Charles B. Thompson Faction

(RLDS History of the Church 3:53–61)

Charles B. Thompson, who subsequently gained quite a following, united with the church some time prior to 1835, and about that time began preaching. He seems to have been quite successful, and his ministry attended with much spiritual power. A letter from him written from Batavia, New York, February 2, 1841, may be found in this work, volume 2, page 522. About this time he wrote quite an able defense of the Book of Mormon which was published in book form, some copies of which are still extant.

After the death of Joseph Smith he accepted the claims of J. J. Strang. In the Voree Herald for August, 1846, there is a poem from his pen strongly favoring Strang’s claims.

Subsequently he claimed that on January 1, 1848, he received a communication by revelation in which he was informed that the church was rejected of God on June 27, 1844, and that it had no power after its rejection to reorganize itself, but that the priesthood having been conferred prior to the forming of church organization, it was not dependent upon the church, and hence continued with those holding it after church rejection. In a proclamation issued from St. Louis, Missouri, January 1, 1848, he declared that “the Lord will have no more church organization, until after the redemption of Zion.”

He claimed to be authorized and directed to organize “Jehovah’s Presbytery of Zion.” In this organization there were orders and quorums provided for too numerous and complicated for special mention.

He published several proclamations. The first was addressed to the nations, in which he claimed to be Ephraim “born again among the Gentiles,” thus proclaiming the doctrine of transmigration of souls. In the second proclamation he proclaimed himself “Baneemy, Patriarch of Zion,” and addressed himself “to all the scattered members of the priesthood.”

The third proclamation represents himself as “the Patriarch and Apostle of the Free and Accepted Order of Baneemy and Fraternity of the Sons of Zion,” and is addressed to kings, princes, presidents, governors, rulers, etc.

The fourth proclamation is “By the Chief Teacher of the Preparatory Department of Jehovah’s Presbytery of Zion” and addressed “to all the children of Zion, and remnant of the priesthood.”

These proclamations, all issued from St. Louis, Missouri, at various dates on and before April 1,1850, together with revelations, covenants, laws, etc., were published in book form at Preparation, Iowa, in 1857.

This book contains the “testimony of the three Chief Evangelical Pastoral Apostles of the restitution of all things,” signed Charles B. Thompson, Rowland Cobb, Guy C. Barnum. Also the “testimony of the Twelve Apostles of Ephraim,” signed


On April 9,1853, a revelation appointing Richard Stevens, William Marks, and Harvey Childs a locating committee, “to search out a proper location on the frontier, which may serve as a gate of entrance into the land of Ephraim,” etc., was presented by Elder Thompson. Whether these men acted in this capacity or not, we have not been informed, but in some way a place was selected in Monona County, Iowa, on the Soldier River, and a city laid out called Preparation, and there this order, commonly known as Baneemyites, gathered, and for a time drew quite a following from the scattered membership of the church.

About 1855 a weekly family newspaper was published called Preparation News and Ephraim’s Messenger, Charles B. Thompson proprietor, Charles B. Thompson and Andrew G. Jackson editors, Daniel W. Butts printer. We do not know just how long this continued, but the last number we have seen is September 19, 1855. Later a weekly periodical known as Western Nucleus and Democratic Echo, devoted to politics, science, arts, literature, and general intelligence, was published at Preparation; Thompson and Butts editors and proprietors, A. G. Jackson corresponding editor. The only three numbers that we have seen were issued in 1857.

Dissatisfaction became quite prevalent among them in consequence of some system of holding all property in common. Many separated from them and threats of violence were indulged in by the dissenters. This called forth an explanation from Thompson and his followers and a long communication in reply was published in the News and Messenger for June 13, 1855, from which we make the following extracts:—

This common treasury is supplied from the surplus productions of the four patriarchal families; whatever is needed for the support and comfort of the separate families is deposited in the common treasury, as a sacred and holy oblation and sacrifice, for the purpose of purchasing additional lands and implements of husbandry, and then organize additional families from amongst the poor and desolate inhabitants of the earth, and make them in all respects as free and independent as the other families are, who produced these things for them, and who sacrificed them voluntarily for the benefit of establishing the Lord’s poor; and thus we design to fulfill the saying of Jesus, that the poor have the gospel preached to them, not in form and theory only, but it will be the gospel of good news of great joy; for it will be an invitation of a return to the Father’s house, where there is bread and to spare, it will be the practical realization of the spirit and design of the gospel of Jesus Christ; it will be the exemplification of the great practical maxim taught by the Son of God, when he said, (Matthew 7:12,) "Therefore, all things whatsoever ye would that men [should] do to you, do ye even so to them, for this is the law and the prophets...."

