Promissory Note to Jonathan Burgess, 17 August 1836
, , , and JS, Promissory Note, , Essex Co., MA, to Jonathan Burgess, 17 Aug. 1836; handwriting of ; signatures of and and partial signatures of and JS; endorsed by unidentified scribe; one page; JS Collection, CHL.
This note is written on an irregular-shaped page measuring 1¾–3 × 7¾ inches (5–8 × 20 cm). The single leaf has one horizontal fold and three vertical folds. The signatures of and are fully visible. Because the bottom right corner is torn, all that remains of the other signatures (those of and JS) are parts of the “H” and the “J”. This document is discolored in some areas and has undergone preservation work; it is mounted on Japanese paper to prevent further tearing. The provenance of this document is unknown; it is assumed that the document has remained in continuous institutional custody since its creation.
Nearly two weeks after their arrival in , Massachusetts, JS, , , and signed a promissory note agreeing to pay Jonathan Burgess $100 plus interest for financial assistance that he had provided them. This Jonathan Burgess has not been identified, but he may be the same “Brother Burjece” JS referred to in a letter to his wife two days later, a man who had been with them in Salem but had left the city by 19 August. He may also possibly be the “Brother Burgess” who, according to ’s reminiscent account, written fifty-three years later, came to , Ohio, and provided information setting JS’s trip to New England in motion. None of this is certain, and no evidence exists to confirm whether these were in fact the same individual. Burgess was a relatively common surname in New England in the nineteenth century, and more than one individual named Burgess lived in the vicinity of at this time. A family with the surname of Burgess also lived in , Ohio, in 1836, but none of the men for whom there is biographical information were named Jonathan, and it is not known if any member of the Kirtland Burgess family had lived in Salem or had any relations there. A Jonathan Burgess is listed as attending a in Kirtland in 1837 and being a , but nothing else is known of this individual.
It appears that the promissory note was paid, since the signatures of and JS have been torn from the bottom of the note. When a promissory note was paid, the names or signatures of the endorsers were often torn from the note, canceling or invalidating the note so it was no longer negotiable. The note would then act as a receipt for the individual who paid the debt.
Ebenezer Robinson, “Items of Personal History of the Editor,” Return, July 1889, 104–106; see also Historical Introduction to Revelation, 6 Aug. 1836 [D&C 111]. Robinson’s account suggests that Burgess told JS about hidden money or treasure in Salem, motivating the trip to the eastern United States. Robinson implied that Burgess lived in Salem previously, but he did not include any information that might help identify the man, such as his age or when he might have lived there.
The Return. Davis City, IA, 1889–1891; Richmond, MO, 1892–1893; Davis City, 1895–1896; Denver, 1898; Independence, MO, 1899–1900.
The federal census for 1820 lists about sixty men in Massachusetts with the surname of Burgess, and the census for 1830 includes about seventy men with the surname of Burgess. No city directories exist for Salem before 1837, but Salem’s vital records name a William Burgess, baptized 22 November 1803, son of William. It also names a Jonathan Burges baptized at two years of age in September 1786. The marriage record also names the marriages of William Burgess and Mary Joseph, 6 November 1798, and a William Burges with intent to marry Mary Underwood, 15 September 1832, without giving the relationship of the two Williams. (1820 U.S. Census, MA; 1830 U.S. Census, MA; Vital Records of Salem Massachusetts, 1:140; 3:166–167.)
Census (U.S.) / U.S. Bureau of the Census. Population Schedules. Microfilm. FHL.
Vital Records of Salem Massachusetts, to the Year 1849. 6 vols. Salem, MA: Essex Institute, 1916–1925.
Backman, Milton V., Jr., comp. A Profile of Latter-day Saints of Kirtland, Ohio, and Members of Zion’s Camp, 1830–1839: Vital Statistics and Sources. 2nd ed. Provo, UT: Department of Church History and Doctrine and Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1983.
Burgess, Harrison. Autobiography, ca. 1883. Photocopy. CHL. MS 893. Also available as “Sketch of a Well-Spent Life,” in Labors in the Vineyard, Faith-Promoting Series 12 (Salt Lake City: Juvenile Instructor Office, 1884), 65–74.
“Cancellation,” in Bouvier, Law Dictionary , 1:151–152; Chitty, Practical Treatise on Bills of Exchange, 214.
Bouvier, John. A Law Dictionary, Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States of America, and of the Several States of the American Union; With References to the Civil and Other Systems of Foreign Law. 2 vols. Philadelphia: Deacon and Peterson, 1854.
Chitty, Joseph. A Practical Treatise on Bills of Exchange, Checks on Bankers, Promissory Notes, Bankers’ Cash Notes, and Bank Notes. Springfield, IL: G. and C. Merriam, 1836.
, Mss. [Massachusetts] August 17, 1836.
For value received we promise to pay Jonathan Burgess, one hundred dollars, one year from date, with use.