Previous chapter Table of Contents Next chapter
LAMONI AND THE ORDER OF ENOCH
During these scenes of missionary activity, the church at home was also progressing. The spring conference of 1873 saw an important reorganization of the leading quorums of the church by revelation. Since the very foundation of the church has always rested upon the belief of Latter Day Saints that God could communicate his will to the people who were his children upon the earth now as in former years, they naturally rejoiced at the long revelation of 1873, which seemed to seal their faith with the assurance that their chosen leader was the prophet son of a prophet father. There had been three brief revelations before, one in 1861 on the subject of tithing, one in 1863 calling William Marks to the presidency and urging that elders be sent two by two, and a third in May, 1865, about ordaining men of every race and promising that the Quorum of Twelve should soon be filled.
In spite of the fact that the members of the Quorum of Twelve had in the past not been chosen by direct revelation, the feeling had obtained throughout the church that they should be so selected, and the revelation of 1873 confirmed that opinion. William H. Kelley, Thomas W. Smith, James Caffall, John H. Lake, Alexander H. Smith, Zenas H. Gurley, Jr., and Joseph R. Lambert were chosen to make ten in the Quorum of Apostles. The names of Daniel B. Rasey and Reuben Newkirk, since they could no longer travel in the field, but had for many years devoted themselves to their secular affairs, were dropped from the Quorum. Jason W. Briggs, E. C. Briggs, and Josiah Elis of the old Quorum remained.
The wisdom of this revelation was manifest by time, as all but one of these ten men spent the remainder of their lives in the service of the church, leaving behind them honorable records full of achievement. The other one, Jason W. Briggs, though, he became disaffected from the church, was an able man and lived a life of honor and integrity.
From the very first the "gathering" had been talked and variously urged. Some were slightly impatient with delays, and it became apparent that some place where land was cheap must be selected for the homes of the incoming tide of Saints from all over the United States, England, and now, from Scandinavia. An Order of Enoch was organized, and at the conference of 1875 a "removal committee," who made trips of investigation to various parts of the country. Chicago and vicinity, Nauvoo, Stewartsville, Far West, Saint Joseph, Council Bluffs, and other places were considered.
The Illinois press had concerned themselves with the coming of Young Joseph to the church in 1860. They now became interested in the proposed move, and some of their comments show the change wrought in public opinion in the course of a decade and a half by this young man, Joseph Smith, and the movement he led. The Plano Mirror of June 22, 1876, carried this comment:
There is a vigorous effort on the part of the Latter Day Saints to change the location of the headquarters of the church from Plano to some new Zion, where the whole church can be concentrated in a community of its own. This is a favorite scheme with the leaders of the church, and they seem now to be in earnest. There is a call to the "Saints" in the last Herald from President Joseph Smith, chairman of the board of removal, urging the matter. . . .
Should these people leave Plano, they will be a loss to the village; they are good citizens and number two hundred in Plano and vicinity. Elder Smith is a good man, and however much others may dissent from his Mormon views, all who know him respect him.
On the 18th of December, 1877, President Smith was somewhat surprised to take from the post office an official-looking document from Nauvoo. It was a petition. He remembered the one he received in 1860, stating in no uncertain terms that Young Joseph was not wanted in Hancock County since his affiliation with the "Mormon" people.1
He opened the document and read:
We, the undersigned citizens of Nauvoo, and surrounding country, most cordially invite the head or leaders of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, to establish the headquarters of their church in said city of Nauvoo.
We believe that the odium rightfully attached to the Brighamite Mormons in the infamous practice of polygamy is detached from the Reorganized Church of Latter Day Saints; we believe you will receive a cordial welcome and reception rom all philanthropic people of our country, and we further believe by establishing the headquarters of your church in the aforesaid city of Nauvoo, with our united efforts we can build, or make it one of the most populous cities in the military district.
Then followed a list of names, much of it in double column, three and a half yards long, containing the names of the leading men in the city.
And to cap it all, that veteran lawyer and newspaper man of Carthage, Thomas C. Sharp, whose militant and fiery editorials in the Warsaw Signal had done much to arouse public opinion against Joseph Smith and who stood trial for complicity in his death but was acquitted, published an interesting comment in his paper, the Carthage Gazette, taking back, of course, none of the acts of his past--politicians are not made that way--but offering this tribute to Young Joseph:
The Nauvoo Independent says that a petition, signed by some four hundred persons, has been forwarded to Joseph Smith, Jr., requesting him to make Nauvoo the headquarters of his reformed church of Latter Day Saints. Some of our old anti-Mormon citizens are a little nervous over this matter--we are not. Young Jo is a different man from old Jo, and don't seek to gather all the faithful together, that he may use them politically and financially as the Brighamites do. There is nothing objectionable in Young Jo's church, that we have heard of, except his creed, and as to creeds we have nothing to say.2
At length the removal committee chose none of the places mentioned, but rather went into a comparatively new country in southwestern Iowa, where the Order of Enoch had already bought land and where there was plenty of room for development.
