In the 1830s, “Mormonism” commanded center stage in Missouri politics
Joseph Smith and the church he founded in New York State in 1830 quickly gained converts, attracting considerable attention throughout the northeastern United States.
Originally named the Church of Christ, it subsequently became the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Believers were referred to as “Mormons” because of the church’s adherence to “The Book of Mormon,” a companion scripture to the Bible that Smith claimed to have translated, wherein the story of Jesus Christ appearing to the ancestors of the Native Americans was told.
That same year, Smith dispatched a handful of missionaries to Missouri’s western border to preach the “restored gospel” to the Native American tribes concentrated there.
In 1831, Smith proclaimed that God had designated western Missouri as the place where “Zion” would be “gathered” in anticipation of Christ’s second coming. His small band of missionaries soon became a steady stream of converts anxious to establish Zion in Missouri.
Within a few years, the migration and settlement of Latter-day Saints in frontier Missouri led to events that would earn Mormonism a painful place in Missouri history. The state’s “Old Settlers” (usually recent immigrants to the Missouri frontier themselves) characterized the Mormon settlers as fanatics whose clannish behavior made a mockery of republican institutions by placing power in the hands of a single man. The Mormons claimed that they had done nothing wrong, and were attacked for their religious beliefs. Violence broke out in 1833 as the “Old Settlers” under the guise of “extra-legal” justice took the law into their own hands.
It soon became clear that Missouri non-Mormons and Mormons could not live in the same area harmoniously. In 1836, a “separate but equal” proposal was finally devised to solve this problem, whereby the state legislature created a new county, “Caldwell,” in northwest Missouri as a sort of Mormon “Indian Reservation.”
But the booming Mormon population, swelled by the immigration of thousands of eastern converts doomed this to failure, as Mormon settlers burst the borders of Caldwell County and spilled into neighboring counties.
Violence broke out again at an election riot in 1838. Old Settler mobs and Mormon paramilitary units roamed the countryside. When the Mormons attacked a duly authorized militia under the belief it was an anti-Mormon mob, Missouri’s governor, Lilburn Boggs, ordered the Saints expelled from the state, or “exterminated,” if necessary.
The conflict’s viciousness escalated, however, even without official sanction, when, on October 30, 1838, an organized mob launched a surprise attack on the small Mormon community of Haun’s Mill, massacring eighteen unsuspecting men and boys. Over the next year, around eight thousand church members, often ragged and deprived of their property, left Missouri for Illinois.
The Missouri State Archives’ “Mormon War Papers” shed light on this frequently misunderstood episode of Missouri history. This collection includes documents such as Governor Bogg’s infamous “Extermination Order”, but also many lesser-known, and less appreciated, documents that are well worthy of study, such as the report of the legislative joint committee appointed to investigate the “disturbances” between Mormons and non-Mormons. Included also are such items as legislative debates and the governors’ state of the state addresses in which the “Mormon problem” is discussed. The collection also includes the criminal hearing of Joseph Smith and other church leaders for treason and other crimes.
At the end of 1838, Joseph Smith and some 50 others were arrested and eventually brought to Richmond in Ray County. The prisoners were held at three different locations in Richmond: the unfinished courthouse, an old vacant house or log structure close to the courthouse on Buchanan Street, and at the Ray County jail.
The well-known story in which Joseph rebuked the guards because of their vile obscenities did not occur at the Richmond jail. That story unfolded at the old house on Buchanan Street where Joseph, Parley P. Pratt and five others were held during the court of inquiry. Following the court of inquiry, Parley, who witnessed the event where Joseph rebuked the guards, was transferred with a number of others to the Ray County jail, where he wrote down many pages of memoirs.
There are 10 sites in Richmond that present Mormon history in this area.
The Ray County Museum has a Mormon History Room; The Old Pioneer Cemetery where “The Monument of the Three Witnesses” is located, along with several early Mormon gravesites; Richmond City Cemetery, where David Whitmer and Austin A. King are buried; Alexander Doniphan’s statue at the Ray County Courthouse; the Wasson House site, where Doniphan once lived; David Whitmer’s home and livery stable; the 1838 Ray County jail site; a white picket fence located on Buchanan Street, which was once a log cabin where Joseph Smith was held in 1838; and the Farris Theatre, where the Mormon Tabernacle Choir performed on Nov. 22, 1911.
Page 275 of the 1881 Ray County History Book tells the story about how Joseph Smith came to Richmond.
