- Historic Sites
For His Was The Kingdom, And The Power, And The Glory … Briefly
On a green island in the cold waters of Lake Michigan, James Jesse Strang became the crowned, polygamous ruler of a Mormon “empire”
June 1970 | Volume 21, Issue 4
But nothing filled the vacuum left by the departed king, and as this became increasingly clear to Gentile raiding parties from Mackinac, they became bolder. The climax was reached on July 5 when a mob, largely from Mackinac, arrived in a flotilla of boats to push the Mormons off Beaver Island. Bands of half-drunk armed men roamed the island, driving Mormon farmers and their families at gunpoint to the dock at St. James, where steamers came to transport the dispossessed to Chicago and Detroit. One boat took 490 to Chicago; another took 300. They were forced to leave behind everything but their clothing: livestock, household goods, even their provisions. And, of course, their well-tended farms and orchards. The dispirited Mormons were so overwhelmed that none of them resisted to any extent. There was no gunfire. Yet within the span of a day or so, an entire community of approximately 2,600 men, women, and children was ruthlessly uprooted and cast out. One reputable Michigan historian, Byron M. Cutcheon, has called the fifth of July, 1856, “the most disgraceful day in Michigan history.”
As King Strang lay dying in Voree, few of his subjects were with him. Two of his wives, Betsy and Phoebe, nursed him; only two apostles were at hand. On July 9, 1856, almost exactly six years after his coronation, the king died and was buried in Voree.
The kingdom had fallen with the king. And the Primitive Church of Latter-day Saints collapsed not long after the death of its sole prophet, James Jesse Strang. Had he appointed a strong successor, both kingdom and church would have had a chance to survive his death. But his failure to do so was completely in character.
Strang was a gifted man. But his very considerable personal magnetism, his powerful will, and his immense capacity for hope were not possessed primarily by a dream of service to God nor by a project of social reform. What possessed him was an adolescent boy’s dream of royal power, a dream that focused monomaniacally on the crown itself. The thought of passing the crown on to someone else did not occur to him; and when it was suggested, it was a notion devoid of any appeal. “After me,” King Strang must have thought, “—nothing.”