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. (p.51)While his conversion has sometimes been portrayed as a great sacrifice, financially and in terms of departing, more recent evidence suggests otherwise.
In fact, Partridge was apparently not completely satisfied with his circumstances before he accepted Mormonism. Is is not generally known, even by his descendants, that Partridge was preparing to make a major change as early as 1828. (p.51)Specifically, real estate documents suggest that he was trying to sell his factory and home and property and to move his life in a new direction (p.52). When joining the Church and consecrating his property, the firesale netted a lower amount, but that was for the church to bear (p.52).
Edward Partridge was born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, August 27th 1793 (p.52). He took his apprenticeship with a Mr Governor in Pittsfield, and at age 20, finished with his apprenticeship, traveled to New York and became a journeyman with one Asa Martin, with whom he formed an economic partnership in the hat-making business in Clinton, near Albany, in 1813. Around 1814 or 1815, Partridge was in Painesville on business, liked the area, and decided to open a branch office there (p.52); in 1817, he bought a large lot on Main Street (now Mentor Avenue), where he had both his residency and his factory (p.52). The lot was only two miles from Lake Erie's shore, providing trade connections (p.52).
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 more populated Eastern cities to provide access to their markets. (p.52)
In a short time, Partridge was doing so well he bought out Martin's interest and carried on the business himself, employing several hands an operating both a factory and a store. (p.52)
Edward married Lydia Clisbee in August 19, 1819, and resided in Painesville (p.53). They had five daughters and the business continued to grow (p.53), allowing Edward to purchase additional properties. But starting in January 1828, Partridge began to offer his properties for sale, without success (p.54); and in June of 1829, Partridge tried again, giving his wish to "quit the Hatting business and leave Painesville" (p.5) as the reason---again without success. At this point he owed: "a house, a hat factory, a hat shop, a barn, two lots next to the public scare, a twenty acre wood lot, a one-hundred-acre farm in Ashtabula County, and a house in Kirtland" (p.55).
Partridge path to religion had been complex; for a long time he adhered to no religion, then joined the Universal Restorationers, until in 1828 he joined Sidney Rigdon's branch of the Campbellite movement (p.55).
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. (p.55) [[quoting Ahlstrohm's Religious History of the American People, 1972, p.450, RCK]]But one problem continued to vex Partridge, the question of authority.
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.' (p.56)He still continued as an active Campbellite member, though. But when Sidney Rigdon converted to Mormonism on November 14, 1830, Partridge was one of the first members of his congregation he visited (p.56)
The message brought by the [Mormon, RCK] 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 with Partridge's beliefs regarding the necessity for new revelation and authority. (p.56)Partridge took his time and obtained a copy of the Book of Mormon first (p.56). But he decided he needed to meet Joseph Smith Jr first, and there are some sources that indicate that other members of his Campbellite congregation wanted him to go and check out the Prophet, possibly even paying for his expenses (p.56).
"After a difficult trip on rough roads in cold weather," (p.57) when Rigdon and Partridge arrived in Kingon, New York, they learned that Father Smith and Hyrum were in jail for non-payments of debt. Partridge asked around and concluded that the whole setup was to force Father Smith to recant the new religion. (p.57) Lucy Smith Mack [History, ed. Nibley, p.191-192, RCK] recalled that Partridge attended a meeting at Manchester, where Joseph Smith Jr taught the lesson, and afterwards Partridge stated that he was ready to be baptized.
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 decided 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 that we had sacrificed for the sake of our faith, and having heard that our veracity was not questioned upon any other point that that of our religion, he believed our testimony and was ready to be baptized, "if", said he, "Brother Joseph will baptize me." (p.57)Partridge was baptized December 11th, 1830, in the Seneca River (p.57). On December 15th, he received the Melchizedek Priesthood and was ordained an Elder by his old pastor, Sidney Rigdon (p.57). His first mission took him to Massachusetts, where he tried to convert his parents and siblings, but was rejected with hostility (p.58) and taken to be mentally ill.
