The Massacre at Haun's Mill

"Haun's Mill" by C.C.A. Christensen
"Haun's Mill" by C.C.A. Christensen | Source

The Haun's Mill Massacre happened on October 30, 1838, as a mob of men from Missouri's Livingston County Militia attacked a Mormon (Church of the Latter Day Saints) settlement in Caldwell County, Missouri.

Haun's Mill was established in 1835 by Joseph Haun, an early settler from the Church of the Latter Day Saints, in the Fairview township in eastern Caldwell County in Missouri. By 1838, there were about 75 Mormon families living there.

It was a beautiful spot, by the banks of Shoal Creek. The land all around was fertile, and showed the loving care of hard-working and successful farming families. Sunlight and shadow danced across the checkerboard of neat, well-tended fields. The mill was busy and important place: the place where all the grain for miles around was ground.

The militia involved were led by Colonel William Jennings, the Sheriff of Caldwell County. There were some prominent members of the militia, including Charles Ashby, a member of the Missouri state legislature.

The Mormon families were getting worried. The militia was growing in numbers, and the feeling amongst non-Mormon settlers in the surrounding communities were getting more and more hostile, as the numbers of Mormons, or Latter Day Saints, continued to grow and prove to be a stronger and stronger voting block and political presence in Missouri.

The Mormons themselves were very industrious and peaceful people, for the most part. They met hostility with hostility, though, and were prepared to defend their religion and their way of life to the death. They also wanted to close their community to non-Mormons. They didn't want non-Mormons to contaminate their children.

The Mormons at first referred to the State of Missouri as "The Promised Land", and firmly believed that they had a God-given charter to settle this particular land, this particular state, and create a new Eden there.

Naturally, the non-Mormon population looked askance at this point of view. One of the ironies of the situation was, that Christian, God-fearing Baptists and Protestants and Episcopalians, also didn't want their children contaminated by the ideas of Joseph Smith, the founder of the Church of the Latter Day Saints. Polygamy was an ENORMOUS sin to these people; they felt immensely threatened by that point of religious philosophy.

A markerHaun's Mill, Missouri -
Haun's Mill massacre, Fairview, MO 64625, USA
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So on Sunday, October 28, the Mormon men held a council. They decided to be prepared for the threat of violence by the Livingston County Militia and Colonel Jenning's men by organizing a defensive force of 28 men and boys, armed with rifles. They decided, and this was the very fatal flaw in their strategy, to use the blacksmith's shop as an emergency fortress, holing up in there while the women and children fled to the woods for safety, in the event of a disturbance.

Militia men riding by, intending to harass the Mormon settlers, found the men oiling their rifles. The scouts reported back to Colonel Jennings, who then sent a representative to negotiate a truce with the Mormon settlers.

Both parties accepted the arrangement, the terms of which are no longer known, for a reason that will soon be apparent...

The Mormons, though prepared for violence, didn't really want violence. They wanted to enjoy the fruits of their various industries in peace and prosperity.

The truce held for a day and a half.

On Tuesday, October 30, 1838, at 4 pm, the militia rode into the Haun's Mill settlement and started shooting. Most of the women and children fled, by pre-arrangement, to the woods south of the settlement, and the men, by pre-arrangement, holed up in the blacksmith's shop.

The shop became a killing box.

The chinks between the logs offered easy access to shooting men. the militia had no mercy, gave no quarter. After several of the men in the shop were shot to death, the rest attempted to surrender.

Seventy-eight year old Thomas McBride surrendered his musket to the militiaman Jacob Rogers, who then promptly blew off his head. Not content with splattering the elderly man's brains on the floor, Jacob then started hacking away at the corpse with a corn knife.

The milita found a ten-year-old boy hiding behind the bellows in the blacksmith's shop.

Militiaman William Reynolds put his musket against the boy's skull and pulled the trigger. William said, "Nits make lice. If the boy lived, he would've been a Mormon."

Women were assaulted, bodies were mutilated, houses were robbed, wagons, tents and clothing were stolen, horses and livestock were driven off, leaving the few survivors with no means to support themselves. It was the end of the Mormon settlement at Haun's Mill.

After the massacre, the dead, at least eighteen people, were dumped in a well and covered with dirt and straw. The rest of the Mormon survivors fled to the settlement at Far West, Missouri, for protection.


Shoal Creek at Haun's Mill
Shoal Creek at Haun's Mill | Source

Of the fifty-five men known to be involved in the Massacre at Haun's Mill, none were ever brought to justice.

Why?

The American West was a really wild place at that time. The early settlers had only a rudimentary legal system, consisting mostly of circuit courts, where the judge would ride into town on his pony, and settle any criminal or civil issues in quick trials, convened in makeshift courts, where most of the participants were ignorant of the laws.

Since it might be months before a judge rode into town, people got used to settling matters themselves, for the most part, with the help of the militia and the sheriffs.

In this case, the perpetrators were the militia, and the massacre was led by the Sheriff.

Question answered? Well, somewhat. I still wonder at the overt hostility against the Mormon settlers in a country which was founded by people seeking freedom from religious prosecution, people who wrote in the Constitution of the United States the right to religious freedom; the right to peace, liberty, and pursuit of happiness for persons of any and all faiths.

How bad was the prejudiuce against the Mormons in Missouri at the time?

It was bad, really bad...

Though this had no impact on the Haun's Mill Massacre, it might have been the reason no one was prosecuted for those murders:

Governor Lilburn W. Boggs, governor of Missouri, issued the infamous "Extermination Order" on October 27, 1838. It reads in part as follows:

"...Open and avowed defiance of the laws, by which having made war on the people of this State...the Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the State if necessary for the public peace--their outrages are beyond all description..."

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Comments 31 comments

Leroy Seat 4 years ago

William Jennings was the sheriff of Livingston County, not Caldwell County. Caldwell County was formed as a place where Mormons could live in peace.


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Aren't we getting better at it? I hope so.


gregas profile image

gregas 5 years ago from Corona, California.

P7, In case you haven't noticed, we still don't live in peace with different religions. Greg


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York Author

The Mormons were first chased out of Illinois, then Missouri. They went west far enough when they founded their communities in Utah. The Mormons were not entirely innocent of aggression towards non-Mormons, either, so there was fault on both sides. Eventually, America learned to live in peace with different religions, and become a polyglot nation.


WesternHistory profile image

WesternHistory 5 years ago from California

Very good story. The Mormons were subjected to assault almost everywhere they lived. It only stopped when they eventually moved to Utah with Brigham Young. During the time of their exodus through Illinois and Missouri the law enforcement was not very effective and what resulted was mob rule. Again, thanks for the hub.


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Gregas, that's a GREAT quote!! Thank you, I will remember it, and all I can do is echo MK, and say "Amen".


mktabor 5 years ago from Northeastern Oklahoma

Amen.


gregas profile image

gregas 5 years ago from Corona, California.

Hi P7, I heard a quote a while back and it fits here as it does in most of the world. "When the power of love overcomes the power of greed the world will know peace." I don't know who the quote was from, but to me, that pretty much says it all. Greg


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Thank you, MK! I'll have to look into that Sand Creek Massacre. I really think it's shameful that we do these things to each other, that human beings will do these things, apparently to the end of time. And it certainly is a black spot on American history, the way the Indians were treated.

Thanks for the comment, and I hope He does.


mktabor 5 years ago from Northeastern Oklahoma

Wow! Good hub! I'm a lover of good history. I was just talking to one of my sons the other night about how the Mormons got to Utah. I told him they'd had some trouble in Missouri, but I couldn't remember what the details were. Thanks, P7, as Gregas says. It reminds me of the Sand Creek Massacre of the Cheyenne out in Colorado. There, the leader of the killers was a Methodist minister. If Christians, of which I'm one, were not being martyred, they were busy making some one a martyr. God forgive us!


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Thanks for the visit, rodriquezk. I'm glad you liked it.


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Definitely, Greg. Thanks for the comment.


gregas profile image

gregas 5 years ago from Corona, California.

Hi P7, As in one of my hubs, there are way too many followers, and I don't mean on hubs :-) and not enough leaders of the right kind. And yes, if you look back in time you will see that almost all wars were because of religious differences. Greg


rodriguezk96 profile image

rodriguezk96 5 years ago from NJ

wow i love your post this is indeed a very interesting story thanks for sharing!!!


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Thank you, Gregas and Barbara Kay, for your comments. I do agree--religion seems to cause a lot of wars, strife, murders and mayhem, and the irony of it is--most religions bar wars, strife, murder and mayhem as against the religion. Go figure--I haven't got a clue. I'm a Christian, and you wouldn't see me riding in with a shotgun to kill a Mormon, or doing anything to harm a Jew. It makes no sense, especially in THIS country, which is dedicated to religious freedom.


Barbara Kay profile image

Barbara Kay 5 years ago from USA

Religious differences seem to cause a lot of wars. I can see God frowning down from heaven. Voted up. This was interesting and well written.


gregas profile image

gregas 5 years ago from Corona, California.

