The American aborigines, "assert that a book was once in possession of their ancestors; and along with this recognition they have traditions that the Great Spirit used to foretell to their fathers future events; that he controlled nature in their favor; that angels once talked with them; that all the Indian tribes descended from one man who had twelve sons; that this man was a noble and renowned Prince, having great dominions; and that the Indians, his posterity, will yet recover the same dominion and influence. They believe by tradition that the spirit of prophecy and miraculous interposition once enjoyed by their ancestors will yet be restored to them, and that they will recover the book, all of which have been so long lost."
If true, this old tradition provides a potentially important link between the American tribes and a (presumably) non-American "renowned Prince" who had "twelve sons," and whom the heavenly angels hold in great respect. McGavin insinuates that the prince was the Patriarch Jacob and that the native Americans are descended from one of his sons -- Joseph to be exact -- and that the lost book was a volume of divinely revealed prophecies and holy records. In short, the lost book the Indians expect to recover is the Book of Mormon, that improbable 1830 publication of Joseph Smith, Jr.
Is it true?
Perhaps that question is still a bit premature. Perhaps the more useful question at this point would be, Where did the author come across this wonderous nugget of supposedly ancient information?
Tracking the Source of the "Lost Book"
Elder McGavin was not the first LDS writer to relate this unusual story. A very similar quote (with a reference citation matching one of McGavin's) can be read in a Mormon magazine published in 1886. There the writer, George Reynolds, the former private secretary to Brigham Young, has this to say:
A book published in London, England, in 1833, by a Mr. C. Colton, on the origin of the American Indians bears testimony to this same tradition. It is therein stated: "They assert that a book was once in possession of their ancestors, and along with this recognition they have traditions that the Great Spirit used to foretell to their forefathers future events; that he controlled nature in their favor; that angels once talked with them; that all the Indian tribes descended from one man, who had twelve sons; that this man was a notable and renowned prince, having great dominions, and that the Indians, his posterity, will yet recover the same dominion and influence. They believe, by tradition, that the spirit of prophecy and miraculous interposition, once enjoyed by their ancestors, will yet be restored to them, and that they will recover the book, all of which has been so long lost."
Elder Reynolds is not exactly specific about which "Mr. C. Colton" he is quoting from. He says he is referring to a certain 1833 "book published in London... on the origin of the American Indians." Luckily only one book fits that description. Two other LDS writers provide its title, after quoting from the same text:
Jacob and his twelve sons are found in the legends of the American Indians. Some of the tribes "used to build an altar of twelve stones in memory of a great ancestor of theirs who had twelve sons."The Rev. Calvin Colton (1789-1857) is not known to have ever produced a book called Origin of the American Indians, but he did write one with this lengthy title: "Tour of the American Lakes, and among the Indians of the North-west territory, in 1830: disclosing the character and prospects of the Indian race." Since that book was published (in two volumes) in London in 1833, it appears to be the work cited by McGavin, Reynolds, Widtsoe and Harris.
The next question that might be asked is, Where did Rev. Colton get his information? According to his book, he conducted research into the situation and background of the American Indians during his 1830 "Tour of the American Lakes." He then sailed off to London to work as a correspondent for the New York Observer, during which time he published a plethora of books on America.
It appears, however, that Colton did not glean all of his information on this topic from interviews with the Indians and their neighbors. He himself admits to deriving part of his material from a previously published source. In the case of the "lost book" story, Colton does his reporting in the first chapter of the second volume of Origin of the American Indians. That particular chapter is sub-titled "The Honourable Elias Boudinot's theory..." and in it Colton agrees with practically everything Boudinot (the celebrated Presbyterian statesman and author, 1740-1821) said about the Indians in his 1816 book, in support of the conclusion, "that they are Hebrews." Although Colton does not give his readers a precise citation from Boudinot's 1816 A Star in the West, it is obvious that the former author appropriated the "lost book" story from the former. On page 11 of vol. 2, Colton says:
The offer of Christianity and of the Bible to the Indians of North America, with an account of its origin and claims, has, in several instances quite remote from and independent; of each other, met this remarkable reception: "This book once belonged to our ancestors!" And along with this recognition, they have traditions, that the Great Spirit used to foretell to their fathers future evens; that he controlled nature in their favour; that angels once talked with them, that all the Indian tribes descended from one man, who had twelve sons; that this man was a notable and renowned prince having dominion over all the earth; and that the Indians, his posterity, will yet recover the same dominion and influence. They believe by tradition, that the spirit of prophecy and of miraculous interposition, once enjoyed by their ancestors, will yet be restored to them, and that they shall recover the book -- all of which have been so long lost.
Mormon use of the "Lost Book" Legend
Consider the following quotation from the post-1839 editions of Mormon Elder Parley P. Pratt's classic work, A Voice of Warning:
There is a tradition related by an aged Indian, of the Stockbridge tribe, that their fathers were once in possession of a "Sacred Book," which was handed down from generation to generation; and at last hid in the earth, since which time they had been under the feet of their enemies. But these oracles were to be restored to them again; and then they would triumph over their enemies, and regain their rights and privileges.
Is the lost "Sacred Book" of the "Stockbridge tribe," Elder Pratt here speakes of, the same lost "book... once in possession of" the "ancestors" of certain Indians, as claimed by Elias Boudinot (and repeated by Rev. Colton)? Apparently so; but these two accounts of the lost book are as different as they are similar. Obviously Boudinot did not copy his 1816 report from Pratt's 1839 Mormon publication -- so exactly what is their connection?
Pratt wedges in his "Stockbridge" "aged Indian" report between other chunks of information he admittedly derived from reading Boudinot's 1816 book. But a close review of Mr. Boudinot's writings reveals that he nowhere made any reference to reports from aged members of the Stockbridge tribe. The mystery of the lost book's relationship to Mormonism has yet to be solved.
In another of his early writings, Parley P. Pratt says practically the same thing again:
First, says Mr. Boudinot, "It is said among their principle or beloved men, that they have it handed down from their ancestors, that the Book which the white people have, was once theirs: that while they had it they prospered exceedingly, &c. They also say, that their fathers were possessed of an extraordinary Divine Spirit, by which they foretold future events... and this they transmitted to their offspring..."
Pratt is here attempting to make a case for the sacred Book of Mormon being the same "Sacred Book" lost so long ago by the American Indians. Part of this notion Pratt indeed does derive from what he calls Elias Boudinot's "able work" -- the 1816 book, A Star in the West. But, oddly enough, in his words, as printed on pp. 110-111 of the "able work," Mr. Boudinot says nothing at all about the lost book tradition coming from any particular tribe among the "southern Indians" he is there discussing. He only states:
It is said among their principal or beloved men, that they have it handed down from their ancestors, that the book which the white people have was once theirs. That while they had it they prospered exceedingly; but that the white people bought it of them, and learnt many things from it; while the Indians lost their credit, offended the great spirit, and suffered exceedingly from the neighbouring nations. That the great spirit took pity on them, and directed them to this country. That on their way they came to a great river, which they could not pass, when God dried up the waters and they passed over dry shod. They also say that their forefathers were possessed of an extraordinary divine spirit, by which they foretold future events, and controlled the common course of nature, and this they transmitted to their offspring, on condition of their obeying the sacred laws. That they did by these means bring down showers of plenty on the beloved people. But that this power, for a long time past, had entirely ceased.
It quickly becomes obvious, even to the casual reader, that no claim can be made from the reporting of Boudinot or Colton in support of the American Indians once having possessed the Book of Mormon, for the "Nephite Record" from which that book was allegedly produced. The attempts of Mormon writers, since the late 1830s, to use the "lost book" story to explain the origin of the Book of Mormon have been disingenuous, in all but the basic idea that some Indians purportedly once possessed the Judeo-Christian scriptures, or some part of them, and claimed a old special relationship with the Judeo-Christian God.
