Letter to David Hale, 12–19 February 1841

  • Source Note
  • Historical Introduction

Document Transcript

[Feb. the 12th 1841 A.D.]
<​Most​> Gratefull and ever respected relative [I] feel a pleasure in communicating to you my [present] situation. I am living with unkle Joseph Smith. I am enjoying good health and unkle Josephs fa[mily] are all well at present. I received a leter from home about four weeks agow they were all well [and] Silas had been at fathers two weeks. I have no[t seen him] as I left home in Octber. r[eceived a] letter from you and was much pleased with it. [as well] as unkle Joseph I was pleased with the respect [you] showed to Unkle Joseph for I think it is no more than [he] merits from those that should be his friends [as he never] has injured us or layed a straw in our way as [I know of] but has ever expresed the greatest degree of [friendship.] he offers to each of you brothers 80 akers of land [if you will co]me to the City of the land is in in what is called the it is [said to be of] a superior quality of both timber and priarie, [well watered] &c I have no dout that he feels a little pride [in being] situated in affluent sircumstances that benevolent [he can] offer the benevolent hand to the relatives of his [that is] most dear to him when I came to and [finally always] ever since I knew unkle I have entertained a strong [irreligious] unprovoked prejudice against him and no doubt [we all have] but since I came here my prejudice has left me like [the] chalf before the wind the Doctrines that the Mormons promulgate and their construction of the scriptures [is] I think correct as far as I have become acquainted with it where is the man that knows that he [is] a propogating a religion that is false and founded on hypocracy that will not forsake it when placed at [the] point of fifty bayonetts and summoned to renounce [his faith] or die or imprisoned for months <​and​> fed on human flesh seasoned with arcenick <​and​> tared and feathered and [various other] fiendish devlish tortures inflicted upon him. [p. [1]] I ask wher is the man that will stand the [torture] of fire and fagot if he is not sure he is doing the works of righteousness ther is not a man in Crisen[dom] among all the sons and daughters of Adam I will [venture] to say. I have heard recapitulated the blody tragedy [that] was enacted in by a drunken and inh[uman] Mob picture to your self women and children w[andering] houseless and homeless in on the bleak priaries in cold winter weather rob[b]ed of al[l] their worldly treasures with <​out​> [food and scarcely close to cover their backs it is enough to melt the hardest heart that is susseptible of fealing] [but I] must close my Epistle were I to follow the Mormons <​throu​> all their scenes of prosperity and adversity it would swell the pages of a volum like that of Josephus but the Mormons have found shelter in they have setled on the banks of the in and they are now in a prosperous condition yours respectfully
David Hale
Dear Brother David I have to appologise for not answering Your letter before, but if You will come here and see what a buissy house I have I am persuaded that You will not blame me much should I be a little remiss. It is a matter of great satisfaction to me again to receive inteligence from my friends as I have thought [I have been] somewhat neglected, but I now flatter myself that I shall [receive news from all my s] house that [remain and I also flatter] myself with the idea of giving some one of my friends a deta[iled] account of my journey thus far and the mingled scenes of prosperity and adversity through which I have passed since I have been abcent from my native country; is the first one of my relative that I have had the pleasure of seeing since I left which is ten years last Sept. I am highly pleased with him he is a very interesting young man of remarkable natural abilities and if he continues to live with us and conduct himself as well as he has so far and we continue we intend to give him a good chance for improvement, I want to hear from you all and especialy and I want to know her situation [a]nd what she <​wants​> of us here in this country I stop for want of room.
David Hale [p. [2]]
Having some more room to improve I would tell you that since you have left the old mountains of Susquhannah I think you had <​better​> continue on westward untill you get there here [as] there is land so plenty that every one can have what he wants to improve without working land on shares.
I feel quite anxious that all of my s family sh[ould] [come and settle in this country as I think it is far better than any other place east of here, I should also like to have you all] investigate our doctrines and all become good Mormons, [as] we are generaly called, but there is no compulsion in as to the subject of our religion, you can live here if you are [not] Mormons. We are in tolerable good circum[stances] at presant, my family and all in good health.
I was glad to get so good an account of all the families [of my] brothers and sisters. I have five children one g[irl she] will be ten years old next May her name is , [my] boys name is he was eight last Nov. the [next] is he will be five next June the [next is] who will be three next June the [next is] he will be one year next June I think they [are as smart children as can be found any where and perhaps a little smarter.]
[yours affectionately ]
[M]r. David Hale
As and hav[e] [gi]ve<​an​> me space for a few lines, I gladly imbrace [i]t, to send to you and yours my sincere and heart felt respects, and I do honestly think if you will come to this country, and settle it would be much to your advantage. I [will] do what has stated and even more [I] will help you to improve the land; also, [we] want to see you all very much well [settled in this country].
[Yours respectfully, Joseph Smith]. [p. [3]]
[Feb. the 19th 1841]
[Dear Sir I have received a letter from home since we commenced this letter they did not send any particular news all were well the City of is a beautifull situation on the east bank of the its advantages are said to be equall to any on the river it is at the head of the lower rapids of the about 200 and fifty miles above it is 160 miles from where father lives]
[Yours truly farewell]
[Feb. 20]
[Mr. David Hale]
[Independance P.O.]
[Washington Co.]
[Pensylvania] [p. [4]]


