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WERE THE JACKSON COUNTY CITIZENS WILLING
TO PAY THE MORMONS FOR THEIR LANDS?
It is clear from the first written understanding among the Jackson County citizens—The Secret Constitution—that it was their intention to pay the Mormons something for their property. Say they, in this document: “We, therefore, agree that after timely warning and receiving an adequate compensation for what little property they cannot take with them, they refuse to leave us in peace, as they found us
we agree to use such means as may be sufficient to remove them.” This intention does not seem to have been destroyed by the burning of the homes in the spring of 1834. A direct offer was not made, however, until the arrival of the armed Mormon Camp. At this time the Mormons were fairly well prepared to defend their property. The governor also was practically bound by his previous utterances to reinstate them. Under these conditions the Jackson County citizens found themselves in a difficult position for they had clearly defied law. In no sense, however, were they ready to recede from the position they had taken. Prominent men from other counties, such as Judge J. F. Ryland and others, anxious that the state might be spared the ignominy of the armed conflict which threatened, sought a compromise. Under these conditions the Old Citizens went the length of making the following offer which was presented by a committee at a public meeting held in the courthouse at Liberty, June 16, 1834:
PROPOSITIONS OF THE PEOPLE OF JACKSON COUNTY TO
THE MORMONS We, the undersigned committee, being fully authorized by the people of Jackson County, hereby propose to the Mormons, that they will buy all the land that the said Mormons own in the County of Jackson; and also all the improvements which the said Mormons had on any of the public lands in said County of Jackson, as they existed before the first disturbance between the people of Jackson and the Mormons, and for such as they have made since. They further propose that the valuation of said lands and improvements shall be ascertained by three disinterested arbitrators to be chosen and agreed to by both parties. They further propose, that should the parties disagree in the choice of arbitrators, then is to choose them. They further propose, that twelve of the Mormons shall be permitted to go along with the arbitrators to show them their land and improvement while valuing the same, and such other of the Mormons as the arbitrators shall wish to do so, to give them information; and the people of Jackson County hereby guarantee them safety while doing so. They further propose that when the arbitrators report the value of the land and improvements, as aforesaid, the people of Jackson
will pay the valuation, with one hundred percent added thereon, to the Mormons, within thirty days thereafter. They further propose, that the Mormons, are not to make any effort, ever after, to settle, either collectively or individually within the limits of Jackson County. The Mormons are to enter into bonds to insure the conveyance of their lands in Jackson County, according to the above terms, when the payment shall be made ; and the committee will enter into a like bond, with such security as may be deemed sufficient, for the payment of the money, according to the above proposition. While the arbitrators are investigating and deciding upon the matters referred to them, the Mormons are not to attempt to enter into Jackson County, or to settle there, except such as are by the foregoing propositions permitted to go there. They further propose, that the people of Jackson will sell all their lands, and improvements on public lands, in Jackson County, to the Mormons—the valuation to be obtained in the same manner—the same percent, in addition, to be paid, and the time the money is to be paid the same as the above set forth in our propositions to buy, the Mormons to give good security for the payment of the money, and the undersigned will give security that land will be conveyed to the Mormons. They further propose, that all parties are to remain as they are till the payment is made, at which time the people of Jackson County will give possession.
(Signed) Samuel C. Owens, Richard Fristoe, Thos. Campbell, John Davis, Thos. Jeffries, Smallwood Noland, Robert Rickman, Abraham McClellan, S. K. Noland.
To the average man an offer of twice a fair valuation of his property ought to be considered a fair offset for taking it from him by force. But the position of the Mormons was an unusual one. They believed that God had designated this particular land as the site for the New Jerusalem and that they had been called upon to assist in the building of this sacred city. To sell their lands and to agree never to return meant being false to their religion and to the trust God had reposed in them. On the other hand, since the Old Citizens owned much more land than did the Mormons, for the latter to attempt to buy them out at twice the actual value of their property, and to pay for it within 30 days, was altogether an impossibility. It is doubtful, had they been given a year's time and had been required to pay only a fair valuation for the Old Citizens' property, if they could have done so. The Old Citizens understood the situation and, it appears, purposely made the conditions such that the Mormons could not possibly buy. But, on the other hand, their offer remained to pay the Mormons twice the value of their lands and improvements.
On June 21st the Mormon Committee sent the following reply to the Jackson Committee:
Clay County, 1st June, 1834. Gentlemen :-Your propositions of Monday last have been generally made known to our people, and we are instructed to inform you that they cannot be acceded to.
Honorable propositions are now making on our part and we think we shall be enabled to deliver the same to you the early part of this week. We are happy to have it in our power to give you assurances that our brethren
here, together with those who have arrived from the East, are unanimously disposed to make every sacrifice for an honorable adjustment of our differences that could be required of free citizens of the United States.
Negotiations are now going on between some gentlemen of this county and our brethren, which are calculated to allay the great excitement in your county. We are informed that citizens of Jackson entertain fears that our people intend to invade their territory in a hostile manner. We assure you that their fears are groundless; such is not and never intentions.