A Review of Quotations Regarding the "Sacred Book"
Exactly what the relationship is between the account published by Boudinot (and relayed by Rev. Colton) and the expanded report given by Elder Pratt, it is difficult to say, given only those respective texts to study and compare. Obviously there must be some common ground between the two reports, but until their sources are identified the link remains only one of vaguely similar traditions. Consider again Pratt's 1838 words in regard to some American Indians once having possessed "the book" (Bible?, Book of Mormon?, both?) of the "white people":
First, says Mr. Boudinot,
A reader familiar with Mormon lore will immediately realize that what Pratt is here implying is that the Indians (Lamanites) once possessed a book which white people (Nephites) had. But this is not what Elias Boudinot was saying. In 1838, when Parley P. Pratt quoted this particular 1816 Boudinot passage, it had been already widely published (in slightly different words) by the Rev. Ethan Smith of Poultney, Vermont -- on p. 115 of the 1825 edition of his A View of the Hebrews. The popularizer, Josiah Priest, in turn reproduced Ethan Smith's words verbatum on page 394 his 1826 book, The Wonders of Nature and Providence Displayed (see Priest's page 372 for the citation). Mr. Priest, however, neglected to reproduce Ethan Smith's rendering of this particular Boudinot passage in his later (1833) book, American Antiquities, where he otherwise quoted Ethan Smith and Elias Boudinot at length. The relevant passage from Smith's A View of the Hebrews reads as follows:
Doctor Boudinot, gives it as from good authority, that the Indians have a tradition
The question naturally arises as to whether Parley P. Pratt took the lost book quote he publishes in his 1838 pamphlet directly from Boudinot's 1816 book, or from Ethan Smith's 1825 book (or possibly from Josiah Priest's reproduction of Ethan Smith's text)? Obviously Pratt took this quote either directly from Boudinot, or else from a later source (such as Ethan Smith's book) that reproduced Boudinot's words.
Elder Pratt's second interesting quote in his 1838 tract is made in regard to the "Stockbridge" Indians having once possessed a "book" of some importance:
There is a tradition related by an aged Indian of the Stockbridge tribe, that their fathers were once in possession of a "Sacred Book ," which was handed down from generation to generation; and at last hid in the Earth, since which time they had been under the feet of their enemies. But these Oracles were to be restored to them again; and then they would triumph over their enemies and regain their ancient country, together with their rights and privileges.
In relating the above information, Pratt almost certainly paraphrased and conflated two passages first published in Ethan Smith's 1825 A view of the Hebrews:
It is true that Josiah Priest reprinted the Rev. Ethan Smith's first statement ("a book which God gave...") on page 376 of his 1826 The Wonders of Nature and Providence Displayed, but he neglected to reproduce Smith's account of "Rev. Dr. West of Stockbridge" in his both his 1826 volume and in his 1833 book, American Antiquities, so Elder Pratt did not derive his report on the "aged Indian" of the "Stockbridge tribe" from reading Priest's books.
Parley P. Pratt's only known possible source for the information he quotes in the passages reproduced above is -- what? Answer: straight out of Ethan Smith's 1825 book. For some undisclosed reason, Pratt neither cited Ethan Smith's book nor reproduced Smith's words exactly. Smith's unidentified "old Indian" becomes an "aged Indian of the Stockbridge tribe" in Pratt's paraphrase. Also, while Ethan Smith insinuates that the account given by the Rev. Dr. West was in reference to some kind of Hebrew book -- and also speaks of "a book which God gave" -- Smith nowhere specifically states that it was a "Sacred Book," as Pratt does. Here Parley P. Pratt creatively expanded upon Ethan Smith's two brief accounts, conflating various bits of information to suit LDS proselytizing purposes, and then inserted the results into a paragraph of material taken (with acknowledgment) from Elias Boudinot.
The 1830 Palmyra edition of the Book of Mormon
The "Lost Book" Account -- Mormonized Version
Did Parley P. Pratt and his pious associates "Mormonize" Ethan Smith's expansion of the lost book tradition -- and then attempt to cover up the fact that they had plagiarized and distorted Ethan Smith's writings to obtain material for their own LDS apologetics? Writer David Persuitte accuses the early Mormons of exactly this sort of thing when he states: "The tale of the old Indian from Stockbridge and the account of the Indian "tradition" related by Boudinot are two quite separate items in Ethan Smith's book, but it appears that they were conflated in the circular." (David Persuitte, Joseph Smith and the Origins of the Book of Mormon -- 2d ed. p. 123).
The "circular" Persuitte here refers to is an undated broadside, probably printed at the office of the Mormons' New York City newspaper The Prophet, late in 1844 or early in 1845. This broadside (reproduced below) features some specimens of the "Reformed Egyptian characters" which were first printed in the The Prophet on Dec. 21, 1844.
The text on the old Mormon broadside which caught Persuitte's eye reads as follows:
"Our fathers once had 'Sacred Book' like the white man have, but it was hid in the ground, since then Indian no more prevail against his enemies." -- An aged Indian of the Stockbridge tribe."
It may be that the passage on the broadside was adapted from the wording found on pages 36-37 of Pratt's 1838 pamphlet. As already stated, essentially the same "conflation" of Ethan Smith and Elias Boudinot sources was inserted into the post-1839 editions of Pratt's A Voice of Warning. So, perhaps the quotation printed at the bottom of the undated Mormon broadside was taken out of the 1844 Nauvoo edition of Pratt's book, rather than from its earlier printing in his 1838 Mormonism Unveiled. Or, since Pratt's mention of the Stockbridge Indian captured the imagination of another Mormon writer of that era, perhaps the broadside's wording was copied from Elder Charles B. Thompson's 1841 Evidences in Proof of the Book of Mormon (which has the Stockbridge story on page 32).
Apostle Pratt was the chief Mormon leader in New York City from the end of 1844 to the middle of 1845, overseeing missionary and publishing work there. It is more than likely that Parley P. Pratt was directly responsible for publishing the undated broadside on the press of The Prophet, (or, the New York Messenger, as he renamed the paper in 1845) and that he was the one responsible for its Mormon reference to the "aged Indian of the Stockbridge tribe."
However the reader cares to characterize the relationship of Calvin Colton's "lost book" report to that provided by Elias Boudinot -- and however the modern historian cares to explain "Mormonization" of Ethan Smith's expansion upon Elias Boudinot's account -- each and every search for the ultimate source of the "lost book" tradition seems to end with an inspection of Elias Boudinot's 1816 book.
Or does it?
The search for the earliest known version of the "lost book" legend leads the investigator to the pages of Joseph Dennie's Philadelphia-based, illustrated journal, The Port Folio. In 1815 and 1816 that venerable magazine (by then in the hands of Nicholas Biddle) ran a four-part excerpt from the unpublished work of a lately deceased gentleman of Kentucky, Dr. John P. Campbell. These four articles were published as: (1 "Proposed Solution of the Question, Touching the Peopling of the Continent of America" (March 1815); (2 "Whence come the Men and Animals to America?" (July 1815); (3 "Of the Aborigines of the Western Country" (June 1816); (4 "Of the Aborigines of the Western Country" -- cont'd. (July 1816).
Lengthy extracts from the last two installments appear at the end of this web-page. For the purpose of tracking the "lost book" tradition, only the following quotation need be given here:
Colonel M'Kee, who commanded on the Kenhawa when Cornstalk was inhumanly murdered, had frequent conversation with that chief, respecting the people who had constructed the ancient forts. He stated that it was a current and assured tradition, that Ohio and Kentucky had been once settled by white people, who were possessed of arts which the Indians did not know. That after many sanguinary contests they were exterminated. Colonel M. Inquired why the Indians had not learned these arts of the white people. He replied indefinitely, relating that the great spirit had once given the Indians a book, which taught them all these arts, but that they had lost it, and had never since regained the knowledge of them. Col. M. inquired particularly whether he knew what people it was who made so many graves on the Ohio, and at other places. He declared that he did not know, and remarked that it was not his nation, or any he had been acquainted with. Col. M. asked him if he could not tell who made those old forts, which displayed so much skill in fortifying. He answered that he did not know, but that a story had been handed down from a very long ago people, that there had been a nation of white people inhabiting the country who made the graves and forts. He also said, that some Indians, who had travelled very far west or northwest, had found a nation of people, who lived as Indians generally do, although of a different complexion.
