I think Thomas Sharp should be the ultimate villain in Mormonism, but I’ll bet most people don’t know who he is. In our next conversation with Brian Stutzman, we’ll learn more about the man who incited a mob to kill the prophet Joseph Smith.
Brian: Thomas Sharp came from a Methodist family. In England, in the late 1700s, John and Charles Wesley started the Methodist movement….Thomas Sharp was 22 years old when he came to Warsaw in 1844 or 1840, rather, so he’s a rather young man. He tries his hand at the newspaper business with a partner named James Gamble. They spent six months, about, down on the river at the foot of Main. Then they move their press and change the name from Western World to the Warsaw Signal and they go up into an unknown location up on Main Street. Now some of the tour buses stop and point to building at 204 Main. They say, “This is where Thomas Sharp published.” That building wasn’t built till 1851, way after Thomas Sharp published there, but it was after the Mormon period.
But the turning point and Ben A. Marshall wrote a paper called the Turning Point of Thomas Sharp. There’s some discrepancy over some of the facts here. But when they set the cornerstone for the Nauvoo temple, in April six of 1841, Joseph Smith had a table up front for the dignitaries and some of the dignitaries, one of them was Chief Keokuk, from Iowa, who this town is named after, and he was up at the front table. He invited young Thomas Sharp, again, 22-23 years old to be up at the head table with him and they had this big feasts and a military parade and they set the cornerstone for the Nauvoo Temple.
GT: So at this time, Thomas is still friendly.
Brian: Yeah, neutral at best, neutral or friendly. Sometime after–now, people speculate that that day he turned against the church. There’s another historian and she’s kind of in my house with me and my wife. We’ve done some history, Brooke Lethar. She was at BYU. Now she’s studying at the University of Utah, and she has found research that it was awhile later before, Sharp turned negative. So there was a time where he was friendly and that he turned negative. So he goes up there and he starts writing terrible things in his paper. There was a term in in that area about Masons. If you were not a Mason, but you’re referring to Mason’s there was a term called Jack Mason.
Thomas Sharp is sitting there, seeing this bloc-voting going on up Nauvoo, and the two main political parties at the time were Democrats and Whigs. He says to his fellow people, fellow residents, he says, we don’t have a shot in heck of getting somebody elected unless we join together, put our differences aside, and maybe we can get somebody elected locally. So he and Aldrich, again, these are two guys stood trial, and the guy named William Roosevelt. William Roosevelt was the cousin to Teddy Roosevelt’s father. They’re living in Warsaw and they get together and they create this political party in 1841. It’s called the anti-Mormon political party. That wasn’t a mob. It wasn’t hostile, at least at first, but it was a political party to try to outvote the Mormons. Well, in 1842, Thomas Sharp decides to run for a seat in the state legislature. Well, who was he was he opposed by? The prophet’s little brother, William Smith, and William Smith beats him. In 1844 when Joseph Smith was running for President Thomas Sharp talks about running for the United States Senate, and then he learns that Hyrum Smith, the prophet’s brother was considering running for the same seat in the United States Senate and Sharp withdrew.
Thomas Ford was governor of Illinois in 1844 when Joseph Smith was killed. Brian Stutzman will talk about his role in Joseph Smith’s surrender, as well as his role in making sure a trial was held over the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum Smith.
Brian Thomas Ford goes to Nauvoo and he’s got 400 troops up from Warsaw. And he goes to Nauvoo. This June 27th to scold the Saints, basically. Word in Warsaw is that Thomas Ford may be in trouble.
GT: Governor Ford.
Brian: Yes, Governor Ford. They gather two battalions of men in Warsaw, and one in nearby Green Plains, and that was led by Colonel Levi Williams. They meet and on June 27th, they gather in the morning and they’re marching toward Nauvoo. There’s about 300 or 400 of them, and they get to a crossroads. It’s called Golden’s Point. It’s still there today. They are met by a messenger from Nauvoo, the governor’s messenger. The governor heard that there were some troops coming to Nauvoo to make war on the disarmed Latter-day Saints. So the messenger says, “The governor says he knows that you’re coming, and he wants you to disperse and he wants you to go home.” So they meet and they talk and some say, “Yeah, let’s do what the governor says.” One was at the doctor. His name is Charles Hay, and he goes back to [Warsaw.] His son, John Hay, who was by far Warsaw’s most famous person. He was Secretary of State to several presidents and opened up the Panama Canal and China and did some things and he also wrote about the murder later on. I’ll tell you about that. So Charles Hay goes back with a bunch of people. But Thomas Sharp and a bunch of them stand up and say, “You know what? We’ve gone this far. Instead of going to Nauvoo to rescue the governor, let’s just go and get rid of Joseph Smith.” He’s up talking, and he says, “If we get rid of Joseph Smith right now, the Mormons will hear about it and they’ll kill Governor Ford, and we’ll have two of our problems solved on the same day.” They were having problems with Governor Ford because Governor Ford was kind of playing both sides and wasn’t getting rid of the Mormons. They’d asked Governor Ford to expel the Latter-day Saints earlier.
GT: As had been done in Missouri earlier.
Brian: So they were trying to follow that. So, while Thomas Sharp’s talking, a messenger comes from Carthage. There’s a guard there named Frank Worrell. Frank Worrell writes a note and he says, “Now is the time to do the deed.” He sends it to Sharp. Sharp reads it and he rallies the troops and they go on to Carthage and commit the crime of murdering Joseph and Hyrum.
Brian: That night, they make a beeline back to this Warsaw House Hotel. It’s run by Sam and Ann Graham Fleming. Sam’s out in Boston, but it’s a restaurant, it’s a hotel, it’s a livery and some other things. It’s a big facility. Thomas Sharp’s the first one back at about 9pm on June 27, 1844. He asks a waitress, 18-year-old Eliza Graham. Eliza Graham is the niece of Ann, the owner, for a glass of water. Nobody knew that Eliza and her dad, they were living in Nauvoo. Eliza came down to help her Aunt run the Warsaw House. She was a member of the church, 18 years old. Thomas Sharp comes in. Other people come in, Jacob Davis. People who would eventually stand trial [came in], and they started talking and bragging about how they’d just killed Joseph Smith. Eliza was like whoa. Her aunt is in the back, cooking. Fifteen men gather and they go from 9 PM to 2 AM, and they’re all talking about who did what. “I was climbing the stairs to Carthage Jail and it was my gun that shot Joseph.” And then somebody else’s say, “No, it was mine.” Thomas Sharp and Jacob Davis together said, “We have finished off the leading men of the Mormon church.” Eliza, brilliant, remembers and she later testifies at the trial, and so does her aunt, for the opposite side. About 2 AM they go upstairs, the people who live there, Jacob Davis and another go upstairs.
Were you aware of Thomas Sharp and Thomas Ford’s role in the murder and trial of Joseph Smith? Do you think the miscarriage of justice gets enough credit in terms of Mormon history, or are these two men’s roles in the murder and trial overlooked?