Document: Matthew B. Brown's Remarks on
"Solomon Spaulding and the Book of Mormon"
Source: "Ask the Apologist" at FAIR Web-site
Ask the Apologist
Q. I have heard that Joseph Smith plagiarized the writings of Solomon Spaulding to produce the Book of Mormon. I know this has been refuted before, but can you help me understand this issue and get to the bottom of it?
A. (by Matthew B. Brown)
When the Book of Mormon was first published in March of 1830 its detractors believed that it did not have a divine origin as claimed, but was an impious fraud perpetrated solely by the Prophet Joseph Smith (who was listed on the title page of the book -- in accordance with federal copyright law -- as the "author and proprietor").
(See the FAIR web-site for remainder of text)
Dale's Comments, Part 1:
As I was Going to the Fair...
The interesting thing about visiting the F.A.I.R. web-site is that I never know what next I'll find there -- or how long what I do find there will remain on-line. That's why I just made the screen-shot of FAIR's latest "Ask the Apologist -- Solomon Spaulding and the Book of Mormon" addition and placed it at the top of this web-page. If history repeats itself and the page content suddenly changes (as it did with one of their Robert and Rosemary Brown pages -- see my old screen-shot), I want to be able to keep Matthew B. Brown's remarks, as originally posted, in front of me for future consultation.
I am assuming this Matthew B. Brown is the author of the faith-promoting All Things Restored and the same "Matt Brown" whose work the Director of the Kirtland Temple Historic Center once spoke well of, and not, perhaps, some close relative of apologists Robert and Rosemary Brown. In reading Matthew's on-line remarks, I'm pleasantly surprised that he resisted any initial temptation to simply rehash a few paragraphs from his namesakes' dreadful descriptions, and say his questioner's query has been answered. Considering what has been written by some faithful Mormon defenders in the past, I must say that I feel Matthew has done a much "fairer" job than some, in giving us a modern reply to that nagging old question: "Did Joseph Smith plagiarize the writings of Solomon Spalding to produce the Book of Mormon?"
First of all, let me say that I hope the quoted query was an actual question posed by a real person, and not just a self-serving statement with a question mark appended, written up to give our apologist an excuse to "get to the bottom" of "this issue." A little bird recently told me that a major publisher in Missouri is releasing a book about Spalding, etc., and it would be rather naughty of my LDS friends to fire a preemptive shot across the bow of an enemy boat before it leaves dry-dock. On the other hand, perhaps a critical review or two of Matthew's recent reflections can help him and others hone their skills (and supplement their sources) in combating that tenacious "Spalding theory" one more time. Secondly, I really should make note of the fact that Matthew's inquisitor only asked for help in understanding the issue -- he (or she) did not really ask our good apologist if Brother Joseph had been so mean as to appropriate material from poor old Mr. Spalding's manuscripts, way back before the truth sprang out of the ground and all of that latter day stuff. Not much overt "combat" in this approach, and I must say, I really do like FAIR's new "kinder and gentler" rejoinder to the Spalding-Rigdon claims; it leaves a few windows open, just in case the air gets too hot in the apologist's chambers this time around.
Consulting the Feb. 2003 issue of the on-line Fair Journal, I see that Matthew's remarks on the Spalding-Rigdon claims are getting the same high level attention as are seminal subjects like "caffeinated beverages." Maybe that's progress, and the next thing we'll see from the scholarly dilettantes in Deseret will be an article on how to read "View of the Hebrews" without breaking the Word of Wisdom. But enough of my insipid introductory remarks -- let's get to some real "meat," the kind we can blamelessly chew upon during the famine of a frigid February.
"Author and Proprietor?"
Our well-meaning apologist sort of gets off on the wrong foot, at the very beginning, where he says that Bro. Joseph "was listed on the title page" of the 1830 Book of Mormon, as the "author and proprietor" of the work, "in accordance with federal copyright law." The Seer of Palmyra might have just as well signed off simply as "proprietor" when he submitted his title page facsimile to R. R. Lansing, in Utica, back in 1829. Had he done so, he could have saved all of us Latter Day Saint apologists (yes I still lay hold to that troublesome title) a great deal of embarrassment through the ages, as we've tried to tell confused readers that young Joe did not actually write that book 1 Fawn M. Brodie's assertions to the contrary notwithstanding. But, that's a minor lapse. We can excuse Matthew of that slight incongruity and move on to more interesting matters.
Is it really true, as Matthew says, that "When the Book of Mormon was first published in March of 1830 its detractors believed that it... was an impious fraud perpetrated solely by the Prophet Joseph Smith"? I wonder... I won't pile up all the relevant citations here, but I do believe I recall reading a whole stack of very early periodical articles telling folks that Sidney Rigdon, Oliver Cowdery, or a secretive "lawyer" from round about Palmyra concocted the thing. Wasn't it Jonathan A. Hadley who wrote in 1829 that "it appears not a little strange... that a person like Smith (very illiterate) should have been gifted by inspiration" to bring forth the book? Hadley was a Palmyra editor who lived within walking distance of the Smith cabin and knew Martin Harris personally, yet he says nothing about any local rumors claiming young Joe as the book's author. A few years later Hadley clarified his position on the matter, by saying that "An old manuscript historical novel, the property of a deceased clergyman in Pennsylvania, had previously fallen into Jo' s possession... The "translator," whether Cowdery or some other person, dressed up this old manuscript, merely adding to it whatever the Book of Mormon can be said to contain of a religious cast, and adapting its general phraseology as far as possible to that of the bible; but preserving the general original narrative..." Well, that was one man's opinion, I suppose, but it seems that Hadley and most other attentive "locals" never considered blaming young Joe for creating the Nephite Record.
By the way, if anybody is interested in consulting all those very early citations, I mentioned, you'll find a bunch of them, laid out more or less in chronological order, in my review of Dr. Terryl L. Givens' recent book. Yes, yes, there were folks who thought that young Joe wrote the text, but most of his neighbors knew him well enough to laugh at that kind of idea. Once the book was published and more people could read its title page (first printed in 1829), it was natural for editorial commentators (such as the reviewer in the Rochester paper of Apr. 2, 1830) to say things like "The 'author and proprietor' is one 'Joseph Smith, jr.'" But, even there, the reviewer places author and proprietor between quote marks, as though to say, "the ostensible author and proprietor." I see no railing here (or in other contemporary sources like the Sept. 2, 1829 Palmyra Reflector) against the young Seer for being the "sole" perpetrator of the so-called "impious fraud;" in fact, Abner Cole, editor of the Reflector, referred to Smith as "that spindle shanked ignoramus," not a title well bestowed upon the author of a 590 page history of ancient America!
Knowledge of Smith's childlike illiteracy seems to have been widespread at an early day. Orsamus Turner (another local newspaperman who later had more to say about the subject) stated in 1831 that "the founder of Mormonism is Jo. Smith, an ignorant and nearly unlettered man living near the village of Palmyra." Again, Turner does not pin the blame on young Joe as the "sole" perpetrator of the "fraud." When he added to his assertions, in 1850, Turner, like Hadley before him, felt that whoever produced the Book of Mormon was substantially "aided by Oliver Cowdery," and he did not mean Cowdery served merely as a scribe. Still, it must be admitted that Turner received the impression that the book was "a production of the Smith family" and not the work "of an educated man or woman." Despite the book's literary shortcomings, Turner was probably wrong to dismiss it as "a strange medley of scripture, romance, and bad composition," crafted by Mother Smith, a few of her brood, and cousin Cowdery. If Matthew is seeking a little support for his notion that folks were pointing at young Joe being the book's "sole" perpetrator, Turner's accounts provide no aid and comfort for that notion.
People who actually lived in the area and had some reason to monitor events thereabouts, knew that the Palmyra Seer could barely read during the 1820s, let alone write a coherent paragraph. Today we can buy the BYU Studies stack of documentary DVDs, spin the discs in our computers, and view examples of Bro. Joseph's horrible early penmanship for ourselves -- it's a scary experience. Obviously those people who accused our Seer of scripting the Nephite Record either were totally unaware of his limited literacy, or had heard tell he had a few educated scribes at his command. So, unless Bro. Matthew can come up with a few supportive sources, I think we must agree that when young Joe and his friends left New York for Ohio at the beginning of 1831, he departed under the cloud of having been the primary promoter of the so-called Gold Bible fraud -- not as having been the writer of the book. As Abner Cole said, on Feb. 28, 1831, when the Mormons were departing the Empire State: "There remains but little doubt, in the minds of those at all acquainted with these transactions, that Walters, who was sometimes called the conjurer... first suggested to Smith the idea of finding a book." Smith, the fraud-finder? Yeah, his neighbors could swallow that idea. Smith, the final editor of the golden plates? Perhaps. But Smith, the pseudo-scriptural author? No way!
Even if young Joe (or one of his family or delinquent pals) did compose the thing, would that necessarily have made the coming forth of the "fulness of the gospel" an "impious fraud?" The Rev. Dr. William H. Whitsitt, for one, didn't think so. He no more believed in Nephites than he did in Neptunians, but Whitsitt was prepared to give the early Mormons the benefit of the doubt and he referred (in his biography of Sidney Rigdon) to the Gold Bible as a "pious fraud." Now there's a notion that Liahona LDS, Signature Books Saints, Cultural Churchgoers, and those Rebellious RLDS can cozy up to. Why, shucks! The Almighty just works in mysterious ways to confute the wisdom of "the learned" in these latter days -- that's all.
If you want to read a reasonably intelligent early review of the Book of Mormon, consult the one written by Walt Whitman's brother, back in 1834. The reviewer writes under no illusion of the book being historically genuine -- he says it "is with some art adapted to the known prejudices of a portion of the community" as it existed in Jacksonian America. But Jason Whitman was sagacious enough not to charge Joseph Smith, Jr. with writing the Nephite Record; he leaves the authorship question an open one. Whitman's 1834 review beats the pants off of sour old Alexander Campbell's 1831 "Delusions" article, six ways to Sunday. Besides which, as Dr. Givens (and B. H. Roberts before him) perceptively realized, Rev. Campbell slowly evolved 2 in his published statements regarding the supposed authorship of the book. Once he realized he'd lost most of Sidney Rigdon's Campbellite parishioners for good, Rev. Alex came around to the Spalding-Rigdon explanations 3 for our first tome of latter day scripture. Fawn Brodie may have built an entire psycho-bio reputation by standing on the promises of Alex her mentor, but the good Reverend himself turned those 1831 "Smith alone" foundations to sand in his various subsequent pronouncements. Shame upon you, Alexander, for leading Sister Fawn astray from saintly Ogden and into the dens of apostasy with your baseless accusations!
1 Had Joseph Smith, jr. understood copyright law just a little better in 1830, he probably would have not sent the Book of Mormon forth into the world with himself listed as "Author." However, this lapse in good judgment does not end with Joseph's lack of proper attention to the title page -- he also identifies himself as "The Author" at the end of his "Preface" (pp. iii-iv). That introduction accomplished little more than to "stir up the hearts of this generation, that they might not receive" his work as an honest effort. The self-serving "Preface" was dropped from LDS and RLDS editions of the book over a century ago.
2 If I must fault Matthew on any particular important point -- and I suppose that is my duty here, right? -- it would have to be for his failure to check out what several of his source-people had to say about Smith, Rigdon, Spalding, relevant texts, etc. later on in their information-giving careers. It's all good and well to tell the members down at the ward meeting house that Elder Benjamin Winchester said such-and-such on one fine day back in 1840; but if we really want to be honest about such things, we also need to admit that he (and several others) changed their tunes substantially as time went by, right? -- "Play it again, Ben."
It certainly gets my attention when one of my LDS friends can quote Sister Emma Smith, chapter and verse, in her knowledgeable refutations of the Spalding-Rigdon claims. But I get just as attentive when one of my own co-religionists hands me certified Emma statements or excerpts from her long-suppressed diary, declaring that her husband never practiced polygamy. We all know that Emma lied about that no-polygamy stuff, so why should I (or anybody else) trust her too closely when she starts telling us about other parts of our mysterious Mormon past? Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that Matthew B. Brown can't present Em's and Ben's testimony in his apologetics, that's a no-brainer. But, if he or any other Utah Elder decides to do that in order to demonstrate their polemical positions, I expect them to be honest enough with us all to clue us into the problematic side of their sources. FAIR enough?
3 The Rev. Alexander Campbell's public progression, from supporter of the "Smith alone" explanation to propounder of the Spalding-Rigdon explanation for Book of Mormon origins, is documented in the comments section accompanying excerpts from Dr. Terryl L. Givens' 2002 book, By the Hand of Mormon.
Dale's Comments, Part 2:
The Real Author of Mormonism Unvailed?
Well, at least Matthew spelled the title correctly. Word has it that round about 1828 an eastern printer did a knock-off of Bill Morgan's exposé, renaming the filched booklet "Masonry Unvailed" to hide the dirty deed. Anti-Masonic newspaper editor Eber Dudley Howe liked the catchy title so much that he kept the second half of it for Esek Rosa's 1834 book --- oops, I'm getting ahead of myself here!
Bro. Matthew tells us that "in 1834 a new theory for the origin of the Book of Mormon was proposed by a man named Philastus Hurlbut." Now, what about that! They say that "close" counts in horseshoes, but I'm not sure that Matthew quite deserves a chalk mark on his side of the blackboard for this precarious pitch. He makes it sound like Hurlbut was some egghead theorist, contemplating hypothetical ways in which acrimonious anti-Mormons could account for the coming forth of the Book of Mormon without having to make any reference to the God of Israel. Matthew's pitch comes across about as well as my saying that I want to eat a cake, so I'll go out and invent sugar, flour and eggs in order to cook one up. However, since Matthew has here neatly side-stepped the entire problem of the troublesome "Conneaut witnesses," 1 I'll follow his lead and just talk about D. P. Hurlbut for a little while. We can begin by looking at his Dec. 20, 1833 press release:
Doct. P. Hurlbert [sic], of Kirtland, Ohio... requests us to say, that he has succeeded in accomplishing the object of his mission, and that an authentic history of the whole affair will shortly be given to the public. The original manuscript of the Book [of Mormon] was written some thirty years since, by a respectable clergyman... The pretended religious character of the work has been superadded by some more modern hand -- believed to be the notorious Rigdon. These particulars have been derived by Dr. Hurlbert from the widow of the author of the original manuscript.So, it looks like we'll need to move the date of Hurlbut's supposed theorizing back to late 1833, at the very least. But, at this point, we need to ask Matthew, where exactly is the "theory" in all of this? The man says that "the widow" of "a respectable clergyman" told him that her late husband wrote the "original manuscript" for what became the Book of Mormon, and that she accused "the notorious Rigdon" of gaining access to that old story and adding to it some "religious character." Again I ask, where is the "theory" here? The only hypothesis I can see is the necessary guess that "the notorious Rigdon" was the same Sidney Rigdon who lived within walking distance of downtown Pittsburgh from birth up to 1817, and then returned to live right in "the burgh" between 1822 and 1826.
If Matthew were to accuse me of obtaining a copy of his Master's thesis, adding a few things to give it a somewhat different "character," and then publishing that text under my own name, he would not be stating some "theory" he was working through in his imagination; he would instead be bringing charges against me for what he would assert to be facts. The only "theory" involved is that Matthew might speculate that I obtained my copy of his thesis from my favorite library or some such place. Luckily for us, Spalding's widow and other members of their extended family provided additional details for these 1833 accusations, and we need not rely totally upon what Hurlbut was saying in the papers for information on the matter. That is to say, enough of what he asserts can be demonstrated from other sources that we need not theorize that Hurlbut made up this whole story out of his own imagination. But let's back up a few months in time and figure out how it was that D. P. Hurlbut ever got to the point of wanting to place such a press release in a Palmyra, New York newspaper. 2
D. P. Hurlbut's lawyer relates this account of things:
In the winter of 1833-'34 several gentlemen in Willoughby, Painesville, and Mentor formed themselves into a committee to inquire into the origin of the Mormon Bible. Of the members of the committee in Willoughby were Judge Allen, Dr. and Samuel Wilson, Jonathon Lapham, and myself. The committee held several meetings at the house of Mr. Corning, in Mentor. The place is now owned by Mr. Garfield. They employed a man by the name of [Hurlbut], who was once a Mormon, to help in the investigation.Although the lawyer, James A. Briggs, Esq., says that the "committee" that "employed" D. P. Hurlbut to do some "investigation" was meeting during "the winter of 1833-'34," my inspection of the dates affixed to various statements and documents gathered by Hurlbut tells me that he was first employed by the "committee" during the summer of 1833 -- primarily to travel to the east and there conduct research on Mormon origins. Probably that "committee" had its beginnings a few months before Briggs began attending its meetings. It seems likely that committee members living in Willoughby first called Mr. Briggs in to act as Hurlbut's lawyer, after the ex-Mormon returned to Kirtland from New York, on or about Dec. 18, 1833.
Dale W Adams, who has studied Hurlbut's chronology, gives us this opinion:
"Possibly during July, 1833 Hurlbut met with a group of anti-Mormons in the Kirtland/Mentor area and proposed soliciting financial support to travel east to gather evidence against Joseph Smith. Based on his earlier talks with John Spalding, Hurlbut knew that Solomon Spalding's wife might have a manuscript that would confirm the Spalding Myth. The former Mrs. Spalding, Matilda Sabine, was then living in Monson, Massachusetts with her daughter and John undoubtedly gave Hurlbut directions for contacting her, or at least how to contact her brother who lived near Syracuse, New York."Having looked into this chronology a little myself, I am inclined to agree with Bro. Adams, that D. P. Hurlbut met with a northern Ohio anti-Mormon "committee" in mid 1833 and presented to its members the rudiments of the Spalding authorship claims (probably without yet including the allegation that Sidney Rigdon edited Spalding's writings). He got financing from some of these anti-Mormons (including a few of the same men named by James A. Briggs) to chase down the damning evidence, and the rest, as they say, is history.
At the risk of my beginning to sound repetitious, I say again that D. P. Hurlbut originated no "theory" at this point in time. If somebody had then told him that Joe Smith's dog was named Fido, and Hurlbut had reported that information, he would not have been "theorizing" about Smith's dog -- just passing along a purported eye-witness claim. Despite what some defenders of the Mormon point of view have sometimes said, Mr. Hurlbut got his pocketful of Spalding claims, fair and square, from folks who had known Spalding; from folks who had been saying essentially the same things Hurlbut reportedly relayed to the ant-Mormon committee and later summarized in that Palmyra press release. No "theory" here yet -- just eye-witness claims.
Let's Make a Theory
Now, it might reasonably be argued that when D. P. Hurlbut first added Sidney Rigdon's name to the original 1832-33 Spalding authorship claims, and published that amended allegation in the 1833 press release, that then and there he came up with a "theory" all of his own. After all, none of the "Conneaut witnesses" mention Sidney Rigdon, not even in the two supplementary statements (given by Aaron Wright and by John Spalding) not published by Howe. So, if the "Conneaut witnesses" didn't mention Rigdon, then the addition of his name to their accusations is a theoretical augmentation, right?
