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James Strang: The King of Beaver Island

2011-06-13 | 🔗

In 1850, James Strang was crowned king of Michigan's Beaver Island. He got the opportunity to lead after meeting Joseph Smith and converting to Mormonism. After Smith's death, Strang tried to step in as his successor. Tune in to learn what happened next.

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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This is Danny: Shapiro Post of the head had cast family secrets, I'm here to tell you that the new season of my show starts February Sex. I hope you'll join us for some credible conversations about family identity and what happens to both when the secrets that have been kept from us and the secret. We keep finally come to light listen and subscribe. Only I hurt radio out apple part or ever you listen to your favorite pasts. Welcome to stuff you missed in history class from has suffered Stockholm,
hello and welcome to the podcast I'm doing a truck reporting and I'm thirty and one we put the call for listeners to send in their favorite oil story is a few weeks ago. One of the really stood out for the rest, because it involves an american monarch which we don't have the no not at all, which is why we have to talk about people like our king of parts, Michael Jackson or even the Kennedy. They might have a slightly better claimed you're right, but listen, calling shared a story. Her grandmother used to tell her about her grandfather years ago. Colleagues, Father, you see was of irish dissent that born on a place called Beaver Island Michigan and her grandma the story of how the irish fishermen their went to war with the king of fever, island and events, plainly island for the irish settlers. So it turns out Collins grandmother, probably took some creative licence in there with the details of her story that she told there actually a man named James Strang, who had himself crowns the key
Beaver Island to the MID eighteen hundred of US parts are true, yeah, absolutely and what's more, he set up a supply and shall community there of about twenty five heard people over which he had really salute authority, and here managed to get elected to the Michigan House of Representatives here, which is conventional authority for you, but we're gonna be talking about how string got to this place in the first place, how somebody came king. How he managed to take over Beaver Island and how his kingdom worked. Because if this is an american kingdom, we gotta go into the details there and we're gonna talk about all of that staff, but first we're gonna. Take a look at how this very unconventional monarch got his star. He was born in eighteen. Thirteen in his name was James Jesse Strang before it was king of Beaver Island yeah. He group on a farm
and though he is often described as having been frail and broody or moody. You see a lot of adjectives like that use forum, early years. He was really really ambitious from the start by age. Eighteen, he was a school teacher and a few years later he became a proxy lawyer. He also served as a postmaster. A real estate speck later and he owned and operated a weekly newspaper yeah, but he had higher aspirations than all of that and according to his diary, he was hoping to eventually entertain some sort of royal match according to an article by Bill Gilbert and the Smithsonian in one diary. Entry strength said quote my mind has always been filled dreams of royalty and power. I have spent the day in trying to contrive some plan of obtaining in marriage, the heir to the english crown who, of course, at this time, was young Victoria. I really want to know what has plans are there? I don't even know how you stand together with a man like that and though he obvious
hold onto these ideals to some extent he did give up on the he had married Victoria and instead married a merry purse, the sister of his friend at age, twenty three and in eighteen, forty, three, they to southern Wisconsin, where Strang started proxy law. There is this: where string story starts to take a major turn up until this point is ambitious guy some royal dreams, but even though he had previously described himself as an atheist strength, strategies, a really strong interest in the mornin religion, perhaps as a way to improve his position. and he even met the Mormon leader at the time Joseph Smith, in eighteen, forty, four in Illinois and soon after all, is converted and even became a church elder really rapidly. In fact, and here's where we should mention that strange had pretty much always been a powerful public speaker, since he was a young man and Smith, was a pair
we really impressed by these particular scale, so he charged Strang with founding a branch of the church in Burlington Wisconsin shortly after that, those Smith was killed by a mob on June, twenty seventh eighteen, forty four, and who should step up ready to claim that places his rightful successor but Strang He was thirty one at the time and had been baptized Mormon only four months before it, like, I said, a very rapid rise in the church and he he had some evidence to back him up. He wasn't just said he should be in charge. He produced a letter containing Joseph Psmith own blessing for strength to take over ethics as his successor, Brigham Young, of course, and other members of the church didn't go with that. They accuse string of forgery and, of course, the young ended up being the one who led the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day saints, but string did end up with ups small, followed, his own. He was charismatic enough to pull that much off yeah by September,
