Letter from Don Carlos Smith, 3 June 1841

  • Source Note
  • Historical Introduction

Document Transcript

city of , June 3rd, 1841
Brother Joseph
I have made a purchase of 160 acres of land as good as ever laid out of doors; it is situated Just two miles from the on a beautiful undulating prairie and is the west half of the south half of section 3rd. I wish you would sell it for me the first opportunity, perhaps you may have an opportunity the while I am gone. can give all necessary information as he owns the other half Quarter of the same Section. The price is $7.00 per acre or one thousand dollars for the Quarter, one half down the balance in one, two, & three years. If you will sell this for me, Brother Joseph, you will confer a lasting favor on one that will stand by (the “Rack hay or no hay”) you through time & in eternity. The Quarter is an excellent purchase for some body, and whoever gets it will get a fortune. It is wholly unconnected with ’s as far as the contract is concerned. I have Paid one hundred dollars down on the land, and have some lenity on the balance. [p. [1]]
Bare with me Joseph while I write— I have no opportunity to converse with you— you are thronged with business— and all the time (almost) in the narrows, straining the last link, as it were, to get out of this & that Pinch &c. &c. all this I know, I am not ignorant of it— I have been, and now am in the <​same​> mill— when I’ll. get through the hopper I know not, one thing I do know, and that is this when I got into the hopper in this place I was owing in and elsewhere about $200,00 <​or more​> and <​up◊◊◊ds​> w [hole in page] not worth a red cent. I borrowed money to commence business— built a log cabbin— built an office— was sick upwards of 11 months with my family have not obtained any thing on the rise of property— did not purchase any lots in the city because I knew you must have your money for them or loose the whole— I have labored hard early, and latefared hard— received nothing by speculation, or rise of property; but in the midst of all, I have not complained, nor will I—but have tried to be content, and done the best I knew how. I have paid the best part of my old debts, [p. [2]] and have contracted new ones by borrowing of “Peter to pay Paul,” (as the maxim runs) I owe about five hundred dollars in all; I have papers on hand <​and accounts​> to the amount of 800 or 1000 dollars, and <​accounts​> The printing establishment, aparatus &c. is worth $1500,00. you see by this that if I could raise five hundred dollars, to pay my debts, out of my land or in any way; it would leave me a property of $2500,00, or at least 2300,00 dollars. Now this is my exact situation, and I have written it because because I had not the opportunity of talking it, and I hope you will not think strange of this letter, because I am going away and do not know but what you could sell this land for me while I am gone. The title is good &c. &c. Would you, or could you let me have property here, for the property which has in that should be mine? I have reference to the house and lot. You can tell me all about these matters when I come home.
As it did <​not​> fall to my lot to get an interest in the with you by selling out &c. which, after due reflection, did not appear to <​be​> wisdom for the present; I feel anxious to enlarge the printing business by publishing a weekly news paper, and I think it will do well, if it should, it will be very valuable.
[p. [3]]
Joseph Smith [p. [4]]


  1. 1

    A hayrack is a feeder for livestock and a traditional feature in equestrian stables. The amount of hay in the rack fluctuated with times of famine or plenty. An 1811 guide for farriers illuminates Don Carlos Smith’s metaphoric use: “The way to get a horse into condition, is not by continually filling his rack with hay . . . but by observing regularity in giving him his food.” In other words, hay should be dispensed in frequent intervals and appropriate amounts, in the same way Don Carlos hoped money would be dispensed for himself and JS; Don Carlos pledged his loyalty despite fluctuations and uncertainty. (Wilson, Gentleman’s Modern System of Farriery, 23.)  

    Wilson, Yorick. The Gentleman’s Modern System of Farriery; or, Stable Directory; a Concise Treatise on the Various Diseases of Horses, Their Symptoms, and Most Humane Methods of Cure. Trenton, NJ: James Oram, 1811.

  2. 2

    TEXT: Likely “was”.  

