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Mormonism LIVE: 093: The Tar and Feathering of Joseph Smith

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In Mormon parlance, the Tar and Feathering of Joseph Smith is a faith promoting story about a mob of mean men punishing Joseph Smith for being a prophet. But it doesn’t take one long when their ears are to the ground in non-correlated circles to hear rumblings that the tar and feathering is connected to something more devious on Joseph Smith’s end. In this episode Bill & RFM explore the story of Joseph Smith’s being tarred and feathered to see what info there is that can best explain this mob mentality in the wee hours of the morning of March 25, 1832.

A.) Setup of the story with the context of how Joseph Smith was in Hiram Ohio and what other historical context is needed to help people grasp this moment historically (Leaving out the possible scandalous context)

  1. In 1818, John and Alice (known as Elsa) Johnson came to Hiram, Ohio, about 31 miles southeast of Kirtland. The family lived in several log cabins while they built a home directly across the road. The Johnsons had 15 children; 9 lived to adulthood: Alice, Fanny, John Jr., Luke, Olmstead, Lyman, Emily, Marinda, and Justin.
  2. Sidney Rigdon became a pastor in Mentor Ohio(adjacent & NE of Kirtland). He became converted to Mormonism via Parley Pratt’s mission whom he knew, while Smith lived in NY. After Sidney Rigdon baptized John and Elsa’s 19-year-old son, Lyman, in February 1831, the couple read the Book of Mormon and believed.  By May, all members of the Johnson family were baptized except Olmstead, who had moved to Mexico.
  3. Later that year, the Prophet, seeking a peaceful, secluded place in which to continue his work of translating the Bible, accepted an invitation from the Johnsons to live in their home. Joseph and Emma came on 12 September 1831 with their four-month-old adopted twins, Joseph and Julia. Converts Sidney and Phebe Rigdon settled with their six young children across the road in a log cabin.
  4. Elsa Johnson the wife of John Johnson, who had suffered from chronic rheumatism in her arm for years, asked John to take her to Kirtland so the Prophet Joseph Smith could heal her. When the Prophet blessed her, she was completely healed. (Even some quakers make mention of this healing)
  5. Some of the following is overlap but it also contains additional facts

After returning to Ohio from Missouri in late August 1831, JS made preparations to move his family from Kirtland to Hiram, Ohio, where he planned to resume his “translation,” or revision, of the Bible—a project he had been working on since 1830. The move occurred on 12 September 1831, following a conference held in Kirtland that same day.1 In Hiram, JS and his family stayed at the John and Alice (Elsa) Jacobs Johnson home, sleeping probably in a back room on the main level. In the end of October, the Johnsons partitioned an upstairs room, creating a work space for JS in the southeast portion of the house, where he worked on the Bible revision.2 Beginning in September, John Whitmer served as scribe for this project, working on the books of Matthew and Mark, until Sidney Rigdon assumed this responsibility in November.3 Periodically, JS traveled to Kirtland or other townships in northeastern Ohio to conduct church business,4 but he spent most of the fall in Hiram.

B.) How the mob mentality was built up and tensions arose

  1. In the early 1831, Ezra Booth and Symonds Ryder, both ministers joined Mormonism. Booth and Ryder became strong supporters of Smith and Rigdon.  While Booth was on a church mission to Jackson County, Missouri, he witnessed a dispute between Edward Partridge, Bishop of the Mormon Church in Jackson County, and Joseph Smith. Booth became disillusioned with Mormonism and returned to Ohio to report what he had seen in Missouri.  Symonds Ryder also became disaffected for mulitple reasons though one of those is that after Joseph alleged a revelation calling Ryder to serve a mission. Smith and Rigdon both signed the official call but misspelled Ryder’s name. Ryder thought a real revelation from God would never do such a thing.(Didn’t he read the Book of Mormon) When Booth and Ryder met in the fall of 1831, they shared their experiences and concluded that they had been deceived. They both left Mormonism and returned to their former faiths. Both men became strong critics of Mormonism in Ohio, focusing on Smith and Rigdon. Booth, at the encouragement of a Reverend Ira Eddy, wrote nine letters to the Ohio Star newspaper published between October and December, 1831.  The letters criticized Mormon doctrines and Smith’s and Rigdon’s character and accused the Mormon leaders of a scheme to get control of their followers’ property (D&C 51 United Order/Law of Consecration). These letters were widely circulated and generated fierce local opposition to the Mormons. By December of 31, Smith and Rigdon temporarily paused their revision of the bible to start rebutting the accusations by Booth and Ryder. Rigdon had his own letters published to the Ohio Star pushing back against Booth and Ryder to discuss their charges in public. In one article, Rigdon purposefully misspelled Ryder’s name apparently to irritate him. Tensions increased on both sides.(The letters are reprinted in their entirety in Eber Howe, Mormonism Unvailed (Painesville: E.D. Howe, 1834).also  (Ohio Star, Plainesville, Ohio, 12 January 1832)
  2. A short time before the tar and feathering attack a hole was bored in the door of the house where Rigdon was staying and filled with black powder in an attempt to kill Rigdon. (Short Portage County Democrat, Ravenna, Ohio 15 February 1860)
  3. Mob consisted of 10 to 11 men minimum and as many as 25-30 based on eyewitness accounts and second hand sources

