Dale Morgan on Early Mormonism
John Phillip Walker, editor
23. To Fawn Brodie
19 August 1947
So much stuff is piling up, that I think I had better send it all on to you to get it out from underfoot. This place is in such a constant mess these days that nothing is secure, and I am afraid matters are going to get a lot worse before they improve.
At [the] L[ibrary of]. C[ongress]. I’ve been engaged with a fascinating new field of research. I regret that I didn’t get into it months ago, and now I will only be able to handle it on a cross section basis. That is, the impact of Mormonism on the American religious press, 1830-1844. It is a subject that merits a doctoral thesis, but I suspect that it will be many a long year before anyone has (1) enough interest; and (2) the time, patience, and money to follow up the complications the research involves. Just to construct a master bibliography of this press would be a heroic job in itself, and to locate and consult the files of these periodicals in libraries scattered all over the East is a job in its own right. I’ll do what I can this fall, but I have no illusions as to the thoroughness of what I can accomplish, within the limitations of the time and money I will have at my disposal.
But, just for example, have a look at the item I found in the Evangelical Magazine and Gospel Advocate for April 9, 1831. Here is what we have been looking for, a contemporary account of that 1826 trial. True, it is not yet absolutely contemporary, not an 1826 newspaper report, which I hope eventually to lay by the heels, but one written within five years of the trial, and confirming and to some extent explaining the [William D.] Purple reminiscences and the trial record. I suspect that the author of this letter is the “young man named Benton” whom Joseph [Smith] mentions (Hist[ory of [p.130] the]. Church I:87), though he would seem to be a Universalist rather than a Presbyterian. Also, this letter explains much more about the 1830 trial than we can gather from Joseph’s own account; any resemblance between this account and Joseph’s is purely coincidental.
(Incidently, I had a letter from Stan Ivins last night, saying that he had shown his findings to [Francis W.] Kirkham,1 who had asked permission to use the material in the new edition of his book. He said Kirkham was glad to get the material, but seemed upset when he saw what it added up to. I am sending Stan a copy of this 1831 letter, too, but requesting him not to give it to Kirkham for the present, as I want to see if Kirkham faces up like a scholar to the facts you and [Stanely Ivins] have dug up, or whether his emotional loyalties override.)
And still on the subject of this letter, I inquire whether you tried to trace that 1830 trial as well as the 1826 one. I am under the impression you did, and that the records, if any, went up in smoke. Also, I damn well wonder what happened finally to Josiah Stowell. I have never heard anything of him after 1830. I wonder if he was alive in 1838 when Joseph made so bold as to assert in the Elder’s Journal that he had done some digging for S[towell]. but soon prevailed on him to stop, &c. &c. Also, I would give a lot to know just what [Sidney] Rigdon was told and what he thought, and why, when he looked into the 1830 trials after his first encounter with Joseph. Other stuff I send you (if you can read the wretched carbons) includes early interviews with Joseph and other interesting odds and ends, including, from the Vermont newspaper, what is the first long review of the Book of Mormon I have seen, antedating Alexander Campbell’s by some four months. One of the communications by the “Clericus” incorporates the earliest letter about the Mormons I have seen in print, October 18, 1830.
I have been working weekdays in a hot study room in the main building at L[ibrary of]. C[ongress]., and on Saturdays and Sundays, theoretically by way of vacation, I have gone back to that problem that has obsessed me since the beginning of the year, what is said about the Mormons in the newspapers. I have now examined the Vermont newspapers for the 1830-34 period, anyhow, and the scattered New York papers down to the G’s. The Vermont papers paid off with a story or part of a story from the New York Morning Courier and Enquirer which shows that my suspicion is well founded about the possibility of there being materials in the 1831 files, which L.C. does not possess. The section quoted from the Courier & Enquirer, which must be only part of a longer story, has all sorts of fascinating angles. From the reference to [William Wine] Phelps [an early Mormon convert] at the end, I suspect that the account was written from Canandaigua [New York], maybe even first published in a Canandaigua paper. But in this letter, who is the Ex-Preacher from Ohio, Rigdon? If so, this must be the earliest attribution in print of the Book of Mormon to Rigdon. Also note the reference to the “gingerbread factory.” This and other things in the story make me suspect [p.131] that the entire story in the Courier & Enquirer has some information about the earlier history of the Smith family.
