Letter to Horace Hotchkiss, 28 July 1840

  • Source Note
  • Historical Introduction

Document Transcript

July 28th. 1840
Dear Sir. I acknowledge the receipt of yours last month giving me the numbers of the land on , which you felt disposed to sell. In reply to which I have to say that we have not yet examined the land and consequently have not arrived at any conclusions respecting it, but it is probable that some of my friends will visit it this fall and if we should think it wisdom to locate there or on the other tract you will be informed of the same and arrangement entered into. I
I am sorry that your health has been so poor but hope ere this you are perfectly recovered. It would afford me great pleasure indeed could I hold out any prospect of the two notes due next month being met at maturity or even this fall. Having had considerable difficulty (necessarily consequent on a new Settlement) to contend with, as well as poverty and considerable sickness, our first payment will probably be somewhat delayed until we again get a good start in the world— which I am happy to say, that the prospect is indeed favorable. under these circumstances we shall have to claim your indulgence which I have no doubt will be extended. How ever every exertion on our part shall be made to meet the demands against us. so that if we cannot accomplish all we wish to it will it will “be our misfortune and not our fault” Notwithstanding the impoverished condition of our people and the adverse circumstances under which we have had to labor. I hope we shall eventually rise above them and again enjoy the blessings of health, peace and plenty.
You are informed in a former letter that we had paid Mr the one thousand dollars specified in your bond, a few days ago he called at this place and agreed to give us a deed for the ninety acres (less one half acre) provided I would give him an indemnifying bond and pay the interest due from you to him on the one thousand dollars which I agreed to do. I have therefore got the deed for the land and paid him the interest. My reasons for doing so were these, there were are some who wish to purchase lots provided they can get a [p. 162] good title deed for the same, and who would be induced to make purchases and make an effort to raise money for the sake of getting a deed which effort they would not be so likely to make if we could only give them a bond, this I think will work both to your advantage and ours. and hope that we shall be able soon by and by to make some cash sales. I hope this arangement with will meet your approbation, altho it is a departure from the common rules of business, but was induced to do so from the advantages which will result from it and which I hope will be mutual.
The amount of interest paid to after deducti[n]g $61.50 which was coming from him to you for rents was eighty four dollars and forty cents. told us, that you agreed to pay him as much interest for the money as he could get elsewher[e] we accordingly (in good faith) allowed him at the rate of ten per cent.
Hoping the course pursued will meet your approbatio[n]—
I am respectfully
Your Obt Svt
Joseph Smith J[r]
To Esqr.
P.S. You will recollect the verbal agreement entered into by us that the notes for the interest would not be exacted for at least five years. Notwithstanding which we use our endeavoers to meet them as fast as possible. and think that when I have the pleasure of seeing you again, that you will be fully satisfied with the course we have taken and our endeavours to meet all our engagements.
J.S. Jr. [p. 163]


  1. 1

    No letter from Hotchkiss to JS dated June 1840 has been located. In a 1 April 1840 letter, Hotchkiss briefly offered to sell to JS and the Saints land in the Rock River area in Henry and Mercer counties as well as land in Sangamon and Morgan counties for two potential colonies. It is unknown whether JS expressed interest in a letter in the interim, to which Hotchkiss replied in June, or if Hotchkiss was merely volunteering more detail about his proposal. (Letter from Horace Hotchkiss, 1 Apr. 1840.)  

  2. 2

    In his 1 April 1840 letter, Hotchkiss informed JS of approximately twelve thousand acres of land northeast of Springfield, Illinois, in which he, John Gillet, and Smith Tuttle had an investment interest. Hotchkiss expressed his willingness to negotiate with JS about selling land to the Saints both in this area and north of Nauvoo, in the Rock River region. (Letter from Horace Hotchkiss, 1 Apr. 1840.)  

  3. 3

    In his 1 April letter to JS, Hotchkiss wrote, “My health has been so very infirm, that it has prevented me form [from] executing nearly all the arrangements, I had proposed for myself, for the last eight months.” (Letter from Horace Hotchkiss, 1 Apr. 1840.)  

