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Introduction to Kirtland Mercantile Firms

, Ohio, experienced significant growth from 1835 to 1837 as from the and gathered there. This growth, in addition to expanding economic opportunity, allowed church members to open new businesses in 1835 and 1836, including several mercantile stores. The first of these stores was started by the , composed of , , and . One of the purposes of the was to help fund the construction and completion of the , while another may have been to provide goods for those working on the temple. According to extant records, the three men, operating under the firm name of , started selling goods in the summer of 1835.
A year later, Cahoon, Carter & Co. was joined by a second mercantile firm, , a partnership of JS, , and . A third firm, operated by under the name , was started by July 1836. In September 1836, JS and Sidney Rigdon opened a store in , Ohio, about six miles south of , under the name This store appears to have sold the goods purchased by the firm of Rigdon, Smith & Cowdery, but it is unclear if the store was an extension of the firm, using an abbreviated form of the firm name, or if it was a new firm created to operate the store, possibly signaling that Cowdery withdrew as a partner.
In need of goods to sell in their stores, the new firms sent to purchase an assortment of items from wholesale merchants in , relying on merchant and his business contacts to make connections. For example, traveled to in October 1835 with Whitney to purchase goods for the Cahoon, Carter & Co. . Surviving invoices for the firms indicate that agents made two significant trips to New York in 1836, one to Buffalo in June and one to in October, and purchased goods from twenty-four merchants. Other records indicate that additional purchases, for which invoices are no longer extant, were made during these trips and at other times.
’s reputation and credibility allowed the -area firms to buy more goods on credit than their new ventures would otherwise have allowed. These purchases were made with promissory notes assuring repayment in the future, usually three to six months later. The firms hoped to make the required payments by selling the goods they had purchased. When the goods arrived, presumably after having been shipped across the Great Lakes to in northern , Whitney and others would review the contents to ensure that they matched the invoices. Graphite notations in the form of checkmarks and x’s appear on many of the invoices, showing their contents were reviewed. These notations have not been included in the transcripts of the invoices featured here. Several of the invoices also have notations written by Whitney indicating when items were missing or broken or when amounts varied; such notations are included in the transcripts.
The stores had opened with the hope of good economic prospects, but they soon faced financial difficulties and appear to have closed amid the economic downturn in 1837. had purchased goods for his firm H. Smith & Co. in October 1836, but invoices indicate that he sold these and other goods soon after and apparently closed his firm by November. It is not clear when the run by Cahoon, Carter & Co. closed, but the last known extant business records related to the company are dated March 1837. The Rigdon, Smith & Co. store in operated from September 1836 to May 1837, with efforts to collect payment from customers extending into August 1837.
Although the stores had closed, the debts they had amassed to purchase goods remained. When the firms failed to pay the promissory notes on time, the merchants in possession of the notes hired lawyers to pursue debt litigation in the local courts. Because of the debts owed to New York merchants, the -area firms faced significant litigation in the summer of 1837. However, for smaller debts the costs of litigation could supersede the amount owed, leading some merchants to renegotiate with the Kirtland-area firms to avoid going to court. In July 1837, for example, JS, , , , , and mortgaged the Kirtland to the mercantile firm Mead, Stafford & Co. to offset the debts they owed. As part of this mortgage, Mead, Stafford & Co. agreed to forgive a debt of $16,000 owed by Cahoon, Carter & Co. and allowed the Latter-day Saints continued access to the temple for the duration of the mortgage.
In early September 1837, , a , Ohio, lawyer with the firm Perkins & Osborn, proved instrumental in renegotiating unpaid debts owed to the merchants. Perkins, who had served as an attorney for JS and other Latter-day Saints, was hired by four New York merchants to pursue debts owed by Cahoon, Carter & Co. and by Rigdon, Smith & Cowdery. The renegotiation resulted in each of the original debts being divided into three payments due in one, one and a half, and two years, respectively. As part of this agreement, new promissory notes were created, signed by the original partners of the principal firm, and then cosigned by thirty Latter-day Saints living in . JS cosigned the notes for the debts of Cahoon, Carter & Co. Another renegotiation, this time with the wholesale mercantile firm Bailey, Keeler & Remsen, occurred in late September.
