Letter to Presendia Huntington Buell, 15 March 1839
JS, Letter, , Clay Co., MO, to , , MO, 15 Mar. 1839. Featured version copied [16 Dec. 1854]; handwriting of ; two pages; inserted in JS History, 1838–1856, vol. C-1, p. 898; Historian’s Office, History of the Church, 1839–ca. 1882, CHL. Includes docket and redactions.
Single leaf measuring 12½ × 8 inches (32 × 20 cm), with thirty-five printed lines per page. The top, bottom, and right edges have the square cut of manufactured paper; the left edge is unevenly cut. After the document was folded for filing, added a docket. At an unknown date, a wafer was used to attach the top right corner of the verso to page 898 of JS History, 1838–1856, volume C-1. The top right corner of both the recto and the verso of the letter were inscribed in graphite with “898”. At some point, cellophane tape was applied where the paper had torn away from the adhesive wafer.
Little is known about the custodial history of the original letter, which is apparently not extant. It presumably remained in ’s possession for much of her life. On 16 December 1854, Buell temporarily loaned it to , a clerk in the Church Historian’s Office, for copying. Bullock’s copy was likely filed in the Church Historian’s Office for some time before it was inserted into volume C-1, as evidenced by wear along the copy’s folds. It was added to that volume by 1905. Volume C-1 has remained in the custody of the Church Historian’s Office and successor institutions since its creation, as noted in inventories of church records.
See “Schedule of Church Records. Nauvoo 1846,” ; “Inventory. Historians Office. G. S. L. City April 1. 1857,” ; “Index of Records and Journals in the Historian’s Office 1878,” , Historian’s Office, Catalogs and Inventories, 1846–1904, CHL.
Historian’s Office. Catalogs and Inventories, 1846–1904. CHL. CR 100 130.
On 15 March 1839, JS wrote from the in , Missouri, to , a who was also living in the county. noted in his journal that earlier in the day, Buell visited the jail with her father, , as well as , , and . Presumably, the purpose of the visit was for the four men to sign JS’s petition for a writ of . While there, Buell requested to converse with the prisoners privately, but the jailer would not permit it.
On the afternoon or evening of 15 March 1839, after the visitors departed and the petition was completed, JS wrote this letter to . While imprisoned in , JS often relied on his fellow prisoners to act as scribes for lengthy documents created for a general church audience or for the government, but he personally wrote short communications to his wife . Because the original letter to Buell is apparently not extant, it is unknown who acted as the scribe. However, at the conclusion of this letter, JS stated that “I wanted to communicate something and I wrote this,” suggesting he penned the letter himself. Believing that Buell desired counsel as to whether she and her husband, , should remain in or with the in , JS advised the latter. He also offered encouragement, quoted liberally from scripture, and expressed his desire to once again be with church members and teach them the gospel. The address, “To Mrs. Norman Buel | Clay Co. | Mo.,” suggests that JS completed the letter after Buell left the and that he had someone carry the letter to her home.
A copy of the letter was made on 16 December 1854 by . Bullock’s inclusion of the address at the bottom of the letter strongly suggests that Bullock had access to the original letter rather than a subsequent copy. In 1877, writer Edward Tullidge published a copy of the letter. It is unknown whether he copied the original letter or a subsequent version. Bullock’s version is featured here because it was presumably copied much earlier (when the original may have been more legible), because it is unknown whether Tullidge’s published version depended upon an intermediate printer’s manuscript, and because Tullidge may have edited his version for publication. Significant textual variants between Bullock’s and Tullidge’s versions are noted in annotation.
My heart rejoiced at the friendship you manifested in requesting to have conversation with us but the Jailer is a very Jealous man for fear some one will leave tools for us to get out with he is under the eye of the Mob continually and his life is at Stake if he grants us any privileges he will not let us converse with any one alone Oh what a joy it would be to us to see our friends it would have gladdened my heart to have the privilege of conversing with you but the hand of tyrany is upon us but thanks be to God it cannot last always and he that sitteth in the heavens will laugh at their calamity and mock when their fear cometh We feel Dear Sister that our bondage is not of long duration I trust that I shall have the chance to give such instructions as are communicated to us before long I suppose you wanted some instruction for yourself and also give us some information and administer consolation to us and to find out what is best for you to do I think that many of the brethren if they will be pretty still can stay in this country until the indignation is over and past but I think it would be better for to leave and go with the rest of the Brethren if he keep the faith and at any rate for thus speaketh the Spirit concerning him I want him and you to know that I am your true friend I was glad to see you no tongue can tell what inexpressible Joy it gives a man to see the face of one who has been a friend after having been inclosed in the walls of a prison for five months it seems to me that my heart will always be more tender after this than ever it was before my heart bleeds continually when I contemplate the distress of the Oh that I could be with them I would not shrink at toil and hardship to render them comfort and consolation I want the blessing once more to lift my voice in the midst of the Saints I would pour out my soul to God for their instruction it has been the plan of the Devil to hamper me and distress me from the beginning to keep me from explaining myself to them and I never have had opportunity to give them the plan that God has revealed to me for many have run without being sent crying tidings my Lord and have done much injury to the Church giving the Devil more power over those that walk by sight and not by faith [blank] will only give us that knowledge to understand the minds of the Ancients for my part I think I never could have felt as I now do if I had not suffered the wrongs that I have suffered all things shall work together for good to them that love God [p. ]
Norman Buell became disaffected from the church in 1838 or early 1839. He and Presendia remained in Missouri instead of joining the general church exodus from the state in 1839. (Kimball, Reminiscences, ; “A Venerable Woman,” Woman’s Exponent, 15 Mar. 1883, 155; “A Venerable Woman,” Woman’s Exponent, 1 Apr. 1883, 163.)
Kimball, Presendia Lathrop Huntington. Reminiscences, 1881. CHL. MS 742.