The Real Founder of Mormonism
William H. Whitsitt
BOOK THE THIRD:
THE DISCIPLE PERIOD: Oct. 11, 1823 -- Nov. 8, 1830
(Section II, pp. 174-204z)
Contents | Book I | Book II | Book III: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 | Book IV | Book V
go back to: page 173
According to the account of his brother John, Solomon Spaulding was horn in the year 1761 at the Village of Ashford in Connecticut (Howe, pp. 278-9). His earliest trajning was acquired in the common schools of that region, where he displayed a degree of aptitude that was sufficient to induce his family to believe that there might be a chance for him in the line of scholarship. Accordinsly he was entered in the Plainfield Academy. Here he "made great proficiency in study, and excelled most of his class-mates." On quitting the Academy his ambition was directed towards the study of law, and possibly he made offers to practice the profession of law, but in this direction, it is reported, "he made little progress." His next resort was to the Christian ministry, and in the year 1783, he entered Dartmouth college to prepare himself for the functions of that station; in 1785, as appears by the records of the institution, he graduated Master of Arts. Shortly afterwards he was able to obtain a formal ordination to the ministry.
In his new calling he is believed to have found no more brilliant success than that which had rewarded his exertions in the legal profession. John Spaulding says: "After preaching three or four years he gave it up." Retir[ed] to other fields of labor, his third resort was to the mercantile business. Finding his way to Cherry Valley, a village in Otsego county New York, he joined his brother Josiah
there in keeping a shop for the sale of merchants' goods. The date of this removal is not set down in any of the sources that are at present accessible, but supposing that he quitted the ministry as early as the year 1790, it may have occurred shortly afterwards. The testimony of John Spaulding, however, would seem to indicate that he may have led a vagrant, useless life for some years in New England before setting out for New York. Speaking of his brother's history at Cherry Valley he declares: "In a few years he failed in business and in the year 1809 removed to Conneaut in Ohio." The space between 1790 and 1809 is more than the "few years," which are given as the measure of his mercantile activity in Cherry Valley.
Mrs. Ellen E. Dickinson (New Light on Mormonism, New York 1885, p. 13) declares that in Cherry Valley Solomon Spaulding "became principal of an academy," but no authority is cited, and she herself is so incurably inaccurate, that it is difficult to decide where her assertions are worthy to be trusted. But whatever may be true in that connection, he fell into a state of bankruptcy, and during the year 1809 drifted away on the tide of western migration. As a native of Connecticut his attention would be directed towards the Western Reserve of Connecticut, a fertile district in the north-eastern portion of Ohio, which had been especially set apart for the behoof of the children of Connecticut.
His curiosity was easily satisfied; he was content to fix his residence in the first county of the Reserve that he reached,
and in the first township of that county, namely in Ashtabula county, and in the township of Conneaut at the extreme northeastern limit of the state of Ohio. The first half year of the Conneaut period was passed in the house of Mr. Oliver Smith, where he must have contracted a bill for lodging which it is likely was never discharged; when Spaulding went away to Pittsburgh three years later he was still a debtor to the said Smith (Howe, pp. 484-5). His earliest undertaking in the line of business venture at Conneaut consisted in the purchase of a tract of land, which he caused to be divided into parcels by survey, and commenced to dispose of at retail.
It is not known by what process such a puny bankrupt was put in possession of a sufficient amount of money to render it possible for him to purchase landed property, but, it may be considered that in those days real estate in the far west went for a song, and that in addition the credit system of transacting business was liable to outrageous abuse. In the year 1810 his brother John Spaulding followed him to Ohio. but there is no indication that he cultivated anything resembling close relations with Solomon (Howe, p. 279). Shortly after acquiring a landed estate at Conneaut, Spaulding's attention was called to a ruined forge that must have been situated within the limits of his property, and during the year 1810, when John Spaulding reached Ohio; he found his brother engaged in the enterprise of rebuilding it. This business was prosecuted until the first days of
January 1811, when he had the happiness to secure as a partner, Mr. Henry Lake (Howe, p. 281), a young gentleman who had just arrived in the country, and it may be presumed had a little ready money in his pockets.
Meanwhile, on leaving the home of Oliver Smith, perhaps about the first of January 1810, Mr. Spaulding had set up an establishment of his own, in which he was able in his turn to receive a lodger in the person of John N. Miller, one of the hired hands employed by the firm of Spaulding and Lake sometime during the year 1811 (Howe. pp. 282-3). But the forge did not meet the expectations of the firm in question; perhaps it was a capital mistake ever to have laid hands to it, but Spaulding may have possessed a sufficient amount of plausibility to induce his neighbors to lend him whatever spare pennies they had about their persons to sink in a hopeless venture.
