H. Michael Marquardt & Wesley P. Walters
The Move to Palmyra and Manchester, New York
[p.1]When Joseph Smith, Jr., began working on the official history of his life and church, he created a chronological puzzle. When precisely did his family move to Palmyra, New York, and later to the adjoining township of Manchester? In his narrative he places the move two years before an important religious revival which he says preceded his first vision. However, there are problems with this sequence of events.
At the opening of his 1838-39 autobiography Smith reports that his father moved to Palmyra when he was in his tenth year. Joseph Jr. was born on 23 December 1805, which means his “tenth” year was probably 1815. But in three other statements published under his name he says he was “ten years old,” meaning the move occurred in 1816.
Next Smith remarks that “in about four years after my father’s arrival at Palmyra, he moved with his family into Manchester,” the next township south of Palmyra. This dates the family’s relocation to Manchester to approximately 1820. Later Smith states, “[I]n the second year after our removal to Manchester, there was in the place where we lived an unusual excitement on the subject of religion.” This excitement, he continues, led him to pray in the woods about which church to join. He was answered by the appearance of two heavenly beings, the Father and the Son. According to his account, the religious revival and subsequent vision would have occurred about 1822. [p.2]However, in the same account Smith specifically dates his vision to “the spring of Eighteen hundred and twenty.”1
Fortunately, we are not limited to Joseph Smith’s history in trying to solve this riddle. From contemporary records we can establish with reasonable certainty the chronology of the Smith family’s relocation to Palmyra and later to Manchester (which was called Farmington at the time2). Records described in this chapter help determine when the family was dwelling in the village of Palmyra, when they moved to a log cabin on Stafford Road, and finally when they took up residence on a farm in Manchester. Analysis of these dates and events is important since they provide the historical setting for the revival and the visions that Joseph Jr. later related experiencing. In addition, Joseph’s mother Lucy Mack Smith dictated in 1844-45 her own history of the Smith family.3 Undoubtedly her history contains some errors, but it remains an important record of her family’s life during the years they lived in Palmyra and Manchester.
Lucy first describes her husband Joseph’s preceding the rest of the family in moving from Vermont to Palmyra, New York, sometime after 1815. Leaving Norwich, Vermont, Joseph Sr. was followed for a short distance by his eldest sons Alvin and Hyrum who watched as their father left alone for Palmyra. He would send for his family when he was ready for them.
Lucy then expressed considerable joy at the subsequent reunion with her husband. She described the family’s long-range plans after locating to the village of Palmyra:
We <all> now Sat down and maturely councilled together as to what course it was best to take, how we sho[u]ld proceed to buisness in our then destitute circumstances. It was agreed by each one of us that it was <most> advisable to ap[p]ly all our energies together and endeavor to obtain a Piece of land as this was then a new country and land was bow [low], being in its rude state, but it was almost a time of famine. Wheat was $2.50 per bushel and other things in proportion. How shall we, said My Husband, be able to sustain ourselves and have anything left to buy land? As I had done considerable at painting oil cloth coverings for tables stands &c. I concluded to set up the buisness and if prospered I would try to supply the wants of the family. In this I succeeded so well that it was not [p.3]long till we not only had an abundance of good and wholesome provision but I soon began to replenish my household furniture, a fine stock of which I had sacraficed entirely in moving.4
Lucy’s craft enterprise prospered, and the family later contracted for one hundred acres in the township of Farmington (now Manchester), immediately south of Palmyra township.
Joseph Sr. is first found in Palmyra on the road tax list for April 1817 as a resident on Main Street.5 New York law established a system for maintaining roads which required that each township be divided into road districts and that all men in each district be required to work on the roads. Each district was under the supervision of a path master or overseer elected at an annual town meeting held on the first Tuesday of April. At the same meeting three commissioners of highways were to be elected. The overseer had sixteen days from the date of his election to list every male living in his district, twenty-one years or older (a free man) or property owner (a freeholder). Each man devoted at least one day a year to keeping the roads in repair in the district in which he lived. This included clearing brush, stones, and fallen trees; repairing bridges; filling holes; and in the winter clearing paths through the snow. A man could hire someone to serve in his place, but failure to fulfill the obligation in person or by proxy resulted in a fine enforceable by law.6
Joseph Sr.’s name first appears in Road District 26 for April 1817, consistent with his having arrived in the latter part of 1816. The town’s “Record of Roads” shows that District 26 began on Main Street in the center of the village of Palmyra (the so-called “Four Corners” where four churches now stand) near where the road from Canandaigua intersected and ran west until it crossed into what is now Macedon Township. The district included a small portion of present Walworth Road on the north side of Mud Creek and also a road running south toward the adjoining township of Farmington.7 This 1817 list basically follows the order in which individual properties were situated as one moves west on Main Street, with Joseph Smith, Sr., listed as living at the west end of Main Street. Joseph Sr.’s name occurs again at the same location in District 26 in 1818 and 1819.
