Mormon History

General Alarm by Missouri Citizens - 1838

Daily Missouri Republican September 3, 1838


We have every prospect just now of a fearful commotion between that sect of religious fanatics (the Mormons) and the citizens of Daviess and some of the adjoining counties. We give below the remarks of the "Western Star" and the proceedings of a meeting in Ray county. The tone and temper of the resolutions adopted at the meeting in Ray are such as every one will highly approve. Let the law have its full course and then, if there is not power in its officers and mandates to protect the rights of the citizens, let the appeal be made to the last of all remedies -- the right of self-protection! The Mormons are a troublesome and dangerous set of people, and a curse to any community in which they may be located. We have known of them personally; they are generally a low, dirty, ignorant and degraded class, who look upon their leaders with the most explicit confidence, and whose biddings they obey with the most abject servility. Still, bad as they are, they have some cause to complain that our laws have not protected them. The report that Jo Smith had surrendered himself to the civil authorities is not confirmed by the latest accounts from that quarter. The remarks of the "Western Star" are as follows:

MORMONISM. -- From the following proceedings of a public meeting of the citizens of Ray county, our readers will at once perceive the great excitement which prevails in conquence of the conduct of this extraordinary sect. We will not attempt to give the various rumors afloat, of threats and denunciations, as fulminated by Jo Smith and his council. They can be seen in part, in an oration delivered by Sidney Rigdon, on the last 4th of July, in which he threatens to "carry war and extermination" to the lives and property of every citizen who may dare to oppose their wild career.

The Mormons are at this time in open rebellion against the laws of the land. Armed men, as will be found from the statement of Mr. Black, are parading through Daviess county, compelling every person in any way disaffected towards them, to sign an instrument of writing dictated by themselves; the purport of which we are unable to find out.

Under circumstances so alarming to the tranquility of this upper country, the circuit Judge of this District was called upon to issue his warrant for the apprehension of the ring-leaders, who promptly complied by issuing a warrant against Joseph Smith, jr. and Lyman Wight. For the purpose of executing this warrant, it was placed in the hands of the Sheriff of Daviess county, who repaired to the house of Lyman Wight -- and there found an armed force of from 80 to 100 men, and was told by Wight "that he would not be taken alive -- that the law had never protected him, and he owed them no obedience -- that the whole state of Missouri could not take him," &c. Joseph Smith, jr. professed his willingness to be tried, provided it was done in Caldwell county. Upon these facts being made known, the people of Ray county deputed a committee to Smith and Wight, if possible to prevail upon them to cease their opposition, and peaceably submit to the execution of the laws. That committee, as far as we understand, were unsuccessful in their mission. A second committee was then appointed, from whose proceedings we have not heard one word.

The Mormons can raise from 1000 to 1500 fighting men, well armed. They believe Jo Smith to be a prophet of the Lord and that he holds a communion with him. Hence, any statement given to them by said Smith as a Revelation of the Lord, is to be implicitly complied with. He can embody them as one man -- as exemplified in the late election. Suppose then, this modern Mahomet, backed by such a host of armed bigots and enthusiasts, should take it into his head to resist the execution of the laws, would it not verify the statement of Wight, that, even the "whole state of Missouri could not take him!"


At a public meeting of the citizens of Ray county, at the court house in Richmond, on the 9th day of August, 1838, the object of which was to take into consideration certain movements of the Mormons in Daviess county; which were reported to be of a highly illegal and dangerour character.

Whereupon, William B. Martin, Esq. was called to the Chair and Amos Rees appointed Secretary.

On motion of Wiley C. Williams, Esq. the evidence in the hands of gentlemen present was requested to be laid before the meeting -- which was done accordingly, and was as follows.

                                            Daviess County, Mo., Aug. 8, 1838.
Know all men by this, that I, Adam Black, of the county aforesaid and acting justice thereof do hereby certify that I have this day been attacked, and my house surrounded by a body of one hundred armed men called Mormons, my life threatened, and I was forced to subscribe to an article which I refused to do, until instant death was threatened me. -- I further certify, that the said body of men threatened the lives of several individuals of this county. -- The above named body of armed men surrounded my house, with guns, swords and pistols and amounted to about one hundred and twenty. Believing this a violation of our laws, the command [of] the militia of this county, is hereby required to call out the militia to disperse said body and maintain the supremacy of the law. The above body of armed men are commanded by Joseph Smith, Jr., and Lyman Wight.
                                            ADAM BLACK, J. P.

N. B. I further certify that the whole number of Mormons embodied is about 500 men. The militia of this county mot amounting to a fraction of that number, the militia of the adjoining counties is therefore earnestly called upon to protect us in our homes, our liberty and our lives.
                                            ADAM BLACK, J. P.

