Silent voices whisper enticingly of past events, voices of people with faces from the past. Picture children at play on Haun's Mill commons - youths racing to the mill, families catching fish in the millpond, hearing the slosh of the waterwheel emptying its contents into the stream. One hundred and sixty plus years later, their voices still speak to us; their legacy lives in our hearts; their stories urgently encourage and remind us of that past and call us to a transforming future.
A Historic Site of: Independence, Missouri
Click on map for larger, interactive, image
As Haun's Mill may have appeared.
Survey of Events Relating to the Mormon Settlement at Haun's Mill
Anticipating a general gathering of members of the Church of the Latter Day Saints, Jacob Haun,
formerly of Wisconsin, moved to northern Missouri in 1835. Haun purchased 40
acres containing a good mill seat along Shoal Creek in the eastern part of what
became Caldwell County, Missouri [Township 56, Range 26, Section 17]. He may
have begun by constructing a milldam where Shoal Creek ran through his property. As other church members gathered to the vicinity, a small farming
settlement developed around the site.
During this same period, (Mormon) church
missionaries converted a successful millwright named Jacob Myers and his family
in Richland County, Ohio, about 100 miles southwest of Kirtland. Heeding their
leaders' call to come to Missouri, more than 50 wagons of Richland Saints set
out in search of new homes in the fall of 1836 under Myers' direction. Many
from this party settled along Shoal Creek, in Caldwell County. At the heart of
this growing settlement, Myers and his sons constructed a sawmill and a very good grain/flour
mill. [History of the RLDS Church,
2:236]. Myers' grist mill would have been a substantial structure, probably of frame
construction. Mills were typically three stories in height, to permit grain
storage in the upper level, grinding on the main floor, and machinery below.
Myers sold the mill to Jacob Haun and Ellis Ames. Myers' son, Jacob Myers
Jr., helped operate it. Life in the settlement was good.
Settlement children at play in Shoal Creek
between church members and Missouri citizens began a downward spiral following
the arrival of Joseph Smith and church leaders from Ohio in 1838. A clash of
cultural attitudes and events set the stage for a horrific outcome at Haun's Mill:
The Missourians and Mormons
represented vastly dissimilar political, economic and religious cultures. Both
sides were subject to predominant frontier cultural worldviews regarding the
use of force in the resolution of conflict. Both saw themselves in economic
competition for control of a significant portion of the upper Missouri region.
From the beginning, they had different expectations over whether church
settlement activities were to be confined to Caldwell County.
Distorted reports and rumors
circulated by both camps. As tensions grew, the church initiated actions to
stem internal dissent as well as insulate itself from external influences.
In ensuing months, both side initiated hostile actions directed at those
perceived as holding differing cultural values- i.e., the first use of the term "exterminate" was in Rigdon's Salt Sermon.
Unlawful assemblies of citizens
formed on both sides to protect perceived local interests. Armed encounters between disputants
escalated at De Witt in Carroll County, in church settlements in Daviess County, Crooked River in Ray County and in the early phases of the siege of the Mormon headquarters city of Far West. Both sides appropriated personal property to use in its own defense and to support its actions. The State eventually authorized the use of militia to quell this growing regional conflict.
- See: Hostilities documented to have
transpired against Daviess and Livingston County Citizens by the Mormons,
October 1838, Alex Baugh, A Call to Arms: The 1838 Mormon Defense of Northern Missouri,
Ph.D. dissertation, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 1996, Appendix F.
Even as Missourians purposed to
drive the Mormons from the state, Church members from outlying settlements began gathering from throughout the region into the church's central community at Far West. Nearly all eventually fled to Far West but those who lived near Haun's Mill. Until mid-October, Mormons living along Shoal Creek had maintained relatively friendly relations with the non-member neighbors. Haun's Mill resident Ellis Eamut wrote, "Inhabitants behaved themselves very friendly and purchased goods from [us] and used [our] mill[s] for grinding and sawing. . . until the
disturbances broke out up in Daviess county, when I observed from the conversation
that they did not like the proceedings of our brethren." Eamut, "Reminiscence,"
11. BYU Professor and researcher Alex Baugh proposes, "Fearful they might
expect treatment similar to that received by their neighbors to the north,
gentile settlers living in eastern Caldwell sought help from Livingston's
vigilante forces, whose numbers were now strengthened with embittered Daviess
refugees recently displaced from their homes." Baugh, A Call to Arms: The
1838 Mormon Defense of Northern Missouri, Ph.D. Dissertation, Brigham Young
University, 1996, 265.
