Mormon History

Murders by Mormons - 1845

The Warsaw Signal May 14, 1845

Horrible Murder -- Two Mormons Arrested!

On Saturday night last, a most horrible murder was committed, near the town of Franklin, Lee County, Iowa. The circumstances as near as we can gather them are as follows: An old man and his son emigrated to Iowa last spring, having in their possession a considerable sum of money, which they designed to invest in lands. On Saturday night last, three villains, evidently with a design of committing a robbery, entered the house where the old man and his son lodged. They were resisted, and in the fight that ensued, the old man received a wound that killed him instantly. The son was mortally wounded and died early next morning. The alarm having been given to the neighbors, the robbers fled without making any search for the money. These facts were learned from a lad who was in bed at the time of the murder but escaped with a deep wound.

On Sunday the inhabitants of Lee County turned out almost en masse, and instituted the strictest search for the murderers. They were tracked towards the river, by the blood, about four miles, and afterwards through Nashville. The party of pursuers at length discovered that they had crossed the river to Nauvoo, and followed after them. In Nauvoo they were ferreted out, and two of the murders by the name of Hodges, brothers, (one of them a Mormon Elder,) were arrested on yesterday morning. The third has so far eluded the vigilance of the pursuers.

Hodges resided in Nauvoo, and is a fair specimen of the Holy Brotherhood, and had he been pursued for any less offence, than that of murder, would have been shielded and protected by the Mormons; but under the circumstances, it would have been their destruction, as they well knew, to have given him countenance; they therefore, made a great ado, and after the murderers had been traced out, aided in the arrest.

This is the third midnight robbery that has been attempted in Lee County, within a few months, under circumstances which proved that the Mormons were concerned. While such a band of outlaws are suffered to remain in our midst neither life nor property is safe.


The Warsaw Signal May 21, 1845

Late Murder in Lee County.

The following extract from a letter written by a citizen of Lee county, Iowa the day after the late brutal murder is probably as correct a version of the participants of the affair as any that has been made public.

                                        West Point, May 11th., 1845.

   Dear Sir: -- I hasten to communicate to you, one of the most daring, brutal and bloody murders, that have ever been recorded in the history of crimes in this country. About 11 o'clock last night, a house, about 3 miles south from this town which was occupied by three German families, (viz. Mr. Miller, his son-in-law, Mr. Leister, and another son-in-law, whose name I do not now recollect, with their wives and their children consisting of nine persons in all) was entered while they were all in a profound deep sleep, by three persons, and carrying a dark lantern and all armed with pistols, bowie knives and clubs. The first notice which this innocent group recorded at the visit of infernal fields, to their recent and humble residence, was the blows inflicted by two of the assassins on Miller and Leister -- each having selected his victim as they were lying upon a [----] bed upon the floor; while the third murderer had stationed himself a little in the rear, with his lantern in one hand, and a pistol in the other - the lantern being held in such a position as to cast a dim light upon their doomed victims. The onset was made with bowie knives, by heavy blows inflicted upon the heads of Miller and Leister, who both arose from their slumber, sprang to their feet, and Leister, a strong young man, grappled with his antagonist, and wrestled from him his club, and with it felled him to the floor; that moment he received a shot from the villain who held the lantern, which took effect in the right beast. He still however continued to deal his blows fast and heavy upon the adversary. When Mr. Miller, who was somewhat advanced in life, arose, he seized a chair to defend himself, which was soon broken to pieces upon his enemy. Then possessing himself of a gun, which was unfortunately not charged, he fought manfully and with many well aimed blows efficiently deadly upon the head of the bloody villain he beat him out of the house, amidst the thrusts, stabs and blows of his adversary's bowie-knife, and one shot from his pistol which did not take effect. On the threshold of the door, the assassin's knife was thrust into Miller's breast, passing through the chest to the spine, dividing the left lobe of the lungs, he staggered into the yard, fell and died without a groan. Leister was still contending with the other two fiends, and while grappling with the one upon the floor, the other succeeded in inflicting many awful wounds upon his back, shoulders, neck and head with is bowie-knife. The alarm having been given to the neighbors, the assassins fled, one losing his club and another his cap. Mr. Leister it is thought cannot live."

Leister, by the last accounts, appeared to be doing well, and there are strong hopes of his recovery.

The murderers were arrested as we stated last week, in Nauvoo, on Wednesday morning. They were detained in the city until Tuesday. On Wednesday, the Grand Jury of Lee county, being in session, found a true bill against the two Hodges and Brown, and with a copy of this bill the Sheriff proceeded to Nauvoo and informed the criminals that they could have their choice, either to go to Carthage jail and wait a requisition, or proceed immediately to Fort Madison. - They preferred the latter and are now safely lodged in strong quarters. It is thought that their trials will come off the present week.

While the Hodges were under arrest in Nauvoo, some of the brethren talked a good deal about not giving them up; but the people of Lee, gave them to understand what would be the result of such a proceeding, and soon they became very tame and submissive.

Note: The attack upon Rev. John Miller, a Mennonite German minister from Pennsylvania, and his son-in-law, Mr. Leiza, occurred on Saturday night, May 10, 1845, near Franklin, Lee Co., Iowa. This report in the Warsaw Signal was perhaps the first publication of the crime in the public press. This article was reprinted in the Quincy Whig of May 21, 1845 and was paraphrased in the May 22, 1845 issue of the Iowa Davenport Gazette.