JS, Letter, , Hancock Co., IL, to , , New York Co., NY, 13 Apr. 1841; handwriting of ; two pages; JS Collection, CHL. Includes address, postal notations, endorsement, and docket.
Bifolium measuring 12¾ × 7¾ inches (32 × 20 cm). Embossed in the upper left corner of the first page are a decorative star and “D. & J. Ames, Springfield”, the insignia of a Springfield, Massachussetts, paper mill firm. The pages are ruled with thirty-five horizontal lines in blue ink. The letter was written on the recto and verso of the first leaf, and then the document was trifolded twice in letter style, addressed, and sealed with a red adhesive wafer. The last page has a 1-inch (3-cm) tear on the edge to the left of the wafer.
Presumably the letter was acquired by the church sometime after ’s arrival in , Illinois, in 1843 and has remained in continuous institutional custody. By 1973 it had been included in the JS Collection at the Church Historical Department (now CHL).
Whiting, “Paper Making in New England,” 309; Gravell et al., American Watermarks, 235.
Whiting, William. “Paper-Making in New England.” In The New England States: Their Constitutional, Judicial, Educational, Commercial, Professional and Industrial History, edited by William T. Davis, vol. 1, pp. 303–333. Boston: D. H. Hurd, 1897.
Gravell, Thomas L., George Miller, and Elizabeth Walsh. American Watermarks: 1690–1835. 2nd ed. New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press, 2002.
See the full bibliographic entry for JS Collection, 1827–1844, in the CHL catalog.
On 13 April 1841 in , Illinois, JS dictated a letter to in in response to a letter from Bernhisel dated 6 March 1841; Bernhisel’s letter is apparently no longer extant. In his letter, Bernhisel, who was a practicing doctor of medicine in New York and a recent convert to the , had evidently requested JS’s help in obtaining property in Nauvoo.
’s request generated a series of at least nine letters between himself and JS over the course of the next year. Seven of the extant letters deal with property matters and Bernhisel’s relocation. Their correspondence confirms that Bernhisel wanted to relocate and join the members of the church living in and that he hoped to secure property before his relocation. Bernhisel received the letter featured here on 10 May and responded to it on 12 July 1841.
Yours of the 6th. ultimo is received, which should have been answered before, had not I been so much engaged in the business of the .
In reply, I have to say, that I allways feel glad to do all I can for the interest of the and for individuals.
I think it will be impossible to enter any land at Congress price excepting prairie, about 4 or 5 miles from town. But there is frequently persons who want to sell lands in the neighborhood and who, would be induced to sell very low for cash.
If you were here; I think you would have plenty of oppertunities of making good bargains if you were here, but if you cannot come I will endeavour to obtain a suitable place for you if you advise me so to do.
If you were to send what means you can conveniently spare for that purpose to me, I will lay it out to the best advantage for you, and if I should not meet with a suitable purchase soon, I will allow you good interest for the same, but I have no doubt but I shall have plenty of oppertunities of laying out your money to good advantage.
I approve of your plan of letting out the land you purchase, as it must soon be verey valuable indeed, and at the same time be doing a favor to some of the poor brethren whose property has been taken away from them by a ruthless mob.
Congress passed a land law in 1820 that made public lands available from the federal government for a minimum price of $1.25 per acre, which was known as the “congress price.” JS had also applied for land patents in Missouri with the congress price in 1836. Land at this price in Illinois was made available to veterans of the War of 1812, who in turn often sold their large purchases for a profit to land syndicates in the East. JS and the church purchased their Illinois land from one of these land syndicates, namely the partnership of Horace Hotchkiss, Smith Tuttle, and John Gillet. By the time Bernhisel wrote his letter, any news of available land in Illinois at congress price was outdated and unrealistic. (Rohrbough, Land Office Business, 141; Application for Land Patent, 22 June 1836; Carlson, Illinois Military Tract, 7–9, 25–26, 40; Anthony Hoffman, Rushville, IL, to John Reid, Argyle, NY, 1 Nov. 1833, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, Springfield, IL; Bond from Horace Hotchkiss, 12 Aug. 1839–A.)
Rohrbough, Malcolm J. The Land Office Business: The Settlement and Administration of American Public Lands, 1789–1837. New York: Ocford University Press, 1968.
Carlson, Theodore L. The Illinois Military Tract: A Study of Land Occupation, Utilization, and Tenure. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1951.
Hoffman, Anthony. Letter, Rushville, IL, to John Reid, Argyle, NY, 1 Nov. 1833. Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, Springfield, IL.
Bernhisel’s initial letter presumably outlined the details of his real estate desires; his response a few months later to the letter featured here made it clear that he prioritized the size of the land and availability of timber over location. (Letter from John M. Bernhisel, 12 July 1841.)