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A popular figure of American emphathy,
future plural wife of Joseph Smith

ROCHESTER DAILY ADVERTISER (newspaper, Rochester, New York) for Saturday morning, November 27, 1830 [Volume V, whole issue number 1249].

Folio (20 X 15 inches), [4] pages, complete issue. Numerous small woodcut advertisement illustrations. The two leaves nearly separated; slight edge tears, but in very good, pleasing condition.

$250

A wonderful sampling of life near Palmyra, New York, half a year after the Book of Mormon was printed. In the fifth column of the second page appears a small blurb, of an inch tall . . .

 

 

You can be sure that readers of the day did not gloss over this announcement! Everyone knew the name of Lucinda Morgan, a victim of the biggest crime of the decade in that region. Her previous husband had been murdered in 1826, apparently for attempting to publish secret rites of Freemasonry. His abduction and murder became a nationwide scandal which led to the formation of America's first, third political party, aimed at rooting out "secret combinations" which were seen as a threat to church and state alike. The Antimasonic Party threatened even to cost Jackson the Presidency.

In this newspaper, we see the then-famous martyr widow Lucinda Morgan marrying her landlord, George Washington Harris. Her next husband would be Joseph Smith, after both she and Mr. Harris joined the Mormon Church (and while Mr. Harris was still living). For background, consult Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness; The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, no date), Chapter 2, "Wife of Two Martyrs, Lucinda Pendleton (Morgan Harris Smith)."

Compton dates the marriage of Lucinda and George Harris November 30, 1830, because "The Wayne Sentinel, on December 3, reported in its marriage department: 'In Batavia, on Tuesday last by the Hon. Simeon Cummings, Mr. GEORGE W. HARRIS, To Mrs. LUCINDA MORGAN, widow of the late Capt. William Morgan.' At the time of the marriage Lucinda was twenty-nine and George was fifty. Presumably Harris's silversmith shop was prospering and Lucinda received a measure of security through this new marriage." (Compton, p.48).

 

THE RECENT DISCOVERY of the newspaper offered here for sale now pushes the date of this marriage back at least to November 23. It shows that the Palmyra newspaper (the Wayne Sentinel quoted above) simply picked up this identical notice from an earlier paper - likely the Rochester Daily Advertiser seen here - causing "Tuesday last" to sound like it was a week later than it could have been, given this earlier printing.

There are so many colorful stories one could tell about Mrs. Morgan/Harris/Smith! Mr. Harris was supportive of Lucinda long before their marriage, once patiently conveying her to Lake Ontario to try to identify a body found floating there. (Was it really Morgan? The extracted teeth of her late husband which she carried with her seemed to fit into the sockets of the corpse, more or less, but the hair in the ears wasn't quite right, etc., etc.!). According to Dr. B. W. Richmond, after Joseph Smith was slain, Lucinda was seen clutching an edition of an antimasonic book, convulsed in sorrow near the slain Prophet's body in the Nauvoo Mansion House (Deseret News, Nov. 27, 1875, taken from the Chicago Times).

A picaresque episode, a rare newspaper which I have not seen before, and a minor correction to the history of one of Joseph Smith's first plural wives!

 

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