26050

Letter from Oliver Cowdery, 28 December 1829

Letter 2 Manchester

Settled 1793. Formed as Burt Township when divided from Farmington Township, 31 Mar. 1821. Name changed to Manchester, 16 Apr. 1822. Included village of Manchester. Population in 1825 about 2,700. Population in 1830 about 2,800. JS reported first vision of...

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1

At the time he wrote this letter, Cowdery was likely at the Hyrum Smith residence in Palmyra. If this is the case, the letter was written in Palmyra, not in Manchester.  


Dececember 28th AD 1829
Brother Joseph Smith Jr—
It may Seam Superfluous for me to write as Father

12 July 1771–14 Sept. 1840. Cooper, farmer, teacher, merchant. Born at Topsfield, Essex Co., Massachusetts. Son of Asael Smith and Mary Duty. Nominal member of Congregationalist church at Topsfield. Married to Lucy Mack by Seth Austin, 24 Jan. 1796, at Tunbridge...

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2 [p. 4]
<Let[ter] 2>

This scribal notation, in the handwriting of Frederick G. Williams, indicates that this was the second letter copied into JS Letterbook 1.  


Manchester

Settled 1793. Formed as Burt Township when divided from Farmington Township, 31 Mar. 1821. Name changed to Manchester, 16 Apr. 1822. Included village of Manchester. Population in 1825 about 2,700. Population in 1830 about 2,800. JS reported first vision of...

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1

At the time he wrote this letter, Cowdery was likely at the Hyrum Smith residence in Palmyra. If this is the case, the letter was written in Palmyra, not in Manchester.  


Dececember 28th AD 1829
Brother Joseph Smith Jr—
It may Seam Supe[r]fluous for me to write as Father

12 July 1771–14 Sept. 1840. Cooper, farmer, teacher, merchant. Born at Topsfield, Essex Co., Massachusetts. Son of Asael Smith and Mary Duty. Nominal member of Congregationalist church at Topsfield. Married to Lucy Mack by Seth Austin, 24 Jan. 1796, at Tunbridge...

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2 [p. 4]
Next
Oliver Cowdery

3 Oct. 1806–3 Mar. 1850. Clerk, teacher, justice of the peace, lawyer, newspaper editor. Born at Wells, Rutland Co., Vermont. Son of William Cowdery and Rebecca Fuller. Raised Congregationalist. Moved to western New York and clerked at a store, ca. 1825–1828...

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wrote this letter to JS while still heavily engaged in the publication of the Book of Mormon. JS personally copied this letter into his letterbook approximately three years later, and the original letter, including possible postage information, is not extant. The letter may have been mailed, but more likely Joseph Smith Sr.

12 July 1771–14 Sept. 1840. Cooper, farmer, teacher, merchant. Born at Topsfield, Essex Co., Massachusetts. Son of Asael Smith and Mary Duty. Nominal member of Congregationalist church at Topsfield. Married to Lucy Mack by Seth Austin, 24 Jan. 1796, at Tunbridge...

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delivered it to JS on a planned trip to Harmony

Located in northeastern Pennsylvania. Area settled, by 1787. Organized 1809. Population in 1830 about 340. Population in 1840 about 520. Contained Harmony village (no longer in existence). Josiah Stowell hired JS to help look for treasure in area, Oct. 1825...

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, Pennsylvania, mentioned in the opening line of the letter.
The purpose of this journey by Joseph Smith Sr.

12 July 1771–14 Sept. 1840. Cooper, farmer, teacher, merchant. Born at Topsfield, Essex Co., Massachusetts. Son of Asael Smith and Mary Duty. Nominal member of Congregationalist church at Topsfield. Married to Lucy Mack by Seth Austin, 24 Jan. 1796, at Tunbridge...

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is not known. He made the trip around the time that Hyrum Smith

9 Feb. 1800–27 June 1844. Farmer, cooper. Born at Tunbridge, Orange Co., Vermont. Son of Joseph Smith Sr. and Lucy Mack. Moved to Randolph, Orange Co., 1802; to Tunbridge, before May 1803; to Royalton, Windsor Co., Vermont, 1804; to Sharon, Windsor Co., by...

