Journal of David Lewis
By David Lewis
Edited by Bonnie Ruefenacht

I was born in Simpson County, Kentucky on April 10, 1814; Franklin was the county seat. I lived in the same state and county until I was 22 years old. I married in my 20th year on November 23, 1834. My wife's name was Duritha Trail. She was born January 5, 1813. She was 1 year, 3 months, and 5 days older than me. We were both baptized on March 24, 1935 into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints by James Emmit, who was accompanied by Peter Dustin. I lacked 17 days of being 21 years old when we were baptized. In the year 1835, I was ordained an elder under the hand of my brother, Benjamin Lewis. We left Kentucky, our native land, on April 29, 1837 for the state of Missouri where the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was gathering.
I was the sixth son and ninth child of my parents. They had 12 children in all - eight boys and four girls. My father was a large man weighing about 330 pounds. His name was Neriah Lewis. He left Kentucky with his family and went to Macoupin County, Illinois. He died there in about his 63rd year. My mother was also a large woman. She weighed about 240 pounds. Her name was Mary. Her maiden name was Morse. Her father's name was Samuel Morse and her mother was Rachel. They lived in Pitkins County or District, South Carolina. My father's father lived in South Carolina. His name was David. I think his wife's name was Rosannah. My father emigrated from South Carolina to Kentucky among the first settlers or emigrants to that country. My mother died in the state of Illinois when she was about 69 years old.
My father and mother were not professors of religion nor were none of the connections with whom I was acquainted. My father's mother was turned out of the Quaker Church for marrying my grandfather, who was not a member of the Quaker Church, and for refusing to acknowledge that she was sorry for the deed. My father and mother believed in a universal salvation, but belonged to no church. I believe they were both honest and I know they taught their children to be honest.
My father was a farmer and possessed a sufficient substance to make his family comfortable. At my first recollection, I was a very fleshy little boy with very black hair and blue eyes, which were often spoken of by the neighbors. I was not grossly mischievous, but did plague and tease the other children, which often cost me stripes-sometimes when I was innocent. Because I was so often guilty, no excuse would save me. My oldest sister, Ann, often saved me from the lash by telling my mother that all that had happened was done on accident and not on purpose. I was kept closely at home and taught most of the lessons of labor that was common for boys of my size and age to know. I was not allowed to go off the place without the consent of one or both of my parents. I was not allowed to have any little boy notions without giving a strict account of where and how I got it. I was seldom allowed to go in company and learn the ways of the world, so that I thought myself green or more unexperienced than others of my size. I often felt embarrassed on this account and did not enjoy myself when in company.
I was not quarrelsome with other boys and only had three fights in all my life. I won every time. On my last fight, I had my oldest brother's consent under whose charge I was at that time. I was about ten or eleven years old, but very well grown. A very bad and saucy boy came to my father's orchard. I had had a fight with his brother for abusing my youngest brother, who was very small. After pulling and thrashing down fruit of many descriptions and being about to leave, I told him to tell his brother if he did not pay me for the marbles I sold him, then I intended to whip him. He replied, "What did you say?" My brother told me to tell him again. I did so. He then commenced to curse me and said if I would come over the fence, he would whip me. My brother said to go and whip him well. This was an unexpected privilege as I had never before been allowed to fight under any circumstances whatsoever. I did as I was told and rejoiced at the chance. When my brother thought the boy had had enough, he told me to let him up for he is whipped enough. I immediately obeyed him. The boy started for home.
Why I mention this circumstance is because it was connected with a cruel act that the same boy committed on the next day. Next morning a border, in the presence of the boy's father, whetted a sharp pointed knife and told the boy to take it and stick it in me. "Yes", said the father. "I am determined that my boys shall defend themselves." George and Turner Miller were the names of the boys and James Miller was the father's name. "Go my sons", said James Miller to his two sons and defend yourselves. They had scarcely got out of sight of his dwelling when the screams were heard to the alarm of everyone present. They immediately ran. The two boys had fell out by the way about which should kill a bumblebee. The youngest having the knife plunged its length in his brother's breast. Fighting with knives, dirks, stones, and clubs was common in my country, but I never took part in any such wickedness. I have often seen several in number on each side fight with these weapons with intent to kill until they would be so tired that they weren't able to do each other harm. Some had black eyes, others bloody noses, and others in gores of blood, which was frightful to see.