In April 1820 Alvin Smith’s name appears for the first time on [p.4]the road tax list among the merchants on Main Street. Alvin had turned twenty-one in February 1819 and his absence from the 1819 road list may indicate he had been hired out. Residing on Main Street may represent the cake and beer shop the Smiths reportedly operated in town.8 However, Joseph Sr.’s name appears at the end of the list, showing he was now living outside the business district and near the Palmyra-Farmington town line, where the road district ended.
The Smith family’s cabin would be mentioned two months later in the “Palmyra Town Book” as “Joseph Smiths dwelling house,” located about fifty feet north of the line dividing Palmyra from Farmington. It stood about two miles south of Main Street on property owned by Samuel Jennings, a merchant with whom the Smiths did business. When the road survey crew on 13 June 1820 laid out the extension of Stafford Road to join Main Street to the north, they used the cabin as a reference point. The survey reads: “Minutes of the survey of a public Highway beginning on the south line … in the town of Palmyra three rods fourteen links southeas[t] of Joseph Smiths dwelling house.”9
The Smith cabin location is further supported by Orsamus Turner, who in 1818 began work as a young apprentice printer at the office of the local Palmyra Register. He recalled that he first saw the Smith family in the winter of 1819-20 living “in a rude log house, with but a small spot underbrushed around it” near the town line.10 This cabin on the outskirts of Palmyra should not be confused with a cabin the family would eventually build on land in nearby Farmington/Manchester.
Lucy subsequently reported that the family contracted for 100 acres of “Everson” (Evertson) land held by the estate of Nicholas Evertson, an attorney in New York City who had acquired considerable land holdings in western New York before his death in 1807. It was June 1820 before Evertson’s executors conveyed to Caspar W. Eddy, a New York City physician, power of attorney to sell his holdings. Eddy traveled to Canandaigua, New York, the seat of Ontario County, and on 14 July 1820 transferred his power of attorney to his friend Zachariah Seymour.11 Seymour had long been a land agent in the area and was a close associate of Oliver Phelps, who with [p.5]his partner Nathaniel Gorham had opened a land office in Canandaigua and had instituted the practice of “articling” for real estate.
Articling was a way for hard-working but cash-poor pioneers to obtain possession of land by buying on an installment plan. Under this arrangement a schedule of payments was outlined in an “Articles of Agreement” which stipulated the following conditions: the deed was held by the seller until the final payment was made; if the buyer defaulted he lost all right to the land as well as to any improvements, and the seller could then resell it.12
It was by this method that the Smiths became property owners. The land deed of Squire Stoddard, who in November 1825 acquired the lot adjoining the Smith’s Manchester farm, noted that the north line of his property was “the south line of lands heretofore articled to Joseph and Alvin Smith.”13
The usual pattern of payment involved breaking the price down into three or more installments, each due a year apart on the original date of the contract. Often the first payment was further broken into easily met segments, such as $10 down, $18 within 90 days, and the balance within the year. When the anniversary date of the contract arrived, the entire second payment was then due. Although title was retained by the seller, the property tax was ordinarily paid by the buyer and was expressly stipulated in some contracts. Sometimes specific requirements were added, such as building a cabin at least eighteen feet by eighteen feet within a year or clearing a specified acreage of land within that period. Often the record of payments was kept on the back of these Articles of Agreement.14
Joseph Sr. and Alvin would have had to “article” for their land shortly after July 1820. Joseph Sr. is listed in the Farmington (Manchester) 1820 census (which was enrolled between 7 August 1820 and 5 February 1821), suggesting that the articling was completed no later than February 1821. The ages of the male family members were: under 10, 2 (William and Don Carlos); 16-26, 2 (Alvin and Hyrum); and over 45, 1 (Joseph Sr.). Female members were: under 10, 1 (Catherine); 16-26, 1 (Sophronia); and 26-45, 1 (Lucy Mack Smith). Both Joseph Jr. (age fourteen) and his younger brother Samuel Harrison (age twelve) were missing from the census.15
The new Smith farm encompassed approximately one hundred [p.6]acres, one third of the original Lot No. 1 in that township. According to the assessment roll for 22 June 1820, the entire three hundred acres of Lot 1 were taxed to the heirs of Nicholas Evertson at that time. In the following year’s assessment (7 July 1821) only two hundred acres were taxed to the Evertson heirs, while the balance was assessed to Joseph Smith.16
