Sometimes I feel like I discover an amazing talent in Mormon history. You probably haven’t heard of Mary Ann Clements. She calls herself a stay-at-home mom, but she has training in anthropology, history, genealogy, and is an amazing writer. We’re going to talk about her detective work in Nauvoo crime. Were Nauvoo leaders counterfeiters? It turns out the Nauvoo Charter which prevented Joseph Smith’s extradition to Missouri was very attractive to criminals, who befriended the prophet while they continued to commit counterfeiting crimes and even murder. Mary Ann plays the role of detective and will give us the results of her amazing research, and we’ll cover a few other myths regarding a wooden leg and Nauvoo polygamy that she has uncovered. You don’t want to miss this. Check out our conversation:
Full Video Interview with Mary Ann Clements
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Mary Ann Clements
Sometimes I feel like I discover a hidden talent. Mary Ann Clements is probably somebody you’ve never heard of. But she’s an amazing researcher, genealogist, anthropologist, historian, and writer. She calls herself a stay-at-home mom, which I think undersells her amazing abilities. Anyway, she’s working on a book about Nauvoo crime. It’s going to be very interesting. We’re going to talk about counterfeiting and murder. Were church leaders involved? Were they aware of some of these things? We’ll answer those questions with Mary Ann Clements. We’ll also talk about a couple of other myths that she’s uncovered. Did a guy with a wooden leg walk from Alpine, Utah to the Salt Lake Temple every day on a wooden leg? That’s a 30–40-mile journey, I would say, so it seems pretty unlikely. Anyway, we’ll talk about that, as well as she’s going to correct the record on some polygamy. So, you won’t want to miss this conversation. Check it out.
GT 01:11 Welcome to Gospel Tangents. I’m excited to have an amazing amateur anthropologist/historian/just all-around amazing person. Can you go ahead and tell us who you are?
Mary Ann 01:24 My name is Mary Ann Clements. And like you said, I’m an amateur historian and, hopefully, going to be a professional genealogist soon.
GT 01:35 Yeah, and she does good work. I have to tell you. I had a big question about something, and she sent me this 20-page memo to fix everything. So, she does good work. Mary Ann, this is funny, because we’ve known each other for a long time. It feels like six years or something.
Mary Ann 01:56 Yes.
GT 01:57 You’re a blogger at Wheat & Tares .
Mary Ann 01:59 I am.
GT 01:59 Except for you don’t blog very much anymore.
Mary Ann 02:01 Yes, I’ve been delinquent for the last couple years.
GT 02:05 But we love Mary Ann at Wheat & Tares, because she’s such an amazing [writer.] I remember when you started commenting. I was like, “We need to get her to blog.” She’s amazing. She does amazing research. You’ll get these stories about this, and then Mary Ann will be like, “Well, I’m going to find out what really happened.” And she does! So, a couple things that we want to talk about–I’m trying to decide–do you have a preference where we go first? Did a man with a wooden leg walk to the Salt Lake Temple every day?
Mary Ann 02:36 We can probably cover the wooden leg story first.
GT 02:40 Okay.
Mary Ann 02:42 Then we can go into the crime.
GT 02:43 Okay, so let’s talk about that. There’s a story about a guy who used to walk to the Salt Lake Temple with a wooden leg, every day, from Alpine or something ridiculous. So, Mary Ann found out the true story. She posted this at . It won a Wheat & Tares Wheaties award. So, anyway, tell us the story. Who is this guy with the wooden leg? Tell us the real story, not the myth, but the real story.
Mary Ann 03:07 Right? Well, I mean, I first got interested in it, because I saw a blog post, where a guy was trying to critique the story just based on the distance between Alpine and Salt Lake and whether or not it was even feasible for a guy with a wooden leg and an amputee to be able to make the journey. And for me, the argument wasn’t necessarily persuasive. But I had heard this story before. It’s been talked about in General Conference, and also at Daughters of the Utah Pioneers Camp. I remember hearing about this story about this guy. So, to me, I was like, we should be able to find contemporary evidence talking about this story, because it’s kind of cool.
GT 03:07 Before you jump in there, because I love this already. We need to get your educational background. You have an anthropology degree, right?
Mary Ann 03:25 I do. I have a bachelor’s in anthropology, yes. So, I attended Brigham Young University, and I got a bachelor’s in anthropology with archaeology emphasis.
GT 04:04 So, you’ve got a great research background, which is so obvious from your comments and your blog posts. We just wish you blogged more.
Mary Ann 04:12 I know. I need to.
GT 04:13 You’re too busy doing genealogy.
Mary Ann 04:19 I know, yeah, I have been busy with the genealogy stuff. But, yeah, so, at BYU, it was funny because we had to do these reports. After I graduated, while my husband finished up his degree, I worked at the Office of Public archaeology for a year. And so, in order to do these reports, you have to get the full context. So, you’re not just talking about the artifacts. You have to talk about the history of the location. You have to talk about the geology. You have to bring in so many of these different elements that yeah, so I learned there just all the different elements that you need to suddenly become a little bit of an expert on to bring into bring in the full context. So, yeah, I learned a lot of really good research skills there. That was actually where I first learned how to go into censuses. We had a headstone of a guy that got found on a dig. And everyone’s like, “Why do we have this random headstone?” Because the body wasn’t there, and there wasn’t a cemetery.
Mary Ann 04:23 So, I had to look up this guy. It turned out, I went up to the BYU Family History Library, and that was the first time I was going through microfilm and stuff like that. I ended up finding out that it was this old miner who lived up at the Park City hotel. So, that was really cool, just finding his story. I found his obituary in the newspaper, like all of this research, learning in the moment, on the job, like, how to research these things. So, that really became really useful when I started getting more into family history and genealogy later. But that was several years [ago.] I’ve been doing family history now for about 15 years as a hobby. Then a couple years ago, I decided to get a little bit more formal education in it, so, I started taking online classes through SLCC/Salt Lake Community College and got taught by some actual, credentialed, professional genealogists. I’m hoping to turn in my portfolio to become a credentialed, certified, genealogist here in the next year.