I conceded this point to Dr. Givens when I reviewed his book, but only on technical grounds. That is, only if it was indeed D. P. Hurlbut who first attached Rigdon's name to the claims he brought before the anti-Mormon committee in mid 1833. At that point -- if he did such a thing -- the original Spalding authorship claims might have been transformed into the Spalding-Rigdon authorship "theory." However, that much admitted, I am not at all convinced that it was D. P. Hurlbut who first attached Rigdon's name to the authorship assertions and thus originated any such "theory" -- rather, I think it is very likely (as he himself declares in his press release) that he got the whole story: Nephites, manuscripts, Rigdon, et al. from Spalding's widow, when he went to visit her in Monson, Massachusetts during the late fall of 1833. I say this because the widow and other members of the extended Spalding family independently and early on associated Sidney Rigdon's name with the fate of the manuscript(s) of Solomon Spalding. 3 Matthew has not taken the trouble to cite that set of eye-witness evidence, so I'll not launch into an extended treatise on that issue, for the time being.
As to when the actual "theorizing" began -- I'll admit that in the hands of Hurlbut and Howe the widow's 1833 accusations (that a young Sidney Rigdon played around with the text of her late husband's writings) became the 1834 "Spalding-Rigdon theory," after a few more bells and whistles got added on. That's why I'm willing to grant Matthew a "close" decision when he says that "in 1834 a new theory for the origin of the Book of Mormon was proposed by a man named Philastus Hurlbut." The trouble with Matthew's reconstruction of things is that it leaves out what happened in 1832-33. To my way of thinking we can't simply jump into the first part of the year 1834 and make it look like D. P. Hurlbut snatched his explanations out of thin air. I think it is very important that we do not lose sight of the fact that Solomon Spalding's old neighbors and family members did not give out their concerned accusations under the title of "theory." However, that much stated, I think that Howe truly was dependent upon Hurlbut for most of the elements he (Howe) articulated in his 1834 explanation on where the Book of Mormon came from. Whether or not D. P. Hurlbut was fully truthful with Mr. Howe is another question altogether. But probably Hurlbut can marginally be credited with supplying more to the 1834 theory than Howe did. To put it another way, Howe's book contains a couple of speculative details not voiced in any known statements provided by Spalding's associates and family. Whether or not D. P. Hurlbut propounded those same additional details in the lectures he conducted in and around Kirtland prior to his arrest at the beginning of January, 1834, I do not know.
I firmly believe that the most we can say is that the Spalding-Rigdon "theory" was first published in November, 1834 when Howe issued his book and that, even then, practically the totality of that "theory" is comprised of assertions (not imaginative guesses) first voiced by Spalding's widow and other concerned persons during 1832-33. 4 If those assertions were all (or mostly all) fallacious, then perhaps Matthew and I could start reading from the same historical page from here on out. But he has not addressed the credibility of the old witnesses' testimony, so I'll not get into that stuff either, just yet.
Clapp, Rosa, and Who?
Now, on to that other interesting authorship question -- for $64, tell me who wrote Mormonism Unvailed. What, no takers? OK, I'll elucidate that obscure mystery for the reading pleasure of Matthew and others interested in such oddities. According to the Rev. Clark Braden, speaking in 1891, the answer is: "Dr. Roser wrote a history; Booth wrote his experience among the Mormons; Clapp made a criticism; Howe made the book, and three thousand of them were scattered all around." As I've pointed out in my review of Ronald W. Walker's recent book, the "Dr. Roser" referred to by Braden was Dr. Storm Rosa of Painesville, but probably his brother, Esek H. Rosa (1807-1882), an accountant in the same town, did most of the book's editing. Several presumably reliable old sources invoke Esek Rosa's name 5 as the book's main editor and I'm convinced that identification is the correct one.
The input from the Campbellite Elder, Matthew S. Clapp of Mentor, consisted of little more than an expansion of his Feb., 1831 contribution, as first published in Howe's Painesville Telegraph. The reprints of Ezra Booth's 1831 letters, the addition of Father Isaac Hale's 1834 letter, and the insertion of other interesting bits and pieces of information into the 1834 text can mostly be credited to hands other than Hurlbut's. He is responsible for most of the statements (or affidavits), a few allegations concerning Spalding's widow and some folks in Pittsburgh, and very little else, I'd guess. The sum total of new (previously unpublished) material in Mormonism Unvailed cannot be more than two or three chapters worth of its entire text. Probably E. D. Howe wrote less than a dozen pages in the book that bears his name.
1 The eight witnesses whose statements are published on pp. 278-86 of Howe's 1834 book are: John Spalding (Solomon's brother), Martha Spalding (Solomon's sister-in-law), Henry Lake (his business partner in a mill and forge), John N. Miller (his employee), Aaron Wright (his fellow mill operator), Oliver Smith (his friend), Nahum Howard (his friend and doctor), and Artemas Cunningham (one of his creditors). These eight "Conneaut witnesses" all lived, at one time or another, near the banks of Conneaut Creek, which crosses the Ohio-Pennsylvania border just south of the Lake Erie shore and empties into the lake at what is now Conneaut, Ohio. Two of the eight witnesses supplied additional testimony not published in the 1834 book. To this basic list of eight deponents might be added the following additional witnesses, who also left statements claiming to have had interactions with Solomon Spalding and to have known something about his writings: Matilda Spalding Davison (Solomon's widow), Matilda Spalding McKinstry (their foster daughter), Josiah Spalding (his brother), Lyman Jackson (his friend), Abner Jackson (son of his friend), William Leffingwell (his proor-reader), Daniel Spalding (his nephew), Dan M. Spencer (a visitor), Robert Harper (a visitor), Erastus Rudd (son of his friend), Nehemiah King (his surveyor and doctor), Robert Campbell (a visitor), and Robert Patterson, Sr. (his choice as a publisher). In addition to all of these, there are a number of persons who claimed to know something about the activities of one or more of the above witnesses, people who claimed to know something about D. P. Hurlbut or E. D. Howe, and people whose questionable claims to have known something about Spalding's writings cannot be well verified.
2 The timing of Hurlbut's press release, in the Dec. 20, 1833 issue of the Palmyra Wayne Sentinel, is best understood in the context of dates appearing on the various statements he solicited in the Palmyra area between the beginning of November and the middle of December. Assuming that the dates affixed to these statements (as published by E. D. Howe) are the correct ones, Hurlbut was absent from the Palmyra area between Nov. 16th and Nov. 27th (when he evidently traveled to eastern New York and Massachussetts) and then he returned to take more statements in and around Palmyra between Nov. 27th and Dec. 13th. On Dec. 6, 1833 the Wayne Sentinel published an article which mentioned that Hurlbut was in the area "in behalf of the people of Kirtland for the purpose of investigating the origin of the Mormon sect." He probably left New York on his return to Kirtland a few days before his Dec. 20, 1833 press release appeared in that same paper.
3 Spalding's widow was quoted in 1839 as saying: "Sidney Rigdon, who has figured so largely in the history of the Mormons, was at this time [c. 1812-16] connected with the printing office of Mr. Patterson, as is well known in that region, and as Rigdon himself has frequently stated. Here he had ample opportunity to become acquainted with Mr. Spaulding's manuscript and to copy it if he chose. It was a matter of notoriety and interest to all who were connected with the printing establishment." There is one extraneous error that has slipped into this quotation -- that Rigdon frequently stated he was connected with a Pittsburgh print-shop. What was reported of Rigdon, in Howe's 1834 book, is that "about the year 1823 or '24... Sidney Rigdon located himself in that city [Pittsburgh]. We have been credibly informed that he was on terms of intimacy with Lambdin, being seen frequently in his shop. Rigdon resided in Pittsburgh about three years, and during the whole of that time, as he has since frequently asserted, abandoned preaching and all other employment, for the purpose of studying the bible." As for Rigdon being a printer or a print-shop employee, there is no evidence for that statement. Elizabeth Haven reported in 1843 that Rigdon informed her that "He studied for the ministry in his youth, then was employed in a newspaper office." This journalistic employment might have been anywhere (including for the Mormons) following his ministerial studies, but that was evidently after Spalding died. The stronger possible "connection" of Rigdon to Pittsburgh printers and publishers would have been in his role as a tanner and currier (a preparer of leather for book-bindings, etc.). Rigdon himself admits to working "in the humble capacity of a journeyman tanner" in Pittsburgh after mid 1823. He engaged in this humble leather-working occupation in partnership with his wife's brother -- their establishment closed on Sept. 25, 1825. Following closure of "the old stand" on Penn Street, Sidney Rigdon was relieved of his guardianship of a child, David Ferguson, by the local court. This happened on Nov. 11, 1825, freeing Sidney to move his family out of Allegheny County. Rigdon nowhere reveals where and when he served the apprenticeship necessary for his becoming a journeyman -- presumably he completed that training near his home, just south of Pittsburgh, before he began his studies for the ministry with the Baptist Rev. Andrew Clark at North Sewickley, Beaver County, Pennsylvania, during the fall of 1818. Sidney may have served his apprenticeship on a part-time basis, working mostly during the winter months, when his obligation to labor on his parents' farm was not so demanding. There were then several tanneries located within walking distance of his home, south of Pittsburgh. An example of a later advertisement for such a tannery was published in the Nov. 20, 1822 issue of the Pittsburgh Mercury by Thomas M. Henry, who was seeking "an apprentice" between "sixteen to seventeen years of age" to help him in his "tanning and currying." Mr. Henry's business was located in St. Clair township, Allegheny Co., very near Rigdon's home. Postulating Rigdon's own tanning apprenticeship to have begun at about this same age, he may have been working in the "tanning and currying" trade as early as 1810. Working only seasonally (when he could break away from farm-work), Rigdon might have taken 4 to 5 years to finish his apprenticeship and earn journeyman's status. In the meanwhile (1810-1815?) it is not unreasonable to supposed that young Sidney was employed by his master to occasionally take "curried leather" into nearby Pittsburgh, for sale to the Patterson book-bindery. See the Aug. 10, 1814 ad of Robert and Joseph Patterson, for some idea of when and how they operated their bindery and sub-contracted labor for other regional binderies. See also the Oct. 14, 1882 letter of Isaac Craig for a reference to Rigdon's c. 1823-26 "tannery on Penn street" where he made "book-binders sheep-skins," by the sale of which he came into connection "with Engles," a printer and co-worker with J. Harrison Lambdin. See also the 1879 recollection of a Pittsburgh old-timer who recalled "Sidney Rigdon, tanner and currier" who ran a "shop on Penn street," where it is "likely that, in the business transactions between book-binder [Robert Patterson, employer of Lambdin] and tanner, Sidney Rigdon took the Spaulding manuscript." For confirmation of Rigdon's occupation as a local tanner and his occasional presence in Pittsburgh, in the company of J. H. Lambdin, see Rebecca J. Eichbaum's statement of Sept. 18, 1879 and the Pittsburgh Commonwealth letter-lists for July 9, 1816 and other dates of that period.
4 Another interesting source (from outside the Spalding-Sabine extended family) is the 1880 statement of Ann Treadwell Redfield, who says she was the "principal of the Onondaga Valley Academy," on the outskirts of what is now Syracuse, "in the year 1818." At that time this lady headmaster "resided in the house of William H. Sabine, Esq.," the brother of Spalding's widow. The widow and her foster daughter were then also living in the same house. According to Redfield, she recalled "the family talk of a manuscript" then in the possession of "Mr. Sabine's sister... which her husband, the Rev. Mr. Spaulding, had written somewhere in the West.... I remember also to have heard Mr. Sabine talk of the romance... Mrs. Spaulding believed that Sidney Rigdon had copied the manuscript while it was in Patterson's printing office, in Pittsburgh. She spoke of it with regret. I never saw her after her marriage to Mr. Davison of Hartwick." If Spalding's widow was speaking of Sidney Rigdon's involvement with the "Manuscript Found" as early as 1818, that is somewhat remarkable, as Rigdon was then practically unknown outside of Pittsburgh and the Baptist congregations of that region. However, in Josiah Spalding's 1855 testimony, he says that his sister-in-law, the widow, "informed me that soon after they [the Spalding couple] arrived at Pittsburg a man followed them, I do not recollect his name, but he was afterwards known to be a leading Mormon. He got into the employment of a printer, and he told the printer about my brother's composition." Exactly who this "man" was, Josiah Spalding does not say, nor does he make it very clear, from whence and to whence, the unnamed man "followed them." Perhaps all he means to say is that the widow recalled her husband being followed around, in the Pittsburgh area, by this "man" who "was afterwards known to be a leading Mormon," and that the man took a special interest in Solomon's writings. This sounds to me like yet another indication that Spalding's widow believed the young Sidney Rigdon was known to her husband and that she believed (at some point prior to 1834) that he had tried to inject himself into her husband's attempts at publishing the "Manuscript Found." Just how closely Solomon Spalding's wife monitored her husband's literary output and attempts at publishing his writings remains unclear. If what is related of her in E. D. Howe's book is to be believed, she was very detached from those activities. It seems more likely that, once their family moved to the hamlet of Amity in 1814, she would have not been in a position to know much about young Sidney Rigdon. It is more probable, however, that she would have been acquainted with the Rigdons who lived just down the street from the "temperance tavern" she and her husband managed in Amity. This was the family of Sidney's aunt, the widow Mary Rigdon and her children. Mary was living in Amity in 1810 (see the actual census report, but ignore the problematical index for Amwell township) but had departed by 1820. It is possible that Spalding's widow later confused one of these Rigdons with a Rigdon "afterwards known to be a leading Mormon," which could have included Sidney Rigdon, Sidney's mother, Sidney's brother Carvil Rigdon, later Patriarch of the church at Pittsburgh, etc. Ellen E. Dickinson, Spalding's great-niece, blows this old family tradition of the "man" who "followed" Solomon, out of all its original proportions by stating in her 1884 book: "A young printer named Sidney Rigdon, was in Mr. Patterson's printing house; he had been there but a short time, and, from many indisputable facts, it is believed he had followed Mr. Spaulding from Conneaut, or its immediate neighborhood, and having heard him read "The Manuscript Found," and announce his plans for its publication, devised a treachery toward both author and publisher, which the world has reason to remember. This same Sidney Rigdon figured prominently twenty years later as a preacher among the Mormons." Like so many of Mrs. Dickinson's imaginative interpretations of past events in her family, this account is totally ludicrous. Mrs. McKinstry's son John relayed an equally laughable and muddled account, in 1877 where he says: "Rev. Mr. Spaulding was prevailed upon to read his production to his neighbors as it progressed... Among the attentive listeners at these readings were Joe Smith and Sidney Rigdon, the same who founded Mormonism. Not only did Smith hear the manuscript read, but on one occasion, as Mrs. Davison frequently testified before her death, he borrowed it for a week or so." John provided a somewhat more believeable story when he said, in 1879: "the 'MS.' was not delivered in person to Hurlbut, but that Grandmother... gave Hurlbut a letter to this Mrs. Clark requesting her to deliver the 'MS.' to him... had the 'MS.' not been in said trunk, she, Grandmother never would have written that letter... she had let Hurlbut have the 'MS.' -- upon his solemn promise to return the same after it had been compared with the book of Mormon... It is altogether probable that the subject must have been referred to on Grandmothers meeting Mrs Clark again, and it is equally probable that she had no occasion to think that Mrs Clark failed to deliver the 'MS.' to Hurlbut."
5 Two of the more easily accessible sources crediting Esek or Storm Rosa with the editing of Howe's 1834 book are "Reply to Chicago Inter-Ocean" in the Feb. 15, 1877 issue of the Saints' Herald and K. A. Bell's statement in the Jan. 1888 issue of Naked Truths About Mormonism.
Dale's Comments, Part 3:
Who Wrote Those "More History Parts"?
Matthew next tells us, "This theory postulated that Joseph Smith was too illiterate to have produced the Book of Mormon by himself and therefore must have received some assistance." What can I say? None of us can go back to 1834 and ascertain what a "theory postulated," correct? I think Matthew knows this, and that is why he does not name a "postulator" for this notion of Smith's illiteracy. As I've already said, the local folks in and around Manchester and Palmyra already knew that much. So who was doing all this "postulating" of a known fact? All I can do is guess -- perhaps interested parties who lived at such a distance from Palmyra that they knew little or nothing about young Joe -- perhaps a handful of early 19th century religious figures like Alexander Campbell, La Roy Sunderland, and Origen Bacheler. But those people did not devise the original "theory," now did they?
Sure, I suppose that now and then, in the smoke-filled editorial offices of New York City newspapers, there were a few wags with nothing better to do than cook up ways to persecute my Mormon ancestors at Kirtland, Far West and Nauvoo. But those journalists did not devise the original "theory" either. Let's not fool ourselves into thinking that is where the Spalding-Rigdon authorship claims came from, friends. Ain't so. Despite the fact that the likes of Hurlbut or Howe tacked on an explanation or two, now and then, the original authorship claims came from the friends, associates, and family members of Solomon Spalding himself. That much can and must be admitted. Scholarship and personal integrity demand as much, even if some of us do believe that the martyred Prophet Joseph, Jr. -- honored and blest be his ever-great name -- really does hold the keys to the dispensation of the fulness of times. No matter that, it's still OK to admit the truth -- doing just that much is not going to make the "latter day work" crumble to dust; honest Lamanite, it won't.
But enough of my virtuous verbosity; let's get back to what Bro. Matthew was saying -- he tells us: "This theory claimed that Sidney Rigdon wrote the religious parts of the Book of Mormon while the historical parts were plagiarized from an unpublished manuscript written in 1812 by Solomon Spaulding -- Rigdon having secretly acquired the Spaulding document from a Pittsburgh printer named Jonathan H. Lambdin." Sounds like an interesting explanation to me. Now, just which parts of that explanation did not originate with Spalding's friends and family? I need to know that before I begin to conduct some useful research into this rhetorical relic of the Restoration. I mean, it's alright for a few of us Latter Day Saints to actually check out what Bro. Matthew has said here, isn't it? Well, I'm assuming that it is allowable, and so that's just what I intend to do.
