Battle of Crooked River Compilation of Sources by Ron Romig and Mel Tungate, 11-6-2003
An escalating clash of cultures in northern Missouri in late October 1838 evolved into the Battle at Crooked River. This encounter between two armed camps of Missouri citizens occurred shortly after the Mormons burned Gallatin and Millport in Daviess County. The Battle of Crooked River, deplorable as it was, preceded the most violent episode of the Mormon War – the attack on the Mormon settlement of Haun's Mill by Livingston County regulators – by only a few days.
Captain Bogart, of the Ray County Militia, received orders from a commander of the state militia to patrol the Ray/Caldwell county border for the stated purpose of preventing any invasion by the Mormons into Ray County. General David R. Atchison instructed, "Sir – Your communication by express has been received. You are hereby ordered to range the line between Caldwell and Ray counties with your company of volunteers, and prevent, if possible, any invasion of Ray county by persons in arms whatever. You will also take care to inquire into the state of things in Daviess county and make report thereof to me from time to time." [Bogart to David R. Atchison and Atchison to Bogart, 23 October 1838, Document Concerning Correspondence and Orders…, 49, 108].
Accordingly, Bogart collected his forces and moved them into the six-mile wide buffer zone between the Gentiles and Mormons, attached to Ray County for administrative purposes. Mormon forces reacted quickly to what they perceived as a threat. Church member Amasa Lyman wrote, "a report came into the place [Far West] stating that a mob was about collecting at Buckham [Buncombe?] for the purpose of burning Far West if they had sufficient strength; and if not, to commence depredations on the outskirts of the Mormon settlements by driving them off and burning their houses. It was therefore thought best to send out a spy company to that vicinity to watch the movements of the mobs if there should be any, and report to Far West. Accordingly, a company of ten men was raised of which I had the command. We were instructed to range the southern line of Caldwell County, and watch the movements of armed bodies of men, if any were there, and in case they should commit any depredations upon the citizens of Caldwell, we were to report to Far West immediately. We were to act entirely on the defensive, and not to injure any people in person or property, except an attack should be made upon us in our own County, or upon some of the families of some of our people." [Affidavit of Amasa Lyman, An Appeal to the American People Being an Account of the Persecutions of the Church of Latter Day Saints; and of the Barbarities Inflicted on them by the Inhabitants of the State of Missouri]. Contrary to Amasa Lyman's implication, members of his spy company went to Nathan Pinkham's, which was – two miles inside Ray County.
Mary Judd Eaton described a visit by Bogart's volunteers, "We left the place where we lived, five miles from Far West, because a party of men came to our house on horseback; they came along-side of our yard, told us we must leave there, or we would smell thunder and lightning… they said they wanted to drive us into Far West. And they said they would give us hell, and we waited until it was a little dark, and then we started for Far West." [Mary Eaton, testimony, Temple Lot Suit: Complainant's Abstract (Lamoni, Iowa: Herald Publishing House, 1893), 268].
Thorit Parsons was one of several church members north of the Caldwell-Ray County line who received a visit from Bogart's forces on 24 October 1838. Parsons "was living in Caldwell county at the time of the battle with Captain Bogart, on the head of the east fork of Log creek [SE ¼ of SW ¼ Section 24 Township 55 Range 29, Rockford Township, Caldwell Co., entered 27 March, 1837], about five or six miles from" where the battle later took place. On the day before the fight, between 1 and 3 o'clock in the evening, a company of twenty-three, mostly armed men, came to my house; they inquired my name, and told me I must go away – that I must leave that place." [Testimony of Thorit Parsons, Correspondence and Orders, 148]
Amasa Lyman, leader of the Spy Company
When Bogart's men left, "Brother Parsons dispatched a messenger with this news to Far West. Sidney Rigdon explained, "One afternoon a messenger arrived at Far West calling for help, saying that a banditti had crossed the south line of Caldwell, and were engaged in threatening the citizens with death if they did not leave their homes and go out of the state within a very short time; the time not precisely recollected; but I think it was the next day by ten o'clock, but of this I am not certain. He said they were setting fire to the prairies, in view of burning houses and desolating farms, that they had set fire to a wagon loaded with goods and they were all consumed; that they had also set fire to a house, and when he left, it was burning down." [Sidney Rigdon, Times and Seasons, vol. 4, No. 18 (August 1, 1843)]. Nothing was done about the news at the time and the messenger returned to his home.
After Bogart left Parsons', Thorit followed Bogart to watch his movements. "Brothers Joseph Holbrook and David Juda [Judy], who went out this morning to watch the movements of the enemy, saw eight armed mobbers call at the house of Brother Pinkham, where they took three prisoners, Nathan Pinkham, Brothers William Sealy and Addison Green, and four horses, arms, etc. When departing they threatened Father Pinkham that if he did not leave the state immediately they "would have his damned old scalp." Having learned of Bogarts [sic] movements the brethren returned to Far West near midnight, and reported their proceedings and those of the mob." [History of the [LDS] Church, 3, 169]
Carrying Word to Far West
Pinkham lived across the Ray County line, not far from where to battle occurred. At least some of the three captured were members of the spy company. Because Bogart was under state orders, questioning spies would be appropriate. Yet, his raid on the Parson home in Caldwell County was probably beyond his command.
A spy company member, Joseph Holbrook, says, "I volunteered to go the south line of the County of Caldwell next to Ray County to see what the mob in that quarter were about, with brother Amasa Lyman." [Holbrook Autobiography; see Mike Riggs, "Danitism in Nauvoo," Restoration Studies, VII, 105, n50].
After encountering Bogart's forces inside Caldwell County, Joseph Holbrook recalled, "I in company with Brother [David] Juda [Judy] started for Far West where we arrived about midnight. We informed our brethren of the danger there was in that quarter and about 60 men volunteered to go down and see what the mob was about." [Joseph Holbrook, http://www.farwesthistory.com/plumcre.asp]. Joseph Holbrook was a member of the spy company.
Another member of Amasa Lyman's spy company subsequently stated [speaking in the third person], "that on or about day of 24th October he went to Bunkham's [Buncombe] Strip a distance of about twelve miles from his Stopping place [Far West] in Caldwell County, to See one Mr. Pinkham on business [reconnaissance]; while there he was Surprised & made prisoner by Some armed men. he was Stripped and Searched to see if he had any arms, by which he lost a Jack-knife the only weapon, offensive or defensive which he had about him; the armed men he believes were fifteen in number, two of whom Caught him by the Collar, thrust him out of doors, dragged him over a panel [sic] of fence so vehemently as to do him bodily injury while at the same time a third one facilitated my his Course by the application of his foot to the rear of my his body—When over he was asked if he was a mormon, for to which he replied that he was; this affient further says that he was threatened by his Captors, that "'he would never see home again.'" &c. he was then Compelled to march… in[to] the camp with his Captors" [Affidavit of William Seely of Scott County Illinois, taken January 20th, 1840, Mormon Redress Petitions, 532-533].
Addison Green, another individual captured by Bogart related, "I was peaceably walking the highroad in Ray county, state of Missouri, I was molested and taken prisoner by ten armed men, who took from me one double-barrel fowling piece and equipage, threatening to blow out my brains and swore that if I was a Mormon they would hang me without further ceremony. They had previously been to my lodging and taken my horse, saddle, and bridle. All was then taken into the woods about one mile to Bogart's camp." [Addison Green, statement, Quincy, Illinois, March 17, 1840, Millennial Star, 17: 646].