JS, Letter, [, Hancock Co., IL], to , [, Hancock Co., IL], 7 Oct. 1842; handwriting of JS; one page; International Society Daughters of Utah Pioneers, Pioneer Memorial Museum, Salt Lake City. Transcription from a digital color image made of the original in 2009.
Single leaf, measuring 8½ × 7⅞ inches (22 × 20 cm). The letter was trifolded for transmission and later folded again for filing. It was adhered to cardboard, and markings on the cardboard’s verso indicate that the letter was framed at one time. An archival marking is inscribed in the upper left corner of the cardboard’s verso in graphite. The letter was conserved in 2012, with the letter being removed from the cardboard, washed, repaired with Japanese paper, and encapsulated.
The document’s custodial history is unknown.
On 7 October 1842, JS responded to a note he had received from , apparently approving of a plan Clayton had proposed. JS wrote the letter in an intentionally cryptic manner, which makes its meaning unclear. JS had gone into hiding in , Illinois, and was considering leaving the city for a short time because of imminent searches of the city by state officials and others seeking to arrest him and extradite him to . On either 7 or 8 October, he left Nauvoo in the company of , , and and traveled about thirty miles northeast to the home of in Henderson County, Illinois.
In this holograph letter, JS compared himself to the biblical David and to the biblical Jonathan, likely in reference to their close friendship. JS likely wrote the letter in and had it delivered to Clayton before leaving the city. Clayton presumably received the letter in Nauvoo on the same day it was written. No written response is extant.
JS used this phrase earlier in the year in a letter to Wilson Law. Alluding to the legendary frontiersman and folk hero David “Davy” Crockett, who died at the Battle of the Alamo, the phrase served as a charge for church members to exhibit bravery and a willingness to lay down their lives, if necessary, to defend JS, the city of Nauvoo, and the church from enemies. The phrase appears to have been quite common in the United States during the 1830s and 1840s, derived from a quote that appeared on the title page of Crockett’s best-selling autobiography. (Letter to Wilson Law, 14 Aug. 1842; Crockett, Narrative of the Life of David Crockett, i.)
Crockett, David. A Narrative of the Life of David Crockett, of the State of Tennessee. Philadelphia: E. L. Carey and A. Hart, 1834.