Strang, James Jesse

Strang, James Jesse străng [key], 1813–56, American Mormon leader, b. Cayuga co., N.Y. A lawyer, teacher, and newspaperman, he migrated in 1843 to Wisconsin, was converted to Mormonism and baptized by Joseph Smith, and at the death of Smith (1844) claimed the succession, saying that he had had a vision in which God had proclaimed him prophet. Excommunicated, Strang organized a colony in Walworth co., Wis., calling it Voree. Many Mormons unwilling to accept the leadership of Brigham Young were attracted to Strang's colony. Aware of the difficulty of founding his ideal community in a Gentile neighborhood, he sought a more suitable site and in 1847 selected Beaver Island in Lake Michigan, then sparsely peopled by trappers and fishermen. There he established a colony, driving out other settlers and setting up a despotic rule. The inhabitants of the mainland were violently opposed to the Strangite colony, and public opinion finally forced the federal government to bring numerous charges against Strang, but he successfully defended himself. His power increased; in 1850 he was crowned “King of Earth and Heaven,” and he was later elected to the Michigan house of representatives. His harsh rule had made him bitter enemies, however, and in 1856 he was assassinated. The colony was soon dispersed and the land and property seized by inhabitants of the mainland.

See his diary (ed. by M. M. Strang, 1961); M. Harvey, The King of Confidence (2020).

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