In light of non-member threats to
burn the mill, Jacob Haun apparently unwisely encouraged church members in
Fairview Township to stay for the purpose of defending their homes and the mill. Isaac Leany wrote, "some of the neighbours [sic] wanted to leave their
homes and run off but having only about seven waggons [sic] to twenty three or
four families we had to stay and defend ourselves." Petition of Isaac Leany in
Johnson, Missouri Petitions for Redress, BYU
Studies 23 (1982): 101.
On 28 October 1838 a group of
Missouri regulators, led by Col. William Jennings of Livingston County,
negotiated a peace pact with the Saints. Though church defenders hoped this would
forestall local violence, it was anticipated they should be prepared to defend the
hamlet. David Evans, leader of the defenders, planned to use James Huston's
blacksmith shop as a blockhouse. Some weapons were cached there in readiness.
The hamlet had increased from its normal size, when hostilities broke out. Members en route to Far West had camped near
Haun's Mill for a few days in their wagons and tents. As a result of
miscommunication and feelings of powerlessness to resolve what local Missourians perceived as offensive Mormon military actions in the region, at 4:00 p.m., 30 October 1838,
about two hundred-forty Livingston County regulators and other volunteers
caught the settlement by surprise. Attackers approached from all sides but
the creek on the south. Nathan Knight was on his way to a nearby lake to shoot
ducks. Comstock's men shot at Knight, cutting the string of his powder horn.
Knight, and others ran to the community's blacksmith shop as planned.
About thirty-five church men were on hand. They immediately called for quarters and urged their wives and children to flee for safety. Stunned women and children ran in
every direction. Jenning's men approached from the west, north and east of the shop. The only
direction for flight was to the south or southeast, with the millpond blocking part
of that retreat. The shortest way to safety was across the milldam.
Amanda Smith and her girls ran to the bank of the stream, down a few feet and
onto the plank walkway. Bullets splattered all around them, splashing into the millpond.
Upon the attacker's first advance, Mary Stedwell raised her hands pleading for peace. Instead, she was shot in the hand. Seeing no other recourse, she ran for cover on the
opposite bank of the creek. Mary fell behind a log, but her attackers continued to fire at her exposed clothing. Afterward, over twenty bullets were found in the log.
While women and children sought
cover in streambed and distant forest, the blacksmith shop turned into a death
trap for defenders. David Evans swung his hat and cried for peace. Nehemiah
Comstock fired in return, then, as one, the attackers discharged their rifles into
the blacksmith shop. Wide spaces between logs provided little protection as
withering fire from the guns of more than 200 attackers concentrated on the men
in the building.
David Lewis wrote, "The first man
that fell was Simon Cox, he was standing close by my side when he received the
fatal blow, he was shot threw the kidneys, and all the pain and misery I ever
witnessed a poor soul in him seemed to excell [sic]. Juanita Brooks, John Doyle Lee, Zealot - Pioneer Builder -
Scapegoat (Glendale, CA: Arthur H. Clark, 1962), 36-37.
Ellis Ames' wife, Olive, left her
own detailed account of the tragedy, written in 1896, "... two of the brethren, Mr. Rial Ames (my husband's brother) and Hyrum Abbott were sitting just outside the door, one cutting the other's hair, they rose from the chair and remarked. . . It's the mob right on
us... I rushed out of the house... soon found myself and little ones hidden
away down under the bluff in a little nook by the creek." Olive Ames, History
of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 2 (Lamoni,
Iowa: Herald, 1897), 234-35.
David Evans made a second attempt
to end the attack. He and Nathan Knight ran out of the building pleading for a
truce. Knight was shot in the hand. When it was clear the attack would
continue, Evans and Knight ran toward the creek for safety. Knight
received two more wounds but escaped by running up a hill on the south side of
the stream. Evans covered the same distance unharmed. Ellis Eamut, [Eames/Ames] "Reminiscence," Journal History of the
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 13.
Attackers overwhelmed the
defenders, closing into a tight half circle around the shop. Daniel Ashby, one
of the regulators, moved in to secure the structure. He crawled over under one
of the openings from which the Mormons were shooting and within a short time,
"our men got possession of all the port house, cracks, &c... and kept up such a constant fire that the
Mormons could not get their guns out to shoot. Daniel Ashby to John B. Clark,
29 November 1838, Document Containing the
Correspondence, Orders, &c, in Relation to the Disturbances with the
Mormons... (Fayette, Missouri:
Boon's Lick Democrat, 1841), 82-83.
