The Missouri Redress Petitions: A Reappraisal of Mormon Persecutions in Missouri
Author: Clark V. Johnson
Categories: Missouri Period
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints began settling western Missouri in 1831 during the Jacksonian era, at a time when small Utopian religious communities dotted the land west of the Allegheny Mountains. Their prophet-leader, Joseph Smith, dedicated several sites in Jackson County for the future use of the Church, and with determination the Mormons began to build their homes on the Missouri frontier. As early as April 1832, troubles arose between the Mormons and their Missouri neighbors, and in 1833 mobs drove the Mormons from Jackson County. Most of the exiles settled in Clay County, but some moved north and east to the counties of Ray, Clinton, LaFayette, Carroll, Chariton, Randoph, and Monroe, and to areas that later came to be known as Daviess and Caldwell counties. Here the Saints remained long enough to build homes and plant crops. Then in 1836, mobs again began to gather in response to continuing Mormon migration from eastern states and to agitation by Jackson County residents.
During this time, 1836-37, the citizens of Clay County undertook action to relocate the Mormons in some unsettled part of Missouri. Finally the Mormons moved to an area that eventually became known as Caldwell County. Again they built homes, farms, and businesses. However, they knew little rest, for during the summer and fall of 1838 mobs once more came against them. The Missourians felt threatened by the continual influx of Mormons and saw in the presence of their new neighbors a threat to their society. Mormon religious customs, which united Church members socially, economically and politically, irritated the Missourians. These differences made the mobs more vindictive, and the violence escalated into the so-called Mormon War, which culminated in the expulsion of the Mormons from the state.