Here then is the earliest known (and most elementary) telling of the "lost book" story. The origin of the legend is attributed to the Shawnee war chief, Cornstalk -- who presumably received the tradition from the elders of his tribe and was not just making it up to favorably impress Col. M'Kee.
On Oct. 10, 1774, in one of the first instances of hostility leading up to the Revolutionary War, Cornstalk led a coalition of Indian warriors against the white defenders at Point Pleasant, Mason Co., Virginia (now West Virginia). Following the battle at that spot, the colonial government built and manned Fort Blair (later Fort Randolph) at the mouth of Kanawha River, opposite Gallipolis, Ohio. In November of 1776 Cornstalk again visited Point Pleasant and entered Fort Randolph, then commanded by Captain Matthew Arbuckle. Although the Indian leader came with peaceful intentions, he was held prisoner by Arbuckle and not long after was murdered in the fort by men who should have been controlled by the commander. While in custody at Fort Randolph, Chief Cornstalk reportedly told militiaman William Mc'Kee (or M'Kee) about the "lost book" of the Shawnee. The story of the chief's life is well detailed in "Sketch of Cornstalk, 1759-1777," published in Ohio Archaeological and Historical Society Quarterly, Vol. 21, (1912), pp. 245-262. This 1912 "sketch" (taken from part of Draper manuscript, entitled "Border Forays") also relates the account of Cornstalk telling McKee about the lost book.
William McKee's story was not exactly forgotten after it appeared in the Port Folio. Writer James H. McCulloh, Jr. extracted a part of John P. Campbell's article for insertion in the 1817 second edition of his own Researches on America... but he only included a portion of McKee's account which did not tell of the "lost book" Chief Cornstalk had spoken of. Many years later, the anti-Mormon author James D. Bales recited Boudinot's version of the "lost book" tradition, along with that portion of McKee's report which told of "white people" settling in prehistoric "Ohio and Kentucky," where they purportedly constructed "the ancient forts," and, eventually, "were exterminated." Unfortunately, Bales had only McCulloh's book before him, and was unable to connect its abridgment of the Port Folio article with Boudinot's report of the "lost book" (see The Book of Mormon? 1958, p. 175 and pp. 232-234). Bales' conclusion regarding this matter was that, since Boudinot's report "identified their lost book with the one then in the white man's possession, it may be that the story was told in an effort to gain prestige with the white man by professing a common background with the white man." Had Dr. Bales known that the prisoner Chief Cornstalk told his story to his white captors just before his assassination at their hands, Bales might well have added "preserve his life" to the Indian's hope "to gain prestige." Dr. Bales at this point remarks: "Solomon Spaulding wrote a historical novel before 1815 based on the idea of the finding of a lost book." Of course Solomon Spalding's fictional text -- even though it does contain his attempts to write prehistoric scriptures for his light-skinned Mound-Builders -- could never be mistaken for the Bible. If Cornstalk was trying to say that the pre-Columbian Indians once had a copy of the white man's scriptures, Spalding's known writings would in no way qualify as a candidate for Cornstalk's "lost book." The same might also be said for the Book of Mormon, except for the fact that it contains numerous chapters from the biblical book of Isaiah.
A Link to Solomon Spalding?
Lieutenant William McKee (b. c. 1750), originally from Rockbridge Co., Virginia, was an officer in Capt. John Murray's Company of Botetourt Co., Virginia Militia Men. McKee was present at the battle of Point Pleasant, on Oct. 10, 1774. He was still a member of Capt. Murray's Company on Oct. 6, 1777, when General Edward Hand, (then in command of western forces at Pittsburgh) sent the militiamen on an expedition to reinforce Captain Matthew Arbuckle at Fort Randolph, at the mouth of Kanawha River, opposite Gallipolis, Ohio. Murray subsequently died in the battle and McKee was promoted to Company Captain. The volunteer company was assigned to the 12th Regiment, Virginia State Troops and fought against the British in several Revolutionary War engagements, including the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, on Mar 15, 1781. Apparently, by the end of the war, William McKee had been promoted to the rank of Colonel in the Continental Army
Prior to 1774 William McKee moved from Rockbridge Co., Virginia to the Tinker's Creek area in Botetourt Co. On Apr. 13, 1788, in Montgomery Co., VA, he married Phoebe Snodgrass (b. 1754) the daughter of Joseph and Hannah Snodgrass. William and Phoebe had two children: Betsy (b. c. 1790) and Henry (b: 21 Mar. 21, 1791). William apparently died in Kentucky after 1816.
It might be argued that there was no opportunity for Solomon Spalding, the would-be author who lived in Ohio and Pennsylvania prior to his death in 1816, to have ever become acquainted with the views and writings of Elias Boudinot. Although Solomon Spalding reportedly shared Boudinot's idea that the American Indians might be Israelites, Spalding died in Pennsylvania on Oct. 20, 1816, after suffering a prolonged illness and he would not have been able to read Boudinot's A Star in the West when it was published later that same year. Probably Spalding never saw Boudinot's 1816 book, though that fact alone does not mean that he was unaware of the famous man's views respecting religion, the Indians, etc. A copy of Boudinot's thick 1815 book might have easily made its way into Spalding's hands. Assuming that Solomon Spalding did write the celebrated "Manuscript Found," there was much relevant material available in Boudinot's pre-1816 writings to help inspire Spalding compose the core text of the Book of Mormon.
Even allowing for this possibility though, it seems unlikely that Solomon Spalding could have become aware of the "lost book" of the Indians tradition from anything published by Elias Boudinot prior to 1816. It is equally unlikely that Spalding could have used Dr. John P. Campbell's articles from the June and July 1816 issues of the Port Folio to help him design and compile a manuscript version of the Book of Mormon. Spalding reportedly was already doing the lion's share of his pseudo-historical writing in 1811 or 1812, while he still lived in Ohio -- many months before Campbell's Port Folio articles appeared in print.
There is, however, another possibility: that Solomon Spalding heard about the "lost book" of the Indians tradition while he was still living in Ohio and that he incorporated elements of the tale into his writing of the now lost "Manuscript Found." Spalding need not have consulted Boudinot's 1816 book or even the 1816 issues of the Philadelphia magazine in order to have learned a great deal about Indian legends, popular speculation on Indian origins, and related topics. What if Solomon Spalding heard about the "lost book" directly from Christianized Shawnee or Delaware Indians? Or from the Moravian missionaries who worked among those Indians in Ohio? Or, perhaps, from a member of the McKee family? Since Dr. John P. Campbell's article seemingly establishes the "lost book" story being put into circulation as early as the end of 1776, there is no reason to assume that Spalding could not have encountered the legend while living in Ohio between 1809 and 1812.
There is another reason to suspect that Solomon Spalding may have learned of Indian legends and stories directly. In an obscure piece of testimony given by the daughter of one of Spalding's of neighbors (first published in 1891) the lady says: "Oliver Smith [her father], came to Springfield, Pa., 1798. Well remember S. Spaulding, who frequently came to our house... Often heard father, McGee, Dr. Howard and others talk about Spaulding reading his writings years before the B. of M. came out." Anna Smith and her father lived within four or five miles of Solomon Spalding's residence, across the Ohio-Pennsylvania line from New Salem (now Conneaut). There is good reason to believe that Oliver Smith and the members of his family knew Solomon Spalding quite well. So, when Smith's daughter speaks of a Mr. "McGee," who was acquainted with Spalding's writings, it seems reasonable to assume that this was a man who also knew Spalding personally during the 1809-12 period. The name should probably be rendered as "McKee." The person who wrote down the 1891 testimony for publication (from information given in an oral debate) consistently spells the name of Redick McKee (another of Spalding's friends) as "McGee." There were some McKees living in Erie Co., Pennsylvania, in close proximity to Oliver Smith, during his residence there. If Solomon Spalding was in frequent communication with McKees in Ohio, the account of William McKee (then living at the other end of Ohio, across the river in Kentucky) may have reached him via some family member.
