- Dale R. Broadhurst's  SPALDING  RESEARCH  PROJECT -

The Dale R. Broadhurst Spalding Papers

Paper #13: The Lost Works of Solomon Spalding.

Introduction: Additional Spalding Manuscripts  |  Part II: Was a Spalding Lost Tribes Story Recovered in 1833?

The Lost Works of Solomon Spalding

Part One

Did Spalding Write a Lost Tribes Story?

One of the earliest and most persistent elements of reports regarding Rev. Solomon Spalding (1761-1816) is that he wrote a "Lost Tribes of Israel" story while living at Conneaut Ohio and during his final years in Pennsylvania. Mormon defenders have avoided crediting the author with any such "biblical" production; while hostile critics of the Book of Mormon have seen such reports as being nothing other than confirmation that Spalding did indeed write the first Latter Day Saint scriptural book.

A Middle-Ground View?

In what may yet prove to be many decades of misguided effort on both sides, literally no one has considered a third possibility: namely, that the irreligious former preacher may have written a story of lost Israelite tribes that was in no way connected with the Book of Mormon. This overlooked possibility offers a middle ground in the old Spalding Authorship controversy which might explain much, vindicate a considerable amount of the testimony gathered for the early anti-Mormon productions, and still leave in tact some of the Saints' precious grounds for belief in an historically "true" Book of Mormon. I've dusted off some of my old, unpublished notes on this subject and given them a fresh format for this web-document presentation.

The Evidence for a Spalding "Ten Lost Tribes" Manuscript

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last updated: Oct. 24, 2000

While it may never amount to definite proof, there is a considerable body of evidence supporting the probability that Solomon Spalding, beginning at least as early as the period of his residence at Conneaut, wrote a story intending to credit evidences of the American "mound-builder" Indian culture to a forgotten colonization by the Lost Tribes of Israel. I'll outline a major portion of this evidence, here on this web-page and provide supporting references by way of the links scattered throughout this document.

1. DanielTyler Letter  of Jan. 16, 1878, printed in the Salt Lake City Deseret Evening News: Tyler's family were residents in the Conneaut area prior to D. P. Hurlbut's various activities there. Tyler gives information obtained from local residents who knew Spalding personally, saying he "had written a romance on a few mounds at the above named village, pretending that the ten tribes crossed from the eastern hemisphere via the Bering 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 had heard it read, referred to them as idolaters and not otherwise religious."

This statement, by a man who appears to have been a fairly objective reporter, provides some good, local reminiscences which may supplement some story details found in Spalding's surviving manuscript, now on file in the Oberlin Archives. On page 32 of that story, the novel's narrator, a certain Fabius, relates that the ancient Americans had a tradition "that their ancestors came from the west," perhaps from as far away as "the eastern continent." Further on in Spalding's romance Fabius provides the story of a great leader and reformer named Lobaska (or Baska). On page 65 Lobaska tells the astonished ancient tribes of the Ohio Valley that he has come "a great distance from the westward." While Spalding never states that Lobaska and his family were wandering Israelites, he wrote of them as being of a higher and more religiously advanced monotheistic culture They were, apparently, of a different race, with skin "a little whiter" than that of the mound-builders. These same tribes, mixed with the descendants of Lobaska do, in fact, later construct "mounds" in which "to bury the dead after some hard fighting."

It takes very little imagination to picture the Conneaut writer speculating in conversation with his friends and neighbors about wandering Israelites having been among the progenitors of the American Indians. If we take into consideration the strong likelihood that Spalding knew the Rev. Ethan Smith and had access to that friend's writings on Israelite Indians prior to his 1823 publication of View of the Hebrews, the picture of Spalding writing and conversing on such matters becomes very plausible indeed. Spalding would not have needed to write a lengthy book to impress upon local memories that he wished to record his Indian origin speculations in a work of fiction; a few stray pages of Israelite "history," temporarily interleaved with what became the Oberlin document, would have accomplished that task nicely. (See item #7 below for a discussion of the works of Ethan Smith and their possible relation to Spalding's works.)

Tyler drew his knowledge concerning the Spalding "lost tribes" story from Erastus Rudd, an early Mormon convert from the vicinity just immediately east of Conneaut, Ohio. Erastus, his brother John, and their father, John Rudd, Sr., knew Spalding personally. The elder Rudd had purchased his land at the far corner of NW Erie Co., Pennsylvania from Spalding while their families lived back in Richfield, Otsego Co., New York. The Rudds and Solomon Spalding's family moved to the Conneaut region in the latter half of the first decade of the 1800s and lived within walking distance of each other, on either side of the Ohio-Pennsylvania state line.

2. Abner Jackson Letter  of Dec, 20, 1880 in the Pennsylvania Washington Reporter; Jackson knew Spalding personally; his family were residents in the Conneaut area prior to Elder D. P. Hurlbut's mission to that region. Jackson gives information from personal knowledge, stating: "about the beginning of the year 1812, (Spalding) commenced to write his famous romance called by him the Manuscript Found . . . A note in Morse's Geography suggested it as a possibility that our Indians were descendants of the lost tribes of Israel . . . wandered through Asia up to Behring's Strait, and across the Strait to this continent . . . (this idea and his Ohio mound-builder discoveries) prompted him to write his romance, purporting to be a history of the lost tribes of Israel, He begins with their departure from Palestine . . . their craft for passing over the Straits . . . landing . . . divisions and subdivisions . . . civilization . . . quarrelled . . . a terrible battle . . . Spaulding's romance professed to find the record . . . in one of these mounds"

Abner was a member of the "family of the name of Jackson" recalled by Mormon Elder, Benjamin Winchester in 1840. Winchester confirms that the Jacksons residing near Conneaut "were personally acquainted with the now celebrated Solomon Spaulding." Like John Rudd, Sr., (see "Daniel Tyler Letter" above), Abner's father, Lyman Jackson, purchased Pennsylvania land from Solomon Spalding while living back in Ritchfield, Otsego Co., New York. The Rudds and Jackson families inter-married, with Abner's sister, Rosanna, being the wife of Mormon convert John Rudd, Jr. In his statement Abner Jackson provides a number of details which might have only come from a person who was at least somewhat acquainted with the Rev. Spalding. Having been a neighbor of the author and having seen his writings, we might expect Abner to give a good account of their content. Alas, this is not the case. After describing what appears to have been a lost tribes story only superficially similar to the Book of Mormon,Jackson goes on to give more details to prove this same story was the Saints' scripture. Obviously both sets of details cannot and do not agree. Either Spalding wrote a story of Josephite followers of Lehi crossing the ocean in ships to populate the Americas, or he wrote a story of the ten northern tribes of Israel crossing over the Bering Strait. Similar, but separate stories can occur in the same work, of course. The book of Ether can sound a bit like the first book of Nephi in places. But even the most superficial of examiners would not state that the Ether story formed the overall outline for the Nephite Record. By the same token, a lost tribes story, as first recounted by Jackson, could not form the overall outline for what we now know as the Book of Mormon.

After carefully examining Jackson's statement and comparing it with others of with similar content, I believe that he allowed his later reading of the Book of Mormon to color his earlier memories of a Spalding Israelite story. If Spalding did indeed produce such a "lost romance," we might expect that its story might have paralleled that of the Oberlin novel in some respects, perhaps even reproducing some of its names like Labanco, Jesus Christ, and Jeshuran. If Rev. Spalding added to that a larger measure of scriptural English than he wrote into the Oberlin document, and then threw in a few biblical names, like Samuel and Joseph, it would be easy to see how an eyewitness like Jackson could come away from a cursory reading of the Book of Mormon believing it to have been the Spalding Israelite story he had seen years before.

There are other elements in the Oberlin romance which may have confused Jackson and others into thinking it or some related Spalding writing was the original text for the Book of Mormon. Both texts possess a good number of thematic parallels; but some (if not all) of these might reasonably be expected to occur in any two works relating hitherto unknown histories of the American native tribes, their wars of extermination, and the devolution of their once great societies. Both works contain a number of unique names containing full or partial repetitions of the same syllables from their relatives' names; but this could easily be a simple coincidence. However, beyond these kinds of similarities, the eye of a reader like Jackson might have been surprised to see some very similar phraseology in the Mormon book and any work written by Spalding. Here are some examples:
Spalding:   those who shall die. . . in the cause of their country and their God
B. of M.:   they have died in the cause of their country and of their God

Spalding:   Determined to conquer or die,
B. of M.:   they were determined to conquer in this place or die

Spalding:   It is impossible to describe the horror of the bloody scene . . .
                    the blood and carnage

B. of M.:   It is impossible . . . to describe . . . the horrible scene of
                     the blood and carnage
If Spalding coupled such phraseology with the scriptural language and the kinds of names we might expect to find in a novel about the lost tribes of Israel, it becomes rather obvious how the casual reader could confuse such a production with the language and story of the Book of Mormon. I believe this is the most likely reason why readers of the Yankee preacher's odd fictional creations later recalled the name of Solomon Spalding when they read or heard certain parts of the Book of Mormon. Acceptance of the possibly that Rev. Spalding wrote a biblical-sounding novel about Israelites coming to the Americas would not automatically make him a candidate for writing ersatz Nephite records; it would, however, greatly help to explain why his old friends, neighbors and relatives thought he had done such a thing.

3. Lorin Gould's Statement  of Dec, 23, 1880 taken by Ellen E. Dickinson: Gould resided in Conneaut prior to Hurlbut's activities there. He states that some of the Conneaut witnesses told him of "a manuscript written by Solomon Spaulding, which they had heard Spaulding read in 1811 or 1812, called the 'Ms Found, or the Lost Tribes.'"

4. Hiram Lake's Statement  of Dec. 23, 1880 taken by Ellen E. Dickinson: Henry Lake's son, who was an adult in Conneaut prior to Hurlbut's activities there, was told by his father of a Spalding work, "Ms Found, or the Lost Tribes."

The careful examiner must always exercise a little suspicion when near identical statements surface in the records of an interviewer. If one person giving testimony has an occasion to read the words of another deponent, he or she may simply say the same thing to avoid the appearance of confusion or to strengthen some mutually held goal or desire. It is conceiveable that Mrs. Dickinson prompted her deponents to say essentially the same things to her. But, even if that were the case, we should take note of the fact that several persons recount the story that Spalding entitled at least one of his works "the Lost Tribes." This supposed fact does not serve to strengthen claims that he wrote the Nephite Record. It might actually work in the opposite direction to dilute the claims that Spalding's work was identical to the story of the Lehites. The New World colonists of the Nephite and Etherite records are represented as being neither lost nor entire Israelite tribes.

5. Redick McKee Letter  of Jan 25, 1886 to Arthur B. Deming (original in Chicago Hist. Soc. Coll.) McKee was personally acquainted with Spalding in Amity, Pennsyvlania. He also knew Spalding's adopted daughter and derived additional infermation from her. He states: (Spalding's daughter) . . . distinctly recollected that he wrote two or more stories in support of the theory that the Indians of North America were lineal descendants of the Jews . . . (the Roman) romance he afterwards abandoned and set about writing a more probable story founded on the history of the ten lost tribes of Israel . . . their bloody wars . . . crossing the ocean by Behring's Straits to North America, thus becoming the progenitors of the Indians . . . this was the story which her uncle John (Spalding), Mr. Lake, Mr. Miller and other neighbors heard him read at Conneaut . . . "

6. S. S. Osborn Statement  taken in mid-1886 by Arthur B. Deming and printed in his Naked Truths #1. Osborn tells of seeing an old Spalding manuscript in Middleton, Vermont in 1871, stating: "there may have been quire or more or less of it stitched together: it purported to be an account of the journeyings of the ten lost tribes of Israel to America, and what they did and became on this continent . . . it did not interest me much." Deming went to great trouble to procure the Osborn Statement, believing that the Spalding manuscript mentioned therein had been written in "the East," before Solomon Spalding ever moved to Ohio.

