Thursday, July 9, 2020

St. John's New Mural, #6

John P. St. John
In 1877, as the Mormons began building their church, merchants also began building in the community, and one correspondent writing to those in Pennsylvania reported, "people are coming here from all states of the Union and are astonished to find such a lovely place as this is."  Although the relations between the Mormons and the non-Mormons were friendly and cooperative, it meant that the population was not simply a Mormon community.  The desire to form a Town Company included both groups, and anticipating a future county seat competition among other towns forming in the county, they decided to honor Kansas Governor John P. St. John by renaming the Zion Valley Town Company after him.  Their organization and the community became St. John. 

When a group met to formally establish the town of St. John in May of 1878, it was the official end of the independent Mormon settlement of Zion Valley.  A week earlier the town company had sent its nominees for county offices to the governor, requesting his confirmation of their temporary appointment.  The majority on their list represented the non-Mormon population.  While there seemed to be a congenial relationship throughout the community, regardless of religion, the secularization of the town had removed control from the Mormons, and they had, in fact, become a minority of the population.

At the beginning of July, when Governor St. John organized Stafford County, he appointed 4 non-Mormons as the first county commissioners.  Perhaps the flattery of naming the town St. John, after the governor, had worked, for the governor designated the town as the temporary county seat.  Later, a county wide election confirmed that choice.

Photo taken May 2020
For Bickerton, the church and its mission had 
always been his primary concern.  The political
developments did not seem important to him.  His followers had achieved the development of a successful community, and the Church of Jesus Christ and its members were stable and prosperous.  Some Mormons may have felt that by working with non-Mormons materialistic matters had been given too much consideration, but what Bickerton saw was a successful community with his church at its heart.

The challenges of weather, betrayal, and financial disappointment, as well as challenges to his leadership, might have been enough to defeat some men, but Bickerton had adhered to his belief that God had told him that this place was where a community was to be built, and he had done that.  He would probably not be surprised that his legacy endures in St. John, Kansas a century and a half later.

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