Mormon History

Mormon Prisoners in Missouri - 1838

Daily Missouri Republican December 13, 1838


It will be seen by our correspondence, that the examination of the Mormon prisoners, at Richmond, Ray county, and the [sic] resulted in the discharge of some, and the retention of many others, to answer various crimes, from treason down to larceny. The same letter gives us some rumors in regard to the conduct of a portion of the anti-Mormon party, in the purchase of lands at the recent land sales at Lexington, which if true, will have a tendency to excite public sympathy in favor of the Mormons, and create a strong prejudice against their oppressors. Much as we censure the course of the Mormons, there is no act, of which we have any knowledge, which will at all compare with the unrighteousness of those who, it seems, got up this crusade in order to obtain possession of the houses and lands of their victims. We will not, even now, believe that any considerable portion of the anti-Mormon party are obnoxious to the charges brought against them, and hope that it may be found to apply to few of them.

The prisoners are, we learn from Richmond, to be distributed to different jails, and to be guarded by armed men, until the second Monday of March next, when the first court will be held in that district. It seems to us, that the Legislature would save the State much expense by authorizing a special term of the court in some county in which the prisoners are likely to have a fair and speedy trial.

We also learn, that a gentleman of Richmond, who was present at the examination and took down all the testimony, intends to prepare it for publication, together with a history of the rise and progress of Mormonism up to the present time. The gentleman -- Mr. Orville H. Searcy -- is represented to us as entirely competent to the task, and such a history, if fairly and impartially given, will be well received. But we do not think the evidence so taken, or the time of its publication, exactly calculated to advance the ends of justice -- inasmuch as it might greatly prejudice the cause of the prisoners now awaiting their trial. Both houses of the Legislature have interposed their authority to prevent the publication of the same evidence, submitted to them with the Governor's Message, and it ought not to be permitted to find its way to the public in a less authentic shape, or until the trials are over.



Saturday, Dec. 8th.       

By a letter received yesterday evening from Richmond, at Ray County, I learn that the Court of Enquiry has terminated its labors, and the following is the result:


For Treason. -- Joseph Smith, Jr., Hiram Smith, Lyman Wight, Sidney Rigdon, Alexander M'Ray, Caleb Baldwin.

For Murder. -- Parley P. Pratt, Norman Shearer, Darwin Chase, Lyman Gibbs, and Maurice Phillips.

Accessaries before and after the fact of Murder -- Joseph Smith, Jr., Lyman Wight, Sidney Rigdon, and Washington Vams.

For Arson, Burglary, Robbery and Larceny -- George W. Robinson, Alanson Ripley, Washington Vams, Sidney Tanner, Jacob Gates, Jessie D. Hunter, George Grant, Darwin Chase, Thos. Rich, Alexander M'Ray, Caleb Baldwin, John S. Higby, Ebenezer Page, Ebenezer Ribinson, James M. Henderson, David Pellegrue, Edward Partridge, Francis Higbee, George Kimball, Joseph W. Younger, Daniel Corn, James H. Rolling, Samuel Bent, Jonathan Dunham, William Whitman, Joel S. Mills, Clark Hallett, Norman Shearer, and Maurice Phelps.

The result of this enquiry has been what was anticipated, a serious difficulty, it seems to me, will now arise as to the trial of these men. In the counties where the disturbance took place it will be almost impossible to find a jury for the trial, for I presume there is no man who has not formed an opinion of the case. If the prisoners do not change the venue the State cannot change it, and I am well assured that such has been the excitement that no man in the counties of Ray, Carroll, Caldwell and Davies will be in a condition to serve as a juror -- What will be the ultimate result of these prosecutions, I am at a loss to say. This much is very certain: the detention of those thirty-six prisoners under a guard, to be fed and protected during the winter season will be an expense which the State will feel before it is done.

We have many reports here in relation to the conduct of some of the citizens of Daviess and other counties, at the recent Land Sales at Lexington -- It is reported, said to be on the authority of a gentleman direct from Lexington, that at the recent land sales, the lands in Caldwell and Daviess were brought into market, and that some of the citizens who have been the most active in the excitement against the Mormons purchased a number of Mormon tracts of land. Where the Mormons had made settlements and improvements, it is said, these citizens have purchased then for speculation. It is said that the town of "Adamon Diamond," a Mormon town in Daviess, in which there are several houses, -- a very valuable site for a town -- was purchased at these sales for a dollar and a quarter an acre. It is further said, that there is a company formed, embracing a number of persons, for the purpose of speculating in the lands of these people.

I should not have felt authorised to allude to these reports, for I know nothing of the source from whence they came, but for the fact, that the same matter was accidently alluded to yesterday in the Senate. Many other things are said in connection with these sales, but for the present I do not feel authorized to give them. This matter should receive the attention of the committee on this subject, for it may lead to a better understanding of the causes of these disturbances. I look upon it as a matter of the greatest importance, how the committee on this subject may conduct this enquiry. The character of the State and the reputation of every citizen is involved in it, and it is due to all that a full investigation and impartial report should be made.

There is a talk amongst the members, at this time of adjourning for several months, say to the first of June or July, and giving power to the committee to prosecute the investigation in vacation. This is the only method by which it is possible to make a full and thorough examination into the matter.