Preparation, Monona County, Iowa, A settlement was made at this place about 1858 by a body of seceders from the Mormon Church, under the lead of one Charles B. Thompson, who styled himself the Chief Apostolic Pastor and Evangelical Bishop. They called themselves Conjeprizites (Congregation of Jehovah’s Presbytery of Zion), and the religious order Conjprezon. They believed that the Bible had in measure been done away with, by new revelations made by the voice of Baneemy, through the medium of the Chief Apostolic Bishop. This place had at one time a population of some six or eight hundred, but they finally got into difficulties over the ownership of the property, and the organization broke up. As they believed their existence in the this world was only a preparation for the world to come, they named the town Preparation. The old town was abandoned and a new town laid out by the Western Town Lot Company in 1899 and given the old name. Preparation was also familiarly known as Baneemy Town.
Charles Blancher Thompson was born on Jan. 27, 1814 in Niskayuna, Schenectady, New York, the son of David and Sarah Blancher Thompson. The family were Quakers and may have had connections with the Shakers of that region.
Proceedings of the Academy of Science and Letters of Sioux City
Charles Blancher Thompson
The Mormon church, or as the Mormons themselves styled it, "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints," as a religious sect was founded at Manchester, New York, in 1830, by Joseph Smith, a poor, uneducated young man then about 25 years old, born in Vermont, who several years previously claimed to have had revealed to him the place where the engraved plates of the Book of Mormon, a supplement to the New Testament, were buried. These, it was claimed, were found, translated, and Smith under them declared God's Prophet.
We avail ourselves of this opportunity to add to the recorded history of his early career, a few items which we understand are not given in any published account of his life, or of Mormonism. The fact that he lived in Pennsylvania for a time has never been so mentioned. The following matters were furnished me by Mr. E. W. Skinner, of Sioux City, Iowa, who acquired them from his parents and grand-parents, as having occurred in the place of Mr. Skinner's birth.
Joseph Smith came to the towns of South Bend and Harmony, in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, probably prior to 1830, before he claimed to have discovered the plates of the Book of Mormon. He had with him a brother, probably Hyrum Smith, and Martin Harris, and another man. Harris was the man who helped Smith translate the Book of Mormon and furnished the money to print it. Joseph Smith there rented a two-story board house of Joseph McKewon, an uncle of E. W. Skinner. He had with him a stone which he claimed had some supernatural qualities, and its size was not equal to that of a man's fist. Smith would take this into a dark room, put it into his hat, and then hold the hat over his face and claimed he could then see where gold could be found. He carried this stone with him, and consulted it often, and he had his brother, Harris and the other man dig for the gold in the places the stone indicated along the sides of the mountains. Some of the places were at the back end of the farms of Israel Skinner and Joseph McKewon, Sr., Mr. E. W. Skinner's grand-parents. Smith did not do any digging himself, and no gold was actually found. He married his wife there; her name was Emma Hale; he lived there possibly two years. One of Mr. Skinner's relatives prepared a manuscript history of Smith's career there for publication at a time when his life was being written up, but for some reason it was never published.
From another personal source (J. C. C. Hoskins, of Sioux City, Iowa), one acquainted with Joseph Smith's sister in Vermont, and the locality where he was born, we learn that as late as 1842 there was a man in that region who claimed to have a divining stone which enabled him to locate lost goods or treasure. It was about the size of one's fist, like a meteorite or smoky quartz, and the owner would fix his gaze upon it intently for a long time, and he claimed the color of the stone cleared up, and he could then see in it a picture of the object searched for, and its location, and he allowed no one to touch it or come very near it. This stone had presumably been known for a long time there, and Joseph Smith had probably heard his parents tell of it, or may have heard of it as a child in Vermont. I record these incidents here as throwing some light on the growth of ideas in Smith's mind leading up to the declared revelation of the location of the golden plates on which the Book of Mormon was said to have been recorded.
Shortly after their origin, the Mormons moved to Kirtland, Ohio, which was to be the seat of the New Jerusalem, where they were soon joined by Brigham Young. They started a bank, erected a temple, and sent out twelve apostles. In 1838 the bank failed and Smith went to Caldwell County, Mo., where numerous others followed, and there they again flourished. The native Missourians were hostile. Smith fortified his town and armed his people and defied the civil authorities. The militia was called out, and Smith arrested, and the colony was broken up. They had become numerous by this time, and it is said about 15,000 crossed the Missouri river back to Illinois.
In 1843 the revelation approving polygamy was promulgated. This provoked bitter dissension within, and great indignation without the colony. Smith destroyed a newspaper office which had published too severe criticisms, and the editor swore out a warrant for the arrest of Smith and others, who resisted the officers. The militia was called out, and the Mormons armed themselves, and civil war seemed imminent, when the Governor persuaded Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum to surrender, and stand a civil trial, and they were placed in the Carthage jail, but at night a mob broke in the prison, and shot them both; this was in 1844. This made a martyr of Smith. Brigham Young was elected president of the twelve apostles, but there were grave dissensions in the ranks over polygamy, and there were temporal and religious differences.
Many contended that under the book of Mormon there was no such thing as a religious successor to Joseph Smith; that Smith had never had any revealed command to assume political authority; that he was only the religious head, and that he had been punished by authority of God for trying to go beyond his spiritual powers. The Legislature of Illinois repealed the charter of Nauvoo.
Early in 1846 the leaders of the Nauvoo colony determined on a western migration to the Rocky Mountains, out of the reach of the other settlers; and it is said that in one month over 1,200 wagons crossed the Mississippi River, and by May 10,000 persons were crossing Iowa toward Council Bluffs; and as fast as they could sell out in Nauvoo, and buy teams, they kept leaving Nauvoo. Many of these travelers stopped and formed settlements in Decatur and Union counties, Iowa, the primary object in so doing, being to raise crops to feed them in their further journey. By mid-summer the head of the column reached Council Bluffs. From here they sent pioneers who founded Salt Lake City, and in 1847 and 1848 Brigham Young and a large colony followed.
Nauvoo was cannonaded in 1846, and the colony there practically ended. Other bodies located under different leaders all over the west, but large numbers were left scattered through Iowa on the line of the march from Nauvoo to Council Bluffs.