GT 05:20 Oh, wow. The funny thing is, in most wards that I’m in, I’m like the cool [genealogy] guy. I know the most about family history. But then I meet people like you that just put me to shame. I have another professional, she graduated in genealogy, the bishop’s wife. I’ve got to call out Kurt Francom, by the way. I’ve been trying to get on his but he does not talk about genealogy. So, Kurt, I’m calling you out publicly. You need to talk to me. You need to talk to Mary Ann. You need to talk to Jana Greenhalgh.
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Mary Ann 06:32 Yes, it’s definitely fun. I’ve had a family history consultant calling along with lots of other callings for a long time.
GT 06:58 It’s part of the threefold or fourfold mission of the church, Kurt.
Mary Ann 07:00 It is.
GT 07:01 Come on! Quit slackin’! We’ve got some good genealogists here.
Mary Ann 07:05 I’ve been able to volunteer at our local Family History Center for a couple of hours a week for the last six years. So, it’s been really cool.
GT 07:11 I’m hoping public pressure works, because private pressure clearly doesn’t work on Kurt. Anyway, back to our guy with the wooden leg.
Mary Ann 07:18 Back to the guy with the wooden leg, John Rowe Moyle. He was a British convert. He came over, actually, in the very first handcart company. He was paid for by the Perpetual Emigration Fund. And as part of how he was paying back the Perpetual Emigration Fund, he would do work on the temple up in Salt Lake. So, he would leave on Monday morning, and then he would stay the entire week in Salt Lake and then he’d go back to his home down in Alpine.
GT 07:43 So he wasn’t walking back and forth every day.
Mary Ann 07:45 He wasn’t walking back and forth every day. Yeah, so he would stay.
GT 07:51 That was the story, though, right? He walked on a wooden leg all the way from Alpine to Salt Lake.
Mary Ann 07:55 He did. When Elder Holland talked about it, he did mention he would go up on Mondays…
GT 08:00 Okay.
Mary Ann 08:00 …and then come home on Fridays. So, he would probably stay with his son who lived in Salt Lake.
GT 08:05 It probably snowed, and was uphill, both directions. (Chuckling)
Mary Ann 08:08 I know. But, no, anyway, so I was looking for contemporary records, because I’m like, someone’s got to be talking about this amputee who’s going up to Salt Lake so often and working on the temple. There was even a movie made about him, where it shows him walking on his wooden leg up the steps and carving the little “HOLINESS TO THE LORD” on the temple, because he did that. But he probably carved on the ground, first, and then put it up there.
Mary Ann 08:37 Anyway, I ended up finding a record of when his leg got crushed, and it was in the newspaper. But his leg got crushed, not by being kicked by a cow, which was the family story. This newspaper talked about his leg getting crushed up in a canyon in a logging accident. It literally talked about the leg just being crushed, which is the story. He gathered up all the bones from this part of his leg and he kept them, like, he would hold them with him when he was buried. (Chuckling) I had remembered this story, actually, from DUP stuff.
GT 09:15 Daughters of Utah Pioneers.
Mary Ann 09:16 Daughters of Utah Pioneers. So, to me, I was like, “Oh, this must have been when he crushed his leg.” But then, when I looked at the date, there was a problem. This was eight months before he died, which was significantly later than it should have been, if he was working on the temple this whole time. Because he’d been working on the temple for years and years and years. So, he was, like, 80 years old when his leg got crushed. So, I was going through, and I realized, okay, if his leg is getting crushed eight months before his death, he’s probably not actually going to Salt Lake, and he’s, especially, not walking up ladders with this wooden leg, because he only had it for nine months maximum before his death.
Mary Ann 10:00 It is, actually, a really cool looking wood leg. I don’t know if you’ve seen it. There are pictures of it on Family Search, but also on his Find A Grave. He was a stonemason., He was really skilled. It’s a really cool leg. It has the hinge. It has this leather top. It’s a really cool looking wood leg. But, he probably only had it for about nine months. So, that was something that was really funny, just going through and just being like, “Yeah. When he was working on the temple, he probably didn’t have that wood leg.” That probably came afterwards. So, yeah, [regarding] the walking up [to the temple,] when he was walking, he had two really good legs.
Mary Ann 10:35 Also the other issue, once he would go over the hill, he probably did hike over the hill, as opposed to going around Point of the Mountain. But then once he got over the hill, he would have been on a major road. So, he probably was getting rides, hitching rides with people. It’s unlikely [that] he was always walking the entire way. He just probably wasn’t. Luckily, we had a commenter come in on the blog post. He was mentioning that when they went to his home, and they were talking with people there, the tour guide people were mentioning that he probably did hitch rides, and he probably was not walking in the whole way.
Mary Ann 11:15 But there’s this tradition where these people will walk from Alpine to the Salt Lake Temple to honor this pioneer with his wooden leg. It’s like, “That’s not actually how it happened.” But, also, he has a really cool story. I’m not trying to diminish his story at all. I’m just trying to correct it. Because it happens so often. I have pioneer ancestors where that totally happens, too, where you look back and things didn’t happen exactly the way that we think they did.
GT 11:45 [Things didn’t happen the way that] family lore says.
Mary Ann 11:47 Family lore. Yep. So, you have this folklore. Often, the truth is, actually, just as cool as the folklore. So, you don’t actually need the folklore. We don’t have to make it harder. It’s still cool. He worked on the temple. It doesn’t diminish the fact that he didn’t have a wooden leg while he was working on the temple. He still worked really hard. You don’t have to make it complicated.
GT 12:11 We don’t need to embellish it, uphill in snow, both ways, on a wooden leg.
Mary Ann 12:15 Yeah. So, for me, one of the ways I approach it, is I have a really strong belief in an afterlife that these people are there, and I just think of going up to them and just being like, “I tried to correct your story.” Because who wants to be remembered for the wrong details? People are like, “I can’t believe you are walking on that wooden leg the whole time.”
