Letter to John C. Bennett, 8 August 1840

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  • Historical Introduction

Document Transcript

Hancock Co Ill
Aug 8th. 1840
Dear Sir
Yours of the 25th. Ultimo addressed to & myself is received for which you have our thanks and to which I shall feel great pleasure in replying. Although I have not the pleasure of your acquaintance, yet from the kindness manifested towards our people when in bondage and oppression, and from the the frank and noble mindedness br[e]athed in your letter, I am brot, to the conclusion that you are a friend to suffering humanity & Truth.
To those who have suffered so much abuse and borne the cruelties and insults of wicked men so long on account of those principles which we have been instructed to teach to the world a feeling of sympathy and kindness is something like the refreshing breese and cooling stream at the present season of the year and are I assure you duly appreciated by us
It would afford me much pleasure to see you at this time place, and from the desire you express in your letter to move to this place I hope I shall soon have that satisfaction.
I have no doubt but you would be of great service to this community in practicing your profession as well as those other abilities of which you are in possession. Since to devote your time and abilities in the cause of truth and a suffering people may not be the means of exalting you in the eyes [p. 176] of this generation or securing you the riches of the world yet, by so doing you may rely on the approval of Jehovah “That blessing which maketh rich and addeth not sorrow”
Through the tender mercies of our God we have escaped the hands of those who sought our overthrow and have secured locations in this and in the Territory of . Our principle location is at this place, (formerly [)] which is beautifully situated on the banks of the , immediately above the lower rapids and is probably the best & most beautiful site for a city on the — It has a gradual ascent from the river nearly a mile, then a fine level & fertile Prairie, a situation in every respect adapted to commercial & agricultural purposes; but like all other places on the river, is Sickly in summer. The number of inhabitants are nearly three thousand & a is fast increasing; if we are suffered to remain there is every prospect of its becoming one of the largest cities on the river if not in the western world, numbers have moved in from the Sea board and a few from the Islands of the Sea (Grt. Britain). It is our intention to commence the erection of some publick buildings next spring. We have purchased twenty thousand acres of land in the oposite this place which is fast filling up with our people. It I is my desire that all the Saints as well as all lovers of truth & correct principles to come to this place as fast as possible as their circumstances will permit and endeavor by energy of action and a concentration of talent &c &c to effect those objects that are so dear to us. Therefore my general invitation is “Let all that will, come” and take of the poverty of freely. I should be disposed to give you a special invitation to come as early as possible believing you will be of great service to us, however you must make arrangements according to your circumstances &c. Were it possible for you to come here this season to suffer affliction with the people of God no one will be more pleased or give you a more cordial welcome than myself [p. 177]
A charter has been obtained from the Legislature for a Rail road from being immediately below the rapids of the to this place a distance of about Tewenty miles which if carried into opperation will be of incalculable advantage to this place as steam Boats can only asscend the rapids at a high stage of water. The soil is good and I should think not inferior to any in the . Cropps are abundant in this section of the Country, and I think provisions will be reasonable. I should be very happy could I make arrangements to meet you in at the time you mention but cannot promise myself that pleasure; if I should not, probably you could make it convenient to come and pay us a visit here prior to your removal.
is very sick, and has been for nearly twelve months with the fever and Ague which disease is very prevalent here at this time; at present he is not able to leave his room
Yours &c,
Joseph Smith Jr.
P.S. Yours of the 30th. is just received in which I am glad to learn of your increasing desire to unite yourself with a people “that are every way spoken against” and the anxiety you feel for our welfare for which you have my best feelings and I pray that my Heavenly Father will pour out his choicest blessings in this world and enable you by his grace to overcome the evils which are in the world that you may secure a blissful immortality in the world that is to come.
J. S. Jr. [p. 178]


  1. 1

    JS may have forgotten that he had apparently met Bennett eight years earlier. William E. McLellin noted in his journal that he spent 11 January 1832 “talking with a Mr Bennett a Campbellite Priest. I took him on my slay and Thursday and Friday I brought him to Hiram [Ohio] to see Jos & Sidney, Friday eve he talked considerable with Br Joseph.” (McLellin, Journal, 11–13 Jan. 1832, 13; see also Smith, Saintly Scoundrel, 56.)  

