Letter to Emma Smith, 4 June 1834

  • Source Note
  • Historical Introduction

Document Transcript

On the banks of the , June 4th. 1834
My Dear Companion, I now embrace a few moments to dictate a few words that you may know how it is with us up to this date.
We arrived this morning on the banks of the , and were detained from crossing the river, as there was no boat that we could cross in, but expect a new one to be put into the river this evening, so that we are in hopes, to be able to cross to morrow, and proceed on our journey. A tolerable degree of union has prevailed among the brethren or up to the present moment, and we are all in better circumstances of health apparently than when we started from with the exception of Alden Childs who is sick with the Mumps attended with [p. 56] considerable fever in consequence of taking cold— and bro Foster who came from who was taken last evening with the Typhus Fever, but are both better to day, and we are in hopes will be able to proceed on their journey to morrow, I have been able to endur[e] the fatigue of the journey far beyond my most sanguine expectations, except have been troubled some with lameness, have had my feet blistered, but are now well, and have also had a little touch of my side complaint, Bro is now able to travel all day & his health is improving very fast, as is the case with all the weakly ones, Addison Wren has been an exceeding good boy and has been very obedient to me in all things, as much so as tho I was his own father, and is healthy and able to travel all day. has been some unwell, but is now enjoying good health has been afflicted with his eyes, but they are getting better, and in fine, all the is in as good a situation as could be expected; but our numbers and means are altogether too small for the accomplishment of such a great enterprise, but they are falling daily and our only hope is that whilst we deter the enemy, and terrify them for a little season (for we learn by the means of some spies we send out for that purpose that they are greatly terrified) notwithstanding they are endeavoring to make a formidable stand, and their numbers amount to several hundred, and the Lord shows us to good advantage in the eyes of their spies, for in counting us the[y] make of our 170 men from five to seven hundred and the reports of the people are not a little calculated [to] frighten and strike terror through their ranks for the general report is that four or five hundred Mormons are traveling through the Country well-armed, and disciplined; and that five hundred more has gone a south west [course?] and expect to meet us, and also another company are on a rout[e] North of us, all these things serve to help us, and we believe the hand of the Lord is in it, Now is the time for the abroad to come to . It is our prayer day and night that God will open the heart of the Churches to pour in men and means to assist us, for the redemption of Zion and upbuilding of Zion. We want the in to use every exertion to influence the Church to come speedily to our relief. Let them come pitching their tents by the way, remembering to keep the sabbath day according to the the same as at home, buying flour and cooking their own provision which they can do, with little trouble, and the expence will be trifling. We have our company divided into messes of 12 or 13— each having a cook and cooking utensils, all that is necessary; so that we are not obliged to trouble any mans house, and we buy necessaries such as butter, sugar and honey, so that we live as well as heart can wish. After we left the eastern part of the State of we could get provision on an average as follows; flour by the hundred $1.50, bacon from 4½ to 6 dollar per Hundred butter from 6 to 8 cents pr pound, honey from 3 to 4 shilling the gallon, new milk from 3 4 to 6 ct per gallon. The whole of our journey, in the midst of so large a company of social honest men and sincere men, wandering over the plains of the , recounting [p. 57] occasionaly the history of the Book of Mormon, roving over the mounds of that once beloved people of the Lord, picking up their skulls & their bones, as a proof of its divine authenticity, and gazing upon a country the fertility, the splendour and the goodness so indescribable, all serves to pass away time unnoticed, and in short were it not at every now and then our thoughts linger with inexpressible anxiety for our wives and our children our kindred according to the flesh who are entwined around our hearts; And also our brethren and friends; our whole journey would be as a dream, and this would be the happiest period of all our lives. We learn this journey how to travel, and we look with pleasing anticipation for the time to come, when we shall retrace our steps, and take this journey again in the enjoyment and embrace of that society we so much love, which society can only cause us to have any desire or lingering thoughts of that which is below. We have not as yet heard any thing from and and do not expect to till we get to Church, which is only fifty miles from this place. Tell [Joseph Smith Sr.] and all the family, and to be comforted and look forward to the day when the trials and tribulations of this life will be at an end, and we all enjoy the fruits of our labour if we hold out faithful to the end which I pray may be the happy lot of us all.
From your’s in the bonds of affliction.
Joseph Smith Jr.
N.B. The enclosed bill we could not get changed and is of no use to us now, and we send to you & to be divided between you, that you may be able to procure such necessaries as you need &c.
I embrace this opportunity to fill up this sheet to you, my beloved companion, not that I have anything important to communicate, but remembering your request to write to you while on the road, but as I write every week to , you will know all the particulars of our journey. In consequence of my being away from the encampment last sunday (the cause you will see in my next to ) did not write to him as usual but shall now embrace the first opportunity to bring up my journal which you will find some what more interesting, than any previous to it—
I want you to make use of the money I send you in wisdom, for such things as you need, and make yourselves as comfortable and contented as you can and continue to pray to the Lord to hasten the day when we shall be permitted to behold each other’s face again and enjoy the blessing of the family circle in peace and in righteousness, and be prepared to meet every event that awaits us in life.
Tell the children to remember that passage of scripture which says, “children obey your parents in all things”, for this is right, and God will bless them. I [p. 58] can truly say, we have been treated with respect by the people while on the road, have met with no insult except now and then an instance when the spies have seen our brethren away from the camp. For want of room I must stop writing, but in due time after I arrive to my place of destination will take an opportunity to write more fully. Be assured that I always remember you to my Heavenly Father and hope you will do the same for your
, Geauga County Ohio [p. 59]


