History of the Church Series | BYU Studies

History of the Church Series

Haun's Mill Massacre
July 11, 2018
History of the Church Series
Haun's Mill Massacre
Author Alma R. Blair,

This daily feature is an introduction to a full article by Alma R. Blair. Each Wednesday we focus on an aspect of church history, beginning in New York in the early 19th century and progressing throughout the year to Utah in the 20th century. To read the full text of this article, follow the link below.

On October 30, 1838, segments of the Missouri militia attacked a settlement of Latter–day Saints at Jacob Haun's mill, located on Shoal Creek in eastern Caldwell County, Missouri. Because the attack was unprovoked in a time of truce, had no specific authorization, and was made by a vastly superior force with unusual brutality, it has come to be known as "The Haun's Mill Massacre." It was one incident in the conflict between the Missourians and the Latter–day Saints that resulted in the LDS expulsion from the state in 1839.

Tensions had been building up ever since the Latter–day Saints began moving into Caldwell and Daviess counties in central Missouri in 1836. From August to October 1838, incidents of overt conflict had grown dramatically. Rumors abounded that the Mormons planned to "despoil" the Missourians and take their land. Specifically, some believed that the Haun's Mill's population threatened to spill over into non–Mormon Livingston County. Outbursts of violence led Governor Lilburn W. Boggs on October 27 to issue an "Extermination Order," demanding that the Latter–day Saints leave the state or be exterminated. It is uncertain whether this order was a catalyst for the attack, but it is clear that both the Latter–day Saints and the Missourians believed that their rights had been violated and their existence threatened.

Thirty to forty LDS families were at Haun's Mill when some 200 to 250 militia from Livingston, Daviess, and Carroll counties, acting under Colonel Thomas Jennings, marched against the village. Assuming that an earlier truce still held, the residents were surprised by the late afternoon attack. Church leader David Evans' call for "quarter" was ignored, and the villagers were forced to flee for safety.