As early as the month of October 1811, his ear which had previously enjoyed excellent training that way, began to be sensible of the "din of his creditor[s];" Artemas Cunningham at that time traveled from Madison township in Perry county to Conneaut for the purpose of securing a debt which Spaulding owed him (Howe, p. 286). Though he tarried with him nearly two days Mr. Cunningham was not able to accomplish his desire, and adds, "I found him destitute of the means of paying his debts." The other creditors had probably reached the scene before
this gentleman from an adjoining county could arrive, and had made sure of the landed property, the forge and of everything else in sight.
But even then the din of his creditors did not cease; it continued till the date of his departure from the community. Under the laws then in force it was possible for such of them as might be that way disposed to cast him into prison for debt; to evade this casualty in the case of Oliver Smith Mr. Spaulding sent for him, just before setting forward, to desire that he would not prevent his journey (Howe, p. 285).
Sometime after the date of Hull's Surrender on the 16th of August 1812 (Mackay, p. 36), he quitted Conneaut for the city of Pittsburgh, Penn. His old partner, Henry Lake, deposes: "Spaulding left here in 1812, and I furnished him the means to carry him to Pittsburgh" (Howe, p. 282).
Though John Spaulding could not render him any aid in that way, he was friendly enough to fetch his wife Martha and make him a parting visit on the eve of his departure (Howe, pp. 279-280).
Two years were passed in Pittsburgh in which he again gave himself to the cares of mercantile pursuit, having according to his own report, "kept a little store in Pittsburgh" (Letter of Joseph Miller, Dickinson. p. 240). Finally in the year 1814 it became impossible for him to regain any footing there, and he retired to Amity, a trifling hamlet in the southern part of Washington county, Pennsylvania. Here
he gave his exertions to the occupation of keeping the tavern of the place, and was familiar with the same old financial straits that had been his companions through life. Joseph Miller says, "he came to our house and wanted me to go with him and bail him for 50 Dollars, as he needed the money" (Dickinson, p. 240).
At length on the 20th day of December 1816 (Patterson, p. 1, note), his feeble existence came to an end. He was 55 years of age, and considering t.hat he was a total failure in everything he had set his hand to perform, it is possible he had often felt that life was many years too long. Joseph Miller made his coffin and he was decently buried by the sympathetic people of that distant community. Though he had long since renounced his belief in the tenets of the Christian religion (Howe, p. 288), surviving friends provided a pious epitaph for his tombstone:
On arriving at Conneaut in the year 1809, Solomon Spaulding had three distinct failures behind his back: one at the bar, one in the pulpit and the last behind the merchant's counter. But his spirits were not entirely broken down; he immediately set himself, after his inert fashion, to try the perils of a dealer in real estate, and also those of authorship. There is no account of any venture he assumed in this last direction until the Conneaut [period], but as soon as he got a view of the Indian mounds that abounded in that vicinity his ambition was excited perhaps more strongly than had ever been the case before.
Already during the first six months of his new residence, while he was still a lodger under the roof of Oliver Smith, he is said to have occupied "all his leisure hours" in the labor of composition (Howe, p. 284). By the testimony of his daughter, Mrs. McKinstry, at a later time when having left the roof of Oliver Smith, he had workmen engaged in reconstructing the abandoned forge, "he remained at home most of the time and was reading and writing a great deal" (Dickinson, p. 237). But the lady in question was not much more than four years of age in the year 1810, when the work upon the forge was begun, and her testimony given at the distance of seventy years, cannot be very highly regarded.
Mr. Spaulding's earliest invention was not of so ambitious a nature as those which he subsequently undertook. It did not profess to
exhibit the origin of the American Indians; he aimed at nothing more than to supply a glimpse of their condition and manners in the [final] quarter of the third century of the Christian era. In order to obtain this glimpse he fabled the discovery of a cave in an ancient fort, "near the west Bank of Conneaught River," in which was preserved a manuscript "written in eligant hand, with Roman Letters, and in the Latin Language" (from an article entitled "Solomon Spaulding's Manuscript Found at Honolulu" in the Independent for September 10, 1885).
