Friday, November 1, 2013

175 Years Ago: Haun's Mill Massacre

October 30, 2013 marked 175 years since the infamous Haun's Mill Massacre. On October 30, 1838, a small settlement in northern Missouri of about 80 men, women, and children was attacked by 200 armed, mounted men who were acting under the Mormon Extermination Order (Missouri Executive Order 44, p.61) given by Missouri Governor Lilburn W. Boggs on Oct. 27th. Grossly misinformed, he ordered that "the Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the state if necessary for the public peace."

My great-great-great aunt, Mary Steadwell, was shot through the hand as she pleaded for her life. She fell behind a long and upwards of 20 bullets were later observed in the log. She, however, survived. 15 men and 2 boys were shot to death when they became trapped in a blacksmith shop, where they had run for cover. Nearly 20 others were wounded, 4 would later die of their wounds.

As gruesome as the scene was -- and it was far worse than I am describing here -- there are some stories that emerged and have survived that are profoundly inspiring.

Abraham Palmer: "The next day after the aforesaid outrage a company of the mob came to him and brethren and said if you will deny your faith you can live with us in peace but if you will not you must leave the Country forthwith on pain of death for we will exterminate all of you that do not deny your faith men women and children. The above proposition was made by a man who had previously assisted in plundering our wagons he called his name Austin and Styled himself Captain of the Livingston County Spies" (sworn affidavit). He was not cowed and did not deny his faith in order to save his own life.

Margaret Mann Foutz: "During the first ten days the mob came every day with blackened faces, more like demons from the infernal pit than like human beings, cursing and swearing that they would kill that damn old Mormon preacher. (Her husband, Jacob Foutz) And, at times like these when human nature would quail, I have felt the power of God upon me to that degree that I have stood before them fearless and although a woman and alone, these demons in human shape had to succumb, for there was a power they knew not of. During these days of danger I would sometimes have to hide my husband out in the woods and cover him with leaves. And, then again in the house. Thus during my husband's illness was I harassed by mobocratic violence." Her husband had been shot in the thigh, but survived.

Amanda Smith: Her son, Willard, 11 years old at the time, later recorded the heroism of his mother. "As soon as I was sure [the mob] had gone, I started for the shop and was the first person to enter this holocaust, stepping over the dead body of my Father in doing so. I looked around and found by brother Sardis dead ... and my brother Alma almost lifeless. ... (Later, at home) [Mother] called her remaining three children around the bed, and they knelt and supplicated the Lord for faith and guidance. Mother dedicated Alma to the Lord, praying that he be restored and made well and strong, but if this were not possible, to take him in his innocence. This picture of my Mother's implicit faith in her Heavenly Father remained as a living testimony to her children through their lives.

In her terrible sorrow and bereavement, her only help could come from divine guidance. By inspiration, her prayers were answered and she knew what to do. ... The story of the miraculous healing of Alma's hip has been related many times, but few realize the constant terror of the stricken family, unable to leave the State as Alma could not be moved because of his injured hip; yet they were repeatedly warned that if they did not leave, they would be killed.

They were forbidden to call the family together for prayers or even to pray vocally alone. This Godless silence, Mother said, she could not stand, so one day, she went down into a corn field and crawled into a shock of the corn which had been cut. After carefully ascertaining that no one was within hearing distance, she said she "Prayed till her soul felt satisfied." As she left the shock of corn, although there was no one in sight, she plainly heard a voice repeating these words:

"That soul who on Jesus hath leaned for repose, I cannot­ I will not desert to it foes.
That soul, 'though all hell should endeavor to shake, I'll never, no never, no never forsake."

From that moment Mother said she had no further fear of the mob, and she inspired us children with faith that if we conscientiously did right, the Lord would shelter us from harm. Although Alma lay in the same position for five weeks while the wound was healing, strength seemed to come to the limb suddenly. One day, when Mother was carrying a bucket of water from the spring, she was alarmed to hear the children screaming in the house. She rushed through the door to see them all running about the room with Alma in lead, crying "I'm well, Ma, I'm well!" Something had grown in to take the place of the missing ball and socket, and he was able to use the hip with no inconvenience. Although it was necessary in later years to pad the side of his trousers, he never suffered any pain or discomfort, although he filled a mission in the Sandwich Islands where he did a great deal of walking.

As soon as Alma was well enough that we could plan to leave Missouri, great difficulties presented themselves, one being that our horses had been confiscated by the mob. Finally, I went with Mother to Captain Comstock, leader of the mob, and she demanded the horses, one of which was in the field. He said we might have the animal by paying $5.00 for its feed bill. This Mother could not do as all her money had been stolen by the mob. I admired her courage when she walked out into the field and tying her apron around the horse's neck, led it home with no further objections."

I also admire her courage, and many others'. They did not desert the faith they had attained, even when in horrendous circumstances. This is my heritage and I aim to make them proud. 

For a chronology of events and first-hand accounts click here.

-Michelle Cox-

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