C.) The event as described by Joseph Smith (Where Joseph abbreviates the mob’s language we have inserted the actual swearing)

Joseph’s telling reiterated in Lucy Mack Smith’s History and published originally in the Times and Seasons, vol. 5, p. 611. Millennial Star, vol. 14, p. 148. –

 “On the twenty-fourth of March [1832], the twins before mentioned, which had been sick of the measles for some time, caused us to be broken of our rest in taking care of them, especially my wife. In the evening I told her she had better retire to rest with one of the children, and I would watch with the sicker child (Murdock Boy).[iv] In the night she told me I had better lie down on the trundle bed, and I did so, and was soon after awakened by her screaming murder! when I found myself going out of the door in the hands of about a dozen men; some of whose hands were in my hair, and some had hold of my shirt, drawers, and limbs. The foot of the trundle bed was towards the door, leaving only room enough for the door to swing.  “My wife heard a gentle tapping on the windows, which she then took no particular notice of (but which was unquestionably designed for ascertaining whether we were all asleep), and, soon after, the mob burst open the door and surrounded the bed in an instant,[v] and, as I said, the first I knew I was going out of the door in the hands of an infuriated mob. I made a desperate struggle, as I was forced out, to extricate myself, but only cleared one leg with which I made a pass at one man and he fell on the door steps.[vi] I was immediately confined again, and they swore by God, they would kill me if I did not be still, which quieted me. As they passed around the house with me, the fellow that I kicked came to me and thrust his hand into my face all covered with blood (for I hit him on the nose), and with an exultant horse laugh, muttered, ‘God, God, God damn ye, I’ll fix ye.’ “They then seized me by the throat and held on till I lost my breath. After I came to, as they passed along with me, about thirty rods from the house,[vii] I saw Elder Rigdon stretched out on the ground, whither they had dragged him by the heels. I supposed he was dead. “I began to plead with them, saying, ‘you will have mercy and spare my life, I hope.’ To which they replied, ‘God damn ye, call on yer God for help, we’ll show ye no mercy’; and the people began to show themselves in every direction; one coming from the orchard had a plank and I expected they would kill me and carry me off on a plank.[viii] They then turned to the right and went on about thirty rods farther-about sixty rods from the house[ix] and about thirty from where I saw Elder Rigdon-into the meadow, where they stopped, and one said, ‘Simonds, Simonds,’ (meaning, I supposed, Simonds Rider), ‘pull up his drawers, pull up his drawers, he will take cold.’ “Another replied, ‘Ain’t ye going to kill ‘im? Ain’t ye going to kill ‘im?’ when a group of mobbers collected a little way off and said, ‘Simonds, Simonds, come here’; and Simonds charged those who had hold of me to keep me from touching the ground (as they had done all the time), lest I should get a spring upon them. They went and held a council, and as I could occasionally overhear a word, I supposed it was to know whether it was best to kill me. “They returned, after a while, when I learned that they had concluded not to kill me, but pound and scratch me well, tear off my shirt and drawers, and leave me naked. One cried, ‘Simonds, Simonds, where is the tar bucket?’ “‘I don’t know,’ answered one, ‘where ’tis, Eli’s left it.’ They ran back and fetched the bucket of tar, when one exclaimed, with an oath, ‘Let us tar up his mouth’; and they tried to force the tar paddle into my mouth; I twisted my head around so that they could not, and they cried out, ‘God damn ye, hold up yer head and let us giv ye some tar.’ They then tried to force a vial into my mouth and broke it in my teeth.[x] All my clothes were torn off me, except my shirt collar; and one man fell on me and scratched my body with his nails like a mad cat, and then muttered out, ‘God damn ye, that’s the way the Holy Ghost falls on folks.’ “They then left me, and I attempted to rise, but fell again; I pulled the tar away from my lips, etc., so that I could breathe more freely, and after a while I began to recover and raised myself up, when I saw two lights. I made my way towards one of them and found it was Father Johnson’s. When I had come to the door I was naked, and the tar made me look as though I was covered with blood; and when my wife saw me, she thought I was all mashed to pieces and fainted. During the affray abroad, the sisters of the neighborhood had collected at my room. I called for a blanket, they threw me one and shut the door; I wrapped it around me, and went in. “In the meantime, Brother John Poorman heard an outcry across the cornfield, and running that way met Father Johnson, who had been fastened in his house at the commencement of the assault, by having his door barred by the mob, but on calling to his wife to bring his gun, saying he would blow a hole through the door, the mob fled, and Father Johnson, seizing a club, ran after the party that had Elder Rigdon, and knocked one man, and raised his club to level another, exclaiming: “What are you doing here?”[xi] when they left Elder Rigdon and turned upon Father Johnson, who, turning to run towards his own house, met Brother Poorman coming out of the cornfield; each supposing the other to be a mobber, an encounter ensued, and Poorman gave Johnson a severe blow on the left shoulder with a stick or stone, which brought him to the ground. Poorman ran immediately towards Father Johnson’s, and arriving while I was waiting for the blanket, exclaimed: ‘I’m afraid I’ve killed him.’ ‘Killed who?’ asked one; when Poorman hastily related the circumstances of the encounter near the cornfield, and went into the shed and hid himself. Father Johnson soon recovered so as to come to the house, when the whole mystery was quickly solved concerning the difficulty between him and Poorman, who, on learning the facts, joyfully came from his hiding place.[xii] “My friends spent the night in scraping and removing the tar, and washing and cleansing my body, so that by morning I was ready to be clothed again. This being Sabbath morning, the people assembled for meeting at the usual hour of worship, and among them came also the mobbers, viz., Simonds Rider, a Campbellite preacher and leader of the mob; one McClentic, who had his hands in my hair; one Streeter, son of a Campbellite minister; and Felatiah Allen, Esq., who gave the mob a barrel of whisky to raise their spirits; and many others. With my flesh all scarified and defaced, I preached to the congregation as usual, and in the afternoon of the same day baptized three individuals. “The next morning I went to see Elder Rigdon and found him crazy, and his head highly inflamed, for they had dragged him by his heels, and those, too, so high from the ground that he could not raise his head from the rough, frozen surface, which lacerated it exceedingly; and when he saw me he called to his wife to bring him his razor. She asked him what he wanted of it; and he replied, to kill me. Sister Rigdon left the room, and he asked me to bring his razor. I asked him what he wanted of it, and he replied he wanted to kill his wife; and he continued delirious some days. The feathers which were used with the tar on this occasion, the mob took out of Elder Rigdon’s house. After they had seized him, and dragged him out, one of the banditti returned to get some pillows; when the women shut him in and kept him a prisoner some time. “During the mobbing, one of the twins contracted a severe cold, and continued to grow worse till Friday and died.[xiii] The mobbers were composed of various religious parties, but mostly Campbellites, Methodists and Baptists, who continued to molest and menace Father Johnson’s house for a long time.”  

D.) Details of story as suggested by those involved as well as additional researchers after the fact.  Some of these came out in the narrative we just read others are added from additional sources.

