30694

Letter from Oliver Cowdery, 8 April 1831

stranger or foreigner to go among them to teach or preach15

A 6 June 1831 revelation possibly responded to this portion of Cowdery’s letter: “again let my Servent Joseph & Sidney [Rigdon] & Edward [Partridge] take with them a recomend from the Church & let there be one obtained for my Servent Oliver.” (Revelation, 6 June 1831 [D&C 52:41].)  


We are about Eleven miles from Indipendence

Located twelve miles from western Missouri border. Permanently settled, platted, and designated county seat, 1827. Hub for steamboat travel on Missouri River. Point of departure for Santa Fe Trail. Population in 1831 about 300. Mormon population by summer...

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where we send our letters mailed & also to receive letters and we thought that we shall write evry week to our brothren Newel K. Whitney

3/5 Feb. 1795–23 Sept. 1850. Trader, merchant. Born at Marlborough, Windham Co., Vermont. Son of Samuel Whitney and Susanna Kimball. Moved to Fairfield, Herkimer Co., New York, 1803. Merchant at Plattsburg, Clinton Co., New York, 1814. Mercantile clerk for...

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and on your receiving this we want you to do the same by us for we think that if any people are entitled to the benefits of free postage it should be us Broth Frederick

28 Oct. 1787–10 Oct. 1842. Ship’s pilot, teacher, physician, justice of the peace. Born at Suffield, Hartford Co., Connecticut. Son of William Wheeler Williams and Ruth Granger. Moved to Newburg, Cuyahoga Co., Ohio, 1799. Practiced Thomsonian botanical system...

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wants Bro Whitney

3/5 Feb. 1795–23 Sept. 1850. Trader, merchant. Born at Marlborough, Windham Co., Vermont. Son of Samuel Whitney and Susanna Kimball. Moved to Fairfield, Herkimer Co., New York, 1803. Merchant at Plattsburg, Clinton Co., New York, 1814. Mercantile clerk for...

View Full Bio
to write the principle names of those brethren who have been baptized of his neighbours since he left16

Frederick G. Williams’s request gives an indication that the 1 March letter to the missionaries from the Kirtland area converts probably explained that more people had been baptized since the departure of the missionaries in November. Williams, the only member of the missionary party who was from Ohio, inquired about the specific names of the new converts.  


brother Frederick

28 Oct. 1787–10 Oct. 1842. Ship’s pilot, teacher, physician, justice of the peace. Born at Suffield, Hartford Co., Connecticut. Son of William Wheeler Williams and Ruth Granger. Moved to Newburg, Cuyahoga Co., Ohio, 1799. Practiced Thomsonian botanical system...

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wishes to inform his wife that he is sure that the Lord called him to come to this country and consequently he shall not return untill he calls him back again he also informs her that respecting that suit at Law that there can be nothing done on there part more till August term,17

It is uncertain what “suit at Law” Williams referred to. Philo Dibble’s later account explained that Williams owed $400 on the farm on which JS’s father was then residing and that the payment of the debt was due in order to save the farm. It is possible that the mentioned suit concerns this impending foreclosure. A revelation dictated a month later in Kirtland specifically addressed matters related to Williams’s farm, even though Williams was still in Missouri. The receipt of this letter in Kirtland may have prompted a greater inquiry about the situation and led to that May revelation. Dibble eventually sold part of his land holdings in early 1832 in order to pay the debt on Williams’s farm. (Dibble, Reminiscences, [4]; Revelation, 15 May 1831.)  


I wish my brother would write me the procedings of the several conferences

A meeting where ecclesiastical officers and other church members could conduct church business. The “Articles and Covenants” of the church directed the elders to hold conferences to perform “Church business.” The first of these conferences was held on 9 June...

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as they were held, the number of Elders

A male leader in the church generally; an ecclesiastical and priesthood office or one holding that office; a proselytizing missionary. The Book of Mormon explained that elders ordained priests and teachers and administered “the flesh and blood of Christ unto...

View Glossary
& Priests

An ecclesiastical and priesthood office. In the Book of Mormon, priests were described as those who baptized, administered “the flesh and blood of Christ unto the church,” and taught “the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.” A June 1829 revelation directed...

View Glossary
& members as he will at each house an oppertunity of knowing and as you write to me weekly (which I hope you will not fail to do) you would write general occurrances through each week, Finely Brethren farewell the Lord God of peace be with you & keep you firm unto his coming & kingdom Amen—
Oliver Cowdrey 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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[p. 12]
stranger or foreigner to go among them to teach or preach15

A 6 June 1831 revelation possibly responded to this portion of Cowdery’s letter: “again let my Servent Joseph & Sidney [Rigdon] & Edward [Partridge] take with them a recomend from the Church & let there be one obtained for my Servent Oliver.” (Revelation, 6 June 1831 [D&C 52:41].)  