Ellis Eamut [Eames/Ames] wrote, " Seeing no prospect before us but death, the mob
manifesting all malice possible and would not listen to our cries and seemed
determined to murder us all, we thought it advisable for us to make our
escape." Eamut [Eames/Ames], "Reminiscence," 14.
Abbot, Tarlton Lewis & 2 others made a dash for the creek. Abbot received a
fatal wound as he left the doorway. Lewis was wounded in the shoulder but
survived. Lewis, "Autobiography," 14.
Still inside the shop, George
Myers raised his hat on a gun, drawing the fire of a nearby sharpshooter. Myers
shot back and ran from the shop. He received a shot in the right shoulder, but made
his way across the milldam to the safety of his house a mile from the mill.
Warren Foote, "Autobiography of Warren Foote," Special Collections,
BYU Library, Provo, Utah, 27.
the shop John Walker was hit with a ball in his right arm. Unable to reload he
and another defender took out for the field. They ran down the bank of the
creek. On the way up on the other side, his companion was hit. Walker hid under
some lumber standing along side the creek bank. Jane Walker Smith, "Jane
Walker Smith Story, in Kate B. Carter, ed., Our
Pioneer Heritage 19 (1976): 205.
McBride was shot as he made his escape from the shop.
Olive [Eames] Ames
Olive Ames recalled, "No
sooner had I concealed myself... than my husband, Mr. Ames, and old Father
McBride ran past hunting a place of concealment... Isaac Laney crossed the
creek above me. The mob saw him and began firing. I saw him fall, then rise and
climb the hill. He escaped death...." Olive Ames, History of the RLDS
Church, 2: 235.
McBride tried to surrender to Jacob Rogers of Daviess
County, but Rogers shot him in the chest and slashed McBride's head, face and
shoulders with a corn knife, leaving him lying in the creek. James McBride,
"Autobiography of James McBride, Special Collections, BYU Library, Provo,
running for his life, Jacob Myers, Jr., fell when shot through the shoulder. Rogers
proceeded to also attack Myers, but a Missourian stopped him saying, Myers had
"ground many a grist for him." Rogers left Myers alone and two of the
attackers carried him to his home nearby and threw him onto his bed. Artemisia Sydney Myers, Haun's Mill, Subject Folder Collection, P86, f30, Community of Christ Archives.
this time, David Lewis also fled from the shop. Lewis planned to surrender, but
being in the line of fire, he went down the creek bed and waded over to Haun's
house. From there he headed south to his own house one-quarter mile away. David
Lewis, "Autobiography," LDS Church Family and Historical Department,
Archives, Salt Lake City, Utah, 15-16.
Leany, Jacob Potts, William Yokum and Benjamin Lewis were the last four to
leave the shop. They left the shop under fire at close range. Though wounded,
Leany ran to the mill, climbed down the timbers and waded the creek to Haun's
house. Women gathered at Haun's hid him under the floorboards. Isaac Leany
petitions, in Clark Johnson, Mormon
Redress Petitions (Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center Brigham Young
University, 1992), 267, 487 and William Leany, "Autobiography of William
Leany," Special Collections, BYU Library, Provo, Utah, 8.
Jacob Potts was shot twice in his right leg, but made it to David Lewis' house, borrowed a
horse and rode home. William Yokum fell wounded just past the milldam.
Meanwhile, Benjamin Lewis made it across the creek, up a hill and, thinking
himself safe from the action on the field, climbed upon a rock fence to watch.
A sharpshooter named Rockholt picked him off from 300 yards. Women later found
Benjamin Lewis in the woods. He was taken to David Lewis' home where he died.
David Lewis buried him near his house. Benjamin was later reburied, perhaps in
what is today known as White Cemetery. David Lewis, "Autobiography,"
Missourians stopped firing after the last group of Mormons left the shop.
Inside regulators stripped the wounded and dead of their clothing and boots.
Three boys were found hiding and were shot. While some succeeded in escaping
with their lives, seventeen defenders were killed outright or mortally wounded.