“In the fall of 1838, the Mormon war caused great excitement in Ray County.
“There were called out in this expedition from Ray County four companies of militia, commanded respectively by Captains Samuel Bogart, Israel R. Hendley, Nehemiah Odell and John Sconce. The militia was placed under the command of General John B. Clark.
“General Doniphan, on reaching Far West, in Caldwell County, Missouri, after some slight engagements, where the principal Mormon forces had assembled, numbering about 1,000 men, commanded by Colonel G. W. Hinkle, demanded their surrender, on the following conditions, viz: That they should deliver up their arms, surrender their prominent leaders for trial, and that the remainder of the Mormons should, with their families, leave the state. After some parleying, Joe Smith surrendered on General Doniphan’s conditions. The leaders were taken before a court of inquiry at Richmond, Ray County, Judge Austin A. King, presiding.”
David Whitmer, who was an important part of the church’s early history, stayed in Richmond and many of the modern-day sites are related to him.
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir performed at the Farris Theatre on Nov. 22, 1911, when they came to Richmond for the dedication of the monument that stands in the Mormon Cemetery, marking the grave of Oliver Cowdery. It is also known as “The Monument of the Three Witnesses.”
“The Monument of the Three Witnesses.”
Oliver Cowdery, b. October 3, 1806 d. March 3, 1850
Assistant President LDS Church. Elder Cowdery was the son of William Cowdery and Rebecca Fuller and was born 3 October 1806 at Wells, Rutland County, Vermont. He became acquainted with the Prophet Joseph Smith and began writing as his scribe on the translation of the gold plates in April 1829. With the Prophet he received the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods in the spring of 1829. He was one of the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon and became a charter member of Church on 6 April 1830. (Bio by: Carl W. McBrayer)
Martin Harris, b. May 18, 1783 d. July 9, 1875
Harris lived not far from the Smith family in Palmyra, New York, responsible for losing the first 116 pages of the Book of Mormon, and helped fund the first five-thousand copies of the printing of the Book of Mormon. However, he did not follow the Saints to Missouri from Ohio. He remained and fell under the influence of James J. Strang and apostatized from the Church. Years later he moved to Utah, and diligently sought rebaptism. After a manifestation of the spirit, the baptismal font was prepared, and by arrangement, Elder Stevensen led Martin Harris down into the water and rebaptized him. Five of the Apostles were present (John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, Orson Pratt, Geo. A. Smith and Joseph F. Smith) After baptism, Orson Pratt confirmed him, being joined with the rest of the brethren, by the laying on of hands. On the afternoon of his death he was bolstered up in his bed, where, with the Book of Mormon in his hand, he bore his last testimony to those who were present. He was 93 years old. (bio by: Chad Stowell)
David Whitmer, b. January 7, 1805 d. January 25, 1888
Mormon Folklore Figure. A member of the Whitmer family, he was one of three witnesses to offer Mormon Folklore Figure. A member of the Whitmer family, he was one of three witnesses to offer testimony regarding the translation of the Book of Mormon and to witness the engravings of the “golden plates.” An acquaintance of Oliver Cowdery, he invited Cowdery, Joseph Smith and his wife to stay at his parents’ farm while Smith transcribed the golden plates. Smith baptized him into the church in June 1829 and he became a preacher and missionary in Ohio and Missouri. Ordained a High Priest in Oct 1831, he remained in Jackson County, Missouri until 1833 when church members were driven out of the county. Appointed president of the High Council in 1834, he acted as one of the leading elders of the Church and was sustained as president of the Saints in Caldwell County shortly thereafter. In April 1838, he was excommunicated from the church for various transgressions. The remaining Whitmer family members left the church at the same time and together they moved to Ray County, Missouri where David died in 1888. Despite his differences and eventual ex-communication, he remained faithful to his testimony regarding the Book of Mormon throughout his life. (bio by: Thom Painter)
From the Nov. 23, 1911, edition of The Richmond Missourian: “The Cowdery Monument Dedicated. A special train of eight Pullmans, a day coach and baggage car arrived here early yesterday carrying the world-famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir of Salt Lake, officials and guests, numbering over 250 persons, for the unveiling exercise at the Farris Theater and the monument erected at the grave of Oliver Cowdery at the old Richmond Cemetery.”
Forty-five descendants of the Whitmer family and many citizens of Richmond were present for this dedication.
