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Introduction to JS’s Nauvoo Store

In 1841, JS decided to construct a two-story brick building on the southeast corner of Water and Granger streets in , Illinois. He hired millwright to construct the building; work commenced by September 1841 and was largely finished by December. The structure had retail space on the ground floor and a large meeting room on the second floor. JS leased the building to in January 1842, likely intending Richards to hold the property as an ; however, JS retained a private office on the second floor of the building and apparently kept ownership of the store.
There is little documentation for the business aspects of the store aside from two daybooks and some loose financial records. The daybooks record daily transactions made from January 1842 to July 1844. Notations in the second daybook indicate that clerks were also keeping a ledger, but it is apparently no longer extant. Unlike JS’s Ohio stores, the store has no surviving invoices and few surviving accounts or bills of goods. Extant records do not name the store or the company responsible for running it. Many Nauvoo residents referred to the store as “General Smith’s store,” “President Joseph Smith’s store,” “the brick store,” or some combination of these.
In order to stock the store, JS sent , and , and possibly others to purchase goods as his financial agents. He also wrote to , a Latter-day Saint and prominent businessman, requesting that he purchase goods and ship them to . Many purchases in late 1841 appear to have been made in the northeastern , in places like and Pennsylvania, through wholesale merchants. Additional goods were purchased in . The goods in the store were predominantly dry goods and fabric, with some tools and other specialty items. Perishable foodstuffs such as eggs and butter were also sold when available.
JS began stocking the shelves of the store in mid-December 1841. He opened the store on 5 January 1842 and enjoyed waiting on the Saints. In a letter to , JS related that he had spent the day “behind the counter dealing out goods as steady as any clerk you ever Saw to oblige those who were compelled to go without their usual christmas & New year, dinners. for the want of a little Sugar, Molasses, Rasions &c.” Despite JS’s enthusiasm, he left most of the store’s daily operations to clerks , , , and . JS’s nephew also worked as a clerk while living in in 1842.
The store quickly became a location of civic and cultural importance in the community. In addition to the store, the building contained the , JS’s private (which served as the administrative headquarters for the ), and a large meeting room on the second floor. This room served at times as a school, courtroom, and meeting room for both civic and religious groups. These included Nauvoo’s Masonic lodge, the , and the . The room was given several names corresponding to its various uses, such as the “Lodge room.”
In nineteenth-century , stores, especially those removed from large urban areas, often served multiple functions, including banking. This was true for JS’s store, which lent money to individuals, usually in small amounts; facilitated paying someone indirectly, like a teacher for a local school; and accepted verbal or written pay orders for goods. JS also used the store to provide funds or goods to family members and other Latter-day Saints in need, and as a means to settle some of his and the Church’s debts. For example, sold his to JS, , and in February 1842, and JS extended significant store credit to Robinson to help settle the debt.
JS’s involvement in and oversight of the store declined throughout 1842. He may have lost interest in the endeavor, but he may also have had too large of a workload, especially after his election in mid-May as mayor of . Additionally, beginning in August 1842 and continuing into 1843, JS spent much of his time in hiding to avoid arrest and extradition to . It is not clear if JS closed his store, allowed others to rent the space, or sold or transferred ownership to a mercantile company. The surviving daybooks record purchases into 1844, but some of these appear to be later accounts with JS and not necessarily with his store.
Two advertisements in the Nauvoo Neighbor provide clues about leasing of the building in 1843 and 1844. In December 1843 a company from the eastern called Butler & Lewis notified the public that it was selling a wide assortment of goods in “President Joseph Smith’s store.” No other contemporary records document this lease, and it is not clear if arrangements were made with JS, , or another individual who had previously leased the store space. Then in May 1844, prominent Nauvoo businessman advertised a new store he was opening in the building. This arrangement is likewise not documented in other contemporary records. In any case, JS retained use of his in the store until his death in June 1844. By October 1845, whatever leasing arrangement Kimball made was apparently concluding, as JS’s widow offered to rent the store to . It is not known if Heywood accepted her offer. The entire building, including the store, appears to have stayed in the possession of Emma Smith and her children. It was eventually sold by the Smith family in 1890.
