JS, Letter, , Jackson Co., MO, to , , Caldwell Co., MO, 4 Nov. 1838; handwriting of JS (signature now missing); three pages; JS Materials, CCLA. Includes address, wafer seals, and redactions.
Bifolium measuring 12½ × 7¾ inches (32 × 20 cm), with thirty-five printed lines per page. The document was trifolded twice in letter style, sealed with wafers, and addressed. Later, the letter was refolded, perhaps for filing. JS’s signature was subsequently cut from the second leaf. The leaves eventually became separated and were reattached with staples. At some point, the two leaves were numbered in graphite. The letter likely remained in the Smith family’s possession until it was transferred, on an unknown date, to the custody of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (now Community of Christ).
According to Richard Howard, former historian for the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a high-ranking church official in the early twentieth century cut JS signatures from documents—a common practice at the time. (Richard Howard, email to Rachel Killebrew, 5 Jan. 2015, copy in editors’ possession.)
Following JS’s late October 1838 arrest in , Missouri, he wrote to his wife on 4 November 1838. JS and his fellow prisoners—, , , , , and —arrived in Independence, Missouri, around noon on 4 November in the midst of a severe storm. The prisoners were lodged in a large “old log house” situated on Maple Street, immediately north of Independence’s public square and courthouse. In the evening, the prisoners were “provided with Paper and writing Materials and Candles,” and JS wrote the following letter to Emma Smith, recounting the prisoners’ reception in Independence and expressing anxiety for her welfare. The absence of a postmark suggests the letter was hand delivered. JS may have sent the letter by way of a “Mr Collins,” who on 7 November carried a letter from inmate Parley P. Pratt to his wife, , in Far West. By the time Emma Smith received this letter, she and her children had likely been evicted from their residence and were probably staying at the home of and in Far West.
In 1842 Emma Smith testified that following JS’s arrest, George M. Hinkle, the previous owner of the Smiths’ house in Far West, entered the home, stole Smith family possessions, and “used Coersive measures to drive Witness [Emma Smith] and her Family therefrom, the Premises & House.” She also explained, “I went with my Children to the House of George W. Harris in Far West Missouri.” (Minute Book 2, 6 July 1838; Emma Smith, Deposition, Nauvoo, IL, 22 Apr. 1842, JS v. George M. Hinkle [Lee Co. Dist. Ct. 1842], CHL.)
JS v. George M. Hinkle / Lee County, Iowa Territory, District Court. Joseph Smith v. George M. Hinkle, 1841–1842. CHL.
when we arrived at the river last night an express came to from of Howard County claiming the right of command ordering us back where <or what place> God only knows, and there is some feelings betwen the offercers, I do not know where it will end, it <is> said by some that , is determined to exterminating exterminate God has spared some of us thus far perhaps he will extend mercy in some degree toward us <yet> some of the people of this place have told me that some of the mormans may settle in this as others <men> dothe peg I have some hopes that something may turn out for good to the afflicted saints, I want you to stay where you are untill you here from me again, I may send for you to bring you to me, I cannot learn much for certainty in the situation that I am in, and can only pray for deliverance, untill it is meeted out, and take every thing as it comes, with patient patience and fortitude, I hope you will be faithful and true to every trust, I cant write much in my situation, conduct all matters as your circumstances and necesities require, may God give you wisdom and prudance and sobriety which <I> have every reason to believe you will, those little <childrens> are subjects of my meditation continually, tell them that Father is yet alive, God grant that he may see them again Oh for God sake [p. ]
In early November 1838, Major General Samuel D. Lucas and Major General John B. Clark disputed who held ultimate command in the field and therefore was responsible for the Latter-day Saint prisoners. Lucas claimed that when he and his men approached Far West in late October, he believed he was the ranking officer in the field and thus was fully authorized to negotiate the peace terms with Colonel George M. Hinkle and to arrest the Mormon leaders on 31 October 1838. In a subsequent letter to Governor Lilburn W. Boggs, Lucas explained he was unaware that the governor had given Clark command over all the militia forces. On 2 November, Lucas ordered Brigadier General Moses Wilson and his men to take the prisoners to Lucas’s headquarters in Independence.a Upon hearing this news, Clark, who had not yet reached Far West, ordered Lucas on 3 November to reroute the prisoners to Clark’s headquarters in Richmond.b Although both men were major generals, Lucas argued that his “grade of Office” was superior to Clark’s, leading Lucas to disregard Clark’s 3 November order, as he “could not under any circumstances, be commanded by a Junior Major Genl.”c On 6 November, Lucas received confirmation in Independence that Boggs had indeed appointed Clark as the commanding officer, and Lucas agreed to give the prisoners to Clark.d
(aSamuel D. Lucas, Independence, MO, to Lilburn W. Boggs, 5 Nov. 1838, copy, Mormon War Papers, MSA. bJohn B. Clark, Richmond, MO, to Samuel D. Lucas, 3 Nov. 1838, copy, Mormon War Papers, MSA. cSamuel D. Lucas, Independence, MO, to Lilburn W. Boggs, 7 Nov. 1838, copy, Mormon War Papers, MSA; S. Lucas to L. Boggs, 5 Nov. 1838. dS. Lucas to L. Boggs, 7 Nov. 1838; John B. Clark, Richmond, MO, to Lilburn W. Boggs, 10 Nov. 1838, copy, Mormon War Papers, MSA.)
When the prisoners left Far West for Independence, Clark was not in the city yet, and it was unclear whether he would adopt Lucas’s terms or interpret the governor’s order more forcefully. Clark ultimately retained most of Lucas’s stipulations. However, after viewing “the situation of their women and children, and the inclemency of the weather,” Clark decided to “modify the terms” and allow the Saints to “remain until their convenience suited them in the spring.” (J. Clark to L. Boggs, 10 Nov. 1838.)
At Far West on 5 November 1838, Major General John B. Clark delivered a speech in which he reportedly encouraged the Saints to “become as other citizens,” by which he meant “to scatter abroad and never again organize with Bishops, Presidents, &c.” Judge Austin A. King shared the belief that the problems between the Latter-day Saints and their Missouri neighbors were rooted in the Saints’ practice of gathering. “If the Mormons would disperse and not gather into exclusive communities of their own, I think with the exception of a few of their leaders, the people might be reconciled to them.” These sentiments also existed among some residents of Jackson County, from which the Latter-day Saints had been expelled in fall 1833. (Greene, Facts relative to the Expulsion, 27; Editorial Note, in “A History, of the Persecution, of the Church of Jesus Christ, of Latter Day Saints in Missouri,” Dec. 1839–Oct. 1840; Austin A. King, Richmond, MO, to Lilburn W. Boggs, 23 Dec. 1838, copy, Mormon War Papers, MSA.)
Greene, John P. Facts Relative to the Expulsion of the Mormons or Latter Day Saints, from the State of Missouri, under the “Exterminating Order.” By John P. Greene, an Authorized Representative of the Mormons. Cincinnati: R. P. Brooks, 1839.