After living in the Kirtland area for 7 years, on September 5, 1838, Emer Harris and his family started for Missouri, the new land of Zion for the Saints. Passing through Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, crossing the Mississippi at Louisiana, Missouri and arriving at the house of Uncle Ezekiel Kellogg about October 12.
Mormon were no longer welcome in Missouri. Local mobs ordered all Mormons to leave Missouri within one month and go east or they would put into effect Governor Boggs’ Order of Extermination.
About October 17, Emer and his family started for Quincy, Illinois, a hundred miles east. Among their meager possessions was a chest containing copies of the Book of Mormon. Emer had fitted the books under a false bottom, lined with Fuller’s cloth, in case they were searched by the mobs, who had threatened to destroy every Book of Mormon they found.
As a mob approached, (said to be four hundred on horseback), Emer separated from the wagon and walked away carrying his gun and ammunition to hide, knowing that if the mob found weapons, it would mean punishment and loss of the gun, so much needed for protection and food. Parna, Emer’s wife, was stopped by the mob and asked if she were a "Mormon". Her fearless reply was, "Yes, and thank God for it." She was told that they had authority to search her wagon. She told them to go ahead, saying, "you have driven us from place to place until we have nothing left but rags." The captain, who was on a beautiful horse, made the remark, "Well, you certainly are a brave woman, at least." He then took her little son, Alma, age six and seated him upon his horse while he began to search their possessions saying, "It is a shame to put him down in the snow in his bare feet." Even though they search the chest, even tapping the bottom, they thought it solid and so the mob was soon on their way. The precious books were left undiscovered and safe. (That young son Alma is my great great grandfather.)
Photo of chest with two of Emer's grandsons.
The chest has been kept within the Harris family and has been displayed at the LDS Church Museum in Salt Lake.
Emer’s first edition Book of Mormon given him by his brother Martin, was handed down through the generations of the Harris family and eventually donated to Deseret Book Co.