Joseph Smith Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith with twenty-two family members are driven from Ohio and take the nearly one-thousand-mile journey to Far West, Missouri. An account of their terrible suffering and trials along the way. Lucy catches a cold that persists and threatens her life. Catharine Smith Salisbury gives birth to a son on the journey. Mother Smith hobbles into the woods at Huntsville, Missouri, prays for three hours, and is completely healed. Lucy recounts the mob action at the election in Gallatin, Missouri. Eight mobsters enter the Smith home in Far West to murder Joseph the Prophet. Lucy withstands them and Joseph softens their hearts. The Missouri militia surround the city of Far West to lay it to ashes.
May 1838 to October 1838
When we were ready to set out for Missouri, I went to New Portage with a conveyance to bring my husband to the rest of his family, and we were shortly on our way together, right glad to meet again, alive and in good health, after so many perilous adventures.
Almost as soon as we were well on our way, my sons began to have calls to preach, and they soon found that if they would yield to every solicitation, our journey would have been a preaching mission of very great length, which was quite inconsistent with the number and situation of our family. They were obliged to notify the people where we stopped that they could not preach to them at all, as if they did, we would not have means sufficient to take us through. They, however, sowed the seeds of the gospel in many places and were the means in the hands of God of doing much good.
We traveled on through many trials and difficulties. Sometimes we lay in our tents through a driving storm. At other times we traveled on foot through marshes and quagmires, exposing ourselves to wet and cold. Once we lay all night in the rain, which descended in torrents, and I, being more exposed than the other females, suffered much with the cold, and upon getting up in the morning, I found that a quilted skirt which I had worn the day before was wringing wet, but I could not mend the matter by changing that for another, for the rain was still falling. I wore it in this situation for three days. In consequence of this, I took a severe cold and was very sick, so that when we arrived at the Mississippi I was unable to sit up at any length and could not walk without assistance. After we crossed this river, we stopped at a Negro hut, a most unlovely place, but we could go no farther. Here my daughter Catharine gave birth to a fine son named Alvin.
The next morning we set out to find a more comfortable situation for her and succeeded in getting a place about four miles ahead, and my poor child was carried from the loathsome hut to this house in a double wagon. The same day it was agreed that my oldest daughter, Sophronia, and her husband, McLeary, should stay with Catharine, and that Mr. Smith and the remainder of the party would take me with what speed they could to Huntsville.
I was no longer able to ride in a sitting posture, but lay on a bedstead carefully covered, as the fresh air kept me coughing continually. My husband did not much expect me to live to the end of the journey, for I could not travel sometimes more than four miles a day. But as soon as we arrived at Huntsville, he sought a place where we might stop for some time, so that all that nursing could do for me could be done.
Going as far as Huntsville was my own request, but they did not know why I urged the matter. The fact was, I had an impression that if I could get there and be able to find a place where I could be secluded and uninterrupted in calling upon the Lord, I might be healed. Accordingly, I seized upon a time when they were engaged, and by the aid of staffs I reached a fence, and then followed the fence some distance till I came to a dense hazel thicket. Here I threw myself on the ground and thought it was no matter how far I was from the house, for if the Lord would not hear me and I must die, I might as well die here as anywhere. When I was a little rested, I commenced calling upon the Lord to beseech his mercy, praying for my health and the life of my daughter Catharine. I urged every claim which the scriptures give us and was as humble as I knew how to be, and I continued praying near three hours. At last I was entirely relieved from pain, my cough left me, and I was well. Moreover, I received an assurance that I should hear from my sick daughter about the middle of the same day. I arose and went to the house in as good health as I ever enjoyed.
At one o’clock, Wilkins J. Salisbury came to Huntsville and said that Catharine was better and thought if she had a carriage to ride in, she could proceed on her journey.
The next morning Salisbury returned to his wife, who was forty miles from Huntsville. The first day she rode thirty miles, and the day after ten miles, which brought her to Huntsville. When she got there, we were holding a meeting and did not expect her, as the rain had been pouring down in torrents all the forenoon. Although they had driven with great speed through the rain, she was cold, and her bed was very wet. As soon as she was put into a dry bed, she had a dreadful ague fit, and we called the elders to lay hands upon her. This helped her, but she continued weak and inclined to chills and fever for a long time.
The day after she came, I washed a very large quantity of clothes with as much ease as though I had not been out of health at all. When the company was all gathered together, we started on our journey again and arrived at Far West without any further difficulty. Here we met Joseph and Hyrum in good health. They had heard by William and Carlos, who went into Far West before us, of my sickness and were surprised to see me in such good health as well.
