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Peace in Caldwell County Compromise (Part 2 of 9)

Following expulsion from Jackson County, Missouri leaders created the Caldwell County compromise. Did it really limit Mormons to a single county? Is that constitutional?

After Joseph Smith declared that the New Jerusalem would be built in Jackson County, Missouri, the saints were kicked out of the county. How much of a role did that play in later hostilities? Historian Steve LeSueur says that things were relatively peaceful between 1834-1838, in large part due to the perceived Caldwell County compromise.  But did Mormons really agree to it?

1832 Jackson County

GT:  The one thing I noticed about your book is you focus a lot on–what, about 1836-1838 onward? You kind of briefly mentioned what happened in 1832 in Jackson County, Missouri. I kind of think that played a big part in the Mormon reactions, especially in 1838. Do you want to give us a little bit of background on 1832, first, and then we’ll dive in?

Steve:  Well, okay.  I guess, I’ll just say, briefly, that the Mormons identified Jackson County, Missouri as their place of gathering to create Zion, as in the upcoming last days.  After a time, the Jackson County citizens decided, “No, we don’t want the Mormons here and drove them out.” The Mormons did nothing wrong. They tried to obey what the local authorities wanted them to do. One of them, which was, “Alright, both sides, let’s give up your guns.”  The Mormons did and the anti-Mormon vigilantes did not, and they got driven out of Jackson County.

Caldwell County Compromise

Steve: So, the crux of the conflict, the sticking point for Missourians, was their belief that the Mormons, in the creation of Caldwell County, the Mormons had agreed only to settle there.

GT:  Okay. So, if Caldwell County had been larger, would there have been an issue? Do you think the Mormons would have agreed to stay within that larger County?

Steve: That’s a good question. I don’t know. All of this is somewhat vague or ambiguous, this idea of this agreement, because first of all, I found nothing, no mention of an agreement in any Mormon source whatsoever.

GT:  Well, I know Dr. Alex Baugh had mentioned that he viewed it as kind of like an Indian reservation, the Mormon reservation, that this county was for, at least from the Missouri perspective, this county was for Mormons and stay out of everywhere else in the state. Is that a good representation?

Steve:  Yes, and I would say yes, though, it was, again, vague in that.  At the time, the Mormons were negotiating for Caldwell and that would have included what became Daviess County. Mormons were soon settling in Daviess County. This is John Butler, and later, Lyman Wight.  They went up there and the Daviess County citizens, some of them did immediately protest and say, “We don’t want Mormons here. You should leave.” The Mormons didn’t leave. Eventually, it died down. Mormons kept coming and they became integrated, somewhat, into Daviess County. That is, the local store owner in Gallatin, a man named Jacob Stollings, sold them goods on credit, and they got help with their crops.  They became great friends with this guy, Josiah Moran, who became a state senator from there.  He helped them on a number of occasions.  So, they sort of became integrated, and the furor whatever it had been died down. So, they were fine there. My interpretation, or my belief, is that as long as the Mormons largely confined themselves to Caldwell, and they were just sort of scattering in other places, the Missourians seemed to be fine. It was when large-scale settlements started moving into places that the Missourians got nervous. So, that’s why–is it this reservation? They could only settle there, nowhere else?  Sort of, but you know…

GT:  But, if they kept their numbers small Missourians wouldn’t have said anything. But it was when they started getting big in other counties, that’s when Missourians started to protest.

Steve:  Yes. In my book, what I tried to focus on was here we had in the end of 1836, the county is created. For almost a year and a half, 1837 and into 1838, there’s pretty friendly relations between the Mormons and their neighbors. It seems like this compromise of creating Caldwell has solved the problem. The Mormons, you have your own county, and so they there was friendly relations. Just about everybody agrees on that. But the friendly relations sort of rested on this idea that the Mormons will keep themselves, at least largely, to Caldwell County.

GT:  I mean, isn’t that a constitutional? I know the Constitution wasn’t viewed the same way as it is today. But wouldn’t that be a constitutional violation of Mormons rights, that they have to stay in one county, and they can’t expand into other places?

Steve:  Yeah, absolutely.

GT:  But, of course, the Missourians didn’t really care about that. They were like, “We gave you this place. Stay there.”

Steve:  Yeah, again, it was a compromise. It was an imperfect one, which is how compromises are. But the idea was, yeah, that this will, hopefully solve the problem. It did, until in March of 1838. Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon come from Kirtland. They’re sort of driven from Kirtland.

Peace in Caldwell County

GT:  Well, it’s interesting to me. So, you’re saying that from what? 1834 to March of 1838, was a relatively peaceful time in Missouri. Is that correct?

Steve:  I’d say, 1834 to 1836, we often call that the Clay County period. But it was relatively peaceful there until, again, the Mormons started growing in large numbers, and Joseph and the Mormons were going to make another military expedition, and then the Clay County citizens got annoyed and afraid. But, essentially, after Clay County was created…

GT:  After Caldwell County.

Steve:  Yes, Caldwell County, I’m sorry. It was relatively peaceful. I can say that the Missourians, some of them, helped the Mormons with their crops, sold them goods on credit. It was good business, of course, but any case…

GT:  Right. So, 1836 until March of 1838, was relatively peaceful.

Steve: Yes.

Missourians believed the Caldwell County compromise limited Mormons to one county. But did Mormon really agree to that? Is it constitutional? Check out our conversation….

