Missouri, 1836-39

Michael Hubbard MacKay and William G. Hartley, "Missouri, 1836-39," in The Rise of the Latter-day Saints, ed. Michael Hubbard MacKay and William G. Hartley (Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2019), 95–118.


This section of Newel Knight’s autobiographical writings covers three years, from May 1836 until May 1839. It includes accounts from memory, dated, diary-like entries in places, and some borrowing in the form of quotes and paraphrases from available sources. For example, he was not present during much of the war in Missouri, from the summer through the fall of 1838, so he copied from three published sources that contained the details. The Allen version of this material contains no additional writing of Newel’s beyond that already included. He records his efforts to make a living in Clay and Caldwell Counties, including several mill construction projects. Particularly valuable is Newel’s documentation of his family’s difficult winter travel during the Saints’ mass exodus from Missouri in early 1839. He touches on but does not wade into ecclesiastical issues. He mentions disaffections from the faith by men who had been his close associates but does not explain the cases or express personal reactions to them. He has a unique reaction to the arrival of Joseph Smith in Far West in March 1838.

Version 1[1]

April 30 [1836]. A little before night we left St Lewis on board Steamer. The boat was so crowded ase our situation was rendered quite inconveinient. We had a safe passage & landed in Clay on the 6 of May.

Northwest Missouri, 1832–1838. Courtesy of the Joseph Smith Papers Project.Northwest Missouri, 1832–1838. Courtesy of the Joseph Smith Papers Project.

We [Newel and Lydia] first went to Uncle Ezekiel Pecks. Found well. Sayed over night. Th next day went [to] Fathers. I found him in good health & in good Spirits. Went Clark Slade Slades[2] where I had left Samuel my little Son. I concluded to move to the place I left when I went to Kirtland & build a mill I had commenced. It was the place where my Wife Sally died. I moved here the 10 of May

Aunt Es[t]her Culver, my Mothers Sister, whose husband died in Jackson C. O., came to live with us. My first buisness was to repair my house, & plough & plant a garden. As soon as this was done I commenced operations for my mill. All things ^have^ moved well for a few days.

[May] 25 I have Bought a Cow, & Contentment seems to reign in my family. Aunt Esthers health is not as good as I could wish, yet she is comfortable the most of her time.

June 1st all are well. The inhabitants of Clay begin to be more hostile. They are holding metings for the purpose of expelling the Mormons from the County. There is at present no prospect of our wrongs being redressed by goverment, which gives our enemies boldness to Still persecute drive & plunder us at their leisure.[3]

[June] 15. Lydia has the fever & Ague, & for a bout a week I have felt quite ill. Some ague seems to be lurking in my Systom. Rumors are that the inhabitants of Clay do not intend to let the Sants remain in the C.O. The Brethren are trying make a treaty with them so as to give the Brethren an opportunity to leave & not suffer as they did in being expeled from Jackson C.O.[4]

But few days have passed since writing the above. Lydia health is no better & I have had some severe Shakes of the Ague.

To day inteligence arrived that the Brethren would hold a Council tomorrow & try to devise some plan of a present Salvation for the Saints & requested that I should attend. Notwithstanding I have had a sever Shake of the Ague to day I have thout I should attempt to go to the Council. I have no [ho]rse & shall be obliged to walk the distance is a bout 12 mils. The next morning I arose & after commiting myself & family into the hands of Our heavenly Father, I Started, resolveing to pursue my Course as long as God should give me strength. I arrived at the Council in time & have had no Ague today.

The Brethren met in Council & the Lord blessed us light, & inteligence seemed to be given as our day demands. We agreed that if the State would Sell us the County of Calldwell, it being about 50 miles west of Clay, & uninhabited, we would use our endeavors to have the Saints all gather to that County & leave Clay in the Cours of the Summer & fall.[5]

The above propositions were made to the inhabitants of Clay & Ater a little Consideration & Correspondence with the Governor, the a treaty to the above effect was entered into. The Clay inhabitants agreed to lay asid hostilities & suffer us to leave in peace. B This greatly Changed the face of affairs & the Saints began to have some hopes of being again secure from mobs for a Season.[6] We now had to devise means & regulations for Commenceing a Settlement in our new Country. Land was purchased of Goverment & the Brethren soon commenced moveing to our new location. They soon erected houses & prepared for raising Crops such as Buckwheat, turnips, sowing Buckwheat Winter wheat, & c.[7]

July 02 [1836] I have had no Ague since I attended council with the Brethren. That day, After Council Clsed I returned home & felt better than I had for several days preivious, makeing travel for the day about 24 mils. Lydias health continued bad & Aunt seemes to be declineing. I concluded to leave all & I had & move to our new settlement & began to make preparations to that effect.[8]

At this time I was oweing James Prindle a few dollars. He Said If I attempted to go until I paid him he would attach & take my goods from me on the road. I tried to reason with him. I told him I would pay him as Soon as I could, that my family were Sick & in an unhealthy place & I was in hopes moveing to a better place would be an advantage to their healt. But all to no purpose. He persisted, saying a man that could wear broad Cloth Should pay his debts.