Mary Ann 12:37 He’s like, “That’s not exactly how that happened.” So, to me, I just think that we should really appreciate what they actually did. Because most people have pretty cool stories, and they did some amazing stuff.
GT 12:48 Yes. So, I just wanted to bring this up, because this shows you the dogged nature of Mary Ann and how she finds out really cool stuff, and it’s real. And she’s a great writer, a wonderful writer.
Mary Ann 13:02 Thank you.
Accusing Joseph Smith of Counterfeiting
GT 13:03 So, anyway, it seems like a few years ago, I believe you and I both went to the Sunstone presentation with (I’m trying to remember the name) Karen Melonakos, or something.
Mary Ann 13:15 I did not attend her session.
GT 13:17 Oh, you didn’t attend it?
Mary Ann 13:18 No, but I have read her work.
GT 13:20 Okay, so I attended it.
Mary Ann 13:22 Yeah.
GT 13:22 And so, I think her name is Karen, right?
Mary Ann 13:27 Kathleen.
GT 13:28 Kathleen. So, Kathleen had made this presentation that seemed to imply that there was a counterfeiting operation in Nauvoo, and that Mormon Church leaders were in charge of it, and were guilty of counterfeiting. So, that’s where Mary Ann comes in to tell, as Paul Harvey would say, “the rest of the story.”
Mary Ann 13:54 Well, okay, so Kathleen has done so much research. She is a descendant of Heber C. Kimball. She basically took–there’s this historian John L. Brooke, who wrote a book called The Refiners Fire. It talks about Mormon cosmology, and he talks about a lot of these accusations of counterfeiting. [He is] relating it into a lot of people viewing the religion as counterfeit, and just the relationship between that and all of these accusations of actually producing counterfeit money.
Mary Ann 14:25 So, Kathleen, in the introduction to her book, which I believe is called, I think it is Secret Combinations. I’ll have to look that up. But she basically took that premise, and then just explored all accusations of Mormon counterfeiting. So, she starts even before Joseph Smith. She goes into his parents and any accusations with them. Then she goes through and then she also does cover the Nauvoo period. I don’t necessarily agree with some of her conclusions. But she, by far, has done the most extensive research on counterfeiting accusations against Mormons. So, her book is a really fabulous resource for just seeing all the different accusations. So, I got into it, again, with most things in Mormon history from a family history angle. I am a descendant of Theodore Turley. He was an early Mormon pioneer. I’m very involved with the Theodore Turley Family Organization. So, I was researching him.
GT 15:00 And Rick Turley is part of that organization.
Mary Ann 15:41 Rick Turley is part of that. Yep, we are half third cousins.
GT 15:46 Oh, really?
Mary Ann 15:47 Yes. So, Theodore Turley has, like, thousands of descendants, thousands. So, yeah, it’s a very big family. I do a lot of work with the organization and a lot of research. So, when I was researching Theodore Turley, I came across these accounts. One guy mentioned he was a really good counterfeiter. He was, like, one of the best out there.
GT 16:13 Theodore Turley was a good counterfeiter?
Mary Ann 16:14 Yeah. It’s this guy named William Hall. He wrote this exposè about Mormonism. He mentioned that Theodore was really skilled at it. So, you’re like, “Okay, well, that’s kind of weird.” Then, I find out he was actually arrested on counterfeiting accusations in Nauvoo in 1845. I’m like, “What in the world is going on?” Like, what is this? Because we’d had stories of Theodore making dies for coins. So, we had these family stories that were kind of tying into this. So, I knew a lot of them were more folklore, but I was like, he definitely had the skills.
GT 16:54 So was he involved in the Kirtland Safety Society Banking stuff?
Mary Ann 16:57 No, he was not. Because he joined the church in March of 1837, up in Canada. So, he didn’t come down. He did make a visit to Kirtland. But he didn’t really come down to join the saints. Their family went straight from Canada down to Far West, [Missouri.] So, he really wasn’t involved in the Kirtland period, very much.
Mary Ann 17:20 He was from Birmingham, England, and he was trained. Birmingham was, like, the manufacturing capital of the world. So, he was trained, very specialized metalworking training. He was called the stamper, piercer and a toolmaker. So, he literally would make the tools. When he would help out with people, with the Nauvoo Temple, his work was repairing the tools that the people were using or making the tools or procuring the steel to make the tools, so that other people could work on the temple. That was his job.
Mary Ann 17:53 So, he had expertise in working with dies, which if you think about stamper and piercer, it’s, like, a giant hole punch, basically, or it’s an embossing tool. So, you could shape metal, you could cut metal; he had skills with making dies. So, it was definitely possible that he could have been helping with this. I wanted to learn a little bit more about the counterfeiting stuff. So, from a family history angle, I wanted to know, just how do I tell family members he was accused of counterfeiting and arrested for it? So, that was my entry into the whole counterfeiting accusations.
Mary Ann 18:32 But, the more I learned about the counterfeiting accusations, and who had Theodore Turley arrested, and who was making the accusations? You unravel this huge story of this entire criminal subculture in Nauvoo, that was just fascinating. I had never seen really explored very well. Because you typically had more hostile people, kind of, like with Kathleen Melonakos, who kind of take everything at face value, “So, all the accusations are true, obviously, and so yes, the church leaders in Nauvoo were heading up this massive criminal empire. So, of course, they were involved with organizing theft rings and counterfeiting rings, and all of this stuff.”
Mary Ann 19:26 But then, typically, you would have the other side of the coin, you’d have the people defending the church, who would be like, “No. These were all false accusations.” And so, they would just dismiss everything. To me, I wanted to try to figure out, “Okay, what’s the truth here?”
GT 19:40 Yes. What’s true and what’s false?
Mary Ann 19:42 What’s true, and what’s false? Was this all just false accusations? And so that was my foray into it.
GT 19:49 So you presented this at Mormon History Association.
Mary Ann 19:51 I did. Yeah. I mean, you only have 20 minutes to do a presentation, right?
GT 19:57 So, we can go longer here.