Father had 400 acres of beautiful land; about 100 acres were farmland and the remainder of his land was timber land. We lived in a large two story double house on a public road 3 miles east of the town of Franklin. A beautiful yard about 1 acre square neatly covered with bluegrass surrounded the house. Two beautiful mulberry trees and one beautiful cedar tree grew in the south yard. A beautiful cherry tree grew on the outer edge of the yard one rod distance from the mulberry trees. These mulberry and cherry trees bore splendid fruit. A beautiful orchard joined to the yard on the west. In it was almost all the varieties of fruit that were common to the country. There were apples, both early and late sweet and sour, pears, peaches, plums, persimmons, and cherries. On the farm was the wild cherry, black hows [sic], mulberry, walnuts, plums, and persimmons. These fruits were all very good. We chiefly raised corn in our country. Wheat, oats, tobacco, sweet potatoes, Irish potatoes, beans, peas, cabbage, onion, melons, pumpkins, cotton, flax, and rye were grown, but wheat was the most uncertain crop we tried to raise. It was a very mild and pleasant climate. The land was not very rich. It took a great deal of work to cultivate the land. Timber was plenty, good range for stock was poor, and wild game was scarce. The people were primarily very kind to each other except when angry at each other, then they were crude. When I was about 12 years old, I was taken from the farm to aid my mother because my two oldest sisters Ann and Martha were married. At home, I was put to cording and spinning cotton and wool as it was common for woman to make their own wearing apparel in that country. I soon became skillful in this business so that I could even beat my older sisters at cording and spinning. I was also trained at the washtub, at cooking, and all the common housework. I spent three years of my life helping my mother in this way. This was not common employment for boys or men folks in that country so I often felt ashamed when the neighbors came in, but when I was about 15, I again went to the field.
I well recollect the first time I heard my mother talk about God and the devil. She said that there was a good man and a bad man who lived above in the clouds. If I was bad, the bad man would get me when I died. If I was a good boy and would mind her and father and would not tell lies nor swear nor steal that when I died the good man would take me to live again with him up in the clouds and told me of many good things that I would be entitled to by being good. This had a deep impression on my mind. I told my older brother this story when they came from the field thinking it would be news to them. I then firmly thought I would do good. I remember another time when I was very young. My mother was combing my hair. She said to me there was a mole on your neck and that it is a sign that if you ever steal anything that you will be hung. This alarmed me very much and often I have thrown down apples after I had commenced to eat them because I remember the mole on my neck and knowing that father had told me not to pull the apples. I have thrown down flint and lit the rocks that I thought were pretty after picking them up for fear that it was stealing and the mole on my neck would accuse me to be hung. Since my parents were not religious folks, they very seldom told me anything about God or heaven. I very seldom went to church meetings. When I did, I did not understand the plan of salvation. Since there were so many religions, Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, and Universalism or Dunkards, and they all disagreed about the scriptures, I asked father which one of these was right. He said he did not know. I thought it strange that father did not know these things, so I always wanted to know these things. I thought if I could find a book like I had heard of John the Revelator having one given to him by an angel, I should be better pleased with it than with any other present provided it would describe or teach to me the true plan of salvation. This was a subject that I greatly desired to know although I was young and to all appearance thoughtless of any such matters. I was often vexed at preachers exhorting the people telling them to come to Christ and never telling them how to come. I never got any understanding from any of the preachers how the plan of salvation worked, but I always thought if I could find out to my satisfaction, I would obey it. I promised to myself that when I got to be a man, I would find out to my satisfaction and do right and be honest and try to get to heaven where the good man lived.
I do not intend to give a full history of my childhood for it would be too tedious, but I would like to touch on a few things and then move on to the things that I have passed through and witnessed myself namely the persecutions, trials, and hardships caused by my believing and obeying the gospel of Christ, which I know to be true and of God.
I commence to write in this book January 18, 1854. In two months and six days I would have been in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints 19 years. I am now in my 39th year of age and on the 10th day of next April I will be 40 years of age. I wrote about my portrait or likeness in the first part of this book. I will also give a description of my size that my posterity may know what my size and looks were. I am 6 ft 1 in high. I weigh 200 pounds. I am proportionally built with black hair and blue eyes. I am fair skin and in the full rigor of life and health. At the commencement of this book I gave a sketch of my birth place, my baptism, first ordination, and skipped the subject related to my going to the gathering place in Missouri, which I now will write about. I shall only speak or write of some of the most important things which took place under my own observations.
The distance from Kentucky, my birthplace, to Missouri, the gathering place, was about 600 miles. I stopped in Caldwell County, Missouri and entered land, built a house, and commenced to make a farm and to till the ground when the cry of war was heard around us. The people that lived in that country became alarmed to see so many people gathered to one place, all of one religion and one politics. They raised many false accusations against us in order to make us leave Missouri that they might possess our houses and farms. We were too few in numbers to defend ourselves against the many thousands that gathered against us. The people of Missouri stole our cattle and did all kinds of robbing and abusing us. A history of these things has been fully given elsewhere, but there are some circumstances which came directly under my own observations. I will write about them that others may know what I have passed through and witnessed.
I lived about 18 miles east of Far West on Shoal Creek and 1/4 of a mile from Haun's Mill where a bloody butchery took place where I was present and barely escaped the massacre. I will now proceed to give an account of the massacre at Haun's Mill and the circumstances connected with it.
