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Ind. Star Apr 23, 1911   Ind. News Jan 22, 1922
Rock. Morn. Star. Jan 21, 1945   Ogle Co. Rep. Jan 31, 1945
Dixon Tele. Oct 25, 1948   Dixon Tele. Apr 21, 1949
Dixon Tele. May 07, 1949   Dixon Tele. May 01, 1951
Dixon Tele. Apr 17, 1954   Reg-Star. Mar 24, 1973
Amboy News Jun 23, 2009

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Vol. 8.                                     Indianapolis, April 23, 1911.                                   No. 322.


Stephen S. Harding

It is not a matter of common information that an Indianian had a prominent part in the staging of Mormonism when it was founded in Palmyra, N. Y., more than ninety years ago. Yet glints of history of that early movement slightly connect the late Stephen S. Harding of Milan, Ind. with the genesis of the creed.

His connection, however, is entirely negative, because he opposed, exposed and ridiculed the pioneers of the now great sect which at present is receiving an unmerciful grilling at the hands of prominent periodicals.

During the tedious process of the printing of the Book of Mormon Mr. Harding, then a young man scarcely of legal age, went to Palmyra, where he was born, for a visit. He was acquainted with the promoters of the Mormon project and he immediately became involved in their strange doings. His account of his experiences, which contains a complete expose of the fraud of the golden plates, has been found in an old manuscript buried in his law office near Milan, Ind.

Stephen S. Harding was born in Palmyra, N. Y., in 1809. He was the second son of David Harding, a hardy old pioneer who fought valiantly on the occasion of the Wyoming massacre. The horrible atrocities enacted by the savages in that brutal conflict were often related by the father to the son and on his mind they made a profound impression.

When Stephen was eleven years old his father moved his family to Indiana and they settled on a large tract near the present town of Milan. Here the family struggled with poverty and every form of hardship until they had won a home from the primeval forest. His story lays bare many of the "mysteries" of Mormonism. The history of the faith is well known.

At this point it is perhaps well to consider the nature of the book on which is founded one of the most colossal frauds of history. Briefly it is as follows:

In the reign of Zedekiah, six hundred years before Christ, a Jewish family, with a few friends and retainers, left Jerusalem, being warned of God that a great destruction and captivity were at hand, and journeyed eastward in search of a "land of promise." After much wandering and the death of the patriarch, they reached the sea, where Nephi, who had succeeded his father in the patriarchate and priesthood, was directed by the Lord to build a boat; and having completed this task, the vessel was equipped with a "double ball and spindle" which served the exact purpose of a modern mariner's compass. They embarked and in due time reached America. Subsequent revelations have determined that they landed in Central America. Here they increased rapidly until a schism arose and one Laman, with his followers, refused to obey the true priesthood, for which they were cut off and condemned to be "a brutish and a savage people, having dark skins, compelled to dig in the ground for roots and hunt their meat in the forests like beasts of prey." These Lamanites became the American Indians, while the Christian party was known as the Nephites, who spread out all over North and South America, thus accounting for the many ruins found in this continent. The Lamanites and Nephites, however, did not continue on friendly terms. They waged warfare almost continually. Finally they encountered in a mighty conflict south of Lake Ontario in New York state and made the last stand at the Hill Cumorah about 430 A. D. Here the fight was waged until the whole land was covered with dead bodies. It is recounted that two hundred and thirty thousand Nephites were slain. The little remnant was captured by the Lamanites, only two making their escape, Mormon and his son Moroni.

The various kings and priests had kept a record of their history which Mormon collected in one volume, added a book of his own and gave them to his son. The latter finished the record and buried the whole in the Hill Cumorah, being assured of God that, fourteen centuries later, a great prophet would restore them to man.

History of the "Manuscript Found."

Such is the book and Joseph Smith's account of it. On such testimony alone there is sufficient cause to reject it, and the book itself contains abundant internal evidence of fraud. But there is an opposing account. In the year 1812 a written work, called the "Manuscript Found," was presented to a Mr. Patterson, a bookseller of Pittsburg, Pa., by the author, the Rev. Solomon Spaulding. This gentleman was born in Pennsylvania, was a graduate of Dartmouth, and for many years a Presbyterian minister. he wrote the "Manuscript Found" as an historical romance in an effort to account for the early settlement of America, and he proposed that Mr. Patterson publish it with a preface giving an imaginary account of its having been taken from plates dug up in Ohio. Mr. Patterson, however, did not think the enterprise would pay. Mr. Sidney Rigdon was then at work in the office of Mr. Patterson, and when the latter died, in 1826 [sic], the Spaulding manuscript could not be located. Mrs. Spaulding had in her possession a complete copy of the story, but this disappeared in 1825 [sic], while Joseph Smith was digging a well for a neighbor of the Spauldings in Ontario County, New York. Mrs. Spaulding afterwards testified that it was stolen from her trunk. Thus far all is clear and there is no particular discrepency between the two accounts. But when the Book of Mormon was published the widow and brother [of] Solomon Spaulding, and several others who heard him read his fanciful tale, forthwith claimed that the Mormon book was nearly identical with the "Manuscript Found," varying only in certain interpolated texts on doctrinal points.

These two accounts are given merely to show the probable source of the inspiration of Joseph Smith et al. for the manifest frauds contained in the Book of Mormon. And at this point the expert testimony of the late Stephen S. Harding of Milan, Ripley County, Indiana, is offered:

"When I left my home in Indiana to visit Palmyra, I had never heard of Mormonism by that name. During the time I was studying law in Brookville, Ind., I chanced to look through a copy of a paper in which was an account of the finding of a book of metallic plates, in the neighborhood of Palmyra. But in trying to recall the identity of Joseph Smith, the alleged finder of the plates, I had only a dim recollection of a long-legged, tow-head boy of my time, who was usually fishing at the mill-pond

"On arriving in Palmyra and learning that Martin Harris was one of those associated with Joseph Smith I sought an early interview with him in the office of the Wayne County Sentinel, where the Book of Mormon was being printed. He had heard several days before of my arrival in the neighborhood, and expressed delight at seeing me and took up a few minutes in recalling little incidents of my boyhood about the village. Then he introduced me to Oliver Cowdery, the scribe, Joseph Smith, the prophet, seer and revelator, and to the prophet's father, who looked on the strange proceedings with awe and gaping wonder. Martin Harris took me aside and informed me that at least three of them were in daily attendance at the printing office, and that they came and went as regularly as the rising and setting of the sun. Harris explained this by saying that 150 pages of the original manuscript of the translation from the golden plates had been stolen, lost, or destroyed, by some evil-minded person, and that the angel of the Lord had appeared before Joseph. informing him that the devil himself, disguised as a man or woman, had taken possession of the missing parts. Therefore, it followed that at least three should guard the safety of the remaining pages.

