Introduction to History Drafts, 1844–1856

As noted in the “Introduction to History, 1838–1856 (Manuscript History of the Church),” in early 1838 JS initiated his most successful attempt to assemble a history. However, after initial efforts in 1838–1839, it was only with Willard Richards’s appointment as church historian in December 1842 that substantial progress on this project was realized. At the time of JS’s death in June 1844, Richards had added over 600 pages in his own hand to volumes A-1 and B-1 of the manuscript. In January 1845, with JS no longer available to the compilers of the history, Richards adopted a new approach for moving the project forward in earnest.

The draft notes, reproduced on the Joseph Smith Papers website, were begun soon after JS was killed. At that time, the account in the second volume (B-1) of the manuscript history had reached page 812 with the entry for 5 August 1838. Starting with the 6 August 1838 entry, Richards began composing a set of working notes for the history rather than writing directly in the volumes. As in the past, he collected and organized relevant material with the aid of clerks and associates. He then either wrote or dictated a roughed-out draft (the drafts compiled here) that included references to specific documents to be copied into the text. Richards’s primary assistant, Thomas Bullock, a former clerk of JS’s who began work in November 1843, took Richards’s notes and revisions and drafted the final version, incorporating where indicated the texts of the specified documents into the manuscript. Bullock’s inscription began where Richards left off on page 812 with the entry for 6 August 1838. Beginning in April 1845, amid (ultimately unrealized) plans to publish the history in book form, a fair copy of the manuscript was begun by other clerks in a separate set of manuscript volumes designated A-2, B-2, and so forth.1 This collaborative practice continued until the Nauvoo Saints departed for the West in 1846.

This arrangement appears to have been an altogether new approach; there is no extant evidence of Richards previously using a rough draft or outline, either in Richards’s journals or in other accounts. With Richards drafting and correcting the history and Bullock transcribing those draft notes and copying in the referenced documents, the pace of work on the history picked up considerably.

During this productive period Richards eventually made one other adjustment in his and Bullock’s collaboration. By late 1845, after the death of Richards’s wife, Jennetta, his own health had declined to the point that he began dictating his draft to Bullock rather than penning it himself. Both Richards’s personal journals and the historian’s office journals attest to his continued direct involvement, even though it was now Bullock’s handwriting on the rough draft. For example, Richards’s 3 January 1846 journal entry states, “This morning I dictated history—lay down an hour or two when I again arose and dictated history.”2 Bullock’s entry in the office journal reads, “Saturday 3. Dr. dictating history being much better—TB writing same, and also history in book D,” a reference to volume D-1 in the manuscript history.3

By the time the history project was suspended in February 1846 and the manuscript packed up for transport west, Richards and Bullock had reached the entry for 28 February 1843, on page 1486 in volume D-1.4 Progress on drafting and compiling the history was interrupted for several years by the Saints’ exodus from Nauvoo and the initial challenge of settling the Great Salt Lake Valley. Consequently, Richards was not able to return to the draft notes and manuscript history until late 1853, and then only briefly before falling very ill. In the margin of page 1485 in volume D-1, Thomas Bullock recorded, “Decr. 1 1853 Dr. Willard Richards wrote one line of History—being sick at the time—and was never able to do more.” Richards died three months later.

At a church conference in 1854, George A. Smith was sustained as the new church historian. He took up his work on the history where Richards had been forced to set it aside. Two years later, in an 1856 report to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as JS’s history neared completion, George A. Smith acknowledged Richards’s influence on his own efforts. He noted, “I assisted Dr. Richards during about 70 days in revising and collecting matter for the History while in Nauvoo, which made me acquainted with his plan of compilation, which I have pursued as near as possible.” This included continuing or extending Richards’s history drafts. Smith went on to describe the process in considerable detail:

On the 10th April 1854, I commenced to perform the duties of Historian by taking up the History of Joseph Smith where Dr. Willard Richards had left it when driven from Nauvoo on the 4th day of February 1846. . . .

