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The Mormon Scare

Source: Centennial History of Audrain County by Herschel Schooley

One of the most thrilling and exciting experiences of the infant town of Mexico has come down in history as "The Mormon Scare" of the late '30's.

The Mormon Church, or properly, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, was founded in 1830 by Joseph Smith, with a belief in continual divine revelation as one of the characteristics of the sect. The first decade was one of persecutions and migrations for the church. Founded in Fayette, N. Y., successively the Mormons moved west to Kirkland, O., in 1831, then into Missouri for the later '30s.

The Mormons left Missouri for Nauvoo, Ill., the City of Beauty, on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River above Keokuk, Iowa, in 1839 to remain there until Brigham Young led the migration to Utah as a haven in the wilderness, with Salt Lake City founded in 1849. It was during the several years the Mormon followers spent in Missouri, in the '30s, that the incident in early Mexico history occurred.

The late Samuel T. Hook, an early settler, and the father of T. E. Hook, prominent Mexico citizen of today, told the story as it was recorded in an early history of the county. Samuel T. Hook, a progressive farmer and stock raiser, and the son of Samuel Hook, Sr., and Mary Sims Hook, was born in Callaway County, in 1830, and moved with his family to Audrain in 1833. He was several years old when the "Mormon scare" took place, and recalled it well. Mr. Hook was married on February 18, 1868, to Miss Mary S. Snell, daughter of Granville and Emily Snell, of Monroe County, and they had two children, Thomas E. and Mary E.

"On a bright, beautiful, fall day," related Mr. Hook, "There was suddenly heard in the direction of the little town of Mexico, the report of small arms--about one hundred guns--the reverberation being distinctly heard by the few citizens who resided beyond the city limits, and by others who lived still further out.

"A few moments afterward, Richmond Pearson came riding on horse-back, under full speed, bareheaded and barefooted, saying excitedly, "The Mormons are in town killing everybody'." Richmond Pearson, pioneer settler who lived so many years on what is known as the Lawder Place, east of Mexico, is the father of Ripley Warren Pearson, well known 90-year old resident of South Clark Street, this city.

"Meantime," Mr. Hook continued, "the firing could be distinctly heard in the town. Soon, James Reed and Isaac Johnson came along and were told the awful news, that 'The Mormons are killing everybody in Mexico'. They also started to town, but soon returned in hot haste, as though pursued.

"Horses were running at half speed, with all the gearing on, and frightened men, women, children, and the sound of guns added to the great confusion. Reed and Johnson confirmed the statements already made by Pearson, and added they saw the Mormons shoot Jack Willingham off his horse.