Yesterday is an awful anniversary. October 27, 1838, Governor Lilburn Boggs signed the Extermination Order, saying that Mormons were to be driven from the state. Did that mean it was legal to kill Mormons? BYU Church history professor, Dr. Alex Baugh will tackle that question, and clear up some myths surrounding the Extermination Order.
Alex: October 27, 1838–we call it the Extermination Order. But Boggs is not saying go out and kill every Mormon. That’s not legal. These are American citizens. These are Missouri citizens. What he’s saying is, “The Mormons must be exterminated.” And then he says, “Or in other words, driven from the state.” I think it’s very clear that he’s basically saying, “Let’s tell them, they’ve got to get out.” Now that order was unclear to some people, I’ll be honest with you. I think that we can safely say, that.
GT: Do you think that some Missourians took that as license to kill?
Alex: No, not really. I think it confused them. And Doniphan and others who, when they read the order, kind of wonder what’s he doing, but I think they realized he’s not saying go kill all the Mormons. He’s just saying, get them out of the state. Now, if they don’t go, then we have will take more decisive action. But Boggs is not a killer. Mormons might hate that statement. He’s a Christian man. He has 10 children. But he’s a politician for crying out loud and he’s going to appease his own Missourians, not the Mormons. He’s had it with them. He’s been dealing with us since Jackson County, because he lived in Jackson County. He didn’t like us there as much as anybody. We just seem to keep having problems with us. So he’s saying it’s time, states rights. He can do what he wants, get them out of here, let somebody else deal with them. Rick, if you read an 1828 dictionary, Webster’s Dictionary, the first dictionary in the United States, the first definition of exterminate is to remove from within one’s borders. So clearly, riddance was exterminate that we would kind of associate with today. But Boggs, I think if you read carefully his [order,] he’s saying they must be driven from the state. Now, if they don’t go, then we can have forceful action against them. I mean, we may have to take stricter measures. But he’s not saying go kill a Mormon.
Alex: Or go kill all the Mormons. I think Doniphan and others realize that that’s what the order stood for. So let’s get them to surrender, get them to leave. In fact, later when he talks to the Missouri legislature, when was it 1840, 39-40? Anyway, he says, “I issued the extermination order to prevent the effusion of blood. I don’t want people killed. I want them removed. So we don’t have to do more extreme measures.” So I’m just absolutely convinced that and yet so many Latter-day Saints think that the Extermination Order was a legal order to kill.
GT: Well, let me tell you something, that because I was in Kansas City in June grading AP Statistics exams. I had a roommate, and he actually grew up in Missouri and he mentioned something about Liberty, Missouri. I’m like, “Oh, I want to go to Liberty.” And he’s like, “What do you want to know about Liberty?” And I’m like, “Oh, well, Liberty Jail and Joseph Smith,” and then he said to me, “You know, it was once legal to kill a Mormon in Missouri.”
Alex: I’ve heard that for so many years, it just I just makes me ill.
GT: There are non-Mormons that believe this, too.
Three days later on October 30th, 17 Mormon men and boys were dead, although Alex Baugh says the mobs weren’t aware of the Extermination Order. Baugh even argues that if the mobs had known of the Extermination Order, it might have saved lives because the mobs may not have gone after the residents of Hawn’s Mill.
The story of Hawn’s Mill, Missouri is a tragedy. You may have noticed I have been spelling the name H A W N, rather than the traditional spelling of H A U N. In our next conversation with Dr. Alex Baugh, we discuss the spelling of Jacob’s name, and why it has likely been misspelled by historians for over a century.
Alex: [Jacob] is in New York, marries. His first wife dies, I think in childbearing. Then he marries Harriet… I believe they married in Buffalo. But anyway, he’s kind of one of these, you know, “Go West, young man.” Next we pick him up, he’s near Green Bay, Wisconsin… Then he moves down to Caldwell County, Missouri…He’s got a mill operation. You can’t pack that up and move it. He’s not going anywhere. So he stays. He’s not a Latter-day Saint and he never was. He spells his name HAWN, not HAUN. But you can understand that’s a phonetic spelling, you can spell it HAHN. We’ve got a place in Orem here, they have HAHN. It’s German. [There are] multiple, different spellings. For years we’ve been looking for Hawn with HAUN, because that’s the way it was always on the maps and everything that I found his name was HAWN.
