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Monday, September 6, 2010

The James and Drusilla Hendricks Family

James and Drusilla Dorris Hendricks
with grandchild, thought to be
James Gammell's daughter Elizabeth
ca. 1852

The James Hendricks family entered the Salt Lake Valley on October 2, 1847, with the Jedediah M. Grant – Joseph B. Noble Wagon Company. James and Drusilla were accompanied by four of their five children: Elizabeth (19), future wife of James Gammell, Catherine (15), Rebecca (11), and Joseph (9). The Grant/Noble Company, consisting of 171 souls, had started its three and one-half month journey on June 19 at the outfitting post on the Elkhorn River about twenty-seven miles west of Winter Quarters, Nebraska.(1)

One year earlier (June 1846) William Hendricks, then age 16, along with five hundred other men, volunteered to join the Mormon Battalion. President James K. Polk had authorized Colonel Stephen W. Kearny to enlist a battalion of Mormon men to help fight the war with Mexico. Initially the Saints opposed the request for volunteers, but the negotiations proved to be a benefit to both parties: the United States would retain the loyalty of the Saints, whose persecutions had all but destroyed their trust in the federal government, and the Mormons could “earn desperately needed capital for the exodus.” They were able to purchase the necessary wagons and supplies with army wages totaling $30,000. In his effort to encourage support for the venture, Brigham Young said, “Let the Mormons be the first men to set their feet on the soil of California…This is the first offer we have ever had from the government to benefit us.” He promised that the families of the volunteers would be carefully provided for, and also counseled the volunteers to conduct themselves properly, and if they did so, they would not have to fight. (As it turned out, their only battle was with a herd of wild bulls near the San Pedro River in Arizona.) The 2,000-mile Mormon Battalion march from Council Bluffs, Iowa, to San Diego, California, was the longest single military march in U.S. history, and served to help the United States secure the lands of California, Utah, Arizona, and other Western states.(2)  The battalion was discharged one year later, and William Hendricks was reunited with his family two weeks after they arrived in the Salt Lake Valley.

James and Drusilla Hendricks were first introduced to the Mormon missionaries while living in Franklin, Kentucky, and were converted and baptized in March 1835. They left Kentucky to join other Mormons in Clay County, Missouri, in May 1836. Since childhood Drusilla had demonstrated a strong faith in God and in the Bible. Later in her life she was revered as a woman of great faith and courage. In her autobiography she wrote about one habit she struggled to overcome:

I had been in the habit of using snuff and was just out. I knew it was a disgusting habit and I had heard the Word of Wisdom read, also my husband desired that I discontinue its use. I went quite a way out of camp. I there pled with the Lord to take away the desire for snuff from me and if he would do this, it would be a sign unto me that I would know he had caused the revelation (Word of Wisdom) to be written.(3)   I then went back to camp, and forgot that I used snuff for four days after and I never wanted it again. I had often tried to quit but this time the Lord took the desire away from me and gave me a testimony of the truth of the Word of Wisdom.(4)

Drusilla recorded that the hostility and persecution against the Mormons in Clay County became so great that “we all gave up our land and agreed to go to Caldwell County. We were to be let alone there so we were glad to do so.”  By August 1838, James was called to take his turn standing guard to protect the settlement from the gathering mobs. On the evening of October 24, the mob began to burn the crops and take Mormon men as prisoners, in order to force the Latter-day Saints to leave Caldwell County. James and a large group of men tried to form a line of defense that night at Crooked River. At dawn Drusilla stood looking out her window:

I saw a Mr. T. Snider (he did not belong to the church, but a good man) get off his horse at the gate. (I saw him wipe his eyes, I knew that he was crying.) He came to the door and said Mr. Hendricks wishes you to come to him. I asked where. He said to the widow Medcalf's and that he had come for me. I asked where and how he was shot and he thought he was shot in the hip.(5)

Upon reaching the widow’s house, Drusilla saw nine of the men, “wounded and pale as death.”  She found her husband lying in a bed in the same room with Apostle David W. Patten, who was taken to the Winchester home, where he died that night.  (Patten is now considered Mormonism's first martyr for the faith.)  When she spoke to James:

He could speak but could not move any more than if he were dead. I tried to get him to move his feet but he could not. This was Thursday, October 25, 1838, and the next Tuesday was the Battle of Haun’s Mill,(6) where men and boys were slaughtered and thrown into a dry well 18 or 48 in number, out of which only one (Benjamin Lewis) received a decent burial.

My husband was shot in the neck where it cut off all feeling of the body. It is of no use for me to try and tell how I felt for that is impossible, but I could not have shed a tear if all had been dead before me. I went to work to try and get my husband warm but could not. I rubbed and steamed him but could get no circulation. He was dead from his neck down.(7)

Drusilla was advised that it wasn’t safe to return to their home, so that evening a neighbor came with a wagon with a bed in it for James and took them to Far West, while another neighbor went to their home to care for their five children.

Two days later on October 27, Missouri governor, Lilburn W. Boggs, issued the infamous Extermination Order, in which he instructed the militia to drive the Mormons from the state of Missouri because of their and avowed defiance of the laws, and of having made war upon the people of this State ... the Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the State if necessary for the public peace—their outrages are beyond all description.(8)

(Governor Christopher “Kit” Bond rescinded the order in 1976, after nearly 138 years. He declared that the original order violated legal rights established by the U.S. Constitution, and offered his regrets on behalf of the State of Missouri.)

General Samuel D. Lucas, leading a militia of 7,000 men, informed the Mormons at Far West that "...they would massacre every man, woman and child..." if Joseph Smith and several other church leaders were not given up. Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, Parley P. Pratt, Lyman Wight, and George W. Robinson surrendered the first day of November.(9)  Soon after the surrender, Drusilla and James ventured to leave Far West and return to their home and children. They found that the mob had “robbed the house of [the] bedding and in fact everything but [the] beds.” James was still paralyzed from head to foot, leaving Drusilla with the task of settling their business matters and preparing to leave the state of Missouri. She sold what she could and gave up their land for enough money to buy two yoke of cattle.  The following spring they left behind everything, except what they could fit into their small wagon.(10)
  2. Church History in the Fulness of Times, chapter 25.
  3. For an explanation of the Word of Wisdom see then scroll down to “Obey the Word of Wisdom.”
  4. Robert Raymond, ed., Historical Sketch of James Hendricks and Drusilla Dorris, chapter 4.
  5. Robert Raymond, ed., Historical Sketch of James Hendricks and Drusilla Dorris, chapter 5.
  6. Haun’s Mill is in Caldwell County, Missouri. The fifty-five perpetrators of the massacre were known by name, but never prosecuted.
  7. Robert Raymond, ed., Historical Sketch of James Hendricks and Drusilla Dorris, chapter 5.
  8. See Although the Haun’s Mill massacre took place a few days after Missouri governor Boggs issued the Extermination Order, most historians have now concluded that the militia unit had neither the time nor the opportunity to have received news of the order.
  9. Orson F. Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball, 1888, p. 229.  Joseph Smith, Parley P. Pratt, and others were incarcerated in Liberty Jail for more than four months.
  10. Robert Raymond, ed., Historical Sketch of James Hendricks and Drusilla Dorris, chapter 5.

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