Some weeks previous to the massacre, the people living on Grand River, about eight miles north of the mill, started to come over to Shoal Creek settlement, where the Mormons lived, and drive off our cattle and threatened to burn down the mill. We sent delegates to them to see if we could not reach a compromise and live in peace. They met our delegates with guns and a hostile manner, but finally they agreed with our men that they would be at peace with us. We gathered to the mill awaiting to hear from our delegates and to organize ourselves so that if they should come in a hostile manner we might be prepared to defend ourselves. Previously, about 30 of them had taken the guns of all those that lived at the mill except for Hyrum Abots, who would not give his up, although they had snapped their guns at him several times. There were also several men who had stopped at the mill that were just moving to that country from the eastern states. One of these men was Joseph Young, who presently serves as the president over the seventy and is a brother of Brigham Young. There were several families camped in the mill yard with wagons, horses, and all their substance. There were about 30 men with guns. We were in no condition to defend oursevles, but we were expecting that they would abide the treaty we had made with them and felt as if we were safe. We were counseled by Joseph Smith, the Prophet, to leave the mill and go to Far West. However, we were deceived by the messenger we sent to Joseph Smith for council. We did not understand Joseph Smith's council. Our messenger said to Joseph Smith, "What shall the people at the mill do?" Joseph Smith said, "Gather up and come to Far West." Joseph Haun, the messenger, did not want to leave the mill because he was afraid it would be burnt down. Joseph Haun thought it was possible to maintain the mill. Joseph Smith told Joseph Haun he was free to do as he pleased. Joseph Haun returned and said, "If we thought we could maintain the mill, it was Joseph Smith's council for us to do so. If we thought we could not, to come to Far West." By the way the message was presented, we thought it would be like cowards to leave and not try to maintain it. Since the Missourians agreed to be at peace, we thought it was not necessary to gather up all of our affects and leave our houses. However, we did not know that it was Joseph Smith's council for us to leave and come to Far West.
While thus situated on Tuesday the 30th day of October 1838, about 300 armed men on horseback came in full lope towards us until they got within 100 yards of us. They immediately halted and commenced firing at us. At their first appearance, we did not know that they were not brethren of the LDS Church. We did not place ourselves in a situation for defence. We soon found the mob to be a hostile foe deprived of all humanity or mercy. Many of our people cried out for mercy with uplifted hands, but they were immediately shot. David Evans was our captain. He cried out for quarters. They gave none and he immediately fled giving no official orders. By this time we were completely surrounded. Seeing ourselves surrounded, we immediately ran into a blacksmith shop. This was a fatal move for the shop was very open. It was made out of large logs. One log was cut entirely out on the north side. On the west wall, there was a window. On the south wall, there was a door. The cracks between the logs were all open. We were surrounded by a raging foe, who screamed as loud as they could with every breath and were fully determined to be able to say that "I killed a Mormon". Each bullet as it passed through these many openings was bound to prove fatal to some of us within. The first man that fell was Simon Cox. He was standing close to my side when he received the fatal blow. He was shot through the kidneys and all the pain and misery that I have ever witnessed a poor sole to have seemed to be excelled. It seems as though even now I can hear him scream. They came here about 4:00 in the afternoon and continued shooting for about an hour and an half. There were eight men who fled at the beginning. Such groans of the dying and such struggling in blood I hope that those that read this account may never have to witness unless it is in avenging the blood of those that were slain for truly they shed innocent blood that must stand against them until it is avenged.
I remained calm in my feelings without being much excited, but was fully aware of all that was happening. I thought for a moment that perhaps in the next minute I may be like those of my brethren struggling in my blood and my spirit taken flight to the spirit world, but soon this thought left me and I possessed an unshaken faith that my life would be spared. There seemed to all natural appearance there was no way for my escape. They were still continuing their firing with an increase rapidity and closing their circle around us as they were not meeting much resistance from the few that were left.
I looked to the west. I discovered a ruffian that had crawled within about 40 steps of the shop and had secured himself behind a large log that laid in the yard of the mill. His head was raised above the log. I went immediately to the west window and stepped on a block to make myself high enough to shoot. I saw his gun was to his face and he had his sight on me. I immediately resisted trying to shoot at his head and dismounted from the block. When I did, another mounted the same block and was immediately shot down.
Our number on foot had now decreased to about seven or eight. Hyrum Abots, the man who had refused to give up his gun, said, "It is useless to stay in here any longer; let us leave." I believed him to be a brave man and thought I was justified in leaving. He started to leave with three others. He left the door. He was immediately shot through his body, which eventually caused his death. I nursed him in my own house for five weeks. He was then moved to his father's and died there. My brother, Tarlton, was one of the men that left with Hyrum. He was shot through the shoulder, but his wound was not mortal. I do not remember the fate of the other two men.
There was now four on foot beside myself. These were my brother, Benjamin Lewis, Isaac Leany, Jacob Pots, and Brother Yokum; I know these men left the shop with me. I went alone towards the east where it seemed to be the most strongly guarded. I thought at first I would give into their ranks and surrender myself their prisoner, but seeing they were shooting and yelling as demons, I felt no mercy would be shown me. I concluded to try to pass them. I went almost in their midst and then turned down a steep bank at the creek. I crossed the creek and climbed a steep bank on the opposite side of the creek in front of Haun's house. I passed around the house and went towards the south. I crossed the fence, which was about two hundred yards from the shop. While crossing the fence, two bullets struck the fence close by my side. They had me in fair view for 200 yards and constantly fired at me. The bullets seemed to be as thick as hailstones when it is hailing fast and none of them entered my flesh or drew blood, but five holes were shot through my clothes - three in my pantaloons and two in my coat. Let my here remark that I did not run one inch of the way for I had been confined to my bed for three months with the fever and at that time was just able to walk about. It was about the second or third time that I had left the house. The distance from my house was about a quarter of a mile. I proceeded on towards to my house. My tongue had rolled out of my mouth like that of a dog because I was overcome with fatigue. The whole distance was uphill a little ways from my house.