Along with this stuff, I send you various items about Lucinda Morgan [wife of William Morgan, anti-masonic turncoat and martyr of the 1820s, who later became one of Joseph Smith's plural wives] which clear up some of the details about her history before she was swept up in the current of Mormon affairs. The Ohio Star is entirely correct, by the way, in saying [Martin] Harris [one of the three witnesses to the Book of Mormon] was a renouncing Mason. He and W. W. Phelps both had signed the so-called anti-masonic declaration of independence at Le Roy, N.Y., on July 4, 1829. Both were third degree Masons.
Before sending this off, I will write out for you a list of various corrections and modifications I would recommend for your book in its next printing or the ultimate revised edition; quite a lot of things have come to my attention of late, and I will note them down for you before I forget them, alas for the fallibility of human memory.
What I send you is merely error-in-detail. I disagree with you somewhat in some structural matters of interpretation, as for example the development of the first political and economic antagonism in Illinois, at Warsaw in particular, but this can wait until I have written my own version, and we can then thrash it out to our mutual satisfaction.
I am also sending my own publisher a list of corrections which will be about as long as the list I send you, in preparation for the second printing, though Lord knows when that will be. He writes me sadly about the dull times that have afflicted the book business for a year or more past.
Well, be a good girl. I’ll see you about the middle of October, I imagine since I expect to spend ten days or two weeks in N.Y. before moving on north, and expect to clear out of Washington October 1. I hope the traveling weather is decent this fall. It’s too bad you aren’t a go-to-meetin’ gal who could remember the weather in her morning prayers.
1. Francis W. Kirkham, an LDS historian, had compiled in 1942 a collection of documents relating to the early years of Mormonism entitled A New Witness for christ in America. After criticized his omissions (see Letter Number 27), Kirkham issued a second volume in 1951, based on material Morgan had called to his attention.
24. To Madeline McQuown
1 November 1947
The above address is probably most familiar to you as the place where Solomon Mack [maternal grandfather of Joseph Smith] published his Narrative, about 136 years ago, but at the moment it happens also to be the place where I am bedded down for the night. Or at any rate, I am sitting on a bed there writing this, and in due course will claim the bed in its rightful function.
I have had quite a busy day, and I will write you about it while it is still fresh in memory. To bring you up to date first—after mailing your letter Wednesday morning I drove up to Burlington through a drizzle and heavy overcast, getting there about 11. I got a dim glimpse of Lake Champlain as I was approaching Burlington, but that was the last I saw of this famous lake, notwithstanding Burlington is a “lake port.” I worked at the University of Vermont from 11 to 7 p.m., when I finished. I then ate at a Chinese cafe and hunted up a tourist room, finding an agreeable one. Next morning I drove across the mountains to Montpelier, still through that drizzly overcast; I ate lunch, got a haircut, worked in the State Library till it closed at 5, then hunted up a room again, had some dinner, and went to see a good-for-nothing movie called Second Chance. Friday I worked in the library until late afternoon, and would have liked to work Saturday morning also, but the necessity of getting to Woodstock so as not to be stymied by Sunday got me out of town late in the afternoon. I drove the 50-odd miles in about an hour and a half, in darkness the last half of the way, though the clouds had broken up earlier in the day. I wasn’t much taken with Woodstock on my arrival there; the place seemed to be preoccupied with some kind of a kids’ Halloween festival, and a more lackadaisical town, from the tourist’s viewpoint, I never did see. I put up at the hotel finally, which only confirmed me in my experience that tourist homes are infinitely superior to hotels, dollar for dollar.
Not to go into that subject exhaustively, I had breakfast at the White Cupboard Inn, a really lovely place to stay if you have what I suppose it costs to stay there, then headed for the courthouse. The County Clerk and I had a helluva time finding what I wanted, the [p.133] court records concerning the counterfeiters of 1807; we finally turned up in the Supreme Court records of the county an account of the trail of Beniah Woodward, but the Abner Hayes business, as related by Fawn [Brodie], was not so readily disposed of. I finally found a lead, and the county clerk obligingly promised to search the files of writs in the vault, something that may take several days, and send me what I want in care of Fawn. So then the courthouse closed for the day, and without taking time for lunch, I backtrailed my route of the night before as far as Bethel and then turned east in quest of Joseph Smith’s beginnings. I took some pictures, but have grave doubts how they will come out, despite perfect sunshine, because I did not adjust my light meter to black and white film after emptying it of that color film, and all the pictures I took this afternoon will almost certainly be overexposed. So let me write us both some descriptions we will want to have anyway.