  1. 1

    A medical guide published in 1835 similarly stated that adults contracted the mumps through exposure to cold. (Gregory, Elements of the Theory and Practice of Medicine, 215–216.)  

    Gregory, George. Elements of the Theory and Practice of Physic, Designed for the Use of Students. New York: M. Sherman, 1830.

  2. 2

    The “bro Foster” referred to here is probably Solon Foster, who lived in Warsaw, Genesee County, New York, although a James Foster also participated in the expedition. (Account with the Church of Christ, ca. 11–29 Aug. 1834; Backman, Profile, 93; Solon Foster, Warsaw, NY, to Julius Foster, Clinton, NY, 25 Mar. 1833, Foster Family Correspondence, CHL.)  

    Backman, Milton V., Jr., comp. A Profile of Latter-day Saints of Kirtland, Ohio, and Members of Zion’s Camp, 1830–1839: Vital Statistics and Sources. 2nd ed. Provo, UT: Department of Church History and Doctrine and Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1983.

    Foster Family Correspondence, 1833–1922. CHL. MS 6177.

  3. 3

    JS’s lameness may have been an effect of an 1813 bone infection in his lower left leg and the subsequent surgery to treat it. (See Wirthlin, “Joseph Smith’s Boyhood Operation,” 131–154.)  

    Wirthlin, LeRoy S. “Joseph Smith’s Boyhood Operation: An 1813 Surgical Success.BYU Studies 21, no. 2 (Spring 1981): 131–154.

  4. 4

    On the night of 24–25 March 1832, JS was tarred and feathered by a mob in Hiram, Ohio. That attack, he noted in an 1835 letter to his brother William, “wounded . . . my side,” an affliction that apparently troubled him periodically thereafter. (JS History, vol. A-1, 205–207; Letter to William Smith, 18 or 19 Dec. 1835.)  

    JS History / Smith, Joseph, et al. History, 1838–1856. Vols. A-1–F-1 (original), A-2–E-2 (fair copy). Historian’s Office, History of the Church, 1839–ca. 1882. CHL. CR 100 102, boxes 1–7. The history for the period after 5 Aug. 1838 was composed after the death of Joseph Smith.

  5. 5

    “Wren” may have been a transcription error by James Mulholland. The only “Addison” listed as part of the Missouri expedition was Addison Green, who was fourteen years old at the time (he turned fifteen on 12 June). (Account with the Church of Christ, ca. 11–29 Aug. 1834; Backman, Profile, 30; see also Bradley, Zion’s Camp 1834, 268–275.)  

    Backman, Milton V., Jr., comp. A Profile of Latter-day Saints of Kirtland, Ohio, and Members of Zion’s Camp, 1830–1839: Vital Statistics and Sources. 2nd ed. Provo, UT: Department of Church History and Doctrine and Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1983.

