Year
1845

Murder in Illinois

Phineas Wilcox is stabbed to death by fellow Mormons in Nauvoo, Illinois, because he is believed to be a Christian spy. The murder of Wilcox reflected the serious and often violent conflict between the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the surrounding communities. Joseph Smith, who founded the Mormon Church in 1830, had been living with his followers in Missouri, where they had various conflicts with locals, including an armed skirmish with the state militia. In 1838, Governor Lilburn Boggs signed a military order directing that the Mormons be expelled or exterminated: “The Mormons must be treated as enemies and must be exterminated or driven from the state, if necessary, for the public good.”

Smith and the Mormons fled across the Mississippi to Nauvoo, Illinois, which quickly became the second most populous town in the state. But there were conflicts and tensions in Nauvoo as well. When a local newspaper printed editorials claiming that the religious leader was a fraud, Smith sent a group of followers to destroy the newspaper office. He was then arrested and sent to jail, where a lynch mob tracked him down and killed him.

Brigham Young, who quickly took command of the church and its followers, tried to stifle any dissent and banish his rivals. The killing of Phineas Wilcox was part of his consolidation of power. Tensions with other communities continued to escalate, and, a year later, over 2,000 armed anti-Mormons marched on Nauvoo. Young decided that it no longer was wise to stay in the area. He led his flock west and settled in the Salt Lake Valley, where he and his followers would become instrumental in founding the state of Utah.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Gunman kills 12 in D.C. Navy Yard massacre

On this day in 2013, a 34-year-old man goes on a rampage at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., killing 12 people and wounding several others over the course of an hour before he is fatally shot by police. Investigators later determined that the gunman, Aaron Alexis, a computer ...read more

Massacres at Sabra and Shatila

Hours after the Israeli forces enter West Beirut, Phalangist militiamen begin a massacre of Palestinians at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. Within two days, 1,000 men, women, and children were dead. The Phalangists, a Christian faction in Lebanon, were closely allied with ...read more

Mayflower departs England

The Mayflower sails from Plymouth, England, bound for the New World with 102 passengers. The ship was headed for Virginia, where the colonists–half religious dissenters and half entrepreneurs–had been authorized to settle by the British crown. However, stormy weather and ...read more

Mexican War of Independence begins

Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a Catholic priest, launches the Mexican War of Independence with the issuing of his Grito de Dolores, or “Cry of Dolores,” The revolutionary tract, so-named because it was publicly read by Hidalgo in the town of Dolores, called for the end of 300 years ...read more

Maria Callas dies

Celebrated soprano Maria Callas dies in Paris at the age of 53. Born in New York City in 1923 to Greek immigrants, Callas demonstrated her talent for singing at an early age. When she was 13, she went to Athens to study under the noted soprano Elvira de Hidalgo. Her first major ...read more

Settlers race to claim land

On this day in 1893, the largest land run in history begins with more than 100,000 people pouring into the Cherokee Strip of Oklahoma to claim valuable land that had once belonged to Native Americans. With a single shot from a pistol the mad dash began, and land-hungry pioneers ...read more

Frasier debuts

On this day in 1993, Frasier, a spin-off of the long-running mega-hit sitcom Cheers, makes its debut on NBC; it will go on to air for 11 seasons and win multiple Emmy Awards. Frasier starred Kelsey Grammer as the erudite, snobbish Dr. Frasier Crane, a radio psychiatrist who ...read more

Killer quake shakes Iran

An extremely deadly earthquake rocks Iran, killing more than 25,000 people on this day in 1978. The 7.7-magnitude quake struck the northeastern part of the country, an area that has traditionally seen much seismic activity. Ten years earlier, a 6.5-magnitude quake centered in ...read more

United Nations essay contest angers Soviets

On this day, Soviet representatives condemn an essay writing contest sponsored by the United Nations. The incident, though small, indicated that the Cold War was as much a battle of words as a war of bombs and guns. In 1950, the Public Information Department of the United ...read more