Introduction to State of Illinois v. Olney

Document Transcript

State of Illinois v. Olney
Nauvoo, Hancock Co., Illinois, Mayor’s Court, 10 February 1843
 
Historical Introduction
On 10 February 1843, JS, sitting as mayor of , Illinois, and a justice of the peace, presided at a preliminary hearing held to hear evidence that former Latter-day Saint had committed and the previous month. Olney had been excommunicated from the church nearly a year earlier for “setting himself up as a prophet & revelator.” He had also experienced family challenges. In July 1841 his wife, Alice Johnson Olney, died, and he dispersed their eleven children to other families. In 1842 he began efforts to reunite them, starting with daughters and , but found himself unable to provide for them. On the night of 23 January 1843, Oliver Olney broke into the store of and stole cloth, shoes, a $50 bank note, and sundry other items valued at $1,000.
filed a complaint on 10 February 1843 before JS, who issued a warrant to search the residences of and . The search resulted in discovery of the stolen property. Olney and Nourse were brought before JS, charged with and . Olney confessed to the crime and stated he was the only person engaged in the theft. In response to questions posed by JS, Olney denied that church teachings had influenced his decision to steal. Furthermore, he acknowledged that JS warned him that revelations Olney had been receiving were “false” and would lead him “to destruction.” Olney claimed that the theft was justified because he had “suffered beyond all bounds of reason.” He explained that he did not intend to sell the pilfered goods but to use them to provide clothing for his children and himself. Newell Nourse’s wife, , testified that Olney had brought her cloth and asked her to make dresses for his daughters but that he had not mentioned where the cloth came from, nor had he taught that theft was justified by church teachings. Following the testimony from Harriet Nourse and other witnesses, Newell Nourse was released from custody, “there not appearing any testimony to convict him.”
In his ruling, JS condemned using religion to justify theft, stating that it was “impossible god should have any hand in driving a man to Burglery—Larceny & destruction.” ’s confession and the testimony of the witnesses provided sufficient evidence to bind him for trial. His bail was set at $5,000. As he was unable to provide such an amount, he was placed in the custody of constable , to be taken to the county jail at to await the next term of the circuit court. According to ’s notes of JS’s decision, JS commented, “I would have fed & clothed him if he had come to me,” and went on to state that “this is the most painful thing I ever had to do” and that he had “never sat in such a case befor.” JS’s clerk prepared a detailed account of the hearing, which he inscribed in the mayor’s court docket book around 5 May 1843.
, who was described as “a large, powerful, athletic man,” managed to escape before the was able to safely deliver him to . The handcuffs Parker had made for him were too small to fit around his wrists, and while “getting them altered the prisoner decamped.” Two weeks later Olney turned himself over to the and was taken to Carthage on 26 February. JS forwarded certified copies of Olney’s statement and for the witnesses to the Circuit Court; however, there is no record of proceedings for the case in the circuit court. The minimum punishment for the crime of or was a year imprisonment, but Olney married Phebe Wheeler eight months after the hearing in October 1843, suggesting he had been released by then.
 
Calendar of Documents
This calendar lists all known documents created by or for the court, whether extant or not. It does not include versions of documents created for other purposes, though those versions may be listed in footnotes. In certain cases, especially in cases concerning unpaid debts, the originating document (promissory note, invoice, etc.) is listed here. Note that documents in the calendar are grouped with their originating court. Where a version of a document was subsequently filed with another court, that version is listed under both courts.

Footnotes

  1. 1

    See Docket Entry, between 10 Feb. and ca. 5 May 1843 [State of Illinois v. Olney].  

  2. 2

    Nauvoo High Council Minutes, 17 Mar. 1842, 40.  

    Nauvoo High Council Minutes, 1839–1845. CHL. LR 3102 22.

  3. 3

    “Died,” Times and Seasons, 2 Aug. 1841, 2:501–502.  

    Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.

  4. 4

    Phebe Wheeler Olney, Nauvoo, IL, to “Uncle and Aunt Dunning,” 24 Jan. 1844, Oliver H. Olney, Papers, CHL; Oliver H. Olney (1796–1847) and Alice Johnson family tree, FamilySearch, accessed 22 Feb. 2019, https://www.familysearch.org/tree/pedigree/landscape/2YGB-4VS.  

    Olney, Oliver H. Papers, 1842–1844. Microfilm. CHL.

    FamilySearch. Compiled by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. https://familysearch.org.

  5. 5

    Oliver H. Olney, [Nauvoo, IL], to Elias and Malena Chapman, ca. after July 1842, Oliver H. Olney, Papers, CHL.  

    Olney, Oliver H. Papers, 1842–1844. Microfilm. CHL.

  6. 6

    Complaint, 10 Feb. 1843 [State of Illinois v. Olney]; Statement, 10 Feb. 1843 [State of Illinois v. Olney]; Warrant, 10 Feb. 1843 [State of Illinois v. Olney]. Nourse was a follower of Olney. On 4 November 1842, he was ordained to the high priesthood organized by Olney in Nauvoo. The ordination is recorded on the verso of extracts of letters from Israel Barlow, Oliver Snow, and John Corrill in Oliver H. Olney, Papers, copy, CHL.)  

    Olney, Oliver H. Papers, 1842–1844. Microfilm. CHL.

