Letter from William W. Phelps, 6–7 November 1833

  • Source Note
  • Historical Introduction

Document Transcript

November 6, 1833.
Dear brethren,—Since I last wrote we have had horrible times. When I from—— behold the enemy had suddenly come upon our brethren above Blue, and had thrown down 10 or 12 houses, and nearly whipped some to death, among whom was .— This was done on Thursday night.— On Tuesday night they commenced in ; broke all the windows of the brethren’s houses in; broke open the doors of ’s , strewed the goods in the streets. Saturday night they fell upon the brethren at the Blue—nearly beat one to death! but one of Manship’s sons was dangerously wounded with a rifle ball, they fled. On Monday about sun set, a regular action was fought above Blue; we had 4 wounded—They had 5 wounded and killed; among the latter were and Mr. Linville. From Friday till Tuesday after noon our brethren were under arms. On Tuesday the mob had about three hundred collected—Before any blood was shed we agreed to go away immediately.
It is a horrid time, men, women and children are fleeing, or preparing to, in all directions, almost—We mean to try to settle in Van Buren county if possible, God only knows our lot.
Yours &c.
November 7, 1833.
Since I wrote yesterday morning, another horrid scene has transpired.— After our people agreed to leave the and were dispersed from each other in a measure, a party of the mob went to the Blue, and began to whip, and, as I heard late last night, murder!
All hopes of going to the south was given up last night, when it was resolved that we forthwith into . The brethren have been driven into the woods, and God only knows what will become of them. Women and children are flocking to ’s and . Our families will have to take the ground for a floor to-night if they get down in season to cross the . Yours in affliction, &c. [p. 119]

Footnotes

  1. 1

    Cowdery or another person involved in publishing this letter may have omitted the place name because he thought that Phelps’s travels should not be made public. The place intended here could be one of a few locations. Phelps had apparently returned to Independence from somewhere else soon after the violence that occurred on 31 October was over. He then fled to Clay County on 3 November and probably stayed there until Mormon witnesses were taken to Independence for a court hearing that never materialized. It is possible that before 6 November, Phelps traveled back to Jackson County and then made the return trip to Liberty, Clay County, where he wrote this letter. (Letter to Edward Partridge et al., 10 Dec. 1833; Phelps, “Short History,” [3].)  

    Phelps, William W. “A Short History of W. W. Phelps’ Stay in Missouri,” 1864. Information concerning Persons Driven from Jackson County, Missouri in 1833, 1863–1868. CHL. MS 6019, fd. 7.

  2. 2

    William E. McLellin later wrote that mob members in Jackson County chased Hiram Page, one of the eight witnesses of the Book of Mormon, through the woods and then beat him, attempting to force him to denounce the Book of Mormon. After beating him several times, one of the attackers said to the others, “I believe the damned fool will stick to it though we kill him.” After the attack, Page was confined to his bed for some time. (Schaefer, William E. McLellin’s Lost Manuscript, 167.)  

    Schaefer, Mitchell K., ed. William E. McLellin’s Lost Manuscript. Salt Lake City: Eborn Books, 2012.

  3. 3

    31 October 1833.  

  4. 4

    Though the article in The Evening and the Morning Star printed the word “Tuesday,” contemporary sources indicate that these events occurred on Friday, 1 November 1833. According to John Corrill, on Friday night a mob began to stone homes and break windows in Independence. Church leaders advised members to gather in groups for safety, and during the violence, many church members remained outside the town. But when some of the groups learned that the mob was destroying Sidney Gilbert’s store, they returned to Independence to intervene. After arriving at Gilbert’s store, they captured only one vandal, Richard McCarty; McCarty’s accomplices escaped. In his 5 December 1833 letter to Edward Partridge, JS quoted Phelps’s original letter, which stated that “on friday night the brethren had mustered about 40 or 50 men armed and marched into the village took one prisoner and fired one gun.” (“From Missouri,” The Evening and the Morning Star, Jan. 1834, 124; Letter to Edward Partridge, 5 Dec. 1833.)  

    The Evening and the Morning Star. Independence, MO, June 1832–July 1833; Kirtland, OH, Dec. 1833–Sept. 1834.

