History of Late Persecution
Mormon history tells us that these disgraceful proceedings of the legislature were warmly opposed by a large minority of the house, among whom were D. R. Atchison, of Clay County and all the members from St. Louis and Messrs. Rollins and Gordon, from Boone, and by various other members from other counties, but the mob majority carried the day, for the guilty wretches feared an investigation, knowing that it would endanger their lives and liberties.
Many of the state journals have tried to hide the iniquity of the state, by throwing a covering of lies over her atrocious deeds. But can they hide the governor’s cruel order for extermination or banishment? Mormon history gives accounts of tremendous hatred and persecution against the Mormons. Can they conceal the facts of the disgraceful treaty of the generals, with their own officers and men at the city of Far West? Can they conceal the fact that ten or eleven thousand men, women and children, have been banished from the state without trial or condemnation. And this at an expense of two hundred thousand dollars, and this sum appropriated by the state legislature, in order to pay the troops for this act of lawless outrage? Can they conceal the fact that we have been imprisoned for many months, while our families, friends and witnesses have been driven away? Can they conceal the blood of the murdered husbands and fathers; or stifle the cries of the widow and fatherless? Nay! — the rocks and mountains may cover them in unknown depths- -the awful abyss of the fathomless deep may swallow them up–and still their horrid deeds will stand forth in the broad light of day, for the wondering gaze of angels and of men! They cannot be hid.
But to return–Mr. Smith, and his fellow prisoners in Clay County, applied for a writ of habeas corpus, and were brought before the county judges, and their cases examined as to why they were in confinement. At this trial, Mr. Rigdon was let to bail under bonds of two thousand dollars, and the rest were about to be dismissed, but the mob was so violent as to threaten the lives of the judges if they let them go. Therefore, they were detained.
IIn April, having been confined nearly six months, they were taken to Daviess County, to be tried by a band of robbers, under the name of grand jury. Here a bill was soon found against them for high treason, and various other offenses. Their venue was then changed and they were sent toward Columbia, Boone County, for trial. This was some 120 miles down the country, toward Illinois. On their way to this place, they all made their escape from the sheriff and three guards. Some say that the guards got beastly drunk and let them escape. Others, that they were bought for the paltry sum of $250, but be this as it may, they escaped unhurt, and arrived safe in Illinois, where they were kindly received, and welcomed by the governor, and by the community, as men who had escaped from a long and terrible persecution. And there they have now been for some months, and that publicly, without any attempt on the part of the state of Missouri, to retake them, although they are but just over the line. Why does the state thus neglect them?–The answer is that they are now ashamed of their own conduct, and glad to drop the subject and let it slumber where it is.
On the 17th of March , (as the time drew near for all of the society to leave the state) my wife took leave of the prison, and with a broken heart, returned to Far West in order to get passage with some of the brethren for Illinois. She tarried in Far West about a month, and all the society had gone from the state, but a few of the poor and widows and a committee who tarried behind to assist them in removing. About the middle of April, a gang of robbers entered Far West armed, and ordered my wife and the committee and the others, to be gone by such a day or they would murder them. Thus my wife was driven away, according to the previous orders of the governor, while I was still detained in a filthy dungeon. My family was conveyed to Quincy, Illinois, a distance of one hundred and eighty miles, by David W. Rogers of New York, who is a descendant of the celebrated martyr John Rogers, of Smithfield, England.
On the 26th of April, 1839, the last of the society departed from Far West. Thus had a whole people consisting of about ten or eleven thousand Mormons, been driven from houses and lands, and reduced to poverty and had removed to another state during one short winter, and part of a spring. The sacrifice of property was immense, probably amounting to several millions, and one of the most flourishing counties of the state, and part of several others, were reduced to desolation or inhabited by gangs of robbers.
On the 24th of April, our cases were had before the grand jury of the county of Ray; and Darwin Chase and Norman Shearer were dismissed, after being imprisoned nearly six months. This release happened just as Mr. Shearer came to visit his son for the last time before he left the country. He came into the prison to see us, and not knowing of the intended release, he took an affectionate leave of us and of his son, who seemed to weep with heart-broken anguish. But while he yet lingered in town, his son was called before the court, and with Mr. Chase, was told that they might go at liberty. The father and son then embraced each other, almost overcome with joy, and departed.
At the same time, my brother Orson Pratt, whom I had not before seen for a year, came from Illinois to see me, but was only permitted to visit me for a few moments and then was ordered to depart. Mrs. Phelps, who had waited in prison for some days, in hopes that the court would release her husband, now parted with him, overwhelmed with sorrow and tears, and with her infant, moved slowly away to remove alone to Illinois and leave her husband behind. Thus our families wander in a strange land, without our protection, being robbed of house and home. O God! Who can endure the thought? Come out in justice, O Lord! and restore us to our mourning families.
Our number in prison was now reduced to four, one having been added about the middle of April. His name was King Follett; he was dragged from his distressed family just as they were leaving the state. Thus of all the prisoners (which were taken at an expense of two hundred thousand dollars) only two of the original ones who belonged to the Church now remained (Mr. Gibbs having denied the faith to try to save his life); these were Morris Phelps and myself.
All who were let to bail were banished from the state, together with those who bailed them. Thus none are likely to have a trial by law but ourselves and we are without friends or witnesses in the state. After the grand jury had found a bill against us for defending ourselves in the battle with Bogart’s company, [we] were kept in prison at Richmond for about a month. We then took a change of venue and were ordered to be sent to Columbia, Boone County, for trial. On the 22nd of May we were handcuffed together, two and two, with irons round the wrist of each, and in this fix we were taken from prison and placed in a carriage. The people of Richmond gathered around us to see us depart; but none seemed to feel for us except two persons. One of these, General Parks’ lady, bowed to us through the window and looked as if touched with pity. The other was a Mr. Huggins, a merchant of Richmond, who bowed with some feeling as we passed.
