Thomas L. Barnes

Coroner of Carthage

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During the latter part of the nineteenth century a one time Carthage, Illinois, physician, Thomas Langley Barnes, wrote two letters to his daughter which have recently come to light and which present some new, firsthand information about the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith.

Barnes (1812–1901, son of Michael and Elizabeth West Barnes), one of the earliest settlers of Hancock County, lived at Carthage, the county seat, and married a young widow (Laurinda Burbank) there. He practiced medicine in the Carthage area (although he did not receive his M.D. from the University of Missouri until 1851), and had a good-sized practice, extending across the Mississippi to the Iowa shore. He served for a time (at least during 1845) also as a Justice of the Peace. Sometime later he moved to Ukiah, California, where he practiced medicine until he died. He was living in Carthage in 1839 and 1840 when the Saints were driven from Missouri.

He was both attending physician and probably the coroner after the mob attacked the Carthage jail and murdered Joseph and Hyrum. He remembered vividly this act of violence all his life, and most of what he writes about in his letters relates to this incident. He was most anxious to explain to his daughter Miranda that he had had nothing to do with the violence of that time and that he deplored it.

 

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