Missouri Executive Order 44

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Lilburn Boggs, who issued Missouri Executive Order 44.

Missouri Executive Order 44, also known as the Extermination Order,[1][2] was an executive order issued on October 27, 1838, by the Governor of Missouri, Lilburn Boggs. The order was issued in the aftermath of the Battle of Crooked River, a clash between Latter Day Saints and a unit of the Missouri State Guard in northern Ray County, Missouri, during the 1838 Mormon War. Claiming that Latter Day Saints had committed open and avowed defiance of the law and had made war upon the people of Missouri, Governor 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] The militia and other state authorities—General John B. Clark, among them—would use the executive order to expel the Latter Day Saints from their lands in the state following their capitulation, which in turn led to the Latter Day Saint migration to Nauvoo, Illinois.


Main article: Mormon War (1838)

Executive Order 44 was issued during the 1838 Mormon War, which was caused by friction between the Latter Day Saints and their neighbors .

Recently, self-serving church history revisionists claim that the Mormon Church's opposition to slavery provoked hostilities. However, the Mormon Church's own Doctrine and Covenants 134:12 from 1835 contradicts such claims about the Mormon Church supporting abolition: "We believe it just to preach the gospel to the nations of the earth, and warn the righteous to save themselves from the corruption of the world; but we do not believe it right to interfere with bond-servants, neither preach the gospel to, nor baptize them contrary to the will and wish of their masters, nor to meddle with or influence them in the least to cause them to be dissatisfied with their situations in this life, thereby jeopardizing the lives of men; such interference we believe to be unlawful and unjust, and dangerous to the peace of every government allowing human beings to be held in servitude." Church President Joseph Smith campaigned for the US presidency as an abolitionist in 1844, five years after the Extermination Order was issued, but the church's doctrine was not changed to reflect his personal position on slavery.

Tensions had been steadily rising due to 1833 newspaper articles written in Independance Missouri, which culminated in a manifesto published by many members of Missouri public officials.

We, the undersigned, citizens Jackson County, believing that an important crisis is at hand, as regards our civil society, in consequence a pretended religious sect of people that have settled, and are still settling in our County, styling themselves "Mormons;" and intending, as we do, two we are society, "peaceably if we can, forcibly if we must," and believing as we do, that the arm of the civil law does not afford us a guarantee, or at least a sufficient one against the evils which are now inflicted upon us, and seem to be increasing, by the said religious sect, deem it expedient, and of the highest importance, to form ourselves into a company for the better and easier accomplishment of our purpose — a purpose which we deem it almost superfluous to say, is justified as well by the law of nature, as by the law of self-preservation.

It is more than two years since the first of these fanatics, or knaves, (for one or the other they undoubtedly are) made their first appearance among us, and pretended as they did, and now do, to hold personal communication and converse face-to-face with the Most High God; to receive communications and revelations direct from heaven; to heal the sick by laying on hands; and, in short, to perform all the wonder-working miracles wrought by the inspired Apostles and Prophets of old.

We believe them deluded fanatics, or weak and designing knaves, and that they and their pretensions would soon pass away; but in this we were deceived. The arts of a few designing leaders amongst them have less far succeeded in holding to them together as a society; and since the arrival of the first of them, they have been daily increasing numbers; and if they had been respectable citizens in society and thus deluded it would have been entitled to our pity rather than to our contempt and hatred; but from their parents, from their manners, and from their conduct since their coming among us, we have every reason to fear that, with but very few exceptions, they were of the very drags of that society from which they came, lazy, idle, and vicious. This we can see it is not idle assertion, they fact susceptible of proof, or with these few exceptions above-named, they brought into our country little or no property with them and left less behind them, and we infer that those only yoked themselves to the "Mormon" car who had nothing earthly or heavenly to lose by the change; and we fear that of some of the leaders amongst them, had paid to forfeit due to crime, instead of being chosen ambassadors of the Most High, they would have been inmates of solitary cells. But their conduct here stands their characters in their true colors. More than a year since, it was ascertained that they had been tampering with our slaves, and endeavoring to sow dissensions and raise seditions amongst them. Of this their "Mormon" leaders were informed, and they said they would deal with any of their members who should again in like case offend. But how spacious are appearances. In a late number of the Star, published in Independence by the leaders of the sect, there is an article inviting free Negroes and mulattoes from other states to become "Mormons," and remove and settle among us. This exhibits them in still more odious colors. It manifests a desire on the part of their society, to inflict on our society an injury that they know would be to us entirely insupportable, and one of the surest means of driving us from the country; for it would require none of the supernatural gifts that they pretend to, to see that the introduction of such a caste among us would corrupt our blacks, and instigate them to bloodshed.