"I looked at Harris in amazement. I had always heard him spoken of as being superstitious and ready to believe any sort of a wild story that savored of mystery, but I found it difficult to understand how such a well-thought-of man as he could be duped by such a low-bred, ignorant ne'er-do-well as Joseph Smith. Of all of the early Mormons he alone could have been held responsible for a single dollar and to this day I have tried to force myself to believe that his connection with the sect was prompted by mercenary reasons. But I fear that such a conclusion would be false, even if more humane.

"After talking with the Mormon quartet for an hour, I turned to my cousin. Pomeroy Tucker, who was foreman of the print shop. From him I learned many things relating to the origin of the book and I became curious to read the manuscript. When I broached the subject to Martin Harris he held a consultation with the prophet, and the latter, in drawlling tones, invited me to accompany them to the Smith home in the evening and hear the book read. I accepted the invitation and at sundown we set out down the hot, dusty road through the village.

"Arriving at our destination, I found that the house was very small and crude, being composed of two parts -- one of logs and the other of hemlock slabs. I was ushered into the house in company with the prophet, the scribe and the financial sponsor -- the exchequer, if you will. Lucy Smith, the prophet's mother came in and introduced herself. Coming close, she took me by the hand and said: 'I've seed you before. You are the same young man I seed in my dream. You had on this nice ruffled shirt with the same gold breastpin in it that you have now. Yes, jest exactly sich a one as this.' She scrutinized the pin closely.

"Cowdry commenced the reading of the 'sacred' work and absolute silence reigned in the room, save for the sound of Cowdry's raucous voice, with which the spluttering of the candle vied. The elder Smith was kept busy, pinching the wick of the candle to prevent the light from going out, but despite his efforts, it flickered and we were left darkness at the conclusion of the fourth chapter.

Mother Smith made haste to light her clay pipe in the dying flame before she turned to me with a burst of tobacco smoke and a dissertation on the wonders of the text, of which we had heard a part. She then added that maybe I would have dreams and visions that night, but she bade me not become frightened, because the angel of the Lord would protect me.

"With this final remark she gave us directions for sleeping. The prophet and his financial backer occupied one bed and the scribe and myself were assigned another in the same room. In a few moments profound slumber had closed the history of the day. The latter statement, however, in order to be accurate, must be modified. I did not sleep. I lay awake for a period that seemed hours, thinking of the strange events of the day and I was much too excited to close my eyes. There was, perhaps, another reason why I failed to sleep. I became aware that I had other bedfellows besides Cowdry. With a combined feeling of astonishment and disgust I raised myself to peer across the room. One glance convinced me that they were in the same predicament and I was left to meditate on the troubles that some people are sometimes afflicted with.

"Morning broke without my having closed my eyes and I arose with a distresssing headache. The whole family was soon astir, because the manuscript must be delivered to the printers by sunup. At the table I found myself shorn of appetite, and was only able to sip some coffee. My haggard countenance immediately aroused the suspicion of the Smiths and Harris and Cowdry. Mrs. Smith plied me with many questions in an effort to discover what sort of a vision had 'skeered' me. I answered soberly enough that I had experienced something new and that I hardly cared or dared to tell it then. Being pressed for an account of my 'revelation,' I announced that I would tell them when I had recovered from the excitement it had occasioned.

"Martin Harris importuned me to tell him of my revelation at the Smith home. I knew that he would persist until I was forced to improvise some sort of a wild dream to assauge his curiosity.So I began cudgeling my brain for some weird ideas that would answer for the purpose. We soon arrived at an extensive cornfield and here I agreed to tell Harris my 'dream' on condition that he would not repeat it. My 'dream' ran something like this:

"'I was walking along in a strange country, where everything about me differed from anything I had ever seen. A sweet sense of peace pervaded everywhere and I was content. Soon, this tranquil enjoyment was broken and terrible phenomena began to manifest themselves in the heavens. While I was absorbed in watching I found myself almost in the grasp of a huge tiger. Immediately an angel in white sprang to my rescue and the fierce beast, instead of springing, dwindled and disappeared as a small cloud of dust.

"'Hastily leaving the region where I was so sore beset, I found myself passing through a wonderful forest, where the flowers were luxuriant and fragrant and the trees were bending under their burden of ripening fruit. In the center of this marvelous grove I came across a large fountain of such clear water that I could easily see the bottom of white sand, fathoms below. While gazing at this wonderful fount an old man arose from its depths and bade me drink from the Fountain of Mysteries. I obeyed and to the sound of martial music I was ordered to continue my journey to a tiny brook, where I would be further instructed. Arriving at the brook, I knelt to drink of its cool waters and as I rose up I noticed a huge bird coming rapidly toward me from the west. It was so large as to cast a shadow like a storm cloud and I noticed that its beak was blood covered and that in its talons it carried a parchment. With a cry that seemed to shake all nature, it passed over me and dropped the scroll at my feet.

"'I picked up the scroll and noticed that it contained many characters of mysterious formation. The characters were written in vertical lines. (Here Martin Harris interrupted me to ask if I could reproduce any of the characters. I told him I would try to imitate them. So on the fly leaf of a pamphlet I began making letters. I knew the Greek alphabet and the system of shorthand then in vogue and with these adjuncts I nearly filled up the page. When I had finished I handed it to him.)

"Speechless with surprise, Harris looked first at me and then fell on his knees with his hands folded. When his voice returned he said in half-sobbing tones: 'Before the Lord, these are the same characters that are on the golden plates of Nephi.' His excitement was such that I began to have some compunction of conscience for the fraud I had practiced on him. But I found out that Greek and shorthand were the basis of a religion destined to become as powerful and widespread as that founded by the camel driver of Mecca.

"It was not long until the rumors of my 'dream' began to reach the ears of many persons and for this I felt some concern, for I had no desire to be in any way identified with the Smiths or their foolishness. But my apprehensions quickly vanished when I heard that my 'dream' had become a real vision of the prophet himself.

Title Page Now Sacred Relic.

"When the Book of Mormon was finally ready for publication Pomeroy Tucker set up the first title page and after striking it off gave it to me as a souvenir. Years later I presented this to the Mormon Church in Salt Lake City, where it is now on exhibition as a sacred historical relic.

"That was the last I ever saw of Martin Harris, who, by his financial aid, placed Joseph Smith on a pedestal. only to be thrust away and ignored when the success of the venture was assured and Joseph had accumulated sufficient competence to walk without holding on."

Years later, in March, 1862, President Lincoln appointed Harding Governor of Utah territory. This in itself is more or less strange, that the man whom the Mormons in the beginning had cause to despise because he had fathomed the baseness of their fraud should be sent to govern their band in bloody Utah. Yet, while he held domain over them, he did not have a pleasant experience. At that time, when any person, and especially a Gentile or an apostate, interfered with their machinations the church under Brigham Young prescribed the "blood atonement" treatment. This consisted of a disappearance that was as sudden as it was mysterious. The victim was sometimes found with a knife in his back or with a gunshot wound.

