, “Brief History,” Manuscript, ca. 6 April 1838– ca. 26 January 1839; handwriting of and an unidentified scribe; seventy pages numbered 20–90, plus three unnumbered pages; John Fletcher Darby Papers, Missouri History Museum Archives, St. Louis.
, a careful observer, had enjoyed a close association with Mormon leaders, and consequently his account provides valuable insights into the development and structure of the early church. He summarized many of the doctrines taught by JS and provided a detailed description of the conflict between the Latter-day Saints and other settlers. But his chronicle also related the story of a personal spiritual journey into and then out of the church as came to disapprove of the church’s course in 1838 in Missouri. Yet despite his estrangement from the church and his excommunication in 1839, he retained a degree of sympathy for the Saints and maintained some contact.
apparently began compiling portions of his account while serving as an officially appointed church historian in . He probably completed his narrative by 11 February 1839, when he secured a copyright with the district federal copyright office. He arranged for Thomas Watson & Son of to print A Brief History. The entire print run may have included up to twelve hundred copies.
The document presented here, ’s circa 1838–1839 rough draft of his history, is incomplete. It includes the title page, copyright notice, and preface but is missing twenty-one pages, including the nineteen pages that constitute chapters 1 through 6. The manuscript is almost entirely in Corrill’s handwriting, though some of the chapter summaries (added after he drafted the narrative) were written in a different hand, possibly that of the printer.
’s published version of A Brief History receives comprehensive treatment in volume 2 of the Histories series of The Joseph Smith Papers and is available on this website as part of the history series.
<Destructionist and destroying Angel. Battle with . Great excitement and people in arms. and escape. and the Militia. Battle at .>
<X 22> mean while was well guarded for they had heard that they were to be attacted by with a company from the Platt. But he did not attempt it. They also heard that a company was coming from Buncum, and they organized a company of ten men that were called the Destructionist, whose commander was called the Destroying Angel. Their business was to watch the movements of the citizens and if they gathered in Buncum and left the place for these destructionists were to slip in behind them and burn the place. So they were to do it, it was said, by , or any other place that should turn out men to injure them. I believe they never attempted to burn another place, though -[it was reported in that time was set for them to burn that place, and many left it for a short time, but this I think was incorrect. Shortly after the Mormon troops came from they received news that a company was gathered on and that some of them had been to some houses on Log creek in and ordered off the families with severe threats if they were not off by sunrise the next morning. They took away their arms and <it was said> also burnt a waggon and a house and took three men prisoners. On receiving this news, a company was fitted out to disperse them. Capt Fear not () commanded them. They went in the night to the house of Fields in , but [p. 70]