“A Battle Ensued”: John P. Greene
and Samuel H. Smith in the Early Restoration

by Brian Reeves

            On the night of 22 September 1827 John P. Greene, a Reformed Methodist preacher, and his neighbors, witnessed a miraculous scene in the starlit skies over Mendon, New York.  On the eastern horizon they saw smoke rise and form into the shape of a bow.  According to John’s neighbor, Heber C. Kimball:

            In this bow an army moved, commencing from the east and marching to the west; they continued marching until they reached the western horizon.  They moved in platoons, and walked so close that the rear ranks trod in the steps of their file leaders, until the whole bow was literally crowded with soldiers.  We . . . could discover the forms and features of the men.  The most profound order existed throughout the entire army; when the foremost man stepped, every man stepped at the same time; I could hear the steps.  When the front rank reached the western horizon a battle ensued, as we could distinctly hear the report of arms and the rush.1

They watched this astonishing display for two or more hours and puzzled over its meaning.

            In the predawn hours of that same day, twenty-five miles to the northeast on a hillside near Palmyra, a heavenly messenger delivered a compilation of ancient records to twenty-one-year-old Joseph Smith.  The receipt of the Book of Mormon plates was a signal event in “the beginning of the rising up and the coming forth of [the Lord’s] church out of the wilderness–clear as the moon, and fair as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners.”2

            John P. Greene and Samuel H. Smith were two lesser-known figures who played important roles in the early history of the Restoration.  This narrative illuminates intersections in their paths at important junctures in early Latter-day Saint history.

            It does not appear that John and Samuel were close friends but an examination of their lives reveals some remarkable parallels.  Samuel was the first set-apart missionary in the Church.  John was among those who he visited on his first missionary trek.  Both served on the Kirtland High Council.  Neither participated in the march of Zion’s Camp.  Both briefly experienced doubts relative to Joseph Smith’s prophetic calling but quickly recovered their faith.  Both took part in the Battle of Crooked River in Missouri and afterwards fled to Illinois.  Their wives, Rhoda Young Greene and Mary Bailey Smith, died within a week of each other from health problems caused by the Missouri crisis.  Samuel and John were both members of the Nauvoo City Council and died in Nauvoo in the summer of 1844 in the wake of the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith.

Samuel the Witness

            In April 1829 Samuel Smith traveled to Harmony, Pennsylvania, with a schoolteacher named Oliver Cowdery, who had been boarding with the Smith family in Palmyra.  Joseph and Emma Smith had moved to Harmony so that Joseph could translate the Nephite plates with fewer disruptions.  Oliver became the scribe for Joseph’s translation.

            In May Joseph and Oliver informed Samuel of their recent ordinations to the Aaronic Priesthood under the hands of John the Baptist.  With these priesthood keys they were authorized to perform baptisms for the remission of sins, and had already baptized each other.  They urged Samuel, Joseph’s younger brother, to also be baptized.

            Samuel, having joined the Presbyterian Church in 1820 with his mother and two siblings, Hyrum and Sophronia, insisted on gaining a personal witness that the work was heaven-inspired before he would consider such a step.  He retired to a secluded spot, invested himself in prayer, and received the sought-for confirmation.  He was baptized by Oliver Cowdery on May 25, becoming the third person baptized by divine authority in this dispensation.

            In June or July he, together with his father and older brother Hyrum, became one of the Eight Witnesses to whom Joseph showed the Book of Mormon plates.  Their written testimony was included in the first printing of the Book of Mormon in March 1830, and in every subsequent edition.  When the Church was officially organized a short time later on April 6, Samuel was listed as one of the first six members.  He was rebaptized on that date.

Mission to Mendon

            In June 1830 Joseph Smith set apart his younger brother to perform missionary labors in neighboring villages around Palmyra.  On June 30 Samuel placed several copies of the Book of Mormon in a knapsack and started walking.  He could not sell a single copy of the book on his first day out.  He was also unable to obtain lodging and spent the first night of his missionary travels under an apple tree in the rolling hills southwest of Palmyra.

            Early the next day he presented his message to a widow, who gave him something to eat.  She was interested in the book but did not have the means to purchase a copy, so he gave it to her as a gift.3

            Later in the day he arrived in the Mendon/Bloomfield area, where he met John P. Greene.   Greene, who had joined with about twenty-five others in 1828 to form the Methodist Protestant Church,4 felt sympathy for the young missionary.  Out of kindness he agreed to take a subscription list with him on his preaching circuit to see if there might be any takers for the book.