And this is what the people of Preparation have done; those who were a little better off than others have sacrificed in common with those who had but little; all is now merged into one common treasury, and they are now equal in earthly things; none, according to the spirit of brotherly kindness and love, of equality and benevolence, calls anything his own, not in the fraternity of the Presbytery, but all are willing to share and enjoy all things, produced by united industry on common and on equal terms. This is the spirit and practical operation of the work; but in law every individual has so much real interest deposited in the common treasury, and which the law of the land secures to him, whatever that amount may be; and this is positive proof that the work is voluntary; and those who have left us, have taken their interest they had here away, and they have therefore no further claim upon us. Every individual who ever joined the Presbytery was well instructed in the design of the work and the conditions and requisitions for membership. Every individual relinquishes morally all claim to all he has, according to the spirit of the work, and by his free and voluntary consent, he does not claim anything as his own; just as it was in the days of the apostles, of which we read in Acts fourth chapter, thirty second verse, as follows: "And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and [of] one soul: neither said any of them that aught [ought] of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common." This is exactly what we want to do, to establish a brotherhood of perfect liberty and equality, having everything in common, that none may suffer. And though the title of the property is in law vested in the individual who owns it legally out of the Presbytery, yet in the Presbytery he renounces, upon moral honor and moral honesty, all claim to exclusive right to such property; but they regard it alike as their common inheritance, a common home, where the curse of poverty and riches shall not be known. All understand it to be a perpetual order, that is never to be broken up, but to remain an everlasting home for the dwellers therein, and to be a place of refuge and redemption from starvation and slavery for the honest poor, whose condition is getting worse from day to day. No one has therefore any right to leave the Presbytery without making proper settlement with us according to moral honor, common justice, and according to prior agreement of our solemn covenants and solemn bonds. And here is the clue to the difficulties with those who have left us; when they grew tired of the work, they were found unwilling to settle on honorable and just terms. Some went off and did not settle at all, and then reported that we had robbed them. Others who never had any property at all, went and did the same. Others drew a portion of their property, and went off without the other portion, intending to return to us after a time; but they subsequently drew it all out, and turned enemies with the rest. Again others settled up fairly, to all appearance well satisfied; but some of them have since then made common cause with the rest against us.—Preparation News and Ephraim’s Messenger, June 13,1855.

This was signed by Charles B. Thompson, Chief Steward of the Lord’s House; Andrew G. Jackson, Clerk; Samuel Scott, Andrew Hall, and Guy C. Barnum, Chief Patriarchs.

Family Patriarchs: Hugh Lytle, Job V. Barnum, John Thomas, F. D. Winegar. Heads of families: Rowland Cobb, George Warner, S. Blackman, Orrin Butts, Henry Brooke, E. Johnson, A. Clements, Thomas Lewis, H. C. Hoyt, C. C. Perrin, Silas Wilcox, George Rarick, John R. McIntyre, Jacob Paden, Jebiel Savage, J. Outhouse. Single males: William Swett, Nels Turner, L. C. Cottingham, A. Haines, G. R. Outhouse, Den. W. Butts, Daniel W. Butts, Iven Lytle, George M. Scott, J. M. Durphy, Isaac Swett, John Lytle. Single females: J. V. V. Scott, S. Gordon, S. G. Canfield, Matilda Lane, M. J. Anderson, C. M. Lane, M. M. Outhouse, C A. Cooley, A. E. Thompson, A. Winegar, N. E. Younger, T. M. Butts.

It seems, however, that the dissatisfaction continued to grow, as some of the parties who signed the above soon after withdrew from the association. The following was published in the News and Messenger for August 1, 1855:—

We, the undersigned, members of "Jehovah’s Presbytery of Zion," have left the fraternity of Preparation, not because that our faith in the work has at all abated, or that we intend to apostatize from the original principles of the work, but on account of believing that the system of separate and single family order is best adapted to our present sentiments and inclinations, but in all other respects, we deem ourselves as much in the faith as heretofore.

Hugh Lytle, J. R. McIntyre, F. D. Winegar, John Outhouse, John Thomas, Andrew Hall, Jacob Paden, A. Clements, J. M. Outhouse, Henry Brooke.—Preparation News and Ephraim’s Messenger, August 1, 1855.

“The History of Western Iowa,” published by Western Publishing Company, Sioux City, Iowa, 1882, has this to say of this movement:—

In 1854 he brought some fifty or sixty families, and preëmpted several thousand acres of the best land to be found in the region. Some of the land he subsequently entered. Thompson regulated and controlled all the affairs of the colony, both temporal and spiritual, pretending that he had authority to do so under the direction of a spirit which he called Baneemy. Among other assumptions, he pretended that he was the veritable Ephraim of the Scriptures, and directed his people to call him Father Ephraim. A strict compliance with his teachings divested his followers of all worldly care, and prepared them for the further essential doctrine of his religion, that in order to obtain the kingdom, they must sacrifice all their earthly possessions. They accordingly conveyed to him all their lands and other property, including even their wearing apparel, and the right to their services.