  1. March 24 1832
  2. Tapping on the window
    1. They were perhaps testing to see who was asleep
  3. Joseph Smith was occupying the room of a house brother Johnson was living in, at the same time; it was a two story building, had steps in front. The mob surrounded the house, the twins being afflicted with measles, Joseph was lying upon a trundle bed with one of them. The mob rushed in, gathered up Joseph while in his bed (apparently separating him from the Murdock boy in doing so), took him out in his night clothes, and carried him out on to the top of the steps.
  4. Joseph got a foot at liberty and kicked one of the men, and knocked him down off the steps, and the print of his head and shoulders were visible on the ground in the morning.
  5. Warren Waste – Warren Waste, who was the strongest man in the western reserve considered himself perfectly able to handle Joseph alone, but when they got hold of him Waste cried out, “do not let him touch the ground, or he will run over the whole of us.” Waste suggested in carrying him to cross his legs, for they said that would make it easier for the Prophet, but that was done in consequence of the severe pain it would give to the small of the back.
  6. Tar and Feathering – Someone brought forward a bucket of hot tar which they then smeared over Joseph’s lacerated body, at the same time trying to force the tar paddle into his mouth. He resisted.
    1. Observer & Telegraph, a local Ohio newspaper – 

“TRIUMPHS OF THE MORMON FAITH” — Several verbal statements agree in establishing the following facts.” “That on Saturday night, March 24, a number of persons, some say 25 or 30, disguised with coloured faces, entered the rooms in Hiram, where the two Mormonite leaders, Smith and Rigdon were sleeping, and took them, together with the pillows on which they slept, carried them a short distance and after besmearing their bodies with tar, applied the contents of the pillows to the same.

  1. What sort of harm tar and feathering caused – The notion that hot tar caused severe, sometimes fatal burns is based on the assumption that “tar” meant the asphalt we use on roads, which is typically stored in liquid state at about 300°F (150°C). But in the eighteenth century “tar” meant pine tar, used for several purposes in building and maintaining ships. As any baseball fan knows, pine tar doesn’t have to be very hot to be sticky. Shipyards did warm that tar to make it flow more easily, but pine tar starts to melt at about 140°F (60°C). That’s well above the ideal for bathwater, but far from the temperature of hot asphalt. Pine tar could be hot enough to injure someone. The Loyalist judge Peter Oliver complained that when a mob attacked Dr. Abner Beebe of Connecticut, “hot Pitch was poured upon him, which blistered his Skin.”[i] But other victims of tarring and feathering didn’t mention severe or lasting burns among their injuries. Rioters probably applied the tar with a mop or brush, lowering its temperature. Sometimes they tarred people more gently over their clothing.
  1. Castration – Dr. Dennison had been employed to perform a surgical operation, but he declined when the time came to operate.
    1. Castration was often a punishment for a sexual misdeed but not always.
  2. Poison – He was daubed with tar, feathered and choked, and aquafortis was attempted to be poured into his mouth. 
    1. Aqua fortis, in the old chemistry ( now called nitric acid.Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary). 
    2. The liquid they poured into his mouth was so powerful, that it killed the grass where some of it had been scattered on the ground. 
    3. Joseph Clenched his teeth hard to prevent them from poisoning him and in the process apparently chipped a tooth
  3. Joseph is reported by the mob to have said, be merciful, when they told him to call upon his God for mercy. They immediately, as he began to pray, heard an alarm which made them think they were about to be surprised, and left suddenly. (I looked for the source of this and like many other alleged data points, was unable to locate a source and verify the detail)
  4. Rigdon also assaulted – Sidney Rigdon, who resided near by, had been dragged by the heels out of his bed at the same time, and his body stripped and a coat of tar and feathers applied. The next morning he was crazy, his head greatly inflamed and lacerated.
    1. Some records indicated he was abused after Joseph but the most reliable statements have him being abused first including how Joseph reported the event.  
    2. Hiram 1800-1850, Portage County, Ohio Genweb – Sidney Rigden, who furnished the brains for the Mormon movement in its infancy, took up his abode in a log house across the street from the Johnsons.
  5. Others may have been assaulted as well – Hiram 1800-1850, Portage County, Ohio Genweb – In the confusion Miss Vashti Higley (Vastali Higley) was dragged from her bed. The mistake was soon discovered. Miss Higley afterward married Peter Whitmer, one of the original witnesses to the “golden plates” on which the Mormon bible was based.
  6. Joseph after being cleaned up the best that could be done preached a sermon the next morning and 3 people were baptized.  Joseph found his way in from the light of the house, the mob having abandoned him. While he was engaged in getting off the tar by the application of grease, soap and other materials, 
    1. Philemon Duzette, the father of our celebrated drummer, came there, and seeing the Prophet in this condition, took it as an evidence of the truth of “Mormonism,” and was baptized.
      1. Philemon joined the group of volunteers who followed the Prophet Joseph Smith on the march for Zion’s Camp. They left Ohio 6th of May 1834 and headed towards Missouri to aid the suffering Latter-day Saints there. It was a grueling journey wrought with danger, hunger, and fatigue. Philemon did not return from this march; the family never saw him again. We surmise that he died somewhere along the way.
  1. Murdock twins (Julia and Joseph) – the murdock boy died later proposedly from the exposure to the cold during the tar and feathering event.  These circumstances exposed the life of the child, the measles struck in and caused its death, and the whole of this persecution was got up through the influence of those apostates; and it made it necessary to keep up a constant watch lest some violence should be repeated.
  2. Various Books on Mormonism have additional facts/conjecture
    1. According to recorded accounts of the event, the mob broke down the front door, took Smith’s oldest surviving adopted child from his arms,[5  McKiernan, F. Mark (1971), The Voice of One crying in the Wilderness: Sidney Rigdon, Religious Reformer, 1793-1876, Lawrence, KS: Corondao Press, ISBN 978-0-87291-024-9 ] 
    2. dragged Smith from the room, leaving his exposed child on a trundle bed and forcing Emma and the others from the house, the mob threatening her with rape and murder.[6 Johnson, Luke (1864), “History of Luke Johnson, by Himself”, The Latter Day Saints’ Millennial Star, 26: 834] 
    3. The child was knocked off the bed onto the floor in the doorway of the home as Smith was forcibly removed from his home.[7Joseph Smith: The First Mormon – Donna Hill 1977] 
    4. The child died from exposure (many accounts say pneumonia) five days after the event [8Newell, Linda King; Avery, Valeen Tippetts (1984), Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith, Prophet’s Wife, “Elect Lady,” Polygamy’s Foe, Garden City, NY: Doubleday, ISBN 0-252-02399-4]
    5.  from the condition that doctors said he developed the night of the mob violence.[9 Smith, Lucy Mack (1853), Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet, and His Progenitors for Many Generations, Liverpool: S.W. Richards, archived from the original on 2004-04-30 ]

