Missouri Executive Order 44

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Lilburn Boggs, who issued Missouri Executive Order 44.

Missouri Executive Order 44, also known in Mormon history as the Extermination Order,[1][2] was a United States executive order issued on October 27, 1838 by the governor of Missouri, Lilburn Boggs. This was issued in the aftermath of the Battle of Crooked River, a clash between Mormons and a unit of the Missouri State Guard in northern Ray County, Missouri, during the 1838 Mormon War. Claiming that Mormons had committed open and avowed defiance of the law and had made war upon the people of Missouri, Boggs directed that "the Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the State if necessary for the public peace—their outrages are beyond all description".[2]

Executive Order 44 is often referred to as the "Extermination Order" due to the phrasing used by Boggs.[3] The question of whether anyone was killed as a direct result of it between October 27 (the date of its issuance) and November 1, 1838 (the date of the Mormon surrender) has been hotly debated among Latter Day Saints and historians. Some historians state that there is no evidence of any militiamen or other participants using it to justify their behavior during that period;[4][5] however, at least one firsthand Latter Day Saint account insists that local militia cited an order from the governor for Mormon expulsion or extermination four days prior to the Haun's Mill Massacre.[6] General John B. Clark did cite the Order soon after the Mormon surrender in November 1838, saying that violence would have been used had the Mormons chosen not to surrender. He furthermore stated that he would delay enforcing Order 44 during the coming Winter, but if they did not leave in the Spring then armed force (he specifically said extermination) would be used to compel them to leave.

There is no question that the militia and other state authorities--Clark, among them--used Boggs' decree as a pretext to expel the Mormons from their lands in the state following their capitulation, which in turn led the Mormons to migrate to Illinois. While state officials said that enforcement would be delayed until Spring, the Mormons had obvious reason to be distrustful of this promise, considering recent activities involving, among others, members of the state militia. They determined to leave for Illinois immediately, despite the harsh winter conditions, and an unknown number died from hardship and exposure during that exodus.

Many Latter Day Saints connect this order to the single most violent action of the war: the attack by Livingston County militia on the tiny Mormon settlement of Haun's Mill, in what became known as the Haun's Mill massacre. The Haun's Mill massacre occurred three days after the order was issued, and resulted in the deaths of eighteen men and boys--some of whom were murdered after surrendering. There is no evidence that the militiamen knew of the Executive Order,[7][8] and participants in this massacre who spoke of it later never used Boggs' decree to justify their actions, indicating instead that Mormon dissenters (whom they never named) had told them that the Mormons at Haun's Mill (in Caldwell County) were planning to invade their county (Livingston).[9][7] However, a firsthand Mormon account does state that Latter Day Saints entering the area were stopped by militia.[10] The soldiers claimed that the governor had already ordered their expulsion or extermination if they did not leave at once.[10] Whatever the case may be, the massacre serves as an example of anti-Mormon persecution in the area, as does Boggs' Executive Order.

Mormons did not begin to return to Missouri until 25 years later, when they found a more welcoming environment and were able to establish homes there once more. In 1976, citing the unconstitutional nature of Boggs' directive, Missouri Governor Kit Bond formally rescinded it.[11]


Main article: Mormon War (1838)

Executive Order 44 was issued during the 1838 Mormon War, which was caused by friction between the Mormons and their neighbors and ended with the expulsion of nearly all Mormons from the state of Missouri.[12][13] This friction arose due to tensions resulting from the growing economic and electoral power of the Mormon community, and the Mormons' vocal opposition to slavery.[1][14] The Mormons had been given a county of their own in 1836, following their expulsion from Jackson County in 1833. However, the increasing influx of new Mormon converts moving to northwestern Missouri led them to begin settling in adjacent counties. This provoked the wrath of other settlers, who had operated under the assumption that the Mormons would remain confined to Caldwell County.[15]

On the fourth of July in 1838, Mormon leader Sidney Rigdon delivered an oration in Far West, the county seat of Caldwell County. While not desiring or intending to start any trouble with his non-Mormon neighbors, Rigdon wanted to make clear that the Mormons would meet any attacks on them—such as had already occurred in Jackson County during the summer and fall of 1833, resulting in their forced expulsion from their homes in that locale—with force:

Far from settling tensions, Rigdon's oration had the opposite effect: it terrified and inflamed the residents of surrounding counties. By the Fall of that same year these tensions escalated into open conflict, culminating in the looting and burning of several Mormon farms and homes, the sacking and burning of Gallatin by Mormon "Danites"[according to whom?], and the taking of Mormon hostages by a militia unit commanded by Cpt. Samuel Bogart, operating in northern Ray County (to the south of Caldwell). When Mormon militia from the town of Far West moved south to the militia camp on the Crooked River to rescue their co-religionists, the resulting battle aroused considerable terror throughout the western part of the state. Lurid rumors of a planned full-scale Mormon invasion of Missouri had run rampant throughout the summer, and these only increased as reports of this Battle of Crooked River reached the capital at Jefferson City, with spurious accounts of Mormons allegedly slaughtering Bogart's militia company, including those who had surrendered.[17] Further dispatches spoke of an impending Mormon attack on Richmond, county seat of Ray County, though in fact no such attack was ever contemplated.[18] It was in this environment of fear and misinformation that Boggs chose to act.

Previously, Boggs had received word that renegade Mormons had driven several citizens of Daviess County (north of Caldwell) from their homes. He had then appointed General John Bullock Clark to lead the state militia in assisting those citizens to return. But after hearing new and lurid reports of alleged Mormon depredations on the Crooked River, Boggs issued new orders directing Clark instead to commence direct military operations against the Mormons themselves--the so-called "Extermination Order."[19][20][21]

The original handwritten Order, issued by Governor Lilburn Boggs in October 1838.

Text of the Order[edit]

Boggs' Missouri Executive Order Number 44, read as follows:

Haun's Mill[edit]

Main article: Haun's Mill massacre

Many Latter Day Saints have connected Boggs' order directly to the attack launched by Missouri State Guardsmen from Livingston County on the tiny Mormon settlement of Haun's Mill, located in eastern Caldwell County near the Livingston County line.

The Haun's Mill massacre occurred on the afternoon of October 30, 1838, and resulted in the deaths of eighteen men and boys--some of whom, including a ten-year-old boy named Sardius Smith, were killed after trying to surrender. There is no evidence that the militiamen knew of the Executive Order,[7][23] and participants in this massacre who spoke of it later never used Boggs' decree to justify their actions, indicating instead that Mormon dissenters (whom they never named) had told them that the Mormons at Haun's Mill (in Caldwell County) were planning to invade their county (Livingston).[24][7] However, at least one Mormon source insists that local Guardsmen were referring to an order issued by the governor that sounds similar to Order 44:


Although the Mormon leaders surrendered at Far West on November 1, Latter Day Saints (especially in outlying areas) continued to be subject to harassment and even forced ejection by unauthorized citizens and renegade militia units. The Mormons in Caldwell County had been forced, as part of their surrender agreement, to sign over all of their property to pay the expenses of the campaign against them; although this act was later held unlawful,[25] it quickly became clear to them that departure from the state was the only option state officials were going to allow.

Upon his arrival at Far West just after the Mormon surrender, General Clark delivered the following speech to the now-captive Mormons, in which he directly invoked Order 44:

General John Bullock Clark, to whom Boggs addressed the Order

Though Clark had offered to allow the Mormons to remain in Missouri until the following spring, the Saints decided to leave right away; according to one account, most had departed within ten days of Clark's speech.[29] Although Boggs belatedly ordered a militia unit under Colonel Sterling Price (later to achieve fame as a Confederate Civil War general) to northern Missouri to stop ongoing depredations against the Mormons, he refused to repeal Order #44.[30] The Missouri legislature deferred discussion of an appeal by Mormon leaders to rescind the decree, and nearly all Latter Day Saints—more than 10,000 altogether—had been driven from the state by the spring of 1839.