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and Oliver Cowdery

3 Oct. 1806–3 Mar. 1850. Clerk, teacher, justice of the peace, lawyer, newspaper editor. Born at Wells, Rutland Co., Vermont. Son of William Cowdery and Rebecca Fuller. Raised Congregationalist. Moved to western New York and clerked at a store, ca. 1825–1828...

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encountered difficulties with Abner Cole

Aug. 1783–13 July 1835. Bar iron and castings manufacturer, judge, newspaper editor and publisher. Likely born in Chesterfield, Hampshire Co., Massachusetts. Son of Southworth Cole and Ruxby Bryant. Moved to Geneva, Ontario and Seneca counties, New York, ...

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, editor of a local Palmyra

Known as Swift’s Landing and Tolland before being renamed Palmyra, 1796. Incorporated, Mar. 1827, two years after completion of adjacent Erie Canal. Population in 1820 about 3,700. Joseph Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith family lived in village briefly, beginning ...

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, New York, newspaper, the Reflector. In December 1829 Cole announced to his readers his intention to begin publishing extracts from the Book of Mormon,1

In the 9 December 1829 issue of the newspaper, Cole (under the pseudonym Obadiah Dogberry Esq.) declared that since the Book of Mormon would “not be ready for delivery for some months to come,—at the solicitation of many of our readers we have concluded to commence publishing extracts from it,” to appear in the near future. (“Gold Bible,” Reflector [Palmyra, NY], 9 Dec. 1829, 39, italics in original.)  


and in January he began circulating portions of the still-unpublished book without JS’s permission. Cole produced his paper on “nights and sundays” at E. B. Grandin

30 Mar. 1806–16 Apr. 1845. Printer, newspaper editor and publisher, butcher, shipper, tanner. Born in Freehold, Monmouth Co., New Jersey. Son of William Grandin and Amy Lewis. Moved to Williamson, Ontario Co., New York, by 1810; to Pultneyville, Ontario Co...

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’s printing office in Palmyra, which gave him access to the pages of the Book of Mormon being printed there.2

Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1844–1845, bk. 9, [9].  


It seems unlikely, however, that Cole’s announced intention to print parts of the Book of Mormon prompted Joseph Smith Sr.’s decision to go, as the letter puts it, “directly” to JS’s home in Harmony

Located in northeastern Pennsylvania. Area settled, by 1787. Organized 1809. Population in 1830 about 340. Population in 1840 about 520. Contained Harmony village (no longer in existence). Josiah Stowell hired JS to help look for treasure in area, Oct. 1825...

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. There is no evidence that Cowdery or the Smiths knew of the announcement, and the Reflector did not actually publish extracts of the Book of Mormon until the 2 January 1830 issue.3

“The First Book of Nephi,” Reflector (Palmyra, NY), 2 Jan. 1830, 9.  


Lucy Mack Smith

8 July 1775–14 May 1856. Oilcloth painter, nurse, fund-raiser, author. Born at Gilsum, Cheshire Co., New Hampshire. Daughter of Solomon Mack Sr. and Lydia Gates. Moved to Montague, Franklin Co., Massachusetts, 1779; to Tunbridge, Orange Co., Vermont, 1788...

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’s account of the Reflector affair, while providing no dates, explains that Hyrum Smith

9 Feb. 1800–27 June 1844. Farmer, cooper. Born at Tunbridge, Orange Co., Vermont. Son of Joseph Smith Sr. and Lucy Mack. Moved to Randolph, Orange Co., 1802; to Tunbridge, before May 1803; to Royalton, Windsor Co., Vermont, 1804; to Sharon, Windsor Co., by...

