This past weekend I was at Nauvoo for the Untold Stories Symposium. My topic was Catherine Laur Fuller Warren and her testimony against Dr. John C. Bennett. The audio below was recorded live, with minor edits to make it shorter (30 minutes vs. longer) and less blooper-filled. The powerpoint file for the presentation is also attached.
This, I felt, was the core of the new paradigm I have explored in my Faithful Joseph series. This is the previously untold history that is key to understanding everything else that happened in Nauvoo.
The trip to Nauvoo provided some interesting insights:
- First, I knew the 1840 census for Catherine listed four boys and one girl, even though the Family Search record for Catherine only lists three sons and one daughter. In reviewing the 1842 census, there are four male names listed – John being the name that hadn’t been listed as a separate person in Family Search. Apparently others were aware of a John, but had presumed that this was an alternate name for Josiah. However the 1842 census lists both John and Josiah. I’ll do a bit more research to make sure John’s work hasn’t already been done, then if he’s truly been overlooked, I’ll put him into Family Search in Catherine’s family.
- At the end of the presentation, someone suggested that Joseph was killed for political reasons, namely because he was running for President of the United States. While I don’t think he was killed because of his Presidential bid, the conversation caused me to reflect on the possibility that Josep might have become a serious contender for the Presidency of the United States. He had an extensive campaign machine in the persons of all the missionaries. Also, had Bennett’s spring attempt to undo his lies succeeded, he might have embarked on his own portion of the campaign, undoing much of the damage he himself had inflicted on Joseph’s character. Ultimately, Joseph died, so it is a moot point. I think.
- I ran into a lady who is descended from Zina Huntington [Jacobs Smith Young]. She confirmed that Henry Jacobs was excommunicated when he came home from Europe, having performed an unauthorized sealing on behalf of William W. Phelps. Sad that he was excommunicated. Happy that I was right about that event (sad though it was).
- I knew folks of that era didn’t believe in contagion. What I hadn’t realized is that contagion specifically refers to contact (both come from the Latin con meaning “with” and tangere meaning “to touch”). Though infection was considered possible, it was believed to be due to bad air, e.g., miasma. My husband and I got into it on this point, and he cited the instance in Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, when Marianne is ill and the mother flees the home with her infant. But analysis of that passage shows that all the reasonable people in the story feel there is no threat. It is only the mother (noted as vapid) and her mother (noted as silly) who feel there is a threat.
Something else I’ve noted in my various studies since 2013 is that there appear to be two very small periods of time when we see plural wives of faithful men conceive. The first window was April 1843. The second window starts in May 1844. Based on this, I suspect that if Joseph did consummate any of his plural marriages, it would be during these two windows of time. So while I may not be entirely convinced he consummated any of his plural marriages, I would be willing to allow as possible reported interactions that appear to have occurred during those windows. Specifically, I might be willing to allow the reports regarding Emily Partridge (her own statements) and Malissa Lott (someone else reporting her statement). However, this isn’t a Nauvoo insight, per se.
For what it’s worth, the presentation appears to have been well-received. No rotten tomatoes. No one even challenged me on any facts. This core story is solid, and since no one really cares about Catherine Fuller, no one is offended to learn what happened to her. Except I care, and I am offended on her behalf, as I mention in my talk.