That the Mormons had intentions of giving Governor Harding this treatment is evident from the wording of the interview between the Governor and the Mormon committee on March 4. 1863. The Governor had warned the church in his annual message that it must be decent. In his diary he records the interview in these words:

"Elder Taylor said: 'Governor, we have come on unpleasant business, yet it is our duty to do so." To this I replied that if it were their duty to do so, it should be pleasant for that fact alone. Then Elder Taylor proceeded to state the business of the committee, and I suggested that he present his business in writing. Elder Taylor then handed me a copy of the Deseret News of that day, containing resolutions passed at the mass meeting of the Mormons that day. After perusing them carefully, I turned to the committee, and with the best control I could muster, said: 'Gentlemen, I believe I understand you thoroughly. You may go back and tell your constituents that I will not resign my office of Governor, nor will I leave this territory until it shall please the President to call me from duty. I came here amongst you, a messenger of peace and good will, but I confess that my opinions have been changed on many subjects. But I came, also, sirs, to discharge my duties honestly and faithfully to my government, and I shall do it to the last. It is in your power to do me violence -- to shed my blood -- but this will not deter me from my purpose. If the President can be made to believe that I have acted wrong, that I have been unfaithful to the trust he confided in me, he will doubtless remove me, and then I shall be glad to return to my home in the states, carrying with me no unjust resentments against you or anybody else. But I will not be driven away -- I will not cowardly desert my post. I may be in danger by staying, but my mind is fixed. I desire no trouble; I am anxious to live and meet my family, but, if necessary, an administrator can settle my affairs. Your allegations in this paper are false, without the shadow of truth."

After serving out his term in Colorado, Mr. Harding returned to Milan and again took up the practice of law. Here he remained, writing much in both prose and verse, never for profit, but more for the relaxation it afforded, until 1885, when total blindness overtook him. He died April 19, 1891, and was buried in Greendale Cemetery, Lawrenceburg, Ind.

Note 1: The writer of the above article was apparently unaware that substantially the same Stephen S. Harding account, of his experience with the earliest Mormons at Palmyra, was previously published in Thomas Gregg's 1890 book, The Prophet of Palmyra. The 1890 version is significantly longer and more detailed, but covers the same time period and the same major events. It does not, however, relate the details of Harding's fabricated "dream," nor Harding's obligue explanation as to why he was unable to sleep in the Smiths' cabin.

Note 2: A communication from Harding, to his cousin, Pomeroy Tucker, may be found in Tucker's 1867 book, on pp. 280-287. A Collection of Stephen S. Harding Papers, dated 1862-1901, is on file at the Utah State Historical Society in Salt Lake City, Utah. These papers consist mostly of letters written to and from Harding, beginning with his governorship of Utah Territory, in 1862-1863 and continuing through the decade following his death. The text published in the 1911 Indianapolis Sunday Star is not preserved in that collection, however.


Indianapolis  News

Vol. ?                               Indianapolis, Sunday, January 22, 1922.                             No. ?

Beginning  of  Mormonism

To the Editor of the News --

Sir -- In discussing "the beginning of Mormonism," the editor of your Questions and Answers column evidently overlooked the fact that fairness is, or should be, a dominating factor in modern journalism. Linn's "Story of the Mormons." or rather "Attack on the Mormons" may be widely accepted as history by enemies of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, but that does not make it history.

For instance, Joseph Smith did not publish the translations from the golden plates as "revelations from heaven," but as a record of the peoples who lived in America before the days of Columbus, and of God's dealings with them. He did not call the publication "The Golden Bible;" this was a title sneeringly given it by his enemies. Nor did he select "the Book of Mormon" as the title; this was the name given to the work by the editor of it, Mormon.

The Solomon Spaulding manuscript myth has been time and again "exploded," and as the manuscript is still in existence, any honest investigator can satisfy himself that it and the "Book of Mormon" are not the same, and while it is a fact that the three witnesses to the plates, and the fact that they were translated by the gift and power of God, did leave the church, neither of them ever suggested that the book was a "fraud," but all were firm in their [testimony]...

                       J. Frank Pickering
                       Chicago, Ill.

Notes: (forthcoming)



Vol. 57.                           Rockford, Illinois, Sunday, January 21, 1945                        No. 261.

Brush-Grown Cemetery Reminder
      Of Lee County Mormon Settlement

"But behold. It shall come to pass that they shall be driven and
scattered by the Gentiles." -- Book of Mormon


Untended for several decades, almost lost to sight beneath a tangle of brush from which wild roses peep in late summer, an old Mormon cemetery three miles southwest of Amboy is the last sad reminder of a pioneer Lee county settlement in which the persecuted "sons of Israel" once sought to carve out their destiny.

Whether one believes that the great Mormon high priest, Joseph Smith, Jr., was charlatan or saint, rapscallion or prophet, those followers of the Mormon creed who lie buried beneath crumbling stone markers in the soil of Lee county were a tragic and beautiful people. They sought only the promised land bequeathed to them in the pages of the Book of Mormon, translated "from plates of gold," by Smith.

Driven Into Desert

Despised and plundered, driven across the wilderness of early America, the Mormons at last found a home in the Utah desert and built of it a green and prosperous valley. Many fell by the wayside in that long and arduous trek, while others, among them the group which sought to build its temple in Lee county, abandoned the journey.

The country's first Mormons were a few stragglers who had, perhaps, lost the courage to live among their persecuted fellows in the band which was being shunted from state to state in the early 19th century. Yet they were a clannish people, their religion urged that they live united, and as new stragglers entered northern Illinois they banded together to form their own small communities.

Legend has it that Smith himself at times was given hiding by the Amboy area Mormons when his enemies tried to seek him out at Nauvoo, in Hancock county, Illinois, where he had built a city wealthy and powerful enough to politically dominate, at times, the Illinois legislature.

After Smith's murder in the Carthage jail, June 27, 1844, Nauvoo was lost. Refusing the leadership of Brigham Young, who moved westward, several groups of Mormons settled in scattered communities through Illinois, Iowa and Missouri.

To the settlement near Amboy, first known as Shelburn and later as Rocky Ford, came William Smith, brother of Joseph, leading his little branch of Nauvoo fugitives. They laid out their square little town, roads intersecting evenly at right angles according to the word of the book, and prepared to build a temple in its center.

However, William soon left his new-found community, the temple was never built, and the Lee county sect slowly began to dwindle and die. There was a new spurt of life when on April 6, 1860 the anniversary of the founding of the Mormon church, Illinois groups met in their annual conference and installed another Joseph Smith, Jr., son of the slain prophet, as new high priest. There ceremony was held in the old Mechanic's hall at Amboy, which since has been torn down.

Headquarters of the church were at Plano, Ill., but about 1881 they were moved to Iowa and the Latter Day Saints either followed or were lost among the settlers of other faiths in the Amboy community. The square little Rockyford settlement was swallowed up into farmland.