So then, which parts of the Spalding-Rigdon explanation did not originate with Solomon Spalding's family and acquaintances? Maybe it was the part that alleges Spalding wrote pseudo-historical stories in archaic English? Nope. We have too much documentation of that fact to cast it into the lake of fire. Well, maybe the part about his taking those writings to Pittsburgh in the fall of 1812? Nope again -- I think that part is also pretty well established. Maybe the part of the explanation that says Spalding's writings had "religious parts" and "historical parts" is a lie? Sorry, nope again. Just read the manuscript of his now on file at Oberlin College to see that he was prone to write such things. 1
Matthew says that the "theory claimed that Sidney Rigdon wrote the religious parts of the Book of Mormon," but that is less than half true. As I've documented elsewhere, 2 people who knew Rigdon or knew his checkered reputation, were accusing him of writing the book several months before the first Spalding authorship claims were first circulated. So Rigdon was a major "suspect" practically from the beginning. What happened is that Spalding's widow suspected Rigdon's surreptitious involvement since the days when they all lived in Pittsburgh (or on its outskirts) and she said as much to D. P. Hurlbut, who then publicized her suspicions in his Dec. 20, 1833 press release. The widow reiterated her suspicions in her Apr. 1, 1839 statement, and other people claiming to have personal knowledge of the matter added their corroboration as time passed. 3
Good scholarship tells us that both young Sid Rigdon and Solomon Spalding were in Pittsburgh at about the same time (at least often enough to pick up their mail) before Spalding died in 1816. True, Sidney had a couple of hours' walk into town, from the family farm, but on a lucky day he could catch a boat down the creek, ride the current of the river to "the point," and be in the "burgh" before lunch, with nary a bead of sweat on his youthful brow. Did he occassionally consort with printer J. Harrison Lambdin in Pittsburgh? Howe's book said he did -- the postal clerk in that iron city said he did -- and Rigdon never denied knowing Lambdin, whether in the days before 1817, when Sidney went off to his preacher's studies, or in the days after he was "busted" by the Baptists as a pernicious pastor, back in the "burgh" in 1823. Word has it that young Sidney learned the tanning trade and peddled leather book-covers to publishers like the Patterson brothers. 4
In his May 27, 1839 letter to the Quincy Whig, Rigdon specifically admits to knowing Robert Patterson, Sr. (the legal guardian, employer, and later business partner of J. Harrison Lambdin). Rigdon's co-pastor with the proto-Cambellite congregation in Pittsburgh, the Rev. Walter Scott, says: "That Rigdon was ever connected with the printing office of Mr. Patterson or that this gentleman ever possessed a printing office in Pittsburgh, is unknown to me, although I lived there, and also know Mr. Patterson very well, who is a bookseller. But Rigdon was a Baptist minister in Pittsburgh, and I knew him to be perfectly known to Mr. Robert Patterson." Rev. Scott speaks correctly: Robert Patterson, Sr. was a book-seller and occasional publisher who contracted his work out to his cousin, Silas Engles, who at one time employed J. Harrison Lambdin. Thus, the Patterson brothers, Robert and Joseph, had no printing office of their own. But Scott knew that Sidney Rigdon was "perfectly known to Mr. Robert Patterson." One more example, the Mormon Elder William Small visited Robert Patterson, Sr. at an early day and says Patterson told him: "that Sidney Rigdon was not connected with the office for several years [after]" Solomon Spalding died. Probably what Patterson was trying to say is that Rigdon never worked for him, or was directly connected with the book shop he and Lambdin operated, but that once their firm split up in Feb. 1823, that Rigdon had some direct connection with Lambdin's own short-lived book business. Finally, in 1842, Robert Patterson, Sr. signed a statement saying that "that a gentleman, from the East originally, had put into his hands a manuscript of a singular work, chiefly in the style of our English translation of the Bible." The publisher of this statement also says: "Mr. Patterson firmly believes also, from what he has heard of the Mormon Bible, that it is the same thing he examined at that time." The pamphlet in which these statements occur was published, advertised, and sold in Pittsburgh while Patterson was still living there -- he never denied that published testimony.
When Matthew tells us that the "theory claimed that Sidney Rigdon... secretly acquired the Spaulding document from a Pittsburgh printer named Jonathan H. Lambdin," I ask, is he saying anything so terribly preposterous? Did Rigdon know and associate with Lambdin? Almost certainly he did. Was Rigdon "connected" with Lambdin's book business, in 1823-25, when Rigdon was a book-covering maker, operating a leather shop only a few blocks from Lambdin's office? Did Lambdin "inherit" a printer's copy of one of Spalding's unpublished manuscripts, after he and Patterson split up their business in 1823? Did Rigdon have access to such a document ("secretly" or otherwise) through Lambdin? I agree with Matthew, that at this point we are knee-deep in theorizing, but is it useless and delusional theorizing -- or, do all of these possible historical connections warrant a little further investigation? Is it OK if I person like myself investigates just a bit deeper into this matter? I hope so, because that is what I intend to do.
Matthew tells us that "Hurlbut's theory asserts that, in order to create robust book sales, Lambdin "placed the 'Manuscript Found' of Spalding, in the hands of Rigdon, to be embellished, altered, and added to as he might think expedient." Is that so? Actually, Howe's book doesn't say that Lambdin gave his friend Rigdon Spalding's manuscript, to edit, "in order to create robust book sales." What is said there is that "Lambdin, after having failed in business, had recourse to the old manuscripts then in his possession, in order to raise the wind, by a book speculation." This does not necessarily mean that Lambdin intended to publish all the abandoned manuscripts that had fallen into his possession, or that he even had the funds to print up a few of them. I think that it means he was ready to make use of the unpublished texts in any way he could -- by selling them outright, extracting printable material from a few and selling that, or perhaps allowing a friend to embellish a couple of the cast-off stories and give him a cut of the profits if the polished-up stuff could be sold to a publisher. I wasn't there and I don't know, but by the time Howe's book got published, Lambdin wasn't around to spill the beans either way -- he was six feet under the Pittsburgh clay.
Could have Lambdin possessed a copy of a Spalding story as late as Aug. 1, 1825, when he died and his book business ended for good? Yes, I suppose so. Could have Rigdon taken such a story -- perhaps a printers' copy he himself had penned for Silas Engles a decade earlier -- and "embellished" it? Again, I think that's entirely possible. Does that prove he turned Solomon Spalding's "Manuscript Found" into the Book of Mormon? Not at all. That, as Matthew says, is only a theory. The question is -- should such a theory be investigated any further, or should it be consigned to the dustbin of history and forgotten forthwith? At this point I'm inclined to agree with Bro. Matthew, that all this theorizing is leading us nowhere fast. The evidence is no doubt "disputed" (what evidence is not, when non-Mormons and Mormons sort through the same stacks for proof?) so I'll leave it alone for a while.
1 In Solomon Spalding's Oberlin manuscript story, his fictional ancient Americans keep their religious records separate from their civil records -- which perhaps doesn't mean much in a fictional culture that was set up as a virtual theocracy, with heritary kingship and high-priestship retained by the same elite family. Those writers who assert that Solomon Spalding, the pious Calvinist (??), would have been incapable of concocting pseudo-scripture, ought to read his extracts from the "Sacred Roll" (not to be confused with the similarly named Shaker scriptures) as set down upon the pages of his Oberlin manuscript. On the other hand, don't expect the American Christians of 170 years ago to have acknowledged stuff like his fictional "Sacred Roll" to have been particularly "religious." In their narrow interpretation of things, even the rigid monotheism of Islam was in those days mistakenly termed "idolatrous," rather than truly "religious." Although Solomon Spalding reportedly wrote about ancient Israelites and cast his narrative in biblical English, several early witnesses affirm that they heard or saw a fictional history and not a purported revelation from God. Redick McKee, who had an opportunity of reading some of Spalding's later literary creations at Amity, described them as "what purported to be a veritable history of the nations or tribes who inhabited Canaan... His style was flowing and grammatical, though gaunt and abrupt -- very like the stories of the Maccabees and other apocryphal books, in the old bibles." It is easily seen how an early 19th century Christian might have read such a biblical-sounding story, and not thought of it as being "religious," unless it contained specific references to Christian theology and practices. On the other hand, it is not totally unimaginable to guess that the cynical Deist Solomon Spalding might have injected some subtle parodies of contemporary religion into one or more of his stories -- covering them over with ancient dates or foreign scenery, in much the same way Jonathan Swift clothed his satires of contemporary politics in similar thin disguises. The devout Presbyterian, Rev. Robert Patterson, sr., is unlikely to have ever published a book containing explicit parodies of Christianity, but he might have considered publishing a fictional history in which implicit jabs at camp-meeting religion or nascent Campbellism were disguised by a supposedly ancient setting. See Vernal Holley's Book of Mormon Authorship. pp. 23-34 for more on Spalding's probable contact with early Campbellism in Washington Co., Pennsylvania, c. 1812-1814. Holley remarks: "Washington, Pennsylvania, was the birthplace of [American] Campbellism in 1809... Amity was less than ten miles from Washington where Campbellism originated. Living in the area and being a trained minister, Spaulding would likely have had more than a casual interest in the recent revival activities and local news of the then evolving Campbellite movement... [and] would have been knowledgeable, and capable of incorporating interesting early Campbellite concepts into his sometimes satirical and subtly anti-religious writings." Holley adds this note: "Solomon Spalding may have spent the winter of 1813 or 1814 among the Campbellites of Washington, PA, see Gerald Langford's The Richard Harding Davis Years (NY, Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1961), p. 4." Langford recounts the reminiscence of Rebecca Blaine Harding's mother Rachel Leet Wilson, who grew up in Washington, Pennsylvania. Langford says that: "Rachael... had been educated by her father's good friend Alexander Campbell, founder of the Disciples of Christ and that "her devout Baptist father threw open to all impoverished strangers, especially Baptist preachers down on their luck. One of these latter whom the girl [Rachel Leet Wilson] always remembered vividly, was a pale young Mr. Spalding, who while too ill to preach, spent a whole winter in her home writing a long story which he read aloud in the evenings. It was, according to Rebecca's later report, 'a fictitious story which Joseph Smith published afterwards as the Book of Mormon.'" Whether or not this old, twice-told recollection is an accurate one, it does demonstrate how Solomon Spalding could have encountered and reflected upon incipient Campbellism in or near Washington town, Washington Co., Pennsylvania, during his residence in that county.
2 See my Role of Sidney Rigdon comments section accompanying excerpts from Dr. Terryl L. Givens' 2002 book, By the Hand of Mormon, where I document some very early reports identifying Rigdon as the probable author of the Book of Mormon. When Ohio editor Warren Isham labeled that book "Campbellism Improved," in his Nov. 18, 1830 report he was implicitly saying much the same as was more clearly spelled out in the Cleveland Advertiser on Feb. 15, 1831, where Rigdon is portrayed as a maverick, knavish Campbellite attempting to "operate on his own capital" in the realm of religious doctrine. The article even suggesting that it was Rigdon's previous activities as a Campbellite preacher that led him "to test the validity of the doctrine contained in the Book of Mormon," not just as a basis for his own conversion, but as the work of a conniving baptizer, preparing proselytes to accept the same "restored" doctrines. These were the first known publications of what soon became a popular assumption -- that Rigdon had secretly contributed to the founding of the Mormon sect and the writing of its first scriptures. As the editor of the Advertiser puts it: "a noted mountebank by the name of Elder Rigdon" was "believed" by him and others to be the author of the Book of Mormon. Parley P. Pratt, one of Sidney's early, pre-Mormon, "Rigdonite" disciples, said in 1838 that "Early in 1831, Mr. Rigdon having been ordained, under our hands, visited elder J. Smith, Jr., in the state of New-York, for the first time; and from that time forth, rumor began to circulate, that he (Rigdon) was the author of the Book of Mormon." But probably the first specimens of this "rumor" were in circulation near Rigdon's Mentor-Kirtland "home base" even before he left to publicly visit with Seer Smith for the first time. Mormonism and Rigdon's special development of Campbellism were so much alike that some of those who knew the man and his preaching just naturally viewed the Book of Mormon as "Campbellism Improved." Several early writers on Mormonism developed the view that Sidney Rigdon had injected a great deal of unique "Rigdonite" religious tenets and practices into the new religion and its book. These views are summed up in 1914 by Charles A. Shook, who says: "The "Doctrine and Covenants" (34:2) throws out a hint of Rigdon's former connection with Mormonism in these words: "Behold, verily, verily I say unto my servant Sidney, I have looked upon thee and thy works... thou wast sent forth even as John, to prepare the way... and thou knew it not." Nearly all Gentiles will agree with the Mormons that Sidney prepared the way before the Mormon delusion, but when it comes to the statement that he knew it not, it is quite another thing."
3 Some of the more interesting accusations linking Rigdon with Solomon Spalding's writings came from one of his Amity, PA neighbors, Joseph Miller. The earliest Miller statements are probably lost to history; his first known testimony mentioning Solomon Spalding is from Mar. 26, 1869, where he briefly outlines his recollections. A more detailed statement was solicited from Miller ten years later, in which he says that Spalding "had left a transcript of the manuscript with Mr. Patterson, of Pittsburgh, Pa., for publication, that its publication was delayed until Mr. S. would write a preface, and in the mean time the transcript was spirited away and could not be found. Mr. S. told me that Sidney Rigdon had taken it, or that he was suspicioned for it. Recollect distinctly that Rigdon's name was used in that connection." Miller provided a couple of additional statements in which he said practically the same thing -- that a young Sidney Rigdon gained access to a "transcript" of Spalding's manuscript, while it was in the keeping of "Mr. Patterson of Pittsburgh." Miller neglects to say which "Mr. Patterson" this was, but his testimony sets the date for this incident before Spalding's death on Oct. 20, 1816. The firm of Robert and Joseph Patterson began operation in Pittsburgh about Nov. 5, 1812, and continued until Jan. 6, 1818, when it was reconstituted under the name of "R. Patterson & Lambdin." However, during the winter of 1814-15, Joseph's name disappeared from the from the firm's advertising and Robert probably took over most of its operations on his own. Since Robert Patterson says he employed (or contracted with) his cousin "Silas Engles" as the "general superintendent of the printing business... to him was entrusted the entire concerns of the office," and that he "supposed" that "Mr. Engles returned the manuscript" to Spalding, "after it had been some weeks," it would seem that any access Rigdon might have gained to Solomon Spalding's writings in Pittsburgh, during Spalding's lifetime, would have been through Mr. Engles (or through Engles' employees) and not directly from either of the Patterson brothers. Also, since practically all reports of this matter say that the "Manuscript Found" was eventually returned to Mr. Spalding, Rigdon (if he did gain access to the story during Spalding's lifetime) certainly did not steal the original "Manuscript Found." All that Spalding's widow says in this regard is that "Sidney Rigdon, who has figured so largely in the history of the Mormons, was at this time [c. 1812-16] connected with the printing office of Mr. Patterson... he had ample opportunity to become acquainted with Mr. Spaulding's manuscript and to copy it if he chose. It was a matter of notoriety and interest to all who were connected with the printing establishment." But, as has been demonstrated, the Patterson brothers did not operate Engles' "printing office" directly and they probably did not always know when Engles selected proffered manuscripts for editing and pre-publication work. No record remains saying whether or not Engles had a clean "printer's copy" of Spalding's manuscript written up, pending prepayment of its publication expenses. Finally, any formal "connection" between "tanner" Rigdon and "printer" Engles probably would have amounted to little more than the apprentice tanner occasionally dropping off some leather book-bindings, and reference to a formal "connection" (prior to Rigdon's opening his own leather shop in about 1823) remains speculative, requiring further investigation and documentation. The one piece of extant testimony (Eichbaum's statement) firmly placing Sidney in Engles' print-shop prior to Spalding's death does not claim any formal "connection" between Rigdon and Engles. So, once again, our attempts to reconstruct the slender supply of "facts" at this point have already turned to theorizing. My suggestion is that this purported early "connection" should be investigated more closely, through the application of our careful research and scholarship.
4 Besides operating a paper mill, a book bindery, and a book sales office, all in Pittsburgh, the Patterson Brothers did some occasional publishing, evidently making use of the printing press of their cousin, Silas Engles for most of that work. It seems likely that Joseph Patterson was the brother who supplied most of the capital to the firm. Mrs. Matilda S. McKinstry, the foster daughter of Solomon Spalding, provides practically the only known glimpse into the operations of the Pattersons, in a reminiscence she shared with her friend Redick McKee, in 1882 of "remembering to have heard her mother say that, before they left Pittsburgh, she accompanied her husband to the store of Mr. Patterson and heard a conversation in relation to the publication of the 'Manuscript.' There were two Mr. Pattersons present, one... had read several chapters of the 'Manuscript' and was struck favorably with its curious descriptions and its likeness to the ancient style of the Old Testament Scriptures. He thought it would be well to publish it, as it would attract attention and meet with a ready sale. He suggested, however, that Mr. Spaulding should write a brief preface" etc." The girl's own recollection of the Patterson's book-shop (which she calls a library) was more or less a vague one. She said in 1880: "I distinctly recollect visiting a library with my father which my mother told me was `Mr Patterson's;" the building was a large one, and over the door was a bust of what seemed to me at that time, as a beautiful lady, & impressed my childish fancy. I distinctly remember seeing in a chair in the center of the room, a large, heavy built man of florid complexion There was an other person in the room, and my father had a long conversation with him." In a recollection of Redick McKee, dated Jan. 25, 1886, Mr. McKee contributes some additional details: "Mr. Spaulding told me that at Pittsburg he became acquainted with the Rev. Robert Patterson who... thought favorably of the printing [of his story], but his manager of the publishing department -- a Mr. Engles or English -- had doubts... and thought the author should... pay the expenses... and the manuscript was laid aside in the office... Mr. Spaulding told me that while at Pittsburg he frequently met a young man named Sidney Rigdon at Mr. Patterson's bookstore and printing-office... He had read parts of the manuscript... [then] the manuscript could not then be found... This excited Mr. Spaulding's suspicions that Rigdon had taken it home. In a week or two it was found... The circumstance of this finding increased Mr. S.'s suspicions that Rigdon had taken the manuscript and made a copy of it." While this elaboration upon past events generally agrees with the assertions of Joseph Miller and Spalding's widow, McKee's allegations cannot be conclusively confirmed. However, in a letter written on Jan. 2, 1880, Spalding's foster daughter tells her cousin, Mrs. Ellen E. Dickinson, "While my father resided at Pittsburg the Manuscript was borrowed by one Patterson who owned a large book establishment and printing office. Sidney Rigdon was at that time [c. 1812-16] employed at this office and we have always believed that he copied it then and there."
Dale's Comments, Part 4:
The Jacksons Tell Their "Stories"
Matthew is not one to leave us hanging in the lurch, as we wonder just how that Hurlbut guy got hold of the Spalding claims in the first place. He says, "He first heard about the Solomon Spaulding manuscript from the Jackson family (who knew Spaulding personally) while he was lecturing against Mormonism in Pennsylvania. 1 But when Hurlbut asked Mr. Jackson to sign an affidavit stating that there were similarities between Spaulding's manuscript and the Book of Mormon Jackson refused, insisting that "there was no agreement between them."
It sounds to me like Matthew has hung his hat, coat, tie, and shirt on Elder Benjamin Winchester's rack and may well have to grab them all back before we proceed much farther. For one thing, I'd feel a whole lot better about his quoting Winchester if Matthew could show me where Winchester got hold of "Mr. Jackson's" testimony in the first place. We Saints have long been prepared to perform innumerable mental somersaults in order to "prove" that D. P. Hurlbut fabricated part or all of the Conneaut witnesses' testimony -- but now we are asked to swallow Ben Winchester's hearsay evidence with nary a hand raised in objection? Sorry, but as Byron Marchant once said in the Tabernacle at Conference: "I cannot sustain this particular Elder of the Church at this time."
Oh yes, I know whom Elder Ben is talking about, when he says "Mr. Jackson" this, and "Mr. Jackson" that -- you see Ben's folks and my folks (four generations back) all got baptized together in Erie Co., Pennsylvania at be beginning of 1833. My saintly Winegar ancestors lived practically within spitting distance of old man Lyman Jackson's place -- "Albion" they call it nowadays, but back then it was "Jacksonville" -- and it was just a hop, skip and a jump from the LDS Elk Creek branch's "Marmun Run," where all that "Marmun" baptising was done. So, to crack this particular nut, I barely need consult those nasty old anti-Mormon books at all; I can get most of what I need out of my family's "Book of Remembrance" and five-generation family group sheets. Benjamin Winchester, Sr., son of Stephen and Nancy Case Winchester, was born Aug. 6, 1818, in Pennsylvania. Ben (along with his parents) were baptized by Elders Evan M. Green and John F. Boynton, at Elk Creek, Erie Co., Pennsylvania, on Jan. 27, 1833, at the tender age of 14 years and 6 months. Lyman Jackson, Stephen Winchester's Gentile neighbor, was born Feb. 29, 1756, married Deidama Dunham on Jan. 3, 1782; moved to Otsego Co., NY in 1791; moved to Erie Co., Pennsylvania in 1806; and died there at the age of 79 on Mar. 20, 1835. Now, given all of this information, when and where did little feisty Ben interview decrepit old man Jackson and record that man's statement for posterity?
