JS and , Agreement, , Susquehanna Co., PA, 6 Apr. 1829; handwriting of ; signatures of JS and , witnessed by and ; notations of payment added in handwriting of and , with signatures of ; two pages; JS Collection, CHL.
One leaf measuring 12¾ × 8¼ inches (32 × 21 cm). Two dockets are inscribed on the verso: “Old article” in unidentified nineteenth-century handwriting; and “Bond for deed | from Isaac Hale | to | Joseph Smith Jr” in a twentieth-century hand. Payments made on the agreement are recorded on the top of the verso, each notation written at a different time. ’s handwriting style in this document matches his handwriting style of Revelation, March 1829 [D&C 5].
Wilford C. Wood purchased several documents on 10 July 1937 from Charles Bidamon, Emma Smith’s stepson. Among the documents was an item Bidamon described as “Bond for deed and Deed to property from Isaac Hale to Joseph Smith Jr.” This designation closely matches the docket note on the original manuscript. The LDS church purchased the document from Wood several days later.
Charles E. Bidamon, Statement of Sale, 10 July 1937, microfilm, Wilford C. Wood, Collection of Church Historical Materials, CHL; Wilford C. Wood, Statement, 10 July 1937, microfilm, Wilford C. Wood, Collection of Church Historical Materials, CHL.
”Documents Obtained By Wilford Wood,” Deseret News [Salt Lake City], 21 July 1937, 13; David O. McKay to Arthur Winter, 21 July 1937, microfilm, Wilford C. Wood, Collection of Church Historical Materials, CHL.
In November or December 1827, JS and moved from , New York, to , Pennsylvania, where Emma’s parents, and , lived. JS and Emma soon moved onto a thirteen-and-a-half-acre lot adjoining the Hales’ residential property, a lot with a small house recently vacated by Emma’s brother David Hale. The terms JS agreed to when he moved into the house are unknown, but he recalled that by 1829, “we had become reduced in property and my wives father was about to turn me out of doores & I had not where to go.” Fortunately for JS, arrived in Harmony on 5 April 1829, after the “Lord appeared unto [him]” and he became “desiorous to come and write” as JS dictated the of the . Cowdery later wrote, “On Monday the 6th, I assisted him in arranging some business of a temporal nature, and on Tuesday the 7th, commenced to write the book of Mormon.” The “temporal business” included writing this agreement for JS to purchase the property and home from Isaac Hale and serving as witness to it. Cowdery likely also contributed some or all of the $64 handed to Hale that day as the initial payment toward the purchase price of $200. Cowdery had recently collected a teacher’s salary of $65.50 but did not necessarily have that entire amount with him when he arrived in Harmony; he may have made a $13 payment to a grocer in Lyons, New York, and may have used some of the total for travel expenses. JS and Emma were financially strapped—whether they or any other friends or relatives were able to contribute is unknown.
The agreement and the down payment gave JS more autonomy from his in-laws and enabled him and to focus almost exclusively on the translation for the next two months. was apparently flexible about the terms, requiring only the payment of interest when JS failed to meet the 1 May 1830 deadline for the second and final payment. As noted on the back of the agreement, he accepted JS’s 21 June 1830 payment of interest owed on the unpaid installment and waited until 26 August 1830 to receive payment in full. Though JS and moved to within days of making the final payment, and to in early 1831, they did not sell the property until long after their departure from . In June 1833 they sold it to , who owned land that bounded the eastern side of the property.
JS’s history stated, “On the 22d day of Sept of this same year  I obtained the plat[e]s—and in December following we mooved to Susquehana by the assistence of a man by the name of Martin Har[r]is.” Joseph Knight Sr. recalled that JS and Emma moved in November, while Martin Harris said they left in late October or early November. (JS History, ca. Summer 1832, 5; Knight, Reminiscences, 3; “Mormonism—No. II,” Tiffany’s Monthly, July 1859, 170.)
Knight, Joseph, Sr. Reminiscences, no date. CHL. MS 3470.
“Mormonism,” Tiffany’s Monthly 5 (May 1859): 46–51; (July 1859): 119–121; (Aug. 1859): 163–170. Tiffany's Monthly. New York City. 1856–1859.