Mary Ann 19:59 Yes, which I’m so glad about. What I focused on for the presentation was the last few months of 1845, leading into the early exodus from Nauvoo, and how the counterfeiting accusations related, and [how they] actually ended up helping push the early exodus from Nauvoo. Okay, do you want me to explain?
GT 20:28 We can go back further if you want? Because I guess my question is, and those other questions, because it seems like Kathleen implies that Church leaders were aware of this counterfeiting and were involved in counterfeiting.
Mary Ann 20:42 And were orchestrating it.
GT 20:44 So, Joseph Smith died in 1844. Does it go back before then, when he was still alive?
Mary Ann 20:49 Yes. Her argument is that it does go back before then. Her argument is [that] Joseph Smith was involved from the very, very beginning, and [that] his parents, his father was involved in counterfeiting. So, the first half of her book really goes into that early New England stuff. And she goes into major counterfeiters, who are up in New England, that Joseph Smith may have been influenced by. That’s one thing that I do really appreciate about her research is she does really bring in that counterfeiting is a very old profession in the United States, well everywhere. But there is a really long history with counterfeiting in the United States. So, yes, that was a thing that was going on. What’s really interesting is you have these exposès, these people who want to brag about how good of a counterfeiter they were. When they get caught, sometimes they’ll write these books telling how brilliant they are.
GT 21:51 “I got away with all this stuff.” Unlike Mark Hofmann who’s just a closed book. He won’t say anything.
Mary Ann 21:58 So you have these really cool exposès. Her argument is that Joseph Smith was very much influenced by this stuff. Now, my interest has been mainly more Nauvoo. And so that’s more where I focus my research. One thing you have to keep in mind is that Nauvoo [is on] this border of Illinois. It’s the western edge of Illinois. You’ve got the Mississippi River. You’ve got Iowa. When the Mormons come in from Missouri, this is frontier territory. In the frontier, they had so many problems with criminal gangs at this time. That’s something that I don’t think a lot of people quite realize. So, while the Mormons are coming up, you have, actually, in the early years of the Mormon period in Nauvoo, you actually have major criminal gangs who–vigilante groups, local groups are actually cracking down on major criminal gangs up in Northern Illinois, over in Ohio, and even down in Keokuk, Iowa. So, just as they’re cracking down on the criminal gangs, eventually, by the mid-Nauvoo period, you have a lot of these outside criminals who are now congregating in Nauvoo. So, Nauvoo then becomes a big criminal haven.
GT 23:20 Is this because of the Nauvoo city charter? One of the things Joseph did to protect himself was to say, “Hey. We don’t recognize any other arrest warrants. Nauvoo has to approve it first.” And so that was helpful for these criminals.
Mary Ann 23:37 Yes, it was very helpful. So, that definitely was a big draw for a lot of people. There were criminals. There were Mormon criminals and non-Mormon criminals in Nauvoo, early, but you don’t really get the organized criminal gangs until a bit later. But, yes, so if people don’t know, so Missouri kept trying to extradite Joseph Smith, and so they kept firming up the laws in Nauvoo to protect Joseph Smith more, making it harder for outsiders to come in and arrest anyone inside Nauvoo.
GT 24:11 Not just Joseph. How did Nauvoo Counterfeiter rumors begin?
Mary Ann 24:12 Well, they made the rules to protect Joseph, but it ended up protecting criminals, too. So, you get a lot of criminals who start coming into Nauvoo, especially around 1843 and later, who just find Nauvoo very attractive, suddenly.
GT 24:33 The long arm of the law doesn’t reach into Nauvoo.
Mary Ann 24:37 Yeah, it doesn’t. Several of them start being really good friends with Joseph Smith, because they know if you can be really good friends with Joseph Smith, you can be protected from the law. We have several situations where Joseph Smith does step in to protect people, and surrounding communities get angry, very angry.
GT 25:01 Is there evidence that Joseph was aware that these guys were criminals?
Mary Ann 25:06 On one of them, yeah. There’s a story of a guy named Jeremiah Smith. He comes in and he had defrauded the government out of $4,000. He had claimed it. It was supposed to go to a different Jeremiah Smith. But he had claimed the money for himself. He had taken the money. So, he was very clearly guilty. This happened, I believe, in the beginning of 1844. Joseph Smith actually wrote out a writ of habeas corpus, before he was ever arrested, before Jeremiah Smith was ever arrested. Habeas corpus is when you’re arrested, but then you want to claim that there was a problem with the arrest. So, he had actually given this guy basically a “Get Out of Jail Free” card before he was ever even arrested. That just infuriated people. But, yes, Joseph was aware that there were people who were criminals. Initially–there’s a really good article from the John Whitmer Historical Society journal by Bill Shepard. He’s one of the few people that’s really written some really good stuff on the crime in Nauvoo.
GT 26:01 Bill is a Strangite, by the way.
Mary Ann 26:16 Oh, yeah. But he goes in, and he’s written, and it’s [called] “ Stealing at Mormon Nauvoo,” I think. He goes in and talks about how, in the early period, they were pretty open on trying to get rid of all the Mormon thieves, trying to crack down on them. They would publicly admit that they were having issues with these thieves in their communities. But then, as you start moving towards the years, suddenly, it becomes more of a liability to have thieves. So, they start covering up the fact that they’re still having issues with these Mormon thieves. So that by the time we get to Brigham Young, as a general rule, to protect the community, they’re covering up some of the problems that they have. And they’re starting to claim that it’s false accusations.
Mary Ann 27:07 When you have Brigham Young later on the trail going, “Okay, guys. We seriously had problems with counterfeiting and theft, and we need to stop, because that is a liability, a massive liability. People are coming after us. And I will not tolerate this anymore.” So, it is interesting. His article really does bring out the changing attitudes and the changing of what they were saying publicly, versus what they were trying to deal with privately in the problems with crime. Because you did have Mormon and non-Mormon criminals associated with Nauvoo, committing crimes in the outlying areas.