They openly blaspheme the Most High God, and cast contempt on His holy religion, by pretending to receive revelations direct from heaven, by pretending to speak unknown tongues, by direct inspiration, and by diverse pretenses derogatory to God and religion, and to the utter subversion of human reason.

They declare openly that their God hath given them this country of land, and that sooner or later they must and will have possession of our lands for inheritance; and, in fine, they have conducted themselves on many other occasions, and such a manner, that we believe it a duty we owe to ourselves, our wives, and children, to the cause of public morals, to remove them from among us, as we are not prepared to give up our pleasant places and goodly possessions to them or to receive into the bosom of our families, as fit companions for wives and daughters, the degraded and corrupted free Negroes and mulattos that are now invited to settle among us.

Under such a state of things, even our beautiful country would cease to be a desirable residence, and our situation intolerable. We, therefore agree (that after timely warning, and receiving an adequate compensation for what little property they cannot take with them, they refuse to leave us in peace, as they found us — we agree to use such means as may be sufficient to remove them, and to that and we each pledge to each other are bodily powers, our lives, fortunes and sacred honors.

We will meet at the courthouse, at the town of Independence, on Saturday next, the 20th inst., [July], to consult on subsequent movements.

Among the hundreds of names attached to the of document were:

Louis Franklin, jailer
Samuel C. Owens, County Clerk
Russel Hicks, Deputy County Clerk
R.W. Cummins, Indian agent
James H. Flournoy, Postmaster
S.D. Lucas, Colonel and judge of the court
Henry Chiles, attorney-at-law
N.K. Olmstead, M.D.
John Smith, justice in peace
Samuel Westin, justice of the peace
William Brown, Constable
Abner F. Staples, Captain
Thomas Pitcher, Deputy Constable
Moses G. Wilson and Thomas Wilson, merchants

The 1838 Mormon War ended with the expulsion of nearly all Latter Day Saints from the state of Missouri.[4][5]

Executive Order 44 is often referred to as the "Extermination Order" due to the phrasing used by Governor Boggs.[6]

The Latter Day Saints had been given a county of their own (Caldwell County) in 1836, following their expulsion from Jackson County in 1833. However, the increasing influx of new church converts moving to northwestern Missouri led them to begin settling in adjacent counties. Other settlers, who had operated under the assumption that the Latter Day Saints would remain confined to Caldwell County, became angry due to these new settlements.[7]

On 4 July 1838, church 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-church neighbors, Rigdon wanted to make clear that the Latter Day Saints 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 Latter Day Saint farms and homes, the sacking and burning of Gallatin by the "Danites", and the taking of hostages by Cpt. Samuel Bogart and his militia, operating in northern Ray County (to the south of Caldwell). When the Latter Day Saint militia from the town of Far West moved south to the militia camp on the Crooked River, causing rumors of a planned full-scale invasion of Missouri that ran rampant throughout the summer and aroused terror throughout the western part of the state. These rumors only increased as reports of the Battle of Crooked River reached the capital at Jefferson City, with accounts of Latter Day Saints allegedly slaughtering Bogart's militia company, including those who had surrendered.[9] Further dispatches spoke of an impending attacks on Richmond, county seat of Ray County, though in fact no such attack was ever contemplated.[10] After hearing these reports Governor Boggs chose to act.

Previously, Governor Boggs had received word that Latter Day Saints 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 these reports, Governor Boggs issued new orders directing Clark to commence direct military operations and issued Missouri Executive Order 44[11][12][13]

Text of the order[edit]

The original handwritten order.

Missouri Executive Order Number 44, read as follows:


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 Latter Day Saint surrender), has been hotly debated among Latter Day Saints and historians. Most historians state that there is no evidence of any militiamen or other participants using it to justify their behavior during that period;[14] General Clark did cite the order soon after the Latter Day Saints surrendered in November 1838, saying that violence would have been used had they 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 would be used to compel them to leave. However, the Latter Day Saints had no reason to trust this promise, considering recent activities involving other members of the state militia. Therefore, they decided to leave for Illinois immediately, despite the harsh winter conditions. This led to an unknown number of deaths from hardship and exposure during that exodus.

Haun's Mill[edit]

Main article: Haun's Mill massacre
"Haun's Mill" by C. C. A. Christensen

Many people connect Governor Boggs' order directly to the Haun's Mill massacre. At least one firsthand account asserts local Guardsmen referred to an order issued by the governor that sounds similar to Order 44 as justification for the Haun's Mill massacre. The Haun's Mill massacre was launched by Missouri State Guardsmen from Livingston County on the settlement of Haun's Mill, located in eastern Caldwell County near the Livingston County line, which resulted in the deaths of eighteen men and boys, some of whom were killed after surrendering.[15] The first hand account explains soldiers stated the governor had ordered their expulsion or extermination if they did not leave at once.[15]

Others state there is no evidence that the militiamen knew of the Executive Order,[4][14] and participants in this massacre who spoke of it later never used Governor Boggs' decree to justify their actions.[4][14] They instead indicate that unnamed church dissenters had told them that the people of Haun's Mill were planning to invade Livingston County.[4][14] The question of whether the militiamen knew in advance of Boggs' order is still hotly debated today.

A little less debatable is the question of defensless, unarmed men and boys murdered in cold blood. [15]

Aligning with the first hand account staments regarding having been stripped of all weapons prior to the attack, is the lack of casualties or injuries inflicted upon the attackers. In addition, orders explicitly stated the Mormons were to have their weapons removed.

The massacre and Governor Boggs' Executive Order are example of anti-Mormon sentiment in the area.


General John Bullock Clark, to whom Governor Boggs addressed the Order

Although the Latter Day Saint 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 citizens and renegade militia units. The Latter Day Saints in Caldwell County, as part of their surrender agreement, sign over all of their property to pay the expenses of the campaign against them; although this act was later held unlawful,[16] it 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, General Clark delivered the following speech to the now-captive Latter Day Saints, in which he directly invoked Order 44:

Though Clark had offered to allow the Latter Day Saints 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.[18] Although Governor 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 Latter Day Saints, he refused to repeal Order #44.[20] The Missouri legislature deferred discussion of an appeal by Latter Day Saint leaders to rescind the decree, Nearly all of the approximately 10,000 Latter Day Saints left Missouri by the spring of 1839. The Latter Day Saints would not begin to return to Missouri until approximately 25 years later.

Governor 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.[16] General David Atchison, a prominent legislator and militia general from western Missouri who had refused to take part in operations, demanded that the Legislature formally state its opinion of Governor Boggs' order, for "he would not live in any state, where such authority was given".[21] Although his proposal and similar ones by others went down to defeat, Governor Boggs himself saw his once-promising political career destroyed to the point that, by the next election, his own party was reluctant to be associated with him.[22] After surviving an assassination attempt in 1842, Governor Boggs ultimately emigrated to California, where he died in relative obscurity in the Napa Valley in 1860.[22]


Kit Bond, the governor who rescinded Order 44

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 then Missouri Governor Kit Bond to participate in the June 25, 1976, stake's annual conference as a good-will gesture for the United States Bicentennial.[23] As part of his address at that conference, 137 years after being signed and citing the unconstitutional nature of Governor Boggs' directive, Governor Bond presented the following Executive Order:[24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ DeVoto 2000, pp. 84–85
  2. ^ a b c Greene 1839, pp. 8, 26
  3. ^ Joseph Smith, History of The Church|1833| vol. 1, pp=374-376
  4. ^ a b c d Hartley 2001, pp. 6, 20–23
  5. ^ Anderson 1994, pp. 27–43
  6. ^ "The Missouri Mormon War Executive Orders". http://www.sos.mo.gov. Missouri Secretary of State. Retrieved 15 June 2015. 
  7. ^ Alexander W. Doniphan, quote.
  8. ^ Rigdon's July 4th oration
  9. ^ LeSueur 1987, pp. 143–44
  10. ^ LeSueur 1987, p. 150
  11. ^ Allen & Leonard 1992, pp. 136–138
  12. ^ Quinn 1994, p. 100
  13. ^ Office of the Secretary of State of Missouri 1841, pp. 50–63
  14. ^ a b c d LeSueur 1987, pp. 163–64, see also Note 9.
  15. ^ a b c Tullidge 1877, p. 177 -
  16. ^ a b LeSueur 1987, pp. 225, 229, 237–38
  17. ^ 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, p. 1.
  18. ^ a b Lin 1987
  19. ^ General Clark's Speech, p. 1.
  20. ^ LeSueur 1987, pp. 232–33
  21. ^ LeSueur 1987, p. 226
  22. ^ a b LeSueur 1987, pp. 258–59
  23. ^ "The Extermination Order and How it was Rescinded". John Whitmer Historical Association. 
  24. ^ Whitman, Dale A.. "Extermination Order". LDSFAQ. BYU Studies. Archived from the original on 2006-10-20. Retrieved 2007-02-04. 
  25. ^ "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.