31764

John Whitmer, History, 1831–circa 1847

Images of this item © Community of Christ and licensed to the Joseph Smith Papers Project. Inquiries about high-resolution images of this item for scholarly use should be directed to the Community of Christ Library-Archives, Independence, Missouri.
And were committed to Jail266

At a court of inquiry held at Richmond, circuit court judge Austin A. King bound over twenty-four Latter-day Saints for trial for crimes allegedly committed in Caldwell, Daviess, and Ray counties. JS, Sidney Rigdon, Hyrum Smith, Lyman Wight, Alexander McRae, and Caleb Baldwin were charged with treason, for which bail could not be posted. They were incarcerated at Liberty, Clay County, on 1 December 1838, pending trial on 7 March 1839. (Document Containing the Correspondence, 150.)  


but bfore the trial came on which was moved to som of the Co. of this state

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...

More Info
where the people were not so much prejudiced against them, as they were moved from Clay Co.

Settled ca. 1800. Organized from Ray Co., 1822. Original size diminished when land was taken to create several surrounding counties. Liberty designated county seat, 1822. Population in 1830 about 5,000; in 1836 about 8,500; and in 1840 about 8,300. Refuge...

More Info
to the County where they were to be tried, they hirred the guard to let them go &c which they did and informed their brethren that an anger angel had delivered them from the guard,267

JS and his fellow prisoners escaped with the cooperation of their guards while being transported from Gallatin, Daviess County, Missouri, to Columbia, Boone County, Missouri. No other contemporaneous record of the time mentions a claim by JS or his associates that an angel helped them to escape; JS published an account in 1839 explaining that the prisoners “took the advantage of the situation of our guard” and escaped. (JS, “Extract, from the Private Journal,” Times and Seasons, July 1839, 1:7; see also Promissory Note, JS to John Brassfield, 16 Apr. 1839, JS Collection, CHL; compare JS, Journal, 28 Feb. 1843.)  


when in fact money hired those base & corrupt men, who let them go, and thus through the wickedness of those to whom theeir safe keeping was committed these men escaped the Justice of the law of the land which they had transgressed and went unpunished at this time.

Chapter 21

Chapter 21.
Now after Smith & those who were with him were let g they speedily went to Ill.

Became part of Northwest Territory of U.S., 1787. Admitted as state, 1818. Population in 1840 about 480,000. Population in 1845 about 660,000. Plentiful, inexpensive land attracted settlers from northern and southern states. Following expulsion from Missouri...

More Info
to a place which Smith named Nauvoo

Principal gathering place for Saints following expulsion from Missouri. Beginning in 1839, LDS church purchased lands in earlier settlement of Commerce and planned settlement of Commerce City, as well as surrounding areas. Served as church headquarters, 1839...

More Info
. where they built a city which they called Nauvoo

Principal gathering place for Saints following expulsion from Missouri. Beginning in 1839, LDS church purchased lands in earlier settlement of Commerce and planned settlement of Commerce City, as well as surrounding areas. Served as church headquarters, 1839...

More Info
268

In early 1839, after they fled Missouri, the Latter-day Saints established temporary headquarters at Quincy, Illinois. Beginning in May, they began settling in and around Commerce, Hancock County, Illinois, on the banks of the Mississippi River, where they established a community that came to be called Nauvoo. (See Leonard, Nauvoo, 55–59.)  


and began to build up a broken and scattered people—sending forth many Elders and priests &c. to proclaim to the Nations of the earth the sufferings of the Saints & also the gospel in great haste, and many Received the gospel and gathered to Nauvoo

Principal gathering place for Saints following expulsion from Missouri. Beginning in 1839, LDS church purchased lands in earlier settlement of Commerce and planned settlement of Commerce City, as well as surrounding areas. Served as church headquarters, 1839...

More Info
and built a City— Smith receivd a Commandment269

Revelation, 19 Jan. 1841, in Doctrine and Covenants 103:10, 1844 ed. [D&C 124:40].  


to build a house

JS revelation, dated Jan. 1841, commanded Saints to build temple and hotel (Nauvoo House). Cornerstone laid, 6 Apr. 1841. Saints volunteered labor, money, and other resources for temple construction. Construction directed by committee, which included Reynolds...

More Info
unto the Name of the Lord, Which they speedily commenced but did not complete it before the wicked rose up and murdered Joseph & Hiram 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...

View Full Bio
— Now the Mormons (as they are called by those who do not believe in the book of Mormon) found great favor in the eyes of the Gov.

18 July 1789–14 Feb. 1852. Ferry owner, farmer, sheriff, politician. Born in Fayette Co., Kentucky. Son of Thomas Carlin and Elizabeth Evans. Baptist. Moved to Missouri, by 1803. Moved to Illinois, by 1812. Served in War of 1812. Married Rebecca Hewitt, 13...

View Full Bio
270 and Congress of Ill.

Became part of Northwest Territory of U.S., 1787. Admitted as state, 1818. Population in 1840 about 480,000. Population in 1845 about 660,000. Plentiful, inexpensive land attracted settlers from northern and southern states. Following expulsion from Missouri...

More Info
So that the Mormons had [p. 89]
I And were committed to Jail266

At a court of inquiry held at Richmond, circuit court judge Austin A. King bound over twenty-four Latter-day Saints for trial for crimes allegedly committed in Caldwell, Daviess, and Ray counties. JS, Sidney Rigdon, Hyrum Smith, Lyman Wight, Alexander McRae, and Caleb Baldwin were charged with treason, for which bail could not be posted. They were incarcerated at Liberty, Clay County, on 1 December 1838, pending trial on 7 March 1839. (Document Containing the Correspondence, 150.)  


but bfore  the trial came on which was moved to som  of the Co. of this state

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...

More Info
where the people were  not so much prej[u]diced against them, as they  were moved from Clay Co.

Settled ca. 1800. Organized from Ray Co., 1822. Original size diminished when land was taken to create several surrounding counties. Liberty designated county seat, 1822. Population in 1830 about 5,000; in 1836 about 8,500; and in 1840 about 8,300. Refuge...

More Info
to the County  where they were to be tried, they hirred the  guard to let them go &c which they did  and informed their brethren that an anger [angel] had  delivered them from the guard,267

JS and his fellow prisoners escaped with the cooperation of their guards while being transported from Gallatin, Daviess County, Missouri, to Columbia, Boone County, Missouri. No other contemporaneous record of the time mentions a claim by JS or his associates that an angel helped them to escape; JS published an account in 1839 explaining that the prisoners “took the advantage of the situation of our guard” and escaped. (JS, “Extract, from the Private Journal,” Times and Seasons, July 1839, 1:7; see also Promissory Note, JS to John Brassfield, 16 Apr. 1839, JS Collection, CHL; compare JS, Journal, 28 Feb. 1843.)  


when in  fact money hired those base & corrupt  men, who let them go, and thus through the  wickedness of those to whom theeir safe keeping  was committed these men escaped the Justice of  the law of the land which they had transg[r]essed  and went unpunished at this time.

Chapter 21

Chapter 21. Feb 1847
Now after Smith & Rigdon

19 Feb. 1793–14 July 1876. Tanner, farmer, minister. Born at St. Clair, Allegheny Co., Pennsylvania. Son of William Rigdon and Nancy Gallaher. Joined United Baptists, ca. 1818. Preached at Warren, Trumbull Co., Ohio, and vicinity, 1819–1821. Married Phebe...

View Full Bio
& those who were  with him were let g they speedily went to Ill.

Became part of Northwest Territory of U.S., 1787. Admitted as state, 1818. Population in 1840 about 480,000. Population in 1845 about 660,000. Plentiful, inexpensive land attracted settlers from northern and southern states. Following expulsion from Missouri...

More Info
 to a place which Smith named Nauvoo

Principal gathering place for Saints following expulsion from Missouri. Beginning in 1839, LDS church purchased lands in earlier settlement of Commerce and planned settlement of Commerce City, as well as surrounding areas. Served as church headquarters, 1839...

More Info
. where they  built a city which the[y] called Nauvoo

Principal gathering place for Saints following expulsion from Missouri. Beginning in 1839, LDS church purchased lands in earlier settlement of Commerce and planned settlement of Commerce City, as well as surrounding areas. Served as church headquarters, 1839...

More Info
268

In early 1839, after they fled Missouri, the Latter-day Saints established temporary headquarters at Quincy, Illinois. Beginning in May, they began settling in and around Commerce, Hancock County, Illinois, on the banks of the Mississippi River, where they established a community that came to be called Nauvoo. (See Leonard, Nauvoo, 55–59.)  


and began to  build up a broken and scattered people—sending  forth many Elders and priests &c. to proclaim to the  Nations of the earth the sufferings of the Saints &  also the gospel in great haste, and many Receiv ed the gospel and gathered to Nauvoo

Principal gathering place for Saints following expulsion from Missouri. Beginning in 1839, LDS church purchased lands in earlier settlement of Commerce and planned settlement of Commerce City, as well as surrounding areas. Served as church headquarters, 1839...

More Info
and built a  City— Smith receivd a Commandment269

Revelation, 19 Jan. 1841, in Doctrine and Covenants 103:10, 1844 ed. [D&C 124:40].  


to build a  house

JS revelation, dated Jan. 1841, commanded Saints to build temple and hotel (Nauvoo House). Cornerstone laid, 6 Apr. 1841. Saints volunteered labor, money, and other resources for temple construction. Construction directed by committee, which included Reynolds...

More Info
unto the Name of the Lord, Which they  speedily commenced but did not complete it before  the wicked rose up an[d] murdered Joseph & Hiram [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...

View Full Bio
— Now the Mormons (<as> & they are called by  those who do not believe in the book of Mor mon) found great favor in the eyes of the Gov.

18 July 1789–14 Feb. 1852. Ferry owner, farmer, sheriff, politician. Born in Fayette Co., Kentucky. Son of Thomas Carlin and Elizabeth Evans. Baptist. Moved to Missouri, by 1803. Moved to Illinois, by 1812. Served in War of 1812. Married Rebecca Hewitt, 13...

View Full Bio
270  and Congress of Ill.

Became part of Northwest Territory of U.S., 1787. Admitted as state, 1818. Population in 1840 about 480,000. Population in 1845 about 660,000. Plentiful, inexpensive land attracted settlers from northern and southern states. Following expulsion from Missouri...

More Info
So that the Mormons had [p. 89]
PreviousNext
John Whitmer

27 Aug. 1802–11 July 1878. Farmer, stock raiser, newspaper editor. Born in Pennsylvania. Son of Peter Whitmer Sr. and Mary Musselman. Member of German Reformed Church, Fayette, Seneca Co., New York. Baptized by Oliver Cowdery, June 1829, most likely in Seneca...

View Full Bio
, History, 1831–ca. 1847, as found in “The Book of John, Whitmer kept by Comma[n]d,” ca. 1838–ca. 1847; handwriting of John Whitmer

27 Aug. 1802–11 July 1878. Farmer, stock raiser, newspaper editor. Born in Pennsylvania. Son of Peter Whitmer Sr. and Mary Musselman. Member of German Reformed Church, Fayette, Seneca Co., New York. Baptized by Oliver Cowdery, June 1829, most likely in Seneca...

View Full Bio
; ninety-six pages (two additional leaves missing); CCLA. Includes redactions, editing marks, and archival marking.
John Whitmer

27 Aug. 1802–11 July 1878. Farmer, stock raiser, newspaper editor. Born in Pennsylvania. Son of Peter Whitmer Sr. and Mary Musselman. Member of German Reformed Church, Fayette, Seneca Co., New York. Baptized by Oliver Cowdery, June 1829, most likely in Seneca...