According to his own report, in November, 1833 young Ben moved to Kirtland and took up his residence there with Elder Sidney Rigdon. The following year the lad accompanied Joseph Smith, Jr. on the "Zion's Camp" military expedition to Missouri, returning to Kirtland that fall, a few weeks before E. D. Howe published his infamous book in nearby Painesville. If the publication of Mormonism Unvailed spurred Sidney Rigdon to get young Ben (then 15 years and 6 months old) "deputed" to "hunt up the Hulbert case" 2 and interview folks like sick old Lyman Jackson (then nearly 79 years of age), it must have been an experience well worth recording. The trouble is that Ben Winchester nowhere tells when, where, or how he received this account of Lyman Jackson's. I do not think that little Ben got this account from old man Jackson at all -- there is a much more plausible explanation for the relaying of Jackson's profession. You see, Lyman Jackson had a daughter by the name of Rosanna, who, about February, 1801, married John Rudd, Jr., an early pioneer of the Conneaut Creek country, both in Ohio (where he was Salem's first postmaster) and in adjacent Springfield, Erie Co., Pennsylvania (where he built the first liquor still). This John Rudd, along with his mother Chloe and brothers Anson and Erastus, all became Mormons in Erie Co., in 1832. Erastus Rudd accompanied Benjamin Winchester on the "Zion's Camp" military expedition and died just before General Joe's troops reached Liberty, Missouri.
I think it is very likely that young Ben got his version of Lyman Jackson's profession by way of Rosanna Jackson Rudd, who told her husband John, who told his brother Erastus, who told his young friend Ben from Erie, who wrote it into his 1840 pamphlet, where Matthew found the useful story. If I'm correct in my surmise, Ben Winchester's authoritative (?) quotation of old man Jackson is second-hand hearsay, uncorroborated by any other source, sounding nothing more nor less than like a conscious rehash of what Howe said about the Oberlan story back in 1834 (and not published by the Mormons until five years after the death of the purported deponent). We should, of course, give Ben Winchester's telling of the story all the confidence that it deserves -- and not one iota more.
On the other hand, Matthew might wish to argue that Ben's knowledge of what old Man Jackson had to say about Spalding came straight from the trustworthy (?) source of D. P. Hurlbut himself. As Ben says elsewhere:
"I was deputed by them [the top LDS leaders] to hunt up the Hulbert [sic] case. It was Hulbert, (A relative of mine) that got up the Spaulding story... He seduced a girl named Barns. We as the church, to cover up the matter, urged him to marry her. He refused and then we expelled him. Spaulding's novel pretended to give a history of the origin of the Indians from four nations who were the first navagators... Hulbert expected to make something by claiming it was Smith's book of Morman.... I asked him why he did not publish it. He said shrewdly that he could do better without publishing it yet. Spaulding's story was well written and good language."There is another bit of interesting hearsay that came out of the Mormon Rudd family, and this morsel was provided in 1878 by my g-g-g-g-grandfather's nephew, Daniel Tyler, the noted historian of the Mormon Battalion. Daniel says:
"Solomon Spauldin... [wrote] a romance on a few mounds... pretending that the ten tribes crossed from the eastern hemisphere via the Behring Straits to this continent, and that said mounds were built by a portion of them, to bury the dead after some hard fighting. The novel, as I was told by those who heard it read, referred to them as idolaters and not otherwise religious.... In 1832 Elders Orson Hyde and Samuel H. Smith preached a few times in our neighborhood and baptized three persons, among them Erastus Rudd, in whose house much of the romance was formerly written, and from whom I received much of my information."I submit the surmise that Elder Erastus Rudd's hearsay evidence is just about as reliable in the above recollection as is the undated, undocumented hearsay evidence Ben Winchester has given us concerning Lyman Jackson and what "Mr. Jackson" knew of Spalding's fictional stories. Erastus reportedly said the Spalding story was about "the ten tribes," while Erastus' sister-in-law's father reportedly said it contained "not one word about the children of Israel, but professed to give an account of a race of people who originated from the Romans." How might we account for such divergent testimony? I think that the answer is a rather simple one -- that is, numerous early witnesses testified that Solomon Spalding wrote a story about "lost tribes" from Israel migrating to ancient America, but one of Solomon's brothers, who came to visit with him in Ohio for a while, testified in 1855 that the story he saw while at his brother's house, was a fictional account, whose fictional "author" Solomon brought "from the Old World... I think not a Jew... He went to sea, lost his point of compass, and finally landed on the American shore."
If we lay out, side-by-side, the purported account of Lyman Jackson, the recollections of Josiah Spalding, the brief report in Howe's book, and the Oberlin Spalding manuscript, I think it will be apparent to any observer that the content of these four items overlap oneanother almost to the point of perfect identity. If, on the other hand, the purported account of Erastus Rudd is laid down next to the many other early items of testimony describing the "Manuscript Found," it will be seen that Rudd's account fits far better into that set of testimony than it does into descriptions of the Oberlin document. If we accept the hearsay credited to Lyman Jackson, we should also consider the hearsay credited to his son-in-law's brother and hold open the possibility that Solomon Spalding wrote more than just the Oberlin story. Also, we might notice that the cumulative testimony for a "lost tribes" Spalding story in no way produces a perfect match for the contents of the Book of Mormon. This reported "lost tribes" story, written in archaic English, merits more study -- it may turn out to be something other than the Book of Mormon, after all. 3
Sister Rosanna Jackson Rudd was not the only child Lyman and Deidama Jackson brought into the world, but she seems to have been the only Mormon convert in that staunchly Methodist family. Her brother, the Rev. Abner Jackson, was born Sept. 17, 1795 in Richfield, Otsego Co., New York, the town where Solomon Spalding was then living. Abner was about 10 years old when his father moved the family to Erie Co., Pennsylvania (onto land obtained from Spalding), and he was about 17 when Spalding left their Conneaut Creek region and moved to Pittsburgh. Here is an extract from what Abner had to say in 1881:
Shortly after my father moved, Spaulding sold his store in Richfield, and moved to Conneaut... about the beginning of the year 1812, [he] commenced to write his famous romance called by him "The Manuscript Found." This romance, Mr. Spaulding brought with him on a visit to my father... purporting to be a history of the lost tribes of Israel. He begins with their departure from Palestine or Judea, then up through Asia... passing over the Straits... They soon quarreled, and then commenced war... All the Righteous were slain, except one, and he was Chief Prophet and Recorder... Spaulding frequently read his manuscript to the neighbors and amused them as he progressed with his work. He wrote it in Bible style.Either Abner did not state the facts correctly, or his father Lyman did not state the facts fully, or -- most likely -- Lyman saw both Spalding's "Roman story" and his "lost tribes story," but only his encounter with the first of these pseudo-historical stories got passed down to young Ben Winchester. E. D. Howe did not print all the statements taken by D. P. Hurlbut in the Conneaut region, so I do not think it can be stated, with absolute certainty, that Lyman Jackson never submitted an affidavit of any kind to Mr. Hurlbut.
What I find interesting is the substantial amount of story plot overlap in the description of "Manuscript Found" provided by Elder Erastus Rudd and the description provided by his brother's brother-in-law, Abner Jackson. At least two members of the Jackson-Rudd extended family seem to have agreed in general, if not in every detail, what plot elements comprised Spalding's "Manuscript Found." If we are dealing with a common family tradition here (reported one way by that family's Mormons and another way by its non-Mormons), then perhaps it would be worthwhile for somebody to search out any other writings left by members of that extended family, and report on how they described the manuscript(s) in question.
I think that it is also important that we keep in mind the fact, that when Winchester wrote and published his pamphlet in 1840, he was writing LDS apologetics and not objective history. He may have left out certain facts, if they were potentially embarrassing to the Mormon Church. Elder Winchester himself, in later years, said he thought that Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon. As Winchester puts it: "He [Smith] carried what he called a 'Peep stone' through which he claimed to see hidden treasure & etc. This is what he afterwards called his 'Urim and Thummem.' Finally he took the notion to get up a book.... I am satisfied that it originated with Smith and Cowdery and possibly Harris contributed some to it." This was certainly not the sort of thing an LDS apologist was going to admit in a book written to defend the Church under the Presidency of Joseph Smith, jr., any more than an apologist like Matthew would today admit that Solomon Spalding may have written more than a single pseudo-historical manuscript. At any rate, not many months after Ben published his booklet he got called a liar and a slanderer 4 by just about all the bigwigs in Nauvoo. The top leaders threw this "liar and slanderer" out of the Church, but Bro. Joe kept a tight grip on Ben's sister -- who was one of his spiritual wives. 5
1 Hurlbut's biographer, Dale W Adams, states this opinion: "Winchester reports that Hurlbut made several converts in Crawford County [PA]... it is likely that while in the area he interviewed John Spalding and his wife who lived a mile Northeast of Linesville. John was 59 in 1833, operated a small farm, and was also a fervent, closed-communion Baptist... Winchester states that soon after Hurlbut began his mission he exhibited the spirit of big I and little u, possibly a smug attitude he assumed after uncovering what he thought was a secret that would expose fraud by Joseph Smith Jr." I concur with Bro. Adams' educated surmise and believe that Elder Hurlbut was still a loyal member of the LDS Church until about the time he returned from Crawford Co. to Erie Co. He may have heard bits and pieces of the Spalding claims throughout western Erie Co. while serving his mission there (including something from the Jackson family), but I think it was his encounter with John and Martha Spalding, in adjacent Crawford Co., that convinced him to begin his struggle with/against Joseph Smith, jr. Spalding's widow retells, in her statement of Apr. 1, 1839, the strange story of John Spalding arising during a Mormon preaching meeting and expressing his outrage at hearing his dead brothers words being read from the Book of Mormon. The widow says: "His grief found vent in a flood of tears, and he arose on the spot, and expressed to the meeting his deep sorrow and regret, that the writings of his sainted brother should be used for a purpose so vile and shocking." It at first seems unbelieveable that the "fervent, closed-communion Baptist" would have called his late Deist brother "sainted." After all, John's son Daniel stated: "my father said he was a scoundrel and used to cheat the people out of their money and property." But, when we remember that in those days "sainted" was a euphemism for "dead," our disbelief may fade a little. Another allegation strains my imagination even more -- to imagine that John Spalding just happened to have been present on the cold January evening in 1832 when Elders Hyde and Smith preached from the Book of Mormon at Salem Center, Ohio (a half-day's horseback ride from John's home village in adjacent Pennsylvania). It seems much more likely to me that John's emotional outburst occurred while he was listening to Mormon Elder D. P. Hurlbut's missionary preaching in or near John's home hamlet in Crawford Co. in May, 1833. The widow, in her retelling an event which she did not witness personally, may have accidentally conflated John's experience in hearing the Book of Mormon preached from in May, 1833, with the similar, but less ardent experience of Dr. Nehemiah King at Salem, in January, 1832.
2 Winchester, in 1900, said: "I was deputed by them [the top LDS leaders] to hunt up the Hulbert [sic] case." But he evidently means to place this "deputizing" in the context of his publishing A History of the Priesthood (written in 1841-42 and published in 1843) and his editing the Philadelphia Gospel Reflector for the Church (in 1841). A likely time for the "deputizing" was during the last weeks of 1839 and the first weeks of 1840, when Sidney Rigdon, Joseph Smith, Parley P. Pratt, and other LDS notables were in Philadelphia and were hosted there by Elder Winchester, at a "special conference" held on Jan. 13, 1840. According to the recollection of Smith's personal physician, Dr. Robert D. Foster, the Rev. George C. Cookman, of Washington, D. C., was at that time preaching to his congregation, telling them that Joseph Smith's "new" Bible (the Book of Mormon) had been "dug up in Palmyra, New York; and that it was nothing but an irreligious romance, and that Smith had obtained it from the widow of one Spaulding, who wrote it for his own amusement." Presumably this happened on or about Jan. 5, 1840, in Rev. Cookman's first Sunday sermon of the new year. Foster visited with Rev. Cookman, but was unable to get him to stop his harmful preaching (the U. S. Senate was then considering the Mormon's petition for redress against the State of Missouri) in that important city. According to Foster, he "reported this to Mr. Rigdon, and wrote to Philadelphia to Mr. [Joseph] Smith." Just prior to the gathering of the Elders at Philadelphia, Parley P. Pratt had been battling a deleterious outbreak of the Spalding-Rigdon claims in New England and New York (see his letter of Nov. 27, 1839 to the New York New Era). Thus, when Winchester hosted the Jan. 13, 1840 "special conference" at Philadelphia, it is almost certain that the "Spalding problem" was discussed among the high level Mormon leaders assembled there. I believe that this was the time that Winchester was "deputed by them to hunt up" and compile some useful negative publicity on Hurlbut, Spalding, and related matters. If this is what happened, Winchester may have written up his material on Lyman Jackson's statement from memory, five years after the old man had passed away.
3 Inspired by my reading of Elder Elias L. T. Harrison's 1857 article, I once began to write a paper, based upon the possibility that Solomon Spalding wrote a "lost tribes" story, the content of which was something other than what we now read in the Oberlin document or in the Book of Mormon. While in the process of compiling my data for this paper, I received some negative feedback from a few of my LDS friends, suggesting that my idea was untenable, so I never completed the work. The portion that I had typed up when I aborted the writing project can be found on-line, as Part 1 of my Spalding Research Paper No. 13.
4 The writers of the 2000 CD-ROM book, The Spalding Enigma try to make a major point, documenting how the LDS leadership cast out Benjamin Winchester, accusing him of making slanderous reports, etc. I do not think that the charges brought against him then and the vicious (?) accusations made leading up to his excommunication are worth much historical consideration. The Church leaders of those days typically defamed and demonized all Saints cast out from the fold. For example, read what the 1838 issues of Joseph Smith, jr.'s Elders' Journal had to say about former members like Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris, the Whitmers, etc. Despite the terrible things said in the Church's official publications about the character and conduct of those early members, their portraits today hang respectably in the LDS office building in Salt Lake City. Perhaps Winchester's painting is there somewhere also, and I have just never noticed it.
5 Does anybody (besides myself) appreciate the subtle irony of Benjamin Winchester having one relative (through the marriage of his aunt, Sarah Winchester Hurlbut) who tried to destroy the Church, and another relative (through the marriage of his sister, Nancy Winchester Smith) who tried to build it up? Joseph reportedly later employed D. P. Hurlbut's jilted sweetheart, Sister Huldah Barnes, as a maid in his home at Kirtland, where she is rumored to have been one of his "plurals," before eventually being passed down to wifely status in Heber C. Kimball's harem. If these shirttail relatives-by-marriage (Joe and D. P.) enjoyed the same quasi-connubial delights, in this particular case, then that mutual intimacy did not assuage Smith's enmity for the anti-Mormon Hurlbut. Just about the last thing Smith ever had to say regarding "Doctor" Philastus Hurlbut is the prophecy thusly recorded in the Choice Seer's personal journal: "the Lord shall destroy him who has lifted his heel against me even that wicked man Docter P. [Hurlbut] he [will] deliver him to the fowls of heaven and his bones shall be cast to the blast of the wind [for] he lifted his [arm] against the Almity [sic] therefore the Lord shall destroy him" -- (entry for April 1, 1834). Forty-nine years later, on June 18, 1883, "Doctor" Philastus Hurlbut died from the infirmities of old age, in his bed at Gibsonburg, Ohio. His bones are still resting, safe and secure, in the town cemetery.
Dale's Comments, Part 5:
We're Off to See the Widow!
I hope Matthew got paid for all his apologizing, because he's sure done a good job of it. He goes on to tell us that "Philastus Hurlbut paid a visit to Spaulding's [sic] widow and after being shown her husband's unpublished document he took it with him to Eber D. Howe's print shop in Painesville, Ohio -- with a promise to the widow of future publication and a share in the profits." That sounds like a useful explanation of things, put forth in defending the LDS Church's traditional "party line" -- but is it really what happened? I think that the set of events Matthew has here blithely glided over was a bit more complex and significant than he has tried to make us believe.
First of all, we should ask ourselves the question, Why did D. P. Hurlbut go to all the trouble and expense, to travel from Palmyra, New York (were he had been collecting statements useful to the anti-Mormons) to Monson, Massachusetts (where Spalding's widow lived)? The traditional Mormon response has generally been that, after fabricating the "Spalding theory," Hurlbut "paid a visit to Spaulding's widow" in order to obtain and destroy any evidence contrary to the bogus "theory" he had cooked up against the Latter Day Saints. My thoughts on the situation are somewhat different. Hurlbut's wife Maria said that her husband "spent about six months time and a good deal of money looking up the Spaulding manuscript and other evidence." In 1885 Maria divulged the following recollection concerning her late husband:
"He was employed by leading citizens of Mentor and Geauga Co. to investigate the character of the Mormon Smith Family and the Origin of the Book of Mormon. He went to Palmyra NY by stage and at Conneaut learned... that Spaulding had taken his Manuscript Found to Pittsburgh Pa... Mr. H. lectured on Mormonism while collecting evidence against them in NY and Ohio. In the spring of 1834 he sold E. D. Howe editor of the Painesville Telegraph his Manuscripts."I believe that, about the end of August, 1833, Mr. Hurlbut left Gauga Co., Ohio by stagecoach, with a wad of money collected from the anti-Mormons in his pocket, bound for Palmyra, New York. Along the way he stopped off at Salem (since 1834 called Conneaut) Ohio, "lectured on Mormonism," and collected a few more donations to help finance his evidence collecting. At that time, after soliciting letters of recommendation and conducting more interviews among Solomon Spalding's old associates in that neighborhood, it became clear to him that Spalding "had taken his 'Manuscript Found' to Pittsburgh" near the end of 1812. In his 1885 statement Eber D. Howe says: "John Spaulding, a brother of Solomon directed him [Hurlbut] to Pittsburgh Pa., where Solomon had taken his manuscript to have it printed." According to Elder Daniel Tyler: "Previous to the publication of E. D. Howe's book... the said Doctor [Hurlbut]... went to Pittsburg with the avowed intention of obtaining the romance."