Mary Ann 27:47 But as the church starts becoming a bit more protective, it ends up making things worse, because people begin to believe that the church is actually organizing it, not just protecting these people. But the church is now benefiting from [criminals.] These people will steal this livestock. People will steal money, and then they’ll donate it to the church. They’ll consecrate it to the church. Right? And they call it, like, “Milking the Gentiles.” People start to believe that Church leaders really are behind this. So, there really is a concept that–people keep trying to defend the Mormons and the surrounding communities until they start getting their stuff stolen. Then, they’re like, “These Mormons really are criminals.” Counterfeiting Informants Play Both Sides
Mary Ann 28:30 So, yeah. They made a lot of enemies during that time, and the criminals took advantage of it. If they were caught, they would say, “Well, the Mormons made me do it.” Or, if Mormons caught them, they’d be like, “Oh, no. It’s false accusations that these Gentiles are making, because, you know, they hate us.” So, the criminals would just totally take advantage of the situation. And it just made things worse.
GT 28:59 So, the leaders were sort of aware of some of the counterfeiting activity and if it benefited them, they would turn a blind eye?
Mary Ann 29:11 Yeah, Bill Shepard brings us out in his article. Joseph Smith apparently had this idea that he didn’t really want to crack down hard on people who had a shady past. He wanted to give them time to repent. He believed strongly in the principle of agency, maybe because he had some shady stuff in his past. I don’t know. So, he tended to be very tolerant of people, even if he knew that they had done some bad stuff in the past, and he wouldn’t try to publicly embarrass them, unless they came after him. And then, he would unleash it.
Mary Ann 29:46 There was definitely some covering up. The first indication you get, people were passing counterfeit money, but the first indication you get that people are actually starting to manufacture counterfeit coins in Hancock County is in August of 1842. We get this non-Mormon who gets caught with these dies for making [money.] So, you had counterfeiting going on with paper money. You had counterfeiting going on with metal coins, and they were a little bit different processes. Usually with the paper money, people would purchase it from the good printers, who could print the high quality, so they would usually purchase the money. They didn’t usually manufacture it there. But there were enough blacksmiths, enough people that knew how to deal with metal, that as long as you got some good quality dies, you could actually manufacture your own metal coins.
Mary Ann 30:46 So, that’s what this guy, William Millard, had done. He had procured these dyes, and he was wanting to manufacture. So, he got caught because he was talking to people down in Warsaw, trying to get them to go in on this whole manufacturing counterfeit coin. So, when he gets caught, he talks about people in Ramus, Macedonia, which is a Mormon community on the east side of Hancock County. They had major problems with crime. The newspaper reports talk about how there was significant crime. So, Mormon leaders must have been aware that it’s going on. At this point in 1842, they’re not accusing the Mormon leaders of orchestrating it, but they are saying that there’s enough [evidence,] based on what this non-Mormon, William Millard [is saying], it does appear that there is major crime happening and that Church leaders must be aware of it, and that’s how the newspaper reports it.
Mary Ann 31:52 I can, seriously, talk about this forever. At the end of 1842, we get this guy, Joseph H. Jackson, who comes in. We know his story, because he wrote this huge exposè. He came in the fall of 1842. Someone tries to kill him in Nauvoo. Someone knows about his past. He was a shady guy, and someone tries to kill him. He gets mad. He thinks Joseph Smith tried to have him killed, even though we have no idea why. So, he ends up spending the winter in one of the other towns. I can’t remember if it’s Carthage or Warsaw, but he spends a winter there, and he goes up to the sheriff in the area. And he’s like, “You know what? I can go in and I can go underground in Nauvoo, and I can find out what’s really happening. So, I can be, basically, this spy for you in Nauvoo.”
Mary Ann 32:46 So, the sheriff is like, “Okay, sure.”
GT 32:50 So he turns state’s evidence, and he’s trying to bust people.
Mary Ann 32:53 But, it’s a pre-emptive thing. Criminals, he’s one of the first people to do it with the Mormons. The other people start hedging their bets, because if they talk about it to the sheriff and say, “Oh, no. I’m going to work for you. I’m going to participate in this criminal activity. But really, it’s in order to catch the people.” So, they’re totally playing both sides. It happens in the future, too, in Nauvoo. But this is one of the first instances where Joseph H. Jackson totally admits he did this. So, he’s hedging his bets. If he gets caught doing criminal activity, he can totally get out of it, because he can say, “Oh, yeah, well, I was participating in order to learn how bad these people were.” So, he’s getting himself a “Get Out of Jail Free card.” He goes to Nauvoo. He tells Joseph Smith that he was a former Catholic priest who was running from the law from Georgia, because he killed the guy. So, Joseph Smith, supposedly, takes pity on him.
GT 32:58 Why would he kill a guy? Why would a priest kill a guy?
Mary Ann 34:01 This is what he claims he told him. I can’t remember what Joseph Smith reports. But he ends up getting really close to Joseph Smith and Joseph Smith, for some reason, does, actually, seem to trust him, initially. And we get this from William Clayton’s diary, where Joseph Smith initially seems to like him. But, Joseph H. Jackson talks about how Joseph Smith totally trusted him, and how he got into his confidence, and Joseph Smith ordered him to go kill Governor Boggs, because Rockwell had failed at it. But Joseph H. Jackson, you can’t really totally trust what he says. Most people, when I look into their lives, I find them interesting, and I learn to like them. He’s one of those guys I really don’t like. The more you learn about him, the more creepy he just becomes.
Mary Ann 34:59 Eventually, Joseph Smith clues in fairly quickly that Joseph H. Jackson is not a good guy. So, over the course of a week, in William Clayton’s journal, Joseph Smith starts saying [that] he’s this black-hearted guy. He’s this horrible person. But somehow he’s still is able to stick around Nauvoo, and he has this power in Nauvoo. So, according to Joseph H. Jackson, it’s Joseph Smith, who brings up the idea. He wants Joseph H. Jackson to start up this huge counterfeiting operation in Nauvoo. So, Joseph Smith “made” Joseph H. Jackson start this massive counterfeiting operation in Nauvoo.
GT 35:44 That’s Jackson’s story.