I don’t know whether you have seen the White River. It is really a beautiful stream running often over a series of stone ledges. The sky frequently is imprisoned in dark pools which ripple blue at the little rapids; at this season, at least, it is a placid and wholly lovely little river. On both sides the hills rise in a manner greatly reminiscent of the Provo and Weber [rivers in Utah], except of course that the hills do not give rise to mountains proper. There are great outcroppings of gray stone here and there, accented by the varied colors of lichen. Now, in November, the evergreens are the dominant note on the hillsides, set as they are amid the gray skeletons of the deciduous trees. The road winds down the valley, occasionally underpassing the railroad, and passing through the intermittent villages set in the widened valley bottoms.
I went to the most important place first, the old Smith farm. The road to this is located just beyond [in the direction I was going, i.e., east) South Royalton, which differs from the other villages in lying across the river from the road, reached by a narrow bridge. A little over a mile down the river from this bridge is the (somewhat) graveled road to the old Smith farm. This turns off almost at right angles from the main highway (State 14) and climbs sharply back into the hills. The road winds past farmlands, some of them fenced with piled gray stone, up into the hills for a little more than two miles, forking finally about half a mile below the old farm. I believe the left fork of this road goes only a few more hundred yards to some farm buildings; the right fork climbs up a hill and so arrives at the old farm.
I couldn't make out the dimensions of the old place from this cursory inspection without benefit of a guide, but the house itself, where the church cottage now stands, is situated on a lesser elevation rimmed about by gently rising hills. To the west these hills fall away in a kind of gap, so that the blue hills of the White River Valley give an accent of distance to this horizon.
The air today was winey and fresh, wholly delicious, the very smell of October in the hills. The rolling adjacent land seems still to [p.134] be farmed after a fashion. I noticed that the soil was rocky still. I climbed over a barbed wire fence north of the place and climbed the higher of the hills looming above it until checked by a more formidable barbed wire fence I didn’t think it worthwhile to climb, as I had altitude enough for the picture I wanted. I noticed that in this field above the old farm was a good deal of cutover land, with small stumps to give me an idea of some of the problems this land may have afforded when the original stand of timber was cleared off by the Smiths. Scenically the place was lovely even at this season, when the grays and russets and duns of November reign in the hills, for the hills still were carpeted by a brave fresh green of grass.
To return to the place, the [LDS] church has built a miniature Washington Monument behind the cottage to commemorate its prophet. There is a studious indirectness about all the signs around; not for the world has the church brought you up here to proselytize you, but you are welcome to visit the cottage, etc. The cottage, so called, is a pretty elaborate farmhouse, with roofs painted a startling green and walls painted so white as to look almost enameled. Another coat of paint was being applied today, the two painters and I being the only ones around.
I drove on back down to the main highway, then turned back up it to the road which intersects it at the South Royalton bridge. I turned up that road and drove five miles or so up it to Tunbridge, where the Smiths also lived at one time. This is located in the valley of the North Branch of White River, which is another such stream as the parent river. The widening of the valley in which Tunbridge is situated is a little reminiscent of Ogden Hole, in miniature, of course, and without the ragged backdrop of high mountains.
I here turned about and drove back down to State 14, then headed southeasterly for White River Junction. Sharon is another widening in the White River Valley four miles down from the road that leads up to the Smith farm. (The farm itself is located at the township boundary between South Royalton and Sharon; I’m not sure which side of the boundary line.) By now it was well past three, so I just kept right on going. I drove to White River Junction, then across the Connecticut to Hanover, a beautiful college town, thence south a few miles to Lebanon, thence to West Lebanon and on to Hanover again with the idea of staying all night there. The Hanover Inn had only regretful smiles, however, so I drove across the river to Norwich, Vermont, to try the Norwich Inn. There was nothing stirring there either, so I concluded to move on down US 5 until I had a chance to eat somewhere, then continue till I hit a likely tourist home.
Now, however, the semi-machine age caught up with me. It had been on my trail all day, as I had a helluva time starting the car at noon, and a helluva struggle everytime I tried to start it thereafter, even when the engine was warm. I didn’t like the way it was behaving, but had been too busy to monkey with it.
