The Haun’s Mill Massacre in Mormon Memory

December 17, 2007 | 63 comments
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In April 2005, I spent two weeks on assignment for the Joseph Smith Papers Project in Missouri and Illinois, visiting court houses and archives searching for documents pertaining to early Mormon history. On the second evening of my stay in northwestern Missouri, I drove down a lonely dirt road to a desolate place that had significant meaning for me as a Latter-day Saint. When I arrived, I found only a small creek surrounded by trees, grass, mud, and a small plaque that identified the site of the Haun’s Mill Massacre, where Missouri vigilantes murdered 17 Mormon men and boys in October 1838. As I looked over the site, I felt that I was standing on hallowed ground. I would not know until later that among the 17 was George S. Richards, the 16-year-old son of my ancestor, Phineas Richards. Like George, the lives and identities of most of the 17 have unfortunately been forgotten, but their deaths have not been. Since 1838 the Haun’s Mill Massacre has become a symbol in Mormon collective memory of the violent persecutions suffered by the Latter-day Saints in the 1830s and 1840s and the place of the massacre has been a site of pilgrimage for Mormons of all stripes since the late nineteenth century.

The massacre is an example of how “atrocities render places religiously charged, indigestible in their toxicity…where the wounds of the past nevertheless still resonate.”[1] Scholars of religion Oren Stier and Shawn Landres define the relationship between religious violence, place, and memory “as a cultural product emerging from the negotiation and contestation of meaning within religious frameworks at specific sites marked by violent histories.”[2] In the decades following the massacre, it’s meaning has been negotiated and contested as Latter-day Saints have continued to define themselves in relation to the violence of their past.

Mormons for the most part have described the 17 victims as martyrs, murdered for the simple reason that they were Latter-day Saints. Phineas Richards, for example, wrote to comfort his wife Wealthy on January 7, 1839, not long after his son George’s death. Phineas assured her that “George is gone an early martyr to the cause of Zion, strong in the faith (through Babylon’s Rage.) Lay not this thing too much at heart, but trust in Christ alone, and realize that God is right.”[3] Joseph Smith himself only spoke a few times specifically about the victims at Haun’s Mill. To my knowledge, he never specifically referred to them as martyrs, but he usually spoke favorably of them. While in Liberty Jail, Joseph Smith wrote to the Latter-day Saints and mentioned those murdered at Haun’s Mill in the same sentence with David Patten (who is referred to as a martyr) and others “who were called to suffer without cause.”[4] Early Latter-day Saint Benjamin Andrews penned one of the most eloquent descriptions of how early Mormons saw and interpreted the meaning of Haun’s Mill in 1844:

We can never forget the injuries done us in Missouri. They are ever present to our minds. We feel it impossible to efface them from our memories. We can never forget the blood of our brethren, so wantonly lavished to satisfy the infernal thirsts of men, as heinous to the righteous, as the fiends of hell. Were we to forget them, heaven itself would upbraid us. The immortal shades of our martyred brethren would spurn us from their presence. Their cries with those seen under the altar of God, as viewed by the ancient prophet, would ascend to the throne of Jehovah against us. We swear by the precious memory of the illustrious dead—the fathers of our independence, that we will remember them. We will do all in our power to mete out justice to those who without the least cause have murdered our friends.[5]

Andrews argued that Mormons had a religious and communal responsibility to remember those that had died in Missouri, concluding that forgetting those that died would bring upon living Latter-day Saints the vengeance described in Revelation 6:9-11.

This martyrological narrative, in my view, has dominated images that subsequent generations of Latter-day Saints have had of the Haun’s Mill Massacre. However, another narrative has circulated in Mormon circles since at least the early 1840s that subverts and contests the notion that the 17 victims should be remembered as martyrs. As mentioned, Joseph Smith usually spoke favorably of those that died at Haun’s Mill, but in August 1842 he gave a sermon on the importance of heeding counsel. Smith concluded that “[u]p to this day God had given him wisdom to save the people who took council. None had ever been killed who abode by his council. At Hauns Mill the brethren went contrary to his council, if they had not there lives would have been spared.”[6] This narrative suggests that the Haun’s Mill victims should be remembered not as martyrs but as unfortunate individuals that needlessly lost their lives due to terrible consequences resulting from not listening to sound counsel.

