Letter from Edward Partridge, between 14 and 19 November 1833
, Letter, , Clay Co., MO, to JS, [, Geauga Co., OH], between 14 and 19 Nov. 1833; draft; handwriting of ; two pages; JS Collection, CHL.
Single leaf measuring 12⅛ × 7½ inches (31 × 19 cm). The document was folded in fourths. The folds are partially broken or separated, resulting in a loss of parts of the manuscript, including some text. The rough right edge of the recto indicates that the leaf was apparently removed from a blank book.
This letter does not include a signature or address and therefore was not the sent copy. It is possible this version of the document was a draft of a letter. Though a version of this letter was eventually sent to JS, the sent copy is no longer extant. At least one other copy of the letter survives and is found in ’s Genealogical Record. The letter featured here, along with other papers belonging to Partridge, was in the possession of the Partridge family until at least the mid-1880s, sometime after which it came into the possession of the Church Historian’s Office.
Whitney, “Aaronic Priesthood,” 5–6; Partridge, Genealogical Record, 1, 9–11; see also the full bibliographic entry for the Edward Partridge Papers in the CHL catalog.
Whitney, Orson F. “The Aaronic Priesthood.” Contributor, Apr. 1885, 241–250.
Partridge, Edward, Jr. Genealogical Record. 1878. CHL. MS 1271.
By 19 November 1833, most church members had fled , Missouri, to surrounding areas, congregating primarily to the north in , Missouri. After being expelled and while living near , Clay County, wrote the letter featured here to JS, reporting on the condition of the refugees and assessing their prospects for returning to Jackson County. Supposing that had already provided JS with more detailed information about the events in , Partridge refrained from chronicling events that precipitated the expulsion. Although Partridge mentioned other events such as the Leonid meteor shower in his letter, such topics were overshadowed by his concern for the loss of private lands in Missouri and the failed attempts for governmental redress.
struggled with the realization that the refugees might never be able to return to their without “the interposition of God.” As of the in , Partridge was responsible to receive funds and supplies from faithful church members and to then assign land to them as a for personal and family use. Not only did church members lose their homes in the expulsion, but Partridge also lost the ability to implement this law of consecration as detailed in JS’s revelations. As a possible solution to this problem, he recommended purchasing lands owned by the citizens of but noted the unlikelihood of this option because it “would take many thousand dollars.” Partridge indicated that many church members desired “to receive a deed of some land,” despite the fact that the antagonism in Jackson County prevented them from occupying lands there. Partridge thought it prudent to grant such requests, even though he likely doubted that they would ever reoccupy the land. He asked JS for “advice upon the subject of the lands & also I want wisdom & light on many subjects.”
In his letter, also expressed frustration with government officials. Church leaders in followed the advice Governor had given to seek redress, protection, and reinstatement to their lands through local authorities but had not obtained meaningful results. A peace warrant that was finally obtained after three attempts appeared to be useless, intended lawsuits for damages suffered in July had not yet been filed, and the prospects for government assistance seemed nonexistent. Neither the executive nor the judicial branches of the state government seemed willing to protect the rights of this particular minority. In addition, government militia and violent mobs appeared to be one and the same. Partridge maintained a faint hope for justice through the courts but believed the standard legal process would take so long that arbitration might be the best solution for reacquiring the Mormons’ lands. With these many issues and others on his mind, Partridge asked JS for “a comfort[ing] [w]ord from the Lord through you.”
Because of a small tear in the upper right corner of the leaf, which renders a portion of the date illegible, the exact day on which wrote this letter is unknown. However, enough of the date remains to conclude that he wrote it on either 14, 17, or 19 November 1833. The letter was mailed from on 19 November. The language of Partridge’s letter indicates that some time had passed since he had seen the Leonid meteor shower, which occurred during the early morning hours of 13 November, making it unlikely that the letter was written on 14 November. It is also possible that the document featured here is actually an early draft of the letter Partridge eventually sent to JS. It contains various editorial markings and does not bear Partridge’s signature, indicating that he may not have intended to send this copy. The letter also mentions that Partridge wrote in the evening, suggesting the letter could not have been written on November 19, as the mail left sometime that day. Therefore, though it is possible that Partridge began writing this letter as early as 14 November 1833, it is more likely that he drafted it on 17 November, made editorial corrections, copied it, and mailed it to JS no later than 19 November.
