Joseph, Hyrum, and others are taken prisoner in Far West. His parents think Joseph has been murdered. Lucy describes the scenes of Joseph and Hyrum being taken prisoner and their parting emotions. The Spirit whispers peace to the mind and heart of Mother Smith. Merciless conditions in Far West are beyond description. The Smiths leave for Illinois. Lucy describes the deplorable conditions of their journey east. The Saints, as destitute refugees, gather at Quincy, Illinois.
October 31, 1838 to late February 1839
At the time when Joseph went into the enemy’s camp, Mr. Smith and myself stood in the door of the house in which we were then living, and could distinctly hear their horrid yellings. Not knowing the cause, we supposed they were murdering him. Soon after the screaming commenced, five or six guns were discharged. At this Mr. Smith, folding his arms tight over his breast and grasping his sides, cried, groaning with mental agony, “Oh, my God! my God! they have murdered my son and I must die, for I cannot live without him!”
I was unable to answer him. In all our other troubles I had been able to speak a word of consolation to him, but now I could do nothing but mingle my cries and groans with his. Still, the shrieking and screaming continued. No tongue can ever express the sound that was conveyed to our ears nor the sensations that were produced in our hearts. It was like the screeching of a hundred owls mingled with the howling of an army of bloodhounds and the screaming of a thousand panthers all famishing for the prey which was being torn piecemeal among them.
My husband was immediately taken sick and never regained his health afterwards, although he lived two more years.
It will be seen by the testimony of Hyrum that he was taken by the officers the next day after he arrived at the camp, and that he was seated with Joseph on a log. The soldiers began to crowd around, raging and swearing that they would shoot them. Several guns were snapped at them before anyone interfered.
“Protect them,” Captain Martin ordered his men. “Surround the prisoners instantly with drawn swords and loaded muskets. Now, I swear by God, if one of you attempts to harm a hair of the head of one of the prisoners, I will cut his d–d head off in a minute. Do protect them, and if any man attempts to lift a gun to his face to shoot the prisoners, cut him down instantly, for they are innocent men. I know they are innocent. Just look at them. They show the fact in their very faces.”
This man was but a captain, but he stood there on guard and kept his men at their places two nights and a day. He neither slept himself, nor suffered his company to rest until Joseph and Hyrum were taken from this place.
When our sons were to be taken away, a messenger came and told us that if we ever were to see our sons alive again, we would have to go immediately to them, as they were in the wagon to be driven to Independence and would be gone in a few minutes. My husband was then too ill to be able to go, but Lucy and I started alone, for we were the only well ones of the family.
When we came within about four hundred yards of the wagon, we could go no farther because they were surrounded by men. “I am the mother of the Prophet,” I cried, “and is there not a gentleman here who will assist me through this crowd to that wagon that I may take a last look at my children and speak to them once more before they die?” One individual volunteered to make a pathway through the army, and we went on through the midst of swords, muskets, pistols, and bayonets, threatened with death at every step, until at last we arrived at the wagon. The man who accompanied me spoke to Hyrum, who was sitting in the front, and told him his mother was there and wished him to reach his hand to her. He did so, but I was not permitted to see him, for the cover of the wagon was made of very heavy cloth and tied closely down in front and nailed fast at the sides.
We merely shook hands with him and the other prisoners who sat in the forepart of the wagon, before several of the men in the mob exclaimed, “Drive over them,” calling to us to get out of the way, swearing at us and threatening us in the most dreadful manner.
Our friend then conducted us to the hinder part of the wagon where Joseph was, and said, “Mr. Smith, your mother and sister are here and wish to shake hands with you.” Joseph crowded his hand through between the wagon and cover where it was nailed down to the end board. We caught hold of his hand, but he did not speak to us. I could not bear to leave him without hearing his voice. “Oh, Joseph,” said I. “Do speak to your poor mother once more. I cannot go until I hear you speak.”
“God bless you, Mother,” he sobbed out. Then a cry was raised and the wagon dashed off, tearing my son from us just as Lucy was pressing his hand to her lips to bestow upon it a sister’s last kiss-for we knew that they were sentenced to be shot.
We succeeded in getting to the house again, although we were scarcely able to support ourselves. Before this final moment, the wagon had been driven through Far West and my sons had been allowed to see their families, but not permitted to speak to them nor to visit me.
To describe this scene is impossible. You have read something of how they were rushed from their wives and children amid their sobs and screams. Little Joseph clung to his father and exclaimed, “Oh, my Father. Why can you not stay with us?” They answered his question by pushing the child from his father with their swords, but there is a day when that question will be repeated, “Why did you tear the servant of God from his family and from his home and treat him thus cruelly?” If any of you who did this deed are living, let me warn you to prepare yourselves to answer that question before the bar of God, for I testify to you in the name of Jesus, you will have it to do. Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out when the times of refreshment shall come from the presence of the Lord.