Susquehanna Co., PA, Tax Assessment Records, 1813–1865, Harmony Township, PA, Tax Record for 1828, p. , microfilm 1,927,832, U.S. and Canada Record Collection, FHL. JS was taxed on the house (but not the property) on 3 January 1828. He and Emma likely moved into the house in February.
See Report to New York Common Schools Superintendent, 1 July 1829, microfilm, Manchester, NY, Public School Records, 1828–1915, BYU; and Adams v. Cowdery and Cowdery [J.P. Ct. 1829], Jameson, Docket Book, 309. Cowdery may have alluded to JS’s financial transaction with Isaac Hale when he later recalled that when JS and his family “were poor, and hated,” he gave “the last cent of my honest earnings to save him [JS] from being turned into the streets.” (Oliver Cowdery, Far West, MO, to Warren Cowdery, 21 Jan. 1838, Cowdery, Letterbook, 81.)
Manchester Commissioners of Common Schools, report “To the Superintendent of Common Schools of the State of New York,” 1 July 1829, microfilm, Manchester Town Office, Clifton Springs, NY, Public School Records, 1828–1915, BYU.
Jameson, Hugh. Docket Book, 1828–1829. Typescript excerpt in editors’ possession.
Cowdery, Oliver. Letterbook, 1833–1838. Huntington Library, San Marino, CA.
This Agreement made and Concluded this 6th day of April Ano Domini one thousand eight hundred and twenty nine Between of the Township of in the County of Susquehanna and State of Pennsy[l]vania of the one part and Joseph Smith Jun. of the County and State aforesaid of the other part Witnesseth that the said hereby Covenants and agrees to sell and convey to the said Joseph Smith Jun. his Heirs Executors Administrators or assigns by a good and sufficient Deed containing a General Warranty all that certain piece or parcel of land with its appurtenances situate lying and being in the Township of in the County of Susquehanna and <State> of Pennsy[l]vania and butted bounded and described as follows Viz. Begining at a Post on the Northside bank of the Susquehann[a] River thence North half a degree West one hundred & eleven perches to a post thence North eighty nine and a half degrees East twenty perches to a post thence South half a degree East one hundred and nineteen perches to a Sugar tree on the Bank of said River thence down the River to Bank to the place of Begining Containing in the whole thirteen Acres and eighty Rods be the same more or less, In consideration and for the some <sum> of two hundred Dollars to be paid in the following Parshal [partial] payme[n]ts Viz. one Hundred & fourteen Dollars to be paid by the first of May 1829, and the remainder the first of May 1830 For the due performance of the covenants and agreements afore said the said parties hereby bind themself themselves their Heirs executors Administrators and assigns each to the other respectfully respectively in the penal sum of four hundred Dollars to be paid by the party delinquent to the party complaining In Witness wher[e] of they have hereunto set their hands and seals the day and year first above written
The bounds of this property can be restated thus in current terms: beginning at the river’s edge, the property line extends almost due north (compass bearing 359.5°) for 1,831½ feet, thence a 90° turn to a bearing of 89.5° for 330 feet, thence a 90° turn to a bearing of 179.5° for 1,963½ feet, and finally a 111.8° turn to a bearing of 291.3° for 355 feet. If the distances indicated in this document are accurate, then, depending on how the shoreline “winds & turns” for the last 355 feet and on the straightness of property lines generally, JS actually may have obtained something over fourteen acres. (Compare Deed from Isaac and Elizabeth Hale, 25 Aug. 1830.)
In several early documents, Oliver Cowdery signed his name with “H” or “H P” as middle initials. See, for instance, the signature at the end of his 28 December 1829 letter to JS and the letter noted in the 20 February 1830 issue of the New-York Telescope. What the initials represent is unknown. That early associates were familiar with them, however, is evident by the quip in the PalmyraReflector that Cowdery “left out his two middle names in the ‘Book of Mormon.’” (Letter from Oliver Cowdery, 28 Dec. 1829; C. C. Blatchly, “Caution against the Golden Bible,” New-York Telescope, 20 Feb. 1830, 150; News Item, Reflector (Palmyra, NY), 1 June 1830, 28; see also Letter to Oliver Cowdery, 22 Oct. 1829; and Agreement with Martin Harris, 16 Jan. 1830.)