The trustworthy (?) Ben Winchester tells the story a little differently:
"Mr. H. while in conversation with Mrs. Davieson, learned that Mr. S. removed from New Salem to Pittsburgh, Pa., in the year 1812... and no sooner had Mr. H. returned to New Salem, than it was thought best that he should immediately repair to Pittsburgh, and see if Mr. S.'s manuscript had ever been left there.... After Mr. H. returned from Pittsburgh, he went to Kirtland, Ohio."While I agree that D. P. Hurlbut traveled from the Conneaut region, south to Pittsburgh on an investigative side-trip, I seriously doubt this occurred during frigid, snowy end of December 1833, between the time that he submitted his Dec. 20th "press release" to the Wayne Sentinel and Dec. 27th, when Justice of the Peace John C. Dowen says he recorded Joseph Smith, jr.'s civil complaint against Mr. Hurlbut in his docket book. There simply wasn't sufficient time available for Hurlbut to travel from New York to Ohio; backtrack to Pittsburgh; make useful discoveries there; and then return to the Kirtland area and there hold a number of his anti-Mormon lectures, before Judge Dowen issued the writ which led to his arrest at Painesville on Jan. 3rd or 4th. Besides which, his lawyer says Hurlbut, prior to his arrest, had exhibited in Mentor a Spalding document he obtained in Pittsburgh. Mr Briggs says:
"In the winter of 1833-34, a self-constituted committee of citizens of Willoughby, Mentor, and Painesville met a number of times at the house of the late Mr. Warren Corning, of Mentor, to investigate the Mormon humbug. At one of the meetings we had before us the original manuscript of the Rev. Solomon Spaulding... The 'Manuscript Found.' It was obtained from Mr. Patterson, or Peterson, a publisher of Pittsburg, Pa., with whom negotiations had once been made towards its publication."In another place, Mr. Briggs says practically the same thing:
"In the winter of 1833-'34 several gentlemen in Willoughby, Painesville, and Mentor formed themselves into a committee to inquire into the origin of the Mormon Bible... They employed a man by the name of Hurlbut, who was once a Mormon, to help in the investigation. He went to Pittsburgh and found a printer there for the manuscript of the book written by the Rev. Solomon Spalding, 'The Manuscript Found.' We compared it with the Mormon Bible, and the names and language and style of the Bible were so like the manuscript that all were convinced that the "Mormon Bible" was made out of this manuscript of Spalding."Mr. Briggs, along with the rest of the anti-Mormon "committee" members, was largely dependent upon what Hurlbut told him in obtaining this information. The results of that communication are not to be relied upon for any exemplary accuracy, but I think Briggs' account of things does help demonstrate that D. P. Hurlbut made a side-trip to Pittsburgh, in the course of his 1833 investigative travels to the east. Undocumented assertions made in the final pages of Howe's book, regarding Lambdin, Patterson, etc. also indicate that somebody had been to Pittsburgh, and there solicited and received at least some minimal information and material relating to Spalding's "Manuscript Found." Whatever it was that D. P. Hurlbut discovered in Pittsburgh, in about September of 1833, it was not enough to cause him to cancel his plans to visit Palmyra and gather useful statements from the residents of the area. Evidently the Geauga Co. anti-Mormons had paid him to go and gather information in New York, no matter what supplementary material he might uncover along the way relating to Spalding.
Solomon Spalding's widow had this to say in her Apr. 1, 1839 statement:
"The excitement in New Salem became so great, that the inhabitants had a meeting and deputed Dr. Philastus Hurlbut, one of their number to repair to this place and to obtain from me the original manuscript of Mr. Spaulding, for the purpose of comparing it with the Mormon Bible... Dr. Hurlbut brought with him an introduction and request for the manuscript, signed by Messrs. Henry Lake, Aaron Wright and others, with all whom I was acquainted, as they were my neighbors when I resided in New Salem."Although D. P. Hurlbut was probably never called "one of their number" by the inhabitants of the Conneaut area, several of its people, when he passed through and lectured there at about the end of August, were no doubt happy to supply him with letters of introduction, etc. But were these certifications and a "request for the manuscript" necessarily addressed to Mrs. Matilda Spalding Davison, the widow of Solomon Spalding? I doubt it.
Solomon Spalding's foster daughter, Mrs. Matilda S. McKinstry, in 1880, gave her recollection of what Matthew calls Hurlbut's "visit":
"I believe it was in 1834 [sic, Nov., 1833] that a man named Hurlburt [sic] came to my house at Monson to see my mother, who told us that he had been sent by a committee to procure the 'Manuscript Found' written by the Rev. Solomon Spalding so as to compare it with the Mormon Bible. He presented a letter to my mother from my uncle, Wm. H. Sabine, of Onondaga Valley, in which he requested her to loan this manuscript to Hurlburt... On the repeated promise of Hurlburt to return the manuscript to us, she gave him a letter to Mr. Clark to open the trunk and deliver it to him. We afterwards heard that he had received it from Mr. Clark at Hartwicks, but from that time we have never had it in our possession."Two years later Mrs. McKinstry provided some information in which she says essentially the same thing: "My mother delivered it [the "Manuscript Found"] up for publication to a Mr. Hulburt who came to our house in Mass. for it, bearing letters of introduction from my uncle, a Mr. Sabine, a lawyer in New York State." 1
From all of this testimony I am led to believe that D. P. Hurlbut learned of the location of William H. Sabine's home on the outskirts of Syracuse -- probably from John and Martha Spalding -- and first went there, hoping to obtain a view of Spalding's old writings. Upon his arrival at Sabines' residence, the brother-in-law of the late Solomon Spalding would have informed Hurlbut that, yes, at one time Spalding's trunk full of papers and fictional writings had been stored in his house, but that the the trunk had been moved from there, by order of the widow herself, a decade before. In his 1885 statement Eber D. Howe says that D. P. Hurlbut "learned Mrs. Spaulding was in Mass and went there," but Howe neglects to tell from whom Hurlbut learned this information. If D. P. knew that the widow was living in Monson, Massachusetts before he went to see Mr. Sabine, I can only wonder why Hurlbut even bothered to stop and consult with him; he might have just as easily saved that interview for his return trip. At any rate, D. P. Hurlbut, once he realized the Spalding writings had been moved out of Mr. Sabine's keeping, took the oportunity to cajole Sabine into writing a letter to his sister, requesting her to loan the late author's scribblings to the investigator from Ohio. Without that personal advisory from her brother, it is unlikely that the widow would have given up those old papers to a stranger -- even if, as her foster daughter says, he "spent a day at my house," engaging in ingratiating chitchat with the two very distrustful ladies. The irony of the whole affair is that Solomon Spalding's writings were not with the widow in far off Monson, Massachusetts, but were, all the while, in the nearby county of Otsego. It is highly unlikely, however, that Hurlbut was aware of this fact, as he proceeded on his journey from Syracuse, through Utica, past Otsego and Albany, to Massachusetts.
For all of these reasons I am unconvinced that D. P. Hurlbut was certain of the location of Spalding's manuscripts when he left the Conneaut country, on his way east. Nor do I think that he just happened to stop by the McKinstry home in Monson, Massachusetts, for a friendly "visit." Given the primitive state of transportation in those days, the lateness of the season, and the expense involved in his going to Monson, I do not believe that Hurlbut would have undertaken the trip, just to pass some pleasantries with Spalding's widow. He was acting like a man with a driving passion, and that passion was to locate and read the fictional creations of Solomon Spalding, to see if they were indeed the source from which the Book of Mormon was derived. Having served for several weeks as a Mormon missionary, D. P. Hurlbut was well aware of the characters, plot, and language of the Mormon scriptures -- it would have taken little more than a couple of moments' glance at Spalding's papers for Hurlbut to have ascertained whether or not he had found his literary "holy grail."
If, on the other hand, as some Mormon defenders have suggested, Hurlbut went to all this 1833 travel and trouble just to destroy evidence, he certainly did a very poor job of that nefarious work. The one Solomon Spalding story that he eventually turned over to E. D. Howe was precisely the sort of non-Nephite stuff he should have been destroying, if he wished to maintain the concocted illusion that the dead writer had produced something very much like the Book of Mormon. This is why I maintain that Hurlbut's trip east was indeed an investigative quest, and not simply a way in which to enhance the credibility of a contrived explanation for the Saints' holy writ.
Manuscript, Manuscript, Who's Got the Manuscript?
When last we looked in upon our pernicious ex-Mormon protagonist, he was on his way from Monson, Massachusetts to Hartwick, New York, to obtain the loan of Solomon Spalding's "Manuscript Found," along with any other useful items he might turn up, in support of the claims for the author being the originator of the Book of Mormon. Having walked the silent streets of Hartwick hamlet myself, I can only hope that Hurlbut was able to find a place to sleep and eat before he caught a farmer's wagon ride back to the stage road. Once he had shown his authorization from Spalding's widow, her relatives, the Clarks, probably let their unexpected guest paw through the dead man's trunk to his heart's content. So, once he had the "old hair trunk" open and its contents at his disposal, up in the Clarks' unheated attic, what did he find inside?
Hold that question in mind, while I fast-forward the story to a few weeks later, when E. D. Howe realized that D. P. Hurlbut had not handed over the celebrated "Manuscript Found." Perhaps the better question would be, why didn't Mr. Howe, or Mr. Sabine, or the Geauga Co. anti-Mormons, or Hurlbut's lawyer, or Spalding's widow, or anybody else contact the Clark family in Hartwick and ask what they had allowed D. P. Hurlbut to walk away with in his satchel, from his scroungings about in that dark cold attic? Don't expect to find any more of an answer to this question than to my previous query. There is no answer, just an omenious silence meets our 170 years-too-late questioning. According to the Rev. Clark Braden, his fellow Disciples of Christ minister, the Rev. J. E. Gaston, wrote to Spalding's widow in 1842 and received this reply: "shortly after Hurlbut left Munson [sic] with the order from her to get the manuscript of the 'Manuscript Found' from the trunk at Mr. Clark's at Hartwicke, N. Y., she received a letter from Hurlbut, in which he told her that he had obtained from the trunk what he had come for, the manuscript of 'Manuscript Found,' and that when he had taken it to the parties that sent him, and it had been used for the purpose for which they wanted it, that is published to expose the plagiarism of the Book of Mormon from it, he would return it to her."
That second-hand hearsay is perhaps as close as any modern investigator will ever get to an explanation of what happen in the Clark garret in November 1833. The first part of the lady's reply resonates with what Mr. Hurlbut himself had published in the Wayne Sentinel of Dec. 20, 1833 -- that he had "succeeded in accomplishing the object of his mission" to retrieve the "Manuscript Found," and that "an authentic history of the whole affair" would "shortly be given to the public." According to the reported reply of the widow herself, this information came to her as "a letter from Hurlbut" himself, written "shortly after" she last saw him. My chronology places D. P. Hurlbut in Monson on or about Nov. 22, 1833; at the Clark residence on or about Nov. 25th; back in the Palmyra area on or about Nov. 27th; and all the way back to Kirtland on or about Dec. 18th. If he wrote to the widow "shortly after" he left her in Monson, that might mean anywhere from a week to three or four weeks -- but I suppose it to mean that he sent her a positive sounding letter at about the same time he wrote up his positive sounding press release in Palmyra, that is, perhaps about the 13th of December. Still following Rev. Gaston's report, this date fits the scenario of being before "he had taken it ["Manuscript Found"] to the parties that sent him. Beyond this tiny window into Hurlbut's accomplishments at Hartwick, all else is darkness. Mr. Jerome Clark is not known to have ever specified what he allowed D. P. Hurlbut to take with him and Hurlbut is not known to have left a receipt with the Clarks.
Matthew, in writing his admittedly good LDS apologetics, of course blissfully bypasses all of this confusing historical stuff and cuts directly to the chase: "But when Hurlbut made a closer examination of the Spaulding manuscript he did not find the parallels to the Book of Mormon that he had hoped for and so he asserted that there must have been another manuscript written by Spaulding that was now 'lost.'" Excuse me for a moment, while I remedy my nausea over this asinine explanation.
Thank you for your patience, I'm back and I feel better now. Let's continue to play out our parts in this theatre of the absurd. Perhaps we can call the performance "Following after Matthew," since the title "Waiting for Godot" has already been taken. Following after Bro. Matthew, we come to his footnote to his previous explanation of things: "Either Hurlbut or Howe wrote a letter to Spaulding's widow informing her that her husband's manuscript "did not read as they expected" and they therefore decided against publishing it." Don't bother asking for his citation, we can all easily guess that Matthew is still riding happily along on Ben Winchester's joy-ride at this point in the narrative.
"But hold on thar!" I hear my LDS comrades crying out, "Eber D. Howe says the same thing! and so does that widdow woman!" Howe's account ("The trunk... was subsequently examined, and found to contain only a single M. S. book, in Spalding's hand-writing... purporting to have been translated from the Latin") I can partially excuse, as being nothing more than his repetition of what trustworthy (?) D. P. Hurlbut told him. The widow's reported statement ("I received a letter stating it did not read as they expected, and they should not print it.") is a little more problematic. If Spalding's widow informed Rev. Gaston in 1842, that D. P. Hurlbut "told her that he had obtained from the trunk what he had come for, the manuscript of 'Manuscript Found,'" then why did she tell Elder Jesse Haven that "it did not read as they expected?" Perhaps a hint at an answer may be found in Elder Alexander Badlam suffix to the 1839 Haven report, that Ben Winchester helpfully reproduces: "I do not say that the above Questions and Answers were given in the form that I have written them..." Apparently Elder Badlam was quoting Elder Haven at this point, and was trying to cover both their heads, in case the widow should ever see the published report of Brigham Young's cousin, 2 and object to how he had worded her replies to his questions. In other words, she may have told Elder Haven that she received two letters, but he only elected to mention the second communication from D. P. Hurlbut. 3
As for D. P. Hurlbut (who knew well the story of the Book of Mormon) never taking the trouble to look at the content of the manuscript he obtained from Mr. Jerome Clark, that is preposterous. Imagine Mr. Clark, opening the "old hair trunk" and asking D. P. Hurlbut just what the manuscript he was seeking looked like or contained. "Oh, that doesn't matter," says Hurlbut in this imaginary farce, "I'll just take the top one on the stack and read it once I get back to Ohio." So Mr. Clark says, "There's one here called 'The Frogs of Wyndham,' will that one do?"
It is too painful for me to contemplate the continuation of such a scene. Even if there was only a single scrap of paper, sitting on the bottom of an otherwise empty trunk, we can all bet the farm on the fact that D. P. Hurlbut would have scrutinized every line written on it, before he conceded he did not have something worth bringing back to the anti-Mormons in Ohio. It may serve Matthew's purposes to believe that Hurlbut never took a look-see -- just as it may have served the trusty (?) D. P. Hurlbut's inscrutable purposes, at some point later on, to say the same thing -- but I declare, "that dog won't hunt a flea!" 4
But the son of the Spalding's foster daughter, Dr. John A. McKinstry, sums up the absurdity better than I can, in a Sept. 1, 1879 letter to Robert Patterson, jr., of Pittsburgh:
"Hurlbut's statement does not alter my belief that he did have 'Manuscript Found' in his possession and disposed of it to his own advantage.... His statement that he did not know the contents of the paper he passed over to Mr. Howe seems to me perfectly ridiculous. I can hardly realize that a man interested in the publication of a work, and having in his possession what he must have supposed under the circumstances was of the greatest importance to the value of that work, could have manifested so little interest -- or at least curiosity -- as not to have given it at least a passing notice. Neither can I believe that any man who has the least claim to common sense would accept blindly, without even looking at its contents, a worthless package in place of a valuable MS.... I hardly know what further can be done to unravel the mystery. If Hurlbut disposed of the MS, he of course did not do it openly"John's mother, Mrs. Matilda Spalding McKinstry, gives her explanation for what probably happened at the Clark house, in a statement dated Aug. 31, 1880:
"Hurlbut may have received in addition to "Manuscript Found" some fragment. tied up with the bundle, which fragment he passed over to Mr. Howe, retaining the one of real importance for personal use... I feel that any communication from my self to 'Mr H.' -- would be of no avail. If he stole the papers, he would not criminate himself by owning it."If our good apologist Matthew is feeling a bit shaky in his overzealous reliance upon Ben Winchester for historical information, I'll do him a small favor and provide another, corraborative source -- nothing less than the dependable (?) Testimony of D. P. Hurlbut himself. On Aug. 19, 1879, he said:
"I visited Mrs. Matilda (Spaulding) Davison at Monson, Mass., in 1834, and... received from her a manuscript of her husband's, which I did not read, but brought home with me, and immediately gave it to Mr. E. D. Howe, of Painesville, Ohio... I do not know whether or not the document I received from Mrs. Davison was Spaulding's "Manuscript Found," as I never read it entire, and it convinced me that it was not the Spaulding manuscript... I never received any other manuscript of Spaulding's from Mrs. Davison... I did not destroy the manuscript nor dispose of it to Joe Smith, or to any other person."Well, I suppose that ends the controversy -- we can all go home now that we have such reliable testimony before our eyes!
Oh, but wait one moment -- while I'm giving away the ultimate testimony against that nasty old "myth of the Manucript Found," I might as well double its destructive power. Here's Hurlbut's 1881 reaffirmation of his prior testimony: "I went... to Munson, Hampden Co., Mass., where I found Mrs. Davison... I obtained a manuscript, supposing it to be... 'The Manuscript Found,' which was reported to he the foundation of the Book of Mormon. I did not examine the manuscript until I got home, when, upon examination, I found it to contain nothing of the kind." Of all the things D. P. Hurlbut might have testified to, it seems he was especially keen on absolving himself from ever having laid eyes upon a Spalding manuscript story that resembled the narrative given in the Book of Mormon. 5 As the Prince of Denmark once said, "The lady doth protest too much, methinks."
The Hurlbut-Smith Brawl
Our friend Matthew quietly passes over the old Mormon claim that said D. P. Hurlbut tried to assassinate Joseph Smith, Jr., at Kirtland during the last days of 1833. No doubt this is nasty stuff to contemplate, but I wonder if his avoiding the subject marks a new turn in 21st century LDS apologetics?
Although past Mormon writings on the Kirtland era generally make mention of D. P. Hurlbut's 1833 threat to harm Smith, LDS writers who were personally involved during that period in Kirtland provide us with very little information on the alleged assassination threat. Benjamin Winchester is strangely economical with explanations in his account: "he [Hurlbut, returning from his travels] went to Kirtland, Ohio, and stopped in that region of country, as he said, to learn other particulars, and finish writing his book. Mr. H. had not been there long, before he threatened to murder Joseph Smith, Jun."
Ben Winchester's relatives, the Elders Joseph and Benjamin Johnson, are not much more helpful in supplying the missing pieces of this story. Joseph says: "Hurlbut went east and was absent some two or three months -- and on his return publicly declared that he could not obtain it... the Manuscript Found, and the only conclusion that can be reasonable is, that finding it would spoil his case and ruin his purposes, that manuscript was destroyed or suppressed." Benjamin adds: "[Hurlbut] soon collected around him the congregations of our enemies, and in pert and pompous style told them the tale he had concocted of the 'Manuscript Found'... Soon afterward by them all he was most cordially despised."
George A. Smith arrived in Kirtland about the time that D. P. Hurlbut was giving the Mormons so much trouble, but his recollections supply only the sketchiest of additional information. He says: "[D. P. Hurlbut] went to work and got up the Spaulding story -- that famous yarn about the 'Manuscript Found.' When about to publish this lying fabrication, in several of his exciting speeches having threatened the life of Joseph Smith, he was required to... keep the peace." George later expanded his reminiscence: "Hurlburt was the author of... 'The Spaulding story,' a book which he intended to publish; and in delivering lectures he had said he would wash his hands in Joseph Smith's blood. He was taken before the court and required to give bonds to keep the peace towards all men, and especially towards Joseph Smith."