This manuscript he professed to translate, and learned from it that its author was one "Fabius, descended from the illustrious general of that name." Fabius narrates that in the time of the Emperor Constantine, he was dispatched by that monarch to fetch a cargo of military supplies to the Roman army in Britain, but when the vessel had come near the coast of that country, it was seized by a violent storm and driven forth into the Atlantic Ocean. "Soon the whole crew became lost and bewildered," and in the course of time they were driven upon the coasts of the undiscovered Western World.
After these words of introduction Fabius proceeds to give a record of his Journeys In North America; of the people he encountered here, their wars, civilization, manners and customs. This document which Mrs. McKinstry, who had often seen the outside of it, describes as a "manuscript about an inch thick" (Dickinson, p. 239), and which comprises 177 pages, has had a romantic history. In the year 1834, by permission of the widow of Spaulding,
it fell into the hands of a certain D. P. Hurlbut, who carried it back to Ohio, and after exhibiting it to the people of Conneaut, and finding it was recognized by Aaron Wright, Oliver Smith, John N. Miller and others, committed it to the keeping of Mr. E. D. Howe, who at the moment. was engaged in preparing his volume under the title of "Mormonism Unvailed." Howe retained it until the year 1839, when his printing office, with all the appurtenances thereunto belonging, was sold to Messrs. Rice and Winchester. The document in question passed without notice in the transaction, but forty five years afterwards it was recovered by Mr. Rice among his papers at Honolulu, whither he had gone to spend the last years of his life in the home of his daughter.
The Conneaut witnesses whose names are given above, said that this performance bore no resemblance to the "Manuscript Found," upon which the Book of Mormon was based; on the contrary, Spaulding "told them that he had altered his first plan of writing, by going farther back with dates, and writing in the old scripture style, in order that it might appear more ancient" (Howe, p. 288). The Honolulu manuscript was likely written under the roof of Oliver Smith, during the six months in which Spaulding was an inmate of his family, and Snlith would therefore have a certain right to be acquainted with the character of it.
during the progress of the year 1810; when Henry Lake, at the opening of the year 1811 was favored with an opportunity to be bored by Mr. Spaulding's literary nonsense, the document he had then [in] his hands was discoursing about Laban, one of the prominent characters of the earlier pages of the present Book of Mormon (1 Nephi 3 & 4). Lake remembers to have pointed out an inconsistency in that connection, that Spaulding promised to correct, but which was neglected, and he [claimed] to have observed it afterwards in the Book of Mormon (Howe, p. 282).
Somewhat later in the year 1811 Mr. Spaulding must have written as far as the Book of Omni; he was accustomed to offer explanations to his hired man John N. Miller touching the geographical situation of Zarahemla, which is first mentioned at Omni 1:12-13. These explanations must have occurred before the month of October 1811, because by the representations of Artemas Cunningham, the enterprises of the firm of Spaulding and Lake must have been then in a state of collapse, and no hired men were needed in the house. It is not very probable that Miller was admitied to privileges of an auditor after the date just now suggested.
Spaulding remained at Conneaut, as was shown above, until after the 16th of August 1812, but the volume he engaged in writing was not completed at the time of his departure. In his final interview with Oliver Smith he said to that gentleman: "I intend to go to Pittsburgh, and there live a retired life, till I have completed the work,
and when it is printed it will bring me a fine sum of money, which will enable me to return and pay off all my debts" (Howe, p. 285). Just how far he had progressed before his advent to Pittsburgh cannot be definitely determined, but supposing that he had passed the Book of Omni prior to October 1811, it may be assumed that only about 1/3 of the work lay before him when he left Conneaut behind him. The business was diligently prosecuted at Pittsburgh in the leisure that must have been afforded to the keeper of a small shop, where it is possible that most of the duty of serving the customers was devolved upon the shoulders of his wife.
After laying aside the manuscript that has been recently recovered in Honolulu, Mr. Spaulding's second literary venture it is believed was made in the form of a brief narrative which he designated as the Book of Ether. It was of meagre proportions and was subsequently engrafted upon the Book of Mormon. The Book of Ether represents the earliest of all the settlements of America as having occurred but a few years after the confusion of tongues at the tower of Babel. The emigration from the tower was led by one Jared and his brother; they landed in the territory now recognized as Mexico, and flourished in the northern continent, there being no account of any settlement effected by them in South America. This most ancient migration had thriven much in the intervening centuries, but the Jaredite peoples were in the last stages of dissolution when the second migration arrived, from Jerusalem in the time of Zedekiah, king of Judah.