One of the chief aims of all the Mormons from the beginning had been to establish a separate independent local temple, city, or colony; to get off by themselves; and the unsettled condition of the west seemed to afford a good opportunity for the realization of such a scheme. And once admitting that revelation and prophecy still existed in Divine Government, there seemed to be no limit to the number of prophets that might arise. Now that the original modern prophet, Joseph Smith, was dead, these religious enthusiasts were ready to believe in any additional prophet, and in new revelations. They were ready to take up with a prophet and a prophecy or revelation that seemed to coincide with their own views. The Mormon literature of this period is full of religious speculation and controversy over minor points of Mormon doctrine.
A brief sketch of the early life of Chas. B. Thompson, the founder of the Monona County Colony, will better enable us to understand his subsequent career, and we give it from his own written sketch of himself.
With relation to the revelation to Joseph Smith as to polygamy, I have this personal information to add, which I believe has never been published. A member of Congress from Northwest Iowa was in Salt Lake City when the memorial funeral services were held after the death of Brigham Young, and through an official acquaintance was permitted to attend. One of the survivors of the early day of Joseph Smith spoke on that occasion, and attempted to give the true history of that revelation, because even among Mormons, it had been claimed there never had been such a revelation. The speaker was the official clerk of the Church, or recorder of the Church, and said that Smith came to him and handed him the writing which contained the authorization for plural marriages, which had come to him, Smith, as a divine command, and that it was to be recorded and promulgated as a law of the Church. This secretary kept it, and made a copy of it. That shortly after this Joseph Smith came back and wanted the revelation paper, saying he had told his wife about it, and she was very much excited, and was making a great fuss over it, and he would have to pacify her by destroying the revelation, and took it away with him. This accounted for the original not being found among the records, but the speaker on this occasion spoke as being a living witness to the fact that polygamy came as a divine command to Joseph Smith. The congressman was surprised to find that in the full newspaper accounts of these funeral exercises nothing was said of this part of the proceedings, and concluded that it was intended for Mormon ears only.
Chas. Blancher Thompson was born January 27th, 1814, at Niskanna, Schenectady county, New York. His father was a Quaker; his mother died when he was three years old, and his father supported him until he was eight, from which time up to when he was fourteen he earned his own living, and then commenced to learn the tailor's trade. At 17 years old he became interested in religion and at 18 joined the Methodist church, and commenced business as a tailor in Watervliet, N. Y. At 20 he withdrew from the Methodist church, traveled a year, as he says, searching for the Church of Christ, when he heard an elder of the Latter Day Saints preach. He went to their then headquarters at Kirtland, Ohio, Feb. 10, 1835, he then being 21 years old, and was baptized, and afterward confirmed by Joseph Smith, as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. He wanted to preach, and claimed he was called of God in answer to special prayer. He was ordained by Joseph Smith, and Sidney Rigdon. Thompson, in one of his papers, gives in full what he claims were the words of such blessing and commission, which purport to confer great spiritual power, and prophesy great things for him. Thompson then started out to preach the new doctrine among his old acquaintances in New York, with indifferent success. In the fall of 1835 he came back to Kirtland, Ohio, and spent the winter, and again in 1836 went back to New York and preached in various places and was married this year. In the summer Of 1837 he organized a church Of Latter Day Saints at Sandusky, Ohio, and in the summer of 1837, following the westward migration of the Mormons, he moved with his family to Kirtland Camp in Far West Missouri, and soon moved to "Adam Ondie Ahem" in Davies county, Missouri, and under the exterminating order of Governor Boggs of Missouri was compelled to leave there, and went out of that state to Quincy, Illinois, with other Mormons. Early in 1839 Thompson was sent by the Mormon twelve apostles to New York, where his wife soon died from the effects of the exposure in the expulsion from Missouri, leaving a five-months-old baby. Thompson preached in New York for about four years, baptized about 200 converts, ordained elders and teachers, and organized there what was called the "Genesee Conference of Latter Day Saints." In 1841 he published a book on the "Evidence in Proof of the Book of Mormon." In 1843 he came back from New York and under direction of Joseph Smith settled at Hancock, Illinois, 20 miles from Nauvoo, and the following year was ordained a High Priest. After the death of Joseph Smith he removed to Nauvoo and assisted in voting the power of the church into the hands of the twelve apostles, and at first had confidence in them, but September 1st, 1845, he had one of those visions so conveniently common to Mormons in that day, in which he says, "He saw all the tribulations the Mormons had passed through, and that it was a punishment for their errors. Then he saw into the future; that the Lord's Hosts, under new methods, triumphed in the West." He did not then understand the vision, and in fact it was not published for several years. He was married again in 1846 and sealed for time and eternity under what the twelve apostles called "The Endowment." When the twelve apostles started west on their journey that finally ended in Utah, Thompson began to have doubts, and regarded them as apostates and tried to agree with the faction that followed Mr. Strang, known as the "Strangites," but soon regarded him as an imposter, and went off by himself to St. Louis and went to work at the tailor's trade again. In January, 1848, he claimed to have received a revelation or proclamation from "Baneemy," a spirit successor to Joseph Smith, by whom he was appointed agent, and in 1849 he claimed to have received the "Grand Key" which qualified him to act as "Chief Teacher of the Schools of Preparation," and in 1850 he organized what he called his first class in the covenant. About January 1st, 1851, he commenced to publish a small monthly magazine of eight pages, which he styled "Zion's Harbinger and Baneemy's Organ." This paper was full of Mormon theology and treated of the different views of the numerous factions into which the Mormon body had been divided after the death of Joseph Smith. It contained letters from numerous correspondents and subscribers. In it Thompson published his claims as Chief Teacher under his visions and revelations from Baneemy and gathered something of a following. His spiritual claim was that Joseph Smith was only a spiritual teacher, and by assuming temporal authority had provoked divine wrath and that there was no spiritual successor to Joseph Smith direct, but under the authority as set out in the Book of Mormon, the Lord would raise up in time someone to take up the work, and that so by revelation the Spirit "Baneemy" had received such authority, and in like manner Thompson was his (Baneemy's) duly authorized agent on the earth. When interrogated as to what Baneemy was before he was revealed in his present character and name, Thompson replied that the answer was withheld for a wise purpose by Jehovah, and would only be revealed to those found worthy to receive the key words of the Holy Priesthood.
As an illustration of Thompson's classical ability in derivation of language, word making and general style of theological writing, I give his own definition of this word.
