Source: Typescript of "Ohio v. Dr. P. Hurlbut," 9 April 1834, Geauga County Court House, Chardon, Ohio; as recorded in "Geauga County, Court of Common Pleas Records," Book P, p. 191. view page 191 source document
Note 1: Some past writers have assumed that the Hurlbut trial was held on the first day of the new court term (March 31, 1834). According to an entry in Joseph Smith's diary, dated April 1, 1834, "The court has not brought forward Hurlbut's trial yet, and we were engaged in issuing subpĪnas for witnesses." A subsequent Smith entry reads: "Wednesday the 2d and Thursday the 3d, attended the court. Hurlbut was on trial for threatening my life. Friday morning I returned home." All of this seems to indicate a carrying out of the pre-trial process, prior to the actual commencement of Hurlbut's trial. According to a report in the April 12, 1834 issue of the Chardon Spectator, Hurlbut's trial finally commenced on "Tuesday last." Presumably this means Tuesday, April 8, 1834 and not Tuesday, April 1st (when the pre-trial process was just getting under way). The trial was held in the old court-house at Chardon and was of short duration. -- Although the heading across the top of the transcript on page 191 of the record book reads "April 9, 1834," the record itself evidently contains information derived from events of April 8-10 (if the actual trial commenced on the 8th, ended on the 9th, and Hurlbut's bond was paid on the 10th). -- The text recorded here was re-transcribed as a part of the larger entry written on pages 431-432 in this same record book.
Note 2: The Smith vs. Hurlbut pre-trial hearing was held on Jan. 13-15, 1834 at Painesville, before the Hon. William Holbrook and a fellow Justice of the Peace. The transcript of the decision in that case was appended to the transcript for the decision in State of Ohio vs. Hurlbut trial, held at Chardon, in the court term beginning on March 31, 1834. The combined original transcripts were copied into one of the record books for the Geauga County Court of Common Pleas some time prior July of 1896.
Note 3: The combined transcript mentioned above was printed in Vol. I, pp. 444-446 of The History of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, (1st ed 1896). The original pre-trial testimony was apparently discarded soon after the hearing at Painesville, but the hearing is summarized in the record of the subsequent April, 1834 trial held at Chardon. In neither case do the actual words of witness testimony survive: they are not to be found in the Chardon Court House, nor anywhere else. A few recollections of that trial were preserved by an article in the Chardon Spectator along with some reminiscences of trial lawyer James A. Briggs and Mormon Bishop Whitney's brother Samuel F. Whitney, who testified there as a witness in Hurlbut's behalf.
Source: Typescript of "Ohio v. Dr. P. Hurlbut," 31 March 1834, Geauga County Courthouse, Chardon, Ohio; as recorded in "Geauga County, Court of Common Pleas Records," Book P, pp. 431-432. view page 431 source document
Note 1: Although recorded after the April 9th transcript, the following document is dated "31 March 1834" because its introductory paragraph contains that same date. This was actually the date that Court of Common Pleas at Chardon began its spring term, not the date of the conclusion of Hurlbut's case -- (perhaps originally scheduled for Mon., March 31st) began with some pre-trial on Tues. or Wed., which continued through Thur., April 3rd. The actual trial commenced a week later. This was on the "Tuesday last" spoken of in the Chardon Spectator's "Mormon Trial" article of Apr. 12, 1834.