E.) The additional data that is left out of Faith promoting tellings, recognizing some of it may be unsubstantiated.

  1. Injuries and fate of the assailants – Luke Johnson informed us that Warren Waste was afterwards a cripple, rendered so by weakness in the small of the back, and Dr. Dennison died in the Ohio Penitentiary where he was incarcerated for procuring an abortion, which caused death; Luke’s history does not mention the fate of Warren Waste but does say that Carnot Mason “had an attack of the spinal affection” and Dr. Dennison died in prison (does not cite offense).  They tore out a patch of his hair by the roots that never grew back. They injured his side in such a way that it pained him the rest of his life and Joseph claimed an out of body near death experience – Joseph would later describe standing above his body and watching as the mob beat him and poured the acid over his face and neck. Then a noise was heard and the mob fled in fear leaving Joseph upon the ground. Slowly, he regained consciousness. He tried to sit up but couldn’t. Unable to breathe, he pulled the tar from his mouth. After a time, he made his way home. Emma stood in the doorway and fainted at the sight of him. Joseph asked for a blanket for cover and went inside by the fire. His friends spent the night peeling and scraping the tar from his body, sometimes taking off layers of skin with it.
  2. Alibi of Symonds Ryder – “At Symonds Ryder’s funeral (in 1870), his son Hartwell Ryder spoke of his father and said all these glowing things. Then he said, ‘On the books of the Mormon Church out in Utah, it says that Symonds Ryder led the tarring and feathering of Joseph Smith,’”

Hartwell, his son, then said, “I well remember that night. My father was extremely ill and spent the night in the outhouse.”

a.) But it appears that perhaps Susan Easton Black was distorting the story.  The source found said the following – After the event, if anyone inquired of the whereabouts of any of the mobbers of 24 March, an appropriate alibi was ready. These alibis were even passed to the next generation. For example, according to Ryder’s son, Hartwell, Ryder was not involved in the tarring and feathering of Joseph Smith. Nor did he preach on the following Sunday in the south schoolhouse on Ryder Road and glory that he had been an instrument of the Lord in driving the Mormons out of Hiram. Instead, Hartwell wrote, Ryder was “ill in bed at the time.”