seen forty five about four hundred Mormons, who had come to be known as Strang AIDS had followed him to southern was string spent the next couple of years, proselytes saying and preaching, and eventually he unearthed some mysterious brass plates that essentially corroborated this idea that he was chosen by God take over for Smith, and these plates also became an essential part of this string. Scripture yeah, though a strange twist in his story, but by in eighteen, forty, seven Strang had scope down a new location for his his followers. Ever island, and he decided that God wanted him to bring the string ice there and its unclear exactly. Why exactly how that happened at the time he referred to, having received them sort of Jane from God or some directive, like a direct order to move them to this island. But itself has said that he, the island while he was travelling by ship the year before and it properly seemed like a nice place,
the ideal place to tubes shelter. Your people from outside influences. It was, it was a small island and it was twenty five miles off the mainland and Lake Michigan, regardless of the rich. and why, by eighteen, forty eight string had formed a colony air, and by the summer of eighteen fifty he announced that he's been divinely directed to become a king and nobody really opposed him. So in July, eighth, eighteen fifty Strang was coordinated and at the time he was wearing a red knight shirt like robe, which was decorated with stripes of White Flannel and his throne chair frame padded with MOSS and his crown was made of gilded metal and Paper Phil, simplistic key king to fancy with his his vestments. Thirdly, yeah He still had absolute power over his subjects. He made all the rules, whether of a political or moral nature. He gave a centrally
was about anything from where you could live to what you war and even for you, married for exam, he legalise polygamy, even though he had been opposed as more men. Yes currently made this decision right around the time. Coincidentally, that he met a beautiful young eighteen year old, named Elvira field. A recent convert to his faith I he married her out secret his new before he actually came out with feelings about polygamy. He married her about a year before and sort of travelled and dressed. Her actually is a sixteen year old boy. Just as an aside, I introduced her ass, his nephew Charles J Douglas. That's really arc. he eventually did come out with it, though, and
first wife married in a like that much she and her children actually left the area after that, in general, though, he really didn't get a lot of objections to his rules from his strength. Followers, but not everybody was so happy with this set up or not at all or with the strength of its presence on the island and general. That's because there were already that allows on the island before Strang shut up, mostly irish catholic fishermen and traders and their families, and they weren't at all happy with the Mormon colonists moving in and in some cases stealing their land at the very least. Just kind of having their own scene and it led to a lot of violence between the two groups there were building were burned down gunfights beatings, and this might be the war that listener colleagues grandmother was talking about, but according to the Beaver Island, historical society, the flicked eventually led to something called the war of whisky point which the Mormons one, by firing
Cannon at a gang of their opponents and more and more non Mormons, who are known as Gentiles left the island they just gave up and are there eventually and they were increasingly outnumbered and by eighteen, fifty two they were much gone word of this violence. Did get out, though, and the government eventually did intervene in May of eighteen. Fifty one President Filmore Centre many of marshals and the Navy's first iron hold warship than U S: S Michigan, to Beaver to a Strang on fourteen charges, including trespass on public lands. Counterfeiting, And obstructing the? U S: mail, but after a month trial string was acquitted of all charges, mostly because some of the prosecutions testimony was discredited. So you think that Strang would be pretty happy that he had gotten away with it that he was. He was free and victorious at that point. He pretty much considered his kingdom separate from the United States. He figured his laws
above those of the not only the country by the state and at least as far as Ireland was case as far as Beaver Island, where yeah he was then having jurisdiction over the rest of the country. But then he D a move to increase his sphere of influence and it happened a day before election day in eighteen. Fifty two he announced his candidacy for state representative and become Beaver Island was the most populous community in northern Michigan. At the time Strang was she. An easy, when he was easily able to win the sea and encourage his supporters to get out and vote for him yeah. Not everyone just accepted it right away, though, according to an article by Conan Brian eaten in the with constant magazine of history, his opponents try to prevent him from taking US office, but once he did keep were actually pretty impressed by his skin
the legislator. Put those old lawyer skulls two years ago, yeah than debating skill public speaking yeah that had so impressed Smith earlier also impressed his peers yeah, but he also use this opportunity as state legislator to exist. And the reach of his his religion, in his kingdom an offence. Even during his time in office, he was re elected in eighteen. Fifty four, he managed to extend the reach of these string. I colonies to other counties in Michigan so worked all the while to recruit new subjects for his territory's according to Gilberts article, the state census of eighteen. Fifty four puts Beaver islands and surrounding islands at two thousand six hundred and eight permanent residents making it the Lord