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and Oliver Cowdery were unaware of Cole’s intentions when they went to the printing office on a certain Sunday after Hyrum had a feeling of uneasiness. There they found Cole printing extracts of the Book of Mormon, and a verbal confrontation ensued, resulting in Cole’s refusal to cease his operations. Lucy Smith reported that Joseph Smith Sr. then “set out as soon as possible for Penn[sylvania]

Area first settled by Swedish immigrants, 1628. William Penn received grant for territory from King Charles II, 1681, and established British settlement, 1682. Philadelphia was center of government for original thirteen U.S. colonies from time of Revolutionary...

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” to alert JS of Cole’s actions.4

Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1844–1845, bk. 9, [9]–[10].  


If the confrontation occurred with Cole on 27 December 1829, the Sunday previous to the first distribution of an issue containing Book of Mormon extracts, Joseph Sr. might have left the next day to inform JS of Cole’s intentions, and thus Cowdery’s letter would have been penned to accompany him.
However, it is unlikely for several reasons that a confrontation with Cole

Aug. 1783–13 July 1835. Bar iron and castings manufacturer, judge, newspaper editor and publisher. Likely born in Chesterfield, Hampshire Co., Massachusetts. Son of Southworth Cole and Ruxby Bryant. Moved to Geneva, Ontario and Seneca counties, New York, ...

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over the Book of Mormon was the impetus for this letter. There is no indication of this purpose in the letter itself. Although Cowdery

3 Oct. 1806–3 Mar. 1850. Clerk, teacher, justice of the peace, lawyer, newspaper editor. Born at Wells, Rutland Co., Vermont. Son of William Cowdery and Rebecca Fuller. Raised Congregationalist. Moved to western New York and clerked at a store, ca. 1825–1828...

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reported on the progress of the printing, he said nothing about Cole or his intentions to circulate passages of the Book of Mormon in the Reflector. The tone of the letter also lacks the urgency one might expect in a hurried effort to call JS back to Palmyra

First permanent white settlers arrived, ca. 1789. Included village of Palmyra. Erie Canal opened, 1825, in southern portion of township. Population in 1810 about 2,200. Population in 1830 about 3,400. Home of Joseph Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith family, beginning...

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. The text of the letter itself, therefore, makes it highly unlikely that it was written the morning after Cowdery and Hyrum Smith

9 Feb. 1800–27 June 1844. Farmer, cooper. Born at Tunbridge, Orange Co., Vermont. Son of Joseph Smith Sr. and Lucy Mack. Moved to Randolph, Orange Co., 1802; to Tunbridge, before May 1803; to Royalton, Windsor Co., Vermont, 1804; to Sharon, Windsor Co., by...

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“contended with him [Cole] a long time to dissuade him from his purpose.”5

Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1844–1845, bk. 9, [9]–[10].  


Lucy Mack Smith

8 July 1775–14 May 1856. Oilcloth painter, nurse, fund-raiser, author. Born at Gilsum, Cheshire Co., New Hampshire. Daughter of Solomon Mack Sr. and Lydia Gates. Moved to Montague, Franklin Co., Massachusetts, 1779; to Tunbridge, Orange Co., Vermont, 1788...

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’s account provides additional evidence that the initial confrontation with Cole

Aug. 1783–13 July 1835. Bar iron and castings manufacturer, judge, newspaper editor and publisher. Likely born in Chesterfield, Hampshire Co., Massachusetts. Son of Southworth Cole and Ruxby Bryant. Moved to Geneva, Ontario and Seneca counties, New York, ...

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occurred in January rather than in December, which would make it impossible that the confrontation with Cole led Cowdery

3 Oct. 1806–3 Mar. 1850. Clerk, teacher, justice of the peace, lawyer, newspaper editor. Born at Wells, Rutland Co., Vermont. Son of William Cowdery and Rebecca Fuller. Raised Congregationalist. Moved to western New York and clerked at a store, ca. 1825–1828...

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to write this 28 December letter. She explained that JS and his father returned from Harmony

Located in northeastern Pennsylvania. Area settled, by 1787. Organized 1809. Population in 1830 about 340. Population in 1840 about 520. Contained Harmony village (no longer in existence). Josiah Stowell hired JS to help look for treasure in area, Oct. 1825...

