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CRISIS  AT  KIRTLAND

Episode Four:
Murderous Threats and Plots, 1835-1837



by Dale R. Broadhurst
---(  March 2001 )---



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CRISIS  AT  KIRTLAND  IV.


MURDEROUS THREATS & PLOTS
Sec. 8: In-Depth Reporting & Analysis
by Max H. Parkin




Max H. Parkin
Conflict at Kirtland: A Study of the Nature and Causes of External and Internal Conflict of the Mormons in Ohio Between 1830 and 1838
(Salt Lake City: LDS Department of Seminaries and Institutes of Religion, 1967)

Note:
1967 LDS Department of Seminaries and Institutes of Religion
1993 Corporation of the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

Temporary on-line posting for short-term, group-editing purposes, only. On-line reproduction of copyrighted material will be reduced to "fair use" length excerpts in the immediate future. Please do not copy, print out, or otherwise distribute this temporary file.


[p. 248]

Chapter  IX

The Nature and Extent of Anti-Mormon Resentment, Continued.

Anti-Mormon Resistance by Mob Violence

Shortly following Joseph Smith's return from his first journey to "Zion" with the elders in the summer of 1831, he made preparations to move nlss family to Hiram, Portage County, Ohio, thirty miles southeast from Kirtland where he planned to revise the King James version of the Bible. He made the move on the 12th of September and several days later Sidney Rigdon, his scribe, joined him. The Mormon Prophet, his wife, and adopted twin son and daughter, moved into the home of John Johnson and his family, while Rigdon occupied a log house across the street. Hiram had been a successful field of labor for the Mormons and according to one historian, A. S, Haydon, "perhaps in no other place, except Kirtland, did the Latter-day Saints gain a more permanent footing than in Hiram." [[1 Hayden, op. cit., p. 220.]]

On the night of March 24-25, 1832, one of the most painful events in the young Prophet's life occurred. A mob, numbering about twenty-five or thirty, disguised with colored faces, and stimulated by whiskey, attacked Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon in their homes. [[2 Geauga Gazette, I, No. 23 (April 17, 1832), n. p.]]

Afterwards



[p. 249]

the mob beat, abused, tarred and feathered the two men. The Prophet Joseph Smith recorded the event as follows:

On the 24th of March, the twins before mentioned, which had been sick of the measles for some time, caused us to be broken of our rest in taking care of them, especially my wife. In the evening I told her she had better retire to rest with one of the children, and I would watch with the sicker child. In the night she told me I had better lie down on the trundle bed, and I did so, and was soon after awakened by her screaming murder, when I found myself going out of the door, in the hands of about a dozen men; some of whose hands were in my hair, and some had hold of my shirt, drawers and limbs. The foot of the trundle bed was towards the door, leaving only room enough for the door to swing open. My wife heard a gentle tapping on the windows which she then took no particular notice of (but which was unquestionably designed for ascertaining whether or not we were all asleep) , and soon after the mob burst open the door and surrounded the bed in an instant, and, as I said, the first I knew I was going out of the door in the hands of an infuriated mob. I made a desperate struggle, as I was forced out, to extricate myself, but only cleared one leg, with which I made a pass at one man, and he fell on the door steps. I was immediately overpowered again; and they swore by G-- --, they would kill me if I did not be still, which quieted me. As they passed around the house with me, the fellow that I kicked came to me and thrust his hand, all covered with blood, into my face and with an exulting hoarse laugh, muttered 'Gee, gee, G-- d-- ye, I'll fix ye.'

They then seized me by the throat and held on till I lost my breath. After I came to, as they passed along with me about thirty rods from the house I saw Elder Rigdon stretched out on the ground, whither they had dragged him by his heels. I supposed he was dead. I began to plead with them, saying, "You will have mercy and spare my life, I hope." To which they replied, "G--d--ye, call on yer God for help, we'll show ye no mercy;" and the people began to show themselves in every direction; one coming from the orchard had a plank; and I expected they would kill me, and carry me off on the plank. They then turned to the right, and went on about thirty rods further; about sixty rods from the house, and thirty from where I saw Elder Rigdon, into the meadow, where they stopped, and one said, "Simonds, Simonds," (meaning, I supposed, Simonds Ryder,) "pull up his drawers, pull up his drawers, he will take cold." Another replied: Ain't ye going to kill 'im? ain't ye going to kill 'im? when a group of mobbers collected a little way off, and said: "Simonds, Simonds, come here;" and "Simonds" charged those who had hold of me to

[p. 250]

keep me from touching the ground (as they had done all the time), lest I should get a spring upon them. They held a council, and as I could occasionally overhear a word, I supposed it was to know whether or not it was best to kill me. They returned after a while, when I learned that they had concluded not to kill me, but to beat and scratch me well, tear off my shirt and drawers, and leave me naked. One cried, 'Simonds, Simonds, where's the tar bucket?' "I don't know," answered one, 'where 'tis, Eli's left it.' They ran back and fetched the bucket of tar, when one exclaimed, with an oath, 'Let us tar up his mouth;' and they tried to force the tar-paddle into my mouth; I twisted my head around, so that they could not; and they cried out, 'G--d--ye, hold up yer head and let us give ye some tar.' They then tried to force a vial into my mouth, and broke it in my teeth. All my clothes were torn off me except my shirt collar; and one man fell on me and scratched my body with his nails like a mad cat, and then muttered out: 'G-- d---ye, that's the way the Holy Ghost falls on folks!'

They then left me, and I attempted to rise, but fell again; I pulled the tar away from my lips, so that I could breathe more freely, and after up, whereupon I saw two lights. I made my way towards one of them, and found it was Father Johnson's. When I came to the door I was naked, and the tar made me look as if I were covered with blood, and when my wife saw me she thought I was all crushed to pieces, and fainted. During the affray abroad, the sisters of the neighborhood had collected at my room. I called for a blanket, they threw me one and shut the door; I wrapped it around me and went in. [[3 History of the Church, I, pp. 261-263.]]