Note 2: Hurlbut's attorney for both his Painesville and Chardon trials was James A. Briggs. In 1875 Briggs claims were that "Joseph Smith was prosecuted by a man by the name of Hurlbut, I think, for assault and battery." If it was Hurlbut who first brought legal action against Joseph Smith, Jr., his complaint was either not noticed by the local Justice of the Peace or was superseded/incorporated in the hearing stage with another legal review, initiated when Joseph Smith filed a seemingly more serious complaint against Hurlbut, on or about Dec. 27, 1833. The J. P. for Kirtland township, John C. Dowen, admitted that he frequently did not "notice" complaints filed with him against the Kirtland Mormons and "refused" many demands for warrants. This habit of his was substantiated by local resident Charles Grover. In 1885 Dowen recalled that "Hurlbut said he would "kill" Jo Smith. He meant he would kill Mormonism. The Mormons urged me to issue a writ against him. I did, as recorded in my Docket, Dec. 27, 1833, on complaint of Joseph Smith." (The actual date of Smith's complaint is undetermined -- the court record reads "21st of Dec.," but that may be a later mistranscription of "27th of Dec." from the missing, original 1833 document -- see David W. Grua's discussion of this dating irregularity in his 2005 paper, "Joseph Smith and the 1834 D. P. Hurlbut Case," BYU Studies 44:1). Dowen also said that "Hurlbut staid at my house every three or four days for as many months." Some of Hurlbut's lodging at the Dowen residence may have been due to his having been taken into custody by a local constable. Also, as Dowen testified in Hurlbut's behalf at his Chardon trial, the two men may have become close acquaintances during the winter of 1833-34.
Note 3: D. P. Hurlbut's attorney says that his client "prosecuted" the Mormon leader; however that prosecution apparently never reached the court trial stage. Hurlbut reportedly tried to bring a suit against Joseph Smith, Jr. (and/or Hyrum Smith) during the winter of 1833-34. At least, a note written by Joseph during that time period states that Hurlbut was "commenceing an unjust suit against Brother Hyram..." One possible reconstruction of late December 1833 events would have D. P. Hurlbut making a complaint against Joseph Smith, Jr. with a non-Kirtland, Geauga County Justice of the Peace (perhaps in Painesville, at a safe distance from the Mormon center of power). Such a complaint might have arisen out of a reported confrontation between D. P. Hurlbut and Joseph Smith, Jr. following a Mormon religious service conducted at the school-house on Kirtland Flats, on or about Sunday, Dec. 22, 1833. See Mr. Thomas' account of the aftermath of such a Mormon meeting, where "Joe Smith called on God to curse" Hurlbut. Smith later recorded a curse of this nature in his personal journal, under the date of Apr. 1, 1834. See Dale W Adams' 2000 paper, "Doctor Philastus Hurlbut..." in JWHS Journal 20, wherein the writer says: "Hurlbut returned to Kirtland about the middle of December and began attacking Joseph Smith. Understandably, Smith and his supporters lashed back..." Hurlbut's lawyer, James A. Briggs, recalled: "In 1833 Joseph Smith was prosecuted by a man by the name of Hurlbut, I think, for assault and battery." While there is no record on file of any complaint of D. P. Hurlbut's ever reaching the stage of "prosecution," Briggs adds the peculiar detail, that at his Jan. 1833 pre-trial hearing in Painesville, "another Justice of the Peace" sat in on the hearing. This may have been a judge with whom Hurlbut had previously filed a complaint against Smith, for "assault and battery." If there was a scuffle between the two men at the postulated Dec. 22nd Mormon meeting (or even if Smith had some of his assistants eject Hurlbut from that meeting), such an event might well have formed the basis for a complaint by Hurlbut. The Justice of the Peace who may have received Hurlbut's complaint, hearing of a second, subsequent complaint made by Smith at Kirtland, might have delayed "noticing" Hurlbut's relatively minor charge, until the hearing for Smith's "attempted murder" charges against Hurlbut could be examined. If something of this sort happened, it would explain the "extra" judge sitting in on Hurlbut's Jan. 1833 hearing at Painesville, as well as the fact that Hurlbut never was able to follow through with his own plans for prosecuting Joseph or Hyrum Smith in the Geauga Co. court system.
Source: The History of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Vol. I, (1st. ed. 1896) p. 446
Note: This certificate verifies the transcript of the 1834 Hurlbut trials as printed in 1896 by the RLDS Church. Aside from a few minor typographical errors, the content of the published 1896 typescript matches that of the original Court records.