On the other hand, the Ohio branch was growing rapidly; John Whitmer had to be sent to preside in Kirtland (p.58), and by mid-December the north-eastern Ohio branch had several times more members than the New York branch, prompting Whitmer to contact Joseph for help (p.58). On January 2nd, 1831, at the Church Conference in Fayette, NY, a revelation (D&C 38) was received for the entire church to move to Ohio. The church was 9 months old at that point and had approximately 280 members (p.58). Partridge and Rigdon accompanied Joseph and Emma to Kirtland, where they stayed for the first few weeks with Newel K. Whitney (p.58).
Upon return, Edward Partridge discovered that his wife Lydia had independently been baptized by Parley Pratt (p.58). Partridge reported to his friends who had supported his fact-finding trip, but they were disappointed with his sustaining Joseph Smith Jr as a prophet (p.59). But Partridge had no time for these issues, as he was made Bishop a few days later (D&C 41), a position that had no precedence in the young church and no clearly defined role tasks (p.59). The revelation that had selected Partridge had also promised a new law for Kirtland, and on February 9th, 1831, twelve elders (probably including Partridge) went to Joseph for a revelation of that law, which Joseph did before them as D&C 42, establishing the "Law" of consecration and stewardship (p.60).
Partridge cites Arrington, Fox and May's classic Building the City of God to explain the law of consecration and stewardship:
Briefly, the law was a prescription for transforming the highly individualized economic order of Jacksonian America into a system characterized || by economic equality, socialization of surplus incomes, freedom of enterprise, and group economic self-sufficiency. (p.61)Scott Partridge stresses that participation in this scheme was not voluntarily and expressed a basic stance on church membership (p.61).
Edward Partridge rose to the challenge of implementing the law of consecration and stewardship. Bishop Partridge opened his house, "three miles form the boat landing and nine miles from Kirtland" (p.61) to the arriving Saints, and someone or another was always staying with them while the Partridge family remained in Ohio, as his daughter Emily recalled (p.61). The author wonders whether that made the family more susceptible to disease, citing a measles epidemic and then the lung fever that Eliza suffered from (p.62).
One problem Bishop Partridge faced was that the scattered members in Ohio only had confused notions of the new economic system. When education attempted to fix that and elders went to preach the new system, this only resulted in more converts with confused notions (p.62). Author Scott Partridge cites Church historian John Whitmer on the situation [from Barretts & Burton, Readings in LDS History, I:114 RCK]:
... the time has not yet come that the law an 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. (p.62)In addition, the promise of sharing of surplus attracted free-loaders (p.63), as Whitmer noted. Partridge was disturbed to have so little prepared for the arriving Saints, and he consulted with the Prophet, who gave revelation D&C 48, which proposed
... 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. (p.63)Many of the converts in Northern Ohio had begun moving to Jackson County, Missouri, in 1831. In June 19, 1831, Edward Partridge was sent to join them, leaving his family and esp his sick daughter Eliza behind (p.63). At that point, Partridge was so exhausted from his labors as Bishop that he fell from his horse (p.63). Partridge traveled with the Prophet (p.63), Sidney Rigdon and five other Saints, on the search for the location of Zion (p.64). Though they found the temple site and identified Zion, by August 1831, the majority of the Saints returned to Ohio, and Partridge was basically by himself in Missouri (p.64). Partridge sketched his situation to his wife and left it up to her when she would join him; she teamed up with the Issac Morley family "late that same year", with five daughters ranging from eleven years to seventeen months of age (p.65).
The trip by lake steamer, canal boat, river boat and barge brought them only within hundred miles of Independence when too much ice on the Missouri stopped their voyage. Lydia Partridge disembarked on Arrow Rock, to escape unwanted attention from the barge captain, and took board with an African-American family in a log cabin, renting their back room.
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. (p.65)Fortunately, they managed to get wagons and make more progress toward Independence, whence Edward Partridge and Isaac Morley came to escort them (p.65).
When the trunks of the Partridge family arrived in Independence, Edward consecrated the contents to the storehouse (p.66), in the face of protests from his family. Selling his properties in Painesville remained a difficulty, and his agent did not manage to get a good price, if Emily recalled correctly (p.66). But the county records only show prices for the hat shop and two of the lots, selling for $1,100. All the money Partridge consecrated to the Church (p.67).