Monday, September 25, 2023

Marker Details

The marker is located two miles west of Carthage at a turnout on the south side of IL 136.
Dedication Date:
Dedication By:
Division of Highways and The Illinois State Historical Society

Marker Description:
Hancock County, established in 1829, had no permanent county seat for four years. On February 13, 1833, the General Assembly commissioned William Gilham, Scott Riggs and John Hardin to establish a permanent county seat, which was named Carthage and was incorporated in 1837.

Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon Church, and his brother Hyrum were shot to death in the Old Carthage Jail on June 27, 1844. Joseph had chosen Nauvoo as headquarters for the Church in 1839, and by 1844 Hancock County was a Mormon Center. However, unrest concerning the authority of the Mormon leaders was extensive. When an anti-Mormon newspaper in Nauvoo was destroyed, Joseph and Hyrum were jailed at Carthage to await trial. Governor Thomas Ford assigned the Carthage Grays, a militia unit, to guard them. A mob overpowered the guards and rushed the captives who with two Mormon friends, Willard Richards and John Taylor, occupied an unlocked, second floor room in the jail.

Hyrum was killed and the Prophet was shot several times before he fell from a window to the ground. Taylor, later the leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (1877-1887), recovered from his wounds while Richards was uninjured. Conflict between Mormons and their neighbors continued until the Mormons completed their exodus from Illinois (1846). The Mormons have restored the Old Carthage Jail.

During the 1858 U. S. Senatorial campaign Stephen A. Douglas spoke at Carthage on October 11 and Abraham Lincoln spoke on October 22.

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