Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Strange Life of James Jesse Strang

I prophesy in the name of the Lord God of Israel, unless the United States redress the wrongs committed upon the Saints in the state of Missouri and punish the crimes committed by her officers that in a few years the government will be utterly overthrown and wasted, and there will not be so much as a potsherd left.

So it was that Joseph Smith, prophet of God and founder of the Mormon Church (now the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) rather mistakenly announced the demise of these United States on this day in 1843.

So what do Joseph Smith and the Mormon Church have to do with the Adirondack region? A man named James Jesse Strang – his parents were born in Saratoga and Washington counties at the end of the 18th century. He was born in 1811 and later moved with his wife to Chautauqua County. He later moved to Nauvoo, Illinois where he met Joseph Smith, the Prophet of the Mormon Church.

Long story short, Strang converted to Mormonism, was elected to the State Legislature, claimed to have had heavenly visions, and that an angel appeared before him to tell him the secret location of – you guessed it – another buried account of ancient people, this time etched into brass plates.

After Joseph Smith was killed by a mob in Illinois in 1844 a feud erupted between Strang and Brigham Young over who was his rightful heir. Smith’s followers divided between “Brighamites” and “Strangites.” Although Strang produced a letter from Smith appointing him the new Prophet (still in the Yale University Library), and 12,000 believers allegedly joined him, the winner was Brigham Young who excommunicated Strang and took his followers to Utah – home of the Big Love!

Strang moved with about 125 followers to Beaver Island, Michigan where he proclaimed himself “King of the Kingdom of God on Earth” and well, generally pissed off the local Irish fishermen and farmers by extracting tithes from them.

That didn’t last long and James Jesse Strang was shot 150 years ago this June and died a short time later. His spiritual descendents are still spread around the Midwest, Canada, and even Mexico although a mob burned the Beaver Island temple around the time of Strang’s death. There are no temples for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (known as the True Faith – not to be confused with the Utah folks who use Latter-Day, rather than Latter Day).


Suggested Reading

Biography of James Jesse Strang

Related Stories


John Warren

John Warren has been exploring the woods and waters of the Adirondacks for almost 50 years. After a career as a print journalist and documentary television producer he founded Adirondack Almanack in 2005 and co-founded the geolocation services company Adirondack Atlas in 2015.

John remains active in traditional media. His Adirondack Outdoors Conditions Report can be heard Friday mornings across the region on the stations of North Country Public Radio and on 93.3 / 102.1 The Mix. Since 2008, John has been a media specialist on the staff of the New York State Writers Institute.

John is also a professional researcher and historian with a M.A. in Public History. He edits The New York History Blog and is the author of two books of regional history. As a Grant Consultant for the William G. Pomeroy Foundation, he has reviewed hundreds of historic roadside marker grant applications from around New York State for historical accuracy.




2 Responses

  1. Matt Funiciello says:
  2. York Staters says:

Wait, before you go,

sign up for news updates from the Adirondack Almanack!