Missouri State Archives: Finding Aid 5.1

Mormon War Papers, 1837-1841

[ Full-text transcription of: Witness William W. Phelps, a Mormon dissenter ]
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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 9 or 12 persons, Mr Rigdon arose & made an

address to them in which he spoke of having borne

persecutions & law suits and other privations &

did not intend to be a victim any longer, that they

meant to resist the law and if a sheriff Came

after them with writs they would kill him, & if

any body opposed them they would take off their

heads,  Geo W Harris who was present observed

you mean the head of their influence I suppose

Rigdon answered he meant that lump of flesh

and bones called the skull or scalp.  Jo Smith Jr

followed Mr Rigdon approving his seniments

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 as indisputed as the words of God.

And that no one should speak against

what they said. Hyrum Smith was not in

Far West at this time and think he was

not in the Country. Some time in June

steps were taken to get myself and others

out of the County of Caldwell, and

afforts were made to get the post office

from me, being P. M., by a demand for it,

I explained the law which seemed satisfactory

& it was given up. I then informed the [2d]

Presidency of the church by letter, that I

was wiling to do anything 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 P. office. I told them if public opinion

said I should give it up I would do so

but they have to await the decision of the

P. M. G. which they agreed to do, with the und=


=standing that a committee of three should

inspect the letters written and sent by me as

well as those receivd 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 & said he was a Republican, several

rushed up to wards him and stopt him, telling

him if he had anything to say in favor of the

presidency he might say it, and that was their

republicanism – J. Smith Jr Sidney Rigdon

& Hyrum Smith who compose the first

presidency were there. It was observd in

the meeting that if any person spoke against

the presidency they would hand him over

in 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 effects they had on hand

and they said whenever they found one 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 Gidion’ – Not a great while

after this [ ] of private meetings were held

I endevored 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 Gidion. In the

Meeting above referrd 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” 30 or more men

arose up where upon the man said he

would leave the house. At this meeting

I agreed to conform to the order of the Church

in all things knowing I had a good deal of

property in the county and if I went off I

should 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

   In 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 I

learned from the Clerk of the Circuit Court

that declaration had been filed against Smith

Rigdon & others by Johnson and in reference to

that case, Smith told Dennison 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 Clerks 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

other alarmed me for the situation Of our

County,and at our next Circuit Court I

mentioned these things to the Judge & several

members of the bar-

   A few days before the 4th day of July last

I heard D. W Patton known by the fictitious name

of Capt. Fearnought 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 could maintain it-


or fight till they died.  Daniel Huntington

and some others made about the same remark -

Sidney Rigdon’s 4th of July oration was the declar

ation referred to. Along through the summer &

fall, a storm appeared to be gathering and

from time to time I went out into Ray & Clay

Counties – saw and conversed with many

gentleman on the subject who always assured

me that they would use every [asertion] that

the law should be enforced, and I repeatedly

made these things known in Caldwell County &

that there was no disposition among the people

to raise mobs against them from these counties

      I never was invited nor did I attend any of their

secret meetings.  I was at the meeting the Monday

before the last Expedition to Davis – 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 others about to go war in Davis County

that those persons who had not turned out

their property should be taken to maintain

the war – this was by 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 spilt in the streets of Far West.

A few said amen to this, -- but immediately

Mr Jo Smith Jr. before Rigdons motion was

put rose and moved that they be taken out

into Davis County & if they came to battle they

should be put on their horses with bayonets

& pitch forks and put in front – this passed

without a dissenting voice.  There was a

short made then by Jo Smith Jr. about carrying


on the war in which he said it was necessary

to have something to live on, and when they went

out to war it was necessary to take spoils to

live on.  This was in reference to the dissenters

as well as to the people of Davis where they going

in this speech he told the [ansedote] of the Diah=

-ohman potatoes. Finding I should have to

go and not wishing to be put in front of the

battle.  I sought a situation and went out

with my waggon.  This was the expedition in which

Gallatin and Millport were burt.  I went on

to Diahamon a few days after the Mormon

troops had gone out. I went to the tavern late

at night when I found J. Smith Jr. Hyrum

Smith & others. I informed J. Smith that the

Clay troops had returned home some 40 or 50

in number, but told him that Genl. Parks

was in Far West and his troops just behind.