Mention is made of this Book of Ether at more than one point in the Book or Mormon, Mr. Spaulding having early perceived how it would be possible for him to combine the two separate and independent performances. The Book of Mormon is clearly his third work in elucidation of American antiquities; it was not completed until some time after the advent into Pittsburgh. When he had laid the finishing strokes upon it Mr. Spaulding it is presumed, committed both works to the care of the foreman in Patterson's printing office, where nearly ten years later they were obtained by Mr. Rigdon.
Mr. Spaulding had selected Pittsburgh as a place of residence with reference to the facilities it might offer to a person who had a book to publish, but he made no kind of figure in that city. Though his daughter Mrs. McKinstry declares (Dickinson, p. 238):
"In that city my father had an intimate friend named Patterson, and I frequently visited Mr. Patterson's library with him, and heard my father talk about books with him," yet this same Mr. Patterson was not even acquainted with Spaulding; all that he knew concerning him was a report from his foreman, Silas Engles, to the effect that "a gentleman from the East originally, had put into his hands a manuscript of a singulur: work, chiefly in the style of any English Bible" (Patterson, p. 7). There is no sort of proof that he ever became personally familiar with the author of this work.
The conditions which Patterson suggested to his foreman for the publication of Spaulding's lucubrations were more severe than he had anticipated. He was expected to "furnish the funds, or good security" that they would be forthcoming, which was a financial impossibility, and so our author was constrained to retire to a place of cheaper living. This removal was accomplished perhaps in the summer of 1814; when Redick McKee went to Amity in the autumn of that year he found Spaulding in charge of the tavern where he fixed his lodgings (Patterson, p. 6). By sheer force of habit he still continued
to prosecute the labors of authorship. Redick McKee deposes: "I recollect quite well Mr. Spauldins spending much time in writing (on sheets of paper torn out of an old book) what purported to be a veritable history of the nations or tribes who inhabited Canaan" (Patterson, P. 6). Joseph Miller also relates: "It used to be very common at that day for us to gather in at the Public House, or tavern in the evenings, and often Mr. Spaulding would read his Ms to entertain us" (Dickinson, p. 241). He probably employed his energies in this way up to the close of his days; but after leaving Pittsburgh, his ambitions were crushed and it is possible that the loose sheets of the Amity period were not preserved, but were tossed about in corners of the house, whenever any of them should chance to escape from the old ledger which gave him a supply of stationary.
With reference to the name he attached to his work, it is likely that every different installment of it was styled "Manuscript Found." This was the name he attached to it as late as the Amity period; Joseph Miller in the course of a conversation reported by Mr. M. A. Cooper to the Cincinnati Gazette, declares: "....he called it the 'Lost Manuscript Found'." That was likely the name by which he also called the Honolulu document as well as the Book of Mormon; a sort of popular title that would suit equally well any one of his performances in this line of endeavor. On a recent visit to Conneaut, however, Mrs. Dickinson professes to have
come upon a story which might indicate that at least some of the people of the village who, from 1810 to 1812 listened to the reading of the "Manuscript Found" [might] have got an inkling of the literary plan of the performance of that name which Spaulding left with Patterson's foreman in Pittsburgh. She reports (p. 80), that: "of the odd stories told at Conneaut in 1834 in connection with Solomon Spaulding, was one to the effect that he informed his neighbors at the time he entertained them with his romance, that his 'Manuscript Found' was a translation of the Book of Mormon." The above recital is worth considering, inasmuch as Spaulding's main venture in the enterprise of "Manuscript Found," professed in the body of it to be just this translation of the Book of Mormon. It is not impossible that some of his auditors may have understood correctly that portion of his scheme.
As to the business motive which inspired Spnulding to write, ii is clear that he hoped to produce a work the sale of which would assist in supporting his family, as well as in discharging the numerous debts by which his existence was daily embittered (Howe, p. 285). But the question whether in his accounts of American antiquities he intended merely to entertain, or on the other hand to deceive his readers is of more consequence. Was the Book of Mormon designed to be a romance or an historical forgery? The probabilities are that his aim was to perpetrate a forgery.
The introduction to the Honolulu document, which is conceived to be his initial effort in the direction of a "Manuscript Found," appears to indicate a wish to deceive the judgment of the reader, by causing him to accept the assertions of the work as genuine history. Moreover regarding the other installment of the "Manuscript Found," which is now designated as the Book of Mormon he is reported to have declared that after the existing generation had passed away "his account of the first inhabitants of America would be considered as authentic as any other history" (Howe, p. 287).