Source: Untitled "Record" Book, p. 82, at Geauga Co. Court House, Chardon, Ohio.
Note: The "judgment against defendant" is dated March 31, 1834. The costs of the trial (billed to Hurlbut) were $112.59. This notation in the "Record" Book is followed by comments dated April 16, 1834 saying "defendant not found," etc. These lines apparently relate to a sheriff's search made to find "the defendant." It is not specifically stated that this defendant was D. P. Hurlbut.
Source: "1831-35 Court of Common Pleas Execution Docket" Book at Geauga Co. Courthouse, Chardon, OH. (Photographed as Item #1 of LDS Family History Library microfilm #1,289,257)
Note 1: At the bottom of the page, written in a careless hand, is a reference to "Page 431."
Note 2: Below is a tabulation of witnesses who appeared at D. P. Hurlbut's Painesville and Chardon trials. The record for his Jan. 13-15 Painesville hearing provides the first column of witnesses "on the part of the State." The second column is a list of witnesses who appeared at Hurlbut's Chardon trial. The third column is taken from the Apr. 9, 1834 witness payment list in the 1831-34 Geauga Co. Treasurer's "Order Book." Names printed in red in the tabulation were witnesses who aparently testifyied in behalf of Hurlbut at Painesville and/or Chardon. Noticeably absent from the second list is "Mr. Wakefield," who was very likely the "Jos[eph] H. Wakefield," whose name appears in the Jan. 31, 1834 notice, "To the Public" in the Painesville Telegraph. Wakefield was a former Mormon whom George A. Smith (Joseph Smith's cousin) later recalled to have been at least marginally associated with D. P. Hurlbut. Wakefield was reportedly murdered near Willoughby, Ohio in 1834. Whether the "Copley" who testified at Painesville was Daniel Copley (Hurlbut's LDS missionary partner in 1833) or "L." Copley is uncertain. The RLDS History, vol. 1, p. 445 reads "L." Copley. This would have most probably been "Lemon" Copley, an ex-Shaker from Thompson, Ohio who joined the Mormons. On the original transcript the initial appears to read "L" -- but it might also be a "D." Daniel Copley was Lemon Copley's younger second cousin. Both men are mentioned in early minutes of the Thompson township officers, on file at the Western Reserve Historical Society Library in Cleveland, Ohio. One argument in favor of the "L" reading is that Lemon Copley reportedly later asked forgiveness from the LDS leadership, for having testified against Joseph Smith, Jr. in a court trial. He was reinstated to membership among the Latter Day Saints in Missouri.
Note 3: One of the female witnesses at Hurlbut's Chardon trial (and apparently also at his Painesville hearing) later joined the RLDS Church. According to Presiding Bishop Edmund L. Kelley, she provided him some limited information on Hurlbut. See the editorial remarks in the Oct. 4, 1890 issue of the Saints' Herald. She was almost certainly Sarah Hodges Waite Luckey (1809-1895), who is listed in the April 8-9 list as "Mrs. -- Waite," the wife of Elder Truman Wait(e). Sarah was a daughter of Curtis Hodges and a sister of Irvin (Ervin) Hodges -- she evidently first met D. P. Hurlbut in Thompson township, Ohio, in 1833.
Garrit Brass was a resident of Mentor, Ohio who died in a cabin fire early on Nov. 25, 1837. According to his daughter Esther and her brother, "it was generally believed" that the elderly Mr. Brass "was robbed and the fire set to hide the crime." Esther's brother "... thought that a man living in Mentor was the guilty person, by the name of Hulburt [D. Philastus Hurlbut], whom it was learned on the night of the murder moved away, going west."
Other historical evidence corroborates the allegation that D. P. Hurlbut moved away from his residence (at the Henry Murson house) in Mentor at about the time Mr. Brass died in the fire. It appears that Hurlbut was pursued in his departure from Mentor and that some stolen goods (perhaps the property of Garrit Brass) were found to be in his possession at that time. No contemporary records have yet been discovered to confirm any illegal activities on Hurlbut's part, however.
