“Though All Hell Should Endeavor,” chapter 32 of Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days, Volume 1, The Standard of Truth, 1815–1846 (2018)
Chapter 32: “Though All Hell Should Endeavor”
By mid-November 1838, the Saints in Far West were suffering from hunger and exposure. The Missouri militia had destroyed homes and depleted most of the food supplies in the city. What crops remained in the fields were frozen.1
General John Clark, who replaced General Lucas as the head of the Missouri forces at Far West, had no more sympathy for the Saints than his predecessor did.2 He accused them of being the aggressors and disobeying the law. “You have brought upon yourselves these difficulties,” he told them, “by being disaffected and not being subject to rule.”
Since winter was almost upon them, General Clark agreed to let the Saints stay in Far West until the spring. But he advised them to scatter after that. “Never again organize yourselves with bishops and presidents,” he warned, “lest you excite the jealousies of the people and subject yourselves to the same calamities that have now come upon you.”3
Conditions at Hawn’s Mill were even worse. The day after the massacre, the mob ordered the Saints to leave the state or be killed. Amanda Smith and other survivors wanted to leave, but the mob had stolen horses, clothing, food, and other supplies they needed to make the long journey. Many of the wounded, like Amanda’s son Alma, were in no condition to move so far.4
The women in the settlement held prayer meetings, asking the Lord to heal their wounded. When mob members learned about these meetings, they threatened to wipe out the settlement if the women continued. After that, the women prayed quietly, trying desperately not to draw attention to themselves as they prepared to leave.
After a while, Amanda moved her family from their tent to a cabin.5 As she continued to grieve for her murdered husband and son, she had four small children to care for on her own. She worried about staying too long in Hawn’s Mill while her son mended. But even if she and her children could leave, where would they go?
It was a question Saints were asking all over northern Missouri. They feared the militia would carry out the governor’s extermination order if they did not leave by the spring. But without leaders to guide them, they had no idea how to make the journey out of Missouri—or where to gather once they did.6
As the Saints prepared to abandon Far West, Phebe Woodruff lay in a roadside inn in western Ohio, suffering from severe headaches and a fever. She and Wilford had been traveling west for two months with the Fox Islands Saints, plodding through snow and rain to reach Zion. Illness had attacked many of the children, including her daughter, Sarah Emma.7 Two families had already dropped out of the company, convinced they could not make it to Zion that winter.8
Before stopping at the inn, Phebe had been in agony every time the wagon jostled over the rough road.9 After she almost stopped breathing one day, Wilford had halted the company so she could recover.
Phebe was certain she was dying. Wilford blessed her and tried everything to relieve her suffering, but the fever grew worse. Finally she called Wilford to her side, testified of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and urged him to have faith amid his trials. The next day, her breathing stopped altogether, and she felt her spirit leave her.10
She watched as Wilford gazed down at her lifeless body. She saw two angels enter the room. One of them told her she had a choice to make. She could go with them to rest in the spirit world or return to life and endure the trials that lay ahead.
Phebe knew that if she stayed, the road would not be easy. Did she want to return to her careworn life and uncertain future? She saw the faces of Wilford and Sarah Emma, and her answer came swiftly.
“Yes,” she said, “I will do it!”
As Phebe made her decision, Wilford’s faith was renewed. He anointed her with consecrated oil, placed his hands on her head, and rebuked the power of death. When he finished, Phebe’s breathing returned. She opened her eyes and watched the two angels leave the room.11
Back in Missouri, Joseph, Hyrum, and the other prisoners in the Liberty jail huddled together, trying to stay warm. The small, dank dungeon was mostly below ground, enclosed in walls of stone and timber four feet thick. Two tiny windows near the ceiling let in some light but did little to eliminate the dungeon’s rancid stench. Piles of dirty straw on the stone floor served as the prisoners’ beds, and when the men were desperate enough to eat the revolting meals they were given, the food sometimes made them vomit.12
Emma visited Joseph in early December, relaying news about the Saints in Far West.13 As Joseph listened to stories of their suffering, his indignation toward those who had betrayed him grew. He dictated a letter to the Saints, condemning the treachery of these men and encouraging the Saints to persevere.