After contracting for the farm, Lucy reports, “In one year’s time we made nearly all of the first payment. The Agent adivised [advised] us to build a log house on the land and commence clearing it, we did so. It was not long till we had 30 acres ready for cultivation. But the second payment was now coming due and no means as yet of meeting it.”17 As a result Alvin left Palmyra to raise “the second payment and the remmainder of the first,” and returned with “the necessary amount of money for all except the last payment.” If the Smiths contracted for the land soon after Seymour received his power of attorney to sell it, around 1 August 1820, then the rest of the first payment and all of the second payment would have been paid to Seymour by 1 August 1821. Lucy adds that they were unable to make the third and last payment (which would have been 1 August 1822) because the land agent died. Seymour did indeed die on 2 July 1822, corroborating this part of her story and establishing the fact that the Smiths contracted for the land sometime after mid-July 1820.18
Lucy mentions that “in one year’s time” after they contracted for the property, the land agent told them they should build a cabin on their land, which “we did.” However, it cannot be precisely determined from her account when this log house was built. That this refers to their Farmington farm and not the Palmyra property is clear from several key facts. First, the Smiths were living in the Palmyra cabin when the road supervisors mentioned it in June 1820 before the Smiths could have contracted for the Farmington land. In addition, William Smith, Joseph Jr.’s younger brother, declared concerning the Farmington/Manchester property, “The improvements made on this farm was first commenced by building a log house at no small expense, and at a later date a frame house at a cost of several hundred dollars.”19 William would hardly call a cabin built on Samuel Jennings’s land in Palmyra an improvement on their own farm across the line in Manchester.
[p.7]From the Palmyra road tax list it is clear that at least Joseph Sr. and Alvin were still living in Palmyra as late as April 1822. It is probable that the Smiths did not move to the Manchester farm until after the summer of 1822. It could not be earlier than July 1821 because Smith family genealogy mentions the birth of a daughter named Lucy, the youngest child of the family. The genealogy specifically states that Lucy was “born in Palmyra.”20
That some members of the Smith family did not move until after April 1822 is witnessed by the Palmyra road tax list. In 1821 the name of Hyrum Smith, who had turned twenty-one in February, appeared with Alvin and Joseph Sr. on the Palmyra road tax list. In the April 1822 road tax list, the elder Smith and Alvin again appear, so that as of April 1822 the father and oldest son had not yet moved to their Manchester farm, since they were taxed as Palmyra residents. Hyrum’s name is missing from the 1822 list. This could indicate that other members of the family had been working on their one hundred acres and had built a cabin sometime in 1821. It is also possible that Hyrum and perhaps other Smith children had moved there to relieve the crowded conditions in their Palmyra cabin. But it could also indicate that Hyrum had hired out to work on a farm in a neighboring town.
When the one hundred acres first went on the assessment roll in July 1821, taxed to Joseph Sr., the parcel was valued at $700, $7 an acre. This was approximately what uncleared land in the area was selling for at the time. The remaining two hundred acres of Lot No. 1 were taxed to the Evertson heirs at a value of $1,400.21 The same value appeared in the 29 June 1822 assessment.22 However, by 24 July 1823 the value of the Smith property had jumped to $1,000. This is an increase of over 40 percent, yet the average property value for the whole township rose only 4 percent that year. This indicates that for the first time a cabin had been built and sufficient land had been cleared so that under New York law the assessed value had to be raised.23
Lucy’s narrative corroborates the assessment roll evidence for an 1822 move to the Manchester property. She introduces events leading up to her son Alvin’s death in late 1823 by saying: “In the spring after we moved onto the farm we commenced making Mapel [maple] sugar [p.8]of which we averaged 1000 lbs per year. We then began to make preparations for building a house, as the Land Agent of whom we purchased our farm was dead and we could not make the last payment.”24
Next Lucy remarks that the third harvest had “arrived since we opened our new farm.” Wheat harvest in New York fell during the latter part of July. By contracting for the property sometime after mid-July 1820, the harvest for that year was over. The first harvest for the Smiths would have been in the summer of 1821. Accordingly the third harvest would be the summer of 1823. At this point Lucy relates the story of the angel’s visit informing her son Joseph Jr. of the gold plates. She reports that he attempted that September to obtain the plates but was denied permission. Finally she reports that in November the family succeeded in raising their frame house and had the necessary materials on hand for its completion. However, Alvin’s sudden sickness on 15 November and his death four days later on 19 November 1823 left the house incomplete. Lucy remembered that on his death-bed Alvin told Hyrum, “I now want you to go on and finish the House.”25
Once it is clear that the frame house was not raised until November 1823, then the increase of $300 in the assessed valuation, four months earlier in July 1823, must refer to some other improvements, including completion of the log cabin on their farm. This conclusion is further confirmed when Lucy introduces events of 1823 with the words, “In the spring after we moved onto the farm.” This clearly fixes the date of their move to the farm as occurring in 1822.
