Haun's Mill Massacre Site - Visit 2

Location Information

Date: 11th September 2015     Type: Cemetery

Location Title: Haun's Mill Massacre Site - Visit 2     City/State: Fairview Township, MO

Investigation Times:07:10 PM - 08:30 PM     Status:Analysis

Weather Information

Sunrise:06:54 AM   Sunset:08:32 PM

High Temperature:69 °F   Low Temperature:53 °F

Sky Condition: Clear   Wind: NNW at 8 mph

Humidity:100%   Precipitation:%

Lunar Phase: Waning Crescent   % disk visible:2%

Solar X-Rays: Active   Geomagnetic Field: Storm

Pressure:30.1 mmHg  

Investigators Present

Becky Ray

Lisa Sperry

Jennifer Sprague

Miranda Stark

Location History

Located on the north bank of Shoal Creek, Jacob Hawn (Haun) settled in the area in 1832. He established a mill at the location in 1834. While Jacob moved to Missouri and founded the mill around the same time as the Mormon migration to Missouri, he was not a Mormon.

It became a location of a branch of the church in 1838. By October 1838, approximately 75 Mormon families were living along the banks of Shoal Creek, about 30 of them near Hawn's Mill and the James Houston blacksmith shop.

The unauthorized militia was led overall by Colonel Thomas Jennings of Livingston County, with William O. Jennings (Sheriff of Livingston County), Nehemiah Comstock, and William Gee as captains of the three companies. At the time of the attack, the militia consisted of 240 men from Daviess, Livingston, Ray, Carroll, and Chariton counties. It included prominent men such as Major Daniel Ashby of the Missouri state legislature and Thomas R. Bryan, Clerk of Livingston County.

On October 30, at approximately 4 p.m., the militia rode into the community. David Evans, a leader in the community, ran towards the militia, waving his hat and calling for peace. Alerted to the militia's approach, most of the Latter-day Saint women and children fled into the woods to the south, while most men headed to the blacksmith shop. The building was a particularly vulnerable structure as the widely spaced logs made it easy for the attackers to fire inside. The shop became a deathtrap since the militia gave no quarter, discharging about 100 rifles into the building. 

Grand River Township Justice of the Peace Thomas McBride, wounded while escaping the blacksmith shop, surrendered his gun to Jacob S Rogers Jr., who shot him, then hacked his body with a corn knife (scythe blade). According to their account, they fired seven rounds, making upwards of 1,600 shots during the attack of Hawn's Mill. The attack lasted 30 to 60 minutes.

After the initial attack, several of those wounded or surrendered were shot dead. Members of the militia entered the shop and found 10-year-old Sardius Smith, 7-year-old Alma Smith (sons of Amanda Barnes Smith), and 9-year-old Charles Merrick hiding under the blacksmith's bellows. Alma and Charles were shot (Charles later died), and a militiaman who was known as "Glaze, of Carroll county" killed Sardius when he "put his musket against Sardius's skull and blew off the top of his head."

Later, William Reynolds would justify the killing by saying, "Nits will make lice, and if he had lived, he would have become a Mormon." William Champlin, who was "playing possum," heard the conversations, was discovered, held captive for a few days, then released.

Several other bodies were mutilated, while many women were assaulted. Houses were robbed, wagons, tents, and clothing were stolen, and horses and livestock were driven off, leaving the surviving women and children destitute.

As a result of the massacre, 17 Mormons died: Hiram Abbott, Elias Benner, John Byers, Alexander Campbell, Simon Cox, Josiah Fuller, Austin Hammer, John Lee, Benjamin Lewis, Thomas McBride, Charles Merrick, Levi Merrick, William Napier, George S. Richards, Sardius Smith, Warren Smith, and John York.

Fifteen more had been injured: Jacob Foutz, Jacob Hawn, Charles Jameson, Nathan K. Knight, Isaac Leany, Tarlton Lewis, Gilmon Merrill, George Myers, Jacob Myers Jr., Jacob Potts, Hiram Rathbun, Alma Smith, Mary Stedwell, John Walker, and William Yokum. A few uninjured men were William Champlin, Ellis Eames, Rial Eames, David Lewis, and David Evans.

The next morning, fourteen of the dead were slid from a plank into a large unfinished dry well and covered with straw and a thin layer of dirt. Originally buried on the David Lewis farm, Benjamin Lewis was later exhumed and moved to a local cemetery; Charles Merrick died later and was buried elsewhere, and Hiram Abbott was later removed to his father's place where he died.

Four of the 240 militiamen were wounded, but none fatally. John Hart, a Livingston resident, was injured in the arm. John Renfrow had his thumb shot off. Allen England, a citizen of Daviess, was severely wounded in the thigh. Jacob S. Rogers Jr., a Daviess resident, was shot in the hip by Nathan Kinsman Knight.