  1. Clark Braden: Marinda Nancy Johnson (Hyde)’s brother “Eli” led the mob against Joseph in Hiram because he had been “too intimate with his sister Marinda (17 – born june 28, 1815), who afterwards married Orson Hyde.  Brigham Young, in after years, twitted Hyde with this fact, and hyde, on learning its truth, put away his wife, although they had several children”
    1. Genealogical archives in SLC show that Hyde did in fact take “Nancy” on July 31st 1857 and have her sealed “for eternity” to Joseph Smith.  (Sealing? April 1842)
    2. Joseph Smith in the handwriting of Thomas Bullock  – Joseph Smith’s journal contains a list of a few of his plural wives written after the July 14, 1843, entry in the handwriting of Thomas Bullock: “Apri 42 marinda Johnson to Joseph Smith.” – Photography of hologram in Richard E. Turley, Jr. Selected Collections from the Archives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 2002)
      1. Brian Hales: “It is not known whether the statement “let my handmaid Nancy Marinda Hyde hearken to the counsel of my servant Joseph in all things whatsoever he shall teach unto her” is a general admonition or a specific reference, perhaps to plural marriage.”
      2. Hales – Generally, a signed affidavit is considered more reliable than an entry in a journal by a scribe from an unknown source, but whether the first date is in error or two sealing ceremonies were performed is unclear.
    3. Brian Hales – “Marinda personally testified concerning a second sealing through a signed affidavit “that on the [blank] day of May A.D. 1843, at the City of Nauvoo, County of Hancock, State of Illinois, She was married or Sealed to Joseph Smith, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, by Brigham Young, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, of Said Church, according to the laws of the same, regulating Marriage; in the presence of Eliza Maria Partridge Lyman, and Emily Dow Partridge Young.”
    4. Brian Hales- “The relationship between Joseph Smith and Marinda Nancy Johnson is difficult to decipher due to a lack of evidence. Todd Compton assessed: “For such an important woman, Marinda is surprisingly under-documented. I know of no holograph by her and have found only four letters to her.” “Marinda left no known reference to the marriage [with Joseph Smith], beyond signing an affidavit attesting that it happened.””
    5. John D Lee – “Hyde’s wife, with his consent, was sealed to Joseph for an eternal state.”
    6. Brian Hales – “If the 1842 date for the sealing between Joseph and Marinda’s marriage is correct, then Joseph may have been sealed to Marinda in an eternity-only sealing without Orson Hyde’s knowledge.”
    7. Marinda, while Orson was on his mission in Jerusalem “had to live in a little log house whose windows had no glass but in place of which were pieces of greased paper…A little cornmeal and a few groceries were all the provisions remaining to sustain her and the little ones.”.  Noting Marinda’s living conditions, Joseph Smith received the following revelation dated December 2, 1841: “Verily thus saith the Lord unto you my servant Joseph. that inasmuch as you have called upon me to know my will concerning my handmaid Nancy Marinda Hyde  Behold it is my will that she should have a better place prepared for her than that in which she now lives…and let my handmaid Nancy Marinda Hyde hearken to the counsel of my servant Joseph in all things whatsoever he shall teach unto her…”
    8. Hales “The details of the relationship between Marinda and the Prophet will probably never be known. If Marinda had chosen Joseph as her eternal husband, she apparently changed her mind because she chose to be sealed to her legal husband Orson Hyde in the Nauvoo temple on January 11, 1846”
    9. Hales – “Marinda Nancy Johnson relocated to Salt Lake City in 1852 and later divorced Orson Hyde and was resealed by proxy to Joseph Smith. She died in 1886, having kept the faith in the Church.”
    10. William Hall – Hall, William, The Abominations of Mormonism Exposed; containing many Facts and Doctrines concerning that singular people during seven years’ membership with them, from 1840 to 1847, Cincinnati: I. hart, 1852, excerpts. – Hall claims that Orson hyde agreed to give Joseph all his money and his wife in order to be permitted back into the Church after his apostasy
  2. Arthur Deming 3rd hand from Rev. Whitney (Newell K Whitney’s Brother – hostile to the church) – He stated that one of the party who tarred and feathered Sydney Rigdon and Jo Smith at John Johnson’s, in Hiram, O., informed him that Rigdon said to their assailants he presumed they were gentlemen, but Jo Smith fought until overpowered. A doctor present offered to castrate Jo and said he would warrant him to live. It was not done. Several of Johnson’s sons were of the party. They were angry because their father was urged by Jo and Rigdon to let them have his property. He finally did give them some of it, and moved to Kirtland and kept tavern, and his son Luke became one of the first Mormon Twelve Apostles.