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir came back to Richmond again in 1918 when Alexander Doniphan’s statue was dedicated at the Ray County Courthouse.
In 2011, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints returned to Richmond to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the dedication of “The Monument of the Three Witnesses”. A plaque was placed on the site of the old cabin jail where Joseph Smith and several other church leaders were held in 1838 during a ceremony on Nov. 19, 2011. This site is located on Buchanan Street between Thornton and College streets.
The Richmond Pioneer Cemetery was the main graveyard for Richmond from 1846 to 1875 and is sometimes referred to as the old City Cemetery. The last known burial there was in 1881.
There are over 90 people buried here.
In 1949, the Mormon Church sent Irvin Nelson and his son, Rene, to Richmond to restore the cemetery.
From the Sept. 5 1949 edition of The Richmond News: “Mormons Are Restoring Old Cemetery Here. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, commonly called the Mormon Church, has begun the complete renovation of the old city cemetery on N. Thornton St. Irvin T. Nelson and his son of Salt Lake City arrived here last Tuesday to begin work on the tangle of weeds and old stones that mark the ground where many of Richmond’s founders lie buried. The city authorities have cooperated in every way possible to ease the Nelsons’ task. Irvin Nelson said, ‘Mayor Manley has been extremely helpful and we hope this is the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship between our church and the city of Richmond.'”
The clean-up began in the fall of 1949 and continued into the spring of 1950. A complex mapping and marking system was used to ensure that the headstones were returned to their rightful place before a bulldozer filled in the holes and leveled the ground.
Many extra tombstones were found and placed in concrete in the middle of the cemetery. The city of Richmond supplied manpower and a dump truck to haul off the brush and trash that were removed from the cemetery.
In 1949, the city of Richmond leased the cemetery to the Mormon Church for 99 years. The church later bought the house next to the cemetery, which was torn down and a parking lot large enough for tour buses was built. Two markers were added around the Oliver Cowdery monument
Jacob Whitmer, Mary Elsa Whitmer, and Peter Whitmer are also buried in the cemetery.
Jacob Whitmer, b. February 2, 1800 d. April 21, 1856
Mormon Folklore Figure. A member of the Whitmer family, he was one of eight witnesses to the “golden plates.” In June 1829, he signed a statement testifying that he saw and handled the golden plates; the source from which Joseph Smith Jr. translated the Book of Mormon. On April 11, 1830, he was baptized in Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and served on Far West’s High Council. When his brothers were excommunicated in 1838, he left the church and moved to Ray County, where he worked as a shoemaker and farmer. Although no longer a member of the church, he affirmed his testimony about the golden plates until his death.
Pioneer Cemetery, Richmond, Ray County, Missouri, USA
Mary Elsa Whitmer, b. August 27, 1778 d. January 1856
Mormon Folklore Figure. Matriarch of the Whitmer family, influential members of the early Mormon Church. She is the only woman reported to have seen the golden plates associated with the Book of Mormons. Joseph and Emma Smith had been invited to board at the family farm while the translation of the plates was completed. Overwhelmed with the responsibilities of hosting the Smith’s and company, she told of a visit by Brother Nephi who explained the nature of the work involved. “He then untied his knapsack and showed her a bundle of plates, which in size and appearance corresponded with the description subsequently given by the witnesses to the Book of Mormon. This strange person turned the leaves of the book of plates over, leaf after leaf, and also showed her the engravings upon them; after which he told her to be patient and faithful in bearing her burden a little longer, promising that if she would do so, she should be blessed; and her reward would be sure, if she proved faithful to the end. The personage then suddenly vanished with the plates.” Mary and her family would follow the Smith’s from New York into Ohio and Missouri; leaving the church in 1838 when two of her sons were excommunicated. (bio by: Thom Painter)
Pioneer Cemetery, Richmond, Ray County, Missouri, USA
Peter Whitmer, b. April 14, 1773 d. August 12, 1854
Mormon Folklore Figure. Patriarch of the Whitmer family, influential members of the early Mormon Church. Five sons and two sons-in-law were witnesses of the golden plates, the source of the Book of Mormon. At the request of his son David he invited Joseph and Emma Smith and Oliver Cowdery to stay at the family farm in Fayette, New York where the translation of the Book of Mormon was completed in 1829. The first meeting of the newly form church was held in his house on April 11, 1830; he was baptized a week later. The entire family moved to Ohio in 1831 and to Missouri the following year. In 1838, he left the church when two of his sons were excommunicated. He settled in Ray County for his remaining years. (bio by: Thom Painter)
Pioneer Cemetery, Richmond, Ray County, Missouri, USA
Zion’s Camp In Excelsior Springs
Joseph Smith and traveled from Kirtland, Ohio, to Missouri in 1834 to restore the Jackson County Saints to their land and at Zion’s Camp on Fishing River, DOCTRINE AND COVENANTS 105 was revealed on the banks of this river.