    McLellin, William E. Journal, 18 July–20 Nov. 1831. William E. McLellin, Papers, 1831–1836, 1877–1878. CHL. MS 13538, box 1, fd. 1. Also available as Jan Shipps and John W. Welch, eds., The Journals of William E. McLellin, 1831–1836 (Provo, UT: BYU Studies; Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994).

    Smith, Andrew F. The Saintly Scoundrel: The Life and Times of Dr. John Cook Bennett. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1997.

  2. 2

    In all three of Bennett’s July 1840 letters to JS and Rigdon, Bennett referred to having written JS during the “Mormon War” in Missouri—probably during early 1839. No correspondence from Bennett to JS prior to his 25 July 1840 letter has been located. (Letters from John C. Bennett, 25, 27, and 30 July 1840; Bennett, History of the Saints, 14; Proclamation, 15 Jan. 1841.)  

    Bennett, John C. The History of the Saints; or, an Exposé of Joe Smith and Mormonism. Boston: Leland and Whiting, 1842.

  3. 3

    A lengthy memorial that church leaders submitted to the United States Congress in January 1840 requested redress for losses incurred in Missouri and declared that the hostility toward the Saints was based on their religious beliefs. (Memorial to the United States Senate and House of Representatives, ca. 30 Oct. 1839–27 Jan. 1840.)  

  4. 4

    Bennett expressed his enthusiastic desire to move to Nauvoo in all three of the letters he wrote to JS and Rigdon during the last week of July. (Letters from John C. Bennett, 25, 27, and 30 July 1840.)  

  5. 5

    In spite of Bennett’s repeated expressions of interest in continuing to practice medicine after moving to Nauvoo, little evidence suggests he was an actively practicing physician during his years there. (Letters from John C. Bennett, 25 and 27 July 1840; Smith, Saintly Scoundrel, 65.)  

    Smith, Andrew F. The Saintly Scoundrel: The Life and Times of Dr. John Cook Bennett. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1997.

  6. 6

    See Proverbs 10:22.  

  7. 7

    In Bennett's 15 August 1840 letter to JS and Rigdon, which he wrote before receiving this letter from JS, Bennett described having been confused about the relationship between Commerce and Nauvoo. The Commerce area had become more officially known as Nauvoo in April 1840 with the changing of the name of the post office. (Robert Johnstone to Richard M. Young, 21 Apr. 1840, in JS History, vol. C-1, 1053; Notice, Times and Seasons, May 1840, 1:106.)  

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

  8. 8

    The “flats” along the Mississippi River in the Nauvoo area were vulnerable to malaria, particularly during the first years the Saints settled there, before they could make improvements on the land and drain much of the swampy area. Willard Richards wrote in the draft notes for JS’s history, “Commerce was so unhea[l]thy very few could live there.” (Historian’s Office, JS History, Draft Notes, 11 June 1839, 59.)  

  9. 9

    The 26 August 1840 issue of the Cincinnati Daily Chronicle reported that the population of Nauvoo was approximately 2,800. (“The Mormons,” Daily Chronicle [Cincinnati], 26 Aug. 1840, [2].)  

    Daily Chronicle. Cincinnati. 1839–1850.

  10. 10

    The first company of British Saints to reach Nauvoo arrived on 24 November 1840. (Clayton, Diary, 24 Nov. 1840.)  

    Clayton, William. Diary, Jan.–Nov. 1846. CHL.

  11. 11

    One of the public buildings to which JS referred was likely the temple, the construction of which church leaders had begun discussing by spring 1840. JS may also have been referring to the Nauvoo House—an anticipated boardinghouse, hotel, and intended home for JS and his family—which was first mentioned by name in a 19 January 1841 revelation. (“A Glance at the Mormons,” Alexandria [VA] Gazette, 11 July 1840, [2]; Dunham, Journal, 10 May 1840; Discourse, ca. 19 July 1840; Letter to Saints Scattered Abroad, Sept. 1840; Minutes and Discourse, 3–5 Oct. 1840; Revelation, 19 Jan. 1841 [D&C 124:22–24, 56–82].)  