  5. 5

    2 November 1833.  

  6. 6

    David Bennett. ([Edward Partridge], “A History, of the Persecution,” Times and Seasons, Jan. 1840, 1:33.)  

    Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.

  7. 7

    Orson Hyde wrote a letter to the Boonville Herald stating that on the night of 2 November, “the Mob commenced their ravages again above Big Blue. And after they had fired five or six guns upon the Mormons without effect, the Mormons fired upon them, and one of the Mob screamed, ‘O my God! I am shot.’ The Mob then dispersed in much confusion, taking their wounded companion along with them.” Both John Corrill and Edward Partridge wrote that a mob attacked church members living at the Big Blue settlement west of Independence on Saturday, 2 November 1833. During the skirmish, “a young man of the mob was shot through the thigh,” causing the mob to leave. Who “one of Manship’s sons” refers to is unclear. In the 1830 federal census, George Manship is listed as a resident of Jackson County with four sons: one under the age of five, another between five and ten years old, and two sons between ten and fifteen years of age. The 1840 federal census listed him as having one son under the age of five, who would not have been born at the time of the 1830 census; one between ten and fifteen years old; another between fifteen and twenty; and a fourth between twenty and thirty years of age. It is possible that the son not listed as living with the Manship family in the 1840 census is the young man referred to in Phelps’s letter, who may have died as a result of this skirmish. Though the text here indicates the man was “dangerously wounded,” JS understood that he was “mortally wounded.” (“The Outrage in Jackson County, Missouri,” The Evening and the Morning Star, Dec. 1833, 118; “From Missouri,” The Evening and the Morning Star, Jan. 1834, 125; [Edward Partridge], “A History, of the Persecution,” Times and Seasons, Jan. 1840, 1:33, italics in original; 1830 U.S. Census, Jackson Co., MO, 302; 1840 U.S. Census, Harmony, Van Buren Co., MO, 124; Letter to Edward Partridge, 5 Dec. 1833.)  

    The Evening and the Morning Star. Independence, MO, June 1832–July 1833; Kirtland, OH, Dec. 1833–Sept. 1834.

    Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.

    Census (U.S.) / U.S. Bureau of the Census. Population Schedules. Microfilm. FHL.

  8. 8

    4 November 1833.  

  9. 9

    For more particulars on who was hurt or killed during this violent encounter, see [Edward Partridge], “A History, of the Persecution,” Times and Seasons, Jan. 1840, 1:34; and “From Missouri,” The Evening and the Morning Star, Jan. 1834, 125.  

    Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.

    The Evening and the Morning Star. Independence, MO, June 1832–July 1833; Kirtland, OH, Dec. 1833–Sept. 1834.

  10. 10

    JS’s 5 December letter included a passage from Phelps’s original letter not included here. It reads: “150 of our brethren came forth Like Moroni to battle.” (Letter to Edward Partridge, 5 Dec. 1833.)  

  11. 11

    5 November 1833.  

  12. 12

    Van Buren County (now Cass County) was located immediately south of Jackson County in 1833.  

  13. 13

    This document omits a line that may have been in Phelps’s original letter: “Another horid scene has transpired, after our people surrendered their arms a party of the Mobe went above Blue and began to whip and even murder and the brethren have been driven into the woods and fleeing to the ferry and also the Mob have hired the ferryman to carry them across the river and it was reported that the mob had Killed two more of the brethren.” Edward Partridge remembered that on the night of 6 November 1833, a large group of Mormons under Lyman Wight’s leadership was disarmed by the militia, after which “the mob now felt safe, and were no longer militia, they formed themselves into companies, and went forth on horse-back armed, to harrass the saints, and take all the arms they could find. . . . They went forth through the different settlements of the saints, threatening them with death, and distruction if they were not off immediately. They broke open houses, and plundered them, where they found them shut, and the owners gone. . . . The mob that day stripped some of the saints of their arms, even to penknives; some they whipped; they shot at some, and others they hunted after; as they said to kill them.” (Letter to Edward Partridge, 5 Dec. 1833; [Edward Partridge], “A History, of the Persecution,” Times and Seasons, Jan. 1840, 1:35–36.)  

    Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.

  14. 14

    Clay County lies immediately north of Jackson County, with the Missouri River marking the border between the two counties.