Author: Berrett, Lamar C.
Adam-ondi-Ahman, a settlement in Daviess County, Missouri, received its unusual name from the Prophet Joseph Smith in 1838 when Latter-day Saints were moving into the area. Members of the Church had been forced out of Jackson County, Missouri, in 1833 after three years of temporary asylum, and were subsequently asked to leave Clay County. When they appealed to the state legislature to make a new county "for Mormons," Caldwell and Daviess counties were organized. The Saints immediately moved into Caldwell County with Far West as the county seat, and soon also began settling in adjoining Daviess County. In May 1838 Joseph Smith led surveyors to a horseshoe bend of the Grand River, seventy miles north of present-day Kansas City, and proclaimed a new community, which he named Adam-ondi-Ahman because, said he, "it is the place where Adam shall come to visit his people, or the Ancient of Days shall sit, as spoken of by Daniel the Prophet" (HC 3:35; D&C 116). Orson Pratt interpreted the name to mean "Valley of God, where Adam dwelt" (JD 18:343).
The Prophet's revelations indicated several things about the area: (1) the Garden of Eden was located in Jackson County, Missouri, and after Adam was expelled from the garden, he went north to Adam-ondi-Ahman; (2) three years before Adam's death, he gathered the righteous of his posterity to Adam-ondi-Ahman and bestowed upon them his last blessing; (3) this site would be the location of a future meeting of the Lord with Adam and the Saints, as spoken of by the prophet Daniel (Dan. 7:9-14, 21-27;12:1-3).
When Joseph Smith arrived in the valley with the survey team, he found three or four Latter-day Saint families already living there and made the log cabin of Lyman Wight his headquarters. From June to October 1838, the population of the two-mile-square Adam-ondi-Ahman increased to about 400 people. Another 600 scattered throughout Daviess County viewed Adam-ondi-Ahman as their capital city.
Approximately 90 percent of the Saints in Daviess County settled on land under "preemption rights," which meant that the government had not yet made the land available for purchase. Believing that they would eventually own the land, the Latter-day Saints worked hard to develop their farms. In June 1838, when the third stake of the Church was organized at Adam-ondi-Ahman, with John Smith as stake president, a peaceful atmosphere seemed to prevail. However, in July the settlers were served public notice to leave Daviess County or face serious consequences. The Saints placed their militia in a state of readiness to defend themselves. When hostilities erupted in August, the militia from Church headquarters at Far West went to Adam-ondi-Ahman, but no battle ensued. Similar action occurred in September.
On October 11, mobs forced the Latter-day Saints from DeWitt in Carroll County and then turned to Daviess County, intent on driving them all out of the state. They burned cabins, stole animals, and harassed families. When the Far West militia arrived for the third time, in October 1838, Church members throughout Daviess County gathered to Adam-ondi-Ahman for safety, and the community's population swelled to more than a thousand. Confinement in tents and wagons and a sudden snowstorm added to their miseries.
While Joseph Smith and the Far West militia were in Adam-ondi-Ahman during October, the Church members assembled to witness the dedication of the public square by Brigham Young. At this time, Joseph Smith pointed out a location where Adam had once built an altar. In May the Prophet had identified this same site as one that had also been used by early American Indians.
After the October plundering and burnings by the mobs and retaliatory actions by the Latter-day Saints, who were intent on defending themselves, the state militia forced them to surrender their arms on November 7, 1838, and gave them ten days to move to Far West. Adam-ondi-Ahman was abandoned and fell into the hands of non-Mormon settlers. Church families from Daviess County spent the winter at Far West before being expelled from the state in the spring of 1839.
The Missourians who were responsible for expelling Church members from Daviess County knew that in four days their land would be offered for sale by the U.S. government. With the Mormons gone, these residents purchased the improved land and reaped the benefits of the Saints' labor.
John Cravens purchased most of the central area of the city of Adam-ondi-Ahman and renamed it Cravensville. The town existed for thirty-two years and had enough residents to vie with Gallatin for the county seat of Daviess County, but after 1871 the land was returned to farming and grazing.
In 1944 Wilford C. Wood purchased thirty-eight acres at Adam-ondi-Ahman for the Church, and an additional 3,000 acres have since been purchased. Archival research and archaeological excavation have helped to determine the location, size, nature, and history of the city.Illustration Lyman Wight's second cabin in the valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman in northwest Missouri, a Latter-day Saint settlement from 1836 to 1838.
McConkie, Bruce R. The Millennial Messiah, pp. 575-88. Salt Lake City, 1982.
LAMAR C. BERRETT