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Odd Wisconsin Archive

The Crowning of King James

July of 1850 marked the high point in one of Wisconsin's oddest stories.

James J.Strang (1813-1856) was an early Mormon leader in the years before the Latter Day Saints emigrated to Utah. After the death of founder Joseph Smith in 1844, Strang forged a document claiming that he had been selected by Smith to be his successor. The community divided on this question, with some of the faithful following Strang and the majority following Brigham Young. Young led his contingent to Utah and Strang led his to ... Wisconsin. Here they founded the colony of Voree (1844-1847) near Burlington in southeastern Wisconsin, and later established a "kingdom" on Beaver Island (1847-1856) in northern Lake Michigan where more than 1,000 of the faithful assembled. It was there that, on July 8, 1850, Strang had himself crowned king, as recalled in this newspaper article.

Sectarian in-fighting and hostile attacks by neighboring "Gentiles" -- some of whom were outraged at the islanders' polygamous arrangements -- disrupted the 1850s idyll. After Strang was assassinated in 1856 the community soon dissolved, though sincere adherents to his teachings lived on in Wisconsin until the early 20th century.

:: Posted in Odd Lives on July 8, 2005

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