The Mormons have left but few descendants in Amboy, and those few speak little of their persecuted forebearers. Only the desolate little cemetery, enclosed by an iron fence and dotted with tall, mournful pines remains to "whisper out of the dust" of those descendants of Nephi who once thought to make this their promised land.

Note 1: The above article was one of the most detailed reports on the Mormons of Lee County ever to make it into the columns of a local newspaper. Generally speaking, the account appears to be accurate in its outline, save for its portrayal of Lee County Mormons as persecuted fugitives. Most members of the sect appear to have been converted by traveling missionaries, or by their own neighbors and family members. Beginning with the 1839 relocation of Mormon Elder Stephen Richardson, to the vicinity of LaMoille in adjacent Bureau County, the Latter Day Saints gained a foothold on the southern border of Lee County. It was there that the migrating Hook family encountered the new religion -- and it was there that Richardson's neighbor, William Anderson, was converted in 1841. Anderson himself worked as a missionary in southeastern Lee County in 1843 and that appears to have been the year that a nucleus for a Mormon branch developed around Rocky Ford. History does not record who the branch president was, but Lorenzo Dow Wasson (a nephew of Emma Hale Smith) is the likely candidate for that position of leadership.

Note 2: The Mormons of southeastern Lee County made occasional visits to Nauvoo, but, for the most part, they did not "gather" there. The presence of Joseph Smith's relatives in and around "Palestine Grove" (the Hale, Lewis, McKune and Wasson families) meant that Smith himself would sometimes come to the converts -- they did not have to go to him at Nauvoo, in order to see and hear their controversial leader. There is also a possibility that Joseph Smith himself advised the converts to stay on their farms and establish a satellite colony within easy traveling distance of Nauvoo. Whatever the case may have been, the Lee County Mormons were not sufficiently integrated into Nauvoo fellowship, to join in the westward Mormon migration of the mid-1840s. They remained behind, to experiment in following after J. J. Strang, William Smith, and, eventually, Joseph Smith III. As the writer indicates, that third affiliation either caused the Lee County Saints of the 1880s to either move closer to to their fellow "Reorganites" in distant places, or to eventually abandon their old religious affiliation blend themselves into Lee's "Gentile" community.


The  Ogle  County  Reporter

Vol. ?                           Oregon, Illinois, Wednesday, January 31, 1945                         No. ?

Abandoned Cemetery
Vestige of Mormon Sojourn in Lee County

(under construction)

Notes: (forthcoming)


Dixon  Telegraph

Vol. ?                           Dixon, Illinois, Monday, October 25, 1948                        No. ?

Rocky Ford and      
      Binghampton Built
            Up Before Amboy


Frenchman 1st Settler in
Amboy Township, Lee
History Shows

'Tis claimed for a Frenchman named Filamalee, that he was the first settler of Amboy township and that he lived in Palestine Grove about a mile south of Rocky Ford. It has been said that in a burr oak stump, he placed mortar and therein he pounded grain into meal and flour for bread. He left the country as soon as settlers began reaching the country, and John Dexter in 1835 became the first settler. He came here from Canada and made his claim on the northwest quarter of section 13. The cabin which he built immediately, was 12 feet square.

In the spring of 1836, Mr. and Mrs. James Doan came into what now is the township of Amboy. With them came John Doan the father and Jemima sister of James. In the spring of 1837, Andrew Bainter, brother-in-law to James Doan came in and took a claim on the Sublette road. In October, 1837, Asa B. Searls came up the Peoria road with a team of horses, bringing with him Benjamin Wasson, from Peoria. Both were New York people.

Searls located on south half of section 14 and Wasson on sections 14 and 15. Later Searls laid out Binghampton, a mile east of the present city of Amboy. Nathan Meek settled near Rocky Ford about 1837. Rocky Ford was so named from the ford over Green river to the southwest of Amboy where Frederick R. Dutcher afterwards established a store, a mill and a distillery and where for a time a village of respectable proportions flourished.

  *   *   *  

Meek was not reputed to be a desirable citizen during the days of the banditti. Three miles down stream he built his corn cracker mill and ground corn. He tried to make flour, but failed. A sawmill had been built in this township much earlier than in other sections of the county. When Mr. Searls first came here Timothy Perkins and Horace Bowen operated one at Rocky Ford, but later in the year, it was transferred to a man named Lee. After a brief career, Lee sold to Mason. The latter died and John Von Arnam (or Van Norman)* secured it. In 1848, Frederick R. Dutcher purchased it.

In 1837, James Blair, and his sons, William, Winthrop and Edwin came here, and settled on section 29. The same year, John S. Sawyer and his four sons erected a cabin south of the Illinois Central shops. In 1841, Sawyer sold part of his claim to Joseph Farwell and the remainder to Joseph Appleton. Alexander Janes came in about 1837, but in a year or so sold his claim to Chester S. Badger, and moved to Bureau county. In 1838, Mr. Badger and his son, Simon, settled in this township, and in 1839 Warren, another son, came out with the mother and her two daughters, Sarah and Rowena (or Roena). But Warren returned and remained in the East until 1842 only, when he came back to Illinois and settled permanently here. Henry Badger came in 1849. In the summer of 1838, John C. Church, Curtis Bridgeman, the latter's sons, Curtis and Urial, and William Hunt arrived.

In 1841, Jacob Doan came out from Ohio and bought the claim made by Mr. Church, one mile south of Amboy. Martin Wright also came in 1838, from Massachusetts. John Fosdick, the Lee Center or Inlet blacksmith moved his smithy over to Doan's place and that become the first in the township. Later Fosdick returned to Lee Center, and Doan and Frederick Bainter became proprietors and continued the business. Doan invented a scouring plow and many were made by the firm.

  *   *   *  

In 1839, Cyrus Davis and his son, Cyrus A. Davis, came here from Massachusetts and claimed a home on the southeast quarter of section 15, later Wyman's addition to Amboy. John and William Hook, brothers, located at Rocky Ford in 1840. Aaron Hook came two years before. The Joseph Farwell claim on the northeast quarter of section 22 subsequently was platted into the original town of Amboy. Jesse Hale came in 1841, and Samuel and Lyman Bixby came here in 1844.

The first public land sales were held at the Dixon Land Office in the autumn of 1844. Prior to this time of course, every person was a squatter. But as noticed already, every community had its code under which lines were regulated, settlers were protected in the peaceable enjoyment of their claims and in the right to buy the same from the government when offered for sale, unhampered by speculators. The Amboy association about 1837, centered around Inlet, of which Amboy was a part at that time.

Later, the settlers around Palestine Grove, organized and held meetings at the homes of Sherman Hatch and William Dolan. In 1847, all need for this latter association having vanished it was discontinued. While individual associations existed everywhere, they all were confederated together for any emergencies which may have arisen.

