The Mormon sites of Adam-ondi-Ahman, Far West, and Haun’s Mill marks some of the darkest chapters in Missouri history. These chapters reveal the religious strength of the founders of the Mormon faith — in a story which culminated in Missouri with the “Mormon War” of 1838.

During the 1820s Joseph Smith Jr. translated certain tablets, formerly unknown, to form the basis of the Book of Mormon. Followers of the prophet, as he chose to be called, increased in numbers until the organization’s main objective became the formation of a new colony.

After successive brief stays at Palmyra, NY, and Kirtland, OH, Smith led his followers to Independence, MO, where they built a temple. But the religious beliefs of the Mormons clashed with neighboring settlers until violence erupted. As animosities between Mormons and non-Mormons continued to increase, the Missouri legislature eased the situation by allowing the Mormons to organize Caldwell and Daviess Counties.

By 1837, there were 490 Latter-Day Saints living in Caldwell County and Far West and it became the county seat.

It was at Far West that the prophet declared a revelation which fixed the name of the church and directed the “prophet” to perform certain tasks. It also was through such a revelation that the prophet established Adam-ondi-Ahman.

Longtime Gallatin resident T.C. Barlow was recognized as the foremost local historian knowledgeable of this era. Among filed information addressed to him is an eyewitness account about the establishment of Adam-ondi-Ahman and the sacred altar symbolizing the place where Adam offered a sacrifice after he was cast out of the garden.

The name Adam-ondi-Ahman comes from the revelation of Smith and means “Adam’s Consecrated Land” in reformed (Radict Arabic) Egyptian. The name also means “From God through Adam” in the Mormon faith.

Caldwell and Daviess Counties would have developed into a populous Mormon sanctuary had turmoil not erupted. Hatred bordering on violence between Mormons and Missourians climaxed during a general election on Aug. 6, 1838.

Haun’s Mill in Caldwell County is of particular historic importance as the site where 14 Mormons were killed and seven anti-Mormons were wounded. Had the Mormons found the tranquil sanctuary they sought, perhaps northern Missouri would have developed into the Mormon center of activity, rather than Salt Lake City, Utah. The Mormons, however, left for the only hospitable shore in sight, the east side of the Mississippi River above Quincy, IL. Their numbers, for a time, made the town of Nauvoo, IL, larger than Chicago.

For eight years, the Mormons prospered until the prophet and some of his followers were jailed at Carthage, IL, where Smith was shot from one of the barred windows.

Under new leadership of Brigham Young, the Mormons made their famous exodus across the plains to form the new seat of government and religion in Utah. Only two groups chose not to make the journey. At Lamoni, Iowa, one group eventually established Graceland College, while the other group remained in Independence.

Meanwhile, a Dr. Craven picked up the pieces at the former Mormon settlement in Daviess County and soon a general post office and Cravensville became the postal outlet for the western portion of the area. However, Cravensville declined as Gallatin became the county seat, while Far West and Haun’s Mil simply were deserted and forgotten.

— written by Darryl Wilkinson, Gallatin, for publication in the Aug. 17, 1979, edition of the St. Joseph Gazette


This is an artist depiction of the Haun’s Mill Massacre, where a mob killed 17 men, women and children (C.C.A. Christensen [1831-1912], Haun’s Mill, 1865 ca, tempera on muslin, 78×114 inches. Brigham Young University Museum of Art, gift of the Christensen grandchildren.)

Many western trails originated in the Midwest and impacted Daviess County and western Missouri, including such major trails as the Mormon Trail, Oregon Trail, and Santa Fe Trail as shown.