1839

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W. W. Phelps-Witnessing to the State

 

William W. Phelps, a witness on the part of the State, produced, sworn and examined, deposeth and saith: That, as early as April last, at a meeting in Far West of eight or twelve persons, Mr. Rigdon arose, and made address to them, in which he spoke of having borne persecutions and lawsuits, and other privations, and did not intend to bear them any longer; that they meant to resist the law, and, if a sheriff came after them with writs, they would kill him; and, if any body opposed them, they would take off their heads. George W. Harris, who was present, observed, You mean the head of their influence, I suppose? Ridgon answered, he meant that lump of flesh and bones called the skull or scalp. Joseph Smith, jr., followed Mr. Rigdon, approving his sentiments, and said, that was what they intended to do. Both, in their remarks, observed, that they meant to have the words of the presidency to be as good and undisputed as the words of God; and that no one should speak against what they said. Hiram Smith was not in Far West at this time, and I think he was not in the country. Some time in June, steps were taken to get myself and others out of the country of Caldwell, and efforts were made to get the post office from me, (being postmaster,) by a demand for it. explained the law, which seemed satisfactory, and it was given up. I then informed the second presidency of the church, by letter, that I was willing to do any thing that was right, and, if I had wronged any man, I would make satisfaction. I was then notified to attend a meeting. Sidney Rigdon, in an address, again brought up the subject of the post office. I told them if public opinion said I should give it up, I would do so; but they would have to await the decision of the Postmaster General; which they agreed to do, with the understanding that a committee of three should inspect the letters written and sent by me, as well as those received by me. This committee, however, never made their appearance. After my case was disposed of, another man’s was taken up; he attempted to speak in his defence, and said he was republican. Several rushed up towards him, and stopped him, telling him if he had any thing to say in favor of the presidency, he might say it, and that was their republicanism. Joseph Smith, jr., Sidney Rigdon and Hiram Smith, who compose the first presidency, were there. It was observed in the meeting, that, if any person spoke against the presidency, they would hand him over to the hands of the Brother of Gideon. I knew not, at the time, who or what it meant. Shortly after that, I was at another meeting, where they were trying several–the first presidency being present; Sidney Rigdon was chief spokesman. The object of the meeting seemed to be, to make persons confess, and repent of their sins to God and the presidency; and arraigned them for giving false accounts of their money and eflects they had on hand; and they said, whenever they found on guilty of these things, they were to be handed over to the Brother of Gideon. Several were found guilty, and handed over as they said. I yet did not know what was meant by this expression, "the Brother of Gideon." Not a great while after this, secret or private meetings were held; I endeavored to find out what they were; and I learned, from John Corrill and others, they were forming a secret society called Danites, formerly called the Brother of Gideon. In the meeting above referred to, in which I was present, one man arose to defend himself; and he was ordered to leave the house, but commenced to speak; Avard then said, "Where are my ten men?" Thirty or more men arose up; whereupon the man said he would the house. At this meeting, I agreed to conform to the rules of the church in all things, knowing I had a good deal of property in the county, and, if I went off, I should be obliged to leave it. For some time before and after this meeting, an armed guard was kept in town and one of them at my house, during the night, as I supposed, to watch my person. I the fore part of July, I being one of the justices of the county court, was forbid by Joseph Smith, jr., from issuing any process against him. In learned from the clerk of the circuit court that declarations had been declarations had been fined against Smith, Rigdon and others, by Johnson, and, in reference to that case, Smith told Cleminson, the clerk, that he should not issue a writ against him. I observed to Mr. Smith, that there was a legal objection to issuing it; that the cost (meaning the clerk’s fee) had not been paid. Smith replied, he did not care for that; he did not intend to have any writ issued against him in the county. These things, together with many others, alarmed me for the situation of our country; and at our next circuit courts; I mentioned these things to the judge and several members of the bar.

