The story has long been told in the family that when the children of the family who had joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints left Newry in 1836, that John and Hannah had joined them in the move. That story flies in the face of facts that are known today.
After Hannah said her good-byes to her kids as they left Newry, she and John continued to live on the family farm for two more years. John paid taxes in Newry through the year 1838. In fact, he held elected office in Newry during this time. It is interesting that between the time of Hannah’s baptism in 1834 and March of 1834 John held no elected or appointed office. Could it be that there was some level of prejudice against the Mormons and their families in Newry? Even though John had not joined surely his status in the community was tainted by the several Carters who had joined. Once they left in 1836, John’s favor in the community must have risen. On 7 Mar 1836 he, Elijah Powers and Alex Eames were chosen as Fence Viewers in Newry. I imagine this position required them to tour the community and inspect fences so that poor fences would be repaired. On 15 Mar 1838 John and 9 others became Highwaymen. No this doesn’t mean he became a thief as we would use that name today. In those days a Highwayman helped maintain the highways. On that same day he was also elected as the Constable and Tax Collector. The position of Constable and Tax Collector was probably the second most prestigious position in the community only surpassed by the Selectmen who actually ran the community government. There is a notation in the town records that on 10 Sep 1838 that John called the meeting that month and was paid $1.50 calling meetings that year. This is the last mention of John while he lived in Newry.
So what transpired in the Carter home between 1836 and 1838? No doubt Hannah probably wanted to join the Saints in Ohio and be with their older children, but John was most likely strongly opposed to this. He had already experienced some anti-Mormon feeling in Newry and had to be aware of the problems the Church members were having in both Kirtland and Missouri where they were congregating for their own safety. There wasn’t instant news like we have today but newspapers and letters would have kept the family in Maine informed about developments in Ohio and Missouri.
Exactly what was it that was transpiring where the Saints were congregated? To explain this the best source that gives a relatively short answer is found in the article “Kirtland, Ohio” in The Encyclopedia of Mormonism found online at http://eom.byu.edu/index.php/Kirtland,_Ohio. The following paragraphs are quotes from this article:
During most of the 1830s there were two gathering places for Latter-day Saints, one in western Missouri and the other in northeastern Ohio. Although more members gathered to the Missouri frontier, Kirtland, Ohio, was the principal administrative headquarters of the Church and the major base for directing missionary work from 1831 until early 1838…. The major growth of the LDS population in Kirtland began in 1833. The number rose from approximately 100 in that year to 2,000 in 1838.
Describing conditions in the Kirtland community in the mid-1830s, one contemporary wrote, "They came, men, women, and children, in every conceivable manner, some with horses, oxen, and vehicles rough and rude, while others had walked all or part of the distance. The future "City of the Saints' appeared like one besieged. Every available house, shop, hut, or barn was filled to its utmost capacity. Even boxes were roughly extemporized and used for shelter until something more permanent could be secured" (History of Geauga and Lake Counties, Ohio, p. 248).
The sudden influx of Latter-day Saints to Kirtland had a major impact on the community. One of the visible changes was the increase of small temporary dwellings. Although log and small frame houses dotted the landscape during the first two decades of colonization, larger and more permanent frame and brick structures were erected before 1830. Squatters or renters, comprising half of the population in 1830, lived in small frame houses. As Mormon immigration increased, however, clusters of small unadorned cabins, a throwback to the dwellings of the earliest settlers, appeared primarily in the northwestern section of the township.
Most Latter-day Saints were poorer than the older settlers, partly because the Mormons were recent immigrants. Prior to joining the Church, most members were not transients, nor were they from the lowest economic classes in the East. Many, however, lost economic ground by migrating to Kirtland. Some sold farms in New York or New England for less than the market value, and many left equipment in the East because of the expense of transporting it. All spent a portion of the money derived from such sales on moving their families and supplies westward.
After arriving in Kirtland, Latter-day Saints fell further behind economically as a result of contributing labor and scarce resources to Church projects. The Church erected a variety of buildings in Kirtland between the east branch of the Chagrin River and the eastern portion of a plateau that overlooked the river. The principal structure was the Kirtland Temple. For almost three years, between the summer of 1833 and the spring of 1836, nearly all members united in building the three-story "House of the Lord" to be used as a meetinghouse and school.