Nahum Howard deposes as follows: "he told me that he intended to get his writings published in Pitt.sburgh, and he thought that in one century from that time, it would be believed as much as any other history" (Howe, p. 286). Spaulding also declared to Aaron Wright "that in time it would be fully believed by all except learned men and historians" (Howe, p. 284).
But it is proper to add that his purpose in composing an historical forgery was slightly tinged by ethical considerations. At a period which may have antedated his residence at Conneaut, Spaulding had lost his faith in Christianity and of course would feel no interest to establish its tenets (Howe, p. 288). But he was unappeasable in his aversion to the institution of Masonry (Howe, as above), and the "Manuscript Found" would supply a fine opportunity to deliver a blow against it by showing what havoc had been wrought among the aboriginal people by "secret combinations." Warning and denunciating against these are practically innumerable, especially in the latter portion of the Book of Mormon. Rigdon and Smith, it would appear, both sympathized with this prejudice, and in the redaction made by the former are found several additional items, especially a reference to the supposed tragic fate of William Morgan.
Each of these worthies, however, lived long enough to alter his sentiments in that regard, and to become in person members of the Masonic fraternity (Bennett, History of the Saints, 1842, p. 242). Thus the only ethical purpose entertained by the original author was entirely defeated.
From the above relation it will be apparent that at the same time in the year 1809, when Thomas Campbell was laying his hand to the formation of the Christian Association of Washington, Mr. Spaulding was engaged in the construction of his forgery in Conneaut, Ohio. In the year 1812, when the Campbells had recently changed their ecclesiastical position by coming over to the party of the immersed Sandemanians, Spaulding was making his way to the city of Pittsburgh, which lay in their vicinity. In the year 1814, he retired to the hamlet of Amity in Washington County, Penn., and established himself within a short distance of the Brush Run church, where they were trying to hold forth the new notions which they had derived from Scotland. If either of the parties here mentioned could have been made aware that they were working each into the hands of the other in producing one of the most monstrous abominations of modern times, they would have been shocked above measure. So little are men in general able to calculate the effects which their labors and influence are destined to produce upon the fortunes of thousands who may not ever hear their names, and who have never by any misdeeds of their own deserved the irreparable injury that will be inflicted upon them.
[ 190 ]
It is a thousand pities, but there is now no kind of remedy for it, that the name of this excellent lady has been drawn into the present business. The situation has come to be of such a construction that the historian is compelled to set forth the state of information concerning her life and actions.
Her daughter, Mrs. McKinstry, affirms that as late as the year 1817, the family of Matilda Sabine's father still resided at Pomfret, Conn. (Dickinson, p.238). Possibly she was born there, but concerning that point nothing definite has been communicated. Mrs. Dickinson asserts (p.13), that "soon after leaving Dartmouth in 1785, Solomon Spaulding married Miss Matilda Sabine, of Pomfret, Conn." But on the other hand she herself declares that the marriage took place after he had become a resident of Cherry Valley in Otsego county, New York, perhaps as late as 1804, or 05. The only child with which the union was blessed so far as the chronicles give any deposition, was born in the year 1806 or 07.
The records of Brown University mention the fact that in the year 1798 William Harvey Sabine, the brother of Matilda, took the degree of Bachelor of Arts. Shortly afterwards he came to New York
to try his fortune in the wilderness. There be founded a family at Onondaga Valley near Syracuse, by marrying a sister of the late Hon. Joshua Forman (Dickinson, p.19). After this occurrence it would be natural for Matilda, his only sister (Dickinson, p.19), to come from Pomfret to pay him a visit. Mrs. Jerome Clark, a niece of the Sabines (Dickinson, p.244) was perhaps residing at that moment at Hartwick, Otsego county, about fifty miles to the southeast of Onondaga Valley, and it would also be natural for Miss Matilda to pay a visit there. But Hartwick is in the near vicinity of Cherry Valley, where Spaulding was keeping a little shop, and it is possible that she first encountered him in this portion of the world. Their acquaintance ripened into matrimony, which step, it is believed, must have occurred when Spaulding was already 43 or 44 years of age.
It is likely that Matilda Sabine had a painful existence with her shiftless husband. She must have been many years his junior in respect to age and many more in respect to sentiments and feelings. It could not have been a great while after the wedding day, before she would be painfully disillusioned by perceiving that she was tied to a hopeless failure, if not to a positive imbecile. It can excite no wonder if she should have small consideration for his powers or his projects. In the year 1809 he dragged her away to Conneaut; in 1812 to Pittsburgh; in 1814 to Amity; his death in 1816 must have been a happy riddance from a heavy burden.
