In honor of the 175th anniversary of the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, the Church News collaborated with the Church History Department to put together the following timeline explaining the events surrounding the death of Joseph and Hyrum Smith at Carthage Jail in Carthage, Illinois, on June 27, 1844.
Note: If you are viewing this on mobile, please be sure to scroll within the timeline graphic.
It is unknown who actually shot Joseph and Hyrum Smith. Willard Richards and John Taylor made a list of people they recognized in the mob. In October 1844, nine men were indicted for the murders. In May 1845, only five of those men were tried: Thomas C. Sharp, Levi Williams, Jacob C. Davis, Mark Aldrich, and William N. Grover. They were all acquitted.
The Nauvoo Legion was a state-authorized militia in Nauvoo, Illinois, in the 1840s. Led by Joseph Smith and other Latter-day Saints, the militia was organized, in part, to protect the Saints against potential mob violence.
The Carthage Greys were the government authorized local militia in Carthage and were under the command of Robert F. Smith.
On June 7, 1844, the first and only issue of the Nauvoo Expositor was published. The newspaper was openly critical of Joseph Smith and his teachings. Concerned about the newspaper’s potential to incite mob violence, Joseph and the Nauvoo City Council declared the press to be a nuisance. On June 10, 1844, Joseph instructed the city marshal to destroy the press. An arrest warrant was soon issued for Joseph, Hyrum Smith, and 16 other men for causing a riot when the press was destroyed. Convinced that an armed attack on Nauvoo was imminent, Joseph Smith called out the Nauvoo Legion and proclaimed martial law on June 18, 1844. These declarations, however, were viewed as acts of treason against Illinois. When Joseph and Hyrum arrived in Carthage for the riot case examination, they were arrested for treason. This accusation arose from Joseph’s attempt to protect the city from mob violence.
Index of people included in the timeline:
Joseph Smith: the prophet and president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the time.
Hyrum Smith: Joseph Smith’s older brother and patriarch for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the time.
Emma Smith: Joseph’s first wife. She was living in Nauvoo at the Mansion House at the time.
Gov. Thomas Ford: The governor of Illinois at the time.
Robert F. Smith: Carthage justice of the peace at the time.
John S. Fullmer: Church member and officer in the Nauvoo Legion at the time.
John Taylor: Newspaper editor in Nauvoo and apostle for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was with Joseph and Hyrum in Carthage at the time of their deaths.
Stephen Markham: Church member and officer in the Nauvoo Legion at the time.
Dan Jones: Church member who was with Joseph and Hyrum at Carthage.
Willard Richards: Joseph Smith’s secretary and apostle for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who was with Joseph and Hyrum in Carthage.
Jonathan Dunham: Church member and officer in the Nauvoo Legion.
Orville Browning: An attorney who represented Joseph Smith in 1841 and who later served as the attorney for the five men accused of killing Joseph and Hyrum Smith in 1845.
Thomas Sharp: Editor of the Warsaw Signal newspaper in Illinois and antagonist of the Latter-day Saints. He was indicted but later acquitted for killing Joseph and Hyrum Smith.
Josephus: A first-century Jewish historian whose writings provide non-biblical insights into Jewish history.
— Chase Kirkham, historian with the Joseph Smith Papers Project, contributed to this article