I met my wife who had been in prayer for my deliverance for she had been in hearing distance of the whole scene. She had heard the first guns that had fired. Her first salutation to me was: "Are you hurt; are you wounded?" I told her I was not hurt. We went with Araminta, our only child, and secreted ourselves in a thicket until dark.
I will now return to the fate of the four I left behind in the shop. Jacob Pots was shot in his legs while leaving. He went to my house, caught a horse at my door, and rode home. Isaac Leany was severely wounded having received four bullets in his body - two bullets passed clear through his body in direct opposition to each other, leaving four wounds in his body and several other severe wounds, but he survived and is now alive in the Salt Lake Valley. Yokum fell just as he crossed the mill dam. After crossing the creek on the dam, he was taken in Haun's house, and laid on the floor without any attention until the next morning. He was shot between the point of his nose and his eye. I picked up the ball the next morning where he had fell. This was a very large ball and had passed from between the point of his nose and eye to the back of his head leaving him senseless on the ground. He was also wounded in the leg, which was cut off. He is also alive. Benjamin Lewis, my brother, was found about 300 yards from the shop by some of the women, who had been concealed in the brush during the fracas. He was still alive and in his proper senses. I went to him and with the aid of a horse and sled, I got him to my house. He lived a few hours and died. I dug a hole in the ground, wrapped him in a sheet, and without a coffin buried him. Early next morning, I returned to the shop to learn the fate of the rest of my brethren. I first stopped in at Haun's house where I found McBride lying dead in the yard. He was a very old man. He left the shop before me and started to go the same route that I went, but stopped in their ranks as I first intended to do. When he did, he gave up his gun and himself as a prisoner. He was shot with his own gun as I was informed by a sister that was concealed under the bank and witnessed the scene. Jacob Rogers took an old scythe blade and literally gashed his face to pieces. He was taken and laid in the yard where I found him the next morning. Merick and Smith were also lying dead in the yard. York and Yokum were in the house of Haun, but entirely senseless. York soon died, but Yokum lived. Leany, Nights, and Haun were also at Haun's house and wounded; all of which recovered and none of them had the aid of a physician to probe or attend to their wounds. I went over to the shop where I found Fuller, Cox, Lee, Hammer, Richard, and two small boys dead on the ground and several others whose names I do not remember, but whose names have been given in the history of our persecution. The dead numbering in all 18 persons. The wounded 15. A few of the brethren who assembled here with myself drug those slain to the side of a well which was about 12 feet deep and tumbled them in as we had no time to decently bury them for we knew not how soon they would be upon us again.
This was the most heart rendering scene that my eyes ever witnessed. These two little boys were shot accidentally by being in the crowd. After the men were all done and gone and there was none to fight, they on the outside closed up. One man discovered these boys concealed under the blacksmith bellows. He deliberately stuck his gun in a crack of the shop and fired at them as they were concealed together. One of their own men reproved him saying it is a damned shame to shoot such little fellows. He calmly replied, "Little sprouts make big trees" meaning they will make men or Mormons after awhile if not killed.
Perceiving all to be dead or dying that remained in the shop, the mob came in the shop and shot all that were struggling taking deliberate aim at their head and boasting that they had killed a Mormon and afterwards to the wives of those that were killed, saying, "Madam, I am the man that killed your husband."
There were many other acts and circumstances which were equally aggravating that I will omit writing for I have no design to enlarge on the tale, but to tell the plain facts as they did exist that generations who come after might see and know the things that I have witnessed. I was in my 24th year and my own life was miraculously spared for some unknown purpose to me, but I am willing to bear my testimony to all mankind that God will save and deliver those that exercise an unshaken faith in him for I did exercise an unshaken faith in him at that time and fully believed that I would make my escape and my life be spared. I said, "Lord thou hast delivered me for some purpose. I am willing to fulfill that purpose whenever thou makes it known unto me and all duties that thou enjoins upon me from this time henceforth and forever."
