1820. William Sisson CHAMPLIN (Mercy SISSON
) was born 16 Apr 1794 in Shelburne, Vermont. He died 29 Jan 1861 in Lehi, Utah, Utah.
from Cheri Hardisty:
William Sisson Champlin and his family joined the Mormon Church in the 1830's and migrated to Missouri. He was the son of Joseph Champlin of Westerly, Rhode Island, and Mercy Sisson of Stonington, CT.
The Sissons settled in Independence, Missouri, and were driven out of that area along with the other Mormons. They subsequently located themselves in Clay County Missouri until the Mormons were driven out of there, and then located in Caldwell County, Missouri. Caldwell County was set up at that time by the government, as a county specifically for the Mormons to live in, in order to avoid further conflicts. However, there were some of the old settlers who remained in the county, and they were not happy to have the Mormons as neighbors. You see, Missouri was a slave state, and the Mormons were opposed to slavery. So the aim of the old settlers was to expel the Mormons from the state to ensure the state remained pro-slavery.
William Sisson and his family lived at a place called Haun's Mill. It was a Mormon settlement, but not a very large one. The largest Mormon settlement in Caldwell County was Far West which had about 5,000 residents. The Mormons were aware of the rising hostilities against them, and as a result, the Prophet Joseph Smith counseled those at Haun's Mill to come to Far West for safety. It was October 30th, 1838. William and his family were concerned about having food to last them through the winter at Far West, and so in preparation to go there, they were digging up carrots that day. As they did so, the mob rode in on horseback, and a massacre ensued. A couple of days after the massacre, the Governor of Missouri, Governor Boggs, issued his famous "extermination order" which resulted in the Mormons fleeing to Illinois for safety. The extermination order called for the Mormons to be driven from the state, or exterminated if necessary. (After Joseph Smith was murdered in Illinois, Brigham Young took the reins of leadership of the church, and in 1847, the Mormons began their famous pioneer trek to Salt Lake City, an area which was not desirable to others, in hopes that at last they would be able to live in peace.)
When the mob arrived at Haun's Mill, the women and children fled into the woods for safety, and the men ran into the blacksmith shop, and attempted to defend the settlement from that position. The blacksmith shop, however, was made of hewn logs, and there were cracks (the crack width being about 2") between the logs. The Mob came right up to the blacksmith shop and poked the barrels of their rifles through those cracks and opened fire on those inside. William Sisson Champlin was inside. And when the massacre was over, there were only two survivors from inside the blacksmith shop.
William was a smart man. When he saw what was happening, he laid down on the floor, and as his comrades fell to the ground, dead, he pulled their bodies over the top of his own, and pretended he was dead. When the mob rushed into the blacksmith shop after opening fire, they saw that William had new boots on his feet, and they wanted those boots. He allowed them to take the boots, all the while pretending he was dead, and as a result, he lived, and for the rest of his days, he was known as "Old Possum". His wife and children who had fled into the woods also survived.