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William Wines Phelps papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: Vault MSS 810

Scope and Contents

Collection contains original correspondence and journal extracts written by William Wines (W.W.) Phelps and his family between 1835 and 1865. He wrote the majority of the letters to his wife, Sally, in Clay County, Missouri, while he was in Kirtland, Ohio with members of the Mormon Church. The collection also contains some original letters from other family members, such as his wife and son, to Phelps. Many of the pages have just portions of letters and page numbering at the top, but they are not sequential. Letters from John Corrill to his wife Margaret are written on the back of some of Phelps's letters. Dated 1835-1865.


  • 1835-1865


Conditions Governing Access

Originals restricted. Digital copy available online for public use. Photocopies and transcriptions also available for public use.

Conditions Governing Use

It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain any necessary copyright clearances. Permission to publish material from William Wines Phelps papers must be obtained from the Supervisor of Reference Services and/or the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Coordinating Committee.

Biographical History

William Wines Phelps (1792-1872) was an early Mormon publisher, scribe, and pioneer.

W.W. Phelps was born on February 17, 1792, in Hanover, New Jersey, to Enon Phelps and Mehitable Goldsmith. He married Sally Waterman on April 28, 1815, in Smyrna, New York. In June 1831, he traveled to Kirtland, Ohio, met the Prophet Joseph Smith, and was baptized as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In 1832 he moved to Jackson County, Missouri, and began publishing the Church's first periodical, the "Evening and the Morning Star". However, mobs attacked his house and destroyed his printing equipment. Phelps eventually had to escape Jackson County into Clay County and was later called to work in Kirtland.

In 1835, the Church purchased Egyptian mummies and papyrus from Michael H. Chandler; Phelps acted as a scribe for Joseph Smith while the latter translated the manuscripts into what we now know as the Pearl of Great Price. In 1838 Church authorities accused Phelps of reneging on a financial deal for building a temple in Missouri and they excommunicated Phelps. However, he was rebaptized two days later and he regained full membership two years later and was sent on a mission to the eastern United States. He also married two more wives: Laura Stowell and Elizabeth Dunn. After Joseph Smith died in 1844, Phelps embarked on the trek to the West and arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in 1848. In Utah, he was a member of the Utah legislature and an almanac maker.

Phelps died on March 7, 1872, in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Biographical History

Sally Phelps (1797-1874) was an early Mormon convert and pioneer. She was the wife of William Wines (W.W.) Phelps.

Stella (Sally) Waterman was born on July 24, 1797 in Franklin, New York, to David B. Waterman and Jerusha Case. In 1815 she married William Wines Phelps in New York, and together they had thirteen children. On June 16, 1831, Phelps was baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and in 1832 the family moved to Missouri. After mob violence forced the family to leave, they settled in Nauvoo, Illinois. After Joseph Smith died, Phelps and her family joined the members of the Church who were going West, they arrived in Salt Lake Valley in 1848.

She died in Salt Lake City, Utah on January 2, 1874.


1 oversize box (0.5 linear ft.)

1 box (0.25 linear ft.)

Language of Materials



Organized into two series: 1. William Wines Phelps correspondence and other material, 1835-1865. 2. Phelps family correspondence, 1835-1853.

Other Finding Aids

Item-level inventory available online.

Custodial History

This collection was donated to the L. Tom Perry Special Collections at Brigham Young University by Stanley LeRoy Allen, Jr., and Jeanne A Clawson in July of 2002. These materials originally belonged to Sarah Delilah Varney Allen, a granddaughter of W.W. Phelps. She gave them to her son, Stanley LeRoy Allen, and, upon his death, they were acquired by Stanley LeRoy Allen, Jr., the donor.

There are additional markings on the letters which were not made by Phelps or the other authors. Some of these marking appear to have been made by Andrew Jenson, Assistant Historian for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1897 until his death in 1941. Several of the markings include the initials "A.J."

All items in this collection were sent to the conservation lab in the Harold B. Lee Library at Brigham Young University. The items received the following treatments: tape removal, humidification, mending of tears and reinforcement of creases, deacidification and encapsulation.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated; Stanley LeRoy Allen, Jr., and Jeanne A. Clawson; July 2002.


LDS cultural, social, and religious history (19th Century Mormon and Western Manuscripts collection development policy 1.V, November 2013).

Existence and Location of Copies

Photocopies, transcriptions, and digital copies on M-discs for preservation are available in folders 2-4.


Walter D. Bowen, "The Versatile W.W. Phelps: Mormon Writer, Educator, and Pioneer" (Master's Thesis, BYU, 1958); Andrew Jenson, LDS Biographical Encyclopedia (Salt Lake City, Utah: Andrew Jenson History Co., 1901); William Wines Phelps, "Excerpts of letters written by William W. Phelps to his wife, Sally Waterman Phelps" (Salt Lake City: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1942); William Wines Phelps, "Some Early Letters of William W. Phelps," Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine 31 (January 1940); Bruce A. Van Orden, "W.W. Phelps: His Ohio Contributions, 1835-36", in Regional Studies in Latter-day Saints Church History: Ohio, ed. Milton V. Backman, Jr. (Provo, Utah: Department of Church History and Doctrine, 1990); Bruce Van Orden, "William W. Phelps' Service in Nauvoo as Joseph Smith's Political Clerk," BYU Studies 32 (Winter/Spring 1992); Bruce Van Orden, "Writing to Zion: The William W. Phelps Kirtland Letters (1835-1836)," BYU Studies 33, no. 3 (1993) [Note: Several of the letters contained in the collection are presented in this last article by Bruce Van Orden. Those items can be found in Box 1, Folder 1, Items 1-9, and 14.]; David J. Whittaker "Almanacs in the New England Heritage of Mormonism," BYU Studies 29 (Fall 1989).
Register of William Wines Phelps papers
Leslie Evens
2011 November 17
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