These two narratives continue today to wrestle for control over the memory of Haun’s Mill. Recently, I asked a close friend from Mexico if he had ever heard the second narrative, and he assured me that the Mexican Latter-day Saints that know about Haun’s Mill consider the victims martyrs. Others that I have talked to have difficulty using the descriptor martyr, but continue to see in Haun’s Mill a great example of faith and sacrifice among the early Latter-day Saints. I have also heard Latter-day Saints use the second narrative to argue that those at Haun’s Mill cannot be martyrs, because they were disobedient. Some of these individuals argue from the position that victimizing our past is at root divisive and ultimately serves as a barrier between ourselves as Latter-day Saints and others. Admittedly, my observations of contemporary reactions are anecdotal. I’m interested in knowing what the readers of Times and Seasons have to say about the place of the Haun’s Mill Massacre in Latter-day Saint memory. More broadly, what role should our sites of martyrdom play in defining who we are as Latter-day Saints in the contemporary world?

___________

[1] Oren Baruch Stier and J. Shawn Landres, eds., Religion, Violence, Memory, and Place, (Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 2006), 9-10.

[2] Ibid., 6.

[3] Phineas Richards to Wealthy Richards, January 7, 1839, private possession, photocopy in Richards Correspondence, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.

[4] JS to Edward Partridge, 20 March 1839, in Dean C. Jessee, ed., The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City and Provo: Deseret Book Company and BYU Press, 2002), 439-40.

[5] Benjamin Andrews, “An Appeal to the People of the State of Maine,” Times and Seasons, January 15, 1844, 405, see also 404.

[6] Joseph Smith, Journal, 29 August 1842, in Dean C. Jessee, ed., The Papers of Joseph Smith, vol. 2, Journals, 1832-1842 (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1992), 2:445-46.

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63 Responses to The Haun’s Mill Massacre in Mormon Memory

  1. Adam Greenwood on December 17, 2007 at 12:18 pm

    I don’t see the two narratives in conflict. Joseph Smith was saying that if they had listened to him, they wouldn’t have been martyred. They didn’t, and they were.

  2. JA Benson on December 17, 2007 at 12:39 pm

    As I recall it was Jacob Haun that was told by Joseph Smith to tell the settlers in Haun’s Mill to gather with the other Saints. Jacob Haun returned to the settlement and told everyone that it was not necessary to leave Haun’s Mill. The other settlers did not know what Joseph had really said.

    As an aside my ancestor Alvah Benson came thru Haun’s Mill a day or so before the massacre. A few families from the company they were traveling with stayed and were caught in the massacre that occurred shortly after. Alvah felt uncomfortable; (without obvious reasons) did not stay. Alvah left with his family thus sparing them of the horrific events that followed.

  3. David Grua on December 17, 2007 at 12:50 pm

    JA: You’re right. That version of the story comes from Philo Dibble’s memoirs, which I believe were originally published in the Juvenile Instructor during the 1880s. Here’s the quote from a later printing:

    “Brother Joseph had sent word by Haun, who owned the mill, to inform the brethren who were living there to leave and come to Far West, but Mr. Haun did not deliver the message” (Philo Dibble, in “Early Scenes in Church History,” in Four Faith Promoting Classics [1968], 90).

    Quoted by Elder Eyring here.

  4. Brewhaha on December 17, 2007 at 12:55 pm

    If there had not been a single martyr in the early days of the church would we spend more time on the restoration narrative? the priesthood narrative? the revelatory narrative? These are all great building blocks upon which to build a world view and I think that we miss great opportunities when we view ourselves as the “poor, picked-on Mormons.”

  5. bbell on December 17, 2007 at 1:02 pm

    My wifes family was at Hauns Mill. It resulted in a couple of them being wounded and my wifes gggrandfather as a three year old being carried in his mothers arms as the mob shot at them as they ran thru the woods. The musket balls cut thru his clothes but never hit him.

    JA Benson our families keep being in the same places at the same time……

  6. J. Stapley on December 17, 2007 at 1:05 pm

    I spent my adolescence in the Stake which incorporated all the North-western historical sites. I’m trying to remember how the locals talked about it. It seems to me that both views were held simultaneously. That in moments of solemnity, we remember the unjust violence and the cause of martyrs and at other times we remember that it was preventable.

  7. Paul Reeve on December 17, 2007 at 1:07 pm

    David,
    Great post. It brought back a memory for me of a childhood pilgrimage to the Haun’s Mill site. Two of my ancestors died there, Levi Merrick and his son Charles Merrick, age nine. When we visited, my parents and aunt and uncle told family stories from the remembrances of Fanny Merrick, Levi’s daughter and Charles’ sister who ran across the creek and hid in the woods to escape. We prayed, ate lunch, and left flowers. It is still a distinct memory for me, mostly because of the feelings I had, wondering how people could get mad enough to kill other people. At some level, for a child of 9 or 10, I realized that being a Mormon might come with a cost.

