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1 of 1 ZION'S CAMP MIRACLE AT FI Powered By Docstoc
                       By Eldon Barrowes

The men of Zion’s Camp, who numbered 205 at the time, knew that armed confrontation
was a definite possibility when they neared Independence, Missouri. Governor Dunklin
had originally requested the help of a larger group of Mormon men to help get the
Mormons back on their properties in Independence, but as the Governor of Missouri saw
the intense feelings of the mobsters and locals in Missouri, he rescinded his support of the
Mormons to avoid what he feared would be a civil war. The mobs knew that the men of
Zion’s Camp, were coming and the mobs were planning to destroy “Old Joe Smith’s
Arm” as they called it. The mobsters had lined up firearms, cannons, and the help of
approximately 230 men coming from several counties in Missouri.

While the Prophet and the men of Zion’s Camp were preparing their camp for the night
on June 19, 1834, five ruffians, packing guns, rode into the middle of camp. They cursed
“Joe Smith and his army” and stated their intentions to attack that night with 230 men.
The said the Mormons would see Hell before morning. One man of Zion’s Camp,
Salisbury, asked if they should fight. Joseph replied, “The Lord will give us a bramble to
keep the dogs off tonight”. When the ruffians had ridden into camp the sky was clear and
calm, but afterwards, a black cloud appeared on the horizon and rolled eastward. Soon it
was overhead and developed into dark storm clouds. Forty of the 200 mobsters from
Independence made it across the river, when a squall came up the prevented the others.
They began to fire cannons, but the storm came in on them and dampened their powder

The storm blew and rained on the men of Zion’s Camp, and lightning flashed all around.
Outside of the camp where the mobsters were starting to cross the river the storm was
even more fearsome. Hailstones began to fall. One mobster was struck and killed by
lightning and another had his hand torn off as his horse pulled at the rope to escape the
hailstones. The hailstones bruised their bodies, made holes in their hats and forced the
mobsters to flee for cover. Very little hail fell on the men of Zion’s Camp, but where the
mobsters were located, the hail cut vegetation and limbs from trees (3).

The men of Zion’s Camp were camped on high ground between the two forks of Big
Fishing River. The water in the two forks of the river rose from ankle deep to forty feet
that night. Most of the men of Zion’s Camp fled into the Baptist Church for protection
from the storm. As the Prophet Joseph Smith came into the church, he said “Boys, there
is meaning in this. God is in this storm. Stand still and see the salvation of God.”

Two days later, Colonel John Sconce, a member of the mob, and two others from Ray
County, Missouri rode into camp. Sconce was trembling uncontrollably as he talked. He
wanted to know the intentions of the Mormons. Sconce frankly admitted that “there was
an overruling providence that was protecting the Mormons”. Joseph Smith stated that
their intentions were peaceful (1).

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The location of that Mt. Pleasant Primitive Baptist Church where the men of Zion’s
Camp sought shelter has been one of interest to historians, and was sought out by James
Bradley. James Bradley taught institute at Utah State University and took church history
tours over the route of Zion’s Camp each summer for a time in the 1970s. He went to a
town near the Big Fishing River Site where Zion’s Camp had camped when the Missouri
Mobs tried to attack the men. The town nearby the Big Fishing River Miracle site is
Prathersville, Missouri. The Big Fishing River Miracle Site is near Excelsior Springs.

During a stop, while James Bradley had a tour group of students at the town of
Prathersville, Missouri, some students wanted to talk to town residents and fanned out in
the town. One man, to whom they told the story of Zion’s Camp and the Baptist Church,
said he had something they might be interested in. He produced the sign of that old
Baptist church where men of Zion’s Camp had fled to escape the rain and wind that night
of June 19, 1834 (2).

The sign had received a new coat of white paint over the original words, “Mt. Pleasant
Primitive Baptist Church 1830”, and the words of a newer Pentecostal church were
painted over the old letters. The new words were “House of Prayer (Charismatic) For All
People” painted over the old letters, but the old letters still showed through. The man for
some reason had felt the value of storing that sign for 20 years in his barn. He asked $20
for the sign, which the students paid. Of course Bro. Bradley was very happy to learn of
the sign and took possession of it.

On a subsequent visit Brother Bradley found an old resident of that town, Mrs. Martha
Smith, who showed him where the Mt. Pleasant Primitive Baptist church had been
located, originally, on a hilltop. She had attended church there. Brother Bradley had to
get the landowner’s permission to go onto the land. This was in the 1970s.

A year or two later, he went back with his five sons and looked for the foundation, with
the landowners permission. They found the foundation by tapping down into the soil.
They took photos and measured it, but the photos were lost.

Later James Bradley went back in 2003 and the lady, Mrs. Smith, had died. He was
unable to relocate the foundation of the old church. There was a lot of overgrowth,
making it hard to find the foundation. The owner of the land, "Friday", was cordial.
James had hoped to buy the land (2). He did, however find information about the old
Baptist church at Excelsior Springs. The Clay County Historical Society had some
information on the old church which is written in Bradley’s Book about Zion’s Camp (1).

Since finding the old church sign, Brother Bradley stored it for another 20 years, almost,
in his garage. Upon my request, he sent it to me for our Zion’s Camp Museum in
Jacksonville, IL. The semicircular sign was sent to me intact, except for a small piece of
missing wood framing on one end. It measures 7 feet and four inches wide and 24 inches
high. The sign was sent to me on October of 2008 and the bill to ship it was $120.

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According to the history of the old Primitive Baptist Church, the original log church
which sheltered the men of Zion’s Camp was later replaced by a Frame Church building
and that building was later moved off the hill to a lower location. In 1973, the old frame
church was closed, due to a dwindling congregation, and aging caretakers, Elder and Mrs.
RM. Willett. The name on the sign and ownership of the old church changed after 1973.

 The new name on the repainted sign is, “House of Prayer, (charismatic) For All People”.
The new congregation was apparently a Pentecostal one. Then that congregation ceased
use of the building and it was moved to Crescent Lake and renovated into a private
residence. After the old church was not used for a church building anymore, the sign was
removed and was saved by the man whom the students of James Bradley contacted. It is
fortunate that it was saved, as it constitutes one of the more important artifacts of the
Zion’s Camp March. The sign probably was not on that log church in1834, but it was
taken from the frame church building which followed the original log church. It is
unknown when the sign was actually made, but we surmise that it was made some years
before 1973.

Written by Eldon Barrowes
Jacksonville, Illinois

   1. The Eternal Perspective of Zion’s Camp, Bradley, James L., pp 381-388. Self
       published by James L. Bradley 823 South 600 East, Logan, Utah 84321.
   2. James Bradley, personal conversation, October 2008.
   3. Joseph Smith History of the church, Vol. 2, pp 102-105. Deseret Book Company,
       Salt Lake City, Utah.

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