"Why is the successor of Joseph Smith called Baneemy? First, because his mission is to give public notice of the rejection of the church, and to make public proclamation interdicting its continuance, which is a curse upon the Gentiles; for 'Ban' signifies a proclamation or edict; a public order or notice, mandatory or prohibitory. Second, to say unto Zion, 'Behold your God reigneth,' and to Jerusalem, 'Behold your warfare is accomplished and your iniquity is pardoned, for you have received of the Lord's hand double for all your sins' - for 'ee' is the initials of 'ecce' (Latin) 'Behold.' Third, to cry in the name of the Lord, 'Behold my curse, interdiction, and notice of future work' - for 'my' is an affix to 'Banee,' and is a personal pronoun in the possessive case, and stands in this affix for Jehovah, our father in Heaven; whom Baneemy personates as the Father of Zion, which his name signifies in the Adamic or pure language. But as it stands in English 'Baneemy,' signifies, the voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, and giveth notice of God's curse upon the Gentiles, in the rejection and interdiction of the church among them, and also of that which is to come, proclaiming the day of vengeance of our God, and the preparation necessary to be made for the restoration of Israel and their salvation in 'that day.'"
Ten years later in testifying in the litigation that followed, Thompson had evidently forgotten the foregoing definition, for he then said that the word "Baneemy" is composed of two Hebrew words Bene and Emmi, signifying my mother's sons, or my brothers.
In February Thompson published a notice, that thereafter there would be three solemn assemblies of his organization which he called "Schools of Preparation of Jehovah's Presbytery of Zion," to-wit: on April 15, August 29th, and December 27th of each year, the first one to be held April l5,1852, at St. Louis. This assembly met at Thompson's house, and this appears to have been its first regular organization. Thompson was Chief Teacher and they elected one man a Chief of Quorum of Travelling Teachers, and another Second Chief of Travelling Teachers.
Wm. Marks, Richard Stevens and Harry Childs, "having been appointed by revelation," as Thompson puts it in his records, were accepted as a committee to locate a present place of gathering for the "Schools Of Jehovah's Presbytery of Zion," and they were directed to report to Thompson as soon as they had selected a place. At this meeting these travelling teachers were sent on their mission to the eastern states, from New York and Pennsylvania to Missouri and Iowa. The committee on location, who were not all present at this meeting, conferred by letter, and were to meet and start on their journey for selection the latter part of June, 1852. A part of the committee got as far as St. Joseph, Mo., in August, 1852, but one was sick, and land was so high priced there, they reported they would be compelled to go farther north.
The Solemn Assembly again met at Thompson's house in St. Louis, August 29, 1852, with greatly increased numbers, and all during this year their teachers were active and had organized schools and churches in many states, and Thompson's paper was given an increased circulation. His organization seemed to be gathering in the Mormons who had been scattered by the breaking up of the Nauvoo colony, or who refused allegiance to the new Brigham Young faction which preached polygamy, or had not gone with the Rigdonites to Pittsburg, or with the Strangites to an island in Lake Michigan.
September l, 1852, Wm. Marks and Harry Childs, of the location committee, reported by letter from Kanesville, Iowa, (Council Bluffs) that they had selected the region around Kanesville in Pottawatamie county, Iowa as the place for their colony, that many land claims were vacant there because of the Brigham Young colony migration west, that the country north was mostly vacant, but no specific spot was selected.
Thompson duly published this in his paper, the "Harbinger and Organ" for October, 1852, and advised those that could to go that fall, and when there to appoint a committee to select lands for those who might write to them, and Thompson also asked for contributions to move himself and his paper to Kanesville that fall. Owing to lack of funds Thompson was unable to move that year, but notified his followers in his paper that Kanesville was the place where the Church, meaning the old organization of Mormons went to pieces, and that it was exceedingly proper that there "Jehovah's Presbytery of Zion" should take its place. A branch Solemn Assembly of Thompson's followers was held at the house of Job V. Barnum, near Kanesville, December 27, 1852, at which about twenty-five persons were present.
The committee on location had bought a house and lot at Kanesville, but no funds were coming to Thompson to enable him to move there, and in the February, 1853, number of his paper, he took his followers to task for their neglect, in a long article, and did what before and after that was characteristic of him, when not supported when he wished; laid down the law of special revelation and commandment and for the first time published such revelation in detail, though he assumed it had actually been given months and years before. In this case he published the recorded command given to this committee to be: "To search out a location and to let them make provision for Chas. B. Thompson and his family that he may be speedily located in a proper place to qualify my servants in their great and last mission, etc. That the time set by revelation for the opening of the second department of the School of Works was December 23, 1853, and that Thompson must be there by that time, or the curse would rest on them."
In the March, 1853, number of his paper, Thompson published a revelation made by Baneemy the previous January 28, 1852, as to their assemblies and feasts, and saving, "I appoint Chas. B. Thompson Chief Steward of my house * * * and to receive, hold and manage and direct all the sacred Treasures of my house, the obligation gifts, tythings and sacrifices of my people, that he and his family shall dwell in my house, eat at my table, and be clothed in my raiment."
At their Solemn Assembly held at St. Louis, April 15, 1853, they voted to "recommend to their committee on location, selected by revelation, to re-consider their action and select a more suitable place than Kanesville, but near there, and to make the selection quickly," and they appointed a sub-committee of three to act with them.
Finally Thompson and his family on September 9, 1853, with a new printing press, left St. Louis on the steamer E1 Paso and arrived at Council Bluffs, as he then names it, on the 16th. The brethren had to raise part of the money to pay the freight. A location had in the meantime been selected at a place they named Preparation, near the south line of Monona county, Iowa, near the stream called the "Soldier." A house for Thompson was in course of construction and he moved to this November 4, 1853, and set up his printing press there, and November 26th published the September number of his paper there, and his colony was fairly started.
The town was laid out into acre lots and all the timber within six miles was pre-empted by members of the colony under United States laws, and at first this timber and the town were all that was contemplated to be held by the Church, or Presbytery. Thompson held the claim to the town plat. The form of the town organization was much the same that had been formerly adopted by the Mormons in their settlements, especially at Nauvoo: to give each settler a block or lot of one acre for a home, and the farming to be carried on outside by those living in the town. By the time of the important Solemn Assembly, December 27, 1853, the colony had its settlement established at Preparation, and at this meeting upwards of one hundred persons were present, though not all members of the colony, and a religious service was held and a feast given on each of the three days and the rea1 business and organization of Jehovah's Presbytery of Zion began.
Thompson claimed to be commissioned by Baneemy as Chief Teacher in the Schools of Preparation; and there were also to be Schools of Faith and Schools of Works, several degrees of each, but up to this time there have been but three degrees in the Schools of Faith and only two degrees established in the Schools of Works. There were long formal covenants to be entered into by the members of each, and officers and teachers were elected to the subordinate positions in these schools.
