MASCOT COWBOY 1The Latter-Day Saints aka Mormons, faced very real oppression and bigotry because of their faith. In Missouri in the 1830s the Church’s opposition to slavery added to the usual mistrust and suspicion that Mormons faced. The series of Mormon “Wars” were not truly large-scale wars (with the exception of one).

The Mormon Wars bore more of a resemblance to Range Wars of the American West, which is one of the reasons I’m covering them during Frontierado Season. I’m not claiming either side was entirely innocent. Only political propagandists and immature fools pretend conflicts are clear-cut “good guys vs bad guys” situations.


MISSOURI MORMON WAR (August 6th – November 1st, 1838) 

Missouri Mormon WarAUGUST 6th, 1838 – This was Election Day in newly-formed Daviess County in Missouri. One of the candidates, William Peniston, called Mormons “horse-thieves and robbers” and warned them not to vote. A band of 30-some Mormons DID show up to vote on August 6th and were blocked by roughly 200 Anti-Mormons.

Legend has it that a cry of “Oh yes, you Danites, here is a job for us” (sometimes claimed to have been “Come on, you Danites!”) rallied those Mormons who belonged to the armed sect of Mormon “Knights” called Danites, from the Book of Daniel. 

In the resulting clash the outnumbered Mormons drove off the Missourians who were illegally trying to stop them from voting.

AUGUST 7th – SEPTEMBER 6th – There were isolated acts of violence including sniper fire, burning and other destruction of property plus theft and rustling of cattle. (I’ll go into more detail soon, this post is meant as a brief synopsis) Masked Anti-Mormons were blamed for any of those acts which victimized Mormons, while Mormons were blamed for any of those acts which victimized non-Mormons.

These incidents are often hard to pin down when it comes to all the facts, so this is another reason why I lump two of the three Mormon Wars in with Range Wars: the nebulous nature of the conflicts.

Armed Mormons (Danites or otherwise) rode in large numbers throughout the area, often intimidating public officials to sign statements disavowing the use of violence against Mormons. As could be expected, these “at gunpoint” statements did nothing to ease tensions.

AUGUST 19th – Anti-Mormon forces numbering at least 100 and led by Colonel William Claude Jones took Mormon Smith Humphrey prisoner for two hours and laid out threats of what they would do to Mormons unless they left Missouri. (An odd variation of fiction’s Solozzo the Turk holding Tom Hagen prisoner for awhile then releasing him with his “message.”) 

LATE AUGUST – Prominent Mormon Lyman Wight – later to become one of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles – used his home for a meeting between leading Anti-Mormons and leading Mormons (including their Prophet Joseph Smith). Both sides agreed to turn over any members of their community who had broken the law. 

SEPTEMBER ? – Fourteen or more Anti-Mormons raided and occupied the home of Livingston County Mormon Asahel Lathrop (a cousin of future President Ulysses S Grant). They drove off Asahel himself and held his wife and children hostage for more than a week, helping themselves to the Lathrop’s food and drink.

One child died during the bizarre occupation and the Anti-Mormons buried the child without letting the mother be present. Asahel returned with a detachment of Danites to drive off the invaders. Lathrop’s wife and other children died shortly after from abuses suffered during the ordeal. 

SEPTEMBER 7th – Anti-Mormons had filed legal complaints against Joseph Smith and other well-known Mormon officials over the ongoing violence. On September 7th Smith and Lyman Wight appeared before Judge Austin A King, who referred the matter to a Grand Jury.

SEPTEMBER 20th – An Anti-Mormon force of 150 rode into De Witt, MO and demanded that the Mormons leave within 10 days or be exterminated, even women and children. George M Hinkle and other Mormons said they would fight rather than be driven off.

OCTOBER 1st – The Anti-Mormons returned in even larger numbers and burned down Smith Humphrey’s home and stables. By nightfall reenforcements arrived and the Anti-Mormon forces besieged all of De Witt.

OCTOBER 2nd – 5th – The Mormons in De Witt persevered against the siege, which proceeded with low levels of violence like occasional gunfire from both sides. De Witt residents took to killing wandering cattle to stave off starvation during the siege. 

OCTOBER 6th – General Parks of the Ray County Militia arrived to protect the besieged Mormons. Unfortunately the Anti-Mormon forces carrying out the siege refused to disperse AND Parks’ own men were possessed of such anti-Mormon sentiment themselves that they began mutinying and threatening to JOIN the men besieging De Witt. To avoid this General Parks led his troops to Daviess County and called upon Missouri Governor Lilburn Boggs to intervene.

OCTOBER 9th – Governor Lilburn Boggs – known to generations of American schoolchildren for issuing his “Mormon Extermination Order” – got word to De Witt that the dispute was between them and their besiegers and they should all fight it out.

OCTOBER 11th – The Mormons in De Witt agreed to evacuate the town and withdraw to Caldwell County. On the cold night of the forced evacuation two Mormon women died, one from the elements and another in childbirth. Dozens of children became ill on the march and died in the days ahead.

OCTOBER 12th – 15th – Anti-Mormon forces in Daviess County were burning Mormon homes, plundering their livestock and property and otherwise victimizing Latter Day Saints, who fought back in scattered incidents. 