Her daughter and herself were left alone in the world on the 20th of October, and in a very impoverished condition. They found their way as speedily as possible to the house of her brother, William Harvey Sabine, and passed the winter of 1816-17 under his roof. Sometime during the progress of the latter year Mrs. Spaulding, leaving her daughter under the charge of the Sabines at Onondaga Valley, paid a visit to the home of her father at Pomfret Conn. (Dickinson, p,238). In due season she returned to New York, and seems to have become once more familiar at the residence of her niece, Mrs. Jerome Clark, in Hartwick township, Otsego county. Here in the year 1820, she was able to capture a second husband in the person of a certain Mr. Davison of Hartwick village.
To all appearance this second marriage was as unsuccessful as the former had been, but the good lady endured its evils bravely for ten years. Her spirits were revived in the year 1828 by the marriage of her daughter and only child to Dr. A McKinstry of Monson, Mass. (Dickinson, p. 238). At length in the winter of 1830, finding perhaps, that her existence with Mr. Davison was a greater ill than she could sustain, she seems to have taken refuge in the house of the Clarks, whither she brought her furniture and all her movable effects (Dickinson, p. 244). In the spring of the year 1831
instead of returning to the embraces of Mr. Davison, she went to reside with her daughter in Monson, Mass. (Dickinson, p.244). Mrs. Dickinson is authority for the statement that the journey from Hartwick to Monson, was considered merely in the light of a visit, and affirms on the authority of Mrs. McKinstry "that her mother fully intended to return to Hartwick." Nevertheless this purpose, if it was really cherished, was never carried into execution; it is added that "certain events occurred to prevent it, which are not necessary to be related here" (Dickinson, p. 24).
In the year 1834, D.P. Hurlbut was in the state of New York in search of information touching the origin of Mormonism, and after obtaining a number of depositions from residents of Wayne and Ontario counties, and also at Harmony in Pennsylvania, which may be consulted in Howe, pp. 231- 269, he made his way to Onondaga Valley, where he hoped to find and interview Mrs. Davison. Calling at the residence of her brother, Mr. Sabine, he was informed that she had been residing with her daughter at Monson, Mass., since the spring of 1831. There was nothing to be done but to follow her to that point, and Mr. Sabine, supposing that she had carried all her effects with her to Mass. gave Hurlbut a letter of introduction, in which he is said to have urged his sister to commit to the providence of the bearer such manuscript documents of Solomon Spaulding, as might be still in her hands (Dickinson, p.239).
Armed with this and other missives of recommendation, which had been supplied by Messrs. Lake, Wright and others, Hurlbut shortly made his appearance at Monson, where it is claimed that he was received with a reminiscence from years long subsequent to the date in question. Arrived at his destination, Hurlbut was made acquainted with the fact that the manuscripts of which he was in search were at the residence of Jerome Clark in Hartwick, N.Y., where the worthy lady is conceived to have taken refuge from her own home in the winter of 1830-31. He went his way and secured the contents of the, old hair trunk in which relics of this nature had been left, and nothing more was heard of Mrs. Davison till the year 1839, when she was unfortunately induced to issue her manifesto of the 1st of April of that year. Five years afterwards in the year 1844, Mrs. Spaulding Davison was released from the cares and sorrows of life, at the residence of her daughter in Monson (Dickinson, p.238).
From the above relation it will appear that Mrs. Spaulding was a simple- minded, worthy person, who was roughly handled by fortune. Her first husband appears to have been a helpless, useless creature, who by reason of difference of age and the poverty of his spirit was in no kind of sympathy with her; she lived at a great distance from the plane upon which his thoughts and exertions daily moved, accordingly, it was to be expected that when in the year 1834 definite inquiry was made, she should be found almost entirely
ignorant touching his literary concerns. While he was sitting behind the stove at Conneaut or Pittsburgh, or at Amity, driveling his endless nonsense about the American aborigines, she was painfully conscious of the want that was in the house, and may have been using all her powers and resources to frighten the wolf away. It is more than possible that she had no sort of patience with him; no sort of confidence in his power to accomplish anything either with his pen, or by any other means.
Mr. Howe says:
She states that Spaulding had a great variety of manuscripts, and recollects that one was entitled the "Manuscript Found," but of its contents she has now no distinct knowledge. While they lived in Pittsburgh, she thinks it was once taken to the printing office of Patterson & Lambdin; but whether it was ever brought back to the house again, she is quite uncertain; if it was however, it was then with his other writings in a trunk which she had left in Otsego county, N.Y. This is all the information that could be obtained from her, except that Mr. Spaulding while living entertained a strong antipathy to the Masonic Institution" (pp. 287-288).