[p.135] As I got to the junction of US 5 and US 4 above the White River Junction, however—in fact, with the nose of the car poked out into the road, the engine stalled, and this time not all my skills or anathemas would start it again. I got a car behind me to push me across the road, then summoned help with the aid of a Shell service station there at the corner. I was towed to a garage a half-mile away, and a couple of mechanics went to work. They found that my points and condenser were virtually burnt up; they installed new ones, and the car practically exploded into life. So after an hour’s delay I got started south again. But the semi-machine age is still with us. The gas pedal acts as peculiarly as hell. I noticed this even before leaving the garage, that the engine seemed to race when it should be idling. The fellow listened to it for a moment, then punched the gas pedal, and the car idled properly, indicating that the pedal had become merely stuck. But I have since discovered that it continues to stick. I drove thirty miles or so down the river to here, the first likely stopping place, and the car would even climb hills at 30 miles an hour with my foot off the pedal, which gives you an idea. I discovered that my tapping the pedal sharply with my foot, I could stop that racing effect, but next time I stepped on the gas, it was “stuck” that way all over again. I gassed up after reaching here, and had the service station fellow look at it, but he wasn’t much help. He said the gas pedal linkage was well covered with grease and dirt, probably the cause of the sticking; he oiled the whole thing and hoped that would help, but it hasn’t as yet. If the car will behave itself fairly decently until Monday, when I should find a Hudson place open somewhere along the line, I will be properly grateful.
I won’t mail this letter until after I have had a look, or tried to have a look, at Whitingham tomorrow. So, being tired and dirty, I will now break off in favor of a bath and pick up tomorrow where I now leave off.
Sunday, Nov. 2, 1 p.m.
This letter is picked up about ten yards from the Brigham Young stone. I have been talking to the owner of the property and have taken some pictures, and now I write this on the spot before rolling down hill again.
Whitingham is tucked away in the hills, a rolling upland country chiefly subsisted, I should imagine, by dairy farms. I understand there is a good deal of lumbering done in the neighborhood also. The old Young farm is reached by a road which joins the main highway, Vermont 8, almost at right angles in the tiny town center, a rocky, ill-kept and steep road which immediately climbs a hill, winding only slightly, to this eminence directly west of the town. A little to the west of north spread the waters impounded by the Whitingham [p.136] Dam, a beautiful blue sheet of water covering what in Brigham Young’s time was the valley bottom of the Deerfield River.
The site of the old Young farmhouse even today is remarkably tumbled, with rocks outcropping everywhere. An old stone fence about 10 yards west of the Young monument is very old indeed and may well date to John Young’s time. A scattered conifer or two grows on the property. Looking at it, you are at a loss to see how the Youngs made a living, for dairy farming was not then what it is today, and the land doesn’t look productive enough for most crops. Today is wonderfully warm and sunny, with a fresh coolness in the air for all the world like October or even September in the mountains at home.
This is much wilder country than that where Joseph Smith was born, the land more tumbled and broken, to the degree that any eastern hill country can so be termed. Gray swaths of trees band the hillsides, set off by the fresh green of the conifers, for all the world like an aspen forest in Utah. Lovely country for a country home, in our modern thinking, at any rate.
The fellow who owns this property is Walter Hunt, Charlemont, Mass.
He bought the land, I understood him to say, about ten years ago. At any rate, he put up the cabin a hundred yards up the hillside about ten years ago, he said. He is, I should judge, about Dean Brimhall’s age. He evidently likes this section very well for a weekend retreat. He says quite a lot of people come up here to visit the Brigham Young marker, Mormons mostly, from all over. It is not here, however, that the Church plans to erect its monument to Young. Instead, this is going to be on Town Hill, a prominent elevation lying over the horizon to the south of here. Hunt, who is an extremely pleasant and obliging fellow, doesn’t know exactly what the dimensions of the old farm were, or whether the Youngs owned the higher hillside on which he has built his cabin; he thinks their property line ran along the road which separates this hill from the Young marker, the road on which I am now parked.
Well, I must get moving. The damned gas pedal is still misbehaving, and the car isn’t happy except when it is going 50 miles an hour. I should imagine I will be in or near Boston by the time I mail this, as it is about 30 miles or so to Greenfield, Mass., and then about a hundred miles to Boston. I’ll get out and get you a souvenir stone from the old Young property, then start down his hill and commence sailing.
Well, it’s 7 p.m., and not to spin out this epic too much, I’m settled down for the night, and damned glad to be here alive and whole. A more nerve-wracking afternoon I never spent. It is all very [p.137] well, this business of cars that will drive themselves, but not when they fight you and the brake. This afternoon has seen such colossal absurdities as that heavy car driving itself up a long hill at 45 miles an hour with my foot on the brake all the way to keep it from going even faster. On a country road this might be fun; in heavy traffic it is not. I have kept going only because I had doubts that any mechanics in the country I’ve gotten over have the experience to cope with the intricacies of a Hudson’s throttle linkage. But the other side of Fitchburg my brakes gave way under the severe usage they’ve had today, and the last ten miles I’ve kept going only because there was no place to stop. I hope and believe my worries are now over, however, because two miles down the road I passed a Hudson Service place which ought to be open in the morning. With luck I’ll get into Boston with a whole skin by noon tomorrow; from this tourist home where I now am, I’m 46 miles from there.