7. Article paraphrasing a grandson of Ethan Smith (1762-1849)  printed in the April 24, 1887 issue of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The grandson tells that Ethan Smith early wrote a romance "taking as its foundation the migration of the lost tribes of Israel to the western continent . . . the hegira from Palestine . . . quarrels . . . bloody wars . . . Solomon Spaulding was a warm admirer of Dr. Smith {Ethan Smith? Dr. John Smith of Dartmouth College? -- or both?} . . . interested in his theories regarding the settlement of America . . . taking the latter's views as expressed in his book Spaulding some years later wrote his famous 'Ms Found.'" The grandson goes on to relate that Spalding obtained the Ethan Smith romance and that it was never returned,

Middleton, Vermont, where S. S. Osborn (see item #6, above) saw what he thought was a Spalding ten tribes story, and Poultney, Vermont, where Ethan Smith wrote and published his View of the Hebrews, are within a few miles of each other. This area was the scene of the "Wood money-digging cult" c, 1798-1803, The Woods professed to have ancient Hebrew secrets, to be the modern descendants of Israelites, to be able to detect Hebrew descent in persons through the use of divining rods, etc. Oliver Cowdery's father, William, was reported to have been associated with the cult and to have been a user of divining rods, while Oliver himself is said to have "possessed the gift of the rod." Oliver's mother (or step-mother) was a member of the same church where Ethan Smith was pastor, just prior to Ethan's arrival there.

In 1782 Solomon Spalding entered Dartmouth College, in Hanover New Hampshire, a stone's throw from the Vermont border and an hour's carriage ride to his cousin Ruben Spalding's home in Sharon, Vermont. Spalding's cousin lived a short distance from the Joseph Smith, Sr. family in the days before they moved to New York. Solomon graduated from Dartmouth in 1785 with a AB degree and is presumed to have spent at least a short season in the region of Sharon, Vermont before returning to his home state of Connecticut later that year. In Connecticut Spalding attempted to find a position as the headmaster of an academy, but appears to have been disappointed in this job search. He then returned to Dartmouth to work on his AM degree in Divinity. This he received in 1787, and he then returned again to Connecticut (where he was licensed as a preacher in 1787).

Ethan Smith entered Dartmouth in 1786 and perhaps lived in the Hanover-Sharon area, at least for a while before beginning his college studies. It is entirely within the temporal and geographic realms of possibility that the two young Congregationalist ministers in training met and became friends prior to Spalding's 1885 return to Connecticut. If not, they surely met and knew each other during the 1785-1787 period when Spalding was studying Divinity at Dartmouth. Solomon Spalding and Matilda Sabin were married in 1795 in Ethan Smith's hometown of Belchertown, Massachussetts -- in the same Congregational church attended by Smith's family. While Ethan Smith's View of the Hebrews was sometimes compared by knowledgeable researchers with the Book of Mormon as early as the mid-1920's, there is no evidence whatsoever that the thematic and vocabulary parallels in these two works were known by anyone so early as the printing of the Cleveland Plain Dealer article in 1887. Anti-Mormon writers were then frequently attributing Book of Mormon authorship to Spalding but none were pointing out the similarities with the works of Ethan Smith. And no one, other than Ethan Smith's grandson, was making mention of there ever having been any connection between the Rev. Solomon Spalding and the Rev. Ethan Smith. The grandson's statement has the ring of truth to it, in its general character if not in all of its details.

Items #6 and #7 present some improbable but not at all impossible links between several principal characters frequently mentioned in theories for a 19th century origin for the Book of Mormon. Depending on how one might choose to speculate about hitherto unrecognized connections between Spalding, Ethan Smith, the Joseph Smith, sr. family and the Cowdery family, there might be as many as a half-dozen different explanations as to how S. S. Osborn could have come across a Spalding lost tribes manuscript in Middleton, Vermont. Without these connections in time, space, vocation, religion, activities, and, in some cases, blood (Smith and Cowdery were cousins of a sort) we might be tempted to ignore statements like the one supplied by Osborn. Given these connections, however, his testimony of having seen a Spalding Israelite story cannot be dismissed out of hand.

Supplemental Evidence for a Spalding Lost Tribes Story

08. Eber D. Howe  The 1834 Eber D. Howe book and that Painesville editor's other reports on early Mormonism have never been popular references among faithful Mormon writers. In the 20th Century Howe has been mostly ignored by Anti-Mormons as well. His work seems curiously out of date in light of all the transformations within Latter Day Saintism since its Kirtland days. But Howe was the first publisher to relate the Spalding Authorship Theory in any detail and it is to him that we must return to see what was first said about these matters.

The Howe report says that Spalding's "Ms Found" was written in "the old scripture style." Howe personally journeyed to Conneaut to confirm the Conneaut witnesses' statements before publishing his book. Because of this precaution, the statements originally gathered by D. P. Hurlbut need not be entirely attributed to that excommunicated and disgruntled Elder's imagination or deceit. Some probable confirmation of Howe's reporting was given by Robert Patterson sr., of Pittsburgh. When questioned in April of 1842 by Samuel Williams, concerning whether Spalding brought the "Ms Found" to him for printing, Patterson acknowledged having reviewed "a manuscript of a singular work, chiefly in the style of our English translation of the Bible."

