Mormon church founder's arrest records rediscovered
September 16, 2005, 11:29 AM EDT
NORWICH, N.Y. -- A local historian has rediscovered historical records
that detail how Mormon church founder Joseph Smith was arrested on
four occasions while living in Chenango County in the mid-1820s.
Chenango County Historian Dale Storms said she turned over the newly
found documents to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,
which is based in Utah and has 11 million members worldwide.
Partial records of the arrests had long been in the possession of the
county and known to historians, but Storms said the documents fill in
some historical holes.
"It is not a small thing. These are important papers to a major
religion," she said. "It's a piece of the historical puzzle that was
missing for nearly 35 years."
Spokeswoman Kim Farah said the Mormon church was pleased original
papers of Smith's 1826 and 1830 court proceedings had been located and
returned to their proper place.
"They are important artifacts in understanding the life and times of
Joseph Smith. However, they don't add anything new to the historical
record. Before they were misplaced, they were studied and considered
by those both in and out of the church," she said.
The documents include arrest warrants, court transcripts and legal
bills from four separate charges filed against Smith. Storms said the
cases involved Smith's involvement in glass looking, or treasure
seeking, and being a disorderly person.
One of the documents includes a bill from then-South Bainbridge
Justice Albert Neely to the county for services rendered. Included in
the bill is a $2.68 charge for fees in examining the case of "Joseph
Smith, the glass looker."
Storms said the records were turned over to the county recently by
Norwich resident Richard Smith (no relation to Joseph Smith), whose
mother was the county historian until 1997 and secretly had the
records in her possession for the last three decades, Storms said.
The former historian squirreled them away in the early 1970s after
they were taken without permission from the basement of the county
sheriff's office in 1971 by Wesley P. Walters, a deceased pastor of
the Marissa Presbyterian Church in Marissa, Ill. Storms said Walters
took the papers because he thought they were unsafe where they were
and might be destroyed.