Given the serious nature of the charge that Apostle George A. Smith makes against Hurlbut ("in delivering lectures he had said he would wash his hands in Joseph Smith's blood"), it seems strange to me that Mormon historians have never taken the trouble to supply some details for this obscure episode in Kirtland history. Perhaps Matthew B. Brown will one day turn historical researcher, update the Kirtland investigations of Max Parkin and Milton V. Backman, and present the full story of this murderous incident for our edification. 6
1 The editor of the RLDS Saints' Herald makes an interesting claim in the Mar. 21, 1885 issue: "Mr. Jerome Clark stated that when he attempted to honor the order for the delivery of the 'Manuscript Found,' brought to him from Mrs. Davison, formerly Mrs. Spaulding, by Mr. Sabine, and P. Hurlbut, he found but one; and that one he gave to Mr. Hurlbut when Mr. Sabine was present." The source for this remarkable assertion is left unstated, and, as it is encountered nowhere else in Mormon apologetics, it must have been an extremely obscure one. It is possible that Jerome Clark, prior to his death in 1850, provided some hitherto uncited recollection of Hurlbut's visit to his Hartwick home in 1833. An extensive search of the Otsego Co. and Onondaga Co. newspapers has not, so far, turned up such an account from him. According to Ellen E. Dickinson, "Joseph Sabine, Esq., of Syracuse, son of William H. Sabine, now deceased, twice wrote his recollections for New York newspapers of the family traditions in relation to Mr. Spaulding, his romance, its being in his father's house, and of Joe Smith's residence at Onondaga Valley." Unfortunately the extant files of early Syracuse newspapers are very sparse and contain no mention of Joseph Sabine's articles. The first known newspaper article on the Sabines of Onondaga was published by the Syracuse Post-Standard on Apr. 25, 1925. That article contains the following botched story: "Sidney Rigdon was at Conneaut when Spaulding was writing his Manuscript Found." He was working in the printing shop in Pittsburgh when the manuscript was there... In 1834 D. P. Hurlburt went to the home of Spaulding's widow, then remarried, and obtained the manuscript by presenting a letter from Squire Sabine and saying he wished to compare it with the Mormon Bible to determine whether they were the same." This article and similiar accounts in 20th century Syracuse paper contain no mention of William H. Sabine being present when Jerome Clark handed over Spalding's writings to D. P. Hurlbut. Jerome Clark's son, George Clark, supplies some very skimpy information in his 1880-81 letters, but nothing about Hurlbut coming to his father's house in 1833. Finally, in her 1884 book, Ellen E. Dickinson says "Lieutenant Gunnison, in his 'History of Mormonism,' says that Clark either by accident or design retained a part of the manuscript." Gunnison said no such thing; so we can only wonder where Mr. Dickinson came up with this historical oddity.
2 See my on-line reply to the assertions of Robert and Rosemary Brown for a thorough documention of Elder Jesse Haven's "secret mission" interview with Spalding's widow during the fall of 1839. Elder Haven was Brigham Young's first cousin and was at that time working as a missionary for the LDS Church, under (President of the Twelve) Brigham Young's ultimate authority and direction. I believe, however, that it was Parley P. Pratt who supervised the planning and execution of Haven's deceptive 1839 interview with the widow.
3 It is unlikely that Eber D. Howe was the one who informed Spalding's widow that they would not be printing her husband's manuscript. In his 1879 reply to Robert Patterson, jr.'s question, "Did you inform Mrs. Davison...?" Eber D. Howe replied, "Never any correspondence with Mrs. Davison." All indications are that Mr. Howe consciously avoided contacting and conversing with Mrs. Davison; had he contacted her, he might have had much more to say about the Spaldings' experiences writing up the final pages of his 1834 book. This apathetic behavior on his part is something of a mystery, for he told Joseph Smith, jr.'s father-in-law, in Feb., 1834, that his "design" in getting ready to publish his book, was to research and "present facts, and those well authenticated, and beyond dispute," hopefully including relevent testimony "authenticated before a magistrate." Robert Patterson, jr. expressed his dismay over E. D. Howe's reticence to pursue leads in the Spalding affair in these words: "One thing that is inexplicable... is Mr. E. D. Howe's seeming indifference in so important a part of his case as the absolute proof of the plagarism. Why should he have rested satisfied with Hurlbut's statement, without any attempt by correspondence with Mrs. Davison or Mr. Clarke to discover where the real 'Manuscript Found' could be?... As this plagarism was the pivotal point on which Howe's demonstration of fraud, even to the Mormons themselves, turned -- why was he at the time so indifferent to it?" Like Mr. Patterson, I can only wonder about Howe's reticence to pursue leads in the Spalding affair. Did this come up as an item of discussion, when Joseph and Emma Smith called at the Howe residence in Painesville, on Dec. 2, 1835 (a year after Eber's book was published)? Smith says in his private journal: "we arrived at Painsvill[e] we called at Sister Harriet How[e']s, and left my wife and family to visit her while we rode into Town to do some business, returned... and dined with Sister How[e], and returned home." Then again, perhaps Eber D. Howe left his sister Harriet in the house with his wife Sophia that afternoon, and found some other, more comfortable place at which to eat his dinner. Both Harriet and Sophia were Mormons -- see Smith's personal journal (entry for Apr. 30, 1834) to see how much cash Sophia donated to the "Zion's Camp" expedition. The ladies were also investors in the Kirtland Bank (Harriet bought 20 shares) and other LDS causes. Arthur B. Deming said that he "inquired" of Mr. Howe, "whether the Mormons did not try to prevent the publication of 'Mormonism Unveiled.'" According to Deming, Mr. Howe "said W. W. Phelps, who formerly published an anti-Masonic paper at Canandaigua, N. Y., called, but that he looked at him pretty sharp and he did not stay long."
4 Dale W Adams provides some relief from the usual and predictable Mormon "party line" when he promotes this slightly revisionist view of Hurlbut's recovery of Spalding's writings: "In a letter prepared for Ellen Dickinson on January 10, 1881, Hurlbut claimed he did not read the manuscript he found in Hartwick until he returned to Kirtland (Dickinson, p. 245). This conflicts somewhat with the information that Hurlbut gave directly to Dickinson during her earlier interview with him at his home in Gibsonburg, Ohio on November 13, 1880. She quotes him as saying that he 'peeped into it (the manuscript) here and there and... thought it was all nonsense... but I just gave it to Howe because it was of no account' (Dickinson, p. 67). Both descriptions of Hurlbut's cavalier treatment of the manuscript after his passionate quest for it undoubtedly shades the truth. Without doubt, Hurlbut sat down immediately upon obtaining the manuscript and read it, He must have been crushed when he saw that Spalding's tale had scant resemblance to the Book of Mormon and also realized that it would not support the boasts and promises made to his financial backers." -- If it can be shown that amateur historian Adams has his facts down correctly, then we would all have to re-think the provenance of Hurlbut's reportedly telling Spalding's widow "that he had obtained from the trunk what he had come for, the manuscript of 'Manuscript Found,' and that when... published to expose the plagiarism of the Book of Mormon from it, he would return it," and his saying (in his press release) that "he has succeeded in accomplishing the object of his mission, and that an authentic history of the whole affair will shortly be given to the public." As late as Feb. 7, 1834 (four days after E. D. Howe wrote to Father Isaac Hale telling him "I have taken all the letters and documents from Mr. Hurlbut, with a view to their publication") the northern Ohio anti-Mormon "committee" was still advertising that "the Committee employed D. P. Hurlbut to ascertain the real origin of the Book of Mormon, and to examine the validity of Joseph Smith's claims to the character of a Prophet. The result of this enquiry so far as it has proceeded has been partially laid before the public in this vicinity by Mr. Hurlbut -- and the Committee are now making arrangements for the Publication and extensive circulation of a work which will prove the 'Book, of Mormon' to be a work of fiction and imagination, and written more than twenty years ago, in Salem, Ashtabula County, Ohio, by Solomon Spalding, Esq." Hurlbut was obviously lying to somebody, but was that lying done to the "committee" (that the positive "result" of his research was "partially laid before the public") or to Mr. Howe (that Spalding's trunk contained "only a single M. S. book... purporting to have been translated from the Latin")?
5 What D. P. Hurlbut, Benjamin Winchester, and Matthew B. Brown conveniently omit from their reconstruction of the past, is what happened just after Hurlbut returned to Kirtland, Ohio from Palmyra New York, during the second half of December, 1833. According to Dale W Adams reporting, "Hurlbut returned to Kirtland about the middle of December and began attacking Joseph Smith. Understandably, Smith and his supporters lashed back... Hurlbut reacted violently. The mud slinging on both sides quickly escalated until Hurlbut threatened Joseph Smith." This reconstruction of events appears supported by what what Benjamin F. Norris, a non-Mormon, wrote his brother from Painesville, on Jan. 6, 1834: "[Joseph] Smith has sworn the peace against a man named Hurbert who has ben engaged for about three months in [tracing] the origin of the book of mormon. He [has] returned and was [jailed] yesterday... His work will be published in a few weeks giving the true origin of the book of Mormon." More detail concerning Hurbut's activities following his return to Ohio from New York is supplied by two high ranking Mormons. Orson Hyde wrote from the Kirtland Leaders to the Saints in Missouri, on Jan. 9, 1834: "Doctor P. Hurlbut an apostate elder from this church, has been to the state of New York, and gathered up all the ridiculous stories that could be invented, and some affidavits respecting the character of Joseph, and the Smith family, and exhibited them to numerous congregations in Chagrin, Kirtland, Mentor, and Painesville, and fired the minds of the people with much indignation, against Joseph and the church. Hurlbut also made many harsh threats, &c., that he would take the life of Joseph, if he could not destroy Mormonism without." Oliver Cowdery wrote from Kirtland to his brother Lyman, on Jan. 13, 1834: "Hurlbut is now in this country pedling slanders... If you were acquainted with his character, as represented to me, you would never regret that you did not open a communication with him." At some point, not long after his return, D. P. Hurlbut's ego outstripped his better judgment and he reportedly made serious threats against Joseph Smith and his faithful followers. Exactly what those threats consisted of and how literal he was in making them will probably never be known. Subsequent Mormon testimony would establish, at least to the Geauga County Court's satisfaction, that he had threatened the life of the Mormon prophet. The Justice of the Peace for Kirtland Township in 1833 was John C. Dowen, a Gentile who had a reputation for not persecuting the Saints; in return they supported him in his office. In 1885 Dowen said: "I heard Dr. P. Hurlbut... deliver his first lecture in the Methodist Church in Kirtland, Ohio, on the origin of the Book of Mormon. He said he had been in New York and Pennsylvania and had obtained a copy of Spaulding's "Manuscript Found." He read selection[s] from it, then the same from the Book of Mormon. He said the historical part of it was the same as Spaulding's 'Manuscript Found... I read all of his manuscript [Hurlbut's research findings], including Spaulding's "Manuscript Found," and compared it with the Book of Mormon; the historical part of which is the same as Spaulding's "Manuscript Found"... Hurlbut said he would "kill" Jo Smith. He meant he would kill Mormonism. The Mormons urged me to issue a writ against him. I did." Dowen's statement agrees with other testimony from the Kirtland region, saying essentially the same thing, that D. P. Hurlbut obtained a copy of Spaulding's "Manuscript Found" and purportedly exhibited this document in lectures he gave in and around Kirtland, following his return from New York. Among the deponents giving corroborative testimony to this chain of events are James A. Briggs, William R. Hine, Jacob Sherman, and Charles Grover. Additional testimony, from various residents of the Kirtland area, was presented by the Rev. Clark Braden in 1891. The weight of this testimony led Braden's opponent, Edmund L. Kelley, Presiding Bishop of the RLDS Church, to admit that D. P. Hurlbut was at least displaying something that might have looked like the "Manuscript Found" during his lectures at the end of 1833.
6 My own investigations into this obscure chapter in Kirtland history will be laid out presently, in my on-line work-in-progress, "Crisis at Kirtland." My tentative reconstruction of the last days of December, 1833, I can summarize, as follows:
On or about Dec. 15th Hurlbut was in Buffalo, on his way back to Ohio regional newspapers report some heavy snowstorms at this time and there was no doubt ice on Lake Erie, so Hurlbut missed taking a steamboat ride to Fairport and took the sleigh-stage, arriving in Painesville and Mentor about the 16th or 17th. Hurlbut was then evidently still living with the Ezekiel Johnson family on Kirtland Flats, so he probably rested up from his arduous journey there until he was able to meet with the local anti-Mormons. Orris Clapp, Mrs. Corning, Josiah Jones, and his other Campbellite friends met in Mentor for their usual Sunday meetings on Sunday Dec. 22. Some of these people were associated with the anti-Mormon "committee" that hired Hurlbut and he probably spoke with them and scheduled a meeting of the "committee" for a couple of days later, when the men from Willoughby and Painesville could make it to the Corning place in Mentor. Wednesday, Dec. 25, 1833 might have been a convenient day for the meeting described by James A Briggs -- in which Hurlbut displayed both the "Manuscript Found" and the unfinished story now on file at Oberlin. Prior to this meeting with the committee, Hurlbut had ample time to conduct his post-return lectures in Kirtland, Painesville, Willoughby, Mentor, Chardon, etc. The committee members were aware (though perhaps not particularly happy) that D. P. was exhibiting important Spalding documents in these public lectures, and they later advertised that his findings had "been partially laid before the public in this vicinity by Mr. Hurlbut." Whether D. P. ever handed over a single scrap of paper to his financial backers is debatable. If he did, they opted not to publish his findings -- probably he gave them nothing for their money and they had to wait nearly a year in order to see what E. D. Howe was going to print in his promised book. In the meanwhile a brawl between Hurlbut and the Mormon prophet jeopardized everybody's plans. According to James A. Briggs, Hurlbut filed a civil complaint against Joseph Smith, jr. for assault. The most probable time and place for the altercation between D. P. and Smith was on Sunday the 22nd, in the evening, on the flats in the Kirtland school house. I suspect that Hurlbut lectured in the Methodist meeting house at Kirtland on or before the 21st -- but the only "big fish" he drew in was Martin Harris. Probably the Mormons had been instructed to stay away from Hurlbut's lectures and the lecturer decided that the only way he could get their attention was by attending one of their sacrament meetings and speaking there. According to a certain "Mr. Thomas", Mr. Hurlbut "Attended [a] Mormon meeting at the school house. At close Hulburt arose and began telling the audience that B. of M. and S. Spaulding's MSS. were identical. Joe Smith called on God to curse him and told the audience to leave, which they did." -- Perhaps Hurlbut crept silently into the LDS meeting during its "testimony" phase and then stood to address the Mormons, before his unwanted presence was detected. At any rate, I think this was when Joseph Smith, Jr. assaulted Hurlbut. That action by Smith may have been nothing more than a shove, to push the intruder out of the room, but it gave Hurlbut an excuse to get his anti-Mormon testimony heard in a justice court, where he could loudly publicize his research findings to the audience and the press. Hurlbut may have felt that he could not get a complaint successfully processed in Kirtland, so he (or his lawyer, James A. Briggs, who several times spoke of this complaint in various letters and articles he wrote) soon after filed his charges with a Justice of the Peace in nearby Painesville. Smith, in a quick counter-move, decided to bring charges against Hurlbut in Painesville also. Therefore the Mormon leader had Judge Dowen make the arrest warrant for D. P. Hurlbut returnable in that nearby town. Exactly what Hurlbut did or said to give Smith this favorable opportunity remains unknown -- but he may well have answered Smith's conjectured shove with the ominous ejaculation "I'll wash my hands in your blood, when the courts get through with you!" The county court at Chardon retains a re-write of an April 1834 transcript, to which a record of Hurlbut's January pre-trial hearing at Painesville is attached as a preliminary codicil to the main April proceedings at Chardon. The text documenting Dowen's issuing an arrest warrant against Hurlbut may have been recopied as many as three times before it got into the book at Chardon, and thus it is likely that the original "7" in the warrant date of January, 27, 1833 was later mis-copied as a "1" -- changing "January 27" to "January 21" in the court transcript. Whatever explanation may best fit the date in the transcript, Judge Dowen testified that he looked at his original docket book and saw that the date of Smith's complaint against Hurlbut was "January 27, 1833." No record of Hurlbut's complaint against Smith is to be found in the April 1834 Chardon court transcript, leading me to the conclusion that, at some point, the justice court in Painesville dropped the charges against Smith. At the end of 1833 (or beginning of 1834) Joseph Smith, jr. wrote to Bishop N. K. Whitney, saying that D. P. was trying to instigate a law suit against the Mormon leadership (against Hyrum Smith in particular) in order to recover monetary damages from their United Firm, but Smith mentions no assault charges pending against him at the time -- possibly, by the time he wrote to Bishop Whitney, those first charges had been dropped. Perhaps the Painesville judge did not even make out a warrant against Smith, but instead promised to give Hurlbut's complaint further consideration, once more evidence was presented. In the meanwhile, Judge Dowen did issue an arrest warrant for Hurlbut -- and the anti-Mormon fled the county and its armed constables. I think that about Dec. 28th or 29th D. P. realized that his personal welfare was too compromised for him to hand over anything to the anti-Mormon committee. It was time for him to skip town. Prior to his flight from Geauga Co. he had already showed at least part of his research findings to the anti-Mormon committee meeting at Mentor. Why did he not entrust all of papers to that committee? One possible answer is that the relationship between him and the committee was deteriorating and he stood to gain nothing more in the way of cash or assistance from them at that point. Perhaps D. P. anticipated the erosion of their confidence and good will before he ever reached Kirtland. His activities upon reaching Ohio do not appear to have been fully congruent with his earlier, ostensible plan of action on behalf of the committee. On his return to Ohio from New York, D. P. Hurlbut evidently bypassed Conneaut. Why did he not stop there, show his findings to Spalding's old neighbors and get the handwriting on the papers he retried from Hartwick verified then and there? Instead, D. P. seems to have waited until after he fled the constables of Geauga Co., to carry one small Spalding manuscript back to the Conneaut people for their certification of the author's handwriting. If this is indeed the correct sequence of events, it means that Mr. Hurlbut was exhibiting the purported "Manuscript Found" in and around Kirtland without certificationM that the handwriting was Spalding's. This may be a significant deed (or misdeed) on his part and merits closer investigation. My chronology places D. P. Hurlbut in Salem (soon to be renamed Conneaut) on December 31, 1833, when he got the penmanship on what we now call the "Oberlin manuscript" certified by some of Spalding's old friends, including Aaron Wright. I next place him in Painesville, where he was arrested on Jan. 3 or 4, 1834. The question is, Where was D. P. between Dec. 31st and Jan. 4th? So long as he remained in Ashtabula Co. consulting with the Conneaut witnesses, D. P. probably counted upon the cooperation of Sheriff Zaphna Lake (son of Conneaut witness Henry Lake) to warn him of any Geauga constables carrying arrest warrants; but on or about Jan. 1st Zaphna's term in office expired and Hurlbut was no longer safe from arrest at Conneaut. My surmise is that he next went to the nearby Kelloggsville-Kingsville area and stayed there with the Wheeler Woodbury family. Hurlbut had plans to marry Judge Woodbury's daughter, Maria, but the judge's good sense did not allow him to accept D. P. into the family until April 27th, 1834, after all his legal problems in Geauga Co. were cleared up. I believe that it was Judge Wheeler Woodbury who talked Hurlbut into returning to Geauga Co., where he faced an inevitable arrest. D. P. was careful that his arrest occurred in Painesville -- but the Kirtland constable who nabbed him got permission from the court to take his prisoner back to Kirtland, pending a rescheduled appearance before the Judge in Painesville. If there was a time and place when it would have been greatly to D. P. Hurlbut's bodily and financial benefit to come to an accommodation with LDS President Joseph Smith, jr., it was then and there. Although the two men continued to be bitter enemies, Hurlbut is not known to have ever lectured against the Mormons following his arrest. No witnesses clearly testify to his displaying the purported "Manuscript Found" after his arrest. My guess is that a few of D. P.'s important papers were then in the keeping of John C. Dowen -- and that one those documents in particular never made it from Dowen's Kirtland residence into the possession of the anti-Mormon committee, nor into the book later published by Eber D. Howe.
