Letter from Robert D. and Sarah Phinney Foster, circa 16 August 1842
Sarah Phinney Foster and , Letter, , Madison Co., NY, to JS, , Hancock Co., IL, ca. 16 Aug. 1842; handwriting of ; two pages, JS Collection, CHL. Includes address, postal stamps, postal notation, and dockets.
Bifolium measuring 12½ × 8 inches (32 × 20 cm). The letter was written in blue ink on the verso of the first leaf and the recto of the second leaf. It was trifolded twice in letter style, addressed, sealed with a red adhesive wafer, and stamped for postage. Opening the letter tore a hole in the second leaf.
The letter was docketed by , who served as scribe to JS from 1842 to 1844. It was later refolded for filing and docketed by , who served as a clerk in the Church Historian’s Office (later Church Historical Deparment) in Salt Lake City from 1853 to 1859, then docketed again by an unknown scribe in graphite. The document was listed in an inventory that was produced by the Church Historian’s Office circa 1904. By 1973 the letter had been included in the JS Collection at the Church Historical Department (now CHL). The document’s early dockets, inclusion in the circa 1904 inventory, and inclusion in the JS Collection by 1973 indicate continuous institutional custody.
See the full bibliographic entry for JS Collection, 1827–1844, in the CHL catalog.
Sometime in the summer of 1842, wrote a letter on behalf of his wife, Sarah Phinney Foster, and himself from , New York, to JS in , Illinois. He updated JS on his arrival in , where Sarah was apparently visiting friends, and denounced , who was in New York giving public lectures against JS and the . In a postscript, Foster also informed JS of church members who were moving to Nauvoo, including the family of Joseph and Sally Stacy Murdock, whom Foster had encountered on his journey. Foster explained that while Joseph Murdock wanted to donate money to support the construction of the Nauvoo , his wife would likely oppose giving their money to the church. Foster asked JS to watch for their arrival and consider meeting with Joseph Murdock.
dated the letter 16 July 1842, but that likely was a mistake. According to the letter, it took Foster twenty days to travel from to , where he wrote the letter. On 1 July 1842, Foster had transferred a portion of land in , Illinois, to JS, indicating that he was in Hancock County at that time. Further, JS’s journal states that on 19 July JS accompanied Foster and Henry Kearns to investigate land in the Nauvoo area. Given the amount of time it took to get to DeRuyter, it would have been impossible for Foster to have left Nauvoo after 1 July and reached DeRuyter by 16 July, and it would also have been impossible for him to have written a letter in DeRuyter on 16 July and then be back in Nauvoo by 19 July. Because the letter is postmarked 17 August, and because the Fosters reached on 30 August, it is likely that Foster mistakenly wrote down the previous month when dating the letter and that it was actually written on 16 August. No reply from JS has been located.
“Extract of a Letter from Robert D. Foster,” Wasp, 24 Sept. 1842, .
The Wasp. Nauvoo, IL. Apr. 1842–Apr. 1843.
Madison Co N. Y
Brother Joseph it is with sensasions of deep Gratitude that I enjoy this priviledge of acquainting you my benefactor and friend with the favourable circumstances by which I am at present sarrounded after a Journey of twenty days I arrived in this my Horses &c as well as could be expected when we consider that they traveled over fifty five miles each day without any intermission. I find my wife & all her friends well and enjoying each others society in that manner that was before desired & anticipated many have been the interrogatones [interrogations] propounded to me respecting yourself family &c &c which have all been answered in strict accordance with truth and in many instances has had a good tendency to retard if not entirely arrest the unhallowed influence of Libels be assured Sir that he has found many votaries but it gives me much pleasure to state that they are mostly birds of the same feather (viz) (Blackbirds) without principle willing to sacrifice all honour and honesty, for the purpose of eliciting blasphemies against the mostHigh and his anointedones His Career is very short illustrated better by one of your own familiar trite sentances than any of my own thoughts at the present, (viz) its effect upon respectable community is equal to the effe[c]ts of water upon the Goose’s Back, producng no change deeper than its glossy surface like s Borrowed Oratory and deaf tond. far fetchd and borrowed at that— my Wife with me sends her Love to you & family as also all the faithfull hoping still to retain an interest in your Blessings and best wishes— May the unbounded Confiden[c]e of the Saints and the Grace of God through Jesus Christ be and remain yours for Ever is my desire and certain hope as with considerations of Great respect and sincere affection I take the liberty of [p. ]
Although Foster may have been using “benefactor” only in a general sense, he later noted that he “was the accepted physician of the Church” and that JS highly recommended his medical services to family members and friends. (Robert D. Foster, Loda, IL, to Joseph Smith III, Plano, IL, 14 Feb. 1874, in Saints’ Herald, 14 Apr. 1888, 227.)
Sarah Phinney Foster was born in Massachusetts around 1810. The identity of the friends referred to here is unclear; it is also unclear how long she had been in New York. However, she may have been the woman referred to in Willard Richards’s journal as the “Mrs. Foster” who traveled to Cleveland with Richards and Hiram and Sarah Granger Kimball in July 1842. (1850 U.S. Census, Canandaigua, Ontario Co., NY, 174[B]; Richards, Journal, 1–6 and 11 July 1842.)
Census (U.S.) / U.S. Bureau of the Census. Population Schedules. Microfilm. FHL.