Documents Featured in this Section::
2. 1885 Esther Brass Scott Statement (taken by A. B. Deming)
3. 1885 Calvin Ingersoll Statement (taken by A. B. Deming)
4. 1885 Mrs. J. D. Barber Statement (taken by A. B. Deming)
5. c. 1885 Mrs. Alvors' Statement (taken by A. B. Deming)
6. 1947 Dale Morgan Letter (citing the above statements)
7. The Mormons in Monroe, MI
Document 1: 1837 Article on the Death of Garrit Brass
Source: Painesville Republican Nov. 30, 1837
Notes: see source article
Document 2: 1885 Esther Brass Scott Statement to Arthur B. Deming
Source: Arthur B. Deming file, Mormon Collection, Chicago Historical Society.
Note 1: Esther Brass Scott (1808-c.1888) believed that a certain "Hurlbut" was guilty of the "murder" of her father, Garrit Brass (1766-1837). Although she does not provide the first name of that individual, her friends in Mentor supply details that show she was speaking of D.P. Hurlbut (see documents 2-4 below). Hurlbut may indeed have left Mentor for the west on eve of the same day that Brass was found dead and burned in his cabin: Nov. 25, 1837. The "sister" that Esther speaks of was Lucy Brass Bronson (1795-1847) who was living in Brownstone, Wayne Co., MI as late as Dec. 26, 1836. Wayne is the home county of Detroit; it is not far from the Ohio border and would have offered a large enough population to obscure the whereabouts of fugitives from the east.
Note 2: Maria Hurlbut in 1885 said that she and her husband "moved to Mentor, O. and left there in the fall and moved to "Bedford, St. Laurence Co., Mich." Mr. H. became a United Brethren minister and lived in various places in northern Ohio for twelve years and finally settled in Gibsonburg in 1852..." She does not state the year of their move to Michigan or how long it took them to reach that destination. The couple's oldest child, was born Jan 29, 1836, Sandusky, Erie, Ohio, but they may have retained their official residence in Mentor until late in 1836 or 1837; the latter removal date, if it is the correct one, might have even coincided the Nov. 1837 death of Garrit Brass. There was no "Bedford, St. Laurence Co." in Michigan. It is possible that Maria may have been speaking of the family having moved to Bedford, Calhoun Co., a northern suburb of Battle Creek. Joseph Smith III in 1883 recalled Hurlbut as having lived in Sturgis, St. Joseph, MI (40 miles south of Battle Creek). However, it is more probable that the location in Maria's printed statement should have read "Pt. Lawrence, Bedford Twp., Monroe Co., Michigan" Point Lawrence (more properly, Port Lawrence) was orginally adjacent to Bedford, Michigan. It is now an urban river pennisula in northeast Toledo, Lucas Co., Ohio. This location is near both Gibsonburg, Sandusky Co., Ohio (where the Hurlbut family eventually settled) and Sandusky, Erie Co., Ohio (where their first child was probably born).
Document 3: c. 1885 Calvin Ingersoll statement
Source: Arthur B. Deming file, Mormon Collection, Chicago Historical Society.
Notes: While Ingersoll does not name Judge & Deacon Orris Clapp, Sr. (1770-1847) as the victim of Hurlbut's alleged enticement with his "wife" (Maria Woodbury Hurlbut?), Sidney Rigdon in 1839 voiced a stronger accusation against Hurlbut: "while Hulbert was busily employed... old deacon Clapp was employed in taking care of his wife... Hulbert being out till a late hour in the night, returned to his house, and... there was the pious old deacon, either in the bed with his wife, or at the side of it..."
