The Story of the Mormons, from the Date of Their Origin to the Year 1901

Author: William Alexander Linn

Chapter V. In Clay, Caldwell, and Daviess Counties

The counties in which the Mormons settled after leaving Jackson County were thinly populated at that time, Clay County having only 5338 inhabitants, according to the census of 1830, and Caldwell, Carroll, and Daviess counties together having only 6617 inhabitants by the census of 1840. County rivalry is always a characteristic of our newly settled states and territories, and the Clay County people welcomed the Mormons as an addition to their number, notwithstanding the ill favor in which they stood with their southern neighbors. The new-comers at first occupied what vacant cabins they could find in the southern part of the county, until they could erect houses of their own, while the men obtained such employment as was offered, and many of the women sought places as domestic servants and school-teachers. The Jackson County people were not pleased with this friendly spirit, and they not only tried to excite trouble between the new neighbors, but styled the Clay County residents "Jack Mormons," a name applied in later years in other places to non-Mormons who were supposed to have Mormon sympathies.

Peace was maintained, however, for about three years. But the Mormons grew in numbers, and, as the natives realized their growth, they showed no more disposition to be in the minority than did their southern neighbors. The Mormons, too, were without tact, and they did not conceal the intention of the church to possess the land. Proof of their responsibility for what followed is found in a remark of W. W. Phelps, in a letter from Clay County to Ohio in December, 1833, that "our people fare very well, and, when they are discreet, little or no persecution is felt."*

* Millennial Star, Vol. XIV, p. 646.

The irritation kept on increasing, and by the spring of 1836 Clay County had become as hostile to the Mormons as Jackson County had ever been. In June, the course adopted in Jackson County to get rid of the new-comers was imitated, and a public meeting in the court house at Liberty adopted resolutions* setting forth that civil war was threatened by the rapid immigration of Mormons; that when the latter were received, in pity and kindness, after their expulsion across the river, it was understood that they would leave "whenever a respectable portion of the citizens of this county should require it," and that that time had now come. The reasons for this demand included Mormon declarations that the county was destined by Heaven to be theirs, opposition to slavery, teaching the Indians that they were to possess the land with the Saints, and their religious tenets, which, it was said, "always will excite deep prejudices against them in any populous country where they may locate." In explanations of the anti-Mormon feeling in Missouri frequent allusion is made to polygamous practices. This was not charged in any of the formal statements against them, and Corrill declares that they had done nothing there that would incriminate them under the law. The Mormons were urged to seek a new abiding-place, the territory of Wisconsin being recommended for their investigation. The resolutions confessed that "we do not contend that we have the least right, under the constitution and laws of the country, to expel them by force"; but gave as an excuse for the action taken the certainty of an armed conflict if the Mormons remained. Newly arrived immigrants were advised to leave immediately, non-landowners to follow as soon as they could gather their crops and settle up their business, and owners of forty acres to remain indefinitely, until they could dispose of their real estate without loss.

* Millennial Star, Vol. XV, p. 763.

The Mormons, on July 1, adopted resolutions denying the charges against them, but agreeing to leave the county. The Missourians then appointed a committee to raise money to assist the needy Saints to move. Smith and his associates in Ohio had not at that time the same interest in a Zion in Missouri that they had three years earlier, and they only expressed sorrow over the new troubles, and advised the fugitives to stop short of Wisconsin if they could. An appeal was again made by the Missouri Mormons to the governor of that state, but he now replied that if they could not convince their neighbors of their innocence, "all I can say to you is that in this republic the vox populi is the vox dei."

The Mormons selected that part of Ray County from which Caldwell County was formed (just northeast of Clay County) for their new abode, and on their petition the legislature framed the new county for their occupancy. This was then almost unsettled territory, and the few inhabitants made no objection to the coming of their new neighbors. They secured a good deal of land, some by purchase, and some by entry on government sections, and began its improvement. Many of them were so poor that they had to seek work in the neighboring counties for the support of their families. Some of their most intelligent members afterward attributed their future troubles in that state to their failure to keep within their own county boundaries.

As the county seat they founded a town which they named Far West, and which soon presented quite a collection of houses, both log and frame, schools, and shops. Phelps wrote in the summer of 1837, "Land cannot be had around town now much less than $10 per acre."* There were practically no inhabitants but Mormons within fifteen or twenty miles of the town,** and the Saints were allowed entire political freedom. Of the county officers, two judges, thirteen magistrates, the county clerk, and all the militia officers were of their sect. They had credit enough to make necessary loans, and, says Corrill, "friendship began to be restored between them and their neighbors, the old prejudices were fast dying away, and they were doing well, until the summer of 1838."

* Messenger and Advocate, July, 1837.

** Lee’s "Mormonism Unveiled," p. 53.

It was in January, 1838, that Smith fled from Kirtland. He arrived in Far West in the following March; Rigdon was detained in Illinois a short time by the illness of a daughter. Smith’s family went with him, and they were followed by many devoted adherents of the church, who, in order to pay church debts in Ohio and the East, had given up their property in exchange for orders on the Bishop at Far West. In other words, they were penniless.

The business scandals in Ohio had not affected the reputation of the church leaders with their followers in Missouri (where the bank bills had not circulated and Smith and Rigdon received a hearty welcome, their coming being accepted as a big step forward in the realization of their prophesied Zion. It proved, however, to be the cause of the expulsion of their followers from the state.


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Chicago: William Alexander Linn, "Chapter V. In Clay, Caldwell, and Daviess Counties," The Story of the Mormons, from the Date of Their Origin to the Year 1901 in The Story of the Mormons, from the Date of Their Origin to the Year 1901 Original Sources, accessed October 5, 2022,

MLA: Linn, William Alexander. "Chapter V. In Clay, Caldwell, and Daviess Counties." The Story of the Mormons, from the Date of Their Origin to the Year 1901, in The Story of the Mormons, from the Date of Their Origin to the Year 1901, Original Sources. 5 Oct. 2022.

Harvard: Linn, WA, 'Chapter V. In Clay, Caldwell, and Daviess Counties' in The Story of the Mormons, from the Date of Their Origin to the Year 1901. cited in , The Story of the Mormons, from the Date of Their Origin to the Year 1901. Original Sources, retrieved 5 October 2022, from