Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Fwd: National conference held on Beaver Island

 On June 16, 1856, self-proclaimed Mormon prophet James Jesse Strang stepped onto a dock in St. James Bay, Beaver Island, Michigan. Within seconds, a volley of bullets exploded and Strang lay mortally wounded -- shot by former friends and followers. Native Americans who witnessed the shooting jumped into their canoes and paddled to neighboring islands to spread the news. "Big Man Dead!" they announced. Although they were mistaken, since Strang did not die for another three weeks, the message sent shock waves throughout northern Michigan.

 On July 3, 1856, six squads of ten men each quietly landed on the backside of Beaver Island, about a mile away from the harbor at St. James. Discovering Strang and his leaders were gone, the mob began a work of "finishing up the history of Mormonism on Beaver Island."" They came marching through the streets of St. James ordering all Mormons to leave and giving them only 24 hours to do it or be shot.

 Those individuals who tried to oppose the mob and defend themselves were thrust into the street and their houses burned. The Mormon tabernacle on the hill was torched, as were storehouses, businesses, valuable dwellings and the Mormon print shop. The Strangites were forced, like cattle, on board steamers headed for Chicago, Green Bay, Detroit and other Great Lake ports, where they landed destitute and leaderless.

 The shooting essentially ended six years of hostilities between the Strangite Mormons and their "gentile" neighbors. Beaver Island, one of the most beautiful and most protected natural harbors in the Great Lakes, soon settled down to the quiet place it is known as today.

 To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the shooting of James Strang, the Society for Strang Studies in conjunction with the Beaver Island Historical Society, will host a national conference to be held June 16 - 18, 2006 in St. James, Beaver Island, Michigan. Persons interested in all aspects of Strangism, as well as the history of the Lake Michigan region, are invited to attend. The deadline for paper or project proposals has been extended until March 1, 2006.

 Conference plans include information sessions presented by leading scholars, a re-enactment of the shooting of James Strang and a play recounting his life. Those attending will also have the opportunity to enjoy hiking, boating and other recreational activities. A Native American story teller will also be on hand to relate ancient tales of the Great Lakes.

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