(Newspapers of NEW YORK)

New York City Papers of M. M. Noah

Morning Courier & N.Y. Enquirer
1829-1833 Articles

Mordacai M. Noah -- prominent 1800s New York City editor

M. M. Noah's New York City Papers:

1817-1826  Nat. Advocate (1817-24) NY Nat. Advocate (1825-6)
1826-1829  New York Enquirer
1829-1833  Morning Courier & New York Enquirer
1833-1840  The Evening Star
1840-1851  Noah's Weekly Messenger

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J. W. Webb & M. M. Noah                  Wednesday, March 31, 1830.                  Vol. VI. -- No. 695.


THE BOOK OF MORMON:-- or, what is better known by the title of the Gold Bible, has been recently published at Palmyra.

Note 1: This brief notice of the "recently published" Book of Mormon was arguably the first report concerning Mormonism and the Mormons to appear in a major New York City newspaper. Mentions of Joseph Smith's earlier claims, to have uncovered golden plates in the west, reached the less widely read columns of the NYC Telescope, following their initial appearance in the Palmyra Freeman of Aug. 11, 1829, but no evidence survives to indicate that the larger circulation papers took any notice of emerging Mormonism then. News of the publication of the "Nephite Record" reached New York City via an article printed in the March 26th issue of the Wayne Sentinel. Of course, the "Gold Bible" story had already been spread in western New York, by mentions made in local periodicals, like the Palmyra Reflector.

Note 2: "Big Apple" Editor Mordecai M. Noah appears to have taken a special interest in the rise of this new religious group. He henceforth gave the Mormons frequent mention in his papers, though he never offered them the degree of public sympathy expressed by his erstwhile employee (and later journalistic rival), James G. Bennett, of the New York Herald.

Note 3: See the Apr. 28, 1831 issue of the New York Evening Post for what may have been the second article on the Mormons published in a major New York City paper.


J. W. Webb & M. M. Noah                  Wednesday, May 4, 1831.                  Vol. VII. -- No. 1237.


THE PAINESVILLE (Ohio) TELEGRAPH contains an account of the details of some of the fanatical followers of the new religion of Mormonism. His name was Doty, he believed firmly in the divinity of Smith, the leader of the sect, who had promised him that he should live one thousand years, So satisfied was Doty with this prophecy, that he would not permit a physician to visit him. When the approach of death, however, could be no longer unknown, he saw the fallacy of his hopes and sent for a medical man, but it was too late, he died regretting his errors. The Mormonites in the neighbourhood fled from the house where the body lay, but Smith, like the false prophet of Khorassan, soon gathered them around him, by the assurance that the young man's [fate] was caused by his having fallen from the faith!!!

Notes: (forthcoming)


J. W. Webb & M. M. Noah                  Saturday, May 21, 1831.                  Vol. VII. -- No. 1247.

A New Excitement -- Mormonism versus Anti-masonry:-- An elegant new excitement recently started up, like Jonah's goard, in the anti-masonic district of Ohio, which is marching like a giant, and attacking the very citadels of anti-masonry itself. It is called "Mormonism." It is already making great progress in the Ohio Reserve, and possesses more fanaticism than even anti-masonry itself. We presume Mr. Bush and the American will give us their sentiments on it, as soon as they can cleaverly get over the recent Sam Patch plunge into anti-masonry.

Notes: (forthcoming)


J. W. Webb & M. M. Noah                  Friday, May 27, 1831.                  Vol. VII. -- No. 1252.

FROM THE PAINESVILLE (Ohio) TELEGRAPH: Mormon Emigration.-- About two hundred men, women and children, of the deluded followers of Jo Smith's bible speculation, have arrived on our coast during the last, week, from the state of New-York, & are about seating themselves down upon the "promised land" in this county. It is surely a melancholy comment upon human nature to see so many people at this enlightened age of the world, truckling along at the car of a miserable impostor, submitting themselves, both soul and body, to his spiritual and temporal mandates, without a murmur, or presuming to question that it is all a command direct from Heaven. Such an abject slavery of the mind may endure for a season; but in due time, like the chains of Popery, the links which bind them will be rent asunder, and reason resume again her empire.