 We are about Eleven miles from Indipendence

Located twelve miles from western Missouri border. Permanently settled, platted, and designated county seat, 1827. Hub for steamboat travel on Missouri River. Point of departure for Santa Fe Trail. Population in 1831 about 300. Mormon population by summer...

More Info
 where we send our letters mailed & also to receive  letters and we thought that we shall write evry week  to our brothren [Newel K.] Whitney

3/5 Feb. 1795–23 Sept. 1850. Trader, merchant. Born at Marlborough, Windham Co., Vermont. Son of Samuel Whitney and Susanna Kimball. Moved to Fairfield, Herkimer Co., New York, 1803. Merchant at Plattsburg, Clinton Co., New York, 1814. Mercantile clerk for...

View Full Bio
and on your receiving this we  want you to do the same by us for we think that if  any people are entitled of <to> the benefits of free postage  it [should be?] us Broth Frederick

28 Oct. 1787–10 Oct. 1842. Ship’s pilot, teacher, physician, justice of the peace. Born at Suffield, Hartford Co., Connecticut. Son of William Wheeler Williams and Ruth Granger. Moved to Newburg, Cuyahoga Co., Ohio, 1799. Practiced Thomsonian botanical system...

View Full Bio
wants Bro Whitney

3/5 Feb. 1795–23 Sept. 1850. Trader, merchant. Born at Marlborough, Windham Co., Vermont. Son of Samuel Whitney and Susanna Kimball. Moved to Fairfield, Herkimer Co., New York, 1803. Merchant at Plattsburg, Clinton Co., New York, 1814. Mercantile clerk for...

View Full Bio
to write  the principle names of those brethren who have  been baptized <of> his neighbours since he left16

Frederick G. Williams’s request gives an indication that the 1 March letter to the missionaries from the Kirtland area converts probably explained that more people had been baptized since the departure of the missionaries in November. Williams, the only member of the missionary party who was from Ohio, inquired about the specific names of the new converts.  


brother  Frederick

28 Oct. 1787–10 Oct. 1842. Ship’s pilot, teacher, physician, justice of the peace. Born at Suffield, Hartford Co., Connecticut. Son of William Wheeler Williams and Ruth Granger. Moved to Newburg, Cuyahoga Co., Ohio, 1799. Practiced Thomsonian botanical system...

View Full Bio
wishes <to> inform his wife that he is  sure that the Lord called him to come to this country  and consequently he shall not return untill he calls him  back again he also informs her that respecting that suit  at Law that there can be nothing done on there part  more till August term,17

It is uncertain what “suit at Law” Williams referred to. Philo Dibble’s later account explained that Williams owed $400 on the farm on which JS’s father was then residing and that the payment of the debt was due in order to save the farm. It is possible that the mentioned suit concerns this impending foreclosure. A revelation dictated a month later in Kirtland specifically addressed matters related to Williams’s farm, even though Williams was still in Missouri. The receipt of this letter in Kirtland may have prompted a greater inquiry about the situation and led to that May revelation. Dibble eventually sold part of his land holdings in early 1832 in order to pay the debt on Williams’s farm. (Dibble, Reminiscences, [4]; Revelation, 15 May 1831.)  


I wish <my> brother would  write me the procedings of the several conferences

A meeting where ecclesiastical officers and other church members could conduct church business. The “Articles and Covenants” of the church directed the elders to hold conferences to perform “Church business.” The first of these conferences was held on 9 June...

View Glossary
as  they were held, the number of Elders

A male leader in the church generally; an ecclesiastical and priesthood office or one holding that office; a proselytizing missionary. The Book of Mormon explained that elders ordained priests and teachers and administered “the flesh and blood of Christ unto...

View Glossary
& Priests

An ecclesiastical and priesthood office. In the Book of Mormon, priests were described as those who baptized, administered “the flesh and blood of Christ unto the church,” and taught “the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.” A June 1829 revelation directed...

View Glossary
&  members as he will at each house an oppertunity  of knowing and as you write to me weekly (which  I hope you will not fail to do) you would write general  occurrances through each week, Finely Brethren  farewell the Lord God of peace be with you & keep you  firm unto his coming & kingdom Amen—
Oliver Cowdrey [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...

View Full Bio
[p. 12]
Previous
This document is the second extant letter 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...

View Full Bio
wrote to his Ohio

French explored area, 1669. British took possession following French and Indian War, 1763. Ceded to U.S., 1783. First permanent white settlement established, 1788. Northeastern portion maintained as part of Connecticut, 1786, and called Connecticut Western...