“Zion shall yet live, though she seemeth to be dead,” he assured them. “The very God of peace shall be with you and make a way for your escape from the adversary of your souls.”14
In February 1839, Hyrum’s wife, Mary, and her sister Mercy visited the prisoners with Hyrum’s newborn son, Joseph F. Smith. Mary had not seen Hyrum since before she gave birth in November. The delivery and a severe cold had left her almost too weak to travel to Liberty. But Hyrum had asked her to come, and she did not know if she would have another chance to see him.15
Inside the prison, the jailer opened the trapdoor and the women descended into the dungeon to stay the night with the prisoners. He then shut the door over them and secured it with a heavy lock.16
No one slept much that night. The sight of Joseph, Hyrum, and the other prisoners—gaunt and filthy in their cramped quarters—shocked the women.17 Hyrum held his infant son and talked quietly with Mary. He and the other prisoners were anxious. The jailer and guards were always on alert, certain Joseph and Hyrum were plotting an escape.
The next morning, Mary and Mercy said goodbye to the prisoners and climbed out of the dungeon. As the guards showed them out, the hinges of the trapdoor squealed as it slammed shut.18
That winter in Far West, Brigham Young and Heber Kimball received a letter from Joseph. “The management of the affairs of the church devolves on you, that is, the Twelve,” he stated. He instructed them to appoint the oldest of the original apostles to replace Thomas Marsh as president of the quorum.19 David Patten had been oldest, but he had died after being shot at the Crooked River, meaning that Brigham, now thirty-seven years old, was to lead the Saints out of Missouri.
Already Brigham had enlisted the help of the Missouri high council to keep order in the church and make decisions in Joseph’s absence.20 But more needed to be done.
General Clark had given the Saints until spring to leave the state, but armed mobs were now riding through the city, promising to kill anyone who was still there by the end of February. Frightened, many Saints who had the means got away as soon as possible, leaving the poor to fend for themselves.21
On January 29, Brigham urged the Saints in Far West to covenant to help each other evacuate the state. “We will never desert the poor,” he told them, “till they shall be out of the reach of the exterminating order.”
To ensure that every Saint was taken care of, he and the other leaders in Far West appointed a committee of seven men to direct the evacuation.22 The committee collected donations and supplies for the poor and made a careful assessment of the Saints’ needs. Several men scouted trails across the state, keeping mostly to established roads and avoiding areas hostile to the Saints. The chosen routes all converged at the Mississippi River, the eastern border of the state, 160 miles away.
The exodus out of Missouri, they determined, would begin at once.23
In early February, Emma left Far West with her four children—eight-year-old Julia, six-year-old Joseph III, two-year-old Frederick, and seven-month-old Alexander.24 Almost everything she and Joseph owned had been stolen or left behind in Far West, so she traveled with friends who supplied a wagon and horses for the journey. She also carried with her Joseph’s important papers.25
The family traveled across Missouri’s frozen ground for more than a week. Along the way, one of their horses died. When they reached the Mississippi, they found that the bitterly cold winter had created a sheet of ice across the wide river. No ferries could operate, but the ice was just thick enough for the group to cross on foot.
With Frederick and Alexander in her arms, Emma stepped out onto the ice. Little Joseph clutched one side of her skirt while Julia clung tightly to the other. All three walked carefully across the slippery path until their feet at last found the far riverbank.26
Safely out of Missouri, Emma found the people in the nearby town of Quincy, Illinois, kinder than she had expected. They assisted the Saints across the icy river, donated food and clothing, and supplied shelter and employment for those in greatest need.27
“I still live and am yet willing to suffer more, if it is the will of kind heaven that I should, for your sake,” she wrote her husband soon after her arrival. The children were also doing well, except that Frederick was ill.
“No one but God knows the reflections of my mind and the feelings of my heart,” she expressed, “when I left our house and home and almost all of everything that we possessed, excepting our little children, and took my journey out of the state of Missouri, leaving you shut up in that lonesome prison.”
Still, she trusted in divine justice and hoped for better days. “If God does not record our sufferings and avenge our wrongs on them that are guilty,” she wrote, “I shall be sadly mistaken.”28
As Saints fled Missouri, Alma Smith’s wound still prevented his family from leaving Hawn’s Mill. Amanda cared for her son, continuing to trust that the Lord would mend his hip.
“Do you think that the Lord can, Mother?” Alma asked her one day.
“Yes, my son,” she said. “He has showed it all to me in a vision.”29
In time, the mob near the settlement grew more hostile and set a deadline for the Saints to leave. When that day came, Alma’s hip was still raw, and Amanda refused to go. Afraid, and longing to pray out loud, she hid in a bundle of cornstalks and asked the Lord for strength and assistance. When she finished her prayer, a voice spoke to her, repeating a familiar line from a hymn:
The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,
I will not, I cannot desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake!30
The words strengthened Amanda, and she felt as if nothing could hurt her.31 Not long after, as she was fetching water from a stream, she heard her children screaming in the house. Terrified, she rushed to the door—and saw Alma running around the room.