Some indirect evidence supporting an 1822 date for the Smiths’ move to their Manchester property comes from the dating of the Palmyra revival. Joseph Jr.’s 1838-39 account reports that the revival occurred the second year after the family’s move to the farm, although it mistakenly places it in 1820.26 Lucy’s account specifically locates the revival after Alvin’s death in 1823. Contemporary evidence shows that the revival occurred during the last months of 1824 and early months of 1825. Thus if the revival, which broke out in 1824, occurred two years after the Smiths moved to their Manchester farm, as Joseph’s history says, then their move would have indeed occurred in 1822.
1. Willard Bean was one of the first Mormon writers to point out the discrepancies. He reasoned: “If the Family lived four years in Palmyra, and the religious agitation took place two years later, it would place the date of the vision in the Sacred Grove in the spring of 1822.” He adds, “[I]t will readily be seen that our historians have two too many years jammed into the period between the arrival of the Smiths in 1816 and the date of the vision in the spring of 1820” (A.B.C. History of Palmyra and the Beginning of “Mormonism” [Palmyra, NY: Palmyra Courier Co., 1938], 35).
Mormon writers have provided various explanations for these problems. In the 1840s Willard Richards’s insertion into Smith’s manuscript history the words “or thereabouts” in regard to the arrival in Palmyra—“in my tenth year. <or thereabouts>”—and with respect to Smith’s vision—when he was “between fourteen and fifteen years of age <or thereabouts>—may be the earliest attempt to resolve this problem (Dean C. Jessee, ed. The Papers of Joseph Smith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1989], 1:269, 274, emphasis added). In 1968 historian Marvin S. Hill reduced the Smith family’s stay in Palmyra to two years. He explained, “Joseph Smith Jr. erroneously said four years were passes in Palmyra” (“The Role of Christian Primitivism in the Origin and Development of the Mormon Kingdom, 1830-1844,” Ph.D. diss., University of Chicago, 1968, 39 and n2). Most Mormon writers follow the 1818 date for the move to Manchester. See Leonard J. Arrington and Davis Bitten, The Mormon Experience: A History of the Latter-day Saints (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1979), 5; and Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1984), 47-48.
3. Lucy Mack Smith, Preliminary Manuscript (MS), “History of Lucy Smith,” 40. This manuscript was dictated to Martha Jane Coray and the original is in archives, historical department, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah (hereafter LDS archives). The page numbering used in our book corresponds to a typed transcript in LDS archives and to page numbers in the photocopy of the manuscript. Where the manuscript has lacunae, the first publication of Lucy’s history, Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet, and His Progenitors for Many Generations (Liverpool: Published for Orson Pratt by S. W. Richards, 1853), is used. Orson Pratt used a manuscript that had been revised by Martha and Howard Coray from the earlier preliminary manuscript. Extracts were inserted in this [p.10]revision from the “History of Joseph Smith” published in the Times and Seasons (Nauvoo, Illinois).
In the notes that follow, the Preliminary Manuscript is cited where available, the second citation will be to the first publication of it, shortened to Biographical Sketches, and the third citation to the current edition titled, History of Joseph Smith By His Mother, Lucy Mack Smith (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1958), shortened to History of Joseph Smith.