At the end of the search, the investigator of this little legend is left with three possibly independent (but somewhat inter-related) souces for the 'lost book" tradition: (1. Ethan Smith's 1825 account, supposedly from an Indian source, by way of a Mr. West, of Stockbridge, Massachusetts; (2. Elias Boundinot's 1816 account -- perhaps from "southern" Indians -- restated by Calvin Colton in 1830; and (3. John P. Campbell's 1816 account, from William McKee, who got it from Chief Cornstalk at the end of 1776 or the very beginning of 1777.
Whether or not there is anything written in the Book of Mormon or the extant writings of Solomon Spalding (or writings attributed to him) that helps verify or explain the "lost book" legend is a matter for personal consideration and conclusion. At the very least, it is possible to say that the published accounts of 1825 and 1816 antedate the Book of Mormon and that the version put forth by William McKee might have been known to Solomon Spalding before it first appeared in print in the Port Folio. It would seem natural that an author cognizant of the "lost book" story would want to incorporate certain elements of that report into any docu-drama he or she was writing about the origin and demise of the original inhabitants of the Americas -- and especially so if that author were promoting the notion that the American Indians were a remnant of those ancient pre-Columbians who erected the prehistoric earthworks of the Ohio and Mississippi valleys.
A Closing Thought
Whether or not the "lost book" legend was ever a true tradition of the American Indians, it is easily seen how artful deceivers might choose to make use of such a belief to further their own purposes. There were numerous instances, especially during the nineteenth century, where hoaxers sought to gain the awe and attention of a credulous public by planting strange objects in the ground and then pretending to "discover" these supposedly wondrous ancient artifacts. Caleb Atwater mentions such attempts at antiquarian fraud in his 1820 account of the mounds of Ohio. The metal plates purportedly taken from a previously unopened mound near Kinderhook, Illinois, in 1843 fall into this fraudulent category. So do the incredible "elephant pipes" and inscribed tablets allegedly first uncovered in the late 1870s near Davenport, Iowa. Also the strangely comic "artifacts" and "inscriptions" said to have been unearthed in Montcalm Co., Michigan in 1890. In each of these cases (and in many similar frauds) amazing examples of professedly ancient workmanship are "discovered" and subsequently used to "prove" that the Mound-Builders or other prehistoric Americans were members of a highly advanced culture, or of a society linked to biblical origins, or of an advanced people contemporaneous with gigantic Pleistocene mammals.
As fascinating as these imaginative notions might be at first glance, they generally have not stood the test of time and the purported "artifacts" end up as exotic curios which do not fit into the patterns of prehistoric American culture laboriously pieced together by hundreds of scientists and technicians over the years. In almost every case, these suspicious "artifacts" and "inscriptions" are eventually disowned by the professional archaeologists, anthropologists and paleontologists, and relegated to the veneration of the ignorant, the credulous, and the deceptive. Also, strangely enough, these antiquarian fakes often take on an aura of respectability and reverence among the Latter Day Saints.
According to researcher and author David M. Oestreicher, the celebrated "Walam Olum" of Constantine S. Rafinesque fits into the latter category. Professor Rafinesque, a man of considerable talent and accomplishment, was also a self-promoter who occasionally stepped over the lines demarcating academic and scientific professionalism to advocate certain fanciful, unsubstantiated claims. Mr. Oestreicher argues, in his 1995 Rutgers University Ph.D dissertation ("The Anatomy of the Walam Olum: The Dissection of a Nineteenth-Century Anthropological Hoax"), that Rafinesque created the "Walam Olum" hoax, out of a desire for public recognition in an era when America's scientists and scholars were taking him less and less seriously. Oestreicher also presents the intriguing theory that Rafinesque was more than a little inspired by Joseph Smith's claims for an alternative American Indian history. Rafinesque openly denounced the Book of Mormon as being a fraudulent history, but he could not ignore the phenomenal growth and widespread publicity the Mormon Church enjoyed between 1830 and 1836. Oestreicher's reporting leaves the reader uncertain as to whether Rafinesque was hoping to manufacture an American legend that paralled and exceeded the Mormon beliefs, or was simply attempting to undermine the LDS announcements saying that the Indians were wandering ancient Israelites
A good con-man always weaves enough veritable evidence into his hoax to give it the air of believability. The verisimilitude of the Book of Mormon may wear laughably thin in some places, but the apparent authenticity of the "Walam Olum" has continued to capture the confidence of many a scholar, as well as the less informed and more gullible. Rafinesque's old account may contain a certain amount of truth -- but his Lenape pictographs and Delaware Indian written history are more "the things dreams are made of" than what has been confirmed by dry and boring scientific investigation. For more about this mystery and about the Delaware Indians see Oestreicher's articles and recent book: "Unmasking the Walam Olum: A 19th-Century Hoax," in Bulletin of the Archaeological Society of New Jersey, #49, 1994, pp 10-44; "Unraveling the Walam Olum," in Natural History, October 1996, 14-21; and The Algonquin of New York, (NYC: Rosen Publishing, 2002). For more quasi-scientific output from Constantine S. Rafinesque, see his 1832 descriptions of the "glyphs of Otolum" in his controversal Atlantic Journal. For a less than complimentary view of Rafinesque's work, see writers of Mormon history like John Hyde and William A. Linn. Typical Latter Day Saint admiration of Rafinesque's reporting may be seen in the Times and Seasons for Sept. 15, 1841 and in the following short excerpt from page 50 of RLDS Elder Josiah Ells 1881 Prophetic Truth. Numerous other, similar examples might also be cited:
Two years after the Book of Mormon appeared in print, Professor Rafenseque, in his Atlantic Journal for 1832, gave a public fac simile of American glyphs found in the ruins of a stone city; they are thus described" 'The glyphs of Otolum are written from top to bottom, like the Chinese, or from side to side indifferently, like the Egyptian or Demotic Lybian, although the most common way of writing the groups is in rows, and each group separated, yet we find some formed, as it were, on oblong squares or tablets, like those of Egypt." They are arranged in columns, being forty-six in number. These the learned professor denominates the "elements of the glyphs of Otolum;" and he supposes that by the combination of these elements, words and sentences were formed, constituting the written language of the ancient nations of this continent. By an inspection of the fac simile of the forty-six elementary glyphs, we find all the particulars, which Professor Anthon ascribes to the ["reformed Eqyptian"] characters [supplied by Joseph Smith, Jr.]
Mormon writers have seemingly been hesitant to cite Rafinesque's 1836 "Walam Olum" with the same confidence they extend to his 1832 "glyphs of Otolum." Rafinesque's controversial history of the Lenape supports certain LDS claims for ancient America but it might also be used to debase other cherished Mormon notions about the mythical "Lamanites." For some thoughts along these lines see Charles Boewe's "A Note on Rafinesque, the Walum Olum, the Book of Mormon, and the Mayan Glyphs" in Numen XXXII:1 (1985), pp. 101-113.
Did Professor Rafinseque know about the LDS claims for their Book of Mormon being the sacred "lost book" of the Indians? Probably he did. He likely was also familiar with Elias Boudinot's 1816 publication and the account given there of the "lost book." Did Constantine S. Rafinesque make use of the "lost book" tradition to help manufacture and promulgate his "Walum Olum?" That would be a good topic for further research and reporting.
When all is said and done, the people who choose to latch on to and believe in legends like the ones passed on by Elias Boudinot and Ethan Smith, will continue to do so, no matter what the evidence in opposition to their peculiar beliefs might be. Future investigators may concur in placing the Book of Mormon into the same category as the Kinderhook plates and the Davenport tablets, but the legend of the "lost book" will live on, repeated generation after generation, around the campfires of the "true believers" in the footnotes of all the Barry Fells, still waiting to write and publish their marvelous works and wonders.
