In 1965 when I was six going on seven, my father got a job as a professor of education at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, IL, two hours due west of Chicago. So I grew up there, from second grade through high school. For decades I have lived just an hour east of DeKalb, and my MIL still lives there, so I go back to visit often, most recently a week ago yesterday as a fellow DeKalbian and I made our way to spend a weekend in Nauvoo.[1]

So this evening I was reading in the latest John Whitmer Historical Association Journal, and I came to LaJean Carruth’s article, “The Memoirs of Joseph Smith III on the 1880 Kirtland Temple Lawsuit and Church Succession: A Comparison of the Dictated and Published Versions.” I was interested in this in part because I wrote a blog post once on the Kirtland temple litigation and also because I always find LaJean’s work on shorthand texts interesting.

So I’m reading along and all of a sudden I come across references to a guy named Russell Huntley of DeKalb, who was a friend of Joseph III and had been baptized RLDS. Huntley had purchased the Kirtland Temple in 1862 for $150, made $2,000 worth of improvements to it, and then sold it to Joseph Smith III and Mark Forscutt in 1873, also for $150.[2]

So when I saw this guy was from DeKalb, I got curious and did a google search to see if I could figure out who he was. And lo and behold, it turns out Russell and his brother Lewis actually founded the City of DeKalb in 1853! My wife attended Huntley Middle School, which was named for him. I had no idea.

It makes sense that he was friends with a number of RLDS, including Joseph III, and was a baptized member of the Church (although according to LaJean’s transcription he was not really knowledgeable in the faith), because the RLDS Church was founded in Plano, Illinois, which is just a little over 20 miles south of DeKalb. According to the shorthand account Russell was a man of considerable means, which made him quite an asset to the Church. After he deeded the temple to Joseph Smith III, he seems to have returned to DeKalb; whether he had any further dealings with the RLDS thereafter I do not know.

Anyway I was thrilled to come across this connection between my beloved home town, the RLDS faith and the Kirtland Temple.

[1] The picture is the famous logo of the old DeKalb Agricultural Association (now owned by Monsanto). As a teen I spent summers detassling corn or roguing soy beans.

[2] It turns out that his title was bad and he didn’t actually own it sufficiently to convey good title to the property. But during that decade plus he was in possession, improved the building and was in every other respect treated as the owner.


  1. Cool stuff as always. We miss Schaumburg 2.

  2. Bro. Jones says:

    This is a cool bit of history, thanks for sharing! I lived in Chicago for years and had no idea about this.

  3. Kristin Brown says:

    Fascinating. My friend Jill Brim is quite involved with the John Whitmer Historical Association. She will love this.

  4. Kevin Barney says:

    Jill is an old friend and yes, she’ll get a kick out of thisl

  5. Sycamore is DeKalb’s twin city and also has some history in that it is where former apostle John E. Page eventually settled, died, and was buried (north of town — not in the Elmwood Cemetery). Post-Nauvoo he associated with the Strangites, Brewsterites and Hedrickites (Temple Lot). Triple play!

    A couple of interesting links:

  6. Cool story, and awesome logo.

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