For a short period in the 1830s, the town of Painesville, Ohio, played an important part in the development of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The town was a place of success for Mormon missionaries; it was a religious battlefield in which the Campbellites resisted the encroachments of the missionaries; it was the home of the Painesville Telegraph, one of the most virulent critics of Mormonism; and, finally, it was the home of Edward Partridge, a man who would play a critical role as the first bishop of the Church (fig. 1).
In 1830, Edward Partridge was a successful, prominent, and relatively wealthy businessman. He owned a hat-making factory and a retail store and a substantial house, and he had a wife and family to whom he was dedicated. In most Church histories, he is portrayed as sacrificing all he had when he joined the Church, reluctantly abandoning his business and family when he accepted the call to serve as bishop and departed for Missouri.These histories also conclude that by joining the Church he suffered great economic loss and that he left Painesville with reluctance.
New information about Partridge strongly suggests that these conclusions should be revised. As to Partridge’s economic losses, a careful search for documentation on the sale of Partridge’s holdings does not yield enough evidence to determine the extent of his losses, and opinions from his family disagree. Perhaps more surprisingly, new evidence suggests that he might not have left Painesville reluctantly. In fact, Partridge was apparently not completely satisfied with his circumstances before he accepted Mormonism. It is not generally known, even by his descendants, that Partridge was preparing to make a major change as early as 1828. Recently discovered real estate documents reveal that he was seeking to sell his factory, home, and property, apparently preparing to move his life in a new direction.
It is my purpose here to suggest that Partridge was prepared to leave Painesville even before he joined the Church, but his hasty departure after he was called as bishop meant that he likely sold his property for less than he might have if he had not left the community or if he had been able to wait for a better market opportunity. However, by the time his house was sold, he had already consecrated all of his property to the Church, so the loss would have been borne by the Church. Edward’s consecration of his property might be considered a financial loss but not by those who willingly gave their worldly goods to build the kingdom.
Edward Partridge was born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, on August 27, 1793, to William Partridge and Jemima Bidwell. His early life, so far as the meager record of it informs us, was uneventful.At the age of sixteen, he was apprenticed to a hatter named Governor, who operated a hat shop near Pittsfield. At twenty, having completed his apprenticeship, Partridge traveled to New York State and hired on as a journeyman hat maker with one Asa Martin. Shortly thereafter, Partridge and Martin formed a partnership and established a hat-making business in the town of Clinton, near Albany.
Sometime during the next year, Partridge traveled to Ohio on behalf of the firm and was so impressed with the area that he decided to stay, settling in Painesville, where he established a branch of the business. By the time Partridge arrived in Painesville, it had begun to resemble a New England town.
On September 13, 1817, Partridge purchased a large lot on Main Street (now Mentor Avenue) near the public square.On this property Partridge built his factory as well as his home. Painesville was an ideal location for his new business. It was far enough into the frontier to provide access to the furs he needed to make hats, and yet close enough to the more populated Eastern cities to provide access to their markets. The Partridge home and factory were only two miles from the shore of Lake Erie, which provided the trade connections for both furs and finished products. In a short time, he was doing so well that he bought out Martin’s interest and carried on the business himself, employing several hands and operating both a factory and a store.
Marriage and Prosperity
Now settled in Painesville and established in business, Partridge met and courted Lydia Clisbee in 1819. She was the daughter of Joseph Clisbee and Miriam Howe of Marlboro, Middlesex County, Massachusetts. Born on September 26, 1793, she was one month younger than Partridge, who was now twenty-five years old. Following the death of her mother in 1814, she, her three sisters, and a brother had moved to Ohio to live near their mother’s family.
Edward and Lydia were married on August 19, 1819, and made their home in Painesville. During the first decade of their marriage, five daughters were born, as well as one baby boy, Clisbee, who died as an infant. Their living children in 1830 were Eliza Maria, age ten; Harriet Pamelia, age eight; Emily Dow, age six; Caroline Ely (fig. 2), age three; and Lydia (fig. 3), age three months. In addition to growth in his family, Partridge also experienced rapid growth in his business and was generally considered “quite well to do.”
As evidence of his expanding prosperity during the decade of the 1820s, Geauga County records show that Partridge purchased a number of additional properties.