    Like JA Benson in #2, it runs in my mind that at least one version of the narrative is that Joseph Smith spoke only to Jacob Haun and Haun misrepresented Smith’s council to the rest of the settlers at Haun’s Mill. How accurate is that? Is this merely an effort to make Haun a scapegoat? Smith clearly says, “At Hauns’ Mill the brethren went contrary to my counsel.” Brethren–plural–but did he know how Haun presented or potentially mis-presented his advice to the rest of the settlers?

    I guess as I see it, even if those at Haun’s Mill did disobey Smith’s advice, they still did not deserve to die that day. Perhaps they were victims of their own or Haun’s poor choices, but much more so, they were victims of unwarranted hatred and violence.

  8. Ugly Mahana on December 17, 2007 at 1:11 pm

    To me the existence of both narratives tempers the harshness of either. The reason may be that I have tended to liken the situation to myself. The martyr narrative reminds me not to be judgmental of those who, in my opinion, fail to heed the prophets. (Note that this fits well with teaching myself not to judgmental at all.) On the other hand, the follow-the-prophet narrative keeps me from being too proud of the martyrs. Working together they have always made me recognize that it is best to follow God, and that I should not be proud of my belief or sacrifices merely for their own sakes.

  9. David Grua on December 17, 2007 at 1:17 pm

    My wifes family was at Hauns Mill. It resulted in a couple of them being wounded and my wifes gggrandfather as a three year old being carried in his mothers arms as the mob shot at them as they ran thru the woods. The musket balls cut thru his clothes but never hit him.

    bbell: Thanks for sharing that. The story gets repeated in several of the Haun’s Mill narratives, and also gets depicted visually in C.C.A. Christensen’s “The Haun’s Mill Massacre.”

    J.: I agree that most Mormons, if they know about both narratives, probably use both in different contexts. I’ve run into a few people though that are adamant that the two narratives cannot be reconciled.

    Paul: Thanks for sharing your experience. When my family tried to find Haun’s Mill when I was a teenager, we got stuck in the Missouri mud and never found it. I had to wait until I was an adult to experience it.

    See my #3 for the other quote.

  10. JA Benson on December 17, 2007 at 1:18 pm

    #5 bbell
    We were probably all good friends in the pre-exsistance:)

    #8 Mahana
    Nicely said

  11. Christopher on December 17, 2007 at 1:24 pm

    Alma Blair’s entry on the massacre in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism is dripping in martyrological tone, and concludes with the following sentence.

    The Haun’s Mill Massacre became embedded in the LDS psyche as an epitome of the cruel persecutions that they had endured. (Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 577).

  12. bbell on December 17, 2007 at 2:08 pm

    Interesting David,

    I did not know that the account was public record to any degree. Do you have a link to more fully flesh out the story? I heard the story from my wifes 95 year old grandma right before she died.

  13. john f. on December 17, 2007 at 2:10 pm

    re # 11, Is a description of how Latter-day Saints perceive something itself dripping in martyrological tone because it observes and describes such a martyrological tone in the object of observation?

    Great post though. I agree with those who have stated that the two don’t really conflict and that many or most Latter-day Saints with whom I have had contact carry an awareness of both: the outrage that our people were massacred (i.e. the martyr narrative) and the reproach that it could have and should have been prevented.

  14. WillF on December 17, 2007 at 2:17 pm

    Don’t we see the same two narratives playing out today in the way people view 9/11?

  15. Christopher on December 17, 2007 at 2:22 pm

    john f. (#13)

    No. But Blair’s article is, indeed, dripping in martyrological tone throughout. The point is that even in Blair’s scholarly analysis of the event where he appropriately notes that “the Haun’s Mill Massacre became embedded in the LDS psyche as an epitome of the cruel persecutions that they had endured,” it is evident from how he described the event that it has become embedded in his own psyche, too.

  16. David Grua on December 17, 2007 at 2:37 pm

    bbell (#12): I’ll see what I can dig up in terms of which narratives recount the story. I may not get to it until later tonight or tomorrow though. To save me some time, can you tell me the name of your wife’s ancestor?

