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CRISIS AT KIRTLAND II.
D. P. Hurlbut and the Mormons, 1832-1834

by Dale R. Broadhurst


Intro   |   Chap. 1   |   Chap. 2   |   Chap. 3   |   Chap. 4   |   Chap. 5   |   Chap. 6



CHAPTER ONE



THE EARLY YEARS OF
DR. PHILASTUS HURLBUT
(1809-1833)




1809-16   |   1817-32   |   1832-33   |   early 1833   |   notes
Chapter 1 Timeline

 

Forward: A Quest for the Truth

IN the waning days of December 1833 a tall, good-looking fellow with the unlikely name of Doctor Philastus Hurlbut spoke before an audience gathered together to hear his explanation of the origin of the Book of Mormon. Mr. Hurlbut held his lecture in the Methodist Meeting-House on the high bench overlooking Kirtland Flats, Geauga county, Ohio. Outside, a few yards away, men were straining to lift into place the large stone blocks for a much grander meeting house -- the Mormons' new Temple at Kirtland. Mr. Hurlbut had come to the edge of Mormondom's holy ground to exhibit what a called the original manuscript for that sect's unique sacred scriptures. Holding aloft a thick sheaf of yellowed pages, he proclaimed his quest to be at an end. He had brought back from its long forgotten container in the far off village of Hartwick his own variation on the holy grail -- the Rev. Solomon Spalding's "Manuscript Found."

Or had he?

In his seminal treatise on early Mormon conflicts at Kirtland, Ohio, LDS historian Max H. Parkin made this interesting observation:

The winter of 1833 and 1834 was a particularly threatening period of time for the Saints in Kirtland.... It is unfortunate that more details of the threats [made against the Saints by Kirtland non-Mormons] were not preserved, but according to Cowdery much of the animosity was stirred up by Hurlbut... (1)
The winter of 1833 and 1834 was indeed "a particularly threatening period of time for the Saints" -- little-known events of that time brought about a "crisis" among the Latter Day Saints at Kirtland. There may be a reason for the scarcity of detail which Parkin so deplores. It appears that the Church officials responsible for recording the incidents of this crisis period purposefully obscured certain matters in the course of their meeting and overcoming an especially threatening challenge to the Church -- and to their priestly authority. (2)

The 1833-34 turning point in what I call the ongoing "Crisis at Kirtland" has not been outlined in any great detail by previous writers; it is my purpose to raise questions, present possible answers, and open up for discussion a neglected period in Mormon history. The bulk of this report is devoted to an examination of the anti-Mormon "Doctor" Philastus Hurlbut's varied interchanges with the early Latter Day Saints. A contemporary account by Oliver Cowdery suggests that Hurlbut's antagonistic interaction with the Mormons in Ohio presented a significant challenge to the Church. (3) I have made an attempt to follow Cowdery in his understated allusion and have surmised that Mr. Hurlbut's activities and the response they provoked among the Church hierarchy contributed significantly to both the basis and the turning point of that crisis.


Fig. 1. Artist's reconstruction -- based upon 1840s drawing of the Temple


 

Part 1: Birth and Breeding
(1809-1816?)


Born a Yankee on Lake Champlain?

D. P. Hurlbut was baptized a Mormon in 1832 and expelled a year later. (4) He was presumably born "Philastus Hurlbut" on February 3, 1809 in the western part of Chittendon Co., Vermont. (5) D. P. Hurlbut bore a doubly unusual given name. In fact, his first name and his reported nickname were so unusual during his time that there is some reason to suspect that neither one of them were young Hurlbut's original names. The name "Philastus" was almost unheard of in early 19th century America; it seldom appears in any records or reports from those days. It is possible that at some point in his life the man simply took that name for himself in order to enhance his limited credentials as a "root doctor" and/or Methodist preacher. The name "Philastus" certainly has a more impressive ring to it than "Bill" or "Joe" -- names which quite possibly may have just as well applied to this strange young man. The nickname "Doc" was not an uncommon one in his time, and neither was the false assumption by various unscrupulous persons of the title "Dr." But the given name "Doctor" was nearly as much a rarity as was "Philastus." While it is indeed possible that young Hurlbut may have been a "seventh son" who was called "Doctor" by his parents and family, it seems strange that he continued to use that appellation for the rest of his life. Besides which, seventh sons were not generally held in particular awe by New England Yankee families -- that was a superstition more likely to be met with among German immigrants in Pennsylvania. Whatever shady purposes may have given rise to the unique cognomen "Doctor Philastus," its bearer kept the name to his dying day, and was commonly known as "D. P." (6)

Not Even a Closet for the Skeletons:
His Missing Ancestry

The absence of D. P.'s name in any known records prior to 1833 gives rise to the possibility that his original family name was not "Hurlbut" at all. However Mormon Elder Benjamin Winchester (1817-1901) called the man "a relative of mine," adding no conditional remarks. (7) D. P. was probably closely related to Winchester's uncles: Asel, Ansel, and David Hurlbut, along with their sister Asenath Hurlbut Sherman, mother of D. P.'s romantic interest, Electa E. Sherman of Kirtland. (8)

History has provided but few clues in regard to D. P. Hurlbut's early days. His widow (Maria S. Woodbury Hurlbut) stated to interviewer Arthur B. Deming in 1885, that her late husband, "when a young man" had "attended school in Penn Yan, N.Y. Later he lectured about the country on various subjects" -- however, there is no known record of a young "Doctor" Philastus Hurlbut living near Penn Yan and attending school there during this period. (9)

It is likely that D. P. was a relative of those Hurlbuts who first lived in Chittendon County Vermont and who later migrated to Chautauqua County, New York, where some of them became Methodists. David Hurlbut (mentioned in the previous paragraph) was born in 1770, in Middletown, Connecticut; but he married in Chittendon Co., Vermont and gradually moved westward on a line of travel passing more or less through Yates Co., New York. At least three of David Hurlbut's children took up residence in or near Rushville, Middlesex twp., in Yates Co. One of the three eventually died in the neighboring township of Jerusalem -- this was Clemana Hurlbut Burtch, who married Joel Burtch of Sabintown in about 1827. It is possible -- even probable -- that the young D. P. Hurlbut lived first in Rushville and then relocated with friends or family to Sabintown (within walking distance of Penn Yan) even before Clemana (his step-sister or half-sister?) married Mr. Burtch (see map in Fig. 1, below).


Fig. 1. The Penn Yan, NY Region in D. P. Hurlbut's Day


As the map in Fig. 2a. indicates, Hurlbut pioneers gradually moved westward, through New York, into the lands south of what became the Erie Canal route. They mostly avoided Niagara and Erie counties, but settled in noticeable clusters on the border of Yates and Ontario counties; in Genesee Co., and in CHautauqua Co., just north and west of Jamestown. The tabulations of Hurlbut heads of households in the 1810, 1820, and 1830 Federal Census returns for western New York may contain the names of several of D. P. Hurlbut's relatives.


Fig. 2a. The Hurlbuts of Western NY (1810-1830)


One newspaper item shows that D. P. was operating under the name of Hurlbut, near Jamestown, New York in Sept. 1832. He was reportedly baptized a Mormon, under this same name, in Jamestown, as early as 1832. If this was indeed the name he used prior to his move to Jamestown, some record of his early "lecturing" may yet be uncovered in western New York. In fact, it is possible that such evidence has already been found -- while his wife did not say what subject D. P. lectured upon, it is known that he tried to set up a root doctor's practice in Kirtland and he may have had some previous experience in that line of curative salesmanship. A newspaper advertisement from Feb. 23, 1831 provides the following interesting information:


DR. P. R. HULBERT'S

  INFALLIBLE REMEDY FOR FEVER &
  AGUE. Also his remedy for the NERVOUS
   HEADACHE;
and also remedy for piles.

 => For sale by Steel, Cook & Co. sole agents,
  Auburn.
Fig. 2b. Advertisement in 1831 issues of the Aubern Free Press.


It is perhaps only a coincidence, but "Dr. P. R. Hulbert's Remedy" was sold exclusively through a store in Auburn, New York, only a few miles from Penn Yan, where Doctor Philastus Hurlbut reportedly grew up. The distance between Penn Yan and Auburn was not far, but Auburn was located in a different county and most of the towns residents were presumably not closely acquainted with folks in Yates' County's Sabintown. Auburn was just the sort of place that a young root doctor might have gotten a start, packing and peddling his patent medicines. D. P. Hurlbut was evidently baptized a Mormon in Jamestown, New York in 1832 -- about the same time that the above ad's patent "remedy" seems to have gone off the market. Whoever "Dr. P. R. Hulbert" may have been, he most likely was an adult, which puts his birth date at about the year 1810 or before -- D. P. Hurlbut was reportedly born in 1809.


 



EARLY YEARS OF D. P. HURLBUT
Part 2: D. P. Hurlbut: New York Methodist
(c.1830-32)

Hurlbut Among the Methodists

The Mormon Elder Benjamin Winchester published a statement saying that D. P. Hurlbut had once been a Methodist preacher who "resided in Jamestown, N.Y., previous to his embracing the profession of a Latter Day Saint..." Winchester does not say how long Hurlbut lived in Jamestown, Ellicott township, Chatauqua County, New York, prior to his Mormon baptism. One newspaper item shows him to have been there late in 1832, but perhaps he only lived in the area a few months before moving to the Mormon headquarters at Kirtland, Ohio early in 1833. (10)

Disclosure of D. P. Hurlbut's Methodist career first came from Elder Sidney Rigdon, who says: "This said Doctor was never a physician, at any time, nor anything else, but a base ruffian. He was the seventh, son, and his parents called him Doctor; it was his name, and not the title of his profession. He once belonged to the Methodist Church, and was excluded for immoralities." (11) Winchester adds that D. P. "was a member of the Methodist E. Church, and was for some time a class leader, and then an exhorter and local preacher; but was expelled for unvirtuous conduct with a young lady; at length he embraced the faith of the church of the Latter Day Saints..." (12)


Fig. 3. Early 19th century Methodist camp-meeting preacher Lorenzo Dow.

A Mormon Elder whose relatives had known D. P. Hurlbut during his Methodist days had this to say about the man:

"In regard to D. P. Hurlbut... He was excommunicated from the Methodist Episcopal Church for improprieties with the opposite sex and lying... How do I know all these things?... my mother's people were all Methodists, so that I was blessed with seven Methodist preachers as near relatives. Hence the excommunication of said Hurlbut from the Methodist Church was familiar household talk whenever any of them met together..." (Hyram Rathbun Letter of July 17, 1884, printed in the Saints' Herald Aug. 2, 1884).

Hyram Rathbun (or Hiram Rathbone/Rathburn) was born Apr. 3, 1820, in Wayne, Co., Ohio, the son of Robert Rathbun, Jr. (1798-1856) and Hannah Warner (1797-aft.1820). Hyrum's mother was born in Gnadenhutten, Tuscarawas, Ohio. Which among Hannah's "near relatives" were "Methodist preachers," and where they might have crossed paths with D. P. Hurlbut remains unknown. However, there is one possibly significant tie between the Rathbun family and D. P. Hurlbut. As mentioned previously, Benjamin Winchester had an Hurlbut aunt -- this was his father's sister, Sarah Winchester, who married Asel Hurlbut. Their daughter, Maria Hurlbut, married Loren Rathbun in 1848, at Elk Creek, Erie Co., Pennsylvania. Loren Rathbun's great-great-grandfather, John Rathbun, was also the great-great-great-grandfather of Hyram Rathbun. This is a very distant relationship, and it provides nothing to help answer the question of where and when Hyrum Rathbun's mother's family encountered D. P. Hurlbut.