Essentially the same story regarding Clapp and Hurlbut's wife was retold by Joseph Smith in 1838: "While Hurlburt was held in bounds... Old deacon Clapp of Mentor ran and took him and his family into the house with himself and... went to bed to his wife..." A similar story was told by LDS Elder Benjamin F. Johnson in his My Life's Review, about Hurlbut, his wife, and "an aged man named Randall." The events of Johnson's account might possibly fit into a 1837 time-frame; but the Ingersoll, Rigdon, and Smith accounts do not seem to square with Hurlbut not marrying in 1834 until apparently after his anti-Mormon activites had ended.
Document 4: c. 1885 Mrs. J.D. Barber statement
Source: Arthur B. Deming file, Mormon Collection, Chicago Historical Society.
Notes: Mrs. Barber's claim that Hurlbut had stolen "chains" from his former neighbors in Mentor is supported by a similar charge made by Benjamin Winchester in 1840: "Mr. Hurlbut... took to stealing for a livelihood, was detected in stealing a log chain, [and] fled the country to escape justice..." (page 11).
Document 5: c. 1885 Mrs. Alvors' statement
Source: Arthur B. Deming file, Mormon Collection, Chicago Historical Society.
Notes: Mrs. Alvors's statement clarifies the less distinct claims made in the other statments Deming collected linking D.P. Hurlbut to Garrit Brass (1766-1837). It appears likely that Hurlbut did indeed know the old man and may have even been a visitor to his residence -- an oddity, in that Brass did not seem to be the sort of person Hurlbut might have most readily picked out for engaging in polite friendship,
Document 6: 1947 Dale Morgan letter to Fawn Mackay Brodie (excerpts)
Source: Walker, John Phillip (ed.) Dale Morgan on Early Mormonism . . . UT, 1986.
Notes: Morgan's speculation concerning Hurlbut's supposedly being " illiterate," do not agree well with the numerous instances where Hurlbut was reported to have read written and printed words, or to have written letters, etc., himself. Perhaps Howe's meaning in using this term was to try and say that Hurlbut was not widely read or very capable in his writing skills.
Morgan said that he located "half a dozen statements bearing on Hurlbut in 1836-37," in the Deming file among the contents of Mormon Collection at the Chicago Historical Society. Only four of these appear to be extant today (documents 1-4 above). In his saying that these letters contained "accusations of theft made against Hurlbut," Morgan was softening their commonly voiced suspicion that D.P. Hurlbut was in some way involved with the death and apparent murder of Garrit Brass (1766-1837) who was found dead and burned on 25 Nov 1837, in Mentor, Lake, OH. As to their accusation that D.P. Hurlbut left Mentor for the west that same night, that is certainly possible; Hurlbut had been residing in the area and left at about the same time, probably for Michigan.
Two of those Deming statements allege that Hurlbut soon after encountered Brass' daughter, Lucy Brass Bronson (1795-1847) in Michigan. This is also possible, since Hurlbut reportedly moved to Michigan at about this same time and Lucy and her family were living in Brownstone, Wayne, MI as late as Dec. 26, 1836 (and probably for the next few years as well). Both became Mormons some time before 1847 and Hurlbut may have encountered Lucy while visiting with persons he had previously met or heard about while living in Mentor -- such settlers in Michigan could easily have included Mormons and their relatives.
Located in the extreme south eastern corner of Michigan, the County and town of Monroe lie down river from Detroit, being centered on the confluence of the River Raisin and the Detroit River near the western shore of Lake Erie. Monroe County was created out of Wayne County, Michigan Territory in 1817. The village of Monroe was originally known as Frenchtown but was renamed Monroe in 1817 in honor of President James Monroe. This was the second town settled in Michigan Territory. Monroe was first organized as a village in 1827 and became the city of Monroe on March 22, 1837.