The Family Home
A description of the Partridge home in Painesville gives some sense of the family’s lifestyle and level of affluence.For its time, the house was comfortable, though not luxurious. It was a wooden frame structure with “‘large living quarters, food storage rooms, a front yard with green plat, rosebushes, a well with an old oaken bucket, currant bushes, a summer home with grapes, flowers, paths, and many arbor vines.’”
Partridge’s daughter Emily remembered the home warmly: “My father was doing a thriving business as a hatter. He had accumulated considerable property, and had provided a very pleasant and comfortable home for his family. . . . I think my father must have been almost a rich man, when I consider the amount of property he owned.”She also wrote, “I remember a very pleasant home, such as I have not had since.”
A Plan to Sell Painesville Properties
In 1828, after a decade in Painesville as a prosperous businessman and family man, Partridge offered all of his property for sale. Although no record exists that explains his reasons for doing so, he apparently wanted to leave Painesville. The following advertisement appeared in the Painesville Telegraph on January 18, 1828:
Valuable Property For Sale. Lot No. 2, in the village of Painesville, with a House, Hatters Shop and Barn erected thereon, with a well of good water, and a fine garden, containing a selection of choice fruit. [Also offered for sale were lots 1 and 22, out Lot 5 containing about 19 acres, and a farm of 100 acres in the township of Harpersfield, Ashtabula County].
The ad evidently brought no acceptable offers, because the following appeared eighteen months after his first advertisement:
Valuable Stand For A Hatter For Sale. Wishing to quit the Hatting business and leave Painesville, I now offer my stand for sale, together with an assortment of Stock, Trimings and Tools. My shop is large and commodious, and is pleasantly situated on Main-street near the Public square, and is the only Hat Shop in town. On the lot with the shop, is a convenient dwelling house, barn and an excellent well of water. Attached to the premises is part of Lots No. 1 and 22.
However, Partridge was unable to sell his property and realize his wish to leave Painesville. Thus, as of 1830, Partridge was the owner of the following real estate (note that Partridge owned all or parts of lots 1, 2, and 22): a house, a hat factory, a hat shop, a barn, two lots next to the public square, a twenty-acre wood lot, a one-hundred-acre farm in Ashtabula County, and a house in Kirtland.
While we can only speculate as to Partridge’s reasons for “wishing to quit the Hatting business and leave Painesville,” his repeated effort to sell all of his property in Painesville seems to indicate that he was dissatisfied with his life in some way. Not long after he placed this second advertisement, a life-changing opportunity presented itself when he encountered a new faith.
Edward Partridge’s Ideas on Religion
Not only was Edward Partridge prepared to sell his properties in Painesville at the time he joined the Church, he was also spiritually prepared for this new faith by his earlier experiences with religion.
In his youth, Partridge was much more interested in establishing himself in a profession than in a religion. While his family was strongly entrenched in mainline Protestantism, with one of his sisters serving as a missionary in the Sandwich Islands, he seems to have gone his own way. His family most likely regarded him as a kind of “religious maverick.”
When he was twenty, had finished with his apprenticeship, and was ready to establish himself in business and society, Partridge took stock of the churches with which he was familiar and later wrote that he “‘had become disgusted with the religious world,’ and ‘saw no beauty, comeliness or loveliness, in the character of God that was preached up by the sects.’”Still, he did not completely fall away from religious faith. In later years, Joseph Smith recalled that in Partridge’s youth “the Spirit of the Lord strove with him a number of times, insomuch that his heart was made tender and he went and wept. Sometimes he went silently and poured the effusions of his soul to God in prayers.”
Partridge’s rejection of all organized religion ended when he heard a sermon by a Universal Restorationer on the love of God. He joined himself to that religion, which taught that “all men will ultimately become holy and happy; that God created only to bless.”He remained with them until 1828, when he joined with the followers of Alexander Campbell and attended Sidney Rigdon’s branch of that church. Their theology was based on what they believed was a restoration of the basic tenets of New Testament Christianity summarized in five points: faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism by immersion, the remission of sins, and the gift of the Holy Spirit and eternal life.
But Partridge was still not completely satisfied and concluded within another year or two that it was “‘absolutely necessary’ for God to ‘again reveal himself to man and confer authority upon some one, or more, before his church could be built up in the last days.’” His conclusion was that all men with whom he was acquainted “‘were without authority from God.’”In spite of this lack of confidence in the Campbellites, he continued as an active member of Rigdon’s group until fall 1830.
