JS, Letter, , Hancock Co., IL, to , , New York Co., NY, 16 Nov. 1841; handwriting of ; one page; JS Collection, CHL. Includes address, postal notations, endorsement, notation, and docket.
Bifolium measuring 9⅞ × 7¾ inches (25 × 20 cm). The letter was written on the first page only, trifolded twice in letter style, addressed, sealed with a red adhesive wafer, and inscribed with postal notations. The second leaf was torn, likely when the letter was opened; the tears have been repaired. An endorsement, likely in the handwriting of , reads: “Dec. 9”.
The docket is in unidentified handwriting. Although the custodial history of the letter is uncertain, it may have come into church possession sometime after relocated to , Illinois, in 1843. It is listed in a Church Historian’s Office inventory from circa 1904. By 1973 this document had been included in the JS Collection at the Church Historical Department (now CHL). The inventory and inclusion in the JS Collection suggest continuous institutional custody since the letter was received.
See the full bibliographic entry for JS Collection, 1827–1844, in the CHL catalog.
On 16 November 1841 in , Illinois, JS wrote his third letter to member , who was in . JS thanked Bernhisel for a gift and invited him to come to Nauvoo and select land for a purchase he had asked JS to make on his behalf. JS had been corresponding with Bernhisel since April 1841 to help him secure property in Nauvoo before he relocated there from New York. In early September 1841, Bernhisel asked to deliver to JS a letter discussing the property transaction. Bernhisel also included money for the purchase and, to show his gratitude, a copy of John Lloyd Stephens’s Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan.
JS responded to ’s letter and gift with this 16 November 1841 letter, inscribed by . Unlike previous correspondence, this letter was not mailed directly to Bernhisel. Instead, it was mailed from on 23 November to , who was a member of the of the church in . According to a notation on the letter, Foster had church member deliver the letter to Bernhisel, who apparently received it on 9 December. Bernhisel responded to JS two days later.
Woodruff had recently returned from a mission to England and passed through New York on his way back to Nauvoo. In New York, Woodruff recorded receiving the letter, money, and books from Bernhisel for JS. (Woodruff, Journal, 9 Sept. 1841.)
Woodruff, Wilford. Journals, 1833–1898. Wilford Woodruff, Journals and Papers, 1828–1898. CHL. MS 1352.
Bernhisel sent $40 with Woodruff as an additional installment to be added to $425 he sent in July 1841. Incidents of Travel was a two-volume travelogue by John Lloyd Stephens published in 1841. The work recounted “a journey of nearly three thousand miles in the interior of Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan, including visits to eight ruined cities, with full illustrations from drawings taken on the spot by Mr. [Frederick] Catherwood,” an English artist. Stephens’s book was mentioned in a June 1841 article in the Times and Seasons, which declared that accounts like Stephens’s “prove beyond controversy that, on this vast continent, once flourished a mighty people” and gave “more proofs of the Book of Mormon.” (Letter from John M. Bernhisel, 12 July 1841; Letter from John M. Bernhisel, 8 Sept. 1841; Stephens, Incidents of Travel, 1:iii; “American Antiquities,” Times and Seasons, 15 June 1841, 2:440–442; see also “American Antiquities,” New York Herald, 10 May 1841, .)
Stephens, John L. Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan. 2 vols. 11th ed. New York City: Harper and Brothers, 1841.
Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.
Divine was ordained a high priest in Nauvoo in April 1841 and moved to New York City shortly thereafter. (“Names of the Members of the High Priest Quorum,” in Nauvoo High Priests Quorum, Record, CHL; James Divine, New Rochelle, NY, to John M. Bernhisel, New York City, NY, 13 Sept. 1842, John M. Bernhisel, Correspondence, CHL.)
Nauvoo High Priests Quorum. Record, 1840–1891. CHL. CR 1000 2.
Bernhisel, John M. Correspondence, 1841–1843. CHL. MS 21197.
I received your kind present by the hand of & feel myself under many obligations for this mark of your esteem & friendship which to me is the more interesting as it unfolds & developes many things that are of great importance to this generation & corresponds with & supports the testimony of the Book of Mormon; I have read the volumnes with the greatest interest & pleasure & must say that of all histories that have been written pertaining to the antiquities of this country it is the most correct luminous & comprihensive.—
In regard to the land referred to by you I would simply state that I have lands both in and out of the some of which I hold deeds for and others bonds for deeds when you come which I hope will be as soon as convenient you can make such a selection from among those as shall best meet with your veiws & feelings. In gratefull remembrance of your kindness I remain your affectionate Brother in the bonds of the
The book Bernhisel gave to JS, Incidents of Travel by Stephens and Catherwood, was indicative of a widespread interest at the time in Mesoamerican culture. Travelers, artists, and scholars had been creating works related to Mesoamerica since the late eighteenth century. Building on earlier writings and research available in Italian, Spanish, and German, information on the ancient American civilizations began to be published in English in the early nineteenth century. For example, Alexander von Humboldt’s Researches concerning the Institutions and Monuments of the Ancient Inhabitants of America (London: Longman et al., 1814) appeared in English in 1814. Edward Kingsborough’s Antiquities of Mexico, an ongoing project that continued from 1831 to 1848, published travelogues, historical accounts, and many facsimile images. William Bullock’s 1824 travelogue, Six Months Residence and Travels in Mexico (London: John Murray, 1824), also fostered interest in ancient America and likely influenced the work of Stephens and Catherwood. In 1843 the Times and Seasons published an editorial endorsing Incidents of Travel. (“Stephens’ Works on Central America,” Times and Seasons, 1 Oct. 1843, 4:346–347.)
Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.