The great state of Missouri doesn’t exactly have the most welcoming of reputations, or at least in the 1830’s it didn’t. The newest state in the union at the time, Missouri was attracting settlers of all types. As Missourians established themselves and acquired land, another sizeable group was moving in. Members of the Church of Mormon has been told by their prophet that land in northwestern Missouri had been marked by God as a New Jerusalem for their faith. Naturally, this led to some tension between the Missouri settlers and the Mormons that felt entitled to this land. The Missouri Mormon Wars wasn’t about anyone being right or wrong, but about both sides thinking their position was ...view middle of the document...
Missouri’s white population at the time was split when it came to the matter of slavery, though the right to own slaves was protected in the state constitution (Kander). Much to the annoyance of pro-slavery voters, the Mormons, Missouri’s newest voters, had come from abolitionist states and voted accordingly.
The new converts and refugees continued to populate the region they felt entitled to. Settlers, upset with the overwhelming influx of Mormons in the area, felt that elections were being sold out in favor of Mormon views.
“The better class of citizens… were convinced that it was only a question of time when the entire population would be under the rule and control of the Mormon hierarchy, for the stream of immigrant proselytes to the faith was continuous and increasing in volume – a very unpleasant outlook to the early settler, truly.” (McCoy)
Tensions rose and approached critical mass. Missouri’s settlers attempted what they felt was a compromise: establishment of Caldwell County, allocated just for the Mormons and their exploding population. This new county was swiftly outgrown by the Mormons. Their families were extensive; immediate families often included many wives and numerous children.
Apparently, many Missourians felt the need to do something. In the summer of 1838, vigilante settlers and community leaders on mounted squads demanded Mormon withdrawal. Homes were destroyed, Mormons disarmed, and beatings took place on both sides (Anderson). During an election in Gallatin, Missouri, a brawl ensued when a large number of Mormons arrived at the polls to vote. No one was killed at this brawl, however, inconsistent reporting of facts to the Lieutenant Governor and Missouri settlers triggered further chaos. The governor at the time, Lilburn Boggs, suggested that everyone involved settle their own differences. More fighting resulted. The battles became bloody, killing several women and children who were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The Mormons stormed a neighboring county, Daviess County, and evicted settlers from their homes. Families, forced out into the cold Missouri winter, watched helplessly as their homes were ransacked and then burned.
Word traveled fast and Lieutenant Boggs hastily issued Missouri Executive Order 44, the “Extermination Order”. The order stated that “Mormons must be treated as enemies and must be exterminated or driven from the state if necessary for the public peace.” (Boggs) The order, signed in October 1838, forced Mormons to sign over all of their property.
The 12,000 Mormons that had come to the region fled to Illinois. Most travelled on foot and many died from exposure (Lauritsen). Missouri Governor Kit Bond rescinded the Extermination Order in 1976, “Expressing on behalf of all Missourians our deep regret for the injustice and undue suffering.”
While the Mormon War of 1838 is certainly a dark spot in Missouri history, there are two sides to this struggle to consider....