I will now return to my family at home. For some time nothing was heard in the house but sighs and groans, as we thought we had seen Joseph and Hyrum for the last time. But in the midst of my grief, I found consolation that surpassed all earthly comfort. I was filled with the Spirit of God and received the following by the gift of prophecy: “Let your heart be comforted concerning your children, for they shall not harm a hair of their heads, and before four years, Joseph shall speak before the judges and great men of the land and his voice shall be heard in their councils. And in five years from this time he will have power over all his enemies.”
This relieved my mind, and I was prepared to comfort my children. “My children,” said I, “do not cry anymore. The mob will not kill them, for the Lord has signified to me that he will deliver them out of the hands of their enemies.” This was a great comfort to us all, and we were not so much distressed afterwards as to their lives being taken.
As soon as William was able to stir about a little, he besought his father to leave the place and move to Illinois, but Mr. Smith would not consent to do this, for he was in hopes that our sons would be liberated and peace be settled again. William still expostulated with him, but to no effect. At last Mr. Smith declared that he would not go away from Far West unless he was called upon to do so by revelation. “Very well, Father,” said William, “I can give you revelation, then,” and he rehearsed the vision which he had related to me. Mr. Smith answered this by saying that the family might get ready to start, and then if we were obliged to go, there would be nothing to hinder us.
Our business in Far West had been trading in corn and wheat, as well as keeping a public boardinghouse. When the state mob came in, we had some corn and wheat on hand but very little flour or meal, therefore we had sent a young man that lived with us to mill with fourteen bags of grain to be ground. But he had been obliged to leave because the mob was so near at hand that the miller declared it unsafe for the brethren to remain about his mill lest the mob militia should burn his premises. We were therefore obliged for a long time to pound our corn in a samp-mortar to make bread. It was all the breadstuff we had for a length of time, but there were many who subsisted on parched corn.
The people were all driven in from the country, and there was more than an acre of land in front of our house completely covered with beds, lying in the open sun, where men, women, and children were compelled to sleep in all weather. These were the last who had got into the city, and the houses were so full that there was no room for them. It was enough to make the heart ache to see children in the open sun and wind, sick with colds and very hungry, crying around their mothers for food and their parents destitute of the means of making them comfortable, while their houses, which lay a short distance from the city, were pillaged of everything, their fields thrown open for the horses belonging to the mob to lay waste and destroy, and their fat cattle shot down and turning to carrion before their eyes, while a strong guard, which was set over us for the purpose, prevented us from making use of a particle of the stock that was killed on every side of us.
It may be said that this evil certainly might have been provided against if Joseph Smith had the spirit of prophecy. To this I reply that he did all in his power to get the brethren to move into the city before they heard of the mob, but they did not hearken to counsel. Let this be an everlasting warning to the Saints not to reject the counsel of the authorities of the Church because they do not understand the reason of its being given. If the brethren at Haun’s Mill had observed to do what they were advised repeatedly to do, their lives would no doubt have been preserved, for they would have been at Far West with the rest of the brethren. I shall not attempt here to give a detail of facts which are already published. My mind is loathe to dwell on these days of sorrow more than is necessary.
When William began to be able to walk, he went to the stable to see after his horse, and not finding him, he inquired of one of the mob officers where his horse was. The officers replied that he had sent a messenger on him with a dispatch to another part of the county. William told him that the horse must be returned, for he would not have him used in any such way. In a little while the dispatch came up, and William took the horse by the bridle and ordered the rider to dismount, with the officer seconding the order. It was obeyed and the horse was led to the stable.
Soon after this the brethren were compelled to lay down their arms and sign away their property. It was done immediately in front of our house, and I could hear General Clark’s speech distinctly in which he declared that my sons must die, that “their die was cast, their doom was fixed, their fate was sealed,” and also that if he could invoke the spirit of the unknown God to rest upon us, he would advise us to scatter abroad. I thought of the words of Paul to the Athenians and of the scripture which saith, “Ye know not God. I speak this to your shame.” For General Clark did not know that he could not measure arms with the Almighty, or he would not have said so positively what was to befall my imprisoned children.
Soon after Hyrum left home, his youngest son was born. This was Mary’s first child. Mary’s confinement was considered rather premature, being probably brought on by her extreme anxiety about her husband. She never saw him but once afterwards before she left the state in which he was held a prisoner. Mary suffered in her sickness beyond description, but in her affliction, her sister, Mrs. Thompson, stood by her and devoted her whole time to nursing and comforting her as they were equally alone, for one of their husbands was imprisoned and the other flying for his life. However, she gained sufficient strength to accompany Emma to the prison once before she left the state.
At this time, my husband sent to Joseph to know if it was the will of the Lord that we should leave the state. Whereupon Joseph sent him a revelation which he had received while in prison, which satisfied my husband’s mind, and he was willing to remove to Illinois as soon as possible.
After this, William made his arrangements as soon as possible to remove his family to Illinois, and in a short time had them comfortably situated in the town of Plymouth and sent back his team for his father’s family.
We loaded the wagon with our goods, but just before we were ready to start, word came that Sidney Rigdon’s family were ready to start and they must have the wagon. Thus, we were compelled to remain a season longer until William sent the team again. The wagon was again loaded and again unloaded, for another messenger came, saying that Emma, my son’s wife, was ready, and she must have the wagon. However, after a long time, we succeeded in getting one wagon in which to convey beds, clothing, and provisions for our own family and two of our sons-in-law and their families. Don Carlos, my youngest son, was in company with us. He rode with his wife and children in a one-horse buggy, and the greatest part of their baggage was also in our wagon.
