Extradition, the Mormons, and the Election of 1843


church history, extradition, voting, governors


In June 1843, a special term of the Daviess County, Missouri, Circuit Court indicted Mormon leader Joseph Smith for treason against the state of Missouri during the “Mormon War” of 1838. After learning of the charge from Missouri governor Thomas Reynolds, Illinois governor Thomas Ford issued a warrant for Smith’s arrest on June 17, and directed that he be delivered to the custody of Jackson County, Missouri sheriff Joseph H. Reynolds, whom Governor Reynolds had appointed to convey Smith to Missouri. Six days later, on June 23, Harmon T. Wilson, deputy sheriff of Hancock County, Illinois, and Sheriff Reynolds arrested Smith near Dixon, Illinois—some 130 miles northeast of Smith’s home in Nauvoo, Illinois—while he and his family were visiting his wife’s relatives who lived in the area. News of the arrest touched off a massive rescue effort in Nauvoo that ended with Reynolds and Wilson, much against their will, riding with Smith into Nauvoo on June 30 surrounded by his friends and supporters. The Nauvoo Municipal Court formally discharged Smith from arrest at a habeas corpus hearing the following day, by which time Reynolds and Wilson, feeling that they had been deprived of their prisoner illegally, had gone to Carthage, Illinois, to petition Ford to send a detachment of the state militia to arrest Smith. Ford denied the request, and Smith remained a free man.

Original Publication Citation

Andrew H. Hedges, “Extradition, the Mormons, and the Election of 1843,” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society 109/2 (Summer 2016): 127-147.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society




Religious Education


Church History and Doctrine

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor