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Letter from Oliver Cowdery, 28 January 1832

 
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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Kirtland Mills

Located in Newel K. Whitney store in northwest Kirtland on northeast corner of Chardon and Chillicothe roads. Whitney appointed postmaster, 29 Dec. 1826. JS and others listed “Kirtland Mills, Geauga County, Ohio” as return address for letters mailed, 1833...

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Geauga County
Ohio
0.5060

This indicates that postage on the letter was fifty cents, which agrees with the rates of postage established by Congress in 1825 and 1827: “Double letters, or those composed of two pieces of paper,” were charged double the usual rate of twenty-five cents—the cost of a letter traveling over four hundred miles. (Force, National Calendar, 140, italics in original.)  


 
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TEXT: “[page cut]wel”  


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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Kirtland Mills

Located in Newel K. Whitney store in northwest Kirtland on northeast corner of Chardon and Chillicothe roads. Whitney appointed postmaster, 29 Dec. 1826. JS and others listed “Kirtland Mills, Geauga County, Ohio” as return address for letters mailed, 1833...

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Geauga County
Ohio

Postmark in unidentified handwriting.  


0.5060

This indicates that postage on the letter was fifty cents, which agrees with the rates of postage established by Congress in 1825 and 1827: “Double letters, or those composed of two pieces of paper,” were charged double the usual rate of twenty-five cents—the cost of a letter traveling over four hundred miles. (Force, National Calendar, 140, italics in original.)  


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This 28 January 1832 letter from 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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provided JS with important information about the welfare of the Mormon community 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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. Cowdery and 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...

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were directed in a November 1831 revelation to travel to Independence

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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, Jackson County, Missouri, carrying copies of JS’s revelations, which the church planned to publish.1

Revelation, 11 Nov. 1831–A [D&C 69:1–2].  


They were also instructed to take with them money donated by church members to aid in purchasing land in the Independence area.2

An August 1831 revelation instructed Sidney Rigdon to write “an Epistle & subscription to be presented unto all the Churches to obtain money to be put into the hands of the Bishop to purchase lands for an inheritance for the children of God.” (Revelation, 1 Aug. 1831 [D&C 58:50–51].)  


Departing on 20 November 1831, Cowdery and Whitmer arrived in Independence on 5 January 1832.3

Whitmer, History, 38; Minute Book 2, 23 Jan. 1832.  


On 23–24 January, they held a two-day conference

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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in the home of Newel Knight

13 Sept. 1800–11 Jan. 1847. Miller, merchant. Born at Marlborough, Windham Co., Vermont. Son of Joseph Knight Sr. and Polly Peck. Moved to Jericho (later Bainbridge), Chenango Co., New York, ca. 1809. Moved to Windsor (later in Colesville), Broome Co., New...

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in Kaw Township

Settlement by whites commenced after treaty with Osage Indians, 1825. One of three original townships organized in Jackson Co., 22 May 1827. Bordered by Missouri River on north side and Big Blue River on east and south sides; western boundary was state line...

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, Missouri; they supplemented it with a special conference on 27 January at Sidney Gilbert

28 Dec. 1789–29 June 1834. Merchant. Born at New Haven, New Haven Co., Connecticut. Son of Eli Gilbert and Lydia Hemingway. Moved to Huntington, Fairfield Co., Connecticut; to Monroe, Monroe Co., Michigan Territory, by Sept. 1818; to Painesville, Geauga Co...

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’s residence in Independence. As clerk of the conferences, Cowdery kept the minutes and shortly thereafter copied them into this 28 January letter to JS.4

Cowdery’s minutes in this letter are more expansive than those Ebenezer Robinson later copied into Minute Book 2. It is possible that Whitmer, who kept minutes of several Missouri conferences in 1832, kept his own record of the 23 January meeting. If so, Robinson may have copied Whitmer’s minutes. (See Minute Book 2, 23 Jan. 1832.)  


The minutes highlight the continued development of Zion

A specific location in Missouri; also a literal or figurative gathering of believers in Jesus Christ, characterized by adherence to ideals of harmony, equality, and purity. In JS’s earliest revelations “the cause of Zion” was used to broadly describe the ...

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in northwestern Jackson County

Settled at Fort Osage, 1808. County created, 16 Feb. 1825; organized 1826. Named after U.S. president Andrew Jackson. Featured fertile lands along Missouri River and was Santa Fe Trail departure point, which attracted immigrants to area. Area of county reduced...

