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Jesse Nathaniel Smith papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSS 503

Scope and Contents note

Collection contains journals, correspondence, genealogies, patriarchal blessings, certificates, an autobiography, and other papers of Jesse Nathaniel Smith, dating from 1836 to 1970. Includes information on the Smith family, and Smith's activities as a settler and community leader in Snowflake, Arizona. Smith was the president of the Scandinavian Mission of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1862 to 1864 and an early settler in Salt Lake City and Parowan, Utah, and in Snowflake, Arizona. Blue ink has spilt on some of the documents, and a child has drawn on some of the diary pages.


  • 1836-1970


Conditions Governing Access note

Open for public research.

Conditions Governing Use note

It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain any necessary copyright clearances. Permission to publish material from Jesse Nathaniel Smith Collection must be obtained from the Supervisor of Reference Services and/or the Special Collections Board of Curators.

Biographical History

Mormon Church leader, polygamist, pioneer, attorney, judge, legislator from Utah and Arizona. Born in New York as the youngest cousin of Joseph Smith, the Mormon prophet, Jesse Nathaniel Smith lived nearly all his life on the American frontier. He was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at Nauvoo on August 13, 1843. From his youth he had shared the trying experiences and persecutions of the Saints in New York, Ohio, and Missouri. At the age of eleven he crossed the Mississippi and the Great Plains in the Mormon's covered wagon exodus from Illinois. He entered the Salt Lake Valley on September 25, 1847, only to leave it again four years later when he was called by Brigham Young to help colonize Parowan, Utah. While at Parowan, he acted as a scout and surveyor for Church colony sites in souther Utah. An active bearer of the priesthood nearly all his life, he was ordained an Elder, a Seventy and a High Priest in 1851, 1854, and 1855 respectively. "Of all the Latter-day Saint causes of Smith's time none were more important than those of the gathering to Zion and the extension of the physical bounds of the Kingdom. Like many Mormons, Jesse N. Smith devoted his life to these causes." In the six decades following the exodus from Nauvoo, he "was engaged in exploring and community building in Utah, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Chihuahua," Mexico and in missionary work in Scandinavia. "More than most of his contemporaries, he played roles which cut across the full fabric of the Mormon experience. He was in the truest sense a field commander. Directing the preaching and convert migration of a proselyting mission abroad and directing the water development and home building of long-term colonizing missions in the West, he at once shared the attitudes and experiences of the church's top hierarchs, yet worked, aspired, and sacrificed with rank-and-file pioneers in opening new frontiers. Sitting thus astride the social divide between the leaders and the led, he had an extraordinarily broad range of vision." Jesse N.'s extensive church service included counselor in the Parowan Stake Presidency at age 21, missionary to Europe 1860-62, President of the Scandinavian Mission, 1862-64 and 1868-70, and President of the Eastern Arizona Stake 1879-1887, and the Snowflake Stake, 1887-1906. Like many of the Mormon leaders of his time, Jesse N. was a polygamist. His five wives, Emma, Margaret, Janet, Augusta, and Emma, bore him a total of 44 children, for which he paid the same price as many others under U. S. law. Under prosecution for violation of the Edmunds Law, he and four other brethren traveled to Mexico in 1884 to purchase land for the Church. When the persecution diminished, he returned to the United States. Jesse N. was also successful in a wide variety of secular activities. "He served as city clerk, city councilman, mayor and city magistrate of Parowan, district attorney of Iron County, Captain in the militia and a member of the Utah Territorial Legislature. As a colonizer of Arizona in 1878, he was an LDS agent in purchasing and securing the townsites, land, and water rights of Snowflake, Taylor, and Woodruff from the Aztec Land and Cattle Company. In Snowflake he was a farmer, stockman, cooperative mercantile and bank organizer, a probate judge, and member of the Arizona Territorial Legislature. Widely traveled and self-educated, he amassed a large library and became conversant in five languages." He died on June 5, 1906, at the age of 71.


2 boxes (1 linear ft.)

1 folder (0.1 linear ft.)

Language of Materials



Autobiography, diary, correspondence, genealogies, patriarchal blessings, certificates, and miscellaneous items. Smith was the president of the Scandinavian Mission of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1862 to 1864 and an early settler in Salt Lake City and in Parowan, Utah and in Snowflake, Arizona.


Collection is arranged into two series: 1. Jesse Nathaniel Smith collection. 2. Jesse Nathaniel. Smith family correspondence.

Other Finding Aids

File-level inventory available online.

Custodial History note

Donated by Barbara H. and Oliver R. Smith in 1990.

Immediate Source of Acquisition note

Donated; Barbara H. and Oliver R. Smith; 1990.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection is a composite of at least four separate gifts to the Harold B. Lee Library. The first contribution was miscellaneous correspondence dating from 1853 to 1897. [The original MSS 503] The second, a gift of Myrtle Blocker, a daughter of Jesse Nathaniel Smith, was in 1971 and included the typewritten copy of Jesse Nathaniel Smith's autobiography. [Formerly MSS 1103 and 1104] The third was a gift of 52 items through the Jesse N. Smith Family Association in 1973. Specific donors on the latter were: Hyrum Smith, Salt Lake City, deceased; Mrs. Lorana Smith Broadbent, 2200 East 4800 South, Salt Lake City; Mrs. Natalie Smith Farr, 45 South Olive, Mesa, Arizona; and Mrs. Myrtle Smith Blocker, 18 North Edgemont, Mesa, Arizona, all sons and daughters of Jesse Nathaniel Smith. The fourth was a gift of 10 items from Robert J. Smith in March, 1974.

Appraisal note

19th Century Mormon and Western Manuscripts.

Related Materials

See also the Jesse Nathaniel Smith letters (MSS SC 1436).

Processing Information note

Processed; Dennis Rowley & Chris Fuller; May, 1974.

Register of Jesse Nathaniel Smith papers
Karen Glenn and H. Christine Swindler, student processors, and John Murphy, curator.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English in Latin script.

Repository Details

Part of the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Repository

1130 HBLL
Brigham Young University
Provo Utah 84602 United States