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Haun's Mill Massacre Site - Visit 3

Location Information

Date:5th May 2016     Type: Cemetery

Location Title: Haun's Mill Massacre Site - Visit 3     City/State: Fairview Township, MO, MO

Investigation Times:07:00 PM - 10:00 PM     Status:Analysis


Weather Information

Sunrise:06:13 AM   Sunset:08:14 PM

High Temperature:73 °F   Low Temperature:46 °F

Sky Condition: Clear   Wind: NNW at 4 mph

Humidity:80%   Precipitation:0%

Lunar Phase: Waning Gibbous   % disk visible:1%

Solar X-Rays: Active   Geomagnetic Field: Quiet

Pressure:30.04 mmHg  


Investigators Present

Becky Ray

Lisa Sperry

Jennifer Sprague

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: On our third visit to this location, we went earlier in the day, so we could wander the site while we still had daylight. 
Other than a few instances where it felt like we were being watched, it was a relatively quiet evening. And those instances could easily be tied to the wildlife in the area. 
I did record a video of the area and may post some of it later.

Jennifer Sprague: This was my second investigation at this location. I brought my notebook for observations. We read the 13 Articles of Faith and played "I am a child of God" and "Glorious," both Mormon songs, to see if this would enhance the activity. I did not experience anything notable or what I would consider paranormal on this investigation.

Previous Investigations at this Location

Haun's Mill Massacre Site - Visit 2, 11th September 2015

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

No EVPS for this Investigation at this time
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