Zion’s Camp in Missouri—Letters of Governor Dunklin and Others.
The Elders in Clay county wrote Governor Dunklin as follows:
Liberty, June 5, 1834.
Dear SIR—We think the time is just at hand when our society will be glad to avail themselves of the protection of a military guard, that they may return a Jackson county. We do not now know the precise day, but Mr. Reese gives his opinion, that there would be no impropriety in petitioning your Excellency for an order on the commanding officer, to be sent by return mail, that we might have it in our hands to present when our people get ready to start. If this should meet your approbation, and the order sent by return mail, we think it would be of great convenience to our society.
We would also be obliged to your Excellency for information concerning the necessary expenses of ferriage, etc. Are our people bound to pay the ferriage on their return? As they have already sustained heavy losses, and many of them have lost their all, a mitigation of expenses on their return at this time, where they could legally be reduced, would afford great relief; not only ferriage across the Missouri river, but other items of expense that could lawfully be reduced.
We remain, your Excellency’s most obedient servants,
A. S. Gilbert,
W. W. Phelps,
Copy of a letter from Daniel Dunklin, Governor of the State of Missouri., to Colonel J. Thornton, dated—
City of Jefferson, June 6, 1834.
Dear Sir—I was pleased at the receipt of your letter, concurred in by Messrs. Reese, Atchison and Doniphan, on the subject of the Mormon difficulties. I should be gratified indeed if the parties could compromise upon the terms you suggest, or, indeed, upon any other terms satisfactory to themselves. But I should travel out of the line of strict duty, as chief executive officer of the government, were I to take upon myself the task of effecting a compromise between the parties. Had I not supposed it possible, yes, probable, that I should, as executive of the state, have to act, I should, before now, have interfered individually in the way you suggest, or in some other way, in order if possible to effect a compromise. Uncommitted as I am to either party, I shall feel no embarrassment in doing my duty—though it may be done with the most extreme regret. My duty in the relation which I now stand to the parties, is plain and straightforward. By an official interposition I might embarrass my course, and urge a measure for the purpose of effecting a compromise, and [if] it should fail, and in the end, should I feel it my duty to act contrary to the advice I had given, it might be said, that I either advised wrong, or that I was partial to one side or the other, in giving advice that I would not as an officer follow.
A more clear and indisputable right does not exist, than that of the Mormon people, who were expelled from their homes in Jackson county, to return and live on their lands; and if they cannot be persuaded, as a matter of policy, to give up that right, or to qualify it, my course, as the chief executive of the state, is a plain one. The constitution of the United States declares “that the citizens of each state shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states.” Then we cannot interdict any people, who have a political franchise in the United States, from immigrating to this state, nor from choosing what part of the state they will settle in, provided they do not trespass on the property or rights of others. Our state constitution declares that the people’s “right to bear arms, in defense of themselves and of the state, cannot be questioned.” Then it is their constitutional right to arm themselves. Indeed, our military law makes it the duty of every man, not exempted by law, between the ages of eighteen and forty-five, to arm himself with a musket, rifle, or some firelock, with a certain quantity of ammunition, etc.; and again, our constitution says, “that all men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences.”
I am fully persuaded that the eccentricity of the religious opinions and practices of the Mormons is at the bottom of the outrages committed against them. They have the right constitutionally guaranteed to them, and it is indefeasible, to worship Joe Smith as a man, an angel, or even as the only true and living God, and to call their habitation Zion, the Holy Land, or even heaven itself. Indeed, there is nothing so absurd or ridiculous that they have not a right to adopt as their religion, so that in its exercise they do not interfere with the rights of others.
It is not long since an impostor assumed the character of Jesus Christ and attempted to minister as such; but I never heard of any combination to deprive him of his rights.
I consider it the duty of every good citizen of Jackson county and the adjoining counties to exert himself to effect a compromise of these difficulties; and were I assured that I would not have to act in my official capacity in the affair, I would visit the parties in person and exert myself to the utmost to settle it. My first advice would be to the Mormons, to sell out their lands in Jackson county, and to settle somewhere else, where they could live in peace, if they could get a fair price for them, and reasonable damages for injuries received. If this failed, I would try the citizens, and advise them to meet and rescind their illegal resolves of last summer, and agree to confirm to the laws in every particular, in respect to the Mormons. If both these failed, I would then advice the plan you have suggested, for each party to take separate territory, and confine their members within their respective limits with the exception of the public right of ingress and egress upon the highway. If all these failed, then the simple question of legal right would have to settle it. It is this last that I am afraid I shall have to conform my action to in the end, and hence the necessity of keeping myself in the best situation to do my duty impartially.