When the mob removed Joseph from the house, Carnot Mason assisted others in dragging him out of bed "by the hair of his head." [[4 Luke Johnson, "History of Luke Johnson," Millennial Star, X"Carnot was the person who dragged Joseph out of the house by his hair. Dr. Denison prepared the vial for Joseph, supposed to contain Aqua Fortis (nitric acid)." "Journal History," December 13, 1846, p. 2. end4]] Later, Joseph showed Levi Hancock a patch of his hair that had been pulled out by the roots leaving the scalp bare. [[5 Levi Hancock, op. cit, p. 73.]] Furthermore, the vial



[p. 251]

that was thurst into his mouth containing nitruc acid resulted in the breakage of one of his teeth. This subsequently caused a whistling sound when he spoke. [[6 Benjamin F. Johnson, "Letter to George F. Gibbs," p. 16. Johnson said that at the August, 1844, conference in Nauvoo, Illinois, when Brigham Young began to speak to direct the affairs of the Church after the death of Joseph Smith the previous June, that Brigham Young sounded like Smith himself. Johnson said, "... as he {President Sidney Rigdon} closed his address and sat down, my back was partly turned to the seat occupied by Apostle Brigham Young and other Apostles, when suddenly, and as from Heaven, I heard the voice of the Prophet Joseph, that thrilled my whole being, and quickly turning around I saw in the transfiguration of Brigham Young, the tall, straight and portly form of the Prophet Joseph Smith, clothed in a sheen of light, covering him to his feet; and I heard the real and perfect voice of the Prophet, even to the whistle, as in years past caused by the loss of a tooth said to have been broken out by the mob at Hyrum." Italics added. end6]]

A doctor named Dennison, a member of the mob, had been appointed to emasculate the Prophet, but upon seeing Smith's naked body stretched on the plank, weakened in his resolve and refused to operate. [[7 Luke Johnson, op. cit,, p. 834.]]

Rigdon who was also removed from his bed was dragged by his heels; and while his head passed over the frozen ground, he received excessive locerations which left him delirious for days. One of the infants who was being raised by the Prophet and his wife at the request if John Murdock developed a severe cold from the night's exposure and died March 29, 1832. This child was regarded by Church historian George A. Smith as the first martyr of the Mormon faith. [[8 Journal of Discourses, Vol. XIII, p. 106. B. H. Roberts, however, credits Andrew Barber as being the "first direct martyr" of the Church. History of the Church, I, p. 431. Young Andrew Barber, the son of Oral and Andrew Barber Sr., a resident of the Prairie branch of the Church located approximately twelve miles west of Independence, Missouri, was shot during the Battle of the Big Blue in Jackson County, August 4, 1833, during the Mormon difficulties there and died the next day. Philo Dibble, a participant in the battle described the events...]]



[p. 252]

The public press sympathetically gave notice to the event as "a base transaction, an unlawful act, a work of darkness, a diabolical trick." "But as it is," reported the Warren News Letter, "It proves



[p. 253]

one important truth which a very wiseman knew before, that is, that Satan hath more power than the pretended prophets of Mormonism." [[9 Warren News Letter and Trumbull County Republican (Warren), IV, No. 8 (April 10, 1832). n. p.]]

It may be difficult to place responsibility for conceiving the plot, but Laura L. Newell, a resident of Hiram at the time of the event stated, "Persecution against the Saints was very strong, and a mob led by some Apostates tarred and feathered brother Joseph and Sidney, and left brother Joseph, as they supposed, dead upon the ground." [[10 Laura L. Kimball, "Autobiography of Sister Laura L. Kimball," Deseret News Weekly, XV, No. 52 (November 28, 1866), p. 413. Italics added.]]

Simonds Ryder, a participant in the mobbing who was said to be one that "did not drift on the current," but rather one who "sets currents in motion," [[11 B. A. Hindsdale, "Life and Character of Symonds Ryder," cited in Hayden, op. cit., p. 257.]] lends some knowledge as to the purpose and persons involved in the Hiram affair. In a letter Ryder, a Mormon apostate, a Campbellite minister, and a resident of Hiram, made the following observation:

In the winter of 1831 Joseph Smith, with others, had an appointment in the south school-house, in Hiram. Such



[p. 254]

was the apparent piety, sincerity and humility of the speakers, that many of the hearers were greatly affected, and thought it impossible that such preachers should lie in wait to deceive.

During the next spring and summer several converts were made, and their success seemed to indicate an immediate triumph in Hiram. But when they went to Missouri to lay the foundation of the splendid city of Zion, and also of the temple, they left their papers behind. This gave their new converts an opportunity to become acquainted with the internal arrangement of their church, which revealed to them the horrid fact that a plot was laid to take their property from them and place it under the control of Joseph Smith the prophet. This was too much for the Hiramites, and they left the Mormonites faster than they had ever joined them, and by fall the Mormon church in Hiram was a very lean concern.

