Kirtland Safety Society

Summary

A financial institution formed to raise money and provide credit in Kirtland, Ohio. On 2 November 1836, JS, Sidney Rigdon, and others officially organized the Kirtland Safety Society as a community bank by ratifying its constitution. Sidney Rigdon served as president and JS as cashier. Stock in the bank was available for subscription beginning in October 1836. In winter 1836–1837, Orson Hyde traveled to Columbus, Ohio, to seek a bank charter from the Ohio state legislature. Before such legislation could be introduced, the Kirtland Safety Society was reorganized as an unincorporated banking company on 2 January 1837 with Sidney Rigdon as secretary and JS as treasurer. The banking office opened for business in early January 1837. The institution may have closed temporarily on 23 or 24 January because of growing opposition in the surrounding area. On 9 February 1837, Samuel Rounds, acting for Grandison Newell, brought charges against JS, Rigdon, and four others for violating a state banking statute that prohibited unchartered institutions from issuing bank notes. The following day, the Ohio senate denied a proposal to grant the society a bank charter. In May 1837, mounting financial tensions and specie shortages in the U.S. and Great Britain resulted in a financial panic that created further pressure on the institution and resulted in most banks being unwilling to accept or redeem the society’s notes. Between 8 June and 7 July 1837, JS and Sidney Rigdon resigned as officers of the institution, and Frederick G. Williams and Warren Parrish were elected as replacements. In August of that year, JS, no longer affiliated with the society, issued a notice warning the public to beware of speculators using Kirtland Safety Society notes. The institution closed before 3 September 1837. JS and Sidney Rigdon were tried in absentia on charges of unauthorized banking on 24 October 1837. They were found guilty and fined one thousand dollars each. The Kirtland Safety Society’s troubles prompted some church members to publicly criticize JS’s leadership and prophetic calling; some of these critics formed a dissenting party and some left the church or were excommunicated.

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