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Original manuscript ledger with records of court cases held during the settlement of the Mormons at Nauvoo, Illinois.


Front cover of the record book


Sample Pages


Close up of a typical court case



Custom made clamshell book box


Record book in the box


$100,000 Appraisal from Brent Ashworth


The most important Nauvoo, Illinois object to ever be discovered in private hands.

There are numerous significant Mormons mentioned as plaintiffs, defendants, and witnesses, including Joseph Smith Jr. (pp. 2, 4, 90), Hyrum Smith (p. 90), Samuel H. Smith (p. 126), Don Carlos Smith (pp. 71, 92), Sidney Rigdon (p. 109), F. G. Williams (p. 63), William Marks (p. 83), Amasa Lyman (p. 85), and Orson Pratt (p. 94).

The best and the worst Saints were in court. The Fosters and the Laws had their share of trouble before they printed the Nauvoo Expositor and propelled the assassination of the Smiths.  Robert D. Foster’s cases cover a dozen pages of the ledger (pp. 54, 71, 77, 79-81, 98, 101, 110, 118, 124). So do the cases of William and Wilson Law (pp. xiii, xv, 75, 84, 90, 94, 99, 118-122). In one case, the two battle each other in court (p. 118). Other trouble-causing Mormons in court included Oliver Olney (p. 49), and John C. Bennett (pp. 94, 110).

There were startling cases for a religious community, including stolen property searches, assault and battery cases (one with a female defendant), larceny and horse theft cases, swindling, perjury, debt suits, and even cases of buildings being “broken, destroyed and carried away.” In one exciting case, Joseph Smith Jr. testified in a possible persecution case where “certain citizens of this state had been unlawfully, illegally, and forcibly taken from this state into another” (p. 4). In a different heartfelt case, a man was charged with “threatening to destroy prophets” (p. 75). In a third case, Joseph Smith made an affidavit against someone for “swindling” (p. 2). The Nauvoo setting for this early history was in the foreground of places like Smith’s Store (p. xv), William Law’s Store (pp. xiii, xv, 39), Foster’s Store (p. xv), Amos Davis’ Grocery (p. 39), Galland’s Store (p. iii), and Colton’s Brickyard (p. 39). One case involved a steamboat, in this Mississippi River scene (p. 49).

One faith-promoting case is a character portrait of Joseph Smith Jr. When his friend John P. Greene (pp. 63, 90, 109, 123) was in custody for a debt, Joseph paid a “special bail.” When the outcome of the trial looked unfavorable, after hearing fellow Mormon leaders testifying, the Prophet sent-in $50 to settle with the plaintiff on behalf of his imperiled fellow Saint (p. 90). Occasionally Daniel H. Wells had litigants agree to a settlement by signing the entry in his book, as in the case of a “John P. Greene” autograph (p. 90).

Other Smiths also had complicated legal affairs. In line behind Joseph stood his brothers Hyrum, Don Carlos, William, and Samuel H. Smith. A resident named Samuel Smith was convicted of shooting a hog not belonging to him, during the early spring that the Mormons started to first venture into Commerce, Illinois that they incorporated into Nauvoo (p. 12). The same Smith later said someone threatened to kill him (p. 18). In a third case, he was charged with larceny (p. 59). In a fourth, he was sued for a debt with William Smith (p. 114). A fifth trial gives the middle initial of Samuel H. Smith, as he is sued by one of the Pratts (p. 126).

O. Porter Rockwell (pp. viii, xii, 32, 56-58, 74) was often in the middle of chaos too, hopefully on the good side. In one case in this record book, he was a witness in an assault and battery trial. He is famous for having been charged with the attempted assassination of Missouri governor Boggs.

The trials include Mormons and affiliated residents associated with Commerce, Illinois (later Nauvoo) before the decision of Mormons to move there, including Isaac Galland (pp. iii, v, vi, 1, 10), Oliver Granger (pp. 38, 44-45, 52), Davison Hibard (pp. v, vi, 39, 52, 97), Daniel H. Wells (p. xvii), Lewis Robison, Amos Davis (pp. 12, 18, 39, 53, 71, 97), Theodore Turley (p. 94), Hiram Kimball and Ethan Kimball (pp. viii, 105-108), C. W. Lyon and Windsor P. Lyon (pp. 50-51, 71, 90, 96), and Stephen Markham (pp. 43, 53, 56-59, 118-122). Mormon land agents and bishops were frequently involved in land debt disputes, including Peter Haws (pp. 73, 97), Isaac Morely (p. 4), Alanson Ripley (pp. 45, 47), Newel K. Whitney (p. 59), Joseph L. Heywood (p. 109), and Vinson Knight (p. 97).

The record book mentions virtually every person who was important to the economic, political, social, and religious community during the formative years as Nauvoo grew. Nearly every city councilman and every church high councilor is mentioned, and land speculators, merchants, Nauvoo Legion officers, and church Seventies. Even Elijah Abel, who was the Black man ordained in Nauvoo, was in custody for a debt suit (pp. 38-39, 122). The most important Mormons and residents mentioned in the Nauvoo court record book as plaintiffs, defendants, or witnesses include:

Abel, Elijah

Badlam, Alexander

Baldwin, Caleb

Barnett, John

Barrows, Ethan

Bennett, John C.

