Carthage, Nauvoo, and Warsaw, Illinois form a bit of an anti-Mormon Triangle. Most Mormons know about the first 2 cities, but what do you know about the third? In our next conversation, we’ll get acquainted with both Brian Stutzman and Warsaw, Illinois, once a hotbed of anti-Mormon sentiment.
Brian: Before the Saints came to Nauvoo and before Warsaw was even started, there were some tracts of land on both sides of Mississippi. It doesn’t sound politically correct, but on the Iowa side, (Iowa was a territory,) the government set up what was called the Half-breed Tract. Basically, it was for people that would be given land if they had one parent that was Native American, and another one that was a white person. That’s why it was called Half-breed Tract. Well, the government gave this land away. And these Indians, half-Indians, half-breeds, whatever the term was in that time period, they didn’t want it. So land speculators, like I said, Isaac Galland came, and would give them pennies on the dollar. He and his land development company had thousands of acres over on the Iowa side by Montrose, which became later the Zarahemla Stake. Well on the other side of the river by Commerce and Hotchkiss which became Nauvoo…
GT: Yeah, Commerce became Nauvoo.
Brian: So the United States government had 3.5 million acres. They had three different tracts. They called them military tracts, or bounty tracts, and basically, after the War of 1812, the United States government owed soldiers back pay. They didn’t have any money, but they had all this land on the western frontier. That’s what this military tract was. Essentially, if you were a soldier in the War of 1812, you would get 160 acres in one of these three military tracts. One of them came through western Illinois. It covered 12 counties. Like I said, it’s 3.5 million acres, so it’s sizable. Well, the soldiers up in New England didn’t want to move. Some of them didn’t want to move, at least to Western Illinois, so they would sell their land for pennies on the dollar. So Isaac Galland and other land speculators had land on both sides of the Mississippi and they heard about Joseph Smith being in Liberty Jail, and he wrote him and said, “If you’re looking for a place for your people, I’ll make you a deal–nothing down….” That’s one reason I think the saints moved to Quincy and then on up as soon as Joseph escaped from Liberty to go up to Nauvoo.
Brian is the first person to write a history of Warsaw, and we’ll learn more about the dynamics that led to people of that city to storm the Carthage Jail and kill Joseph Smith, Jr. Brian also had an interesting experience!
Brian: I later became really good friends with the mayor, Tiffany Murphy and her husband Chris Bass. They had me over for dinner multiple times, took me out on the river. It was really cool. My experience with Warsaw not only on my multiple trips back because I was doing research for this book, but an apex of it was spending two nights in the bedroom of Thomas Sharp.
GT: There you go.
GT: Oh wow.
Brian: Now my wife says, “Is kind of like staying in the bedroom of Hitler or something? Was it dark? Was it positive?”
There was a real economic rivalry between the cities of Warsaw and Nauvoo, Illinois. Is that the reason Thomas Sharp hated Mormons? Brian Stutzman will give us more information on this rivalry.
Brian: So the Latter day Saints come up and they come to Quincy, and Joseph Smith eventually joins them. They come up and they’re they are settling. As they come up, people in Warsaw are saying, “Why don’t you stop here?” See in 1837, there was this national depression. Half the financial institutions in the United States collapse, including our own Kirtland Safety Society. There’s these developers that have all this land, and they say, “Come settle here. So I don’t go bankrupt. I need to sell my land.” There were people in Warsaw that said the same thing and Joseph Smith and some of the other leaders, Isaac Borrow, some of these guys sit down. “We’re making this deal with Isaac Galland and we’re going to settle up here.” There were some good interactions between the two towns.
Brian: Not everybody in Warsaw at the time, was necessarily anti-Mormon…there were some political tensions that way, but also the fact that you could vote after six months of being in the States, even if you were an immigrant. So all of a sudden, you had bloc-voting going on. The people of Warsaw said, “We’ll never elect anybody with 6000, 8000, 10,000 LDS people when were at 400-500 down here.
GT: Because Nauvoo was really large.
Brian: It got really big, really fast. Those people could vote. If Joseph Smith came out for a candidate, they’re going to win, at least locally. You had some economic issues as well. People tended to trade amongst themselves. In 1842, I believe it was, Thomas Sharp wrote in his paper, he said, “It’s funny that the Latter-day Saints,” I’m paraphrasing, “up in Nauvoo don’t trade with us. We don’t have anything. You won’t find anything made in Nauvoo in Warsaw. You won’t find it.” He says, “We’re probably better off because of it,” as a joke. So economics also played a part in the expansion of the Church. Joseph set up what was called the hub and spoke idea of settlements. Nauvoo was going to be the hub, and then they’d have settlements. We did that in Utah with Salt Lake and all the little communities. So Nauvoo this is going to be the center and Montrose, which became Zarahemla and some of these other towns. Well, they were looking to put a Mormon settlement in Warsaw, just south of Warsaw.
Have you visited Warsaw? Were you aware of the role Thomas Sharp played in organizing the mob that killed Joseph Smith?