Little Bits of History

Tarred and Feathered

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 24, 2015
Joseph Smith, Jr.

Joseph Smith, Jr.

March 24, 1832: Joseph Smith, Jr. is tarred and feathered. Smith was the leader and founder or Mormonism. He was born in Vermont in 1817 but the family soon moved to western New York, a hotbed of religious revivalism during the Second Great Awakening. Smith experienced visions where he was directed to a buried book of golden plates. In 1830 he published an English translation of the texts found on the plates – the Book of Mormon. He also organized a Church of Christ and claimed it to be a restoration of the early Christian church. Later visions instructed Smith to rename his church the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. In 1831, he and his followers moved west and hoped to form a commune of the American Zion.

Smith and his wife, Emma Hale Smith, moved to Kirtland, Ohio. There is a possibility they moved west in an effort to get away from persecution in Pennsylvania and New York. They lived with Isaac Morley while they waited for a house to be built for them on the family farm. Others of their group went to Jackson County, Missouri where Smith had been instructed to build the new Zion. While in Ohio, Smith was dragged from his bed in the middle of the night, beaten, strangled, poison pressed against his teeth, and tarred and feathered. He was left for dead, but managed to survive the degradations.

Tarring and feathering have been in use as a means of unofficial justice or revenge since feudal days in Europe. It was mostly a type of mob vengeance, similar to lynching. A typical attack had the victim stripped to the waist, as Smith was, and then tar applied. The victim was then covered in feathers or possibly rolled in a pile of feathers. Usually, the next step was to parade the humiliated person through town. Petroleum tar, what is used to tar roads, would have been so hot it would have burned skin off the individual. Pine tar has a lower melting point. While it would be very hot, it would not be as extreme. Unless the tar was boiling, it was not necessarily a brutal procedure. Smith’s friends scraped the tar and feathers off until his skin was raw.

The speculation for what incited the crowd is varied. There are some who believe that Eli Johnson, a son of Smiths’ host, wanted to punish Smith with castration for his closeness to Nancy Miranda Johnson (his sister). Another possible motive was that Symonds Ryder, another participant in the night’s events, was fearful Smith was trying to take property from members of the community. This was to warn him against such actions. Whatever the reasons for the attack, the person who paid the highest price was an adopted child of the Smiths. This baby was torn from Smith’s arms and put on a trundle bed. The child was knocked from the bed as the adult Smiths were dragged from the house. The child died of exposure, possibly pneumonia, five days after the event.

We teach them proper principles and let them govern themselves.

The best way to obtain truth and wisdom is not to ask from books, but to go to God in prayer, and obtain divine teaching.

If you do not accuse each other, God will not accuse you. If you have no accuser you will enter heaven. What many people call sin is not sin; I do many things to break down superstition, and I will break it down.

I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book. – all from Joseph Smith, Jr.

Also on this day: Alaska Mess – In 1989, the Exxon Valdez ran aground and began to spill oil.
Cruising – In 1898, the first American built automobile was purchased.
Metropolitan Life – In 1868, the insurance company was formed.
Beating a Killer – In 1882, Robert Koch announced the cause of TB.
You’re in the Army Now – In 1958, Elvis Presley was inducted into the US Army.

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