The above is taken from an Anti-masonic paper. The Anti-masons are generally very hostile to the Mormonites as a rival species of fanaticism.

Notes: (forthcoming)


J. W. Webb & M. M. Noah                  Monday, June 13, 1831.                  Vol. VII. -- No. 1266.


THE LOCKPORT BALANCE says, that the Mormonites at present exceed one thousand. The land selected by their Prophet is in and around the town of Kirtland, Geauga county, Ohio. Every day adds to their numbers.

Note: Presumably this report was paraphrased from a longer article published in the May 24th or 31st issue of Orsamus Turner's Lockport Balance. The original article has not been located for transcription.


J. W. Webb & M. M. Noah                  Saturday, June 25, 1831.                  Vol. VII. -- No. 1278.


"It has no parallel in folly and stupidity from the days of Johannah Southcote, to those of Jemima Wilkinson. In its character, or practical operations, it has no redeeming feature. It is with regret, however, that we are obliged to add, that it has not proved unsuccessful. There are now, probably, 1000 disciples of the Mormon creed!. 'Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askelon.' Their prophet, Jo. has selected a spot in the State of Ohio, which he calls the promised land! It is in and about the town of Kirtland, Geauga county. Thither the deluded followers of the false prophet are repairing. It is but a few days since, that an entire boat load of them passed this village, principally from the counties of Ontario and Wayne. Such as have property, convert it to a common stock, and thus create an inducement which is not overlooked by the idle and vicious. Families, in some instances, have been divided; and in others, mothers have been obliged to follow their deluded husbands, or adopt the disagreeable alternative of parting with them and their children." (Lockport Balance.)

The Balance states that the founder of Mormonism is Jo. Smith, an ignorant and nearly unlettered man living near the village of Palmyra, Wayne county; the second, an itinerant pamphlet pedlar and occasionally a journeyman printer, named Oliver Cowdery; the third, Martin Harris, a respectable farmer at Palmyra. The latter, as will be seen in the following paragraph, has recently departed for the land of promise: --

Mormon Emigration. -- Several families, numbering about fifty souls, took up their line of march from this town last week for the "promised land," among whom is Martin Harris, one of the original believers in the "Book of Mormon." Mr. Harris was among the early settlers of this town, and has ever borne the character of an honorable and upright man, and an obliging and benevolent neighbor. He had secured to himself by honest industry a respectable fortune -- and he has left a large circle of acquaintances and friends to pity his delusion. -- Palmyra Sentinel.

Note: The above pair of reports on the Mormons were first juxtaposed in the June 21, 1831 issue of the Daily Albany Argus. The first article was taken from the May 31, 1831 issue of the Lockport Balance. See also the July 16, 1831 issue for the Washington, D. C. National Intelligencer for anotehr reprint of the same two articles.


J. W. Webb & M. M. Noah                  Wednesday, August 31, 1831.                  Vol. VII. -- No. 562.


Canandaigua, Aug. 15th, 1831.

New York has been celebrated for her parties -- her sects -- her explosions -- her curiosities of human character her fanaticism political and religious. The strangest parties and wildest opinions originate among us. The human mind in our rich vales -- on our sunny hills -- in our crowded cities or thousand villages -- or along the shores of our translucent lakes bursts beyond all ordinary trammels; throws aside with equal fastiduousness the maxims of ages and the discipline of generations, and strikes out new paths for itself. In politics -- in religion -- in all the great concerns of man, New York has a character peculiarly her own; strikingly original, purely American -- energetic and wild to the very farthest boundaries of imagination. The centre of the state is quiet comparatively, and grave to a degree; but its two extremities, Eastern and Western; the city of the Atlantic, and the continuous villages of the Lakes, contain all that is curious in human character -- daring in conception -- wild in invention, and singular in practical good sense as well as in solemn foolery.

