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Joseph Smith-Account of the Tar and Feathering


On the 25th of March, the twins before mentioned, which had been sick of the measles for some time, caused us to be broke of our rest in taking care of them, especially my wife. In the evening I told her she had better retire to rest with one of the children, and I would watch with the sickest child. In the night she told me I me I had better lay down on the trundle bed, and I did so, and was soon after awoke by her screaming murder! when I found myself going out of the door, in the hands of about a dozen men; some of whose hands were in my hair, and some hold of my shirt, drawers and limbs. The foot of the trundle bed was towards the door, leaving only room enough for the door to swing. My wife heard a gentle tapping on the windows which she then took no particular notice of, (but which was unquestionably designed for ascertaining whether we were all asleep,) and soon after the mob burst open the door and surrounded the bed in an instant, and, as I said, the first I knew I was going out of the door in the hands of an infuriated mob. I made a desperate struggle, as I was forced out, to extricate myself, but only cleared one leg, with which I made a pass at one man, and he fell on the door steps. I was immediately confined again; and they swore by God, they would kill me if I did not be still, which quieted me. As they passed around the house with me, the fellow that I kicked came to me and thrust his hand into my face, all covered with blood, (for I hit him on the nose,) and with an exulting horse laugh, muttered: "ge, gee, God damn ye, I'll fix ye."

They then seized me by the throat, and held on till I lost my breath. After I came to, as they passed along with me, about thirty rods from the house, I saw elder Rigdon stretched out on the ground, whither they had dragged him by the heels. I supposed he was dead.

I began to plead with them, saying: you wilt have mercy and spare my life, I hope. To which they replied: "God damn ye, call on yer God for help, we'll show ye no mercy" and the people began to show themselves in every direction: one coming from the orchard had a plank, and I expected they would kill me, and carry me off on the plank. They then turned to the right, and went on about thirty rods further; about sixty rods from the house, and thirty from where I saw elder Rigdon; into the meadow, where they stopped, and one said: "Simonds, Simonds" (meaning I supposed Simonds Rider,) "pull up his drawers, pull up his drawers, he will take cold." Another replied: a'nt ye going to kill 'im? a'nt ye going to kill 'im? When a group of mobbers collected a little way off and said: "Simonds, Simonds, come here" and Simonds charged those who had hold of me to keep me from touching the ground, (as they had done all the time) lest I should get a spring on them. They went and held a council, and as I could occasionally overhear a word, I supposed it was to know whither it was best to kill me. They returned after a while, when I learned that they had concluded not to kill me but pound and scratch me well, tear off my shirt and drawers, and leave me naked, one cried, 'Simonds, Simonds, where's the tar bucket?' 'I don't know' answered one, 'where 'tis, Eli's left it.' They ran back and fetched the bucket of tar, when one exclaimed, 'God damn it, let us tar up his mouth;' and they tried to force the tar paddle into my mouth; I twisted my head around, so that they could not; and they cried out: 'God damn ye, hold up yer head and let us give ye some tar.'—They then tried to force a vial into my mouth and broke it in my teeth. All my clothes were torn off me except my shirt collar; and one man fell on me and scratched my body with his nails like a mad cat, and then muttered out:—'God damn ye, that's the way the Holy Ghost falls on folks.'

They then left me, and I attempted to rise, but fell again; I pulled the tar away from my lips, &c. so that I could breathe more freely, and after a while I began to recover, and raised myself up, when I saw two lights. I made my way towards one of them, and found it was father Johnsons'. When I had come to the door, I was naked, and the tar made me look as though I had been covered with blood, and when my wife saw me she thought I was all mashed to pieces, and fainted. During the affray abroad, the sisters of the neighborhood had collected in my room. I called for a blanket, they threw me one and shut the door; I wrapped it around me and went in.

In the mean time, John Poorman heard an out cry across the corn field, and running that way met father Johnson, who had been fastened in his house at the commencement of the assault, by having his door barred by the mob, but on calling to his wife to bring his gun, saying, he would blow hole through the door, the mob fled, and father Johnson seizing a club ran after the party that had elder Rigdon, and knocked one man, and raised his club to lever another, exclaiming: 'what are you doing here?' when they left elder Rigdon and turned upon father Johnson, who, turning to run towards his own house met brother Poorman coming out of the cornfield; each supposing the other to be a mobber, an encounter ensued, and Poorman gave Johnson a severe blow on the left shoulder with a stick or stone, which brought him to the ground. Poorman ran immediately towards father Johnson, and arriving while I was waiting for the blanket, exclaimed: 'I'm afraid I've killed him.' Killed who? asked one; when Poorman hastily related the circumstances of the rencounter near the corn field, and went into the shed and hid himself. Father Johnson soon recovered so as to come to the house, when the whole mystery was quickly solved concerning the difficulty between him and Poorman, who, on learning the facts, joyfully came from his hiding place.

My friends spent the night in scraping and removing the tar, and washing and cleansing my body; so that by morning I was ready to be clothed again. This being Sabbath morning, the people assembled for meeting at the usual hour of worship, and among those came also the mobbers; viz: Simonds Rider, a Campbelite preacher, and leader of the mob; one McClentic, son of a Campbelite minister; and Pelatish Allen, Esq. who gave the mob a barrel of whiskey to raise their spirits; and many others. With my flesh all scarified and defaced, I preached to the congregation as usual, and in the afternoon of the same day baptized three individuals.

The next morning I went to see elder Rigdon, and found him crazy, his head highly inflamed, for they had dragged him by his heels, and those too, so high from the earth he could not raise his head from the rough frozen surface, which lacerated it exceedingly; and when he saw me he called to his wife to bring him his razor. She asked him what he wanted of it? and he replied to kill me. Sister Rigdon left the room and he asked me to bring his razor; I asked him what he wanted of it, and he replied he wanted to kill his wife, and he continued delirious some days. The feathers which were used with the tar on this occasion, the mob took out of elder Rigdon's house. After they had seized him, and dragged him out, one of the banditti returned to get some pillows; when the women shut him in and kept him some time.

pp. 192-194 Biographical Sketches of the Prophet Joseph Smith by Lucy Mack Smith