How History Unfolds on Paper: Choice Selections from the Eric C. Caren Collection, Part IX
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[MORMONS]. ALLEY, George (1792-1859). Archive of 23 Autograph Letters Signed by Mormon Convert George Alley to His Brother Joseph Alley. [V.p., October 14, 1843 - May 12, 1859]. A total of 57 manuscript pages (including several half-pages) on 23 letters, plus three manuscript envelopes (most letters are folded self-envelopes). Mainly 4to sheets on bifolia, on a variety of different types of paper (some light blue, some ruled, most on plain white paper). Page sizes range from 323 x 194 mm to 183 x 111 mm. General wear, soiling, some blurred text, numerous creases, a few letters tattered and in pieces. Generally good or better. These letters cover the period in Alley’s life from when he left his birthplace of Lynn, MA (one letter relating his illnesses and scarcity of work, but also reflect his gratitude to God), his stay in Nauvoo, IL (the letter dated August 11, 1844 from Nauvoo, in which he discusses the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, “I have this moment recd the Essex County Whig of July 13th, containing a false statement, respecting the murder of Joseph + Hiram [sic] Smith. Indeed that will forever blacken the historic page of our boasted free country; and will raise [?] a sarcastic Sneer from the despots - yes - the merriest (Royal) despots of /europe; at the futility of our Laws and our boasted equal rig-hts. Great God! Where is our rights? - Where is the protection? that our political compact has guaranteed to each citizen of the Union - Let me tell you, gone! - /shall I say forever gone. - Yes! forever gone; unless the administrators of the law put down Mobocracy; and that without delay, - Let me tell you that mobs will prevent another President from taking the Cahir of /state, unless Something is speedily done to render justice to the oppress-ed…”), later from his tenure at the Winter Quarters of the Omaha Nation in 1847-1848, then onto the Great Salt Lake City, where the remainder of the letters originate. He discusses Joseph Smith several times in these letters, and the plans of the Mormon community in which he lives as they migrate to Utah. Alley writes to his brother as he prepared for the journey to Utah, “Nauvoo October 9th 1845… Brother Joseph… if you get them [Alley’s letters] you will have the truth respecting our trouble - it is apparently peaceful [?] now, but how long it will hold is a matter of doubt you will see in the paper the proposition for us as a people to remove out of the state… We are all anxious to leave this place, knowing that God has said, gather ye into my secret chambers my people, until my indignation proposeth [?]... We shall leave here in May next for a place where the God of Isreal [sic] is the sole proprietor and he can give it to whom he pleases - A place where the foot of a white man never trod, nor the pestilence never came… How I would ask you to compare the doings of this generation with these of the Jews in the days of Christ our great high priest. They said if they had lived in the days of the Prophets they would not have killed them, but lo!! they could crucify even the Son of God!!!”

In a letter dated “Nauvoo Oct. 30th 1845” Alley not only discusses more of the preparation for the Mormon migration, but he offers a fiery defense of Mormonism: “... The principles that force us to leave our houses & homes, the land of liberty, of equal rights, the assylum [sic] of the oppressed &c, to go to the wild wilderness should make every son of philanthropy blush in shame for the depredation that nests in this Nation - I go freely, I go willingly, I make the sacrifice for the sake of truth and I ask the Lord to sustain us. It is a great sacrifice but my determination is to serve the Lord and keep his commandments… A very short time will prove to a demonstration who serves the Lord or who Serves the Devil - Do you suppose I should make the sacrifice with I am about to make if doubt nested in my mind… Now as much as has been said of the faith and practice of the latter day Saints I challenge the world to refute the Gospel as taught by this Church & they may take all the combined wisdom of the literature of the world…” In a letter dated “Nauvoo April 5th 1846,” Alley writes about Mormon dissident James Jesse Strang (1813-1856), who attempted to succeed Joseph Smith (and later founded the Strangite sect): “You speak of a new Mormon prophet by the name of J. J. Strang, & that many of the Mormons are joining him at Voree Wis. Ter. - I know all about it; but let me tell you that all those who have joined him have a perfect right to do so, & can as well as be spared as not; for the time has come when iniquity must be purged out from among us, & the people purified, in order that the Law of God may go forth from Zion, & the Lord will sift the Nations - See Isaiah ch 30 - v 28 & read a little further - I know many who have joined him, I know they are the ones who have brought persecution on us by their evil deeds; so let them go, we are glad to get rid of all such…”

In a letter dated “Winter Quarters Omaha Nation Jany. 25th 1848,” Alley describes his family’s life during their journey to the promised land: “My family are all well and enjoy themselves as well as could be expected under such circumstances. We have had so far, a remarkable pleasant winter, but one or two snows & them but flurrys; the streets are as day as summer - you may think that Streets here in the woods in the heart of Indian country is not very appropriate, well you will please excuse the term, for we sometimes forget ourselves, & fancy we are in old Mass. - it is very fortunate to our slip shod condition, that the weather is so favourable. The Lord does indeed, ‘temper the weather to the shorn lamb’... There is one thing to comfort us when the bleak north wind blows, we can retreat to the cabin, & substitute a good warm fire, for worn out shoes & stockings, and tattered breaches & coats…” In a later letter written from “G. S. L. March 28th ‘57,” Alley writes about the progress of the building of the Mormon Temple: “The Lord has declared it is His business to provide for His Saints, & I am just fool enough to believe, He will there is great work laid out for this people, this Season for the transportation of granite stone, for the Temple, a canal is about completed to be capable [?] for that purpose, for a distance of 14 mile, there will be a rush of labour in the stone work this Season, unprecedented in the history of the Church - We shall have in a few years one of the best buildings for a house of the Lord in the tops of the Mountains, that had been built since the days of King Solomon…” He also writes about the then-practice of polygamy. “Perhaps you may suppose I have my three on form in addition to the first, but be assured that is not the case, I have but one, never have had but one, & I am not willing to say I never will have but one, for that would be to mitigate against my faith & the truths of the gospel.” He concludes this excellent letter with a brief account of the harsh winter suffered by his people: “They started late in the season, some as late as July & consequently arrived late, some companies not till Dec or when the Snow was 3 or 4 feet deep in the mountains & the cold intense, so of course you can immagine [sic] their suffering to some extent a great number of teams were sent to meet them two or three hundred mile or there would have been a great many lives lost, but the assistance was in time to save them, though some from their hands & feet in attempting to shield their children - but few deaths considering their exposure… Only think, women & their nursing infants one hund of miles from any settlement, tugging a hand cart through the snow, in some places knee deep & the thermometer down to zero before any teams could reach them to relieve their Suffering…” A fantastic archive of letters from one of the most important periods of the nascent Mormon Church from a prominent early Mormon (his daughter, Margaret Alley, was one of Brigham Young’s wives).

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