On the 16th of March, 1839, George E. Haskell, was chosen president of the claim association for Inlet and Martin Wright, clerk. The committee elected consisted of Ransom Barnes, D. H. Birdsall, Ozro C. Wright, Daniel M. Dewey and Benjamin Whiteaker. March 20, 1841, Haskell and Wright were reelected, and D. H. Birdsall, David Tripp, Daniel M. Dewey, Charles Starks and Sherman Shaw were made the committee.

  *   *   *  

In the spring of 1850, April 2d, the first annual town meeting was held in Amboy, Joseph Farwell acted as moderator and Joseph B. Appleton as clerk. Miles Lewis suggested that the new township be named Amboy and the name was adopted. David Searls was made supervisor; J. B. Appleton, town clerk; Martin Wright, assessor and A. H. Thompson, collector.

The old road from Peru to Grand Detour, mentioned already was the first to run through Amboy township. The second ran from Inlet to Prophetstown, taking in Binghamton, and Rocky Ford. Main street today is that very road and the old cottonwoods along the edges to mark its course, were planted by Joseph Farwell.

In 1855, the Illinois Central railroad was finished through Amboy to Freeport, and on February 1, it was thrown open for traffic. The first train to reach Amboy was in November, 1854.

During the session 1868-69 of the Illinois Legislature, Alonzo Kinyon of Amboy was a member of the lower House. During this session, he procured a charter for the Chicago & Rock River Railroad Company to run from Rock Falls to Calumet. In 1869, Kinyon was elected president and on July 26, 1869, Amboy voted by 517 for, to 92 against, to issue township bonds in aid of the road to the extent of $100,000. January 4, 1872, the road between Rock Falls and Amboy was finished and June 19 it was finished to Paw Paw

  *   *   *  

Under Kinyon, shops and all manner of good things for Amboy were promised, but when the C. B. & Q. Ry. Co. obtained possession of the road, and connected it with the Chicago & Iowa road at Shabbona, Amboy was doomed. The bonds were fought bitterly for years. All sorts of subterfuges were resorted to in the efforts made to escape service of process; but to no purpose. Their payment had to come sometime. A settlement was made at last, and every dollar was paid off. Many times the burden became intolerable but with a sublime courage the citizens stuck to it until every cent was paid.

Amboy always has been fortunate with her school system. The same intelligence which pervaded Inlet, while Amboy was a part of that precinct, has pervaded Amboy; teachers and ministers and physicians, all men of rare intelligence, came early to Amboy and they saw to it that the Amboy schools were built on subtantial foundations and presided over by good teachers.

Lucy Ann Church was the first teacher to teach in this township. The schoolhouse, built of logs, was located on the Sublette road just south of the railroad crossing. Leonard Pratt, John Carey, Ira [sic] Hale, David Hale and Charlotte Doan followed Miss Church. The second school in the township was the famous Wasson School, a frame building erected over towards Lee Center, in 1845. In this school Misses Rowena (or Roena) Badger and Roxy Wasson taught for a long while. John Scott, an able teacher, H. E. Badger and Lyman C. Wheat also taught there.

Later, the first school was moved further south and located near the Lewis place.

  *   *   *  

Private schools never were attempted to any great extent. At Rocky Ford, a few irregular terms were ventured, but in the face of failure, they were not continued.

Church services were furnished first by Father Gorbus, a Methodist, who came over from the Indian Creek country.

The next minister to appear so far as known, was a German Baptist named Father Hetchler. Rev. Curtis Lathrop came along third. Father White, a Methodist was next to appear.

In 1843, the Rev. Donaldson, assisted in organizing a Congregational society, said to be the first in the county. This was done at the house of Moses Crombie, and the name adapted was "The Congregational Church of Palestine Grove." Services were held for many years in the Wasson schoolhouse. Rev. John Morrel was the first regular pastor. He in turn was followed by Rev. Ingersoll, father of Robert G. Ingersoll. Revs. Joseph Gardner and a Mr. Pierson followed Ingersoll. Later this church moved to Lee Center. Many stories are related of Rev. Ingersoll especially by Rev. Haney, the Methodist circuit rider. From all, we can learn the gentleman was rather opinionated and considerably belligerent.

The Palestine Grove Baptist church was another early church. In 1847, Rev. Charles Cross became its pastor.

  *   *   *  

The Mormon church attempted to secure a foothold in this township and what is more, it was actually secured. The first preacher, William Anderson, held his services in John Hook's house. Both Joseph and Hyrum Smith came up here often from Nauvoo. Joseph, the prophet, married a Miss Emma Hale, sister to Alva Hale of Sublette, and David Hale and Mrs. Benjamin Wasson of Amboy. Asa Searls was a boyhood acquaintance of Smith, and had been a schoolmate. Smith visited his friends and relatives here often. He made it a point always to preach when here, using the log schoolhouse on the Sublette road. When in the famous litigation of June, 1843, the Governor of Missouri, sent a requisition over into Illinois for Smith's arrest, the latter was visiting those relatives and friends in Palestine Grove. An Illinois constable and the Missouri agent came up here and arrested him. Smith fought desperately, but after receiving many bruises, he was overpowered.

The crowd believed the proceedings were entirely illegal and many followed Smith and his captors to Dixon. It was agreed, however, that Smith was to return to Nauvoo. But upon the discovery of the Missouri agent's design to take the prisoner over to Missouri direct, a party of Mormons collected and rescued the prophet. Immediately he was brought triumphantly into Nauvoo. A writ of habeas corpus was issued and Smith was released by Judge Stephen A. Douglas.

Aaron Hook who had gone to Nauvoo and who had been ordained an elder, returned now, to Rocky Ford. William Smith, another brother of the prophet came over to Lee county from Nauvoo about this time and a very considerable Mormon following was obtained in Lee county.

Among the number were the Hooks, Edwin Cadwell, Wentworth Blair, Stephen Stone and David L. Doan.

It was a deplorable circumstance, however, that none of the Smiths could get along with his neighbors. This William Smith was no exception. He was arrested here for bigamy, released and then he left the country.

In 1860, April 6th, the anniversary of the founding of the church, the annual conference was held in Amboy. Joseph Smith, Jr., was installed prophet and high priest in the old Mechanics Hall, where the meeting was held.

Amboy township was peopled early by enterprising people. So soon as the settlers got their bearings, they proceeded at once to build their homes and schools and churches and then to establish villages for trading and manufacturing purposes.

Binghamton was laid out by Asa B. Searls and named in honor of Binghamton, New York. The date was April, 1848. Warren Badger laid off some lots contiguous. Here Mr. Searls opened and maintained the Binghamton House. He erected a store as well and took into partnership Edward Waters. Later Henry Potter bought the store and he in turn sold it to the Union Company, a cooperative company, conducted by James H. Preston. Robert G. Ingersoll was Mr. Searls' "hired man," for a considerable period.

