Letter from Sybella McMinn Armstrong and Orrin Porter Rockwell, 1 December 1842
and , Letter, , Philadelphia Co., PA, to JS, , Hancock Co., IL, 1 Dec. 1842; handwriting of ; two pages; JS Collection, CHL. Includes address, postal notations, postal stamp, dockets, and use marks.
Bifolium measuring 9⅞ × 7⅝ inches (25 × 19 cm) when folded. Each page of the bifolium is ruled with twenty-nine horizontal lines printed in blue ink (now faded). The upper left corner of the recto of the first leaf includes a circular embossment, now illegible. The letter was inscribed on both sides of the first leaf; the recto of the second leaf is blank. The letter was trifolded twice in letter style, addressed, and sealed with a red adhesive wafer.
Upon receipt, the letter was docketed by , who served as JS’s scribe from December 1841 until JS’s death in June 1844 and served as church historian from December 1842 until his own death in March 1854. It was later refolded for filing and docketed again by , who served as JS’s scribe from 1843 to 1844 and as clerk to the church historian and recorder from 1845 to 1865. In summer 1845, Richards and his clerks reviewed the letter for inclusion in JS’s 1838–1856 history, redacting portions of the manuscript in graphite. The document was listed as “ to ” in inventories that were produced by the Church Historian’s Office (later Church Historical Department) circa 1904. By 1973 the document had been included in the JS Collection at the Church Historical Department (now CHL). The document’s early dockets as well as its inclusion in JS’s history, the circa 1904 inventories, and the JS Collection by 1973 indicate continuous institutional custody.
See the full bibliographic entry for JS Collection, 1827–1844, in the CHL catalog.
On 1 December 1842, wrote a letter on behalf of in to JS in , Illinois. Rockwell had been accused by of attempting to assassinate former governor under JS’s orders. Shortly after Bennett began publishing this claim, Rockwell confronted Bennett, acknowledging that he was in the area at the time of the shooting but denying any involvement in the attack. When the current governor of Missouri issued an extradition request for JS, he made a similar request for Rockwell. Both men were arrested on 8 August 1842 and released on writs of . At that point, they went into hiding. In a journal entry dictated while he was in hiding, JS expressed affection for Rockwell and identified him as “a fellow-wanderer with myself— an exile from his home because of the murderous deeds and infernal fiendish disposition of the indefatigable and unrelenting hand of the Missourians.” While JS hid in Nauvoo and neighboring Henderson County, Illinois, Rockwell traveled east. At some point, Rockwell took refuge in , where he frequently visited the home of Armstrong, a Latter-day Saint who lived in the city. Armstrong had joined the three years earlier, after JS and Rockwell stayed with her for a few weeks during a trip to .
During his stay in , , who was illiterate, requested that write a letter to JS reporting on his health and well-being and seeking news about his family and comfort from his friends. He also requested a letter in reply from JS. Armstrong wrote the letter to JS on 1 December 1842 and, in addition to relaying Rockwell’s requests, conveyed her own observations of Rockwell’s condition. Armstrong addressed the letter to , apparently because she believed that JS was still in hiding, and mailed the letter the next day. Though the letter specifically requested a reply, no response from JS is extant. In late February 1843, possibly in response to Rockwell’s request that JS look into the condition of his family, JS deeded a lot in to Rockwell’s four children.
In the daybook for JS’s Nauvoostore, two early October entries record transactions apparently made by Rockwell or on his behalf. The second of these entries, dated 7 October, vaguely records a transaction of “Bills rendered” without listing their value. This entry may represent a settling of Rockwell’s store account prior to his leaving the area for the eastern states. (JS, Store Daybook, 6–7 Oct. 1842, 71.)
JS may have responded in January 1843, after he successfully challenged the extradition request in federal court, and may have encouraged Rockwell to return home, as Rockwell started for Nauvoo in February 1843. 1(JS, Journal, 3 Mar. 1843.)
I am requested by our friend — to drop a few lines informing you that he is in this place, his Health is Good— but his Spirits are depressed caused by his being unable to obtain employment of any kind— he has appyed [applied] in different parts of the and County— but all with-out success— as Farmers can get persons to work from sunrise till dark— for merly what they eat— he is most anxious to hear from you— and wishes you to see his Mother and Children— and write all the particulars how matters and things are— and what the prospects are— I pity him from the Bottom of my Heart— his lot in life seems marked with sorrow Bitterness and care— he is a Noble Generous friend— but you know his worth! any com[m]ents from me would be surpurfous [superfluous]. he will wait in this place until he hears from you— please write imediately— [p. ]
Rockwell and his wife, Luana Beebe Rockwell, had four children by this time: Emily, Caroline, Orrin DeWitt, and Sarah. (“Records of Early Church Families,” Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine, Oct. 1935, 155–156.)
“Records of Early Church Families.” Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine 26 (Oct. 1935): 145–192.