The extraordinary life of one of the Mormon church’s early leaders
Few lives experience a meteoric rise and fall like that of James Jesse Strang’s. An unsuccessful lawyer from upstate New York, he converted to Mormonism in 1844 and quickly entered the inner circle of the controversial new faith’s founder, Joseph Smith Jr. Upon Smith’s assassination, Strang sought to be named his successor as leader of the Mormons. Instead, Strang was excommunicated in 1850, though not before gathering a group of followers, who settled with him on remote Beaver Island in northern Lake Michigan and ordained Strang king of the small enclave. King Strang elicited both ire and stubborn admiration from an ever-growing list of opponents, his actions closely monitored by President Millard Fillmore himself. In 1866, Strang was assassinated, seemingly with the assistance of federal authorities.
This captivating new biography by Don Faber recounts the fascinating story of Strang’s path from impoverished New York farm boy to one of the most colorful and contentious personalities in Michigan history. Avoiding the nonsense, misinformation, and twisted facts so prevalent about the man, readers meet the historical Strang stripped of myth, demonization, and popular fancy—a true celebrity of the mid-nineteenth century who both shaped and was shaped by the colorful times in which he lived. This book will appeal to readers interested in the history of Michigan, the nineteenth century, and the Second Great Awakening.
Don Faber is author of The Toledo War and The Boy Governor, both winners of the Michigan Notable Book Award. Former editor of the Ann Arbor News, he also served on the staff of the Michigan Constitutional Convention, won a Ford Foundation Fellowship to work in the Michigan Senate, and was a speechwriter for Michigan governor George Romney.