  17. bbell on December 17, 2007 at 2:39 pm

    Here is the story.

    http://gapages.com/youngsb1.htm

  18. Christopher on December 17, 2007 at 2:40 pm

    Am I the only one who sees a conflict in the two narratives? I understand that they can be reconciled, but I guess I’m surprised that everyone reconciles them so easily. The differences seem clear. One narrative places the burden on the perpetrators and the other on the victims.

  19. Ardis Parshall on December 17, 2007 at 3:06 pm

    Christopher, add me to the list of those who see no conflict, chiefly because the burden being placed on the perpetrators is completely different from that being placed on the victims: The victims made one mistake (not heeding counsel); the perpetrators made an entirely different mistake (murder). The victims are guilty of not heeding counsel, but they are innocent of any wrongdoing in regards to the perpetrators, so they are also martyrs.

    I have an easier time reconciling the two narratives at Haun’s Mill than I do the two narratives of the Martin and Willie companies. Are they martyrs because they died trying to reach Zion? Are they zealots responsible for their own fate because they left so late? The handcart pioneers, or their immediate leaders, were doing something they knew (or should have known) was dangerous; the Haun’s Mill settlers were just farmers minding their own business.

  20. Randy B. on December 17, 2007 at 3:07 pm

    Like others, I don’t see much of a real conflict here. Part of the reason is as discussed above, that most of those at Haun’s Mill did not know of Joseph’s counsel. (Also, am I remembering correctly that Joseph’s counsel here was not given in the form of “Thus saith the Lord”. In other words, it was not as if these people were disobeying a religious command; instead, they disregarded practical advice, albeit from the prophet.)

    Moreover, these people stayed in their homes because they refused to be intimidated and driven out of their homes by the mob. Sure, it would have been safer to get out of harm’s way, but part of me sympathizes with their refusal to be pushed around. In hindsight, that seems like the wrong call. But how many other cases do we praise those who took significant risks to stand up for their faith?

  21. Randy B. on December 17, 2007 at 3:11 pm

    Ardis, that same thought (about the handcart companies) occurred to me as well.

  22. Paul Reeve on December 17, 2007 at 3:23 pm

    Is it not true that those at Haun’s Mill had signed a peace agreement with the Missourians just two days before the massacre, so that their staying put grew out of a sense of reconciliation with the enemy, at least in part?

  23. Ardis Parshall on December 17, 2007 at 3:26 pm

    We’ve got quite a few double narratives in church history: Would Parley P. Pratt have been murdered had he obeyed Brigham Young’s advice to (pardon me) keep his trousers buttoned and stay away from that looney-tunes Eleanor McLean, or was he a martyr destined to that fate through the viciousness of the godless Gentiles? Was the Mormon Battalion dragooned into service by a federal government determined to deprive the church of the protection of 500 strong young men, or were the Battalion members brave, loyal citizens demonstrating their faith in a nation that had pushed them out? Was Brigham Young a careful planner who examined the reports of earlier explorers and knew he was heading for the Great Salt Lake Valley, or was he a visionary who wandered in the desert with no guide but his faith until he recognized Ensign Peak from an earlier vision? and on and on.

  24. Mark B. on December 17, 2007 at 3:28 pm

    I agree with Ardis. (I think I always do.) Brother Joseph was not talking about the Haun’s Mill victims as martyrs/not-martyrs. He was preaching to the saints about following counsel.

    To suggest, as Christopher seems to, that they somehow deserved to die (the burden is on the victims) is wrong. Had they followed counsel, they wouldn’t have been in the situation, and their lives would have been spared. But that doesn’t absolve the perpetrators of full responsibility for the evil of their actions. Nor does it mean that the Mormons who died at Haun’s Mill did not die for their faith, and thus were martyrs.

  25. Christopher on December 17, 2007 at 3:34 pm

    Ardis, fair enough. Like I said before, I understand that the two narratives can be reconciled. Your explanation helps clarify this further. Thanks.

    Mark B., I never said that the victims at haun’s Mill “deserved to die.” A more careful reading of my comments would reveal as much. In fact, a not-so-careful reading of my comments should still reveal as much. Try again.

  26. JAT on December 17, 2007 at 3:44 pm

    I know I’ve ranted in other threads, but has anybody been over to Haun’s Mill recently? It’s horrible! The signs are all rusted and shot out. Most of the turns are not marked in any way. The sign at the site has been removed. No visitor’s ctr, no cement curbs, no manicured gardens or lawns, just a creek, scraggy trees, and an old dirt parking lot. I don’t want to change the rough natural site, but I do want to see a tasteful historical marker.

