History lesson Friday

Today is the 179th anniversary of a dark day in Missouri history–the day Gov. Lilburn Boggs

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issued Missouri Executive Order 44, also known as the Extermination Order. This executive order, issued on October 27, 1838, claimed that Latter-day Saints had committed open and avowed defiance of the law and had made war upon the people of Missouri. Governor Boggs directed that “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.”

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Executive Order 44 was issued during the 1838 Mormon War,  which was caused by friction between the Mormons and their neighbors due to the economic and electoral growth of the Latter-day Saint community and Joseph Smith’s vocal opposition to slavery. In other words, the Mormons were too many and too affluent, and worst of all, they sided with the abolitionists.

The order was never rescinded–not until Missouri Governor Kit Bond did so in 1976–a mere 137 years after it was originally signed. Basically, for all that time, it was legal to murder Mormons! Bond expressed “on behalf of all Missourians our deep regret for the injustice and undue suffering which was caused by the 1838 order…” I should say so.

And now for our family connection…

Lilburn Wycliffe Boggs was born in 1797 in Lexington, Kentucky.  Boggs married his first wife Julia Ann Bent, a sister of the Bent brothers of “Bent’s Fort” fame, in 1816 in St. Louis.  They had two children, Angus and Henry. After she died at an early age, he married Panthea Grant Boone, granddaughter of Daniel Boone, in 1823 in Callaway County, Missouri. They had many children, the oldest being Thomas, born in 1824 in Bates County.

In 1840 Thomas Boggs went to what would eventually become the Colorado Territory to work with his father’s old in-laws, the Bent Brothers, at Bent’s Old Fort along the Arkansas River. In 1862, he settled along the Purgatoire (Picketwire) River south of present-day Las Animas and began a settlement known as Boggsville, which was the first white non-military outpost in that wild country.

You will recall that the brother of our great-great-grandmother, Mary Prowers Hough–John Wesley Prowers–

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also lived in Boggsville with his family, and for awhile the Houghs lived there as well.

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The restored Prowers house in Boggsville.

Boggs raised sheep and Prowers raised cattle, separated by the Picketwire River in friendly fashion. Both ventures flourished on the land surrounding Boggsville during the 1860s and 1870s, and Boggsville thrived, serving as as a center of trade, agriculture, education and culture. It soon became an important stop on the Santa Fe Trail. In 1870, after the creation of Bent County, Boggsville became the county seat of Bent County. At it’s pinnacle, Boggsville boasted about 20 buildings, the first schoolhouse in Bent County, a stage stop and trading house. It was a hub of activity until 1873, when the Kansas Pacific Railroad established the town of Las Animas two miles north.

Boggsville was a very diverse settlement–in fact, our great-great-grandmother was the only “anglo” woman there in those early years. But even so, the name of the town may have turned off Mormons traveling west. Who could blame them?

Interesting note (this is how my mind works): On May 6, 1842, Gov. Boggs was shot in the head through a window at his home. Boggs survived, but Mormons came under immediate suspicion. Orrin Porter Rockwell of the Mormon Danites was accused of the alleged assassination attempt.

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Careful readers in the Longmire oeuvre will remember that Orrin Porter Rockwell is a character in A Serpent’s Tooth.

Have a great weekend–read some history!

“Isn’t it queer: there are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before; like the larks in this country, that have been singing the same five notes over for thousands of years.”

Willa Cather, O Pioneers!