On the second day after this bloody transaction took place, this company of murderers returned to the shop blowing their bugles, firing their guns, and yelling like demons showing themselves hostile. As I lived nearby, I could hear all their proceedings. Myself and Joseph Young went and concealed ourselves in the brush nearby for fear they would come to my house to renew their slaughter. The weather had become cold and it began to rain. We had no cover with us, but one thin, very tattered quilt. We laid down on the ground covered with the quilt and slept comfortable knowing that they could not find us neither could they set the brush on fire on the account of the rain. Although I was just recovering from a long spell sickness, I was not taken ill from the exposure where I would expected such a situation to cause sudden death. I cautiously crept to my house the next morning not knowing if they were at my house waiting to take my life. Those murderers had taken possession of the mill. They ground the grain that was in it for their own use. They killed hogs, robbed legumes, and lived well going from house to house taking all the guns and ammunition that they could find. Their faces were often painted, which made them look disgraceful to the human race. I kept out of their way for nearly three weeks when a scouting party came across me. As I was not fond of their company, I was about to leave them when one of them told me to wait until the captain had seen. The captain's name was Nehemiah Comestock. He said, "Mr. Lewis have you heard of the new orders of the Governor?" "No sir." Said he, "Well our orders from the Governor is that all Mormons must leave the state forthwith." "Indeed", said I. "I thought we were to stay until spring." "That", said he, "was the first orders, but the governor has now changed his orders and you must be off by Wednesday at 10:00". It was at that time Sunday evening. I replied, "This is very short notice for one to move and it is now winter." I told him I had no wagon or team. My wife was sick and I cout not go so soon. "Then", said he, "you must either go or deny your religion or go to Richmond and stand a trial for your life." "For", said he, "there was one of our men killed at the blacksmith shop." Said he, "You were there and everbody else who as there will be tried for murder and be hung." Hyrum Comestock, the captain's brother, said, "If they are not hung, they do not want any of them to come back. Our boys don't intend for any of them to escape." I said, "I would not mind being tried for my life by the laws of the land for I have not violated no law, but I would not like to be tried for mob law for I know that no Mormon could have justice done to him in this state while the prejudice is so high. What must I deny?" "Deny your religion," he said. "Deny your Book of Mormon or your Mormon Bible being true and deny that Joseph Smith is a prophet." I said to him, "I believe Joseph Smith once was a prophet, but whether he is dead or alive now I know not for the last I heard of him he was a prisoner." It was rumored that he would be killed. He said, "You must leave the state by next Wednesday." I said, "You know that the ferries and roads are all guarded so that no Mormon can pass safely." "I know that", he said "but I will give you a pass and then you can travel safely." He then gave me the following pass:

November the 13th 1839
This is to certify that David Lewis, a Mormon, is permitted to leave and pass through the state of Missouri in an eastward direction unmolested during good behavior.

Signed Neimiah Comestock, Captain Militia.

I took my pass and studied it. I thought to myself that it would be death to try to leave and it will be death if I stay. If I have to be killed, let it be at home. I thought it was too bad to take my flight in the winter. Wednesday they came and was still here. They sent some guards, headed by Hyrum Comestock, from their encampment to see if I was gone. A Mormon prisoner whose name was Kelley was with them. He was a stranger to me. Comestock said, "Mr. Lewis do you know this man?" I replied, "I did not." "Have you ever seen him before?" "I believe I have." "Where?" "Over on Muddy Creek, if I am not mistaken." "Was he at the mill on the day of the battle?" "I do not know, but I would think not." "Is he a Mormon?" "I do not know, but I judge not." "You do not know his name, do you?" "I do not." "Come with us Mr. Lewis, to our encampment." "Very well", I said. They marched me in front to their camp. When we arrived to their encampment, Hyrum Comestock said to me, "Mr. Lewis you have lied. This prisoner is a Mormon. He was in the battle. He says he knows you perfectly well and you have been lying to us, trying to save him." The prisoner said, "that ain't the Lewis I know." "Hush your mouth", said Comestock "and wait until you are spoken to before you speak. You may consider yourself our prisoner." Their entire company gathered around me and the following interrogation took place:
"Mr Lewis, which of your neighbors participated in the difficulties in Davis County?"
"I do not know."
"Who among you are danities?"
"I don't know."
"Are you a danite?"
"What is a danite?"
"They have taken an oath to kill, rob, steal, plunder, take bear meat and sweet oil."
"I am no danite for I have never taken no such oath."
"Let us swear him in."

"It is of no use to swear him", said a voice, "for he would just as soon swear a lie as the truth." I said, "Gentlemen, I am your prisoner. You can talk to me as you please, but I will not take such talk. I am a Kentuckian, but I am now your prisoner."
Now came dinner, which consisted of stew pork and bread, each person took a piece from a large pot and with the aid of a jackknife worked his piece to his own notion. I stood around as an elephant for a while thinking I was not going to get any dinner when Hyrum Comestock said to me, "Mr. Lewis, won't you eat something with us? Our fare is very rough, but if you will eat, come up." "Yes," I said, "for I am just recovering from a spell of sickness and my appetite is very good." I pickup a bone, which was well supplied with meat. They handed me a bunch of bread and I went at it as though all was well. "Come," said they to the other prisoner, "and eat." "No," said Kelley. "I am not well. I can not eat." They said, "We will lay hands on you brother Kelley and you will then get better." They said, "Mr. Lewis, is this man delirious" He swore harder last night than any man we ever saw? He curses Joe Smith." "I know him not," I said while still picking my bone as though times were better with me.