We now took leave of Richmond, accompanied by Sheriff Brown and four guards, with drawn pistols and moved on towards Columbia. No tongue can describe our sensations as we came forth from a most filthy dungeon, where we had been confined for nearly seven months, and began to breathe the free air and to change the scenery and look abroad upon the face of the earth. All we had was our Mormon beliefs. There was a sweetness in the air and a perfume from the earth which none could so fully sense, except such as have been for a long time confined in tainted air.
It had been thundering and raining for some days, and the thunderstorm lasted with but short cessations from the time we started, till we arrived at the place of destination, which was five days. The small streams were swollen so as to be very difficult crossing them. On the second day we came to a creek which was several rods over, with a strong current, and very deep. It was toward evening and far from any house, and we had had no refreshment through the day. Here we halted and knew not what to do; we waited awhile for the water to fall, but it fell but slowly. All hands were hungry and impatient, and a lowery night seemed to threaten that the creek would rise before morning by the falling of additional rains. In this dilemma, some counseled one thing and some another.–Some said, go back some miles to a house, and tarry till morning. Others said camp here for the night.–Others said swim the river and leave the carriage and baggage till morning, and some advised to attempt to drive some miles around the head of the stream. At last I proposed to the sheriff that if he would take off my irons I would go into the water to bathe; and by that means ascertain the depth and bottom; this he consented to do, after some hesitation. I then plunged into the stream and swam across and attempted to wade back; I found it to be a hard bottom, and the water about up to my chin, but a very stiff current. After this, Mr. Brown, the sheriff, undertook to cross on his horse, but just as his horse neared the opposite shore, he sprang sideways to gain a bank and Mr. Brown was thrown off his horse and buried in the stream. He could not swim, but sprang out, hallowing and flouncing in a manner that caused much merriment to the company.
This accident decided the fate of the day. Being now completely wet, he resolved to effect the crossing of the whole company, bag and baggage. Accordingly, several stripped off their cloths and mounted on the bare backs of the horses; and taking their clothing, saddles, and arms, together with our trunk and bedding upon their shoulders, they bore them across in safety, without wetting. This was done by riding backwards and forwards, across the stream several times. In this sport and labor, prisoners, guards and all mingled in mutual exertion.
All was now safe but the carriage. Mr. Phelps then proposed to swim that across, by hitching two horses before it; and he mounted on one of their backs, while myself and one of the guards swam by the side of the carriage to keep it from upsetting by the force of the current. And thus, Paul-like, we all got safely to land. Everything was soon replaced; and ourselves in the carriage, and our suite on horseback, we moved swiftly on, and at dark arrived at a house of entertainment amid a terrible thunderstorm.
The next morning we proceeded on, but in a few miles came to another swimming stream. After some consultation, it was thought best to go around the head of the stream. We accordingly took our back track for a half mile and then striking to the north in the open prairie, without any track, we rode some seven miles around, crossed the head of the stream, and returned to the road which we had left. This day we crossed the Missouri at a place called Arrow Rock, being named from the circumstance of the natives coming there from all quarters to get a kind of hard rock from the bluff to make arrow points. In this journey we had slept each night on our backs on the floor, being all four of us ironed together with hand and ankle irons made for the purpose. This being done, the windows and doors were all fastened, and then five guards with their loaded pistols stayed in the room and one at a time sat up and watched during the night. This cruelty was inflicted on us, more to gratify a wicked disposition than anything else, for it was in vain for us to have tried to escape, without any irons being put on us and had we wished to escape, we had a tolerable good opportunity at the creek.
When we arrived within four miles of Columbia, the bridge had been destroyed from over a large and rapid river; and here we were some hours in crossing over, in a tottleish [?] canoe, having to leave our carriage, together with our bedding, clothing, our trunk of clothing, books, papers, etc.; but all came to us in safety after two days. After we had all crossed the river, our guards having swam their horses, mounted them, and we proceeded toward Columbia, the prisoners walking on foot, two being fastened together by the wrists.
After walking two or three miles, Mr. Brown hired a carriage and we rode into Columbia. It was about sunset on Sunday evening, and as the carriage and our armed attendants drove through the streets, we were gazed upon with astonishment by hundreds of spectators, who thronged the streets and looked out at the windows, doors, etc., anxious to get a glimpse of the strange beings called Mormons. On our arrival we were immediately hurried to the prison, without going to a tavern for refreshment, although we had traveled a long summer day without anything to eat. When unloosed from our fetters, we were rushed immediately from the carriage into the jail, and the next moment a huge trap-door was opened and down we went into a most dismal dungeon, which was full of cobwebs and filth above, below and all around the walls, having stood empty for nearly two years. Here was neither beds, nor chairs, nor water, nor food, nor friends, nor anyone on whom we might call, even for a drink of cold water; for Brown and all others had withdrawn to go where they could refresh themselves. When thrust into this dungeon, we were nearly ready to faint with hunger and thirst and weariness. We walked the room for a few moments, and then sank down upon the floor in despondency and wished to die; for, like Elijah of old, if the Lord had inquired, “What dost thou here?” we could have replied, “Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and thrown down thine altars, and have driven out all thy saints from the land, and we only are left to tell thee; and they seek our lives, to take them away; and now, therefore, let us die.”
History of the Late Persecution
(Pratt, Parley P.)