Joseph Escapes From Missouri Jail

Many Mormons have heard about Joseph Smith's imprisonment in Missouri. However, most would probably attribute his confinement to religious persecution, rather than any justifiable legal grounds. Joseph Smith was charged and indicted by a grand jury on the crimes of "murder, treason, burglary, arson, larceny, theft, and stealing,"(History of the Church, vol. 3, page 315). Some of those who made sworn affidavits to this effect included LDS Apostles Thomas Marsh and Orson Hyde.

The grand jury brought the bill on April 11, 1839 after Joseph Smith had been confined for months in jail. With Joseph Smith facing a "true bill", he made his escape after in part getting the guards intoxicated.

    Joseph Fielding Smith, Life of Joseph F. Smith, p.60-61
    The story of this escape was afterwards told by Hyrum Smith as follows:

    "They got us a change of venue from Daviess to Boone county, and a mittimus was made out by the pretended Judge Birch, without date, name, or place. They (the court officials at Gallatin) fitted us out with a two horse wagon, a horse and four men, besides the sheriff, to be our guard. There were five of us that started from Gallatin, the sun about two hours high, and went as far as Diahman that evening, and stayed till morning. There we bought two horses of the guard, and paid for one of them in our clothing which we had with us, and for the other we gave our note. We went down that day as far as Judge Morin's, a distance of some four or five miles. There we stayed until the next morning, when we started on our journey to Boone county, and traveled on the road about twenty miles distance. There we bought a jug of whisky, with which we treated the company, and while there the sheriff showed us the mittimus before referred to, without date or signature, and said that Judge Birch told him to carry us to Boone county, and never to show the mittimus; and, said he, I shall take a good drink of grog, and go to bed, and you may do as you have a mind to. Three others of the guards drank pretty freely of the whisky, sweetened with honey. They also went to bed, and were soon asleep and the other guard went along with us, and helped to saddle the horses. Two of us mounted the horses, and the others started on foot, and we took our change of venue for the State of Illinois...."

Last Updated September 28, 1997
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Created by James David,