Tiffany T. Bowles offers this installment in the JI’s material culture month. Tiffany is a Curator of Education at the Church History Museum in Salt Lake City. A native of Orem, Utah, she received a BA degree in history from BYU and an MA in Historical Administration from Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois. She has worked for the National Park Service at Natchez National Historical Park in Natchez, Mississippi, and Lincoln Home National Historic Site in Springfield, Illinois. In addition, she has worked at the Illinois State Military Museum and volunteered for the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.
On a quiet fall day in October 1838, Amanda Barnes Smith and her family busily worked to prepare a campsite on the banks of Shoal Creek in the small community of Haun’s Mill, Missouri. After a grueling journey from Kirtland, Ohio, the Smiths were relieved at the prospect of settling near others of their Latter-day Saint faith on the unfamiliar frontier.
Without warning, the contentment of the autumn afternoon was broken by the sounds of a fast approaching mob. The men of the settlement gathered in a small blacksmith shop, prepared to defend themselves and their families. Amanda Smith and two of her children “escaped across the millpond on a slab-walk,” and sought safety in “some bottom land” near the creek . When the firing ceased, Amanda returned to the blacksmith shop to find her husband and one of her sons among the 17 dead.
In Latter-day Saint memory, the brutality of the massacre at Haun’s Mill epitomizes decades of persecution endured by early members of the Church. Some Latter-day Saints today commemorate and try to make sense of this defining event in Church history by looking to the power of place and visiting the location of the massacre. A visit to this site today requires a long, bumpy drive on dirt and gravel roads (a hazardous journey after a rainstorm). The site of the massacre is an open field along a shallow creek bed. The only indication of the violent events that occurred at this location is a small sign detailing the events of October 30, 1838.
Others might look to the power of objects in making sense of the Haun’s Mill tragedy. Objects have the unique ability to provide a tangible connection to the past and allow us to transform “experience into substance” . Steven Lubar and Kathleen Kenrick, Curators at the National Museum of American History, describe artifacts as “the touchstones that bring memories and meanings to life” . Unfortunately, since the mill on Shoal Creek was torn down in 1845, tangible ties to Haun’s Mill are rare, though interest in objects related to the massacre has spanned two centuries.
In September 1888, Church historian Andrew Jenson and colleagues Edward Stevenson and Joseph S. Black embarked on a journey to visit Church history sites across the country. At Haun’s Mill, they noted a “remnant of the old mill dam,” including “five large pieces of timber left in the middle of the creek.” They mentioned standing “upon a solid ledge of rock,” where the milldam was originally located. The group then searched for the well where those murdered in the attack had been hastily buried. The site was marked “by an old millstone, formerly belonging to Jacob Haun’s mill” .
Latter-day Saint photographer George Edward Anderson mentioned another millstone when he visited Haun’s Mill in May 1907. He wrote of crossing the creek and finding “one of the old millstones, which we worked out of the ground and [then moved it] down to the edge of the creek and made two or three negatives of it, putting an inscription on one side” . This particular stone was later moved to a city park in Breckenridge, Missouri .
Just two months after George Edward Anderson’s visit to Haun’s Mill, Latter-day Saint Charles White took a seven-day trip across the state of Missouri. Along the way, he gathered “relics” at each of the sites, hoping to establish a tangible connection not only to the various locations, but to the events that transpired there. At Haun’s Mill, White recorded that he waded out into Shoal Creek and broke several pieces off of an original millstone “as a relic of the blackest crime that was ever committed in our fair country” .
The interest in objects related to the Haun’s Mill Massacre continued into the late 20th century, when “Cowboy” Bill Howell, a resident of the area, discovered a piece of cast iron protruding from the bank of Shoal Creek. He assumed that he had found “the metal frame for half of the waterwheel from the old mill,” and “hoped that someday he might run upon the matching other half so he could reconstruct the wheel” . In April 1986, Latter-day Saint Institute of Religion instructors Newell R. Kitchen and John L. Fowles asked Cowboy Bill if he would be interested in selling the metal wheel fragment to them, which he did for $25. Kitchen and Fowles later determined that the cast iron artifact was not a wheel frame, but was actually a “face wheel,” or a gear wheel that transferred power from the waterwheel to the rest of the mill’s machinery . On August 11, 1986, the men delivered the face wheel to the LDS Church History Museum in Salt Lake City, where the artifact is now displayed as the lone representative of one of the most tragic events in Church history .