Dale's Comments, Part 6:
Aloha 'Oe, Aloha 'Oe -- Farewell to Thee, Spalding Myth
Our friend Matthew now abandons the tutelage of Ben Winchester, sails off to Hawaii, and fast-forwards the devotional historical movie at the Laie Visitors' Center to the year 1884. Our faith now being promoted by leaps and bounds, we quickly learn the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the LDS truth:
"When L. L. Rice bought the contents of Howe's printing establishment in 1839 he unknowingly acquired the Spaulding manuscript and eventually transported it to Honolulu, Hawaii. Rice discovered the document in 1884 while searching through his collection of papers at the request of Oberlin College president James H. Fairchild."What did I tell you? It's all true -- scout's honor. The only issue remaining to be addressed is the identity of the document discovered among Lewis L. Rice's papers in the year 1884. Matthew calls it "the Spaulding [sic] manuscript," but which Spalding story is he talking about here? I seriously doubt that he is going to inform us that this momentous discovery was titled "The Frogs of Wyndham." What else does our astute apologist have to say?
When Rice, Fairchild, and several others compared the Spaulding manuscript with the Book of Mormon they "could detect no resemblance between the two, in general or detail." Fairchild concluded that "the theory of the origin of the Book of Mormon in the traditional manuscript of Solomon Spaulding will probably have to be relinquished.""Fairchild concluded," eh? -- that sounds pretty "conclusive" to me? 1 Dare I ask exactly what his concluding credentials happened to be? A zealous defender of the RLDS Church in 1907 provided the answer, right where Matthew today chooses to remain prudently silent:
"James H. Fairchild, a professor of languages, mathematics, and theology, was president of Oberlin college when the Spaulding Manuscript was placed in the college library. He read it carefully and published the result of his observation... Such statements as these are not to be turned from without a second thought. Mr. Fairchild was a scholar and so qualified to speak on this subject. Being a minister of the Congregational church, he was not prejudiced in favor of the Book of Mormon. Mr. Rice also carefully examined the Manuscript, and says: 'I am of the opinion that no one who reads this Manuscript will give credit to the story that Solomon Spaulding was in any wise the author of the Book of Mormon.... I am more than half convinced that this is his only writing of the sort.'"Yumpin' Yimminy! -- looks like "the weak things of the earth" just got confounded by "the wisdom of the learned." I could not be more impressed if this pregnant pronouncement were penned by the famous Professor Charles Anthon himself. Still, I wonder just how much our sterling savant really knew about the Book of Mormon text and how much he actually "compared" before he "concluded?" Luckily I need not reach far for an answer -- just up above my computer monitor, for my handy-dandy zip-disk full of James H. Fairchild papers and publications. Turning to his entry for Aug. 31, 1884 in the professor's personal journal, I find these prophetic words:
"At noon went home with the Whitneys to dinner. -- Father Rice had been looking over his papers... & came upon an old manuscript story [which appears] to have been written by Solomon Spaulding. Probably the one which has been supposed to be transformation of the Mormon Bible, -- unquestionably a genuine document... I spent an hour in looking it through, It bears no resemblance to the book of Mormon, except that it is a rambling story of about the same literary merit... The book would be a gratification to the Mormons, as putting an end to the story that their book is a reprint of Solomon Spaulding's manuscript. I do not think they have any thing to do with each other"Did I say "prophetic?" Well, Fairchild's premature pronouncement was a great "gratification to the Mormons," wasn't it? I'm sure that Bro. Matthew is highly gratified to quote from it even today (and he isn't even on the run from Federal marshals, out to seize the entire assets of his church and arrest him for "cohabitation"). Things have changed a bit in Deseret since the dark days of 1884, but the results of Fairchild's hour-long inspection of the Oberlin document over supper in Honolulu are just about as valid today they were back then. That is to say, we can all conclude that an expert (?) opinion offered by a leading Gentile educator in support of the Mormon position will always be "a gratification to the Mormons," no matter the "expert's" lack of time and proper resources to provide any definitive answers to important questions. Most of Fairchild's subsequent pronouncements on this matter were much more a reflection of his personal opinions than they were examples of his learned judgment. And, in fact, Dr. James H. Fairchild had no special background, experience, or resources by which to make a definitive judgment regarding the origin of the Book of Mormon. The best the good professor could come up with is that Joe Smith wrote the thing -- which brings us right back to the beginning of Matthew's on-line remarks. If anybody has ever created a "Spalding theory," it was done when Fairchild theorized that Smith, and not Spalding, wrote the Book of Mormon. However, Matthew adroitly avoids telling his readers that part of Fairchild's findings.
As for all of Fairchild's "no resemblance to the book of Mormon" nonsense, I humbly suggest that those possessed with sufficient curiosity consult my own 1983 paper, "Sciota Revisited."
Oh, by the way, after that meal at the home of L. L. Rice's son-in-law, the Rev. Dr. Fairchild dashed off to "Mr. Wm. Castles & stayed with them over night," thus departed Mr. Rice's company, forever -- and, as the sun sank slowly into the west, he was bidding "aloha and farewell" to his old friend from Ohio. Fairchild did not see the manuscript again until Rice finally sent it to Oberlin, several months later. The next morning (Sept. 1, 1884) he was on the S. S. Alameda, sailing back to the mainland, and no doubt contemplating his coming train-ride from San Francisco to Cleveland. Perhaps a short stop-over in the west would be in order, to visit his Utah Fairchild relatives (one of whom had been a plural wife to the late President Brigham Young) and take in the natural wonders of Yellowstone. I'll have to dig out and read that part of his journal one of these days, to see just what other "gratification to the Mormons" he might have then contemplated. 2
A saintly voice previously informed us that "such statements" as those voiced by Messrs. Fairchild and Rice in 1885-86, "are not to be turned from without a second thought," correct? OK then, let's give them each a "second thought." On Jan. 25, 1886 President Fairchild shared his views on the Solomon Spalding authorship claims before the Cleveland, Ohio Congregational Club. After spending a good deal of time debunking the old Spalding-Rigdon theory, President Fairchild concluded his lecture with a strange confession; he said he had "not made up his mind" that there wasn't "another manuscript" written by Solomon Spalding -- and that he thought "Rigdon had much to do with Mormonism." Some clues as to where this new notion came from may be derived by reading through President Fairchild's old correspondence files in the Oberlin College Library. By the first part of 1886 his revisionist views regarding the history of the "Manuscript Found" had been attacked by several of his correspondents -- various writers, researchers, and knowledgeable persons wrote him, saying that his published views contained some errors and suggesting that he consult authors on Mormon history whose works he may have previously overlooked. The combined weight of these suggestions appear to have had some dampening effects on his anti-Spalding theory ardor. At the very least, he came to realize that he could no longer be so cavalier in stating his personal opinions regarding the origin of the Book of Mormon.
The 1885 defection of his old friend, Lewis L. Rice, to the pro-Spalding ranks probably had some additional impact upon President Fairchild's views (or how he chose to state those views) regarding the Spalding-Rigdon claims. 3 On May 11, 1886 Mr. Rice had his change of opinion published, and in that article said:
"The Spaulding Manuscript recently discovered in my possession, and published by the Mormons, in no wise determines the question as to the authorship of the Book of Mormon, or of Spaulding's connection with the latter. It shows conclusively that this writing of Spaulding was not the original of the Book of Mormon -- nothing more in that regard. It gives the Mormons the advantage of calling upon their opponents to produce or prove that any other Spaulding Manuscript ever existed -- and that is the gist of the whole matter. Until lately I have been of the opinion that there was no tangible evidence that any other production of Solomon Spaulding, bearing upon the question, could be shown as having ever existed. But correspondence and discussions growing out of the publication of this document, have shaken my faith in that belief, and indeed produced quite a change of opinion on that subject.... James A. Briggs, Esq.,... says... 'the [anti-Mormon] committee'... 'compared it [Spalding's Manuscript Found"], chapter by chapter with the Mormon Bible. It was written in the same style, many of the names were the same, and we came to the conclusion, from all the testimony before us, that the Rev. Sidney Rigdon, the eloquent Mormon preacher, made the Mormon Bible from this manuscript. Of this the committee had no doubt whatever.' This testimony of Mr. Briggs is entirely reliable. I was acquainted with all the members of the "self-constituted committee" of which he speaks. The mooted question now is what became of the Manuscript before the Committee, which they "compared chapter by chapter with the Mormon Bible," and found them to correspond so perfectly? Mr. Deming, already referred to, says that Dr. Hurlburt sold it to the Mormons for $400... My belief is... that either Hurlburt or Howe sold it to the Mormons."I can add no better recommendation of Lewis L. Rice's continued study and final conclusions than the words voiced by President Joseph F. Smith in 1900, in describing Rice's original communications in this affair: "Taking this statement as the unreserved judgment of an old editor and a newspaper man, who has not only carefully read it [the Oberlin manuscript] and compared it with the Book of Mormon, but with his own hand copied about two-thirds of it, his opinion must be accepted as of great weight."
As for James H. Fairchild, he perceptibly altered his original position regarding the Spalding-Rigdon theory as time passed. In in 1895 he provided Elder J. R. Hindley with a practically useless statement, in which he neither said that he concluded Solomon Spalding only wrote one story during his life, nor that his reading the Oberlin manuscript indicated that Spalding was incapable of writing much of the Book of Mormon. Fairchild followed this with a letter in 1900 to an old Oberlin graduate, the Rev. John D. Nutting of the Utah Gospel Mission:
"With regard to the manuscript of Mr. Spaulding now in the Library of Oberlin College, I have never stated, and know of no one who can state, that it is the only manuscript which Spaulding wrote, or that it is certainly the one which has been supposed to be the original of the Book of Mormon. The discovery of this Ms. does not prove that there may not have been another, which became the basis of the Book of Mormon. The use which has been made of statements emanating from me as implying the contrary of the above is entirely unwarranted."Fairchild's message to Rev. Nutting (his last known published statement on the matter) was popularized when A. Theodore Schroeder reprinted it in his 1901 pamphlet, Origin of the Book of Mormon. Schroeder subsequently carried on a journalistic debate with Mormon Elder Brigham H. Roberts, giving Fairchild's statement and other obscure parts of the Spalding-Rigdon authorship claims a wide circulation. In his replies to Schroeder, Elder Roberts managed to side-step the issue of Fairchild's and Rice's evolution of views, just as Matthew B. Brown continues to do today. Imagine if two doctors told Matthew that he had cancer, but after the passage of some time both revised their views, with one telling him he did not have the disease and the other telling him it was somebody else entirely who should have been so diagnosed -- does anybody suppose that Matthew would ignore the updated findings and continue to circulate the doctors' old, preliminary opinions? But, as we all know, LDS apologetics and real world facts need not be in agreement, in order for both to be "true."
Proving the Negative -- One More Time
As we'll all recall, the question originally put to Matthew only asked him to "help" the questioner "understand this issue and get to the bottom of it." I would have thought by now that our approbative apologist would have hit "bottom," but he continues with "several other compelling reasons for relinquishing the Spaulding [sic] theory." The first of these reasons is that Parley P. Pratt once testified that "Sidney Rigdon never even saw a copy of the Book of Mormon until Parley P. Pratt personally gave him one after 15 October 1830." Matthew has raised a good point, and one that receives my perfect agreement. I believe I could arise in fast and testimony meeting and swear to "knowing of a surety" that particular assertion is "true." I would feel somewhat better, however, in so testifying, had the trusty (?) Parley P. Pratt sworn that the Rev. Sidney Rigdon had not seen the manuscripts for the book as well. "Foul!" my LDS colleagues may now cry out -- "Parley also said that Rigdon never saw Elder Joseph Smith, jr., until the two met "in the state of New-York, for the first time" at Waterloo near the end of 1830. Again, I feel a burning in my bosom that this is "true." I'm only sorry that I cannot say the same for Rigdon having not met Smith before the Seer of Palmyra was ordained an elder. So much for the silver-tongued Parley P. Pratt.
Next we hear that "Emma Smith, the Prophet's wife, declared that 'no acquaintance was formed between Sidney Rigdon and the Smith family till after the Church was organized' and the Book of Mormon had already been published." So Sister Emma may have said from early on to her sons and others. As one 1854 visitor to her house recalled: "[She] expressed herself very freely and openly about the members of the Mormon church, and spoke in a contemptuous manner of their profession of faith." I have no doubt that she continued to "express herself very freely and openly," even after she rejoined the Saints in 1860. But can we accept at face value what others said she said? 4 I would be more impressed with this particular source if it came in the form of a signed affidavit or published in response to questions presented by a disinterested interviewer.
In my younger days I twice served as an RLDS missionary at the annual Utah State Fair in Salt Lake City. Seventy John Thumm felt I was doing such a good job that he called upon me to compose a faith-promoting pamphlet we could hand out at the fairgrounds. Although many of us in the Reorganization were by then knowledgeable of our martyred prophet's polygamous predilections, the missionaries' palming off Sister Emma's testimony to the contrary was a sure-fire way to arouse the attention and interest of visitors to the Utah fair. I felt a little guilty at promoting this deception of Emma's, but, as we used to say back then, "anything to get 'em into the Church!" Unfortunately the Emma ploy did not always work. Some educated Utah Mormon would sooner or later loudly inform us that "The Lord's Anointed, President Young, had long ago exposed Emma Smith Bidamon as 'one of the damndest liars' on the face of the earth, -- that she was 'a child of hell, and literally the most wicked woman' in the world." In those unnerving situations we could always count upon the unwavering 1850 testimony of Apostle John Taylor, supporting Emma's avowal, as to there then being no polygamy among in the LDS. This citation was certain to stop the Utah Elders dead in their tracks -- they would soon wander off mumbling something about how what Taylor said and published on the Church's press must have been "just his own opinion."
Such is the life of an apologist. I can tell Matthew that what Sister Emma said was "just her own opinion" and he can tell me that what Apostle Taylor said was "just his own opinion." And we can all agree. The apologist does not set out to prove a negative (as Taylor unwisely did in his citing the old D&C's section demanding monogamous marriage and his mutilating Mrs. Davison's reported testimony); the LDS apologist should simply defend the Church's current "party line," and try to be as truthful as possible in the process. It was Elder Taylor's job to assert the official doctrine, saying that the Mormons allowed no polygamy -- it was not his job, (nor the job of any of his plural wives at home) to investigate among the Saints and see whether or not anybody was actually living in polygamy. So much for John Taylor, Em Bidamon, and their self-serving, straight-faced denials of various historical issues.
I'll mercifully pass over Sidney Rigdon's constellation of personal and quoted denials. 5 If Matthew would like to ride down this particular road into the swamp, I can only suggest that he first read what Elders Orson Hyde and Jeddy Grant had to say about the man's truthfulness (?) following his 1844 excommunication at Nauvoo. And spare me any accounts of Rigdon's death-bed avowals of knowing nothing of the secret origin of the Book of Mormon -- that is, unless you are also prepared to defend his pretended "revelations from God," which he also never confessed were lies in the name of the Lord, prior to his tearful passing in 1876. I've always felt the best Rigdon story was the one told by his old buddy, Elder Austin Cowles, who interviewed the aged pious liar in 1869. Cowles relates it this way:
"we meet with great difficulty in ascertaining the exact truth as to his agency in furnishing the materials for the Mormon Bible. It has been strongly affirmed that Rigdon furnished Smith with the whole manuscript, which, it is said, he obtained in Pittsburgh from a printing office. It is undoubtedly true, according to Rigdon's own account, that he was living in Pittsburgh at the time of the supposed revelation. He claims he was a settled Baptist minister in that city, and denies having any knowledge of any such manuscript. A considerable amount of evidence exists that Smith obtained possession of a fanciful romance, written [by]... Rev. Solomon Spaulding... If Rigdon had any hand in this, it was with the utmost secrecy that he gave his assistance to Smith. It is due to Rigdon, who now stands well for veracity and integrity among all who know him, to give full weight to his positive denial of such a share in the production of the so-called new revelation. At least we must admit, unless his memory is treacherous, or a long habit of denial has distorted his own conviction and belief. that such a denial from a respectable and honorable man of his age, soon to render up his account, is entitled to credit."So much for Sidney Rigdon and his "long habit of denial."
All good things must reach an end, and Matthew's final bouquet is cast our way with this suggestion:
"One of the most damaging refutations of the Spaulding [sic] theory comes from Oliver Cowdery, who served as the principal scribe during the majority of the Book of Mormon's translation. He forthrightly affirmed, 'I wrote, with my own pen, the entire Book of Mormon (save a few pages), as it fell from the lips of the Prophet Joseph Smith, as he translated it by the gift and power of God... Sidney Rigdon did not write it. Mr. Spaulding did not write it. I wrote it myself, as it fell from the lips of the Prophet.'"Or so says Elder Reuben Miller, in his journal entry of Oct. 21, 1848. Did Reuben write down Cowdery's words precisely? Perhaps he did. What else could Oliver say -- that Joe Smith had forced him and Harris and the Whitmers out of the Church because they disagreed with "The First Elder" on various Church matters, like adultery, counterfeiting, and lying to or cheating the Saints? Certainly he was not about to go down into the baptismal water with his brother-in-law John Whitmer's words upon his lips, telling about how the Danites were ready to murder them, if they did not flee Far West after Sidney Rigdon's 1838 "salt sermon." I give Oliver's explicit communication (as recorded by Miller) about the same degree of belief as I do Oliver's implicit communication (as recorded by Judge W. Lang) -- "
"Mr. Cowdery never spoke of his connection with the Mormons to anybody except to me. We were intimate friends. The plates were never translated and could not be, were never intended to be. What is claimed to be a translation is the 'Manuscript Found' worked over by Cowdery. He was the best scholar amongst them. Rigdon got the original at the job-printing office in Pittsburg, as I have stated. I often expressed my objection to the frequent repetition of "And it came to pass," to Mr. Cowdery, and said that a true scholar ought to have avoided that, which only provoked a smile from Cowdery. Without going into detail or disclosing a confided word, I say to you that I do know, as well as can now be known, that Cowdery revised the "manuscript," and Smith and Rigdon approved of it before it became the Book of Mormon. I have no knowledge of what became of the original. Never heard Cowdery say as to that."John St. John, who evidently knew Oliver in and around Buffalo, New York, prior to Cowdery's becoming a Mormon, expressed this estimation of the young gentleman in 1830: "On reading the name of Oliver Cowdry, in support of the divine authenticity of the work, whatever faith we might have been inspired with on reading the certificate [of the three witnesses], was banished, for we had known Cowdry some seven or eight years ago." So much for Oliver Cowdery.