The statement supplied by Patterson does not identify the manuscript or its author by name, but his words give some support to the notion that Spalding brought a biblical-style romance to his shop in Pittsburgh for printing. The description given by Patterson does not match the Oberlin Ms or the other extant document attributable to Spalding, entitled "Romance of Celes." Both of these romances have "biblical phraseology" typical of the Authorized Version of the English Scriptures first printed in 1611. They also both contain small, piecemeal snippits of quotation from the Bible, but these instances of antique or biblical language do not occur to the point that their parent documents could be identified as having been written "in the style" of the Eible. The "Romance of Celes" does, however, contain a brief mention of how the "King James" English impresses people as being divine revelation, whereas modern language does not. No crediting of this passage to Spalding can be fully assured, but it adds another element to the possibility that he would have ventured into using biblical language if he wished to impress pious readers with some story of inspired revelation. Needless to say, such language would fit well into a purported record of the ten lost tribes, whose past and future have been the subject of so much religious attention speculation.

09. The Pioneer Magazine  was a local production of the Silas Engles Printshop in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The July 7, 1812 issue, contained the article "The American Indians Descended from the Israelites," which reprinted ideas set forth by James Adair on the origin of the native tribes of the Americas. Silas Engles was associated with the R. & J. Patterson Booksellers enterprise in Pittsburgh (through his employment by the Butler & Lambdin printing company) and probably also with their forerunners, the Patterson & Hopkins, bookselling company. Another Pittsburgh printing company (that of Cramer, Spear, & Eichbaum) also printed a magazine in that city; but their publication, The Western Gleaner confined its consideration of Indian origins and preColumbian antiquities to non-Israelite sources. If Engles and the Patterson brothers had already established a reputation of printing and selling works promoting the Hebraic Indian notion, that fact might help explain why Spalding would have taken a biblical romance (probably giving a fictional history for the ten lost tribes) to them for publishing.

In his Jan. 25, 1886 letter, Redick McKee, who knew Rev. Spalding personally, stated that "Mr. P(atterson) thought favorably of the printing, but his manager of the publishing department -- a Mr. Engles or English -- had doubts about its being remunerative . . ." In another McKee letter, printed in the Washington Telegraph in Nov. of 1885, McKee quotes Spalding's adopted daughter, Matilda, as relating a recollection from her Mother: "she accompanied her husband (Solomon Spalding) to the store of Mr. Patterson and heard a conversation in relation to the publication of the 'Ms.' There were two Mr. Pattersons present, one an elderly gentleman, with a remarkably mild, pleasant countenance, and much more robust than the other. The more slender Mr. Patterson told Mr. Spalding that he had read several chapters of the 'Ms' and was struck favorably with its curious descriptions and its likenesses to the ancient style of the Old Testament Scriptures."

A "likeness to the Old Testament" would be appropriate in a ten lost tribes story. The Patterson brother described as being so interested in the work was Joseph Patterson; Robert Patterson, sr. was perhaps less interested and gave the matter little further consideration. A few years before Spalding's arrival there in 1812, the residents of the Washington and Allegheny counties region, surrounding Pittsburgh, had been affected by outpourings from the religious revivals originating in nearby Kentucky. The religious sentiments of the settlers in that region were fertile ground for the growth of scripture affirming movements like Campbellism. It may have been expected that the local residents would likely condemn any fictional publication which appeared to imitate or satirize the Holy Bible. Publishers like the Patterson brothers would have had good reason for being hesitant in printing a lost tribes history; it might not have been well received by the Bible-readers of the American frontier. McKee's report of one Patterson brother being enthusiastic about publishing the Spalding work and the other brother being at least receptive to the idea may be of some significance. Spalding probably chose to take his manuscript to the Pattersons because he thought they were the most likely publishers in Pittsburgh to have have held an interest in printing an account of lost tribes compiled in the "likeness to the Old Testament."

10. The "Romance of Celes" contains a chapter that tells of a lost race of Hebrew-speaking people who have lapsed into superstition and unbelief. The hero of the story restores the Melchesidec priesthood among them. If this chapter in the c. 1845 transcript can be credited to Spalding (and I believe its origin might well be traced to his imaginative pen) this story strengthens the idea that Spalding was interested in lost Hebrew-speaking tribes and their religious histories.

11. The Myth of Manuscript Found  tells that some reports for the Spalding story remembered under this title identified the work as a ten lost tribes story. In this 1883 book (published before the finding of a Spalding manuscript in Honolulu the following year) Mormon Elder George Reynolds admits the possible validity of the "Lost Tribes" story memories of Spalding's old associates and takes the trouble to show how such a story would have to differ somewhat from the account given in the Book of Mormon. It is rather interesting to discover that Reynolds took the trouble to develop this particular line of defense for the Book of Mormon and its origins. In most of his arguments in that direction Reynolds simply followed the prior statements of Benjamin Winchester, as provided in his 1840 The Origin of the Spaulding Story . . . There Winchester quotes a member of the Jackson family (probably one of the several brothers of Abner Jackson -- these brother's sister, Rosanna, had married their neighbor, John Rudd, Jr., many years before the couple's c. 1834 Mormon baptism in Erie Co., PA) as saying: "Mr. Spaulding's manuscript was a very small work, in the form of a novel, saying not one word about the children of Israel." Reynolds, having examined many other statements and arguments regarding the Spalding authorship claims, was uncertain as to whether or not a "Lost Tribes" story had been written by Spalding. While, at one point in his booklet, Reynolds belittled the "highly improbable" idea "that Mr. Spaulding would write two entirely distinct and varying romances on the ancient inhabitants of America," he nevertheless devoted several pages of his 1883 work to demonstrating that just such a second, "Lost Tribes" Spalding production could not have furnished the basis for the Book of Mormon. Here Reynolds departed from his usual reliance upon Winchester, and perhaps expanded upon the pronouncement made by Charles B. Thompson in 1841: "Now, in order to know how much confidence we ought to place in these men's [the Conneaut witnesses'] testimony, we have only to read the "Book of Mormon," which will convince any man that these men have testified falsely, for the Book of Mormon does not pretend to give any account of the lost tribes of Israel, but gives a history of a remnant of the tribe of Joseph only."

