Kirtland high council, Minutes, , Geauga Co., OH, 29 Oct. 1835. Featured version copied [between ca. 4 Apr. and ca. 16 May 1836] in Minute Book 1, pp. 127–129; handwriting of ; CHL. For more complete source information, see the source note for Minute Book 1.
In October 1835, the high council met to discuss allegations that , a member of the Quorum of the , and his wife, Mary Cahoon Elliott, had abused their teenage daughter by beating and whipping her. According to one of the witnesses who testified at the meeting, the Elliott affair had provoked public discussion in the small village of , Ohio. On 29 October, the high council met to depose witnesses and determine if the Elliotts’ actions merited official church discipline.
The complaint, instigated by , likely involved the couple’s treatment of Lucena, ’s eldest child from a previous marriage. Elliott and William Smith had been acquainted for several years prior to the accusation. Both men marched to as part of the in May 1834, and both were ordained as leaders in the church’s governing bodies in February 1835. No extant records indicate how William Smith became aware of the alleged abuse within the Elliott family.
The trial unfolded in two sessions. The opening session seems to have focused on ’s allegations against David Elliott. Five witnesses, including JS, were deposed during the first trial; JS testified in favor of the defendant. As the minutes indicate, the council ultimately ruled that although “the complaint was not without foundation,” the charge of abuse “had not been fully sustained.” The council reconvened later that evening to hear William Smith’s charges against Mary Elliott. During this hearing, a “Sister Childs,” who testified she lived in the Elliott household, was introduced as a witness. JS’s journal indicates that in contrast to the first hearing, in which he was called to testify, JS was asked to “take a seat with the presidency and preside” over the second session.
An account in JS’s journal suggests that the second session was contentious. Six members of the council, rather than the usual four, were appointed to speak during the evening session, which according to established protocol meant that the case was deemed difficult. During the meeting, JS and engaged in a heated exchange that opened up an unpleasant rift between the two brothers. At the conclusion of the second session, both Mary and confessed their wrongs before the council, pledged to correct their behavior, and were forgiven.
Chagrin was officially renamed Willoughby sometime in late 1834 or early 1835, following the establishment of Willoughby Medical College. However, JS and other church members often referred to the town as Chagrin.
Little is known about the Elliott family. Family genealogical records suggest that Mary Cahoon was David Elliott’s third wife. According to these records, he married Almira Holliday in 1821, and in the following year Almira gave birth to Lucena. He later married Margery Quick in 1823. Mary Cahoon was therefore Lucena’s stepmother. (“History Written by David Elliott,” attached to “David Elliott, 1799–1855,” 27 Nov. 2014, FamilySearch; “Elliott, David,” born 18 Nov. 1799, submitted by Alvin E. Morris, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Family Group Records Collection; Archives Section, 1942–1969, microfilm 1,274,009, U.S. and Canada Record Collection, FHL.)
the girl told her that she was sorry that sister Osgood was going to leave her father, for said she I know how I shall fare when you leave I shall run away or destroy myself and went down into the well for the purpose of drowning herself but was prevented by sister Osgood,
Testimony of was that the people of where the circumstances took place, were much excited about the affair, and that it was a topic of public conversation.
The testimony of President Smith was that he was at their house in and talked with the girl, and with her parints, and that he was satisfied that the girl was in the fault, and that the neighbors were trying to create a difficulty.
Testimony of ’s father was that the girl was refractory and stubborn, and would sometimes vary from the truth and had never seen or Sister Elliot abuse her. After the Counsellors had made their observations, the and the were heard. The Presidents then proceeded to give the following decision. That the complaint was not without foundation, yet the charge has not been fully sustained, but he has acted injudiciously and brought a disgrace upon himself, upon his daughter & upon this Church, because he ought to have trained his child in a way, that she should not have required the rod at the age of 15 years.
Council adjourned till candle light.
Council again convened and Hezekiah Fisk was appointed in the room of , who was absent and in the place of . After the council was organized, a charge was [p. 128]