannel of fence so vehemently as to do him bodily injury while at the same time a third one facilitated my his Course by the application of his foot to the rear of his body—When over he was asked if he was a mormon, for to which he replied that he was. [2]

At this point his captors compelled him to march with them. Soon they joined Captain Samuel Bogart’s company consisting of about seventy men. According to Seely, the “Question then arose What Shall we do with the prisoner, many Said at once, ‘put him to death.’” This was the cry of those “volunteers who joined Bogart’s Company, many of whom were men not Liable to duty by Law but who volunteered to give a martial Covering to the bloody deeds which they sought to perpetrate.”

The following day, when Seely’s friends came to his rescue, Seely says that Bogart’s men fired upon the approaching Mormons and that “one man fell.” The mobbers then forced Seely to stand in front of Bogart’s Company So as to be Exposed to the fire of both sides, about 12 feet from Bogarts line. At the word “fire” by Bogart this affiant attempted to Escape but was Shot in the left Shoulder by some one of Bogarts men, which prostrated him to the Earth, and he was supposed to be dead, but his friends took him and Carried him to his family, where after four months tedious Confinement he in a measure recovered of his wounds.

Mormon women also suffered greatly at the hands of the mob. Several women wrote testimonials concerning the deaths of their husbands. Christiana Benner states, “My Husband was killed at Hauns mill By a mob who Robed me of my Goods and land and have left me Destitute of a companion or means of Support.”

Although no women testify that they were raped, some write of the personal abuse they suffered. Ruth Naper, who survived the Haun’s Mill massacre, writes concerning an attempted assault upon her:

One night one of them [mobbers] came to my bed and laid his hand upon me which so frightened me that I made quite a noise and crept over the back side of my children, and he offered on no further insult at the time.

Elijah Reed witnessed the attempted abuse of a Mrs. Jimison (also spelled Jameson). To escape from the mob, Reed had fled to the Jimison’s home where the following experience occurred 28 October 1838:

In the night of of the that day a Company of men Came to the House & Demanded admittence & threatened to Breake Down the Door Mr J got up and opened the Door meantime I hid under the Bed the men Came in and said they were Soldiers & he [Jimmison] must go with them his wife asked where they said to the Malitia Camp above Richmond he Dressed himself & he & one of the men went for a horse at the Stable when they had got a little from the house the man Fired a gun & said the D—d rascal had ran from him he then returned to the house & they began to abuse[e] Mrs Jimm[is]on wanting to sleep with her But she begged & cried For them to Desist & they Did so I lay under the Bed During this time they soon left the house & we supposed they had killed him.

Two of the general narrative petitions report that Mormon women were raped by the mob. Hyrum Smith states that one woman had been raped repeatedly by mobbers. Parley P. Pratt says that he knew of one or two women who had been raped, but would not give names for “delicacy forbids . . . mentioning the names.”

Even though these petitions do not always specify monetary losses, they provide detailed accounts of the gruesome events that drove the Mormons from county to county in Missouri and finally from the state.

Taken as a group, these petitions give a panorama of the Mormon persecution in Missouri. At the same time, they describe the feelings, circumstances, and losses of the Latter-day Saints who composed the general Church membership and help us to evaluate Mormon life on the Missouri frontier.

In the past, scholars have argued that the Mormons were driven from Missouri because of the political, cultural, economic, social, and religious differences between themselves and the Missourians. Those scholars base their conclusions on documents written by some of the citizens of Jackson and Clay counties, when they demanded that the Mormons leave their counties (Bushman 11). But the petitions gathered here indicate that religious differences were the prime cause of LDS troubles, as time and time again mobbers asked the petitioners if they were followers of Joseph Smith, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or believers in the Book of Mormon before continuing with abuses.

Although this book has not attempted to examine both sides of the Mormon persecutions in Missouri, it has presented legally sworn documents which graphically substantiate the suffering and abuse committed by one people upon another, largely because of differences in religious belief. Simply stated, the Mormon Redress Petitions tell the story of a people wrongfully deprived of their rights as free men and women under both the constitution of the state of Missouri and the Constitution of the United States of America.

Notes

[1] Knight’s petition is written in the third person.

[2] Seely’s petition is also written in the third person.