Introduction to Scribner v. Rigdon, Smith & Cowdery
Scribner v. Rigdon, Smith & Cowdery
Geauga Co., Ohio, Court of Common Pleas, circa 20 October 1840
On 16 June 1836, the , Ohio, mercantile firm of purchased hardware and other goods, which cost $790.91, from , New York, merchant . This purchase was made on credit, and the firm gave Scribner as payment a promissory note due on 16 October 1836. Purchasing agents for the firm made another trip to in fall 1836 and purchased additional goods, including lead piping, from Scribner on 19 October. At the same time, they may have renegotiated and extended payment on the promissory note originally due that month.
The struggled to make the promised payments to and other merchants from whom it had bought goods in 1836. In spring 1837, JS sent and on a “special Business Mission” to the eastern . The mission apparently involved contacting several New York merchants about the firms’ outstanding debts and may also have involved raising money from local members of the church. Richards and Young met with Scribner in April 1837 in Troy, New York, likely to reassure him that JS and his partners were intent on paying their debt; they may also have renegotiated the Kirtland firms’ debts or paid Scribner using banknotes from the . In a further effort to resolve their debts, JS and appointed their agent in September 1837 and sent him to meet with Scribner.
Despite ’s efforts, decided to bring the case to litigation. On 26 October 1837, he filed a plea of to recover the debt owed by . A writ of summons was issued against JS, , and . The next day, deputy sheriff left copies of the summons with and Phebe Brooks Rigdon for their husbands, JS and Sidney Rigdon, but was unable to locate Cowdery. On 4 December 1837, Scribner, through his attorneys and , filed his declaration claiming $1,000 in damages. The case was brought before the Geauga County Court of Common Pleas on 5 April 1838. JS and Rigdon had moved to by that time and did not appear in court, so the court rendered a judgment that Scribner should recover his damages from them. However, the “damages [were] not assessed for want of proof of the account.” The case was continued until June 1840, apparently to give Scribner an opportunity to prove exactly what damages the court should assess. Finally, in October 1840, the case was ruled and terminated when Scribner or a designated representative failed to appear in court to prosecute the case. The failure to appear, along with a notation on a court record, suggests that by this time Scribner had abandoned his efforts to collect the debt and may have lacked the evidence necessary to prove the amount owed to pursue the case further.
Calendar of Documents
This calendar lists all known documents created by or for the court, whether extant or not. It does not include versions of documents created for other purposes, though those versions may be listed in footnotes. In certain cases, especially in cases concerning unpaid debts, the originating document (promissory note, invoice, etc.) is listed here. Note that documents in the calendar are grouped with their originating court. Where a version of a document was subsequently filed with another court, that version is listed under both courts.
16 June 1836
Rigdon, Smith & Cowdery, Promissory Note, Buffalo, Erie Co., NY, to Jonathan Scribner
16 June 1836. Not extant.
Geauga Co., Ohio, Court of Common Pleas
26 October 1837
Charles H. Foot, Summons, to Geauga Co. Sheriff, for Sidney Rigdon and Others, Chardon, Geauga Co., OH
According to store invoices, Scribner was an “Importer and Wholesale and Retail Dealer in Fancy and Staple Hardware, Iron, Steel, Nails, Spikes, &c. &c” in Buffalo. By 1837, he appears to have been living in Troy, New York, around three hundred miles from Buffalo. (Invoice, Jonathan Scribner to Rigdon, Smith & Cowdery, 16 June 1836; Directory for the City of Buffalo , 133; Directory for the City of Buffalo , 119; Richards, Journal, 22 Mar. 1837; 19 and 26 Apr. 1837; 6 June 1837.)
A Directory for the City of Buffalo; Containing the Names and Residence of the Heads of Families and Householders, in Said City, on the First of May, 1836. Buffalo, NY: L. P. Crary, 1836.
Swan, Joseph R. The Practice in Civil Actions and Proceedings at Law, in Ohio, and Precedents in Pleading, with Practical Notes; together with the Forms of Process and Clerks’ Entries. 2 vols. Columbus: Isaac N. Whiting, 1845.
JSP, D9 / Smith, Alex D., Christian K. Heimburger, and Christopher James Blythe, eds. Documents, Volume 9: December 1841–April 1842. Vol. 9 of the Documents series of The Joseph Smith Papers, edited by Matthew C. Godfrey, R. Eric Smith, Matthew J. Grow, and Ronald K. Esplin. Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2019.