This place was named Lamoni3 and was often referred to in the first few years as "The Colony." The company which settled it (the Order of Enoch) did so under the auspices of the Burlington & Quincy Railroad. The town in Fayette Township, Decatur County, was laid out in 1879. At this time there was in the vicinity only one farmhouse, owned by a Mr. Shepard, on an eighty-acre farm just north of town. His widow afterward sold this farm to F. Drummond, who erected the house finally owned and occupied by E. H. Dancer just north of town. Mr. Dancer came to it in 1877. The nearest farm was owned by E. Ferguson, one-half mile east of what is now Lamoni. The first Latter Day Saints to settle in Lamoni were S. F. Walker and his wife, the Marietta Faulconer of Sandwich days. The couple had homesteaded in Nevada and come back to help make the proposed colony a success. Zenas H. Gurley, Jr., kept the first "stock of goods" in what is now Lamoni, at "Hopkins corner." Elijah Banta was the first agent of the cornpany; David Dancer followed, and the Order of Enoch operated in this way until the last of the land was sold. The railroad coming through in 1879, a town was laid out and called Lamoni. Before that time a post office called Sedgewick, near the town, received the mail of the "colonists." Later Alexander H. Smith brought his family from Nauvoo, and settled just across the Missouri line near Andover. He brought with him his invalid brother David, in the vain hope that country life might restore him to health.
Not far away a group of Saints had settled some years before at a place called "Pleasant Plain," laid out as a village as early as 1854, but always called "Nine-Eagles" on account of a Pleasant Plain in Jefferson County, Iowa. Some years later, Pleasanton was officially adopted as the name of this settlement and post office.
Some of the church authorities visited the little colony on the way home from the fall conference in western Iowa, and at the same time attended the Decatur District conference in 1875. (This colony bought land in 1870-1871.)
It was a very enjoyable trip [Joseph Smith wrote], and resulted in satisfying the excursionists that the land was excellent, the crops this year good, the people agreeable, the conference a pleasant one, and the country a delightful one to live in. Everybody, myself included, had a strong attack of the farming and pastoral fever. Now don't rush into that region all at once, but go cautiously, carefully, and with all things prepared before you; as the law directs. . . .
There are a hundred fifty-three members in the Lamoni Branch this fall, with a constant prospect of increase, as an interest is awakened all over the district. At their last conference it was resolved to build a chapel for worship, and a building committee was appointed, with instructions to proceed at once to the completion of the work....
We are also authorized to say that no one, be he Saint or otherwise, who will not consent to the righteousness of God and the rules of right dealing between man and man, is wanted there--nor will such be welcome there, either to those in or out of the church. But men--honest men--true men and women will find warm hearts and good neighbors. There is neither justice of the peace nor constable in this township where the Saints are settled; neither has there been a law-suit there during the five years of their settling there.4
In 1877 Joseph Smith made a tour of land not far from Independence, and also visited Independence itself.
He first visited Davis City, arriving there on a Saturday afternoon in August. He found many Saints in the little town. After remaining over Sunday, preaching in the afternoon, he left with a Brother Fowler, whom he had formerly known in Amboy, to go to the "colony," as folks about there called it. But a shower came up, and he took refuge for the night in the first house on the prairie "within reach," which happened to be the home of Brother Fowler. He writes of it thus:
The country where the Order of Enoch had located the scene of their operations has been frequently described, but we found a changed land to that we visited and rode over some six years ago. Then, a wilderness of arable land, untouched by the plow; and dotted only here and there by a farm or a grove, greeted the eye; now, a cheerful scene of busy farm life, a wide spread of growing corn and wheat and rye and oats and waving grass was seen everywhere, broken now and then by an interval of untitled land, showing the places yet open to the settler; where the cattle roamed freely, the occupants, literally, of a "thousand hills." It was rightly called a rolling country; very fair to look upon, and giving to the careful and industrious husbandman a just reward for his labor. . . .
We found the Saints by no means discouraged or cast down. Their faith, grand and glorious, was a well-spring of power to them; and they were grappling with difficulty as strong men to wrestle, calm, watchful, wary, and ready. . . .
