Like other leaders and businessmen of his day, JS often used to conduct business. To overcome challenges of geographical distance and the constraints of doing business in person, a legal principle of agency had developed that allowed designated individuals, known as agents, to act on behalf of another, known as the principal, to conduct business. Agents were often authorized to act through a contract known as a power of attorney, but a power of attorney was not necessarily required. Some agent appointments were likely based on informal verbal agreements.
JS used agents to handle business matters for the —for example, and were appointed agents in connection with the . By fall 1836, JS and other church leaders had started several businesses and purchased considerable amounts of land in , Ohio, and the surrounding area. When JS was compelled to leave in January 1838, he appointed agents to act on his and the church’s behalf to repay his personal debts as well as church debts and to manage church affairs in Kirtland. began serving as an agent for JS and the church by April 1837, when JS and transferred church property to him—including the land on which the Kirtland had been built—to hold on their behalf. Marks was further appointed an agent for Kirtland Newel K. Whitney in September 1837.
After JS’s departure from in 1838, worked to settle church affairs, including repaying debts in . Following directions from JS, Marks received land from Saints moving from Ohio to and used this land to repay . In return, on behalf of JS and , Marks provided those Saints with pay orders to give to Bishop in and receive money or property that the church owned there as payment for their Ohio property. Many of these orders created between February and April 1838 are still extant. The signatures have been removed on most of the orders, indicating that they were paid. Extant receipts also show that Partridge paid the orders. In some cases, the order from Marks was transferred to another individual as payment and that individual then brought the order to Partridge to be fulfilled. Marks continued to serve as an agent in Ohio until July 1838, when a JS revelation directed him to join the Saints in Missouri.
That same July 1838 revelation directed to assume responsibility for the church’s affairs in . Granger began acting as an agent for JS and in 1837, in relation to the and efforts to repay creditors. In 1838, Granger, like , worked to settle unresolved debts owed by JS and the church. His efforts included paying local Ohio merchants and representing JS in ongoing legal matters. In spring 1839, Granger was in , but church leaders directed him to return to and continue managing the church’s affairs there. Some Saints in Illinois requested Granger to act as their agent as well, providing him with powers of attorney to manage the homes and property they had left behind in Ohio. A few months later, in August, Granger continued his efforts to resolve New York mercantile debts. With the help of , Ohio, lawyer , he negotiated with four New York merchants to repay the debts owed them in land. Granger became even more involved in these repayment proceedings in April 1840 when he signed an agreement with JS to assume and settle JS’s and other church leaders’ unpaid debts to New York merchants.
Like , acquired land from Saints who were intending to move, and then used this land to repay creditors. For example, Granger purchased several farms owned by Latter-day Saints in Oswego County, New York, in October 1840 in exchange for property in . Before plans for repayment of creditors were finalized, Granger’s health began declining. JS wrote to Granger in May and then again in August 1841 seeking information regarding the business Granger was conducting as JS’s agent. However, Granger died in August 1841 without providing JS information on business matters. His death left JS’s finances in an unsettled state due to both JS’s lack of knowledge and Granger’s son refusing to return the financial records in his father’s possession as a church agent. The debts were further complicated by the fact that, before his death, Oliver Granger promised at least one Oswego County farm to New York merchants but deeded the same land to Gilbert. This left ownership of the land unclear and JS unable to use the farms to repay mercantile debts as the elder Granger may have arranged. Although JS tried to arrange a settlement with Gilbert Granger, he proved unwilling to reach a settlement or exchange records. As a result, many financial matters remained unresolved, and problems with ownership and payment for the Oswego lands continued into 1844.
While was still alive, also served as an agent for JS and the church in . After Granger’s death, Babbitt was the only agent for the church in Ohio; however, in November 1841, JS revoked Babbitt’s power of attorney and appointed as his replacement. Due to the ongoing conflict with and the unsettled state of financial affairs in Ohio, McBride struggled to make sense of the church’s debts and obligations. He wrote to JS several times to clarify business matters and ask for direction. While McBride was able to resolve some of the remaining debts, several were left unsettled.
In the 1860s, signed by JS, , and others in were sent to Young in Utah for payment. This led Young to direct to return to as a church agent and inquire into the church’s unpaid debts. Although McBride met with Ohio lawyer , who had been involved with legal matters related to JS in the 1830s, it is unclear whether the debts were ever resolved.
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.