A Preacher with no Frock can't be Defrocked

If D. P. Hurlbut had ever been ordained as a minister in the Methodist Episcopal Church, some record of that notable event should have been preserved. Since there is no known record of his ordination, it is doubtful that he ever rose above the rank of a class leader or exhorter. Possibly he was a licensed preacher for a short period -- too short for his name to make it into any historical record. Arthur B. Deming, who investigated Hurlbut's background, had this to say in 1888: "D. P. Hurlbut was a Methodist preacher in Ontario County, N. Y., joined the Mormons, left them and collected evidence for a book published by E. D. Howe, of Painesville, in 1834."

The map provided in Fig. 3. shows a conjectural route, which might have been taken by D. P. Hurlbut in the months before he showed up at Jamestown, in Chautauqua Co. No attempt has been made to include the uncertain movements of "Dr. P. R. Hulbert," the patent medicine promoter -- so the line of travel passes through Ontario Co. (where Hurlbut reportedly served as a Methodist preacher); then westward along the Genesee Road to Jamestown. His excommunication from the Methodists probably occured prior to 1832, at some place between Canandaigua and Batavia.

 



EARLY YEARS OF D. P. HURLBUT
Part 3: D. P. Hurlbut: New York Mormon
(c.1832-33)

The Chautauqua County Mormons

Mormon missionaries proselytized in Chautauqua County, New York with considerable success in the early 1830s and it was there that D. P. Hurlbut was converted, on some unknown day, prior to the end of 1832. Hurlbut was very likely acquainted with the Ezekiel Johnson (1773-1848) family of Pomfret township in that same county. Although Ezekiel was not a convert, his wife and several of their children became Mormons. Among these were Benjamin Franklin Johnson (1818-1905) and Joseph Ellis Johnson (1817-1882), both of whom got to know D. P. Hurlbut well and later provided accounts of his dealings with the Saints. D. P. Hurlbut probably met the Johnsons in Chautauqua county in 1832; by the following year he was living with them in Kirtland. (13)

Relatives of the same David Hurlbut mentioned above, were then living in Chautauqua County, in and around Pomfret. It seems likely that D. P. first sought out relatives in the area and then met people like the Johnson family members, who introduced him to Mormonism. As already stated, one of David Hurlbut's brothers married Benjamin Winchester's aunt. David's sister Asenath Hurlbut married a man named Elkanah Sherman and lived with him to New York and Ohio. One of their daughters was Electa Elenor Sherman, whom D. P. Hurlbut is said to have courted at Kirtland, after his arrival there in early 1833. Another of Elkanah and Asenath's children was Lyman Royal Sherman, who, on Jan. 16, 1829, married Delcina Diademia Johnson at Pomfret, Chautaqua Co., New York. This couple became Mormons and temporarily moved to the Mormon gathering spot at Jamestown. Their son Albey Lyman Sherman was born at Jamestown Oct. 30, 1832. One possible scenerio for D. P. Hurlbut's Mormon conversion is that he accompanied his relatives, the Shermans, on their move from Pomfret; and, after they arrived in that place, he decided to join the same sect they belonged to.


Fig. 4. Depiction of Early Latter Day Saint Night-time Baptism


The particulars of Hurlbut's LDS baptism are not known but one possible officiator could have been Sidney Rigdon. Rigdon was reportedly working with converts in the Jamestown area early in 1833, and he may well have visited that same region at the end of 1832. (14) Perhaps D. P. Hurlbut left his co-religionists in Jamestown at the beginning of 1833 because Sidney Rigdon dispatched the experienced preacher to Kirtland, where he might be best put to use in the interests of the growing church. (15)

In early 1833 a disease which may have been small pox (or, more likely, the less serious disease, variola) struck the Mormon gathering at Jamestown and soon after that the group broke up, with most of the members relocating to Geauga Co., Ohio. Even before the outbreak was publicized, D. P. Hurlbut was almost certainly on his way to Kirtland. Probably he was ordained a Mormon priest at Jamestwon, but the would-be root doctor had greater ambitions. His plan, apparently, was to move to Kirtland and there marry into a prominent family of the sect, rise in the ranks of its priesthood, open a homeopathic medical practice, and enjoy a good life at others' expense.

 



EARLY YEARS OF D. P. HURLBUT
Part 4: D. P. Hurlbut in Kirtland
(early 1833)

When Did D. P. Hurlbut First Go to Kirtland?

Mormon convert "Doctor" Philastus Hurlbut entered the pages of recorded history in about February of 1833, when he passed through Erie County, Pennsylvania on his way to Kirtland. There were at that time in Erie Cunty two congregations of Mormons, an organized branch in Springfield township and a growing number of converts in neighboring Elk Creek township. Hurlbut apparently stopped in Elk Creek (a mile or two northeast of modern Albion) to visit with the local Mormons. Among these were the family of recent convert Stephen Winchester, Sr. (1795-1873). (16) D. P. first met Stephen's young son, Benjamin Winchester, at this time. Benjamin's telling of the Saints' experiences with D. P. Hurlbut was published in an LDS polemical pamphlet printed in 1840.