Latter-day Saint Missionaries
On November 14, 1830, Sidney Rigdon was baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. One of the first things Rigdon did after his baptism was to visit his friend and parishioner Edward Partridge to tell him of his conversion.Shortly after Rigdon’s visit, writes Lydia Partridge, “Four men called at my husband’s shop and brought the Book of Mormon & offered it to him.” The message brought by the missionaries was straightforward: Christ’s early church had been restored, and a prophet of the Lord was once again on the earth. This message fit nicely into Partridge’s beliefs regarding the necessity for new revelation and authority.
However, in spite of the mesh of his convictions and the message of the missionaries, Partridge’s first expressed reaction was disbelief. He told them that he thought they were imposters. “Oliver Cowdery replied that he was thankful there was a God in Heaven who knew the hearts of all men,”implying that Partridge was an honest man who would eventually accept the truth. The elders went on their way, but Partridge, apparently touched by their message in spite of his comment, sent one of his employees to obtain a copy of the Book of Mormon.
The missionaries preached to Rigdon’s congregation, and it is likely that they preached to the Partridges when they did so. But Partridge remained cautious and finally announced that he would not be baptized until he had had a face-to-face meeting with Joseph Smith, the man who claimed to be a prophet.
Accordingly, Partridge, accompanied by Sidney Rigdon, decided to make the journey, in a particularly hard winter, from Ohio to New York State to talk with the Prophet. Philo Dibble, another new convert, noted that Partridge not only made the trip to investigate for himself but also to represent others in Painesville who were inquiring about the new church.One source claims that interested Ohio citizens held a meeting on the subject, choosing Partridge to go because “he is a man who would not lie [to save] his right arm,” and they even paid part of his expenses.
A Trip to the East
After a difficult trip on rough roads in cold weather, Partridge and Rigdon eventually arrived at the town of Kingdon, New York, where they took lodgings at a small inn. The main subject for conversation there was the jailing of Joseph Smith Sr. and Hyrum Smith, the Prophet’s brother, for nonpayment of debts. Partridge asked a few questions, and the answers he got led him to conclude that the unpaid debts were being used as an excuse to keep the senior Smith in jail until “he speaks up and says the whole thing [is] a fraud.”
Later that same day, Partridge and Rigdon went to the home of the Prophet’s parents. Lucy Mack Smith’s record of the meeting tells of Partridge’s conversion:
In December of the same year, Joseph appointed a meeting at our house. While he was preaching, Sidney Rigdon and Edward Partridge came in and seated themselves in the congregation. When Joseph had finished his discourse, he gave all who had any remarks to make, the privilege of speaking. Upon this, Mr. Partridge arose, and stated that he had been to Manchester, with the view of obtaining further information respecting the doctrine which we preached; but not finding us, he had made some inquiry of our neighbors concerning our characters, which they stated had been unimpeachable, until Joseph deceived us [them] relative to the Book of Mormon. He also said that he had walked over our farm, and observed the good order and industry which it exhibited; and, having seen what we had sacrificed for the sake of our faith, and having heard that our veracity was not questioned upon any other point than that of our religion, he believed our testimony, and was ready to be baptized, “if,” said he, “Brother Joseph will baptize me.”
“You are now,” replied Joseph, “much fatigued, brother Partridge, and you had better rest to-day, and be baptized tomorrow.”
“Just as Brother Joseph thinks best,” replied Mr. Partridge. “I am ready at any time.”
In spite of the winter weather, Partridge was baptized by the Prophet the next day, December 11, 1830, in the Seneca River.Four days later, Partridge was given the Melchizedek Priesthood and ordained an elder under the hands of Sidney Rigdon.
First Missionary Efforts
Not long after Partridge’s baptism and ordination, Joseph Smith called him to go on a mission to preach the restored gospel. In response to Partridge’s protest that he was no preacher, the Prophet told him to simply tell of his conversion and give his personal testimony of the truth of the Church.
Partridge decided that he must first return to his parents and siblings in Massachusetts to give them the news of his conversion and to introduce them to the restored gospel. Somewhat to his surprise, he was not just rejected, but rejected with anger and contempt. One of his sisters ordered him from her house and told him that she never wanted to see him again. His parents actually thought him to be deranged; when, after a few days of strained conversation, Partridge decided to leave, they sent his brother James along to make sure he arrived safely at his destination. He would never again be on good terms with most of his family members.