The following certificate was also presented and read:

This is to certify that we the undersigned, visited the Mormon encampment at Lyman Wight's on this evening, and believe from the best information that we can obtain from them that the number embodied amounts to 500 men. This is the 8th of August, 1838,

( Johan A. Williams,
( William Slade.

Sworn to and subscribed to before me, a justice of the peace for and in Daviess county.
                                            ADAM BLACK, J. P.

There was also a variety of verbal testimony to the same purport, and shewing preparation for actual fighting, by collecting arms, ammunition, and all other preparatory steps for insurrection.

Orvill H. Searcy then moved that a committee of seven persons be appointed to look into and report to the meeting, the proper course to be taken.

The chair then appointed the following gentlemen as that committee:

Orvill H. Searcy, Wiley C. Williams, Amos Rees, William Hudgent, Charles R. Morehead, Israel R. Hendley, and Joseph Ewing.

The meeting then adjourned until tomorrow morning.


Friday, Aug. 18, 1838.     

The meeting met pursuant to adjournment.

Whereupon, the committee appointed on yesterday, reported the following preamble and resolutions, which were unanimously adopted.

Upon an examination of the facts and circumstances appearing to and examined by us, consisting of certificates, documents, and other evidence, we are satisfied that there is an armed force now collected and embodied in Daviess county, of about 500 Mormons whose movements are highly insurrectionary and unlawful: -- that they have already committed outrages on individuals who were old and respectable citizens of Daviess county, by taking them in the bosom of their families, and forcing them by threats of immediate violence or death, to sign papers, the particular contents of which are not known to this committee, but which were such as a freeman ought not to sign; -- and that they threaten to make this thing universal throughout the country; and that they are still embodied, and are purchasing and collecting ammunition, and making all preparations for an insurrection, -- or, at least, a great and enormous violation of the laws and the private rights of the citizens of Daviess county. We have also a variety of evidence before us that the leaders of this people are determined not to submit to the law, and that they are entirely revolutionary in their feelings and intentions, and have been so for some considerable time past.

1st. Resolved, That we highly disapprove of all improper and unlawful collection of people for any purpose, whatsoever. But that if injuries or injustice is done to any man or body of men, that they shall resort to the laws of the country for redress, which we believe to be amply sufficient for that purpose.

2d. Resolved, That in the opinion of this meeting all the evidence of the movements of said body of Mormons, should be speedily made known to the judge of this Circuit, and that if he deems the evidence sufficient to authorize his action on the subject, the he take such steps to be apprehended and brought to justice all concerned in the violation of the laws, as may be proper.

3d. Resolved, That we believe that Joseph Smith, Jr. and Lyman Wight, are the leaders of this measure, and that we urge upon judge King, the necessity of his action in his official capacity, to have said Smith and Wight brought to immediate justice.

4th. Resolved, That this meeting deprecate any hasty or improper action on the part of the citizens of this county, and that they will do no act which is not justified by the laws of the land.

5th. Resolved, That a committee of vigilance be appointed on the part of this county whose duty it shall be to collect all the information on the subject of the movements of the Mormons, and inform the citizens of this county thereof -- and that they also give any information which they deem necessary to other counties -- and that they be authorized to call a meeting of the citizens of this county when in their opinion it shall be necessary.

6th. Resolved, That a committee be appointed on the part of the people of this county to visit Daviess and Caldwell counties, and collect all the facts in relation to the difficulties between the Mormons and other citizens of Daviess county, and report to the committee of vigilance of this county.

7th. Resolved, That the proceedings of this meeting be published in the newspaper printed in Liberty; together with the documents herewith returned.

On motion of Dr. R. B. Ellid, the committee of vigilance was composed of seven persons to be appointed by the chair. Whereupon, the chair proceeded to appoint the following persons to compose that committee, viz: Robert B. Ellis, Dr. Thomas Allen, Moses F. Rainwater, Chas. R. Morehouse, Wiley D. Williams, Joseph Ewing, and William Hudgens.

On motion the committee to visit Caldwell and Daviess counties under the 6th resolutions, was composed of three persons to be appointed by the chair. -- Whereupon, the chair proceeded to appoint the following persons to compose that committee, viz: -- Thomas Hamilton, Israel R. Hendley, and William Hudgens, Esquires.

On motion, it was agreed that the traveling expenses of the traveling committee be paid by this meeting.

On motion, it was agreed that this meeting adjourn.

                                WILLIAM B. MARTIN, Cha'm.
AMOS REES, Secretary.

Note 1: Caldwell County (named after: Capt. Matthew Caldwell) was organized on December, 26, 1836, with its administrative center at the new Mormon settlement of Far West. The county was created out of Ray County by the Missouri Legislature as a kind of reservation for the troublesome Mormons. It is interesting to read that as early as 1838 residents of neighboring counties were attempting to "repeal the law organizing Caldwell county." At that time the county's population had reached about 5,000 -- only about 100 of whom were non-Mormons.