Texas Mormon leader dies leading followers north
On this day in 1858, pioneer Mormon leader Lyman Wight, determined to lead his people back to the North following a premonition of the coming Civil War, died near San Antonio. Wight, born in Connecticut in 1796, was living in Ohio in 1826 when he converted to Mormonism. In 1838, Wight and Joseph Smith were among fifty Mormon leaders tried in Missouri for treason and other crimes against the state. After Smith's death in 1844, Brigham Young was selected as head of the Mormon church and resolved to lead his people to Utah, but Wight refused to accept Young's authority. He claimed that Smith had told him to found a Mormon colony in Texas. With some 200 followers, Wight moved to Texas in 1845, and received John O. Meusebach's permission to found a colony near Fredericksburg in 1847. The community of Zodiac (later renamed Rocky Hill) quickly became a central element in the Gillespie County economy. The Mormons built the first sawmill in the county and soon became the principal suppliers of seeds, lumber, and flour to the Germans of Fredericksburg. In 1848 Young sent two messengers to Texas to convince Wight to come to Utah, but Wight, nicknamed "the Wild Ram of the Mountains" by his fellow Mormons for his stubborn independence, refused. He was disfellowshiped by the Mormon church in 1849. In 1851, following a flood that destroyed their mills, the Mormons left Gillespie County and eventually settled in Bandera County.