Mary Ann 35:46 That’s Jackson’s version, yeah, from his exposè, which he printed. It was printed in 1844. It was just a few months after Joseph Smith got killed. So, Joseph H. Jackson claims…
GT 35:58 That’s kind of a convenient.
Mary Ann 36:00 It is. Before Joseph Smith had died–there’s more to his story. I’ll go into that. So he ends up…
GT 36:14 It’s always easy to blame it on the dead guy.
Mary Ann 36:16 Yeah, and other people do that too, with Joseph Smith. So, he ends up, in his exposè, he talks about these two guys who are friends of Joseph Smith from Buffalo, New York. That’s how he explains it. These guys, Barton and Eaton from New York. They come down. They start staying in the homestead. They’re, supposedly, these mechanics who are making this big thing. So, everyone knows that they’re working on this technology inside. He says that they came down, and they started this big, huge counterfeiting operation, really professional, good quality counterfeiting operation, really professional. Of course, these are Joseph Smith’s friends from Buffalo. Because Joseph Smith’s the one that’s making Joseph H. Jackson, do this big huge counterfeiting operation. Eventually, Joseph H. Jackson, gets on the outs with both Joseph Smith and Hyrum Smith.
3 Counterfeiting Operations in Nauvoo
Mary Ann 37:12 Joseph H. Jackson tries to court Hyrum Smith’s daughter. He has a particular–he tries. He does not like Hyrum Smith, and it comes out a lot in the exposè. He claims that Hyrum Smith, and most of the Twelve were all involved in this counterfeiting operation. And he [says] he was privy to the whole polygamy thing. So, he would talk about that. And eventually it comes out that the Church leaders come out against Joseph H. Jackson, partly because he starts working with the dissenters, and based on affidavits, he’s actually telling the Laws that Joseph Smith is going to have them killed. So, he’s working with the Laws to try to get Joseph Smith killed. He starts fomenting this thing, and he tells Joseph Smith that the Laws are going to kill him. So, he’s like, seriously working this whole angle.
GT 37:25 The Laws are killing Joseph and Joseph is killing the Laws. William Law and…
Mary Ann 38:23 Wilson Law, his brother. Two people who are involved in the criminal community, they’re not Mormons. Marenus G. Eaton, this Eaton and Barton guy that had come in from New York to help with the counterfeiting. He ends up hearing this and he gets really concerned. So, he talks to another guy who was involved with counterfeiting, Dr. Abiathar Buck Williams. So, they end up coming out with these affidavits that are published in the newspaper, talking about how Joseph H. Jackson was telling the Laws that Joseph Smith was going to have them killed, and he wanted to try to get Joseph Smith assassinated. So, that ends up causing this big, huge problem. So, Joseph H. Jackson from then on, and this is just a couple months before Joseph Smith is killed. But Joseph H. Jackson was really a major part of fomenting chaos. He just thrived on chaos, because he was always able to take advantage of it to his own advantage.
Mary Ann 39:29 Then, he ends up going back to the sheriff. The sheriff is able to validate his story. He’s like, “Yeah, before he went into Nauvoo, he told me, he was going to go try to find all these crimes that they’re doing and to try to expose them.” So, before Joseph Smith dies, Joseph H. Jackson does write a letter talking about all of the crimes in the newspaper, and then later on, a couple months later, that’s when he writes his big exposè because he’s now famous. He can tell exactly all the crimes that Joseph Smith had and how he had gone undercover to try to discover all of them. So, yeah, he was he was a bad guy. He was not a good guy. Really not a good guy.
GT 40:18 Playing all sides against each other.
Mary Ann 40:20 He was. He was fomenting chaos. He really was. It turns out, when I was doing research on this Eaton and Barton, I discovered that Barton was an alias for a guy. His name was actually Augustus Tiffany. And I figured it out because Marenus D. Eaton named one of his kids, after Augustus Tiffany and I’m like, That’s weird that you have an Augustus Tiffany and we have an Augustus Barton who comes to Nauvoo, and he’s really good friends with Marenus Gilbert Eaton. Could this actually be the same guy?” It totally was. It was the same guy, and they were definitely involved in counterfeiting.
Mary Ann 41:00 Eaton had been caught passing counterfeit paper money in New York, where he lived. Augustus Tiffany was from Buffalo, which Joseph H. Jackson knew that. None of the other people in Nauvoo knew that these guys were from Buffalo, but Joseph H. Jackson knew that which I think is really interesting. It turns out that I’m finding this court case, where Augustus Tiffany is testifying against this counterfeiter, talking about how this counterfeiter had kept this chest of counterfeit coins in his hotel and it turns out Augustus Tiffany was actually working with several different big counterfeiters. But he was testifying in this particular case. At the same time that there’s this case in Buffalo, where Augustus Tiffany is testifying, related to counterfeiting, there’s also a case where this guy named Joseph Jackson has gotten arrested and is going through a trial for counterfeiting. So, I’m like, okay, so we have a case of a Joseph Jackson in Buffalo, New York, on trial for counterfeiting at the same time, that we know Augustus Tiffany is there because he’s also testifying on a counterfeiting case. So, were these really Joseph Smith friends from Buffalo, New York, or were these actually, Joseph H. Jackson’s friends from Buffalo, New York? I probably lean towards the latter. I suspect [that] Joseph H. Jackson, had brought his friends down. There were more professional counterfeiters. So, that was one counterfeiting operation happening in Nauvoo, though we can be pretty sure on. Later on New York actually sends an extradition request to Nauvoo, to the Governor of Illinois, to try to get Marenus G. Eaton back in New York, because, back on his old [charge] when he was caught passing counterfeit bank bills.
Mary Ann 43:05 So, they actually send an extradition request. Marenus G. Eaton is actually arrested in Nauvoo, based on this extradition request, but people help him escape. Of course, this is at the end of 1844, beginning of 1845. So, of course, the Warsaw Signal publishes this newspaper article about, “Of course, the Mormons are helping this king of bogus making, Marenus G. Eaton escape, when these New York people are coming to arrest them. So, it just looked bad on the Mormons all around. So, even though he was not a member, but he was absolutely involved in a major counterfeiting operation in Nauvoo. The question is, were church leaders involved with it? I suspect they were probably aware that stuff was going on. Were they involved with it? That’s an issue we’re still figuring out.