It was only after the discovery in Hawaii that Mormon defenders began to formulate their near universal conclusion that Solomon Spalding had written only one story during his lifetime and that this "Roman story" manuscript was recovered in 1884 and purportrfly shown to have absolutely no resemblance whatever to the style, vocabulary, theme, or intentions to the account given in the Nephite Record.

12. The Boston Recorder  of April 19, 1839 contains a report of admittedly limited reliability. This report was published as a signed letter from Spalding's widow, Mrs. Matilda Spalding Davison. It was, in fact, the record of an interview with her and was perhaps heavily edited by D. R. Austin. Mrs. Davison is quoted in that report as saying that her husband wrote a story in the scriptural style in 1812. Mrs. Davison later said that some of the details published in her "letter" were true and she never specifically denied that her husband had written a book in the scriptural style. As I mentioned previously, the extant Spalding writings are not written in antique biblical English, but such language might be expected in a fictional history of the lost tribes of Israel.

13. Matilda Spalding Davison  is quoted in Jonathan B. Turner's 1842 Mormonism in all Ages, where he prints some information he received from the widow: "Mr. Spaulding wrote a manuscript, while living in Ohio, in the years 1810, '11 and '12, which he called the 'Ms Found,' It was an historical romance of the first settlers or America, endeavoring to show that the American Indians are the lost tribes, the descendants of the Jews, giving an account of their journey . . ." It is difficult to know for certain whether Turner, like D. R. Austin before him, altered or influenced Matilda Spalding Davison's words in this report. But, granting that the memory was probably a true one from the elderly woman, her statement agrees well with the one attributed to the lady in 1839. The only item of significant difference is her memory of Spalding having written about "the Jews." Only in the most general application of that term could the northern tribes of Israel have been called "Jews." The name could barely even be applied to the followers of Lehi in the Book of Mormon, who might conceivably be styled "proto-Jewish." But this oddity in her recollection may be explained as being nothing more than a generalization by a lady who thought of all Israelites as being more or less the same as the returnees from the exile and their Jewish descendants.

It is also difficult to know whether or not to attach any importance to the widow's saying that her husband was writing his lost tribes story as early as 1810. It was generally reported that the imaginative former clergyman was inspired to write a tale of the ancient inhabitants of the Americas after supervising the excavation of what was most likely a mound of the ancient Hopewell culture on or near his property in Conneaut, Ohio. This mound opening was said to have occurred in 1811. If Spalding began writing a lost tribes story prior to his Ohio excavation, he may have at first been more influenced in his pseudo-history writing by "a note in Morse's Geography," or by the unpublished writings of Ethan Smith and similar stuff, than he was by mound-builder antiquities. The opening of the Conneaut mound may have sparked the Rev. Spalding to set aside the drafting of his lost tribes tale long enough to jot down the very rough and unfinished romance now held by the Oberlin Archives. Following this unfruitful attempt at concocting a readable story, he could have returned to the Israelite story, or have started a new version of it from scratch. Spalding may well have penned a pile of original writings, both individually unique stories and a variety of revisions, all containing the story element of an ancient manuscript found in modern times.

14. Josiah Spalding,  'Solomon's brother, in his Jan. 6, l855 letter, gives a good description of the Oberlin Archive's "Roman story" from memory and notes it had only been written to the point of its telling of a war between the story's civilized people and their savage enemies. He may have been recalling the mound-builders' border conflicts with their savage neighbors, as noted in the Oberlin Ms; or he may have thought of that story's Kentucks as being less civilized than their Sciotan neighbors, who had received their religion and advanced society a little earlier than the southerners. Whatever may have been the case in that matter, Josiah also says that he later received word from Spalding's widow that his brother had continued the history to the point where the civilized ancient inhabitants of America had been destroyed by the savages. The copy of the "Roman story" which was discovered some thirty years later breaks off its narration before any such total destruction. Its narrator, Fabius, encountered an outpost of the ancient civilized people still in existance at the present day location of Pittsburgh. The story in the Oberlin document appears to be headed to some great climax in which most or all of its civilized peoples would be destroyed; but that point in history must have come sometime following Fabius' day, as he does not speak of such things after the opening lines on his "rolls of parchment." The Oberlin romance does not telegraph ahead exactly how Spalding intended to tell of its civilized peoples becoming extinct and I find it more than likely that he dropped the authoring of this storyline after he saw how poorly he was progressing in explaining the mound-builder extinction.

But Josiah says he was told that his brother's story ended with the triumph of the savages over the civilized peoples. Since this story element does not occur in the Oberlin document, it is reasonable to assume that Spalding, if he indeed told such a tale, must have done so in some other manuscript. Either the Roman story was re-written and extended, or its general features were reproduced in another, completed Spalding story. The author's whole point in writing a lost tribes story was to explain the demise of the advanced society of extinct mound-builders following their great wars in ancient America. Josiah's 1855 statement can be most easily accounted for if his brother did write a lost tribes story telling of these wars of extermination.

15. Charles A. Dana  wrote in his article "Mormons" (printed in Appleton's New American Cyclopedia, 1861) "During his residence in Ohio in 1810-'11-'12, he (Rev. Spalding) wrote a romance to account for the peopling of America by deriving the Indians from the Hebrews,
in accordance with an absurd notion then prevalent in some parts of the country that the American Indians were descended from from the lost tribes of Israel. As early as 1813 this work was announced in the newspapers." Dana appears to have simply reproduced the statement he found in Turner's 1842 book. But he added to those lines the interesting note that Spalding's forthcoming lost tribes pseudo-history was "announced in the newspapers" (presumably those of Washington and Allegheny counties) "as early as 1813." It may be tempting to explain away Dana's allegation as a muddled recollection of someone having seen the 1812 advertisements for Silas Engles' printing of The Pioneer magazine and its article, "The American Indians Descended from the Israelites."

