News: Jackson Co. - History of Mormons in Midwest (19 Jun 2013)

Contact: Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon

Surnames: Prindle, Szymanski, Dougherty, Spaulding, Smith, Young, Strang

----Source: Clark County Press (Neillsville, Clark Co., WI) /2013

History of Mormons in the Midwest (19 June 2013)

By Pat McKnight

Jane Prindle Szymanski* was surprised to learn her great-great-grandfather was one of the 12 Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints (Mormons). That connection led her to research the roles Mormons played in Jackson County history.

“To me, it’s kind of personal, finding the family name in diaries and journals of the time,” Szymanski said.

Szymanski, along with Joanne Dougherty, presented a program June 11, 2013 on the history of the Mormon settlements in the upper Midwest during the early 1840’s at the Black River Falls Public Library.

The Jackson County History Room organized the program to coincide with the visit of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir to Black River Falls. The choir stopped in the city on Wednesday, June 19, to dedicate a historical marker in the Field of Honor commemorating the Mormon loggers.

Mormon loggers came to the pineries of Jackson County in 1841 to harvest white pine to ship back to their settlement in Nauvoo, IL. They used the lumber to build the temple, homes and other buildings in their Illinois settlement.

“At one time, there were about 150 Mormon loggers in Jackson County,” Dougherty said. “They bought half a mill at Roaring Creek. That didn’t work too well. They then made a deal with Joseph (Jacob) Spaulding. They built three mills and went as far north as Greenwood to get logs. They built homes and a warehouse and brought along sheep, oxen and cattle.”

Dougherty said the Mormons got along with the Native Americans because they believed the indigenous residents were Lamanites. Lamanites are described in the Book of Mormon as a group of dark-skinned people who were the descendants of Israelites who came to the western hemisphere around 600 BCE.

While in Jackson County, the Mormon loggers processed about one and a-half million board feet of milled lumber and about 200,000 shingles as well as a number of loose logs, hewed timber and barn boards.

Most of the loggers returned to Illinois when their leader, Joseph Smith, was killed. The Jackson County Mormon lumb4ermen sold their mills to Joseph (Jacob) Spaulding.

With the death of Smith, the Mormons had to choose a new leader. Two men, Brigham Young and James Strang, contended to lead the “saints” to indicate converts to Mormonism.

Szymanski ancestors chose to follow Strang and were known as Strangite Mormons. That segment of Mormons followed their leader to Northern Michigan. When the group was kicked out of their Beaver Island, MI, settlement, some of the settlers returned to Jackson County in 1856.

“My great-great-grandfather Anson and his brother moved to Jackson County, where he homesteaded,” Szymanski said, “The Mormons settled in the Wrightsville area and bought a mill on Halls Creek.”

According to Dougherty, the 1856 settlers were quiet about being Mormon because “they had had enough” mistreatment. Szymanski said her great-great-grandfather left the Mormon faith in 1899.

Considering themselves Christian because they believe in Jesus Christ, the Mormons use the Bible as well as their Book of Mormon to guide their lives.

The religious sect has its headquarters in Salt Lake City, UT, where the contingent following Brigham Young migrated after they left Illinois.

(* I have corrected the spelling of this name Szymanski. Also note it was Jacob Spaulding not Joseph Spaulding. Dmk)



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