Carthage Jail

On June 27, 1844, the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother, Hyrum, were shot and killed by a mob storming Carthage Jail. Joseph had devoted his life to Jesus Christ, organizing the Lord’s restored Church, receiving new scripture, building temples and uniting a people. But his success and the growth of the Church alienated other communities and led to numerous legal proceedings and frequent outbreaks of mob violence. Tensions in 1844 increased rapidly, culminating in Joseph’s and Hyrum’s deaths and the eventual expulsion of the Saints from Nauvoo.

Experience the Carthage Jail from your computer or smart phone in three different ways: with our Virtual Tour,  Image Gallery, or schedule a  Live Video Tour. Click on the links below to see more.

Virtual 360° Tour

Take a look inside Carthage Jail right from your computer or smart phone by checking out our 360° Photos. Click on the links during the tour to continue through the historic site.

Image Gallery

Peek inside Carthage Jail as you scroll through our image gallery.

Carthage Jail
Carthage Jail was about five years old in 1844 and was similar in size and layout to other jails in the region. Joseph and his companions first reported to the nearby courthouse and were to be released on bail. However, they were quickly charged with treason, and that required them to be held in this jail until trial.
Summer Kitchen
Many 19th century homes featured a summer kitchen outside the main home to allow families to cook without overheating the interior of their homes. As was common at the time, a jailer and his family lived at the jail.
Dining Room
George W. Stigall and his wife and seven children took care of the jail and cooked meals for the prisoners, who paid the cost. While this and two other rooms were set aside as a personal residence, John Taylor reported that the Stigalls fed them in this room, remarking that they “manifested a disposition to make us as comfortable as they could….”
Main Living Area
The deep-set windows in this room reveal the thickness of the jail’s walls. Despite being sturdy, the jail was vulnerable if attacked. While Joseph and his companions were inside, a small group of “Carthage Greys” (local militia) were assigned to guard the jail from intruders.
Main Living Area
After being decommissioned as a jail in 1866, the building was used as a private home. It was purchased in 1903 by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and eventually restored to look as it did in the 1840s.
Debtors' Cell
This cell was reserved for individuals charged with lesser crimes, but the jailer moved Joseph and the eight other men with him to this cell on June 25th because it provided more room for their friends to visit.
Entryway & Stairs
The hallway leads to the debtors’ cell, and the stairway leads to the upstairs criminal cell and jailer’s bedroom. Armed men crowded on the narrow stairway as they attempted to break into the bedroom where Joseph and Hyrum Smith, Willard Richards, and John Taylor were staying. The bedroom door latch was broken, but the men held the mob at bay. Only their gun muzzles came through the door gap, firing indiscriminately.
Criminal Cell
Joseph and the others did not spend much time in this cell, although they had planned to move to it after dinner on the 27th for protection from the growing mob. But the attack came before that could happen. Willard Richards hid a wounded John Taylor here after Joseph and Hyrum were killed. Though hit by four musket balls, Taylor survived and later became the Church’s third president.
Stigall’s Upstairs Bedroom
George Stigall provided his private upstairs bedroom to Joseph and others on June 26th. While Stigall was away on an errand on the 27th, a mob of up to 200 men stormed the jail. They succeeded in killing Hyrum first, then Joseph, who fell from the window as two musket balls struck his back and one fired from the ground pierced his chest.
Door to Stigall’s Bedroom
Many of the building’s fixtures (e.g., doors, stairs, window frames) are original to the structure, including this door shot through by a musket ball.
Jail Keys
Joseph expected his trip to Carthage would end in his death somehow, and he declared “I am going like a lamb to the slaughter; but I am calm as a summer’s morning; I have a conscience void of offense towards God, and towards all men. I shall die innocent, and it shall yet be said of me--he was murdered in cold blood.” -- Doctrine and Covenants 135:4
Upstairs Window
After Joseph fell from the bedroom window and the mob disbursed, local residents feared that Latter-day Saints from Nauvoo would attack Carthage. But no attack came or had ever been planned.
Joseph & Hyrum Statue
Joseph and Hyrum’s bodies were returned to Nauvoo, where thousands lined up to pay their last respects. Threats to steal the bodies after the funeral led them to be buried secretly in the basement of the unfinished Nauvoo House. The bodies were later relocated to the Smith family cemetery nearby.
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