Chapter 16 – Judge Young, the Trial, and the Aftermath

After the martyrdom, a trial was scheduled for May 1845 for five defendants who were active participants in the murder of Joseph and Hyrum.  The judge appointed for the trial was former US Senator Richard M. Young.  While Senator he was appointed Chairman over the Senate Committee on Roads and Canals.  Young was the first to sign the 1836 Hancock County Memorial to Congress requesting federal funding to improve the Des Moines Rapids.  Senator Young was involved in securing copies of Lt. Robert E. Lee’s surveying reports of the Des Moines Rapids to his constituents.  Young oversaw efforts regarding the National Road coming through Illinois and connecting to Washington D.C.  He was blamed for the blunder made in securing British funding for the Illinois and Michigan Canals at such a large discount rate which cost the state a great sum of additional money.  Young was a cousin to the wife of Samuel Owens who Joseph Smith identified as associated with the corrupt conspiracy.

The five defendants on trial in May 1845 included:

Major Mark Aldrich: a Commissioner for the Warsaw Peoria and Wabash Railroad and the Des Moines Rapids Railroad, a partner of the Warsaw Land Company with Governor Duncan and State Fund Commissioner Richard Barrett.  Aldrich also held ferry rights from the state on the Mississippi River to Iowa.

Colonel Levi Williams: The Hancock County Commissioner over Highways.  He lead the kidnapping effort of the Avery’s hoping to kidnap Joseph Smith.

Captain William Grover: He was hired as the railroad construction supervisor.  He had charge over construction of the railroad shanties in Warsaw where the mob met before their attack on Carthage Jail.  He boasted of being the one who shot Joseph Smith.

Captain Jacob Cunningham:  A Democrat member of the state legislature.

Thomas Sharp:  Editor of the Warsaw Signal, he married the widow of John Wilcox, a commissioner for the Warsaw Railroad and who owned a ferry boat with state granted ferry rights across the Mississippi River to Alexandria Missouri.

The five defense attorneys included:

Calvin Warren:  A commissioner for the Des Moines Rapids Railroad and the person that Joseph Smith warned to separate from Sharp and the others and work with him and the Church to seek eastern investors to develop Warsaw.  He was a brother-in-law to Isaac Morris, president of the Illinois Michigan Canal project.

William A. Richardson:  Senate Majority Leader involved in working with Indiana government officials to connect the Wabash Erie Canal with Illinois Railroads.  While in the legislature he was called to provide oversight regarding conduct of the state public works directors over the state internal improvement projects.  He was from Rushville, a key connecting site for the planned railroad and highway local network

Orville Browning: While in the legislature he was called to provide oversight regarding conduct of the state public works directors over the state internal improvement projects.  He was also involved in representing half breed claimants in the October 1841 partition agreement which disenfranchised the Church’s 20,000 acre holdings in Iowa Territory.

Onias Skinner:  From Quincy, an active member of the Anti-Mormon Party and an aide to Governor Ford.  He was called upon to ask Governor Ford to send militia troops to Carthage but the Governor declined.  He had been appointed prosecutor against Joseph Smith for treason.

Archibald Williams:  From Quincy, related to the defendant Levi Williams.

Thomas Morrison: An active member of the anti-Mormon party.  He had been subpoenaed to testify and was suspected of having incriminating knowledge regarding the defendants.  He was never called to testify during the trial.

The prosecuting attorney was Josiah Lamborn, who was the state attorney general during the time the legislature approved all the major internal improvement projects.  He was an advocate for the Northern Cross Railroad plan.

When the trial began, Richardson made motion to Judge Young that the entire jury should be dismissed because they were prejudiced against the defendants.  In an unprecedented move, Judge Young replaced the entire legitimate jury pool which contained several Mormons and then called two elisors to pick a jury from those attending the courtroom.  Both elisors chosen by the judge had been involved in the internal improvement projects.  Few if any Mormons were at the courthouse.  From the beginning, the fix was on as predetermined by the leaders of the Hancock County Vigilance Committee.  All five were acquitted even though most everyone knew they were guilty.

In 1846 after the Saints left, Kilbourne finally posted notice as instructed by Francis Scott Key, five years earlier that the New York Land Company held 50,000 acres of the half breed tract.  In 1847 and again in subsequent years William Grover lead efforts to build the Nauvoo to Warsaw railroad but was unable to secure enough investors.  Thomas Owen one of the elisors was later given the ferry rights the church previously held in Nauvoo.  Charles Mason, the Iowa judge, Hugh Reid, Joseph Smith’s attorney and David Kilbourne later were active in investing and promoting early railroads actually built in Iowa.  Calvin Warren, Isaac Morris, Onias Skinner and Orville Browning were later among the reconstituted incorporators of the Northern Cross Railroad.

In 1852 an engraver created an illustration of the murder of the prophet.  He had studied the details of the event.  In his depiction he showed three militia officers standing while observing the mob shootings and showing no indication of attempting to restrain them.  This image was used in various future history books.