            Samuel finally succeeded in selling a copy to Greene’s brother-in-law, Phinehas Young, at Tomlinson’s Inn in Mendon.5  His documented placements of the book on his first missionary trek included one given away, one placed on consignment, and one sold.  Samuel returned to Bloomfield two weeks later and learned that Greene had not met anyone who wanted to buy the book.6  John kept a copy for a while longer, likely at Samuel’s request, in case he came across someone who might be interested.

            Later that summer Samuel again returned to John’s home where he visited with John’s wife, Rhoda.  She fetched the book and returned it to Samuel, saying that Mr. Greene still had not found any takers.  She also confessed, however, that she had read it and was pleased with its contents.  After a brief conversation Samuel rose to leave, then hesitated.  He handed the book back to Rhoda and told her that the Spirit forbade him from taking it.

            Her eyes brimming with tears, Rhoda asked the young missionary to pray with her.  After doing so he explained to her the “most profitable manner of reading the book.”7  His message was simple: read it and pray for enlightenment as to its truthfulness.

            Following Samuel’s instruction and Rhoda’s persistent badgering, John read the Book of Mormon and soon gained the same conviction that they had.  Even though John and Rhoda were not baptized into the Mormon faith until a year and a-half later, Rhoda’s brother, Brigham Young, could see it coming.  Traveling with John while the latter was still preaching the Methodist Protestant message, Brigham “told him if he didn’t get snagged [into Mormonism] I’d treat.”8

            In April1832 Elder Eleazer Miller visited Mendon and baptized several people, including Brigham and Miriam Young, Heber and Vilate Kimball, and John and Rhoda Greene.9  John spent that summer retracing his familiar ministerial routes in his home state, this time preaching the message of the Restoration.  In October he and his family moved to Kirtland, Ohio.


            In December Samuel H. Smith also returned to Kirtland.10  He had been on a mission with Orson Hyde since March in New York, Massachusetts, and Maine.  According to Hyde, Samuel had a heart of gold but was not an exceptional preacher.  He related an experience that they had in Westfield, New York, where someone in a public meeting asked the missionaries to tell something of the Mormon prophet, Joseph Smith.  Hyde informed the audience that Samuel was the Prophet’s younger brother and could give a good firsthand account of his character.  Samuel declined Hyde’s invitation on the grounds that his account would be biased.11

            Samuel was chosen as an original member of the Kirtland High Council on 17 February 1834.  At the meeting held one week later John P. Greene stood in for Joseph Coe, an absent member of the council.  In the course of the meeting Joseph Smith announced his intention to go to Jackson County, Missouri, to restore Church members to lands from which they had been driven.  He asked for volunteers to accompany him.  Thirty or forty men stepped forward.  The next day John P. Greene was dispatched on a mission to western New York “and into Canada to gather men and means for the redemption of Zion.”12  Zion’s Camp embarked in May on its nine-hundred-mile march.

            Samuel remained in Kirtland that spring and summer, performing manual labor.  One source suggests that he stayed behind to help care for the Smith family’s temporal needs while his brothers Joseph, Hyrum, and William, marched with Zion’s Camp.13  On 13 August 1834, two weeks after their return, Samuel was married to Mary Bailey, a convert to whom he had preached the gospel in Boston in 1832.  Mary and her bosom friend, Agnes Coolbrith, began boarding with the Smith family upon their arrival in Kirtland in 1833.  Agnes was married to Samuel’s younger brother, Don Carlos, in the summer of 1835.

            In March 1835 John P. Greene and Samuel H. Smith were among over a hundred brethren who received blessings by the laying on of hands for having consecrated their efforts to the building of the Kirtland Temple.  John, who had served on several occasions as an alternate member of the Kirtland High Council, became a regular member of the council on 13 January 1836.14

            John and Samuel both experienced brief periods of doubt relative to the cause in which they were engaged.  Joseph Smith lamented in his diary on 31 October 1835 that Samuel’s mind was darkened through the influence of their younger brother, William, and that Samuel was “exclaiming” against him on the streets of Kirtland.15  But the storm cloud quickly passed.  Joseph visited Samuel’s house three days later to participate in the blessing of Samuel and Mary’s week-old babe, Susannah.

            Some Church members objected to John P. Greene as a member of the Kirtland High Council on 3 September 1837.  Council minutes do not give details but the objection may have stemmed from his response to the failure of the Kirtland Bank, in which he had heavily invested.  In a church meeting on Sunday, September 10, he “arose and made some confessions . . . stating wherein he had [done] wrong for a short time past,”16 upon which he was retained as a high councilor by public vote.

