(MORMONISM) — GEORGE ALLEY | An important archive of correspondence by Mormon convert George Alley, to his brother, Joseph Alley III, chronicling life in Nauvoo, Illinois, the construction of the Mormon Temple, the events leading up to the murders of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, and other events. [Various places: 1842-1859]
30,000 - 50,000 USD
Property from the Eric C. Caren Collection
30,000 - 50,000 USD
Property from the Eric C. Caren Collection
(MORMONISM) — GEORGE ALLEY
An important archive of correspondence by Mormon convert George Alley, to his brother, Joseph Alley III, chronicling life in Nauvoo, Illinois, the construction of the Mormon Temple, the events leading up to the murders of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, and other events. [Various places: 1842-1859]
Archive comprised of: 33 autograph letters over 91 manuscript pages (various sizes). Letters accomplished in ink in a neat hand; several letters separated along folds, occasional loss of text. The consignor has independently obtained a letter of authenticity from PSA that will accompany the lot.
A historically significant archive, documenting the experience of Mormons in the American West, including the early days of settlement in Salt Lake City
The letters begin as George Alley set off with his family from his native Lynn, Massachusetts, to Nauvoo, Illinois, where a Mormon settlement had been established, and where Joseph Smith was serving as mayor. As the time of his arrival, both the Mormon church, and its leader, Joseph Smith, were in the midst of turmoil. In early 1842, Smith told the Quorum of Twelve, as well as prominent leaders of the Mormon Church, to enter into plural marriages. At the same time, Mormon apostate and former Church leader John C. Bennett, began publishing a series of exposés surrounding church doctrine following his excommunication from the religion, and at least one of these was aimed at polygamy. Bennett's inflammatory accounts were key in inciting unrest among the Mormon faithful. Alley captures these events, the Mormon Church's subsequent movement west, and the establishment of its settlement in Salt Lake City.
In one of the earliest letters, dated "City of Nauvoo, July 4th, 1843," George Alley writes to his brother: "The Independence day has been fine and the ceremony have been very interesting, it was judged 40,000 were present, there were 3 steamboats full of spectator from St. Louis, Quincy, Burlington &c. There was every attention paid them, they were escorted from the Boats to the grove where seats were provided, And there they were addressed by the prophet, he gave them a history of his suffering in Missouri, how his people has suffered without the shadow of a cause and for no other reason than their desire to do good, to support the law and order." The lengthy letter goes on to outline the persecution of Joseph Smith, expressing sympathy for "the prophet" and his family.
A little less than a year later, in a letter dated "Nauvoo April 15, 1844," it is apparent that while George's loyalties remained unchanged, popular opinions surrounding Joseph Smith—and, indeed, those within the Alley family—were significantly shaken: "You say that Father John Alley & wife have quit Mormonism and are very much dissatisfied with John Smith, I wonder for what — the truth aught prevail — But I have a word to say in regard to the Prophet — I have heard about all his teachings, and have found that he speaks as the world are not privileged to hear from any other man. He is a man of profound wisdom, and I believe has the oracle of the great God.— I believe you have seen his name as as candidate for the president of the United States..."
Two months after this correspondence ("City of Nauvoo, July 27, 1844"), George would pen another to his brother, this time communicating John Smith's final words to his followers offered the day before his violent death: "The prophet told his people the day before he was killed, to read the 6th Ch Revelation; as a part was already fulfilled, and the remainder will shortly be; he cited them more particularly to the 8; 9; 10 & 11 verses of the above chapter — People may say what they please, but just [as] true as there is a God in Heaven who led the Jews out of Egypt, so will all the prophesies be fulfilled and the doctrine of the Later day Saints stand, it being the true Gospel of Jesus Christe the Son of God." The letter is dated precisely one month after Smith was murdered by a mob in Carthage, Illinois, as he and his brother Hyrum sat in jail awaiting trial on charges relating to a recent dispute with the Nauvoo Expositor, a non-Mormon newspaper, which accused Smith of practicing polygamy and intending to set himself up as king. The brothers were awaiting trial when a mob of 200 men attacked the jail and killed both of them. This letter offers a rare contemporary account of these events.
Following the murders of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, George Alley's faith, and that of his wife and children, remained steadfast. By January of 1847, he was writing to his brother from Camp of Israel, Winter Quarters (what is now Omaha, Nebraska), where a settlement had been formed by approximately 2,500 members of the Mormon Church awaiting better conditions for their journey westward. Alley remained in Winter Quarters for a number of years, corresponding with his brother regularly, communicating the details of everyday life alongside his doctrinal musing. Then on 14 May 1848, he writes: "We start for the Valley of the great Salt Lake next Tuesday..."
The present archive offers remarkably extensive firsthand accounts of what is arguably the most significant period in the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Alley was more than just a casual observer of these formative events (his daughter, Margaret Alley, was Brigham Young's 22nd wife), and his observations offer an intimate and invaluable portrait of the early days of Mormonism in America.
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