...he embraced the faith of the church of the Latter Day Saints, and soon started for Kirtland, Ohio; ostensibly to cultivate an acquaintance with the brethren there. On his way, he passed through the place in which I resided; he was not ordained at this time; while at Kirtland he was ordained to the office of elder.... (17)

Official LDS records state that D. P. Hurlbut was ordained an elder in Kirtland by Sidney Rigdon on March 18, 1833. Prior to this he reportedly spent part of a day visiting there with the Mormon leader, Joseph Smith, Jr., on March 13th. (18) Allowing Hurlbut sufficient time to travel from Pennsylvania to Ohio, it is likely that Benjamin Winchester first met D. P. Hurlbut no later than during the first week in March. Because Hurlbut seemingly travelled alone and without any known specific command to gather with the Kirtland Saints, his purpose in proceeding to Kirtland during the first weeks of 1833 has remained open to conjecture. Elder Joseph H. Johnson was confident that D. P. moved to the Mormon headquarters, in order to "investigate the truth of Mormonism." Whatever merits Johnson's assertion may have, his recollection of these events is marred by his next avowal: "Claiming to be satisfied, he was baptized and became a member in full fellowship." (19) This conflicts with Benjamin Winchester's more likely report that Hurlbut, while in living in Chautauqua County, New York "embraced the faith of the church of the Latter Day Saints, and soon started for Kirtland, Ohio; ostensibly to cultivate an acquaintance with the brethren there." (20)


D. P. Hurlbut: Would-be Root Doctor (Mar.-Apr. 1833)

Benjamin Winchester's remembrance of Hurlbut's going to Kirtland "to cultivate an acquaintance with the brethren there," is probably a correct one. Joseph H. Johnson corroborated Winchester's statement by saying that, while in Kirtland, Hurlbut "made an effort to get into a good practice of medicine, sought position in the Church, and was ever stirring to make marital connection with any of the 'first families.'" (21)

It is likely that Hurlbut's motive for moving to Kirtland early in 1833 was self-promotion and advancement into the top ranks of Mormonism. Having learned of Frederick G. Williams' impending elevation to the third highest position in the LDS hierarchy, D. P. must have found the prospect of making a "marital connection," with the Williams family an appealing one. According to one account, "He courted Dr. Williams' beautiful daughter, and told her he had a revelation to marry her; she told him when she received a revelation they would be married. Everybody about Kirtland believed he had left the Mormons because she refused him." (22)

Elder Joseph H. Johnson says that, while in Kirtland, Hurlbut "made an effort to get into a good practice of medicine." (23) The type of medicine Hurlbut hoped to practice in Kirtland must have been herbal medicine, as the Latter Day Saints of that era had little use for regular physicians. William R. Hine's statement saying that D. P. Hurlbut "courted Dr. [F. G.] Williams' beautiful daughter" is rendered even more significant by the fact that F. G. Williams was a botanic physician as well as high-ranking Mormon. In fact, few months after Hurlbut's expulsion from the Saints, Elder Burr Riggs married the daughter (Lovina), maintained close ties to Williams and eventually became his partner in the lucrative root doctor business. (24) "Doctor" Philastus Hurlbut's plan to marry into a prominent Mormon family and thus insert himself into the leaders' social circle soon went greatly awry, however. Within a few days of his arrival in the Mormon capital he was turned on his heels and sent out to plod the cold and gritty missionary pathways of rural Pennsylvania. This setback in Hurlbut's plans can probably be attributed to his failing to make an especially favorable impression upon the Mormon prophet, Joseph Smith, Jr.


Hurlbut Meets The Mormon Prophet

Elder Joseph H. Johnson's claim that D. P. Hurlbut came to the Mormon headquarters at Kirtland in order to "investigate the truth of Mormonism," does not fit well with other information gleaned from those who knew the convert at the time. It may be that Johnson's late assertion in this regard was colored by his having heard Joseph Smith, Jr.'s own 1834 avowal:

On the 13th of March A. D. 1833, Doctor P. Hurlbut came to my house. I conversed with him considerably about the book of Mormon. He was ordained to the office of an elder in the Church under the hand of Sidney Rigdon on the 18th of March in the same year above written. According to my best recollection, I heard him say, in the course of conversing with him, that if he ever became convinced that the book of Mormon was false, he would be the cause of my destruction, &c. (25)

Smith's claims of what Hurlbut reportedly said during his March 13, 1833 interview are rendered suspect by several conflicting considerations, most of which center around the fact that original Mormon records regarding D. P. Hurlbut are in obvious disorder. (26)

Continue Reading:
Episode 2 -- Chapter 2



 




NOTES
CHAPTER ONE


  (1) Max H. Parkin "The Nature and Cause of Internal and External Conflict of the Mormons in Ohio Between 1830 and 1838" Masters thesis, Brigham Young University, 1966, p. 258).

  (2) Irregularities among entries recorded in the Kirtland Council Minutes Book and in Joseph Smith's 1833-34 Journal especially give rise to this suspicion. The relative lack of comments in early Mormon sources on Hurlburt's activities and Kirtland history in general during the winter of 1833-34 helps reinforce the idea that the Church leadership did not wish to see his claims detailed and broadcast to the public. Only after the leadership had fully triumphed over Hurlbut in the Chardon court in April 1834 did Church publications make mention of the man. And even then no details of his claims and activities were published.
 
(3) Oliver Cowdery, "Letter to Lyman Cowdery" dated Jan. 13, 1834, Original in Oliver Cowdery Letter Book pp. 18-22, H. E. Huntington Collection, Huntington Library, San Marino, CA; (photo-reproduced on microfilm #95, RLDS Library and Archives, Independence, MO). Cowdery's letter was written the same day that the Painesville Justice of the Peace bound D. P. Hurlbut over to the Geauga Co. Court of Common Pleas, which took up his case at the end of March 1834. Oliver mentions Hurlbut in the context of "several suits" having "been commenced against the heads of the mob," meaning the anti-Mormon "mob" in Missouri. While Oliver does not identify Hurlbut as being the head of a "mob" in Ohio, the implication is there, in that he goes on to speak of the intended "destruction of a man because of his religion" and of how D. P. Hurlbut was then "in this country pedling slanders."
 