Although the massacre occurred a few days after Missouri's governor, Lilburn Boggs, issued his infamous Missouri Executive Order 44 ("Extermination Order" of 1838), there is debate about whether the participants knew of it. In the church's archives, Hyrum Smith reported that Captain Comstock, who previously had assured the Mormons at the mill of their safety, had returned the next day attacking them, saying he had received an order from Governor Boggs via Coronal Ashley. However, historian William G. Hartley opined that the local militia likely had not yet received news of this specific executive order, but rather the militia responded to the open hostility to Mormons that was already prevalent in Missouri, even before the order was published.

Militia member and state legislator Major Daniel Ashby stated in the Missouri House of Representatives that reports from Mormon dissenters led to the attack of Hawn's Mill. Those Hawn's Mill settlement dissenters were Robert White, George Miller, and Sardis Smith.

Shortly before the massacre, anti-Mormon raiders confiscated guns and weapons from Mormon settlers and immigrants. Some of those living in the surrounding area gathered at Hawn's Mill for safety.

​After the massacre, Philo Dibble stated that "Brother Joseph had sent word by Hawn, who owned the mill, to inform the brethren living there to leave and come to Far West, but Mr. Hawn did not deliver the message."

It appears that Hawn had received Joseph Smith's direction to relocate to Far West but did not convey this directly to any of the others at Hawn's Mill. Of the matter, Smith recorded, "Up to this day, God had given me wisdom to save the people who took counsel. 

Captain Nehemiah Comstock's contingent of Livingston militia occupied the mill for nearly three weeks harassing and plundering the Mormons. Life during the winter of 1838-1839 became essentially that of day-to-day survival. Most of the families banded together until they could make arrangements to move along with the rest of the Saints to Illinois. Non-Mormon Harrison Severe, who had refused to join the mob, left with the Mormons. By the end of February 1839, all of the Mormons had left. Jacob Hawn moved to Oregon and became a pioneer settler of Yamhill County.

The settlement was largely abandoned by Feb. 1839. The Mill was torn down in 1845.

In 1887, Josiah Fuller's son visited the site of Haun’s Mill to locate his father's resting place. With Charles Ross' assistance, Fuller moved a red millstone fragment from the old mill onto the site of the well to commemorate those who died, and it was inscribed with the words "In memory of victims of Haun's Mill massacre, Oct. 30th, 1838." The stone was partially buried edgeways.

In 1888, LDS members Andrew Jenson, Edward Stevenson, and Joseph Smith Black visited the site from Utah. They readily located the well by means of the red stone.

In 1941, Mr. P.E. Gastineau of Cowgill, Missouri, owner of the land, permitted Mr. Glenn Setzer, an ex-county official, to place a commemorative marker and hold a program on July 13. At that time, he moved the millstone a short distance to this spot, unaware that he had moved the marker from over the burial point. The exact location of the well is now not known.

Between March 8-18th, 1999, Mormon Historic Sites Foundation funded a scientific archaeological study of the Hawn’s Mill Massacre Site by Dr. Richard Hauck of the Archaeological Research Institute (ARI) of Bountiful, Utah, and two staff archaeologists, Brian Mueller and Alan Hutchinson. The main objective was to locate the well where the bodies of fourteen of the seventeen Mormon men and boys killed on October 30, 1838, were interred.

However, at the same time, it was hoped that the ground-penetrating radar might also reveal the position of some community structures, such as the blacksmith shop.

Another archeological dig was conducted between October 9 and 11, 2000, funded by the Mormon Historic Sites Foundation. Dr. Hauck was joined by Dr. Mark A. Scherer, World Church Historian for the Community of Christ, Alan Hutchinson, a research assistant, and Kim R. Wilson and Johnathan W. Bullen, both of whom serve on the board of the Mormon Historic Sites Foundation.

In 2003 the Community of Christ (formerly known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) placed a new metal marker at the site explaining the historical facts in more detail.

Until 2012, the massacre grounds were maintained as a historic site by the Community of Christ. In May 2012, it was announced that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had acquired the property and the Far West burying ground from the Community of Christ.

Investigators Notes

Becky Ray: This was a concise but eventful investigation. We arrived at the site just at sunset, and I was able to get a few photos before it was dark. 
We came prepared for the mud and loud insects remembering our first visit to the site. 
We attempted to draw out any activity by playing a well-known hymn, and while that was playing, Lisa reported seeing what looked like people coming out of the woods and into the open area. At the same time, I spotted what looked like a mist on my video camera.
Lisa then read the 13 Articles of Faith. As she read this, I became aware that animals were watching us. At first, the coyotes were howling softly, but they got closer and louder. I realized I could hear them moving in the wooded area next to the car. Miranda also noticed how close they had become, and we decided to load up the vehicle and leave for our safety. 
We plan to return to the site for a third investigation and will probably try to get there during daylight hours.

