August 30, 2023

Three Witnesses Monument, Richmond Missouri

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(below the map is the rest of the article)

The Three Witnesses Monument it located in the Mormon Pioneer Cemetery in the small town of Richmond Missouri. This monument is to commemorate the three witnesses of The Book of Mormon: Oliver Cowdrey, Martin Harris and David Whitmer. These three men were chosen by Heavenly Father to be witnesses to The Book of Mormon and tell the world. All three men never denied what they saw and their testimonies were powerful witnesses of the truthfulness of The Book of Mormon. Their testimonies are printed in every copy of The Book of Mormon today.

At different points in their lives, all three of the men left the church for a time. Both Martin Harris and Oliver Cowdery returned again. In 1848, Oliver Cowdery was re-baptized in Kanesville. He hoped to travel with the Saints to Utah but his health was not good enough for the journey, and he died in Richmond in 1850, and buried where this monument now stands.

Oliver Cowdery's Grave

Oliver Cowdery is believed to be buried where the Three Witnesses Monuments now stands. In 1878 a tornado swept through the town of Richmond and scattered some of the headstones. In 1888, two latter-say Saints Edward Stevenson(an apostle) and Andrew Jenson(Church Historian) had found the cemetery neglected and reported:

"We found the old [cemetery] entirely neglected, and marble monuments, headstones, and fences scattered promiscuously on the ground as the cyclone left it ten years ago. Standing over the graves of Oliver and Jacob, we instinctively uncovered our heads, uttered a silent prayer and passed on with heavy hearts."(Sacred Places Vol. 4 p261).

A man named Junius F. Wells located the site of Oliver Cowdery's grave in 1911, with the help of the descendants of David Whitmer. Through careful analysis of the cemetery he located "the depression" in the ground that was Oliver's grave. They also found the stones that had held up the grave marker by digging around, saying they found "the rotting stones that had supported the headstone" and few feet eastward they found the foot-stone.

Dedicating the Three Witnesses Monument

The dedication of the Three Witnesses Monument was done in 1911 under the direction of Heber J. Grant and with the permission of the Whitmer Family. The dedication ceremony was done in the Farris Opera House in Richmond on Nov. 22, 1911, where the Mormon Tabernacle Choir performed. Heber J. Grant also gave the dedicatory prayer.

A large crowd attended including 45 members of the Whitmer family. There was a downpour of chilling rain and they were not able to all go to the cemetery. When the large group had left and the rain had stopped, the Whitmer family and the LDS missionaries unveil the monument. A great-granddaughter of David Whitmer, Kathryne Schweich and a great grandniece of Oliver Cowdery unveiled the monument.

Whitmer Family Testimony

Philander Page, son of Hyrum Page(one of the eight witnesses of the Book of Mormon) said this of the witnesses of the Book of Mormon:

"I knew my father to be true and faithful to his testimony of the divinity of the Book of Mormon until the very last. Whenever he had an opportunity to bear his testimony to this effect, he would always do so, and seemed to rejoice exceedingly in having been privileged to see the plates and thus become one of the Eight Witnesses. I can also testify that Jacob, John and David Whitmer and Oliver Cowdery died in full faith inthe divinity of the Book of Mormon. I was with all these witnesses on their death beds and heard each of them bear his last testimony."

Peter and Mary Whitmer Grave

Only a few headstones were still standing in 1907 when George Edward Anderson(Church Photographer) photographed the cemetery. When the cemetery eventually received care they found the names of Peter Whitmer Sr. and Mary Whitmer were noted only on a small metal plaque on a concrete slab. Peter and Mary are presumed to be buried nearby most likely by their son Jacob.

This pioneer cemetery is where Oliver Cowdery, Peter Whitmer Sir., Mary Musselman Whitmer(Mother Whitmer) and Jacob Whitmer are buried. Along with other members of Jacob Whitmer family.

Know before you go

The Three Witnesses Monument is in a very small, quiet part of town. There are homes all around this little cemetery in Missouri, and there is a pretty big parking lot. The parking lot is suitable for large RV's or busses. When we visited we were the only people there. for how big the small cemetery is. You can use “relative finder” and see if you are related to anyone in this small Missouri Cemetery.

The monument remains a symbol of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ through the Prophet Joseph Smith. The monument was rededicated for its centennial on November 19, 2021.

More Blog Posts on Missouri

Overview of the Missouri Years

Pioneer woman, Laura Clark Phelps-Helping her Husband escape from Missouri Jail

Troost Park Monument in Kansas City, Missouri

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