Lilburn Boggs

From Academic Kids

Lilburn Wycliffe Boggs (1797-1861) was the governor of Missouri from 1836 to 1840. He is now most widely remembered for his interactions with Joseph Smith and Porter Rockwell, and his so called "Extermination Order" in response to the ongoing conflict between Mormon settlers and others in Missouri.

Lilburn W. Boggs was born in Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky on December 14, 1796, to John McKinley Boggs and Martha Oliver. Boggs served in the War of 1812. He moved in 1816 from Lexington, Kentucky to Missouri, Louisiana Territory. At Greenup Co, Kentucky, in 1817, Boggs married his first wife Julia Ann Bent (1801-20), a sister of the Bent brothers of "Bent's Fort" fame. She died on September 21, 1820 in St Louis, Missouri. They had two children, Angus and Henry. He then married Panthea Grant Boone (1801-80) in 1823 in Callaway Co, Missouri and had several children while living in Missouri. The oldest Thomas was born in 1824 in Bates County, George was born in Cole County, and the rest were born in Jackson County.


1 Reference
2 External links

Extermination Order

While governor of Missouri, Boggs issued a document known as the "Extermination Order" in Latter Day Saint history. This executive order was issued on October 27, 1838 and intended to have members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mormons, driven from the state in response to what he termed "open and avowed defiance of the laws, and of having made war upon the people of this State ... the Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the State if necessary for the public peace—their outrages are beyond all description." (see link below.) For over 130 years it was legal to "exterminate" Mormons in Missouri until Governor Christopher Bond recinded the order and apologized to the LDS Church for the unwarranted and illegal acts perpetuated upon that community.

The order directly preceded the Haun's Mill Massacre, which occurred three days later. This mob killing of 17 LDS men and boys underscored the seriousness of the threat. Thousands of faithful Latter Day Saints crossed the Missouri River out of the state even as their leader and prophet Joseph Smith Jr. faced capital punishment.

Assassination attempt

On the rainy evening of May 6, 1842, someone shot Boggs in his home by firing at him through a window as he read a newspaper in his study. Boggs was hit by large buckshot in four places: Two balls were lodged in his skull, another lodged in his neck, and a fourth entered his throat, whereupon Boggs swallowed it. Boggs was severely injured. Sheriff J.H. Reynolds discovered a revolver at the scene, still loaded with buckshot. He surmised that the suspect had fired upon Boggs, and lost his firearm in the dark rainy night when the weapon recoiled due to its unusually large shot. Reynolds' efforts to locate the revolver's owner were unsuccessful.

Some Mormons saw the assassination attempt positively: An anonymous contributor to The Wasp, a Mormon newspaper in Nauvoo, Illinois wrote on May 28 that "Boggs is undoubtedly killed according to report; but who did the noble deed remains to be found out."

Several doctors--Boggs' brother among them--pronounced Boggs as good as dead; at least one newspaper ran an obituary. To everyone's great surprise, Boggs not only survived, but gradually improved. The popular press—and popular rumor—was quick to blame Smith's friend and sometime bodyguard Porter Rockwell. Smith had reportedly prophesied that Boggs would die a violent death within the year, leading to speculation that he was somehow involved in the assassination attempt. Rockwell denied involvement, stating that he would not have left the governor alive if he had indeed tried to kill him.

Also at about this time, John C. Bennett, a disaffected Mormon, reported that Smith had offered a cash reward to anyone who would assassinate Boggs, and that Smith had admitted to him that Rockwell had done the deed. He went on to say that Rockwell had made a veiled threat against Bennet's life if he publicised the story. Smith vehemently denied Bennet's account, speculating that Boggs--no longer governor, but campaigning for state senate--was attacked by an election opponent. Monte B. McLaws, in the Missouri Historical Review, determined that while there was no clear finger pointing to anyone, Governor Boggs was running for election against several violent men, all capable of the deed. He also noted that Rockwell may have had cause but that otherwise there was no particular reason to suspect him of the crime.

Western settlement

Boggs came to California in 1846, among the overland immigrants, starting West in May. He wanted to serve as wagonmaster on the trail but was repeatedly defeated in group votes. He brought with him his second wife Panthea, his son William, as well as William's new bride Sonora Hicklin, the daughter of a wealthy Missouri family. He arrived in Sonoma, California in November and was provided refuge by M. G. Vallejo at his Petaluma ranch house. There on January 4, 1847, Mrs. William Boggs gave birth to a son. (Their second child was Angus Maupin Boggs, born in 1851 at Sonoma.) He became alcalde of Sonoma, replacing John Nash who was driven out of office in July 1847. At the time of the California gold rush, he owned a store. On November 8, 1849, Boggs resigned as alcalde and became the town's postmaster.

Boggs accepted an appointment as state assemblyman from the Sonoma District in 1852. In 1855 he retired to live on a ranch in Napa County, California where he died on March 19, 1861. His widow Panthea died in Napa County, California on September 23, 1880.


  • McLaws, Monte B. “The Attempted Assassination of Missouri’s Ex-Governor, Lilburn W. Boggs." Missouri Historical Review, 60.1 (October 1965).

External links

Preceded by:
Daniel Dunklin
Governor of Missouri
Succeeded by:
Thomas Reynolds

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