Mary Ann 44:06 Another counterfeiting operation–we had, probably, from what I can estimate, we had probably three different counterfeiting operations going on in Nauvoo around about the same time, all in the latter period of the Nauvoo stuff, so I can go into some of those as well.
GT 44:19 Yeah.
Mary Ann 44:20 Okay. So, another one was headed up by a guy named Edward Bonney.
GT 44:27 Like Bonnie and Clyde?
Mary Ann 44:29 Okay, well, Bonnie and Clyde, Bonnie was a girl.
GT 44:31 Okay. Because they’re spelled differently. This is B O N N EY.
Mary Ann 44:37 Yes.
GT 44:38 And Bonnie and Clyde is IE?
Mary Ann 44:40 Yes.
GT 44:43 Okay.
Mary Ann 44:43 So, Edward Bonney, he was another guy from New York. He had moved down to Indiana and while he was in Indiana–and he’s mentioned in the article, the presentation I gave at Mormon History Association. He’s another well-known guy because he’s another guy that wrote an exposè, a really cool exposè, Banditti of the Prairies, which, again, with any exposè, you have to take it with a grain of salt. Because, usually, they have a motive for writing it. His motive for writing his was to prove his innocence. He had been accused of some stuff, which he did, but wanted to clear his name in the public eye. So, he goes to Elkhart County, Indiana. While he’s there, he starts participating in counterfeiting. He’s suspected by the people around him, there’s reports, but he actually ends up getting caught in the act of manufacturing tons of Mexican coins, which people were using for money, and American half dollars in Ohio. He’s working with a couple of friends, but he gets caught [with,] like thousands and thousands of dollars’ worth of coins. And he is actively making them. In that day, it was actually kind of hard to prosecute people for counterfeiting, because there was so much counterfeit money going around, you couldn’t necessarily just accuse someone, if they had counterfeit money in their possession, because they could always claim, “Oh, I didn’t know it was counterfeit.”
Mary Ann 45:23 But when you had a situation where he’s actively making the counterfeit coin, and they catch him in the act, then it’s very clear. He’s going to go to jail. Usually, jail sentences would be for a couple years, usually five years, two to five years that they would end up being in jail. So, it was one of those, if you got convicted of counterfeiting, you are going to be in jail for a while. But it was very hard to get someone convicted. But, because the evidence was so strong against him, he ends up being in jail for about a month. Then he gets out on bail. There’s a guy there in Ohio, who agrees to put up the $1,000 bail. A thousand dollars in 1842.
GT 47:09 That’s a lot of money.
Mary Ann 47:10 That’s a lot of money. He agrees to sign up for the $1,000 bail to guarantee the Edward Bonney will come back for the next term of court. Because they usually had court terms happening in that county. And this was all over, usually only twice or three times a year, they had these circuit courts that would go around. So, this local lawyer agreed to put up the $1,000 if Bonney doesn’t show at the next court term. And Bonney was not going to show at the next court term. So, what Bonney does is, on the very same day that he’s released from jail, you get this deed where he actually deeds, his most valuable land in Indiana over to this guy who, supposedly, paid $10,000 for it when he didn’t.
GT 47:13 The lawyer.
Mary Ann 47:32 The lawyer. So, he basically deeds the lawyer that land in order to cover the cost, because the lawyer is going to be on the hook for $1,000.
Mary Ann 48:11 So, Edward Bonney goes back to Indiana. Usually, at this time, you can kind of wait it out. Because if people don’t show up to court, then the case is continued to the next term. Sometimes, six months later, a lawyer just doesn’t want to deal with it, and so they’ll just dismiss the case. So, that’s what he was betting on. They would eventually just dismiss the case. They don’t dismiss the case. In 1844, Ohio, sends out an extradition request to Indiana, because you can’t just go into another state and arrest someone. The governors have to send it in the official request. So they send, and, at the same time, early 1844, Bonney decides he wants to move to the Mississippi River to get out of Indiana, so he’s not arrested. So, he goes to Nauvoo. That’s when he goes and he just had heard so many great things about Nauvoo, and that’s why he wanted to go there. Of course, we know that, at this point, Nauvoo has now developed a strong reputation, that people cannot be extradited from Nauvoo, because Joseph Smith–Missouri had tried several times. So, if he’s ever going to go someplace, that’s a really good spot to go, if he’s trying to avoid extradition.
Mary Ann 49:28 So, he ends up coming into Nauvoo, just a few months before Joseph Smith is killed. Because he wants to become really good friends with Joseph Smith.
GT 49:39 Right.
Mary Ann 49:39 So, he’s able to gain the trust of Joseph Smith very quickly. He’s admitted almost immediately to the Council of Fifty. He’s admitted to the Council of Fifty before he even moves there. So, he comes out for a visit to–and his brother had lived in Nauvoo for a few years. His brother was a Mormon. He’d converted to Mormonism in the early 1830s.
Mary Ann 50:02 So, he was aware of Nauvoo. He talks about, in his exposè, like, “I didn’t know anything about the Mormons before I went there.” But, no, he did. He had actually owned some land out in Iowa. He had visited the area many years before in 1839. We have him documented out in Iowa. And he was counterfeiting at that time, too. So, he knew the area. He knew where he’d be safe. And so, he went to Nauvoo.
