On the night of 12 January 1838, Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon made their escape from Kirtland, riding sixty miles on swift horses before stopping to rest. The collapse of the bank, desertion by trusted friends, angry denunciations and threats, a relentless buildup of lawsuits—all this seemed to leave the Prophet little choice but to leave Kirtland to its own fate.
Many of his followers had already left Kirtland, of course, or had gathered to Missouri without stopping in Ohio. Others, including his immediate family, followed during the early months of 1838. Soon a revelation came that seemed to ring the death knell of Kirtland as a Mormon center: “Kirtland is and will be scourged.” Sensing the impending doom, scores of families worked feverishly, selling property, buying teams and wagons, sometimes borrowing from friends or family, and packing in preparation for the organized evacuation planned for the summer. Finally, on 6 July 1838, a string of teams and wagons more than a mile long moved out along the old Chillicothe road and headed toward Chester.