Of the nineteen who fled the building, only four escaped uninjured - Rial Ames,
Ellis Eamut, David Evans and David Lewis. Fifteen were wounded - Jacob Foutz,
Isaac Leany, Charles Jimison, Tarlton Lewis, Nathan Knight, Gilmon Merrill,
George Myers, Jacob Myers Jr., Jacob Potts, John Walker and William Yokum. Four
of the wounded died - Hiram Abbot, Benjamin Lewis, Thomas McBride, and John
York. Fourteen in the shop were mortally wounded or killed- Elias Benner, John
Byers, Alexander Campbell, Simon Cox, Joseph Fuller, Austin Hammer, John Lee,
Levi Merrick, William Napier, George Richards, Sardius Smith and Warren Smith.
Charles Merrick was wounded as he ran outside after being found hiding in the
shop and died weeks later. Alma Smith was severely wounded in the shop but
recovered. William Chaplin remained in the shop but was uninjured by playing
Three Missourians were injured in
the affray - John Hart, from Livingston County was wounded in the arm, John
Renfrow had a thumb shot off, and Alan England, of Daviess, was severely
wounded in the thigh. See - Missouri Participants in Haun's Mill, Alex Baugh, A Call to Arms, Appendix J.
Before withdrawing, the regulators looted the settlement. Because of the cold, and fearing another attack, fourteen of the dead were hastily interred in an unfinished well near the blacksmith shop. Within days, remaining survivors of the "Haun's Mill Massacre" and church disciples were driven from the state.
Upon departure, Haun sold the mill. It continued to operate until 1845 then it was torn down. Charles Ross moved into the former Jacob Myer, Jr., house near the well and helped fill it in. In 1887, Josiah Fuller's son came to hunt up his father's resting-place. With Ross' assistance, he moved a red millstone fragment from the old mill onto the well to commemorate those who died. The stone was partially buried edgeways. In 1888, LDS members Andrew Jenson, Edward Stevenson and Joseph Smith Black visited the site from Utah. They readily located the well my means of the red stone. They also observed that the old milldam originally rested upon a solid ledge of rock immediately above a bank of yellow clay on the south shore of the creek. They determined the well site to be ninety-four yards north of west of the old milldam.
The red stone apparently remained in place at the well site until 1941 when area resident Glen E. Setzer cast a concrete marker near the entry road. Perhaps unaware of the meaning of the red sandstone standing over the wellsite, Setzer moved it to the new marker site. The location of the well has been uncertain every since.
Millstone, G. E. Anderson, 1907, courtesy LDS F&CHD,
In 1907, George Edward Anderson came to photograph the site. Observing what he interpreted as exposed wooden beams attached to the bottom of the stream, Anderson concluded the mill site had been located a bit further downstream, where Shoal Creek turns to the north. Anderson's party found a partially exposed millstone in the bank of the creek and moved it to the mill site for a photograph. The stone apparently remained on the edge of the bank until local residents moved it to Breckenridge Park around 1914 in memory of the massacre. A local myth suggests the Breckenridge millstone actually came from Marshall's Mill, formerly about a mile east of Haun's Mill. However, Anderson's photograph confirms the Breckenridge stone was at the mill site in 1907. For many years a companion millstone supported Mr. Karner's front porch, on a later house, built across the present road directly north of the mill site. Half of this second stone may
now be seen in the LDS Visitors Center in Independence, Missouri.
Because of its significance to the
movement, the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, now
known as Community of Christ, acquired the Haun's Mill property in 1960. The
site has been improved through the years and marked. Because of differing interpretations about the meaning of this site, it has proven difficult to maintain adequate directional and interpretive signage through the years.
The RLDS Church conducted an
archaeological survey in the 1970s when a proposed dam downstream threatened to
flood the area. Around this same time an iron wheel, sometimes identified as a
mill face wheel, was uncovered from the stream bank. This artifact may now
be seen at the LDS Museum of Church History and Art in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Hopefully, in coming years further
research can uncover the actual contours of the settlement, allowing
placement of appropriate markers.
Once the symbol of the cultural
tensions of the 1838 Missouri "Mormon War," history now understands
all parties as equal contributors to this horrific event. Haun's Mill now may
be seen as a potent reminder of the perpetual need for greater understanding
and tolerance between all peoples.
Recommended Reading: Alexander L.
Baugh, A Call to Arms: The 1838 Mormon Defense of Northern Missouri,
Ph.D. dissertation, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 1996.
Call to Arms'FONT>
The Community of
Christ also maintains historic sites at Heritage Plaza in Independence,
Missouri, Kirtland, Ohio, Nauvoo and Plano, Illinois, and Lamoni, Iowa.
For more information contact:Lachlan Mackay, Director
Community of Christ Historic Sites
9020 Chillicothe Road
Kirtland, Ohio 44094