Thomas Bullock acted with me as chief clerk, being a clerk in the History office previously to, and at the time of Prest. Smith’s death, and has continued in it ever since. His pen wrote the principal part of the rough manuscript from my dictation, and his acquaintance with all the papers was of great assistance to me—

Jonathan Grimshaw sorted and filed the papers, and carefully amalgamated the principal part of the discourses of President Smith and others from the various reports mentioned above, and put them into shape to be filled up by me. He also assisted in writing the manuscript of the History from my dictation, compiled indices, and performed other duties incident to the office—

Leo Hawkins assisted to file papers, copied correspondence, and wrote the final copy of the History in Books C2 and D2 after revision; besides attending to office business generally—

Robert L. Campbell copied the rough manuscript of the History into books D1 and E1 which were revised by the Presidency and Council. . . .

The plan of compiling the history of Joseph Smith from the Journals kept by his Clerks . . . was commenced by himself, extracting items of necessary information in regard to general and particular movements from the Times and Seasons, Millennial Star, Wasp, Neighbor and other publications, extracts from city councils, Municipal Courts, and Mayor’s dockets and Legion Records, which were all kept under his direction; also the movements of the church as found in Conference Minutes, High Council records, and the records of the several quorums, together with letters and copies preserved on file; also noted remarkable occurrences throughout the world, and compiled them under date of transaction, according to the above plan which he [JS] while in prison just previous to his murder requested Elder Willard Richards to continue.

At the time of his report, George A. Smith was leaving Salt Lake City for Washington DC to champion the cause of Utah statehood. As he departed, he observed: “The History has been compiled to the day of his [JS’s] death and the principal part of it has been revised by the Council of the First Presidency almost without any alteration. A few vacancies remain to be filled up from the statements of persons who are now absent.”5

Even as Smith reported on the progress of the history, it fell to Wilford Woodruff as assistant church historian to gather up additional details and accounts regarding JS’s murder and the aftermath of that event. Woodruff’s work resulted in the drafting of notes for a second narrative of the murder that also continued the history down to the sustaining of Brigham Young and the Twelve in August 1845. Some months later, Woodruff wrote George A. Smith and reported, “On the 30th. [January] the Presidency sat and heard the history read up to the organization of the church in Nauvoo, 8th. day of August 1844.”6 The project was now essentially finished; all that remained was the completion of its publication, which had begun in the Times and Seasons in Nauvoo.

Among the additional accounts Woodruff had pursued was that of John Taylor, who was away in the East.7 Taylor’s account of the death of JS and Hyrum Smith was drafted with the persistent help of George A. Smith. However, Taylor’s draft was not recorded in the manuscript history and was first published separately by the famed British explorer Richard F. Burton, who included it without editing in an appendix to his 1862 volume The City of the Saints, and Across the Rocky Mountains to California.8

On the Joseph Smith Papers website, the draft notes for JS’s manuscript history of the church are divided into nineteen items. Compilations by Willard Richards and George A. Smith are included, along with material prepared under the direction of Wilford Woodruff. Richards’s material is contained in the first six “Drafts, 1844–1856” entries (6 August 1838 to 3 March 1843). As noted, Smith followed the practice of dictating his outline to Thomas Bullock or another clerk so his own handwriting does not appear in the drafts compiled under his direction (entries 1 March 1843 to 21 June 1844; George A. Smith Martyrdom Account; and George A. Smith Martyrdom Account, Draft). All the clerks involved in inscribing the manuscript history from the rough draft notes closely followed the sketched-out text and the placement of documents indicated in the notes.

Four sets of draft notes contain material that informed the account of JS’s death: History Draft [21 June–8 August 1844], under the direction of Wilford Woodruff; George A. Smith Martyrdom Account; George A. Smith Martyrdom Account, Draft; and John Taylor Martyrdom Account. The collection also includes a number of addenda and notes written by several contributors, including Brigham Young. These were prepared as additions or corrections to the material previously drafted for the manuscript history volumes. Hyperlinks in the documents connect corresponding material in the manuscript history and source material such as the draft notes.