View Full Bio
inscribed his history into a blank book containing leaves ruled with thirty-four blue-green horizontal lines (now faded). Evidence suggests there were originally twelve gatherings of twelve leaves (twenty-four pages) each. The entire fifth gathering is missing from the current volume, and one extra leaf not part of the original text block was inserted between the fourth and sixth gatherings, making 133 interior leaves in the current volume. The text block was sewn all along on recessed cords. The blank leaves measure 12¼ x 7⅞ inches (31 x 20 cm); the inscribed leaves are slightly smaller in width, having been trimmed about ⅛ inch (0.3 cm) during conservation work. The volume was constructed with front and back covers of pasteboard and likely had a hollow-back spine and quarter-leather binding. The outside covers are adorned in shell marbled paper, with gray-green body and veins of blue and red. The complete volume currently measures 12½ x 8⅛ x 1 inches (32 x 21 x 3 cm).
Details of the original state of the volume are impossible to determine because of conservation work done in the second half of the twentieth century. Initially the inscribed leaves were removed from the original boards and from the intact blank leaves of the volume and rebound separately in a modern comb binding. These inscribed leaves were later removed from this binding, reinforced along the bound edge with paper, laminated with thin paper, and bound in a modern case binding. A third conservation effort reversed the earlier work by removing the laminated material and reattaching the inscribed leaves to the blank leaves and the original boards.
The final leaf of the fourth gathering contains manuscript pages 95 and 96. The next two leaves, containing manuscript pages 97 through 100, are missing. They were removed before 1893, when Andrew Jenson, a representative of the Church Historian’s Office in Salt Lake City, inspected the volume and noted that it was missing two leaves at that point. Evidence indicates that the remaining leaves of the fifth gathering were intact but blank when Jenson inspected the volume in 1893, suggesting they were discarded during the first conservation effort in the twentieth century. The first blank leaf following manuscript page 96 does not match the texture or form of the other blank leaves, but it does bear a slight water stain matching staining found on almost all leaves within the book. It may be an extra flyleaf from either the front or back of the volume inserted after page 96, or it may be paper from a different source; in either case, it was inserted early enough to be stained with the rest of the volume. The endpapers are original and currently consist of pastedowns and single flyleaves in the front and back of the volume.
An unidentified scribe, most likely working in the nineteenth century, wrote “Church History” on the top of the front cover. A green adhesive label is affixed to the front cover. At some point, someone attempted to remove the label but succeeded in removing only portions of it. The only writing visible on the label is “HURC”, a remnant of the word “CHURCH”. The current spine of the volume was added during conservation work, and thus it is unknown whether the original spine bore a title. The recto of the front flyleaf contains several redactions or archival markings in graphite in an unknown hand: “John Whitmer | written | 1835–1838 | after 1860” and “MS History of church | 1830–1838”. The verso is blank, aside from offsetting from the first interior page and a stamped “1072” near the bottom. Whitmer

27 Aug. 1802–11 July 1878. Farmer, stock raiser, newspaper editor. Born in Pennsylvania. Son of Peter Whitmer Sr. and Mary Musselman. Member of German Reformed Church, Fayette, Seneca Co., New York. Baptized by Oliver Cowdery, June 1829, most likely in Seneca...

View Full Bio
inscribed his history from page 1 through the bottom of page 96, at which point the narrative ends midsentence, suggesting it originally continued onto the next page. When Andrew Jenson saw the book in 1893 while visiting Missouri to gather historical information, he made a handwritten copy of the volume and provided a physical description. He wrote that “four pages or two leaves have been torn off the book, which is seen from fragments of the leaves remaining.” He also noted that “the next page left intact is 101. No other writing, however, appears on this page, nor on any of the succeeding pages.”1

Whitmer, “The Book of John Whitmer,” Andrew Jenson typescript, ca. Mar. 1894, 68.  


Jenson’s earlier draft stated that the page “is numbered 101.”2

Whitmer, “The Book of John Whitmer,” Andrew Jenson manuscript copy, ca. Sept. 1893, 85.  


If this was the case, then the page numbered 101 was part of the fifth gathering and is now missing. At some point, likely during the early twentieth century, the leaf containing pages 95 and 96 was repaired with adhesive tape; the tape was removed during a later conservation effort.3

The leaf currently bears remnants of this tape. Microfilm made of the manuscript in 1974 shows clear evidence of the tape. (Whitmer, “The Book of John Whitmer,” microfilm, Oct. 1974, Research Library and Archives, Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Independence, MO, copy at CHL.)  


Redactions were made by John Whitmer himself, and subsequent editing marks were made that correspond to the early twentieth-century publication of Whitmer’s history by the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. (RLDS church).4

“Church History,” Journal of History, Jan. 1908, 43–63; Apr. 1908, 135–150; July 1908, 292–305.  


Following his excommunication in 1838, John Whitmer

27 Aug. 1802–11 July 1878. Farmer, stock raiser, newspaper editor. Born in Pennsylvania. Son of Peter Whitmer Sr. and Mary Musselman. Member of German Reformed Church, Fayette, Seneca Co., New York. Baptized by Oliver Cowdery, June 1829, most likely in Seneca...

View Full Bio
apparently retained possession of the history. In a January 1844 offer to sell his history to the church, Whitmer wrote that the “church history” was “at my controll but not in my Possession.”5

John Whitmer, Far West, MO, to William W. Phelps, Nauvoo, IL, 8 Jan. 1844, JS Office Papers, CHL.  