A few days before the 4th day of July last, I heard D. W. Patten (known by the fictitious name of Captain Fearnaught) say that Rigdon was writing a declaration, to declare the church independent. I remarked to him, I thought such a thing treasonable–to set up a government within a Government. He answered, it would not be treasonable if they would maintain it, or fight till they died. Demick Huntingdon, and some others, made about the same remark. Sidney Rigdon’s 4th of July oration was the declaration referred to. Along through the summer and fall, a storm appeared to be gather; and, from time to time, I went into Ray and Clay counties; saw and conversed with many gentleman on the subject, who always assured me that they would use every exertion, that the law should be enforced; and I repeatedly made these things known in Caldwell county, and that there was no disposition among the people to raise the mobs against them from these counties. I never was invited, nor did I attend any of their secret meetings. I was at the meeting on Monday before the last expedition to Daviess, having learned that steps would be taken there which might affect me. At this meeting, the presidency, together with many others, were there, to the number of perhaps 200 or 300, or more. Joseph Smith, jr., I think it was, who addressed the meeting, and said; in substance, that they were then about to go to war in Daviess country; that those person who had not turned out their property should be taken to maintain the war. This was by the way of formal resolution, and was not objected to by any present. A motion was then made, by Sidney Rigdon, that the blood of those who were thus backward should first be spilled in the streets of Far West; a few said; Amen to this. But immediately Mr. Joseph Smith, jr., before Rigdon’s motion was put, rose, and moved that they be taken to Daviess county, and, if they came to battle, they should be put on their houses with bayonets and pitchforks, and put in front: this passed without a dissenting voice. There was a short speech made then, by Joseph Smith, jr., about carrying on the war; in which he said it was necessary to have something to live on. This was in reference to the dissenters, as well as to the people of Daviess, where they were going. In this speech, he told the anecdote of the Dutchman’s potatoes.

Finding I should have to go out, and not wishing to be put in front of the battle, I sought a situation, and went out with my wagon. This was the expedition in which Gallatin and Millport were burnt. I went on to ’Diahmon a few days after the Mormon troops had gone out. I went to the tavern, late at night, where I found Joseph Smith, jr., Hiram Smith and others I informed J. Smith that the Clay troops had returned home, some 40 or 50 in number; but told him that General Parks was in Far West, and his troops just behind.

There was a conversation among them as to what they would do; and they come to the conclusion to send down to Lyman Wight, at his house, for him to send an express to General Parks that his troops were not needed. Some time before day I awoke, and found Lyman Wight and Captain Fearnaught in the house; he said he had sent the express to General Parks, informing him that his militia was not needed. Wight asked J. Smith, twice, if he had come to the point now to resist the law; that he wanted this matter now distinctly over with Judge King, when he was out, and that he defied the United States to take him, but that he had submitted to be taken because he (Smith) had done so. This was in reference to the examination for the offence for which he and Smith had been brought before Judge King in Daviess. Smith replied, the time had come when he should resist all law. In the fore part of the night, after my arrival, I heard a good deal of conversation about drawing out the mob from Daviess. I heard J. Ssmith remark, there was a store at Gallatin, and a grocery at Miliport; and in the morning after the conversation between Smith and Wight about resisting the law, a plan of operations was agreed on, which was: that Captain Fearnaught, who was present, should take a company of 100 men, or more, and go to Gallatin, and take it that day; to take the goods out of the store in Gallatin, bring them to ’Diahmon, and burn the store. Lyman Wight was to take a company, and go to Millport on the same day; and Seymour Brunson was to take a company, and go to the Grindstone fork on the same day. This arrangement was made in the house, before day, while I was lying on the floor. When I arose in the morning, some of the companies were gone; but I saw Lyman Wight parade a horse company, and start off with it towards Millport. I also saw a foot company the same day go off.

