Letter from William W. Phelps, 7 July 1837

  • Source Note
  • Historical Introduction

Document Transcript

. May [July] 7, 1837.
Dear brother in the Lord,
Permit me to drop you a few lines to show you our progress temporally and spiritually. A multiplicity of business has prevented me from writing much the year past, but the greatness of our doings and the importance of the occasion require a recital to you for your consolation.— Monday the 3d of July, was a great and glorious day in ; more than fifteen hundred saints assembled in this place, and, at 1/2 past 8 in the morning, after a prayer, singing, and an address, proceeded to break the ground for the ; the day was beautiful, the Spirit of the Lord was with us, a cellar for this great edifice, 110 long by 80 broad was nearly finished: on Tuesday the fourth, we had a large meeting and several of the Missourians were : Our meetings, held in the open prairie, or, in fact larger than they were in when I was there. We have more or less to bless, confirm and, baptize every Sabath.
This same day our school section was sold at auction, and although entirely a prairie, it brought, on a years credit, from 3 ½ to $10,20 an acre, making our first school fund $5070!! Land can not be had round town now much less than $10 per acre.
Our numbers increase daily, and, notwithstanding the season has been cold and backward, no one has lacked a meal, or went hungry. Provisions to be sure have risen, but not as high as our accounts say they are abroad.
Public notice has been given by the mob in , north of us, for the Mormons to leave that county by the first of August, and go into . Our enemies will not slumber, till Satan knows the bigness of his lot.
Our town gains some, we have about one hundred buildings, 8 of which are stores. If the brethren abroad are wise, and will come on with means, and help enter the land and populate the and build the , we shall soon have one of the most precious spots on the Globe. God grant that it may be so. Of late we receive but little news from you: and we think much of that is exaggerated.
As ever,
N. B. Please say in your Messenger: “A Post office has been established at , Caldwell County, Missouri. Our brethren will now have a chance to write to their friends.” [p. [529]]


  1. 1

    David Whitmer, John Whitmer, and William W. Phelps, the Missouri presidency, met with other church leaders and Saints in Far West on 15 November 1836. At that meeting they selected “Jacob Whitmer, Elisha H. Groves, and George M. Hinkle for a building committee to assist the Presidency to build the house of the Lord in said City.” On 7 April 1837, a council consisting of the Missouri presidency, high council, and bishopric accepted that committee to build the House of the Lord and appointed the presidency “to superintend the building of the House of the Lord in this City Far West and receive Revelations Visions &c concerning said house.” Some questioned the propriety of locating a place for a temple, breaking ground on the site, and receiving revelations for the House of the Lord without the approval of JS and the church presidency. The matter was ultimately resolved in November 1837. (Minute Book 2, 15 Nov. 1836 and 7 Apr. 1837; Revelation, 4 Sept. 1837; Minutes, 6 Nov. 1837; Minutes, 10 Nov. 1837.)  

  2. 2

    Early Missouri settlers regarded prairie lands as less fertile, and therefore less valuable, than wooded land near the rivers. The land to which Phelps refers was the section designated as “school land” in the township in which Far West was located. When offering federal lands for sale, the federal government gave states the land in each sixteenth section of every surveyed township to benefit public education in the various counties. The proceeds from its sale were to support public education locally. In Far West, section 16 was located a half-mile west of the town center. (Johnson and Romig, Index to Early Caldwell County Land Records, 11; An Act Concerning the Lands to Be Granted to the State of Missouri, for the Purposes of Education, and Other Public Uses [3 Mar. 1823], Public Statutes at Large, 17th Cong., 2nd Sess., chap. 69, p. 787.)  

    Johnson, Clark V., and Ronald E. Romig. An Index to Early Caldwell County, Missouri, Land Records. Rev. ed. Independence, MO: Missouri Mormon Frontier Foundation, 2002.

    The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, from the Organization of the Government in 1789, to March 3, 1845. . . . Edited by Richard Peters. 8 vols. Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1846–1867.

  3. 3

    James B. Turner of Daviess County, Missouri, wrote a notice in summer 1837 that Mormons settling north of Grand River would be driven out. William Bowman, John Brassfield, and Adam Black were among a self-described “mob party” that “went to see the mormons” sometime that summer and demanded that they leave. (Johnson, Mormon Redress Petitions, 746–749.)  

    Johnson, Clark V., ed. Mormon Redress Petitions: Documents of the 1833–1838 Missouri Conflict. Religious Studies Center Monograph Series 16. Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1992.

  4. 4

    This information had been published in an earlier correspondence in the Messenger and Advocate. (See “From Our Elders and Correspondents Abroad,” LDS Messenger and Advocate, June 1837, 3:519.)  

    Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate. Kirtland, OH. Oct. 1834–Sept. 1837.