community in northern Michigan at the time. It's amazing, no one was threatened by him by this power and has high position and well. It's funny should say that, because I think some people were, they were intimidated and offensive. They didn't want to get on his bad side because he did have this huge potential. Yeah I mean one wrong. Word could get all these people voting against. You yeah, though you know, that's the kind of a dark under side of strength kingdom, but he did this good deal and we we ve, got a mention that, while we're talking about his reign, even though there was violence and shady dealings involved, he didn't do all bad for one thing, Beaver Island became quite prosperous, thanks in part to export slick would fish and potatoes which, gather had an annual value of about three hundred twenty five thousand dollars, which was a lot of money at the time and settlers. There also created this net there is good roads and they
also made strides towards improving relations with neighbouring native Americans by feeding them building a scam for them and accepting them into their church of African Americans by the way were also welcome to according to Etons article, the seem to be a really sincere, benevolent interest of strength, which I found to be really intriguing. Concerning he seems so politically motivated and other aspects definitely, but because we talked about those good. Things are also go into a little more detail about the not so good died of, fever Island and of strings rule there. But during his eight years stint on Beaver Island. He continued really tight control over every single aspect of his subjects? Live than that, ultimately seems to be will lead to its downfall kind of reminded us of the night, a community that we talked about, maybe a month or so ago. Once you get to personal, your followers. They seem to ultimately Reao yet for exam
we require that all the subjects stilled their homes and one of the islands villages even further who had acres and acres of land, to tend to you, because he was afraid that isolation, fewer and you're. A hundred and sixty acres of farm land would cause people to shirk their religion some civic duties. Ok, but at least that's kind of like your classic oversize sort of model on a small scale. Do it's this next point that really Did a man in eighteen, fifty three. He made a law that women dress in need links smocks, worn over pantaloons, because he thought that the typical dress when at the time was in practical and it was unhealthy and most of his and followers went along with that. Ok, switching to the pantaloons, but a few including MRS Thomas Bedford, refuse to comply sheep, she wouldn't where the new styles and, as a result,
Her husband received thirty nine lashes with a willow web and became obsessed. Absolutely obsessed with getting revenge on his king and he started conspiring with Alexander Wentworth, who also had a beef with the king kind of clear. Why? Maybe also because his wife wooden comply with the dress code. Maybe he had been punished for some other reasons to that, regardless the two of them started: firing with a couple of other rebels who encourage them and supplied them with pistols and on June, sixteenth, eighteen, fifty six, Bedford and well Amber Strang at Saint James Wharf they shot him twice. Them and once in his left side and spine, and miraculously straying survive the attack and lived for ten days after that, but he refused to name a successor Panic really started almost as soon as he as he was attacked. He was taken to his parents home in Wisconsin.
died there on July, nineteen, eighteen, fifty six, which was six years- the day after his coronation, young ass for Third and Wentworth. They were brought to trial, but they were only find a dollar twenty five for court costs urinating. He said some people considered them heroes, even that's true rebels like us, but string, Kingdom did not last. It did not live beyond Strang himself at dissolve pretty quickly and some of the residents left. their own immediately. They mention a minute ago, right after he was shot, things started disintegrating and for those who Get out on their own, a lot of them were heard it on two ships by armed groups of non more men to storm the island added towards random destination, and they know where they were going exactly and a lot of fun. string, I'd just rejoined the general population after that, when they ended up wherever they ended up and- came members of other churches
of the late Ninetys. There were only about three hundred practicing Strang I'd still around, but there are still some around here and, as for Beaver Island once strength, king was gone. The irish fishermen came back, they started to show up. A lot of them came from County Donegal in Ireland and eventually some came to call this area America's old I'll, because it had the look and it had the path nation and gaelic was commonly spoken on the island until the nineteen thirty, so that, on the same to quiet and serene and ends for podcast. That has had some sort of unusual stories. Can a very unusual podcast. Yet I think the same island Beaver Island continued to have some sort of interesting characters and stories and throughout its history, even after the string its laughed. If you know of any of them and would like to share them with us or if you have another personal story,
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