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Emily W. Jensen: Setting the record straight on the 'Hawn's' Mill Massacre

Published: Sunday, May 30 2010 12:15 a.m. MDT

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — The Haun's Mill Massacre should be called the Hawn's Mill Massacre.

Jacob Hawn, owner of the Hawn's Mill, was never a Mormon.

BYU Professor Alexander L. Baugh discussed these two historical corrections in his presentation at the Mormon History Association conference in Independence on Saturday morning.

With 17 Mormons killed and 14 Mormons injured, Baugh explained that the massacre on October 30, 1838 was the "singular most tragic event in terms of loss of life and injury enacted by an anti-Mormon element against the Latter-day Saints in our entire church's history."

For years Baugh has researched the Hawn's Mill Massacre and has successfully identified all the Mormon victims and documented the Mormon defenders as well as more than 50 of the Missouri vigilantes.

"But one individual baffled me," Baugh explained. And that was Jacob Hawn. While Hawn was mentioned in a lot of secondary works, primary sources were scant.

This changed in January 2007 when a family history researcher sent Baugh an e-mail explaining that she had found a Jacob Hawn mentioned as an ancestor of Newberry award-winning author Beverly Cleary, known for her Ramona Quimby series. After the massacre, Hawn had traveled across the plains with his family from Missouri to settle in Oregon: where Cleary was later born.

Digging into this claim, Baugh is now "absolutely certain" that this Jacob Hawn of Oregon was indeed the same Jacob Haun of Mormon history.

Baugh explained that "in virtually every family source I found, it always used the H-A-W-N, even their grave markers used the 'w' spelling, a clear indication of what was correct." Baugh further clarified that "Missouri state histories and county and atlases generally cite him as H-A-U-N, which probably explains why most historical literature written about the massacre usually uses the same spelling."

Baugh believes that writers should now use the H-A-W-N spelling to be historically accurate, however notes that "because H-A-U-N has been adopted as the quasi-official site name on virtually all current maps and reference materials, it will be difficult and maybe even impossible at this point to try to change or correct the spelling."

Baugh also discussed why Jacob and Harriet Hawn were never Mormons. "I like many other historians mainly assumed they were Mormons." But among other proofs, Baugh explained that they arrived earlier to Caldwell County before the Mormons, and no family records report that they were Mormons.

It will take further research to determine if Hawn's non-member affiliation had repercussions as to his perceived role in the massacre and aftermath.

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