On the same day, in the evening, I saw both these companies return; the foot company had some plunder, which appeared to be beds and bedclothes, &c. They passed on towards the bishop’s store, but I know not what they did with the plunder. I remained in the camps one day and two nights at ’Diahmon, when I returned to Far West. The night before I started to Far West, an express was sent from Joseph Smith and Lyman Wight to Rigdon, at Far West; but what was the contents of the express I know not. When I returned to Far West I had a message in reference to having wood and provisions provided for the families of those persons living in Far West, who were in Davies; and, for the purpose of giving that information, I was assembled. I went there, and was admitted, The men being paraded before the door when I arrived, in number about 40 or 50: it was remarked that these were true men; and we all marched into the house. A guard was placed around the house, and one at the door.

Mr. Rigdon then commenced making covenants, with uplifted hands. The first was, that, if any man attempted to move out of the county, or pack their things for that purpose, that any man then in the house, seeing this, without saying any thing to any other person, should kill him, and haul him inside the brush, and that all the burial he should have should be in a turkey buzzard’s guts, so that nothing of him should be left but his bones. The measure was carried in form of a covenant with uplifted hands. After the vote had passed, he said, Now see if any other dare vote against it, and called for the negative vote; and there was none. The next covenant, that, if any persons from the surrounding country came into their town, walking about–no odds who he might be–any one of that meeting should kill him, and throw him aside into the brush. This passed in a manner as the above had passed. The third covenant was, "conceal all these things." Mr. Rigdon observed, that the kingdom of heaven had no secrets; that yesterday a man had slipped his wind, and was dragged into the hazel brush; and, said he, "the man who lisps it shall die." There were several companies organized at this meeting, and volunteers called for; and I, having been assigned the command of the express company, called for volunteers–wanting to be done something to make a show. Amasa Lyman, a defendant, was in that meeting, and was appointed by Mr. Rigdon captain of a company, whose duty it was to watch the movements of the enemy, or mob, in Buncombe; and if they hurt one house in Caldwell, his company was to burn four of theirs; and men were selected who were strangers in the community where they were, to act towards the latter part of the instructions. To Lyman’s company, Rigdon observed, that if the inhabitants in the surrounding country commenced burning houses in Caldwell, if they could not get clear of them in any other way, they would poison them off. This last remark I did not understand as being particularly addressed to Lyman as a part of the duties of his company, but seemed to be addressed to the meeting generally. This meeting was on Saturday, and on the next Monday I returned to ’Diahmon, with seven or eight wagons, three or four of which were moving some families, that I had been directed to take to ’Diahmon that day; my wagon and another went down to Milport, and brought up Slade’s goods, which were there. Slade is not a Mormon, but has three brothers residing in or about Far West, who are Mormons.

The following defendants were in the last expedition to Daviess:

Joseph Smith jr.,

Parley P. Pratt,

Lyman Wight,

George W. Robinson,

Alanson Ripley,

George W. Harris,

Elijah Newman was one of my men.

Isaac Morley was not there.

Alexander McRay was there.

Ebenezer Robinson was there.

Edward Partridge was there.

James H. Rawlins was there.

Sheffield Daniels, I think, was not there.

Samuel Bent was there, and he was called Captain Black Hawk.

While in Ad-m-on-diahmen, I saw George W. Robinson, with a clock under his arm, which I afterwards saw in Far West, and which was claimed by a Mr. McLaney, of Daviess county, as his property, after the arrival of General Clark at Far West.

And further this deponent saith not.

W. W. Phelps

George M. Hinkle, a witness for the State, produced, sworn, and examined, deposeth and saith: I was in Far West when the last Mormon expedition went to Daviess county. We heard of a great number of men gathering in Daviess, [mob:] I went down without being attached to any company, or without having any command; I found there were no troops [mob] gathered there. The Mormon forces consisted of about three hundred, as I suppose; they were engaged in scouting parties; some, it is said, went to Gallatin, and much mysterious conversation was had in camp about goods, and that they were much cheaper than in New York. This last remark was made by Parley P. Pratt. I saw goods of various kinds; but knew not from whence they came. It was a common talk in camps that the mob were burning their own houses and fleeing off.

pp. 120-125