(4) Late 1832 was the most likely time for Hurlbut's unrecorded Mormon baptism. See George Reynolds, Myth of the Manuscript Found... Salt Lake City: Juvenile Instructor Office, 1883, p. 14 for this same date. In July, 1885 Elder Hiram Brown recalled that "Hurlburt was baptized into the Church of Latter Day Saints on the farm of our father-in-law, William Barker, near Jamestown, Chatauqua county, New York, somewhere between 1832 and 1835." Given Hurlbut's appearance at Kirtland, early in 1833, the year 1832 appears the correct one for his Mormon baptismal date.
 
(5) Maria Woodbury Hurlbut Statement, dated Apr. 15, 1885. Arthur B. Deming file, Mormon Collection, Chicago Historical Society Library. Maria there says:

My husband, Doctor Philastus Hurlbut, was born Feb. 3, 1809 in Chittendon Co., Vt., near lake Champlain. His parents named him "Doctor" because he was the seventh son. When a young man he attended school in Penn Yan N.Y. Later he lectured about the country on various subjects and at last became a Mormon and went to Kirtland...
  (6) "D. P. Hurlbut" is the name recorded for him in US Census reports and in Hurlbut's own published signatures (see various issues of The Religious Telecope, as listed in the Bibliography).

  (7) Benjamin Winchester, "Testimony of Benjamin Winchester," Unpublished typescript of interview conducted on Nov. 27, 1900. Copy in RLDS Library-Archives.

  (8) See Appendix I for information of D. P. Hurlbut's likely Hurlbut relatives.

  (9) Maria W. Hurlbut, 1985, op. cit. Up until 1823 the town of Penn Yan was located in Ontario County, New York. Since 1823 Penn Yan has been in Yates County, a little east of Middlesex township. Between 1820 and 1830 several Hurlbuts lived in Middlesex, within walking distance of Penn Yan's schools

  (10) Benjamin Winchester, Origin of the Spaulding Story... Philadelphia, 1840, p. 5.

  (11) Sidney Rigdon, Letter to the Editors, Quincy Whig, Quincy IL, June 9, 1839.

  (12) Winchester, Origin... , pp. 5-6. Cf. Hyrum Rathbun Letter, The Saints' Herald, Aug. 2, 1884.

  (13) Johnson, Joseph E. "The Manuscript Found," Deseret Evening News, Jan. 3, 1881. Johnson states: "Soon after his arrival he came to my mother's house [in Kirtland] to board, where he remained for nearly a year... " LDS writer Dale W. Adams says that in 1832-34 "there was a substantial group of Mormons located in Westfield..." (in Chautauqua County, NY, about twenty miles northwest of Jamestown) and that it was in Jamestown itself "where a group of Mormons congregated in 1833 and 1834." (Adams, "Judge Not: The Saga of D.P. Hurlbut," unpublished research paper dated April 18, 1995; copy in possession of the author. p. 4). Adams also notes that "Hurlbut may have fled from smallpox," an outbreak of which hit Jamestown about the beginning of 1833. The local Jamestown Journal for January 23 and February 6, 1833 reported this mini-epidemic (cited in Adams, p. 4, n. 2). Mormon converts continued to gather to Jamestown while the contagion was still in effect; the Saints did not fear the disease because they claimed to possess latter day spiritual gifts in defense of its grave effects. According to one eyewitness:

... for a short time only, this was... a gathering place preparatory to a removal to Kirkland, [sic] Ohio, of that religious parasite, Mormonism. At one time there were nearly 300 of them here, although the general belief was that there were less than 100 in all... The vanguard put in an appearance in May, 1833, and immediately occupied a number of indifferent houses... Rigdon himself was frequently here... In 1833 he was a fine appearing, pleasant spoken, agreeable man... During this Mormon exodus and occupation of West Jamestown, the small pox broke out in one of the Mormon houses. At that time the "peculiar people" did not allow the ministrations of physicians, depending on the power and efficiency of prayer to cure all diseases... The last of the Mormons left Jamestown in the spring of 1834..." (Gilbert W. Hazeltine The Early History of the Town of Ellicott, Chautauqua County, N. Y.... Jamestown, N. Y: Journal Printing Company, 1887).
  (14) The Mormons had failed in several of their earlier attempts to retain experienced Christian ministers such as the Rev. James Covill, the Rev. Ezra Booth and the Rev. Simonds Ryder within their ranks. It is likely that their hopes for ultilizing such experience were renewed when trained preachers like Orson Spencer and D. P. Hurlbut were brought into the fold.

  (15) (15) Joseph E. Johnson later recalled Hurlbut's arrival in Ohio:

In the year A.D. 1833, then living in Kirtland Ohio, I became acquainted with a man subsequently known as Doctor Hurlbut, who came to investigate the truth of Mormonism. Claiming to be satisfied, he was baptized and became a member in full fellowship. He was a man of fine physique, very pompous, good looking and very ambitious, with some energy, though of poor education. Soon after his arrival he came to my mother's house to board, where he remained for nearly a year, while he made an effort to get into a good practice of medicine, sought position in the Church, and was ever stirring to make marital connection with any of the "first families.... (Joseph E. Johnson, "The Manuscript Found," Deseret Evening News Jan. 3, 1881).
It is possible that Hurlbut may have boarded and even lodged with the Ezekiel Johnson family "for nearly a year" beginning in 1832 when they were all living back in Chautauqua County, New York. If this was really the case, it would have allowed Hurlbut the necessary time to "investigate the truth of Mormonism," both in New York as a proselyte and later in the west as a baptized member. A Hurlbut residence with the Johnsons while they still lived in Pomfret, New York might also explain how he first became attracted to Electa E. Sherman (1816-1854?), the sister of one of the Johnsons' Mormon neighbors, Lyman R. Sherman.