THE DOCTRINE AND COVENANTS OF THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS
Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet, on Fishing River, Missouri, June 22, 1834. HC 2: 108-111. Mob violence against the saints in Missouri had increased, and organized bodies from several counties had declared their intent to destroy the people. The Prophet had come from Kirtland at the head of a party known as Zion’s Camp, bringing clothing and provisions. While this party was encamped on Fishing River, the Prophet received the revelation.
1-5, Zion shall be built up by conformity to celestial law; 6-13, Redemption of Zion deferred for a little season; 14-19, The Lord will fight the battles of Zion; 20-26, The saints are to be wise and not boast of mighty works as they gather; 27-30, Lands in Jackson and adjoining counties should be purchased; 31-34, The elders are to receive an endowment in the House of the Lord in Kirtland; 35-37, Saints who are both called and chosen shall be sanctified; 38-41, Saints are to lift an ensign of peace to the world.
1 VERILY I say unto you who have assembled yourselves together that you may learn my will concerning the redemption of mine afflicted people-
2 Behold, I say unto you, were it not for the transgressions of my people, speaking concerning the church and not individuals, they might have been redeemed even now.
3 But behold, they have not learned to be obedient to the things which I required at their hands, but are full of all manner of evil, and do not impart of their substance, as becometh saints, to the poor and afflicted among them;
4 And are not united according to the union required by the law of the celestial kingdom;
5 And Zion cannot be built up unless it is by the principles of the law of the celestial kingdom; otherwise I cannot receive her unto myself.
6 And my people must needs be chastened until they learn obedience, if it must needs be, by the things which they suffer.
7 I speak not concerning those who are appointed to lead my people, who are the first elders of my church, for they are not all under this condemnation;
8 But I speak concerning my churches broad-there are many who will say: Where is their God? Behold, he will deliver them in time of trouble, otherwise we will not go up unto Zion, and will keep our moneys.
9 Therefore, in consequence of the transgressions of my people, it is expedient in me that mine elders should wait for a little season for the redemption of Zion
10 That they themselves may be prepared, and that my people may be taught more perfectly, and have experience, and know more perfectly concerning their duty, and the things which I require at their hands.
11 And this cannot be brought to pass until mine elders are endowed with power from on high.
12 For behold, I have prepared a great endowment and blessing to be poured out upon them, inasmuch as they are faithful and continue in humility before me.
13 Therefore it is expedient in me that mine elders should wait for a little season, for the redemption of Zion.
14 For behold, I do not require at their hands to fight the battles of Zion; for, as I said in a former commandment, even so will I fulfil – I will fight your battles.
15 Behold, the destroyer I have sent forth to destroy and lay waste mine enemies; and not many years hence they shall not be left to pollute mine heritage, and to blaspheme my name upon the lands which I have consecrated for the gathering together of my saints.
16 Behold, I have commanded my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., to say unto the strength of my house, even my warriors, my young men, and middle-aged, to gather together for the redemption of my people, and throw down the towers of mine enemies, and scatter their watchmen;
17 But the strength of mine house have not hearkened unto my words.
18 But inasmuch as there are those who have hearkened unto my words, I have prepared a blessing and an endowment for them, if they continue faithful.
19 I have heard their prayers, and will accept their offering; and it is expedient in me that they should be brought thus far for a trial of their faith.
20 And now, verily I say unto you, a commandment I give unto you, that as many as have come up hither, that can stay in the region round about, let them stay;
21 And those that cannot stay, who have families in the east, let them tarry for a little season, inasmuch as my servant Joseph shall appoint unto them;
22 For I will counsel him concerning this matter, and all things whatsoever he shall appoint unto them shall be fulfilled.
23 And let all my people who dwell in the regions round about be very faithful, and prayerful, and humble before me, and reveal not the things which I have revealed unto them, until it is wisdom in me that they should be revealed.