  3. Marinda Nancy Johnson – “Here I feel like bearing my testimony that during the whole year that Joseph was an inmate of my father’s house I never saw aught in his daily life or conversation to make me doubt his divine mission.”
  4. Van Wagoner perhaps quoting Marvin Hill – That an incident between Smith and Nancy Johnson precipitated the mobbing is unlikely. Sidney Rigdon was attacked just as viciously by the group as was Smith. And the leader of the mob, Simonds Ryder, later said that the attack occurred because members of the mob had found some documents that led them to believe “the horrid fact that a plot was laid to take their property from them and place it under the control of Smith” (Hill 1977, 146).
  5. John Johnson had no son Eli . His only sons were John, Jr., Luke, Olmstead, and Lyman (Newell and Avery 1984, 41).”.  
    1. BUT WAIT – Joseph Smith or scribe Willard Richards says in the manuscript history of the church – “I would remark that nothing important had occurred since I came to reside at father Johnson’s house in Hiram; I had held meetings on the sabbaths and evenings and baptized a number. Father Johnsons Son, Olmsted Johnson, about this time [March, 1832] came home on a visit, during which I told him if he did not obey the gospel, the spirit he was of would lead him to destruction, and when he went away, he would never return or see his father again…. In addition to the apostate Ezra Booth, Symonds Rider, Eli Johnson, Edward Johnson and John Johnson jr. had apostatized…. soon after [at the Johnson house on the 24th of March] the mob burst open the door and surrounded the bed in an instant, and, as I said, the first I knew I was going out of the door in the hands of an infuriated mob… I was immediately confined… they swore by God, they would kill me if I did not be still, which quieted me…. one cried, ‘Simonds, Simonds, where’s the tar bucket?’ ‘I don’t know’ answered one, ‘where ’tis, Eli’s left it.’… by morning I was ready to be clothed again. This being Sabbath morning, the people assembled for meeting at the usual hour of worship, and among those came also the mobbers; viz: Simonds Rider, a Campbelite preacher, and leader of the mob; one McClentic, son of a Campbelite preacher, and Pelatiah Allen, Esq. who gave the mob a barrel of whiskey to raise their spirits; and many others.”
    2. Fawn Brodie was in fact incorrect in naming Eli Johnson as Mirinda’s brother. Eli was actually a name of one of her uncles. According to LDS family Eli was a uncle, brother to Mirinda’s father, John. Son of Israel Johnson wich may have been enough to be motivated by Joseph ‘s sexual advances with his niece not his sister and the fact that he believed that Joseph was also using his position to take the Johnson farm…it should be pointed out that in this Joseph succeeded since John Johnson did in fact give a portion of his property to smith and did eventually marry Mirinda as one of his plural wives.
    3. Luke Johnson – “[W]hile Joseph was yet at my father’s, a mob of forty or fifty came to his house, a few entered his room in the middle of the night, and Carnot Mason dragged Joseph out of bed by the hair of his head; he was then seized by as many as could get hold of him, and taken about forty rods from the house, stretched on a board, and tantalized in the most insulting and brutal manner; they tore off the few night clothes that he had on, for the purpose of emasculating him, and had Dr. Dennison there to perform the operation [castration]; but when the Dr. saw the Prophet stripped and stretched on the plank, his heart failed him, and he refused to operate. The mob … in attempting to force open his jaws, they broke one of his front teeth to pour a vial of some obnoxious drug [aqua-fortis, a poison] into his mouth. The mob [then] became divided [because they] did not succeed, … but [instead had to settle for] poured tar over him, and then stuck feathers in it and left him … [then] part of the mob went to the house that Sidney Rigdon occupied, and dragged him out, and besmeared him with tar and feathers. Persons identified as being part of this attack besides Mason and Dr. Dennison, included Simonds Ryder, Warren Waste, Jacob Scott, a man named Fullar, and Eli Johnson. Many of these men had recently apostatized from the church” “The History of Luke Johnson (By Himself.,),” Deseret News 8 (May 26, 1858)
      1. Strange he would refer to his brother or uncle without mentioning the relationship.
    4. Also is it possible that Eli is short for Lyman aks Ly/Eli? Lyman also has an alibi, he was on an eastern mission for much of 1832.  he was with Orson Pratt continuously from Feb 3 to Nov 8
    5. FairMormon- Eli was partially blind, fond of drink, disgruntled, the village tale-bearer, and lived in outhouses (apparently not a big property owner). He is known to have lived his last 50 years in Battleboro, NH (1809-1859), posing further difficulty for him being in Ohio for long and being Clark Braden’s source. He would have been around 50 when Joseph was tarred and feathered and not easily mistaken for Marinda’s brother.
  6. Richard Bushman – The men who attacked Joseph Smith were respectable people who for some reason detested him.

