Letter to William W. Phelps and Others, 25 July 1836

  • Source Note
  • Historical Introduction

Document Transcript

, Ohio, July 25, 1836.
Dear Brethren:—Yours of the 1st inst. accompanying the proceedings of a public meeting, held by the people of , was duly received. We are sorry that this disturbance has broken out—we do not consider it our fault. You are better acquainted with circumstances than we are, and of course have been directed in wisdom in your moves, relative to leaving the . We forward you our letter to and others, that you may know all we have said. We advise that you be not the first aggressors—give no occasion, and if the people will let you dispose of your property, settle your affairs, and go in peace, go. You have thus far had an asylum, and now seek another as God may direct. Relative to your going to , we cannot say, we should think if you could stop short, in peace you had better. You know our feelings relative to not giving the first offence, and also of protecting your wives and little ones in case a mob should seek their lives. We shall publish the proceedings of the public meeting, with your answer, as well as our letter. We mean that the world shall know all things as they transpire. If we are persecuted and driven men shall know it!
Be wise, let prudence dictate all your counsels, preserve peace with all men, if possible, stand by the constitution of your , observe its principles, and above all, show yourselves men of God, worthy citizens, and we doubt not, community ere long, will do you justice, and rise in indignation against those who are the instigators of your suffering and affliction.
In the bonds of brotherly love we subscribe ourselves, as ever.
To and others. [p. 359]


  1. 1

    In addition to William W. Phelps, who was named at the end of the letter, the intended recipients likely included Edward Partridge, Isaac Morley, Lyman Wight, Thomas B. Marsh, Elias Higbee, Calvin Beebe, Jesse Hitchcock, Isaac Higbee, Samuel Bent, Titus Billings, James Emmett, and R. Evans, all of whom made up the committee of twelve Latter-day Saints appointed to respond to the demands of the Clay County citizens’ committee. John Corrill was likely also an intended recipient; he was secretary at the meeting where the committee was appointed. (“Public Meeting,” LDS Messenger and Advocate, Aug. 1836, 2:359.)  

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

  2. 2

    William W. Phelps’s report of the Clay County citizens’ meeting, held 29 June, is found in the August issue of the Messenger and Advocate. The Clay County committee’s resolutions were also printed in the newspaper Far West—a Liberty, Clay County, paper owned by Peter Rogers, a member of the citizens’ committee—on 30 June 1836. (“Public Meeting,” LDS Messenger and Advocate, Aug. 1836, 2:359–361; “Public Meeting,” Far West [Liberty, MO], 30 June 1836; for more information on the meeting, see Letter to John Thornton and Others, 25 July 1836.)  

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

    The Far West. Liberty, MO. 1836.

  3. 3

    John Thornton was chairman of the “Committee of nine” that wrote the appeal requesting that the Latter-day Saints leave Clay County. See Letter to John Thornton and Others, 25 July 1836. (“Public Meeting,” LDS Messenger and Advocate, Aug. 1836, 2:353.)  

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

  4. 4

    In their proposition, the “Committee of nine” wrote that the Latter-day Saints “came to our county, thus friendless and pennyless, seeking (as they said) but a temporary asylum, from the storms of persecution.” The Clay County citizens had been willing to offer a “temporary asylum,” but the growing population of and extensive land purchases by Latter-day Saints in the county raised substantial concerns. By summer 1836 church members had acquired some 3,640 acres in Clay County, in accordance with instructions in a 22 June 1834 revelation that commanded church members to purchase lands in Jackson County “and in the adjoining Counties round about.” (“Public Meeting,” LDS Messenger and Advocate, Aug. 1836, 2:353; Plewe, Mapping Mormonism, 34–35; [Edward Partridge], “A History, of the Persecution,” Times and Seasons, Dec. 1839, 1:50–51; Revelation, 22 June 1834 [D&C 105].)  

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

    Plewe, Brandon S., S. Kent Brown, Donald Q. Cannon, and Richard H. Jackson, eds. Mapping Mormonism: An Atlas of Latter-day Saint History. Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 2012.

  5. 5

    Since at least 1834, church leaders had looked for lands where the church could relocate. On 24 August 1834, William W. Phelps wrote a letter to church leaders in Kirtland apprising them of developments that might affect land availability along Clay County’s northwestern border, land generally known as the Platte country.a When Phelps and his compatriots returned to Missouri after a stay in Kirtland for the temple dedication and solemn assembly, he and Edward Partridge began looking for a new location in Missouri for the Saints. As a result of their scouting, John Corrill on 22 June 1836 applied for several land patents in the area north of Ray County for himself and on behalf of JS and Oliver Cowdery.b Between 13 and 21 July, non-Mormon guides Elisha Cameron and Cornelius Gilliam traveled with Partridge, Phelps, and John Whitmer to explore the land in northwest Missouri for the possible purchase of enough land in that region to relocate the Saints from Clay County.c On 25 July 1836, a general church assembly in Clay County resolved to send out a committee consisting of Phelps, Whitmer, Partridge, Isaac Morley, and Corrill “to search out land for the Church to settle upon &c.”d Church leaders in Missouri eventually chose the area north of Ray County, which became Caldwell County in December 1836, as the place to which the Saints would relocate.e  

    McKee, Howard I. “The Platte Purchase.” Missouri Historical Review 32 (Jan. 1938): 129–147.

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

    Partridge, Edward. Journal, Jan. 1835–July 1836. Edward Partridge, Papers, 1818–1839. CHL. MS 892, box 1, fd. 2.

    Phelps, William W. Collection of Missouri Documents, 1833–1837. CHL. MS 657.

    Partridge, Edward. Miscellaneous Papers, ca. 1839–May 1840. CHL.

    Parkin, Max H. “A History of the Latter-day Saints in Clay County, Missouri, from 1833 to 1837.” PhD diss., Brigham Young University, 1976.

    (aLetter from William W. Phelps, 24 Aug. 1834; Memorial of the General Assembly of Missouri, that the N. and N. W. Boundary May Be Enlarged, S. Doc. no. 71, 21st Cong., 2nd Sess., p. 3 (1831); McKee, “Platte Purchase,” 134–135.bApplication for Land Patent, 22 June 1836; “2d Series—Letter No. I,” LDS Messenger and Advocate, July 1836, 2:341; Partridge, Journal, [46]–[50]; see also William W. Phelps et al., Liberty, MO, to Daniel Dunklin, 7 July 1836, copy, William W. Phelps, Collection of Missouri Documents, CHL.cEdward Partridge, Miscellaneous Papers, CHL; Parkin, “History of the Latter-day Saints in Clay County,” 268; [Edward Partridge], “A History, of the Persecution,” Times and Seasons, Dec. 1839, 1:51.dMinute Book 2, 25 July 1836.e[Edward Partridge], “A History, of the Persecution,” Times and Seasons, Dec. 1839, 1:51.)
  6. 6

    The citizens’ committee had recommended Wisconsin as a potential settlement location for the Mormons.  

  7. 7

    See Revelation, 16–17 Dec. 1833 [D&C 101:77, 80, 95]; and Revelation, 6 Aug. 1833 [D&C 98:4–6].