Lisa Sperry: My first onsite investigation was short and sweet. We arrived at Haun's Mill just as the sun was setting. Just after sunset, Jennifer noticed a shadow at the end of the road, and she pointed it out to me. I saw what looked like a shadow low to the ground. It seemed to be pacing back and forth at the base of the weeds at the end of the road. I now believe this to have been a coyote. We also observed a white mist in the center of the half-circle-shaped field. This could have resulted from our eyes adjusting to the recently lost sunlight. 
Once Becky had set up her tripod/camera equipment, Jennifer began to play "I Am A Child of God," performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The energy started to build in the area, and I saw what I thought at first to be a shadow in the trees. I then saw what looked to be the outline of the brim of a hat and a very tall, very thin man walking across the center of the field directly toward us. There appeared to be a mist around him and more silhouettes just behind him. The movement halted midfield and did not move again. Once the song ended, I began to read the Thirteen Articles of Faith by Joseph Smith, founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I continued to read until I sensed Miranda's urgency about the increasingly loud coyote howls and the movement in the weeds nearest us. I stopped reading, and we packed up the car in less than a minute, and I drove us out of the area. 
I look forward to seeing the IR, as I have never had the opportunity to see a live coyote.

Jennifer Sprague: We arrived a little before sundown. While investigation equipment was being set up, I thought I had seen some movement within the tree lines of the woods near the historical marker but could not determine if what I was seeing was paranormal, or just my eyes adjusting. After setting up investigation equipment, I played "I am a child of God" by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. I used this piece of music concerning the history of this site. After that, Lisa began reading a list of beliefs of the Mormon religion that John Smith delivered to a newspaper. We began to hear a pack of coyotes howl and get closer to our area, so we left the area for safety. I do look forward to going again, possibly during the daytime.

Miranda Stark: We drove to the site of the "Haun's Mill" Mormon massacre of 1838 on a small dirt road which led us to a small clearing in the woods where trees in a semi-circle surrounded us. Arriving at the site just before sunset allowed our small group to view the area with what was left of the sunlight as we decided where to set up cameras and other types of equipment to be used. The plan was to appeal to any spirits or energies of the location by making the peaceful gestures of presenting them with familiar Mormon hymns and reading from the tenets of their religious beliefs. Although there was a great deal of natural noise from frogs and insects, we were immediately able to pick up on audible unexplainable sounds that came from our surroundings. The first audible anomaly came in the form of some voices that could be heard coming from the direction of the densely wooded area behind us.

The voices seemed to be male, in a low tone, and there seemed to be more than one as if they were having a conversation or speaking to one another. This did not feel ominous in any way. These voices were heard by two of the four members present. The second "vocal" anomaly was a sort-off hoot or shout from across the clearing in another direction from the first voices. This was heard by multiple members as well. Still, we had difficulty determining the origin, as it was clearly human, we could not rule out the possibility of any other people being present in that particular area without going over there to look into it, and it would have been challenging for us to get over there, which raises my suspicion that any no other people could have been out there. We proceeded with the investigation by playing a very old and popular Mormon hymn. We remained silent for the duration of the song and closely observed the environment for any anomalous activity. This went smoothly, and we all felt that this greatly heightened the energy of the entire location. It was a very touching moment, as we all could feel sadness and emotion filling the space around us. This was followed by the reading of the tenets of Mormonism.

As these were being read one by one, the atmosphere slowly intensified at a steady rate. I can recall personally that by the time tenet number seven was being read, I could feel very intense energy beginning to grow around our small group. This was paired with a very eerie response from the wild animals in the area, as off in the distance just behind us, and a few coyote howls could be heard. A few more joined in almost immediately following the first howls, just to the left of those. Again following those, moving in perfect succession to the left of the other howling coyotes, a few more chimed in. This continued until the sounds of howling coyotes formed a nearly perfect circle entirely around us. Once this "circle" had been established, the howls grew in intensity, volume, and numbers until we all felt that wild howling coyotes had entirely circled us. I was growing slightly nervous by this point. Then in the woods just beside us, within very close range, came the final howl, and we were then aware of how very close these coyotes were moving in on us. We spared no time in grabbing equipment, tossing it in the car, and getting ourselves to safety quickly. Although we never visually saw any of these animals, we could hear and feel their intense presence all around us, and we knew that we were being watched closely. It is almost as though we were being chased out of the area. The animals were likely just curious about having human visitors. It is possible that they were observing a group of humans as potential prey. It can even be theorized that our group had achieved our goals of raising some paranormal energies that evoked responses from the wild animals in the area. It is said that animals are susceptible to paranormal forces. We could have assisted in creating energies that disturbed these coyotes. Whatever the case, we did get a response from nature, just not quite the one we were looking for. A few members did state that they were witness to some movement, misty-type forms, or even possibly some apparitions just outside the tree-line of the clearing. The cameras were running, and evidence will be reviewed, so anything captured from our short and eventful evening will be posted to the website if seen fit for presentation.

Previous Investigations at this Location

Haun's Mill Massacre Site - Visit 1, 27th May 2011

No EVPS for this Investigation at this time
No PHOTOS for this Investigation at this time
No VIDEOS for this Investigation at this time