  3. 3

    Don Carlos still owed money on several accounts in Ohio, including two notes for forty dollars each to “Van Boskirk & Ring of Painesville,” as well as a note for sixty dollars with approximately forty dollars of interest accrued. (Don Carlos Smith, Nauvoo, IL, to Oliver Granger, Kirtland, OH, 14 Feb. 1841, Don Carlos Smith, Letters to Oliver Granger, 1841, CHL.)  

    Smith, Don Carlos. Letters to Oliver Granger, 1841. CHL.

  4. 4

    The year of 1839 was particularly difficult for many members of the church who had recently settled in Commerce (later Nauvoo), Illinois. High temperatures and proximity to the marshy land lining the Mississippi River led to rampant illness. Don Carlos Smith and his coeditor, Ebenezer Robinson, along with their families, became ill in July 1839. Robinson later recalled that as they were in the early stages of printing the first issue of the Times and Seasons, they both “were taken down with the chills and fever, and what added to our affliction, both our families were taken down with the same disease.” According to Robinson, they were sick for about ten months. (Ebenezer Robinson, “Items of Personal History of the Editor,” Return [Davis City, IA], May 1890, 257, italics in original.)  

    The Return. Davis City, IA, 1889–1891; Richmond, MO, 1892–1893; Davis City, 1895–1896; Denver, 1898; Independence, MO, 1899–1900.

  5. 5

    Annual payments on the Nauvoo city properties purchased from Horace Hotchkiss, John Gillet, and Smith Tuttle were due at this time, and JS was actively seeking methods of making those payments. (See Authorization for Hyrum Smith and Isaac Galland, 15 Feb. 1841; and Report of Agents, ca. 30 Jan. 1841.)  

  6. 6

    In June 1839 the First Presidency of the church decided to let Don Carlos Smith and Ebenezer Robinson “have the printing press and type” that had been salvaged from Missouri. The two men were commissioned to print a periodical for the church but were allowed to function independently. This arrangement gave them any profits made from the enterprise. (Ebenezer Robinson, “Items of Personal History of the Editor,” Return [Davis City, IA], May 1890, 257.)  

    The Return. Davis City, IA, 1889–1891; Richmond, MO, 1892–1893; Davis City, 1895–1896; Denver, 1898; Independence, MO, 1899–1900.

  7. 7

    In July, Don Carlos wrote to Granger, “I understand that you are the owner of the house and lot that used to be mine,” and offered to give money or Nauvoo property to reimburse Granger for what he had paid for the property. In fact, JS had already commissioned Granger a month earlier to deed Don Carlos’s former house and land in Kirtland to Don Carlos’s wife, Agnes Coolbrith Smith. (Don Carlos Smith, Nauvoo, IL, to Oliver Granger, Kirtland, OH, 11 July 1841, Don Carlos Smith, Letters to Oliver Granger, 1841, CHL; Letter to Oliver Granger, 4 May 1841.)  

    Smith, Don Carlos. Letters to Oliver Granger, 1841. CHL.

  8. 8

    The store referred to is JS’s red brick store in Nauvoo, which JS was preparing to open for business. (Floor Plan for Joseph Smith’s Store, between Feb. and Dec. 1841, Newel K. Whitney, Papers, BYU; Leonard, Nauvoo, 145.)  

    Leonard, Glen M. Nauvoo: A Place of Peace, a People of Promise. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book; Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 2002.

  9. 9

    Don Carlos, along with his coeditor, Ebenezer Robinson, announced a plan to publish a weekly, general-interest newspaper in June 1840. By December they had abandoned the project because of a lack of subscribers. (“Proposals,” Times and Seasons, Apr. 1840, 1:96; Notice, Times and Seasons, 1 Dec. 1840, 2:234; see also Tanner, “Mormon Press in Nauvoo,” 97–98.)  

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

    Tanner, Terrence A. “The Mormon Press in Nauvoo, 1839–46.” In Kingdom on the Mississippi Revisited: Nauvoo in Mormon History, edited by Roger D. Launius and John E. Hallwas, 94–118. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1996.