A description of this collection would be incomplete without a biography of the founder of this branch of the Mormon faith, James Jesse Strang (1813-1856). On June 27, 1844, shortly after the murder of Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon Church, Strang proclaimed that an angel had appeared to him and anointed him as Smith’s successor. Brigham Young was appointed instead and led the majority of Mormons to eventually settle in Utah. Strang and his followers, called Strangite Mormons, moved to Voree, Wisconsin. Between 1847 and 1850, the Strangites left Voree for Beaver Island, Michigan.
Two-hundred-thirty-five Strangites witnessed Strang’s coronation as King Strang, the self-proclaimed King of Beaver Island on July 8, 1850. There, he set up a printing press and was elected to the State Legislature in 1852. He introduced polygamy to the colony, himself taking five wives, two of whom were cousins, and having fourteen children. Strang married Mary Pearce, with whom he had Mary (died in infancy), Myraette (b. 1841), William J. (b. 1844), and Hattie (b. 1847); Elvira Field, with whom he had Charles J. (b. 1851), Eva (b. 1853), Clement J. (b. 1854), and James J. (b. 1857); Betsey McNutt, with whom he had Evangeline (b. 1853), David (b. 1854), Gabriel (b. 1855), and Abigail (b. 1857); Sarah Wright, with whom he had James Phineas (b. 1856); and Phoebe Wright, Sarah’s cousin, with whom he had Eugenia (b. 1856). Strang caused civil and religious turmoil on the island, resulting in his being shot on June 18, 1856. His followers were driven off of the island. Strang was carried by ship to Wisconsin, where he died on July 9. His murderers were never punished. The Strangites regrouped near Black River Falls, Wisconsin, and the church continues to exist in small numbers.
Wingfield Watson, Strang’s loyal disciple, collected Strangite materials documenting the history and faith of Strang’s faithful believers. (For further information see The King Strang Story.)