In the Shadow of Solomon Spalding
For those of you who have not read Elder Wilford Smith's seminal paper, "In the Shadow of Solomon Spaulding [sic]," I pass along a few friendly suggestions, possibly applicable to future Mormon apologists who attempt to tackle the Spalding-Rigdon theory.
(1 Stick to reinforcing the traditional LDS tenets on this subject, prefacing your articles with the statements of the Three Witnesses and the Eight Witnesses, followed by your own testimony. Leave all but the most basic historical elements of the theory unmentioned, especially if you are not absolutely certain of all the available documentation touching on a certain item of history.
(2 Select a concise statement from an official LDS publication (preferably a fairly recent one, voiced by a General Authority) and limit your apologetics to elucidating that statement. If you cannot easily locate such an official pronouncement, use the following one from the Church's official instruction to its members:
"Some critics have suggested that Sidney Rigdon was a principal author of the Book of Mormon. They say that he used a romance by Solomon Spaulding called either Manuscript Found or Manuscript Story as a guide for the historical portions of this work. There is no evidence, however, that Sidney Rigdon knew Joseph Smith before the Book of Mormon was published. Elder Rigdon's own testimony is that the first time he heard of the book was in October 1830 when a copy was handed to him by Parley P. Pratt. Solomon Spaulding's manuscript was discovered in the 1880s, and it bears no resemblance to the Book of Mormon. This obviously fabricated yet widely-propounded Spaulding-Rigdon theory is an attempt by Satan to discredit the word of God." Church History in the Fulness of Times, LDS Church Educational System, 1989, 1993 (for Religion Classes 341-43) p. 59(3 Leave points of potential argument unmentioned. If you must acknowledge the accusative assertions of a non-member (or a member on the verge of apostasy), admit that his points are "controversial" ones, even if 99% of the weight of the controversy is against you -- then move on to other, less contestable things.
(4 Seize the moral high ground. Point out how "enemies" of the Church have used "controversial" claims to "persecute" the Saints in the past and imply that those disagreeing with "fulness of the restored and everlasting gospel" are doing much the same today.
(5 End on a conciliatory note. Say that those who oppose the Church may be "sincere" but that they are also "sincerely wrong." Say that they have made several good points, but that they obviously do not understand the LDS teachings fully. Invite them to future "study" and "dialog" -- but on your terms and on your home ground.
(6 Keep an eye upon what the Brethren have to say -- doctrine may change in the future and you don't want to be left defending a Manchester, New York location for Cumorah, the curse of Cain upon dark-skinned people, or Solomon Spalding's only ever writing one manuscript, if the top leadership implies or admits otherwise.
A Word of Thanks
I wish to express my gratitude to Matthew B. Brown and to the fine folks at the FAIR web-site for putting up with my linguistic idiosyncrasies and for giving me permission to quote their text and make use of their graphics. I hope I have not been as harsh with them as the proverbial "anti" might have been, when discussing the same subject and citing the same historical items. It has never been my intent to damage the faith of my LDS friends, and far less to demolish their church -- I only seek to destroy their apathy in certain instances, where I hear them declaring "All is well in Zion, yea Zion prospereth." As I reported to Dr. Jeffrey R. Holland in 1979, "Until a comprehensive study [is made of the Spalding claims]... the Church will not have a definitive basis from which to draw detailed information for confirmation or refutation of the claims of those who seek to make the text of the Book of Mormon dependent upon the pre-existing Spaulding romance. Such a study is now easily possible and should be given immediate and full support by the Church." Not much has changed since then, as I view it.
Should the FAIRites decide to grant me a mention and a link at their site, I hope they let me know in advance; as I'd hate to suffer a heart attack whilst happening upon such an astonishing acknowledgment unawares, browsing through their virtual latter day work.
Dale R. Broadhurst
March 5, 2003
1 Even if the Mormons had been unable to find Gentile surrogates to claim that the document discovered in Honolulu was the celebrated "Manuscript Found," we can be sure that they would have made that identification themselves. The RLDS were so eager to equate the Oberlin document with the "Manuscript Found," that they published the text under that title in 1885. The LDS were at first slightly more circumspect; their 1886 edition of the text was called Manuscript Story but on the title page the publisher (Deseret News Press) prefixed the blurb "The 'Manuscript Found.'" Finally, in 1996, the BYU edition firmly affixed the "Manuscript Found" title to its new LDS-sponsored rendering of the story. In fact, as it was pointed out by numerous early investigators, the Oberlin document is an extremely poor match for what Solomon Spalding's associates and family remembered him writing as his "lost tribes" historical novel. The unfinished Spalding holograph now at Oberlin is far too rough a production to have ever been submitted to any printer for publication and does not bear any title, other than a notation penciled by an unknown hand on its wrapping paper: "Manuscript Story -- Conneaut Creek." The first public voiced raised in protest of the Fairchild-Rice-Mormon misidentification of the Oberlin manuscript was that of the Rev. Robert Patterson, jr., whose "Spalding's 'Manuscript Found,'" appeared in the Sept. 16, 1885 issue of the Pittsburgh Presbyterian Banner. Patterson argued: "That the Honolulu document does not bear this title ("Manuscript Found") and does not contain these names and incidents [as quoted by the old witnesses], proves clearly that it is not the same story." Patterson's article was quickly followed by the Rev. Dr. William H. Whitsitt's article, "The Honolulu Manuscript and the Book of Mormon" in the Oct. 1, 1885 issue of the NYC paper, The Independent. Whitsitt had heard enough of a description of the Oberlin manuscript's story in the newspapers to understand that it had been described 50 years previous in Mormonism Unvailed. He says: "Mr. Hurlbut was provided with an order directed to its custodian, Mr. Jerome Clark, of the township of Hartwick, by the terms of which that gentleman was required to place the literary contents of it in the hands of the bearer. These Hurlbut took away with him and fetched to Painesville, where he committed them to the care of Howe." After quoting Howe's 1834 description of the "Conneaut Creek" story, Whitsitt goes on to say, "The description of the Honolulu Manuscript which has now been supplied, renders it reasonably apparent that it is the same document as that which Hurlbut obtained from the old hair trunk in the garret of Jerome Clark." Whitsitt directed his attention to opening a correspondence with Fairchild and tried to convince the Oberlin President of his error in assuming the Honolulu find was the "Manuscript Found." At the same time, Rev. Patterson established contact with Lewis L. Rice and attempted to inform Rice of facts he might not have yet known regarding the Spalding claims. In the short run, Patterson was more successful in reorienting Rice's views than Whitsitt was in getting Fairchild's quick agreement. Prior to all this, back in Hawaii, Lewis L. Rice exhibited his Spalding manuscript to a small circle of his friends in Honolulu and they all had several weeks to ponder its identity and significance before Mr. Rice finally sent the document to Oberlin College on June 12, 1885. We should not suppose that Rice's circle of friends were unanimous in concluding (as Dr. Fairchild so quickly did) that the manuscript discovery in Honolulu disproved the old Spalding-Rigdon authorship claims. For example, one of Rice's friends, the Rev. Sereno E. Bishop, carefully studied the manuscript and eventually had his report of its contents published in the prominent New York City religious paper, The Independent, (on Sept. 10, 1885). After noting the evident dissimilarities between the newly discovered "Roman" story and the Book of Mormon, Rev. Bishop goes on to report that both the manuscript and the Mormon scripture contain strangely unique character names -- also, that "both record a series of desperate wars; both narrate a voyage across the Atlantic in ancient times, and a settlement in North America." Rev. Bishop advised L. L. Rice of a possible relationship between the manuscript and the Book of Mormon; he was aware that the texts might share a significant literary relationship, but his study of them was not extensive enough to demonstrate a confirmed connection. Rev. Bishop steered Mr. Rice away from handing the text over to the Mormons -- perhaps because Bishop was afraid that such probable connections, if they existed, would become inaccessible to future textual scholars once the Saints had exclusive control over the document.
2 Fairchild had been away from the home of Lewis L. Rice's son-in-law for a few days. He returned to say his farewell, eat dinner, and perhaps pick up some laundry, etc. Although he left for the John Whitney house "at noon," it took a while for the carriage to get there and for the cook to prepare the meal. All accounts of this incident agree in saying that Fairchild was not shown the Spalding manuscript until he had sat down to dinner. He had about an hour to examine the document. It may be that President Fairchild seized upon this hour-long opportunity (to conclude that the Oberlin manuscript "bears no resemblance to the Book of Mormon"), in order to remove a decades-old stain upon his the honor of his extended family. In 1845 his cousin, William Buell Fairchild, published an article in a prominent literary periodical, in which he said: "No one... who knew Joe Smith, had the most distant idea that he was the author [of the Book of Mormon]... Others had the credit, there, for all this -- and among them figured conspicuously Sidney Rigdon, and a gentleman of Palmyra, New York, whose name we shall now withhold, from regard for his connections, but who was willing to sink so far his good name for the sake of making to himself a few dollars by publishing the "Golden Bible." These two were then supposed... of availing themselves of the work of a third man... The real author of the Mormon Book was the Rev. Solomon Spaulding." William Buell Fairchild was a man of interesting family connections. His uncle Daniel Fairchild had a daughter: Harriet Fairchild (1798-1885), who married William Alverson in 1819 and soon after moved to Brownhelm township, Huron (now part of Lorain) Co., Ohio, not far from the town of Oberlin. On Feb. 19, 1823 Harriet and William had a son, Daniel Fairchild Alverson, who, on June 15, 1848, married Sarah Cowdery (1822-1906), a second cousin of the Mormon Elder, Oliver Cowdery. William Buell Fairchild's connection with things Mormon does no stop with his being related to Oliver Cowdery, however. William's uncle, Daniel Fairchild, had another offspring named Grandison Fairchild (1792-1890), who was the father of the famous James Harris Fairchild (1817-1902), President of Oberlin College. Young James H. Fairchild grew up in very close proximity with Daniel Fairchild Alverson, the future husband of Sarah Cowdery. Her father, Benjamin Franklin Cowdery, published the Oberlin Evangelist between 1839 and 1842. B. Franklin Cowdery was obviously well known to Professor James H. Fairchild, who was by then employed by the famous college in that little town. ["Daniel Fairchild Alverson probably first became acquainted with Sarah Cowdery while her father and his family were living in Oberlin." --- updated information: Mary B. Alverson Mehling, in her 1911 Cowdrey Genealogy supplies personal information stating that her father (Daniel) and her mother (Sarah) first met while both were members of the same church in Rochester New York, at a period following their residence in Ohio.] Young James H. Fairchild attended the newly established Oberlin College between 1834 and 1838. Among his classmates during the first half of his studies was Lorenzo Snow, the future President of the Mormon Church, who completed one term of study there during 1833-34. James H. Fairchild evidently struggled to bury the Spalding claims, partly perhaps they had left such a black mark upon the extended Fairchild-Cowdery family. William B. Fairchild had never divulged the name of the second perpetrator of the Book of Mormon, other than to say that the unnamed man was involved in the book's publication and had some "connections." When William wrote his 1845 article he was almost certainly aware of the long-standing family "connections" between the Fairchilds and the Cowderys. In 1900 President Snow's son, Elder Le Roi. C. Snow, visited Oberlin College and received a warm welcome there from Professor Azariah Smith Root, who "said he had read and heard so much of" Lorenzo Snow, and that "he was deeply interested in [him as] the present President of the Mormon Church." President Snow was briefly Fairchild's class made at the school in the mens younger days. It may also be worth noting that Elder Jedidiah M. Grant (father of LDS President Heber Grant) took Susan Noble Fairchild (1832-1914) as a wife in 1848; she was the daughter of Charles Fairchild and Eunice Noble of Genesee Co., New York, but was raised mostly by Eunice's parents, Ezekiel and Theodocia Bates Noble of Penfield, Monroe Co., New York. Her uncle was the notable early Mormon Elder, Joseph Bates Noble (1810-1902) Elizabeth Fairchild (1828-1910) was a plural wife of Brigham Young. She came from Ohio, lived in Nauvoo, and apparently died in Utah, estranged from Brigham. She was the daughter of Joshua Moroni Fairchild, (1797-1891) who took Prudence Fenner (a widow living in Ohio) as his third wife during the late 1820s. By 1831 Joshua and Prudence were both Mormons -- they moved that year to Jackson Co., Missouri. Sons Alma and Moroni Fairchild were born to them in Clay Co., Missouri in 1833 and 1835. Both sons later emigrated to Utah and may have accompanied their father to Idaho. Although Moroni and Alma Fairchild were named well after the 1830 publication of the Book of Mormon, one can only conjecture as to how a man born in 1797 came to possess the interesting middle name "Moroni." Lastly, I believe that President James H. Fairchild was well aware of the 1845 article, written by his father's first cousin and that President Fairchild was aware of much the same information that William Buell Fairchild kept to himself when he wrote his 1845 article. -- President Fairchild's 1884 journal entries show that he had the Spalding manuscript found in Honolulu in his hands for only about an hour before he left Hawaii for the U. S. mainland. Yet, in that very short time -- in which he could have devoted only a few seconds to reading each of the document's pages -- he became determined that an exposure of the manuscript would help disprove the Spalding authorship claims and delight the Mormons. We can only wonder what President Fairchild's motives were then, and in later years, when he did so much to cover over the old Spalding claims.
3 L. L. Rice's change of mind on the identity and significance of the Spalding manuscript discovered among his papers was probably finalized in the fall of 1885, when he read Robert Patterson's 1882 essay on the Spalding-Rigdon authorship claims. On Oct. 7th Rice wrote to Patterson, saying: "It seems impossible after reading this pamphlet of yours, to come to any other conclusion than that Joe Smith or Rigdon, one or both, was the real getter-up of the Book of Mormon, with the aid of Solomon Spaulding's writings." In making this statement Rice had come full circle from his initial and preliminary impressions (that the document he discovered in 1884 was the only thing Spalding ever wrote and that it provided proof that the Spalding authorship claims were false). However, by the time Rice came to these new understandings, his earlier statements had already been widely circulated in support of anti-Spalding position and some of those same statements then being printed in the Preface to the 1885 RLDS edition of the Oberlin manuscript. The Mormons were only interested in circulating that portion of Rice's correspondence or public announcements in which he supported their position. Not a word of his change in views has ever been admitted in any LDS or RLDS publication, despite the fact that editors and leaders in these churches were monitoring newspaper articles mentioning Mr. Rice and quickly noticed his obituaries in the Honolulu press.
4 See, for example, Charles M. Turner's 1984 paper, "Sister Emma's Last Testimony: A Critical Analysis," especially his note 7, where Turner says: "Part of the impetus for the interview [with Emma in 1879] was provided by James T. Cobb, a Salt Lake City liberal, with whom Joseph Smith III was in correspondence. Cobb questioned many details of the traditional account of Mormon origins, theorizing that Sidney Rigdon and Joseph Smith, Jr. were co-conspirators in a religious fraud. Shortly after interviewing his mother, Joseph Smith III wrote to Cobb, triumphantly announcing that her testimony demolished Cobb's theories about Rigdon and the Book of Mormon. See Joseph Smith III to James T. Cobb, February 14, 1879, Joseph Smith III Letterbook #2, P6, RLDS Archives." The relevant section from Joseph III's letter to Cobb says: "I have just returned [from visiting Emma]... [she] informs me that... she never saw, or knew any Sidney Rigdon until long after the Book of Mormon was translated, and she thinks, published... Every argument advanced by you in support of the theory, that Sidney Rigdon was the responsible "Black Pope" behind the throne moving upon the pliant mind of Joseph Smith, it seems to me, is defeated by this plain statement.... My mother further states that she knew the Pratts before she knew Rigdon, and it is quite positive that Joseph Smith became acquainted with him through the Pratts, one or both. The precise date when she became acquainted with the Messrs. P[arley] P. & O[rson] Pratt, she does not state, but is certain of the fact, that acquaintance with them preceeded acquaintance one with S. Rigdon. S. Rigdon may have been at Bainbridge in '26; so may have Napoleon 3rd, but that by no means proves more than an opportunity for an acquaintance between Joseph Smith and him, if it be shown that Joseph Smith was there at the time." -- From this, it would appear that Emma dated her husband's "acquaintance" with Rigdon by what she could recall of Joseph's "acquaintance" with Parley P. Pratt -- which merely begs the question of when all of that transpired. None of this sounds very definite, and the most than can be drawn from Emma's statement is that she did not know of her husband being "acquainted" with Sidney Rigdon, until after he became "acquainted" with Parley P. Pratt, and that all of this was, she "thinks," after the Book of Mormon was published. Several advocates of the Spalding-Rigdon theory surmise that it was the traveling peddler, Parley P. Pratt, who first informed Rigdon about the Seer of Palmyra, well before 1830. Rigdon's LDS biographer, Richard Van Wagoner, says: "There can be little doubt that Rigdon, an enthusiastic reader of newspapers, was aware of the book [of Mormon] before it was placed in his hands. Orson Hyde, a ministerial apprentice who lived for some time in Rigdon's Mentor home and who would later be associated with him in Mormonism, wrote that about 1827 "some vague reports came in the newspapers, that a 'golden bible' had been dug out of a rock in the State of New York." Recalling that Elder Parley P. Pratt was slightly senior to Elder Orson Hyde in the pre-Mormon, Rigdonite church in northern Ohio, might we not reasonably infer that "there can be little doubt that" the well-traveled Pratt also "was aware of the book" well before "it was placed in his hands" by strangers in Newark, Wayne Co., New York in 1830? Surely this is a matter requiring more close investigation.
5 I've been too lazy to compile a list of Rigdon's personal denials and denials excerpted from second or third hand reports. I suppose that the task really should be undertaken by somebody who cares to explicate the man's attempts to disassociate himself from the various rumors supposedly involving him in the production of the Book of Mormon. For example, Matthew says that "David Whitmer emphatically stated that he 'heard (Sidney) Rigdon, in the pulpit and in private conversations, declare that the Spaulding story -- that he had used a book called 'The Manuscript Found' for the purpose of preparing the 'Book of Mormon' -- was... false... (and) as untruthful as it is ridiculous.'" Matthew cites the Oct. 17, 1881 issue of the Chicago Times for this statement, but I can only find it (in possibly different form, I can tell with the ellipses in Matthew's quotation) in an edited version published by the Richmond Conservator. This old recollection of Whitmer's might productively be compared and contrasted with an old recollection provided in 1872 by members of the Mormon Bronson family, and with other, similar reminiscences. I do not question the validity of rumors saying that Rigdon delivered such pulpit speeches, both before and after his 1844 excommunication from the Church, but I have yet to locate such a sermon text, original or published, so I cannot well comment upon the content of those sorts of attributed denials. Should I ever shake off my lethargy and get around to compiling a list of Rigdon disavowals of the Spalding claims, etc., I'll add a documentary note to that effect here.