, Letter, , Adams Co., IL, to JS and others, “ or elsewhere,” MO, 16 Apr. 1839. Featured version copied [between 22 Apr. and 30 Oct. 1839] in JS Letterbook 2, p. 6; handwriting of ; JS Collection, CHL. For more complete source information, see the source note for JS Letterbook 2.
On 16 April 1839, wrote from to JS and his fellow prisoners in , expressing sympathy for their situation and recalling the persecutions that he experienced with the men during the escalation of hostilities the previous year. During the 1838 conflict, Higbee played a prominent role in both an official and an unofficial military capacity. On various occasions, Higbee exercised his authority as a judge to call on the county’s regiment of the state militia “for the defence of the citizens” against anti-Mormon vigilantes. Higbee was also the ’ captain general—the society’s ranking officer—subject only to the ’s executive authority. As such, he was an influential figure in multiple military operations during the conflict between Latter-day Saints and other Missourians in 1838. His participation in the October 1838 skirmish at forced him to flee from , Missouri, in November or December, after which he relocated to the vicinity of , Illinois, to be with other Latter-day Saint refugees. On 15 April 1839, he met with in Quincy, which may have prompted him to write to JS and the other prisoners the following day. In this letter, Higbee not only expressed sympathy for the prisoners’ plight but also conveyed his confidence that divine providence was guiding the course of events in Missouri.
It is unknown whether ’s letter was carried to . His opening salutation indicates he was aware that the prisoners were probably no longer in the in , Missouri, suggesting that he may have kept the letter until receiving further information regarding their location. Even if Higbee sent the letter to Missouri, the prisoners did not likely receive it there because they escaped from custody the day the letter was written and they arrived in a week later. JS likely received the letter sometime after arriving at Quincy. The original letter is apparently not extant; JS’s scribe, , copied it into JS Letterbook 2 sometime between 22 April and 30 October 1839.
Affidavit, 5 Sept. 1838; Sidney Rigdon, Testimony, Nauvoo, IL, 1 July 1843, p. ; George W. Pitkin, Testimony, Nauvoo, IL, 1 July 1843, p. 1; Parley P. Pratt, Testimony, Nauvoo, IL, 1 July 1843, p. 2, Nauvoo, IL, Records, CHL.
To Joseph Smith Jr and others, prisoners in or elsewhere Greeting
Dear Brethren in affliction, Through the mercy and providence of God, I am here alive and in tolerable health, as also are all of your families as far as I know, having heard from them lately, and having seen yesterday.
Brethren I have sorrow of heart when I think of your great sufferings by that ungodly mob which has spread such desolation and caused so much suffering among us. I often reflect on the scenes which we passed through together, the course we pursued, the concillings we had, the results which followed, when harassed, pressed on every side, insulted and abused by that lawless banditti; and am decidedly of opinion that the hand of the great God hath controlled the whole business for purposes of his own which will eventually work out good for the ; (I mean those who are worthy of that name,) knowing that your intentions and the intentions of all the worthy saints have been pure and tending to do good to all men, and to injure no man in person or property except we were forced to it in defence of our lives.
Brethren, I am aware that I cannot wholly realize your sufferings neither can any other person who has not experienced the like affliction, but I doubt not for a moment, neither have I ever doubted for a moment, but that the same God which delivered me from their grasp, (though narrowly) will deliver you. I staid near for about three weeks being hunted by them almost every day, and as I learned they did not intend to give me the chance of a trial but put an end to me forthwith I sent for my horse and left the wicked clan and come off.
is with his uncle in . I received a letter lately from him, he is strong in the faith. I now live in the Big neck Prairie, on the same farm with who is here with me and waiting for me with his riding dress on to go home, so I must necessarily close, praying God to speedily deliver you and bless you.
On 4 April 1839, JS stated in a letter to Emma Smith, “With immotions known only to God, do I write this letter, the contemplations, of the mind under these circumstances, defies the pen, or tounge, or Angels, to discribe, or paint, to the human being, who never experiance what we experience.” It is possible that when Higbee saw Emma Smith on 15 April 1839, she shared the letter with him; if so, Higbee may have been alluding to JS’s statement. (Letter to Emma Smith, 4 Apr. 1839.)
As the state militia approached Far West in late October 1838, the Latter-day Saint troops that fought in the skirmish at Crooked River on 25 October were advised to flee to avoid being captured and executed without a legal trial. Most of the men departed Far West just before the militia’s occupation of the town on 1 November. During that month, Samuel Bogart of Ray County, who commanded the non-Mormon troops in the Crooked River fight, actively pursued remaining Latter-day Saints, presumably including Higbee. Higbee may have remained in the area longer than most others because his son, Francis, had been arrested and charged with various crimes allegedly committed during the recent conflict. At the conclusion of the November 1838 court of inquiry held in Richmond, Missouri, Judge Austin A. King agreed to release Francis on bail if he would consent to appear at the spring session of the Daviess County Circuit Court to answer charges of “Arson, Burglary, Robbery and Larceny.” Assuming Elias Higbee waited for his son, they presumably fled from Missouri in late November or early December. (Baugh, “Call to Arms,” 326–329; Ruling, Richmond, MO, Nov. 1838, p. , in State of Missouri, “Evidence”; Samuel Bogart, Elkhorn, MO, to the Postmaster, Quincy, IL, 22 Apr. 1839, CHL; see also Lewis, Autobiography, 36.)
Baugh, Alexander L. “A Call to Arms: The 1838 Mormon Defense of Northern Missouri.” PhD diss., Brigham Young University, 1996. Also available as A Call to Arms: The 1838 Mormon Defense of Northern Missouri, Dissertations in Latter-day Saint History (Provo, UT: Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Latter-day Saint History; BYU Studies, 2000).
Bogart, Samuel. Letter, Elkhorn, MO, to the Postmaster, Quincy, IL, 22 Apr. 1839. CHL.
It is not known which uncle Francis Higbee stayed with in Ohio; he had multiple aunts and uncles on both sides of his family living in the Cincinnati area in the late 1830s. (See Higbee, Journal and Reminiscences, –; Clermont Co., OH, Marriage Records, 1801–1910, vol. 1, p. 142, 27 Aug. 1820, microfilm 327,559; vol. 2, p. 71, 11 Dec. 1823, microfilm 327,560, U.S. and Canada Record Collection, FHL; and 1840 U.S. Census, Springfield, Clermont Co., OH, 231, 237.)
Higbee, John S. Journal and Reminiscences, 1845–1849. John S. Higbee, Reminiscences and Diaries, 1845–1866. CHL. MS 1742, fd. 1.
U.S. and Canada Record Collection. FHL.
Census (U.S.) / U.S. Bureau of the Census. Population Schedules. Microfilm. FHL.
Big Neck Prairie was located in Illinois, approximately thirty miles northeast of Quincy. (Rigdon, “Life Story of Sidney Rigdon,” 157–158; Portrait and Biographical Record of Adams County, Illinois, 278.)
Rigdon, John Wickliff. “Life Story of Sidney Rigdon,” no date. CHL. MS 3451.
Portrait and Biographical Record of Adams County, Illinois, Containing Biographical Sketches of Prominent and Representative Citizens, together with Biographies and Portraits of All the Presidents of the United States. Chicago: Chapman Brothers, 1892.