    Bradley, James L. Zion’s Camp 1834: Prelude to the Civil War. Logan, UT: By the author, 1990.

  6. 6

    George A. Smith later recollected that at the beginning of the journey, “My eyes which were always very weak were inflamed.” (George A. Smith, Autobiography, 14.)  

    Smith, George A. Autobiography, ca. 1860–1882. George Albert Smith, Papers, 1834–1877. CHL. MS 1322, box 1, fd. 2.

  7. 7

    It is possible that this was supposed to say “but they are falling in daily,” but the “in” was inadvertently left out. No records indicating desertions or other loss of men have been located; instead, records highlight increases in the expedition’s numbers.  

  8. 8

    By “enemies”—the number of which may have been exaggerated—JS may have been referring to the men waiting for them in Jackson County. Other individuals also closely followed the Camp of Israel and periodically threatened them on their journey. To acquire more intelligence on these individuals, Frederick G. Williams was sent “forward” from the camp one morning “to select a camp ground” close to Jacksonville, Illinois, and to “watch the movements of our enemies.” (“Extracts from H. C. Kimball’s Journal,” Times and Seasons, 1 Feb. 1845, 6:787–788; George A. Smith, Autobiography, 22–23.)  

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

    Smith, George A. Autobiography, ca. 1860–1882. George Albert Smith, Papers, 1834–1877. CHL. MS 1322, box 1, fd. 2.

  9. 9

    George A. Smith made several references to spies in his account of the expedition. On Tuesday, 20 May, he related, three men came into camp asking questions. “These same spies who had come from the West, passed us several times that day and the next, changing their horses and clothes and disguising themselves in various ways, yet we knew them.” On Sunday, 25 May, “a ruffianly looking fellow came into Camp professing to be drunk, but Joseph recognized him to be a man he had seen in Jackson Co. Mo.” On Friday, 30 May, “the Spies that had followed us so long, watched us very closely, changing their dress and horses several times a day.” George A. Smith also noted that “as we were aware of Spies being around us who sought to Kill Joseph Smith we called him Squire Cook.” (George A. Smith, Autobiography, 18–19, 22, 26, underlining in original.)  

    Smith, George A. Autobiography, ca. 1860–1882. George Albert Smith, Papers, 1834–1877. CHL. MS 1322, box 1, fd. 2.

  10. 10

    A circular letter sent by Sidney Rigdon and Oliver Cowdery to church branches on 10 May 1834 counseled those outside of Zion to “dispose of their property, (such as they cannot carry,) and gather in upon the consecrated land” in Missouri. “The Lord has said,” the letter continued, “that there was abundant means in his church to establish the places where he had appointed his [the Saints] to gether.” (Sidney Rigdon and Oliver Cowdery, Kirtland, OH, to “Dear Brethren,” 10 May 1834, in Cowdery, Letterbook, 50.)  

    Cowdery, Oliver. Letterbook, 1833–1838. Henry E. Huntington Library, San Marino, CA.

  11. 11

    An August 1831 revelation similarly counseled the Saints traveling to Missouri to “do like unto the children of Israel pitching their tents by the way.” (Revelation, 12 Aug. 1831 [D&C 61:25].)  

  12. 12

    The “Articles and Covenants” of the church did not specifically contain an injunction about Sabbath observance. An August 1831 revelation, however, instructed the Saints in proper Sabbath observance. (Articles and Covenants, ca. Apr. 1830 [D&C 20:75]; Revelation, 7 Aug. 1831 [D&C 59:9–13].)  

  13. 13

    A shilling was an English silver coin valued at 1/20 of a pound sterling, or twelve pence. According to Webster’s 1828 dictionary, it was equivalent to almost twenty-two cents in United States currency; by 1828, its value in states such as New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia had depreciated significantly. In New York, a Spanish coin worth twelve and a half cents was also called a shilling. George A. Smith later recollected that the group purchased honey in Atlas, Illinois, for twenty-five cents a gallon. (“Shilling,” in American Dictionary; George A. Smith, Autobiography, 27.)  

    An American Dictionary of the English Language: Intended to Exhibit, I. the Origin, Affinities and Primary Signification of English Words, as far as They Have Been Ascertained. . . . Edited by Noah Webster. New York: S. Converse, 1828.