There was also a traveling department in the Schools of Faith, the members of which acted as missionaries, and these were divided into quorums or groups of fifteen men, who were assigned to different sections of the country.
So the School of Works had its quorum or groups of men to whom duties were assigned in the nature of the civil government or business management of the colony, and one of the early things attended to was to enclose about 1,500 acres of tillable land in the vicinity of the town for the next year's cultivation in which portions would be set off for each one according to their needs or ability to farm, as each member was then working financially for himself. The law of tithing was established, by which each gave to the Presbytery one-tenth of all he or she possessed, money, clothing, cattle and all, and also one-tenth of their annual income, and one-tenth of their labor besides so giving one- tenth of their time, and one-tenth of the products of the other nine- tenths.
Thompson's paper, "The Harbinger and Organ," continually warned his followers of the necessity of being; faithful to the covenants if they expected to progress in these Schools of Faiths and Works, and be ready for the third degree in the school of works, which was to be opened at the Solemn Assembly in August, 1856. He warned them to observe the law of tything and also the law of gift obligations which had been in force for some time. This seemed to be the making of donations by the brethren in other districts, towards the common cause, as well as by the members of the colony. Books of account had been opened and the several gifts and tythings were set down in detail.
Thompson seems to have had prepared at St. Louis a blank book in which had been written in a good legible hand some of his revelations and covenants, and in the back part if this he entered the names and contributions under the various tithings, gifts and sacrifices, and many of the members subscribed their names to some of the covenants written there, and this book, which I have examined, was regarded by them as the chief record of the Presbytery. The book commences with a title page and the three following leaves were written in a fine copy hand setting out the revelations of April 15, 1850, and one or two covenants, and the rest is mostly in Thompson's writing. The revelation of April 15, 1850, while good enough for the purposes of that period was hardly explicit enough to sustain Thompson's authority at later periods when he was managing his colony at Preparation, and one significant interlineation in Thompson's poor hand writing, as it stands beside that other fine penmanship is characteristic of his whole career. It had been written originally as follows:
"And now behold I send unto you my servant Baneemy in the spirit and name of Elias to write in your heart my law," etc.
Baneemy was evidently in his spiritual authority not quite potent enough to control a frontier settlement, and Thompson found it necessary to have a direct revelation as to his own personal authority.
One of the early acts of the quorum of Works, which acted as a sort of town council, was to forbid hogs from running at large under penalty of forfeiture at the pleasure of the Chief Steward, Chas. B. Thompson. He was impatient for the success of his town, and published the following invitation:
"Let all those who desire to be instructed in the things pertaining to their salvation and deliverance with Israel come on speedily with their tythes, gift obligations, and sin offerings to the House of God that they may be justified from sin and receive an inheritance, * * * *"
A record had been kept of the gift oblations, chiefly in small sums, but when they became members of Jehovah's Presbytery of Zion at Preparation, an inventory of all their worldly possessions was taken, and one-tenth of this was paid into the Lord's treasury, that is, to Chas. B. Thompson, generally in kind even to their clothing, and in the first year each one who could work was expected to labor one day in ten for the Presbytery (Thompson).
Most of those who joined had very little property beyond tools, stock and furniture, only seven, as shown by the tything record, had over one thousand dollars worth of property each, though it cropped out later that some who had money, discreetly gave it to their children, and so were enabled to honestly take the oaths and covenants, and so had a little money for emergencies.
Thompson's explanation as to the disposition that would be made of the tythings was, "that it ought to be sufficient to know that it would be used as directed by the Lord. He had appointed as agent (Thompson) to receive it and manage it, and this ought to be a sufficient guaranty." That but one person was ever appointed by revelation to receive and manage the tything." "If the Word of God is not sufficient assurance to any man that his tything will be prudently managed and used where most needed if payed into the hands of the Lord's Steward, he had better not pay it." "That it was to be used, first, to create a capita for the establishment of the House of the Lord, etc.; second, to create a capital to be expended in establishing schools among the Indian tribes; third, to create a fund to purchase Mount Zion."
Thompson was profuse in his promises as to the great results that were to come from this organization. By the spring of 1854, twenty families were already established at Preparation, and at the April Solemn Assembly one hundred and twenty partook of the feast, and they were all from the vicinity. Monona county, Iowa, was organized in April of that year and Thompson was elected to the chief office, that of County Judge, and a majority of the county officers, and all the township officers for that township were members of the Presbytery. There was only one other township. So for the time the civil government of the township and county was in their hands, and soon after, when the postoffice was established, Thompson was appointed postmaster.
Thompson seems also to have carried on a mercantile business as he advertises that "Flour, meal, pork and butter were for sale at the Lord's storehouse in Preparation," and under the head of "Wanted, at the Lord's storehouse, on tything and gift oblations, all kinds of country produce, money, dry goods and groceries, young stock, cows, horses, oxen, harness, wagons and farming tools." He also republished in his paper some of the early proclamations or revelations that came to him in 1848. He also had a new revelation in June, 1854, which begins as follows:
Then followed a review of what had preceded, and a scathing rebuke on some who had evidently held back, who had been expected to join the settlement, and had not paid their tything, and of these he says, "Wo unto them, for their reward lurketh from beneath and not from above, for they have lied unto me," etc. During this summer Thompson went to St. Louis to buy more printing material and a mill, going by team to southeastern Iowa, and the rest of the way by boat, stopping at Nauvoo to moralize over the sins that had caused the downfall of that settlement; he returned by the same route.
Affairs at Preparation were not at all harmonious. The first year a new settlement is hard at best, and add to this a sort of surrender of independence and an acknowledgement of Thompson's authority and the paying in of one-tenth of all one's earthly possessions and services, required the spirit of a saint; and those that had paid in would criticise those who had not, and some who had been prominent in organizing the colony seceded, and in the Kanesville paper denounced Thompson as an impostor and tyrant, and that none but fools would allow themselves to be controlled by him.
An unexpected difficulty had presented itself in the matter of the land; when they first came to Preparation the land there had been surveyed by the United States authorities, but was not all subject to private entry and could only be taken by actual settlers under pre-emption laws, and they intended to claim two congressional townships and had filed preemptions on the pieces that were timbered, but the General Land Office had ordered the land thrown into market and it would be publicly offered for sale in September, 1854, when speculators would enter the land. At that time, this was sure to be the case, especially as bounty land warrants for soldiers in the Mexican and other wars, had been issued by the United States and were bought up for this purpose by capitalists who located on such lands, and the land would have to be taken in some valid form to hold it, for this colony.