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Mormons: Originally Swing Voters! (Part 2 of 8)

Mormons are known to be pretty reliably Republican, at least in Utah.  It wasn’t that way in Joseph Smith’s day, because the Republican Party didn’t even exist!  Mormons alternated between Whig and Democratic support and were seen as swing voters in Joseph’s Smith’s day.  Historian Dr. Derek Sainsbury will tell us more about 19th century presidential politics.

GT:  Now, it’s interesting, you said Democrat and Whig because there was no Republican party in 1845.

Derek:  No.

GT:  So, Republicans didn’t exist. Are Whigs, were they pretty similar with Republicans back in the day?

Derek:  When the Whig Party falls apart, from the ashes of that, you’re going to get a couple of different parties that coalesce into the Republican Party in the 1860s.

Derek:  The Whig Party is in response to what’s happening with this new Democratic Party, and they call themselves the Whigs. So they would make fun of Andrew Jackson. They would call him King Andrew, because he was ruling with this whole spoil system and “What I say goes.”

Derek:  The Whigs took on the name Whigs because the Whigs were the the political opposition party in England against the king, against the Tories. So, that’s why they called themselves the Whigs because they were in opposition to King Andrew, Andrew Jackson.

Derek:  The Democrats and Whigs are evenly split in Missouri, so much so that this large influx of Latter-day Saints is going to determine politics in Illinois, the whole time they’re there.

GT:  So they were the original swing voters.

Derek:  Well, yeah, in a major sense. They started to be seen that way, by the time of the election. In 1844, they start to be seen that way by major newspapers back in the east, that not only could they decide the vote in Illinois, but maybe they could decide the vote in a bigger way. There was this perception, too, that we had more people than we actually did have. So there was this perception that something could come out of all of this.

Were you aware of the Mormon vote deciding elections as swing voters?  Check out our conversation….

Mormons: Originally Swing Voters! (Part 2 of 8)
The Mormon voted vacillated between the Democrats & Whigs in the 1830s-40s and were seen as important swing voters.

Don’t miss our previous conversation with Derek!

418:  Views of General Joseph Smith

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“The Other Mormons” – Intro to James Strang (Part 1 of 6)

Bill Shepard is an amazing Mormon historian, and a former president of the John Whitmer Historical Association.  He is also a Strangite.  In our first conversation with Bill, we will get acquainted with him, and learn more about these other Mormons, & James Strang, a prophet many of you may not have heard of.

GT  0:46  Welcome to Gospel Tangents. I’m excited to have an amazing historian and I’m going to start this a little bit differently. But, first of all, could you tell us who you are?

Bill  0:55  Bill Shepard, I’m a life-long Strangite. Maybe more importantly, I’m a historian.

GT  1:03  Yes. You were the president of the John Whitmer Historical Association.

Bill  1:07  In 2008, yes. We had John Whitmer [Conference] at Voree, Wisconsin or Burlington, Wisconsin. We had a nice turnout of people, including Mike Quinn and Roger Launius.

GT  1:19  So, you’ve been doing this for a long time. You’ve got a really awesome book. Do you want to show the camera? Your book was published in 1977![1]

Bill  1:30  This was basically intended to get out the positive things about James J. Strang and his teachings. It basically [tells] why the other Mormons sects are not correct. So if I would redo it, I would redo it a lot more professionally at this point in time. But it does have the positive things showing James J. Strang’s teachings. I think they’re quite significant.

GT  2:08  Well, let’s do a few things here. I don’t normally do this but tell me the name of your church because I think a lot of my listeners will be very surprised to hear the name of your church.

Bill  2:20  It’s actually the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Strangite). We had to put the appendage on. We couldn’t use the term Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for obvious reasons.

GT  2:37  In fact, I think the only difference between your church name and my church name is I have a lowercase d, and you’ve got a capital D with no hyphen.

Bill  2:46  Right.

GT  2:47  We have a hyphen, lowercase. So that’s pretty funny. So would you call yourself a Mormon?

Bill  2:53  Oh, very definitely. We are asked many times, just like the LDS Church or Utah Mormons are asked, “Are you Christians?” [We have the] same problem, same identification, same basic goals. Strangites accept Joseph Smith certainly. They break, of course, with the transition to the Twelve Apostles into Brigham Young. So there was a critical period there when Joseph Smith died in that the Brighamite church did not have a prophet. Now the Strangites claimed that an angel had appeared to [James J. Strang] at the time that Joseph Smith was martyred and ordained him to be a prophet. It’s interesting to think that in this early period, the Strangites had a song by John Hardy. It wasn’t theirs, but it was “A Church Without a Prophet is not a church for me.”

GT  4:10  Oh, wow.

Bill  4:12  Of course, at that point in time until the 27th of December, 1847 the Brighamite church reorganized with Brigham Young as a prophet as their head.

[1] The book is called “James J. Strang:  Teachings of a Mormon Prophet.”  It is out of print and can be hard to find at a reasonable price.

We will learn more about Strangite beliefs.  Check out our conversation…

"The Other Mormons" - Intro to James Strang (Part 1 of 6)
Historian Bill Shepard is former president of John Whitmer Historical Association and a Strangite.

Dont Miss our other conversations about Strangites with John Hamer, Michael Quinn, and Steve Shields!

227: Conspiracy Theories:  William Smith, Samuel Smith, James Strang (Shields)

188: Translation by Joseph Smith & James Strang (Quinn)

118:  Mormon Followers of the Prophet James Strang (MacKay & Hamer)