The Church’s Move to Ohio
In contrast to Partridge’s failure to convert his family, other missionaries were meeting with great success, particularly in Ohio. Growth in Ohio had reached the point by late 1830 that it was necessary for the Prophet to send John Whitmer to preside over the branch at Kirtland. Whitmer wrote back in mid-December that the number of converts in northeastern Ohio was several times the number residing in New York and growing, and he asked Joseph Smith for immediate help. In apparent response, at a general conference of the Church held in Fayette, New York, on January 2, 1831, the Prophet announced a revelation directing the entire Church to move to Ohio, where, he said, the Saints would be given the Lord’s law and be “endowed with power from on high” (D&C 38:31–32).
At the time, the Church was only about nine months old, had a total membership of approximately two hundred eighty,and had four branches. The Prophet advised those members living in New York and Pennsylvania to sell their properties as soon as feasible, even at a loss, and move west, and he began immediately to make his own preparations for departure.
Toward the end of January, Joseph and Emma, along with Sidney Rigdon and Edward Partridge, started on the journey to Kirtland. They traveled in a sleigh and arrived safely in Kirtland early in February. There Newel K. Whitney, a young merchant and convert to the Church, welcomed the Prophet and Emma into his home, “where they remained several weeks and received ‘every kindness and attention . . . that could be expected.’”
A Report to the Neighbors
Upon his return home from New York, Partridge, now a Mormon elder himself, was surprised to find that Lydia had been baptized in his absence by Parley P. Pratt. Lydia had accepted the gospel almost immediately. She recounted her conversion in simple terms: “I was induced to believe for the reason that I saw the Gospel in its plainness as it was in the New Testament, and I also knew that none of the sects of the day taught these things.”
One of the first things Partridge did on arriving in Painesville was to meet with those who had sent him on his fact-finding trip to visit the Prophet. Partridge reported to them that he had made extensive inquiries among Joseph Smith’s neighbors and had found—to his own satisfaction, at least—that the antagonisms against the Smith family had arisen after Joseph had claimed divine powers, not before. Therefore, the animosity was against his beliefs and not his person. Partridge concluded by stating that Joseph Smith was either the greatest rogue alive or a prophet of God. His personal conclusion was that Joseph was a prophet.
Partridge’s report hit like a bombshell among those who had fully expected him to deliver a negative opinion of Joseph Smith and led to contumelious behavior among many: “His old, and most intimate friends, who had been most anxious for him to go and find out the truth of the reports about ‘mormonism’ because of their confidence in his honesty, and superior judgment, pronounced him crazy.”
The Call to Be Bishop
Partridge did not have much time to worry about the growth of anti-Mormon sentiment or the loss of old friends. On February 4, 1831, three days after the Smith party arrived in Ohio, the Prophet announced the following revelation calling Partridge to the office of bishop:
And again, I have called my servant Edward Partridge; and I give a commandment, that he should be appointed by the voice of the church, and ordained a bishop unto the church, to leave his merchandise and to spend all his time in the labors of the church; To see to all things as it shall be appointed unto him in my laws in the day that I shall give them. And this because his heart is pure before me, for he is like unto Nathanael of old, in whom there is no guile. These words are given unto you, and they are pure before me; wherefore, beware now you hold them, for they are to be answered upon your souls in the Day of Judgment. Even so. Amen. (D&C 41:9–12)
This calling seems to have been an unexpected development both for Partridge and for the Church. B. H. Roberts wrote, “This appointment of Edward Partridge to be a bishop is called an unlooked for development in organization, because there was nothing in preceding revelations that intimated that bishops would constitute any part of the church organization and government.”In addition, the duties and obligations of the office of bishop were not known. Partridge would find out later that “the bishop’s principal duty was to look after the poor.”
The revelation given on February 4, 1831, in addition to calling Edward Partridge to be the first bishop in the Church, instructed the elders of the Church to assemble in Kirtland to receive the law under which the temporal affairs of the Church should be governed (D&C 41:2–3). Five days later, on February 9, 1831, twelve elders (one of whom was probably Partridge) came to the Prophet and asked if the time had come to reveal the law that had been spoken of in the New York revelation. In the presence of these elders, Joseph prayed for divine guidance and recorded what is now section 42 of the Doctrine and Covenants.