In 1841, JS decided to construct a two-story brick building on the southeast corner of Water and Granger streets in , Illinois. He hired millwright to construct the building; work commenced by September 1841 and was largely finished by December. The structure had retail space on the ground floor and a large meeting room on the second floor. JS leased the building to in January 1842, likely intending Richards to hold the property as an ; however, JS retained a private office on the second floor of the building and apparently kept ownership of the store.
There is little documentation for the business aspects of the store aside from two daybooks and some loose financial records. The daybooks record daily transactions made from January 1842 to July 1844. Notations in the second daybook indicate that clerks were also keeping a ledger, but it is apparently no longer extant. Unlike JS’s Ohio stores, the store has no surviving invoices and few surviving accounts or bills of goods. Extant records do not name the store or the company responsible for running it. Many Nauvoo residents referred to the store as “General Smith’s store,” “President Joseph Smith’s store,” “the brick store,” or some combination of these.
In order to stock the store, JS sent , and , and possibly others to purchase goods as his financial agents. He also wrote to , a Latter-day Saint and prominent businessman, requesting that he purchase goods and ship them to . Many purchases in late 1841 appear to have been made in the northeastern , in places like and Pennsylvania, through wholesale merchants. Additional goods were purchased in . The goods in the store were predominantly dry goods and fabric, with some tools and other specialty items. Perishable foodstuffs such as eggs and butter were also sold when available.
JS began stocking the shelves of the store in mid-December 1841. He opened the store on 5 January 1842 and enjoyed waiting on the Saints. In a letter to , JS related that he had spent the day “behind the counter dealing out goods as steady as any clerk you ever Saw to oblige those who were compelled to go without their usual christmas & New year, dinners. for the want of a little Sugar, Molasses, Rasions &c.” Despite JS’s enthusiasm, he left most of the store’s daily operations to clerks , , , and . JS’s nephew also worked as a clerk while living in in 1842.
The store quickly became a location of civic and cultural importance in the community. In addition to the store, the building contained the , JS’s private (which served as the administrative headquarters for the ), and a large meeting room on the second floor. This room served at times as a school, courtroom, and meeting room for both civic and religious groups. These included Nauvoo’s Masonic lodge, the , and the . The room was given several names corresponding to its various uses, such as the “Lodge room.”
In nineteenth-century , stores, especially those removed from large urban areas, often served multiple functions, including banking. This was true for JS’s store, which lent money to individuals, usually in small amounts; facilitated paying someone indirectly, like a teacher for a local school; and accepted verbal or written pay orders for goods. JS also used the store to provide funds or goods to family members and other Latter-day Saints in need, and as a means to settle some of his and the Church’s debts. For example, sold his to JS, , and in February 1842, and JS extended significant store credit to Robinson to help settle the debt.
JS’s involvement in and oversight of the store declined throughout 1842. He may have lost interest in the endeavor, but he may also have had too large of a workload, especially after his election in mid-May as mayor of . Additionally, beginning in August 1842 and continuing into 1843, JS spent much of his time in hiding to avoid arrest and extradition to . It is not clear if JS closed his store, allowed others to rent the space, or sold or transferred ownership to a mercantile company. The surviving daybooks record purchases into 1844, but some of these appear to be later accounts with JS and not necessarily with his store.
Two advertisements in the Nauvoo Neighbor provide clues about leasing of the building in 1843 and 1844. In December 1843 a company from the eastern called Butler & Lewis notified the public that it was selling a wide assortment of goods in “President Joseph Smith’s store.” No other contemporary records document this lease, and it is not clear if arrangements were made with JS, , or another individual who had previously leased the store space. Then in May 1844, prominent Nauvoo businessman advertised a new store he was opening in the building. This arrangement is likewise not documented in other contemporary records. In any case, JS retained use of his in the store until his death in June 1844. By October 1845, whatever leasing arrangement Kimball made was apparently concluding, as JS’s widow offered to rent the store to . It is not known if Heywood accepted her offer. The entire building, including the store, appears to have stayed in the possession of Emma Smith and her children. It was eventually sold by the Smith family in 1890.