My mill was not finished & I could not sell it for any thing, so I was obliged to stay & do the best I could. I continued building as I could, but was hindered much with the Sickness of my family. In Sept I resolved to go at the risk of all I had, think the life & health of my family of greater value than all I had. Beside Aunt was an aged woman & her health fast declineing. My little Son allso was Sick & my wife no better. She had the Ague every day. I had got nearly ready to move [but] Lydia was taken so ill we could not move.

The fore part of OCT Aunt was taken quite ill & die.[9] This to gather with sickness of my wife & Child prevented me from moveing. About this time a man by the name of Charles Young^er^ agreed to buy my mill. I would finish it by a Set time & give me a trifle sum for it thoug it was not near the value of the property. But as I was obliged to Stay I concluded to take up with his offer. At the time I could hire men enoug at a reasonable price & give them such pay as I should receeve for my mill when finished, But soon after the Brethren mostly emigrated to their new homes in Calldwell & it was allmost impossible to hire labor at all.

Dec 1st [1836] Lydia gave birth to a daughter.[10] After this she recovered slowly & I began to hope for her final recovery. I continued to do wat I could for the Compltion of the mill but for the last 3 months I had been able to do but little.

About the middle of Feb [1837] Lydia was taken verry Sick. She had a run of the inflamatory fever. For about a week She lay sensless. Her babe was obliged to be taken from her to be taken care of. [No] one thought She could recover. After the Doctor had done all he Could he left her. I felt that I Could not give her up & resign her to the silent grave. I now felt that there was no hopes of help but in God. I left her bed Side & retired to a lonely grove & ther I told my heavenly Father all my greif & mad my request un to him alone for in my heart I had resolved to Call upon God & to take no denial, for I had buried one Companion in that place & I felt that Could not endure to [u]nder go the trial again. I allso felt that she was worthy & might yet do much good upon the earth, & that I might Claim her life at the hand of God & not offend. I watered the ground with tears of supplication & Continued to Call upon God until I received a testimony that She Should recover.

When I returned to the house I soon saw that she began to amend. I Sat by her upon her bed when she Seemed to a wake from the stupor she had been in for some days & she looked upon me & then looked for her infant. She then asked me where is Sally. This was the first her recollection had ben visible fo a week or that she had missed her babe She which had been absent for a bout a week. I now felt to [t]hank God for his blessings to me. Lydia continued to gain from that time with remarkable vigor & in a few days she was able to set up & nurse he infant.

About 2 weeks after this I was taken sick & was unable to do any thing for a long time, so that I failed to get the mill done at the set time, which togather with the sickness of my family had brought me much in debt. After I recovered my health I found ther was no alternative but for me to finish the mill or loose entirely all that I had done. I had no Cow at this time. A horse & harness ^and house I had built in farwest^ was all that I Could command. my Bro Joseph had been helping me but said he could help no longer with out pay. Immediately I Settled with him & gave him my house in far west, my horse & harness, which was all that I could command. He agreed to help finish the mill which took us a bout 2 weeks longer. I delivered up the mill. On makeing an estimate of all expenses, I found my self about 2 hundred dollars in debt & no means to pay one dollar.

June [1837] had arrived & I knew not how to extricate my self from debt. Previous to selling my horse, I had moved my Father to Far west so that I felt no anxiety for his Safety. My Bro Joseph said moved a soon as the mill was finished, & I was alone with my family. About this time a man by the name of Shaver Came to give me a Job job of building a mill & Carding machinery. As debts at this time forbade me the privilege of gathering with the Saints, I engaged to do the job. I moved to the place where the mill was to be erected, hired two men, & commenced work. Lydias health had improved so that she was [a]ble to do all her work & some besides.

In the fall or latter part of Summer [1837] Brother Hiram Smith came to Farwest. I went to see him & attend Conference.[11] During the Summer there had been apostates telling all maner of evil about Joseph & Hiram, but as soon as I saw him & heard him speak I felt the testimony of the Spirit that truth eternal still lived in his bosom & I more sensibly than ever felt ^the^ weight of the old maxim, Truth will prevail & th righteous stand & shine ^when^ Error & false hood, with Apostates & liars, will vanish like ^dust befor the^ the summer threshing floor & the wicked go to thei own place, while the righteous Shine forth & forth in their Fathers Kingdom & be crowned with glories & honor that will have no end.[12]

I found it would be late in the fall before I could accomplish the job I had engaged. And as Mr Shavr gave me a good offer to stay & tend his mill during the winter [1837–1838] I concluded to accept as I could better winter my cows there & earn somting yet more by so doing. I sent butter & pork to my Father & saw him in Comfortable situation for the winter. The place where I lived was about 35 miles distant from Farwest.

I went again to in the fall to Farwest. I found my Father & family well & Comfortabl, the Brethren generally well & in good Spirits, hopeing they would now have the privilege of building & inhabitng, of planting & enjoying the fruits of their labors. Great industry marked Settlement of the Saints & it appeared as if the wilderness was allready turned in to a fruitful field & the Solitary place made glad for the Saints of the most high.[13]

After enjoying the Society of my Brethren a short a few days, I returned to my family with my heart lifted to heaven with ardent desires that God would smile upon me & continue to bless me & my family with health & to prosper the labor of our hands, so that we may hve privelege of gathering with the Saints, fo their home shall be my [mine] & with them is my Delight.

