The Haun's Mill Massacre site in Missouri is a sacred historic location to the Latter-day Saint people. Less is known, however, about the significance to the city and residents of Lehi.
David Evans, Lehi's first bishop and second mayor, was the presiding religious leader and captain of the militia of Haun's Mill Saints at the time of the massacre.
Bishop Evans played a significant role of leadership in many historical events in Latter-day Saint history. He was a member of the School of the Prophets where he was taught at the feet of Joseph Smith in the Kirtland Temple.
Bishop Evans volunteered as one of the faithful 200 men who made the 1,000-mile Zions Camp march from Kirtland, Ohio, to Clay County, Mo. Joseph Smith and his two counselors, Sidney Rigdon and Oliver Cowdery, set apart David Evans as a member of the First Council of Seventy on Feb. 27, 1835.
Bishop Evans built his home one mile and a half north of Haun's Mill. His fervent missionary spirit led to numerous conversion wherever he resided. One of his conversions at Haun's Mill was the family of Barbara Ann Ewell, who later became his wife. He also converted the family of David Norton, who became one of his closest friends.
Bishop Evans struggled to try to prevent the tragedy at Haun's Mill. He was part of a three-man negotiation team, along with Jacob Myers Sr. and Anthony Blackburn, who tried to meet with leaders of the anti-Mormon movements. The group negotiated with leaders of several vigilante groups on several different occasions. One was held at the Myers homestead situated a few miles east of Haun's Mill. Bishop Evans deliberated a truce with mob leader Nehemiah Comstock at which time both parties agreed to abandon their military organization. These negotiations did not stop the effect of Gov. Bogg's extermination order, however.
On Oct. 30, 1838, a mob of 240 men approached Haun's Mill from the north. The Journal History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in a journal of Ellis Eamut reported, "While women and children sought cover in streambed and distant forest, the blacksmith shop turned into a death trap for defenders. David Evans swung his hat and cried for peace. David Evans made a second attempt to end the attack. He and Nathan Knight ran out of the building pleading for a truce. Knight was shot in the hand. When it was clear the attack would continue, Evans and Knight ran toward the creek for safety. Knight received two more wounds, but escaped by running up a hill on the south side of the stream. Evans covered the same distance unharmed."
The vigilante group stopped firing after the last group of boys left the shop. The group stripped the wounded and dead of their clothing and boots. Three boys were found hiding and were shot. While some succeeded in escaping with their lives, 17 defenders were killed outright or mortally wounded.
"Because the attack was unprovoked in a time of truce, had no specific authorization, and was made by a vastly superior force with unusual brutality," according to the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, "it has come to be known as 'The Haun's Mill Massacre.'"Comment on this story
The Saints lefts Haun's Mill and headed for Illinois. Bishop Evans went on to become the bishop of the Nauvoo 11th Ward. Ten years later, in 1845, Brigham Young appointed him as a captain of a pioneer company of Saints. His company arrived in Salt Lake in September 1850. He was then called by Brigham Young to go and be bishop of the Dry Creek Saints in Lehi, which was originally known as Evansville. He was elected the second mayor of Lehi and to the first state legislature.
Today his ancestors are found in leadership positions in government, church and business within Lehi City. In 2001, a statue in his honor was dedicated in Pioneer Park in Lehi by his ancestors.
Haun's Mill should have a significant place in the hearts of the Lehi residents.
John K. Haws Jr. is the historian for Lehi City. He can be reached at LehiHistory@gmail.com.