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A. O. Smoot papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSS 896

Scope and Contents

The A. O. Smoot papers comprise the accumulation of records over the period of fifty-seven years and include journals, diaries, financial records and correspondence dealing with business, personal, church, and Brigham Young Academy matters. The letters are holograph and typewritten, the journals are in both the original handwritten form and xerox copies.

The missionary journals were written by A.O. Smoot for the years of 1837 to 1838 and 1844 to 1845 while he was serving in the southern states. Another diary was written by him from April 22, 1856 to June 6, 1856. At the end of the diary are Justice of the Peace records and records of births and deaths in Salt Lake City. There is a manuscript, both the original and the xerox copy, written by Joseph E. Taylor entitled, "The Life and Labors of the Late President of the Brigham Young Academy Board."

The correspondence file contains letters written over the period of 1885 to 1894. They concern his personal business, the business of the Utah Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and some concerned the Brigham Young Academy. The collection is primarily of letters received by A.O. Smoot with a few written by him and some written about him. Although they are mainly of business and church matters, there are letters from several presidents of the L.D.S. Church, including Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff, John Taylor, Joseph F. Smith, and Heber J. Grant. Of special interest is a letter written by A.O. Smoot telling of reported visits of Cain to David W. Patton in 1836 and E. Wesley Smith in 1819. Since the files are of incoming correspondence and are not extensive, the complete picture of this time period cannot be seen, but a general understanding of the problems can be deduced. The correspondence files are listed in the container list in chronological order and then in an alphabetical list with dates to facilitate the location of each separate item in the files.

There are two files of financial records arranged chronologically. these business receipts, bills, bank notes and checks are for the years 1880 to 1893. They include general business, personal and church business records.

The collection of Margaret T. Smoot contains her handwritten diary which includes her testimony concerning plural marriage and her poetry as well as the day to day account of her life, covering the period of April 22, 1856 to May 1, 1861. It also contains family genealogy, a letter from her husband, A. O. Smoot, a life sketch, both the original and the xerox copy written by Olive Smoot Bean. A special tribute written by her family and friends, reproduced in typewritten form, is of special interest.


  • 1837-1894


Conditions Governing Access

Open for public research. Literary rights rest with the Smoot family.

Conditions Governing Use

It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain any necessary copyright clearances.Permission to publish material from A. O. Smoot papers must be obtained from the Supervisor of Reference Services and/or the Special Collections Board of Curators.

Biographical History

Mayor of Provo, Utah, president of the Utah Stake, and a member of the board of trustees of Brigham Young Academy.

Abraham Owen Smoot was born February 17, 1815, in Owenton Franklin County (later Owen County), Kentucky, son of George Washington and Ann Rowlett Smoot. He had two brothers, William Rowlett and Reed, and three sisters, Nancy Beal S. Freeman, Marstisha S. Smith and Jemimah S. Peck. When he was nine years old his father died. His mother later married Levi Taylor.

In 1828 the family moved to Benton County, Tennessee, where seven years later, at the age of twenty, he became a member of the L.D.S. Church on March 22, 1835. He was baptized by Warren Parrish and confirmed by David W. Patten, who promised him that he would by healed of a childhood infirmity and become a strong and powerful man. The blessing was realized to the letter. He was soon afterwards ordained a deacon and took charge of a small branch that had been organized by Apostle David W. Patten and Elders Woodruff and Parrish. He remained in charge of the branch until February 4, 1836 when he was ordained an Elder under the hands of Elder Wilford Woodruff.

He served on a mission with Elder Woodruff in the states of Kentucky and Tennessee. In the fall of 1836, he accompanied Elder Woodruff to Kirtland and during the following winter he attended school in Kirtland. Acting upon the advice of the Prophet Joseph Smith, he returned in the spring of 1837 to Kentucky as the climate of Kirtland did not agree with him. Soon afterwards, he and Elder H.G. Sherwood organized a company of saints and proceeded to Far West, Missouri, where the saints had settled after being driven from Jackson County, Missouri.

Elder Smoot resumed his missionary labors and continued to travel and preach until the latter part of 1838, when the saints were again driven out. While defending his people at Far West he, along with Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith and Parley P. Pratt and others, were taken as prisoners of war by the combined forces of the militia and mob of the state under the command of General John Clark. While he was imprisoned, he married his first wife, Margaret Thompson McMeans, a widow, on November 11, 1838. He adopted her son William Cochrane Adkinson.

In the month of July, 1839, they left Missouri in the general expulsion. They had only one small wagon in which to travel but they shared this limited room with a family of seven persons. The husband and father of this family was John S. Butler, who afterwards became the bishop of Spanish Fork, Utah.

They arrived in Quincy, Illinois on March 8, 1840. The following June, they moved to Nauvoo. After arranging for the comfort of his wife, he resumed his missionary labors, traveling in the southern states. After the death of Joseph Smith, he was assigned to gather the saints residing in the southern states and prepare them for the journey to the mountains. In the exodus from Nauvoo, he led a company of saints to Winter Quarters.