So Thompson announced that while it had not been originally intended to open up the third degree in the school of work until the August Solemn Assembly of 1856, yet he now advised all to anticipate that period and to enter a new order of sacrifice, which, while not strictly obligatory, and would not exclude from the Presbytery those who did not join it, yet would sanctify those who entered it. The order of sacrifice was that each one should surrender to Thompson, the Chief Steward, all their property and enter into bond to work for him two years, and he to furnish them with board, lodging and clothing not exceeding in value a specific sum per year, and written bonds from the husband and wife of each family were entered into in August, 1854, by thirty families, nearly every family that remained faithful.
They were organized into a quorum, as it was called, and the work of the colony was apportioned among specified ones to do the sowing, reaping, grist and saw-mill work, logging, and a head cook was appointed, and thereafter, until August, 1855, they were all fed as one community. An inventory of this property thus put into the Chief Steward's hands, exclusive of the saw and grist mills, printing establishment, agricultural and mechanical tools and household goods, was as follows: 27 horses, 800 cattle, 61 hogs, 80 sheep.
At the Solemn Assembly in August, 1854, several were expelled for apostacy, heresy, misrepresentation and lying to immigrants on their way to Preparation, and calumniating the chief teacher, Chas. B. Thompson. For some cause the order for public sale of the lands by the government was not carried out, and they were not obliged to buy all the land or prove up on the pre-emption, but Thompson bought some, including the townsite. There can be no doubt that these members who thus sacrificed their property to the common cause were sincere and devout and of more than ordinary self-denial.
In September, 1854, Thompson started a weekly newspaper called "The Preparation News," after the plan of an ordinary country weekly religious and family newspaper. His former monthly "Zion's Harbinger and Baneemy's Organ" had been irregularly published and at times was not issued till three or four months after it's ostensible date. The December, 1854, number of this magazine contained news under the date of May, 1855. In the spring of 1855 this magazine was consolidated with the Preparation News which later paper was called Preparation News and Ephriam's Messenger. His "Organ and Harbinger" he was to publish thereafter three times a year immediately after each Solemn Assembly, which was to be the grand channel of promulgating the Ecclesiastical Laws of Jehovah through Baneemy to Ephriam and to make known the decrees of Heaven unto men.
After the trials and tribulations encountered in managing the small colony already there, Thompson seems to have lost interest in the great hopes he had entertained of making it an organization of all the Mormons to take the place of what was expected of the Nauvoo settlement; and he decided not to send out missionaries, and that proselyting was all wrong and that it was the cause of Joseph Smith's downfall.
After the colony had thus gone into the order of sacrifice for two years, Thompson became a sort of dictator in a communistic settlement and the utmost economy of living was observed. They were instructed in the healthfulness of a vegetable diet. Rich foods were an abomination and for their spiritual welfare and physical health plain food was required; meat was forbidden. At one time butter was regarded as a useless and unknown luxury, and though an extensive dairy of 40 cows was carried on, the butter and cheese were all sold at Council Bluffs. Some pork and beef fattened for meat was killed and sold with the butter to increase the fund to buy the land for an inheritance.
It was claimed by the irreverent that the Chief Teacher, Thompson, did not share in all this self-denial. He taught that this abstemiousness was not to be perpetual, but was essential in those two years to sacrifice themselves for the common good of themselves and others who might join so that in the end after purification they would all come again into their inheritance in the spiritual and good things in store for them.
Some became discontented and left without settling with Thompson and left their sacrifices, tythings and oblations with him. Others would make a settlement, and get some of their property back and exchange receipts, for Thompson was getting to be careful in putting his dealings in writing, and only by a show of fairness to those who had left, was he able to hold those who remained; but he grew more cautious and sought to get renewed binding contracts according to accepted business forms at every possible opportunity. At and after the Solemn Assembly of August, 1855, Thompson prepared to put his business on a legal basis. He organized two corporations, one called the "Sacred Treasury of Jehovah's Presbytery of Zion," and the other the "House of Ephriam."
The first was a corporation of a single individual, Chas. B. Thompson; as he expressed it in the article "incorporating that portion of my individual prosperity which has been obtained by my labors and by the voluntary gifts, tythings and sacrifices of the members of Jehovah's Presbytery of Zion for that purpose." Its object was, "To establish schools of preparation for the intellectual, moral and physical culture of the members of his colony, to publish books and papers, to buy land and improve it for the future inheritanace of the saints who shall be found worthy; and to erect the necessary edifices for schools, colleges and temples." The capital was to be $10,000.00 to be increased indefinitely.
The funds of the corporation were to be the individual property of Chas. B. Thompson and he to be the manager and director of the business. Any person who wanted, whether a member of Jehovah's Presbytery or not, could contribute to the funds by gift oblations, tythings or sacrifices; but such donations can never return to donors nor were they to be entitled to any pecuniary remuneration therefor, but must abide the final issue of the work of Jehovah's Presbytery of Zion for their reward."
The other corporation, the "House of Ephriam," was composed of members of Jehovah's Presbytery of Zion; its capital stock was $6,000.00 in shares of $5.00 each, which might be indefinitely increased, and certificates of stock were to be issued. Its purpose was to carry on farming, milling and mechanical business. Its affairs were to be managed by Chas. B. Thompson, and from one to seven patriarchs appointed by him, and Thompson for his compensation was to receive one-tenth of the annual increase of its capital stock. Dividends of the annual increase could only be drawn by the shareholders in case of their actual need thereof for the necessaries of life.
Thompson had blank bills of sale printed with blank spaces for the enumeration of horses, cattle, sheep, swine, grain, tools, vehicles, furniture, clothing and credits, and he had each one of the colony make one or more bills of sale to him personally enumerating the specific property, which included the houses in which they lived, and their wearing apparel, and from the price the houses were very simple affairs, as for instance one enumerates a "cave" of the value of ten dollars.
For the Sacred Treasury he had formerly taken a tything of one-tenth, but the change to one-fifth at this time was, as he told them, that in order to make it equal to cash, he took another tenth. The remaining four-fifths of their property was conveyed to him for stock in the House of Ephriam. He also had title before this to much of the common property, as the mills, printing press, and the gifts and their proceeds. So now Thompson had title to everything they had, even to the clothes on their backs. For some balances of property Thompson gave them a due bill or certificate for a small specified amount in goods or grain out of the House of Ephriam and took from each a receipt in full for the certificates.