But some who had been the dupes of this deception, determined not to let it pass with impunity; and, accordingly, a company was formed of citizens from Shalersville, Garrettsville, and Hiram, in March, 1832, and proceeded to headquarters in the darkness of night, and took Smith and Rigdon from their beds, and tarred and feathered them both, and let them go. This had the desired effect, which was to get rid of them. They soon left for Kirtland. [[12 Symonds Ryder, "Letter to A. S. Hayden," February 1, 1868, cited in Hsyden, op. cit., pp. 220, 221. Besides Rider's reference to the economics of the Hiram Saints as a reason for the attack, Henry Howe made the following comment: "in the winter of 1831 Joseph Smith and Sidney came to Hiram, held meetings and made many converts to the then new faith of the Latter-Day Saints, or Mormons. But after a while it was rumored that they designed eventually to get possession of all the property of their converts. The people became alarmed; among them were some of their dupes, who went to the house of Smith and Rigdon, stripped them, gave them a coat of tar and feathers, and rode them on a rail -- whereupon they left the place." Henry Howe, op. cit., Vol. III, p. 111. end12]]

Hartwell Ryder, Simond's son, later corroborated this as the purpose of the mobbing, for "the people did not want Hiram to be a Mormon center," [[13 Deseret Semi-Weekly News, cited in N. B. Lundwall (comp.), The Fate of the Persecutors of the Prophet Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1952), p. 75. B. H. Riberts visited Hiram, Ohio, during the latter part of the century and interviewed Hartwell Ryder concerning the mobbing. end13]]

Another factor contributing to the participation of some in the



[p. 255]

mob was to release their resentment against Smith for influences that interferred with their domestic harmony. "There was a man down at Shallersville," said Hartwell Ryder, "whose wife had joined the Mormon Church and was agoing [sic] with the Mormons to Missouri." [[14 Idem.]] This he resented. Inasmuch as particupants from Shallersville served in the mob, it is plausible that they were motivated by such personal reasons.

Upon considering the general resentment and fear that was being engendered by the stories that circulated about Smith and his people, it was not difficult to excite those with personal grievances to participate in the mobbing. Ostensibly, then, there were at least three factors that prompted the vindictiveness released in the early hours of March 25, 1832, in Hiram, Ohio, against the two chief Mormon leaders: (1) objections to the economic order of the Church, the Law of Consecration and Stewardship, which some thought would interfere with the private ownership of property of the new converts in Hiram; (2) some desired to prevent Hiram from becoming a major Mormon center; and (3) there was a resentment for breaking up family solidarity.

The following Wednesday, March 28th, Rigdon moved his family to Kirtland, but learning that a mob was there, he moved to Chardon the following Saturday. Preparations were made for a second trip to Missouri, and the Mormon President accompanied by Newel K. Whitney, Peter Whitmer, and Jesse Gause left Hiram on April 1st. They chose not to go to Kirtland at that time because of the threatening mob forces there. "And indeed,"



[p. 256]

said the Prophet, "the spirit of mobocracy was very prevalent through that whole region of country at the time." [[15 History of the Church, I, p. 265.]] Smith had his family move back to Kirtland, and he and his party started their journey by going to Wheeling, Virginia. Some of the members of the mob followed them as far west as Cincinnati. [[16 Ibid., p. 266.]]

After Smith's return from Missouri, it became increasingly necessary to protect him in order to avoid a recurrence of the Hiram encounter. Matters became so threatening in Kirtland in 1833, that the Saints were afraid their leaders would again be mobbed. In order to guard against an attack, precautionary measures were taken. Concerning these measures George A. Smith wrote.

In consequence of the persecution which raged against the Prophet Joseph, it was found necessary to keep continual guard to prevent his being murdered by his enemies, who were headed by Joseph H. Wakefield and Dr. P. Hurlburt, the latter of whom had been expelled from the Church for adultery. [[17 George A. Smith, op. cit., entry near the end of 1833.]]
Benjamin F. Johnson, who arrived in Kirtland in the fall of 1833, observed that there was "one continual persecution of the Prophet and contempt for the Saints and their religion." [[18 Benjamin F. Johnson, My Life's Review, p. 24.]] This necessitated further precautions. "Much of my time in boyhood," Johnson reflected, "was spent in assisting to prepare arms for the protection of the Saints. The lower story of my mother's house in Kirtland was at that time used by



[p. 257]

Brother M. C. Davis as a gunsmith shop, for the manufacture of defensive weapons for the use of the people." [[19 Idem.]]

Oliver Huntington, in writing about this early date, described a night scene that occurred while guarding the home of the Mormon Prophet:

At a time when Joseph Smith was guarded day and night by his brethren from mob violence, that he might perform his necessary business labors and get the necessary night's rest and that his life should be safe; he was in a log house at night. Several brethren were with him and were making arrangements as to who should stand guard that night.

Joseph was listening to the prayer of a little boy in the room adjoining. The boy prayed for the prophet, that he might be secure and safe from his enemies, the mob, that night.

When the boy had done praying, Joseph turned to his brethren and told them all to go to bed and all sleep and rest themselves that night, for God had heard and would answer that boy's prayer. They all went to bed and slept safely until morning undisturbed. [[20 Oliver Huntington, op. cit., Vol. II, pp. 167, 168.]]
Apparently from that time until the Prophet left Ohio in 1838, it was necessary to maintain a constant guard upon Smith's and Rigdon's homes to prevent another attack upon these men. The men who were requested to guard both homes made their own ammunition and carried weapons for protection. [[21 George A. Smith, op. cit., 1833 entry.]] Ira Ames, who remained in Kirtland until the winter of 1838, wrote in his diary,

Ever since my arrival in Kirtland, I had stood guard at night in consequence of the Mob and persecutions we endured. Especially this winter of 1835 I frequently taking [sic] my blanket and sleeping in Joseph's house and guarding my portion of the time and continued as


[p. 258]

one of Joseph's body guards until I left Kirtland. [[22 Ames, op. cit., 1835 entry. He left Kirtland in January, 1838, shortly after the departure of the Prophet. end22]]
The winter of 1833 and 1834 was a particularly threatening period of time for the Saints in Kirtland. Shortly after the violence that caused the Jackson County Saints to evacuate their homes in their several branches near Independence, Missouri, Joseph Smith wrote to Bishop Partridge in Missouri saying, "The inhabitants of this country (i. e. Ohio) threaten our destruction, and we know not how soon they may be permitted to follow the example of the Missourians," [[23 Joseph Smith, "Letter to Edward Partridge," op. cit., December 5, 1833. end23]]

