Agreement, 4 January 1838
JS, Agreement, , Geauga Co., OH, 4 Jan. 1838; handwriting of two unidentified scribes (probably John P. Markell and Nicholas Markell); signature of JS; attested by John P. Markell and Nicholas Markell; one page; CHL. Includes docket.One leaf, measuring 9½ × 7⅞ inches (24 × 20 cm). The agreement was folded in two patterns. In the first, the agreement was folded twice in a parallel fold and was then docketed. In the second, which retained the first folding pattern, the document was again folded twice in a parallel fold, with the docket remaining visible. The docket in unidentified handwriting (probably John P. Markell) reads: “Articcle of Agreemen[t] | Between Joseph | Smith Jun and | Joseph Smith Sen”. The top panel of the agreement was lost due to wear and weakening of a fold. Remaining folds are partially broken. The agreement has undergone conservation. The conservation technique used, the “Barrow method,” was a common preservation practice in libraries and archives from the 1930s to the mid-1970s. The Church History Library acquired this document from a private collector in 2010.
Church, John. “William J. Barrow: A Remembrance and Appreciation.” American Archivist 68, no. 1 (Spring/Summer 2005): 152–160.
Ellis, Margaret Holben. Historical Perspectives in the Conservation of Works of Art on Paper. Los Angeles: Getty Conservation Institute, 2014.
On 4 January 1838, Nicholas Markell of , Ohio, wrote an agreement releasing his claim to a “box and records” that had been seized from JS by legal action. In the same document, JS entered into an agreement with an individual, likely , to whom he transferred “two undivided thirds of records and box Exclusive of the mummies.” The top quarter of the document, including part of the agreement, is no longer extant, and the nature of the arrangement is not fully understood. It is likely, however, that the “records” named were the Egyptian papyri JS had obtained from in July 1835 and that the agreement pertained to a legal judgment for an unidentified lawsuit, probably rendered against JS in 1837, that resulted in the seizure of his personal property.After returning to from on 10 December 1837, JS and the endured another round of ecclesiastical, financial, and legal challenges both from church members and from others in the community. During JS’s two-and-a-half-month absence, dissenters in Kirtland denounced him and the church; in late December, twenty-eight people associated with this group were excommunicated. Following his return, JS and other church leaders who had partnered with him in business affairs faced new and ongoing litigation, including various legal charges related to outstanding debts. As a result of these legal proceedings, the assets of JS and other church leaders, including the contents of the church’s and at least some of the Egyptian documents, were seized. chronicled some of these events in a January letter to her husband, , who was then proselytizing in . Referring to lawsuits filed by , Kimball reported that “as soon as Presidents Smith and got home from the west, they were called upon to pay a fine of one thousand dollars each, for puting out Kirtland money. They were strip[p]ed of every thing; even to food and ra[i]ment.” According to Kimball, other church members had also been “strip[p]ed of all their loos property for debt.” In a reminiscent account written in 1844–1845, recalled that some of the church’s dissenters began suing JS, “and with this pretense they siezed upon every piece of property which they could have least pretext to lay hold upon.” Smith continued, “They determined to get possession of some Mum[m]ies and the records which attended them and . . . accordingly they levied an execution upon them claiming that they belonged to Joseph and he was owing them a debt of 50 dollars.” These dissenters seem to have temporarily procured at least some of the Egyptian records. In an 18–19 January letter to her brother , Hepzibah Richards indicated that along with the —which had been attached on a judgment and sold at an auction on 15 January—the “Mummies and records have been attached— mummies sold— Records missing.”Though a legal judgment was apparently used to obtain the Egyptian records, the featured agreement suggests that the records eventually ended up in the hands of Nicholas Markell. Nicholas, John, and —all signatories to the agreement—were sons of Peter and Elizabeth Koch Markell, members of one of ’s pioneering families. Contemporary documents offer no clues as to what may have motivated Nicholas Markell to procure the Egyptian records and subsequently return them to JS. Ultimately, according to an 1844–1845 statement by , “By various statagems we kept them [the Mummies and records] out of the hands of the rabble who were joined with the appostates in devising every invention to get these things into their possession.”In the top half of the agreement—a significant portion of which is missing—JS transferred the Egyptian records to another individual on the same day. The docketing, recorded on the other side of the agreement, suggests that JS conveyed the papyri to his father, Both sections of the 4 January agreement, as well as the docketing, are written in the same unidentified hand.
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