During winter my health was tolerable good & all things seemed favorable & to prosper with me. Towards the latter part of Feb [1838] I concluded to move to farwest. I had been so far blest that I had paid for eighty Acres of land & Satisfied all demands against me so far as to satisfy my Creditors, that I was at liberty to go when & where I Choose. This seemes like a year of release or jubilee to me.

Th 24th of Feb I started with my family for Farwest & arrived there Safe on the 26th. I offerd the thanks & gratitude of my heart for the privilege of Settleing with those I love & of takeing my place with the Brethren ^of^ the high Council & again enoying instruction & blessing with them. For oft times when we have met in prayer & Conversation for the edification of each other it has seemed that wer in heavenly places.

Brother Joseph [Smith] & family & many others arrived at Farwest.[14] This was a general time of joy to the Brethren & Sisters who all felt to greet them with a hearty welcome, for we had longed for the Company & Society of our beloved Prophet.[15] And on the Sabbath his words were meat & drink for us fo with wisdom & edification did he speak to us & made plain the way of life & Salvation & made the glories of the kingdom shine with a more briliant lusture than before. No wonder the A[n]cient exclaimed how beautiful are the feet of those that bring good tidings &.C.[16]

April 6, 1838 Conference. Phs Smith Presided. Business was done such as was needful for the benefit of the Church.[17] Sabbath was appointed for preaching, blessing Infants &. C. It was a profitabl time to all the Saints. The Printing Press & apparatus were fet[c]hed from Kirtland & preperations soon made for commenceing business.

[April] 15 Bro B Young Came before sunrise to my house & Said he knew of no other that would suit for the printing press so well as it would, & if it would suit me he would be glad to have me accommodate them with it. I told him he should have it. Immediately moved out & commenced to build another.

By the 24 [April] my house was up & covered & I moved into it.

[April] 29th My wife gave birth to a Son [James Philander Knight] I now had to prepare for a garden & do all I could in a few [days] for I had engaged to build for a man by the name of Brown in Clay C. O.

May 7th Sabbath. Father [Isaac] Morley came to my house to name & bless my little Son.[18]

I Started go to build the mill which I had engaged. I hired hands to help so that I made a short job of it, & in less than a month [near the start of June 1838] returned again to my family. I found them well & my garden growing finely.[19]

[Difficulties with his younger brother Joseph]

I had engaged to build another mill in Clay C. O. I stayed a short time with my family, hired Bro Demil[20] to put up hay for my Cattle &.C. Attended to my affairs and again hired hands & went to build the mil I had engaged.

About the middle of Summer [1838] ther seemed to be a Spirit of dissatisfaction growing in my brother Joseph. He made Complaints to Bishop Patridge against me, which I thought to be unjust & uncalled for. I invited him & his wife with as many of our connection as lived near to come to my house, thinking that a family interview & investigation of affairs would be the best method to Check the Course Joseph was takeing. After hearing his story & allowing him his full assc of everr thing & price he could make against me, I still owed him 14 dollars. But as I had given up my house & lived in a hired one myself & let him have every thing I Could Command at the time of his leaveing me after the sickness & misfortune I had encountered in Clay, it was decided by the family that his complaints were unjust & ought cease.

I told him as I had found labor for him during the winter at the sum of 20 dollars per month & had given up my house & my all to pay him. I thought I had done all the law of Righteousness could require, & as soon as I could I designed to pay him the uttermost farthing. And I hoped from this time forward brotherly friendship might abound betwen us, for it was not in my hear heart to wrong him at all. That it was for the sak[e] of salvation wee had made many sacrifises & now I did not want any thing to grow up & become a root of bitterness betwen us, for as long as the principles of Righteousness were cultivated betwen us we should find it our Salvation.

He agreed to the above & appeared to be Satisfied, both he & his wife, & we parted as I ^s^upposed with union, which I hoped would be lasting.

I was at home & attended Council occasionally during the summer yet the principal part of my labor was in Clay.

Ma^n^y of the prophet[’]s ^allmost^ nearest freinds turned apostates & Caused him great trouble.[21] But as he keeps a correct history of all & ^I^ design to be as breif as possible, I shall omit them.

During the Summer [1838] our Brethren labored with unceaseing diligence to make improvements & to till the earth, to build houses, barns & C., & truely the Lord blest their labors. Crops looked delightful & promised the laborer an abundant reward fo all his toil. But our enemies did not long behold our prosperity intil they began to covet our homes & to devise & lay plans for our destruction. But so Care ful were we of violateing any law or giveing them any advantage over us that they could get no pretext by law against us. Their only alternative was to let us alone & let us enjoy our rights as freeborn Americans or drive us in mass from the State, the latter they at length resolved to do. Some time in august the inhabitants ^of the adjoining Counties^ began to hold metings & to adopt measures for the accomplishment of this Crewel & Bloody design.[22]

At this time I was engaged in building a mill in Clay fo[r] Robison. I had allso engaged to build another for the Indians 60 miles above fort Leavensworth a goverment job.[23] A bout th first of Sept I hired hands, layed in a store of provisions, procured waggon & teams &.C., & sent them to the place to make preparations for doing the job. I had a bout a weeks work to do yet on Robisons mill for my Self & men that were with me.