Benjamin F. Johnson placed special emphasis on D. P.'s infatuation with Electa E. Sherman. In Benjamin's words:

D. P. Hurlburt... was called "doctor" from his being the seventh son of his mother. He was of a conceited, ambitious and ostentatious turn with a degree of education, but of a low moral status. He had been... sent eastward with others, to preach the gospel... but was soon for illicit association called back to Kirtland, where he was excommunicated, but afterwards re-baptized. He soon became enamored or greatly in love with Electra [sic], sister of L[Lyman]. R. Sherman, and because she despised him for his immorality and rejected his suit, he swore revenge upon the whole community and boastfully declared he would destroy the church. (Benjamin F. Johnson My Life's Review, Independence, MO: Zion's Printing and Publishing Co., 1947, pp. 24-26).
Hurlbut unsuccessfully attempted to court Electa in or near Kirtland during the first half of 1833, but he may have first come into contact her and her Johnson family neighbors at Pomfret through a familial relationship with Electa's Hurlbut mother. Even after his final excommunication on June 23, 1833, D. P. apparently continued to associate with Ezekiel Johnson (a non-Mormon in Kirtland who eventually became estranged from his LDS wife and children). Hurlbut the ex-Mormon seems to have boarded and lodged with the Johnsons from early June 1833 until the first part of 1834. It is unlikely that he was extended a cordial welcome by the devout Julia Hills Johnson and her LDS offspring, but Hurlbut still managed to retain his residence in their house at Kirtland Flats. Perhaps his association with Ezekiel Johnson assured him that privilege. Ezekiel had his residence in the house until the spring of 1835. Benjamin F. Johnson provides a few clues as to his father's living arrangements in Geauga County, Ohio during this period:

In the spring of 1835 before I was baptized, my mother and all her children met... to receive from Patriarch Joseph Smith, Sr., our patriarchal blessings... Soon after this, I overstepped my father's objections and was baptized... Owing to my father's continued unbelief, opposition to the truth, and intemperance, it was deemed better that he should live apart from the family, to which he consented. He bought him a place in the adjoining town of Mentor... (Benjamin F. Johnson, pp. 26ff.).
  (16) Stephen Winchester's sister Sarah had married Asel Hurlbut several years earlier. Both Asel and his twin brother Ansel Hurlbut were living near the Winchesters at this time. It is possible that D. P. Hurlbut stopped in Elk Creek with the dual purpose of visiting with both the Hurlbuts and their Mormon Winchester neighbors.

  (17) Winchester, Origin..., pp. 3-6. Although there is reason to believe that Winchester was less than fully candid when he penned his 1840 account, it is practically the only such eye-witness record in existence and it must be depended upon for whatever facts can be gleaned from the story it tells:

In the month of November, 1832, I, for the first time, had the privilege of attending a meeting which was addressed by an elder of the church to which I now belong. I then resided in Erie Co., Pa.... After I had heard several discourses on the fulness of the gospel, I felt anxious to ally myself to a people who were every where spoken against, and sought the earliest opportunity of doing it; accordingly, I went forward and was baptised. This was in the month of January, 1833

Dr. P. Hulbert resided in Jamestown, N.Y., previous to his embracing the profession of a Latter Day Saint, and was a member of the Methodist E. Church, and was for some time a class leader, and then an exhorter and local preacher; but was expelled for unvirtuous conduct with a young lady; at length he embraced the faith of the church of the Latter Day Saints, and soon started for Kirtland, Ohio; ostensibly to cultivate an acquaintance with the brethren there. On his way, he passed through the place in which I resided; he was not ordained at this time; while at Kirtland he was ordained to the office of elder, and shortly returned to Pennsylvania, and commenced preaching... (Winchester, pp. 3-6).
  (17) LDS records reveal that D. P. Hurlbut was ordained an elder in Kirtland by Sidney Rigdon on March 18, 1833. Prior to this event he reportedly spent some time visiting there with the Mormon leader, Joseph Smith, Jr. In a retrospective account written in his personal journal ten months after the event it purportedly recorded, Joseph Smith said that "On the 13th of March A. D. 1833, Doctor P. Hurlbut came to my house. I conversed with him considerably..." (Dean C. Jessee, editor, "Ohio Journal, 1832-1834" in The Papers of Joseph Smith Vol. 2; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1992, p. 20 -- hereinafter called "Smith Journal"). Allowing Hurlbut sufficient time to travel from Pennsylvania to Ohio, it is likely that Benjamin Winchester first met D. P. Hurlbut no later than during the first week in March 1833 and no earlier than several days after Winchester's baptism in January.

Because Hurlbut seemingly travelled alone and without any known order to gather with the Kirtland Saints, his purpose in proceeding there during the first weeks of 1833 has remained open to conjecture. Joseph H. Johnson was confident that D. P. came to the Mormon headquarters in order to "investigate the truth of Mormonism." Whatever merits Johnson's assertion may have, his recollection of these events is marred by his next avowal: "Claiming to be satisfied, he was baptized and became a member in full fellowship." (Joseph H. Johnson, 1881). Joseph's allegation, that Hurlbut came to Kirtland to verify the claims of Mormonism, and was soon after baptized, conflicts with Benjamin Winchester's saying that Hurlbut, while in living in Chautauqua County, New York "embraced the faith of the church of the Latter Day Saints, and soon started for Kirtland, Ohio; ostensibly to cultivate an acquaintance with the brethren there." Winchester, Origin... , pp. 5-6).