Binghamton became a flouring mill center, John Dexter in 1844: built one on Green river and the Badger brothers, Warren and Palmer, built another. The latter was killed by a bank of earth falling on him and Chester Badger took his place in the partnership. In 1858, Chester and Henry Badger took over the property and introduced steam power instead of water power. On Thursday night, July 18, 1872, the mill was burned and a loss of $6,000 was sustained. The mill was rebuilt and H. E. Badger and son took it over and operated it until the evening of July 21, 1881. when it was struck by lightning and burned. Loss $16,000: insurance $6,000.

John Doan started a plow factory which he ran for a year and then sold it to Frederick Bainter. In 1846 another was started by the Shaws and Churches. One of the factories, a quaint little limestone building testifies to the business thrift of Binghamton, to this very day.

Note 1: The Telegraph reprinted the above article from pages 275-6 of Vol. I of Frank E. Stevens' 1914 History of Lee County, Illinois. Stevens borrowed partly from the 1893 local history, Recollections of the Pioneers of Lee Co., and partly from sources such as A. C. Bardwell's 1904 Encyclopedia of Illinois and the History of Lee County. For example, Bardwell reported: "One branch of the Mormon church secured a considerable foothold in the neighborhood of Rocky Ford, near which they were instrumental in having the town of Palestine laid out. At one time there were sixty members. The founder, Joseph Smith, visited friends at Palestine Grove, where he was arrested in 1843 on requistion of the Governor of the State, issued at the instance of the Governor of Missouri. In 1860 the annual conference of the branch referred to convened in Amboy.... A plat of "Palestine" was made May 10, 1854, and serves to mark the probable center of the Palestine Grove settlement. The plat was located about a quarter of a mile northwest of Rocky Ford, and consisted of three blocks of ground, two of which were on the Dixon and Peoria road. It was laid out for Rhoda E. Hook who, it is to be presumed, owned the ground. It was here on one of the Palestine lots that those of the Mormon faith laid the corner stone of a temple which never rose higher than this foundation stone."

Note 2: For more on William Smith, the "Rocky Ford" Hook family and the mid-19th century Mormons of Lee County, see the Palestine Stake of Zion.



Vol. 99                               Dixon, Illinois, Thursday, April 21, 1949                             No. 93

Mormon Graves Near Amboy Desecrated;
Ghouls: May Be Hiding Place for Loot

The desecration of one of Lee county's most historic burial grounds, the old Mormon cemetery southwest of Amboy, was called to the attention of Sheriff Gilbert P. Finch today. Ghouls are believed to have been active in the cemetery during the past few days. The burial plot is located near the Rocky Ford community, where many years ago a thriving Mormon colony was located, before Amboy came into being.

Two excavations were discovered in the burial plot yesterday afternoon and one of these indicated that the remains of a small child had been removed. Another trench dug in another section indicated that the diggers may have been searching for some supposedly hidden property. Both excavations were in sandy soil and evidently had been made within the past 24 hours.

The desecration was discovered when City Editor Bryn Griffiths, staff photographer Mrs. Ethel Buchner and E. L. Painter of the Dixon Evening Telegraph editorial staff visited the historic burial place for the purpose of photographing fallen and broken headstones. But one stone remains standing in the cemetery, which is scarcely known and seldom visited. In the several family plots were buried children of the pioneers in the area who had fallen victims of a cholera epidemic. Other markers bore the names of individuals who were outstanding in the establishment and growth of the once prosperous Mormon colony.

At different times the mother Mormon church at Salt Lake City, Utah, has been appealed to with a request that the burial ground be restored and be made a memorial to the church. About one year ago and appeal was made to an editor of a Salt Lake newspaper in an effort to reclaim and restore the historic property. On a previous occasion when an attempt was made to have the property restored as a memorial to the former Rockyford colony, a committee was to have come from Salt Lake City to view the site and make recommendations. This also failed to materialize.

Cattle have been permitted to roam among the underbrush and white pines which are said to be more than 100 years old. Refuse has been thrown into the property from the little-traveled road and to add to this desecration, within the last few days ghouls apparently have been attracted to the burial ground, which long ago should have been made a historic shrine.

Note: The first burials in the "Old Mormon Cemetery" southeast of Rocky Ford in Amboy township, appear to have occurred in the early 1870s, after John Lewis (Louis) Bridgman joined the RLDS Church and made part of his property available as a cemetery. See comments appended to the Amboy News article of June 23, 2009 for additional information.



Vol. 99                               Dixon, Illinois, Saturday, May 7, 1949                             No. ?

Mormon Cemetery
Near Amboy Gets
Church Attention

A division of the original Mormon church, the Reorganized Latter-day Saints at Independence, Mo., has been appealed to in an effort to interest the right group in a proposal to restore the old historic Mormon cemetery plot south of Amboy. The organization headed by Israel A. Smith has been appealed to by the Dixon Evening Telegraph in an effort to secure the restoration of this hallowed plot.

A. William Lund, assistant church historian of the Mormon colony at Salt Lake City, Utah, in a letter to the Telegarph, states:

"I have received a clipping from your paper published April 21, 1949, entitled "Mormon Graves Near Amboy Desecrated; Ghouls: May Be Hiding Place for Loot," which I read with interest.

"However, Amboy is not connected with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints whose headquarters is at Salt Lake City. The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints with headquarters in Missouri is the church whose people lived at Amboy. It was here that Joseph Smith, the son of the Prophet Joseph Smith was sustained as the president of that church.

"May I suggest that you write to them concerning the matter of this cemetery. Their president is Israel A. Smith, Independence, Mo. I think they might be interested in carrying out your suggestion."
        A. William Lund

A member of The Telegraph staff has written to Mr. Smith telling of the condition of the cemetery here and suggesting that it be restored to its original condition.

Note: An examination of RLDS publications from this time period has turned up no indication that the Church paid any attention to the deterioriating burial ground in Amboy township, Lee County, Illinois. It is somewhat remarkable that the RLDS historians chose to neglect this part of their early heritage. Amboy provided a branch for the "Reorganization" before Joseph Smith III ever agreed to consider accepting that group's presidency. In 1859 membership in the Amboy branch totaled 23 Saints, with High Priest Edwin Cadwell acting as branch president. By 1870 the Amboy RLDS rolls had nearly tripled, and its members were calling it the "Olive Branch," in honor of the old Nauvoo ward attended by Emma Hale Smith. In the years that followed the branch membership declined -- but as late as 1881 it still included Mrs. John Hook, a sister-in-law of Elder Aaron Hook, Jr., "President" William Smith's splinter-group counselor of the 1850s. By the time the Telegraph published its report in 1949, the Reorganized LDS presence in Amboy had been reduced to the vague memory of a meeting held there on April 6, 1860.


Dixon Evening Telegraph

Vol. 100                               Dixon, Illinois, Tuesday, May 1, 1951                             No. 103

Group of Mormons Settles Near Dixon

Joseph Smith, founder of Mormonism and who has been compared by his followers to Mahomet, was an important figure in the early history of Dixon and Lee county.

In 1843 Smith was charged with "treason against the government of Missouri" and was later arrested near Dixon.