Disputes between Michigan and Ohio over Monroe County's southern border (the Toledo Strip) led to the bloodless Michigan-Ohio War in 1835-1836. In 1836 the U. S. Congress declared Michigan to be a state and eventually brokered a deal in which Michigan ceded its claim to Toledo to Ohio in return for receiving Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Part of the land ceded to Ohio included the old "Port Lawrence" Township of Monroe County. This ephemeral township was organized in April of 1827 and was merged into Lucas County, Ohio by the end of 1836. The area just north of what had been "Port Lawrence" Township was organized as Bedford Township in March of 1836.
The Coming of the Mormons
The LDS presence in southeastern Michigan began in 1831, when Mormons Lucy Mack Smith and her niece Almira visited family in Detroit. There Temperance Mack (Lucy's sister-in-law and Almira's mother) joined the Church that same year. Soon there were more LDS converts in the region. One of these was the future Mormon Apostle David W. Patten. He settled in Monroe County, Michigan in the 1820s and was apparently there converted to Mormonism, shortly before he left that state in 1832. Patton's early connections in Monroe may have played some part in the Mormons taking interest in that place a few years later.
In May of 1834 Hyrum Smith headed a division of Zion's Camp that passed through Michigan recruiting additional members. The Mormon presence was growing in the territory and by that time there were likely Mormon congregations both in Detroit and in Monroe.
In August of 1835 Joseph Smith, Jr. and his councilor F. G. Williams traveled to Michigan Territory and were absent from Kirtland when a General Council of the Church met there in mid-August. Smith and Williams were probably visiting Detroit and Monroe. Brigham Young later said that "a plot was laid to waylay Joseph for the purpose of taking his life, on his return from Monroe, Michigan, to Kirtland." Young also said that he personally foiled that attempt.
A Mormon Bank in Monroe
In November of 1836 Oliver Cowdery left Kirtland and traveled to Philadelphia to get printing plates for the new Mormon bank planned for Kirtland. Not long after his return with the new bank-note plates, Oliver surrendered his editorship of the Messenger & Advocate and began looking for new employment. In February of 1837 Oliver dissolved the Kirtland Firm of Oliver Cowdery & Co. and journeyed to Monroe, Michigan to supervise the merger of the Mormons' bank in Kirtland with the practically defunct Bank of Monroe. Cowdery was already in Monroe in Feb. 1837 when he wrote his "Valedictory" address to the readers of Kirtland's Messenger & Advocate (published in that paper's Aug. 1837 issue). Apparently Oliver's new business venture in Monroe was called either Cahoon, Carter and Co. or Cowdery and Wilson. The firm's bank in Monroe went out of business the following month, after Cowdery had secured $22,000 in Bank of Monroe bank-notes. These he counter-signed in his new capacity of Vice President of that failing institution.
By early 1837 Monroe had become a city but had lost both its valuable Port Lawrence docks and its local bank. Still, it remained the second largest population center after Detroit and settlers continued to build up the city and the surrounding county. Many of these settlers came from lakeshore Ohio and it is not surprising that some of them in 1837 were former residents of the Kirtland region. During the uncertain months of 1838 and 1839 the Mormons in that area apparently stayed put, waiting to see where the new Latter Day Saint gathering place would be established. With the building up of Nauvoo, Illinois in 1839-40 many moved south, depleting Monroe's Mormon population and defusing any Mormon/anti-Mormon tensions which may have been smoldering there.
Arrival of D. P. Hurlbut in 1837
Monroe's local newspapers, the Michigan Sentinel and the Monroe Times printed several articles on the Latter Day Saints during the 1830s. The Sentinel reprinted eastern articles telling of D. P. Hurlbut's exposing "the mysteries of Mormonism" (Jan. 25, 1834); of Sidney Rigdon "suspected of being [the Book of Mormon's] author" (Mar. 15); of Solomon Spalding 's "work of fiction" forming the basis for that book (May 3); and of D. P. Hurlbut's trial in Chardon, Ohio (May 24). When Hurlbut arrived in the Monroe area (apparently at Port Lawrence or Bedford) in Nov.-Dec. 1837, he was no doubt already known by reputation, if not in person.