During the last months in Nauvoo, Brother Smoot helped with the completion of the temple. Under assignment from Brigham Young, he was one of the first to officiate in the temple ordinances. There on January 9, 1846, he had his second wife, Sarah Gibbons, and his third wife, Emily Hill, sealed to him. Sarah Gibbons did not accompany the family west. Emily Hill was a widow with a son, William Jasper Hill. Four children were born of his union to Emily: Albert Ether, Emily Ann, Margaret Thompson, and Zina Beal.

He became bishop of the Salt Lake Fifteenth Ward and was named the first justice of peace in the Territory of Utah, and in this capacity adjudicated many cases during the time of the gold rush to California. He also captained a train of merchandise to the valley, the first to cross the plains.

In the fall of 1851, he was called on a mission to England and arrived there January 1, 1852. When he left Salt Lake City, there had been no news from Liverpool for about seven months, and President Brigham Young was anxious for information of the work in Europe, so they traveled with all speed and made the quickest trip from the valley to England up to that time. Soon after his arrival in England he was notified that he had been chosen to conduct the first company of saints from Europe under the operation of the Perpetual Emigrating Fund Company. He left England in March in order to purchase the supplies for this company. He arrived back in the valley with his company on September 20.

After returning from England, he was made the first bishop of Cottonwood Ward. In 1853, he became construction superintendent of the sugar factory and then the first bishop of the Sugar House Ward. He soon married Diana Tanner Eldridge, and in February, 1856, his fifth and last wife, Anna Kirstine Morrison. He and Diana had twelve children, six boys and six girls: Abraham Owen, Nancy Diana S. Beebee, Olive S. Bean, Elizabeth S. Hardy, Leonora, Joseph Edmund, Ella Deseret S. Robinson, Arthur, Vilate S. Pierpont, Orson Parley, Horace Alma and William. Anna and President Smoot had seven children, three boys and four girls: Anna Christina S. Taylor, Alice S. Newell, Reed (a member of the Council of the Twelve Apostles and for thirty years a member of the United States Senate), George Morrison, Agnes Mary S. Glazier, Brigham Roland, and Ida Malline S. Dusenberry. Including his adopted son and his stepson, A. O. Smoot had twenty-five children, twelve sons and thirteen daughters.

Upon the death of Jedediah M. Grant, a business associate and first mayor of Salt Lake City, President Smoot succeeded him as mayor, serving ten years without salary. In February, 1868, President Brigham Young called him to go to Provo as president of Utah Stake, a position he held for the remainder of his life. He was elected mayor the month he arrived in Provo and held that office for twelve years also without pay.

One of his first projects was to have a road built joining Heber City and Provo. He organized the first co-operative mercantile store in Utah in 1869 and later the Woolen Mills. During these years he also served as the representative from Wasatch and Utah Counties on the Legislative Council for twelve years. The close of 1881 saw the beginning of one of his largest projects, the building of the Provo tabernacle, a project that was concluded in 1888.

In 1873, the First National Bank of Provo was organized and A. O. Smoot was president. Two years later a bank building was built as a cost of $20,000 on the northwest corner of Center Street and University, where it still stands. Along with these activities the Smoot Drug Company and other industries were made possible through his support and influence.

It was as president of the original trustees of Brigham Young Academy that he rendered one of his most enduring contributions. For nearly twenty years, he literally fulfilled President Brigham Young's request to him "... to take hold of the school, help it with your influence, and call upon the people to patronize it." Without his stalwart support the academy undoubtedly would have collapsed because of the difficulties which beset it. He suggested Karl G. Maeser to President Young as the principal of the academy. He underwrote the construction of additions to the Lewis Building, the early home of the academy. He made space available for the operation of the school when the Lewis Building burned down, and he assumed personal responsibility for obligations incurred constructing the new Education building, dedicated in January, 1892 after much delay and difficulty. In talking with his wife during this trying time he said:

"Annie, I haven't a piece of property that is not mortgaged. I have had to do it to raise money to keep the Brigham Young Academy going...I love that school and I can see what it means to our youth to have spiritual as well as book learning. It must live."

A. O. Smoot carried his responsibilities to Brigham Young Academy, to the Utah Stake of Zion, and to many of the financial institutions of Provo until the day of his death, March 6, 1895. From the time he joined the Church until his life was completed he was a faithful worker. At the time of his death he was a Patriarch of the Church and for twenty-seven years had been President of the Utah Stake of Zion.

He was described as large of frame, with strong features, one of the most prominent of which was a pair of piercing black eyes set beneath bushy, beetling brows. He was utterly devoid of ostentation, there was a dignity to his presence, a rugged grandeur to his physique that made him a striking personality wherever he appeared. When he spoke men listened, "...every word seemed to weigh a pound." Always practical and generally serious, he could be mirthful in season and sentiment as well as humor, bubbled up from the recesses of his soul. He was shrewd but honest in his dealings, and earnest in his convictions. No man was firmer in maintaining what he felt to be right, or more fearless in denouncing what he believed to bee wrong.


2 boxes (1 linear ft.)

Language of Materials


Other Finding Aids

Finding aid available in repository.

Other Finding Aids

File-level inventory available online.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The provenance of the collection is unknown but probably is from the family of A. O. Smoot.


19th Century Western and Mormon Manuscripts.

Processing Information

Processed; Melva Richey; 1976.

Register of A. O. Smoot papers
Megan Furcini
2011 March 21
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