History Late Persecution 3

History of Late Persecution

(Section 3)

The sun was then setting, and 12 miles separated me from my family; but I determined to reach home that night. My horse being weary, I started on foot, and walked through the wilderness in the midst of darkness, avoiding the road, lest I should fall into the hands of the enemy. I arrived home about the middle of the night; spent a few hours with my family, and arose again before day, and fled to the wilderness, as the mob were driving our people, and hunting them in every direction. After walking a few miles, I found a brother by the name of Lowry, who was moving from the county in a covered wagon, he having a permit from the mob to pass in safety.

This man concealed me in his wagon, and thus we passed in safety, although frequently meeting armed men, who were pursuing our brethren. When night again overtook us, we were on the bank of the Missouri River, which divided between Jackson and Clay Counties. Here we encamped for the night, as we could not cross the ferry till morning. I left the camp and ascended the tall bluff, and finding a cavity of a rock, I slept therein. But before morning, I was joined by Mr. Morley and several others, who fled for their lives, and brought news that the mob were driving, and probably butchering men, women and children. On hearing this news, we tried to pray, but we could say but little. Next morning we crossed over the river, and found ourselves once more in a land of peace.

While I thus made my escape, companies of ruffians were ranging the county in every direction, bursting into houses without fear, knowing that the arms were secured, frightening women and children, and threatening to kill them if they didn’t flee immediately. At the head of one of these companies appeared the Reverend Mr. McCoy, (a noted missionary to the Indians) with a gun upon his shoulder, ordering the Mormons to leave immediately, and surrender everything in the shape of arms. Other pretended preachers of the gospel took part in the persecution; calling the Mormons the common enemy of mankind, and exulting in their afflictions. On Tuesday and Wednesday nights, the 5th and 6th of November, women and children fled in every direction, before a merciless mob. One party of about a hundred and fifty women and children of the Mormon Church, fled to the prairie, where they wandered for several days, mostly without food, and nothing but the open firmament for their shelter. Other parties fled towards the Missouri. During this dispersion of women and children, parties of the mob were hunting men, firing upon some, tying up and whipping others; and some they pursued upon horses for several miles.

Thursday, November 7th, the shore began to be lined on both sides of the ferry, with men, women, children, goods, wagons, boxes, chests, provisions, etc., while the ferrymen were very busily employed in crossing them over; and when night again closed upon us, the wilderness had much the appearance of a camp meeting. Hundreds of people were seen in every direction, some in tents and some in the open air around the fires, while the rain descended in torrents. Husbands were inquiring for wives, and women for their husbands; parents for children, and children for parents. Some had had the good fortune to escape with their family, household goods, and some provisions; while others knew not the fate of their friends, and had lost all their goods. The scene was indescribable, and I am sure would have melted the hearts of any people upon earth, except our blind oppressors, and a prejudiced ignorant community. Next day, our company still increased, and we were chiefly engaged in felling small cottonwood trees, and erecting them into temporary cabins, so when night again came on, we had the appearance of a village of wigwams, and the night being clear, we began to enjoy some degree of comfort.

About 2 o’clock the next morn, we were aroused from our slumbers by the cry of “Arise, and behold the signs in the heavens.” We arose, and to our great astonishment, all heaven seemed enwrapped in a splendid fireworks, as if every star in the broad expanse, had been suddenly hurled from its course, and sent lawless through the wilds of ether. I can give the reader no better idea of this scene, than by an illusion to the shooting of a bright meteor, with a long train of light following its course, such as most of us have seen in a bright starlight night. Now suppose that thousands of such meteors with their fiery trains, were to run lawless through the heavens for hours together, this would be a scene such as our eyes beheld on that memorable morning; and the scene only closed by giving place to the superior light and splendor of the king of day. No sooner was this scene beheld by some of our camp than the news reached every tent, and aroused every one from their slumbers; every eye was lifted towards the heavens, and every heart was filled with joy at this majestic display of signs and wonders, showing the near approach of the coming of the Son of God.

In fact we looked up and lifted up our heads rejoicing, knowing that our redemption drew near. It is a singular coincidence that this wonder should happen at the very time of our dispersion. And let others think as they may, I take it as a special manifestation, to fulfill the Mormon scriptures (Book of Mormon), and to rouse our drooping spirits, by a fresh memorial, reminding us of a coming Messiah, for the redemption of those who look for him; and to the destruction of their oppressors.

After a few days, I sent a lad with a horse for my wife, who escaped in safety, by riding 15 miles on horseback; leaving all our goods, which, however, I afterwards obtained, at the risk of my life. But all my provisions of the winter were destroyed or plundered; and my grain left growing on the ground, for our enemies to harvest. My house was afterwards burned, and my apple trees, rails and improvements destroyed or plundered. In short, every member of the society was driven from the county, and fields of corn were plundered and destroyed. Stacks of wheat were burned–household goods plundered, and improvements and every kind of property lost, and at length no less than TWO HUNDRED AND THREE HOUSES BURNED, according to the estimate of their own people in Jackson.