It is unfortunate that more details of the threats were not preserved, but according to Cowdery much of the animosity was stirred up by Hurlburt who was "in the country peddling slander," about the Latter-day Saints. [[24 Oliver Cowdery, "Letter to Lyman Cowdery," January 13, 1834. Located in the Huntington Library, San Mateo, California. end24]]

Writing of this troubled time, Smith said:

All the Church in Kirtland had to lie every night for a long time upon our arms to keep off mobs, of forties , of eighties, & of hundreds to save our lives and the press, and that we might not be scattered & driven to the four winds! [[25 Joseph Smith, "Letter to Edward Partridge and others of the Firm," March 30, 1834. Located on microfilm at Brigham Young University Library. end25]]
The night of January 7, 1834, was an especially threatening one, for a mob assembled near Kirtland and attempted to frighten the inhabitants with the firing of a cannon. In the words of Oliver Cowdery, "They came out on the 8th about 12 o'clock at night, a little west and



[p. 259]

fired (a) cannon, we supposed to alarm us, but no one was frightened, but all prepared to defend ourselves if they made a sally upon our houses." [[26 Oliver Cowdery, "Letter to William Phelps and John Whitmer," January 21, 1834. Located in the Huntington Library. end26]]

To this the Prophet Joseph Smith added,

The threats of the mob about Kirtland through the fall and winter had been such as to cause the brethren to be constantly on the lookout, and those who labored on the temple were engaged at night watching to protect the walls they had laid during the day, from threatened violence. On the morning of the 8th of January, about 1 o'clock, the inhabitants of Kirtland were alarmed by the firing of about thirteen rounds of cannon, by the mob, on the hill about half a mile northwest of the village. [[27 History of the Church. II, p. 2.]]
Heber C. Kimball adds further testimony to the threatening conflict that existed in Kirtland during the construction of the temple. During this time he reported,

When I got to Kirtland the brethren were engaged in building the house of the Lord. The commandment to build the house, and also the pattern of it was given in a revelation to Joseph Smith, jr., Sidney Rigdon, and Frederick G. Williams, and was to be erected by a stated time. The church was in a state of poverty and distress, in consequence of which it appeared almost impossible that the commandment would be fulfilled, at the same time our enemies were raging and threatening destruction upon us, and we had to guard ourselves night after night, and for weeks were not permitted to take off our clothes, and were obliged to lay with our fire locks in our arms. [[28 Heber C. Kimball, Times and Seasons (Illinois), VI, No. 1 (January 15, 1845), p. 77. end28]]

In the words of Joel Hills Johnson, the Saints had "but very few friends among the world," at this time while they had "thousands of enemies who were holding their secret meetings to devise plans to thwart



[p. 260]

[no text]



[p. 261]

and overthrow all our arrangements." Then he added his corroborating testimony of the necessity of defending the newly constructed sections of the temple. "We were obliged," he said, to keep up night watches to prevent being mobbed, and our work being overthrown. [[29 Joel Hills Johnson, "Journal of Joel Hills Johnson," p. 16. A typed copy is located in the Special Collections Library at Brigham Young University. end29]]

Threats of mob attack upon the Kirtland Saints continued to the spring of 1835, when Grandison Newell headed a mob which, rumor declared, was preparing to attack the Mormons in Kirtland. Referring to this period, Newell K. Whitney said, "Many rumors were afloat, which caused us to expect a mob and prepare ourselves for defense." [[30 Painesville Telegraph, III, No. 23 (June 9, 1837), n. p.]]

This threat, like others, however, never materialized. Nevertheless, such threats served to terrorize the Saints, leaving them in a perpetual state of anxiety. In 1837, Wilford Woodruff indicated that another mob, one composed of the Painesville citizens, was threatening abuse upon the Mormons in Kirtland. Concerning the night of January 24, 1837, he journalized,

We had been threatened by a mob from Painesville to visit us that night and demolish our Bank and take our property but they did not appear but the wrath of our enemies appears to be kindled against us. This in part is the scourge that hath awaited us, but may the Lord show us mercy and deliver us from the hands of our enemies for Christ's (sake). [[31 Woodruff, op. cit., p. 80.]]
This ominous threat of mobs was a constant terror to the Mormon Prophet and an expectation of a recurrence of the Hiram outrage undoubtedly was indelibly impressed into his memory. It was this terror, in part



[p.262]

that forced him to leave Ohio and settle in Missouri in 1838. As long as he remained in Kirtland, the threat of being attacked by mobs was imminent. Brigham Young declared that men plotted to apprehend Smith "for the purpose of taking his life," when the Prophet was returning from a visit to Monroe, Michigan. "I procured a horse and buggy and took Brother William Smith along to meet Joseph," said Brigham Young. "We met him returning in the stage coach. Joseph requested William to take his seat in the stage and rode with me in the buggy." Fortunately, Brigham Young concluded, "We arrived in Kirtland in safety," [[32 Brigham Young, Deseret News Weekly, VII, No. 49 (February 10, 1858), p. 386. ]] [[My note: see the same entry in Elden Jay Watson. editor Manuscript History of Brigham Young, 1801-1844 (Salt Lake City: Smith Secretarial Service, 1968). The Smith brothers' trip to Monroe apparently transpired during the first half of February, and they had returned by Feb. 19: see Woodruff's diary 1837]]

In July of the same year, Anson Call, a past-resident of Painesville, reported an event that occurred when Smith and Rigdon were traveling from Fairport to Kirtland. These men stopped in Painesville at the home of the Prophet's attorney, Benjamin Bissell, for some refreshments. While they were at the table, Esq. Bissell said that a mob had gathered and he was concerned about their safety. He directed his friends through a back alley and out of Painesville and promised them he would transport their horse and buggy to Kirtland the following morning. After their departure at dusk, Anson Call reported that they "passed the road back and forth several times and the mob kindled fires in front of them in several places on the road," [[33 "Journal History," July 27, 1837. Also describing the same incident is another document on file by Anson Call dated July 27, 1837, in the Church Historian's Library.]] This prevented them from using the public road and forced them to take refuge in and travel



[p.263]

through the Manti Swamps. Rigdon's health was poor and necessitated his being carried through the swamp, a distance of four miles, upon Joseph's back. When they arrived in Kirtland at dawn -- the entire night was expended in their journey -- they went to the temple where a congregation had previously gathered. At this time, Joseph related the experiences he and Sidney had experienced that night.

