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Halloween Massacre at Hawn’s Mill (Part 6 of 7)

Seventeen Mormon men and boys were killed at Hawn’s Mill, Missouri on October 30, 1838.  Dr. Alex Baugh describes the awful tragedy that includes mutilation of corpses, and gruesome injuries to a boy as young as 7 years old.  As we approach Halloween, it is a very sad anniversary to the awful tragedy.  If you are sensitive to these kinds of descriptions, you may want to skip this episode.

Alex:  So we’ve got 30 plus men. But they had thought if there was conflict, that perhaps they could use this unfinished blacksmith shop as a garrison, a place of defense.  That was a bad choice, because, unfortunately, it was not finished. But they thought, “Well, this will be good. It wasn’t chinked or daubed, so we can shoot through the cracks. But that’s going to prove fatal. What ends up happening then is they start attacking and so the women immediately leave.  I’m sure this was pre-arranged. They get out of there. Most of them fled across the river, across the Mill, and race up the hill into the woods. They shot at a woman, her name was Mary Steadwell, and she was shot in the hand. So they’re indiscriminate. They’re not just firing at men. They’re firing at women and children.  These women are making their way out. She was injured, and she fell behind a log and her dress was over the log. So they kept pelting the log. There were 20 bullets right in the log itself, but she only had the hand injured. But they’re after these the women and children, too. So, the men try to find some sort of defense in the blacksmith shop. They’ve got the numbers, but about 30 some odd men went in there and four boys with the intent of defending themselves and the community. But as these waves come in, they were slowly able to get under the fire, and eventually come right on to [shop.] The south end is where the door was, and that faced the river.

Again, this is Thomas McBride. He was 62 years old.  He was probably the oldest guy there. He makes his way out and gets hit a couple of times….McBride is just wounded terribly….A guy named Jacob Rogers from Daviess County, he’s one of the ones [the Mormons] expelled. He finds Thomas McBride and he says, “Give me your weapon.”  He’s thinking, “Okay, I’m wounded, but he won’t hurt me. I’m giving up my weapon.” He gives it to him and he actually shoots him. Then he takes a corn cutter and cuts off some of his fingers. He mutilates him. I mean, this is a terrible, horrific killing.

Isaac Leaney was pelted and he made his way and eventually was able to get into the home of Jacob Hawn, where some of the women had assembled and were praying.  They took care of him….What’s interesting is years later, and Wilford Woodard talks about this, and I may be off a little bit on the figures, but he was walking in Nauvoo, and Isaac Leaney goes, “Brother Woodruff, do you want to see the clothes I was shot in?” They said, “He went in, he laid out his clothes.” I think he said there were 28 bullet holes.

17 Mormon men and boys were killed in the massacre.  Check out our conversation….

17 Men and boys were killed by a Missouri mob. The dead ranged in age from 10-62. Women and children were also wounded severely in the Hawn’s Mill Massacre on October 30, 1838.

Don’t miss our other conversations with Dr. Baugh.

332: Finding Jacob Hawn

331: Was Extermination Order a License to Kill?

330: Mormon Dissent Leads to Salt Sermon

329: Mormon Expulsion from Jackson County

328: Trouble in Missouri 1833

2 thoughts on “Halloween Massacre at Hawn’s Mill (Part 6 of 7)

  1. Hello. My ancestor was named Luther Swett and is said to have been killed in Missouri in 1837 or 38 by “mob violence” according to my family tradition, but i have no details. I’ve been unable to find his name mentioned anywhere I’ve tried to search. Might you know of any sources that might mention his death? Thank you!

  2. My great great great grandfather, Willard Gilbert Smith, is my hero in this story because he was a leader in my family. Amanda always seems to get the credit, but I’m not impressed by her overly spiritual journal entries. It is awful what happened to her, of course… terrible. But she saw what she wanted to see. Or, perhaps she saw what she needed to see in order to survive the tragedy. The poultice was a great idea, but she gave the credit to god when it probably came from her own brain or some advice she had been given at one time. I’m glad little Alma survived the wound.

    And Amanda’s stuff about believing Joseph Smith came to her just after his death to tell her to be sealed to him is weird. She wanted to believe that she should be sealed to him for eternity after the other tragedies of her life. She made up a story to put herself in a position that she believed was better than two husbands she didn’t really love. And maybe she really believed the story… but she made it up. That’s not the stuff of a wise hero, but the stuff of a confused woman who lived a difficult life and deserved better than she received. Brigham “stood proxy” as she was sealed to Joseph and the family was told it made more sense to be sealed to the Prophet than their own father who died at Haun’s Mill.

    I don’t know if Willard was a recalcitrant 13-year-old who wouldn’t follow his father’s instructions and enter the blacksmith shop or if he thought the men’s plan was dumb, but his life story after the massacre contributes to my opinion that he was the hero. Not that it should be a comparison, but Amanda’s emotive journal entries and stories about miracles seem to always bring her such great praise when, to me, the praise in my family is due elsewhere. Willard was smart enough to not enter the unsafe blacksmith shop, got the old man water, helped his mother with the poultice, dragged the bodies to the well, and, it appears to me, kept his distressed mother together emotionally.

    So…. that’s how I see it. I like that Willard was the practical one. It seems to me that he did his best to keep his head on straight despite a lot of the less clear thinking coming from the people surrounding him.

    I’m glad he survived so I could be here today.

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