    I’d love to join an effort to raise funds or collabroate with the church to put a monument for peace and freedom of religion.

  27. David Grua on December 17, 2007 at 3:46 pm

    Paul (#22): That’s spot on. There was some kind of peace agreement made, but for reasons still not completely clear, the militia broke it.

  28. David Grua on December 17, 2007 at 3:48 pm

    JAT (#26): There is a monument in the works. See David Howlett’s comment here.

  29. JAT on December 17, 2007 at 4:25 pm

    Thanks David Grua!

  30. manaen on December 17, 2007 at 4:42 pm

    1 & 24

    Well said what I would say: even if disobedient to JS’s counsel/instructions, they were killed because of their faith and so are martyrs.

  31. manaen on December 17, 2007 at 4:47 pm

    BTW, I look forward to Christopher Cain’s treatment of this event in the next film of his LDS-history series: “October Dawn”

  32. Paul Reeve on December 17, 2007 at 5:32 pm

    #31, LOL. I’m camping out for tickets now.

  33. Paul Reeve on December 17, 2007 at 5:37 pm

    #27, David, it runs in my mind that Haun’s Mill had been visited by Missourians several times over the course of the weeks preceding the massacre, with the Missourians demanding the surrender of guns. Some Mormons complied, others hid their weapons. These visits eventually culminated in the peace treaty on Sep 28. It seems that the treaty might have been a deliberate attempt to lull the Mormons into a false sense of security in preparation for the massacre. I don’t recall what source(s) I looked at that led me to this impression? I’ve been reading too many Missouri sources of late and can’t keep them straight. Does this sound plausible?

  34. Ivan Wolfe on December 17, 2007 at 5:45 pm

    Yes, but according to “The Secret” and it’s “law of attraction”, the Haun’s Mill-ites brought the massacre on themselves by thinking bad thoughts.

  35. Ray on December 17, 2007 at 6:16 pm

    No, Ivan, they simply were elected to be slaughtered. Any decent Calvinist could tell you that.

  36. John on December 17, 2007 at 6:21 pm

    #26 – I don’t believe the Church owns the site. I think the Community of Christ does.

  37. manaen on December 17, 2007 at 6:29 pm

    36 – but didn’t Deseret Book acquire them as part of the Seagull-Book deal?

  38. Ugly Mahana on December 17, 2007 at 6:46 pm

    #37- Boo! Hiss!

  39. Bob on December 17, 2007 at 7:02 pm

    #25: ” I understand that the two narratives can be reconciled”.
    For me, what makes a ” tragedy”, is it leaves us with irreconcilable questions: ‘If only”, “If they hadn’t”, etc….it haunts our memories. For me, when a tragedy is either romanticized, or even analyzed, something of it’s understanding is lost.

  40. Christopher on December 17, 2007 at 7:08 pm

    Bob, I’m not sure I follow. How can we understand tragedies if we do not analyze them?

  41. Bob on December 17, 2007 at 7:36 pm

    #40: How has our analyzing of the sinking of the Titanic help us understand the “Tragedy” of it? You may be right, but for me a tragedy is an emotional lost that leave me with the question “Why?”, that can’t be answered, even with analysis.

  42. just me on December 17, 2007 at 10:15 pm

    lol re manean’s saying he looks forward to “Christopher Cain’s treatment.” (However, although indeed both Mountain Meadows and Huan’s Mill were unalloyed atrocities, it’s also true that our side’s official version of the Missouri period conflicts rarely transcend Cain-esque superficiality?)

  43. Sarah on December 17, 2007 at 10:23 pm

    Count me as someone who’s never really heard it talked about at Church — no doubt in part thanks to always missing the years when church history is covered (I went to college early and missed it in Seminary, my family was inactive the one year it was supposed to be taught in Gospel Doctrine when I was a teen, I was randomly inactive the year it should have been taught in Gospel Doctrine in college, and then I got called into Primary, and taught the junior manual the next time they taught it in Gospel Doctrine!)

    Anyway, I’ve always had a hard time with the killed-because-of-foolishness-plus-evil stories. The Willie/Martin stories drive me crazy, because half of me feels really horrible for them and the other half wants to travel back in time and slap people around. In the end I’m highly annoyed with all the parties concerned, and go off on a three-day “follow the Prophet already” kick. It usually ends with a food-storage-buying or genealogy binge.

    And #40 and #41 made me laugh. It’s like someone was deliberately trying to illustrate the difference between “thinking” and “feeling” functions for an MBTI-related project.

