Historic Sites in Mormon Missouri - Richmond, Missouri
By Annette W. Curtis
The David Whitmer Home was built about 1843. It was located at 216 East Main Street in Richmond, Missouri.
This two-story home of simple lines had seven rooms and a summer kitchen. In June of 1878 the David Whitmer home was badly damaged by a tornado. The local paper stated:
"Language is too poor to adequately describe the desolation and ruin of Richmond. Within a few moments, a third of the town was made desolate. Five hundred persons made homeless with many of them left penniless. Richmond is in grief and mourning. We have buried twelve bodies of our good citizens. . . . [Speaking of the David Whitmer home] the buildings all around it were torn to atoms, it is an interesting fact that the room in which the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon was kept was uninjured, although the building itself was damaged. . . ." - The Ray Chronicle, June 3, 1878.
David Whitmer later made the statement: "While I was camping around here in a tent, all my effects exposed to the weather, everything in my trunk became moldy, but the manuscript was preserved, not even being discolored."
The old stagecoach trunk, with the historic manuscript, and other valuable writings and mementos, was turned over on April 18, 1903, to the Reorganized Church of Latter Day Saints [now known as the Community of Christ], at Independence, Missouri. The manuscript is housed in the Community of Christ Archives. - Peal Wilcox, The Latter Day Saints on the Missouri Frontier.
The trunk and a display of the manuscript is now (2006) on display in the museum in the Community of Christ Temple.
An enlargement of the David Whitmer home as illustrated on the 1883 Sanborn Map [see endnote] is shown here. Dwg means Dwelling. The front part is two stories as shown in the accompanying photograph.
The larger back part is one story and is partially hidden behind the trees on the right of the photograph.
The small room shown as one story on the northeast corner of the house is the room in which David Whitmer kept the trunk which held the original Book of Mormon manuscript [which had been entrusted to his care upon the death of Oliver Cowdery in 1850]. After the tornado damage, David Whitmer's house was rebuilt just as it had been before.
A business building is now on the site of the David Whitmer home, which is immediately east of the Second Baptist Church and can be seen in a later photo of the David Whitmer home. That fact is also illustrated in the later Sanborn maps.
An interesting quote which sheds light on David Whitmer's position is from a letter written by David Whitmer to The Saints' Herald:
"... Such a rumor [that David Whitmer aided the Missouri mob against the church members] may have existed; if so, it may have originated in this way: when I came I Richmond, General Parks, who was in command of the State Militia, was short of wagons and teams, as they were scarce here then; so he pressed me and my team into service and I was forced to go and drive a wagon load of baggage to Far West. I told them if I had to go I would take no gun. They said "all right;" and I took no gun. This rumor may have originated in this way. God knows that I did not encourage the militia in the least to persecute the Saints. He knows I was praying for them and did not lay a straw in their way, instead of aiding in their persecutions. Our persecutions [persecution of the church] began five years before I left the body in 1838; now was I in any way the cause of that? Brethren, it is ridiculous; it is wrong; it is an injury to an innocent man; and an injury to the cause and to my testimony to the Book Mormon! It is an abomination in the sight of God, and he will justly reward all those who have originated such falsehoods about me!! Now brethren--I want to repeat, in the fear of God, that my testimony will stand at the judgment day as the truth, concerning all of these matters. May this writer in the Herald some day see wherein he is in error, and may he find the truth as it is in Christ, is my prayer for him." [Saints' Herald, Vol. 34 (February 5, 1887): page 89-90.]
[Thanks to Ron Romig for this quote.]
A "Richmond Jail" MMFF Marker
Three sites in Richmond, Missouri will be commemorated with one marker.
1. Log building in the block north of the square. This is the "vacant log house" where the first six (6) prisoners were kept. It is where Joseph Smith rebuked the guards as recorded by Parley P. Pratt.
2. Unfinished brick court house in the center of the square. The Ray County Courthouse and several historical markers occupy this location including a statue of Alexander Doniphan. This site is where most of the men were held under guard and was also where the preliminary hearing was held in November 1838.
3. The Ray County jail on East North Main in Richmond. It is the building built for a jail and was one block east of the square on the street running on the north side of the square. It was used after the preliminary hearing for prisoners who were kept longer in Richmond and not among those sent to Liberty Jail for later trial in Daviess County. The Ray County jail location is the most suitable site for a single marker to commemorate the historic events in November1838 when Mormons from Caldwell County were held as prisoners in Richmond. (Currently  this is part of a parking lot for a grocery store [west side], Salvation Army store in 2006).
IMPORTANT LOCATIONS: Richmond, Missouri
upper center DW marks the David Whitmer home. Note the small room on the back.
lower right The Whitmer & Co Livery.
lower left A "vacant log house" was used as a jail for Joseph Smith and 5 other church leaders.
upper left The Richmond Jail where Parley P. Pratt wrote the history after the hearings.
- Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of Richmond, Mo. Nov 1883 [see endnote]
Further comment on the map:
The "vacant log house" where Joseph Smith and the others were imprisoned was a city block to the left (north) of the Brick Courthouse. (The small building above "log house" could be it - 45 years later. That building is identified as a one story "hen house" and is divided into two rooms in this 1883 fire insurance map.)
The Richmond Jail was just one short block north of David Whitmer's home. It was the location in which Parley P. Pratt and others were kept after the Richmond preliminary hearing while Joseph Smith and other leaders were sent to Liberty Jail. It is where Parley P. Pratt wrote the part of his history which includes the story of the Prophet Joseph rebuking the guards (which occurred when they were in the "vacant log house." The Richmond Jail could be the small square building on the street which is a part of a lumber yard in 1883 - below the label "Jail". Today that site is part of a parking lot. The later Sanborn maps indicate clearly that Ray County used different buildings in several locations over the years for the county jail in Richmond, each one bigger than the last.
Close-up of Ray County Courthouse in 1883. (top is north)
The building was about 40 feet by 60 feet plus the columned porch on the south side. The side walls were 40 feet high to the eave with 4 first floor and 4 second floor windows as shown on each side. No fireplace chimneys are shown. Fireplace chimneys were usually located on the outside walls without windows, the peaked ends, so typically there would be one on each side on the ends, that is, one on each side of the front door and a matching pair on the north, back wall. Typically the floor joints would run the narrow (40') width of the building. Therefore the flooring would run the 60' length of the building. Heavy tongue and grove flooring was the norm in this period. The accounts say that 16 to 20 feet of the floor had been laid which would make it about one-half laid. The information in the accounts (quotes in accompanying articles) says that when the men were arraigned the judge sat on the south side. That puts the judge beside the front door (the door was under the tower shown on this 1883 drawing). That all makes good sense.
More about the Richmond Jail
Close-up of Ray County Courthouse in 1883. (top is north)
This section of the 1899 Sanborn Map of Richmond, Missouri illustrates some important information. Note the location of the David Whitmer home property (DW) on lot 80. Next to it on the east is the Second Baptist Church facing E. Main Street. It and a livery stable occupy lot 79 (not David Whitmer's). One block north on N. Main East is the old Richmond [log] Jail on the corner of lot 62. (The print is too small to read well at this size so I have pointed to the lot number.) The little building is labeled "storage" for Richmond Lumber Co's Lumber Yard in 1899. Also see the 1883 map. By 1909 the little building is gone. The deed of sale below collaborates that the lot was Ray County property. Although it does not say it was where the jail stood it is substantiating evidence.
Deed Book K, pages 9 and 10 records the sale in 1848 of lot 62 by the County. It reads:
To all to whom these presents shall come, I, John Lightner, Commissioner to sell and dispose of certain real estate belonging to the County of Ray, in the State of Missouri, send Greeting; - Whereas the County Court of the County of Ray aforesaid, did on the 5th day of July A. D., 1848 order of that date, appoint me the said John Lightner, a commissioner to sell and dispose of the following real estate, viz: Lot number 62, (Sixty two) in the town of Richmond, as designated in the plat thereof, situate in and belonging to the said County of Ray, to the highest bidder on a credit of twelve months, taking bond with approved security, And Whereas also I, the said Commissioner, did on the 9th day of August, A.D. 1848, in accordance with the term of said order, Sell and dispose of the said real estate to the highest bidder on a credit of twelve months as aforesaid; at which said sale Daniel J. Branstetter became and now the purchaser there of at the price and sum of two hundred and fifty dollars, giving his bond therefore payable twelve months with Nathan Comer as his security. Now, therefore, in consideration of the promises, and of the said sum of two hundred and fifty dollars, to me in hand paid by the said Daniel J. Brumstetter, the receipt thereof I do hereby acknowledge and by virtue of the authority in me vested by law, I, the said John Lightner, Commissioner as aforesaid, do hereby for and in behalf of the County of Ray aforesaid, assign, transfer and convey unto him the said Daniel J. Branstetter all the right, title, interest and estate of the said County of Ray in or to the premises above mentioned thereunto belonging, unto him the said Daniel J. Branstetter, and his heirs and assigns forever. the testimony whereof, I, John Lightner, commissioner as aforesaid, have hereunto set my hand and seal this 9th day of August, in the year of Our Lord eighteen hundred and forty nine.
John Lightner SEAL Commissioner
State of Missouri, County of Ray
Set, Be it remembered that on this 9th day of August, A.D., 1849, personally appeared before me Robinson Jacobs, Clerk of the County Court of the County and State aforesaid, John Lightner, Commissioner to sell and dispose of Lot number 62 in the town of Richmond, belonging to said County, who is personally known to me to be the same person whose name is subscribed to the aforegoing deed as a party thereto, and then and there acknowledged the same to be his voluntary act and deed for the purposes therein expressed. In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and the seal of said Court this 9th day of August, A.D., 1849 SEAL R. Jacobs, Clerk.
Filed for record 22nd August, A.D. 1849. R. Sevier, Recorder.