24 Talk not of judgments, neither boast of faith nor of mighty works, but carefully gather together, as much in one region as can be, consistently with the feelings of the people;
25 And behold, I will give unto you favor and grace in their eyes, that you may rest in peace and safety, while you are saying unto the people: Execute judgment and justice for us according to law, and redress us of our wrongs.
26 Now, behold, I say unto you, my friends, in this way you may find favor in the eyes of the people, until the army of Israel becomes very great.
27 And I will soften the hearts of the people, as I did the heart of Pharaoh, from time to time, until my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and mine elders, whom I have appointed, shall have time to gather up the strength of my house,
28 And to have sent wise men, to fulfil that which I have commanded concerning the purchasing of all the lands in Jackson county that can be purchased, and in the adjoining counties round about.
29 For it is my will that these lands should be purchased; and after they are purchased that my saints should possess them according to the laws of consecration which I have given.
30 And after these lands are purchased, I will hold the armies of Israel guiltless in taking possession of their own lands, which they have previously purchased with their moneys, and of throwing down the towers of mine enemies that may be upon them, and scattering their watchmen, and avenging me of mine enemies unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.
31 But first let my army become very great, and let it be sanctified before me, that it may become fair as the sun, and clear as the moon, and that her banners may be terrible unto all nations;
32 That the kingdoms of this world may be constrained to acknowledge that the kingdom of Zion is in very deed the kingdom of our God and his Christ; therefore, let us become subject unto her laws.
33 Verily I say unto you, it is expedient in me that the first elders of my church should receive their endowment from on high in my house, which I have commanded to be built unto my name in the land of Kirtland.
34 And let those commandments which I have given concerning Zion and her law be executed and fulfilled, after her redemption.
35 There has been a day of calling, but the time has come for a day of choosing; and let those be chosen that are worthy.
36 And it shall be manifest unto my servant, by the voice of the Spirit, those that are chosen; and they shall be sanctified;
37 And inasmuch as they follow the counsel which they receive, they shall have power after many days to accomplish all things pertaining to Zion.
38 And again I say unto you, sue for peace, not only to the people that have smitten you, but also to all people;
39 And lift up an ensign of peace, and make a proclamation of peace unto the ends of the earth;
40 And make proposals for peace unto those who have smitten you, according to the voice of the Spirit which is in you, and all things shall work together for your good.
41 Therefore, be faithful; and behold, and lo, I am with you even unto the end. Even so. Amen.
An outbreak of cholera took the lives of a number of members of Zion’s Camp.
Near two forks of Fishing River is also where a mob of Missourians assembled to destroy “Joe Smith’s army,” but were themselves driven back and dispersed by a fierce storm.
The Richmond City Cemetery
The Richmond City Cemetery, located on West Main Street, about a half-mile from the courthouse in the center of town. The sign identifying the site notes that David Whitmer is buried there. It also notes that Austin King, who was the judge who presided over Joseph Smith’s court of inquiry in 1838, is buried there. King was later governor of the state of Missouri.
David Whitmer was one of the Three Witnesses to the truthfulness of The Book of Mormon. As a friend of Oliver Cowdery, David was an eyewitness to many of the earliest key events in the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Each of the Three Witnesses left the Church in subsequent years. Although David was the only one of the three who did not return, he never denied his testimony of the Book of Mormon. After his disaffection from the Church, he moved to Richmond, where he lived until his death on January 25, 1888, at age 83. David was a brother-in-law to Oliver Cowdery, another of the Three Witnesses. David and Oliver both died and were buried in Richmond, but they are in different cemeteries.
Located in Ray County, Richmond is where Joseph Smith was first taken after his betrayal at Far West and imprisoned in a log dungeon, and where Elder Pratt and a number of other brethren were held while the prophet was taken on to Liberty Jail.
While imprisoned in Richmond, Elder Pratt later wrote of a “tedious night” when the prisoners were subjected to coarse and vile taunts and language from the guards and where President Smith at last rose to rebuke them. Elder Pratt wrote that he had seen the U.S. Congress in session and ministers of justice clothed in magisterial robes in the courts of England, but “dignity and majesty have I seen but once, as it stood in chains at midnight in a dungeon in an obscure village in Missouri.”
After the Saints left Missouri in 1839, several former members remained, including the Whitmers. Hyrum Page and Oliver Cowdrey returned to live there.