Although violence of the intensity that occurred during the night of March 25, 1832, was never repeated in Ohio against the Mormons, the existence of mobs continued as a constant threat to the peace of many Saints residing in and near Kirtland. This organized resistance has been generally ignored by historians, yet to the Mormons in Ohio during the 1830's the threats of mob interference terrorized them to the extent they felt they were in constant jeopardy of losing their tranquillity or their lives.


Vexatious Law Suits

Persecution came upon the Mormons in various forms. In 1836 the Messenger and Advocate editorialized concerning the oft-used method of persecution resorted to by the anti-Mormon community:

Not only are their characters [i. e. the Saints] vilified and slandered by every little two-penny filthy sheet from Maine to Georgia, opposed to the rights of conscience... but time and again, are they perplexed and harassed with suits at law, brought by enemies on trivial pretenses. [[34 Messenger and Advocate, II, No. 9 (June, 1836), p, 333.]]
These law suits were not only costly in time and money, but were found to be excessively vexatious and distressing to the Saints and particularly



[p. 264]

to their young leader. In 1838, while referring to these years in Kirtland, John Corrill, a defunct bishop's counselor and apostate, wrote:

Smith and Rigden, with others, complained much of the ill treatment they had received from the dissenters and others; they said they had been harassed to death, as it were, for seven or eight years... [[35 Corrill, op. cit., p. 29.]]
The Mormon Prophet had, previous to his move to Ohio, received abuse through the courts in New York; in fact, the accounts of these trials had preceded Joseph to Ohio and prompted Rigdon to investigate them to his satisfaction when he journeyed east to see the Prophet in 1831. [[36 Painesville Telegraph, II, No. 35 (February 15, 1831), n. p.]] It was common knowledge among the Saints that Joseph was frequently inconvenienced by legal charges during the years in Kirtland. In 1837, many distressing charges appeared. Heber C. Kimball offers the following description of the inconvenience in which such lawsuits placed the Prophet:

Joseph was sued before a magistrate's court in Painesville on a vexatious suit. I carried him from Kirtland to Painesville, with four or five others, in my wagon every morning for five days, and brought them back in the evening. We were often waylaid, but managed to elude our enemies by rapid driving and taking different roads. Esq. Bissell defended the Prophet. [[37 Heber C. Kimball, "History of Brigham Young," Millennial Star,, XXVI, No. 34 (August 20, 1864), p. 535.]]
Although there may have been legitimate reasons for some of the suits against Smith and his people, it was frankly admitted by E. D.



[p. 265]

Howe that this avenue of persecution was resorted to in order to retard the advancing growth of Mormonism in the Western Reserve. He later wrote,

All their vain babblings and pretensions were pretty strongly set forth and noticed in the columns of the TELEGRAPH. In view of all their gaseous pretensions the surrounding country was becoming somewhat sensitive, and many of our citizens thought it advisable to take all the legal means within their reach to counteract the progress of so dangerous an enemy in their midst, and many law suits ensued. [[38 E. D. Howe, Autobiography, p. 45. Italics added.]]
Brigham Young noted that "few of the vexatious proceedings of the world and apostates, against Joseph," were recorded in his history. [[39 Brigham Young, Deseret News Weekly, VII, No. 49 (February 10, 1838), p. 385. The suit that Brigham Young referred to among other things dealt with Joseph alleged promise that all that traveled to Missouri in Zion's Camp in 1834 would return. Esq. Bissell, again Joseph's attorney, remarked that although some died, the witnesses had testified that they all did return. end39]] Historian George A. Smith estimated that there were approximately fifty law suits against the Prophet during his short life time. [[40 Journal of Discourses. VIII. p. 104. Historian Smith discusses the excessive financial burden the court suits placed upon the President of the Mormon Church. Although he sidesteps the costs during the Ohio period of the Church, he does give some insight into the burdensome expenses the cases amounted to during later periods. Concerning such he said, "Joseph Smith, the Prophet, was subjected, during his short ministerial career of fifteen years, to about fifty vexatious suits. The principal expense was incurred in liquidating lawyer's bills, and the brethren's time and expenditure in attending courts to defend the Prophet from mob violence.

Magistrates' court expenses were generally one hundred dollars. The Prophet paid Generals Doniphan and Atchison for legal services at Richmond, Mo., in 1838-9, sixteen thousand dollars....

At the Prophet's trial at Monmouth, Ill., in 1841, before Judge Douglas, the lawyer's fees and expenses amounted to three thousand dollars.

Cyrus Walker charged ten thousand dollars for defending Joseph in his political arrest, or the attempt at kidnapping him at Dixon, Ill., in 1843. There were four other lawyers employed for the defense besides Walker. The expenses of the defense in this trial were enormous, involving the amounts incurred by the horse companies who went in pursuit to aid Joseph, and the trip of the steamer Maid of Iowa, from Nauvoo to Otawa, and may be fairly estimated at one hundred thousand dollars. Ibid., pp. 109, 110. end 40]]



[p. 266]

William E. McLellin said, "At Kirtland there was a wealthy citizen, Grandison Newell, who brought a number of civil suits against Joseph Smith -- estimated as high as thirty." [[41 Salt Lake Tribune, IX, No. 147 (October 6, 1875), p. 4. This statement resulted from an interview with McLellin by a correspondent to the Salt Lake newspaper. It may be an exaggeration, but it lends credence to the fact that the Prophet was burdened by an excessive number of law suits initiated by Grandison Newell. end41]] A consideration of some of these lawsuits will add substance to the generalized statements.