They saw that I was enjoying myself better than they wanted me to. They turned their discourse to me. "Mr. Lewis, are you a good hunter?" "I do not prize myself at that business." "We want you to take a hunt with us after dinner. We do not care for the game, but some of our boys want to try it over with you again. We hear that you can't be hit with a bullet. Our boys are good marksmen and they want you to go out with them this afternoon so they can have another chance. What do you think about dying?" "I don't think much about it nor care much about it. If I could have freedom, life then would be sweet, but without it, I care not to live. You told me," I said, "that a bullet could not hit me. I think," I said, "that they came very near hitting me." I showed them the five holes in my clothes. "How," said one, "did you get away without being killed?" "I walked away." "Well I suppose you had so much faith you could not be hit." "If I had faith, I had work to put with it and my work was to get away as fast as I could." I then spoke to them as follows in order to touch their humanity if there was any in them. "Gentlemen I think this is a pretty pass we have got things to. We are living in the same community or the same country and almost neighbors. We speak the same language and should be able to understand each other better than this and communicate our grievances to each other before making such rash moves. Our fathers no doubt fought side by side to gain our liberty. Why not us, their children, maintain this liberty and be willing to have it extended to each other? If we differ in our religious or political views, we should not make it a matter of shedding each other's blood, but know that the world is large and that there is room for us all. You shot at me very carelessly the other day. Although when you came to this mill and was detained all night, I fed you and your teams. You slept in my house free of charge. Many of us came from the same state. The same soil have nourished us. There is a better way to settle difficulties then to take each other's lives. What crime have I done that I must thus be treated?" One cried out poor tray he was used bad for being in bad company. This thought seemed to have a good effect for they cease to threaten me or to talk of trying me over again, but seemed to soften down and said to each other that man has to good a countenance to be a thief.
Evening soon came and I said to the captain, "Can't you let me go home to chop a fire of wood. My wife is sick. The widow and orphans of my brother that you have killed is there. A wounded man is there." "What," said Hyrum Comestock, "you mean a lot that was wounded here?" I replied, "Yes." "Well," said he, "damn him. He ought to die. I snapped at the damned rascal seven times because he refused to give up his gun, but it was a gun that I had just taken from a Mormon and the damned thing would not go off. If it had been my own gun, I should have killed the damn rascal." "Well, can I have the privilege to go or not? You can send a guard with me if you can not trust to my coming back." The captain said, "We will hold a council over you and we will let you know." Bob White, an apostate Mormon who was with them, pled to let me go for he said he knew that Mr. Lewis had been sick and was now unable to stay in the camp while it was so cold. This kindness White did because he hated Haun as he did Lucifer and he knew that I did not like Haun. I believe he thought it did him some good to have me help hate Haun and for this reason he was kind to me, but White, in my estimation, was no better than Haun, for self interest had caused Haun to stay at the mill and made us to stay as well while White was fighting against us. Yet, for me it had a good effect. They agreed that I might go and stay until the next morning if I would promise to be in their encampment by sunrise next morning. This I agreed to and went home. After chopping firewood, I was taken with a severe chill and then a fever for I had not as yet recovered from my sickness.
Next morning I was at the camp according to my promise. "Well," said the captain, "you are here." "Yes sir," was the reply. "Well, have you got a gun." "Well, I had one the other day, but on the evening of the difficulty, I left it in the brush. I have not seen it since." "Take a guard of six men and go with Mr. Lewis and fetch that gun." "I do not know if I can find the gun." "We can make you find it." I was marched as close to the place as I knew. After we had searched about one hour and had not found it, they then began to threaten me and accuse me of not trying to find it, but this was false. I knew that they would show me no mercy if it was not found. The snow had fallen very deep on the ground and the place assumed a very different appearance. At length, we found it. We started to the camp and we passed by my door. I stopped in my yard and asked the privilege to cut for my family a fire of wood. They halted and granted me this privilege. After chopping a few licks, I became faint and weak. I said to them, "Gentlemen won't one of you please chop a few sticks for me." Their immediate reply, "I shan't . . . Well, I be damned if I do. . . . Well, if he wants it chopped, let him do it himself," and so on. I thought "O wicked and degraded wretches. How far have you sunk beneath the honor of man. If I had Lucifer as prisoner as you have me, I would not have denied him so small a favor as to refuse to help him chop a firewood. After chopping my wood, I politely invited them in to take warm. They accepted the invitation and went in. After warming, we again went to the camp taking with them my two guns for I had another gun in the loft which they got when they went in. These guns were never returned to me or paid for and they drove off a cow which has not been settled for, but I will go on with my story.
Their conversation was chiefly in presumptuous talk about those that were dead and in the well. They talked of making soap grease out of the dead because they were so damn fat. These words they thought so shrewd. They produced great laughter. This was the entertainment of the day. Toward night, I again asked for the privilege of going home. This was granted on the same condition as on the evening before. I went home in the night. It rained very hard so as to raise the creek that was between us so I could not get to them or they could not get to me. I went to the bank and hollered for them to get me across. I knew they could not do. They seemed to be vexed at my imprudence and consulted amongst themselves what to do. They finally hollered to me to go about my business for they could not get over. With joy I obeyed their orders and went to my home.
