Letter from William W. Phelps, 1 May 1834

  • Source Note
  • Historical Introduction

Document Transcript

, May 1, 1834.
Dear brethren:— There are great moves in the west. Last week an alarm was spread in , the seat of iniquity and bloodshed, that the “Mormons” were crossing the , to take possession of their lands, and nearly all the county turned out, “prepared for war,” on Saturday, and on Sunday took the field, near old McGees, above . But no “Mormons” came; neither did go over to see about his spilt whiskey, so that the scene closed with burning our houses, or many of them. Our people had about one hundred and seventy buildings in , and a bonfire of nearly all of them, at once, must have made a light large enough to have glared on the dark deed and cup of iniquity running over, at midnight.
The crisis has come: All that will not take up arms with the mob and prepare to fight the “Mormons,” have to leave .
I understand some have left the because they refused to fight an innocent people. It is said the mob will hold a “general muster” this week for the purpose of learning who is who. They begin to slip over the and commit small depredations upon our brethren settled near the as we have reason to believe.
It is said to be enough to shock the stoutest heart to witness the drinking, swearing, and ravings of the most of the mob: nothing but the power of God can stop them in their latter day crusade against the .
Our brethren are very industrious in putting in spring crops; and they are generally in good health and the faithful in strong faith of a glorious hereafter.
I remain yours, &c,
. [p. 160]

Footnotes

  1. 1

    In a 25 April 1834 daybook entry, John Whitmer noted, “Mob gathered above blue 150 or 200.” Saturday was 26 April and Sunday was 27 April. (Whitmer, Daybook, 25 Apr. 1834.)  

    Whitmer, John. Daybook, 1832–1878. CHL. MS 1159.

  2. 2

    “Old McGee” may have been James McGee, who was one of the first settlers of Westport in Jackson County and owned at least two hundred acres of land in Kaw Township. (1830 U.S. Census, Jackson Co., MO, 301; History of Jackson County, Missouri, 113; Jackson Co., MO, Deed Records, 1827–1909, bk. B, pp. 238–239, 309–310, microfilm 1,017,978; Jackson Co., MO, Deed Records, 1827–1909, bk. C, p. 4, microfilm 1,017,979, U.S. and Canada Record Collection, FHL; Jennings, “Army of Israel Marches into Missouri,” 116.)  

    Census (U.S.) / U.S. Bureau of the Census. Population Schedules. Microfilm. FHL.

    U.S. and Canada Record Collection. FHL.

    Jennings, Warren A. “The Army of Israel Marches into Missouri.” Missouri Historical Review 62, no. 2 (Jan. 1968): 107–135.

  3. 3

    Michael Arthur was a wealthy non-Mormon landowner in Clay County who, according to Edward Partridge, was “friendly to the saints”—even employing many of them to build a house for him. Clay County tax rolls show that in 1836, Arthur owned 1,016.17 acres of land, valued at $6,000, as well as fourteen slaves. The Evening and the Morning Star reported that sometime in April 1834, Arthur sent one of his slaves into Jackson County “with a large waggon loaded with whiskey, flour, and bacon” to sell. After the slave crossed the Missouri River, “a stranger came out of the woods and began to burst open the barrels and destroy the flour,” threatening to kill the slave “if he should ever come into that county again.” The Star used this as an example of how those living in Jackson County were “like the wild beast, left to prowl upon every creature whom they suspect weaker than themselves, whether members of this church or not.” Partridge later implied that the slave was attacked because of Arthur’s friendship with the Saints. (“A History, of the Persecution,” Times and Seasons, Feb. 1840, 1:49; Woodruff, Journal, 1 July 1834; Curtis, 1836 Clay County, Missouri, State Tax List, 1; “The Outrage in Jackson County, Missouri,” The Evening and the Morning Star, May 1834, 159.)  

    Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.

    Woodruff, Wilford. Journals, 1833–1898. Wilford Woodruff, Journals and Papers, 1828–1898. CHL. MS 1352.

    Curtis, Annette W., comp. 1836 Clay County, Missouri, State Tax List; All Taxpayers and Land Owners Are Identified, Including Mormons; and the 1835 Missouri Tax Law. Independence, MO: Missouri Mormon Frontier Foundation, 2003.

    The Evening and the Morning Star. Independence, MO, June 1832–July 1833; Kirtland, OH, Dec. 1833–Sept. 1834.

  4. 4

    On 7 May 1834, Sidney Gilbert and William W. Phelps wrote a letter to Governor Daniel Dunklin telling him that “since our last of the 24 ult. the mob of Jackson Co. have burned our dwellings—as near as we can ascertain, between 100 and 150 were consumed by fire in about one week.” John Corrill reported similar occurrences in a June 1834 letter: “Several nights in succession were they in burning our houses,” Corrill declared, “and I am informed, that they have burned them all, except a very few which are occupied by other families.” (Sidney Gilbert and William W. Phelps, Liberty, MO, to Daniel Dunklin, Jefferson City, MO, 7 May 1834, William W. Phelps, Collection of Missouri Documents, CHL; “The Outrage in Jackson County, Missouri,” The Evening and the Morning Star, June 1834, 168.)  

    Phelps, William W. Collection of Missouri Documents, 1833–1837. CHL. MS 657.

    The Evening and the Morning Star. Independence, MO, June 1832–July 1833; Kirtland, OH, Dec. 1833–Sept. 1834.

  5. 5

    In the May 1834 issue of The Evening and the Morning Star, an article reported that “not only the members of the church of the Latter Day Saints, are in danger of being molested and abused if they go into Jackson county; but any one whose principles the mob may suspect are different from their own, is likewise liable to be insulted.” (“The Outrage in Jackson County, Missouri,” The Evening and the Morning Star, May 1834, 159, italics in original.)  

    The Evening and the Morning Star. Independence, MO, June 1832–July 1833; Kirtland, OH, Dec. 1833–Sept. 1834.

  6. 6

    No contemporary accounts of Jackson County residents attacking church members or their property near the river have been found, but John Whitmer did report in a 1 May journal entry that “the mob from Jackson are trying to get help from this Co. to drive us from here.” Edward Partridge also later remembered that around this time, Jackson County residents “frequently sent over word to Clay co. that they were coming over to drive” church members “from that place.” (Whitmer, Daybook, 1 May 1834; “A History, of the Persecution,” Times and Seasons, Feb. 1840, 1:49.)  

    Whitmer, John. Daybook, 1832–1878. CHL. MS 1159.

    Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.

  7. 7

    John Whitmer later remembered the condition of church members at this time somewhat differently. “We had hard strugling to obtain a living as may well be understood,” he wrote, “being driven having no money, or means to subsist upon, and being among stranger[s] in a strand [strange] place, being despised, mocked at and laughed to scorn by some and pitied by others, thus we lived from Nov 1833 until May 1834.” (Whitmer, History, 60.)