Question: What is the date of the Smith family's "removal to Manchester"?

Table of Contents

Question: What is the date of the Smith family's "removal to Manchester"?

In about four years after my father’s arrival at Palmyra, he moved with his family into Manchester...
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Some time in the second year after our removal to Manchester, there was in the place where we lived an unusual excitement on the subject of religion...
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Critical arguments and responses

Critics wish to use the following facts to date the "removal to Manchester" to the 1822-1823 timeframe in order to match Joseph's account with the 1823-1824 revival. This would contradict Joseph's statement that the First Vision occurred in 1820, in the "second year" after their removal to Manchester.

Joseph's father moved to Palmyra in 1816

Joseph Smith states, in multiple sources, that his father moved to Palmyra when he was ten years old.[1] Lucy Mack Smith notes that Joseph Smith, Sr. moved to Palmyra first, and that the rest of the family moved later.

Joseph's family moved to Manchester four years after the arrival of Joseph Sr.

Orsamus Turner notes that the Smith's were living in their log house, which was located in Manchester, by 1819 to 1820.[2]

The tax assessment of the Smiths' Manchester land rose in 1823

Critics use this fact to support their argument that the Smiths completed their Manchester cabin in 1822, thus dating the "second year after our removal to Manchester" to 1824, with the conclusion that the First Vision could not be dated to 1820. Critics do not note, however, that in 1823 the Smiths completed construction of a wood frame home on the Manchester side of the Palmyra-Manchester township line, which accounts for the increase in value of the Smiths' Manchester land in 1823. According to Lucy Mack Smith, by November 1822 [corrected to 1823] they had raised and were working to complete the frame house that replaced the log cabin.[3]

Joseph Sr. and Alvin Smith appear on the Palmyra road list in April 1822

Critics use this fact to argue that the Smiths probably moved to their cabin in 1822, and that this accounts for the increase in value of the Smiths' land in 1823. (Vogel, EMD 1:280)

The U.S. Census Bureau listed the Smiths in Farmington (now Manchester) in 1820

Critics ignore this fact. In 1818, the Smiths mistakenly constructed a cabin 59 feet north of the actual property line, placing the cabin in Palmyra rather than Manchester. The U.S. Census Bureau listed the Smiths in Farmington (now Manchester) in 1820.

Conclusion: The Smith's considered themselves to be in Manchester

The Smith farm, clearing the land and a log house, all supported evidence that the Smiths, and most everyone else, considered themselves in Manchester, even though they technically lived about 59 feet off their property. Legal U.S. documents now considered the Smiths in Farmington (later called Manchester) even though, technically, the log house was 59 feet away on the Palmyra side of the line. Therefore the "second year after our removal to Manchester" becomes 1820, thus correlating with the date Joseph gave for the First Vision.

Notes

  1. Joseph Smith's 1832 account; Oliver Cowdery, "Letter III", Messenger and Advocate, vol. 1, no. 3 (December 1834), 40.; Joseph Smith's 1842 account. All references cited in Matthew B. Brown, A Pillar of Light, p. 8 note 10-12.
  2. Orsamus Turner, History of the Pioneer Settlement of Phelps and Gorham’s Purchase and Morris’ Reserve (Rochester:William Alling, 1852), 213 n. 1.; cited in Brown, A Pillar of Light, p. 8 note 23.
  3. This occurs prior to Alvin's death, as recorded in Lucy's 1845 manuscript, "[W]hen the month of November 1822 [1823] arrived the House was raised and all the Materials procured for completing the building." Lucy Mack Smith, "History, 1845," quoted in Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 1:299.