Letter from Myron Higley and Others, circa 16 September 1842
, , , and , Letter, [Boonville, Oneida Co.,] NY, to JS and , , Hancock Co., IL, [ca. 16 Sept. 1842]; unidentified handwriting; four pages; JS Collection (Supplement), CHL. Includes address, postal notations, and dockets.
Bifolium measuring 12¼ × 8 inches (31 × 20 cm) when folded. Each page is ruled with thirty-five horizontal printed lines. The minutes of a 12 January 1842 branch conference referred to in the letter are inscribed on the first three pages. The letter begins at the bottom of the third page and continues onto the fourth page. The document was trifolded twice in letter style, addressed, and sealed with a red adhesive wafer.
The minutes and letter were presumably received in , Illinois, in late 1842. The document was docketed by , who served as scribe to JS from 1842 to 1844. Another docket was inscribed by , who served as a clerk in the Church Historian’s Office (later Church Historical Department) from 1853 to 1859. Andrew Jenson, who began working in the Church Historian’s Office in 1891 and served as assistant church historian from 1897 to 1941, added to the Hawkins docket. The document is part of the JS Collection Supplement at the Church Historical Department (now CHL). The Church Historical Department published a register of the JS Collection in 1973. Between 1974 and 1984, staff continued to locate documents authored by or directed to JS in uncataloged church financial records and in name and subject files. The department also acquired additional JS documents from donors, collectors, and dealers. These newly located and acquired documents were kept together in a supplement to the JS Collection. A preliminary inventory of the supplement was created in 1992. This group of records was named the JS Collection (Supplement), 1833–1844, and its cataloging was finalized in 2017. The minutes and letter have presumably been in continuous institutional custody.
Jenson, Andrew. Latter-day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia: A Compilation of Biographical Sketches of Prominent Men and Women in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 4 vols. Salt Lake City: Andrew Jenson History Co., 1901–1936.
See the full bibliographic entry for JS Collection (Supplement), 1833–1844, in the CHL catalog.
Around 16 September 1842, members , , , and wrote a letter from Boonville, New York, to JS and in , Illinois, asking their opinion about a recent disciplinary action. The letter was added to the bottom of the minutes of the proceedings of a case against Nancy Thomas Chase, who had been charged with stealing money from other members of the Boonville .
Several branch members accused Chase of stealing money from their pockets while they slept at Chase’s home. On 12 January 1842, Chase’s case was heard by a council presided over by . He was joined by , , , and other branch members, including Chase’s husband, . Tibbals, who claimed that a three-dollar bill had been taken from him, testified that he had awoken and found Nancy Chase with “his pantaloons in her hand from the pocket of which the bill was taken, & that she was taking her hand from the pocket at the time he saw her.” In answering the charges, she reportedly stated that “she had no knowledge or recollection of the transactions which were alleged against her, although she might have taken the things without knowing it, & that she did not believe that the Brethren would lie about her” and that “she hoped they would forgive her, & she would refund the money if she was ever able.” Justus Chase then stated that on several occasions he had “known sister Chase to be so far deranged as to deprive her of all knowledge of her own conduct.” Following a discussion of the case, it was moved that Nancy Chase’s “acknowledgement . . . be accepted by the & that she be forgiven,” and the motion carried.
Some members, however, were dissatisfied with the decision to forgive Chase, so the case was referred to a conference held in Utica, New York, on 11 June 1842. The Utica conference recommended that the Boonville branch “institute a new trial in the case of Sister Chase.” Accordingly, the new trial was held on 2 July 1842 at the home of in Port Leyden, New York, about seven miles north of Boonville. It is unclear whether Nancy or attended this second hearing, but because the same evidence was presented as in the first hearing and “there was no one to speak for Sister Chase,” the charges against her were sustained and a motion carried that she “be excluded from the Church.” The Chases were unhappy with the result of the second hearing and requested that send the proceedings to JS for his consideration. Higley and other branch members sent the minutes of the most recent proceedings to JS and requested that he send back his response as a written revelation. The minutes are not a JS document, but because they were included with the letter sent to JS and Hyrum Smith, they are included here.
and company presumably wrote the letter on or shortly before 16 September 1842, the date given in the letter’s manuscript postmark. Aware from newspaper reports that JS had left in August to elude authorities seeking to arrest him and extradite him to , they mailed the letter from , New York, to in Nauvoo and asked him to act in JS’s place if JS was not able to attend to their request. The letter likely arrived in Nauvoo in early October 1842, but it is unclear when either JS or Hyrum Smith received it. It is likewise unclear if any decision was made regarding Nancy Chase and her membership in the church.
It is unclear what specific reports Higley and the other members of the Boonville branch had read, but news of the attempts to arrest JS and extradite him to Missouri appeared in several newspapers published in western New York. (See, for example, “The Mormons,” and “No Arrest,” Auburn [NY] Journal and Advertiser, 7 Sept. 1842, .)
Auburn Journal and Advertiser. Auburn, NY. 1834–1848.
At Special of the Boonville of. the convened according to previous notice at the house of in the Town of Greg on the 12th of Jany 1842 to transact business relative to the Church of Jesus Christ.
Present , , , & , together with other Brethren & sisters. The Conference was organized by appointing Elder President of said Conference which was then opened by singing, & a prayer by the
The Pesedent [president] of the Branch, Elder , prefered a Charge against Sister Nancy [Thomas] Chase for taking things from the pockets of others that did not belong to her, and said in support of the Charge, that he had lost half a dollar out of his pocket at two different times during the night when he Slept at the house of . stated that he had lost a five dollar Bill from his pocket during the a night that he slept at ’s, & that a person came out of the room where Brother & Sister Chase slept, & examined the clothes of , (who slept with him) & returned, & came out again after a while, & examined his clothes, & while handling his clothes, his knife fell from the pocket onto the floor, which he picked up in the morning. Elder stated that he had lost a three dollar Bill from his pocket in the night when he slept at ’s & that some time in the night, there being a bright fire light, he saw Sister Chase have his pantaloons in her hand from the pocket of which the bill was taken, & that she was taking her hand from the pocket at the time he saw her[.] Sister Chase being called on for her defence, said, that she had no knowledge or recollection of the transactions which were alleged against her, although she might have taken the things without knowing it, & that she did not believe that the Brethren would lie about her, & She hoped they would forgive her, & she would refund the money <if she was ever able> Elder stated that he had on several occasions known sister Chase to be so far deranged as [p. ]