You have heard of MORMONISM -- who has not? Paragraph has followed paragraph in the newspapers, recounting the movements, detailing their opinions and surprising distant readers with the traits of a singularly new religious sect which had its origin in this state. Mormonism is the latest device of roguery, ingenuity, ignorance and religious excitement combined, and acting on materials prepared by those who ought to know better. It is one of the mental exhalations of Western New York.

The individuals who gave birth to this species of fanaticism are very simple personages, and not known until this thrust them into notice. They are the old and young Joe Smith's Harris a farmer, Ringdon a sort of preacher on general religion from Ohio, together with several other persons equally infatuated, cunning, and hypocritic. The first of these persons, Smith, resided on the borders of Wayne and Ontario counties on the road leading from Canandaigua to Palmyra. Old Joe Smith had been a country pedlar in his younger days, and possessed all the shrewdness, cunning, and small intrigue which are generally and justly attributed to that description of persons. He was a great story teller, full of anecdotes picked up in his peregrinations -- and possessed a tongue as smooth as oil and as quick as lightning. He had been quite a speculator in a small way in his younger days, but had been more fortunate in picking up materials for his tongue than stuff for the purse. Of late years he picked up his living somewhere in the town of Manchester by following a branch of the "American System" -- the manufacture of gingerbread and such like domestic wares. In this article he was a considerable speculator, having on hand during a fall of price no less than two baskets full, and I believe his son, Joe, Junior, was at times a partner in the concern. What their dividends were I could not learn, but they used considerable molasses, and were against the duty on that article. Young Joe, who afterwards figured so largely in the Mormon religion, was at that period a careless, indolent, idle, and shiftless fellow. He hung round the villages and strolled round the taverns without any end or aim -- without any positive defect or as little merit in his character. He was rather a stout able bodied fellow, and might have made a good living in such a country as this where any one who is willing to work, can soon get on in the world. He was however, the son of a speculative Yankee pedlar, and was brought up to live by his wits. Harris also one of the fathers of Mormonism was a substantial farmer near Palmyra -- full of passages of the scriptures -- rather wild and flighty in his talk occasionally -- but holding a very respectable character in his neighborhood for sobriety, sense and hard working.

A few years ago the Smith's and others who were influenced by their notions, caught an idea that money was hid in several of the hills which give variety to the country between the Canandaigua Lake and Palmyra on the Erie Canal. Old Smith had in his pedling excursions picked up many stories of men getting rich in New England by digging in certain places and stumbling upon chests of money. The fellow excited the imagination of his few auditors, and made them all anxious to lay hold of the bilk axe and the shovel. As yet no fanatical or religious character had been assumed by the Smith's. They exhibited the simple and ordinary desire of getting rich by some short cut if possible. With this view the Smith's and their associates commenced digging, in the numerous hills which diversify the face of the country in the town of Manchester. The sensible country people paid slight attention to them at first. They knew them to be a thriftless set, more addicted to exerting their wits than their industry, readier at inventing stories and tales than attending church or engaging in any industrious trade. On the sides & in the slopes of several of these hills, these excavations are still to be seen. They Would occasionally conceal their purposes, and at other times reveal them by such snatches as might excite curiosity. They dug these holes by day, and at night talked and dreamed over the counties' riches they should enjoy, if they could only hit upon an iron chest full of dollars. In excavating the grounds, they began by taking up the green sod in the form of a circle of six feet diameter--then would continue to dig to the depth of ten, twenty, and sometimes thirty feet. At last some person who joined them spoke of a person in Ohio near Painesville, who had a particular felicity in finding out the spots of ground where money is hid and riches obtained. He related long stories how this person had been along shore in the east -- how he had much experience in money digging -- how he dreamt of the very spots where it could be found. "Can we get that man here?" asked the enthusiastic Smiths. "Why," said the other, "I guess as how we could by going for him." "How far off?" "I guess some two hundred miles -- I would go for him myself but I want a little change to bear my expenses." To work the whole money-digging crew went to get some money to pay the expenses of bringing on a man who could dream out the exact and particular spots where money in iron chests was hid under ground. Old Smith returned to his gingerbread factory -- young Smith to his financing faculties, and after some time, by hook or by crook, they contrived to scrape together a little "change" sufficient to fetch on the money dreamer from Ohio.

