James Strang, who would create America's only kingdom on Beaver Island, was born in New York in 1813. He expected great things of himself. He established a law practice at the age of 23, but it failed to satisfy his ambition. When he met Joseph Smith in 1844, he converted to his new evangelical religion as a way of improving his position.
Strang's debating skills impressed the Mormon leader, who assigned him to found a branch in Burlington, Wisconsin. While Strang was away, Smith was killed. Shortly thereafter Strang produced a letter naming him as Smith's chosen heir. He was challenged by Brigham Young, who was more solidly entrenched. Strang led those who accepted him to Nauvoo, Illinois, and then Voree, Wisconsin, before deciding that God wanted him to bring his flock to Beaver Island.
Producing mysterious brass plates from the ground, and receiving directives from God, Strang formed a colony on Beaver Island in 1848. It grew year by year, and soon had the numbers to elect Strang to the state legislature. Trouble with the "gentiles" led to the "War of Whiskey Point", which the Mormons won by firing a canon at the unruly gang gathered at the trading post. By the early 1850s, most of the non-Mormons had left the Island. The ensuing degree of absolute power went to Strang's head, and rumors spread about Mormon attrocities. Strang had himself crowned king, and began taking additional wives. Attempts to oust him by legal means failed, and in 1856 he was assassinated by two disgruntled follow ers. His people were driven off the Island by an unruly mob from Mackinac Island, which was instigated by speculators eager to grab the land. During their 8-year occupancy, the Mormons cleared and cultivated the ground, built roads and houses, and changed the Island from a wilderness to a moderate outpost of civilization. But fate conspired to keep them from reaping the benefits of their toil.