JS, Letter, , Clay Co., MO, to , , Adams Co., IL, 21 Mar. 1839; handwriting of JS; three pages; JS Collection, CHL. Includes address.
Bifolium measuring 9⅝ × 7⅝ inches (24 × 19 cm). The letter was addressed and trifolded twice in letter style. Needle holes along the center fold suggest that at some time the letter was sewn to other documents. The letter has undergone conservation.
presumably received the letter in and kept it for some time; it later left the Smith family’s possession. Around 1901, the letter was acquired by Iowa antiques collector Charles Birge. Subsequently, custody of the letter was transferred to autograph collector Frederick Peck, who retained the letter until his death in 1947. The letter was in the possession of Mary Benjamin, an autograph dealer and editor of the Collector, from an unknown date until circa 1953, when custody was transferred to physician Charles W. Olsen, an eminent collector of Abraham Lincoln memorabilia. Olsen donated the letter to the LDS church in 1961.
Memorandum, 14 June 1961; David O. McKay, Salt Lake City, to Charles W. Olsen, Chicago, IL, 21 June 1961, in David O. McKay, Diary Entries, 21–22 June 1961, CHL.
McKay, David O. Diary Entries, 21–22 June 1961. Photocopy. CHL.
On 21 March 1839, JS wrote a letter from the to his wife , who was in , Illinois. This letter, the fourth extant missive he wrote to her during his imprisonment in winter 1838–1839, was partly a response to her 7 March letter, in which she reflected upon her forced departure from the Smiths’ home and upon the family’s situation in . In his letter, JS offered her encouragement and commented on her living situation, the health of their children, and the pain of his separation from the family. JS also included instructions on copying and transmitting the 20 March 1839 general epistle to the church. Additionally, he proposed that church members develop a “bill of damages” documenting their losses in Missouri, to be used in seeking redress from the federal government.
JS wrote two pages and then closed and signed the letter. Afterward, he inscribed a third page and then closed and signed the letter again. The missive may have been included in the “package of letters for ” that church member picked up at the on 22 March 1839. It is unknown how the letter was carried from to , although the lack of postal markings suggests a courier carried the letter.
Lyman Wight, Journal, in History of the Reorganized Church, 2:323.
The History of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. 8 vols. Independence, MO: Herald Publishing House, 1896–1976.
I wa[n]t the you to take the best care of the family you can which I believe you will do all you can I was sorry to learn that was sick but I trust he is well again and that you are all well I want you to try to gain time and write to me a long letter and tell me all you can and even if old major is alive yet and what those little pratlers say that cling around you[r] neck do you tell them I am in prison that that their lives might be savedI want all the church to make out a bill of damages and apply to the Court as soon as possiblehoweveve [however] they will find out what can be done themselves you expressed my feelings concerning the order and I blieve that there is a way to git redress for such things but God ruleth all things after the council of his own will my trust is in him the salvation of my soul is of the most importants to me for as much as I know for a certainty of Eternal things if the heveans linger it is nothing to <me> I must stear my bark safe which I intend to do I want you to do the same yours forever Joseph Smith Jr
On 31 October 1838, Major General Samuel D. Lucas demanded that JS and other church leaders submit to arrest; otherwise, the three thousand militiamen under Lucas’s command would attack Far West, Missouri. (Samuel D. Lucas, “near Far West,” MO, to Lilburn W. Boggs, 2 Nov. 1838, copy, Mormon War Papers, MSA.)
In February 1839, church leaders in Quincy, Illinois, began laying the groundwork for pursuing redress for their losses, including through appointing a committee “to draught a petition to the general Government stating our Grievances and one likewise presented to the citizens for the same object.” The minutes of this February meeting were evidently sent to Far West and incorporated into the records of the Far West removal committee. Church leaders in Far West may have informed JS of these efforts. (Quincy Committee, Minutes, ca. 9 Feb. 1839, Far West Committee, Minutes, CHL; see also Historical Introduction to Letter from Edward Partridge, 5 Mar. 1839.)
Far West Committee. Minutes, Jan.–Apr. 1839. CHL. MS 2564.
Emma Smith described Governor Boggs’s expulsion order of 27 October 1838 as follows: “The ever to be remembered Governor’s notable order; an order fraught with as much wickedness as ignorance and as much ignorance as was ever contained in an article of that length.” (Letter from Emma Smith, 7 Mar. 1839.)