Missouri Troubles

            Financial difficulties, coupled with physical threats by disaffected Church members, prompted Joseph Smith to leave Kirtland and move to Missouri in early 1838.  He was followed by those Kirtland saints who still believed in his prophetic calling, including the Greenes.  Samuel Smith accompanied his brother to Missouri and settled, with Mary and their two young children, in Marrowbone, Daviess County.

            Established residents soon became wary of the large influx of Mormons, with their attendant political clout, into northern Missouri.  A group of locals, inflamed by alcohol and the rhetoric of William Peniston, sought to prevent Latter-day Saints from voting in an election held at Gallatin, Daviess County, on 6 August 1838.17  The ensuing brawl turned out to be the first in a series of clashes over the next few months.

            Samuel and Mary’s third child and first son, Samuel Harrison Bailey Smith, was born in Marrowbone18 on August 1, five days before the Gallatin incident.  When the baby was three weeks old Samuel left his family and went to Far West to borrow a team and wagon.19  He intended to move them to Far West, where the Church was headquartered and where most of the rest of his family lived.

            In Samuel’s absence a group of neighbors approached Mary and relayed rumors that a mob would soon drive all Mormons from the area.  Encouraging her to leave immediately for Far West, they provided her with a lumber wagon, a team, and an eleven-year-old driver.  Mary was still weak from her recent childbirth.  The neighbors loaded Mary’s bed into the wagon; placed her and her children, respectively aged three years, fourteen months, and three weeks, on the bed; and sent them on their way.  The ill-prepared travelers encountered a violent rainstorm en route to Far West, and they and their bedding were soon wringing wet.

            Samuel, unaware of his family’s departure, met them on the road ten miles out of Far West.  By the time they reached Father and Mother Smith’s, thirty-six hours after leaving Marrowbone, Mary was unable to speak.  Mother Smith, assisted by her daughters and daughter-in-law, Emma, used “every means that lay in my power for her benefit.”20  Mary soon began to revive.

            On October 24 a party of militia commanded by Samuel Bogart took three Mormon prisoners near the line between Ray and Caldwell counties.  Leaders in Far West dispatched another militia party, led by David W. Patten, to free the prisoners.  The two militia units, one Mormon and the other non-Mormon, clashed just before dawn on October 25.  Samuel H. Smith and John P. Greene were members of the Mormon party.

            The first shot to break the early morning stillness was fired by John Lockhart, a sentry in Bogart’s company.  It felled Patrick O’Banion, who was walking at John P. Greene’s side.  Greene and his brother-in-law, Lorenzo Dow Young, carried O’Banion to the side of the road, “asked the Lord to preserve his life, laid him down, . . . , ran on and took our place again.”21

            The Mormons won the ensuing skirmish but lost the war.  One “old settler” and three Mormons, including Patrick O’Banion and David W. Patten, were killed in the battle.  Exaggerated reports of Bogart’s losses at Crooked River resulted in the activation of the state militia to put down the so-called “Mormon Rebellion,” and led Missouri governor Lilburn W. Boggs to issue his infamous Extermination Order on October 27.

            State troops reached Far West on October 30.  The next day Mormon representatives began negotiating with Major-General Samuel D. Lucas to bring the conflict to a close.  Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith, and others were turned over to Lucas as hostages.  It soon became clear that if members of the Mormon militia who fought at Crooked River were apprehended, they ran the risk of being court-martialed, convicted of murder, and shot.22

Flight to Illinois

            That night, October 31, Samuel, John, and several others “committed their families & friends to the Care of our father in heaven and took to the wilderness,”23 heading north.  They left in such haste that they took along inadequate supplies of food, clothing, and bedding.

            State militia under the command of John B. Clark were sent in pursuit of the fleeing Mormons.  On November 2 or 3, messengers informed the fugitives that Clark and his men were closing on them.  Samuel Smith asked his brethren what they should do if they were caught.  “[A]fter a few moments consultation the whole company covenanted with uplifted hands to heaven that if they were overtaken they would fight till they died.”24  They traveled ten miles and camped in the woods on the north side of a four-mile prairie.  Clark’s men camped on the south side of the same prairie.

            They awoke the next morning to a heavy snowstorm which blew from the north.  The flakes fell so thickly that they obscured the Mormons’ tracks as they fled.  After losing the trail Clark’s men gave up the chase, reporting that “they could not overtake the damned mormons for they were stopped by a damned snow storm.”25

            The fleeing group eventually divided into three parties and pursued their journeys separately to avoid detection.  It appears that Samuel and John were in the same party.  After several days they ran out of food and resorted to eating slippery elm bark, which made some of the men sick.

