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Nahum Bigelow and the Mormon Conflict


Eastern Illinois University

Charleston, Illinois


Coles County



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Nahum Bigelow: The Mormon Conflict through the eyes of a Coles County Man 1830-1905


On April 14, 2004, the Journal-Pilot of Hancock County in western Illinois ran a story titled "Church, locals react to state apology to Mormons in Utah." Only one week prior, the Illinois House "approved a resolution expressing regret for violence against Mormons" followed by an official visit to Utah by Lt. Governor Pat Quinn and representatives of Illinois.[1] This gesture, over one hundred fifty years after the Mormons left Illinois, was for the most part well received by Utahns and Mormon[2] representatives. A few locals in Carthage, Illinois, however, displayed a different response. One resident stated that, "...If Pat Quinn finds it so regrettable then he should move to Utah. If the Mormons had not left Illinois, it would likely be controlled by the Mormon church and he wouldn't have been elected... I was appalled."[3] These reactions to this political gesture demonstrate how the Mormon conflict of the late 1840s still remains a controversial topic among locals on both sides of the issue. 

One man, by the name of Nahum Bigelow, converted to the Mormon Church sometime between 1835 and 1839 in Coles County Illinois. He and his family lived during the tumultuous time leading up to the Mormon conflict and eventual expulsion from the state.[4] Two of his daughters married Brigham Young, successor to the assassinated leader of the Mormon Church, Joseph Smith.[5] By examining the events of the Mormon conflict, eventual expulsion, and settlement of the American West through the eyes of the Bigelow family, we can better understand this controversial period of Illinois and Utah History.

Census Records
Land Office Records
Supplemental Sources

[1] Natalie Dutton, "Church, locals react to state apology to Mormons in Utah," Hancock County Journal-Pilot, (April 14, 2004): http://www.journalpilot.com/news/article_73b887cc-71a4-5613-9b73-6341da51c1b6.html (Accessed 9/22/2014)
[2] Officially known as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or LDS Church but traditionally called Mormons for the use of the Book of Mormon, published in 1830, a sacred text comparable to Bible.
[3] Dutton, "Church, locals react," (April 14, 2004)
[4] Susa Young Gates, "A Sketch of Nahum Bigelow," The Juvenile Instructor 26, no. 8 (April 15, 1891): 251-253.
[5] Susa Young Gates, "A Sketch of Nahum Bigelow," The Juvenile Instructor 26, no. 11 (June 1, 1891): 345.