5. Palmyra Highway Tax Record, Palmyra, New York, Copies of Old Village Records, 1793-1867, microfilm #812869, LDS Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah; microfilm 900, reel #60 at Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah. A copy is also in the King’s Daughters Library, Palmyra, New York. The record is labeled at the beginning, “A Copy of the Several Lists of the Mens Names Liable to Work on the Highways in the Town of Palmyra in the Year 1804.” The original record cannot be located at the present time, and a typescript made by Doris Nebitt is the only copy. Richard Palmer of the Palmyra Historical Society suggested that the original may have been destroyed when in about 1976 someone took the wrong boxes to the town dump.
The post office serving the Smith family was in Palmyra. Joseph Smith, Sr., is included in a list of unclaimed letters at the Palmyra Post Office on 31 December 1818. See Palmyra Register 2 (13 Jan. 1819):4.
6. New York Legislature, Laws of the State of New York, 2 vols. (Albany: H.C. Southwick, 1813), 2:125, 128-29, 271-75, 309. The office of Overseer or Highways was not to be taken lightly. The overseer could be fined ten dollars for each time he failed to notify those required to work on the roads and for each delinquency in performing any other task assigned him. Two weeks prior to the town meeting the following year he was required to certify what work had been done, by whom, and to report anyone who had not fulfilled his obligation.
9. “Palmyra Town Book” (Old Town Record [1793-1870]), 221. Also recorded in “Record of Roads,” (1793-1901), 120, Town Clerk’s Office, Palmyra, New York. The “Record of Roads” book reads “dwelling home,” while the “Town Book” reads “dwelling house.” Both are recopied from a [p.11]now missing original road record book, but the latter reading was transcribed earlier.
A 1982 excavation confirmed a dwelling site at this location. See Dale L. Berge, “Archaeological Investigations at the Joseph Smith, Sr., Log Dwelling, Palmyra, New York, Interim Report” (Salt Lake City: Historical Department, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1982), 15; and Dale L. Berge, “Archaeological Work at the Smith Log House,” Ensign 15 (Aug. 1985): 24.
The assertion that “the Smiths inadvertently built their cabin on the Palmyra side” (Donald L. Enders, “A Snug Log House,” Ensign 15 [Aug. 1985]: 16) instead of on the Manchester property is unlikely. The Palmyra merchant who owned the property on which the home stood, and who knew Smith and extended him credit, would hardly have allowed Smith to mistakenly built on his land. (See Samuel Jennings, Estate Papers, 5 Jan. 1822, Ontario County Historical Society, Canandaigua, New York, 8, line 23, and 10, line 10, for Joseph Smith Sr.’s debts of $11.50 and $1 respectively at the time of Jennings’s death on 1 September 1821.)
Pomeroy Tucker wrote that the land the Smith family lived on was included in the farm of Seth T. Chapman who owned the Manchester property at the time Tucker wrote his book (Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism, 13).
11. For the probate of Nicholas Everson’s estate, see County of New York, Manhattan Borough, Surrogate’s Court, Wills, 47:7-11. On the power of attorney, see Miscellaneous Records, C:342-44, 347-48, Ontario County Records Center and Archives, Canandaigua, New York.
12. Colonel Zachariah Seymour, a Revolutionary War veteran, served under Colonel Oliver Phelps. Seymour acted as land agent in Canandaigua, New York, for school lands owned by Connecticut as well as for private individuals (see Ontario County, Deeds, 17:485; and Ontario Repository, 4 Apr. 1820, 1). On Oliver Phelps’s “articling” innovation, see John W. Barber and Henry Howe, Historical Collections of the State of New York (New York: S. Tuttle, 1842), 406-407, reprinting an extract from the Rochester Directory of 1827. Seymour served as co-executor of Phelps’s estate. A Number of Seymour’s papers are in the Phelps’s papers both at the State Library in Albany and the Ontario County Historical Society in Canandaigua.
14. An Example of a printed Articles of Agreement form used by Sey-[p.12]mour, located in the Ontario County Historical Society holdings, is for property in Burt (Manchester), dated 31 May 1821. Examples of printed forms requiring the payment of the assessment tax, building a cabin, clearing acreage, and the reversion clause can be found in the State Library, Albany, New York, among the Phelps papers.
15. See Ontario Repository, 8 Aug. 1820, 3; “Census of 1820,” History and Growth of the United States Census (Washington, D.C., 1900), 134, 137; U.S. 1820 Census Records, Farmington, Ontario County, New York, microfilm #193717, p. 318, Family #524, LDS Family History Library. The Palmyra Register, 16 Aug. 1820, asked residents to help prepare the census information themselves.
