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Examiner
  • Ted Stillwell: Lucas was instrumental in area Mormon history

  • Samuel D. Lucas was one of those pivotal figures in early Mormon history, but he is virtually forgotten by most except for the Latter Day Saints. Lucas was a general in the Missouri State Militia when the so-called “Mormon War” broke out in Missouri in 1838.

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  • Samuel D. Lucas was one of those pivotal figures in early Mormon history, but he is virtually forgotten by most except for the Latter Day Saints. Lucas was a general in the Missouri State Militia when the so-called “Mormon War” broke out in Missouri in 1838.
    Strong feelings were running high across northwestern Missouri against the Mormons for a number of reasons: They believed differently than the southern-bred Missouri population: they were from New England and did not own slaves; they all collected in one place and were pro-Native American; wherever they went they started from abject poverty and became prosperous, because they all worked together and were not individualists like the Missourians. And, as they rapidly increased in numbers they threatened the political balance of the area.
    Most of these objections have little meaning to us today, but at that time they were paramount. The Mormons had been driven out of Jackson and Clay Counties to a county created just for them, Caldwell County, and now feelings were inflamed again.
    Exaggerated reports over defensive actions by the Mormons caused Missouri Governor Lilburn Boggs to issue his infamous “Extermination Order,” ordering the Mormons to leave the state or be exterminated. Governor Boggs was originally from Independence and was instrumental in the aggression against the Mormons locally back in 1833.
    When Boggs called out the state militia, Gen. Samuel D. Lucas was the ranking officer who was first on the scene. With overwhelming numbers against him, Lucas was successful in forcing the Mormons to surrender. He arrested the Mormon leaders and immediately ordered them to be executed by a firing squad on the Caldwell County town square the next morning, the first day of November 1838.
    Liberty’s respected attorney, Alexander Doniphan, who had assisted the Mormons with their problems in Clay County, was also a member of the state militia. Doniphan stood up against Lucas and told him that it would be cold-blooded murder, and he would bring charges against him in a civil court if he carried out this order. According to Bill Curtis in his book “The Truman Neighborhood,” Doniphan’s strong and courageous stand caused Lucas to back down.
    Doniphan could have had charges brought against himself for insubordination, because General Lucas outranked him. Instead however, Lucas had political ambitions of possibly becoming the next governor of Missouri, so he apparently stood back to take a second look at the situation.
    What Lucas decided instead was to take Joseph Smith and the other church leaders to Independence as trophies in the war against the Mormons. Knowing the hostile feelings of the people of Independence toward the Mormons, he knew he would reap great political benefits.
    However, this totally backfired. When the prisoners reached Independence, Joseph Smith was asked what the Mormons believed. The people had heard that he demanded his members to worship him as if he were God. Joseph Smith calmly explained the Christian beliefs of his church, which generally created a favorable impression among the town residents. In fact, the local women sneaked the prisoners warm food, and public opinion turned in the church leaders’ favor.
    Page 2 of 2 - The incident actually ended Lucas’ political ambition. However, Lucas did become the Jackson County recorder and lived out the remainder of his life in Independence in a home on the Northeast corner of Liberty Street and Farmer. Today, that corner is the practice field for the St. Mary’s High School football team. The Prophet Joseph Smith and the other church leaders were ordered to Liberty and held in jail until all remaining Mormons were driven from the state.
    Reference: “The Truman Neighborhood” by Bill Curtis

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