In the spring of 1856 Thompson proposed to buy their stock in the House of Ephriam and pay for it in script to be given by him in the House of Ephriam, which script they should exchange in turn for such property as he might sell them from that owned by this corporation, which proposition, being compulsory, was accepted, and they all assigned their stock to Thompson and took his script for it and gave a receipt for the script, and published notice that they had all sold out, but the business of the corporation would be carried on as usual by Thompson. These corporations were a sort of legal myth to cover the personal transactions of Thompson, as under these forms he got all the stock in both corporations.
Their land had not come into the market in the fall of 1854 as expected, but did so come in the spring of 1856, and they would be compelled to enter it from the United States, or take pre-emptions upon it which would need to be proved up on and paid for within a year, and a great strain was put upon the financial resources of the colony, for if they did not get the land, the object of all their labor and sacrifices would be lost. As many as legally could took pre-emptions; and as in law it would be necessary for each one to take these pre-emptions in their own name, and build houses and reside on them, there was danger that when they got full title it might be hard to control them.
So the most solemn rites and ceremonies were gone through at the August Solemn Assembly in 1856; a full and complete sacrifice was called for. It was argued by him that as every one had for the past two years been in the "order of sacrifice" and hence were incapable of taking or holding title to anything, that everything acquired during that period went under the law of sacrifice into the Chief Teacher's, Thompson's, control, to be laid up for their future inheritance. So each again gave Thompson a bill of sale of everything for the House of Ephriam, including growing crops, clothing, and a list of these things were written on a piece of paper, and they came into a darkened room and Thompson poured alcohol on this paper and burned it over the fire in token of their complete sacrifice of all they had and they all, men and women, were required to go through the ceremony of a sacrifice and consecration of their bodies to the Lord.
The two chiefs, right and left supporters of Thompson, Guy C. Barnum and Rowland Cobb, came into the room stripped naked and surrendered their clothing in token of complete surrender and sacrifice of their bodies, and they were then given a single coarse cotton garment or frock, coming below the knees like a nightshirt, such as used to be worn in early days as an over garment by New England farmers, called a smock frock. This Thompson named the "Garment of Holiness." Barnum and Cobb then seated themselves on either side of Thompson, and the rest of the members, men and women in turn, came into their presence and went through a like ceremony. This garment was worn for a little time but was not retained as a permanent fashion, but they retained only such clothing as was barely necessary, in fact, this had been the case for some time, but practically all their clothing and jewelry was given into the custody of Thompson, and he had large quantities stored in chests and boxes in his house. In consideration of the actual necessary clothing given back to them, which he nominally valued at ten dollars for each family, and five dollars for single persons, he again took a receipt and release from each, discharging Thompson and his two corporations from all demands to date; and from many who had had money for any purpose, and especially from those heads of families who were again living by themselves on pre- emptions, for the value of the very property sacrificed, such as furniture, teams, and tools needed to farm, which he then re-sold to them, or let them use, on that date he took their notes or bonds payable seven years thereafter, with interest at ten per cent. per annum, and thus had the title to the property, and their note for its value besides. The inventoried value of the whole property sacrificed at this time as recorded in his official record book by families, was the sum of $11,174.26 from forty-four persons.
In August, 1856, Thompson and Butts commenced publication of another paper called the "Western Nucleus and Democratic Echo," which supported James Buchanan's claim to the presidency, though many of Thompson's religious writings were against slavery.
In the spring of 1857 it became necessary to pay up for the land and the winter had been very severe and 100 head of cattle died worth about $2,000.00, which had been an expected source of getting money to pay for the land, and some were unable to prove up. Directions were given to prove up the best claims and to some extent individuals were allowed to use such property as could be converted into money for that purpose. But as entries of the land were made, Thompson demanded that each one should convey the land to him, for the reasons given before that it was all taken while they were on the sacrifice and hence belonged to the Sacred Treasury. In some cases the money to enter was borrowed of money lenders to whom the land was conveyed for security and a time bond taken back and later paid for, and deeded to Thompson. Much dispute afterwards arose over just what was agreed on at this time when the deeds were given.
The people afterward claimed it was all to be deeded back to them when they were out of the sacrifice, the period of which Thompson had prolonged beyond the time at first set of two years from August, 1854, giving the principal reason therefor that it was necessary to include the time for the entry of the land, and that divine commands were authority therefor. At any rate Thompson got deeds for most of the land; in some instances giving back bonds for deeds at largely increased prices, in which time of payment was made the essence of the contract, and with conditions of forfeiture if not paid for, and then in some instances getting the bond surrendered. Thompson also entered in his own name from the United States considerable more land with the money that came into his hands from the proceeds of sales of stock and produce, also borrowing some on short time.
It was not always harmonious in the colony and the management by Thompson of so many persons was difficult and some were not very energetic to labor and took life easy. February 17,1857, Thompson had another opportune proclamation or revelation by the voice of Baneemy, concerning the treasures of the Kingdom of Zion which ordered in substance, "That the funds were to be expended under the direction of the Steward in purchasing land for the future inheritance of the Saints who shall be found worthy." No one could receive their inheritance until there was sufficient land owned by the Chief Steward to furnish an inheritance for each family entitled thereto. "That the title should be vested in Chas. B. Thompson in whom Ephriam the first born of Israel is regenerated." This revelation was a very full and long creed minute in details of church government indicating a return to missionary work.
After Thompson had secured title to the land early in 1857 he planned a reorganization of the colony for the purpose of either keeping their minds employed with new thoughts or the better to confirm his title to the property and to prepare for a winding up of his connection with it.
At the Solemn Assembly in August, 1857, Thompson declared the schools of Preparation, Faith and Works, closed and called on all to settle up the affairs of the schools preparatory to the organization of what was called the "Travelling Ministry of the Congregation of Jehovah's Presbytery of Zion." This was organized at this Solemn Assembly, but only four settled up at that time, and three only were ordained Travelling Presbyters and started on missions to the Eastern States.
This settling consisted in giving Thompson a new bill of sale of property to which each might possibly have a claim, followed in a day or so by a written release by each to Thompson for all demands, and then a turning back to each head of family some of the property named in the bill of sale, such as furniture to enable them to carry on the farms under family stewardship which he then organized, under which they paid rent for such land as they cultivated. They did not all settle till in February, 1858, but in August, 1857, Thompson made a change in the temporal management evidently intended to allay the growing dissatisfaction. He appointed a number of the most reliable men as stewards and gave them each farms to manage. Stewardship was a great honor and each one of these gave his personal bond in the sum of Fifty Thousand Dollars, conditioned to perform the duties of family assistant steward of the Ecclesiastical Kingdom of Jehovah's Presbytery of Zion, and account to Chas. B. Thompson, Chief Steward, for all property that came into their hands. And later, when he settled with them, as above stated, Thompson delivered to them household goods and clothing with which to carry on this stewardship, and he took their receipts for it as held under their bond. It is noticeable that this receipt and bond say nothing of the two corporations which nominally held title to all the property; but as before stated just before giving them such property under their stewardship he took the precaution to take from each this new release to Thompson and to both of his corporations for all demands for a sum named equal to the stock they had before had in the House of Ephriam.