Part 3: Two Interesting Articles
from "Oliver Oldschool's" Port Folio
issues of June and July, 1816
THE PORT FOLIO,
CONDUCTED BY OLIVER OLDSCHOOL, ESQ.
Various; that the mind
Of desultory man, studious of change,
And pleased with novelty, may be indulged. -- COWPER.
We had many boooks to teach us our most important duties, and to settle questions in philosophy or politics, but an arbiter elegantiarum, a judge of propriety, was yet wanting, who should survey the track of daily conversation, and free it from thorns and prickles, which tease the passer, though they do not wound him.
For this purpose nothing is so proper as the frequent publication of short papers, which we read not as study but amusement. If the subject be slight, the treatise likewise is short. The busy may find time, and the idle may find patience. Johnson.
VOL. I. JUNE, 1816. NO. VI.
OF THE ABORIGINES OF THE WESTERN COUNTRY.
THE publisher of the Port Folio, some time since, announced his intention of printing a curious and learned work on the antiquities of the western part of our country, by Henry Frost, A. M. The proposals had no sooner been submitted to the public, than a powerful appeal to his kindness and his sense of justice was made by the friends of the reverend Dr. John P. Campbell. They stated that the materials for this work had been collected by this gentleman, and that they had been obtained, under false pretences, from his widow, by Mr. Frost. The MSS. were therefore immediately placed in the hands of one of her friends, who promises to prepare them for the press, and publish them for her benefit. In the mean while we are permitted to make a few extracts. The subject is extremely interesting, as it treats of the ancient inhabitants of a great continent. Dr. Campbell appears, from the manuscript, so far as we have perused it, to have been admirably fitted, both by taste and education, for the task which he commenced; and to which we understand that he devoted several years of toilsome and expensive research. We shall only add, that any subscriptions (1 vol. 8vo price $2.) which may be transmitted to the publisher of the Port Folio, shall be faithfully applied to the benevolent purposes of this publication.
Upon the fairest computation, admitting that the Aborigines came to the western country a thousand or twelve hundred years
ago, we have then before us a period of sufficient extent to embrace all that is requisite to support the supposition that the Aborigines were the descendants of a civilized people in Asia; a people who had made great advancements in civilization and the arts, but who were probably devastated, and forced to fly, by the sudden encroachment of a foe. We shall readily perceive, that in this case, such a people would perform a rapid migration, and fly from their enemies as far as their desire of safety should dictate. It is not in any degree surprising, that they should, in like manner, escape to this continent, bringing with them that civilization and that knowledge to which they had arrived. The great antiquity which is manifested by the most striking proofs of art and knowledge, seems to warrant this conclusion, and give it weight.
The successive generations of men who have inhabited the eastern parts of Asia, were distinguished, for centuries, by rapid advancements in civilization and the arts, and on a sudden subjected to a great reverse. By the encroachment of some barbarous foe, or some neighbouring robber, they have been forced to renounce the possession of their privileges, or escape for their lives. "Some of the most desert provinces in Asia," says the historian of Catherine the second, "have been repeatedly the seats of arts, arms, commerce and literature. These potent and civilized nations have repeatedly perished, for want of a union or system of policy. Some Scythian, or other barbarian, has been suffered unnoticed to subdue his neighbouring tribes; each new conquest was made an instrument to the succeeding one; till, at length, become irresistible, he swept whole empires, with their arts and sciences, off the face of the earth." This important truth we consider particularly applicable to the original peopling of the western country. The Aborigines probably constituted a part of some such nation existing in eastern Asia, and were forced to escape to this continent by the encroachment of some powerful, invading foe. I have said that this was probably a fact. I venture to add, that it was most certainly the fact in regard to the Aborigines.
It is a very general opinion, prevailing in the western country, that there is ample proof that the country in general was once inhabited by a civilized and agricultural people. This very general
consent, we are disposed to respect, and consider an innocent opinion in itself, but we have not yet obtained satisfactory reasons to believe that the country in general, or to any great extent, has been adorned with the improvements and habitations of men living in a civilized and permanent state of society. The aborigines probably advanced as far, in the improvement of particular portions or districts of the country, as their knowledge of agriculture, their improvements of husbandry and their temporary residence would allow. The face of the country, since it was visited by the Aborigines, and since their demise, has undergone great changes. It is to be remarked, that the oldest trees now standing cannot be pronounced coeval with the extinction of the Aborigines.
It is a an opinion prevailing among some, that the Aborigines crossed the Allegheny, and proceeded down the Ohio river; but nothing is more incredible. Some attention to the ancient works on the river, has led us to notice that the works at different positions, are not more or less perfect. It is vain to suppose that the works lower down are less perfect, and were therefore built by a people who migrated westward, or down the river.
Again, it is the current opinion, that the first inhabitants of the western country were white people, and therefore cannot be denominated Indians. Our readers will recollect, and may have noticed, that there are distinguishing shades of white and black within the extent of our own country; and there are those among us who, by birth, or physical causes, are exceedingly dark. It is hence not indispensible that the Aborigines should be a white people, strictly speaking, in order to account for their improvements, or their knowledge of the arts. The inhabitants of Asia, and of the Asiatic continent in general, are allowed to be darker than the inhabitants of these American states, while at the same time they likewise are denominated a white people. The city of Pekin is nearly upon the same latitude with Philadelphia, and yet the citizens of Pekin are strongly shaded compared with the Philadelphians. The Aborigines, for aught we know, might have sustained a lighter complexion than those Indians who contributed to their destruction, or than the ancestors of the present race of Indians; and might, on that account, have been denominated by those Indians a white people. There cannot
be a doubt but that the same country, at different, and very distant periods of time, may be inhabited, or produce a race of people differing very materially in colour. The climate, and local or physical causes, may be so changed in the term of a thousand years, as to produce several degrees of shade upon the human countenance. The northern parts of Asia are supposed by some to be much colder now than they were but a few centuries or years ago; and that but a few centuries have elapsed, since the northern regions were more habitable on this very account. We suspect, however, that the Aborigines were in general, and in no other sense, a white people, than of any of the proper inhabitants of Asia at the present time. We likewise suspect that the Aborigines were denominated a white people by the present race of Indians, solely or principally, in consequence of that distinction which they possessed in the view of the Indians, by their works, or the knowledge and skill displayed in these works. These Indians having been accustomed to pay respect to Americans and Europeans as white people, appropriated naturally the same respect and title to the Aborigines. The Indians universally disclaim these ancient works and monuments, which are attributed to the Aborigines, and allege that they were erected by white people. It may not be improper, therefore, to offer the reader several traditions which relate to this point, and which may at least be found an entertainment.
General Clarke, of Louisville, in conversation with the chief of the Kaskaskias, understood him to say, that a very remarkable fortification, to which they referred, was the house of his fathers. This is understood to signify a reverential and general declaration of the same origin.
Mr. Thomas Bodley was informed by Indians of different tribes north-west of the Ohio, that they had understood from their old men, and that it had been a tradition among their several nations, that Kentucky had been settled by whites, and that they had been exterminated by war. They were of opinion that the old fortifications, now to be seen in Kentucky and Ohio, were the productions of those white inhabitants. Wappockanitta, a Shawnee chief, near a hundred and twenty years old, living on the Auglaze river, confirmed the above tradition.
An old Indian, in conversation with colonel James F. Moore, of Kentucky, informed him that the western country, and particularly Kentucky, had once been inhabited by white people, but that they were exterminated by the Indians. That the last battle was fought at the falls of Ohio, and that the Indians succeeded in driving the Aborigines into a small island below the rapids, where the whole of them were cut to pieces. He said it was an undoubted fact, handed down by tradition, and that the colonel would have ocular proof of it when the waters of the Ohio became low.
