The already-infamous Bloomburg Businessweek (BB) cover depicts John the Baptist baptizing Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, the founders of the Mormon Church. It is a based on a scene often depicted in Mormon art, but BB used it for satire. The story inside is about the church's business interests. The cover image and more about the controversy is here, from CNN.com.
What does this have to do with me? Oliver Cowdery is my second cousin, seven times removed. My ancestor, Ethan Cowdery was born in 1788 in Hartland, Connecticut, on high, stony ground near the Massachusetts border. Oliver Cowdery, his second cousin, was born 18 years later in Wells, Vermont, a small town also on a border, the one between western Vermont and eastern New York.
A contemporary of Oliver and Ethan was another cousin, the famed Dr. Jonathan Cowdery. He was a first cousin once removed to both men.
Jonathan was the oldest of the three, having been born at Sandisfield, Massachusetts, in 1767.
The three men were related through their grandfathers, three brothers named Jacob, William and Jabez. Born in Massachusetts of old Puritan stock, the three eventually moved to Vermont, where William and his progeny remained until Oliver’s generation. Jacob moved around throughout New England before returning to Vermont at the end of his life. For seven years, in the 1790s, he lived in western New York near Canandaigua.
Many years later, in the 1820s, Oliver and most of his family also moved to the Canandaigua region but Ethan’s parents by then had taken advantage of the opening of the Northwest Territory and moved their family to Ohio, to the southeastern corner of the state, close to the Ohio River.
Jonathan, son of Jabez Cowdery, had several different New England addresses, including some near his cousins, before settling in Norfolk, Virginia, in 1805.
Both Jonathan and Oliver Cowdery were famous men in their day.
In 1800, Dr. Jonathan Cowdery was commissioned as a Surgeon Mate in the United State Navy. He served aboard the frigate Philadelphia, under Commodore Stephen Decatur, in the West Indies and Mediterranean. In 1803, the Philadelphia and all her crew were captured by the Tripolians and held for eighteen months. Dr. Cowdery’s memoirs of that experience were published in a Philadelphia newspaper and widely read.
Oliver Cowdery’s fame also came through publication. In New York, he became acquainted with a cousin on his mother’s side named Joseph Smith, with whom he started the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, also known as the Mormons. Oliver was Smith’s scribe, writing down the Book of Morman from Smith’s dictation and overseeing its original publication.
The third and non-famous cousin, Ethan Cowdery, my ancestor, was a successful farmer and mill operator in Ohio.
There is no evidence that the three ever met.
Ethan died in 1848 at the age of 60. Oliver died less than two years later, he was just 46. Jonathan Cowdery died in 1852 at age 85.