After the lapse of some weeks the expedition was completed, and the famous Ohio man made his appearance among them. This recruit was the most cunning, intelligent, and odd of the whole. He had been a preacher of almost every religion -- a teacher of all sorts of morals. -- He was perfectly au fait with every species of prejudice, folly or fanaticism, which governs the mass of enthusiasts. In the course of his experience, he had attended all sorts of camp-meetings, prayer meetings, anxious meetings, and revival meetings. He knew every turn of the human mind in relation to these matters. He had a superior knowledge of human nature, considerable talent, great plausibility, and knew how to work the passions as exactly as a Cape Cod sailor knows how to work a whale ship. His name I believe is Henry Rangdon or Ringdon, or some such word. About the time that this person appeared among them, a splendid excavation was begun in a long narrow hill, between Manchester and Palmyra. This hill has since been called by some, the Golden Bible Hill. The road from Canandaigua to Palmyra, runs along its western base. At the northern extremity the hill is quite abrupt and narrow. It runs to the south for a half mile and then spreads out into a piece of broad table land, covered with beautiful orchards and wheat fields. On the east, the Canandaigua outlet runs past it on its way to the beautiful village of Vienna in Phelps. It is profusely covered to the top with Beech, Maple, Bass, and White-wood -- the northern extremity is quite bare of trees. In the face of this hill, the money diggers renewed their work with fresh ardour, Ringdon partly uniting with them in their operations.

(To be continued.)

Note: See the comments attached to the second half of this two-part article.


J. W. Webb & M. M. Noah                  Thursday, September 1, 1831.                  Vol. VII. -- No. 563.


(Concluded from yesterday's paper.)

About this time a very considerable religious excitement came over New York in the shape of a revival. It was also about the same period, that a powerful and concerted effort was made by a class of religionists, to stop the mails on Sunday to give a sectarian character to Temperance and other societies -- to keep up the Pioneer lines of stages and canal boats, and to organize generally a religious party, that would act altogether in every public and private concern of life. The greatest efforts were making by the ambition, tact, skill and influence of certain of the clergy, and other lay persons, to regulate and control the public mind -- to check all its natural and buoyant impulses -- to repress effectually freedom of opinion--and to turn the tide of public sentiment entirely in favor of blending religious and worldly concerns together. Western New York has for years, had a most powerful and ambitious religious party of zealots, and their dupes. They have endeavored ever since the first settlement of Rochester, to organize a religious hierachy, which would regulate the pursuits, the pleasures, and the very thoughts of social life. This organization was kept up by banding churches and congregations together -- by instituting laws similar to those of excommunication -- by a species of espionage, as powerful and as terrible as that of a Spanish Inquisition. Every occupation in life -- every custom of the people -- very feeling and every thought, from the running of a stage or of a lady's tongue up to the legislation of the state, or of Congress, was to be regularly marked and numbered like so many boxes of contraband or lawful merchandise, by these self-created religious censorships and divines. Rochester is, and was the great headquarters of the religious empire. The late Mr. Bissell, one of the most original and talented men in matters of business, was equally so in religious enthusiasm, and all measures calculated to spread it among the people.--The singular character of the people of western New York--their originality, activity, and proneness to excitement furnished admirable materials for enthusiasts in religion or roguery to work upon. Pure religion -- the religion of the heart and conduct -- the religion that makes men better and wiser -- that makes woman more amiable and benevolent--that purifies the soul -- that represses ambition -- that seeks the private oratory and not the highway to pour forth its aspirations: such a religion was not that of the party of which I speak. Theirs is the religion of the pomp and circumstance of glorious controversy -- the artificial religion of tracts. Magdalen Reports, lines of stages -- the religion of collecting money from those who should first pay their debts -- of sending out missionaries to spend it, and of letting the poor and ignorant at home starve and die. Such mistaken principles and erroneous views must when attempted to be carried into effect, breed strange results. Men's minds in this age will not submit to the control of hypocrisy or superstition or clerical ambition. They may be shackled for a day through their wives and daughters -- for a month -- a year, but it cannot be lasting; when the first die or the last get husbands, independence will be asserted.