But there may be more to the Dana account than just confusion of half-remembered old facts. It is even remotely possible that Solomon Spalding had a hand in bringing James Adair's writings to the attention of The Pioneer's editor, Rev. David Graham, and subsequently may have mentioned that particular 1812 "Lost Tribes" article in a printed letter or his own article regarding its subject matter. Spalding may indeed have circulated a printed prospectus and subscription sheet for his intended "Lost Tribes" book in the Pittsburgh region, though without his own name and details that would in any way connect it to the later Book of Mormon. If this were the case it would not be remarkable that no historical researcher has ever reported seeing such an item. However, if any notice from Spalding or his intended publishing partners can ever be located among the files of early Pennsylvania publications, perhaps Dana's allegation could be substantiated.

Although some other writer working for editors Ripley and Dana may have composed the basic text for their encyclopedia's "Mormonism" article, the probability that Dana himself inserted the 1813 newspaper announcement information is straightened by the fact that Dana's paternal grandfather came from Solomon Spalding's hometown of Ashford, Connecticut and was his contemporary when the men were schoolboys in that village.

16. Redick McKee Letter  of April 14, 1869 printed in the Washington Reporter. Mr. McKee, who lived with the Spaldings in Amity, says that while Solomon Spalding was at Amity he spent considerable time in writing a history of Canaan and that this fictional work was in the apocryphal biblical, style similar to the dry narrative found in the first book of Macabees. If this is true, that fact adds more evidence to reports that Spalding wrote some works in the biblical style, but without much religious material (as is the case in First Macabees). The Canaanites, Romans, Jews and lost tribes were all mentioned in early 19th century literature as possible colonizers of the Americas; Spalding may have experimented with various story themes centered on any one of these possibilities.

A leading professor at Dartmouth College, during the time Solomon Spalding and Ethan Smith attended classes there, was Rev. John Smith, some of whose lectures from this early period have been preserved. John Smith advocated the theory that ancient Carthaginians or Phoenicians peopled the New World, along with wanderers from NE Asia who could have been related to the Scythians. Old memories of Smith's Dartmouth lectures perhaps played through Solomon's mind as he pictured Canaanites and Phoenicians sailing to the Americans from the east and forgotten tribes from the steppes of Asia wandering in from across the Bering Strait. Israelites might have arrived via either of these routes, accompanying Canaanite sailors shortly after the time of King Solomon or trekking up from Assyria, through the wilds of Asia to Siberia and Alaska. If McKee remembered Spalding "writing a history of Canaan," the annals of that fictional, biblical-sounding record would have provided ample space for accounts of Israelite lost tribes leaving Israel, Canaan, or Phoencia for the New World.

17. Joseph Miller,  in an article printed in the Feb. 6, 1879 Pittsburgh Telegraph, is quoted as saying, that while in Amity, Spalding showed him a Ms containing frequent use of the phrase "and it came to pass." Spalding's use of this phrase would be in keeping with the biblical style appropriate to any fictional ten lost tribes record. Mormon defenders have been zealous in ridiculing the early reports saying that Solomon Spalding often used biblical phraseology like "and it came to pass," yet that same Connecticut clergyman apparently saw no problems in placing the biblical phrase "like Jeshuran waxed fat" in the mouth of an hellenistic Roman of Constantine's time. The Oberlin document contains an occasional snippet of KJV English like this, but not in the overwhelming abundance found in the Book of Mormon. Any lost tribes narrative that quoted more than an occasional passage from the Authorized Version of the Bible (or which emulated its language) might reasonably be expected to contain the odd "came to pass" phrase among its pages. The occasional occurance of this sort of terminology would not automatically render the alleged Spalding "biblical" work a sister volume to the Book of Mormon, as Anti-Mormons seem to envision and Latter Day Saint apologists seem to fear.

18. Matilda Spalding McKinstry,  in her letter of April 3rd 1880 (printed in the May-Oct., 1880 Scribners, upon submission by her cousin, Mrs. Ellen E. Dickinson) provides a recollection from her mother, Matilda Spalding Davison, that the "Ms Found" was "a romance written (in) Biblical style" and that Spalding wrote several romances. Spalding's adopted daughter was speaking from memory after the lapse of half a century or more, but her statement fits the pattern of all the other people who recalled seeing, reading, or having read to them a biblical-style romance which seems to have told the history of the lost tribes of Israel.

19. Several residents of Kirtland  and the surrounding area in Ohio reported that D. P. Hurlbut exhibited a Spalding manuscript in the first of his lectures there, shortly after returning from his information-gathering journey to the east late in 1833. Austin Briggs even testified repeatedly that he saw both the untitled Oberlin document and a biblical-style "Manuscript Found" in the hands of D. P. Hurlbut and that he had occasion to read from these documents and to compare their contents with the Book of Mormon.

There may be several possible explanations for these testimonies of events during the winter of 1833-34. These possibilities are explored in part 3 of this presentation.

Conclusions Regarding the Ten Lost Tribes Manuscript

The great number of references to a ten lost tribes Spalding manuscript and to a biblical styled Spalding manuscript must somehow be explained. We may explain them away as the rantings of old Anti-Mormons who were out to destroy the Latter Day Saint Church and its holy books by any means possible, including elaborate conspiracies of fraudulent testimony-giving. Or we may explain them as being irrefutable evidence gathered from patriots in the cause of religious purity, proving once and for all that the Book of Mormon is a devilish delusion. Even without the above hyperbole, neither of these traditional approaches appear to me to be very reasonable or to fit the evidence brought in by many persons over the past dozen and a half decades. There must be some middle ground between these polarized positions from which the modern historical researcher can begin his or her serious studies of this interesting subject.