Bent, Samuel

Billings, Titus

Blodget, Newman G.

Brunson, Seymour

Butterfield, Josiah

Cahoon, Reynolds

Cole, Barnett

Colton, Philander

Coolidge, Joseph W.

Davis, Amos

Dayton, Hiram

Dibble, Philo

Durfee, Jabez

Fairchild, Joshua

Felshaw, William

Foster, Robert D.

Foster, Solon

Frost, Samuel B.

Galland, Isaac

Gee, George W.

Granger, Oliver

Greene, John P.

Hancock, Levi

Haws, Peter

Heywood, Joseph L.

Hibard, Davison

Higbee, Elias

Higgins, Nelson

Hodges, Amos

Hovey, Joseph

Hovey, Orlando D.

Hoyt, Samuel P.

Hubbard, Charles W.

Huntington, Dimick

Huntington, William

Jackman, Albert B.

Jackman, Levi

Jackman, William

Kellogg, Ezekiel

Kimball, Ethan

Kimball, Hiram

King, Alonzo

Knight, Vinson

Knowlton, Sydney A.

Law, William

Law, Wilson

Lyman, Amasa

Lyon, C. W.

Lyon, Windsor P.

Mace, Wandle

Markham, Stephen

Marks, William

Maxwell, William B.

Miles, Ira S.

Milliken, Arthur

Montgomery, Archi.

Morely, Isaac

Morrel, Laban

Newbury, Joseph E.

Nickerson, Levi

Nickerson, Uriel C.

Olney, Oliver

Pratt, Orson

Pratt, William D.

Redfield, D. H.

Rigdon, Sidney

Ripley, Alanson

Robinson, George W.

Robison, Lewis

Rockwell, O. Porter

Rockwood, A. P.

Rogers, David W.

Roundy, Shadrach

Sherwood, Henry G.

Shirts, Peter

Sloan, James

Smith, D. C.

Smith, Hyrum

Smith, Joseph Jr.

Smith, Sam’l H.

Smith, William

Thompson, Robert B.

Turley, Theodore

Weld, John F.

Wells, Daniel H.

Whitney, Newel K.

Williams, F. G.


A “docket” in the holograph of Daniel H. Wells, Justice of the Peace, Hancock County, Illinois. 

Daniel Hanmer Wells was the most important attorney in Utah’s history, and the court record is entirely in his earliest known hand, with autograph signatures on essentially every page. Known as “Squire Wells,” he was justice of the peace in Hancock County before the Mormons arrived, became a friend and private counsel of Joseph Smith Jr., developed 80 acres on the Nauvoo bluff into city-lots, arranged for the Nauvoo temple to be built on Wells St., was alderman and city councilor in Nauvoo, regent of the Nauvoo university, brigadier-general in the Nauvoo Legion, protested the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith as a non-member, joined the church during the Nauvoo exodus, was aid-de-camp to Brigham Young during emigration, credited with organizing the State of Deseret and framing the constitutions for Utah statehood, elected to the first legislative council, appointed as State Attorney, elected lieutenant-general of Nauvoo Legion (state militia of Utah), served as Brigham Young’s counselor for twenty years, probably the person who located and organized most of the settlements of Utah Territory for Brigham Young, served as Salt Lake City’s mayor for ten years, chancellor and regent of the University of Deseret, and was involved in military and political turmoil on the Utah frontier related to Indians, settlers, and polygamy that were often resolved with his negotiation skills and legal training acquired at Nauvoo.

7" x 12", quarto, 134 pages. In original boards, re-coated with hand-marbled paper, in contemporary calfskin binding with new corners, gilt lettered spine. The docket began one-third through the book—pages 1-104 were recorded to the end of the book, pages 105-124 were recorded on preceding blank pages, and then finally pages 125-126 were evidently recorded on remaining blank pages in front again. Seventeen unnumbered preliminary pages were used to record court costs. Two gatherings are absent, and one page number was not present. Four other pages are partially clipped. Collation is [i-xvii], 126, 105-114, 117-124, 1-20, 23-32, 37-104. Some pages are discolored or faded from mildew.
While in the hands of the Pagitt family from 1863 to 1925, this ledger was used as a scrapbook, with newspaper clippings pasted throughout the book. The book is also embellished with doodling by Pagitt or his school children. Original letters of early provenance from the Pagitt family accompany the docket. In 1997, the record book was washed, enzyme-treated and brushed to remove glue and clippings, then de-acidified, mended and re-sewn, and restored in its rebuilt case. Placed in a hand-made clamshell box of goat with a 4-sided tray. Conservation time totaled 88 hours at $50.00 hour ($4,400).  Brent Ashworth (the most experienced Mormon document expert and the most prominent Mormon manuscript collector), has appraised this piece at greater than $100,000.

Link to a Deseret News story about this record book:




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