Brother M. A. Meder, of California, whom we had come to meet, had not yet arrived, so we procured a team, and began a tour of examination to see the country. We spent Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, the 16th, 17th, and 18th, visiting near localities, and on the 19th we started from Brother George Adams', one of the most westerly farms in the colony, en route for Independence via Eagleville, Bethany, Pattonsburg, Maysville, and Stewartsville...
At Stewartsville we becsme the guests of Brother J. T. Kinnaman, one of the sweet singers of Israel--one whom Solomon would have placed with Asaph and his band had he lived in his day. We tarried here over Saturday and Sunday, preaching twice in Crab Orchard Schoolhouse to houses full of people, Saints, and inquirers.5
After a visit to Independence, he went back by wagon to Lamoni with T. W. Smith. He continues:
And though the way was long, the hills steep and rugged, we managed to cheer the way by conversation about the country and its possibilities for the Saints, about doctrine and its effects, and with argument about things that we did not see alike. . . .
Prices for farms range from five to thirty dollars per acre; now and then improved farms being offered for twelve dollars and fifty cents. Brother J. T. Kinnaman paid nineteen hundred dollars for one hundred and fifteen acres, including some twenty of timberland. Brother McKee of California paid twenty-three dollars per acre for his farm. These were both improved farms, though the improvements were not the best.
In the editorial department of the Herald, Joseph Smith detailed in all these places farming conditions, including crops, price of land, and other factors, and almost immediately the country between Independence and Lamoni began to be settled by Latter Day Saint farmers. Thus very slowly the long-expected "gathering" began to take place.
While a great deal of time was taken to consider where best to move the business interests of the church, they were eventually taken to Lamoni. The last number of the Herald issued from Plano, October 15, 1881, contained the following editorial comment:
President Joseph Smith left Plano on October 7, with his family and household effects for Lamoni....
This issue closes the stay of the Herald in Plano, Kendall County, Illinois. It came here in 1863, and was kindly received by the leading citizens of the place. It began its career here with a list of three hundred subscribers, many of them free; and some of them taking several copies. It had a press and fixtures costing about two hundred and seventy-five dollars, and occupied one room about eighteen by twenty feet square. It had Brother Isaac Sheen for its editorial force, and Brother William D. Morton, senior, as its foreman, compositor, and pressman, with a Washington Medallion number four hand press as its machinery. It will reach Lamoni, Decatur County, Iowa, and begin a new departure (on the old way) with an eight horse power engine, two cylinder power presses, and a jobber press, with type and other fixtures to match, an office two stories high, thirty by sixtyfive feet in size (engine room attached), an editor, bookkeeper, superintendent, and five compositors.6
The Kendall County Record, published at Yorkville, county seat of Kendall County, Illinois, noticed the departure of President Smith as follows:
Elder Joseph Smith, the President of the Reorganized Church of Latter Day Saints, took his final departure from Plano last Saturday night. The publishing house will follow inside of a week. The concern goes to Lamoni, Iowa, where the central organization will be stationed. Mr. Smith leaves Plano, but carries the good will of Plano's citizens with him. He has lived here for the past fifteen years, and has always borne the reputation of a good citizen. Always to be found on the side of right, he maintained his position to the end, and goes to his future home with sad farewells and good wishes of his many friends. The organization will be continued in Plano.7
The prejudice against the Saints was fast disappearing. Two years before there had been a local conference held in Far West District, and Alexander H. Smith attended, visiting the spot from which as a babe in his mother's arms he had been driven in winter before an angry mob. He says:
It was with peculiar feelings that I joined in the business of the conference; and these feelings were intensified when I was called upon to speak, and subsequently to baptize in the immediate neighborhood of my birthplace, whence forty years ago my father and mother were driven by mob violence. I could not help thinking that God in his own time and way was preparing for the return from exile those who are faithful, to their land of promise, and my heart was soft, my trust strengthened in the work.
In 1881 Joseph Smith preached in the courthouse in Carthage in the very room where his father and uncle were arraigned in 1844. Newspaper comments were favorable, and that old-time enemy of the church in Nauvoo, Thomas C. Sharp, commented in a manner that had only a hint of the fire-eating editor of the Warsaw Signal in the 1840's:
The lectures of Elder Joseph Smith, of the Reorganized Mormon Church, at the courthouse, on Friday and Saturday evenings, and on Sunday morning and evening, were attended by crowded audiences. We were not present at any of the lectures, but learn from those who were that there was nothing said at which any person could take offense. He simply argued religious questions from a Mormon standpoint, but repudiated polygamy. Mr. Smith has the reputation of being a gentleman and a good citizen, and received from our people the courteous treatment which every such man, irrespective of his religious views, is entitled to.