As I said in my opening sentences, there is a considerable body of evidence supporting the probability that Solomon Spalding wrote a story revolving about the then popular notion that the "Lost Tribes" of Israel were the original colonizers of the Americas. I believe there is supporting evidence to show that this alleged Spalding "Lost Tribes" work could have been written with a scriptural-style narrative, imitating the language of the Authorized Version of the Bible. Without documentary confirmation (such as a c. 1812-13 book publishing solicitation from a Pittsburgh area newspaper) there may never be enough of this evidence to amount to definite proof that the former preacher in fact did write this missing manuscript. But, whether the final proof can be found or not, acceptance of this possibility offers the modern student of history a neutral corner in which to carry out further investigation of the life and times of Solomon Spalding as well as the coming forth of the Book of Mormon and the early hostile reactions directed toward that volume.

Until it can be demonstrated otherwise, my personal theory on the subject will be that Solomon Spalding wrote an early pseudo-history of the lost Israelite tribes in the scriptural style and that remembrances of the manuscript of that story and its contents gave rise to the many items of testimony alleging that the Book of Mormon was authored by the Connecticut clergyman.

-- An Afterword --

In the above paper I've made an occasional reference to Eber D. Howe and to the Conneaut witnesses whose testimonies are printed in his 1834 book, Mormonism Unvailed. But I have yet to quote one word from their statements (as taken by D. Philastus Hurlbut and printed by Howe). I believe I had a good reason and employed a useful methodology in avoiding the Howe-Hurbut statements, at least in formulating my initial report on the possibility of there having been a Spalding lost tribes story.

Most examinations of the Spalding Theory for the Authorship of the Book of Mormon begin by quoting first from Howe. Anti-Mormon writers studying this subject generally have sought to establish Howe's book as their main foundation for investigations into the Spalding Theory. Mormon defenders have tried just as hard to demolish the credibility of Howe and anything printed in his book. The result is that whatever dialogue can be found amidst this war of words tends to center on the reliability to Howe, Hurlbut, and the persons whom they interviewed prior to the publication of Mormonism Unvailed. I am well aware that this book was not brought forth as an objective history of early Mormonism and that its contents are not to be accepted blindly. I believe that the Howe-Hurlbut collection of statements is best examined after looking at other sources. Without adopting this approach there is simply no context into which the first Anti-Mormon book can be placed for objective evaluation of its contents. Now that I have established this context, I'll go back and present its material on the Spalding Theory with a little more attention than I gave to the few mentions of Howe in the preceding paper.

Let's now take a brief look at the Conneaut witness statements and see how they agree or disagree with the general trend of the evidence I've presented so far. If Hurlbut doctored the statements for his own fraudulent use, we might expect either evidence of near-exact copying or perhaps only some fragmentary agreement with the above listed statements. The statements already provided should show some marks of direct dependence upon the paradigm built up by Howe or they should offer something in contradiction to the supposed uniformity of Hurlbut's fabrications in the 1833-1834 collection alleging that Spalding wrote a work greatly resembling the Book of Mormon. It is true that the recollections and writings of later years may, in some cases, have been influenced by what we find in Howe. But not all testimony givers and testimony reporters slavishly agree with the picture presented in Mormonism Unvailed. There is enough diversity in the sources and content of the later documents to provide us with information at least partly independent of the first Ant-Mormon book

20. John Spalding,  brother of Solomon and his near neighbor in the adjoining county of Crawford, states: "The book was entitled the "Manuscript Found," . . . an historical romance of the first settlers of America, endeavoring to show that the American Indians are the descendants of the Jews, or the lost tribes . . . quarrels and contentions . . . cruel and bloody wars . . . buried dead in large heaps which caused the mounds . . . commenced about every sentence with 'and it came to pass.'"

Spalding's brother uses almost the same language concerning "the Jews" as did his sister-in-law, Matilda, some years later. But he differs from her by saying that the people in the story were Jews or the lost tribes. Perhaps John meant by this that a sub-division of the people from ancient Palestine (which were commonly called "the Jews" by many Christians) were the progenitors of the American Indians, and that these people were the lost tribes of Israel. At any rate, John and Matilda, who were relatives living in the same time and generally the same place, are the only ones to use the word "Jews."

John says that his brother used the words, "and it came to pass." So also says Joseph Miller, some 45 years later. Perhaps this is an indication that Miller copied an idea from the Howe book, but it seems just as likely, if not moreso, that he is giving an independent confirmation of John Spalding's statement from his knowing that man's brother in a different place and time.

21. Martha Spalding,  John's wife and Solomon's sister-in-law, says: "He had for many years contended that the aborigines of America were the descendants of some of the lost tribes of Israel . . . (his story told of) their journey by land and sea till they arrived in America. . . . tremendous battles. . . buried in large heaps . . . mounds . . . " Martha's memories add the information that Solomon Spalding had long embraced the theory of an Israelite origin for the native tribes of the America. This appears consistant with Matilda Spalding's remembering that her husband was writing of such things prior to the 1811 mound opening at Conneaut. It also fits in well with Spalding's possibly having read the pre-publication writings of Ethan Smith on this same topic.

22. Aaron Wright,  Spalding's Conneaut neighbor, says: "he showed and read to me a history he was writing of the lost tribes of Israel, purporting that they were the first settlers of America . . . to account for all the fortifications . . ." Wright's statement adds the information that Spalding was not only interested in burial mounds, but with earthwork fortifications as well. These Adena and Hopewell culture structures are common throughout Ohio and Spalding used one of them, the earthen enclosure on Fort Hill in Conneaut, as the opening scene for his "Roman story." Few other remembrances regarding Spalding contain this particular detail. Nahum Howard confirms it and it has the ring of veracity. The fact that Wright's statement to D.P. Hurlbut was not entirely a document of Hurlbut's own construction is verified by Wright's 1833 letter on the subject of Spalding's "history of the first settlement of America." Since America was already settled in the story provided in the Oberlin Spalding manuscript, it is obvious that Wright did not have that particular story when speaking of "the first settlement of America."

