GLEASON, John Streator: The Martyrdom of the Prophet

John Streator Gleason (1819-1904) was a scout for the 1847 first group into Salt Lake Valley. He joined the Church in 1839 and moved with his wife Desdemona Chase and her parents to Nauvoo in 1842, where he became a trusted friend of the prophet .

John Streator Gleason (1819-1904)

The first and only issue of the , printed June 7, 1844, advocated the repeal of Nauvoo’s charter and charged Joseph Smith with practicing spiritual wifery, indulging in whoredoms, abusing political power, teaching the plurality of gods, and claiming power to seal men up to eternal life. It accused Church leaders of controlling politics and excoriated Joseph Smith as a seducer, liar and murderer. Three days later the city council met and labeled the paper libelous. City Marshal John P. Greene called on the to assist in the destruction of the press and to prevent a riot. As a major in the first regiment, first cohort (cavalry) of the Legion, John Streator Gleason took part in the destruction of the press.

Gleason was summoned to Carthage and imprisoned in the same room where a few days later the Prophet would be martyred. Although it was a hot June day, Gleason wore an overcoat in order to conceal two revolvers. A mob of some thirty men came to the prison looking for Porter Rockwell (who had escaped earlier) and some other men, scrutinized the faces of each of the prisoners, but then left. Gleason described these events in a letter written to his brother 1 1/2 years later:

“The scene through which I have been called to pass since I arrived in this place from the East has almost alienated me from my country. Almost one continual round of mobocracy by night and by day. When I contemplate the scene it almost makes me shudder, and my blood run cold in my veins. I have been an eye witness to almost the whole scene from the beginning. My life has been exposed—threatened from time to time. . . when they were filled with wrath …. About a week before the assassination of Joseph and Hyrum Smith I was arrested—marched to jail by a band of the desperate and could not even lay there in peace—was aroused about 12 o’clock by a rush of men into the yard and a loud rattleing [sic] and hallooing at the door of the jail. One of our men went down and opened the door, when they rushed up stairs and caroused about a while, and left us.”

The next day a militia group escorted the prisoners back to Nauvoo in order to find the arms furnished the Nauvoo Legion by the state. On the way they met Joseph Smith and the others who were going to Carthage to deliver themselves up. Gleason wanted to tell the Prophet to turn around, for “the spirit of the people was to murder him.” Yet Gleason feared appearing bold and held back.

At the exact time of the martyrdom, Gleason and a friend were going to hear Governor Ford speak to the Mormons. As they were passing the Lower Stone House in Nauvoo, Gleason described, “A feeling like a blanket of darkness—a pall—a terrible feeling, came over both of us. We both alluded to it.” They went on and reached the assembly area after Ford had already begun his speech.

Later, Gleason was called on to help bring the bodies of Joseph and Hyrum back to Nauvoo, but he had no horse. Instead, he watched sorrowfully as the procession brought the bodies back into Nauvoo.

During the fall of 1845 and spring of 1846, Gleason was in charge of the ferry boats which took the Saints across the Mississippi River. He left Nauvoo with the first company in 1846 and accompanied them as far as Garden Grove, Iowa. During this trip he acted as captain of about fifty young, unmarried men. He returned on business to Nauvoo and then rejoined the main camp at Council Bluffs to become one of the 143 pioneers who arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in July 1847.

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