BATTLE OF CROOKED RIVER
Between Richmond and Far West lies the Crooked River, also a site of importance to the church. In the so-called “Battle of Crooked River” on Oct. 25, 1838 – a confrontation between the Saints and the mob – numerous men on both sides were wounded and a couple died, including Elder David W. Patten, considered the first martyred apostle. Exaggerated accounts of this conflict led to the issuance by Gov. Lilburn Boggs of his infamous “Extermination Order” noting that the Mormons were to be treated as enemies and exterminated or driven from the state by any means possible. (The actual site of the “battle” is not accessible by public roads.)
The Battle of Crooked River was a skirmish between Latter Day Saints forces and a Missouri state militia unit from southeast of Elmira, Missouri in Ray County under the command of Samuel Bogart. One of the principal points of conflict in the 1838 Missouri Mormon War, the battle resulted in the issuance of Missouri Executive Order 44, sometimes called the “Extermination Order” and ultimately the expulsion of the Mormons from Missouri.
On the night of October 24, 1838, Captain Bogart’s unit had camped along the banks of Crooked River in Bunkham’s Strip. Patten and the Mormon rescue company approached from the north along the main road, having traveled the 12 or so miles from Far West in the five hours since midnight. At daybreak on the 25th, the Mormons encountered the militia’s sentries. A brief firefight ensued with each side testifying that the other had fired first. One of the sentries, John Lockhart, shot Patrick O’Bannion, the Mormons’ scout. O’Bannion later died from this wound. Lockhart and the other guards then fled down the hill to the militia camp which took up a defensive position.
The Mormon company approached the camp of the Ray militia and formed a battle line in three columns, led by David W. Patten, Charles C. Rich, and Patrick Durfee. Rich later recalled that soon after the Mormons had formed their lines, the militia “fired upon us with all their guns”. A general firefight commenced, but the militia was situated behind the riverbank and held the strategically superior position. Patten decided to charge the militia position, shouting the Mormon battle cry of “God and Liberty!” The Missourians were without swords and so broke their lines and fled across the river in all directions. During the retreat, the Mormons continued to fire and one of the militiamen, Moses Rowland, was killed.
During his charge, however, Patten was shot and mortally wounded. Ebenezer Robinson recalled that Patten had been “brave to a fault, so much so that he was styled and called ‘Captain Fearnought'”. Although it was not immediately realized, Gideon Carter had also been killed, making a total of three Mormon fatalities and one militiaman fatality. The Mormons collected their wounded, as well as the baggage Bogart’s unit, had left in the camp and made their way back to Far West.
During the conflict, one of the militiamen named Samuel Tarwater, was injured by Parley P. Pratt. After Falling unconscious from the injury, Michael D. Quinn states the company of Danites “…mutilated the unconscious Tarwater “with their swords” striking him lengthwise in the mouth, cutting off his under teeth, and breaking his lower jaw; cutting off his cheeks’ and leaving him [for] dead.””
Although the battle resulted in only four fatalities and the mutilation of Samuel Tarwater, the effect was a massive escalation of the Mormon War. Exaggerated reports of the Mormon incursion into Daviess County and the battle (some claiming that half of Bogart’s men had been lost) made their way to Missouri Governor Lilburn Boggs, who responded by calling out 2,500 state militiamen to put down what he perceived to be an open rebellion by the Mormons. This so-called “extermination order” commanded that the Mormons must be “exterminated, or driven from the state,” and directed the militia to carry this into effect.
The Missouri State Militia went to Far West and arrested seven church leaders: Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith, Sidney Rigdon, Parley P. Pratt, Lyman Wight, Amasa Lyman, and George W. Robinson.
A court-martial was held at Far West and these seven men were ordered to be shot. Major Gen. Samuel Lucas ordered Brig. Gen. Alexander Doniphan to execute them at dawn but Doniphan thought the order illegal and refused to carry it out. He declared that he would bring to account anyone who tried to do it.
Smith and his men were taken to Independence, but on Nov. 9 they were moved to Richmond. It’s said that the Ray County jail was in such poor condition that the prisoners were not held there but were housed in a small vacant house on the town square. They were kept here for several weeks while awaiting a court inquiry into charges of treason, murder, arson, robbery, and perjury. Other members were also arrested and brought to Richmond for trial and were housed in the courthouse.
At the inquiry on Nov. 28, the prisoners were bound over for trial. Joseph Smith and five others were moved to a jail in Liberty. Parley Pratt and four others remained in the Ray County Jail. Some were here until April 1839 and others until June 1839.