We moved into a small log house, having but one room, a very inconvenient place for so large a family. When Joseph saw how we were situated, he proposed that we should take a large tavern house, which he had recently purchased from Brother Gilbert, and we did so. Samuel, previous to this, had moved to a place called Marrowbone, Daviess County. William had moved thirty miles in another direction. We were all now quite comfortable.
Nothing of importance occurred from this time until the first of August when an election took place at Gallatin, the county seat of Daviess County. At this election the Mormon brethren went to the polls as usual for the purpose of voting, but a party of men were collected there who were determined to prevent them from exercising their franchise and forbid them from putting in a vote. Without paying any attention to them, one of the brethren, named John Butler, stepped up to the polls and voted, whereupon a man belonging to the adverse party struck him a severe blow. John Butler was a very high-spirited man and could not brook such treatment; consequently, the blow was returned with a force that brought his antagonist to the ground. Four others of the same party came to the assistance of the fallen man and shared his fate, for Mr. Butler was a man of extraordinary strength and, when excited, was not easily overcome. When the mob party saw the discomfiture of their champions, they were much enraged, and that night procured the assistance of the judge of the election, who wrote a number of letters in their behalf. These letters, which were sent in every direction to all the adjoining counties, stated that Joseph Smith had killed seven men at that place, and that the inhabitants had every reason to expect that he would collect his people together and exterminate all who did not belong to his church. They therefore begged the assistance of their neighbors against the Mormons.
These letters were extensively circulated and as widely believed.
We, who were living at Far West, heard nothing of this until a few days after when Joseph was at our house writing a letter. I was standing at the door of the room where he was sitting, and upon casting my eyes toward the prairie, I saw a large company of armed men advancing toward the city, but, supposing it to be a training day, I said nothing about it to anyone.
I soon observed that the main body of men came to a halt. The officers dismounted and eight of them came up to the house. Thinking that they wanted refreshment or something of that sort, I set chairs. But instead, they entered and placed themselves in a menacing line like a rank of soldiers across the room. When I requested them to sit down they replied, “We do not choose to sit. We have come here to kill Joe Smith and all the Mormons.”
“Oh,” said I, “what has Joseph Smith done that you should want to kill him?”
“He has killed seven men in Daviess County,” replied the foremost, “and we have come to kill him, and all his church.”
“He has not been in Daviess County,” I answered, “consequently the report must be false. Furthermore, if you should see him, you would not want to kill him.”
“There is no doubt that the report is perfectly correct,” rejoined the officer; “it came straight to us, and I believe it; and we were sent to kill the Prophet and all who believe him, and I’ll be d–d if I don’t execute my orders.”
“Then you are going to kill me with the rest, I suppose,” said I.
“Yes, we will,” he replied.
“Very well,” I answered, “but I want you to act like a gentleman about it and do the job quick. Just shoot me down at once, for then it will be but a moment till I shall be perfectly happy. But I would hate to be murdered by any slow process, and I do not see the need of it either, for you can just as well dispatch the work at once as for it to be ever so long a time.”
“There it is again,” said he. “That is always their plea. You tell a Mormon that you’ll shoot him, and all the good it does is to hear them answer, ‘Well, that’s nothing. If you kill me, we shall be happy.’ D–, seems that’s all the satisfaction you can get from them anyway.”
Joseph had continued writing till now, but having finished his letter, he asked me for a wafer to seal it. Seeing that he was at liberty, I said, “Gentlemen, suffer me to make you acquainted with Joseph Smith the Prophet.” He looked upon them with a very pleasant smile and, stepping up to them, gave each of them his hand in a manner which convinced them that he was neither a guilty criminal nor yet a cowering hypocrite. They stopped and stared as though a spectre had crossed their path.
Joseph sat down and entered into conversation with them and explained the views and feelings of the people called “Mormons,” what their course had been, and the treatment which they had received from their enemies since the first. He told them that malice and detraction had pursued them ever since they entered Missouri, but they were a people who had never broken the laws to his knowledge. They stood ready to be tried by the law-and if anything contrary to the law had been done by any of the brethren at Daviess, it would certainly be just to call them to an account, before molesting or murdering others that knew nothing of these transactions at Gallatin.
After this he rose and said, “Mother, I believe I will go home. Emma will be expecting me.” At this, two of the men sprang to their feet, saying, “You shall not go alone, for it is not safe. We will go with you and guard you.” Joseph thanked them and they left with him.
While they were absent, the remainder of the officers stood by the door, and I overheard the following conversation between them:
First Officer: “Did you not feel something strange when Smith took you by the hand? I never felt so in my life.”
Second Officer: “I felt as though I could not move. I would not harm one hair of that man’s head for the whole world.”
Third Officer: “This is the last time you will ever catch me coming to kill Joe Smith or the Mormons either.”