Except for the constant fight with the car all afternoon, I should have enjoyed the drive very much indeed. Massachusetts 2 is a magnificent highway across the most magnificent terrain I should imagine the state can offer, with some breathtaking summits. This is called the Mohawk Trail, whether with any good reason I don’t know. Sometime I hope we can drive over it together under rather more pleasant circumstances. You would even like to eat where I did, at a Duncan Hines approved place in Shelburne Falls, for which today was the last day of its season. They scalped me with a 3-buck bill for the dinner, but as it was the first full dinner, or full meal of any description, I’ve had since yesterday, I had it coming to me. It began with assorted hots d’oevres, shrimp cocktail, pear and cheese salad, chicken broth, roast turkey with dressing, succotash and French fries, then a waffle with maple syrup, and finally ice cream; I turned down coffee, by this time having no room for it.
I hope there will be some word from you awaiting me in Boston. As for me, I’m pooped, and I am now going to sprawl out on this bed and read the morning papers and let the world go to hell as it may choose for a while.
25. To Fawn Brodie
Rochester, New York
2 December 1947
You beat me to the punch, in that your letter turned up at the post office today before I could write mine tonight. I am glad to have some word of you, but very sorry to learn that the flu has been hurling you around by the tail. Your letter of yesterday morning, I hope, inaugurates more enjoyable times for you.
The snowstorm in which I departed from Ithaca Saturday morning slowly gave way, and by the time I reached Canandaigua, the skies were mostly clear if plenty cold. I decided to keep right on going in the hope that I would be able to work the Rochester library Sunday, come back to Canandaigua Monday, and strike out for the west today. As it turned out, to my considerable surprise (even the Salt Lake library is not so provincial), the library was closed on Sunday, so I ambled back to Canandaigua Sunday afternoon, going via Mendon, worked at Canandaigua yesterday, drove to here at 10 last night, labored here today, and in the morning am heading for Cleveland, with a slight detour to see what can be seen of Niagara Falls.
From Canandaigua Saturday I drove via Palmyra. I think no one but you will know what I mean precisely when I tell you that the ghosts of my youth were trampling around like a herd of elephants. The Hill Cumorah, the Sacred Grove, and all the rest of it. The ultimate effect was comic, but even as I grinned, I was again a seven-year-old sitting on a tiny red chair which with others made a circle around a pretty Sunday school teacher to learn about the marvelous things that have come to pass in these last days. There is no shaking off the emotional impact of one’s childhood experiences. (But I remember also that the Sunday school teacher’s slip was showing, an observation which in my adult years I am inclined to think had some kind of erotic significance, one of my earliest erotic impressions. Maybe this shows how the devil was after me even at the age of 7.)
The Hill Cumorah rather surprised me. I had envisioned a more symmetrical geological formation, and had not looked for so narrow a ridge to be the “Mormon Hill” of local repute. It was less high, too, than I had anticipated. Also it was damned cold on top of the hill, [p.139] and I am willing to bet you that if the Angel Moroni had appeared in December instead of September, Joseph would simply have pulled the covers tighter around his neck and told the angel to go find him another translator.
From any documentary point of view, my trip down into the Susquehanna country was a complete bust. I did not, of course, go back over the ground you did, but sought to find out what I could about the Colesville trial and whether Stowell was buried in the Harmony cemetery. The former effort was a complete bust, all trails leading me ultimately to the town clerk in Harpursville, who was not at all helpful, saying that a fire in 1895 burnt down records of earlier date. I endeavored to find out if anyone knew anything about Chamberlain, the judge of the 1830 trail, but the town clerk thought there were no descendants in the country and had apparently never heard the name. I have since discovered that there is a Chamberlain in Greene and another in Afton, so in due course I will write both to see if there is any relationship. I photographed the Stowell house in Afton where Joseph married Emma, and also photographed the gravestone at Harmony, using up all my white chalk in the effort to make the inscription legible; how these will come out, I don’t know. When I can get three rolls developed, maybe in Cleveland, we’ll see what we have. I had hoped to get back up to Alton to examine the grave stones in the cemetery there, but the weather being so cold and time pressing so hard, I decided against it, and from Harpursville took wing for Ithaca by NY 79, a most lovely road, even at this season of year. Or I might say, especially at this season of year.