Thompson in 1857 published a book of about 210 pages entitled "The Law and Covenants," which contained all the proclamations, revelations and covenants, including those for his new congregation. It was divided into chapters and sections, the latter numbered up to 746. It had an index. It was pocket size, its pages about 21 inches by 4 inches. This book is a veritable medley, a combination of the writings of the Bible, the Book of Mormon, church government, orders and decrees, and is hopelessly entangled, and judiciously interlarded with commands as to the authority of Chas. B. Thompson in things spiritual and temporal.
After he made his settlement under the old order of schools of Preparation, his new plan was to be in force. Hitherto it had only been preparation; now his disciples were fully educated in these schools and were graduates in the ministry, and were fully ordained in the order of the "Travelling Ministry of the Congregation of Jehovah's Presbytery of Zion," and each were "Travelling Presbyters" ready to go out on missions, chiefly to organize new congregations of Jehovah's Presbyteries of Zion, the people at Preparation forming the first of such congregations. Then on paper Thompson had got the title to and possession of all the personal property except household goods and such tools and teams as were in the hands of the family stewards and they were paying rent for the land to all of which he had title.
Most of the parties after proving up on their claims had moved back into Preparation, preferring to live in town, so the religious congregation composed of his tenants could go on, but they still clung to his oral promises that after these sacrifices of the fast they should come into their inheritanace and something had to be done to divert their minds.
Thompson still found it hard to control them all, from what he said in confidence to some, as appeared from their testimony later in the suits, it seems probable that he thought it advisable to send the leaders out on their missions to different parts of the country, while he managed affairs at home getting ready for departure. It is said these commands to go on these missions were sent suddenly to each by a messenger telling them they were commanded to go instantly, just as they were, to the places named to them and to take no money.
Take two instances, as related by two of the parties afterward. Rowland Cobb, about 70 years old, one of the chief stewards, was coming home from towards the Missouri river with a load of lumber, and was met by a messenger from Thompson, telling him he was commanded by the Lord to start without an instant's delay, without money or change of clothing, and go to Virginia I think it was, to the Legislature in session there, and pronounce the vengeance of the Lord upon them if they did not free the slaves. Cobb at once gave his team to Thompson's messenger to take home, and started across the country on his mission and actually went to Virginia, and delivered his message to the state officers. They treated him decently, and from his dress and the strangeness of his mission evidently thought him insane, or what we would now call a crank, and most likely from his relation of it afterwards he had himself lost faith in the likelihood of his mission being successful.
He then wrote Thompson for permission to visit his old home at Elliottville, N. Y., where he had been once a leading business man. He got such permission in due time, and made the visit, and while there received a letter from J. J. Perrin, one of the leading stewards of Preparation, which indicated that all was not harmonious there, and Cobb at once hastened home.
Another chief man, Thomas Lewis, a well educated and intelligent man, originally from Kentucky and very devout, who was ploughing in the field, had taken off his boots and stockings, coat and vest, and left them at one end of the field, was met by a messenger from Thompson with the same command for Kentucky that Cobb had for Virginia, and he at once started instantly in his straw hat, shirt and pants, without crossing back to get his other clothes, and without money, went to the Kentucky Legislature. His advent seems to have been regarded as a huge joke, and the members of the Legislature and state officers treated him with mock distinction. He was allowed to address the Legislature either in or out official session. They got up a supper for him; raised quite a purse with which they got him new clothes, and money for expenses, but there is no record in their proceedings that they acceded to the demand of a message from so potential an individual even as Charles B. Thompson.
Thompson had started another newspaper in Onawa, which town had become the county seat. This he called the "Onawa Advocate," and in 1858 Thompson moved to Onawa, and his head man, Guy C. Barnum, was with him there more or less.
Thompson corresponded with his missionaries, but somehow or other the people had become suspicious. He had deeded some property in the summer to his wife and Barnum. These leaders sent out to preach, seemed by contact again with the world to have recovered their mental balance, and took a different view of matters than they had when under the immediate influence of Thompson, and some of them came back sooner in 1858 than was anticipated, and disconcerted Thompson's plans for getting his property disposed of, if he had formed any. It was afterwards asserted that Thompson had said that by his numerous bills of sale, bonds, receipts, corporations and other papers, he had got them all so tied up they could do nothing in law, and that he would sell the personal property and deed the land to some one else and go away. That Guy C. Barnum advised the better course would be to settle with the dissatisfied ones on some cheap basis, give the others, faithful ones, some land, and keep the rest for Thompson and Barnum. Thompson, however, stood upon his rights, and when a few leaders made trouble, he refused to settle, and turned them out of his Presbytery, especially Rowland Cobb, Charles C. Perrin and George Rarisk.
But this only started the trouble as it provoked discussion among the rest; and others, who had left before, came back to Preparation, and most of the people met and canvassed the situation, and expecting Thompson to come from Onawa on a certain day in October, 1858, were there intending to demand of him to settle with the people. The crowd had assembled in anticipation of his coming, and had posted sentinels on the bluffs who saw him coming with Guy C. Barnum in the distance over the Missouri bottom lands, but one, Melinda Butts, a daughter of one of the colonists, who lived in Thompson's family, was probably sent by Mrs. Thompson along the road to warn him of the possible danger, and she met Thompson and Barnum, and told them of the crowd assembled, and they immediately turned the1r team around and started at full speed to Onawa.
