Fremont County, Iowa

Manti--Part 1
Alpheus Cutler- The Founder

by Nancy K. Jaeckel

View from the Attic ~ A Weekly Series
Fremont County Historical Society
Week of February 21, 2011

Alpheus Cutler was born in New Jersey on February 29, 1784. Cutler and his family were among the first people to join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, in New York, in 1833. They migrated west eventually settling in Nauvoo, Illinois. Cutler was the principal stone mason building the temple at Nauvoo.

The persecution of the Nauvoo church led in the spring of 1846 to the exodus of the Saints across southern Iowa. Among the trails they developed was a road that went across the southern tier of Iowa counties. From Burlington, Iowa, it passed through the county seat of each county to reach the Missouri River at the town of Eastport, opposite present-day Nebraska City, Nebraska, where a river crossing existed. At one time, Fremont county was considered a "gateway to the west."

Alpheus Cutler could have learned about the southern end of the Nishnabotna River Valley from members of the Mormon Battalion who marched down the Bluff Road for the Mexican War. Three of Cutler's followers had marched with the famous battalion. (The story of the Mormon Battalion was related in an earlier View from the Attic.)

The most likely explanation of Cutler leaving the church concerns Cutler's position as one of the seven leaders set apart by Joseph Smith in Nauvoo, and his desire to minister to the Native Americans. In the winter of 1846, Cutler applied to Brigham Young to continue his work with the Indians. Young gave him permission to remain behind when the leaders went west.

Orson Hyde, the Presiding Elder, grew concerned about Cutler's form of leadership. In 1850 he got a resolution passed at the April Iowa Conference demanding that Cutler either move to Salt Lake or appear before the local High Council. Believing that Hyde did not have authority over him, Cutler did neither and was disfellowshipped. Cutler appealed to Brigham Young. who apparently upheld the disfellowshipment, and Cutler was excommunicated in 1851 on charges of heresy and failure to obey the Utah church's authority.

(Note: Some believe that Cutler left because of polygamy but this is not accurate. He had plural wives himself back in Nauvoo. It was his desire to be one of the top leaders of the church that ran headlong into the other leaders.)

Cutler believed that he had authority and set out to form a settlement. Confusion still remains as to whether Silver Creek (today Silver City) was the initial settlement, or if he had founded his first settlement near present-day Malvern, Iowa. The supposed location near Malvern is close to that known on Silver Creek, so it could be that the two represent the same place.

Cutler decided the first location was not desirable. In 1852, he sent out scouts. They chose a site on Walnut Creek near a knoll of shag-bark hickory located in the extreme northwestern part of Fisher Township near the boundary between Fremont and Page counties. The sizable grove made it a desirable location since most of southwestern Iowa was open prairie with little timber. Adequate timber and good water were considered important criteria for a settlement and this site offered both.

The name the Cutlerites chose for this new settlement was Manti, a designation that has no known meaning other than a place name in the Book of Mormon.

(Part II continues the history of Manti.)

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Page updated on June 22, 2023 by Karyn Techau