But apart from documents, I feel that the Susquehanna expedition was well worthwhile in that it gave me a three-dimensional understanding of some years in Joseph’s life, and in the segment it added to my mental mosaic of American landscapes. The Susquehanna Valley below Oakland is made depressing by the Erie Railroad right of way, but all the way above that, clear to the headwaters of the river, it is wonderful country at any season of the year. God, but this is a magnificent land we live in! If only man and his works, more especially the cities, were a little less squalid…
The work at Canandaigua was interesting. The grossly inaccurate Union list to the contrary notwithstanding, the Ontario Historical Society has a file of W. W. Phelps’ Ontario Phoenix complete except for Jan. 5, 1831, from June 7, 1830, though unluckily it does not own the first two volumes of this paper. Phelps, it turns out, didn’t have much to say about Mormonism, either while he was running the paper or after he left it. But I have now found out why he left. Characteristically, economic motives were a contributing factor to his joining the church in 1831. It seems (from a private letter of his I found at Albany in the Wayne Sentinel) that early in March, 1831, he went to Palmyra to inquire into Mormonism, and while he was there, some of his fellow anti-masons had a writ served on him for his debts, by which he was thrown into jail at Lyons until [p.140] they should be paid. He seems to have been in jail for a month or six weeks before he was able to collect enough of what was owing him by his subscribers to get out of durance vile. After freeing himself, he came back to Canandaigua briefly, then set out for Kirtland. I found a curious letter he wrote his old paper from Independence later in the year, and enclose a copy of it. It is odd that he should have said nothing about his new religion—or were such references edited out by his old associates who were embarrassed by his religion? Early in 1832, the Phoenix, by then renamed the Freeman, printed his prospectus of the Evening and Morning Star, but when he sent them a copy, they merely recorded having received it, without remarking on it one way or the other.
The Ontario Historical Society has a wonderful file of the Ontario Repository from 1803, vol. 1, but unluckily almost the only issues lacking up to about 1830 are the volumes from April, 1828 to April, 1831. This is all the more to be regretted because in 1831 they reprinted a lot of stuff from the Painesville Telegraph, and from an oblique allusion by Phelps, it appears they had things to say about Mormonism earlier in 1831. There are only a few scattered issues at other libraries for the missing dates, including August 13, September 10, and September 17, 1828, and January 26, 1831, at Yale. Sometime maybe you would have a look at these and see if they bear on our problems.
I scanned the file from January, 1826 to the end of 1832, hoping it might have something on the 1826 trial, which it did not, or on the provenance of the Book of Mormon. The chief item of interest pertaining to the latter I also enclose.
At Albany I went entirely through the Palmyra file from 1817 up to the end of 1835, but I must admit some of the zest was taken from this through knowing that so careful a researcher as you had gone through it already, and there could be no major finds. However, in doing this, I did note a couple of inadvertences in the text of your book which you might note for that ultimate revised edition. For instance, that notice by Joseph Smith St. concerning Alvin’s body appeared in the Sentinel not on September 25 but four days after the date of the exhumation, i.e., September 29, and it was published for seven issues altogether. Also, the Palmyra paper did not make mention of Jemima Wilkinson until after recording her death, so she might well have been unperturbed by anything said about her. Another thing, on reaching this region I find it said that Stephen A. Douglas attended the school in Canandaigua in 1831-33, not earlier, so if this is correct (of course I haven’t checked it), your remark in your book is something of a non-sequitur.
I was going to add my citations to the Coe collection, but those papers are out in the car, and in this weather, I say the hell with it! It can wait till my next letter, with your kind permission.
Thanks again for all your kindness and your hospitality. I have [p.141] missed both the kids. Tell Dick to print me something to enclose in your letter when next you write me.
P.S. The Arlington letter arrived—more details about the daughter born to the [undecipherable] of my last book.
26. To Fawn Brodie
Fort Leavenworth, Kansas
24 December 1947
It was gratifying indeed to have your letter awaiting me when I reached here Monday night. I like to think that there is indeed a “hole in the ground” out at Bethany now. Of course it would be an overstatement to say that I am as anxious as you to see your house go up, for how could anyone else possibly feel as strongly about it as you? But I take a very special interest in your home-building, and will be delighted indeed with real progress reports.
Opportunely, I have just received the color prints from the pictures I took last October, and so I am enabled to send you at this appropriate season the “October view from your front window” and the pictures of the greater part of the Brodie family (as constituted to date). All three pictures have some very pleasant memories associated with them, for me, and I am glad to have them.
