Conflict Between Saints and Settlers

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(This is an excerpt from the book Eliza by Karen Lynn Davidson and Jill Mulvay Derr.)

Latter-day Saints found good land but experienced no peace in their new Missouri settlements. Clashing beliefs and interests bred conflict between the newcomers and other settlers. Some twenty-eight years after she left Missouri, when Eliza began to direct much of her writing and publishing activity toward Latter-day Saint children, she wrote an article for the Juvenile Instructor describing the Missouri hardships. Knowing that she was writing for a young audience, she chose a conversational tone, with simple words and sentences. She did not try to summarize the long and complex story of the Missouri persecutions. Instead, she selected one sad incident that she knew would touch the hearts of young people and linger in their memory:

“We had a very large watch-dog, which my father took with him from Ohio, on purpose to guard the wagons while we were traveling. As soon as my brother Lorenzo [who had been very ill] was strong enough to walk out, and carry a rifle, he amused himself by hunting turkeys, which were very abundant in that part of Missouri. Whenever he went on those little hunting excursions, the watch-dog, Jack, was sure to accompany him. Some dogs seem quite sensible, as my young readers will understand, and Jack was uncommonly smart, and seemed to realize that his master had but little strength—he would walk as stilly as possible, at my brother’s heels, until they came in sight of game, when he would place himself directly in front, and raise his head sufficiently, then hold his head perfectly still for his master to rest the rifle on his head, to shoot.

“ . . . Jack was highly prized by all the family, and although a dog, he was worthy of respect, because he was a true friend. . . . We had learned that Jack could be trusted, and when we knew that we were surrounded by mobocrats, we could lie down at night, feeling pretty safe, knowing that no one could approach the house, until the faithful dog had given the alarm.

“I think by this time, my little friends are feeling enough interest for the dog Jack, to wish to know what became of him. I will tell you. Our Missouri neighbors (if I may call those neighbors who were plotting our destruction) saw that Jack was true to us, and they were afraid of him, and tried to entice him away, but when they found it impossible to coax him to leave us, they shot him. We all felt very sorry to lose poor Jack, and two of my younger brothers dug a grave and buried him with all the formalities that the occasion called for, and, with great childish lamentations, pronounced him a martyr.”

As the number of Mormons in the region rapidly increased, violent exchanges between zealous Mormons and hostile Missourians escalated until, at the end of October 1838, Missouri’s governor mandated the expulsion of Mormons from the state by the following spring. In December 1838, the Snows relinquished their new house in Adam-ondi-Ahman and escaped threatening Missouri vigilantes by fleeing some forty miles south to the Saints’ headquarters settlement at Far West, Caldwell County, Missouri. “Subservient to [the governor’s] order,” Eliza recalled, “a posse of Militia was to remain in the vicinity, ostensibly to protect the Saints; but we could not decide which was the most to be dreaded[,] the Militia or the mob—no property was safe within the reach of either.”

Eliza long remembered their flight in the harsh December weather. After they had traveled about two miles, she recalled in her brief “Sketch of My Life,” she was walking alone ahead of the wagons “to warm my aching feet” when she “met one of the so-called Militia who accosted me with ‘Well, I think this will cure you of your faith.’ Looking him squarely in the eye, I replied, ‘No, Sir, it will take more than this to cure me of my faith.’ His countenance dropped, and he responded, ‘I must confess you are a better soldier than I am.’ I passed on, thinking that, unless he was above the average of his fellows in that section, I was not complimented by his confession.”

,p>(Jill Mulvay Derr and Karen Lynn Davidson, Eliza: The Life and Faith of Eliza R. Snow [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2013], 22-24.)

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