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    Lorenzo D. Wasson handwriting begins.  

  2. 1

    Lorenzo D. Wasson’s father was Benjamin Wasson. Silas Hale was Lorenzo’s cousin of approximately the same age. Silas was the son of Emma’s brother Jesse Hale and lived in the same area of Illinois as the Wasson family. (Chase, “Township of Amboy,” 141.)  

    Chase, D. G. “Township of Amboy.” In Recollections of the Pioneers of Lee County, [edited by Seraphina Gardner Smith], 9–157. Dixon, IL: Inez A. Kennedy, 1893.

  3. 2

    Emma Smith had five brothers to whom JS could extend this offer: Jesse, David, Alva, Isaac, and Reuben.  

  4. 3

    The United States government designated tracts of land in several states and territories for people who were of both American Indian and European ancestry. These tracts were called “half-breed tracts.” The tract Wasson referred to included a series of lots in Lee County, Iowa Territory, that Oliver Granger and Vinson Knight, acting as agents for the church, purchased from Isaac Galland in May and June of 1839. (Isaac Galland, Deed, Hancock Co., IL, to Oliver Granger, 29 May 1839, Hiram Kimball Collection, CHL; Lee Co., IA, Land Records, 1836–1961, vol. 1, pp. 507–510, 29 May 1839, microfilm 959,238; vol. 2, pp. 3–6, 13–16, 26 June 1839, microfilm 959,239, U.S. and Canada Record Collection, FHL; Minutes, 4–5 May 1839; Authorization for Oliver Granger, 6 May 1839; see also Authorization for Oliver Granger, 13 May 1839.)  

    Kimball, Hiram. Collection, 1830–1910. CHL.

    U.S. and Canada Record Collection. FHL.

  5. 4

    Since JS and Emma Hale had eloped and apparently left the Hale family on bad terms, the ill feelings were slow to fade. In 1834, Emma’s father, Isaac Hale, provided an affidavit criticizing JS and the church, which was included in Eber D. Howe’s book, Mormonism Unvailed, which was itself highly critical of the church. Oliver Cowdery addressed Hale’s affidavit in a letter that was printed in the church periodical Messenger and Advocate and then copied into a later JS history. In Cowdery’s letter the Hale family is described as exercising considerable influence to “destroy the reputation of our brother, probably because he married a daughter of the same.” (Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 262–266; Oliver Cowdery, “Letter VIII,” Messenger and Advocate, Oct. 1835, 2:201; see also JS History, 1834–1836, 89–103.)  

    Howe, Eber D. Mormonism Unvailed: Or, A Faithful Account of That Singular Imposition and Delusion, from Its Rise to the Present Time. With Sketches of the Characters of Its Propagators, and a Full Detail of the Manner in Which the Famous Golden Bible Was Brought before the World. To Which Are Added, Inquiries into the Probability That the Historical Part of the Said Bible Was Written by One Solomon Spalding, More Than Twenty Years Ago, and by Him Intended to Have Been Published as a Romance. Painesville, OH: By the author, 1834.

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

  6. 5

    See Psalm 35:5.  

  7. 6

    While JS and other church leaders were in jail, members of the church were forcibly expelled from Missouri during the winter of 1838–1839. According to a memorial that church leaders presented to Congress, the Saints were threatened “with death, ‘unless they left’” the state “‘or renounced their religion,’” and church members were ultimately “driven from the State of Missouri at the point of the bayonet.” (Memorial to the United States Senate and House of Representatives, ca. 30 Oct. 1839–27 Jan. 1840; JS, Sidney Rigdon, and Elias Higbee, “Petition to United States Congress for Redress,” ca. 29 Nov. 1839, JS Collection, CHL.)  