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the Sunday following the confrontation between Cowdery and Cole, and she recalled that the day they arrived in Palmyra

First permanent white settlers arrived, ca. 1789. Included village of Palmyra. Erie Canal opened, 1825, in southern portion of township. Population in 1810 about 2,200. Population in 1830 about 3,400. Home of Joseph Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith family, beginning...

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was “the most blustering cold and disagreable that I ever experinced.” After fighting through the storm, they arrived “nearly s[t]iffened with the cold,” and JS “went the same night to the printing office as it was sunday the day in which Mr. Cole published” his paper. Lucy Smith’s reference to the bitter cold makes a mid-January journey by JS much more likely than one occurring a week after 27 December, since the winter was quite mild in the area until 7 January, when a sudden and intense cold front hit.6

“Singular Winter,” Schenectady (NY) Cabinet, 6 Jan. 1830, [2]; “From Albany,” New-York Spectator, 15 Jan. 1830, 5.  


If Lucy Smith’s recollection of the weather is correct, JS’s trip to Palmyra could not have occurred before 10 January, the Sunday following what would have been a 3 January confrontation between Hyrum Smith

9 Feb. 1800–27 June 1844. Farmer, cooper. Born at Tunbridge, Orange Co., Vermont. Son of Joseph Smith Sr. and Lucy Mack. Moved to Randolph, Orange Co., 1802; to Tunbridge, before May 1803; to Royalton, Windsor Co., Vermont, 1804; to Sharon, Windsor Co., by...

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, Cowdery, and Cole.7

There is additional evidence from Cole himself that may support the conclusion that his meeting with JS occurred on 10 January. In the 13 January issue of his paper, Cole explained to his readers that “the appellation of ‘Gold Bible,’ is only a cant cognomen that has been given it by the unbelievers. . . . The true title of the work, as appears from the copy-right, is ‘The Book of Mormon.’” Cole’s reference to the phrasing on the copyright form may suggest that he had discussed the matter of copyright when JS arrived at his shop the previous Sunday to assert his rights to the publication of the Book of Mormon. According to Lucy Smith, after initial belligerence, Cole agreed to an arbitration of the matter. He discontinued his publication of extracts from the Book of Mormon after the 22 January 1830 issue of the Reflector. (“Gold Bible,” Reflector [Palmyra, NY], 13 Jan. 1830, 20; Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1844–1845, bk. 9, [9]–[11]; see also Copyright for Book of Mormon, 11 June 1829.)  


The impetus for this letter, then, was not the episode with Cole

Aug. 1783–13 July 1835. Bar iron and castings manufacturer, judge, newspaper editor and publisher. Likely born in Chesterfield, Hampshire Co., Massachusetts. Son of Southworth Cole and Ruxby Bryant. Moved to Geneva, Ontario and Seneca counties, New York, ...

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, which evidently had not yet occurred. Instead, Cowdery

3 Oct. 1806–3 Mar. 1850. Clerk, teacher, justice of the peace, lawyer, newspaper editor. Born at Wells, Rutland Co., Vermont. Son of William Cowdery and Rebecca Fuller. Raised Congregationalist. Moved to western New York and clerked at a store, ca. 1825–1828...

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’s purpose seems to be to convey some personal feelings to JS and to provide a brief accounting of his activities in Palmyra

First permanent white settlers arrived, ca. 1789. Included village of Palmyra. Erie Canal opened, 1825, in southern portion of township. Population in 1810 about 2,200. Population in 1830 about 3,400. Home of Joseph Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith family, beginning...

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. He makes clear to JS that while he had spent much of his time engaged in the publication of the Book of Mormon, he had not neglected his other religious duties.8

A June 1829 revelation had commanded Cowdery to “cry repentance unto this people” and “search out the twelve” disciples who were to “go into all the world to preach my gospel unto every creature.” (Revelation, June 1829–B [D&C 18:14, 28, 37].)  


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