Jonathan Grimshaw and Honorable Doubts, Part 3.

For part 1 of this post see here. Part 2, here.

By 1855, Jonathan had been involved in all the activities of the LDS Church Historian’s Office. He spent considerable time copying Joseph Smith’s (JS) sermons from diaries or other records. The complete list of sermons with which he was involved in some way is unknown because the clerks failed to give those details in many instances. As far as our book (Funeral Sermons of JS) goes, Grimshaw was involved with the March 10, 1844 sermon, the April 7, 1844 sermon and perhaps others in the string of “Follett” sermons (April 8, May 12 and June 16, 1844) and possibly earlier ones. The methods of the clerks and historians were reasonable for the times but by modern standards suspect. Copy-texts, as we might call them, were often previous printings of versions of the sermons which in some cases were rather imperfect representations of the primary sources.

By November 1855 the Grimshaw family consisted of Jonathan, Eliza and their children Elizabeth (13), Emma (12), Eliza (10), Maria (8), Caroline (7), Arthur P. (6), Fanny (5), Jonathan T. (3) and Sarah (born Nov. 1855). Jane, twin to Eliza, died at age 8 months. Given Grimshaw’s in-kind pay at the Historian’s Office the family was pinched for food and clothing. The clerks drew items from the Tithing Office, but occasional disputes with Tithing Office personnel sometimes shocked expectations.[1]

By September 1855, with Eliza pregnant, the possibility of leaving Utah for easier circumstances crossed Grimshaw’s mind. While visiting the new digs for the Historian’s Office then under construction, Grimshaw took the opportunity to speak to Brigham Young about the disposal of personal property. The President told him

the party selling consecrated property must bring the transfer to him and he would sign it, and as for property which requires no transfer, so long as a man pays tithing on the increase he is absolute steward over it and can do what he pleases with it

From time to time generous Saints would drop by the office with fresh fruit or other items to help with work that they held in high regard. But this could do little to alleviate family conditions. The other clerks had more luck with their family gardens it seems.

Under these circumstances, Grimshaw found work as a store clerk with a cash salary. But the work seems to have lasted only until the hot summer of 1856. Everybody was strapped. Grimshaw was back with the Historian in July.[2]

Jonathan was a relatively accomplished muscian and found a place in the Nauvoo Brass Band who did some musical touring around the territory. These methods of augmenting income (the band was paid in vegetables usually) had dried up by the summer of 1856. Cricket problems, fiery reformation sermons, deep doctrines of JS’s sermons, polygamy and ongoing drought, seem to have weighed on the family to the point that Jonathan’s faith was tried. Grimshaw seems to have made a decision to leave Utah and return to England by July 1856. He quietly wrapped up his affairs and organized transport while still working at the Historian’s Office. His last day was August 2nd when he spent all day copying minutes of Bishop’s meetings.

On August 10th the family left Utah for Council Bluffs, Iowa.[3]
Wilford Woodruff, who was now acting Church Historian in the temporary absence of George A. Smith in the East, observed that Jonathan had spoken about his circumstances both economic and religious. His assessment of Grimshaw, while disappointed for losing his services in the office was a rather positive one: “honorable” in all his associations in the territory and church. But it was a life he was unprepared to live.[4]

Grimshaw departed on good terms, and remained a Mormon on the books if not in active association, for the rest of his life. Grimshaw never spoke badly of the Saints or his time with them, indeed he seems to have buried his Utah experience in the deeps of memory. His children eventually became associated with various Protestant sects.

The intention to go to England, never materialized. Stopping in St. Louis for a short time, the family took what cash they had and settled in the Jefferson City, MO area. Cole County property records show Grimshaw living there by 1860. Arthur stayed in school in St. Louis, graduating in 1861. The war years must have seemed lean, but the family survived in this area that Grimshaw was enchanted with during his trip out to Utah.

Jonathan was active civically and served a year term as mayor of Jefferson City in 1868. In 1873 he was part of a committee to incorporate the library system. It was typical of him. Eliza, the love of his life, died in 1876. Grimshaw said they were compatible in every way.

As noted, the Grimshaw’s kept their association with Mormonism a family secret, and probably for good reason, considering the cultural memories of the area, but at least some of their descendants returned to the faith decades later.

With the building of western railroads, Jonathan took advantage of his long experience in the area and once again became a freight agent. By age 64 (1880) he was living with his youngest child (Sarah, age 24 by then) still in Jefferson City.[5]

Jonathan died in 1897. His life was honorable, and despite his doubts, he has had an impact on the way Mormons read their history and the sermons of Joseph Smith for more than 150 years.[6]

[1] The Tithing Office became very careful in releasing foodstuffs as near famine conditions prevailed in the winter of 1855-56. The bookkeeping in the tithing office was a little ragged. Sometimes they appeared to have been altered in the sense that people who were to receive distributions, were charged with them, but never got them.

[2] In spite of drought conditions, weather could be mercurial. Once the sky clouded up with very tall thunder heads. Rain came down and then hail to a depth of 2 feet in some spots over a very short period. City Creek, which ran through the center of Salt Lake City, funneled a wall of water down into town, blasting through adobe walls, wiping out fences, filling up homes with mud and generally creating havoc. The cleanup was immense.

[3] One of his former colleagues in the office penned a short note at the bottom of the August 10 entry in the Historian’s office journal: “JG left for the states.” Grimshaw was certainly not alone in his reasons for leaving the valley. A fair number of Saints felt pressed beyond their abilities or sensibilities and if and when they had the means, left Utah for the east, or California. Grimshaw had no debt to the PEF. That and consecrated property could be a sticking point in getting out of the valley. (Indeed, some disgruntled Saints viewed their PEF debt as unfair – probably because they felt the bang for the buck was a bit low at the end of the journey.) As the reformation really got in gear (after Grimshaw’s departure) dissenters, or simply those with flagging commitment could receive harsh treatment and threats. Departing Saints (or former Saints) would travel in groups/trains as they had when coming to Utah. For several case studies of disillusioned Mormons leaving Utah, see Polly Aird, “You Nasty Apostates, Clear Out: Reasons for Disaffection in the Late 1850s” Journal of Mormon History 30/2 (2004): 129-207.

[4] Woodruff wrote in an August 4 diary entry “… We learned soon after ariving at the office that one of our clerks viz that Jonathan Grimshaw was about to leave us for England. Could not stand the hard times & did not know whether Mormonism was true or not. So he is going home but he has taken a very honorable course in all his business & dealings.”

[5] Jonathan’s son, Arthur followed in his father’s footsteps both politically and economically. He served as mayor of Jefferson City twice and was a railroad freight agent. Perhaps with a bit of irony, several of Grimshaw’s descendants and relatives have been avid genealogists. See one of their webpages.

[6] Grimshaw’s work on JS’s sermons, at least those that make it into the book, will be treated with some detail. You’ll have to wait until then.

One Response to Jonathan Grimshaw and Honorable Doubts, Part 3.

  1. Pingback: Jonathan Grimshaw Redux «'s Blog

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