Some of the non-Mormon residents considered the intrusion of Latter-day Saints into the community a threat to their traditional pattern of living. Some complained that the Mormon practice of living in harmony with revelations recorded by a prophet was hostile to the American spirit of democracy. Residents not only rejected LDS beliefs regarding visions, revelations, and the restoration but also claimed that the Latter-day Saints had increased the poverty of the community and were a political and economic threat. The political competition reached a peak in 1837 when Latter-day Saints were elected to all local township offices except for the office of constable. Prior to that year, only four Latter-day Saints had been elected to a major office, and there had been a tendency for the citizens to reelect the earliest settlers. In addition to gaining control of the local government, Latter-day Saints transformed the township's voting pattern from Whig to Democratic. Since Kirtland was located in a Whig section of Ohio and all townships in Geauga County in the mid-1830s, except Kirtland, supported that party, Whigs in northeastern Ohio united in opposition to the Mormons. Complaints and charges escalated into threats and mob action.
|Kirtland Safety Society Bank banknote|
Early in 1838, amid intensifying pressures from outside the Church and apostasy within, accentuated by the demise of the Kirtland Safety Society and the Panic of 1837 (see Kirtland Economy), the exodus of Latter-day Saints from Kirtland and vicinity began. Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and other leaders fled from mobs in January. Other members gradually followed.
With family living in Kirtland, John and Hannah probably were kept informed of developments in Kirtland on a regular basis. The difficult living conditions, the rise of apostasy and by 1837 the financial problems caused by the collapse of the Kirtland Safety Society would all be negatives in John’s eye. For a period he appears to have been able to keep Hannah in Maine. The situation changed rapidly in early 1838. Returning to The Encyclopedia of Mormonism we read: “In most instances small groups of less than fifty traveled westward. On July 5, 1838, however, more than 500 members left in a stream of fifty-nine wagons-with twenty-seven tents, ninety-seven horses, twenty-two oxen, sixty-nine cows, and one bull. As this long wagon train, known as Kirtland Camp, moved across the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri, spectators gathered to watch the sight. Some gave encouragement, while others jeered and threatened violence. Because of financial problems, many in this group were asked by the leaders to leave the camp, so that only a portion of them reached the Missouri frontier… By mid-July 1838, more than 1,600 Latter-day Saints in the Kirtland area had reluctantly left the temple, vacated their homes, and headed westward.”
|Route of the Kirtland Camp|
|Kirtland Camp in Mansfield, Ohio|
(facing persecution by local inhabitants)
|Historical Marker for Kirtland Camp|
One can only imagine the gloom Hannah would have felt when she learned that her children had left (Dominicus, William, John, and Eliza) Kirtland headed for the edge of civilization in western Missouri. In February 1838 William and Sarah accompanied by his sister Eliza Ann and her new husband James C. Snow left on their own. Later in July 1838 as part of the Kirtland Company, Dominicus and John Jr and families left. The Kirtland Company eventually caught up with William and Eliza Ann in Indiana and they joined with the Company for the rest of the trip. At this point it can be imagined that Hannah redoubled her efforts to persuade John to move where she could be closer to her children. It appears that they eventually came to a compromise in the later part of 1838.
On 25 October 1838 we read that Andrew N Stowe was chosen in Newry as collector of taxes to fill the vacancy of John Carter. At the same time Stephen E Frost was chosen to take John’s place as highwayman and surveyor. Since John was in attendance at the meeting of 10 Sep 1838 we can narrow the date that John and Hannah left Newry to between mid-September to late October 1838. Since the rest of the family had left Kirtland on July 5 of that year, they had a large head start but were making very slow time. The Kirtland Camp groups were financially strapped and had trouble obtaining supplies and therefore had to stop to work to earn money to buy supplies. Their progress was extremely slow and they would not reach their destination at Far West, Missouri until October 2nd.
(The next episode will detail John and Hannah’s trip to Missouri and where they finally settle.)