Hi P7, Read the hub by JY3502 about the Mountain Meadow Massacre. I read that hub, then I researched the incident and then I saw the movie. I that case they did "murder the women and children, most were shot in the backs. It's a veru interesting read. There is a monument there in rememberance to those who were "murdered". Greg


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Thanks, gregas, for the comment. I'v not saying the Mormons were totally innocent in their relations with the non-Mormon settlers in Missouri. There was a truce, and there is NEVER any reason to kill women and children in cold blood.

Mormons did attack wagon trains going west; they didn't kill the women and children, they kidnapped them. (Not that it makes it any better, really.) They killed all the men. This really happened, too, and was a very bad thing.


gregas profile image

gregas 5 years ago from Corona, California.

Hi P7, Great hub. JY3502 published a hub titled "Tale of the Mountain Meadow Massacre" about the Mormans "murdering" a group of people in a wagon train headed west to California from Missouri. They made mention of a slaughter of Mormons in the story and in the movie. This pretty much explains "why" the Mormons felt threatened. But, it does not explain why they had to slaughter all of those men, women and children. I just can't find any reason to justify the killing of innocent people. Like your story of the Jews and Nazis. The are just too many people that hide behind their religions and beliefs and use them to justify whatever they do. Anyway, I'm ranting. Good job. Greg


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York Author

You're right! Thanks for the comment.


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco

I remember reading references to this but had not read about this massacre in detail. I appreciate having the chance to learn about it now, though I really can't believe that it took place. What a travesty.


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Thanks for the comment, Epi. You know, I thought that, too--this story would make a great film. I might just go to work on turning it into a screenplay. There's dialog connected with this running through my head, and I can already see the storyboards.

It's a lot of work but fun, too. The only thing is, there doesn't seem to be much of a market for screenplays out there, unless one is already established in the biz. Alas!

Epi, doing so good, hope you are, too. We've had a bit of rain here but truthfully, it's kind of a relief from the boiling hot summer we had last year. When it isn't raining, it's BEAUTIFUL!


epigramman profile image

epigramman 5 years ago

...this American tale of tragedy could be adapted and made into a stirring and dramatic film couldn't it?

And as always - another world class hub subject you have chosen to tell and share with us ......thank you for all of your hard work and efforts in putting this one together and here is an opportunity to post this story on my Facebook page with a direct link back here.

Hope all is well with you my friend and that you are enjoying your summer so far ...and thank you for your support too - it really means a lot to me ......9:59am lake erie time


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Peter, I agree with you wholeheartedly. We seem to be the only species bent on murdering each other.

And Scarytaff, I agree with you, too!!! Thank you so much for the visit.


scarytaff profile image

scarytaff 5 years ago from South Wales

Great hub, No.7 It amazes me how people can be so cruel to each other.


PETER LUMETTA profile image

PETER LUMETTA 5 years ago from KENAI, ALAKSA

Paradise, it must be in our genes that allows us to exterminate our own species over and over again throughout history. No matter how many times we see and hear and experience these horror stories we seem to completely forget they happened the next time one group of humans destroys another group of humans. We seem doomed to repeating history. Peter


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Thank you for the comments, Peter and Moonlake.

These type stories always make me wonder...it's horrifying to me, to think an "extermination order" for a particular set of people originated anywhere in the United States. We just aren't so different after all, are we? The parallel, in my mind, is the Nazis going after the Jews. To me, the whole thing is really terrible.

I wish so much we would learn from history, and not repeat these kinds of thinking that led to a massacre of innocent women and children; these kinds of intolerant thinking that led to such a tragedy.


moonlake profile image

moonlake 5 years ago from America

I enjoyed your hub. What an awful piece of history.

I think there were lots of stories like this in our history, after all it was the frontier.


PETER LUMETTA profile image

PETER LUMETTA 5 years ago from KENAI, ALAKSA

White people killing white people, now that's a switch. Wasn't the first time and it surely wasn't the last time.


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Thank you, ahorseback. That was my point, really. This does happen, over and over, all over the world--that a certain set of people can't tolerate a certain set of other people, and they settle the issue by violence.

I'll never, never, really understand why killing another person seems like any kind of solution to any kind of problem.


ahorseback profile image

ahorseback 5 years ago

Great info Paradise , I love this type of history and you tell it well. I have found that America has a huge history of this type of tragedy. Now , all countries do! And everyone from the Irish to the native Indians , from the Russians to the Romans one way or the other are victims. Or perpetrators! Sectarian , political , you name it there's a reason. But my question is , why! Over and over and over again it happens and we know that it will again! Surprisingly ! LOL, I blame it on man! Mankind revolves around repitition, it seems. Take care paradise....Awesome job!

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