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Joseph Young affidavit for Haun’s Mill massacre

Haun's Mill Massacre - painting by C.C.A. Christensen

Haun’s Mill Massacre – painting by C.C.A. Christensen

As we celebrate Halloween, let us remember the events that occurred near this holiday 178 years ago. On October 30, 1838, 18 men and boys were murdered at Haun’s Mill on the western Missouri frontier. Of the 18 victims, 17 were Mormons – mercilessly shot and killed by a group of 240 Missouri militiamen. The Haun’s Mill Massacre marked the turning point of the Mormon Missouri War, bringing about the surrender of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and that of his followers, soon after.

Among all of the accounts of this horrific tale, the one most widely published among the Latter-day Saints was penned by Joseph Young. The older brother of Brigham Young, Joseph and his family moved from Kirtland, Ohio, to Independence, Missouri, and arrived at Haun’s Mill, in Caldwell County, Missouri, on October 28, 1836. Two days later on October 30 they witnessed the violent massacre at Haun’s Mill. Young was able to escape injury or death by hiding in the bushes.  Eight months later, in response to Joseph Smith’s request for members to send letters of redress and sworn affidavits to the Federal Government (see D&C 123:1-3), Joseph Young had his account recorded, sworn before the Adam County, Illinois, Circuit Court Judge on June 4, 1839.

Joseph Young (1797-1881)

Joseph Young (1797-1881)

L. Tom Perry Special Collections is pleased to announce to digitization of the original manuscript of Joseph Young’s account of the Haun’s Mill Massacre (Vault MSS 791).

According to Alex Baugh, BYU Professor of Church History and Doctrine, “within a few weeks after this affidavit was sworn it was published by Joseph Young’s brother-in-law, John P. Greene. At a church conference held during the first week of May 1839, Greene was called to preside over the Saints in New York City. At the time of his departure a month later, Greene had in hand several Mormon documents recounting the 1838 Mormon conflict, including Young’s deposition. En route to New York, Greene stopped in Cincinnati, where sometime in late June or July 1839 he published the documents in a forty-three page-pamphlet under the title Facts Relative to the Expulsion of the Mormons from the State of Missouri under the “Exterminating Order.” Joseph Young’s account was not only the first account of the Haun’s Mill Massacre to appear in the press, but his narrative continued to be published in other works as the principal testimony describing the tragedy” (Alexander L. Baugh, “Joseph Young’s Affidavit of the Massacre at Haun’s Mill,” BYU Studies 38, no. 1, 1999). Click here for a link to Baugh’s full article on this document, including a complete annotated transcription.

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