JS responded to this letter, as well as to others from and , on 10 December 1833. A portion of JS’s response seems to directly answer ’s concerns: JS warned against giving up lands in , stating that “it is better that you should die in the ey[e]s of God, then that you should give up the Land of , the inheritances which you have purchased with your monies.” He then directed church leaders in to seek redress from all levels of government and said that if government officials would not help, then God “will not fail to exicute Judgment upon your enemies and to avenge his own elect.” JS closed his response with a prayer for those who faced tribulation in Missouri and lamented that he had not been there with them.
Partridge occasionally wrote drafts of letters before sending final copies. For example, a year later, on 22 October 1834, Partridge drafted a letter to his family living in Massachusetts before making and sending a final copy. (Edward Partridge, to “Honored Father” et al., 22 Oct. 1834, draft, Edward Partridge, Papers, CHL.)
Partridge, Edward. Papers, 1818–1839. CHL. MS 892.
I set myself down this evening to write you a few lines, I shall not attempt to give you a full history of what has happened unto us within a few days <past,> for I suppose that has given you the particulars, I simply <Suffice it to> say that & myself are now living within 3 miles of Clay Co. & about 10 from most of our br[ethre]n have left many have come to this Some have gone South & some east. When it was concluded that we would go, there appeared to be a spirit almost universal for leaving the land forthwith. our move has been speedy & we have had many inconveniences to encounter. yetare the Lord for the most part as yet has given us very favorable weather. many are living as yet in tents & shanties not being able to procure houses. <as yet.> We are in hopes that we shall be able to return to our houses & lands before a grea[t] while but how this is to be accomplished is all in the dark to us as yet, has prophesied that we shall be enabled to return to our houses by the first of next Jany & enjoy the fruit of our labor & none to molest or make afraid. he says he was constrained to prophesy & if he ever spoke by the spirit of God he then did & if it does not come to pass we may call him a false prophet. the next night after this prophecy was deliverd from 1 or 2 oclock till day light <on the morning of the 13th Nov.> there appeared an extraordinary ph[enomenon] the heavens were literally filled with meteors or shooting stars as they are called. I was encamped on the N. side of opposite & it appeared to us that they shot off every way from us none comeing <directly I> down very near us that came very near the ground though it is said that they struck the ground in & in other places round about, I viewed them for more than an hour before daylight & probably saw thousands, at one time in the N.E. there appeared probably 50 or 100 at one time they streamed down almost a[s] thick as rain you have seen <that appears> at a distance when the sun shone upon it. during this sight our people rejoiced but the worlds people were much frightened. there has some other signs appeared of late, & rumor says many but I put no confidence in the reports of our enemies
If we are delivered & permitted to return to our homes it must be by the interposition of God, for we can see no prospect of help from goverment & it appears to me that nought but the judgements of God will open the way for our return, some of our brn. have their fears that we shall be driven from city to city & from sinagouge to sinagouge & few be left to receive an in the land, & this probably will be the case unless we are soon restored back, for notwithstanding that many are kind to us in this yet we have every reas◊ [reason]to believe that they will shortly be stir[r]ed up agai[nst] us & want to drive [p. ]
Two of Partridge’s daughters, Emily and Eliza, later wrote reminiscent accounts of this period in the family’s history. According to Emily, the family lived in a house owned by a “Mr Bess.” Eliza wrote that Partridge “found a miserable old hous that he could have with one fireplace in it which he and a Brother by the name of John Corrill moved their families into. I think my Mother [Lydia Clisbee Partridge] as also Sister [Margaret Lyndiff] Corrill must have had their patience tried very much during this winter, the house open and cold and their cooking and children and Husbands and selves all around one fireplace for stoves were not in use then.” Emily later recorded, “Father and elder John Corrille, procured an old log cabin that had been used for a stable and cleaned it up as best they could and moved their families in. The two families consisted of fifteen or sixteen persons. There was a large fireplace in the room (which was a good sized one) and blankets were hung up a few feet back from the fire to keep us from freezing, for the weather was extremely cold—so cold that the ink would freeze in fathers pen as he sat writing close to the fire inside of those blankets. We took one side of the fireplace and brother Corrills family took the other. Our beds were in the back part of the room which was cold enough for the polar region.” (Lyman, Journal, 10; Young, “Incidents,” 77–78.)
In a letter to Oliver Cowdery, John Corrill recorded that on 4 November 1833, “we . . . came to the conclusion, on seeing the rage of the people, that it would be wisdom for us to leave the county immediately, rather than to have so many lives lost as probably would be.” (“From Missouri,” The Evening and the Morning Star, Jan. 1834, 125.)
The Evening and the Morning Star. Independence, MO, June 1832–July 1833; Kirtland, OH, Dec. 1833–Sept. 1834.