  44. tjk on December 17, 2007 at 10:24 pm

    while living in mo. i was able to visit Haun’s Mill several times. i always felt such great sadness at this place.
    the whole area felt depressing to me

  45. smb on December 17, 2007 at 11:14 pm

    It’s worth remembering another very similar problem that happened a half-decade before. Zion’s Camp ended rather ignominiously with a minor outbreak of cholera that killed perhaps 14 people (12-14, i don’t have my research notes here) from the band. According to Heber Kimball’s diary (published in 1840s Nauvoo; I’m unaware of a manuscript version for this period), Joseph Smith told the members of the Camp that the reason he could not heal them was that they had been disobedient to counsel (at this time, cholera was almost universally seen as a divine scourge; it would be like a group of Latter-day Saints suddenly dying of AIDS in 1990). Later, according to Joseph Young’s late reminiscence which I believe in its essentials, Joseph Smith reported that those who had died on Zion’s Camp were martyrs and their mansions in heaven were as great as could be desired.

    For American Protestants at that time, the Providential explanation of death was extremely influential. Faced with any given death, an explanation was required and was most often an invocation of Providence, whether punishment or reward. But even the providential death was only welcomed really in retrospect or in the heat of the deathbed moment. Life was preferred to the blessed death until there really was no choice. Even though much of America was post-Calvinist by then, there was still that lingering anxiety about the mode of death as an index of the destination after death.

    I see Mormon martyrology as, among other things, an attempt to impose meaning on death (the same can be argued for other martyrologies). It’s not surprising that attempts to chastise the disobedient would stop short of the final and binding accusation of an accursed death. Whatever the disobedient deserve, it is certainly not an unholy death. The martyr narrative thus allows minor criticism of those who have strayed without depriving them of a blessed afterlife. Christopher is right that there is some tension present here, but it’s not the form I think he’s suggesting. It has to do with ways we negotiate our expectations about those who have passed, and, by extension, how we will pass.

  46. smb on December 17, 2007 at 11:19 pm

    I should also mention that, whatever people think of the series editor, the Clarke Co series on the Mormons in the West has released a reasonably useful (if not particularly scholarly) compilation of the primary documents of the massacre. It’s called Bones in the Well, after the mode of inhumation used after the massacre.

    And, David, you may find it worthwhile to pursue the Patriots of ’76 martyr motif as it intersects with Mormon martyrdom. There was one older gentleman that JSJ and others can’t stop describing as a grey-haired Patriot of 76. I often see antebellum writers refer to those dead in the Revolutionary War as martyrs for democracy or the new nation/republic/novus ordum seclorum or what-have-you. Fascinating to see both traditions present in one man (I could look up his name, but I suspect you have it).

  47. Jon W on December 18, 2007 at 12:07 am

    If Haun’s Mill victims are not Matyrs because they failed to follow sound advice would Joseph also be a non – martyr because he failed to follow sound advice… his own.

    Joseph knew what would happen if he was caught again by another court. He had set up the Nauvoo Charter specifically to avoid that sort of issue (Habeus Corpus). He specifically fled to Iowa with the intention of heading to the Rocky Mountains, but fell back on the advice of others to return and died for listening to them.

    Now aside from sealing his testimony, it appears that he failed that principle thus using the logic of Haun’s Mill it would not make him a martyr. (Now, of course I do not believe this and have absolutely argued that both the Haun’s Mill victims and Joseph are martyrs.)

  48. David Grua on December 18, 2007 at 12:44 am

    Paul (#33): You do suggest one plausible explanation for the peace treaty. The problem is that we have next to nothing in terms of evidence from the Missourian perpetrators’ perspective at Haun’s Mill, and so we’re left with looking at what the Mormons said about the issue. In 1844 two Missouri historians published narratives that emplot the Haun’s Mill story very differently than the Latter-day Saint narratives, so it’s really quite a mess.

    smb (#45 & #46): Thanks for bringing your keen insights into the nature of early Mormon death culture. I agree that martyrology does serve as a means to give meaning to death as well as failure. I second your recommendation for Bones in the Well, along with your reservations. It is interesting that Moore discovered in her research that Thomas McBride, the “grey-haired Patriot of 76″, was actually born in 1776, and as such could not have been a Revolutionary War veteran (Moore, Bones in the Well, 117). Why Mormon narrators of Haun’s Mill would argue that he was a veteran is still a mystery to me. But as can be seen in the Benjamn Andrews quote in the original post, these narrators were wrapped up not only in biblical martyrology, but also in republicanism. Having a Revolutionary War hero die at the hands of the Missourians certainly bolstered Mormon claims that they were the true Americans being slaughtered by the inhuman Missourians.