Because of unrest among dissenters and excommunicated church members, and at the direction of a revelation, JS left in January 1838. Although his critics accused him of leaving to avoid repaying his debts, JS had appointed as his agent in 1838 to settle unresolved debts and litigation, both for him personally as well as for the church. While many church members moved to in 1838, Granger remained in Kirtland and worked to settle debts with local merchants in and with several wholesale firms. As JS’s agent, he repaid the amount owed on the mortgage of the Kirtland to Mead, Stafford & Co.
By August 1839, the renegotiated promissory notes remained unpaid, and and attempted to arrange another compromise through partial repayment in land. In the process of these debts being consolidated, JS, through Granger, became the main source for repayment, even though JS had direct ties to only two of the four debts. Granger’s central involvement in the negotiations for all four suggests either that JS was willing to assume responsibility for the debts and had directed Granger to do so or that Perkins & Osborn was focusing primarily on JS in efforts to obtain payment.
died in August 1841, leaving much of JS’s finances in a state of disarray. Because Granger had been personally negotiating with the merchants or their lawyers, JS was unaware of many of the business agreements being made on his behalf. JS had urged Granger to share information about these and other arrangements, but Granger had not done so by the time of his death, which meant that JS had little knowledge of the state of his finances managed by Granger. Complicating matters further, Granger’s son , who had taken possession of land and other assets held by his father as a church agent, refused to return deeds, promissory notes, and other financial records to JS. This made it difficult for JS to repay the merchants or otherwise fulfill the arrangements the elder Granger may have made.
Because of the uncertain finances and the pressure of these and other debts, JS, who was now residing in , petitioned for bankruptcy in April 1842. He included the debts owed to several merchants in the schedule of debts he created as part of his application. However, JS’s bankruptcy was unresolved at the time of his death in June 1844, and several of these debts resurfaced later as claims filed against his estate.
, Ohio, experienced significant growth from 1835 to 1837 as from the and gathered there. This growth, in addition to expanding economic opportunity, allowed church members to open new businesses in 1835 and 1836, including several mercantile stores. The first of these stores was started by the , composed of , , and . One of the purposes of the was to help fund the construction and completion of the , while another may have been to provide goods for those working on the temple. According to extant records, the three men, operating under the firm name of , started selling goods in the summer of 1835.
A year later, Cahoon, Carter & Co. was joined by a second mercantile firm, , a partnership of JS, , and . A third firm, operated by under the name , was started by July 1836. In September 1836, JS and Sidney Rigdon opened a store in , Ohio, about six miles south of , under the name This store appears to have sold the goods purchased by the firm of Rigdon, Smith & Cowdery, but it is unclear if the store was an extension of the firm, using an abbreviated form of the firm name, or if it was a new firm created to operate the store, possibly signaling that Cowdery withdrew as a partner.
In need of goods to sell in their stores, the new firms sent to purchase an assortment of items from wholesale merchants in , relying on merchant and his business contacts to make connections. For example, traveled to in October 1835 with Whitney to purchase goods for the Cahoon, Carter & Co. . Surviving invoices for the firms indicate that agents made two significant trips to New York in 1836, one to Buffalo in June and one to in October, and purchased goods from twenty-four merchants. Other records indicate that additional purchases, for which invoices are no longer extant, were made during these trips and at other times.
’s reputation and credibility allowed the -area firms to buy more goods on credit than their new ventures would otherwise have allowed. These purchases were made with promissory notes assuring repayment in the future, usually three to six months later. The firms hoped to make the required payments by selling the goods they had purchased. When the goods arrived, presumably after having been shipped across the Great Lakes to in northern , Whitney and others would review the contents to ensure that they matched the invoices. Graphite notations in the form of checkmarks and x’s appear on many of the invoices, showing their contents were reviewed. These notations have not been included in the transcripts of the invoices featured here. Several of the invoices also have notations written by Whitney indicating when items were missing or broken or when amounts varied; such notations are included in the transcripts.