Did you get your well sunk finally, and do you have a water suppy of your own now? All these details interest me very much, so keep me well posted.
This has been an instructive if somewhat wearing fall. For a couple of days I am taking an enforced rest at my sister’s, being absolutely broke until some checks come through, but then I am going to start digging into things in this neighborhood. On the whole, this is a very strategic base of operations, with most of the sites of historic interest for me being in about a 40-mile radius. I want to visit the old Missouri River towns which for years have been familiar names in my ears—Weston, St. Joseph, and all the others—and of course the sites of Mormon interest in Jackson, Clay, Caldwell, and Daviess counties. I wrote Israel Smith before leaving Chicago Sunday morning, and it will be interesting to see what sort [p.142] of welcome I get, if any. Otherwise there are a number of county archives I want to poke into, in addition to places to visit.
At Cleveland I worked almost exclusively in the newspaper collections, though I did copy that long letter by Eliza Snow to Isaac Streator. (Incidently if there is anything in that story Vesta Crawford told you of Eliza’s having been “used by the mob” in Missouri, I’m willing to bet you it took place after that letter was written in late February. For all its feeling over the Mormon wrongs, there wasn’t the accent of personal feeling that there would have been had Eliza known physical violence at first hand.) The newspaper research at Cleveland was very illuminating, but I regret that their files of the Painesville Telegraph, the only ones known for those years, are only 50 percent complete for 1836-38.
The Chicago Historical Society was very interesting also. You will recall that fellow, A. B. Deming, who got out a couple of issues of a paper called “Naked Truths about Mormonism.” The Chicago Historical Society has some further affidavits collected by Deming which he didn’t publish in the first two issues of his paper and which thus remained unpublished. In 1897 Deming sold them to a Chicago collector named Gunther, whose collections ultimately went to the Society. Among these was a statement by E. D. Howe, signed April 8, 1885, which is much more informative about his book and [Philastus] Hurlbut than his autobiography of 1878 was. He says that Grandison Newel, Orrin Clapp, Nathan Corning and others of Kirtland, Mentor, and Geauga County paid Hurlbut’s expenses on that trip of investigation [into Joseph Smith's New York reputation] in 1833-34. After he came back, Hurlbut lectured about the countyside, and Howe heard him lecture in Painesville. “He finally came to me to have the evidence he had obtained published, I bargained to pay him in books which I sent to him at Conneaut, O[hio]. Before publishing my Book I went to Conneaut and saw most of the witnesses who had seen Spauldings Manuscript Found and had testified to its identity with the Book of Mormon as published in my book and was satisfied they were men of intelligence and respectability and were not mistaken in their statements. I published only a small part of the statements Hurlbut let me have.” He says he was not acquainted with Hurlbut until H. came to him to have his evidence published, and adds that he “was good sized fine looking full of gab but illiterate and had lectured on many subjects.” If he was indeed illiterate, this would seem to suggest that Howe must have put the affidavits into proper English unless, as has been doubted, the interviewed people wrote them. In a statement crossed out, Howe said he thought everybody would buy his book at one dollar a copy. The statement is in Deming’s handwriting (and spelling), signed by Howe and witnessed by Deming, and one F. W. Regen, a grandson of Howe.
Deming also had half a dozen statements bearing on Hurlbut in 1836-37, which he may have kept unpublished because they weren’t especially helpful to his anti-Mormon crusade—they had to do with [p.143] accusations of theft made against Hurlbut at that time, and a case where Hurlbut brought a civil suit against a wealthy man whom he found in bed with his wife (the language is ambiguous as to whether this was not a put-up job between the Hurlbuts, a variant of the old badger game). Also Deming had a long interview with J. C. Dowen, who was the J[ustice of the]. P[eace]. in Kirtland during the Mormon years. This was very interesting, in the light of what we know. He says that he performed all the marriages in Kirtland to make them legal, then Joseph remarried the couples in a church ceremony, Joseph having no legal powers to marry people. He also says he excused Joseph from military service on the grounds that, as president of his church, he was of the same category as the Methodist minister. This, he says, pleased Joseph very much. But he sentenced Samuel Smith, something you will recall Joseph comments on in Doc[umentary]. Hist[ory]. [of the Church].