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and the role of leaders such as Edward Partridge

27 Aug. 1793–27 May 1840. Hatter. Born at Pittsfield, Berkshire Co., Massachusetts. Son of William Partridge and Jemima Bidwell. Moved to Painesville, Geauga Co., Ohio. Married Lydia Clisbee, 22 Aug. 1819, at Painesville. Initially a Universal Restorationist...

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and Gilbert

28 Dec. 1789–29 June 1834. Merchant. Born at New Haven, New Haven Co., Connecticut. Son of Eli Gilbert and Lydia Hemingway. Moved to Huntington, Fairfield Co., Connecticut; to Monroe, Monroe Co., Michigan Territory, by Sept. 1818; to Painesville, Geauga Co...

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in that development. As bishop

An ecclesiastical and priesthood office. JS appointed Edward Partridge as the first bishop in February 1831. Following this appointment, Partridge functioned as the local leader of the church in Missouri. Later revelations described a bishop’s duties as receiving...

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, Partridge was responsible for overseeing the purchase of land in Jackson County in concert with Gilbert, who was an agent to the church 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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. Partridge also had the task of providing Saints with their “inheritance[s]

Generally referred to land promised by or received from God for the church and its members. A January 1831 revelation promised church members a land of inheritance. In March and May 1831, JS dictated revelations commanding members “to purchase lands for an...

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,” and Gilbert was directed by revelation to operate a store

JS revelation, dated 20 July 1831, directed A. Sidney Gilbert, Newel K. Whitney’s Ohio business partner, to establish store in Independence. Gilbert first purchased vacated log courthouse, located on lot 59 at intersection of Lynn and Lexington Streets, to...

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in Independence

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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to generate revenues with which to purchase more land and to provision the church members who settled it.5

Revelation, 20 May 1831 [D&C 51:3–4]; Revelation, 8 June 1831 [D&C 53:4]; Revelation, 20 July 1831 [D&C 57:4–8].  


The minutes contain accountings from both Partridge and Gilbert of the moneys expended by them and a report from Partridge on land purchases. The minutes also record discussions concerning plans for schools for the Saints, the need for more skilled craftsmen to come to Missouri, and other subjects. In addition to the minutes, 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 includes a transcript of a note from Partridge to JS, a few words of general correspondence from Cowdery himself, and a list of projected costs of printing the revelations, which was to be conveyed to Martin Harris

18 May 1783–10 July 1875. Farmer. Born at Easton, Albany Co., New York. Son of Nathan Harris and Rhoda Lapham. Moved with parents to area of Swift’s landing (later in Palmyra), Ontario Co., New York, 1793. Married first his first cousin Lucy Harris, 27 Mar...

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.
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 was written to JS, who was living in Hiram

Area settled by immigrants from Pennsylvania and New England, ca. 1802. Located in northeastern Ohio about twenty-five miles southeast of Kirtland. Population in 1830 about 500. Population in 1840 about 1,100. JS lived in township at home of John and Alice...

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, Ohio, but it was sent 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...

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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, even though there was a post office in Hiram.6

Register of Officers and Agents [1830], 49 (second numbering).  


Cowdery had directed previous correspondence 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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to Whitney, who served as the postmaster of Kirtland, in part because he believed Whitney’s position allowed Whitney franking privileges, which gave him “the benefits of free postage.”7

Letter from Oliver Cowdery, 8 Apr. 1831. According to the statute governing franking, postmasters could use the privilege for both incoming and outgoing correspondence that was business related and weighed no more than half an ounce. It is unclear, however, whether Whitney ever invoked his franking privilege for letters to or from Cowdery. (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, 15–16, sec. 27.)  


JS may have obtained the letter when he made a short visit to Kirtland from 29 February to 4 March 1832, or someone from Kirtland could have brought the letter to JS in Hiram before then.8

Note, 8 Mar. 1832. Mail between Independence and Kirtland generally required three to four weeks of travel time. (Hartley, “Letters and Mail between Kirtland and Independence,” 176.)  


Regardless of the method of delivery, it is clear the letter reached Kirtland because in March, several leaders issued charges of misconduct against the Missouri conference based on their reading of Cowdery’s minutes.9 Also, the list of printing costs intended for Harris was cut from the letter, as Cowdery suggested, and presumably given to him.

Facts