  (19) Johnson, 1881.

  (20) Winchester, Origin... , pp. 5-6).

  (21) Johnson, 1881. The terms "the brethren" and "first families" both refer to the top Mormon leaders. At the beginning of 1833 practically the only top Mormon leader who had a daughter old enough for a possible marriage with D. P. Hurlbut was Frederick G. Williams (1787-1842), who was made Second Counselor in the Mormon Presidency on March 18, 1833 at Kirtland, the very day that D. P. Hurlbut was ordained an elder.

  (22) William R. Hine Statement, Naked Truths About Mormonism I:1 Jan. 1888. Hine's recollection of Hurlbut having "courted Dr. Williams' beautiful daughter," Lovina Susan Williams (1816-1847), and of his leaving the Mormons being connected to his failure in this attempt, brings to mind the similar story told by Benjamin F. Johnson in regard to Hurlbut's being enamored with Electa E. Sherman, her rejection of his suit, and his ex-Mormon attempts at seeking revenge upon the Saints. (Benjamin F. Johnson, pp. 24-26). At least part of Hurlbut's motive in moving to Kirtland was to marry just such a girl from a prominent Mormon family and thus enhance his own status. When Hurlbut failed in this endeavor much of his motive for remaining within the Mormon fold must have vanished.

  (23) Johnson, Joseph E., 1881, op. cit. This disclosure parrallels the tradition handed down among D. P. Hurlbut's progeny, that "He even practiced medicine in Kirtland for a short time, possibly playing off his given name." (Lynette Purkey McCullough, entry for "D. P. And Hurlbut Family," Carole A. Damschroeder, et al. (eds.) Gibsonburg, Ohio Area History, Gibsonburg: 1996, pp. 418-419). Although Hurlbut may have some free time to attempt to get into this business before he was called away from Kirtland on his mission in March, 1833, his more probable opportunity for this activity would have been during the first three weeks of June and perhaps in early July.

  (24) Smith, Heman C. "Biography of Frederick Granger Williams" Journal of History, IV:4, Oct. 1911, pp. 387-393). In "playing off his given name" to set himself up as a root doctor in Kirtland, Hurlbut would have naturally sought the support of Dr. F. G. Williams. By attempting to thus associate himself with the Williams family, Hurlbut may have aroused their disfavor and quickly found himself called away on a mission to another state (see Adams, “Judge Not... ” p. 5).

  (25) Smith, Joseph, Jr. "1833-34 Journal," op. cit. p. 20. The Mormon leader's story of Hurlbut's interview and threats must have received a wide circulation among the Saints after Smith's 1834 court testimony. The very first mention of D. P. Hurlbut in an LDS publication accused the man of "threatening the life of Joseph Smith, Jr..." (The Evening and Morning Star II:19, April, 1834, p. 150). In later years when Mormon writers retold the story, it was typically in order to paint the apostate Hurlbut as a villain and to recast Smith's words regarding Hurlbut's threats in an almost prophetic light. Claims that Hurlbut came to Kirtland to "investigate the truth of Mormonism" probably probably come second-hand from the stories circulating in Kirtland during 1834.
 
(26) While it may be ungenteel to accuse the record-keepers of having "doctored" their own documents on "Doctor" Hurlbut, it appears that none of the old LDS records mentioning him can be relied upon as being strictly contemporary and fully objective. To put it bluntly, Smith may have expressed critical words respecting questionable new converts, but it is highly unlikely that he then exercised his priestly and prophetic authority to induct such problematic members into the LDS priesthood. It is almost impossible to imagine Smith authorizing such potentially dangerous men to be ordained to office of Elder almost immediately after his hearing grim threats against his own person from their lips.

go to next note: (27)



 




Addendum: Hurlbuts in Western NY
(1810 Census)


Surname

Hurlbut (Hulbert)
Hurlbut (Hulbert)
Hurlbut (Hulbert)
----------------
Hurlbut (Hulbert)
Hurlbut (Hulbert)
----------------
Hurlbut
Hurlbut
Hurlbut
Hurlbut
Hurlbut
Given Name

Elizaer
Gurden
Mary
----------------
J.
S.
----------------
Aaron
Benjamin
John
Moses
William
County

Genesee
Genesee
Genesee
----------------
Niagara
Niagara
----------------
Ontario
Ontario
Ontario
Ontario
Ontario
Township

?
?
?
----------------
?
?
----------------
?
?
?
?
?


Hurlbuts in Western NY (1820 Census)

Surname

Hurlbut (Hurtbud)
Hurlbut (Hurlburt)
Hurlbut (Hurlburt)
----------------
Hurlbut (Holbert)
Hurlbut (Holbert)
----------------
Hurlbut (Hallobut?)
Hurlbut (Hurlbert)
Hurlbut (Hurlbert)
Hurlbut (Hurlbert)
Hurlbut (Holbert)
Hurlbut (Hurlbert)
Hurlbut (Hurlbert)
Hurlbut (Hurlbert)
Hurlbut (Hurlbert)
Hurlbut (Hurlbert)
Hurlbut (Hurlbert)
Hurlbut (Holbert)
Hurlbut (Hurlbert)
Hurlbut (Holbert)
Hurlbut (Hilbert?)
Hurlbut (Hurlbert)
Hurlbut (Holbert)
Hurlbut (Hurlburt)
----------------
Hurlbut (Hurlburt)
Hurlbut (Hurlburt)
Hurlbut (Hurlburt)
Hurlbut (Hurlburt)
Hurlbut (Hulburt)
Hurlbut (Hurlburt)
Hurlbut (Hurlburt)
Hurlbut (Hurlburt)
Hurlbut (Hurlburt)
Hurlbut (Hurlburt)
Hurlbut (Hurlburt)
Given Name