(Signed) W. W. Phelps, A. S. Gilbert, W. E. McClellan, John Corrill, Isaac Morley.
To S. C. Owens, and others of the Jackson committee.1
This reply of the Mormons is of historic significance. The attitude taken (and it may here be observed that it was adhered to throughout) constitutes a substantial answer to all enquiries concerning the character of these early Mormons. Poor as they had been before their expulsion, what may be thought of them during this trying winter of 1833-34, stripped, as they were, of shelter and of adequate food supplies, and bivouacked on the western confines of civilization. An offer of twice the value of their old possessions must have carried a strong appeal to these people in their great need. In steadfastly refusing all offers of sale under the conditions imposed by the Jackson citizens, they undeniably demonstrated that they were in possession of strong integrity of character and in no sense wanting in genuine courage.
At the request of Hon. J. F. Ryland, who was making an effort to bring about a compromise, Cornelius Gillium, John Lincoln, John Sconce and another gentleman of Clay County, visited Zion's Camp, June 22, 1834, and the following counter proposals from the Mormons were the result:
COUNTER PROPOSITIONS FROM THE MORMONS
In the first place, it is not our intention to commit hostilities against any man or set of men, it is not our intention to injure any man's person or property, except in defending ourselves. Our flag has been exhibited to the above gentlemen who will be able to describe it. Our men were not taken from any manufacturing establishment.
It is our intention to go back to our lands in Jackson County, by order of the executive of this state, if possible. We have brought our arms with us for the purpose of self defence, as is well known to almost every man of the state, that we have every reason to put ourselves in an attitude of defense considering the abuse we have suffered in Jackson County. We are anxious for a settlement of the difficulties existing between us, upon honorable and constitutional principles.
We are willing for twelve disinterested men, six to be chosen by each party, and these men shall say what the possessions of those men are worth who cannot live with us in the county; and they shall have their money in one year; and none of the Mormons shall enter that county to reside until the money is paid. The damages that we have sustained in conse
6. p. 1092.
1 Times and Seasons, vol. 2 Ibid., vol 6, pp. 1108-09.
quence of having been driven away, shall also be left to the above twelve men, or they may all live in that county if they choose, and we will never molest them if they will let us alone, and permit us to enjoy our rights. We want to live in peace with all men and equal rights is all we ask. We wish to become permanent citzens of this state, and wish to bear our proportion in support of the government and to be protected by its laws. If the above propositions are complied with, we are willing to give security on our part; and we shall want the same of the people of Jackson County for the performance of this agreement. We do not wish to settle down in a body, except where we can purchase the land with money; for to take possession by conquest or the shedding of blood, is entirely foreign to our feelings. The shedding of blood we shall not be guilty of, until all just and honorable means among men prove insufficient to restore peace.
(Signed) Joseph Smith, F. G. Williams, Lyman Wight, Roger Orton, Orson Hyde, John S. Carter.
To John Lincoln, John Sconce, Geo. R. Moorhead, James H. Long, James Collins.
Four days later, S. C. Owens, chairman of the Jackson Committee, wrote to Amos Reese, Attorney for the Mormons, this reply to their proposals :
June 26, 1834. Mr. Amos Reese:
Dear Sir:—Since my return from Liberty, I have been busily engaged in conversing with the most influential men of our county, endeavoring to find out, if possible, what kind of a compromise will suit the Mormons on their part. The people here, enmasse, I find out, will do nothing like according to their propositions. We will have a meeting, if possible, on Monday next, at which time the proposals of the Mormons will be answered. In the meantime, I would be glad, that they, the Mormons, would cast an eye back of Clinton and see if that is not a country calculated for them.
S. C. Owens. In the meantime cholera broke out in “Zion's Camp” and, in a very short time, thirteen died. It was thought best to disband the camp and scatter, which was done on June 24th. Most of the camp members returned to Ohio. The effect on the negotiations, of this turn of affairs, soon became apparent. The Jackson citizens were now relieved of any possibility of the Mormons returning and taking possession of their homes by force. They had already made what they considered a generous offer of reimbursement to the Mormons. It was plainly to their advantage to let things slide.
On July 10, 1834, John Corrill, representing the Mormons, wrote to S. C. Owens of the Jackson Committee, as follows: Samuel C. Owens, Esq.,
Sir: The last time I saw you at Liberty you said that an answer to our proposals, you thought, would be forwarded soon, but it has not been
1 Times and Seasons, vol 6, pp. 1107-8. 21bid., vol. 6, p. 1123.
done. We are anxiously waiting to have a compromise effected if possible. Respecting our wheat in Jackson County, can it be secured so that we can receive the avails of it or not, seeing we are at present prohibited the privilege?
John Corrill. P. S. Please hand the following to Colonel Pitcher. (A Copy of the governor's order for the restoration of the Mormons' arms follows.)
But as far as I am able to find, no answer to this letter was ever received.