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19th Century Mormon & Western Manuscripts: New York Period (1805-1831)

Guide to the 19th Century Mormon & Western Manuscripts Collection at L. Tom Perry Special Collections

Collections on New York Period (1805-1831)

The following are selections of manuscript collections located in the L. Tom Perry Special Collections containing information related to the earliest historical period of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the New York Period (1805-1831).  For additional collections related to this era, contact Ryan Lee, curator of 19th Century Mormon and Western Manuscripts.

  • Lemuel Durfee account book, 1817-1829 (MSS 3943): Photocopy of Lemuel Durfee’s account book, which covers transactions from May 10, 1817 to December 29, 1829. Transactions involve calf hides, cider, apples, beef, butter, cheese and corn. Lemuel Durfee was very generous with the poor of the Palmyra, New York. There is a typescript of the book’s contents from August 3, 1825 - July 10, 1829. Joseph, Hyrum and Harrison Smith work for Lemuel Durfee; they mow, bind wheat, hoe, and do other farm work. Durfee pays the Smiths in cider. 
  • Chenango County, New York court records, 1826 (MSS 4077): Collection includes photocopies of court records created by judge Albert Neely in 1826. Includes documents related to the trial of Joseph Smith.
  • David Hale ledger, 1827-1869 (MSS 7614, OS 3, folder 1): Ledger used by David Hale to record financial transactions with friends, family, and community members. Includes entries from Harmony, Pennsylvania and Amboy, Illinois, including references to transactions with Mormonism founder Joseph Smith. Ledger content dates from 1827 to 1869. Color photocopies and a digital scan of the ledger are also included.
  • Copyright certificate, 1829 (MSS SC 1123): Photocopies of copyright certificates that were partially printed and partially handwritten. These state that the Mormon Prophet, Joseph Smith (1805-1844), "deposited in this office the title of a book the right whereof he claims as author." The document relates to the publication of the Book of Mormon. The item also explains the claimed authorship of the book as being composed by ancient writers.
  • Joseph Smith letter, 1829 (MSS SC 173): Photocopy of a handwritten letter, dated June 11, 1829, and addressed to the Northern Judicial District of New York, R. R. Lansing, clerk. The item claims copyright for the Book of Mormon and describes its content and authorship.
  • Photocopy of the Printer's Copy of the Book of Mormon​, 1830 (MSS 2356): A photocopy of the printer's copy of the Book of Mormon, 466 pp. Scribal copy of entire text of the Book of Mormon; each page indicates the relative portion of the volume.
  • Joseph Smith, Jr. agreement with Martin Harris (MSS 929): Photocopy of a handwritten and signed agreement dated 16 Jan. 1830 in Manchester, New York. Smith authorizes Martin Harris to sell copies of the Book of Mormon. The item was witnessed by Oliver Cowdery.
  • Testimony of eight witnesses, 1830 (MSS SC 2560): Photograph of a handwritten statement which is published at the beginning of the Book of Mormon. The item was signed by the "Eight Witnesses" who confirmed that they saw the golden plates from which the Book of Mormon was taken. The manuscript states that Joseph Smith was the "author" of the book. This word appeared in the first edition of the Book of Mormon. In later editions, the term was changed to "translator."
  • John Webster letter, 1831 July 17 (MSS SC 2278): Photocopy of a handwritten letter dated 17 July 1831. Webster tells of being approached by a "Mormonite," Samuel Harrison Smith (1808-1844), to buy a "gold Bible" (Book of Mormon). Webster asked Smith how his brother, Joseph Smith (1801-1844), wrote it. "He said that he would look under a shiney stone in the dark and there he would see the words appear."
  • Martha Coray notebook, 1845 (Vault MSS 230): Notebook includes Coray's interview notes used in compiling of Lucy Mack Smith's history of Joseph Smith. Smith family history notes contain John and Clarissa Smith's account of visit by Joseph Smith Sr. to Smith family members, including his father, Asael Smith, in Lawrence County, New York, in 1830; John Smith's account of his and Joseph Smith Sr.'s reunion with their mother, Mary Duty Smith, at Kirtland, Ohio, and their subsequent journey eastward to visit Church branches and family members in 1836; Lucy Mack Smith's account of Samuel Smith's presentation of a Book of Mormon to John P. Greene's family in Ontario County, New York in 1830; and George A. Smith's account of mission with Don Carlos Smith in 1838. Also includes information about Silas Smith, brother of Joseph Smith Sr.
  • The last testimony of Martin Harris, 1928 (MSS 236): Typewritten statement with handwritten corrections. The item was notarized. Homer affirms that he met Martin Harris (1783-1875) in 1869 when returning from a mission for the Mormon Church. He recounts the conversation, much of it word for word, between him and Harris at that time. He also told the second president of the Mormon Church, Brigham Young (1801-1877), about this incident. Homer also tells, again verbatim, what Harris said on his death bed in 1875. Homer states that on each occasion Harris affirmed that the Book of Mormon was true and that the first president of the Mormon Church, Joseph Smith (1805-1844), was indeed a prophet. Also included is a statement signed by F. Harris that he heard Homer recount these experiences in 1928.