Letter from William S. Wright, 21 July 1842
William S. Wright, Letter, , Hancock Co., IL, to JS, , Hancock Co., IL, 21 July 1842; handwriting presumably of William S. Wright; one page; Newel K. Whitney, Papers, BYU. Includes address, docket, and archival marking.Single leaf measuring 10 × 7⅝ inches (25 × 19 cm), ruled with thirty-two lines (now faded). The bottom edge of the leaf was unevenly cut. The letter was trifolded twice in letter style, addressed, and sealed with a red adhesive wafer, a remnant of which is present on the verso. The leaf was torn when the letter was opened. Marked water damage resulted in separation and deterioration along the folds, paper discoloration, and a loss of text. The recto also shows ink transfer.The verso includes a graphite docket in the handwriting of , who served as scribe to JS from 1842 to 1844. In late 1844, following JS’s death, became one of the interim church trustees and was appointed “first bishop” among other . It was presumably during this time that many of the church’s financial and other administrative records passed into his possession. This document, along with many other personal and institutional documents that Whitney kept, was inherited by Newel K. and ’s daughter Mary Jane Whitney, who was married to Isaac Groo. The documents were passed down within the Groo family. Between 1969 and 1974, the Groo family donated their collection of Newel K. Whitney’s papers to the J. Reuben Clark Library (renamed Harold B. Lee Library in 1973) at Brigham Young University.
JS, Journal, 29 June 1842; “Clayton, William,” in Jenson, Latter-day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia, 1:718.
Jenson, Andrew. Latter-day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia: A Compilation of Biographical Sketches of Prominent Men and Women in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 4 vols. Salt Lake City: Andrew Jenson History Co., 1901–1936.
Richards, Journal, 9 Aug. 1844; “Conference Minutes,” Times and Seasons, 1 Nov. 1844, 5:693; see also Minutes, Times and Seasons, Dec. 1839, 1:30.
Richards, Willard. Journals, 1836–1853. Willard Richards, Papers, 1821–1854. CHL. MS 1490, boxes 1–2.
Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.
Andrus and Fuller, Register of the Newel Kimball Whitney Papers, 24.
Andrus, Hyrum L., and Chris Fuller, comp. Register of the Newel Kimball Whitney Papers. Provo, UT: Division of Archives and Manuscripts, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, 1978.
On 21 July 1842, William S. Wright wrote a letter in , Illinois, to JS, asking for a loan to help him pay off an unspecified debt. Wright’s identity is unclear, as is the reason for his presence in Nauvoo, but the contents of the letter and later newspaper accounts may provide clues. In the summer of 1844, eastern newspapers reported that “a person calling himself William S. Wright has been convicted in the Criminal Court, of obtaining money under false pretences.” According to the reports, this William S. Wright had used pretended ties to prominent individuals to obtain between two hundred and three hundred dollars. Given that the author of the letter featured here also hoped to secure a loan from JS, this letter might have been written by the same Wright who was later charged in the District of Columbia.Wright wrote another letter to JS three days later, advising him on whom the Latter-day Saints should support in an upcoming election. The lack of postal markings indicates that the letter was likely hand delivered to JS—perhaps by the Mr. Wilson identified in the letter. No response from JS is known. Because the letter has been torn, resulting in missing or obscured inscription, some text has been editorially supplied in square brackets where possible, based on context.
News Item, Daily Atlas (Boston), 17 June 1844, ; “Domestic News,” Alexandria (VA) Gazette, 20 June 1844, .
Boston Daily Atlas. Boston. 1844–1857.
Alexandria Gazette. Alexandria, VA. 1834–1877.
“Criminal Court, Washington, D. C.,” Sun (Baltimore), 13 June 1844, ; “Criminal Court,” Daily National Intelligencer (Washington DC), 21 June 1844, . According to court records, a federal circuit court later overturned the conviction on a writ of error. A writ of error requires that a case be reexamined, either by the judge who rendered the initial judgment or by a higher court, in consideration of an alleged error in the proceedings. (Federal Cases, 30:713–714; “Writ of Error,” in Bouvier, Law Dictionary, 2:501.)
Sun. Baltimore. 1837–2008.
Daily National Intelligencer. Washington DC. 1800–1869.
The Federal Cases Comprising Cases Argued and Determined in the Circuit and District Courts of the United States from the Earliest Times to the Beginning of the Federal Reporter. Arranged Alphabetically by the Titles of the Cases, and Numbered Consecutively. Vol. 8. St. Paul, MN: West Publishing, 1895.
Bouvier, John. A Law Dictionary, Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States of America, and of the Several States of the American Union; With References to the Civil and Other Systems of Foreign Law. 2 vols. Philadelphia: Deacon and Peterson, 1854.
A man named William S. Wright lived in McDonough County, Illinois, in the early 1840s. This Wright, who was apparently not a church member, does not appear to have had prior contact with JS, although it is possible that he authored the featured letter. (1840 U.S. Census, McDonough Co., IL, 206; Land Patents for William S. Wright, McDonough Co., IL, nos. 12588, 16378, General Land Office Records, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Department of the Interior.)
Census (U.S.) / U.S. Bureau of the Census. Population Schedules. Microfilm. FHL.
General Land Office Records. Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Department of the Interior. Digital images of the land patents cited herein are available at http://www.glorecords.blm.gov/.