The Mormon Saints who fled, took refuge in the neighboring counties–mostly in Clay County, which received them with some degree of kindness. Those who fled to the county of Van Buren, were again driven, and compelled to flee; and those who fled to Lafayette County, were soon expelled, or the most part of them, and had to move wherever they could find protection.

When the news of these outrages reached the governor of the state, courts of inquiry, both civil and military, were ordered by him; but nothing effectual was ever done to restore our rights, or to protect us in the least. It is true the attorney general, with a military escort and our witnesses, went to Jackson County and demanded indictments, but the court and jurors refused to do anything in the case, and the military and witnesses were mobbed out of the county, and thus that matter ended. The governor also ordered them to restore our arms which they had taken from us, but they were never restored; and even our lands in that county were robbed of their timber, and either occupied by our enemies for years, or left desolate.

Soon after Jackson County had rebelled against the laws and constitution, several of the adjoining counties followed her example by justifying her proceedings, and by opposing the Mormons in settling among them; and soon this rebellion became general in the upper country. The counties of Clay, Ray, Clinton, and various others, held public meetings, the tenor of which was, to deprive the members of our society of the common rights of citizenship, and to drive them from among them, and force them to settle only in such places as the mob should dictate; and even at that time some of their proceedings went so far as to publicly threaten to drive the whole society from the state. The excuses they offered for these outrages, were, first, the society were principally guilty of being eastern or northern people. Second, they were guilty of some slight variations, in manners and language, from the other citizens of the state. Third, their religious principles differed in some important particulars from most other societies. Fourth, they were guilty of emigrating rapidly from the different states, and of purchasing large quantities of land, and of being more enterprising and industrious than some of their neighbors. Fifth, some of our society were guilty of poverty, especially those who had been driven from time to time from their possessions, and robbed of their all. And lastly, they were said to be guilty of believing in the present government administration of Indian affairs, viz; that the land west of the Mississippi, which government has deeded in fee simple to the emigrating tribes, was destined by providence for their permanent homes.

All these crimes were charged home upon our society, in the public proceedings of the several counties; and were deemed sufficient to justify their unlawful proceedings against us. The reader may smile at this statement, but the public journals published in that country, in 1835, actually printed charges and declarations against us of the tenor of the foregoing. By these wicked proceedings our people were once more compelled to remove, at a great sacrifice of property, and were at last permitted to settle in the north of Ray County; where, by the next legislature, they were organized into the counties of Caldwell and Daviess. Here they again exerted the utmost industry and enterprise, and these wild regions soon presented a more flourishing aspect than the oldest counties of the upper country. In the mean time a majority of the state so far countenanced these outrages, that they actually elected Lilburn W. Boggs, one of the old mobbers of Jackson County, who had assisted in the treason, murder, house-burning, plundering, robbery, and driving out of twelve hundred citizens, in 1833, for governor of the state, and placed him in the executive chair, instead of a solitary cell in the state penitentiary, as his crimes against the Mormon Church justly deserved. This movement may be said to have put an end to liberty, law, and government, in that state. About this time, also, Colonel Lucas, whose name was attached to the written circular of the first conspiracy in Jackson County, was advanced to the office of Major General, instead of being hung for treason. Moses Wilson, one of the head leaders of the mob, was advanced to the office of Brigadier General; and Thomas Wilson, another of the Jackson County mob, was elected a captain of the militia.

The reader will recollect that in a former part of this history, these Wilsons are represented as acting a most forward part in all the murders, house-burning, robbing and driving; and that Thomas Wilson, in particular, went so far as to fire upon certain prisoners, and to knock down one while in care of an officer, who was committing them to jail. These crimes, which in a country of laws would have hanged them or imprisoned them for life, so far exalted them in the eyes of their associates, that their worthy deeds proved a step stone to office. They all very readily received their commissions from their accomplice, Governor Boggs; and thus corruption, rebellion, and conspiracy had spread on every side, being fostered and encouraged by a large majority of the state; and thus the treason became general.

In the meantime our society had greatly increased by a rapid emigration, and having long felt the withering hand of oppression from so corrupt an administration, they had endeavored to organize themselves, both civil and military, in the counties where they composed the majority, by electing such officers as they thought would stand for equal rights, and for the laws and constitution of the country. And in this way they hoped to withstand the storm which had so long beat upon them, and whose black clouds now seemed lowering in awful gloom, and preparing to burst, with overwhelming fury, upon all who dare to stand for liberty and law.

On the Fourth of July, 1838, many thousands of our people assembled at the city of Far West, the county seat of Caldwell, erected a liberty pole, and hoisted the bald eagle, with its stars and stripes, upon the top of the same. Under the colors of our country we laid the corner stone of a house of worship, and had an address delivered by Elder Rigdon, in which was painted, in lively colors, the oppression which we had long suffered from the hand of our enemies; and in this discourse we claimed and declared our constitutional rights, as American citizens, and manifested a determination to do our utmost endeavors, from that time forth, to resist all oppression, and to maintain our rights and freedom according to the holy principles of liberty, as guaranteed to every person by the constitution and laws of our government. This declaration was received with shouts of hosannah to God and the Lamb, and with many and long cheers by the assembled thousands, who were determined to yield their rights no more, except compelled by a superior power.

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