This general impulse given to religious fanaticism by a set of men in Western New York, has been productive among other strange results of the infatuation of Mormonism. This piece of roguery, folly and frenzy (for it partakes of all) is the genuine fruit of the same seeds which produced the Sunday Mail movement--the Pioneer line of stages -- the Magdalen Reports &c. &c. It is religion run into madness by zealots and hypocrites.

It was during this state of public feeling in which the money diggers of Ontario county, by the suggestions of the Ex-Preacher from Ohio, thought of turning their digging concern into a religious plot, and thereby have a better chance of working upon the credulity and ignorance of the [their] associates and the neighborhood. Money and a good living might be got in this way. It was given out that visions had appeared to Joe Smith -- that a set of golden plates on which was engraved the "Book of Mormon," enclosed in an iron chest, was deposited somewhere in the hill I have mentioned. People laughed at the first intimation of the story, but the Smiths and Rangdon persisted in its truth. They began also to talk very seriously, to quote scripture, to read the bible, to be contemplative, and to assume that grave studied character, which so easily imposes on ignorant and superstitious people. Hints were given out that young Joe Smith was the chosen one of God to reveal this new mystery to the world; and Joe from being an idle young fellow, lounging about the villages, jumped up into a very grave parsonlike man, who felt he had on his shoulders the salvation of the world, besides a respectable looking sort of a blackcoat. Old Joe, the ex-preacher, and several others, were the believers of the new faith, which they admitted was an improvement in christianity, foretold word for word in the bible. They treated their own invention with the utmost religious respect. By the special interposition of God, the golden plates, on which was engraved the Book of Mormon, and other works, had been buried for ages in the hill by a wandering tribe of the children of Israel, who had found their way to western New York, before the birth of christianity itself. Joe Smith is discovered to be the second Messiah who was to reveal this word to the world and to reform it anew.

In relation to the finding of the plates and the taking the engraving, a number of ridiculous stories are told. -- Some unsanctified fellow looked out the other side of the hill. They had to follow it with humility and found it embedded beneath a beautiful grove of maples. Smith's wife, who had a little of the curiosity of her sex, peeped into the large chest in which he kept the engravings taken from the golden plates, and straightway one half the new Bible vanished, and has not been recovered to this day. Such were the effects of the unbelievers on the sacred treasure. There is no doubt but the ex-parson from Ohio is the author of the book which was recently printed and published in Palmyra and passes for the new Bible. It is full of strange narratives -- in the style of the scriptures, and bearing on its face the marks of some ingenuity, and familiar acquaintance with the Bible. It is probable that Joe Smith is well acquainted with the trick, but Harris the farmer and the recent converts, are true believers. -- Harris was the first man who gave credit to the story of Smith and the ex-preacher. He was their maiden convert -- the Ali of the Ontario Mahomet, who believed without a reason and without a murmur. They attempted to get the Book printed, but could not raise the means till Harris stept [sic] forward, and raised money on his farm for that purpose. Harris with several manuscripts in his pocket, went to the city of New York, and called upon one of the Professors of Columbia College for the purpose of shewing them to him. Harris says that the Professor thought them very curious, but admitted that he could not decypher them. Said he to Harris, "Mr. Harris you had better go to the celebrated Doct. Mitchell and shew them to him. He is very learned in these ancient languages, and I have no doubt will be able to give you some satisfaction." "Where does he live," asked Harris. He was told, and off he posted with the engravings from the Golden Plates to submit to Doc. Mitchell -- Harris says that the Doctor received him very "purlitely," looked at his engravings--made a learned dissertation on them -- compared them with the hieroglyphics discovered by Champollion in Egypt -- and set them down as the language of a people formerly in existence in the East, but now no more.

