In our final conversation with Dr. Alex Baugh, we’ll talk about the lessons to be learned from Hawn’s Mill. Who deserves blame in this escalation? What might have helped calm things down? Did Porter Rockwell try to assassinate Governor Boggs?
GT: There was an assassination attempt on his life and a lot of people want to pin that on Porter Rockwell.
Alex: It probably was.
GT: It probably was?
Alex: Yeah, I think it was. He was visiting his in-laws, the Beebes. The Beebes lived in Jackson County. Monte McClaus wrote an article about it years ago. I taught his kids in seminary, actually. But if you line everything up, I think Rockwell, he was definitely there. Did he intend to kill Boggs? I kind of think not. He just wanted to make him–and why do I say that? Well he used a German buckshot pistol. So they were just small pellets, and it didn’t kill him. I mean, it could have, but I don’t think he intended it to. I think he was just upset with what this man did to us. I mean, his indecisiveness, his lack of humanity towards the Mormons. I don’t know what you want to say, I think he probably did it.
GT: Oh, really?
Alex: Yeah, I do. Would he deny it? Well, of course. I guess the folklore around, “If I would have done it, I would have killed him.” Well, that’s just a good round about there. But Joseph had nothing to do with it. There’s no question there. Even though John C. Bennett and others wanted to pin that on him, there’s no evidence for that. Joseph was not an accessory to the crime. Rockwell acted on his own.
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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….
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Following the Kirtland Banking Crisis in 1836, Joseph Smith finally came to Missouri, but dissent against his leadership followed him. Early leaders including Oliver Cowdery, the Whitmers, and even W.W. Phelps were disillusioned with his leadership. This led Sidney Rigdon to call out dissenters in his famous Salt Sermon. Dr. Alex Baugh tells us more about this tumultuous time. After getting kicked out of Jackson County, the state of Missouri created Caldwell County specifically for Mormons.
Alex: The county’is created and actually signed into law by Lilburn W. Boggs on the 29th of December 1836, passed both the House and the Senate to create this county for us.
GT: Now I’ve heard you call it the Mormon reservation.
Alex: Well, it kind of almost is. They’re kind of saying, “Okay, we’re going to block off this chunk of land for the Mormons. The expectation was, I mean, it was a gentleman’s agreement, but the idea was, if any Mormons come to Missouri, that’s where they gotta stay, that’s where they gotta live. But the point is, you can live anywhere you want. But the Latter-day Saints were grateful and I think I saw that as a temporary solution. But things deteriorate once we start getting up there, because number one, we begin moving into some other areas. We have some localities of pockets of Latter-day Saints elsewhere. Well, hold it, we weren’t supposed to do that. The thing that I think probably triggered the animosity again, was well, several things. But one of them is, of course, Joseph Smith, finally ends up, him and Sidney Rigdon and the First Presidency coming to Missouri. All this time, headquarters has been in Kirtland. Boy when Joseph arrives, he arrives March 14, 1838, him and Sidney. And boy, that sent a signal, “Mormons are here to stay, this is their homeland. They want to settle this as Zion. We’re not in Jackson County, but we’re there in Missouri now, and that’s the headquarters. So, they’re worried a little bit about again, political numbers, we start going outside. In May Joseph goes up to Daviess County, and declares that this one area is Adam-ondi-Ahman. We begin settling up there. We purchase land down in Carroll County, a little community called De Witt, start settling outside there, so that that causes problems as well. But Caldwell really worked out quite well for a couple of years there and we had our own government, we had our own–we even elected our own legislator to the Missouri legislature, John Corrill. We could form our own militia, and, boy, we can defend ourselves if we have to. The problem is, of course, the dissent that started in Kirtland comes to Missouri, and no sooner did Joseph Smith to get there, then, within a month, Oliver Cowdery is excommunicated, David Whitmer is excommunicated. Just right before he came, W.W. Phelps was excommunicated, John Whitmer. These men stay in Missouri, stay in Far West. They cause problems. McClellin is another one. Then, unfortunately, of course, we have the rise of the the Danite company, and these men decide that we’ve got to get rid of these guys. We got to cleanse the church. So these dissenters should not even be with us. We have the salt sermon of Sidney Rigdon, and it was a clear indication, “You’re not welcome here and we’ll help you move.” And where do they go?
Alex: June 17, I believe it was, he gives the Salt Sermon, 1838 and then that’s where he says, “You’re no longer welcome here. If the salt has lost its savor, it’s no good, but to be trodden under foot by men.”