            Hungry, cold, and unsure of the fate of their families, the brethren petitioned in group prayer for divine assistance, each man praying in turn.  Samuel, moved upon by the Spirit, pronounced that his brother Joseph was unhurt and would be delivered from his captors; their families were safe but were worried about them; and they would soon find food.  The next day they split into four groups to look for the promised food.  Samuel Smith and Charles C. Rich came upon an Indian camp, where they received bread and dried meat for themselves and their companions.

            The men traveled north into Iowa, then east to Illinois.  They crossed the Mississippi River at Warsaw on November 14 and reached Quincy the next day, where John was kindly received by a Judge Cleveland.  He wrote in his brief diary on November 16, “this is the first time I have found a place to rest for the last 4 - weeks!  O lord thank thee Lord.”26

            Several months later John reflected on his experiences in a letter to his wife’s cousin, Phinehas Richards, “time has been a continual scene of anx[ie]tey on the account of the grate & mighty & strange things that are continually passing around us but I cannot tell you of those at this time I only can say the lords ways are not as our ways.”27

            On the same date that John P. Greene, Samuel H. Smith, and others fled Far West, Major-General Samuel D. Lucas demanded that all remaining Mormons in Missouri leave the state as soon as possible.  John B. Clark reiterated the demand in November.  The saints also forfeited their property to pay for the costs of the so-called “Mormon War.”  After surrendering their arms at Far West and elsewhere, their homes, livestock and other belongings were pillaged by opportunists among their neighbors and the state militia.

            On November 29 General Clark wrote to Governor Boggs, “‘there are now about 100 females, the wives of those who were killed or run off, who are destitute and depend upon their friends for support.’”28 Mary Bailey Smith and Rhoda Young Greene were among this number.  The inclemency of the season and the poverty of the saints made it nearly impossible for them to immediately leave Missouri.

            In January 1839 Church leaders in Far West formed a committee for the purpose of safely guiding the refugees away from Missouri.  In a public meeting on January 29, at the instance of Brigham Young, those present covenanted to help each other to accomplish that end, “and that we will never desert the poor who are worthy, till they shall be out of the reach of the exterminating order.”29

            Meanwhile, John P. Greene and others formed another committee in Quincy to assist the exiles by ferrying them across the Mississippi and providing them with food, clothing, shelter, and fuel.  Individual committee members incurred significant personal debts in carrying out this task.

            John’s family reached Quincy in January.30  Samuel’s family, including his wife Mary, and their children; his parents; and brothers Don Carlos and William, with their families, left Far West on February 14 and reached Quincy in seven days.  During the journey they lodged in an abandoned log house, a Church member’s home, an outhouse, a kindhearted Missourian’s home, and on the banks of the Mississippi River.  At the latter place their bedding was covered with snow when they awoke in the morning and was so stiff that they had difficulty folding it.  That day, Samuel crossed the river and accompanied them back to Quincy.31

Deaths in Nauvoo

            Only sketchy information is available on Rhoda Greene’s exodus from Far West, the best source being her obituary, written by John on 29 January 1841:

she was found at Far West, Mo. suffering the disgraceful insults of a Missouri mob, and there being like many others, deprived of her husband and also her property, under Gov. Boggs’ (hell born) exterminating order, and Gen. Clark’s administration: alone, with her four daughters and a little son, she was compelled to make her passport, a distance of 200 miles in the month of January, 1839, by wagon, lodging in the same by night.  The deprivations and sufferings of that journey, laid the foundation of that fatal disease (the inflammatory rheumatism,) which after suffering the severest pains for the space of two years and more it terminated her natural life.32

            Rhoda died on 18 January 1841 at age fifty-one.  Her obituary appeared in the Nauvoo Times and Seasons on February 15, beginning on page 325.  On the facing page is the obituary of Mary Bailey Smith, wife of Samuel:

while in child bed she was driven from her home by an infatuated mob, and exposed to a violent storm in the midst of an open prairie . . . , which brought her nigh unto death; she however recovered to witness more distressing scenes, all of which would be lengthy to enumerate, and too disgraceful to harrow up the soul of the reader.33

Mary was thirty-one when she died on January 25.  Shortly before her death she gave birth to a daughter whom they named Lucy.  The infant died in February.

            Samuel married Levira Clark a few months after Mary’s death, on 30 May 1841.  John married Mary Nelson on December 6.

            In February 1842 Samuel was elected to serve as one of four aldermen on the Nauvoo City Council, and John was elected as one of nine counselors.  The city was divided into four civil wards, each represented by an alderman and two counselors.  “Samuel Smith, John P. Greene, and Vinson Knight were assigned to the first ward.”34  Within days Samuel, John, and others were also appointed as regents of the anticipated University of Nauvoo.