Under this arrangement, "Father Ephraim" and Baneemyism progressed swimmingly, until the autumn of 1855, when a little rebellion occurred under the leadership of an elder named Hugh Lytle, who, with some twenty of them, began a suit in the courts for the recovery of their property, but they failed, and the matter was subsequently compromised by the Lytle party receiving some of their property and withdrawing from the society.

The remainder adhered to Thompson without serious difficulty until the autumn of 1858. During the summer of that year most of the male adults of the society were absent in other States, preaching the doctrines of Baneemyism to the Gentiles. Thompson, who arrogated to himself the title of "Chief Steward of the Lord," took advantage of their absence to convey all the realty to his wife, Catharine Thompson, and to one Guy C. Barnum, reserving only forty acres as a homestead for himself. His disciples, hearing of this transaction, returned and immediately called on "Father Ephraim" for restitution. Being unable to obtain a satisfactory adjustment of the matter, they notified him that on a stated day he would be expected to meet them in Preparation to make settlement.

The "Chief Steward of the Lord," and "Assistant Steward of the Lord," Barnum, had not sufficient courage to "face the music," however, and postponed their visit to Preparation until the day after the one appointed, doubtless thinking that the angry crowd would have become dispersed by that time. On the way they were met, about a mile from the village, by a young woman who had not yet lost confidence in "Father Ephraim" and Baneemyism, and who informed them that the people were still congregated at Preparation, and would hang him on sight; which information had the effect on "Father Ephraim" it was well calculated to have, especially as at about that moment of time, men on horseback were observed coming from Preparation at full speed, and heading in all earnestness in the direction of the Chief Steward and Assistant. Springing from the wagon in which they were seated, and unharnessing their horses, the two Stewards hurriedly sprang upon the backs of the animals, and the chase, which ensued, was of an exciting and highly interesting character. After a lively race of fifteen miles, across prairies and over creeks and ravines, the "Father" and the "Assistant Father," arrived safely in Onawa, where they were given protection by the citizens.

Thompson went from Onawa to St. Louis, and Barnum remained in Onawa until the following spring, removing thence to Nebraska, where he, in course of time, became a prominent citizen. Thompson subsequently attempted to found another similar religious society, but was unsuccessful, and next turned his attention to publishing a book on the "Origin of the Black and Mixed Races," which book he pretended to translate largely from the Hebrew and Greek languages, which, it is said, he in reality knew nothing about. The last heard of him by his former followers in Monona, was to the effect that he was in Philadelphia in destitute circumstances. After his flight from Preparation, his family was sent to him at Onawa, his followers (?) dividing the personal property among themselves, each taking such of his own property as he could identify. An action in chancery was immediately begun to set aside the conveyances of real estate, which litigation lingered in the courts for eight years, or until December, 1866, when the conveyances were all declared to be fraudulent, and were set aside, the Supreme Court of Iowa holding that Thompson held the property only as a trustee. The property was sold under an order of the court, and the proceeds were divided among the original contributors in ratio to the amount contributed by each. Of the sixty families brought to Monona by Thompson—to the settlement at Preparation—only three or four remain—to such an inglorious termination was Baneemyism destined to attain.—History of Western Iowa, pp. 245–247.

We cannot vouch for the correctness of all the details of the above extract, but give it for what it may be worth.

Charles B. Thompson was the first county judge of Monona County, Guy C. Barnum treasurer, Hugh Lytle clerk, and Homer C. Hoyt sheriff.

Though the county seat was never located there, the first business of the county was transacted at Preparation. The county was organized in 1854.

In August, 1860, Mr. Thompson published at St. Louis, Missouri, the first number of the Nachashlogian, in which he defended negro slavery on the grounds that

the negro race are descendants, by natural generation, from the Nachash, (which name is erroneously rendered "serpent," in the first verse of the third chapter of Genesis,) who was the instrument used by the Evil Spirit in effecting the fall of Adam, and who is shown to have a terrigenous soul and species of the human genera, inasmuch as he was created more wise than all the brute kingdom, but inferior to Adam. Hence his posterity, the negro race, are, jure divino, de facto the natural subjects and slaves of the white race, thus fully establishing the moral right of the white race, jure humano, either to make of negroes individual property, as they are in the Southern States, or public subjects,—to possess nominally freedom, as they do in the northern portion of the American Union, according as the citizens of any sovereign commonwealth may elect.

Whether there was a second number of the Nachashlogian published or not, we do not know. We have only No. 1.

So far as we know the majority of the people who accepted the claims of Mr. Thompson were honorable and upright. We have known many of them whose characters are above reproach for virtue and honesty. Like the followers of Mr. Strang they renounced polygamy, and unlike Mr. Strang they adhered to their integrity on this point. Mr. Thompson claimed to receive a revelation which is clear and specific in its denunciation. We extract the following:—

And, behold, polygamy, or a plurality of wives, is an abomination before me, and is forever forbidden, in this my Holy Presbytery of Zion, saith the Lord Jehovah.—The Law and Covenants of Israel, pp. 184, 185.