As I was engaged & considerable of a hurry to finish the job, I took up an axe to Cut a Sill a littl, which was in the way of putting up work. I struck the axe through my foot. It cut through the sole of the Shoe on my foot 2 inches in length.

This was an unlucky blow to me, or it look so to me for the present, had it not been for the Goverment job I should not have felt so bad. I had paid considerable for teams provisions &. C. & sent a set of hands to the place & it was too late to give up the job. It was on my hands & must be done by the set time. For a while I knew not what to do as it Could not be accomplished without me to do or attend to the more particular parts of the machinery. We had yet about three days work to finish here. I was obliged to be present as it was the finishing & putting up the gears of the mill. After my wounds were dressed I requested a bed to be f[e]tched to the mill & placed so that I Could over see the work. And in this way the mill was completed. But the pain of the wound & the labor of mind I was obliged to labor under was great, yet the Lord gave sufficient strength to endure it.

I hav to Mr Robison I must Say I never was better treated or nursed wit more tenderness. When the job was finished he Settled & paid me honorably, makeing no Charge of his attention and Care which he had taken of me wholly him Self after my foot was Cut. He fixed his Carriage in the best possible manner & Sent his most trusty Slave to carry me home, th distance was about 35 miles. I rode with more ease than I could have expected. We were but one day going through.

I found my family as well a I could have expected, for Lydia & the two youngest Children had been afflicted with the inflamation in their eyes. Lydia had been quite blind & the Children verry bad. She Could find no relief, the pain she suffered from her eyes was great, until one morning after a Sleepless night she requested her nurse to go & call on Bro J. P. Green to come & administer to her.[24] He Came & while his hands were yet on her head the pain ceased & for the first time for some days she knew eace from pain. She allso opened her eyes & beheld light. For some days preivious she had not been able to discern any thing. The Children soon amended & She was now ble to wait upon me which she did with the greatest attention.

Mormon Troubles in Missouri Begin, from T. B. H. Stenhouse, The Rocky Mountain Saints (1887), 81.Mormon Troubles in Missouri Begin, from T. B. H. Stenhouse, The Rocky Mountain Saints (1887), 81.

The mob were now rageing, threatening death & extermination to the Saints.[25] I now had to make the best arrangements I could to accomplish the goverment job I had taken. I made a bill & draft of the work & put it into the hands of Competent workmen, & engaged them to go & do the best they could until I should be able to go.[26]

The number of Saints had increased to about [4,500][27] as there had been allmost an unceaseing tide of emigration. Calldwell was mostly Settled, & the Brethren had bought great quantities of land both in Davies C.O. & some in D^e^wit & Commenced Settlements. The mob at first comenced depredations on the more scattered Settlements, such as robbing, plundering, & burning houses &.C. They probbly thinking that by so doing they would provoke us [into] self defence & they could thereby get some pretext against us. But the Saints hav already learnt to profit by the Saviors maxim, be ye therefore wise Servants & harmless as doves[28] so that they could not justly accuse.

The Prophets life was [s]ought & hunted for by the mob with great diligence, for in Cool deliberation they had sworn to destroy him from the earth & that his lineage should be come extinct. At this time hundreds were moving from different parts of the States to this place. To prevent their getting here the roads were blockaded & kept guarded by strong parties of mob who did not hesitate to commit any depredation upon either persons or Cattl, horses, waggons, or any property belonging to the Saints.

At Dewit[29] there was a settlement of Brethren & many had been compelld to stop becauss of the mob there.[30] Th enemy surrounded the town & commited the most hostile depredations both upon persons & property. Many of the Saints were sick & suffered greatly while kept in this distressed situation. Some died for want of necessary food & could not be buried, only at the risk of the lives of those that performed this duty for them, as the ene^m^y were lurking & continually shooting at those that appeared in sight. A messenger at last managed to make his ecape & by much exertion & stratagen & by travelling in the night he arrived at Farwest & gave the information. And Compa^n^y from Farwest started. By stratagem & great exertion, our men made their [way]to Dewit, & through the Provide[nce] of him [who] hath Said th wrath of man shall praise God & the remainder I will restrain,[31] th[e]y succeeded in a Compremize so that the Brethren were permited to make their escape, all though it was at the loss of nearly all they possessed, & some died by the way & had to be intered with out a Coffin.[32]

Hawn’s Mill, 1907. Anderson Collection, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Brigham Young University.Hawn's Mill, 1907. Anderson Collection, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Brigham Young University.