            John went on a mission to visit branches of the Church in Ohio and New York during the winter of 1842-43, accompanied by his wife, who was delivered of a baby girl on 8 January 1843.  The mission also breathed new life into John himself.  He exulted in a letter to Joseph Smith from Buffalo on March 18:

I have not at any time in my life realized the power of any prophetic expression more sensible than the promise you made to the elders that volunteered last fall to go out & preach the word, trusting in God.  For the Lord has not only taught me to preach his word faithfully & in the demonstration of the Spirit for both comfort to the Saints and to the shutting of the mouths of gainsayers, the healing of the sick & the casting out of Devils; but to my own astonishment & great joy he has turned my horse whither he would have me to go, & when I would have gone ahead the storms has prevented me until the servants (Cornelius like) had time to arrive & call for me to go & tell them what to do or words whereby they & their house might be saved.35

He returned to Nauvoo in October 1843 and on December 21 was elected as city marshal.

            On 7 June 1844 the first and only number of the Nauvoo Expositor was issued at Nauvoo.  Its columns were filled with inflammatory charges against Joseph Smith and the Church.  According to John Taylor the publication of the paper was one of “various devices resorted to [by anti-Mormons], to influence the public mind, and if possible, to provoke us to the commission of some overt act that might make us amenable to the law.”36  On June 10 the city council met to discuss how to respond to the paper.

            The council rightly supposed that any action against the press would bring cries that they had violated the publishers’ right to freedom of the press.  On the other hand, they feared worse consequences if Nauvoo’s offended population resorted to vigilantism.  After lengthy discussion the council determined that they were within legal bounds to halt production of the paper on the grounds that it was a public nuisance.

            Mayor Joseph Smith accordingly issued an order to Marshal Greene to take a posse, destroy the press, burn all libelous publications, and pie the type.  The city council remained in session while the order was carried out.  Greene returned a written report the same evening, on the back of the order: “The within <named> press & type is destroyed and pied according to order, this tenth day of June 1844 at about 8 oclock P. M - John P. Green, C[ity]. M[arshal].”37

            The destruction of the Expositor press unleashed the fury of Joseph Smith’s enemies.  Over the next two weeks Joseph and others worked on several fronts to try to bring the crisis to a peaceful resolution.  They exchanged letters with Governor Thomas Ford, gathered affidavits, and published accounts in The Times and Seasons and the Nauvoo Neighbor, giving their views on the Expositor incident.

            Anti-Mormons were equally vigorous in fanning the flames of public outrage.  According to Governor Ford, “‘For this purpose public meetings had been called, inflammatory speeches had been made, exaggerated reports had been extensively circulated, committees had been appointed, who rode day and night to spread the reports and solicit the aid of neighboring Counties.’”38 Published Mormon perspectives on the crisis were intercepted and destroyed in counties immediately surrounding Nauvoo.

            Anticipating mob activity, Joseph Smith declared martial law in Nauvoo on June 17 and, as lieutenant general of the Nauvoo Legion, ordered Major-General Jonathan Dunham to have the legion “in readiness to assist said Marshal [Greene] in keeping the peace, and doing whatever may be necessary to preserve the dignity of the State and city.”39

            On the night of June 20, believing that he might avert military conflict in Nauvoo by leaving the city, Joseph crossed the Mississippi River into Iowa, accompanied by Hyrum Smith, Jonathan Dunham, John P. Greene, and others.40  Soon, however, apprized of charges of cowardice by his own people and at the urging of Hyrum, Joseph and his associates returned to Nauvoo on June 23.

            The next day they rode to Carthage to meet with Governor Ford.  Zina Diantha Huntington Jacobs wrote in her diary, “This night after the brethren left here for Carthage the Hevens gathered blackness, the thunder and lightning was dreadful, the storm arose in the west.”41

            On June 25 fifteen men, including John P. Greene, appeared before Robert F. Smith, a justice of the peace in Carthage, on charges of riot in connection with the destruction of the Expositor press.  Bonds were posted in their behalf to ensure their appearance at the next term of the Hancock County Court, and they were released.

            Within hours two men filed affidavits charging Joseph and Hyrum with treason, a writ was issued, and they were imprisoned.  John was among eight brethren who accompanied them to their jail cell that evening and lodged there.

