11. Joseph Smith Carthage Jail

The Nauvoo City Council authorized the destruction of a printing press that had been printing lies about the Mormon Church. This made neighbors not of the Mormon religion very angry, and a riot followed. On June 24, 1844, all sixteen members of the Nauvoo Council were arrested for instigating a riot. All were released the next day except Joseph Smith and Hyrum Smith, who were kept on false charges of treason. John Taylor, and Willard Richards stayed with Joseph and Hyrum even though they had been released. The Governor promised the men that if they submitted to the arrest and went to jail in Carthage, he would protect them. Joseph Smith felt that he would not be safe at Carthage and made plans with Hyrum to leave Nauvoo. Emma asked him to return to Nauvoo because he was being called a coward. Joseph and Hyrum returned and rode to Carthage to turn themselves in.

Carthage Jail MormonWhile in Carthage, Joseph was threatened numerous times.On the morning of June 27, 1844, while at Carthage Jail, Joseph wrote a letter to Emma, “I am very much resigned to my lot, knowing I am justified, and hove done the best that could be done. Give my love to the children and all my friends…May God bless you all.” That day the jailer allowed the men to stay in the upstairs bedroom instead of the jail, because he felt that they would be more comfortable there.During the afternoon the four men in the jail, Joseph, Hyrum, John Taylor, and Willard Richards were feeling depressed. They asked John Taylor to sing a Hymn called “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief.”Just as the men finished the song, a little after 5:00 p.m., a mob of 100 men who had blackened their faces for disguise, headed for the jail. They stormed the jail. The four men tried to keep them out of the room by barricading the door, but the mob began firing through the door. Hyrum was shot through the door, on the left side of the face. He fell back exclaiming, “I am a dead man.” Joseph leaned over his brother and said “Oh dear, brother Hyrum!” with a look of sorrow. Joseph fired three shots through the door at the mob. After firing the shots, perhaps in an attempt to distract the mob from the other men, Joseph turned and headed for the window. He was shot twice in the back and twice in the chest from outside the window, and killed. His body fell through the window. John Taylor attempted to leave through the window, but was hit. Another shot hit his pocket watch, another, his wrist, and another in his left knee, and another in his left hip. Willard Richards luckily only had his ear slightly grazed.The mob ran outside to make sure Joseph was dead. While they were gone, Willard Richards hid John Taylor, who was still alive, because he was expecting the mob to return, but they did not. The prophet Joseph Smith’s brother, Samuel had heard about the threats on Joseph’s life and was on his way to Carthage. He arrived that same evening and was the one who wrote the letter back to Nauvoo telling the Saints that their prophet and his brother Hyrum were dead. Samuel’s ride to Carthage was hard and fast, because he too was being followed and threatened by a mob. A short time later Samuel died from complications of injuries he received on June 27. Because of this, he is often referred to as the third martyr.Carthage Jail was used as a jail for 25 years, and then converted into a private home. The Mormon Church bought the building and property in 1903 for $4,000. Joseph F. Smith was President at the time it was purchased. The building has now been restored and is open to the public for tours.

See the next page in the timeline series.

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