Rumor says that both parties are preparing themselves with cannon. That would be illegal: it is not necessary to self-defense, as guaranteed by the constitution, and as there are no artillery companies organized in this state, nor field pieces provided by the public, any preparation of that kind will be considered as without right, and, in the present state of things, would be understood to be with criminal intent, I am told that the people of Jackson county expect assistance from the adjoining counties, to oppose the Mormons in taking or keeping possession of their lands. I should regret it extremely if any should be so imprudent as to do so; it would give a different aspect to the affair.
The citizens of Jackson county have a right to arm themselves and parade for military duty in their own county independent of the commander-in-chief; but if citizens march there in arms from other counties without order from the commander-in-chief or some one authorized by him, it would produce a very different state of things. Indeed, the Mormons have no right to march to Jackson county in arms, unless by order or permission of the commander-in-chief; men must not “levy war” in taking possession of their rights, any more than others should in opposing them in taking possession.
As you have manifested a deep interest in a peaceable compromise of this important affair, I presume you will not be unwilling to be placed in a situation in which, perhaps, you can be more serviceable to these parties. I have therefore taken the liberty of appointing you an aid to the commander-in-chief, and I hope it will be agreeable to you to accept. In this situation you can give your propositions all the influence they would have were they to emanate from the executive, without committing yourself or the commander-in-chief, in the event of failure. I should be glad if you, or some of the other gentlemen who joined you in your communication, would keep in close correspondence with these parties, and by each mail write to me.
The character of the state has been injured in consequence of this unfortunate affair; and I sincerely hope it may not be disgraced by it in the end;
With high respect, your obedient servant,
(Signed) Daniel Dunklin.
Arrival of the Camp at Salt River.
Arrival of Hyrum Smith and Lyman Wight.
Sunday, June 8.—We had been preaching, and in the course of the day were joined by Brothers Hyrum Smith and Lyman Wight, with a company of volunteers which they had gathered in Michigan. 3 The whole company now consisted of two hundred and five men, and twenty-five baggage wagons with two or three horses each. We remained at Salt River until the 12th, refreshing and reorganizing the camp, which reorganizing was done by electing Lyman Wight general of the camp. 4 I chose twenty men for my life guards, of whom my Brother Hyrum was chosen captain, and George A. Smith was my armor bearer. The remainder of the company was organized according to the pattern at New Portage. While at Salt River, General Wight marched the camp on the prairie, inspected our firelocks, ordered a discharge of the same at targets by platoons, drilled us half a day, and returned to camp.
Messengers Sent to Governor Dunklin.
About this time I dispatched Elders Orson Hyde and Parley P. Pratt to Jefferson City with a message to Governor Dunklin, to ascertain if he was ready to fulfill the proposition which he had previously made to the brethren to reinstate them on their lands in Jackson county, and leave them there to defend themselves. 5
On June 9th Governor Dunklin wrote to W. W. Phelps and others: mailed at—
City of Jefferson, June 9, 1834.
Herewith you have a second order for the delivery of your arms now in the possession of the militia of Jackson county. Colonel Lucas has resigned his command, he informs me. If Lieut.-Colonel Pitcher should be arrested before you receive this, you will please hold up the order until I am informed who may be appointed to the command of the regiment.
(Signed) Daniel Dunklin.
The foregoing letter enclosed the following order:
City of Jefferson, June 4, 1834.
Thomas Pitcher, Lieut.-Colonel commandant of the Thirty-third Regiment.
Sir—On the 2nd day of last May I issued an order to Colonel Lucas to deliver the fifty-two guns and one pistol, which you received from the Mormons on the 4th day of November last, and reported to him on the 3rd day of the succeeding December—to W. W. Phelps, Edward Partridge, John Corrill, John Whitmer, and A. S. Gilbert, or their order. On the 24th ultimo, Colonel Lucas wrote and informed me that he had resigned his commission and left the county of Jackson. You, as commandant of said regiment, are therefore commanded to collect the said arms, if they are not already in your possession, and deliver them to the aforesaid gentlemen or their order.
Daniel Dunklin, Commander-in-Chief.
The day following Judge Ryland wrote the following:
Richmond, June 10, 1834.
Mr. A.S. Gilbert:
Sir—Deeply impressed with a desire to do all in my power to settle or allay the disturbances between the Mormons and the citizens of Jackson county, I have concluded that it might have some tendency to effectuate this object by having the Mormons called together at Liberty next Monday, and there explain to them my notions and views of their present situation, and of the circumstances attendant. I therefore request you, sir, to use all your influence with your brethren, to get them to meet me next Monday in Liberty. I much fear and dread the consequences that are yet to ensue, unless I should succeed in my wishes to restore peace. It is the duty of all good men to use all proper and laudable means to establish peace. I expect a deputation of some of the most respectable citizens of Jackson county will meet me on Monday next at Liberty. I call upon you, in the name of humanity, therefore, to leave no efforts untried to collect your brethren at Liberty as requested. Should my efforts to make peace fail of success, there can be no wrong, sir, in the attempt, and I shall enjoy the consolation of having done my duty as a man, as well as a Christian.