The things that I have written is true according to the best of my knowledge for I desired my children to know what I have passed through and for their benefit I write this. I have not designed it for publication; therefore, I have omitted many sayings and acts of our persecutions. It almost looks unreasonabe to believe for I know that many things lose their proper influence by trying to make them look too large. This transaction of itself as it took place is almost too unnatural to be believed. I, therefore, have rather tried to soften the story enough that it might be believed instead of trying to paint out things and magnifying them to the highest notch. I do not intend to give a history of the LDS Church and people to which I belong, but only the things that came under my own observation. The history of these things have been written and published to the world. I will, therefore, give a brief sketch of the fate of the opposite party as related to me by James Campbell, one of their party. They denied any of their party being killed except for one. They tried to make me believe that I would have to hang for that, but I will now give the account of Campbell.
A few years after this massacre, I was sent on a mission to Marion County, Illinois. While there, I scheduled a meeting at a tavern where this Campbell lived as a journeyman tavern. He said, "To my knowledge, there were four killed at the shop and several wounded. After they got about 4 miles from the shop, while they were under full lope, they were fired upon by a company of Mormons, who had lain in ambush and killed two more. Himself and his brother were wounded." He showed me the scar of his wound. This party, who had lain in ambush, was actually a party of their own men who had missed the main company and supposed that the men were retreating Mormons, they fired on them. Since it was such an awkward mistake, they kept it concealed and passed it off as being Mormons. Mr. Campbell seemed at first to think I was alone and he could frighten me and talk very saucy about his being wounded. I told him I wished it was his neck instead of his leg that was shot. The thoughts of my brother being killed and the treatment I had from those wretches almost made me forget that I was a preacher. I felt more like fighting than preaching and he soon curled under a large company gathered for a meeting. The subject of our persecution was uppermost in my mind. I spoke largely on this subject and bore and pointed my finger at Campbell. There is one of the actors in this cruelty, persecution, and murder. Every eye was turned to him with scorn. He arose from the congregation and left the room.
This land of robbers profess to have government orders, but from the best I can learn, their orders were issued by man or bull dog, as he was most commonly called, a notorious rascal who was always ready to play to the hand where the money was. Some of their own party afterwards thought it was the orders of the governor or they would have taken no part in it. They thought man to do this and then told that they received it from the governor, but this is all the same for the governor was rotten hearted enough to acknowledge the militia and take no notice of their acts of outrage and cruelty. The bigger the mob, the greater the militia with him. All was well. One of them complained in my presence of not getting his pay from the government for his services. I told him he had no right to complain. Lilburn W. Boggs was governor.
I had to sell my land and improvement for a small sum not one fourth of its value to enable myself to leave the state to obey the orders from the governor which were for us to leave in the spring. We appealed to every authority in our government, even the President of the United States Martin Van Buren, who said he knew our cause was a just one, but he could do nothing for us. If he did, the whole state of Missouri would be against him. Joseph and Hyrum Smith were now in prison and also many others of our brethren. Mobs and authority of government combined together and compelled us Mormons to leave the state. It was not for the violation of law that we were compelled to leave neither was it for crimes which we were accused of by our government for our government did not banish its subjects for crime, but was compelled to try them by law and punish them according to their crime. If we had resisted the law, they were able to bring us to justice. They were to drive us away and now we began to remember that the ancient saints or people of God were falsely accused, hated, driven, and persecuted on account of the testimony they bore of the things of God. They were whipped and imprisoned and even Christ our Savior was falsely accused and put to death. He said all that lived glory in Christ Jesus shall be persecuted for so persecuted they the prophets that were before you. As the same cause produces the same effects, we may reasonably suppose that as the gospel produced persecutions in former days, that it also will in latter days. As the former day saints were told to endure joyfully the spoiling of their goods, we thought we must take the same advice if we could so. We submitted to our fate knowing that vengeance is mine saith the Lord and I will repay. Offenses must come but woe unto them by whom they come. Here was two grand oppositions arrayed in the same country. The saints of God had gathered here with the priesthood by the command of the Lord to build a temple to his holy name, to prepare a people for the second coming of Christ, and the gathering of Israel. To act under the directions of a prophet of God who received communications from God to direct him that the great work of the last days might be accomplished. Lucifer standing in direct opposition to God arrayed himself with his power to overthrow the prophet or to overthrow the people of God and his servants. The wicked ones were ever as ready to serve and obey him as the servants of God are to serve and obey him. The wicked acted as they were moved on by his strict wish which was to try to destroy God's people and uproot his kingdom. God permitted the wicked to have power over his people that they thereby might fill up their cup of iniquity for they desired to serve Lucifer and do the works of their father the devil that his people thereby might know the powers of the adversary that they might know that they could not conquer with their own strength and power that they also might learn to look to God the gift of every good gift for his mercy and blessing to enable them to conquer. Tthe wicked possess equal power as to their physical strength as do the righteous. The righteous can only conquer by the influence of God's spirit in their behalf for as God is