First Officer: “I guess this is my last expedition against this place. I never saw a more harmless, innocent-appearing man than the Mormon Prophet.”
Second Officer: “That story about his killing them men is all a d–d lie. There is no doubt of that, and we have had all this trouble for nothing. It’s the last time I’ll be fooled in this way.”
Those men who went home with my son promised to disband the militia under them and go home. They said that if Joseph had any use for them, they would come back and follow him anywhere. Thus, we considered that hostilities were no longer to be feared from the citizens. Joseph and Hyrum thought it proper, however, to go to Daviess County and ascertain the cause of the difficulty. They did so, and after receiving the strongest assurance of the future good attentions of the civil officers to administer equal rights and privileges among all the citizens, Mormons and anti-Mormons alike, they returned, hoping all would be well.
Soon after this we heard that William and his wife, Caroline, who lived twenty miles distant, were very sick. Samuel was at Far West at the time and set out immediately for William’s house with a carriage in order to bring them to our house. In a few days they arrived, feeling very low, and seemed more likely to die of the disease than to recover from it when they got there. But with close attention and great care, they soon began to show signs of recovery.
During the time when I was taking care of my son William and his wife, many things transpired that would probably be of interest to my readers, which I know nothing about, as I was so engaged with the care of my house and the sickness of my family, that I did not know, nor yet inquire or hear, what was going on.
In a little while after Samuel brought William and Caroline to our house, there was born unto Samuel a son, whom he called by his own name. When he was but three days old, his father was compelled to leave home. Samuel’s family was, at this time, living in a desolate, lonely place about thirty miles from Far West then called Marrowbone, afterwards named Shady Grove. Samuel had not been gone long when a number of the men who lived near him went to his wife and told her that the mob was coming there to drive all the Mormons from the country into Far West and perhaps they would kill them. They accordingly advised her to go immediately to Far West at all hazards and proffered to find her a wagon and boy to drive the horses. She consented, and they brought an open lumber wagon and put her into it on a bed with a very little clothing for herself and her children. In this way, she started for Far West with no one but a small boy to take care of her, the children and the team, and nothing to eat by the way. When they had traveled for some miles they stopped for the night, and in the latter part of the night it began to rain. The water fell upon her in torrents, for she had no shelter for herself or her infant. The bedding was soon completely saturated as the rain continued falling for some time with great violence.
The next day Samuel started from Far West to go to his own house, but met his wife along the way in this situation. He returned with her to Far West, where she arrived about thirty-six hours after she had left Marrowbone without having taken any nourishment. Every garment upon her body, as well as her bed and bedding, was so wet with the rain that the water might have been wrung from them. She was speechless and almost stiff with the cold and effects of her exposure. We laid her on a bed, and my husband and my sons administered to her by the laying on of hands. We then changed her clothing, put her into a bed covered with warm blankets, and after pouring a little rice water into her mouth, she was administered to again. This time she raised her eyes and seemed to revive a little. I continued to employ every means that lay in my power for her benefit and that of my other sick children. In this I was much assisted by Emma and my daughters.
We soon reaped the reward of our labor, for in a short time they began to mend, and I now congratulated myself on the pleasure I should feel in seeing my children all well and enjoying each other’s society again.
After William began to sit up a little, he told me that he had a vision during his sickness, in which he saw a tremendous army of men coming into Far West, and that it was his impression that the time would not be long before he should see it fulfilled. I was soon convinced by the circumstances which afterwards transpired that he was not mistaken in his opinion.
I felt concerned about this, for I feared that some evil was hanging over us, but I knew nothing of the operations of the mob party, until one day Joseph rode up and told me to be not at all frightened, but the mob was coming, and we must all keep perfectly quiet. He wished the sisters to stay indoors and not suffer themselves to be seen in the streets. He could not stay with us, for he wanted to see the brethren and have them keep their families quiet and at home. He rode off, but I soon learned who the mob were. This was the state mob that was sent by the governor, a company of ten thousand men that stationed themselves on Salt Creek.
My son-in-law Mr. McLeary went out with some others to meet the mob and ascertain what their business was. They gave the messengers to understand that they would soon commence an indiscriminate butchery of men, women, and children, that their orders were to convert Far West into a human slaughter pen and never quit it while there was a lisping babe or a decrepit old woman breathing within its bounds. There were, however, three persons that they wished brought forth before they began their operations. They desired to preserve their lives, as some of them were related to one of the mob officers. These were Adam Lightner, John Cleminson and his wife, but after a short interview, John Cleminson, who was not a member of the Church, replied that they had lived with the Mormons and knew them to be an innocent people, “and if,” said he, “you are determined to destroy them, and lay the city in ashes, you must destroy me also, for I will die with them.”