on behalf of JS, Letter, , Caldwell Co., MO, to , Vinalhaven, Fox Islands, Waldo Co., ME, [ca. 18 June 1838]. Written on a copy of “Prospectus for the Elder’s Journal, of the Church of Jesus Christ, of Latter Day Saints”; handwriting of ; four pages; Wilford Woodruff, Journals and Papers, CHL. Includes address in the handwriting of , a stamped postmark and manuscript postage in red ink, a docket in ink in the handwriting of , and an archival call number in graphite.
Bifolium measuring 16 × 10¼ inches (41 × 26 cm). The letter was written on a published prospectus for the issues of the Elders’ Journal. The document was trifolded twice in letter style and then postmarked in red ink. The letter was later refolded for archival filing and then docketed. The folds are weakened and partially separated. Adhesive wafers that sealed the letter created holes in the paper when the letter was opened, resulting in some loss of inscription. The document has undergone some conservation.
In addition to the signatures of , the letter includes a docket in ’s handwriting: “Thomas B Marsh | April 30. 1838”. Woodruff apparently donated the letter to the LDS church as part of his collected papers, possibly during his tenure as assistant church historian (1856–1883) or church historian (1883–1889).
“Contents of the Historian and Recorder’s Office. G. S. L. City July 1858,” 6, Historian’s Office, Catalogs and Inventories, 1846–1904, CHL; Turley, “Assistant Church Historians,” 20–21; see also Park, “Developing a Historical Conscience,” 115–134.
Historian’s Office. Catalogs and Inventories, 1846–1904. CHL. CR 100 130.
Turley, Richard E., Jr. “Assistant Church Historians and the Publishing of Church History.” In Preserving the History of the Latter-Day Saints, edited by Richard E. Turley Jr. and Steven C. Harper, 19–47. Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2010.
Park, Benjamin E. “Developing a Historical Conscience: Wilford Woodruff and the Preservation of Church History.” In Preserving the History of the Latter-day Saints, edited by Richard E. Turley Jr. and Steven C. Harper, 115–134. Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2010.
Sometime in mid- or late spring 1838, JS assigned to write a letter to , who was proselytizing in the northeastern . In the letter, Marsh responded to a 9 March 1838 missive that Woodruff and two fellow missionaries addressed to , JS and his counselors in the , and the Saints in . Woodruff, the primary author of the letter, reported on his proselytizing efforts, challenges, and successes in the , located off the coast of . He also requested that publication of the Elders’ Journal be recommenced in Missouri because missionaries desperately needed church literature to counter false information being circulated about the church. Woodruff concluded by expressing loyalty to JS and the church and by admonishing the Saints in Missouri to avoid making the mistakes church members in had made. It is unclear when Woodruff’s letter arrived in , Missouri, but later in the year, correspondence between Marsh and Woodruff traveled through the mail in less than four weeks, suggesting that this letter arrived sometime in early or mid-April.
JS apparently read the letter or heard it read and assigned to reply. Marsh was of the and therefore held ecclesiastical jurisdiction over the apostles, , and all traveling —including —which made Marsh an appropriate person to respond to Woodruff. Marsh acknowledged that the letter had arrived “some day’s since” and explained that the bishop and First Presidency had been busy with church affairs.
wrote to on a copy of the prospectus for the issues of the Elders’ Journal. The prospectus, which requested that traveling elders such as Woodruff enlist subscribers for the newspaper, was printed at the top of the recto of the first leaf of a bifolium, with Marsh’s letter beginning below the prospectus. Marsh ended his letter on the top half of the verso of the second leaf, slightly compressing his last few lines to leave room for the address, which he added after folding the letter as an envelope. As with the copy of the prospectus Marsh used, other copies of the prospectus may have been printed on bifolia, inscribed with personal notes, and then folded and mailed to Mormon missionaries who were proselytizing outside of Missouri. Marsh wrote the letter sometime between 30 April, which was the publication date of the prospectus, and 18 June, the date of the postmark stamped on the letter. The postscript Marsh added suggests he may have written the letter over more than one day, apparently completing it on or shortly before 18 June. Marsh may have written the letter at his home in .