During the year 1880, it was determined to take action to clear title to the temple property in Kirtland. After the temple had stood empty for some time, title had been secured by one Russell Huntley, who deeded it to Joseph Smith and Mark H. Forscutt. It was thought best for the church to get judgment against everyone having apparent shadow of title. As was expected, the suit was not contested, but the court action successfully cleared the title. About three years later, April 6, 1883, the first General Conference of the Reorganized Church in Kirtland Temple was held.
In 1884 the Brick Church of beloved memory was built by the congregation in Lamoni, the largest chapel built by the Reorganization to that date, and an ambitious structure for so small a group. During the summer following, the "Ladies Mite Society" of Lamoni took their patiently earned savings and bought the "old church bell"8 that, although it went with the "Brick Church" to a fiery grave in January, 1931, still in memory chimes its call to worship in the hearts of the Latter Day Saint youth who grew up within the sound of its mighty voice. How the most sacred sorrows and joys of Lamoni Saints have attuned themselves through the years to the melodious swing of that great bell!
The years brought their share of shadows with sunshine. Death invaded the ranks, as it must inevitably do. The faithful Scotchman, Glaud Rodger, who introduced the gospel into Australia, died in his mission field at Elko, Nevada, on August 3, 1884, and March 1, 1886, Peter N. Brix, one of the early Danish missionaries, passed away in Aalborg, Denmark, adding to the shadow of death, the sorrow of the absence and burial of the dear one far from home and home folk.
By 1887 Lamoni had attained to the dignity of a population of 400. But to the Saints the greatest tragedy of all was the withdrawal from the church of Jason W. Briggs and of Zenas H. Gurley, Jr., son of the Zenas H. Gurley who was so interested in the foundations of the Reorganized Church. The causes leading to these withdrawals seem quite inadequate, for a great deal of the difficulty arose from personal misunderstandings. In later years Briggs said on the witness stand in the Temple Lot Suit:
There were no changes in the doctrines of the church that my action was based on in separating from the church. . . . There was nothing changed that I would consider vital at all in the doctrine. ... I did not withdraw because of any change in doctrine or because anything new was brought in, but it was in the interpretation put upon certain lines of policy and doctrine; and while others were allowed to discuss those lines of policy, I was not permitted to do so.
This did not refer to any action of the body so restricting him, but to one of the editors of the Herald with whom he had some difference as to what could properly be put into the columns of the Herald.
During the first eight years after the removal of the church to Lamoni, the Bishop of the church was George A. Blakeslee, a son of the old-time missionary, James Blakeslee. Upon his death in 1890, Edmund L. Kelley, son of Richard Yancy Kelley who was an elder in the church in Nauvoo days, came to the church as Bishop. He remained the financial guardian of the church through a period of much financial uncertainty.
Edmund L. Kelley had attained a good education for that time in the West, and mostly by his own efforts. His father had died, leaving a large family, and he was therefore compelled to make his own way in the world. He had attended Iowa University during parts of the years 1863 and 1864, then gone to Poughkeepsie, New York, to attend the Eastman Business College, from whence after graduation he went to New York City seeking employment, and finding none along his own line, hired out as a boat hand on the steamer "Herald" running between New York City and Rondout on the Hudson until he could get a position teaching school. The first of January, 1866, he took the principalship of a boys' school in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, and at the close of the term returned to the West and worked for Edwards and Greenough during the summer months on the Chicago Directory. From then, much of his time was spent in teaching school, returning for another term of college in Iowa City in 1870, then back again to schoolteaching. In May, 1871, he accepted his first mission for the church, and in the first part of May, 1871, preached his first sermon, near Wilmington, Illinois.
In September he quit missionary work and entered the college at Iowa City again to study law, and was able to finish his work and open a law office in Glenwood, Iowa, the following year. He served as counselor to Bishop Blakeslee throughout his term of office, and succeeded, by call through the President of the church, to the office of presiding bishop upon Brother Blakeslee's death.
1 See page 454.
2 Carthage Gazette, December 26, 1877; Saints' Herald, Volume 25, page 24, January 15, 1878; Church History, Volume 4, pages 207, 208.
3 History of Ringgold and Decatur Counties, Lewis Publishing House, Chicago, 1887, page 782, seq.
4 Saints' Herald, Volume 22, pages 625, 626; Church History, Volume 4, page 120.
5 Church History, Volume 4, page 186.
6 The Saints' Herald, October 15, 1881, page 322.
7 Kendall County Record, Yorkville, Illinois (date unknown); Church History, Volume 4, page 373.
8 Saints' Herald, Volume 32, page 591 (1885).
Previous chapter Table of Contents Next chapter