This was found to be correct, on examining Sandy Island, when the waters of the river had fallen, as a multitude of human bones were discovered. The same Indian expressed his astonishment that white people could live in a country once the scene of blood. The Indian chief called Tobacco, told General Clarke, of Louisville, that the battle of Sandy Island decided finally the fall of Kentucky, with its ancient inhabitants. General Clarke says that Kentucee, in the language of the Indians, signifies river of blood.
In addition to the proof of a great battle near the falls Ohio, it is said by General Clarke, of Louisville, that there was at Clarkesville a great burying ground, two or three hundred yards in length. This is likewise confirmed by major John Harrison, who received the tradition from an Indian woman of great age.
Colonel Joseph Daviess, when at St. Louis in 1800, saw the remains of an ancient tribe of the Sacks, who expressed some astonishment that any person should live in Kentucky. They said the country had been the scene of much blood, and was filled with the manes of its butchered inhabitants. He stated also that the people who inhabited this country were white, and possessed such arts as were unknown by the Indians.
Colonel M'Kee, who commanded on the Kenhawa when Cornstalk was inhumanly murdered, had frequent conversation with that chief, respecting the people who had constructed the ancient forts. He stated that it was a current and assured tradition, that Ohio and Kentucky had been once settled by white people, who were possessed of arts which the Indians did not know. That after many sanguinary contests they were exterminated. Colonel M. Inquired why the Indians had not learned these
arts of the white people. He replied indefinitely, relating that the great spirit had once given the Indians a book, which taught them all these arts, but that they had lost it, and had never since regained the knowledge of them. Col. M. inquired particularly whether he knew what people it was who made so many graves on the Ohio, and at other places. He declared that he did not know, and remarked that it was not his nation, or any he had been acquainted with. Col. M. asked him if he could not tell who made those old forts, which displayed so much skill in fortifying. He answered that he did not know, but that a story had been handed down from a very long ago people, that there had been a nation of white people inhabiting the country who made the graves and forts. He also said, that some Indians, who had travelled very far west or northwest, had found a nation of people, who lived as Indians generally do, although of a different complexion.
John Cushen, an Indian of truth and respectability, having pointed to the large mound in the town of Chillicothe, observed to a gentleman that it was a great curiosity. To this the gentleman accorded, and said, The Indians built that. No, said he, it was made by white folks, for Indians never make forts or mounds -- this country was inhabited by white people once, for none but white people make forts.
In addition to the remarks which we have made on the Asiatic origin of the Aborigines, we add, that such an origin is by far the most natural, and most accordant with the progressive movements of the human family ever since the deluge. This progress in Asia, has been uniformly eastward and northward from the Euphrates. The inhabitants of Asia being the descendants of Shem, did not move to the westward in any numbers. We deem it, therefore, natural and just to conclude that the Aborigines belonged to a stock of those who moved eastward from the Euphrates, crossed at Behring Straits, and came to our western country from the north-west. The Mexicans invariably declare that their ancestors came from the north-west.
It is an acknowledged fact, that the Antediluvians, at the event of the deluge, had arrived to a great improvement and refinement in the arts; and it is also an important fact, that a respectable portion of this knowledge was preserved from the
wreck, and communicated by the sons of Noah. The descendants of Shem, the first settlers of Asia, or what is synonymous, the ten tribes, probably retained this knowledge, and transmitted it, until, through the lapse of time, it became extinct. From the descendants of Shem, or the Israelites, we derive the commencement of all that knowledge which served to keep the vast continent of Asia from total barbarism. The Israelites carried captive by Salmanaser, in the time of Hoshea, became, in a great measure, incorporated with the neighbouring nations; and from this source, or in this channel, we deduce many of the customs which prevailed, and continue to prevail in Asia, and which have been frequently recognized among the Tartars, the Aborigines of the western country, and the present race of Indians. We may here introduce a striking passage of history from the second book of Esdras. "Those are the ten tribes, which were carried away prisoners, out of their own land in the time of Osea the king, whom Salmanasar, the king of Assyria, led away captive, and he carried them over the waters, and so came they into another land. But they took this counsel among themselves, that they would leave the multitude of the heathen, and go forth into a further country, where never mankind dwelt." We do not pretend to say that this country, where never mankind dwelt extends to America, but we consider the passage of history important, and equally weighty as such, although apocryphal. The natural consequence of this determination and progress of the ten tribes, would be a very general diffusion of that knowledge which they possessed, and a general incorporation with neighbouring powers.
CONDUCTED BY OLIVER OLDSCHOOL, ESQ.
Various; that the mind
Of desultory man, studious of change,
And pleased with novelty, may be indulged. -- COWPER.
We had many boooks to teach us our most important duties, and to settle questions in philosophy or politics, but an arbiter elegantiarum, a judge of propriety, was yet wanting, who should survey the track of daily conversation, and free it from thorns and prickles, which tease the passer, though they do not wound him.
For this purpose nothing is so proper as the frequent publication of short papers, which we read not as study but amusement. If the subject be slight, the treatise likewise is short. The busy may find time, and the idle may find patience. Johnson.
VOL. II. JULY, 1816. NO. I.
FOR THE PORT FOLIO.
OF THE ABORIGINES OF THE WESTERN COUNTRY.
(Continued from our last number.)
In removing an artificial mound at Chilocothe in 1813, the was found in its bosom a piece of copper, encrusted with erugo half an inch thick; it consisted of thin plates of copper rolled up, enclosing each other. It was about three inches in length, and one-fourth of an inch in thickness; the copper remarkably pure and fine, the lamina, or plates, about twenty in number. They had been smelted and prepared in a workmanlike manner, and ingeniously folded up in a single piece. As this specimen of copper is justly ascribed to the aborigines, it enters into the controversy in regard to the Asiatic and European origin of the aborigines. It is manifestly a trifling thing to ascribe this copper to a Welsh colony of the eleventh century, but the difficulty is entirely removed by supposing it to have an Asiatic origin. Brass and copper were in use at a very early period in Asia, and may be traced as far back as Tubal-cain. Brass not being formed in nature,
but made of copper, affords a presumption that there were workmen in copper at that period. The copper lamina, found at Chilicothe, considered as a precious memorial, might have descended through several centuries, and might have once been in the hands of a people more refined than those aboriginal Asiatics to whom it is referred. It was a custom in heathen nations to bury with their chiefs, not only pieces of armour, but memorials which were preserved or worn by way of ornament.
In removing the same mound in Chilicothe, a beautiful piece of marble was taken up in 1814, and is now in the possession of a gentleman at Chilicothe. This marble piece was undoubtedly made and used for ornament, being perforated ingeniously with loop holes, for fastening. It is apparent that these loop holes must have been executed by some instrument for boring, as the exactness appears to be inexplicable upon any other supposition. This marble piece is about five inches in length, flat on one side, and oval on the other, having an increasing width at the middle. The ends are apparently cut and squared with some implement used for that purpose. The marble has a dark dun colour, but the veins in the stone are very distinct. We do not deny but that the present race of Indians have exercised a degree of skill equal to that which is exhibited by this piece of marble, but not in the use of these instruments which we have supposed to have been necessary in this case. It is likewise to be remarked, that these Indians are not in the practice of using this kind of ornament. Had marble pieces of this description been more common in the western country, occupying a position nearer the surface of the earth, and not buried in mounds, we might have ascribed them to the present race of Indians, or their immediate predecessors. Humboldt says of the aboriginal Mexicans, that they were in the practice of accomplishing the most curious carvings with a poor knife, and upon a hard substance; and between the aboriginal Mexicans and the aborigines of the western country, it may be remembered that we have not admitted any great distinction.
On the bank of the Scioto river, just above Chilicothe, a very large limestone rock was broken down for lime. In the body of this rock, twelve or fifteen inches below the surface, three brass screws were found, a half an inch in length. One was in a state of
preservation, the other two were marred by the injuries of time and accident. This it seems was a solid limestone rock, and not perforated to any depth. There are portions of limestone in the western country which are unquestionably of a secondary nature, and have formed or increased since the original creation. These screws, however, laid upon bare rock, would hardly obtain, by any process of nature, such a durable covering. We are under the pleasing necessity of alledging, that these pieces of brass were by some means secured in the limestone rock, or that one rock had been placed upon another, enclosing the screws, and that the rocks formed a natural union. Such an inseparable union of two rocks would require a legth of time perhaps equal to that of the secondary formation of twelve or fifteen inches of limestone. We may therefore allow to these screws their proper antiquity, and ascribe the fact to the aborigines. Nothing can be more indicative of art and knowledge than the production of a regular and ingenious brass screw.