Though women are proverbial for their lack of acquaintance with the literary enterprises of their husbands, it would be difficult to find a wife anywhere, the sum of whose information was so infinitesimal as in this case.
The report she here supplies concerning a variety of manuscripts of Spaulding's production is unquestionably true. For example there was the recently discovered Honolulu document; at least a dozen books of different names were embraced in the Book of Mormon; there was the Book of Ether, besides the stuff that he set down on the pages of an old ledger at Amity. She recollects that one of these was entitled the "Manuscript Found," while as a matter of fact that was probably the generic title of all of them. She had never heard of such names as Mormon, Moroni, Lehi and Nephi, although these were familiar to her neighbors at Conneaut who must have been [on] a better side of her husband than was exhibited to her eyes; they considered him a person of dignity and scholarship, and it might be well enough for them to take account of his stupid inventions, but in her situation that was a feat beyond her reach.
She was not clear that her husband's manuscript had ever been carried to the printing office in Pittsburgh, and still more uncertain whether it had ever been fetched away again. She had brought with her from Amity nothing else than what is now designated as the Honolulu manuscript, and she was not even acquainted with the nature of its contents, though in the winter or 1830-31, when it was given out that the Book of Mormon might be founded upon the lucubrations of her husband, she had taken the Honolulu book out of the trunk in the garret of Jerome Clark and exhibited it to members of the family, especially to Miss Brace the fiancee
of George Clark (Dickinson, p.244). Since the Pittsburgh period it is more than likely that she never had any portion of the "Manuscript Found" in her keeping except the Honolulu document, which is described as being about an inch thick and consisting of 177 pages, and the loose leaves from the Amity ledger, which might have been cast aside as rubbish, almost as soon as they had been read to the company assembled in the bar-room of the tavern.
It will be apparent from this showing that Mrs. Spaulding had no kind or right to put forth many of the statements that are embodied in her declaration of the year 1839. She did not put them forth of her own motion; if she had been left to her private devices that clumsy "April-fool" would never have vexed the soul of the student. All the blame for this transaction must be laid at the door of other people who abused her simplicity to accomplish purposes of their own. The parties who seem to be directly responsible for this fraud, are the Rev. John Storrs, pastor of the Congregational church in Holliston, Mass., and Mr. D.R. Austin, principal of the Monson Academy.
Mrs. Spaulding's paper first saw the light of print in the Boston Recorder for April 19, 1839, where it is preceded by a note from Mr. Storrs to the editor in the following words:
The occasion of this communication coming into my hands is as follows: Having heard that there is a lady in Monson, Mass., whose husband now dead, was the author of the book, I requested in a note, Rev. D.R. Austin, Principal of Monson Academy, to obtain of her for my benefit, and
to be used as I should think proper, a certified account of its origin with her husband; for the character of the lady I wished the venerable Dr. Ely and himself to avouch, The following highly satisfactory document came in reply, The origin of this pretended revelation being thus completely authenticated, may save many minds from delusion, fanaticism and ruin."
The deposition of Mrs. Spaulding under date of the 1st of April 1839 is therefore suspected to be largely the production of the Rev. D.R. Austin, especially must this be true of that portion of it which represents Sidney Rigdon to have been a printer in the office of Patterson & Lambdin. Mrs. Spaulding did not know that fact and a number of other points which are confidently stated in this place. The representations she made to Hurlbut in 1834 embraced the entire sum of her acquaintance with the subject.
There is a document from Mormon sources, which however, must be taken up with due caution, that may serve to suggest the process by which Mr. Austin was enabled to produce such a paper as that to which the signature of Mrs. Spaulding Davison was appended. The reader is requested to judge for himself how much importance should be attached to it. It is a copy of a letter of Mr. John Haven of Holliston, Mass., to his daughter, Mrs. Elizabeth Haven, living at the town of Quincy, Illinois, dated July 17, 1842.