In 1836, Parley P. Pratt had taken the message of Mormonism to Canada and a number of branches of the Church had been established there. One year later, when Joseph was traveling to this country to visit the Saints, he was delayed in Painesville "by malicious and vexatious law suits." There were in fact six writs served on the Mormon leader on that day in Painesville. On the first two writs he was tried and released with no action taken against him. He was then arrested a third time and in being examined was held over for the trial. A release was available, however, on a five hundred dollar bond if an acceptable signer could be found. The court would not allow any in his party to sign for him or post bail, ostensibly, for fear they were fleeing to Canada and would not return to honor the commitment. As the party was waiting in the doorway of Joseph's attorney, Esquire Benjamin Bissell, Anson Call, a recent convert to Mormonism, passed by the office; he inquired of the difficulty,



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and called for the sheriff in order to sign the release. Fortunately, the sheriff, Abel Kimball, had been an intimate friend of Call's, and finally accepted his signature. Meanwhile, Albert P. Rockwood, one of the Prophet's party, said that Sheriff Kimball and Anson Call discussed the problem and Anson Call reported,

He said he wished to talk with me and we stepped aside. He then told me he did not want me to go for his bail for Joe was making his escape to Canada and I would have to pay the bonds. I told him I was not uneasy about that for he would return before Court set. He asked me if I had sold my farm in Madison. I told him no. Had I mortgaged it? I told him it was perfectly clear. I owed no man. He said, 'Now Anson, I don't want you to do it, I will push the bonds,' I told him I was willing to run all the risks and according to his oath he was under obligation to take me. 'Come ahead,' said he, 'and sign the bonds.' I signed them. Joseph was set at liberty and prosecuted his journey. He arrived at Fairport a distance of 4 miles and engaged his passage on a steam boat. The Sheriff pursued him with another writ. The company went back with him to Painesville [where] he stood trial and was acquitted. [[42 Anson Call, A document dated July 27, 1837, bearing no title is on file in the Church Historian's Office. Minor punctuation inclusions are added to the original by the present writer. See also "Journal History," July 27, 1837, for another statement by Anson Call. Albert P. Rockwood also stated that Smith's party journeyed to Fairport during the day, but neither Brigham Young's account not the Prophet's reference to the incident include that point. end42]]
Brigham Young observed that the nature of the fourth writ was for an unpaid debt "of a few dollars which was paid forthwith, and the fifth time he was arrested which case was soon disposed of, and he concluded to return to Kirtland for the night" instead of pursuing the trip to Canada. [[43 Brigham Young, "Ms. History of the Great Lakes Mission -- Ohio," dated July 27, 1837.]] As the Mormon Prophet entered into his buggy to return home, the sheriff caught the reins with one hand and placed the other



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on Joseph's shoulder and said, "Mr. Smith, you are my prisoner," [[46 Idem.]] The writ on this, the sixth and last case for the day, was issued over a complaint of a kitchen-stove salesman who had previously left a new type of stove with the Prophet in Kirtland some time before in anticipation that his use might popularize it. Brigham Young said that Joseph testified, "I never wished to purchase the stove. But the gentleman insisted on putting it in my house." [[45 Idem.]] In summary the Prophet further said,

A man who had a few weeks previously brought new fashioned cooking stove to Kirtland, and prevailed on me to put it up in my kitchen, saying it would give credit to his stove, wishing to have it tested by our people; and now he thought it would be a good time to get pay for it. I gave my watch to the officer for security and we all returned home. [[46 History of the Church, II, p. 502.]]
On another occasion, a Baptist minister, who had been acquainted with the Prophet Joseph Smith in New York earlier in his life, visited him in Kirtland and remained as a guest with the Smiths over night. Following breakfast the next morning, the clergyman proceeded to call the Mormon leader "a hypocrite, a liar, an impostor, and a false prophet,' [[47 Luke S. Johnson, "History of Luke Johnson," Millennial Star, XXVII, No. 1 (January 7, 1865). p. 5.]] with the desired effect of chastening Smith to repentance. Joseph became exasperated over his ingratitude and "boxed his ears with both hands, and turning his face towards the door, kicked him into the street," for the man's lack of charity. The minister immediately sought a magistrate



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and swore out a writ for assault and battery against Smith. Luke S. Johnson, who witnessed the episode, followed the clergyman into the officer's quarters and filled out a writ accusing the clergyman of provoking the assault. The clerk wrote up Johnson's writ first, whereupon the minister hurriedly paid for his writ and left the office to avoid any difficulty arising from Johnson's complaint. [[48 Idem.]]

Perhaps the most menacing and potentially dangerous charge that was issued against the Mormon Prophet in Ohio was the complaint made in may, 1837, that Joseph Smith was an accessory to a plot to assassinate Grandison Newell. Newell, a wealthy industrialist who lived in Mentor, just two miles from Kirtland, exhibited considerable scorn for both Smith and the Mormon people. [[49 For other considerations of Newell's action against the Mormons see Supra., pp. 206, 261, 279.]]

This contempt was derisively expressed in a letter Newell wrote to Sidney Rigdon revealing his accusation against the Prophet. To Rigdon he wrote, "Your bosom associate is the imposture, Smith, the impious fabricator of gold bibles -- the blasphemous forger of revelations, with which he swindles ignorant people out of their hard-earned property." [[50 Grandison Newell, "Letter to Sidney Rigdon," Painesville Telegraph, III, No. 21 (May 26, 1837(, n. p.]]