While Joseph Smith and his men were jailed, Brigham Young and approximately 12,000 church members fled Missouri and moved to Illinois. Joseph Smith and several others spent five months in jail awaiting trial.
A trial was never held. On April 15, 1839, while being transported on a change of venue to Boone County, Joseph and his brother, Hyrum, were allowed to escape to join the church and their families in Illinois.
Gov. Boggs’ extermination order was rescinded by Missouri Governor Christopher “Kit” Bond during the 1976 U.S. Bicentennial.
Bond issued the following Executive Order:
“Whereas, on Oct. 27, 1838, the Governor of the State of Missouri, Lilburn W. Boggs, signed an order calling for the extermination or expulsion of Mormons from the State of Missouri; and Whereas, Governor Boggs’ order clearly contravened the rights to life, liberty, property and religious freedom as guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States, as well as the Constitution of the State of Missouri; and Whereas, in this bicentennial year as we reflect on our nation’s heritage, the exercise of religious freedom is without question one of the basic tenets of our free democratic republic; Now, therefore, I, Christopher S. Bond, Governor of the State of Missouri, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the State of Missouri, do hereby order as follows: Expressing on behalf of all Missourians our deep regret for the injustice and undue suffering that was caused by the 1838 order, I hereby rescind Executive Order Number 44, dated Oct. 27, 1838, issued by Governor W. Boggs. In witness, I have hereunto set my hand and caused to be affixed the great seal of the State of Missouri, in the city of Jefferson, on this 25 day of June 1976. Christopher S. Bond, Governor.
The final resting place of Hiram Page, one of the eight witnesses of the Book of Mormon, was located on a farm in Ray County, after almost 150 years.
His grave is on property purchased by Charles and Molly Fulkerson in 1917. Their family had felt a responsibility for the grave, marked only by square-cut stones, for almost three generations. Neither the Fulkersons nor their descendants, however, knew anything about the importance to Mormons of the man buried there.
John and Philander Page, sons of Hiram and Catherine Whitmer Page, owned the farm from 1849 to 1859, according to county property records. The Fulkersons bought the farm in 1917. Shortly after, Peter Page, the last surviving son of Hiram and Catherine, came with family members and asked to see the grave. Although the Fulkersons knew the name of the person buried there, they did not know much about the man. But, throughout the years, they reverently tended the grave on their farm. In later years, a grandson of the Pages would often stop and visit the couple.
The Fulkersons’ great-granddaughter, Kathy Homer, and her husband, Frank, decided to purchase a marker for the grave. Frank wanted more information to put on the marker, and through research and Internet resources, they discovered that Hiram Page was one of the eight witnesses of the Book of Mormon. While researching local sources, they also discovered in the Ray County archives a 1977 letter from local historian Bill Curtis, secretary of the Missouri Mormon Frontier Foundation, asking for information about the Whitmer family. They contacted Mr. Curtis, who is not LDS, with their information, and he assisted in the identification of the grave’s occupant.
Hiram Page was born in Vermont. He studied to be a doctor and traveled around New York and Canada before settling in Seneca County, N.Y. There, he became acquainted with the Peter Whitmer Sr. family. In 1825, he married Catherine Whitmer. Nine children were born to them.
He and his wife were baptized by Oliver Cowdery on April 11, 1830. Soon after, he came into possession of a stone through which he claimed to receive revelations about Church government and related matters. Most of these “revelations” were in conflict with revelations received by the Prophet Joseph Smith.
At a conference in September 1830, Section 28 of the Doctrine and Covenants was received and made clear the Lord’s way of giving revelation to the Church as a whole. Hiram Page repented and got rid of the stone.
He and his family moved to Kirtland, Ohio, and then to Independence, where they were subjected to severe persecution and beatings. They left Jackson County with the other saints, moved to Clay County and eventually to Far West.
In 1838, he left the Church and moved to a farm near Richmond. He died Aug. 12, 1852.
Even though he was estranged and later excommunicated from the Church, he never denied his testimony of the Book of Mormon. In a letter to William McClellin in May 1847, he said: “As to the Book of Mormon, it would be doing injustice to myself and to the work of God in the last days to say that I could know a thing to be true in 1830 and know the same thing to be false in 1847.”
The grave is located on 146th Street between Raymore Road & Park near Crystal Lakes.
(Information compiled from Linda Emley’s Postcards, Find-A-Grave, Mormon-Wiki, Mormon Historic Sites, and the Ray County Genealogical Society.)