Introduction to Nauvoo City Council Records

The Nauvoo City Council Records consist of documents created by and for the city council of , Illinois, from 1841 to 1845. These documents were retained and organized by city recorders , , and and were brought to the Salt Lake Valley when the Latter-day Saints migrated from in 1846–1847. Included are minutes, motions, bills, petitions, ordinances, resolutions, committee reports, attendance records, tax assessments, and treasury records.
The Nauvoo City Council was formed in February 1841 under authority granted by the December 1840 act incorporating the city of Nauvoo. The council consisted of a mayor, aldermen, councilors, and a recorder. served as mayor of and head of the city council from 3 February 1841 until his resignation on 17 May 1842. JS was a city councilor from 3 February 1841 to 19 May 1842, the day the council elected him mayor. He served in that capacity until his death on 27 June 1844. JS was heavily involved in the council early on, serving on numerous committees and frequently proposing new bills and motions. Once he became mayor, he withdrew from committee work but took an active role in leading the council and performing the other administrative work required of the mayor. Because of the threat of extradition to and his many other responsibilities, JS was less involved in the council in 1842 and 1843, but his participation again became more frequent in May and June 1844. After JS’s death, was elected mayor on 10 August 1844.
The Nauvoo City Council followed traditional parliamentary procedure in its meetings, with the mayor acting as chair of the meeting and a majority of council members needing to be present to convene. enumerated these procedures and the duties of city officers in the “Rules of Order of the City Council of the City of Nauvoo,” which he presented to the city council on 22 January 1842. These rules also laid out the procedures for debate and the process for discussing and reviewing various matters, ensuring a set approach for handling requests from residents (petitions), requests for payment (claims), requests from city council members (motions), and propositions of new laws or ordinances (bills). These written documents were presented to the council and then read and discussed. In the course of the council meeting, the documents might be amended or sent to a specific committee, which would evaluate them and make a report to the council. Committee reports were either written or given verbally. After discussion and, where necessary, committee review, the petition, claim, motion, or bill would be accepted, rejected, or tabled for additional discussion.
If a petition, claim, or motion was accepted, it usually resulted in the council passing a resolution that the mayor then signed. Resolutions did not necessarily mean the council generated a new document; the status of acceptance or rejection might simply be noted on the original petition, claim, or motion. If a bill was accepted, the city council passed an ordinance that the mayor signed. Additional documents, like appointments, went through a similar process of rejection or acceptance. In instances where a motion or bill served as a draft of the resolution or ordinance, the Joseph Smith Papers website presents the document in its original form (i.e., as the motion or bill, not the resolution or ordinance).
Although many city council records were kept, not all of the documents created by the council are extant. The Nauvoo City Council Rough Minute books provide the best indication of the complete process and the persons involved. Where documents are extant, links are included in the rough minute books to the individual documents.
 On the Joseph Smith Papers website, the Nauvoo City Council records are presented in two categories under “Browse the Papers.” The first category, “Nauvoo City Council Minute Books,” includes the council’s various minute books. The second category, “Nauvoo City Council Meetings,” reproduces the minutes of each meeting separately, together with the extant documents generated for each meeting.
  1. 1

    “Schedule of Church Records. Nauvoo 1846,” [1], Historian’s Office, Catalogs and Inventories, 1846–1904, CHL.  

    Historian’s Office. Catalogs and Inventories, 1846–1904. CHL. CR 100 130.

  2. 2

    Nauvoo City Council Rough Minute Book, Jan.–Nov. 1842, 28; see also Letters from John C. Bennett and James Sloan, 17 May 1842.  

  3. 3

    See Nauvoo City Council Rough Minute Book, Feb. 1844–Jan. 1845, 44–45.  

  4. 4

    Nauvoo City Council Minute Book, 22 Jan. 1842, 45–51; see also “The Council of Fifty in Nauvoo, Illinois.”  

  5. 5

    Nauvoo City Council Minute Book, 22 Jan. 1842, 45–51. In some instances, the content of the petition meant that the resulting document would be an ordinance rather than a resolution.  

  6. 6

    Nauvoo City Council Minute Book, 22 Jan. 1842, 49.