1979 — Mormons Searching for Missouri “Roots”

Brigham Young University conducted excavation work at the Mormon historical site of Adam-Ondi-Ahman near Jameson, MO, during the summer of 1979.

Brigham Young University conducted excavation work at the Mormon historical site of Adam-Ondi-Ahman near Jameson, MO, during the summer of 1979.

University personnel including archeologists, historians and graduate students spent over 8 weeks conducting a historical survey and minor excavations.

“We plan to take an inventory of what remains of historical importance at 18 separate sites across the country,” said Dr. Ray Matheny of BYU’s Department of Anthropology. “In Missouri this includes Adam-Ondi-Ahman as well as Far West near Kingston and Haun’s Mill near Breckenridge.

“We will try to correlate archeological work with historical references to determine the physical location of the town that developed at Adam-Ondi-Ahman later known as Cravensville.

“There were some 200 cabins here in 1838, and we’re using electronic equipment to map cultural features,” Matheny said. “This information will be put in archives and also will be used to plan the financing of major excavations should the work be continued.”

Infrared photography as well as an electrical resistance machine capable of charting anomalies at a depth of 18 feet were also in use.

A cartography who uses microwave and infrared power transmitting euqipment to manipulate data through computers, produces results which either can be used for 3-dimensional mapping or color mapping showing only the information desired.

The old town site actually lay to the north of the historical marker identifying the Mormon shrine, and the grounds are at the crest of a bluff overlooking the Grand River. Most of the work was done at the site of the old Lyman Wight cabin, erected in 1837. Historically, Wight bought the land off a man named Black.

Lyman Wight was the only Mormon living here when Joseph Smith Jr. and his followers sought sanctuary from troubles with anti-Mormons at Independence, MO. Wight later moved on with the Mormons after violence erupted between the Mormons and the anti-Mormons, but his cabin was in use for approximately 100 years.

“We’ve come across some fine artifacts even though our excavations have been relatively minor,” said Methany. “We have square nails and recently uncovered an 1859 penny among other items. Oddly enough, privies are the main places we like to find. The Mormons often rock lined beneath their privies, helping to contain broken dishes and other discarded items.” The work thus far has turned up three cabin sites and depressions believed to be old wells in the bottom ground northwest of Tower Hill.

While part of the group remains on the site, others scour local records for historical information. Dr. Lamar Berrett of BYU is the overall director of the 10-member university venture.

Dr. Leland Gentry, who holds a doctorate in history and philosophy of religion, is visiting with local historians seeing legitimate information about Adam-Ondi-Ahman.

“In talking with various local people during the past weeks, we’ve come to realize that many people have misconceptions about the historical significance of Adam-Ondi-Ahman and the role it plays in the Mormon faith,” said Gentry.

“There are only two things about Adam-Ondi-Ahman that are significant as it relates to the Mormon faith. First, Mormons believe that three years before Adam’s death, he gathered his posterity, which numbered in the thousands, at the valley of the Grand River in order to give his blessing and, second, Adam will return at a future time and that various keys of authority will be delivered up to Adam to be delivered to Jesus Christ,” Gentry explained.

He notes that the Mormon Church owns 1,415 acres in Daviess County which is all the church wants in order to preseve the historical significance of the area according to their faith.

Written by Darryl Wilkinson, Gallatin, for publication in the Aug. 17, 1979, edition of the St. Joseph Gazette. Also from the Gallatin North Missourian, Aug. 1, 1979.