            On June 26 they had an interview with Governor Ford42 and called on him for protection, which he promised, adding that if he went to Nauvoo he would certainly take Joseph and Hyrum with him.  Ford ordered Marshal Greene to return to Nauvoo to ensure that peace was maintained during his anticipated visit.  John warned the governor that if he left Joseph and Hyrum in Carthage Jail, under guard of the Carthage Greys, a plot was afoot to murder them in his absence.  The governor responded, “‘Marshal Greene, you are too enthusiastic.’”43 Ford received similar warnings from Dan Jones and Cyrus Wheelock.

            At five o’clock a.m. on June 27 John P. Greene and William W. Phelps stopped briefly at Carthage Jail to receive instructions from Joseph Smith before returning to Nauvoo.44  When Governor Ford reached Nauvoo that afternoon, accompanied by a military escort but without Joseph and Hyrum, John chided him for breaking his promise.  Within hours the Prophet and his brother became martyrs in Carthage.

            Samuel Smith was at the time residing southeast of Carthage in Plymouth.  Upon hearing of the detention of his brothers he determined to visit them and offer whatever assistance he could.  On June 26 he drove toward Carthage with a team and wagon, accompanied by a fourteen-year-old boy who was working on his farm.  They were intercepted by “a guard of the mob”45 who refused to let Samuel pass but did not deny passage to the boy.  Samuel instructed him to take the wagon to the Hamilton House in Carthage and wait for him there.

            Samuel returned to Plymouth, acquired a fast riding horse, and headed again for Carthage on June 27.  He learned of the martyrdom before his arrival.  He soon encountered members of the mob who had been at Carthage during the shooting and were now disbanding to return to their homes.  Upon discovering who he was, several of the men gave pursuit.  Samuel outran them on his swift horse and after an extended chase reached Carthage safely, with a fresh bullet hole in his hat.

            John Taylor, who was in the jail at the time of the martyrdom and suffered four gunshot wounds, recalled that Samuel Smith was the first church brother that he saw after the tragedy.  Samuel looked physically and mentally worn out.46

            The next day, June 28, Samuel accompanied his brothers’ bodies back to a sad reception in Nauvoo.  John P. Greene went to the mansion house soon after the bodies arrived.  Dr. B. W. Richmond, a non-Mormon who was lodging there at the time, observed:

“Rev. Mr. Greene came in, and as the bitter cries of the weeping woman reached his ears, he burst forth in tones of manly grief, and trembling in every nerve, approached Mrs. Smith and exclaimed: ‘Oh, Sister Emma, God bless you!’  Then clasping her head in his hands, he uttered a long and fervent prayer for her peace, protection and resignation.  The first words of the poor woman were: ‘Why, O God, am I thus afflicted?  Why am I a widow and my children widows?  Thou knowest I have always trusted in thy law.’  Mr. Greene rejoined to her that this affliction would be to her a crown of life.  She answered quickly: ‘My husband was my crown; for him and my children I have suffered the loss of all things; and why, O God, am I thus deserted, and my bosom torn with this ten-fold anguish?’

            “I passed into the next room, and the aged mother of Joseph and Hyrum came up to me, with a gaze of wild despair, and clasping me with both hands she asked me why they had shot her dear children.  Her eyes were dry and her anguish seemed too deep for tears.  She paced the room, turned around, went to the window, then to the door of the room where Joseph’s wife was still weeping, and Mr. Greene still praying.”47

            Mother Smith “left the scene and returned to my room, to ponder upon the calamities of my family.  Soon after this, Samuel said, ‘Mother, I have had a dreadful distress in my side ever since I was chased by the mob, and I think I have received some injury which is going to make me sick.’” Within a few days he was confined to bed.  He died on July 30, less than five weeks after his brothers.  His death was attributed to bilious fever brought on by lack of rest, overexertion, and grief.48

            John P. Greene also “sunk down rapidly” after June’s tragic turn of events.49  He died on September 10 of quick consumption.


            The nighttime wonders in the skies over Mendon on 22 September 1827 portended the growth and opposition that attended the early establishment of the Church, and had personal relevance for John P. Greene and Samuel H. Smith.  Samuel and John embraced the Restoration effected through Joseph Smith, and were among the small army of missionaries who bore the standard of truth on numerous proselyting missions.  They defended the Church in spiritual and physical conflict as it made its way west from New York.  Their temporal fight ended in Nauvoo in the summer of 1844.

            At a general conference held in the Nauvoo Temple on 8 October 1845 Lucy Mack Smith addressed the congregation.  She reflected on the publication of the Book of Mormon; Samuel’s missionary treks to Mendon; her exodus from Missouri in the midst of rain, snow, and hail; the deaths of six of her seven sons; and the unknown whereabouts of her surviving son, William.  She recalled Joseph telling the saints that if he could not get justice for them on earth he would take their case “‘to the highest court in heaven.’”