How can this rusty piece of cast iron connect us to the events of October 30, 1838? The basic function of this face wheel gives us insight into the type of work that was done at the mill on Shoal Creek. Face wheels of this kind were common in gristmills of the time period, and gristmills were used to grind grain into flour. The probability that the mill at the Haun’s Mill settlement was a gristmill is substantiated by a statement from Latter-day Saint Ellis Eamut who recorded that non-Mormon residents of the area were initially friendly with the Saints, using “[our] mill[s] for grinding” . Interestingly, Eamut mentions that they also used the mill for ‘sawing,” indicating that the mill functioned as both a gristmill and a sawmill. A study of nineteenth century mills in South Carolina states that “a saw mill could often be found at the site of a grist mill. The two could be powered by the same wheel or turbine by using different gearing” .
In addition to increasing our understanding of the type of work done at the mill, the face wheel artifact can also connect us to the personal stories of Haun’s Mill. Latter-day Saint convert and successful millwright Jacob Myers from Richland County, Ohio, constructed the original mill on Shoal Creek in 1836. Myers later sold the mill to Jacob Haun, and Myers’ son, Jacob Myers Jr., helped Haun operate the mill. On the day of the 1838 attack at Haun’s Mill, Jacob Myers Jr. was shot through the leg as he attempted to run from the ill-fated blacksmith shop. One of the attackers approached him with a corn cutter, intending to kill him. According to Myers’ sister, “As [the attacker] raised his arm to strike, another one of the mob called out to him and told him if he touched my brother he would shoot him,” for Myers had “ground many a grist for him” . Instead of killing him, the mob carried Myers to his home. His skill as a worker at the mill had saved his life.
The rusty face wheel on display at the Church History Museum serves as a tangible connection to the early Saints, increasing our understanding of their life and times and serving as a reminder of their sacrifices and courage. In a broader sense, this artifact also represents, as a plaque near the original millstone in Breckenridge, Missouri, states, “The perpetual need for greater understanding and tolerance between all peoples” .
Original cast iron face wheel from Haun’s Mill on display at the Church History Museum
George Edward Anderson 1907 photograph of original Haun’s Mill millstone, Courtesy Church Archives
 Journal of Amanda Barnes Smith, unpublished typescript, 3.
 Marguerite S. Shaffer, See America First: Tourism and National Identity, 1880-1940 (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2001), 265.
 Steven Lubar and Kathleen Kenrick, “Looking at Artifacts, Thinking about History,” Smithsonian National Museum of American History “Guide to Doing History with Objects,” http://objectofhistory.org/guide/.
 “Half a Century Since,” Deseret News (October 3, 1888), 10. The “red millstone fragment” that marked the well was moved by area resident Glen E. Setzer in 1941. Setzer, unaware of the significance of the stone’s location, moved it to the site of a marker he constructed near the road (‘story of Haun’s Mill’ by the Missouri Mormon Frontier Foundation, unpublished typescript, 2003, 5).
 Richard Neitzel Holzapfel, T. Jeffrey Cottle, and Ted D. Stoddard, eds., Church History in Black and White: George Edward Anderson’s Photographic Mission to Latter-day Saint Historical Sites (Provo: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1995), 97, as quoted in Alexander L. Baugh, “The Haun’s Mill Stone at Breckenridge,” Mormon Historical Studies 2, no. 2 (Fall 2001), 211.
 Baugh, “The Haun’s Mill Stone at Breckenridge,” 211.
 Charles White, Charles White, Journal, 1907 [typescript] MSS SC 219, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, p. 13.
 Newell R. Kitchen and John L. Fowles, “Finding the Haun’s Mill Face Wheel,” Mormon Historical Studies 4, no. 2 (Fall 2003), 167.
 Kitchen and Fowles, “Finding the Haun’s Mill Face Wheel,” 170.
 Artifact acquisition records, artifact number LDS 87-26, Church History Museum.
 Ellis Eamut, “Reminiscence,” in Journal History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 30 October 1838, 11.
 Chad O. Braley, Southeastern Archaeological Services, Inc., “Mills in the Upcountry: A Historic Context, and a Summary of a Mill Site on the Peters Creek Heritage Preserve, Spartanburg County, South Carolina,” unpublished manuscript prepared for the Spartanburg Water Authority, 2005, 12.
 Artemisia Sidnie Myers Foote, “Reminiscences, 1850-1899,” MSS SC 999, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.
 Historical marker at Breckenridge, Missouri City Park, dedicated May 26, 2000.