Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Far West, Missouri
Foundation and Early History
The town was founded by Missouri Mormon leaders, W. W. Phelps and John Whitmer in August 1836 shortly before the county's creation. The town was platted originally as a 1 mile square area, centered on a public square which was to house a temple. The design of the town resembled Mormon founder and prophet Joseph Smith Jr.'s plan for the City of Zion, which had been planned to be built in the town of Independence, Jackson County, Missouri. As the town of Far West grew, the plat was extended to 4 square miles.
Early Latter Day Saints began to settle in northwestern Missouri soon after the Mormon church was organized in 1830. According to a revelation given by Joseph Smith Jr., Independence would be the "centerplace" of the City of Zion when Jesus returned. However, disputes between Mormon and Missourian settlers in Independence led to the expulsion of the Mormons from Jackson County in 1833. Most Mormons temporarily settled in Clay County, Missouri. Towards the end of 1836, Caldwell County was was created specifically for Mormon settlement to recompense Mormon losses in Jackson County. Shortly after the creation of Caldwell County, Far West was made the county seat.
Far West became the headquarters of the Mormon church in early 1838 when presidents Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon relocated to the town from the previous church headquarters, Kirtland, Ohio. Joseph Smith taught the Latter Day Saints that the Garden of Eden had been in Jackson County and when Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden, they moved to the Caldwell County and Daviess County areas of Missouri. Far West was believed to be the place where Cain slew Abel. While headquartered in Far West, the official name of the church was changed from Church of the Latter Day Saints to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The 1838 Mormon/Missourian Conflict
New problems erupted between the Mormons and their neighbors when the Mormons began to settle in the counties surrounding Caldwell, including De Witt in Carroll County and Adam-ondi-Ahman in Daviess County. (See the Mormon War). A series of escalating conflicts followed and the Governor of Missouri eventually called out 2,500 state militiamen to put down what he perceived to be a "Mormon rebellion." Latter Day Saints poured into Far West for protection and found themselves under seige. Joseph Smith Jr., Sidney Rigdon and others surrendered at the end of October, 1838, and were put on trial by the state for treason. The main body of the Mormons were then illegally forced to sign over their property in Far West and Caldwell County to pay for the militia muster and then leave the state. The main body later settled in Nauvoo, Illinois.
Aftermath and Far West Today
Far West became a ghost town soon after the departure of most of the Mormon population. The county seat was moved to Kingston, Missouri and many of the log houses in Far West were relocated. Former Mormon John Whitmer continued to live in the nearly empty town, where he owned a large farm.
Today Far West is a historic site seven miles (11.26 km) south of U.S. Highway 36 on State Route D. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints maintains a historic site there, including the cornerstones of the planned temple. Some Latter Day Saints expect that a temple will be located on this spot at some time in the future. The Community of Christ, the second largest Latter Day Saint denomination, has a branch congregation that meets in Far West.
- Stephen C. LeSueur, The 1838 Mormon War in Missouri, University of Missouri Press, 1990.
- Alexander L. Baugh, A Call to Arms: The 1838 Mormon Defense of Northern Missouri, BYU Studies, 2000.
- John Hamer, Northeast of Eden: A Historical Atlas of Missouri's Mormon County, Far West Cultural Center, 2004.
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