    Smith, George A. Autobiography, ca. 1860–1882. George Albert Smith, Papers, 1834–1877. CHL. MS 1322, box 1, fd. 2.

  14. 14

    On 3 June, the Camp of Israel passed through the vicinity of what is now Valley City, Illinois, where several members of the camp climbed a large mound. At the top, they uncovered the skeletal remains of an individual JS reportedly identified as Zelph, a “white Lamanite.” Archeologists have since identified the mound as Naples–Russell Mound #8 and have classified it as a Hopewell burial mound of the Middle Woodland period of the North American pre-Columbian era (roughly 50 BC to AD 250). (Godfrey, “The Zelph Story,” 31, 34; Farnsworth, “Lamanitish Arrows,” 25–48.)  

    Faulring, Scott H. “Early Marriages Performed by the Latter-day Saint Elders in Jackson County, Missouri, 1832–1834.” Mormon Historical Studies 2 (Fall 2001): 197–210.Godfrey, Matthew C. “‘Seeking after Monarchal Power and Authority’: Joseph Smith and Leadership in the Church of Christ, 1831–1832.” Mormon Historical Studies 13 (Spring/Fall 2012): 15–37.

    Farnsworth, Kenneth W. “Lamanitish Arrows and Eagles with Lead Eyes: Tales of the First Recorded Explorations in an Illinois Valley Hopewell Mound.” Illinois Archaeology 22 (2010): 25–48.

  15. 15

    The Salt River, or Allred, settlement, located near Paris, Missouri, was the designated rendezvous site for the Ohio company, led by JS, and the Michigan contingent, led by Hyrum Smith and Lyman Wight. JS’s company arrived there on 7 June, and Hyrum’s company came the following day. With the addition of the Michigan group, the expedition consisted of approximately 205 men and around 12 women and 10 children. (Bradley, Zion’s Camp 1834, 28; Kimball, “Journal and Record,” 11; “Journal of the Branch of the Church of Christ in Pontiac,” 7–8; Radke, “We Also Marched,” 149.)  

    Bradley, James L. Zion’s Camp 1834: Prelude to the Civil War. Logan, UT: By the author, 1990.

    Kimball, Heber C. “The Journal and Record of Heber Chase Kimball an Apostle of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints,” ca. 1842–1858. Heber C. Kimball, Papers, 1837–1866. CHL. MS 627, box 1.

    “Journal of the Branch of the Church of Christ in Pontiac,” May–June 1834. CHL. MS 4610.

    Radke, Andrea G. “We Also Marched: The Women and Children of Zion’s Camp, 1834.” BYU Studies 39 (2000): 147–165.

  16. 16

    Notes and paper money were issued by a variety of state banks, as well as the Bank of the United States, during the 1830s, and a note from one institution may not have been accepted by another. As William Thomson, who visited the United States from Europe in the early 1840s, stated, “The greatest annoyance I was subjected to in travelling was in exchanging money. It is impossible to describe the wretched state of the currency—which is all bills issued by private individuals, companies, cities, and states.” (Thomson, Tradesman’s Travels, 60.)  

    Thomson, William. A Tradesman’s Travels, in the United States and Canada, in the Years 1840, 41, and 42. Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1842.

  17. 17

    TEXT: A dotted line separates this paragraph from the previous one. Frederick G. Williams’s note to his wife, Rebecca Swain Williams, begins here.  

  18. 18

    In an 18 May 1834 letter to Emma Smith, JS noted that “Brother Fredrick [Frederick G. Williams] will write to Oliver [Cowdery] and give him the names of the places we pass through and a history of our jou[rn]ey from time to time.” These letters from Williams to Cowdery have not been located. (Letter to Emma Smith, 18 May 1834.)  

  19. 19

    According to George A. Smith’s account of the expedition, Williams stayed in Jacksonville, Illinois, the night of Sunday, 31 May. He returned to camp on 1 June with some residents of Jacksonville and then went back to Jacksonville with them. (George A. Smith, Autobiography, 23–25.)  

    Smith, George A. Autobiography, ca. 1860–1882. George Albert Smith, Papers, 1834–1877. CHL. MS 1322, box 1, fd. 2.

  20. 20

    Colossians 3:20.