The law as it appears in section 42 can be outlined as follows:
1. Members are to transfer ownership of all their property to the Lord through the bishop.
2. Once he had received the property, the bishop was to appoint every man a steward over either
a. his own property or
b. that which he had received from the bishop “sufficient for himself and his family.”
3. The surplus created by economic activity was to be kept in the bishop’s storehouse
a. to help the poor and needy,
b. to purchase land, and
c. to build up the New Jerusalem. (D&C 42:31, 32–35)
Although this revelation provided a basic outline of the law of consecration and stewardship, it failed to provide many of the details of how it was to operate. Consequently, as the members began to attempt to live this law, additional information was asked for and received, and Church leaders continually instructed the members in how the law should be administered.
Consecration, as it was called originally, or the united order, as many called it later,was the law under which Zion was to be established and was based most fundamentally upon the acknowledgment that the Lord was the owner of everything on earth and that man was only a temporary steward. Possibly the most succinct description of the law of consecration and stewardship was stated by Arrington, Fox, and May in Building the City of God:
Briefly, the law was a prescription for transforming the highly individualistic economic order of Jacksonian America into a system characterized by economic equality, socialization of surplus incomes, freedom of enterprise, and group economic self-sufficiency. Upon the basic principle that the earth and everything on it belongs to the Lord, every person who was a member of the church at the time the system was introduced or became a member thereafter was asked to “consecrate” or deed all his property, both real and personal, to the bishop of the church.
A final point should be stressed. This law was not presented to the members of the Church as some kind of investment scheme in which they could participate or not participate as they chose. This temporal commitment was considered as sacred and binding as any of the religious rites of the Church. One could be “cut off” for opposing or not participating in the plan.
It is not known what Partridge thought of the new plan. As the first bishop in the Church, his responsibility was to apply the general statements of the revelation in specific real-world situations. At first there was likely confusion regarding the exact meaning of terms such as “surplus,” “steward,” and “poor and needy.” Any hesitancy on his part, however, should have caused him to note the sharp warning in the revelation: “And again, I say unto you, that my servant Edward Partridge shall stand in the office whereunto I have appointed him. And it shall come to pass, that if he transgresses another shall be appointed in his stead” (D&C 42:10).
Bishop Partridge had been a member of the Church for less than two months when he was asked to sacrifice everything he had worked for in his life and devote his time completely to his new Church. Further, as administrator of the new economic order, he would have to set the right example by donating all his real properties to the Church as well as whatever personal possessions of his family he felt he should consecrate. Partridge readily gave the Church whatever was asked of him, beginning with hospitality for traveling Saints.
Assisting the Saints Gathering in Ohio
In spring 1831, in response to the Prophet’s urging, the Saints began to gather to northern Ohio from all parts of the country where Mormon missionaries had been doing their work. Only three miles from the boat landing and nine miles from Kirtland,the Partridge home made a convenient stopping place for those traveling from the East to Kirtland, and Emily recorded that “we had more or less of them stopping there from that time on, while we remained in Ohio.” Lucy Mack Smith, the Prophet’s mother, noted in her biography of her son that when she arrived in Ohio with the rest of the Smith family, Joseph took them to the Partridge home where they “found a fine supper prepared for the whole company.”
This steady stream of converts through their home was not without cost to the Partridge family. Besides the obvious expense of providing meals and provisions, the family also found itself the recipient of whatever diseases their visitors might be carrying with them—at a time when almost any disease could be life threatening. The children suffered through an epidemic of measles, a very serious affliction in the nineteenth century; much of spring and summer 1831 was spent nursing them back to health. The oldest girl, Eliza, was seriously ill with what they called “lung fever” and was not given much hope of recovering(fig. 4). These problems do not seem to have affected the hospitality the Partridges showed toward their visitors.
As the steady gathering of Church converts continued in northern Ohio, it became evident that putting the new law of consecration and stewardship into place would be difficult. Not only were many of the Saints scattered across the northern part of the state and thus physically isolated, but in general they lacked knowledge regarding the doctrines and practices of the Church; in particular, they had only vague notions regarding the new economic system.