On the little Miami, about four miles above Waynesville, in the neighborhood of a Mr. J. Vance, some moss and mud were removed to open a spring, and in doing this the workmen struck, to their astonishment, upon a regular stone wall. The ground here might have become in a great measure alluvial in half a century; but the fact of there being such a wall, and its nature, indicates great antiquity, and the existence of a people differing materially, in regard to knowledge, from the present race of Indians. A regular stone wall has not in any one instance been attempted by the present race of Indians.
A Mr. Sinks had a well sunk in the village of Williamsburgh, in the east fork of the Little Miami, and in passing down, the workmen pierced through different strata of clay, sand, gravel, and stones, which had the appearance of having been prepared and used. They then continued to the depth of thirty-five or forty feet to the extremity of a regular stone pavement, extending nearly across the diameter of the well, the stones of which bore evident impressions of having been subject to labour. They were fitted to their place, and appeared to have been trodden by human feet. Two or three feet below this pavement they came to a poplar
log, and soon after to a quantity of water, which rose so unexpectedly as to bury the workmen's tools.
In digging another well in the same village, at the depth of fifteen feet the workmen struck upon a stump which had been [cut], but it was so much injured by time that the species of wood could not be discerned.
In a well dug in the same village, at the depth of twenty-six or thirty-six feet workmen came to a fire-place, charcoal and fire-stones artfully laid together, and designed to be burnt or kindled.
Our diggings in some of these mounds have been followed by the discovery of coals, arranged in a particular manner, with layers of earth, so as to indicate the burning of a sacrifice; but without detaining the reader with any conjectures upon this point, we would offer an extract from Dr. Lowth, which seems to be the most probable account of this discovery.
"The burning of heaps of armour, gathered from the field of battle, as an offering made to the god supposed to be the giver of victory, was a custom that prevailed among some heathen nations, [and the] Romans used it as an emblem of peace. A medal struck by Vespasian represents the goddess Peace, with a lighted torch in one hand, setting fire to a heap of armour. There are notices of some such practice among the Israelites. See Josh. 11, 6. Nahum 2, 13, Psalm 16, 9. Ezek. 39, 8-10."
These facts are not unimportant, and serve to designate some of the characteristic features of the aborigines.
A Mr. M'Kibbon, at the head of the east fork of Little Miami, thirty miles above Williamsburgh, wishing to obtain water in a place which had been the resort of deer as a lick, selected a spot where he conceived he saw the best vein for water. commenced digging, and passed down about two and a half feet, when he came to some logs of wood, and, breaking through, fell into the water to his neck. Having regained his standing, he cautiously removed the timber, and found the cavity to be an old well three or four feet in diameter. The walls of the well were smooth, and appeared to have been filled with beautiful clean sand and gravel to within four or five feet of the top, which had been covered with logs. Having removed the gravel and sand, he immersed a sycamore and filled
up the excavation around it, leaving three feet. The water is fine, impregnated with iron and fixed air.
In the same neighbourhood there has been discovered another ancient well, three feet in diameter, walled up with stone. Either from design or accident it had been filled up with earth near to the top. This well is yet to be opened and examined.
Mr. Burnit of Cincinnati, in digging a well on his lot, and within the wall of the old fort at Cincinnati, struck upon two stumps, a larger and a smaller one, at a depth of ninety-three feet below the surface. The largest was so injured by time that it was doubtful to what family it belonged. The smaller one was in a state of better preservation, and a sugar maple. Just before reaching the stumps the workmen passed through a layer of black mud, which was very offensive. Lower down pigments of a fine blue colour were thrown up in detached pieces. This was twenty or thirty feet below the level of the first bottom.
Judge Symmes, in digging for water higher up the hill, and near the creek which washes the upper end of the town, came upon a stump at the depth of twenty feet.
In digging a well in Sunfish, Adams county, Ohio, a gentleman found an earthen pot, below the surface at a considerable depth.
Thirty miles above the mouth of Cumberland river, a great quantity of earthen ware has been found; some of it well made. A pitcher was found, which was covered at the top, with a hole in the front, and opposite the handle.
General Clarke, of Louisville, saw earthen ware in various places, which had been glazed.
There is an elevated ground on Salt River, eight miles from Danville, Kentucky, where bits of earthen ware have been found. One bit I saw, which was evidently checquered or figured.
At the United States Saline, twelve miles from the Wabash, and twelve miles from the Ohio, an earthen image of a man was found, in 1807, by a major Taylor. Pots and several kettles made of the same were likewise found.
At Point Harmer, Marietta, Ohio, a curious earthen pot has been taken out of the bank of the Ohio river, and is now in the possession of a gentleman at Marietta. This pit decreases to the
end, from the bulge, like a funnel; but the end is not perforated, and was probably fitted to be placed in some cavity for a fire.
The present race of Indians have not yet displayed any workmanship in earthen ware, and cannot lay claim to these things. The manufacture of earthen ware in every instance indicates an advanced stage of civilization and improvement. *
In digging the walls of the irregular fort at Parkersburgh, Wood. Co., Virginia, a variety of earthen ware, of human bones and animal bones, were discovered, constituting part of the wall, and these appeared to have been promiscuously thrown together in every part of the way where any digging had been performed: and what is remarkable, a small mound, situated at the right angle corner of the fort, yielded nothing curious to the hand of the digger, and appeared to have been constituted of bare earth.
There was taken up in the road near Circleville, a small fragment of a stone or red flint vessel. The manufacture was fine, and equal to any thing of modern date in point of neatness and strength.
There was dug from the central mound at Circleville, a fragment of some culinary vessel. It was evidently of cast iron, and showed the mark of the mould. It was covered on the lower side with the black, or smut, contracted over the fire. It was found among ashes and large pieces of charcoal.
A Mr. Neville, of Pickaway Co., in digging for water, met with blacksmith's cinder, six or eight feel below the surface of the
* "In the earlier periods of society," says a later writer on taste, "it seems reasonable to imagine, that all those arts which were directed only to ornament, or to the production of beauty, should employ, in preference to all others, the admir'd form; and that the artist should attempt to give to every thing that constituted the fine arts of such an age, that uniformity which was expressive of the quality most valued and most admired among them. It is found accordingly that this is the fact, that the form which, in such periods, universally characterizes the productions of taste, is uniformity and regularity. In every form where we discover a total want of this quality, we are disposed to consider it the production of chance, or of some power which has operated without thought or intention. 'In all events,' says Dr. Reid, 'regulrity expresses design and art; for nothing regular was ever the work of chance.' In what manner this conexion is formed -- whether it is derived from experience, or to be considered as an original principle of our nature, I do not inquire."
In removing the walls at Circleville, blacksmith's cinder appeared.
General G. Walton, in digging for salt on Long Lick Creek, beach fork of Salt River, fell upon an ancient well, carried down a solid limestone rock twelve or fifteen feet; petrified buck's horn and earthen ware were found in the bottom. Earthen ware pans, or dishes, which would have held three or four gallons, were found. Some were lying about the old well's mouth, and some with the ground or dirt thrown out.
In the county of Warren, on Miami, Ohio, within an ancient fort, a stone was discovered upwards of three feet in length, and fifteen inches in circumference, fixed perpendicularly in the earth; on the west side marked thus, S F, and on the east with a figure resembling a half moon carved in the stone, three inches in length
Samuel Clarke, of Louisville, has in his possession a stone in the shape of an egg, or about the size of a hen's egg, perforated longitudinally, It is blue, and neatly polished.