  49. Harold Curtis on December 18, 2007 at 12:46 am

    The lesson for me from the Hauns Mill incident is centered in the one historical imperative which states “history repeats itself”.

    I therefore ask myself these questions:

    1- Will I filter what the living prophet has said to justify my actions?
    2- Will I ignore what the living prophet directs me to do?
    3- Do I place more value on my things than on my theology?
    4- Am I alert to current warnings, and am I currently acting accordingly?
    5- When future “Hauns Mill” incidents happen, where will my loyalties reside?

    The value to me in reviewing Hauns Mill is not to judge them but to judge me!

  50. Scott Fife on December 18, 2007 at 2:42 am

    Ardis (#19), we really don’t know for certain if staying at Winter Quarters, Nebraska for the winter of 1856-57, instead of traveling on to the Salt Lake Valley would have saved more lives for the Willie and Martin handcart companies. That winter was not only harsh in the Rocky Mtns, but also in Nebraska. Reports were received later from Nebraska detailing much death and suffering by the local populace during that bitter cold winter. In “The Price We Paid”, by Andrew Olsen, pg 82, it states, “…resources were lacking to sustain a large company at Winter Quarters or the other Nebraska sites. Securing adequate employment, shelter, food, and fuel for the winter would have been difficult or perhaps impossible.” Ten years earlier when the Saints stayed at the same Winter Quarters prepatory to the first entrance to the SL Valley, nearly 500 died.

    It is very possible that the Willie and Martin companies decision to push-on to Zion rather than spend the winter in Nebraska, actually saved lives.

  51. Ardis Parshall on December 18, 2007 at 4:35 am

    Scott (50), the date of leaving the frontier was only the last domino, and why I think Franklin D. Richards bears more responsibility than anyone else for the handcart disaster — once he had shipped the last companies so late from Europe, there was no practical place for them to stop. Still, unlike the 1847 pioneers, the 1856 handcarters could have gone east from Iowa City rather than west, back to some center of civilization. Without funds, there would have been great poverty and no doubt suffering in whatever refuge they took, but it’s a red herring to think it had to be Winter Quarters or nothing.

    In any case, for purposes of David’s post, we still have a double narrative, of martyrs pressing on faithfully (the preferred narrative), or of the victims of foolish leaders whose starry-eyed enthusiasm overrode their experience and common sense and the objections of other leaders among them (the cautionary narrative that can’t be dismissed by shrugging and saying “Oh, well, what else could they have done?”).

  52. Coffinberry on December 18, 2007 at 10:53 am

    Just a comment about the White-haired patriot… isn\’t it true that from the point of view of folks in the early 1800\’s, the war of 1812 was an extension of the Revolutionary war, in the sense that it confirmed the events of the Revolutionary War and proved the resilience of the nation? From what I can tell of my non-mormon ancestors (my family\’s roots in the church go back to mid 20-th century only), they perceived the service in the war of 1812 and the Revolutionary war to be essentially the same battle for independence.

  53. Mark IV on December 18, 2007 at 11:10 am

    On the topic of Haun’s Mill -

    The Community of Christ has conducted some archaeological digs, and you can see some photos of their work here.

    It is my understanding that they have been unable, so far, to locate the well where some of our people were buried, as smb noted.

  54. David Howlett on December 18, 2007 at 12:23 pm

    #53 –Yes, you are correct. Several archeological digs have taken place in the past decade, and, despite a lot of hard work, the well has not been located.

    #15 –You make an interesting observation about Alma Blair having the story of the Haun\’s Mill massacre embedded in his own psyche. Blair was the RLDS/CofC historian in Nauvoo for thirty summers and taught the college student guides there from the 1970s until about five years ago. It does raise an issue, though, in my own mind: how do CofC people incorporate the story of Haun\’s Mill into their collective narrative? I see two trajectories for them. The first is the typical martyrological story of persecution. However, to my knowledge, no account I have encountered has ever emphasized that people at Haun\’s Mill became vicitims due to disobeying the prophet. The \”follow the prophet and you will be blessed\” line of thought is just not present in the RLDS/CofC tradition. Prophets are respected, but only God is worthy of ultimate obediance. (This, in my opinion, is an interesting mix of classic American individualism along with strong communal ties to a hierarchy).