I was in my office one time and I got an email from Kyle Mayer up at Family History [library.] He says, “I got a lady here who needs to talk to you.” Now I can’t remember her name. But I emailed her and [Kyle] says, “I think you you might want to talk to her, communicate with her. She’s got some information about Jacob Hawn. There might be a connection.” Anyway, I write to her. I wish I could remember her name. As soon as we stop talking, I’ll remember. She was so helpful. She said, “I’m reading a book by Beverly Cleary.” Do you know who Beverly Cleary is?
GT: Yes, the children’s author.
Alex: Yeah, Ramona and all. She’s got an autobiography called, A Girl From Yamhill. Beverly Cleary was born in the Yamhill, Oregon. In the book, she says, “My great grandfather”, I think it was, “was a man by the name of Jacob Hawn. He was a miller, and in 1835, he was in Caldwell County, Missouri.”
GT: Oh my goodness.
Alex: And anyway, they had two children there. I’m going, “Oh my gosh.” Well, again, I got the email. I walked right over to the Harold B. Lee library and checked out that book and read exactly where she was telling me about. Two weeks later, I was on my way to Portland, Oregon and Yamhill is a little south. I went there. I’m trying to think of the county. Rick, I found out everything about Jacob Hawn. I found his burial place, I found out all about him.
GT: All through Beverly Cleary, essentially.
Alex: Yep. I have written, I’ve tried to find her. She’s 100 years old right now.
Did you know we’ve been spelling Jacob’s last name wrong for a century?
Dr. Alex Baugh describes the awful tragedy that includes mutilation of corpses, and gruesome injuries to a boy as young as 7 years old. As we approach Halloween, it is a very sad anniversary to the awful tragedy. If you are sensitive to these kinds of descriptions, you may want to skip this episode.
Alex: So we’ve got 30 plus men. But they had thought if there was conflict, that perhaps they could use this unfinished blacksmith shop as a garrison, a place of defense. That was a bad choice, because, unfortunately, it was not finished. But they thought, “Well, this will be good. It wasn’t chinked or daubed, so we can shoot through the cracks. But that’s going to prove fatal. What ends up happening then is they start attacking and so the women immediately leave. I’m sure this was pre-arranged. They get out of there. Most of them fled across the river, across the Mill, and race up the hill into the woods. They shot at a woman, her name was Mary Steadwell, and she was shot in the hand. So they’re indiscriminate. They’re not just firing at men. They’re firing at women and children. These women are making their way out. She was injured, and she fell behind a log and her dress was over the log. So they kept pelting the log. There were 20 bullets right in the log itself, but she only had the hand injured. But they’re after these the women and children, too. So, the men try to find some sort of defense in the blacksmith shop. They’ve got the numbers, but about 30 some odd men went in there and four boys with the intent of defending themselves and the community. But as these waves come in, they were slowly able to get under the fire, and eventually come right on to [shop.] The south end is where the door was, and that faced the river.
Again, this is Thomas McBride. He was 62 years old. He was probably the oldest guy there. He makes his way out and gets hit a couple of times….McBride is just wounded terribly….A guy named Jacob Rogers from Daviess County, he’s one of the ones [the Mormons] expelled. He finds Thomas McBride and he says, “Give me your weapon.” He’s thinking, “Okay, I’m wounded, but he won’t hurt me. I’m giving up my weapon.” He gives it to him and he actually shoots him. Then he takes a corn cutter and cuts off some of his fingers. He mutilates him. I mean, this is a terrible, horrific killing.
Isaac Leaney was pelted and he made his way and eventually was able to get into the home of Jacob Hawn, where some of the women had assembled and were praying. They took care of him….What’s interesting is years later, and Wilford Woodard talks about this, and I may be off a little bit on the figures, but he was walking in Nauvoo, and Isaac Leaney goes, “Brother Woodruff, do you want to see the clothes I was shot in?” They said, “He went in, he laid out his clothes.” I think he said there were 28 bullet holes.
What are your thoughts? Was there anything the Mormons did to deserve death?