The wound continued to heal upon my fo^o^t & th health of my family to increase, yet the Storm with out raged with great violence. T mob came upon a Company of our Brethren a hauns mill & murdered & wounded them in a most shocking manner.[33] Soon after this the mob grew bolder & commit deppredations upon the settlements in Coldwell & Daviess, So that they were obliged to flee into Farwest from all quarters to save them selves. Two families came in to my house with me, viz Freeborn Demill & Becklehammar. Ma[n]y could not get in to houses & were obliged to remain under some shelter of bed Clothes or tent as thy could. While in this situation we had a severe snow storm which rendered their sufferings verry great.

I began to walk on Crutches about the time the troops came to Farwest & to ride a little on horse back, as a Spy or picket guard[34] Rmors came to our ears that troops of great numbers wer advanceing in to our County, ^and committing great depredation.^ We thought it advisable to send a Company of a bout an hundred & fifty horsemen to ascertain the true situation of affairs. Towards evening we discovered a large armed force advancing to wards our town & not far distant. What men we had on hand immediately flew to arms & Calculated to defend themselves & there families & homes to the best advantage they could when the enemy saw our formidable line they halted.[35] A while [white] flag was sent by each army, but judge of our surprise when enquiring their design, our flag bearer was abruptly informed that they wanted three men out of our City & then they designed to massacree the remainder.[36] This was unexpected news to us this night was spent in trowing up a breast work & fortifying our City to the best advantage we Could, there being at this time a large quantity of timber for building on hand which served for that purpose. The little compay of an hundred & fifty returned just at sunset. Thy had been hemed in during the day by the mob & only exaped thm by their sperior knowledge of of the course & Country through which they made their way to our City.[37]

Notwithstanding the fatiegue thy had endured through the d^a^y they they hitched their horsees around my garden fence & quickly formed in line to strengthen our little force while our women spared no pains or lost any time in bakeing, Cooking, sending food to the weary yet brave & undaunted Soldiers who lost no time or thought their lives too dear to defend the helpless & innocent. This was a night long to be remembered by all the Saints

T[he] next morning[38] we again sent messengers to the enemy & requested an explanation of facts or of their intentions. We were informed that they were commissioned by the Cheif executive of the State & their Commission authorized them to exterminate or massacree the Mormons in mass.[39] Troops were on hand to the number of 13 thousand.[40] We now saw that there was no alternative with out acting in direct opposition to the laws of the authorities of the State, although we well knew them to be illegal & unconstitutional.

We therefore submited ourselves to the first demand of these Commissioned made, which was to surrender our arms. Our men were Called to gather and surrounded by a large number of armed force & compeled to lay down their arms. We were kept under a Strong guard until towards evening when we were permited to go to our houses, which we found had been plunderd of everry thing the mob thought worth takeing. The armed Crew had been during the day searching our houses insulting our women & committing such unheard of barrarities a would make any true born son of freedom that had a spark of patriotism blush to see his rights so trampled upon.

Clay County (Liberty) jail in Liberty, Missouri, where Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith, Alexander McRae, Sidney Rigdon, and Caleb Baldwin were held. Courtesy of Church History Library.Clay County (Liberty) jail in Liberty, Missouri, where Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith, Alexander McRae, Sidney Rigdon, and Caleb Baldwin were held. Courtesy of Church History Library.

[Back on] the first day that the enemy entered our City they killed one of our Brethren & wounded another.[41] After our arms were given up & the enemy were satisfied with insulting & plundering, they requested an interview with Joseph & Hyrum Smith & Sidney Rigdon, the officers pledgeing there most sacred honors that as soon as a treaty could be entered into they should be safely returned to teir families.[42] They accordingly walked in to the Camp of the enemy not counting their lives more precious than their Brethren & ready to stand betwen them & death if it could be possible to appease the wrath of the enemy or mak a treaty to ameliorate th condition of their Brethren. But scarcely had they reached the Camp when they were met by the officers & in a rough & Savage manner Confined in a Small hollow Square & surrounded by a strong guard of four file[s of] armed men

They were compelled to lie on the naked ground & covered with the Canopy heaven. As soon as our Brethr were surrounded the enemy my set up a most horrid yell & continued it for hours. The noise was past description & had there been ten thousand wolves yelling for their prey it would not have been equald. T[he] officers & Preists assembled, held a Court martial, & decided that the men they then had under guard should be shot in the presence or their families in the publick Square the next morning at eight oclock. The Prisonors had not the privilege of appeareing at the Court or introduceing witnesses. At [t]his unprecdented transaction Gen Doniphan objected, he being a lawyer, & forth with withdrew his brigade. This checked the horrid design & they Changed the sentence of Death. And conveyed them to Independence Jackson C.O. the Seat of Mobocracy in the former persecution.[43] This gave our beloved Prophet an opportunity of walking upon the land Consecrated & dedicated for the building of the temple, even the Spot of the new Jerusalem which shall be built preparitory to the Comeing of the Son of man & this that his own prophecy might be fulfiled. The design of the enemy no doubt was to destroy these men when they arrived at that place, but the Lord did not suffer it, for their work was not yet finished. After keeping & tantalizeing pretending to some mock trial thy conducted them to

Illinois, Missouri, and Iowa Territory region, 1843–1844. Courtesy of the Joseph Smith Papers Project.Illinois, Missouri, and Iowa Territory region, 1843–1844. Courtesy of the Joseph Smith Papers Project.