The stores had opened with the hope of good economic prospects, but they soon faced financial difficulties and appear to have closed amid the economic downturn in 1837. had purchased goods for his firm H. Smith & Co. in October 1836, but invoices indicate that he sold these and other goods soon after and apparently closed his firm by November. It is not clear when the run by Cahoon, Carter & Co. closed, but the last known extant business records related to the company are dated March 1837. The Rigdon, Smith & Co. store in operated from September 1836 to May 1837, with efforts to collect payment from customers extending into August 1837.
Although the stores had closed, the debts they had amassed to purchase goods remained. When the firms failed to pay the promissory notes on time, the merchants in possession of the notes hired lawyers to pursue debt litigation in the local courts. Because of the debts owed to New York merchants, the -area firms faced significant litigation in the summer of 1837. However, for smaller debts the costs of litigation could supersede the amount owed, leading some merchants to renegotiate with the Kirtland-area firms to avoid going to court. In July 1837, for example, JS, , , , , and mortgaged the Kirtland to the mercantile firm Mead, Stafford & Co. to offset the debts they owed. As part of this mortgage, Mead, Stafford & Co. agreed to forgive a debt of $16,000 owed by Cahoon, Carter & Co. and allowed the Latter-day Saints continued access to the temple for the duration of the mortgage.
In early September 1837, , a , Ohio, lawyer with the firm Perkins & Osborn, proved instrumental in renegotiating unpaid debts owed to the merchants. Perkins, who had served as an attorney for JS and other Latter-day Saints, was hired by four New York merchants to pursue debts owed by Cahoon, Carter & Co. and by Rigdon, Smith & Cowdery. The renegotiation resulted in each of the original debts being divided into three payments due in one, one and a half, and two years, respectively. As part of this agreement, new promissory notes were created, signed by the original partners of the principal firm, and then cosigned by thirty Latter-day Saints living in . JS cosigned the notes for the debts of Cahoon, Carter & Co. Another renegotiation, this time with the wholesale mercantile firm Bailey, Keeler & Remsen, occurred in late September.
Because of unrest among dissenters and excommunicated church members, and at the direction of a revelation, JS left in January 1838. Although his critics accused him of leaving to avoid repaying his debts, JS had appointed as his agent in 1838 to settle unresolved debts and litigation, both for him personally as well as for the church. While many church members moved to in 1838, Granger remained in Kirtland and worked to settle debts with local merchants in and with several wholesale firms. As JS’s agent, he repaid the amount owed on the mortgage of the Kirtland to Mead, Stafford & Co.
By August 1839, the renegotiated promissory notes remained unpaid, and and attempted to arrange another compromise through partial repayment in land. In the process of these debts being consolidated, JS, through Granger, became the main source for repayment, even though JS had direct ties to only two of the four debts. Granger’s central involvement in the negotiations for all four suggests either that JS was willing to assume responsibility for the debts and had directed Granger to do so or that Perkins & Osborn was focusing primarily on JS in efforts to obtain payment.
died in August 1841, leaving much of JS’s finances in a state of disarray. Because Granger had been personally negotiating with the merchants or their lawyers, JS was unaware of many of the business agreements being made on his behalf. JS had urged Granger to share information about these and other arrangements, but Granger had not done so by the time of his death, which meant that JS had little knowledge of the state of his finances managed by Granger. Complicating matters further, Granger’s son , who had taken possession of land and other assets held by his father as a church agent, refused to return deeds, promissory notes, and other financial records to JS. This made it difficult for JS to repay the merchants or otherwise fulfill the arrangements the elder Granger may have made.
Because of the uncertain finances and the pressure of these and other debts, JS, who was now residing in , petitioned for bankruptcy in April 1842. He included the debts owed to several merchants in the schedule of debts he created as part of his application. However, JS’s bankruptcy was unresolved at the time of his death in June 1844, and several of these debts resurfaced later as claims filed against his estate.