The letter to has two parts. The first part of the letter explains the disaffection of and other Latter-day Saints in . The second part of the letter explains church members’ dissatisfaction with and , as well as the excommunication of Phelps, John Whitmer, , , and . Marsh concluded his letter by noting that with the excommunications, internal opposition had been removed from the church in , that JS and had moved to Zion, and that the Elders’ Journal would soon be published again. Marsh’s postscript describes the April revelation designating as a holy place of in which to build a city of Zion and a .
Because knew the church newspaper would soon be reestablished, he may have written the letter with the intention of responding to personally and of publishing the letter in the newspaper to explain to a broader audience the recent developments in and . Or, Marsh may have determined after writing the letter that it could be published as a report on recent events. A revised version of the letter, apparently based on a retained copy, appeared in the July issue of the Elders’ Journal. Before mailing the letter, Marsh made some revisions that softened the antagonism he originally expressed toward the Kirtland dissenters, perhaps to make the letter more suitable for publication. Some of the substantive changes Marsh made in the version he sent to Woodruff do not appear in the Elders’ Journal version, suggesting that Marsh further revised the letter to Woodruff after making the retained copy. Marsh also revised the retained copy before publishing it.
The letter, mailed on 18 June, probably reached the post office in Vinalhaven, Maine, in mid- or late July. The letter was apparently received by one of ’s converts on the , as Woodruff had been on the mainland since late April. When he returned to the islands on 7 August 1838, he visited fellow Latter-day Saints Ephraim Luce, Stephen Luce, and a “Brother Sterretts,” and one of them apparently gave Woodruff the letter.
Woodruff left the Fox Islands on 28 April 1838. Regarding his return on 7 August, Woodruff wrote, “I received a letter from ElderThomas B. Marsh from Zion in answer to the one I wrot to the Bishop & Presidency & Saints in Zion.” The following day, Woodruff visited the post office to obtain further mail, which indicates that he received Marsh’s letter from one of the members he visited before he went to the post office. (Woodruff, Journal, 28 Apr. and 7–8 Aug. 1838.)
Woodruff, Wilford. Journals, 1833–1898. Wilford Woodruff, Journals and Papers, 1828–1898. CHL. MS 1352.
5th., and after lbouring dilegently three days in succession, it was unanimously agreed upon, that the town plott Plat, with four eighties adjacent to the plat, should be given at the disposal of the and his council the , the two , and the two . During this labour the two presidents acknoledged they were wrong, and they to all appearance, willingly suffered themselves to be corrected by the Council.
In the begining of May following, the Council again met, and resolved to to have the above named property transfered into the hands of the , as an equivalent to the Poorbleedingzionmoney, and that the avails, of said land, should be thareafter applied to the benefit of the poor, and the other public purposes. The business of the transfer of said property, was transacted by the two presidents, the and his council, and by some means they managed to bind the in a heavy mortgage <of three thousand four hundred and fifty dollars> to apply two thousand dollars of the avails of the town plat <which they had subscribed> to the building of the , which they intended to build <have erected.> Since that time, the affair of building the has falen through. Consequntly, many people have withdrawn ther subscription to it, and these two men, claiming this two thousand dollars as their subscription, chuse to withdraw it, and put it into their own pockets. A small part of which has been already paid to .
The Council, not feeling <willing> that the Church should be defrauded o[ut?] of two thousand dollars of her public funds, and also know<ing> that the Church in general as well as themselvs, had become dissattisfied with their conduct as Christians, in many things, appointed a committee to labour with them; after which, they called the whole church in togeathe[r], who almost unanimously voted them out of their presidenceal office.
