Hiram Page's grave identified

RICHMOND, Mo. — After almost 150 years, the final resting place of Hiram Page, one of the eight witnesses of the Book of Mormon, has finally been located on a farm in Ray County, Mo. The burial location was the last of the 11 witnesses to be identified.

The location has been cared for by non-members since the property was purchased by Charles and Molly Fulkerson in 1917. Their family had felt a responsibility for the grave, marked only by square-cut stones, for almost three generations. Neither the Fulkersons nor their descendants, however, knew anything about the importance of the man buried there.

John and Philander Page, sons of Hiram and Catherine Whitmer Page, owned the farm from 1849 to 1859, according to county property records. The Fulkersons bought the farm in 1917. Shortly after, Peter Page, the last surviving son of Hiram and Catherine, came with family members and asked to see the grave. Although the Fulkersons knew the name of the person buried there, they did not know much about the man. But, throughout the years, they reverently tended the grave on their farm. In later years, a grandson of the Pages would often stop and visit the couple.

About two years ago, the Fulkersons' great-granddaughter, Kathy Homer, and her husband, Frank, decided to purchase a marker for the grave. Frank wanted more information to put on the marker, and through research and Internet resources, they discovered that Hiram Page was one of the eight witnesses of the Book of Mormon. While researching local sources, they also discovered in the Ray County archives a 1977 letter from local historian Bill Curtis, secretary of the Missouri Mormon Frontier Foundation, asking for information about the Whitmer family. They contacted Mr. Curtis, who is not LDS, with their information, and he assisted in the identification of the grave's occupant.

Hiram Page was born in Vermont. He studied to be a doctor and traveled around New York and Canada before settling in Seneca County, N.Y. There, he became acquainted with the Peter Whitmer Sr. family. In 1825, he married Catherine Whitmer. Nine children were born to them.

He and his wife were baptized by Oliver Cowdery on April 11, 1830. Soon after, he came into possession of a stone through which he claimed to receive revelations about Church government and related matters. Most of these "revelations" were in conflict with revelations received by the Prophet Joseph Smith.

At a conference in September 1830, Section 28 of the Doctrine and Covenants was received which makes clear the Lord's way of giving revelation to the Church as a whole. Hiram Page repented and got rid of the stone.

He and his family moved to Kirtland, Ohio, and then to Independence, Mo., where they were subjected to severe persecution and beatings. They left Jackson County with the other saints, moved to Clay County and eventually to Far West, Mo.

In 1838, he left the Church and moved to a farm near Richmond, Mo. He died Aug. 12, 1852.

Even though he was estranged and later excommunicated from the Church, he never denied his testimony of the Book of Mormon. In a letter to William McClellin in May 1847, he said: "As to the Book of Mormon, it would be doing injustice to myself and to the work of God in the last days to say that I could know a thing to be true in 1830 and know the same thing to be false in 1847."

The other witnesses to the Book of Mormon have had their final resting sites previously identified and marked. The three Smiths are buried in the family plot in Nauvoo. David, Jacob and Christian Whitmer, as well as Oliver Cowdery, are buried in Richmond, Ray County, Mo. Peter Whitmer Jr. is buried in an unmarked grave in Kansas City, Clay County, Mo., while John Whitmer is buried in Kingston, Caldwell County, Mo. Martin Harris is buried in Clarkston, Utah.

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