JS, Letter, , Hancock Co., IL, to , Carrollton, Greene Co., IL, 24 May 1839; handwriting of and unidentified scribe; signature of JS; one page; JS Collection, CHL. Includes address, postal markings, and endorsement.
One leaf measuring 10 × 7⅞ inches (25 × 20 cm). The document was trifolded for mailing. The remnant of a red adhesive wafer used to seal the letter remains on the recto and verso of the leaf. The document has undergone conservation.
The custodial history for this document is unknown. The lack of docketing suggests it was acquired by the Church Historian’s Office in the twentieth century. was custodian of a multitude of documents related to church affairs, many of which were passed down to descendants. The earliest known donation by Whitney descendants occurred in 1912. The letter was included in a registry for the JS Collection in 1973.
Johnson, Register of the Joseph Smith Collection, 8.
Johnson, Jeffery O. Register of the Joseph Smith Collection in the Church Archives, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Salt Lake City: Historical Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1973.
On 24 May 1839, JS dictated a letter for , encouraging him and his family to relocate to , Illinois. Whitney and his family had remained in , Ohio, after the majority of the departed for in July 1838. A revelation JS dictated on 8 July directed Whitney, who was previously the church’s in Kirtland, to assist in settling the church’s and the ’s financial matters in the area and then join the body of the church in Missouri. That fall, Whitney began moving his family to Missouri. En route, the Whitneys learned of the expulsion of church members from that state and, rather than continuing on, temporarily settled in Carrollton, Illinois.
It is uncertain how long the Whitneys remained in Carrollton. The few records indicating where the Whitneys were residing in 1839 do not provide a clear chronology of their movements. On 6 May 1839, JS held a meeting in , Illinois, during which church leaders resolved that should go to and his family should “be kept” in Quincy among church members. It is unlikely that Whitney had moved his family to Quincy by that time, though Whitney may have traveled there. Sometime in spring 1839, likely after the 6 May council meeting, Whitney and his eldest son traveled to Commerce, where JS instructed Whitney that “as quickly as practicable” he should “join the Saints” there. While Whitney and his son were absent from their family, an anti-Mormon in Carrollton recognized and the five children who remained with her. Learning that the man intended to incite a mob against the family, Elizabeth Ann and the children fled from the town. They headed for Quincy, meeting Newel K. Whitney and the eldest son on the way. Though it is not clear exactly when the family fled from Carrollton, they likely arrived in Quincy by summer.
On 24 May, the same day JS dictated the featured letter to , JS addressed similar letters to and, in partnership with his wife , to and , encouraging them to move to and informing them that he had selected land for them. Each of these letters was recorded in JS Letterbook 2 by Mulholland.
JS’s letter to was mailed to Carrollton, likely because JS was unaware of the Whitneys’ sudden departure, which may have occurred around the time the letter was sent. A docket on the back of the letter indicates it arrived at the post office in , Iowa Territory, on 29 May 1839. Whitney received the letter on 4 June 1839 at an unknown location. Soon after, on 16 June, Whitney arrived in .
Elizabeth Ann Smith Whitney recalled that “a man named Bellows, who had formerly known my husband in Kirtland, recognized us as the Mormon Bishop’s family, and determined to have us mobbed and driven from the town.” ([Elizabeth Ann Smith Whitney], “A Leaf from an Autobiography,” Woman’s Exponent, 15 Nov. 1878, 91.)
JS, Journal, 16 June 1839. Whitney’s family did not join him in Commerce until spring 1840. ([Elizabeth Ann Smith Whitney], “A Leaf from an Autobiography,” Woman’s Exponent, 15 Nov. 1878, 91; Orson F. Whitney, “The Aaronic Priesthood,” Contributor, Jan. 1885, 130–131.)
This is to inform you that has succeeded in obtaining the house which he had in contemplation when you left here, and as we feel very anxious to have the society of and his family here, we hope that he will make every exertion, consistent with his own business and convenience to come up to us here in <at> as soon as possibly in his power.
During a general conference on 4–5 May 1839 in Quincy, Oliver Granger was tasked with returning to Kirtland to direct church affairs and settle financial matters there. On 13–14 May, JS recorded in his journal that he “transacted various business” with Granger. The house mentioned here was perhaps part of the business transactions or a result of them. Granger may have obtained the home for the Whitneys in his capacity as a church agent.a However, since the Whitneys did not move to Commerce until spring 1840, this house may have been given to another church member. According to Elizabeth Ann Smith Whitney’s later recollection, the family initially rented a home from Hiram Kimball upon relocating to Commerce.b