This is our final conversation with Brian Stutzman, and we’ll talk about Warsaw, Illinois today. Brian thinks this should be a must-stop for church history buffs. We’ll also discuss how Brian came to love the city, and how he came there and how he would like to restore the city to its historic roots.
Brian: I drove into town and saw this building. It says Thomas Sharp, Warsaw Signal. Little did I know that the Lutherans help fund that building. How ironic. In 1987, there was a Mormon historian from Nauvoo named Michael Trap. He came down and he gathered some people together and says, “You know what, you got some history here. Maybe it’s the dark side of Mormon history. But let’s take this old grocery store.” I think it was built in 1880, “and we’ll raise some money and we’ll make it look like it would have an 1840. We’ll get an old press in here.”
So I really enjoy getting to know the good people. They had me speak at their historical society last year when my book was in the first edition. There’s a ton–1550 people, we had over 100 people together at the high school and I gave a little presentation on the overview of my book. This sweet old lady comes up and says, “Will you move here to Warsaw?” Because I told them at the end of my presentation I said, “You need to promote your town. You’ve got a story to tell. There’s a tragic triangle here. Thousands, millions of people know about Nauvoo. Thousands, millions of people know about Carthage. Nobody’s heard of Warsaw. When people go, they’re only seeing two thirds of what they should see. You need to come down. You need to invite LDS tourists to come here. You need to have a sign that says this is where Willard Richards and Brigham Young we’re going to build a Mormon community at our request that people of Warsaw’s request, even though the local histories, including 1880 Thomas Greg said that they almost fell into the hands of the Mormons.”
He also tells about a beloved Mormon family in Warsaw. Check out our conversation, by signing up to our free newsletter to hear the final part. Go to https://gospeltangents.com/newsletter and I will send you a secret link to hear the conclusion!
Following the acquittal of the murderers of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, what happened to the town of Warsaw, Illinois. Was it a boom-town, a bust, or both? Brian Stutzman will answer that.
Brian: After the church left the area in 1846-47, and moved West, Warsaw prospered for about 30 years because of these rapids. The lightening had to happen. Then in 1877, the government spent $4.5 million at the time and built an eight mile canal on the other side of the river from Keokuk north and it made it so most river boats didn’t have to stop anymore at Warsaw they could just march right up the Mississippi. Within a couple decades, the population of Warsaw went from 4500 down to 2000. Now imagine a frontier town with houses and buildings and stores and hotels for 4500, and all of the sudden, within a couple decades, you’re down to 2000. You’ve got a lot of empty real estate. That continued to decline. Today there’s 1550 people on the last census. They’ve got a lot of old, decrepit broken-down buildings.
Brian also tells a chilling story about early Mormon convert Dan Jones.
Brian: They’re lying on the floor and Joseph offers his arm to Dan for a pillow. They’re sitting there talking about life and death and asked if they were ready to die. They suspected that the end might be there. Dan says, “Well, I think I’m ready to die.” Joseph gives his last prophecy. He gives it to Dan Jones, who was converted because of Thomas Sharp and had just talked to Frank Worrell. Joseph says, “Dan you will yet see Wales and fulfill the mission appointed to you.”
Brian This is that night. The next morning Dan Jones is in the jail. Joseph says, “I’m not feeling good about things. Will you go and get my attorney down in Quincy?” Dan says, “Sure, I’ll leave,” and as he leaves. He goes down the stairs and gets on his horse, and as he leaves he’s shot at by some anti-Mormon mobster. He gets so turned around, he actually takes the wrong road out of town, not to Quincy and he later learns that there was a mob of several hundred people just down the road waiting to kill him, if he went down to Quincy. The mob was on the correct road. Dan got confused and turned and went down the wrong road and it saved his life. Otherwise, he would have been killed.
Thomas Ford was governor of Illinois in 1844 when Joseph Smith was killed. Brian Stutzman will talk about his role in Joseph Smith’s surrender, as well as his role in making sure a trial was held over the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum Smith.
Thomas Ford goes to Nauvoo and he’s got 400 troops up from Warsaw. And he goes to Nauvoo. This June 27th to scold the Saints, basically. Word in Warsaw is that Thomas Ford may be in trouble.
GT 55:24 Governor Ford.
Brian 55:25 Yes, Governor Ford. They gather two battalions of men in Warsaw, and one in nearby Green Plains, and that was led by Colonel Levi Williams. They meet and on June 27th, they gather in the morning and they’re marching toward Nauvoo. There’s about 300 or 400 of them, and they get to a crossroads. It’s called Golden’s Point. It’s still there today. They are met by a messenger from Nauvoo, the governor’s messenger. The governor heard that there were some troops coming to Nauvoo to make war on the disarmed Latter-day Saints. So the messenger says, “The governor says he knows that you’re coming, and he wants you to disperse and he wants you to go home.” So they meet and they talk and some say, “Yeah, let’s do what the governor says.” One was at the doctor. His name is Charles Hay, and he goes back to [Warsaw.] His son, John Hay, who was by far Warsaw’s most famous person. He was Secretary of State to several presidents and opened up the Panama Canal and China and did some things and he also wrote about the murder later on. I’ll tell you about that. So Charles Hay goes back with a bunch of people. But Thomas Sharp and a bunch of them stand up and say, “You know what? We’ve gone this far. Instead of going to Nauvoo to rescue the governor, let’s just go and get rid of Joseph Smith.” He’s up talking, and he says, “If we get rid of Joseph Smith right now, the Mormons will hear about it and they’ll kill Governor Ford, and we’ll have two of our problems solved on the same day.” They were having problems with Governor Ford because Governor Ford was kind of playing both sides and wasn’t getting rid of the Mormons. They’d asked Governor Ford to expel the Latter-day Saints earlier.
GT 57:16 As had been done in Missouri earlier.
Brian 57:18 So they were trying to follow that. So, while Thomas Sharp’s talking, a messenger comes from Carthage. There’s a guard there named Frank Worrell. Frank Worrell writes a note and he says, “Now is the time to do the deed.” He sends it to Sharp. Sharp reads it and he rallies the troops and they go on to Carthage and commit the crime of murdering Joseph and Hyrum.
Brian 57:36 That night, they make a beeline back to this Warsaw House Hotel. It’s run by Sam and Ann Graham Fleming. Sam’s out in Boston, but it’s a restaurant, it’s a hotel, it’s a livery and some other things. It’s a big facility. Thomas Sharp’s the first one back at about 9pm on June 27, 1844. He asks a waitress, 18-year-old Eliza Graham. Eliza Graham is the niece of Ann, the owner, for a glass of water. Nobody knew that Eliza and her dad, they were living in Nauvoo. Eliza came down to help her Aunt run the Warsaw House. She was a member of the church, 18 years old. Thomas Sharp comes in. Other people come in, Jacob Davis. People who would eventually stand trial [came in], and they started talking and bragging about how they’d just killed Joseph Smith. Eliza was like whoa. Her aunt is in the back, cooking. Fifteen men gather and they go from 9 PM to 2 AM, and they’re all talking about who did what. “I was climbing the stairs to Carthage Jail and it was my gun that shot Joseph.” And then somebody else’s say, “No, it was mine.” Thomas Sharp and Jacob Davis together said, “We have finished off the leading men of the Mormon church.” Eliza, brilliant, remembers and she later testifies at the trial, and so does her aunt, for the opposite side. About 2 AM they go upstairs, the people who live there, Jacob Davis and another go upstairs.