I hope, sir, you will duly appreciate the motive which prompts me to address this letter to you, and will aid me with all your influence with your brethren in the prosecution of an object so much to be desired by all good men and citizens.
Yours very respectfully,
John F. Ryland.
Departure of Camp from Salt River.
June 12.—We left Salt River and traveled about fourteen miles. The inhabitants of Salt River manifested a great respect for us, and many of them accompanied us some distance on our journey. I instructed the camp in the morning that if a gun was fired it would be considered an alarm; but in the course of the day, while I was a little ahead, I shot a squirrel for Brother Foster, when several of the brethren came running up to see what was the matter. I told them Brother Foster was sick; “I want you to pray for him.” 6
Reproof of Williams and Orton.
Friday 13.—Elder Kimball’s horses, through the negligence of the guards, got loose and went back ten miles with others. He pursued them and returned with them to camp. Frederick G. Williams and Roger Orton received a very severe chastisement for neglect of orders in not taking care of the teams when in charge of the guard. The reproof given to Roger Orton was more particularly for suffering Elder Kimball to go back after the horses, and he was one of my life guards, and it belonged to Orton to see that the team was attended to. But as the team was Kimball’s, and he had taken the care of it all through, Orton still threw the care on him. The Silver Grey company, numbering fourteen, were attached to my mess, making it twenty-eight in number. 7
Saturday 14.—Brother Joseph Hancock and another of the brethren were chased a considerable portion of the day by four suspicious fellows on horseback, armed with guns, whom they eluded by traveling in the brush and thickets where horsemen could not ride. It was late when they returned to the camp.
At night we encamped in an unsafe and unpleasant situation in a ravine, the only place we could get water for some miles. The country was a wild and uncultivated region.
In answer to Judge Ryland, the Elders wrote as follows:
Near Liberty, June 14, 1834.
Hon. J. F. Ryland:
Dear Sir—Your communication of the 9th instant from Richmond was duly received, and at a public meeting of our society this day its contents were made known. Our brethren unanimously tender their thanks for the laudable disposition manifested on your part to effect peace between our society and the inhabitants of Jackson county; and as many as conveniently can will be present on Monday next. Entertaining some fears that your honor, in your zeal for peace, might unwarily recommend a sale of our lands in Jackson county, we have thought it expedient to give you reasonable notice, that no such proposition could possibly be acceded to by our society.
We have not heard that it was the intention of your honor to urge any such measure, but our enemies in Jackson county have long been trying to effect this object. In a letter from the governor to us, he says: “I have been requested to advise the Mormons to sell out and move away; but believing that it would have no good effect, I have withheld my advice.” We give this quotation from the governor’s letter to disprove the statement made in the Upper Missouri Enquirer of last Wednesday, and conclude by adding that “home is home,” and that we want possession of our homes—from which we have been wickedly expelled—and those rights which belong to us as native free-born citizens of the United States.
Very respectfully, your friends and servants,
John Corrill, Chairman.
A. S. Gilbert, Secretary.
The foregoing was enclosed in the following letter to their lawyers:
Gentlemen—Will you be so good as to read the enclosed, then seal and hand it to the judge? We have given him an early hint, fearing that he might be induced by the solicitations of our enemies to propose a sale of our lands, which you well know would be like selling our children into slavery; and the urging of such a measure would avail nothing unless to produce an excitement against us in this county. As requested last Thursday, we hope you will be present on Monday. 8
Your friends and servants,
A. S. Gilbert.
To Messrs. Doniphan and Atchison.
1. A note in the “Addenda” of the manuscript History to the “We resumed our journey”—etc., adds: “The men who had previously followed us passed us several times during the day, and were in search of us this evening. The guard heard them say, ‘They have turned aside, damn ’em, we can’t find ’em.’ Elders Seth Johnson and Almon W. Babbitt, who had been sent to the Bowling Green branch to gather recruits, returned to the camp on the morning of the 7th with a small company, two wagons and several horses.”
2. A note in the “Addenda” to the manuscript History adds this statement, under the events of the 7th: “one of the camp walked on ahead to procure some milk. A number of men armed with guns met him and said: ‘Here’s one damn Mormon alone—let’s kill him.’ But at the same instant they discovered a number of others just coming over the hill, when they immediately rode off in great haste. In the evening encamped in a grove near a spring, in Monroe county. A branch of the Church, known as the Salt River branch, but frequently called the Allred settlement, was located here. We remained at this place several days, washing our clothes, and preparing to pursue our journey.”
