30694

Letter from Oliver Cowdery, 8 April 1831

man he also says that we have put more into the lamenites

A term used in the Book of Mormon to refer to the descendants or followers of Laman, as well as those who later identified themselves as Lamanites because they did not believe in the religious traditions of their ancestors. According to JS and the Book of...

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during the short time we we were permited to be with them (which was but a few days) then all the devels in the infernal pit and and and all the men on earth can get out of them in four generations he tells me that, that evry Nation have now the name of Nephy who is the son of Nephi & handed down to this very generation, there is only a part of that Nation here now but the remainder are expected this spring9

In fall 1830, an advance party of the Delaware migrated from southwest Missouri to their newly granted lands in what would become Kansas. The majority of the Delaware did not arrive until later in the spring, and Cowdery’s letter demonstrates that the larger group had not yet arrived by 8 April 1831. (Weslager, Delaware Indians, 369–371; Weslager, Delaware Indian Westward Migration, 217.)  


the principle chief10

Kikthawenund, also known as William Anderson. (Weslager, Delaware Indians, 329.)  


says he believes evry word of the Book11 & there are many more in the Nation who believe and we understand there are many among the Shawnees who also believe & we trust that when the Lord shall open our way we shall have glorious times for truly my brethren my heart sorrows for them for they are cast out & dispised and know not the God in whom they should trust12

See Book of Mormon, 1830 ed., 537 [Mormon 9:20].  


we have traveld about in this country considerable and proclaimed repentence and many are very serious & honest, Brother 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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& Ziba Peterson

Ca. 1810–1849. Teacher, farmer, law officer. Born in New York. Lived in Macedon, Wayne Co., New York, ca. 1830. Baptized into LDS church. Ordained an elder, by 9 June 1830. Served mission to Ohio and Missouri, 1830–1831. Stripped of office of elder, Aug. ...

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started this day to go across the Missouri River

One of longest rivers in North America, in excess of 3,000 miles. From headwaters in Montana to confluence with Mississippi River near St. Louis, Missouri River drains 580,000 square miles (about one-sixth of continental U.S.). Explored by Lewis and Clark...

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to preach by request and myself

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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& 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...

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are together and will hold a meeting next Sunday at the house we are teaching school for we concluded that we were able and also willing to Labour with our hands for our support but while we do this we do not forget the ministry and are thankful that our heavenly Father has endowed us with faculties to do this for our support the agent for The Lamanites13

Federal Indian agent Richard W. Cummins.  


is very strict with us and we think somewhat strenuous respecting our having liberty to visit our brethren the Lamanites but we trust that when our brother Parly 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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returns14

Pratt departed for the East, traveling via St. Louis, on 14 February 1831, presumably carrying with him Cowdery’s letter of the same date to superintendent of Indian affairs William Clark in St. Louis. Nearly eight weeks later, at the time of this 8 April letter, Cowdery likely supposed that Pratt had arrived in Ohio and was either on his way back to Missouri or soon would be. In fact, Pratt had been delayed by illness on his way to Kirtland, and his 7 and 9 May 1831 assignments to serve a mission among the Shakers also extended his time in the East. He did not return to Missouri until September 1831. (Pratt, Autobiography, 61, 73.)  


we shall have a permit from General William Clark who is the Superintendent of Indian affairs west of the Mississippi

Principal U.S. river running southward from Itasca Lake, Minnesota, to Gulf of Mexico. Covered 3,160-mile course, 1839 (now about 2,350 miles). Drains about 1,100,000 square miles. Steamboat travel on Mississippi very important in 1830s and 1840s for shipping...

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who must have a reccommend or security before he can give a permit for any [p. 11]
man he also says that we have put more into the lamenites

A term used in the Book of Mormon to refer to the descendants or followers of Laman, as well as those who later identified themselves as Lamanites because they did not believe in the religious traditions of their ancestors. According to JS and the Book of...

View Glossary
 during the short time we we were permited to be with them  (which was but a few days[)] then all the devels in the infernal  pit and and and all the men on earth can get out of them in  four generations he tells me that, that evry Nation  have now the name of Nephy who is the son of Nephi  & handed down to this very generation, there is only a  part of that Nation here now but the remainder are  expected this spring9

In fall 1830, an advance party of the Delaware migrated from southwest Missouri to their newly granted lands in what would become Kansas. The majority of the Delaware did not arrive until later in the spring, and Cowdery’s letter demonstrates that the larger group had not yet arrived by 8 April 1831. (Weslager, Delaware Indians, 369–371; Weslager, Delaware Indian Westward Migration, 217.)  


the principle chief10

Kikthawenund, also known as William Anderson. (Weslager, Delaware Indians, 329.)  


says he believes  evry word of the Book11 & there are many <more> in the Nation  who believe and we understand there are many among the  Shawnees who also believe & we trust that when the  Lord shall open the <our> way we shall have glorious times  for truly my brethren my heart sorrows for them  for they are cast out & dispised and know not  the God in whom they should trust12

See Book of Mormon, 1830 ed., 537 [Mormon 9:20].  


we have traveld  about in this country considerable and proclaimed  repentence and very <many> are very anxious serious &  honest, Brother 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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& Ziba [Peterson]

Ca. 1810–1849. Teacher, farmer, law officer. Born in New York. Lived in Macedon, Wayne Co., New York, ca. 1830. Baptized into LDS church. Ordained an elder, by 9 June 1830. Served mission to Ohio and Missouri, 1830–1831. Stripped of office of elder, Aug. ...

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started this day to go to  across the Missouri River

One of longest rivers in North America, in excess of 3,000 miles. From headwaters in Montana to confluence with Mississippi River near St. Louis, Missouri River drains 580,000 square miles (about one-sixth of continental U.S.). Explored by Lewis and Clark...

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to preach by request  and myself

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
& 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...

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are together and will hold  a meeting next Sunday at the house we are  teaching school for we concluded that we were  able and also willing to Labour with our hands  for our support but while we do this we  do not forget the ministry and are thankful  that our heavenly Father has endowed us with  faculties to do this for our support <the agent for> The Laman ites13

Federal Indian agent Richard W. Cummins.  


is very strict with us and we think some what strenuous respecting our having liberty  to visit our brethren the Lamanites but we  trust that when our brother Parly [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....

View Full Bio
returns14

Pratt departed for the East, traveling via St. Louis, on 14 February 1831, presumably carrying with him Cowdery’s letter of the same date to superintendent of Indian affairs William Clark in St. Louis. Nearly eight weeks later, at the time of this 8 April letter, Cowdery likely supposed that Pratt had arrived in Ohio and was either on his way back to Missouri or soon would be. In fact, Pratt had been delayed by illness on his way to Kirtland, and his 7 and 9 May 1831 assignments to serve a mission among the Shakers also extended his time in the East. He did not return to Missouri until September 1831. (Pratt, Autobiography, 61, 73.)  


we  shall have a permit from General [William] Clark who  is the Superintendent of Indian affairs west  of the Missi[ssi]ppi

Principal U.S. river running southward from Itasca Lake, Minnesota, to Gulf of Mexico. Covered 3,160-mile course, 1839 (now about 2,350 miles). Drains about 1,100,000 square miles. Steamboat travel on Mississippi very important in 1830s and 1840s for shipping...

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who must have a reccommend  or security before he can give a permit for any [p. 11]
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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...

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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...

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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...

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, 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.

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