greater than the devil even so he possesses greater power. Righteous man possesses this power according to the heed they give to the commandments of God. As God is stronger then the devil, so also is his servant the stronger if they give heed to his commandments so as to possess his power. It is on this principle that one man can chose his hundred and ten and put their ten thousands to flight, but as we had not been in the kingdom, we had not learned to give heed to our prophet as we should, but we did learned that he did not stand to argue the point, but told us what to do. When argument was raised to have a different way, he said,. "to do as you please", but we now know that the words of a prophet are the words of God. God, like man, when he gets an agent to do a certain piece of work, he is bound to acknowledge his authority as being his own. Whosoever transacts business with that agent finds its lawful and is bound to stand. If God called on Joseph Smith to speak to the people and tell them what to do, they were just as much bound to obey him as though God had spoke it himself. Joseph Smith had many witnesses that he was called of God. They having obtained a knowledge for themselves of God, testified to the world of mankind that it might be established by testimony or witnesses for God has said by his apostles that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word should be established. Here we are justifiable in believing it because more than two or three have testified to this truth. If half the testimony had come against Joseph Smith that he had murdered a certain man, where is the man that would have dubiety on his mind concerning his guilt. If we are honest, why not believe the testimony for him as well as against him? The reason is that the adversary, the devil, has instilled into the minds of men that God will not communicate his will to the human family any more and have so long traditioned this in man that it conflicts with their tradition. The devil deceived them that he might keep them under his control to serve him. They persecute the righteous believing that they are doing God's service, but the prophet Jeremiah says that a certain people will say that surely our fathers have inherited lies, vain things, things where in there is no profit. Many have said if you are the people of God, why did he not protect you? We might ask the same question concerning Christ and the apostles and prophets. The reason is God has given man his own agency to do good or to do evil and as the wicked are the devil's servants, they are ever ready to oppose the servants of God, but God will reward every one according to the deeds they have done.
In December 1838, I in company with John L. Butler and Higby went to Illinois state to settle the affairs of my brother Benjamin who was killed. When we stopped the first night, a large mob assembled late in the night. We at first supposed that they intended to abuse us, but we soon found that they were going to whip Riley Steward, a Mormon, that was at his mother-in-law's. He wanted the assistance of our landlord. He refused his assistance and told them he had the company of three Kentuckians for thus we told him we were. They left and fervently beaten Steward as we were afterward informed. I went to Macoupin County, Illinois and found that Benjamin's business could not be settled at that time. Two of my brothers accompanied me back to Caldwell, Missouri. They moved my brother Benjamin's family home with them. In February 1839 on the 7th day of the month I started with my family, in company with Gwiley Buckhanon, Cooleage Porter Sloan, and several others. The weather was fine and dusty. We crossed the Mississippi River in March and stopped in the town of Quincy, Adams County, Illinois. I stayed in Quincy one month. I then went back to Kentucky with my family and left them with my wife's father and started eastward to preach the gospel. This was my first mission. I preached by the way as I went. I was aiming to go to Virginia. I went to Overton County, Tennessee. I there fell in company with Julian Moses. We preached together and soon baptized many and organized a branch of the LDS Church.
While preaching in Overton County, Tennessee I met with strong opposition. Julius Moses had left me and went to Kentucky and I had just left Missouri. Our persecutors began to write to their friends in Tennessee about the Mormon War boasting to them of the deeds they had done. Telling them they had drove them all away and had got possession of their farms. They then suspected me for a spy who had been sent to look out a new location and jealousy became very high. I soon received notice that I must leave their country immediately and hold no more meetings among them. These orders I did not comply with, but preached and bore my testimony of the work of God in the last days. I put forth the plan of salvation calling on them to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins. I also said unto them you have often asked the question why were your people so abused and compelled to leave their country and homes if they are a law abiding people? I answered and said unto them what law of the country have I broken since I have been among you? Whose rights have a trampled on? Who have I injured amongst you? Yet you want to drive me away from your midst. Our people have violated no law, trampled on no man's rights, nor injured anyone. They possessed the same spirit and disposition as yourselves and compelled our people to leave their country and homes regardless of the rights of man or the principles of humanity saying we are the law ourselves and we will execute it ourselves.
In that same fall being 1839 I returned to Kentucky to my family and remained with them during the following winter. In the spring of 1840, I started for Nauvoo, but stopped in Macoupin County, Illinois until the spring of 1841, when I again assembled with those who I had been associated with in the Missouri persecution. I found that all my property, which was in the care of my brother Tarlton had been consumed by fire and I was left to start anew housekeeping with scarcely a change of garments to begin with. I lived in Nauvoo for five years. It was a small village when I first went there, but it was built up very fast and was a beautiful place. The Mississippi River ran by it running almost two-thirds around it. The Temple stood on a high elevated spot about three-quarters of a mile from the river. I was standing guard at the northeast corner of this building when the news of the death of Joseph and Hyrum Smith came. The first intelligence of their death came to Nauvoo by George Grant. On the night after the occurrence took place in the evening of June 27, 1844.