Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Industrious Smith Family

In answer to some of the comments we have received about accusations made by neighbors in the Palmyra area of the Smith family, referring to them as lazy , indolent, and not well respected, in the working of their farm, the following information is provided. 
The area along the Palmyra-Manchester border where Joseph Smith, Sr., built the log cabin in which the family of 10 lived for about 8 years was in a wooded forest like this that had to be cleared—30 acres were cleared in the first year--a back-breaking work

    Almost all of the allegations regarding the Smith family character, not necessarily associated with the Book of Mormon, gold plates, or their claim to angels and revelation, but just about them as neighbors, farmers, and workers, the claims of laziness and not working their farm comes from four families that were neighbors, all coming from ten families belonging to the same overall four families—the Staffords, whose name was given to the road on which the Smith’s lived along the Palmyra-Manchester border, and the  Stoddards, Chases, and Caprons.  
    Willard Chase’s irritation, no doubt, claimed he was the one that found the stone while digging with Joseph and though he let him have it, Chase wanted it back when he found out what it could do. William Stafford had on two occasions gone hunting treasure with Joseph, Sr., and the father of Dr. john Stafford, Joshua Stafford, claimed to have had a seer stone of his own. In fact the lore of buried treasure in the area went back many centuries and most of the families of the area spent some time digging, at least on their own property, for such finds—sometimes hiring others who had a reputation for finding things as did Joseph, Jr.
    As for the farming, it should be of interest that only one farm of these ten families in this four-family group as properly assessed by the county as being more valuable than the Smiths, though the Smiths had the property far less time and began with 100 tree-filled acres, no house or cabin, barn or other equipment on hand—in other words, they began from scratch and built a property worth more in assessment than nine out of the ten in this group who complained about the Smiths being lazy, and not improving their farm.
    To be perfectly clear about this, the Smith farm was assessed or evaluated at $13.00 per acre compared to a mean value for 176 farms of 50 acres or more in the Manchester Township of $12.85, with a high of $18 and a low of $8, with 71 farms valued at a higher rate per acre than the Smith farm, 90 valued below theirs, and 14 were valued at the same level. Of the five families in the Stafford family group, none had a higher appraisal than the Smiths. 
    Abraham Stafford’s100 acres at $12.96, Abraham Stafford’s 162 acres at $12.50, Joshua Stafford’s 123 acres at $12.20 per acre, David Stafford’s 20 acres at $11 per acre, and John Stafford’s 60 acres at $10 per acre (Assessment Rolls 21–22). Only Edmund Chase of the Chase family group was still farming in Manchester Township in 1830. His 29-acre farm, bordering east on the Smith farm, was valued at $10 per acre (Assessment Rolls 6).
Stafford Road looking south from the Palmyra-Manchester line showing the land before the Smiths cleared their acreage

    Russell Stoddard, the man who, according to Lucy Smith, cheated them out of their farm, lived a mile and a half south of the Smiths in a frame home with a barn, outbuildings, an orchard, a handsome cedar grove, and a small sawmill. His 98-acre farm was considered “number one quality” and was valued at $16 per acre (Assessment Roll 21). Stoddard owned other farms, speculated in land, and built houses. After Alvin’s death, he contracted with the Smiths to complete their frame home enough to allow them to move into it. When fully “enclosed” after the Smiths moved away, it was comparable in size to Stoddard’s home (Research File). The 150 acre farm of Squire Stoddard, Russell’s brother, lay immediately south of the Smith farm and was valued at $12 per acre. Joseph Capron’s land, a five-acre parcel situated within 200 yards of the Smith home, was valued at $10 per acre (Assessment Rolls 5, 22).
    The average size of the township’s 253 farms was 85 acres. The mean was 63 acres. Sixty-two of the 253 farms were larger than the Smith farm. They ranged from 105 to just over 300 acres. Twenty-two farms were the same size as the Smith; 168 were smaller and decreased in size from 98 to 10 acres.
Top: The log cabin Joseph Smith, Sr., built in 1818 after clearing 30 acres of thickly wooded ground that first year; Bottom: A short distance down the road to the south from the log cabin Alvin Smith built this frame house and farm outbuildings for his parents and the family. Each shows professional ability for the day, hard work, and attention to detail

    William Smith recorded that it took the Smith men six or seven years to completely clear the land. The Smith “neighborhood” farms are of particular interest because their owners included some of those who accused the Smiths of being “lazy, indolent and shiftless.”
Forty-two families resided in the “neighborhood,” that is, the area along Stafford and Canadaiqua Roads extending three miles south from the Palmyra-Manchester town line. Of these 42, eleven had larger farms than the Smiths, ranging from about 125 acres to 215 acres. Four had farms the same size. Twenty-five were smaller, ranging downward from 98 to 14 acres. The average size farm in the “neighborhood” was 83 acres and the mean was 71 acres.
    The Smith farm had a perimeter of one and 2/3 miles. To fence that distance with a standard stone and singer fence required moving tons of stone from fields to farm perimeter, then cutting and placing about 4,000 ten-foot rails. This does not include the labor and materials involved in fencing the barnyard, garden, pastures, and orchard, which, at a conservative estimate, required an additional 2,000 to 3,000 cut wooden rails. Clearly, this work alone—all of it separate from the actual labor of farming—represents a prodigious amount of concerted planning and labor, especially when only 4 males, ages 14 to Father Smith, were involved.
    According to Lucy Smith, they Smiths cleared 30 acres the first year and 60 acres the second.
    William Smith asserted that “whenever the neighbors wanted a good day’s work done they knew where they could get a good hand.” Eight wells in three townships are attributed to the Smiths. They likely dug and rocked others, including some of the 11 wells dug on the farm of Lemuel Durfee, who lived a little east of Martin Harris. The Smiths did considerable work for this kindly old Quaker; some of their labor served as rent for their farm after it passed into his ownership in December 1825.
An overview of the area from the Hill Cumorah, looking northward toward Palmyra—White Arrow: Hill Cumorah; Red Arrow: Entrance to the Hill Cumorah visitor’s center and Pageant area; Black Arrow: Route or highway 21S; Green Arrow: Stafford Road; Yellow Arrow: Smith Log Cabin home; Blue Arrow: Sacred Grove; Orange Arrow: Township of Palmyra

    In comparison to others in the township and neighborhood, the Smiths’ efforts and accomplishments were superior to most. In the township, only 40 percent of the farms were worth more per acre and just 25 percent were larger. In the “neighborhood,” only 29 percent of the farms were worth more and only 26 percent were larger (Assessment Rolls 1–34).

It is hard to justify a label of lazy or that they did not actually work their farm. Those who made such claim were notorious about signing affidavits regarding the Smith family being liars and diggers of treasure and lacked character in articles denouncing their claims of revelations and development of Mormonism. As for lengthy and detailed articles showing the fallacy of such claims, see articles on the subject by Hugh Nibley and Emma Smith, as well as one by Richard L. Anderson. There are many others that set the record straight on this subject.

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