F.) Conclusion

  1. While there is some data lending credibility to the claim of sexual misconduct being at least part of the motive of the 24th March 1832 such as the attempted Castration and the later allegations and sealing/marriage of Smith to Marinda Nancy Hyde, this is weak at best and is clouded by the errors created by Fawn Brodie and perpetuated by critics who wish to see misconduct on the part of Mormon Leaders at every turn.
  2. There may have been multiple motives of the mob but it seems the clearest explanation for the events of that night can be best understood by the words of Symonds Ryder himself.
    1. Symonds Ryder later defended his actions against Smith and the Mormons, explaining that the attack was not a manifestation of religious intolerance. In fact, the people of Hiram were “liberal” and “disposed to turn out and hear” the Mormons and other religions. The attacks, Ryder argued, came in response to “the horrid fact that a plot was laid to take their property from them and place it under the control of Joseph Smith the prophet.” Ryder defended his actions and was pleased with the result of the violence.  “This had the desired effect, which was to get rid of them. They [the Mormons] soon left for Kirtland.”  ( Symonds Ryder, “Letter to A.S. Hayden,” 1 February 1868, in Amos Sutton Hayden, Early History of the Disciples in the Western Reserve (Cincinnati: Chase and Hall, 1875), 220-21)
  3. Hence we (myself included) need to quit perpetuating the story about Eli and his sister Marinda Nancy Hyde and focus on the thousand other legitimate places to raise criticism and expose problematic history.
  4. Possible Concluding Statement – Thesis TARRED AND FEATHERED: MORMONS, MEMORY, AND RITUAL VIOLENCE by John Kimball Alexander

“The motives of the mob are best understood as a public manifestation of the personal feud between Smith and Rigdon, and Ryder and Booth. When Booth and Ryder left Mormonism, they seemed to believe that their attacks against Smith and Rigdon would go unchallenged and result in the fall of Mormonism. One man wrote that Booth gave Mormons “such a coloring, or appearance of falsehood, that the public feeling was, that ‘Mormonism’ was overthrown.”51 Yet Smith and Rigdon launched a campaign against Booth and Ryder that rebuffed their accusations and discredited both men. Particularly Ryder, the likely organizer and leader of the mob, seemed determined to pursue a personal vendetta against Smith and Rigdon. Ryder claimed that the central factor was property, especially the perceived loss of property among Smith’s followers and the corresponding accumulation of property in Smith’s hands. The doctrine of Mormonism that would come to be called the Law of Consecration required members to deed their property to the Church to be used collectively for the benefit of all Mormons under the oversight of Mormon leaders. Individual Mormons would then receive land back from the Church as “stewardships’ from which they were to provide for their families and then distribute any excess for the care of the poor. This redistribution of property and wealth caused a fury amongst some Mormons who viewed private property ownership as a central component of their broader American identity. Ryder and Booth’s war of words against Smith and Rigdon, combined with charges of property aggrandizement against Smith, generated an atmosphere wherein generally peaceful Ohioans resorted to violence in an effort to protect both reputation and property.”



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