  4. 4

    On 12 August 1839, JS, Sidney Rigdon, and Hyrum Smith purchased approximately four hundred acres in the Commerce, Illinois, area from Hotchkiss, Smith Tuttle, and John Gillet for $110,000. The terms of the purchase agreement specified that two principal payments of $25,000 each were to be due in twenty years, with another forty interest payments of $1,500 each being paid over the same twenty years (two due each year). In the postscript to this letter, however, JS referred to a verbal agreement that the two annual interest payments would not start to come due for five years. JS’s reference to the two notes being due “at maturity” probably refers to the due dates for these first two notes, on 12 August 1840, rather than maturity of the total purchase in twenty years. (Bond from Horace Hotchkiss, 12 Aug. 1839–A; Promissory Note to John Gillet and Smith Tuttle, 12 Aug. 1839; Promissory Note to Horace Hotchkiss, 12 Aug. 1839; Report of Agents, ca. 30 Jan. 1841.)  

  5. 5

    In early 1841, church agents reported on land purchases and sales in the Nauvoo area, noting that “there have been sales made to widdows and other poor of the Church from which we cannot expect to receive any pay.” The agents estimated these land sales were worth $45,000. The low, marshy “flats” along the Mississippi River in the Nauvoo area were vulnerable to malaria, particularly during the first years of the Saints’ settlement before the land could be drained. (Report of Agents, ca. 30 Jan. 1841; Historian’s Office, JS History, Draft Notes, 11 June 1839, 58–59.)  

  6. 6

    Half a year later, the first two payments of interest had not yet been made. (Report of Agents, ca. 30 Jan. 1841.)  

  7. 7

    “Be our misfortune, and not our fault” is a paraphrase of a line from Joseph Addison’s translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses: “And yet consider why the Change was wrought, / You’ll find it his Misfortune, not his Fault.” (Ovid’s Metamorphoses in Fifteen Books, 79.)  

    Ovid’s Metamorphoses in Fifteen Books. Translated by the Most Eminent Hands. Translated by Samuel Garth, John Dryden, Joseph Addison, et al. London: Jacob Tonson, 1717.

  8. 8

    The “former letter” to which JS referred is apparently not extant. In the smaller of two land transactions on 12 August 1839, JS, Sidney Rigdon, and Hyrum Smith purchased from Hotchkiss ninety acres in the Commerce area, excluding half an acre for the old burying ground. The terms of the purchase were two notes of $1,250 each, plus interest, to Hotchkiss. One note was due in five years and one in ten years, along with $1,000 to be paid to William White “in such manner as shall be satisfactory to said White.” (Bond from Horace Hotchkiss, 12 Aug. 1839–B.)  

  9. 9

    Hotchkiss had earlier agreed to purchase the same 89½ acres from White but still owed White $1,000, plus interest. (Bond from Horace Hotchkiss, 12 Aug. 1839–B; Receipt from William White, 23 Apr. 1840.)  

  10. 10

    On 23 April 1840, White, who was in Nauvoo at the time, signed a receipt stating that JS had paid him $1,041.67½, “being the amount of money due me . . . for eighty nine and one half acres of land— which the said Horace Hotchkiss purchased from me.” (Receipt from William White, 23 Apr. 1840.)  

  11. 11

    In early 1841, church agents indicated in a report that by that time land sales in the “Hotchkiss purchase” amounted to about $83,000 and that those in the “White’s purchase” amounted to about $15,000. Most of the land sales enumerated in the report, however, would have come from the land purchased by church leaders on 12 August 1839 from Hotchkiss, Tuttle, and Gillet and the land purchased from Hugh White on 30 April 1839, rather than the land parcels purchased from Hotchkiss and William White described in this letter. The majority of land sales were purchased on credit rather than with cash. (Report of Agents, ca. 30 Jan. 1841.)  

  12. 12

    Aside from the unusual nature of JS concluding White’s rent transaction with Hotchkiss, JS was likely concerned that Hotchkiss would disapprove of the Saints’ receiving immediate title to the land from White. The deed would not normally have been transferred to them by White but would instead have been given to the church by Hotchkiss upon receipt of full payment ten years after the original purchase date. (Bond from Horace Hotchkiss, 12 Aug. 1839–B; Receipt from William White, 23 Apr. 1840.)  

  13. 13

    It is unclear when White moved from the Nauvoo area or what specific property he had rented from Hotchkiss.