JS, Letter, , Hancock Co., IL, to , , New York Co., NY, 3 Mar. 1842. Featured version copied [ca. 3 Mar. 1842] in JS Letterbook 2, pp. 227–228; handwriting of ; JS Collection, CHL. For more complete source information, see the source note for JS Letterbook 2.
On 3 March 1842 JS composed a letter to attorney declining Barney’s earlier proposal to sell him property near , Illinois. Acting as an for the property’s owner, prominent New York City merchant Abijah Fisher, Barney had written to JS on 24 January 1842 offering to sell him twenty acres of land on the swampy western edge of the Nauvoo peninsula at $1,200 per acre.
JS apparently dictated the letter to or directed him how to respond. In the letter, JS acknowledged the receipt of ’s 24 January correspondence and outlined the reasons he was unwilling to purchase Fisher’s land at the proposed price. He also made a counteroffer to purchase the land for $100 per acre or, alternatively, to sell the land for Fisher as an agent. The letter was ostensibly mailed to Barney in , but Barney evidently did not respond to JS’s counteroffer or agency plan. Neither JS nor the purchased Fisher’s land, and the area around the property remained largely undeveloped through the nineteenth century.
JS’s original letter has not been located, but acted as scribe and copied it into Letterbook 2 presumably shortly after it was written.
On 20 January 1843 Fisher sold 120 acres of land in Nauvoo to William Spencer. This sale likely included at least a portion of the 20 acres Fisher offered to JS. (Hancock Co., IL, Deed Records, 1817–1917, vol. L, pp. 418–419, 26 Sept. 1843, microfilm 954,599, U.S. and Canada Record Collection, FHL.)
Yours of the 24th. of January in relation to Mr Fishers [Abijah Fisher’s] Land in this is received, and I feel to reciprocate the friendly sentiments therein contained and hope I may again have the pleasure of your society, & also of Messrs Silliman & Mitchell, when it shall suit your convenience to grant it
The Land you refer to, is so situated that it is not likely to be a source of great profit to any one at present, there are several difficulties in the way of rendering it as valuable as are some other Lots in the vicinity, which I have not time to enumerate at present; but if we can come to any conclusions for an exchange, which might <prove> to our mutual advantage in the end I will be glad so to do.
Our city Lots are one acre each, and while good lands and near by, can be had for $3. and $5. pr acre, the citizens will not consent to be circumscribed to 1/12 of an acre; unless it be in some peculiar instances which have no prospect of any bearing upon the land in question for a long period, if ever— [p. 227]
Likely William Mitchell, a partner in Barney’s law practice, and possibly William Silliman, Mitchell’s father-in-law. In a January 1842 letter to JS, Barney referred to a previous meeting that he and two men named Mitchell and Silliman had with JS in Nauvoo. (Bowman, 8000 More Vital Records of Eastern New York State, 1804–1850, 163; Alexander, St. John Genealogy, 229; Obituary for Hiram Barney, New York Times [New York City], 20 May 1895, 2; Holley, New-York State Register, for 1843, 391, 396; Letter from Hiram Barney, 24 Jan. 1842.)
Bowman, Fred Q. 8,000 More Vital Records of Eastern New York State, 1804–1850. Rhinebeck, NY: Kinship, 1991.
Alexander, Orline St. John. The St. John Genealogy: Descendants of Matthias St. John of Dorchester, Massachusetts, 1634. . . . New York: Grafton Press, 1907.
New York Times. New York City. 1857–.
Holley, O. L., ed. The New-York State Register, for 1843. Containing an Almanac, Civil Divisions, and Census of the State; with Political, Statistical and Other Information, Relating to the State of New-York and the United States. Also, a Full List of County Officers, Attorneys, &c. Albany: J. Disturnell, 1843.
Fisher’s property was located in the western portion of the Nauvoo peninsula and included a portion of the platted town of Commerce. In the early 1840s the land in this area was portrayed as being full of swamps and sloughs. (Doyle v. Teas, 4 Scammon 223, 233–234 [Ill. Sup. Ct. 1843]; Abijah Fisher and Oliver Granger, Tax Receipt, 25 May 1841, Hiram Kimball, Collection, CHL; John C. Bennett, “Inaugural Address,” Times and Seasons, 15 Feb. 1841, 2:318; Rollins et al., “Transforming Swampland into Nauvoo,” 133–135.)
Illinois State Historical Society. Circuit Court Case Files, 1830–1900. Microfilm. CHL. MS 16278.
Lots in and around the city of Nauvoo varied in price. In October 1839 the city council set the price for acre lots in the city at $500 (or between $200 and $800). Lots just outside the city were often sold at lower rates. In January 1842 JS sold John M. Bernhisel sixty acres of land two miles southeast of the temple for $8 an acre. Land farther out was apparently even less expensive. In April 1840 Horace Hotchkiss informed JS that timbered land near Springfield, Illinois, was worth $4.50 per acre, while prairie land (without timber) was worth closer to $3 per acre. (Nauvoo Stake High Council Minutes, fair copy, 21 Oct. 1839, 26; Letter to John M. Bernhisel, 4 Jan. 1842; Letter from Horace Hotchkiss, 1 Apr. 1840.)
Nauvoo Stake High Council Minutes, ca. 1839–ca. 1843. Fair copy. In Oliver Cowdery, Diary, Jan.–Mar. 1836. CHL.