To help rectify this problem, elders were sent forth to proclaim repentance and to instruct the members in the new law. The elders’ main impact, however, was not to educate current members but to bring more new converts into the Church, which only further aggravated implementation problems. Partridge visited several branches of the Church to explain the law of consecration but found that some of the members would not accept it.The situation at the time was summed up by Church historian John Whitmer, who recorded that “the time has not yet come that the law can be fully established, for the disciples live scattered abroad and are not yet organized; our numbers are small and the disciples untaught, consequently they understand not the things of the kingdom.” Whitmer further noted that part of the problem was that “some of the disciples who were flattered into this Church . . . thought that all things were to be in common, therefore they thought to glut themselves upon the labors of the others.”
As additional Saints continued to arrive to settle in Ohio, it became apparent that there was not enough money or land to care for their needs. Disturbed by the lack of preparation to receive the newcomers from the East, Bishop Partridge went to the Prophet seeking advice as to where he should settle them.He also wanted to know if Ohio was “the place of gathering, even the place of the New Jerusalem spoken of in the Book of Mormon,” as some of the Eastern converts had been preaching. In response, the Prophet recorded what became section 48 of the Doctrine and Covenants. The essence of the revelation was that the place of the New Jerusalem had not been revealed; that the Saints in Ohio were to share their surplus property with the new arrivals; and that if more land was needed, the newcomers were to purchase additional property.
Travel to Independence, Missouri
Many converts living in northern Ohio in 1831 moved to Jackson County, Missouri. At a general conference of the Church held in Kirtland on June 4, 1831, Partridge, one of twenty-three brethren who were ordained to the office of high priest, was also called to join a group of Church leaders and missionaries and journey to the new Zion in Missouri.
In obedience to the call, Edward Partridge said goodbye to his family on June 19, 1831, and set out for the “promised land.”It was difficult for him to leave at this time. Not only was he exhausted to the point that he suffered a fall from his horse —luckily without injury—but his family was still recovering from the measles epidemic contracted from their visitors, and his daughter Eliza was still seriously afflicted with lung fever. Eliza recorded in her journal, “After a time [my father] was called to leave his business . . . and go to Missouri to attend to the business of the Church. He went and left his family to get along as best they could, I was at that time very sick and he had no expectation of seeing me again, but the Lord called and he must obey.”
Lydia Partridge also wrote of how difficult it was for her when Edward left: “The unbelievers thought he must be crazy or he would not go. And I thought myself that I had reason to think my trials had commenced and so they had, but this trial like all others was followed by blessings for our daughter recovered.”
In addition to the exodus of groups of members and of those called to serve as missionaries on their way to Missouri, the Prophet himself made his own pilgrimage in search of Zion, accompanied by Edward Partridge, Sidney Rigdon, and five other Saints. Their destination was generally described as Jackson County, on the western border of the state of Missouri, nearly one thousand miles away.
After difficult travel in hot weather over rough roads or no roads at all, the Prophet’s party arrived at Independence about the middle of July.Over the next few weeks, Joseph Smith officially designated the land of Missouri for the gathering of the Saints (D&C 57:1–2), located the temple lot (D&C 57:3), and set up the organization to handle an influx of members when they should begin arriving from the East. Specific instructions to Bishop Partridge were also given:
And let my servant Edward Partridge stand in the office to which I have appointed him, and divide unto the Saints their inheritance, even as I have commanded; and also those whom he has appointed to assist him. . . . And now concerning the gathering—Let the bishop and the agent make preparations for those families which have been commanded to come to this land, as soon as possible, and plant them in their inheritance. (D&C 57:7, 15)
On Thursday, August 4, 1831, a special conference was held in Kaw Township in Jackson County. Thirty-one members were present.At the conclusion of the conference, most of the leaders with whom Partridge had traveled west were instructed to return to Ohio, leaving him almost alone. Some insight into his feelings can be gained from a letter he wrote to Lydia on the day after the conference, August 5, 1831. He began by saying that he needed to stay in Missouri “for the present, contrary to [his] expectations,” and he preferred that she stay in Painesville until spring because she would be more comfortable there. Then he told her of his feelings:
When I left Painesville, I told people I was coming back and bade none a farewell but for a short time, consequently I feel a great desire to return once more, and bid your connexion [sic] and my friends and acquaintances an eternal farewell, unless they should be willing to forsake all for the sake of Christ, and be gathered with the saints of the most high God.
