Letter from Orville Browning and Nehemiah Bushnell, 23 November 1841
and , Letter, , Adams Co., IL, to JS, , Hancock Co., IL, 23 Nov. 1841; handwriting of ; one page; Newel K. Whitney, Papers, BYU. Includes docket and archival marking.
Single leaf measuring 9⅞ × 7¾ inches (25 × 20 cm). The document is folded in letter style with two vertical folds and six horizontal folds. The document shows wear, including tearing on the right edge and some discoloration. A docket was added on the verso.
The docket by , who served in a clerical capacity for JS from 1841 to 1842, indicates the document was retained by the office of JS in 1841. It is unknown when the letter came into the possession of . This document, along with many other personal and institutional documents that Newel K. Whitney kept, was inherited by his daughter Mary Jane Whitney, who married Isaac Groo. The documents were passed down within the Groo family. Between 1969 and 1974, the Groo family donated their collection of Newel K. Whitney’s papers to the Harold B. Lee Library at Brigham Young University.
Andrus and Fuller, Register of the Newel Kimball Whitney Papers, 24.
Andrus, Hyrum L., and Chris Fuller, comp. Register of the Newel Kimball Whitney Papers. Provo, UT: Division of Archives and Manuscripts, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, 1978.
On 23 November 1841, attorneys and in , Illinois, wrote a letter to JS in , Illinois, requesting payment on debt that JS and others owed to the mercantile firm Halsted, Haines & Co. In addition to asking JS when they could expect the loan payment, Browning and Bushnell suggested that JS use land deeds to pay for a portion of the debt.
leaders had acquired the debt to Halsted, Haines & Co. while in in the 1830s. At least part of the debt was incurred when , , and , members of the Kirtland mercantile firm of , purchased goods to be sold at Kirtland’s “committee store,” the profits of which were used to pay for the construction of the Kirtland . During 1835 and 1836, the firm purchased wholesale goods on credit from merchants in and . At least two promissory notes, referenced in the letter featured here, came due in September 1837. Seeking repayment for the purchased goods, and sued Carter and his partners at the Geauga County Court of Common Pleas in October 1838. With acting as his , JS agreed to assume the debts of Cahoon, Carter & Co. in August 1839, when the firm determined that it could not meet its financial obligations.
Various circumstances inhibited JS’s ability to pay these and other debts. JS had faced difficult economic and legal circumstances in before leaving in 1838. His loss of property in and his efforts to build a new settlement for the Saints at further strained his finances. In addition, the financial panics of 1837 and 1839 and the consequent economic depression of the early 1840s made it difficult for many Americans to pay their debts during this period.
Despite these significant challenges, JS made several efforts to pay the debts during 1841, sending financial agents throughout the country to obtain funds or properties that could then be used to repay debts. While and had been responsible for paying debts on the lands, assumed much of the responsibility for settling the -era debts, including those owed to Halsted, Haines & Co. In a May 1841 letter to Granger, JS wrote of the strain he felt because of the debts: “I am very anxous indeed to have the matters which concern the settled as soon as possible, for until they are I have to labor under a load that is intolerable to bear.” JS urged Granger to get JS’s financial affairs “straitened up” as soon as possible, noting that Granger’s health was precarious and that “if any thing should occur— so that you were to bid adieu to mortality it would be impossible for me ever to get the run of the business and I should be again involved in difficulties from which it would be impossible for me to extricate myself.” In fact, Granger’s untimely death in August 1841 did leave JS uncertain about which debts had been repaid, further complicating his financial situation. At the time of Granger’s death, the debts to Halsted, Haines & Co. remained unresolved.
On 1 November 1841, the clerk copied the court records related to the Halsted, Haines & Co. debts for the Geauga County Court of Common Pleas. Three weeks later, on 23 November 1841, and wrote the letter featured here, seeking payment on two promissory notes owed to Halsted, Haines & Co. that totaled $4,719.23. JS replied on 7 December 1841, explaining why he could not yet repay the debt.
See Introduction to Part 6: 20 Apr.–14 Sept. 1837; and John Gillet, Lake Fork, IL, to Smith Tuttle, Fair Haven, CT, 30 May 1841; John Gillet, Lake Fork, IL, to Smith Tuttle, Fair Haven, CT, 14 Nov. 1841, Gillett Family Papers, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, Springfield, IL.
Gillett Family Papers, 1736–1904. Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, Springfield, IL.
Messrs , & Co, of , have placed in our hands for collection, two promissory notes, signed by yourself and thirty one other individuals, both of said notes dated , Sept 1st. 1837, one for $2323.66 and the other for $2395.57 cents.
Not wishing to give you unnecessary trouble in the premises, we have thought proper to advise you that the notes were in our hands, and to ask, when it will suit your convenience to make payment?
If part of the demand could be paid us now, and the residue secured upon real Estate, we would take [the r]esponsibility of giving a reasonable extension of time
We are Sir. very Respectfully Your friends
P. S. Will you oblige us by an answer at your earliest convenience
Established in New York City in 1804 by Richard Townley Haines, the firm of Halsted, Haines & Co. specialized in the sale of wholesale dry goods. (“An Old Firm’s Suspension,” New York Times, 13 July 1884, 12.)