17. Lucy Mack Smith, Preliminary MS, 43. The statement in her book, completed by the Corays, reads, “In a year, we … erected a log house” (Biographical Sketches , 70; History of Joseph Smith , 64). Whether this is Lucy’s clarification or the Corays’ understanding of her original draft is impossible to determine. In her manuscript Lucy stated: “So that in 2 years from the time we entered Palmyra, strangers destitute of friends, home or employment. We were able to settle ourselves upon our own land [in] a snug comfortable though humble habitation built and neatly furnished by our industry” (Preliminary MS, 44; Biographical Sketches , 71; History of Joseph Smith , 65). The two-year time period after arriving in Palmyra mentioned by Lucy appears to be an inaccuracy on her part.
18. Lucy Mack Smith, Preliminary MS, 43, 45-46. On Seymour’s death, see the Walter Hubbell Papers, Princeton University Libraries, Princeton, New Jersey: letter from Henry Penfield to James Kent, 8 Aug. 1826, 1; and his eulogy in the Ontario Repository, 16 July 1822, a reprint of the previous week’s Ontario Messenger.
19. “Notes Written on ‘Chamber’s Life of Joseph Smith.’ by William Smith,” about 1875, typescript, 17, LDS archives. See Richard L. Anderson, “Joseph Smith’s New York Reputation Reappraised,” Brigham Young University Studies 10 (Spring 1970): 314. Russell R. Rich in the same issue (257) maintained that the Smiths built their cabin on the Manchester property.
20. “Genealogy,” Manuscript History, A-1: 10 [separate section], reads, “Lucy Smith, born in Palmyra, Ontario Co. N.Y. July 18, 1821.” See Jessee, Papers of Joseph Smith, 1:19. Lucy received a patriarchal blessing from her father on 9 December 1834 at the age of thirteen. Her birth date and place were given as 18 July 1821 at Palmyra, Ontario County, New York, in Patriarchal Blessing Book 1:8 and recopied in 2:14, LDS archives. See Milton V. Backman, Jr., A [p.13]Profile of Latter-day Saints of Kirtland, Ohio and Members of Zion’s Camp 1830-1839 (Provo, UT, 1982), 112. Lucy is incorrectly listed as “(wife of Joseph Sr.).” William Smith on Mormonism (Lamoni, IA: Herald Stream Book & Job Office, 1883), 5, gives 1821 as the date for the move to Manchester.
23. Manchester, New York, Assessment Roll, 24 July 1823, 17. The 4 percent increase was arrived at by comparing the dollar value per acre of property from 1820 to 1823 and averaging the increase shown in 1823. On increase in evaluation, see Laws of the State of New York, 2:510.
24. Lucy Mack Smith, Preliminary MS, 45-46; Biological Sketches (1853), 72; History of Joseph Smith (1958), 66. William Smith wrote that the family moved into the township of Manchester and “Here my father purchased one hundred acres of new land heavely [sic] timber[e]d and in the clearing up of this land which was mostly done in the form of fire” (“Notes Written on “Chamber’s Life of Joseph Smith,’” 20).
25. Lucy says that the frame house was still being built when Alvin died but has the year as 1822, which is incorrect (Preliminary MS, 45-46, 51-52; see Biographical Sketches , 87; History of Joseph Smith , 85). She gives Alvin’s death variously as 1822 and 1824, but his tombstone shows he died on 19 November 1823 at the age of twenty-five years. Early sources for the death of Alvin are the following:
1. Gravestone in the General John Swift Memorial Cemetery, Palmyra, New York, inscribed: “In memory of/ Alvin. Son of Joseph/ & Lucy Smith. Who/ died Nov. 19. 1823./ in the 25. year of/ his age.” (See photograph in Alma P. Burton, Mormon Trail from Vermont to Utah [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1966], 35.)
2. Day Book of Dr. Gain C. Robinson, 20 Nov. 1823, the day after Alvin’s death: “Joseph Smith visit attend 300 [$3.00],” possibly indicating his charge for assisting in the autopsy of Alvin Smith (Gain Robinson Day Book [21 July 1823 to 2 June 1826], King’s Daughters Library, Palmyra, New York; microfilm #833096 at LDS Family History Library).
3. Wayne Sentinel 2 (29 Sept. 1824): 3, prints an advertisement placed by Joseph Sr. dated “Sept. 25th, 1824,” stating he had exhumed Alvin’s body to refute rumors that it had been removed for dissection.