We have to suffer and shall for some time, many privations here which you and I have not been much used to for years. . . . I have a strong desire to return to Painesville this fall but must not. You know I stand in an important station, and as I am occasionally chastened I sometimes fear my station is above what I can perform to the acceptance of my Heavenly Father. I hope you and I may conduct ourselves as at last to land our souls in the heaven of eternal rest. Pray that I may not fall; I might write more but must not, Farewell for the present.
After explaining that he had been called to “plant” himself in Jackson County and expressing regret that he would be unable to return to Ohio, Partridge left with Lydia the decision of how and when the rest of the family would get to Missouri. His concern for his family was described by Emily Partridge:
It seemed, to him, a very great undertaking for mother to break up her home and prepare for such a journey, with a family of little children, without her husband to advice [sic], and make arrangements for her. She was then quite young, and inexperienced in such things. But if my father could have looked forward into the future and beheld what his family would have to go through I think he would have felt still more anxious.
Although Lydia Partridge had heard how difficult the trip was, she left Painesville with her family late that same year with Isaac Morley’s family and others. In addition to moving all their clothing and possessions, she had to care for and protect five little girls accustomed to a sheltered environment and unprepared for the rough characters and conditions they might meet on their journey to the frontier. When the family left Ohio, the girls ranged from Eliza, who was only eleven, down to Lydia, who was a babe in arms of seventeen months.
After a sometimes difficult trip by lake steamer, canal boat, river boat, and barge, they were within one hundred miles of their destination when ice coming down the Missouri River made it impossible to proceed. At the time, the family was on a slow-moving barge with a captain who had taken an unwanted interest in Lydia. Tired of the conditions on the barge and of the attentions of its captain, she took her children and landed at a place called Arrow Rock. At that spot, on the bank of the river, there was a log cabin occupied by a family of African Americans. Lydia asked for shelter and was given a back room for her family.
There was no window in their small back room, their only light coming from the door opening into the front part of the cabin. They did have a fireplace and plenty of wood, so they were able to keep warm in spite of the very cold weather. They remained there for over two weeks and during that time had a terrifying experience when a very large rattlesnake was discovered in their woodpile. The owner of the cabin, apparently accustomed to rattlesnakes, turned his largest hog into the room. While it crunched on the snake, the girls huddled on the bed, screaming.
After ten days, Lydia was reduced to feeding the family lumpy, grey cornmeal mush and fat pork. But soon, with Sister Morley’s help, Lydia was able to procure a wagon, load their possessions on it, and start again for Independence. It was still almost too cold to travel, so they stopped for a day to build fires and rest. That day Partridge and Isaac Morley came into their camp and escorted them the rest of the way.
Winding Up Affairs in Painesville
When the trunks belonging to Lydia and the girls arrived in Independence from Painesville, Partridge promptly took them to the bishop’s storehouse as surplus, along with most of their contents. This action brought protests from his family, who complained that they were dressing like beggars while other members were going around town wearing what used to be their best clothing.Still, consecrating clothing and personal belongings was much easier than disposing of Partridge’s real estate holdings in Painesville. With just a few days between his call to Missouri and his departure, he had to trust someone else to act as an agent for him in selling his property. Judging from his earlier failed attempts to sell his properties, it would not be easy to sell a retail business, a factory, and considerable real estate. Nor would it be easy to get a fair price from potential buyers who must have recognized that they were in a buyer’s market. However, Partridge might not have been overwhelmingly interested in the final sales prices because he had already consecrated his property to the Church and had his hands full attempting to fill his assignment in Missouri.
It is impossible to determine exactly how much Partridge (and thus the Church) received for his Painesville properties, although most who comment on this issue indicate that he sustained huge losses. His daughter Emily (fig. 5) later wrote, “Father’s business was left in the hands of his agent, and his property, what was sold at all, was sold at a very great sacrifice,”and “My father realized but little from his property in Ohio. One farm was sold for a horse, saddle and bridle, and the rest, what was sold at all, was after the same style.”
One of Partridge’s brothers also gives evidence that Edward sold his property cheaply: “You say, the world, with all its pomp and show, looks very small in your eyes; I have evry [sic] reason to believe this, from the manner of disposing of your property, particularly your farm, which I learn you have received a fifteen year old horse for.”Lucretia Lyman Ranney, the Lyman family genealogist, put it in these words: “Edward put his property into the hands of a man, he thought to be a friend with instructions to sell it but the man was not faithful to the trust and Edward and his family received very little from the property.”