    The second line of thought that CofC members have embraced about Haun\’s Mill is to see it as a tragic incident in a cycle of violence perpetuated and inflicted on the saints. While this does not justify the violence enacted against the saints, it does not see the church as completely innocent in creating the conditions that made the massacre possible. In this way, it is a lesson about where taking up the sword against your neighbor can ultimately lead. While not all CofC people would embrace this narrative, many would see the incidents at Haun\’s Mill as a much more ambivalent event than simply the narrative of martyrdom.

    Finally, it seems that two narrative lines like the ones I mentioned above can co-exist at once in the same person\’s understanding of the past. Personally, I emphasize both at different times for different reasons. History never has simply one use or a singular message to be appropriated–and thank goodness.

  55. David Grua on December 18, 2007 at 1:27 pm

    bbell: Here is a link to C.C.A. Christensen’s “The Haun’s Mill Massacre.” If you look closely, you can see women and children running from the mob at the top of the painting. The painting was part of Christensen’s multi-painting Panorama, which he would tour through Utah settlements in the 1880s. As the audience looked at the paintings, a narrator would describe what was happening in the scenes, thereby helping the viewers to interpret the visual.

    The narration of the Haun’s Mill painting describes the story as you relate it above, as a woman running away from the mob while holding her child in her arms. Three bullets passed through the child’s clothing, but did not harm the kid. There is one problem, however. When I looked back at my notes, the narrator identifies the woman as “Sister Merrick” and not Jane Bicknell, your wife’s ancestor. I’ve skimmed through some of the primary accounts of the massacre to see if I could find some clarification, but haven’t come up with anything yet. I also re-read Alex Baugh’s dissertation, but he doesn’t mention the story in his chapter on Haun’s Mill. I’ve sent Baugh an email to ask if he can help. I’ll let you know what I find out (or Baugh may post here directly; I sent him the link).

  56. bbell on December 18, 2007 at 1:57 pm

    http://young.parkinsonfamily.org/joseph/docs/vilate-jane-bicknell-young.htm

    Here is an account. Looks like per this account that the Merrick family was part of the Mob. In fact the male Merrick died in the shootout. One shot was fired at Jane Bicknell and her kids and they were inside the cabin and quickly shut the door.

    Its interesting how the details are different depending on who is telling the story.

  57. David Grua on December 18, 2007 at 2:25 pm

    bbell: Thanks for posting that. I’m especially interested in it because the narrator mentions George Richards various times.

    The Merrick’s weren’t part of the mob but were Mormons. The father, Levi, and his nine-year-old Charlie, were both killed by the mob.

  58. bbell on December 18, 2007 at 2:32 pm

    Thanks for the clarification. I skimmed the story and it seemed that the Merricks were fighting with the Youngs and I assumed they were part of the mob.

  59. East Coast on December 18, 2007 at 4:58 pm

    #46 and #48 and #52 About the white haired patriot, I know in my family history the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 has been mixed up; after all they were only 30 years apart…(!)

    Googling “Thomas McBride War of 1812″ brings up a corporal of that name from Jefferson County, Ohio, who served in that war.

  60. David Grua on December 18, 2007 at 5:09 pm

    (#59): Interesting, but I’m not sure it’s the same guy. The biographical summary for our Thomas McBride in Bones in the Well has him being from Virginia and then moving to Missouri after his conversion. But it’s possible that the biographical summary is incomplete, too.

  61. Coffinberry on December 18, 2007 at 5:18 pm

    Remember that Virginia had a much-more westerly reach in the early 1800′s than it does now. Not necessarily into Ohio, but into KY, etc. We can easily confuse ourselves when reading that someone is from “Virginia” and assuming that could mean only post 1863 boundaries.

  62. David Grua on December 18, 2007 at 5:37 pm

    If someone really wants to look up how the boundaries have changed, the biographical summary says that he was born on March 12, 1776 in Bartley, Logan County, Virginia. Around 1810 McBride moved to Fairfield and then to Wayne County (the state is not identified for either Fairfield or Wayne County, but the implication is that it’s still Virginia). He served as a JP in Wayne County for a number of years and was baptized in 1831. In 1834 he moved to Missouri, where lived until his death in 1838.

  63. Ray on December 18, 2007 at 5:51 pm

    “It is my understanding that they have been unable, so far, to locate the well where some of our people were buried, as smb noted.”

    Then it must not be real history but, instead, inspired fiction. *grin*