An account of the arrest is found in "The Prophet of Palmyra" by Thomas Gregg, an 1890 publication belonging to the Chicago Historical Society:
"Learning that Smith and his wife were on a visit to her relatives at Palestine Grove in Lee county, toward the north end of the district, and about one hundred and fifty miles from Nauvoo, the officer, in company with the Missouri agent, quietly repaired thither. They found the prophet at the house of his friend, arrested him, and placing him in a carriage, started by way of Dixon, the county seat."

Events Leading to Arrest

On the morning of the 7th of May, 1842, the news spread that during the night an attempt had been made to assassinate ex-Governor Boggs of Missouri. He had been fired at through his window, as he sat reading in his room, and seriously but not fatally wounded. It was strongly suspected that the assassin was Orrin P. Rockwell, a close friend of Smith. The prophet, Smith, had declared that Boggs would die a violent death; and he had stated that Rockwell had gone to fulfill a prophecy.

Following the arrest near Dixon the case became swamped in one habeas corpus after another, and those who sought to conquer Smith were finally abashed by the municipal court at Nauvoo.

The next mention of the Mormons in Lee county followed in 1853. After the death by murder of Joseph Smith, his brother William, with a small band of followers took up their residence about 12 miles south of Dixon and continued their organization and meetings.

At the April term of the Circuit Court in 1853, on the trial of the application of the Mormon prophet, for a divorce, the jury found a verdict for the lady.

Note 1: The first two sentences of the "account of the arrest" were originally published on page 291 of Thomas Gregg's 1880 History of Hancock County, Illinois. For Mr. Gregg's expanded "Prophet of Palmyra" version of the story, see that 1890 book's pages 206-222. The New York Spectator of July 31, 1843 gave Sheriff Joseph H. Reynolds version of the Smith arrest. For an account more favorable to Mr. Smith, see his lawyer's report in the Warsaw Message of July 15th.

Note 2: For more on "the Mormons in Lee county" see the "Palestine Stake of Zion" web-page. See also Anthony J. Becker's 1954 A Biography of a Country Town: USA (Amboy, Illinois) page 119, etc.



Vol. 103                               Dixon, Illinois, Saturday, April 17, 1954                             No. 91

'The Mormons in Lee County'

By Roger Thompson

Our April issue of the Illinois Junior Historian magazine arrived this week, and once again we were pleased to see a contribution from a Dixon student appear in print.

The magazine, which is sponsored by the Illinois State Historical Society, included "The Mormons in Lee County" by Edward Saari, eighth grade pupil in Washington school....

The Mormons in Lee County
By Edward Saari

The history of the Mormons in Lee county is interesting but very little material can be found concerning them. William Smith, brother of Joseph Smith who was the founder of the Mormon church, arrived on April 16, 1853, with a small group of followers at a place 12 miles south of Dixon, now Amboy. During the spring term of the circuit court in Dixon, William tried to obtain a divorce, but "the jury found a verdict for the lady."
In 1854 William was confined in the county jail; the reason is not mentioned in the sources consulted. He put up bail and was released. Before the trial he learned that a number of the people in the community were unfriendly toward him and so "he vacated these parts." He headed for Salt Lake City but was caught in St. Louis and brought back to Dixon.
It was at Amboy that Joseph Smith, jr., "was set apart by the laying on of hands at a Mormon convention" on April 5, 1860. He then became the Bishop and Prophet of that branch of the Church of Latter Day Saints which today has its headquarters in Independence, Mo. This branch denies "the acts and legitimacy of the Salt lake City branch of the Mormons." A chief point of disagreement was the practice of plural marriages, which was subsequently abandoned by the Mormons of the West.

In August, 1865, a group of about 700 Mormons pased through Dixon, and again in 1880 a train of 20 cars loaded with Mormons went through -- all bound for Utah. there are still a few families of Mormon descent in Amboy. There, too, may still be seen an old Mormon cemetery.

Note 1: The modern critical reader should not expect a great deal of historical accuracy from the efforts of "eighth grade pupil," but it still may be worthwhile to correct one troublesome error promoted by the above report. Mormon Patriarch William Smith had located himself in Lee County, Illinois long before "April 16, 1853." Smith's self-published letter of March 24, 1848 was written from the "City of Palestine, Lee Co., Ill. -- which was another name for the Rocky Ford area, just south of what later became Amboy village. As early as that date (and probably earlier) William's Mormon followers were planning "that the Saints will gather with us and help us to strengthen and build up this stake of Zion -- Palestine the city of our God."

Note 2: The writer's insertion of the "April 16, 1853" date into William's prior chronology must have occurred through his misreading of Abalino C. Bardwell's 1904 account: "April 16, 1853, the local paper notes that, after the murder of the Mormon high priest,Joseph Smith, his brother William, with a small band of followers, took up their residence about twelve miles south of town." The "local paper" thus cited was probably the Dixon Telegraph of that date, which was then publishing reports on William's recent activities in Lee County.

Note 3: In his 1970 Historical Reminiscences, George Lamb makes the same chronological error in a chapter entitled "Early Mormon Influence." Lamb uses the same language as the student Edward Saari did, sixteen years before: "On April 16, 1853, William Smith, a brother of Joseph, arrived in the county with a small band of followers and settled at Palestine Grove. During the spring term of the circuit court of Lee County in Dixon, WIlliam Smith trid to obtain a divorce from his wife, but the jury 'found a verdict for the lady in question.' In 1854 he was confined to the county jail, but for what reason we do not know. He did, however, put up the proper bail and was released soon after being confined." Either Mr. Lamb copied from the "eighth grade pupil," or else both writers relied upon the same faulty reading of Bardwell's 1904 account.



Vol. XIV.                               Rockford, Illinois, Saturday, March 24, 1973                             No. 38.

History, railroad linked
in Amboy

by Bob Hill

AMBOY -- When the trains thundered through this Lee County town it prospered, and when the whistles became memories it suffered, but the separation has not ben terminal. Amboy's history is as colorful as its red brick streets, a decor matched by the top half of the century-old buildings in the downtown area.

There is probably a story for every brick, but the foundation rests on four or five. Consider:

-- The country's first Carson Pirie Scott and Co. store was opened here in 1854.

-- There was a Mormon settlement near here, one which harbored the leader, Joseph Smith until he was finally captured south of town.

-- An aspiring politician, Abe Lincoln, gave a speech here in 1858, and even hung around long enough to get a shave.

-- The first newspaper editor here was Augustus Noel Dickens, whose older brother Charles made quite a name for himself in English literary circles....

In 1843 the Mormon leader Joseph Smith was captured, but his son Joseph Jr. was named a prophet at the annual meeting in Amboy in 1860. Some of the local people also headed west with Brigham Young....

From an 'open place' a town took its roots

...For openers there was no Amboy, only an open space between the towns of Binghampton and Rocky Ford, or Shelburn, take your pick.

