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Historic places and people in the land of milk and honey: Wisconsin's treasure: a tribute to our past, a celebration of the present and our commitment to continue the good life

[The Strangite Mormon Church],   p. 93 PDF (445.4 KB)

Page 93

The Strangite Mormon Church had its gene-
sis in June 1844 when James J. Strong
claimed he had been appointed by
Joseph Smith, Jr. and ordained at the hands
of Angels to head the Mormon Church. At
Smith's death, the majority of the Mormons
followed Brigham Young to Utah, but
approximately 2,000 joined Strang at the
site of Voree on the outskirts of present day
Burlington, Wisconsin.
Under Strang's leadership, a frontier com-
munity was developed near the White River
on the border of Racine and Walworth
Counties as land was cleared and tents
and crude shelters transitioned into more
substantial log and stone homes and land
was purchased and farms were developed
by the Communitarian Order of Enoch. A
limestone quarry was mined, a newspaper
was published and a school was built.
Strang's settlement reached its peak by
1848 and schisms and incursions by rival
Mormon groups depleted the settlement,
By mid-1851, Strang called many of the
Mormons to Beaver Island in Lake Michigan,
but Voree remained in Mormon hands and
new lands were even purchased.
When Strang was assassinated in 1856, his
Church seriously declined as the destitute
Mormons were robbed of their property
and were driven from Beaver Island. The
Voree properties eventually were sold for
back taxes and the Mormons were dis-
persed throughout the western states. At
the turn of the century, several Mormon
families pooled their money to purchase
105 acres of the most historical and sacred
part of Voree and the Wingfield Watson
family made their home at what was once
the place where Strang retrieved "hidden"'
records, made plans to build a temple,
conducted the ordinance of baptism for
the dead and functioned (according to the
belief of his followers) as a Prophet of God.
The Mormons became a diminished force
after Strang's death and gradually dimin-
ished in numbers as many united with the
Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter
Day Saints which was headed by Joseph
Smith, III, the son of the Mormon founder.
The Strangite Mormons were in a continuing
struggle to survive as their numbers dwin-
dled to approximately 200 by 1900 and
have further diminished in recent years.
Today, about 50 Strangite Mormons live in
the Burlington area and hold services at
their Church on Spring Valley Road. Voree is
largely a memory at the present time, but is
represented by the Hill of Promise, the
Voree Cemetery, an 1848 stone house, and
several monuments.
                         William Shepard

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