Mary Ann 50:35 So, he was one of the few people admitted–there were three non-Mormons who were admitted to the Council of Fifty: Edward Bonney, who was absolutely a counterfeiter. Marenus G Eaton, one of the absolute, for sure, counterfeiters, and then this other guy, Uriah Brown, who was this inventor. As far as I know, he wasn’t involved in any crimes. But it is interesting that you had two of the three non-Mormons were definitely counterfeiters, who were invited, while Joseph Smith was still alive to join the Council of Fifty in April of 1844. Bonney goes back to Indiana, grabs his wife, grabs his kids, and they come out and they live in Nauvoo. He comes in, in May, and everything is kind of hitting the fan, at that point, just as far as things getting really tense. But he still sets up the counterfeiting operation. He has two presses that he brings in, counterfeiting presses where he manufactures coins in Nauvoo. It’s interesting. When you look at a lot of the documents, just ahead of Joseph Smith’s death, Bonney apparently presented himself as a lawyer. He was not a lawyer. But clearly, he had been studying up on the law quite a bit, probably in order to figure out how he could get around being extradited to Ohio. So, he did–it’s really odd. In June at the Nauvoo Expositor trial, he’s actually one of the lawyers representing one of the sides. And he’s not a lawyer, but Joseph Smith keeps thinking he’s a lawyer. So, when it does a Smith goes to jail, it ends up being for treason, which is why he’s kept in the jail. He, initially, was taken because of the destruction of the press.
GT 52:40 Riot, I think it was.
Mary Ann 52:41 It was riot. Yeah. Then, eventually, the charges get switched to treason, because he had declared martial law in Nauvoo. But, in order to argue that there was a reason that he needed to order martial law, because the press, because they really were going to try to kill him. The press really was a nuisance. And in order to do that, when he’s in Carthage Jail, some of the people he actually requests come down, are Marenus G. Eaton, Dr. Abiathar Buck Williams and Edward Bonney. Williams and Eaton are because of that affidavit. Because of the affidavits they had sworn from Joseph H. Jackson, that they could prove that there was an effort to try to foment discord in order to get Joseph Smith killed. Edward Bonney, probably because he thought he was a lawyer who could help him get out. Bonney, again, I want to stress, he was not a lawyer. He never presents himself as a lawyer after Nauvoo. But, Joseph Smith, every time he writes Edward Bonney, Esquire, yes. It’s so weird. I talked with another researcher who had really looked into Edward Bonney, and he was like, “Oh, he was a lawyer.”
I’m like, “No he was not.
Mary Ann 52:56 He [Bonney] had owned–he really, he had tried to do land speculation. He had purchased tons of land in Elkhart County, Indiana. He built his own mill, Bonneyville. He was wanting to create his own town. It just never ended up taking off. So, he did end up accruing a lot of debt, which is probably why he started counterfeiting in the first place was to pay back the debts. He ends up operating a store in Nauvoo, and then he moves over to Montrose, Iowa, after Joseph Smith’s death. So, that’s another counterfeiting operation that we know is happening in Nauvoo around the time of Joseph Smith. Did Mormons Counterfeit in Nauvoo?
Mary Ann 54:52 We have records of Mormons who are getting arrested for counterfeiting, passing counterfeit money, before Joseph Smith died and afterwards. I mean, the idea that people were accusing Mormons of counterfeiting, they had legitimate reasons to believe that Mormons were counterfeiting. They had these affidavits from Joseph H. Jackson saying that the leaders were absolutely in on it. So, the idea that people thought the Mormons were heading this huge counterfeiting operation makes a lot of sense. Because, definitely, Nauvoo was producing a lot of counterfeit money that then was getting passed to all the communities around. One example of the guy, I’m spacing on his name. But in early June of 1844, he’s down in St. Louis. He gets caught with counterfeiting instruments on him. But he also has his Elders certificate signed by Joseph Smith, saying that he’s a missionary and an elder for the church. So, of course, that just gets plastered all over the newspapers that there’s this Mormon elder in St. Louis, and he goes to jail for five years. He serves five years in the Missouri penitentiary for counterfeiting.
Mary Ann 56:10 So, yeah, and there’s other members, Latter-day Saints that served jail time for counterfeiting, from Nauvoo. Anyway, we also have a Mormon named Peter Haws. He admits that he was involved in counterfeiting and Nauvoo. So, apparently, there is a group of members of the church, who were also doing some sort of low-level counterfeiting. It’s interesting, because later on, we get this report that there were three levels of counterfeit money. The best counterfeit money was the most expensive to buy. Then, you had a middle level, and you had a lower level. I suspect that it probably was these three different counterfeiting operations going on that were producing various quality of counterfeit money. Because, again, you didn’t want to get caught passing counterfeit money, knowing that it was counterfeit money, because that was jail time. People took it seriously.
Mary Ann 57:19 So yes, absolutely, there were counterfeiting operations going on in Nauvoo. They actually called the money Nauvoo bogus. Bogus was a term that they would use for counterfeit coins. The quality of some of the counterfeit money coming out of Nauvoo was so good that they would talk about how it was really a good quality of coin, but it was counterfeit. So, Nauvoo, absolutely, had a reputation for producing counterfeit coin. But even fairly late in the game, if you got farther out from Nauvoo, you had people who had a little bit more realistic view in saying, “It’s probably not the Mormons. There’s probably other people, or more organized gangs that are in there.” Because a Chicago paper mentioned it. They’re like, “Because, we’ve had issues with, definitely, organized gangs and stuff. So, we don’t necessarily think it’s the Mormons, but there’s definitely criminal stuff going on that’s based in Nauvoo.” But, again, because of that Nauvoo Charter, you actually have criminals who are coming in who are purchasing land in Nauvoo, who are joining the church, in some cases. It does seem to be after this 1843, after Joseph Smith has definitely proven that he can get out of extradition, that they’re tightening up the charter to make it harder to arrest people inside Nauvoo. And what’s fascinating is Edward Bonney was a criminal. In his exposè, he is very upfront with the fact that criminals came to Nauvoo to avoid getting caught, to avoid getting arrested. What’s funny is, of course, he doesn’t claim he’s one of those, but he really was one of those criminals that came to Nauvoo to avoid being arrested. So, that is something people do need to realize. Nauvoo was a haven. Nauvoo was seen as a criminal haven for good reason. So, there were a lot of problems of both Mormons and non-Mormons, criminal activities going on in and around Nauvoo.
[End Part 1]
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