Purported Will of Brigham Young to be Sold at Auction

Purported Will of Brigham Young to be Sold at Auction

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Copies of Brigham Young's last will and testament have turned up before, but now a document purported to be the original will is to be sold at auction.

Alderfer Auction Co. of Hatfield, Pa., plans to sell it on June 8, with a starting price of $25,000. The sale will be via phone, live, absentee and eBay bidding.

Curt Bench, owner of Benchmark Books in Salt Lake City, which sells and appraises rare and out-of-print books, said Alderfer's estimate that the document could sell for $60,000 to $80,000 is probably accurate. He said most letters from Young with an original signature go for $5,000 to $10,000 and sometimes more depending on the content.

"That's more than almost any Brigham Young document ever sold," Bench told the Deseret Morning News. "It's a very unusual document, and this kind of thing doesn't turn up very often."

The auction company said it acquired the document through a northeastern Pennsylvania estate, near the company's location. Auctioneer Brent Souder said the estate wished to be anonymous.

Some archivists fear the manuscript might be a clerical copy. During the 19th-century, documents and signatures were copied by clerks so an original manuscript could have duplicates.

"A lot of times, clerks would make more copies for themselves or others," said Val Wilson, patron service archivist with the Utah State Archives. Utah State Archives has one of the clerical copies of Young's will. "It takes a pretty expert eye to be able to discern."

Although archivists said they have not seen the original, they said copies have turned up before.

"Brigham Young had a lot of heirs," said Jeff Johnson, reference librarian for the church history department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "As they were probating the will, several of them had copies."

Brigham Young University history professor Ronald Walker said that after Young died, there was a long, extended lawsuit over the will, and it was challenged by some of his children who felt they had been overlooked.

He said there also was confusion over which belongings were church property and which were personal property.

The document dated Nov. 14, 1873, detailed monetary allotments to some of his wives and children.

Young, who died on Aug. 29, 1877, led the Mormons from the Midwest to the Great Salt Lake area after the death of church founder Joseph Smith.

There are widely varying figures reported for the number of wives he had. The Encyclopedia of Mormonism puts it at 20, but other sources say it was in the 50s. Historians say some of the wives were elderly widows who were taken into Young's protection and with whom he did not have conjugal relations.

Alderfer Auction has received numerous calls from people who want more information about the manuscript or who want to set up appointments to see the manuscript.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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