  8. 7

    JS spent nearly half a year incarcerated in Missouri during the winter of 1838–1839. JS, Hyrum Smith, and others apparently believed that one of their guards in the Clay County jail in Liberty had attempted to poison them and feed them human flesh. Some retellings even stated that the flesh came from murdered Saints and was offered to the inmates as “Mormon beef.” (Hyrum Smith, Testimony, Nauvoo, IL, 1 July 1843, p. 22; Lyman Wight, Testimony, Nauvoo, IL, 1 July 1843, p. 30, Nauvoo, IL, Records, CHL; Letter to the Editor, Times and Seasons, 15 Oct. 1843, 4:356.)  

    Nauvoo, IL. Records, 1841–1845. CHL. MS 16800.

    Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.

  9. 8

    JS and Sidney Rigdon were tarred and feathered by a mob of men during the night of 24 March 1832 or the early morning of 25 March. JS’s assailants attempted to pour tar and a vial of poison down his throat. The incident left JS with burned flesh and a chipped tooth. (JS History, vol. A-1, 205–208; Staker, Hearken, O Ye People, 349–353.)  

    Staker, Mark L. Hearken, O Ye People: The Historical Setting of Joseph Smith’s Ohio Revelations. Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2009.

  10. 9

    Wasson seems to be drawing upon the tradition of Protestant martyrology made popular with publications like John Foxe’s Book of Martyrs and John Bunyan’s writings, including The Heavenly Footman and Pilgrim’s Progress.  

  11. 10

    See Titus 3:5.  

  12. 11

    See Introduction to Part 3: 4 Nov. 1838–16 Apr. 1839.  

  13. 12

    Flavius Josephus wrote extensively on the history of the Jews. Hyrum Smith owned an 1830 copy of Josephus’s writings collected in a one-volume edition of six hundred pages, entitled The Works of Flavius Josephus. His copy is available at the Church History Library.  

  14. 13

    After suffering persecution in northwestern Missouri during fall 1838 and being expelled from the state in early 1839, many church members moved to Quincy, Illinois, before relocating to what would become Nauvoo, Illinois, and other settlements on the banks of the Mississippi River in Iowa Territory. (Introduction to Part 3: 4 Nov. 1838–16 Apr. 1839; Introduction to Part 4: 24 Apr.–12 Aug. 1839.)  

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    Lorenzo D. Wasson handwriting ends; Emma Smith begins.  

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    Emma Smith and JS had last seen the Hale family in September 1830, when they moved from Harmony, Pennsylvania, to Fayette, New York. They had been living on property they were in the process of purchasing from Isaac Hale, and the move was precipitated by increased opposition in Harmony and difficulty between JS and Hale. (JS History, vol. A-1, 53; Agreement with Isaac Hale, 6 Apr. 1829.)  

  17. 15

    Emma Smith’s mother, Elizabeth Lewis Hale, was left a widow in Harmony, Pennsylvania, after her husband, Isaac, passed away in 1839.  

  18. 16

    Working land on shares, or sharecropping, generally meant that the occupant would farm or improve the land and receive only a portion of the crops and produce. A share of the goods functioned as payment for occupancy, but the land remained the property of the owner. (See Gates, “Frontier Landlords and Pioneer Tenants,” 146–147.)  

    Gates, Paul Wallace. “Frontier Landlords and Pioneer Tenants.” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society 38, no. 2 (June 1945): 143–206.

  19. 17

    In addition to five brothers, Emma Smith had three sisters (Phebe, Elizabeth, and Tryal).  

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    Emma Smith handwriting ends; JS begins.  

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    TEXT: The final page of the document is missing from the digital images used for transcription. From this point to the end of the document, the text is supplied from the typescript version.  

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    JS handwriting ends; Lorenzo D. Wasson begins.  

  23. 19

    Nauvoo is situated approximately 180 miles north of St. Louis, Missouri, and 160 miles southwest of Amboy, Illinois.  

  24. 20

    Although David Hale was apparently receiving his mail at Independence, Pennsylvania, census and tax records indicate that he and his family lived in Brooke County, Virginia (now West Virginia), in 1841. Depending on where Hale lived in Brooke County, he may only have walked a few miles to get to Independence. (1840 U.S. Census, Brooke Co., VA, 218; “Brooke County, Property Book for 1841,” in Brooke Co., VA, Personal Property Tax Lists, 1797–1851, microfilm 2,024,494, U.S. and Canada Record Collection, FHL.)  

    Census (U.S.) / U.S. Bureau of the Census. Population Schedules. Microfilm. FHL.

    U.S. and Canada Record Collection. FHL.