Our Brethren were thrust in to an old Store house & treated in a rough manner at first & strongly guarded. But after keeping them a few days they Changed their treatment to them & placed them in tavern house & gave them liberty to walk about at their leisure. They rimained here until Nov the 8th when they were ordered to be conveyed to Richmond. They were taken to Richmond & thrust in to Prison & made fast in Chains. General Clark made his appearance & the Prisnors politely enquired the cause of their being thus treated & of the crime allegded against them, for as yet they had not been Indicted & had heard no Charge against themselves. General Clark said he was not able to tell he spent several days in searching over the Statutes & trying to find some thing whereby they might accuse him. But after a fruitless attempt he came to us & informed us that there was no Chance for a Court Martial, & we thy would have to be turned over to the Civil law. Accordingly after a kind of pretended trial which lasted a bout two weeks, [t]here had been a great number of our Brethren taken Prisoners & conducted [to] that place & under went a trial. But at the Close of the trial which was on the 29 of Nov. they were all released or let to bail but 5 persons, viz, Joseph Smith Hyrum Smith. Alexander McRay. Sidney Rigdon. & Caleb Baldwin. These were ordered to be taken to Clay. C.O. liberty jail & to stand trial for treason & Murder. Treason for having stod in our own defence in Daviess C.O. & murder for the man killed in the Bogart battle. Allso P. P. Pratt, Morris Phelps, Luman Gibbs, Darwin Chase, & Norman Shearer who were put into Richmond jail to await trial for the same Crime.[44]

But to return to my self, as soon as I was able I rode to Clay to attend some business & to See how my Father was getting along, w[h]o preivious to any disturbance had moved there for the purpose of tending mill for a time.[45] I found him well & he had not been molested by the enemy. I returned home & soon Started to go to the before mentioned Goverment job. I arrived there safe & found the men at work. But they had labored to great disadvantage for want of a foreman who understood the buisness. I had to do considerable over, which prolonged the time so that our provisions were so exhausted we had to send to Fort Lvenworth to get a new supply. However, I succeeded in getting the mill done in time to answer the contract & recd the money which I had contracted to build it for. This would have been sufficient to released all my debts & left me a Competence for my family, as I had a house & lot in the City Far West & eighty Acres of land about two miles distant from the City on which I had built & made an improvement.[46]

I returned to Farwest the forepart of Feb [1839]. Found my family well. Yet to my Sorrow ^th^ brethren yet were confined in prison & the enemy were prowling about & doing us all the injury they Could. Allready our Brethren had Commenced to leave the State & were making everry possible exertion to remove & to devise measures to remove the poor the Widow & Fatherless.[47]

During the summer preivious I had signed a bond with Joseph & others of some hundred dollars, which bond had been taken up & paid. But the dissenters had forged another, & as thy understood the frst & thereby attached my land & property so that I were waiting for me but it so happened they did not find me. I ettled my buisness as soon as possible & went See my Father. I put means in his hands to Convey him & family into th State of Illinois.

C. C. A. Christensen, Expulsion of Saints from Far West, 1838 (ca. 1882–84), photograph of panorama. Courtesy of Church History Library.C. C. A. Christensen, Expulsion of Saints from Far West, 1838 (ca. 1882–84), photograph of panorama. Courtesy of Church History Library.

returned to my family & made the best shift I could to remove my family. I had no team. I sold my Cook Stove & the only Cow the mob had not killed, for me to hire a team to take my family to Illenois. As I have been absent Considerabl & by the wound on my foot, I have not been an eye witness to many transactions of our enemy & the doings of Officers of the State of M.O. I Shall take the liberty to Copy from the times & Seasons & Such others as from the best of my knowledge have made Correct Statements of facts, as it is what I desig & think essential for the rising generation to understand.[48] At all events I deem it important for my Children to know in future what it has Cost to establish the kingdom of heaven on the earth.

I started from Farwest on the morning of the eighteenth day of Feb. 1839. We journeyed by day & when night Come we spread our beds upon the earth & laid down to repose our weary bodies. Thus we went on, & nothing special occured until we Came within two miles of Huntsville, when the man I had hired to move me Said he could go no farther. His horses breasts were a little sore was his only excuse. He stoped his team & found a family by the name of Pullman who took us in. we I had paid West, for this was the mans name, for moveing me to the Miss River & I was left about half the way there with out means to go further, and in an enemies land from which I had been exiled. I knew not how to extricate my self, but as I had never been forsaken by my heavenly Father I Commited my self & family in to his Care & said in my heart I will trust in him Still.

