Jonathan Grimshaw and Honorable Doubts, Part 2

See part 1 of this post here.

The Grimshaws arrived in Salt Lake City sometime near the latter part of August, 1851. Little money existed in the valley. Early American barter schemes prevailed. Wilford Woodruff’s store ran on credit, but the credit was for exchanged goods mostly. Land was “sold” on a consecration basis and Grimshaw obtained his lot by this means. He had cash, a rather unusual thing and it was a coveted situation. Thievery was not unusual during this period, but it wasn’t for profit, it was for survival, mostly. Woodruff’s store was robbed of a bag of flour, a fact he advertised in the church newspaper, asking that if the thief had needed something to eat, then please give him back the bag. The bag showed up a day or so later draped over a fence I think.

Jonathan had a family and he tried to fit into the prevailing economy. But he was no farmer and in any case, farming in the valley required irrigation water. The Grimshaws made a go of it nevertheless. Jonathan began clerking for church/civic interests in the infant county and territorial government as well as the court system.

Willard Richards (church historian and counselor of Brigham Young) wished to establish the church historian’s work as soon as possible, but his time was mostly absorbed by the Deseret News. A press had been purchased in 1847 in Boston by W. W. Phelps and shipped to Council Bluffs where it sat in its box until 1849 when it made it to Salt Lake City. The Times and Seasons press had stayed in Nauvoo and was sold there. Phelps’ press was a Ramage Philadelphia press and was capable of printing a three column sheet of reasonably sized print. The first item printed on the Ramage was a booklet sized letter (10 pages) from the church presidency. In June 1853, Jonathan’s talents as a clerk[1] were put to use by Richards in the Church Historian’s Office.

As a part of the crew in the Historian’s office Grimshaw was called into service in taking minutes of the legislature which did business in the mid-winter. He traveled to Fillmore when the state did its business there. Grimshaw took his turn with keeping the Historian’s Office journal, which was used to keep track of the work done by the staff like a time-clock as well as to indicate the projects then underway. Sometimes a clerk felt he was under or misrepresented in the journal and made notations himself. Thomas Bullock frequently did this. One of Richards’ projects was to publish the manuscript history of JS which was in fact mostly his effort in plan and much in writing. By November 15, 1851, the News had moved its premises to the northeast corner of South Temple and Main streets and had a new press, an “Imperial” which produced a six-column page. Beginning with this issue, Richards took up where he left off in Nauvoo’s Times and Seasons with JS’s history, now titled for the time being “Life of Joseph Smith.” His staff edited the copy of these articles and George A. Smith continued the practice even though not the editor of the News after Richards death in 1854.

Many Utah immigrants were partially or wholly ignorant of the life-style of polygamy, still not publically announced. Some, like James Harwood, a teenager who came to Utah about the same time as Grimshaw were stunned and a bit overwhelmed by it. That and the rough and tumble law-and-order of outlying communities pushed Harwood out of the church, but not out of Utah.[2] Grimshaw accepted polygamy, but was not prepared or required to participate. He did however, with his wife Eliza receive the (Nauvoo) temple ceremonies in the Council House, which doubled for a number purposes at the time.

One of Grimshaw’s more important contributions to the Historian’s Office effort was perhaps his copying the church’s history into some of the large blank manuscript books, numbered A-1, B-1, C-1, D-1, E-1, F-1. The effort involved copying and connecting already existing reports, journal entries and other records into a first person narrative in the voice of Joseph Smith.[3]

However, Jonathan had a unique assignment. This was to take reports of the sermons of Joseph Smith, (in some cases several reports of the same sermon were available to the historians) and fuse them into a more or less grammatically correct smooth read. Grimshaw worked on a number of these sermons and left some rough drafts of his work, sometimes edited by Thomas Bullock and/or George A. Smith the church historian who gave Grimshaw the assignment. Grimshaw’s longest effort was the so-called King Follett Sermon, a funeral address by Joseph Smith given April 7, 1844. Grimshaw fused, with the help of Smith, and after-the-fact editing by the church presidency, in particular Brigham Young, reports of Thomas Bullock, William Clayton, Wilford Woodruff and Willard Richards.[4] Grimshaw’s first draft was modified by Smith/Bullock but the effort was finally approved for the history narrative.[5]

In the meantime however, Grimshaw and Eliza were experiencing the beginnings of the Mormon Reformation, Indian troubles and a severe drought. The winter of 1855-6 was a breaking point for some of the Saints.

[1] Grimshaw’s handwriting was quite readable but not fancy, for example like that of his compatriot Leo Hawkins who sometimes wrote in a script so adorned it could be almost unreadable. But it was serviceable and consistent when he was not under pressure.

[2] Harwood observed the lynching of an accused rapist in Lehi, Utah and couldn’t get by it. One of his children was well-known Utah (but non-Mormon) artist J. T. Harwood whose painting of Christ on the shore beckoning to fishermen-apostles is still very widely displayed in modern church venues.

[3] Grimshaw’s handwriting is scattered through some of these, but mostly confined to F-1. The effort required close work by the clerks, and was often modified or eliminated by the historian who often dictated copy himself (George A. Smith had taken over from Richards in 1854), often in consultation with members of the church presidency. Corrective addenda were not too rare, and at times sermons were added at the end of volumes when reports were discovered after the text had passed the date by.

[4] He worked under some constraints apparently, and perhaps in order not to slight Woodruff, a living apostle connected with the office, included a fair amount of redundant glosses from Woodruff’s journal account in his King Follett work. Moreover, some language was added which seems to reflect Young’s expression. You’ll have to wait for the book to see some of this.

[5] The Grimshaw/Smith/Young version actually replaced an earlier version already copied into the history from copy done by Thomas Bullock for the Nauvoo magazine, Times and Seasons (appeared in the August 15, 1844 issue). Bullock took his own report and added segments from William Clayton’s report, another official reporter for the conference of April 1844. Ironically, Bullock’s effort is in most ways perhaps closer to the original. The critical texts can be used to show this (but that will be a left-to-the-reader exercise). In saying Grimshaw’s assignment was unique, I did not mean it was unique on the staff. Several clerks did this sort of thing including Hawkins and Bullock.

6 Responses to Jonathan Grimshaw and Honorable Doubts, Part 2

  1. J. Stapley says:

    Excellent work. Your commentary in the footnotes is especially intriguing. I’m really looking forward to your volume being published.

    • boaporg says:

      Hi J. Workin on it. Chapters, 1, 4, 7 are more or less finished. There will be 10 altogether. – WVS

  2. Pingback: Jonathan Grimshaw and Honorable Doubts, Part 3. «'s Blog

  3. Pingback: Jonathan Grimshaw Redux «'s Blog

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