    Alexandria Gazette. Alexandria, VA. 1834–1877.

    Dunham, Jonathan. Journals, 1837–1846. Jonathan Dunham, Papers, 1825–1846. CHL. MS 1387, fds. 1–4.

  12. 12

    Groups of Saints settled in various communities (mostly in the Montrose area) on the nearly eighteen thousand acres of Half-Breed Tract land in Lee County, Iowa Territory, that church agents Oliver Granger and Vinson Knight purchased from Isaac Galland in May and June 1839. The 26 August 1840 issue of the Cincinnati Daily Chronicle reported that about two thousand church members were living in Lee County. (Lee Co., IA, Land Records, 1836–1961, Deeds [South, Keokuk], vol. 1, pp. 507–509, microfilm 959,238; vol. 2, pp. 3–6, 13–16, microfilm 959,239, U.S. and Canada Record Collection, FHL; Cook, “Isaac Galland,” 270–275; “The Mormons,” Daily Chronicle [Cincinnati], 26 Aug. 1840, [2].)  

    U.S. and Canada Record Collection. FHL.

    Cook, Lyndon W. “Isaac Galland—Mormon Benefactor.” BYU Studies 19 (Spring 1979): 261–284.

    Daily Chronicle. Cincinnati. 1839–1850.

  13. 13

    In his 27 July 1840 letter to JS and Rigdon, Bennett wrote, “It would be my deliberate advice to you to concentrate all of your church at one point— If Hancock County with Commerce for its commercial Emporium is to be that point, well,— fix upon it.” Church leaders had designated the Commerce area as the new gathering place for the Saints the previous year, at a meeting held in Quincy, Illinois, on 24 April 1839. (Letter from John C. Bennett, 27 July 1840; Minutes, 24 Apr. 1839.)  

  14. 14

    See Revelation 22:17; see also Discourse, ca. 19 July 1840.  

  15. 15

    Bennett wrote to JS and Rigdon on 27 July 1840, “I am with you in Spirit, and will be in person as soon as circumstances permit, and immediately if it is your desire.” (Letter from John C. Bennett, 27 July 1840, underlining in original.)  

  16. 16

    See Hebrews 11:25.  

  17. 17

    On 19 February 1839, the Illinois General Assembly approved an act incorporating the “Des Moines Rapids Rail Road Company.” The rail line, proposed by commissioners Daniel Witter, Calvin Warren, Isaac Galland, and Mark Aldrich, would have run along the Mississippi River between Commerce and Warsaw, Illinois, allowing goods to be transported year round past the Des Moines rapids. (“Our Town and County,” Western World [Warsaw, IL], 13 May 1840, [2]; “The Des Moines Rapids,” Western World, 10 June 1840, [2]; “Des Moines Rapids Rail Road Company,” Western World, 17 June 1840, [3].)  

    Western World. Warsaw, IL. 1840–1841.

  18. 18

    In his 25 July letter to JS and Rigdon, Bennett proposed meeting in Springfield, Illinois, on the first Monday in December. (Letter from John C. Bennett, 25 July 1840.)  

  19. 19

    According to Nauvoo sexton William D. Huntington, the most common cause of death in the area between summer 1839 and summer 1845 was malaria—most commonly identified at the time as “ague,” “fever,” or “chill fever.” Rigdon had contracted the disease by late October 1839, when he, JS, Orrin Porter Rockwell, and Elias Higbee departed Nauvoo for Washington DC to seek federal assistance in obtaining redress for losses the Saints had suffered in Missouri. (Woods, “Cemetery Record of William D. Huntington, Nauvoo Sexton,” 156–157; Historian’s Office, JS History, Draft Notes, 29–31 Oct. 1839, 66.)  

    Woods, Fred E. “The Cemetery Record of William D. Huntington, Nauvoo Sexton.” Mormon Historical Studies, 3, no. 1 (Spring 2002): 131–163.

  20. 20

    Letter from John C. Bennett, 30 July 1840.