Wingfield Scott Watson and His Struggle to Preserve the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Strangite) After the Death of Its Founder
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Wingfield S. Watson (1828–1922) was a fiercely loyal apologist for the Mormon prophet James J. Strang, a successor to Joseph Smith. In the aftermath of the succession crisis that followed Smith’s unexpected death, Strang attracted hundreds of converts to his theocratic commune on Beaver Island in Lake Michigan, Watson being one of them. After Strang’s own untimely death, Watson stepped forward from among his religious community as a Strangite apologist to ensure that Strangite distinctives of Latter Day Saint restorationism would survive the unstoppable decline of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Strangites) due to internal dissension and external opposition. From primary documents, this dissertation demonstrates that Watson succeeded at maintaining the Strangite identity among its remnant after the death of its founder.