The object of his going to the city to get the "Book of Mormon" printed, was not however accomplished. He returned with his manuscript or engravings to Palmyra -- tried to raise money by mortgage on his farm from the New York Trust Company -- did raise the money, but from what source -- whether the Trust Company or not I am uncertain. At last a printer in Palmyra undertook to print the manuscript of Joe Smith, Harris becoming responsible for the expense. They were called translaters, but in fact and in truth they are believed to be the work of the Ex-Preacher from Ohio, who stood in the background and put forward Joe to father the new bible and the new faith. After the publication of the golden bible, they began to make converts rapidly. The revivals and other religious excitements had thrown up materials for the foundation of a new sect, they soon found they had not dug for money in vain -- they began to preach -- to pray -- to see more visions -- to prophesy and perform the most fantastic tricks -- there was now no difficulty in getting a living and the gingerbread factory was abandoned. They created considerable talk over all this section of the country. Another Revelation came upon them, and through Joe and some other of these prophets, they were directed to take up their march and go out to the promised land -- to a place near Painesville, Ohio. Money was raised in a twinkling from the new converts. Their principles -- their tenets -- their organization -- their discipline were as yet unformed and unfashioned, and probably are so to this day. Since they went to Ohio they have adopted some of the worldly views of the Shakers and have formed a sort of community system where everything is in common. Joe Smith, Harris, the Ex-pedlar and the Ex-parson are among their elders and preachers -- so also now is Phelps one of Mr. Granger's leading anti-masonic editors in this village.

Such is a brief view of the rise and progress of the Mormon Religion one of the strangest pieces of fanaticism to which the ill-advised and the worst regulated ambition and folly of certain portions of the clergy in Western New York ever gave birth. What a lesson it ought to teach us!

Note 1: This two-part article was researched and written by Courier and Enquirer journalist, James Gordon Bennett, as part of an 1831 series of reports of western New York he filed with the paper's editor, Major Noah. Bennett later parted with Noah, eventually becoming the noted head of his own influential publication, the New York Herald.

Note 2: Bennett's report on the recently departed Mormons of Wayne and Ontario counties was a potentially important piece of historical documentation -- however, the writer's imprecise quotation of unsure sources diminished the articles' future usefulness. For example, Bennett conveys the impression that Martin Harris first took the alleged Nephite writing samples to Charles Anthon, "of Columbia College," and from there went to visit Dr. Samuel Mitchill, to get his advice regarding the same text -- this account reverses the order in which Harris approached the two Gotham savants. Probably there is a good deal of factual information embedded in Bennett's reporting, but his account contains little information of unique significance that can be independently verified today. A new discovery of some near contemporary, confirming source might render Bennett's interesting story of Sidney Rigdon's earliest involvement with the New York Mormons more useful and valuable to historians, however.

Note 3: Bennett's account of Mormon origins was widely reprinted at the time, in excerpts and also in a paraphrased version. The report was soon forgotten, however, and is not known to have provided any raw material for the historians of Mormonism until years after it was initially uncovered by Dale Morgan during the 1940s. See also Leonard J. Arrington's 1970 article on this early account: "James Gordon Bennett's 1831 Report on the Mormonites," in BYU Studies X:3 and Wade Englund's more recent on-line comments.


J. W. Webb & M. M. Noah                  Saturday, November 24, 1832.                  Vol. VII. -- No. ?


One of the Mormonite clergymen at Marietta (Ohio) has given out that he is the Comet, which has been so long calculated upon; and that, at a proper season, he shall take occasion to blaze out. What next?

Note: This report, regarding the Marietta, Ohio religious eccentric, Edward Postlewayt Page (c. 1782-1857) known as the "High Priest of Nature," was mistakenly applied to the Mormons. There is no evidence that Page ever joined the Latter Day Saints.

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