In consequence of our crowded situation, we left a large stock of provisions and most of our pursuit in boxes and barrels in the house. But that was not the worst, for our horses were what is termed wind-broken, and every hill which we came to, we were obliged to get out and walk, which was both tiresome to the patience and the body.
The first day we arrived at a place called Tinney’s Grove, where we lodged in an old log house, spending a rather uncomfortable time. The day after, I traveled on foot half the day, and at night came to the house of one Mr. Thomas, who was then a member of the Church. My husband was very much out of health, as he had not recovered from the shock occasioned by the capture of Hyrum and Joseph, and he suffered much with a severe cough.
The third day in the afternoon, it commenced raining. When night arrived, we stopped at a house and asked permission to stay over. The man of the house showed us a miserable outhouse, filthy enough to sicken the stomach, even to look at, and told us if we would clean this place out and haul our own wood, we might lodge there. We cleaned out the place so as to be able to lay our beds down, and here we spent the night without a fire. The next morning the landlord charged us seventy-five cents for the use of this shed, and we went on in the pouring rain. We asked for shelter at many places but were refused admittance until near night. We traveled through the rain and mud without finding anyone who was willing to take us in. At last we came to one other place very much like where we had spent the night before. Here we stayed all night, again without a fire.
The day after, which was the fifth from the time we started, just before we got to Palmyra, Missouri, Don Carlos called to us and said, “Father, this exposure is too bad and I will not bear it any longer. And the first place I come to that looks comfortable, I shall drive up to the house and go in, and do follow me.”
We soon came to a handsome, neat-looking farmhouse which was surrounded with every appearance of comfort. The house stood a short distance from the road, but there was a large gate which opened into the field in front of it. Don Carlos opened the gate, drove into the field, and then, after he had assisted us through, he started to see the landlord, who met him before he came to the house. “Landlord,” said Don Carlos, “I do not know but that I am trespassing, but I have with me an aged father, who is sick, besides my mother and a number of women with small children. We have now traveled two days and a half in the rain, and we shall die if we are compelled to go much further. If you will allow us to stay with you overnight, we will pay you any price for our accommodations.”
“Why, what do you mean, sir?” said the gentleman. “Do you not consider us human beings? Do you think that we would turn anything that was flesh and blood away from our doors in such a time as this? Where are your parents? Drive your wagons to the door and help your wife and children out. I will attend to the others.” He then assisted Mr. Smith and myself into the room where his lady was sitting, but as she was not well and he was afraid the dampness of the room might cause her to take cold, he ordered a black servant to make her a fire in another room. He then helped each one of the family into the house and hung their cloaks and shawls up to dry, saying he never in his life saw a family so uncomfortable from the effects of rainy weather.
At this house we had everything that could conduce to our comfort as this gentleman, whose name was Esquire Mann, did all that he could do to assist us. He brought us milk for our children, hauled us water to wash with, furnished good beds to sleep in, and more. In short, he left nothing undone.
In the evening he remarked that he had been sent by the people of his county the year before to be a member of the House of Representatives, where he met one Mr. Carroll, who was sent from the county where the Mormons resided. “And,” said Esquire Mann, “if I ever felt like fighting any man it was him, for he never raised his hand nor his voice in behalf of that abused people once while the House was in session. My blood boiled to hear how they were treated, but I never was a member of the House before and had not sufficient confidence to take a stand in their behalf upon the floor as I would have done if I had been a man of a little more experience.”
After spending the night here with this good man, we set out again the next morning, although it continued raining, for we were obliged to travel in order to avoid being detained by high water. We went on through mud and rain until we arrived within six miles of the Mississippi River. Here the ground was low and swampy, so much so that a person on foot would sink in above his ankles at every step. The weather grew colder and it began snowing and hailing, but still we were compelled to go on foot as the horses were not able to draw us. As we were crossing this place, Lucy lost her shoes several times, and her father had to thrust his cane into the mud to ascertain where they were, because they were so completely covered with mud and water.
When we came to the Mississippi River, we could not cross nor yet find a place of shelter, for there were many Saints there waiting to go over into Quincy. The snow was now six inches deep and still falling, but we were very tired, and we made up our beds on the snow and went to rest with what comfort we might under such circumstances. The next morning, our beds were covered with snow, but we rose and after considerable pains succeeded in folding up our frozen bedding. We tried to light a fire, but finding it impossible, we resigned ourselves to our situation and waited patiently for some opportunity to cross the river.
Soon after, Samuel came over from Quincy, and he, with Seymour Brunson’s assistance, obtained permission of the ferryman to have us cross that day. About sunset we landed in Quincy, where Samuel had hired a house into which we moved. Our household included five other families, namely, Mr. Smith and myself with our daughter, Henry and Hyrum Hoit, also the families of Samuel Smith, Jenkins Salisbury, William McLeary, and Brother Graves.