Willard Richards

24 June 1804–11 Mar. 1854. Teacher, lecturer, doctor, clerk, printer, editor, postmaster. Born at Hopkinton, Middlesex Co., Massachusetts. Son of Joseph Richards and Rhoda Howe. Moved to Richmond, Berkshire Co., Massachusetts, 1813. Moved to Chatham, Columbia...

View Full Bio
declined the offer,6

Willard Richards, Nauvoo, IL, to John Whitmer, Far West, MO, 23 Feb. 1844, copy, Willard Richards, Papers, CHL.  


and Whitmer certainly had the “Book of John Whitmer” after January 1844, because he updated the volume after JS’s death.
It appears Whitmer

27 Aug. 1802–11 July 1878. Farmer, stock raiser, newspaper editor. Born in Pennsylvania. Son of Peter Whitmer Sr. and Mary Musselman. Member of German Reformed Church, Fayette, Seneca Co., New York. Baptized by Oliver Cowdery, June 1829, most likely in Seneca...

View Full Bio
retained his papers until his death in July 1878, after which his widow, Sarah Maria Jackson Whitmer, sent the “Book of John Whitmer” (though apparently not any earlier notes or drafts) and other papers to Richmond

Area settled, ca. 1814. Officially platted as Ray Co. seat, 1827. Population in 1840 about 500. Seat of Fifth Judicial Circuit Court of Missouri; also location of courthouse and jails. JS and about sixty other Mormon men were incarcerated here while awaiting...

More Info
, Missouri, where Whitmer’s brother David

7 Jan. 1805–25 Jan. 1888. Farmer, livery keeper. Born near Harrisburg, Dauphin Co., Pennsylvania. Son of Peter Whitmer Sr. and Mary Musselman. Raised Presbyterian. Moved to Ontario Co., New York, shortly after birth. Attended German Reformed Church. Arranged...

View Full Bio
resided.7

Whitmer, “The Book of John Whitmer,” Andrew Jenson typescript, ca. Mar. 1894, [69]; “Report of Elders Orson Pratt and Joseph F. Smith,” Deseret News, 27 Nov. 1878, 674–675; 4 Dec. 1878, 690.  


David Whitmer had possession of the volume in the 1880s, before his death in 1888.8

“Revelation Revisers,” Missouri Republican (St. Louis), 16 July 1884, [7]; see also “The Book of Mormon,” Chicago Tribune, 17 Dec. 1885, 3.  


In 1893, when Andrew Jenson inspected and copied the “Book of John Whitmer,” it was in the possession of David J. Whitmer, David Whitmer’s son. Following David J. Whitmer’s death, his nephew George Schweich, a grandson of David Whitmer, took possession of the material, along with the Book of Mormon printer’s manuscript and other early Latter-day Saint manuscripts.9

Andrew Jenson et al., “Historical Landmarks,” Deseret Evening News, 26 Sept. 1888, 7; T. E. Lloyd, “The Carroll-Lloyd Expose,” Zion’s Ensign, 15 July 1893, 6; “The Book of Mormon,” New York Times, 21 Sept. 1899, 9; George Schweich, Richmond, MO, to O. R. Beardsley, 17 Jan. 1900, Miscellanea, Marie Eccles-Caine Archives of Intermountain Americana, Utah State University Special Collections, Logan; Walter W. Smith, Independence, MO, to S. A. Burgess, Independence, MO, 15 Apr. 1926, J. F. Curtis Papers, CCLA; see also Heman C. Smith, Lamoni, IA, to George Schweich, 20 July 1896, CCLA.  


By 1902, the First Presidency of the RLDS church approved the purchase of papers owned by Schweich, including the “Book of John Whitmer,” the Book of Mormon printer’s manuscript, and several leaves that had been separated from Revelation Book 1.10

“Minutes of First Presidency,” 24 Apr. 1902, CCLA; Walter W. Smith, Independence, MO, to the RLDS First Presidency, Independence, MO, 14 Sept. 1925, Whitmer Papers, CCLA; see also Source Note to Revelation Book 1.  


The RLDS church, later renamed the Community of Christ, has maintained custody of the Whitmer history since that time.

Facts