Letter from Austin A. King, 10 September 1838
Austin A. King, Letter,
21 Sept. 1802–22 Apr. 1870. Attorney, judge, politician, farmer. Born at Sullivan Co., Tennessee. Son of Walter King and Nancy Sevier. Married first Nancy Harris Roberts, 13 May 1828, at Jackson, Madison Co., Tennessee. In 1830, moved to Missouri, where he...View Full BioRichmond, MO, to JS and
Area settled, ca. 1814. Officially platted as Ray Co. seat, 1827. Population in 1840 about 500. Seat of Fifth Judicial Circuit Court of Missouri; also location of courthouse and jails. JS and about sixty other Mormon men were incarcerated here while awaiting...More InfoSidney Rigdon,
19 Feb. 1793–14 July 1876. Tanner, farmer, minister. Born at St. Clair, Allegheny Co., Pennsylvania. Son of William Rigdon and Nancy Gallaher. Joined United Baptists, ca. 1818. Preached at Warren, Trumbull Co., Ohio, and vicinity, 1819–1821. Married Phebe...View Full BioFar West, MO, 10 Sep. 1838; handwriting of
Originally called Shoal Creek. Located fifty-five miles northeast of Independence. Surveyed 1823; first settled by whites, 1831. Site purchased, 8 Aug. 1836, before Caldwell Co. was organized for Latter-day Saints in Missouri. William W. Phelps and John Whitmer...More Info
On 10 September 1838, Judge Austin A. King wrote a letter to JS and Sidney Rigdon, offering counsel to them in the midst of rising tensions between the Saints and anti-Mormon vigilantes. After the Saints’ confrontation with antagonist Adam Black on 8 August 1838, King issued an arrest warrant for JS and Lyman Wight. When neither of the men was arrested in the following days, Black and his allies argued that the two Latter-day Saint leaders were resisting arrest and defying the law. Using this argument, Black and his associates called on neighboring counties to send volunteers by 7 September to effectuate the arrest; in response, men from eleven counties began gathering. JS received news of this development on 2 September, and his scribe, George W. Robinson, noted in JS’s journal that “the whole uper Missouri is all in an uproar and confusion.” Hoping to calm the situation, JS and Wight appeared at a preliminary hearing on 7 September in Daviess County, at which King ruled there was probable cause to believe that the two men had committed a misdemeanor at Black’s home; therefore, King ordered the two men to appear at the next session of the Daviess County Circuit Court.Although the Saints believed that King gave the ruling “to pasify as much as possible the feelings of the mobers,” the anti-Mormon vigilantes continued to call for assistance, arguing that other Latter-day Saints who were present at Black’s residence on 8 August were defying the law and resisting arrest. On 28 August, Black named sixteen men who he claimed had threatened his life and forced him to sign an agreement “not to molest the people called Mormons.” Furthermore, Black alleged, the group of men stated that “they would not submit to the laws.” In response, William Dryden, a justice of the peace in Daviess County, issued an arrest warrant for these sixteen Latter-day Saints. When special deputy Nathaniel Blakely attempted to serve the warrant, he was purportedly “driven by force” from Adam-ondi-Ahman, which convinced Dryden that “the power of the County is wholy unable to execute any civil or Criminal process” against the Latter-day Saints. “They also declare that they are independent,” Dryden stated, and they “hold in utter contempt the institutions of the Country in which they live.” George A. Smith, one of the Latter-day Saints named in the arrest warrant, later stated that legal officials had “all possible chance to arrest me that could be desired.” Smith claimed that rather than serve the warrant, Morgan “endeavored to excite the people of the State, by reporting we would not submit to the law.”As tensions rose, the anti-Mormon vigilantes began harassing Latter-day Saints in outlying areas of Daviess County and started seizing church members as prisoners. In planning an attack on Adam-ondi-Ahman, opponents of the Saints arranged to transport forty-five state-owned Jäger rifles and ammunition—apparently without authorization—from Ray County to Daviess County. Hearing of the shipment, Caldwell County sheriff George Pitkin “deputized William Allred to go with a company of men and to intercept” the gunrunners. Allred and ten Latter-day Saint cavalrymen seized the guns on 9 September and arrested the three individuals who were transporting the rifles—John Comer of Ray County and Allen Miller and William McHaney of Daviess County. The Mormon men took the prisoners, guns, and ammunition to Far West, Caldwell County, where the firearms were distributed to Latter-day Saints. The following morning Albert Petty, a Caldwell County justice of the peace, presided at a preliminary hearing to assess charges against Comer, Miller, and McHaney for “abetting the mob” by “carying the guns and amunition to those murderers,” as George W. Robinson recounted in JS’s journal. Although Petty denied the three men bail, he granted their request to adjourn the hearing so they could obtain counsel.As these events developed, JS and Sidney Rigdon sent two letters to King, requesting assistance and advice. Although these missives are apparently not extant, King’s response suggests that JS and Rigdon’s letters informed the judge of the anti-Mormon vigilantes’ movements; of the identities of Latter-day Saints—an “Umpstead” and an “Owens”—who had been taken captive; and of the situation with Comer, Miller, McHaney, and the captured rifles. King received JS and Rigdon’s second letter on 10 September, probably in the afternoon or evening, after a courier carried it the approximately thirty-five miles from Far West to Richmond. King responded to both letters later that day, explaining that militia commander David R. Atchison would intervene with state militia to defuse the tension, that the Latter-day Saints taken by the vigilantes would be released unharmed, and that the gunrunners taken by the Mormon posse should also be released. Given the urgency of the situation and the lack of postal markings on the letter, it is likely that King sent the letter by courier, with JS and Rigdon perhaps receiving the letter on 11 September.