This attack on Smith's character insinuated



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Newell's contempt for the Prophet as a religious figure despite the allegations that followed. Newell, then, proceeded to accuse the Mormon Prophet as an accessory to a conspiracy against his life by writing:

Emboldened by success in his wicked schemes, he [i. e. Smith] hesitates not to use his authority as the revelator of the will of Heaven, to incite his followers to remove those who have opposed his treachery and fraud, by assassination. Deluded and frantic by his pretended revelation, that it was the will of God, that I should be destroyed, two of the saints of the latter day, by concert, and under the express direction of their prophet, this high priest of satan, meet in the night, at a little distance from my house, with loaded rifles, and pistols, with a determination to kill me. But as they draw near the spot where the bloody deed was to be performed, they trembled under the awful responsibility of committing murder, a little cool reflection in darkness and silence, broke the spell of the false prophet -- they were restored to their right minds, and are now rejoicing that they were not left to the power of the devil and co-adjutor Smith, to stain their souls with a crime so horrible. While these scenes were planned by the prophet, and promises of great temporal and spiritual good lavished upon these two men, by him, to stimulate them to assassinate me in my own house, in the midst of my family, and in a moment when I was defenceless and suspecting no danger... [[51 Idem.]]

Newell's accusations were no idle threat, for later in the month he registered a complaint with Justice Flint of Painesville and a warrant was issued by the officer for Smith's arrest. Several individuals in Painesville organized themselves into an unofficial self-appointed committee which proceeded to Kirtland to apprehend the Prophet and carry him to Painesville for trial; but he was not to be found in Kirtland. They demanded the Mormon leaders to surrender the Prophet to them, believing they had hidden him. Upon learning that Smith was not at Kirtland, they



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speculated that he would never return. Following a lapse of days, Joseph did return to Kirtland and was arrested without difficulty. The case was presented before Justice Flint on Tuesday, May 30, 1837, for a preliminary hearing. The Mormon Prophet was accompanied to Painesville with a sizeable entourage of witnesses, but the trial was held over until the following Saturday to provide the prosecution sufficient time to procure a state's evidence in the case.

On Saturday, June 3rd, the trial was held in Painesville in the Methodist chapel before a crowd of anxious spectators highly anticipating that they might witness a disclosure of the "murderous projects of the modern prophet," so reported the Ohio Statesman, [[52 Ohio Statesman, (Columbus), I, No. 1 (July 5, 1837), n. p.]] The charge against Joseph, as stated by the Telegraph was,

Complaint of Mr. Grandison Newell against the defendant [Smith], charging him with an attempt to take the life of said complainant, by inducing two individuals to lay in wait for said Newell, near his dwelling in order to shoot him... [[53 Painesville Telegraph, III, No. 23 (June 9, 1837), n. p.]]
The two confederates who were implicated in the alleged conspiracy with Joseph Smith, Jr., were young Solomon W. Denton and a Mr. Davis. It appears that although both men had been Mormons, Davis never wholly committed himself to the rules of the Mormon society, and Denton, who had resided with the Smiths occasionally since 1835 while working in the printing office, was excommunicated from the Church two or three months prior to the June trials. [[54 Idem. See also The Return (Iowa), I, No. 7 (July, 1889), p. 104. Ebenezer Robinson, a member of the printing office staff, refers to Denton. ]] Newell alleged that although Denton and



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Davis were to perpetrate the plot, the Mormon Prophet -- the defendant in the case -- conceived the conspiracy.

The Telegraph reported the case as "THE STATE OF OHIO, vs. JOSEPH SMITH, JR. alias THE PROPHET. [[55 Idem.]] This newspaper offered its readers an abstract of the trial, but only briefly. The testimonies of Orson Hyde, Solomon H. [sic] Denton, Newell K. Whitney, Luke S. Johnson, Warren Parrish, Sidney Rigdon, and Hiram Smith were given in the Telegraph account. The prime motive for Smith's conspiracy against Newell, it was alleged, resulted from his raising a mob against the Mormons in Kirtland. It appeared that the most promising witness for the prosecution was Warren Parrish, former scribe of Joseph Smith's who had recently exhibited obvious tendencies of defection. The question was presented to Parrish, "Do you know of anything in the character of Mr. Smith, which is unworthy of his profession as a man of God?" He answered, "I do not." The prosecution was shocked and Newell was visibly shaken. This moment prompted the following succinct observation by the Prophet, "The countenance of Newell fell, and if he had possessed one grain of human feelings, would have gone off with shame, but of this, there is about as much in him as in other beast." [[56 Elders' Journal, I, No. 4 )August, 1838), p. 58.]]

The testimonies that the Telegraph printed seemed to be damaging to Smith; whether this was by design or accident may not be known. Apparently Judge Flint thought that the testimony was sufficiently



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incriminating to order Smith to appear before the county court the following week for further execution of the case. Furthermore, he charged Smith five hundred dollars bond for his appearance in court as well as fifty dollars each for Rigdon, Hyde, and Denton who appeared as witnesses. [[57 Painesville Telegraph, III, No. 23 (June 9, 1837), n. p. No explanation is given as to why the judge did not charge the other witnesses a fee.]] The Painesville Republican also covered the trial, but reflected an entirely different impression of the defendant's guilt from that of the Painesville Telegraph. In fact, it was expressed in the Republican that the trial readily proved Smith's innocence. Editorially, it observed the following about the trial:

I [i. e. the editor of the Republican] attended the trial and took down the evidence, but was much surprised to find that no testimony appeared, on which, any reliance could be placed, that went in the least degree to criminate the respondent, but rather to raise him in the estimation of men of candor. But the Justice of the Peace who had been selected to try the question, decided otherwise, and Mr. Smith was held to bail in the sum of $500, to appear at the Court of Common Pleas, at the next term, which commenced the Monday following, being last week. The trial again came on before the County Court, on Friday last... [[58 Ohio Statesman, I, No. 1 (July 5, 1837), n. p. citing the Painesville Republican.]]
The second trial against the Prophet was held in the county court at Chardon on Friday, June 9th, presided over by Judge Humphrey. After considering the case, Humphrey acquitted the defendant of the charge. Judge Humphrey insinuated that Newell's hatred for Smith induced his action against the defendant rather than his fear of assassination. [[59 Painesville Telegraph, III, No. 26 (June 30, 1837), n. p. ]]



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The details of this trial were not given in the press, but apparently no new significant evidence was presented against the defendant. The Telegraph made only the following brief note of this trial and acquittal:
It will be recollected that the Mormon Prophet was apprehended a short time since, on a charge of inducing two of his followers to destroy the life of Mr. Newell. He was trued by the County Court last Friday, and acquitted [[60 Painesville Telegraph, III, No. 24 (June 16, 1837), n. p. ]]
Newell was so disappointed over the decision that he presented his case to the readers of the Telegraph in a lengthy letter reviewing the foregoing events in an attempt to win public approval.

His complaint against Smith, he believed, could be well established. In presenting his cardinal point, Newell said, "Denton swore [in testimony] that Smith urged him and Davis to kill me; and enforced the exhortation by appealing to the Bible, and by declaring that it was the will of God. Is Denton entitled to credit?" he asked, "If he is, the charge is established," he concluded. [[61 Painesville Telegraph, III, No. 26 (June 30, 1837), n. p.]] Further, he said,
But admit, a moment, that suspicions attach to Denton, then, is his evidence corroborated by any other witnesses? Sidney Rigdon, however much to be doubted on other occasions is a credible witness when he gives testimony against the prophet. He said, about two years ago, information came to him from some quarter, but from whom he could not remember, that Davis and Denton entertained designs against my life; that he believed this report, and informed Smith of it; and that afterwards Smith told him that through his influence Davis and Denton had laid aside their purpose. Now the fact that Davis and Denton entertained a purpose to kill me, is proved by Rigdon, a 'saint of the latter day,' and by the confession of Smith, as sworn by Rigdon. One point sworn


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to by Denton is thus fully established by the corroborating attestation of Rigdon. [[62 Idem. Italics added.]]
Reviewing the evidence that Denton and Davis had actually made threats against his life, Newell reasoned, "The only remaining question on which there is any doubt, is -- 'did Smith instigate this design.'" [[63 Idem.]] Newell, then. proceeded to implicate Joseph Smith with the conspiracy by circumstantial evidence. His line of reasoning included: (1) Denton's testimony that Smith was involved in the plot. (2) Denton who had lived with the Smith family was amenable to the Prophet and therefore was willing to relinquish "blind obedience to all his commands." (3) The boy Denton would unlikely conceive of the scheme without the aid of some more responsible leader. (4) Denton and Davis were strangers to Newell and had no personal hatred for him. (5) Smith whose "heart is so thoroughly depraved," by conceiving the Mormon fraud would also commit other "atrocious crimes." (6) Then finally, Newell argued, Orson Hyde testified in the trial that if Newell should start any suits for "unlawful banking against any of the Mormons, [Newell] ought to be put where the crows could not find him; that it would be no sin to kill him..." [[64 Idem.]]

On the basis of his analysis of the circumstantial evidence, Newell concluded that Smith was guilty as charged and that the court betrayed its duty in not declaring him so.



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The week following Newell's futile attempt to justify his unprofitable action, the Painesville Republican announced its support for the court's decision and defended Smith's innocence. Furthermore, it chastened Newell for his prejudicial action, and criticized him for not supporting the authority of the court and Judge Humphrey's decision. The Republican scornfully accused Newell of offering a "garbled statement of the testimony" and it reviewed the entire affair on the part of Newell as a "projected plan of persecution" of the Mormon Prophet. [[65 Painesville Republican I, No. 34 {July 6. 1837). n. p. Italics added.]] In developing its accusation against Newell, the Republican further stated,

Let us look at the very case alluded to in the Telegraph [i. e. Newell's letter of defense] and bring to view some facts in relation to it. Mr. Newell resides in Mentor, about seven miles from Painesville and within two miles of the Mormon settlement, where Joseph Smith, jr., resides. In preferring his complaint against Smith -- why did he depart from the common practice, and drag Mr. Smith and his witnesses through his own town to a distance of nine miles from home, to Painesville, when there are two Justices of the Peace in Mentor, where he resides. Was it done to harrass [sic] Mr. Smith and subject him to a greater bill of expense in defending himself? or was it because he could not find one sufficiently subservient to his views, without coming to this place? The complainant, respondent and the witnesses on both sides were most if not all residents in and near Kirtland -- who, contrary to the usual practice in legal proceedings, were compelled to travel nine miles to attend the trial before Mr. Justice Flint, although there is a Justice of the Peace within two miles of Mr. Newell's residence, in his own Town. I ask again, why was Mr. Flint selected to sit in judgment in this case. Those who know the circumstances have reason to say, in answer to these questions, that it was done, first the more to harrass the mormons -- secondly, that it was desirable to have it before a man whose civil and political associations promised a result favorable to the complainant's views -- and thirdly, that it was designed to have a political bearing, and the better to affect this object, one who has hitherto been one of the

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principal leaders of the opposition, was stationed in a conspicuous position during the trial for that purpose[[66 Idem. Italics added.]]
Thus the matter ended, but the trial proved to be costly to Smith in time and energy and added to his harassment and sense of being persecuted. Such law suits continued until the threat of one in January, 1838, prompted Joseph Smith, Jr., to leave the state and never return. [[67 Infra.]]

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