OCTOBER 16th – Missouri’s Major General David Rice Atchison, better known as a Senator and for trivia buffs’ invalid claim that he was technically “U.S. President for a day”, informed Governor Boggs that the Anti-Mormon forces who had besieged De Witt were – with artillery – planning on repeating their deed in Daviess County against Mormons there. Atchison pleaded with the Governor to take action but Boggs still did nothing.

            Meanwhile, over the past few days, Missouri General William Doniphan, like Atchison, sympathetic to the plight of the Mormons, had established his men in Daviess County to try bringing a stop to the harassment of Mormons and the theft & destruction of their property. Doniphan, better known as the leader of Doniphan’s Thousand in America’s war with Mexico (1846-1848), was instrumental in preserving the life of Joseph Smith during the remainder of the 1838 Mormon War.

OCTOBER 18th – Mormon Colonel George M Hinkle ignored Doniphan’s advice to keep his forces in Caldwell County, and called out the Caldwell Militia and all available Danites to go to the aid of the suffering Mormons in Daviess County.

            *** Lyman Wight led a Mormon Army against Millport, MO. David W Patten led a Mormon Army against Gallatin, MO. And Seymour Brunson led a Mormon Army against Grindstone Fork. The Mormons drove the Anti-Mormon forces before them, but, unfortunately, they were so embittered by this point that they stopped distinguishing between Anti-Mormons and mere NON-Mormons, treating all “Gentiles” (as they called non-Mormons) as brutally as they had been treated. Even non-Mormons who had dealt fairly with Mormons were not spared. 

Death, theft, and destruction were being doled out by both sides now. Victimized Mormons and non-Mormons alike had their homes and businesses destroyed, with family members dying from exposure to the elements as well as at the hands of the enemy. 

OCTOBER 19th – 24th – Over the course of these days the fighting and other violence intensified as Mormons clashed with non-Mormons. Millport, formerly the largest city and business center of the county, was devastated and afterward became a virtual ghost town. Gallatin was so thoroughly destroyed that only one shoe store remained undamaged. Grindstone Fork and Splawn’s Ridge also suffered a great deal of damage. Nearly all of Daviess County was described as “gutted” by the war.

            Many of the Mormon refugees sought shelter in Adam-ondi-Ahman, MO, a site sacred to the Mormons because of their bizarre belief (I’m an atheist, remember) that THAT is where Adam and Eve were exiled to after being barred from the Garden of Eden. (?) Large amounts of plunder taken by the Mormon forces were taken to Adam-ondi-Ahman and stashed in the Bishop’s Storehouse to feed the refugees.  

OCTOBER 25th – While the wild violence continued throughout Daviess County, many citizens of Ray County fled across the Missouri River for safety. Major General Atchison authorized Militia Leader Samuel Bogart to patrol Bunkham’s Strip, a stretch of land which separated Ray and Caldwell Counties. Bogart exceeded his orders and began rounding up and forcibly disarming Mormons in Southern Caldwell County. Many armed Mormons fought back.

All of which helped set the stage for this day’s Battle of Crooked River, in which the Mormon forces attacked entrenched Anti-Mormon forces and defeated them, driving them across the Crooked River.  

OCTOBER 26th – Fighting, plundering and burning continued around Missouri.

OCTOBER 27th – Governor Lilburn Boggs called for 2,500 more Missouri volunteers to be sent into action against the Mormons and signed Missouri Executive Order 44, in which he called for the extermination of the Mormons if they could not be driven from the state.

OCTOBER 29th – 30th – At least 250 Anti-Mormon men from Livingston County attacked Hauns Mill, MO on the mistaken, paniced belief that the Mormon settlers there planned violence. What resulted is remembered as the Hauns Mill Massacre in which the attackers even killed Mormon children. Livingston County man William Reynolds justified his own murder of a 10 year old boy by saying “Nits will make lice.”

OCTOBER 31st – NOVEMBER 1st – For the past several days some Mormon leaders, military forces and refugees had been besieged in Far West and Adam-ondi-Ahman. After Joseph Smith ordered the surrender of all Mormons under arms their army was disarmed and Anti-Mormon mobs looted Far West.

            The Mormons left Missouri and resettled to the East in Illinois until further oppression would drive them from there, too. 



AND FOR SIX MORE NEGLECTED WESTERN FIGURES CLICK HERE:   https://glitternight.com/2012/06/18/six-neglected-wild-west-figures/

© Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.





Filed under FRONTIERADO, Neglected History

34 responses to ““COME ON, YOU DANITES” … THE MISSOURI MORMON WAR (1838)

  1. They faced what they faced because they harmed women.

  2. Zeke

    Wow! Mormons went through a lot!

  3. This is another fascinating post covering a slice of history that I was unaware of, so, thank you for posting! Given the strength of feeling against them, their steady slog westwards and their proficiency at arms, I wonder if there was any talk once of them carving out an independent state for themselves?

  4. Gaylene

    Such hidden history!

  5. Bernie

    The Mormons went through a lot!

  6. Chet

    Are you a Mormon yourself?

  7. Timmy

    This war was nothing compared to what Democrats did to innocent people this year.

  8. Adrienne

    Such a fascinating war!

  9. Donald

    Good breakdown of the events.

  10. Tim

    Your articles on Danites are always so exciting!

  11. Malin Militia Member

    Somebody should tell Ethan Van Sciver the Pie Man about this article!

  12. Comicsgater

    Yeah! I 2nd the motion that Caesar be informed!

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