Boggs himself was excoriated in certain portions of the Missouri press, as well as those of neighboring states, for his action in issuing this order.[31] General David Atchison, a prominent non-Mormon legislator and militia general from western Missouri who had refused to take part in operations against the Mormons, demanded that the Legislature formally state its opinion of Boggs' order, for "he would not live in any state, where such authority was given".[32] Although his proposal and similar ones by others went down to defeat, Boggs himself saw his once-promising political career destroyed as a result of the Mormon War (and especially due to his Order), to the point that by the time the next election came around, even his own party (the Democratic Party) was reluctant to be associated with him.[33] After surviving an assassination attempt in 1842, Boggs ultimately emigrated to California, where he died in relative obscurity in the Napa Valley in 1860.[34]


Boggs' extermination order, long unenforced and forgotten by nearly everyone outside the Latter Day Saint community, was formally rescinded by Governor Christopher S. Bond on June 25, 1976, 137 years after being signed. In late 1975, President Lyman F. Edwards of the Far West stake of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, now known as the Community of Christ, invited Bond to participate in the stake's annual conference as a good-will gesture for the United States Bicentennial.[35] As part of his address at that conference, Bond presented the following Executive Order:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b DeVoto 2000, pp. 84–85
  2. ^ a b Greene 1839, p. 8
  3. ^ "The Missouri Mormon War Executive Orders". http://www.sos.mo.gov. Missouri Secretary of State. Retrieved 15 June 2015. 
  4. ^ Hartley, William G. (2001). "Missouri's 1838 Extermination Order and the Mormons' Forced Removal to Illinois". Mormon Historical Studies 2 (1): 6. 
  5. ^ LeSueur, Stephen C., The 1838 Mormon War in Missouri, University of Missouri Press, 1987; pg. 163 and see also Note 9.
  6. ^ Tullidge, Edward, The Women of Mormondom, New York, 1877, pg. 117. This reference specifically states that these words were spoken on the 26th of October, whereas Order 44 was not issued until October 27.
  7. ^ a b c d Hartley, William G. (2001). "Missouri's 1838 Extermination Order and the Mormons' Forced Removal to Illinois" (PDF). Mormon Historical Studies 2 (1): 6. 
  8. ^ LeSueur 1987, p. 163-64
  9. ^ LeSueur 1987, p. 163-64
  10. ^ a b c Tullidge, Edward (1877). The Women of Mormondom. New York. p. 117. Retrieved 2 February 2015. 
  11. ^ Whitman, Dale A.. "Extermination Order". LDSFAQ. BYU Studies. Archived from the original on 2006-10-20. Retrieved 2007-02-04. 
  12. ^ Hartley 2001, pp. 20–23
  13. ^ Anderson 1994, pp. 27–43
  14. ^ LeSueur 1987, p. 3
  15. ^ Alexander W. Doniphan, quote.
  16. ^ Rigdon's July 4th oration
  17. ^ LeSueur 1987, pp. 143–44
  18. ^ LeSueur 1987, p. 150
  19. ^ Allen & Leonard 1992, pp. 136–138
  20. ^ Quinn 1994, p. 100
  21. ^ Office of the Secretary of State of Missouri 1841, pp. 50–63
  22. ^ Greene 1839, p. 26
  23. ^ LeSueur 1987, p. 163-64
  24. ^ LeSueur 1987, p. 163-64
  25. ^ LeSueur 1987, p. 237
  26. ^ This refers to an agreement between the Mormons leaders and General Samuel Lucas, signed under duress, which compelled the Mormons to give up their leaders, their arms and all of their lands and property, and to then leave Missouri. General Clark's Speech, pg. 1.
  27. ^ Lin, Alexander, The Story of the Mormons, From the Date of Their Origin to the Year 1901, Chapter IX.
  28. ^ General Clark's Speech, pg. 1.
  29. ^ Lin, Alexander, The Story of the Mormons, From the Date of Their Origin to the Year 1901, Chapter IX.
  30. ^ LeSueur 1987, pp. 232–33
  31. ^ LeSueur 1987, pp. 225, 229, 237–38
  32. ^ LeSueur 1987, p. 226
  33. ^ LeSueur 1987, pp. 258–59
  34. ^ LeSueur 1987, p. 259
  35. ^ "The Extermination Order and How it was Rescinded". John Whitmer Historical Association. 
  36. ^ "Governor Bond's Rescission order" (PDF). The Missouri Mormon War collection. Missouri State Archives. 


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

  • Mormon War Letters, the battle correspondence leading up to, and including, the Extermination Order - presented by LDS historian Mel Tungate.
  • The Missouri Mormon War Executive Orders include both the original Executive Order 44 and the rescinding order as PDFs - presented by the Missouri Secretary of State.