Binghampton was settled by the James Doan family from Michigan in 1835, and the Timothy Perkins family showed up at nearby Shelburn (it was also called Rocky Ford because it was one at the Green River).

In 1840 the Mormons organized in the John Hook home and set up a cemetery south of town.

Life rolled on in the small towns, although the first attempt to build a railroad south from Rock River into Lee County went bust to the tune of $17 million.

Then in the middle 1850s the trains came and Binghampton and Shelburn (call it Rocky Ford if you ant) almost disappeared.

What happened, according to historians, is that the railroad went between the two towns and sucked them up from both sides. The town of Amboy grew and the two little towns faded....

Note: The journalist is misleading, where he says that "the Mormons organized in the John Hook home and set up a cemetery" in 1840. It is unlikely that any members of the Hook family were Mormons when they left Maine in 1840 -- and it is unlikely that they found Latter Day Saints living around Rocky Ford when they arrived there and set up a tavern on their new homestead. The family then consisted of Aaron Hook, his wife Rhoda and their three sons, William, John and Aaron, Jr. Evidently William came first, and settled on a farm just south of the Lee/Bureau county line. By 1840 he was joined by the rest of the family in Illinois, but William, his wife and his father soon passed away -- probably in a cholera epidemic -- leaving John, the oldest surviving son, as the Hook family patriarch when they opened the tavern at Rocky Ford. One of the first Mormons in the area was their neighbor, Lorenzo Dow Wasson, who was a nephew of Emma Hale Smith. By 1843 other converts had joined the new church, including Lozenzo's sister Clara. The Hook family members were probably converted at about the same time. The plot dedicated to Mormon burials was likely first put to that use in the mid-1860s, after its owner, John Lewis (Louis) Bridgman was baptized into the Reorganized LDS faith.


The Amboy News

Vol. ?                               Amboy, Illinois, Tuesday, June 23, 2009                             No. ?

Concrete Legacy Crumbling at
Mormon Cemetery

by Jim Dresbach

At one time inside the borders of Lee County, members of maligned 19th century religion made a life for themselves. They worshipped and existed near Rocky Ford, near Palestine Grove – and in and near Amboy, Ill. Mormons lived, toiled, worked and died on the local Illinois prairie, but nearly 160 years later, a religious group known for dwelling in Nauvoo, Ill., still has a concrete legacy in Lee County.

But that concrete legacy is literally crumbling and being hauled away to historical scrap heaps.

A plot of land known as the Mormon Cemetery rests a mile southeast of Amboy on Mormon Road, but according to county historians, many myths surround the graveyard, which today only holds a handful of headstones.

Myth number one is that the Mormon cemetery was established by the Utah Mormon Church and holds the remains of Church of Latter Day Saints followers, and myth number two tells of a wife of a famous church leader that is buried in the Amboy area plot.

According to the Amboy City history, the Mormons arrived in the area during the late 1830s and early 1840s. In 20 years' time, events in Illinois planted a new destiny for the Lee County Mormons. The death of founder Joseph Smith and the question of a rightful successor led to a split from the main body by the Lee County Mormons. They became known as "Reorgs."

"There were a number of groups who split off; one of them became the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ," said Gordon Johnson, Special Projects Chairman at the Lee County Genealogical Society. "The Reorgs were in Amboy in the 1870s. When this cemetery was established it was done by the elders of the local branch (of Reorgs). They were not associated with what we know as the Mormon Church today."

In 2009, many of the headstones are in disrepair. One historical source mentioned that many of the grave markers were made of wood and have long since rotted and disappeared. Through the latter half of the 20th century, the graveyard became a hangout for late night revelry, but former Amboy history teacher Craig Pfannkuche inspired his students to organize a cemetery clean up.

"It is important that we appreciate local history, and we are living in a part of history," Pfannkuche said about Amboy’s Mormon period.

According to the LCGS in Dixon, 21 people have been accounted for in the graveyard, but no exact count may ever be known. In addition to never having a complete count of the departed who rest near Amboy, it may never be known whether one grave belongs to a wife of Brigham Young.

Though LDS founder Smith and his successor, Brigham Young, often visited Lee County – Smith's in-laws resided in Sublette – some experts believe it is a historical stretch to conclude that one of Young's spouses is buried at the Mormon Road cemetery.

"It is a myth," Johnson said of the Brigham Young connection to the cemetery. "I don’t see how one of Smith’s or Young’s wife would be buried in that cemetery. Joe Smith had a number of wives. Timeline-wise, this just doesn’t sound right. Why in the world would Brigham Young have a wife buried in a cemetery created in the 1870s?

"So to have a wife of Brigham Young there would be very unlikely," Johnson continued. "Sure, he could have married somebody out West, she could have gotten upset with the church and went back to Illinois and her family and died there, but that’s as speculative as saying a Brigham Young wife is buried there."

Pfannkuche also finds the Brigham Young wife story hard to believe, but offered information that does link Young to the cemetery.

"It is a rumor," Pfannkuche said of the Young wife burial. "But there are related family members buried there. Still, the records are not very clear."

What is clear is that the headstones are slowly crumbling. One of Johnson’s jobs at the Genealogical Society is to document the Mormon Road cemetery and every other Prairie Pioneer graveyard in Lee County.

Note 1: The journalist is mistaken in saying that "Smith's in-laws resided in Sublette." Emma Hale Smith's sister married into the Benjamin Wasson family, whose homestead was located in sections 11, 14 and 15 of Amboy township (see comments appended to article in the Dixon Telegraph of Oct. 30, 1852.

Note 2: The "Old Mormon Cemetery" is located on 40 acres in the NW quarter of the SW quarter of Amboy township's section 27. During the mid-1870s, when the burial plot was being extensively used, the property belonged L. Meyers; and before 1872 it belonged to John Lewis (Louis) Bridgeman, an RLDS member, originally from Bainbridge, Chenango, New York. His father, Reuben Bridgman, jr. was a half-brother of Rev. Peter Goff Bridgman, who brought chrages against Joseph Smith, Jr., at South Bainbridge in 1826. John Lewis Bridgman's grandgather was Reuben, Sr., brother of Miriam Bridgman, the wife of early Mormon Josiah Stowell.

Note 3: No Bridgmans (or Bridgemans) are known to have been buried at Amboy's "Old Mormon Cemetery." Among the families represented there are Badgers, Browns, Cowells (Cadwells?), Doans, Nobels and Stones. Royal Stone (1793-1864) may have been the first interment after John Lewis Bridgman's 1863 baptism into the RLDS Church. Elder Stone was an early associate of William W. Blair -- both attended the the Reorganization's conference of April 6-11, 1859, held at Beaverton, Boone County, Illinois. The Amboy RLDS branch of the 1860s and 1870s evidently held its Sunday services in the private homes of members such as Branch President Edwin Cadwell, Elder John Lewis Bridgman and Elder Stephen J. Stone (son of Royal Stone).

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