On Highland Creek was taken out of a mound an earthen pot, and a small stone image well polished. The image was five or six inches in length; the figure human, and supposed to be a saint. The stone is flint.
A small stone image was taken up on the Ohio at low water, five miles above Louisville. The stone has unequal sides of between three and four inches. The image is a man's head well executed. The image was originally made of a black substance, like wax, and attached to the stone in a very ingenious manner. It is evident that the artificer, in respect to the eyelid, designed to effect a shade, that great secret of the pencil.
At Circleville there was taken from the central mound of the circle a copper coin. It was dug up beneath the roots of a hickory growing on the mound, seven feet eight inches in circumference. A comparison of this coin with other ancient copper devices, particularly of Britain, is attended with no satisfaction. This comparison was instituted and carried on to a considerable extent.
On the farm of Mr. Edward Payne, near Lexington, were found two ancient coins. One was of gold, and sold at ten dollars; the other was of brass. Each had a head reversed, and each were inscribed with characters not understood, but said to resemble Hebrew.
The date of the gold coin was probably 1014, and the date of the brass piece 1009.
A few miles below Mr. Payne a gold piece was found on the plantation of Mr. Chambers, who says it was sold at Lexington for thirteen dollars. This was inscribed with unknown characters. Mr. Chambers says it was unlike any coin he had ever seen. He also says, that a small piece of copper was found on his farm at the same time. It was exactly square, well polished, and marked on two sides with 1064. He considered it a weight.
Mr. J. Blair, in removing the clay of the mound in Franklinton, found a copper weight of the aborigines. It weighed 1 1/2 lb. In size and shape it resembled such a tin inkstand as is commonly used in counting rooms.
Sanders, a half Indian or white man, raised among the Shawanese, informed me that in some of the ancient works, four feet under ground, a piece of a sword was dug up which had been a very strong blade.
In the mouth of a cavern opposite to, or not far from Hurricane, on the Ohio, north west side, are engraved on the rock, twenty-five feet high, the fiqures of several animals, as of the bear, and buffaloe, and, what is most remarkable, of the lion and lioness. These figures are done in a masterly style. You enter the cavern first, through a small cavity nine feet wide and twelve feet high; then ascend a bench of a few feet, and enter an aperature of about the size of a door into a most spacious cavern.
About one-fourth of a mile below St. Louis, there is a distinguished impression in a rock of a man's foot. The gentleman who informed me of this remarked, that the people in the neighbourhood will not allow that this was done by Europeans. Curious ear-rings are ascribed to the Mexicans, and were no doubt, a common thing among the aborigines.
At the place where Clarkesville was laid out, opposite Shippingport, there was a burying ground of two or three hundred yards. Numerous bones were found on Sandy Island, as evidences of a great battle which was fought there.
General Clarke, of Louisville, says that about forty years ago, there was discovered near Red Stone, Old Fort, and in an excavation made by a fallen tree, a human skeleton buried in a coffin of earthen ware.
Note: Writer Dan Vogel, in his 1986 book, Indian Origins and the Book of Mormon, provides a list of articles appearing in the Port Folio which might be of interest to students of the Book of Mormon. Strangely enough, Vogel says nothing about John P. Campbell passing along William Mc'Kee's report of the "lost book" legend. Here are excerpts taken from various pages in Vogel's book:
The Philadelphia Port Folio reported in [July] 1816 that "thin plates of copper rolled up" were discovered in one mound... In 1823 John Haywood [in his The Natural and Aboriginal History of Tennessee, described "human bones of large size" and "two or three plates of brass, with characters inscribed resembling letters" found in one West Virginia mound.... Joseph Smith may have combined these stories of plates coming from the mounds with detailed descriptions of metal books used by the Jews and others in the Old World.
The Port Folio reported in 1819 that one Tennessee mound contained "an iron sword, resembling the sabre of the Persians or Seythians"... John Haywood claimed that... Ohio mound builders... "had swords of iron and steel, and steel bows, ..."
In [June] 1816 the Philadelphia Port Folio reported that "it is a very general opinion, prevailing in the western country, that there is ample proof that the country in general was once inhabited by a civilized and agricultural people" who were eventually destroyed by the Indians. [[79. "Of the Aborigines of the Western Country... It is a current opinion... that the first inhabitants of the western country were white people"... Indian tradition reportedly held "Kentucky had once been inhabited by white people, but that they were exterminated by the Indians."
Port Folio. Philadelphia, 1801-27. Edited by Oliver Oldschool [Joseph Dennie, later Nicholas Biddle]. APS: 2:40-2, 220, 228, 915; LAC 31440-84.
Vol. 4 (new series), 7 Nov. 1807: Describes Charles W. Peale's Museum in Philadelphia (293-96). Peale's Mammoth Room contained an entire mammoth skeleton which had been discovered in New York in 1801 and several other bones of prehistoric animals (295-96).
Vol. 1 (second series), Jan. 1809: Reviews Thomas Ashe's Travels in America (150-62) and discusses North American fortifications (159-60).
Vol. 3 (second series), Feb. 1810: Discusses mammoths discovered in the Arctic in 1806 (111-13).
Vol. 4 (second series), Oct. 1810: Letter from Benjamin Smith Barton to Thomas Jefferson, 13 July 1810, discusses the American mammoth (340-44).
Vol. 7 (second series), June 1812: Reviews Benjamin Smith Barton's New Views of the Origin of the Tribes and Nations of America (Philadelphia, 1797), discussing Barton's view that the Indians came from Asia. The review maintains that another race, predating but surpassing the Indians, constructed the ancient forts and cities east of the Mississippi River (507-26).
Vol. 5 (third series), Jan. 1815: Announces that the periodical possesses an unpublished manuscript which refutes the theory that America was peopled from Asia through the Bering Strait and that a portion of the manuscript will be printed in a forthcoming issue (80-81).
Vol. 5 (third series), March 1815: "Proposed Solution of the Question, Touching the Peopling of the Continent of America," an extract from the unpublished manuscript in the periodical's possession, argues the impossibility of men and animals crossing the Bering Strait, since no one would transport snakes or wolves. Rather the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans were once dry land, allowing men and animals to migrate to the New World. This land disappeared during the convulsions of the earth at the time of Peleg (231-41).
Vol. 6 (third series), July 1815: "Whence come the Men and Animals to America?" (7-10), another extract from the unpublished manuscript, again argues that animals such as iguanas, alligators, monkeys, and parrots could not have migrated through the extremely cold Arctic region.
Vol. 1 (fourth series), June 1816: "Of the Aborigines of the Western Country" reveals that the extracts published in the March and July issues, supposedly the work of Henry Frost, were in fact written by the late Dr. John P. Campbell (457). The periodical then discusses at length the common notion that the mounds and fortifications were built by a civilized, agricultural, white-skinned race. This white-skinned race, according to the Port Folio, came from Asia and were perhaps Israelites of the ten tribes. These civilized people were eventually destroyed by other more savage and dark-complected Asiatics who also migrated to the New World (457-63).
Vol. 2 (fourth series), July 1816: Continues the June article about the aborigines of the western country, discussing the mound builders' metallurgy and use of copper, brass, and iron (1-8).
Vol. 3 (fourth series), May 1817: Samuel Mitchill, "American Antiquities," discusses the Tartar origin of the Indians (422).
Vol. 4 (fourth series), Aug. 1817: "Origin of the North American Indians" mentions that a cross was found around the neck of a skeleton taken from a mound at Chilicothe, Ohio (168).
Vol. 4 (fourth series), Sept. 1817: C. W. Short, "Antiquities of Ohio," describes a fortification in Hamilton County, Ohio, and includes a diagram (179-81).
Vol. 7 (fourth series), April 1819: "Antiquities of the West" describes antiquities of Tennessee, including a stone fort, some glass, and an iron sword (350).
Vol. 2 (fifth series), Aug. 1822: Describes an Ohio mound, states that the mounds cannot be the work of the Indians, and compares the mounds to the pyramids of Egypt (125-26).