For housing, the refugees in Clay County built huts in the woods, occupied abandoned slave cabins and other vacant structures, set up tents, or lived in the open. One refugee recalled, “We gathered up what little we could take in wagons and crossed the Missouri river and pitched our tents in Clay county, on the bank of the river. Many were taken with chills and fever, and altogether the Mormons presented a pitiable spectacle. . . . We lived in tents until winter set in, and did our cooking out in the wind and storms. Log heaps were our parlor stoves, and the cold, wet ground our velvet carpets, and the crying of little children our piano forte; while the shivering, sick people hovered over the burning log piles here and there.” (Austin, Life among the Mormons, 72–73.)
Austin, Emily M. Mormonism; or, Life among the Mormons: Being an Autobiographical Sketch, Including an Experience of Fourteen Years of Mormon Life. Madison, WI: M. J. Cantwell, 1882.
The Leonid meteor shower occurs annually in mid-November as the earth passes through dust and other particles left from comet Tempel-Tuttle. This meteor shower appears with particular intensity at intervals of approximately thirty-three years, and it was one of these more remarkable displays that Partridge and others viewed on 13 November 1833. Newspapers across the nation reported the event, and one article called it a “remarkable exhibition of Fire Balls.” The following month the church’s newspaper, The Evening and the Morning Star, also reported the spectacle, and JS recorded it in his journal. (Hitchcock, “On the Meteors of Nov. 13, 1833,” 365; Denison Olmstead, “The Meteors,” Maryland Gazette [Annapolis], 21 Nov. 1833, ; “Signs in the Heavens,” The Evening and the Morning Star, Dec. 1833, 116; JS, Journal, 5–13 Nov. 1833; see also Littmann, Heavens on Fire, 272.)
Hitchcock, Edward. “On the Meteors of Nov. 13, 1833.” The American Journal of Science, &c. 25, no. 2 (Jan. 1834): 354–411.
Maryland Gazette. Annapolis. Jan. 1827–Dec. 1839.
The Evening and the Morning Star. Independence, MO, June 1832–July 1833; Kirtland, OH, Dec. 1833–Sept. 1834.
Littmann, Mark. The Heavens on Fire: The Great Leonid Meteor Storms. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.
Partridge’s daughter Eliza later wrote, “I saw the stars fall. They came down almost as thick as snow flakes and could be seen till the daylight hid them from sight. Some of our enemies thought the day of judgment had come and were very much frightened but the Saints rejoiced and considered it as one of the signs of the Latter days.” Jackson County resident Josiah Gregg concurred. He thought the meteor shower caused many of his neighbors “to wonder whether, after all, the Mormons might not be in the right; and whether this was not a sign sent from heaven as a remonstrance for the injustice they had been guilty of towards that chosen sect.” (Lyman, Journal, 9–10; Gregg, Commerce of the Prairies, 317–318.)
Gregg, Josiah. Commerce of the Prairies; or, The Journal of a Santa Fé Trader, during Eight Expeditions across the Great Western Prairies, and a Residence of Nearly Nine Years in Northern Mexico. Vol. 1. 2nd ed. New York: J. and H. G. Langley, 1845.
In a later history, Partridge stated that church members attempted to obtain peace warrants from justices of the peace in both Jackson and Lafayette counties but were largely unsuccessful. Nevertheless, probably two days after Partridge sent the letter featured here to JS, Missouri attorney general Robert Wells suggested that if the Mormons requested help from Governor Dunklin to reinstate them on their properties, the governor would likely respond favorably by assigning them a military escort. This advice from Wells instigated a series of appeals from the Mormons. ([Edward Partridge], “A History, of the Persecution,” Times and Seasons, Dec. 1839, 1:20; Jan. 1840, 1:33; Pratt, History of the Late Persecution, 15–16; Robert W. Wells, Jefferson City, MO, to Alexander Doniphan and David R. Atchison, 21 Nov. 1833, copy, William W. Phelps, Collection of Missouri Documents, CHL.)
Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.
Phelps, William W. Collection of Missouri Documents, 1833–1837. CHL. MS 657.
This passage refers to a revelation JS dictated two years earlier on 30 August 1831, which read, “The land of Zion shall not be obtained but by purchase or by blood otherwise there is none inheritance for you . . . & if by blood as ye are forbidden to shed blood lo your enemies are upon you & ye shall be scourged from city to city & from Synagogue to synagogue & but few shall stand to receive an inheritance.” (Revelation, 30 Aug. 1831 [D&C 63:29–31].)