23. Oliver Smith,  another Conneaut neighbor, says: "a historical novel, founded upon the first settlers of this country . . . journey from Jerusalem, by land and sea, till their arrival in America . . . wars and contentions . . . no religious matter . . . " He we see some possible evidence of a witness having let the Book of Mormon color his testimony. Although the Lehites naturally left from their home in Jerusalem, the ten lost tribes would have had little reason for being there after their deportation by the Assyrians. This statement could be used in support of the Spalding Book of Mormon Authorship Theory, perhaps, but it does not agree well with any logical scenario for a lost tribes story. If Hurlbut was prompting his deponents to any great extent we should see this notion appearing among the words of other witnesses and references to the ten lost tribes toned down or omitted. Given what John, Martha, and Aaron say about lost tribes, it would appear that Hurlbut did not remove such references from the statements. On the other hand, John Miller, in his statement, also mentions Jerusalem. This, along with John Spalding's mention of "Jews" must have come as welcome words to Hurlbut's ears. The Lehites were something like Jews and they came from Jerusalem.

Oliver Smith, like other of the Conneaut witnesses speaks of seeing a Spalding story about "the first settlers of this country." As in the case of Aaron Wright's statement, this description is inconsistent with the tale told of the Oberlin Spalding manuscript. There the first settlers of the Americas (or of "this counrty") are hardly mentioned.

24. Nahum Howard,  another of Spaldings old neighbors, says: "account of the inhabitants once in this country, who erected the old forts, mounds, &c . . . except the religions part . . . " Howard echoes Wright in remembering Spalding interest in mound-builder forts and he parallels Smith in recalling that the manuscript had no religious matter. It is difficult for the reader to picture Spalding having written a story of the lost tribes of Israel in language imitative of the King James Bible, which contained nothing of a religious nature. But this general observation agrees well with what Redick McKee would observe later in Amity -- that Spalding then was writing in the style of the first book of Macabees. This language is very biblical-sounding but contains a rather straightforward narration without much reference to divine revelation, miracles, doctrines, preaching, etc. Since the "Roman story" on file in the Oberlin Archives contains a good deal of singular religious material, it would seem that Howard is here describing a work that was somewhat different, both from the Oberlin document and the Book of Mormon.

25. Artemas Cunningham,  who also knew Spalding at Conneaut, says: "he had adopted the ancient or scripture style of writing . . . account for the numerous antiquities . . . " Cunningham, like some other of the Conneaut witnesses speaks of Spalding having written a "history of the first settlement of this country." Again, such a history would be at variance with the tale told in the Oberlin Spalding manuscript, but could easily pertain to the arrival of the "Lost Tribes" upon the virgin soil of the Americas.

26. Henry Lake,  Spalding's business partner in Conneaut, says: "he very frequently read to me from a manuscript which he was writing, which he entitled the 'Ms Found' and which he represented as being found in this town . . . this book represented the American Indians as the descendants of the lost tribes." Lake adds the information that Spalding wrote of an ancient record having been found at Conneaut. This agrees with the opening pages of the "Roman story," but it has nothing to do with the account told in the Book of Mormon. It would have better suited Hurlbut's purposes to have edited out these words.

27. John Miller,  the last of the Conneaut witnesses, says: "It purported to be the history of the first settlement of America . . . from Jerusalem . . . travels by land and water . . . wars . . ." Here again we encounter the troubling reference to Jerusalem. Is this evidence of prompting and homogenization of the accounts by Hurlbut, or did Spalding mention that city in some story he was writing at Conneaut? The name does not appear in his "Roman story" and there seems to be little use for it in a lost tribes novel. Also, as in some other statements, Miller's mention of "the first settlement of Amerlca" does not fit well with the story of the Oberlin Spalding manuscript, but would fit the colonization of the Americas by the "Lost Tribes" having entered the unpopulated lands after a lengthy journey across Asia and a short sea voyage to Alaska.

A Final Thought

I only quoted the portions of the Howe statements which have some reference to the ten tribes, an Israelite origin for the American Indians, or the writing style evidenced in the manuscript recalled by the Conneaut witnnesses. There is, of course, a lot more information in the statements linking Spalding to the Book of Mormon from the viewpoint of those witnesses. It may well be that Hurlbut prompted his deponents, but why didn't he doctor doctor up their statements even more obviously? Why did he not have every one say that Spalding wrote of people from Jerusalem sailing to America under Lehi and becoming a nation under Nephi? The link Hurlbut was seeking with the Book of Mormon is not to be found in the ten tribes identification-- unless he was so ignorant of the content of the Nephite Record as to believe it spoke of these things. It appears (to me at least) that the primary reason the Conneaut witnesses were persuaded to think that the Mormon book was derived from Spalding's writings was due to remembrances of the general theme, the, biblical style and the singular names. Their occasional references to a lost tribes novel does nothing to improve Hurlbut's setting forth of the Spalding Authorship Theory for the Book of Mormon. Instead, they damage the credibility of that viewpoint. For this reason, if for no other, they should be considered as remembrances originating with the Conneaut witnesses and not as Hurlbut-influenced fabrications.

- References -

I've constructed all the references cited in the above paper as hyper-text links and placed e-text copies of the original documents referred to on separate web-pages at The Spalding Studies Home Page's Library. While all of these citations were included in my original, unpublished paper, copies of the actual documents cited were not. The links in the above presentation have been added specifically to accompany its posting to the Spalding Research Project.

Last updated: Oct. 24, 2000
(Some links may not yet be functional)

Continue reading with: Part II
Was a Spalding Lost Tribes Story Recovered in 1833?

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