[N]ever did I think he was going to leave us so soon to take this case to heaven.  He never could get justice till he took it there.  The Lord has got even the Marshall there.  I feel now just exactly that the Lord has got even the Smiths there—they know all our sufferings and don’t you think our case is being tried?  I think they will do more for us there than they could if they were here.50

1Orson F. Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball, an Apostle; The Father and Founder of the British Mission (Salt Lake City: the Kimball Family; printed at the Juvenile Instructor Office, 1888), 32.

2Doctrine and Covenants 5:14.

3Scott Facer Proctor and Maurine Jensen Proctor, eds., The Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith by His Mother (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996), 225.

4Evan M. Greene, biographical sketch of John P. Greene, 1857, 1, Archives, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City.

5“History of Brigham Young,” Millennial Star 25, no. 23 (6 June 1863): 360-61.  Phinehas Young’s first-person account is embedded in the history of his brother, Brigham Young.  Phinehas gave the date of his encounter with Samuel H. Smith as April 1830, but this appears to be in error.  Otherwise, Samuel made a visit to Mendon which predated the visits mentioned in Lucy Mack Smith’s history and which also predated his setting apart by his brother Joseph to perform missionary labors in areas surrounding Palmyra.

6Scott Facer Proctor and Maurine Jensen Proctor, eds., The Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith by His Mother (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996), 225-26.

7Scott Facer Proctor and Maurine Jensen Proctor, eds., The Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith by His Mother (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996), 245.

8“A Family Meeting in Nauvoo: Minutes of a Meeting of the Richards and Young Families Held in Nauvoo, Ill., Jan. 8, 1845,” in Family Recordings of Nauvoo . . . (Salt Lake City: O. H. Barlow, 1965), 29.

9Evan M. Greene, biographical sketch of John P. Greene, 1857, 1, Archives, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City; Leonard J. Arrington, Brigham Young: American Moses (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1985), 30.  While the others were baptized in April, Miriam Young may have actually been baptized in early May.

10Samuel H. Smith first arrived in Kirtland in February 1831.

11“History of Orson Hyde,” Millennial Star 26, no. 49 (December 3, 1864): 775.

12Evan M. Greene, biographical sketch of John P. Greene, 1857, 2, Archives, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City.

13Ruby K. Smith, Mary Bailey (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1954), 38.

14Fred C. Collier and William S. Harwell, eds., Kirtland Council Minute Book (Salt Lake City: Fred C. Collier, 1996), 157.

15Dean C. Jessee, ed., The Papers of Joseph Smith, vol. 2, Journal, 1832-1842 (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1992), 61-62.

16Fred C. Collier and William S. Harwell, eds., Kirtland Council Minute Book (Salt Lake City: Fred C. Collier, 1996), 189.

17Stephen C. LeSueur, The 1838 Mormon War in Missouri (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1987), 59-63.

18Family group record for Samuel Harrison Smith and Mary Bailey, located at www.familysearch.org, 8 December 2000, lists the baby’s birthplace as Shady Grove, Daviess County, Missouri.  Lucy Mack Smith’s history states that Marrowbone was later named Shady Grove.

19An early manuscript of Lucy Mack’s history gave the baby’s age as three days at the time of Samuel’s departure for Far West.  Published editions of her history changed the age to three weeks, until the 1996 edition edited by Scott and Maurine Proctor, in which three days was reinserted.  Three weeks appears to have been the correct age, since the election-day brawl in Gallatin took place on August 6, when the infant was five days old.  Samuel’s efforts to move his family to Far West would likely have postdated the Gallatin incident.  See Scott Facer Proctor and Maurine Jensen Proctor, eds., The Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith by His Mother (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996), 364, 368 (note 15).

20Scot Facer Proctor and Maurine Jensen Proctor, eds., The Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith by His Mother (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996), 365.

21James Amasa Little, “Biography of Lorenzo Dow Young,” Utah Historical Quarterly 14 (1946): 53.  See also Stephen C. LeSueur, The 1838 Mormon War in Missouri (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1987), 137-42.

22James Amasa Little, “Biography of Lorenzo Dow Young,” Utah Historical Quarterly 14 (1946): 57; Stephen C. LeSueur, The 1838 Mormon War in Missouri (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1987), 169.

23Evan M. Greene, biographical sketch of John P. Greene, 1857, 3, Archives, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City.

24Historian’s Office, biographical sketch of Samuel H. Smith, 4, Archives, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City.  Undated document in handwriting of Robert L. Campbell.

25Historian’s Office, biographical sketch of Samuel H. Smith, 5, Archives, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City.