Not long after this, the Council saw cause to appoint a seccond committee, to wait on these men who still presisted in their opposition to the interests of the Church. After which, charges were prefered against them before the Council, which were substantiated, and they were cut off excommunicated. Also, the Church has had much sorrow during the past winter, on account of the unfaithfulness of , , and , and in consequence of this, and their opposition to our beloved Brothr Joseph Smith Jr., and the best interests of the , for presisting in the same, a number of Charges have been substantiated against them, before the Councils & of the Church, and they have also been excluded from the Church fellowship. “How has the gold become dim the most fine gold changed”!!! But I mus[t] drop this subject for want of room. Suffice <it> to say Bretheren, J. Smith Jr. & are now with us, the Church now flourishes, and the Saints rejoice, and the <internal> enemies of the Church are down. You will see by the above prospectes, that your anxious desires for the Journal are about to be granted.
May the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, bless you, and keep you unto his coming and Kingdom, Amen. My love to all the saints in those regeons.
The Far West plat was one mile square, constituting 640 acres, half of which were owned by Phelps and the other half by Whitmer. Between August 1836 and January 1837, Phelps and Whitmer purchased additional land in Caldwell County, including nineteen 80-acre tracts. Fourteen of these tracts were adjacent to or near the land platted for Far West. Of these fourteen, Phelps and Whitmer deeded to Edward Partridge the two tracts west of the town plat in sections 10 and 15, a tract located on the northeast corner of the plat in section 11, and a tract located about a half mile south of the plat in section 22 or section 23. (“Description of Far West Plat,” BYU Church History and Doctrine Department, Church History Project Collection, CHL; Caldwell Co., MO, Original Land Entries, 1835–1859, p. 11, microfilm 2,438,695, U.S. and Canada Record Collection, FHL; Edward Partridge and Lydia Partridge, Mortgage, Far West, MO, to William W. Phelps and John Whitmer, 17 May 1837, John Whitmer Family Papers, CHL.)
BYU Church History and Doctrine Department. Church History Project Collection, 1977–1981. Photocopy. CHL.
An undated resolution to this effect appears in a note following the minutes of a meeting on 5–7 April 1837. The land was transferred on 17 May 1837. (See Minute Book 2, 5–7 Apr. 1837; and Edward Partridge and Lydia Partridge, Mortgage, Far West, MO, to William W. Phelps and John Whitmer, 17 May 1837, John Whitmer Family Papers, CHL.)
The 640-acre plat and four additional 80-acre tracts totaled 960 acres. Purchased at the usual government fee of $1.25 per acre, the original value of this land totaled $1,200, which was $250 less than the $1,450 Marsh and Groves originally borrowed and delivered to Phelps and Whitmer in fall 1837. By this time, some of the lots would have included improvements that raised the original value of the parcels.
According to the conditions of the second of two bonds governing the transfer of the land from Phelps and Whitmer to Partridge, the proceeds from selling land were to be used to support poor Saints, purchase additional land for the church, build a house of the Lord in Far West, and establish a printing office. (Edward Partridge, Bond, Far West, MO, to William W. Phelps and John Whitmer, 17 May 1837, John Whitmer Family Papers, CHL.)
The transfer of the town plat and four 80-acre tracts from Phelps and Whitmer to Partridge was conditioned upon a mortgage and two bonds. The first bond required Partridge to pay Phelps and Whitmer $1,450 for the land and to take responsibility for their subscriptions of $1,000 each for building the House of the Lord. The second bond built on and was conditional upon the terms of the first bond and mortgage. This second bond restated the combined sum of $3,450 due to Phelps and Whitmer and established how the proceeds that Partridge earned from selling town lots could be used. The penalty for the first bond was $10,000, while the penalty for the second was $25,000. (Edward Partridge, Bonds, Far West, MO, to William W. Phelps and John Whitmer, 17 May 1837, John Whitmer Family Papers, CHL.)
Estate records for Edward Partridge list an undated payment of $187 to Phelps on a $2,000 debt owed to Phelps and Whitmer. (Account, Estate of Edward Partridge with John Whitmer, John Whitmer Family Papers, CHL.)
On 10 November 1837, four days after a conference of church officers voted to halt construction of the House of the Lord, priesthood holders at Far West voted that the funds generated from the sale of town lots would be “consecrated for the public benefit of the church— for building houses for public worship, or such other purposes as the church shall say.” (Minutes, 10 Nov. 1837.)