I Stayed a bout a week at this place when the Lord opened heart of a man in the eighborhood to let his boy go with a team to the river with me. At this time Bro B Youngs family were at the same place & left without sufficient team to carry their goods, & my load was not so much as th team going could carry. Bro Young put on board some of his goods & I again resumed my journey. We had not traveled but a few days when the boys through neglect let their horses get away & could not find them. The oxen thy had left could not bare all the load, so I left by the way part of Brother Youngs good & a part of my own, in the care of a man who appeared freindly, & pursued on.[49]

We arrived safe at the river. Here we met Bro Young on his return to M.O. He had gon on & left his family at Atlass in an all Store house.[50] He invited me to go & stop with them, which I thankfully accepted, & took a team that he had & went back & fetched on the good[s] I had left by the way.[51]

I immediately set to look for a place to locate my family until I should accumulate some thing subsist upon, for I now found my self with out money & in a land of strangers. I Concluded to go to Worcester.


[1] MS 767, folder 1, item 3.

[2] Clark Slade was Newel’s cousin, being the son of Newel’s sister Molly Knight. He was married to Emily Colburn, the sister to Newel’s first wife Sally Colburn.

[3] See Johnson, Mormon Redress Petitions; Rogers, “To the ‘Honest and Patriotic Sons of Liberty,’” 36–67.

[4] Newel testified in the Kirtland high council meeting the next day. JSP, D5:248–53. See Greene, Facts Relative to the Expulsion, 37–38.

[5] Cannon and Cook, Far West Record does not include this meeting. On June 29, 1836, Clay County residents formally asked the Saints to leave. They said they would not use force but hoped the Saints would avert a crisis by finding somewhere else to live. The Saints agreed and gained First Presidency approval to relocate. Some members already had scouted the lands in what would become Caldwell County, and by June 22 individuals and leaders had purchased about 1,600 acres. By early August 1836, the exodus from Clay County began. Gentry and Compton, Fire and Sword, 23–29.

[6] See JSP, J1:215; JSP, D4:106; Gentry and Compton, Fire and Sword, 26–27. On July 25, 1836, a general assembly of Saints met and, among other business, appointed W. W. Phelps, John Whitmer, Edward Partridge, Isaac Morley, and John Corrill to be a committee “to search for lands for the Church to settle upon.” Cannon and Cook, Far West Record, 104–5.

[7] See Letter to John Thornton and others, July 25, 1836, in JSP, D5:258–68.

[8] Starting here, Newel summarizes rather than using dated entries.

[9] It seems likely that Newel buried his aunt on his Clay County property, where he’d buried his wife, Sally, and son Eli.

[10] They named their daughter Sally.

[11] Joseph and Hyrum Smith were in Far West from about November 1 to 10. In a conference on November 7, Newel was resustained as a high councilor. See Smith, History, 1838–1856, vol. B-1, 775–77; Kirtland Camp, Journal, March 17, 1838; Hyrum Smith, “To the Saints Scattered Abroad,” Times and Seasons 1 (December [day], 1839): 21.

[12] Joseph and Hyrum’s visit was also wrapped up in ecclesiastical conflicts from problematic leaders to early rumblings of polygamy. See Gentry and Compton, Fire and Sword, 69–84.

[13] Here and through his other mill projects, Newel participated in one of the most profitable and hopeful periods of the Saints’ stay in Missouri. See Gentry and Compton, Fire and Sword, 47–67.

[14] Joseph Smith’s journal states, “ON the 13th of March I with my family and some others arrived with 8 miles of Far West and put up at brother Barnerds to tarry for the night.” JSP, J1:237; Burgess, Labors in the Vineyard, book 12, 68.

[15] “on the next day as we are about entering the town Many of the bretheren came out to meet us who also with open arms welcomed us to their bosoms.” JSP, J1:237.

[16] Newel next writes a few diary-type entries.

[17] This was the first quarterly conference held in Far West. General and local officers were sustained, including the high council with Newel on it and three new members. Smith, History, 1838–1856, vol. B-1, 787.

[18] Isaac Morley was a patriarch ordained at a council meeting held at Far West on November 7, 1837. Cannon and Cook, Far West Record, 124.

[19] Newel returns here to writing summaries, but it’s hard to tell if these are written close to the time when the matters happened or if he wrote these later in Nauvoo.

[20] He hired Freeborn DeMille, his brother-in-law, who was married to Newel’s sister Anna.

[21] See full treatment of dissension and apostate leaders in Gentry and Compton, Fire and Sword, 69–122.

[22] Gentry and Compton, Fire and Sword, 171–219.

[23] Though Newel was not necessarily aware, Fort Leavenworth may have played into the motivations for the Missouri War. See Riggs, “Economic Impact of Fort Leavenworth,” 124–33.

[24] John P. Greene (1793–1844), a convert from New York in 1832, was a fellow high councilor with Newel. He was married to Brigham Young’s sister Rhoda.

[25] Newel here tries to find a way to record the Missouri War, in which he participated very little. He therefore simply summarizes what he heard and read about the complicated situation. See Gentry and Compton, Fire and Sword, especially part 2, 171–393, for the outbreak and progression of open violence. At the time Newel describes, antagonistic groups had begun making personal threats to force out the Saints—though he did not make a legal statement, the involvement of local judge Adam Black intensified the antagonists’ power; mobs had also formed for scattered attacks on Latter-day Saint people and property and once to prevent them from moving to the relative numerical safety of Far West. It is unclear whether Newel writes before or after the unarmed fight on election day, August 6, that was intended to prevent Saints from voting. Gentry and Compton, Fire and Sword, 174–77.

