Josiah Gregg.

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neighbors, until at last they became so em-
boldened by impunity, as openly to boast of
their determination to be the sole proprietors
of the ' Land of Zion ;' a revelation to that ef-
fect having been made to their prophet

The people now began to perceive, that, at
the rate the intruders were increasing, they
would soon be able to command a majority
of the county, and consequently the entire
control of affairs would fall into their hands.
It was evident, then, that one of the two par-
ties would in the course of time have to aban-
don the country ; for the old settlers could not
think of bringing up their families in the
midst of such a corrupt state of society as the
Mormons were establishing. Still the nuisance
was endured very patiently, and without any
attempt at retaliation, until the * saints' actu-
ally threatened to eject their opponents by
main force. This last stroke of impudence
at once roused the latent spirit of the honest
backwoodsmen, some of whom were of the
pioneer settlers of Missouri, and had become
familiar with danger in their terrific wars with
the savages. They were therefore by no


means appropriate subjects for yielding what
they believed to be their rights. Meetings
were held for the purpose of devising means
of redress, which only tended to increase the
insolence of the Mormons. Finally a mob
was collected, which proceeded at once to
raze the obnoxious printing establishment to
the ground, and to destroy all the materials
they could lay hands upon. One or two of
the Mormon leaders who fell into the hands
of the people, were treated to a clean suit of
' tar and feathers/ and otherwise severely pun-
ished. The ' Prophet Joseph/ however, was
not then in the neighborhood. Having ob-
served the storm-clouds gathering apace in
the frontier horizon, he very wisely remained
in Ohio, whence he issued his flaming man-

These occurrences took place in the month
of October, 1833, and I reached Indepen-
dence from Santa Fe while the excitement
was raging at its highest. The Mormons
had rallied some ten miles west of the town,
where their strongest settlements were lo-
cated. A hostile encounter was hourly ex-
pected : nay, a skirmish actually took place
shortly after, in which a respectable lawyer
of Independence, who had been an active
agent against the Mormons, was killed. In
short, the whole country was in a state of
dreadful fermentation.

Early on the morning after the skirmish
just referred to, a report reached Indepen-
dence that the Mormons were marching in a


body towards the town, with the intention of
sacking and burning it. I had often heard
the cry of "Indians!" announcing the ap-
proach of hostile savages, but 1 do not re-
member ever to have witnessed so much
consternation as prevailed at Independence
on this memorable occasion. The note of
alarm was sounded far and near, and armed
men, eager for the fray, were rushing in from
every quarter. Officers were summarily se-
lected without deference to rank or station :
the 'spirit-stirring drum' and the ' ear-pierc-
ing fife' made the air resound with music;
and a little army of as brave and resolute a
set of fellows as ever trod a field of battle,
was, in a very short time, paraded through
the streets. Alter a few preliminary exercises,
they started for a certain point on the road
where they intended to await the approach
of the Mormons. The latter very soon made
their appearance, but, surprised at meeting
with so formidable a reception, they never
even attempted to pull a trigger, but at once
surrendered at discretion. They were imme-
diately disarmed, and subsequently released
upon condition of their leaving the country
without delay.

It was very soon after this affair that the
much talked of phenomenon of the meteoric
shower (on the night of November 12th) oc-
curred. This extraordinary visitation did not
fail to produce its effects upon the supersti-
tious minds of a few ignorant people, who
began to wonder whether, after all, the Mor



mons might not be in the right ; and whether
this was not a sign sent from heaven as a re-
monstrance for the injustice they had been
guilty of towards that chosen sect* Some-
time afterward, a terrible misfortune occurred
which was in no way calculated to allay the
superstitious fears of the ignorant As some
eight or ten citizens were returning with the
ferry-boat which had crossed the last Mormons
over the Missouri river, into Clay county, the
district selected for their new home, the craft
filled with water and sunk in the middle of
the current ; by which accident three or four
men were drowned ! It was owing perhaps
to the craziness of the boat, yet some persons
suspected the Mormons of having scuttled it
by secretly boring auger-holes in the bottom
just before they had left it

After sojourning a few months in Clay coun-
ty, to the serious annoyance of the inhabit-
ants (though, in fact, they had been kindly
received at first), the persecuted l Latter day
Saints' were again compelled to shift their
quarters further off. They now sought to
establish themselves in the new county of
Caldwell, and founded their town of Far
West, where they lingered in comparative
peace for a few years. As the county began
to fill up with settlers, however, quarrels re-

* In Northern Mexico, as I learned afterwards, the credulity ol
the supers .itious was still more severely tried by this celestial phe-
nomenon. Their Church had been deprived of some important
privileges by the Congress but a short time before, and the people
could not be persuaded but that the meteoric shower was intended
as a curse upon the nation in conseqnence of that sacrilegious act


peatedly broke out, until at last, in 1838, they
found themselves again at open war with their
neighbors. They appear to have set the laws
of the state at defiance, and to have acted so
turbulently throughout, that Governor Boggs
deemed it necessary to order out a large force
of state militia to subject them : which was
easily accomplished without bloodshed. From
that time the Mormons have harbored a mor-
tal enmity towards the Governor : and the at-
tempt which was afterwards made to assassi-
nate him at Independence, is generally be-
lieved to have been instigated, if not absolute-
ly perpetrated, by that deluded sect.

Being once more forced to emigrate, the}
passed into Illinois, where they founded the
famous ' City of Nauvoo.' It would seem that
their reception from the people of this state
was even more strongly marked with kind-
ness and indulgence than it had been else-
where, being generally looked upon as the
victims of persecution on account of their re-
ligious belief; yet it appears that the good
people of Illinois have since become about as
tired of them as were any of their former
neighbors. It seems very clear then, that fa-
natical delusion is not the only sin which
stamps the conduct of these people with so
much obliquity, or they would certainly have
found permanent friends somewhere ; where-
as it is well known that a general aversion has
prevailed against them wherever they have

Before concluding this chapter, it may be


proper to remark, that the Mormons have in-
variably refused to sell any of the property
they had acquired in Missouri, but have on
tlie contrary expressed a firm determination
to reconquer their lost purchases. Of these,
a large lot, situated on an elevated point at In-
dependence, known as the * Temple Lot/ upon
which the ' Temple of Zion' was to have been
raised, has lately been ' profaned/ by culti-
vation, having been converted into a corn-
field !


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Online LibraryJosiah GreggCommerce of the prairies (Volume 1) → online text (page 20 of 20)