On the other hand, Ruth Louise Partridge, Partridge’s great-granddaughter, implies that Partridge realized a substantial profit from his Painesville holdings: “Selling a factory, a retail business and considerable real estate is not something that can be done with profit in such haste. Yet Edward was able to lay ten thousand dollars in gold on the alter [sic] of his faith.”Perhaps Ruth writes metaphorically.
The above individuals do not provide any sources for their opinions on how successful Partridge was in disposing of his Painesville property. Since all of them are related to the bishop, it could be surmised that this is the kind of information that works its way down the generations within families and somehow gets distorted over the years. Partridge was, of course, in Missouri all during this time, and there is no evidence that he corresponded with his agent regarding prices or terms of sale.
What we do know is that the disposition of the Partridge property in Painesville was completed before a year had passed since Edward’s departure for Missouri. Geauga County records show that one transaction was completed on March 6, 1832, and the remainder on May 2 of the same year. No amounts are given except for the hat shop and dwelling portions of lots one and two, which sold for $1,100.As to the total price he received for his holdings, the truth most likely will never be known. We also know that Partridge consecrated the proceeds of all his property sales to the Church. In retrospect, it is not as important to know what his property was sold for as it is to recognize that he so freely gave it to the Church.
The End of a Faithful Life
As did so many early converts to the Church, Edward Partridge suffered more than financial losses for his faith. On November 6, 1838, Partridge, along with fifty-five other Mormon leaders, was arrested at Far West, Missouri, and incarcerated to wait trial. Of this time he wrote, “We were confined to a large open room, where the cold northern blast penetrated freely. Our fires were small and our allowance for wood and food was scanty; they gave us not even a blanket to lie upon; our beds were the cold floor. . . . The vilest of the vile did guard us and treat us like dogs.”He lived under these conditions until November 28, when he was found innocent of any wrongdoing and released.
Never a very strong person physically, Partridge does not seem to have ever completely recovered from the three weeks of imprisonment under such difficult circumstances. On June 13, 1839, he wrote, “I have not at this time two dollars in this world . . . What is best for me to do, I hardly know. Hard labor I cannot perform; light labor I can; but I know of no chance to earn anything, at anything I can stand to do.”He was appointed bishop of the upper ward in Nauvoo, but his service was brief. Shortly after their arrival in Nauvoo, his daughter Harriet unexpectedly died. Consumed with guilt and attributing her death to poor living conditions for which he was responsible, he attempted to convert an old stable into a home for his family and was in the process of moving furniture when he collapsed from exhaustion and took to his bed. He died on May 27, 1840, ten days after his daughter, at age forty-six.
His funeral in Nauvoo was marked by a revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 124:19 in which the Lord stated that he had received Edward Partridge “unto [him]self.” There were many tributes written about him; one of the kindest and most insightful, attributed to his longtime friend W. W. Phelps, was published in the Times and Seasons:
[Edward Partridge] proved himself a faithful friend. His private and official duties were performed with an eye single to the glory of God. He was a faithful steward and the church had unlimited confidence in his integrity. He lived godly in Christ Jesus, and suffered persecution. As a Bishop he was one of the Lords great men, and few will be able to wear his mantle with such simple dignity. He was an honest man, and I loved him.
As a result of recently discovered documents, we now know that Edward Partridge attempted to sell his business in 1828 with the announced intention of leaving Painesville if the sale had been completed. What we don’t know is why he wanted to sell it, where he intended to go, and what he intended to do. And, while the majority of sources indicate that Partridge accepted far less for his Painesville properties than he might have realized had he sold them under other circumstances, the exact amount of his losses is unknown. Regardless of these unknowns, the central fact is that of his wholehearted conversion to the Church and his complete dedication to it.
After carefully and thoughtfully examining the claims of the missionaries, studying the Book of Mormon, and meeting the Prophet, Edward Partridge accepted the restored gospel and devoted the rest of his life to serving the Church. When others fell away under the pressures of persecution and economic loss, he never wavered. He was also fortunate to have a companion whose faith matched his own and who did what she had to do to support her husband. An additional tribute to his life is the fact that all of his children also remained faithful even though they lived through difficult days in Missouri and Illinois. His daughters married Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and Amasa Lyman. His son, Edward Jr., the last of his seven children, was president of the Hawaiian Mission and of the Utah Stake, and, like his father, was faithful to the end (fig. 6).