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associates from Missouri

Area acquired by U.S. in Louisiana Purchase, 1803, and established as territory, 1812. Missouri Compromise, 1820, admitted Missouri as slave state, 1821. Population in 1830 about 140,000; in 1836 about 240,000; and in 1840 about 380,000. Mormon missionaries...

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. Cowdery had been unaware of the pending move of both JS and the church from New York

Located in northeast region of U.S. Area settled by Dutch traders, 1620s; later governed by Britain, 1664–1776. Admitted to U.S. as state, 1788. Population in 1810 about 1,000,000; in 1820 about 1,400,000; in 1830 about 1,900,000; and in 1840 about 2,400,...

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to Ohio when he wrote an earlier letter to newly baptized

An ordinance in which an individual is immersed in water for the remission of sins. The Book of Mormon explained that those with necessary authority were to baptize individuals who had repented of their sins. Baptized individuals also received the gift of...

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members in Ohio in January 1831.1

A copy of Cowdery’s first letter, dated 29 January 1831, is contained in Letter to Hyrum Smith, 3–4 Mar. 1831.  


At the time he wrote this second letter, however, he knew that the church had relocated and that JS resided in Kirtland

Located ten miles south of Lake Erie. Settled by 1811. Organized by 1818. Population in 1830 about 55 Latter-day Saints and 1,000 others; in 1838 about 2,000 Saints and 1,200 others; in 1839 about 100 Saints and 1,500 others. Mormon missionaries visited township...

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, Ohio. According to the letter presented here, Cowdery had received a letter a few days earlier informing him of the recent events in Ohio.
Though 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 letter opens with a general salutation to the “beloved brethren & sisters in the Lord,” it was evidently addressed to Newel K. Whitney

3/5 Feb. 1795–23 Sept. 1850. Trader, merchant. Born at Marlborough, Windham Co., Vermont. Son of Samuel Whitney and Susanna Kimball. Moved to Fairfield, Herkimer Co., New York, 1803. Merchant at Plattsburg, Clinton Co., New York, 1814. Mercantile clerk for...

View Full Bio
specifically. Frederick G. Williams

28 Oct. 1787–10 Oct. 1842. Ship’s pilot, teacher, physician, justice of the peace. Born at Suffield, Hartford Co., Connecticut. Son of William Wheeler Williams and Ruth Granger. Moved to Newburg, Cuyahoga Co., Ohio, 1799. Practiced Thomsonian botanical system...

View Full Bio
, one of Cowdery’s missionary companions in Missouri

Area acquired by U.S. in Louisiana Purchase, 1803, and established as territory, 1812. Missouri Compromise, 1820, admitted Missouri as slave state, 1821. Population in 1830 about 140,000; in 1836 about 240,000; and in 1840 about 380,000. Mormon missionaries...

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, listed Whitney as the recipient when he drafted the table of contents for JS’s Letterbook 1, and the letter itself states the intent to send the missionaries’ letters to “brothren Whitney.” Cowdery’s comment in the letter that the group felt entitled to free postage strongly suggests that their letters were routed through Whitney even though they were intended for a larger audience, including JS. Whitney was the postmaster of Kirtland

Located ten miles south of Lake Erie. Settled by 1811. Organized by 1818. Population in 1830 about 55 Latter-day Saints and 1,000 others; in 1838 about 2,000 Saints and 1,200 others; in 1839 about 100 Saints and 1,500 others. Mormon missionaries visited township...

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,2

Whitney had held the office of postmaster since 29 December 1826. The Kirtland Mills post office was located in his store. (U.S. Post Office Department, Records of Appointment of Postmasters, reel 4, vol. 6, p. 176; List of Post-Offices in the United States, 59; Table of the Post Offices in the United States, 216.)  


and his franking privilege allowed him to send and receive an unlimited number of letters weighing less than half an ounce without charge.3

While postage could be paid by the sender, the payment of postage was often the responsibility of the recipient of a letter, and thus many pieces of mail went unclaimed because the recipient either did not or could not pay the postage. (An Act to Reduce into One the Several Acts Establishing and Regulating the Post-Office Department [3 Mar. 1825], in Post-Office Laws, Instructions and Forms, pp. 15–16, sec. 27; John, Spreading the News, 121–124.)  


Because postal rates were calculated according to the distance the letter traveled, the missionaries in Missouri would have been charged twenty-five cents for every letter they received from the Kirtland area, a sum roughly equivalent to one-third of the average daily wages of an agricultural laborer.4

An Act to Reduce into One the Several Acts Establishing and Regulating the Post-Office Department [3 Mar. 1825], in Post-Office Laws, Instructions and Forms, pp. 8–9, sec. 12; Wright, Industrial Evolution of the United States, 217; Margo, Wages and Labor Markets in the United States, 67, table 3A.5.  


