Sampson Avard

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Sampson Avard
Danites Charge.jpg
Sampson Avard was one of the founders and leaders of the secret militia force known as the Mormon Danites in the Missouri Mormon War of 1838
BornOctober 23, 1800 or 1803
DiedApril 15, 1869 (age 69-72)
CitizenshipBritish, American
  • Physician
  • minister
  • church elder
  • soldier
Employer(s)Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, self-employed
Known forBeing one of the founders and leaders of the Mormon Danites in 1838
Military career
AllegianceChurch of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
Service/branchMormon militia
Years of service1838
UnitMormon Danites
Commands heldMormon Danites commander
Battles/warsMissouri Mormon War

Sampson Avard (October 23, 1800 – April 15, 1869)[1][2] was one of the founders and leaders of the Mormon vigilantes known as the Danites, which existed in Missouri during the Missouri Mormon War in 1838.

Early life[edit]

Sampson Avard was born at St. Peter, Guernsey, Channel Islands, British Isles.[1] As an immigrant in the United States, he worked as a physician and later became a Campbellite minister in Pennsylvania.

Mormon convert[edit]

In 1835 in Freedom, Pennsylvania, Orson Pratt baptized him a member of Church of the Latter Day Saints.[3]

Church elder[edit]

Pratt ordained him an Elder and leader of the local branch of the church. After serving a mission near his home with Erastus Snow, he moved to the Latter Day Saint community at Kirtland, Ohio in 1836. He was ordained a High Priest in 1837, though his position as a High Priest was also revoked that same year for unclear reasons.[1][4]


In 1838, while living in Far West, Missouri and serving in the church's High Council there,[1] Avard witnessed the heated conflict between the growing Mormon population and the established non-Mormon Missourians. He was the founding organizer and leader of the Danites, a secret paramilitary vigilante militia, bound by oaths and intent on retaliating for Mormon injuries and losses. It remains unclear the extent to which Joseph Smith was aware or in favor of Avard's activities, although he recognized the Danites and encouraged them to be lawful.[5] Danite militaristic activities intensified the 1838 Mormon War and drew the attention of state government and militia.

Arrest and excommunication[edit]

After the Mormons were expelled from the Missouri and Joseph Smith was arrested, Avard was the chief witness against Smith, testifying that Smith was the mastermind behind the Danites. Smith denounced the group as "frauds and secret abominations" and excommunicated Avard in March 1839. Avard never attempted to return to the Latter Day Saints.[6]

Post-Mormon years[edit]

In 1850 Sampson Avard was practicing medicine in Edwardsville, Illinois.[7]


Sampson Avard died in 1869 in Edwardsville, Madison County, Illinois.[7]


  1. ^ a b c d Jessee, Dean C.; Ashurst-McGee, Mark; Jensen, Richard L., eds. (2008), "Biographical Directory", Journals, Volume 1: 1832–1839, The Joseph Smith Papers, Salt Lake City: Church Historian's Press, p. 398
  2. ^ Some sources list 1803 as his birth year. See: "Mormon Biographical Register-A", Biographical Registers, BYU Studies, archived from the original on 2009-07-10, retrieved 2009-05-17
  3. ^ From 1834-1838, the church founded by Joseph Smith was officially known as the Church of the Latter Day Saints. See Church of Christ (Latter Day Saints)#Early changes.
  4. ^ (Bushman 2005, p. 351)
  5. ^ (Bushman 2005, pp. 350, 352)
  6. ^ (Bushman 2005, pp. 369, 372)
  7. ^ a b "Mormon Biographical Register-A", Biographical Registers, BYU Studies, archived from the original on 2010-01-24, retrieved 2009-05-17


External links[edit]