  7. 7

    Inventory, 10 Feb. 1843, in handwriting of William W. Phelps [State of Illinois v. Olney]; see also Inventory, 10 Feb. 1843, in handwriting of John Taylor [State of Illinois v. Olney].  

  8. 8

    Docket Entry, between 10 Feb. and ca. 5 May 1843 [State of Illinois v. Olney].  

  9. 9

    Statement, 10 Feb. 1843 [State of Illinois v. Olney].  

  10. 10

    Stealing among church members was a problem in Illinois in the 1840s, especially in early 1843, with accused Latter-day Saints claiming that the church’s teachings authorized stealing. In March 1843, JS issued a proclamation condemning theft and those who assumed that church teachings supported the practice. (See JS, Journal, 20–21 Feb. 1843; “Proclamation,” Wasp, 29 Mar. 1843, [3]; and JS, Journal, 6 Apr. 1843.)  

    The Wasp. Nauvoo, IL. Apr. 1842–Apr. 1843.

  11. 11

    Account of Hearing, 10 Feb. 1843, as Reported by Willard Richards [State of Illinois v. Olney]; see also Account of Hearing, 10 Feb. 1843, as Reported by William W. Phelps [State of Illinois v. Olney].  

  12. 12

    Account of Hearing, 10 Feb. 1843, as Reported by Willard Richards [State of Illinois v. Olney]; see also Account of Hearing, 10 Feb. 1843, as Reported by William W. Phelps [State of Illinois v. Olney]; and Account of Hearing, 10 Feb. 1843, as Reported by James Sloan [State of Illinois v. Olney].  

  13. 13

    Docket Entry, between 10 Feb. and ca. 5 May 1843 [State of Illinois v. Olney].  

  14. 14

    Account of Hearing, 10 Feb. 1843, as Reported by Willard Richards [State of Illinois v. Olney].  

  15. 15

    Docket Entry, between 10 Feb. and ca. 5 May 1843 [State of Illinois v. Olney].  

  16. 16

    Docket Entry, between 10 Feb. and ca. 5 May 1843 [State of Illinois v. Olney].  

  17. 17

    Account of Hearing, 10 Feb. 1843, as Reported by Willard Richards [State of Illinois v. Olney].  

  18. 18

    Docket Entry, between 10 Feb. and ca. 5 May 1843 [State of Illinois v. Olney].  

  19. 19

    “Outrageous Theft,” 15 February 1843 [State of Illinois v. Olney].  

  20. 20

    See JS, Journal, 25 and 26 Feb. 1843.  

  21. 21

    Docket Entry, between 10 Feb. and ca. 5 May 1843 [State of Illinois v. Olney].  

  22. 22

    An Act Relative to Criminal Jurisprudence [26 Feb. 1833], Public and General Statute Laws of the State of Illinois, pp. 207–208, sec. 60; Nauvoo, IL, Marriage Record, 16; see also Phebe Wheeler Olney, Nauvoo, IL, to “Uncle and Aunt Dunning,” 24 Jan. 1844, Oliver H. Olney, Papers, CHL.  

    The Public and General Statute Laws of the State of Illinois: Containing All the Laws . . . Passed by the Ninth General Assembly, at Their First Session, Commencing December 1, 1834, and Ending February 13, 1835; and at Their Second Session, Commencing December 7, 1835, and Ending January 18, 1836; and Those Passed by the Tenth General Assembly, at Their Session Commencing December 5, 1836, and Ending March 6, 1837; and at Their Special Session, Commencing July 10, and Ending July 22, 1837. . . . Compiled by Jonathan Young Scammon. Chicago: Stephen F. Gale, 1839.

    Nauvoo, IL, Recorder. Marriage Record, 1842–1845. CHL.

    Olney, Oliver H. Papers, 1842–1844. Microfilm. CHL.

  23. 23

    Olney’s release may have been due to a procedural flaw in the court of inquiry conducted by JS. Illinois law required that the proceedings be held before two justices of the peace. During the proceedings John Taylor asked questions of Olney, but Taylor was not a justice of the peace; the Nauvoo charter authorized the mayor and aldermen of Nauvoo to act as justices of the peace, but John Taylor was a city councilman, not an alderman. (An Act to Regulate the Apprehension of Offenders, and for Other Purposes [6 Jan. 1827], Public and General Statute Laws of the State of Illinois, p. 238, sec. 3; Act to Incorporate the City of Nauvoo, 16 Dec. 1840, in JSP, D7:481; Nauvoo City Council Minute Book, 23 Oct. 1841, 25.)  

    The Public and General Statute Laws of the State of Illinois: Containing All the Laws . . . Passed by the Ninth General Assembly, at Their First Session, Commencing December 1, 1834, and Ending February 13, 1835; and at Their Second Session, Commencing December 7, 1835, and Ending January 18, 1836; and Those Passed by the Tenth General Assembly, at Their Session Commencing December 5, 1836, and Ending March 6, 1837; and at Their Special Session, Commencing July 10, and Ending July 22, 1837. . . . Compiled by Jonathan Young Scammon. Chicago: Stephen F. Gale, 1839.

    JSP, D7 / Godfrey, Matthew C., Spencer W. McBride, Alex D. Smith, and Christopher James Blythe, eds. Documents, Volume 7: September 1839–January 1841. Vol. 7 of the Documents series of The Joseph Smith Papers, edited by Ronald K. Esplin, Matthew J. Grow, and Matthew C. Godfrey. Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2018.