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Orson F. Whitney correspondence with family, 1873-1883

Identifier: MSS 15 Series 1 Sub-Series 3

Scope and Contents

Materials include originals and transcriptions of correspondence between Orson F. Whitney and various members of his family, mostly his parents, Horace K. Whitney and Helen Mar Kimball Whitney. They contain inquiries about his family's health, information about travels, writings, daily life, missions, Church service, health, and work. Dated 1873-1883.


  • 1873-1883


Conditions Governing Access

Open for public research.

Conditions Governing Use

It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain any necessary copyright clearances. Permission to publish material from Orson F. Whitney papers must be obtained from the Supervisor of Reference Services and/or the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Board of Curators.

Biographical / Historical

Orson F. Whitney (1855-1931) was an apostle in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a writer, poet, and editor.

Orson F. Whitney was born on July 1, 1855, in Salt Lake City, Utah, to Horace K. Whitney and Helen Mar Kimball Whitney. As a young man, Whitney wanted to be an actor and he spent many hours preparing for the stage by studying elocution, fencing, and grammar. However, during General Conference in 1876, Whitney was called to serve in the Eastern States Mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His mother sold her land and used the money to fund Whitney's mission. While on his mission, Whitney discovered his interest in the Gospel as well as in writing and speaking. He started a regular column of his missionary experiences in the "Salt Lake Herald" under the pen name Iago. In 1878, twenty-three-year-old Whitney was called to serve as the bishop of the Eighteenth Ward, a calling he held for 28 years. In 1906, Whitney was called to be an Apostle in the Church. He also completed three more missions for the Church, including being the president of the European Mission in 1921.

In 1879, Whitney married Zina Beal Smoot and they had 9 children together. Whitney also had two more wives: Mary Minerva Wells and Emma Whitney Wells. During his life, Whitney edited the "Salt Lake Herald," served on the city council, participated in the Home Dramatic Club, engaged in politics, and wrote poetry and books. In 1890, he published his first book, a biography of his grandfather Heber C. Kimball. That same year, Wildford Woodruff and John O. Williams commissioned Whitney to write "History of Utah"; he produced two volumes of the work by 1894 and the third in 1898. He also published a biography of Lorenzo Snow, an autobiography, and several books of poetry including his lengthy epic poem "Elias: An Epic of the Ages."

Whitney died on May 16, 1931, in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Biographical / Historical

Helen Mar Whitney (1828-1896) was a Mormon pioneer.

Helen Mar Whitney was born on August 20, 1828, in Mendon, New York, to parents Heber C. Kimball and Vilate Kimball. Helen's parents joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1832 and moved to Kirtland, Ohio the following year. Helen was baptized a member of the church in 1837. The next year the family moved to Far West, Missouri, only to be forced out of the state one year later. The family then settled in Nauvoo, Illinois.

In 1843 Helen's father arranged for her to marry Joseph Smith Jr. as a plural wife. After Smith's death in 1844, Helen married Horace K. Whitney on February 4, 1846. Together they had eleven children, although only six lived to adulthood. Later that year, Helen left Nauvoo with the majority of the Latter-day Saints and spent nearly two years in Winter Quarters, Nebraska. In 1848 she and her family left for the Salt Lake Valley where she spent the rest of her life. In her later years, Helen was known mostly for her experiences with polygamy, which she frequently recounted in lectures, pamphlets, and articles.

Helen died on November 13, 1896, in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Biographical / Historical

Horace K. Whitney (1823-1884) was a Mormon bookkeeper and clerk in Utah.

Horace Kimball Whitney was born July 25, 1823, in Kirtland, Ohio, to parents Newel Kimball Whitney and Elizabeth Ann Smith. A member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he immigrated to Utah and settled in Salt Lake City. During his career he worked as a bookkeeper and an office clerk. Whitney had three wives, including Helen Mar Kimball whom he married on February 4, 1846 (eleven children), Lucy Amelia Bloxham (one child), and Mary Cravath (thirteen children).

He died in Salt Lake City on November 22, 1884.


3 folders

Language of Materials



1. Orson F. Whitney letters to Horace K. Whitney and Helen Mar Kimball Whitney, 1873-1877. 2. Orson F. Whitney Horace K. Whitney, Helen Mar Kimball Whitney, and Charles Spaulding Whitney, 1877-1883. 3. Orson F. Whitney letters from family members, 1882 March-April.

Other Finding Aids

File-level inventory also available at:

Existence and Location of Copies

Transcription available in Box 5.

Repository Details

Part of the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Repository

1130 HBLL
Brigham Young University
Provo Utah 84602 United States