Let’s face it. Missouri settlers didn’t take kindly to outsiders. When the state of Missouri held a public auction to sell state lands, non-Mormon Jones Flournoy bought the land. A week later, Bishop Partridge came and purchased land that would be known as the Temple Lot. Did Partridge get a fair price? Historian Jean Addams will tell us fact from fiction.
GT: [I heard that] Jones Flournoy had just purchased that property, probably a week before the Hedrickites arrived and basically just made a bit huge profit and he didn’t actually own it for that long. Is that true?
Jean: That’s where the stories started going every which way but correct. Flournoy, as the original squatter, when the state of Missouri made that land available. It wasn’t federal land. It was seminary land. The state have been given the seminary land as part of their statehood. They got two townships and that equal 72 sections. Forty some sections were in Jackson county as it turned out and Independence was surrounded by them. So the individual squatters who thought that they could purchase the surveyed property from the federal government in 1828 are now told nope, that’s state land, and you’re going to have to wait for them. So the state in December of 1830 authorized it to be sold in December of 1831, not for $1.25 an acre which the federal sold it for, but for $2 an acre, the idea being raising more money for the eventual University of Missouri.
Jean: Flournoy had the right, as a squatter, to make the first purchase. Furthermore, he’s the postmaster in town, a well-established individual. Nobody’s going to ace out those original squatters. In fact, they were so intent on this, Rick, they were so intent that an individual that came to town speculating to buy up lots around Independence and so forth, they actually took him and put him in jail.
GT: Who in jail?
Jean: This individual from Virginia, so that he could not go to the auction. He then tried to get a local judge to help him and the individuals, “landholders” in good old Jackson County. Can you imagine that happening? They threatened the judge that they would put him in jail with him if he interfered in any way.
GT: Oh, really?
Jean: Anyway, so as a result, nobody interfered with the squatters. They bought the property. Jones Flournoy sold it a week later, a portion of his acreage. He sold it to Edward Partridge.
A momentous court battle raged in Missouri of the temple lot between the RLDS Church and the Church of Christ. Both claimed to be the rightful successor to Joseph Smith’s church. While the LDS Church in Salt Lake City also claimed to be the true successor to Joseph Smith’s legacy, they didn’t want the RLDS Church to win the court battle, and thus made an alliance with the Church of Christ. Jean Addams tells more about this battle. It turns out this court battle had big implications on our knowledge of LDS polygamy, even though the other two churches rejected polygamy.
GT: When was that lawsuit that was first launched where the RLDS Church tried to take over the lot? What year was that?
Jean: [It was] 1891-92.
GT: So the interesting thing for me is the Temple Lot case, where the LDS Church got involved in this dispute with two other churches. Can you tell about that?
Jean: Wealthy members of the LDS church loaned the money, rather than the LDS Church. It got funneled, then, through Cannon’s nephew, John Cannon, who would become a friend with Charles Hall. So the loan was made directly that way.
GT: Is John Cannon related to George Q. Cannon?
Jean: Yes. He is a nephew, he’s an attorney.
GT: So John is a member of the…
Jean: LDS Church.
GT: So the big thing for me, historically, is we always–I spoke with Brian Hales about polygamy, and so there’s a lot of polygamy documents that came out with this Temple Lot case.
GT: Can you tell us a little bit more about that?
Jean: Well, the temple lot case got a lot of coverage. There were a lot of interviews, depositions, both in Salt Lake City, there were some taken in Denver, there were some, obviously, taken back in Missouri. It got a lot of coverage. When people would come in for their deposition, then the attorneys would ask a lot of the mundane kind of questions. When did you first do this? When did you first do that? When did you move to Missouri? What did your family do? Did you know Edward Partridge? Did you live near the temple lot? From all that information, a wealth of information came out in terms of historical material that wasn’t available elsewhere.
What are your questions about the Temple Lot? Are you surprised how well the Church of Christ got along with their Missouri neighbors given the history in Jackson County? Have you visited the Temple Lot Church?
Interesting interview. I know my minimal familiarity with the Temple Lot case comes from seeing it as a reference point in pieces written about polygamy. Great to get a more direct discussion of it here. Also a reminder of how religious movements often descend into real estate feuding.
The “temple lot” is much larger than the somewhat triangular property where the Church of Christ HQ building is located (bounded by Walnut, River, & Lexington streets) but includes land under the Community of Christ Temple & Auditorium as well as the LDS Visitors Center. When the site for the CofC Temple was announced back in the 1980s the church made a pretty big deal of that fact.
Yes, you’re correct Rich. John Hamer has some awesome maps (and history) in this post at BCC: https://bycommonconsent.com/2009/01/19/the-temple-lot/