Quite as interesting as all this is an astonishing ledger Deming unearthed in Kirtland in 1885, the Stock Book of the Kirtland Bank. I had no time to examine this thoroughly or take any notes from it, but I did observe that Brigham [Young] owned 2000 shares of stock at $50 a share! This, on June 10, 1837, he turned over to O[liver]. Granger and J[ared]. Carter. On the same date Joseph and [Sidney] Rigdon turned over their shares to Granger and Carter, evidently part of the liquidation proceedings. I want to study this more thoroughly, this winter or next summer. The earliest dates in this ledger for the entries as to stock holdings are from October 18, 1836. Incidentally, Howe in his Statement says that Joseph in 1836 tried to borrow $100,000 from the Bank of Geauga, offering as security Kirtland lands valued at $300,000. Since the Bank of Geauga was capitalized at only $100,000, of course it turned him down, and it was soon after this that “Jo Smith claimed he received a revelation from God to start a Bank which would eventually ‘swallow up all other Banks.’”
The Chicago Historical Society also has letters from Joseph to Emma written in June 1832 and January 1840, relating mostly to family matters, presented by Young Joseph in the 80′s. Also a very interesting letter by Samuel Williams, commanding officer of the Carthage Greys, dated July 10, 1844, describing the happenings at Carthage jail. Williams says that when Joseph first arrived in Carthage and met with such an ugly reception, he “actually fainted.” In Doc. Hist. Joseph denies a rumor that he had “fainted three times,” but this may be an evasion, of course; the Saints were adept enough at evasions.
While I was at Chardon I checked up on that item I showed you once in the 1834 Painesville Telegraph about the member of Zion’s Camp who sued Joseph for wages after he got back. The spare court record is perfectly uninformative without the newspaper elucidation, but between the two you can get the whole story. The unregenerate in question was Dennis Lake. He won a judgment in the [p.144] magistrate’s court, but it was thrown out for lack of evidence when appealed to the Court of Common Pleas at Chardon.
At Detroit I worked for three days, 11 hours a day without intermission, in the [James] Strang MSS [Milo] Quaire generously placed at my disposal. I thus transcribed nearly everything pertaining to the larger history of Mormonism, but I was not able to touch a large quantity of documents pertaining primarily to the internal history of the Strangite church. I hope I can get back there next summer for this purpose. If Quaife should die, Lord knows what would happen to his MSS, and whether I could get access to them. I don’t believe he has permitted any before me to use them as a whole, though he has supplied copies of individual documents to various people. He got back from Chicago in time to have a 15 minute talk with me my last day in Detroit. Although a generation older, he reminded me very much of Maurice Howe in his alert interest in things, the way he used his eyes and hands.
As to the Strang MSS themselves, they supplied some fine comic relief, and I enjoyed them very much. What a precious collection of rascals Strang surrounded himself with! The George J. Adams and John C. Bennett letters are priceless. Listen to Adams, for example, writing Strang from Wilmington, Delaware, on Nov. 1, 1849: “I think the Lord has a people in this Citty—, we shall see, but I pray God that He will keep all Treacherous—Lecherous—Lying and Covenant Breaking Scoundrells.—oh! James—When Shall we have rest—when Shall we be free—from the fangs of Lying Slanderous abuse, When Shall men Cease their phals accuseations [sic] against us—when Shall Ofenders be cut off,—You See as I antisipated all the power and Envy of Hell is let loose, is loet loose, at Me, Since I have arrisen to magnifiy my high and Holy calling, Envy the Child of hell, and Ofspring of peridition!!! they would Strike you through me,—James You know my virtue!—My Integrity—My goodness of heart, My high Sense of Honner.—thank God you know—my Mind and purity of purpose in all these matters—Touching wherein I have been accused—what have I ever done to any of them that they Should Oppose Me with such Malignity as they do—Oh! My god; Curse! Curse!! Utterly! Curse!!! them untill they repent—May they be cursed with Sickness—with Losses—and with Trouble and Sleepless-Nights—well let them go thank God we look for Better times.” All this in relation to the smell of adultery that followed Adams everywhere he went.
Most interesting of all in the Quaire MSS was the original letter of appointment from Joseph to Strang. This is a remarkably clumsy forgery, and shows what a commanding presence Strang must have had to make headway despite it. Of course, the Nauvoo postmark and the smell of miracle helped a lot.
I was interested to hear about the new [Francis W.] Kirkham book, and not surprised at what you tell me. I think I was well advised to ask Stan Ivins to keep that 1831 letter under cover till Kirkham got his book out. Now we will fire on his position from still another flank.
[p.145] Let’s have a long letter about everything. Tell Dick I am glad to have a picture of him in color, especially with his happy smile, and I will see him and Bruce again some day—maybe next summer.
A happy holiday season to you all,