Sunday, May 1, 2011

Bill Hickman's Meeting with a Mob Leader

Early on in his 1872 autobiographical work Brigham's Destroying Angel, William Adams "Wild Bill" Hickman (who had converted to the LDS faith in 1839 but was excommunicated from the Church in 1868) tells the story of Joseph Smith's demise and the aftermath. And part of that story is especially interesting, because Hickman tells of having paid a visit to one of the leaders of the mob that stormed Carthage Jail and killed Joseph and Hyrum. The following account is taken from Bill Hickman, Brigham's Destroying Angel: Being the Life, Confession, and Startling Disclosures of the Notorious Bill Hickman, the Danite Chief of Utah (New York: George A. Crofutt, 1872), 39-40:
Late in 1844 I went to what was called Green Plains, some twenty miles below Nauvoo, to Col. Williams', who, I was told, commanded the blacked mob who killed the Smiths, partly by request of Brigham Young, and partly to satisfy myself as to the cause of their death. I stayed with him one night. He was very jealous of me when I first went to his house, supposing me to be a Mormon; but I soon satisfied him I was from Missouri. I knew several of his relatives and friends who lived in the neighborhood I had just left, which soon dispersed all his suspicion, and a free conversation took place between us. He told me all about the Smiths being killed. I asked him what were the charges against them? He said they ruled the county, elected whom they pleased, and the old settlers had no chance; that it was the only way they could get rid of them. After getting through he said: "Now, Mr. Hickman, we don't pretend to justify ourselves in what we have done; we frequently talk about it, but what else could we have done? There are some bad men amongst them who do some stealing, and it is almost impossible to catch them; but many of them are good men. I have them for neighbors, and have had them hired to work for me, and they were good neighbors and industrious." I also learned from him that they had no intention of mob-raising again, which was what Brigham Young wanted to find out. I went to Warsaw and all around the county generally, and got the general say-so of all that class of men; returned to Nauvoo and gave general satisfaction to Brigham Young, this being my first business with him and my first acquaintance personally.
Does this cohere with the impressions you may have had about the mob and its rationale?

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