26John P. Greene diary entry, 16 November 1838, microfilm, Archives, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City.

27John P. Greene letter, 1 April 1839, Quincy, Illinois, to Phinehas Richards, West Stockbridge, Massachusetts, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.

28Leland H. Gentry, “A History of the Latter-day Saints in Northern Missouri from 1836 to 1839” (Ph.D. diss., Brigham Young University, 1965), 412, quoting from Missouri, Correspondence, Orders, etc., in Relation to the Recent Disturbances with the Mormons (Jefferson City: Office of the Jeffersonian, 1840), 93; Missouri Republican Daily, 12 December 1838, 2.

29History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 vols. (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1901-12), 3:250.

30L. [Levi?] Richards letter, Far West, Missouri, 12 February 1839, to Franklin Richards, St. Louis, Missouri, typescript, Richards family letters, Archives, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City.  He wrote, “Our kindred are all in Illinois and have been for weeks except cousin Brigham and his family and they expect to start day after to-morrow. . . . Cousin Greene’s family are in Quincy”.

31Scot Facer Proctor and Maurine Jensen Proctor, eds., The Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith by His Mother (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996), 411-14.

32Times and Seasons, 15 February 1841, 326.  A few typographical errors have been silently corrected.

33Times and Seasons, 15 February 1841, 325.  The page on which Mary’s obituary ends and Rhoda’s begins also includes an obituary for Phebe Ann Bently, age thirty-four, whose first husband, David W. Patten, had died in the Battle of Crooked River.  “She has suffered much from the power of disease, which was occasioned in consequence of her exposures.”

34Dean Jarman, “The Life and Contributions of Samuel Harrison Smith” (master’s thesis, Brigham Young University, 1961), 91-92.

35John P. Greene letter, 18 March 1843, Buffalo, New York, to Joseph Smith, Nauvoo, Illinois, Joseph Smith collection, microfilm, Archives, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City.  Spelling and punctuation modernized.

36Mark H. Taylor, ed., Witness to the Martyrdom: John Taylor’s Personal Account of the Last Days of the Prophet Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1999), 31.

37Nauvoo City papers, Joseph Smith collection, microfilm, Archives, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City.  The document appears to be a copy.  Greene’s signature would have included the terminal “e” had he signed it himself.  The date, “185[1?]”, written above Greene’s note, may suggest when the copy was made.

38Mark H. Taylor, ed., Witness to the Martyrdom: John Taylor’s Personal Account of the Last Days of the Prophet Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1999), 35.

39Joseph Smith letter, 17 June 1844, to Jonathan Dunham, Joseph Smith collection, microfilm, Archives, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City.

40The names listed here are from Evan M. Greene, biographical sketch of John P. Greene, 1857, 3, Archives, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City.  Donna Hill, Joseph Smith: The First Mormon (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1977), 401, identifies the men in the group as Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith, Willard Richards, and Porter Rockwell, and tells that they crossed the river into Iowa on June 23.

41Maureen Ursenbach Beecher, ed., “‘All Things Move in Order in the City’: The Nauvoo Diary of Zina Diantha Huntington Jacobs,” BYU Studies 19 (Spring 1979):292.

42They had also met with Governor Ford in Carthage on June 25.

43History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 vols. (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1901-12), 6:611.

44Willard Richards diary, 27 June 1844, microfilm, Archives, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

45Mary Bailey Smith Norman, reminiscence of Samuel Harrison Smith, 24 June 1914, microfilm of typescript, Archives, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City.

46Mark H. Taylor, ed., Witness to the Martyrdom: John Taylor’s Personal Account of the Last Days of the Prophet Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1999), 99-100.

47Quoted in E. Cecil McGavin, Nauvoo the Beautiful (Salt Lake City: Steven & Wallis, Inc., 1946), 144.

48Scott Facer Proctor and Maurine Jensen Proctor, eds., The Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith by His Mother (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996), 459; Mark H. Taylor, ed., Witness to the Martyrdom: John Taylor’s Personal Account of the Last Days of the Prophet Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1999), 100; Historian’s Office, biographical sketch of Samuel H. Smith, 7, Archives, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City.

49Evan M. Greene, biographical sketch of John P. Greene, 1857, 6, Archives, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City.

50Ronald W. Walker, ed., “The Historians’ Corner: Lucy Mack Smith Speaks to the Nauvoo Saints,” BYU Studies 32 (Winter and Spring 1991):281.  Some punctuation and capitalization added.  Mother Smith’s mention of “the Marshall” appears to be a direct reference to John P. Greene.  She named him elsewhere in the same address and he was the marshal of Nauvoo at the time of his passing.