Charles
Barrack
Titus
----------------
Grove
Zacheus
----------------
Alanson
Asel
Himan
Elisha
James
Augustus
David
Salmon
Ulysses
Amos
Cersah
James
Unni
William, Jr.
Elisha
Gerden
William
Zalmon
----------------
Ira
Stephen
Asa
Elisha
Thomas
Hannah
Aaron
Jesse
William
Daniel
Gilman H.
County

Allegany
Allegany
Allegany
----------------
Cattaraugus
Chautauqua
----------------
Genesee
Genesee
Genesee
Genesee
Genesee
Genesee
Genesee
Genesee
Genesee
Genesee
Genesee
Genesee
Genesee
Genesee
Genesee
Genesee
Genesee
Genesee
----------------
Ontario
Ontario
Ontario
Ontario
Ontario
Ontario
Ontario
Ontario
Ontario
Ontario
Ontario
Township

Friendship
Pike
Rushford
----------------
Ishua
Harmony
----------------
Alexander
Bennington
Bennington
Bethany
Bethany
Covington
Covington
Covington
Covington
Le Roy
Le Roy
Le Roy
Le Roy
Le Roy
Perry
Sheldon
Stafford
Stafford
----------------
Avon
Bloomfield
Bristol
Gorham
Middlesex
Palmyra
Pittsford
Pittsford
Pittsford
Rush
Seneca


Hurlbuts in Western NY (1830 Census)

Surname

Hurlbult
----------------
Hurlbut (Halbert)
Hurlbut (Hurlbert)
Hurlbut (Hulbert)
Hurlbut (Hurlburt)
Hurlbut (Hurlbert)
Hurlbut (Hurlburt)
Hurlbut (Hurlbert)
Hurlbut (Hulbert)
Hurlbut (Hurtbut)
Hurlbut (Hulbert)
Hurlbut (Harlbert)
Hurlbut (Hulburt)
----------------
Hurlbut (Hurlbert)
Hurlbut (Hurlburd)
Hurlbut (Hurlburt)
----------------
Hurlbut (Hurlbert)
Hurlbut (Hurlbert)
Hurlbut (Hurlbert)
Hurlbut (Hurlbert)
Hurlbut (Hurlbert)
Hurlbut (Hurlbert)
Hurlbut (Hurlbert)
Hurlbut (Hurlburt)
Hurlbut (Harlburt)
Hurlbut (Hurlbert)
Hurlbut (Hurlbert)
Hurlbut (Hurlbert)
Hurlbut (Hurlburt)
Hurlbut (Hurlbert)
Hurlbut (Hurlbert)
Hurlbut (Halbert)
Hurlbut
Hurlbut (Harlbut)
----------------
Hurlbut
Hurlbut (Hurlburt)
----------------
Hurlbut (Hulbert)
Hurlbut (Harlburt)
Hurlbut (Hulbart)
----------------
Hurlbut (Hulburt)
Hurlbut (Hulburt)
Hurlbut (Hulburt)
----------------
Hurlbut (Hulbert)
Hurlbut (Halburt)
Hurlbut (Hurlburt)
Hurlbut (Hurlburt)
Hurlbut (Halbert)
Hurlbut (Hurlburt)
----------------
Hurlbut (Hurlburt)
Hurlbut (Hurlburt)
Hurlbut (Hurlburt)
----------------
Hurlbut (Hulburt)
Hurlbut (Holbert)
Given Name

John
----------------
John
Backeus
Daniel
Daniel
Nathaniel
Samuel
Charles
J. Harvey
Titus
Jabez
Zelmon
John
----------------
K.
Amos W.
Daniel
----------------
Avis
David
Alanson
George
Asahel
Heman
Elisha
David H.
Salmon
Amos
James
Unice
Lauren
Asahel
Gurdon J.
Allis
Augustus #1
Augustus #2
----------------
Daniel
Ulyses
----------------
Justus
Newman
Alvin
----------------
Eli
Mathias
Ansel
----------------
Stephen
John
David
David, Jr.
Edwin
Lorinda
----------------
Francis
Hannah
John #5
----------------
Henry O.
John #4
County

Cattaraugus
----------------
Chautauqua
Chautauqua
Chautauqua
Chautauqua
Chautauqua
Chautauqua
Chautauqua
Chautauqua
Chautauqua
Chautauqua
Chautauqua
Chautauqua
----------------
Erie
Erie
Erie
----------------
Genesee
Genesee
Genesee
Genesee
Genesee
Genesee
Genesee
Genesee
Genesee
Genesee
Genesee
Genesee
Genesee
Genesee
Genesee
Genesee
Genesee
Genesee
----------------
Livingston
Livingston
----------------
Monroe
Monroe
Monroe
----------------
Niagara
Niagara
Niagara
----------------
Ontario
Ontario
Ontario
Ontario
Ontario
Ontario
----------------
Wayne
Wayne
Wayne
----------------
Yates
Yates
Township

Ellicottville
----------------
Hanover
Harmony
Harmony
Harmony
Harmony
Harmony
Olean
Portland
Sheridan
Westfield
Westfield
Yorkshire
----------------
Buffalo
Colden
Collins
----------------
Alexander
Alexander
Batavia
Batavia
Bennington
Bennington
Castile
Covington
Covington
Le Roy
Le Roy
Le Roy
Middlebury
Pembroke
Sheldon
Stafford
Wethersfield
Wethersfield
----------------
Avon
York
----------------
Brighton
Rochester 2
Rochester 3
----------------
Hartland
Royalton
Somerset
----------------
Bloomfield
Bristol
Gorham
Gorham
Naples
Seneca
----------------
Palmyra
Palmyra
Palmyra
----------------
Middlesex
Middlesex




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