Since 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 letter of 29 January, the missionaries had encountered difficulties with government officials in their attempts to preach to the American Indians. Federal Indian agent Richard W. Cummins sent a letter on 15 February to his superior, General William Clark, who was serving as superintendent of Indian affairs in St. Louis

Located on west side of Mississippi River about fifteen miles south of confluence with Missouri River. Founded as fur-trading post by French settlers, 1764. Incorporated as town, 1809. First Mississippi steamboat docked by town, 1817. Incorporated as city...

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, alerting him to the presence of the Mormon missionaries. Cummins told Clark that the men “act very strange” and claim “they are sent by God and must preach.” Cummins explained further: “They have a new Revelation with them, as there Guide in teaching the Indians, which they say was shown to one of their Sects in a miraculous way, and that an Angel

Being who acts as a minister and messenger between heaven and earth. JS taught that angels were individuals who “belonged to this earth”; those who had already lived on earth were often resurrected beings. In addition to giving instruction, direction, and...

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from Heaven appeared to one of their Men and two others of their Sect. . . . I have refused to let them stay or, go among the Indians unless they first obtain permission from you or, some of the officers of the Genl Government.”5

Richard W. Cummins, Delaware and Shawnee Agency, to William Clark, [St. Louis, MO], 15 Feb. 1831, U.S. Office of Indian Affairs, Central Superintendency, Records, vol. 6, pp. 113–114.  


Cummins threatened the missionaries with imprisonment if they continued their preaching, according to Peter Whitmer Jr.

27 Sept. 1809–22 Sept. 1836. Tailor. Born at Fayette, Seneca Co., New York. Son of Peter Whitmer Sr. and Mary Musselman. Baptized by Oliver Cowdery, June 1829, in Seneca Lake, Seneca Co. One of the Eight Witnesses of the Book of Mormon, June 1829. Among six...

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, a member of the missionary party. In his summary of the confrontation with the Indian agent, Whitmer wrote that after the missionaries had commenced their preaching to the “delewares, and the tribe of Shawneyes . . . to our sorow there came a man whose name was Cumons and told us the he was a man under authorithy he told us that he would aprehend us up to the garoson.”6

Whitmer, Journal, Dec. 1831, [1].  


In an effort to obtain a permit to preach to the Indians, 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 to Clark on 14 February 1831, a letter that Parley P. Pratt

12 Apr. 1807–13 May 1857. Farmer, editor, publisher, teacher, school administrator, legislator, explorer, author. Born at Burlington, Otsego Co., New York. Son of Jared Pratt and Charity Dickinson. Traveled west with brother William to acquire land, 1823....

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presumably took to deliver in person on a journey to the East, which included a stop in St. Louis

Located on west side of Mississippi River about fifteen miles south of confluence with Missouri River. Founded as fur-trading post by French settlers, 1764. Incorporated as town, 1809. First Mississippi steamboat docked by town, 1817. Incorporated as city...

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.7

Oliver Cowdery, Independence, MO, to William Clark, [St. Louis, MO], 14 Feb. 1831, U.S. Office of Indian Affairs, Central Superintendency, Records, vol. 6, p. 103. At the time Pratt left, he was still unaware of the church’s move to Ohio. Pratt later described his journey: “Elders Cowdery, Whitmer, Peterson, myself, and F. G. Williams, who accompanied us from Kirtland, now assembled in Independence, Jackson County, Missouri, and came to the conclusion that one of our number had better return to the church in Ohio, and perhaps to head quarters in New York, in order to communicate with the Presidency, report ourselves, pay a visit to the numerous churches we had organized on our outward journey, and also to procure more books. For this laborious enterprise I was selected by the voice of my four brethren.” (Pratt, Autobiography, 61.)  


However, Clark was absent from his St. Louis post at the time Pratt arrived,8

See John Ruland, [St. Louis, MO], to John Henry Eaton, [Washington DC], 9 Jan. 1831, U.S. Office of Indian Affairs, Central Superintendency, Records, vol. 4, p. 198; and William Clark, St. Louis, MO, to John Henry Eaton, [Washington DC], 31 Mar. 1831, U.S. Office of Indian Affairs, Central Superintendency, Records, vol. 4, p. 207.  


and there is no indication that Clark responded to Cowdery’s letter. Nevertheless, Cowdery’s 8 April letter suggests that the missionaries expected a favorable resolution to their conflict with Cummins through Pratt’s efforts to obtain a permit from Clark.

Facts