3. The following is given in the “Addenda” of the manuscript History as a fuller account of the events under the date of the 8th: “Sunday, 8th, we were joined by my brother Hyrum Smith and Lyman Wight, with another company, who started from Pontiac, Michigan Territory, May 5th, the same day we started from Kirtland having passed through Ann Arbor, Jacksonsburgh, Spring Arbor, Constantine, Elkhart, crossed the Illinois river one mile below Ottawa, Pleasant Grove, Pekin, Quincy and Palmyra. Elijah Fordham was their historian; Lyman Wight, steward; Hyrum Smith and Samuel Bent, moderators. We had agreed to meet at this point, and the first company that arrived was to wait for the other. Soon after the arrival of Brother Hyrum and his company, I dispatched Brother Luke Johnson and Almon W. Babbitt with messages to the brethren in Clay county, fearing that the letter which I sent from Springfield had miscarried. James Allred, Sen., and ten others of this branch joined our camp, which now numbered two hundred and five men, all armed and equipped as the law directs. It was delightful to see the company, for they were all young men, except one company whom we called the Silver Greys, and who ate at my table. We were all in good spirits, and were taught the sword practice by Brother William Cherry (who was a native of Ireland), an expert drill master who had been in the British dragoon service for upwards of twenty years, and deserves much credit for his unwearied exertions in imparting all he knew to the brethren. This was our first attempt at learning the sword exercise. Brothers Hiram Stratton and Nelson Tubbs procured a shop of Myres Mobley and repaired every firelock that was out of order, and David Elliott shod our horses. Here Brother James Foster was taken sick. I proposed to him to remain behind. He said, ‘Brother Joseph, let me go with you if I die on the road.’ I told him in the name of the Lord, that if that was his faith, to go on his bed in the wagon, and he should get better every day until he recovered, which was literally fulfilled.”
4. Joseph Smith, however, was the commander-in-chief. The following occurs in the “Addenda” to the manuscript History: “We organized the camp. I was acknowledged commander-in-chief and Lyman Wight general.”
8. The same day, June 14, Elder John Corrill wrote to the editor of the Evening and Morning Star, giving an account of affairs in Jackson county; and as his communication gives a description of things in Jackson county not found elsewhere, I quote so much of the letter as was published in the Star, vol. 2, pp. 333, 334:
“The leaders of the mob are yet striving to keep up the same spirit of opposition, by instilling falsehoods into the minds of the people. They tell them that the ‘Mormons’ are coming upon them, mob like, to kill their women and children. They raised an alarm a few days ago which set the whole county of Jackson in an uproar—men riding in different directions and proclaiming, ‘the Mormons are coming—they are now crossing the river—they are coming to kill, destroy,’ etc. Some women and children left their houses, and fled to the woods and elsewhere, while the men, two hundred or three hundred, gathered together to oppose the ‘Mormons,’ as they supposed, in their return. They repaired to the different ferries up the river, to guard them, and I have been credibly informed that they have since continued to guard the river at the different crossing places from one end of Jackson county to the other. And for fear that we would return and enjoy our dwellings again, they set fire to and burned them down, and then raised the report that the ‘Mormons’ went over and burnt their houses, and I am informed that they have burnt them all except a very few which are occupied by other families; and I have been told that they have destroyed our fences and other property that remained. What was the cause of this great alarm among them, I know not; for we are at home attending to our own business, and had not thought of returning at that time. Neither have we any thoughts of ever returning in the night time, or in the mob like manner which they represent to the people; for as we design to be governed in all cases by the laws of the land, we shall therefore return under the protection of the governor, as he has promised us. We therefore have no need to return and take them on surprise, as they falsely represent to the people; for we mean only to act on the principles of self-defense in all cases. But they state falsehoods to the people, for the purpose, I suppose, of keeping their strength good to oppose our return, which, I understand, they are determined to do, even to the shedding of blood; and it is said by the mob, that the whole county is combined together. They are arming themselves, and they have distributed our guns among them. But it is easy to be seen, that fear and consternation prevail among them; some of their leaders have already cleared out. Colonel S.D. Lucas has taken his goods and gone down the river; both the Chiles [Henry and Joel F.] have lately gone to the south on a long visit. Lawyer Hicks says, if no compromise is made he shall seek a location somewhere else; and I have been told that L. Franklin is going away soon; some other families, I have heard, are leaving through fear. As nearly as I can learn, the number that is determined to stand and oppose our return, even unto bloodshed, is about one hundred and fifty, or two hundred, in that county, though it is said that many from other counties will come to their assistance.
“They are trying to excite the people of this county [Clay] to drive us from here, and for this purpose, it is said, they are circulating a paper, and have got some signers; but the authorities of this county do not countenance them in this thing, and I think they cannot succeed; but it is said they are lurking about and seeking a chance to do private injury, but the brethren are on the lookout, and are preparing themselves with arms for self-defense, and I think if we firmly continue and persevere, according to the laws of the land, that we shall be enabled shortly to overcome the mob and obtain our rights.