   There was a conversation among them as

to what they [ ] and they came to the conclusion

to send down to Lyman Wright at his house

for him to send an express to Genl Parks that

his troops were not needed.  Some time

before day I awoke and found Lyman

Wright & Capt. Fearnaught in the house – he said he had sent the

Express to Genl. Parks informing him that his

Militia was not needed – Wight asked J. Smith

twice if he had arms to the point now to resist

the law that he wanted  that matter now

distinctly understood-  he said he had succeeded

in smoothing the matter over with Judge

King when he was out, and that he defied the

U.S 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 Davis.

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 driving

out the mob from Davis.  I heard J. Smith remark

there was a store at Gallatin & a Grocery at Millport

and in the morning 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 Capt 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 at Gallatin bring them to Di-ahamon

and burn the store.  Lyman Wight was to take

a company and go to Millport on the same

day, and Seymore Brunson was to take a

company and go to the grind stone [fort]

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 toward Millport – I

I also a foot company the same day go off

on the same day in the evening I saw

both these companies return.  The foot com-

pany had some plunder which appeared

to be [feed] and bed clothes &c. They passed on towards

the Bishops store. but I know not what they did with

the plunder.  I remained in the Camp one day

and two nights at Diahamon when I returned

to Far West.  The night before I started to Far

West an express [word crossed out] was sent from Joseph

Smith and Lyman Wight to Rigdon at F West

but what was [“in” crossed out] the contents of the Express I

know not.  When I returned to Far West I had

a message in reference to having wood &

provisions provided for the families of those

persons living in Far West who were in Davis


and for the purpose of giving them that information

I was invited to a school house where it was

said the people had 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 tried 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]

them in the house, [“seeing this” crossed out] seeing this without

[“without” crossed out] saying anything to any other person

should kill him and haul him [asine] into the

brush, and that all the burial he should have

should be in a turkey buzzards gut.  so that

nothing should be left of him but his bones.

  That [ ] said was carried in form of a

Covenant with uplifted hands – after the vote

had passed he said now see if anyone dares

vote against it, and called for the negative

vote & others was moved.   The next covenant

that if any person from the surrounding

Country came into their town walking about

no odds who he might be, Anyone of [other] meeting

should kill him and throw him aside into the brush

this passed in manner as the above had passed

   The third covenant was conceal all these

things.  Mr Rigdon then observed that the kingdom

of heaven had no secrets – that yesterday a

man had stopt his wind, and was draged into

the hazelbrush and said he – “the man who

that [lisp] it shall die.”  There were several

Companies organised at this meeting, and

volunteers Called for, and I having assigned

[“to me” crossed out] the command of the express company

Called for volunteers wanting to be doing some=

thing to make a show.  Amasa Lyman a Dept.


was in that meeting, and was appointed by

Mr Rigdon Capt. of a Company, whose duty it

was to watch the Movements of the enemy, or

mob in [B__ Combe], and if they burt 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 toward 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 understanding

as being particularly addressed to Lyman as

a part of the duty of his Company, but

seemed addressed to the meeting generally

This meeting was on Saturday and on

the next Monday I returned to Diahamon

with 7 or 8 waggons, 3 or 4 of which were moveing

some families, tho I had been directed to take

to Di-ahamon for use there.

   I arrived at Diahamon that evening

and next morning 4 of the waggons were

loaded and sent back to Far West. Joseph

Smith Jr and Hyrum Smith perhaps informed

me they wanted 4 waggons a part of which

were to haul beef and pork to Far West

and what the balance of the [“balance of the” crossed out]

loading was I did not know, but these waggons

brought out by me, were pointed out, and

taken back to Far West. I remained in the

Camps at Diahamon that day—my waggon

and another went down to Millport and

brought up Slades goods which were there.

Slade is not a Mormon, but has three brothers

residing in or about Far West who are Mormons.

The following of the Defendants were in the

last


Expedition to Daviess – Joseph Smith Jr. P. P. Pratt

Lyman Wight, Geo. W Robinson, Alanson Ripley,

Geo. W. [“Robson” crossed out] Harris, Elijah Newman was

one of  my men. Isaac Morley was not there,

Alexander McRae 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 Capt Black Hawk – While

in Adam-ondi-ahmon I saw Geo W Robertson

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 Genl. Clark

at Far West and further [in] deponent

saith not.

                                    W. W. Phelps


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