News of this return soon came to Preparation and several men at once started on horseback to follow them, and did so closely that Thompson and Barnum unhitched their team and fled on horseback, and the two did pursue them to Onawa. It was getting towards night when they started. Thompson sought protection among the citizens of Onawa, and that night fled to Sioux City, staying a week; negotiations were had seeking a settlement, but Thompson made only promises, and worked for delay. The men returned to Preparation the next day and went to Thompson's house and took possession of the household goods and clothing that had been put into the sacrifice, and in Mrs. Thompson's presence, opened up the trunks and boxes in which they were stored, and returned the articles to the original owners of them who were there to identify them. No property was destroyed except a collection of Thompson's printed books, tracts and papers, and some pork and mutton killed for food. The sheriff of the county, and Judge Whiting came over from Onawa to keep the peace, and witnessed much of this last day's proceedings. Mrs. Thompson, with much of her furniture and goods was moved that day to Onawa. Suits were begun in replevin to get possession of the farming tools and other property. Thompson had conveyed away all but 40 acres of land, that being his homestead; about 1,000 acres to his wife, who afterwards deeded it to his brother, D. S. Thompson in St. Louis, and 1,360 acres in trust to Guy C. Barnum, this part for settlement with those who had remained faithful, in case anything might be due them, and to allay the excitement, as Thompson said, and 320 acres to Barnum personally, and later 320 acres to Thompson's brother, so Thompson held about 3,000 acres.
The report of the mob had reached Thompson, who kept himself in hiding for several days in the attic of Judge Addison Oliver's house in Onawa; the judge was then acting as his attorney. Mrs. Thompson stopped there also, and it was said she had a small bag of jewelry, presumably that which had been given up in the sacrifice by the women. She seemed to set great value on this collection, much beyond its real worth. When Thompson took a drive up to Sioux City and Sergeant Bluffs, Woodbury county, Iowa, at all times he seemed to be in great fear of personal violence, and would start at every sound.
This ended the unity of the colony and the religious organization. A suit was brought in behalf of the colonists against Thompson and those to whom he had conveyed the property in the nature of a bill in equity, to declare the colony a partnership, and Thompson a trustee, holding the title in trust for the members, and to set aside the conveyance from him to his wife, brother and Barnum.
The case went to the Supreme Court of Iowa, and the people won, and there was an order for an accounting between the members as to what they had put in, and a division of the property was had. Addison Dimmock and Isaac Parrish, of Onawa, and Pat Robb and Wm. L. Joy, of Sioux City, represented the people, and in different stages Addison Oliver, B. D. Holbrook, of Onawa; Wakely & Test, Polk & Hubbell, and Thos. F. Withrow, of Des Moines, appeared for the defendants.
J. C. C. Hoskins was appointed under the order for apportionment, (Mr. Hoskins being from Sioux City), as referee to take the evidence as to what each one had contributed, and report the facts, and finally a distribution was made among the numerous persons entitled to it. Though the litigation began in 1859 it did not end until about 1867. The decision of the Supreme Court of Iowa is found in 21 Iowa Supreme Court Reports, page 599, Scott vs. Thompson.
In the trial of this cause the records, the newspapers, publications, contracts, bonds, notes, bills of sale, during the continuance of the colony with much oral testimony were offered in evidence and were thus preserved, and it is from these that the definite detail of this Mormon settlement at Preparation has been obtained.
With the meeting of the people at Preparation when they forcibly divided the clothing and personal property in sight in October, 1858, the colony or organization of Jehovah's Presbytery of Zion under its many names, ended. Many remained in that vicinity until they got their lands by suit, and they and their descendants are living in Northwestern Iowa, many scattered like any western people. Only three or four finally remained faithful to Thompson; many of them, though denouncing him as a false prophet, remained believers in the general Mormon religion.
In all, about one hundred and fifty persons were connected with the colony, men, women and children; it endured for five years. Thompson, in that time, had, with the pre-emptions taken by the settlers, and his own entries, got title to over three thousand acres of land, at a cost primarily of $1.25 an acre, but with the expenses of the sums borrowed at high rates to enter part of it, it must have cost over $4,500.00 in money, besides the improvements. The gifts, tythings and sacrifices nominally inventoried amounted to about $15,000.00, but considerable of this in clothing, tools and teams was practically kept by the people, while most of the money raised went into the buildings, mills, printing material and living expenses, but on the other hand, the increase of the cattle and the sale of the crops provided quite an income.
It was said that their flock of sheep increased rapidly and that under Guy C. Barnum's direction these had been taken across the river into Nebraska, on the representation that they would not be so much annoyed by other settlers, and that they were driven farther away, and finally converted by Barnum, and this same man Barnum seems to have been the chief leader and business manager for Chas. B. Thompson. He was much shrewder and had more directness in business matters, and less sanctimoniousness. He went to Columbus, Neb., became a member of the state senate, and later for a time went insane. I am yet unable to trace Thompson's later career; he resided in St. Louis for several years.
It was said that only one of the people failed to convey his land to Thompson, and that was Andrew G. Jackson, an erratic crank, who was chief editor after 1854 of the various papers published. He brought no money to the colony, and he absolutely refused to deed his land. He made no hostile demonstrations. It was one of Jackson's theories that we all are affected by the food we eat, and he aspired to be a long distance jumper among the younger athletes, and so went through a training course on a diet of grasshoppers, but in the outcome was badly beaten. He afterwards went insane.
The most of these colonists were sincere, honest, upright, devout citizens, with strong religious convictions, and lived up to their beliefs and hoped and expected much from their long season of sacrifice and self denial, having accepted the divine authority of Thompson, felt compelled to yield obedience to it, and were more easily deluded by his plausible promises.
It is hard to measure Thompson's motives. From the beginning he was undoubtedly a combination of a fanatic and knave. So long as they yielded obedience to his commands and leadership, he was apparently working to build up his Presbytery, and knew that so long as he held ownership to the property he could better control them, but when any of them became dissatisfied, he was revengeful and wished to get rid of them as cheaply as possible. He had been poor all his life, and the possession, even as the Lord's Steward, of the little property that came into his hands at first, seems to have excited his cupidity, and he was, as time progressed, more and more reluctant to part with it, and convinced himself that it should all belong to him.
He was a man of very ordinary ability, and the times and circumstances were not calculated to insure such a man success. He could only control for a time such a 1imited number of persons as were pure minded and faithful; had he had the ability of Brigham Young and contented himself with a less avaricious financial policy, he might have filled Northwestern Iowa, which was then entirely unoccupied by settlers, with the so-called followers of Mormonism, who were opposed to polygamy.
The times were then ripe for it, but he was not the man, and his colony scarcely made an impression on the large number of them that were even then in Southwestern Iowa. His followers remained chiefly those whom he had attracted by the publication of his paper at St. Louis. He never really had any clear idea of what his belief and mission was, and could not make plain to others that which was a fog on his own mind, and he concealed his thought in a great mass of words, prophecies, revelations, proclamations, orders, decrees and systems which were ever being changed.
[Contributed by researcher Phyllis A. Heller. Thanks, Phyllis, for sharing this history!]
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