Joseph Standing Monument

Joseph Standing Monument


Joseph Standing Monument
Rudger Clawson (Left) and (Right)

In March 1878 Joseph Standing was called on his second mission to the Southern States Mission. By April 1879, Standing was the presiding Elder of the Georgia Conference, responsible for overseeing all church affairs in the State. Mission President John Morgan assigned newly arrived Rudger Clawson, future President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, as his companion.

Not soon after. Elder Standing had a dream that he had been turned away from lodging by a member at Varnell Station, a small town in northwest Georgia near the border of Tennessee. He told Elder Clawson, “I am fearful that something terrible is going to happen.”

On July 20th at 10 p.m. on a very dark night, the missionaries arrived for a brief stop in this community and sought lodging at the home of a member. The woman became deathly afraid when she saw them, fearing a mob, and turned them away with the very words from Elder Standing’s dream. She told them a mob had formed and had threatened to kill Elder Standing, who was known in those parts for his proselyting. As they traveled to the home of a kindly neighbor, Mr. Holston. “

There was an awful, terrible stillness about us,” recalled Elder Clawson. Holston welcomed them, but all through the night Elder Standing was highly agitated and slept with a fireplace poker under his pillow.

The next morning they heard that a mob was coming and the missionaries moved quickly to leave the area. On the road heading toward Rome, Georgia they came in view of the mob. “When the mob saw us and we saw them, it was a tense moment,” related Elder Clawson. “They were some distance away, and then it was that they took off their hats and swung them over their heads and with an ugly yell came charging down on us.” Each member of the mob was well armed. “When they reached us, they drew up suddenly. The leader of the mob said: ‘You are our prisoners.'”

When Standing asked by what authority they were stopped on a public road, one member of the mob told them, “there is no law in Georgia for Mormons.” As they were taken down the road. Elder Standing repeatedly asked for water. Eventually, they came to a spring a short distance off the road where Elder Standing was permitted to drink.

One of the mob, named Faucett, said to them, “I want you men to understand that I am the captain of this party, and that if we ever again find you in this part of the country we will hang you by the neck like dogs,” which gave Clawson the impression that the mob did not intend to kill them at that time. They continued to harass the Elders for more than an hour. “I really believe they intended to give us a severe whipping which might or might not have ended the tragedy,” said Elder Clawson. However, just as they were ordered to the woods. Elder Standing jumped to his feet, held out his hands as if he were armed, and yelled, “Surrender.”

“As the word ‘surrender’ left the lips of Joseph Standing, one of the men sitting in the circle pointed his weapon at the missionary and fired. … A cloud of smoke and dust enveloped the wounded man. The leading mobocrat pointing to me, said ‘Shoot that man.’ Every weapon was leveled at my head. … I was looking down the gun barrels of the murderous mob. I folded my arms and said, ‘Shoot,’ and almost persuaded myself that I was shot, so intense were my feelings. . . . When I heard the voice in command say ‘Don’t shoot’ it was just then the realization came to me that I had not been shot.”

Elder Clawson stepped to help his dying companion who had “a great gaping bullet hole in his forehead.” Elder Clawson spoke with the mob and gained permission to go in search of a coroner. He ran two miles to find Holston, who quickly went to the spring but by the time he arrived, the body now had more than 20 bullet wounds in the face and neck. It is believed this was done by the mob to protect the original shooter from conviction by having each man participate in the crime.

Meanwhile Clawson rode another eight miles to Catoosa Springs to find the coroner. Returning to the site, they placed the body on a door and carried it to Mr. Holston’s home. The coroner urged a local and quick burial, but Elder Clawson replied, ” if I had been shot to death in Georgia, as he was shot to death, I would not wish to be buried in this soil.”

They built a coffin, wrapped the body in salt and bay leaves to cover the smell, and Clawson escorted it back to Salt Lake City by train. Funeral services were held in the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Sunday, August 3. Speakers included President John Taylor and George Q. Cannon of the First Presidency. Approximately 10,000 attended the service, after which Standing was buried at Salt Lake City Cemetery.

Clawson then got back on a train and returned to Georgia for the trial. After three days all of the accused were acquitted. While leaving the Judge reminded Clawson, “There is no law in Georgia for the Mormons.”

On the base of the 13-foot of Italian marble over Standing’s grave in the Salt Lake City Cemetery, are the words of Orson F. Whitney:

“Beneath this stone, by friendship’s hand is lain. The martyred form of one, untimely slain, A servant of the Lord, whose works revealed. The love of truth for which his doom was sealed. Where foes beset—when but a single friend. Stood true, nor shunned his comrade’s cruel end—Deep in the shades of ill- starred Georgia’s wood, fair freedom’s soil was crimsoned with his blood. Our brother rests beneath his native sod, his murderers are in the hands of God. Weep, weep for them, not him whose silent dust. Here waits the resurrection of the just.”

Also included on the stone is a list of the members of the mob by name. The monument was at some point vandalized and the broken obelisk sat beside the grave for many years. In 2001 with a granite replica of the original marker, adding an iron fencing around the base was erected.

Missionary work was suspended in Georgia for 10 years. As the years passed, old animosity was replaced by a new respect. In 1919 Atlanta became headquarters of the Southern States Mission. The corridor of land where the missionary was killed and the spring where he last drank was donated to the Church by the owner, W.C. Puryear, as a memorial park. That same year, on May 3,1952, President David O. McKay dedicated the park and a monument to Elder Standing. In 1983, the first temple in the South was dedicated in Georgia. Georgia currently has an estimated membership of 60,000 in 14 Stakes and two Missions.

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