“I’m well, Ma, I’m well!” he cried. Flexible cartilage had formed in place of his hip, allowing him to walk.
With Alma able to travel, Amanda packed up her family, headed to the home of the Missourian who had stolen her horse, and demanded the animal. He told her she could have it back if she paid five dollars to compensate him for feeding it.
Ignoring him, Amanda went into the yard, took her horse, and set out for Illinois with her children.32
With more Saints leaving Far West every day, Drusilla Hendricks worried that she and her family would be left behind. Isaac Leany, a fellow Saint who had taken four bullets at Hawn’s Mill, assured her that they would not be abandoned. But Drusilla did not know how her husband could make the journey.
James was still paralyzed from his neck wound at Crooked River. When the fight was over, Drusilla had found him lying among the other wounded men at the home of a neighbor. Though overcome with grief, she had composed herself, brought James home, and tried several remedies to restore feeling to his limbs. Nothing seemed to help.
In the weeks after the surrender of Far West, she sold their land and worked to make money for the move east, earning enough to purchase some supplies and a small wagon, but not a team of animals to haul it.
Without a way to pull her wagon, Drusilla knew they would be stuck in Missouri. James had regained some movement in his shoulders and legs after receiving a priesthood blessing, but he could not walk very far. To get him safely out of the state, they needed a team.
With the deadline for evacuation approaching, Drusilla grew more anxious. She began receiving threats from the mob, warning her that they were coming to kill her husband.
One night, as Drusilla nursed her baby on the bed beside James, she heard a dog barking outside. “Mother!” cried William, her oldest son. “The mob is coming!” Moments later they heard pounding on the door.
Drusilla asked who was there. A voice from outside said it was none of her business and threatened to break down the door if she did not open it. Drusilla told one of her children to open the door, and soon the room was filled with armed men wearing false whiskers to disguise their faces.
“Get up,” they ordered Drusilla.
Fearing the men would kill James if she left his side, Drusilla did not move. One man grabbed a candle from a nearby table and began searching the house. The mob said they were looking for a Danite in the area.
They rummaged under the bed and in the back of the house. Then they pulled the covers off James and tried to interrogate him, but he was too weak to say much. In the dim light, he looked fragile and pale.
The mob asked for water, and Drusilla told them where to find some. As the men drank, they loaded their pistols. “All is ready,” one of them said.
Drusilla watched the men place their fingers on the triggers of their guns. They stood up, and Drusilla braced herself for gunfire. The men lingered in the room for a minute, then they stepped outside and rode away.
A short time later, a doctor took pity on James and gave Drusilla advice on how to help him. Slowly James gained strength. Their friend Isaac also found a yoke of cattle for the family.
It was all they needed to leave Missouri for good.33
When Wilford and Phebe Woodruff arrived in Illinois with the Fox Islands branch, they learned of the Saints’ expulsion from Missouri. In mid-March, as more church members settled in Quincy, the Woodruffs set out for the bustling river town to reunite with the Saints and meet with church leaders.34
Edward Partridge, who had suffered for weeks in a Missouri jail before being released, was helping lead the church in Quincy despite his poor health. Heber and other senior leaders, meanwhile, were still directing the evacuation from Missouri.35
Wilford and Phebe found Emma and her children living in the home of Sarah and John Cleveland, a local judge. They also saw that the prophet’s parents and siblings were now living in and around Quincy, as were Brigham and Mary Ann Young and John and Leonora Taylor.36
The next day, Brigham announced that the evacuation committee in Far West needed money and teams of animals to help fifty poor families leave Missouri. Although the Saints in Quincy were poor themselves, he asked them to extend the hand of charity to those who were even worse off. In response, the Saints donated fifty dollars and several teams.37
Wilford went to the banks of the Mississippi River the following day to visit a camp of newly arrived church members. The day was cold and rainy, and the refugees were huddled in the mud, tired and hungry.38 As kind as the people of Quincy had been, Wilford knew the Saints would soon need a place of their own.
Fortunately, Bishop Partridge and others had been talking with a man named Isaac Galland, who wanted to sell them some swampy land along a bend in the river north of Quincy. It was hardly the land of milk and honey they envisioned for Zion, but it was readily available and could provide a new gathering place for the Saints.39