[26] Both his injury and the situation’s climate would have kept Newel close by. When mob threats and as-yet isolated acts of violence increased, local and statewide legal powers showed themselves less and less reliable. See Corrill, Brief History of the Church, chapters 22–23.

[27] Newel’s manuscript leaves empty space here for a population estimate, but makes none. This estimate of somewhere between four and five thousand is taken from Baugh and Riggs, “‘That They Might Rest Where the Ashes of the Latter-day Saints Reposed,’” 135–42.

[28] Newel is referencing Matthew 10:16, though the King James Version reads “wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” He may have been influenced by the Joseph Smith Translation, which says “wise servants.” Wayment, Complete Joseph Smith Translation, 30.

[29] Jenson, “Dewitt,” 603–8.

[30] See De Witt Mormons to the Governor, September 22, 1838, in Document Containing the Correspondence, Orders &c., 29–30. Citizens of Carroll County wrote, “You are advised by the citizens of Carroll County to leave DeWitt forthwith and all the citizens of that place who are determined not to take part with the Mormons, as a state of thing will exist there in a few days that if any of the friends of the people of Carroll should be injured would be extremely painful to them.” Journal History, September 10, 1838.

[31] See Psalm 76:10.

[32] See The History of Carroll County, Illinois: Containing a History of the County-its Cities, Towns, Etc., a Biographical Directory . . . War Record . . . Statistics, Portraits of Early Settlers and Prominent Men . . . History of the Northwest . . . Illinois . . . Miscellaneous Matters, Etc. (United States of America: H. F. Kett & Company, 1878), 258; Gentry and Compton, Fire and Sword, 192–204.

[33] See, among others, Pratt, History of the Late Persecution; Gentry and Compton, Fire and Sword; Beth Moore’s Bones in the Well; and Baugh, “Rare Account of the Haun’s Mill Massacre.

[34] This next narration paraphrases the June 1840 installment of Pratt, History of the Late Persecution, 113–16.

[35] Paraphrase of Pratt, History of the Late Persecution, 115.

[36] Quoting Pratt, History of the Late Persecution, 115.

[37] Paraphrase of Pratt, History of the Late Persecution, 115. See Gentry and Compton, Fire and Sword, 355. Newel now stops paraphrasing and relates his understanding of information he had heard or read. From the later accounts he cites, it becomes clear that he was not writing this at the time it happened but afterward in Nauvoo.

[38] The morning of October 31, 1838. Most scholarship suggests that a small group comprised of the First Presidency and Latter-day Saint militia leaders approached General Lucas’s forces on the 31st and were taken prisoner then, but that Lucas did not march into Far West and force a surrender until the following day, November 1. See Gentry and Compton, Fire and Sword, 355–61. However, Newel describes these events in a different order than the traditional sequence—that the Church leaders were captured after the surrender in Far West when they handed over their weapons.

[39] See Hartley, “1839: The Saints Forced Exodus from Missouri,” 347–90.

[40] Lucas told Boggs that Doniphan only had 250 men under his command. Lucas arrived on the 30th with 1,800 men a mile south of Far West. General Lucas to Governor Boggs, November 2, 1838, in Document Containing the Correspondence, Orders &c., 73.

[41] Gentry and Compton argue, “The exact number of Saints killed in various skirmishes may never be known.” Fire and Sword, 358. Apparently somewhere between thirty and forty Saints were killed and possibly one Missourian.

[42] Lucas demanded that the Saints (1) give up their leaders, (2) make appropriation of their property, (3) leave the state, and (4) give up their arms. General Lucas to Governor Boggs, November 2, 1838, in Document Containing the Correspondence, Orders &c., 73.

[43] Pratt, History of the Late Persecution; and Baugh, “Call to Arms” include sections on the history and legality of state militias.

[44] Newel quotes here material from “History of the Persecutions,” in Times and Seasons 1 (September 1840), 164.

[45] Newel now resumes writing what he experienced firsthand.

[46] It appears Newel felt Joseph’s claim was part of what Newel had paid for; hence Newel had 80 acres. Joseph Jr.’s land was the NW 1/4 of the NW 1/4 of Section 18 in Township 8. Hamer, Hamer, Northeast of Eden: Atlas of Mormon Settlement in Caldwell County, 50, and index of landowners on page 87.

[47] See Hartley, “Missouri’s 1838 Extermination Order,” and Gentry and Compton, Fire and Sword, 447–84.

[48] Newel, however, did not insert any of that material.

[49] Hartley, “Missouri’s 1838 Extermination Order,” 19.

[50] Atlas, Illinois, is roughly thirty miles south of Quincy, close to the Mississippi River. Young participated in a conference in Quincy on April 17 and then left the next day to head back to Far West with five other men. It appears that Newel met up with Young before Young’s April trip back to Far West.

[51] Brigham Young here offered Newel and his family a place to stay, which they gladly accepted.