JS, Letter, , Clay Co., MO, to , , Adams Co., IL, 4 Apr. 1839; handwriting and signature (now missing) of JS; three pages; JS Papers, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, New Haven, CT. Includes address, wafer seal, and redactions.
Bifolium measuring 12¾ × 7½ inches (32 × 19 cm). The letter was addressed, trifolded twice in letter style, sealed with an adhesive wafer, and postmarked. At some point, the leaves became separated and the wafer became detached. Later, JS’s signature was cut out, resulting in loss of text on the recto of the second leaf. The top of the recto of the second leaf was inscribed in graphite with “Letter of Joseph Smith | Prophet of the | Mormons”, likely by a document dealer. The document has undergone conservation.
The letter was presumably in ’s possession for some time after she received it. Eventually it came into the possession of Oliver R. Barrett, a noted collector of Abraham Lincoln memorabilia, who owned the document at the time of his death in 1950. The same year, Parke-Bernet Galleries of New York City sold the letter and other selected manuscripts from Barrett’s collection. The letter was later acquired by William Robertson Coe, who donated it with his extensive Americana collection to Yale University in the early 1950s.
Withington, Catalogue of Manuscripts in the Collection of Western Americana, 244.
Withington, Mary C., comp. A Catalogue of Manuscripts in the Collection of Western Americana Founded by William Robertson Coe, Yale University Library. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1952.
On 4 April 1839, JS wrote to his wife Emma Smith in , Illinois, as he contemplated his imminent departure from the in , Clay County, Missouri, after months of incarceration. On 31 March, the prisoners’ lawyer, Peter Burnett, had visited them in the jail and likely informed them that guards would soon transport the men from Liberty to in , Missouri, where a grand jury hearing for the eleventh judicial circuit was scheduled to begin on 8 April. Burnett may have also told the prisoners that they would have the right to petition the court to change the venue of their upcoming trial to another county.
JS summarized these updates in this letter to his . He also expressed his profound desire to be reunited with her and their children, and he offered her counsel regarding their family. As with previous letters JS penned to Emma from the jail, he wrote this 4 April letter himself rather than dictating it to a scribe. Instead of sending the missive to with a courier, as he apparently did with earlier letters to his wife, JS opted to send it through the postal service on 5 April 1839. It probably arrived sometime before 11 April.
Hyrum Smith, Diary, 31 Mar. 1839; Ruling, Richmond, MO, Nov. 1838, p. , State of Missouri v. JS et al. for Treason and Other Crimes (Mo. 5th Jud. Cir. 1838), in State of Missouri, “Evidence”; An Act to Prescribe the Times of Holding Courts in the Eleventh Judicial Circuit [12 Feb. 1839], Laws of the State of Missouri , p. 36.
Smith, Hyrum. Diary, Mar.–Apr. 1839, Oct. 1840. CHL. MS 2945.
Laws of the State of Missouri, Passed at the First Session of the Tenth General Assembly, Begun and Held at the City of Jefferson, on Monday, the Nineteenth Day of November, in the Year of Our Lord, One Thousand Eight Hundred and Thirty-Eight. Jefferson, MO: Calvin Gunn, 1838.
On 4 April 1839, Hyrum Smith named in his journal six Missouri counties—Audrain, Monroe, Shelby, Clark, Lewis, and Marion—presumably as potential destinations for the venue change. (Hyrum Smith, Diary, 4 Apr. 1839.)
Smith, Hyrum. Diary, Mar.–Apr. 1839, Oct. 1840. CHL. MS 2945.
This assumption is based on the speed that contemporary correspondence was delivered through the mail. Hyrum Smith sent a letter, postmarked 5 April 1839, from the Liberty post office to his wife, Mary Fielding Smith, in Quincy. In her 11 April 1839 letter to her husband, she added an undated postscript acknowledging receipt of his missive. (Hyrum Smith, Liberty, MO, to Mary Fielding Smith, Quincy, IL, 23 Mar. 1839; Mary Fielding Smith, [Quincy, IL], to Hyrum Smith, 11 Apr. 1839, Mary Fielding Smith, Collection, CHL.)
Smith, Mary Fielding. Collection, ca. 1832–1848. CHL. MS 2779.
then this is, we shall not stay here but one night besides this <if that> thank <if that> God, we shall never cast a lingering wish after in clay county mo. Mo. we have enough of it to last forever, may God reward fals swearers according to their works, is all I can wish them. My Dear I think of you and the children continualy, if I could tell you my tale, I think you would say it was altogether enough for once, to grattify the malice of hell that I have suffered. I want <to> see little , , , and , Joana,and old major. And as to yourself if you want to know how much I want to see you, examine your feelings, how much you want to see me, and judge for <you[r]self>, I would gladly go<walk> from here to you barefoot, and bareheaded, and half naked, to see you and think it great pleasure, and never count it toil, but do not think I am babyish, for I do not feel so, I bare with fortitude all my oppression, so does do those that are with me, not one of us have flinched yet, I want you <should> not let those little fellows, forgit me, tell them Father loves them with a perfect love, and he is doing all he can to git away from the mob to come to them, do teach them all you can, that they may have good minds, be tender and kind to them, dont <be> fractious to them, but listen to their wants, tell them Father says they must be good children, <and> mind their mother, My Dear there is great respo[n]sibility resting upon you, in preserveing yourself in honor, and sobriety, before them, and teaching them right things, to form their young and tender minds, that they begin in right paths, and not git contaminated when young, by seeing ungodly examples, I soppose you see [p. ]
Probably Johanna Carter (1824–1847), a Latter-day Saint orphan who apparently lived with JS’s family in the 1830s.a Johanna’s mother, Elizabeth Kenyon Carter, died in 1828.b Her father, John Sims Carter, was a participant in the Camp of Israel expedition who died in 1834 in Missouri.c Johanna’s stepmother, Jerusha Carter, died in 1835.d Johanna may have been living with the Smiths on 29 January 1836, when she and her sisters received patriarchal blessings from Joseph Smith Sr.e She possibly was staying with the Smiths in November 1838 in Far West, Missouri.f The inclusion of Johanna in this letter’s list of children suggests that JS considered her one of his “five children,” a reference he made in his 22 March 1839 letter to Isaac Galland.g
(aJS, Journal, 29 Jan. 1836; see also Smart, Mormon Midwife, 71–72. b“Elizabeth Carter,” in General Index to Vital Records of Vermont, Early to 1870, microfilm 27,502, U.S. and Canada Record Collection, FHL. c“Afflicting,” The Evening and the Morning Star, July 1834, 176. d“Jerusha Carter,” in General Index to Vital Records of Vermont, Early to 1870, microfilm 27,502, U.S. and Canada Record Collection, FHL. eJS, Journal, 29 Jan. 1836. fSee Caroline Clark et al., Complaint against William E. McLellin, no date, Statements against William E. McLellin et al., CHL. gLetter to Isaac Galland, 22 Mar. 1839.)
Smart, Donna Toland, ed. Mormon Midwife: The 1846–1888 Diaries of Patty Bartlett Sessions. Logan, UT: Utah State University Press, 1997.
U.S. and Canada Record Collection. FHL.
The Evening and the Morning Star. Independence, MO, June 1832–July 1833; Kirtland, OH, Dec. 1833–Sept. 1834.
Statements against William E. McLellin and Others, ca. 1838–1839. CHL.