This letter deposes:
Your brother, Jesse passed through Monson where he was in company with Mrs. Davison, her daughter Mrs. McKinstry and Dr. Ely, for many hours; during which he put to her the following questions and received the following answers in the presence of Dr. Ely:
You will perceive by the above letter that Mr. Austin in his great zeal to destroy the Book of Mormon, and to show his animosity against the Saints, asked a few questions of Mrs. Davison, so that he might get something to write his own thoughts to Mr. Storrs in her name (reprinted in Reynolds' Myth of Manuscript Found, pp.21-23). Whether the above revelation contains a true report of the interview suggested in it, there can be no question that it agrees very well with the conclusions of impartial criticism respecting the facts connected with the deliverance in question. It is well nigh impossible
that the widow of Spaulding should be in any direct fashion responsible for the utterances of this performance; it embraces a great deal more information than she could command regarding the business involved. It is of use however, for certain personal reminiscences, in as much as it states such facts as that the union with Spaulding took place while he was residing at Cherry Valley, and not in Pomfret, Conn., and that they left Conneaut after Hull's surrender in August 1812, but all that it advances concerning Rigdon and Patterson, and especially about the return of the manuscript from Patterson's printing office, it is apparent, must be rejected.
In connection with the preceding interview as narrated by Mr. Haven of Holliston to his daughter in Quincy, namely on the 17th of July 1842, it is said that "Mrs. Davison is now above 70 years of age and much broke." If that statement is correct the year 1772 must be given as the date of her birth (Myth of the Manuscript Found, p. 23).
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An important advance has just been made in Mormon research. The first connected and satisfactory account of the business was given by the Rev. C. M. Hyde, D.D., of the North Pacific Institute, in the Congregationalist for the 30th of July, 1885. The Independent of the 10th of September 1885, likewise supplies a notice from the hand of the Rev. Serano E. Bishop of Honolulu. These statements in connection with the brief allusions to the subject that were made by President James H. Fairchild in the Bibliotheca Sacra for January 1885, pp. 173-4, have placed the student in a situation to pronounce upon the question of the genuineness and the importance of the document that has just been brought to light.
Mr. E. D. Howe of Painesville, Ohio, has written what must still be regarded as the best of all the hundreds of works that have been devoted to elucidate the history of Mormonism. Few have been favored more highly than himself alike by faculty and in opportunity; his industry was also of the most exemplary sort. It will be remembered that when he was preparing the materials for his book entitled "Mormonism Unvailed," he had the enterprise to send one D. P. Hurlbut, first to Onondaga county, N.Y., and afterwards to Monson, Mass., in order to confer with Mrs. Matilda Davison, whose first husband was the Rev. Solomon Spaulding,
The results of [this] praiseworthy exertion(s) were in this special instance every way unsatisfactory; like many another good wife Mrs. Spaulding Davison was very indefinitely acquainted with the doings of her husband, particularly as respected his endeavors in the line of literary venture. Mr. Howe sets forth the following summary of her acquaintance with the matter in question:
She states that Spaulding had a great variety of manuscripts, and recollects that one was entitled the 'Manuscript Found:' but of its contents she has now no distinct knowledge. While they lived in Pittsburgh, she thinks it was once taken to the printing office of Patterson & Lambdin; but whether it was ever brought back to the house again, she is quite uncertain; if it was, however, it was then with his other writings in a trunk which she had left in Otsego county N.Y. This was all the information that could be obtained from her (Howe, pp.287-88).
It would have been a happy thing for Mrs. Spaulding Davison, and also for the student of Mormon history if both herself and other members of the Spaulding family could have been content to abide by the comfortable ignorance which she displays in the year 1834. Many other assertions and suggestions were later added by them which have been almost uniformly incorrect, and, what is worse, misleading.
Since the old trunk had been left in Otsego county, the place of her latest residence in New York, Mr. Hurlbut was provided with an order directed to its custodian, Mr. Jerome Clark of the township
of Hartwick, by the terms of which that gentleman was required to place the literary contents of it in the hands of the bearer. These Hurlbut took away with him and fetched to Painesville, where he committed them to the care of Howe. That gentleman reports (p.288):
The trunk referred to by the widow was subsequently examined, and found to contain only a single ms book in Spaulding's handwriting, containing about one quire of paper. This is a romance, purporting to have been translated from the Latin, found on 24 rolls of parchment in a cave on the banks of Conneaut Creek, but written in modern style and giving an account of a ship's being driven upon the American coast, while proceeding from Rome to Britain, a short time previous to the Christian era, this country then being inhabited by the Indians. This old manuscript has been shown to several of the foregoing witnesses, who recognize it as Spaulding's, he having told them that he had altered his first plan of writing by going farther back with dates, and writing in the old scripture style, in order that it might appear more ancient. They say that it bears no resemblance to the "Manuscript Found.
The description of the Honolulu Manuscript, which has now been supplied renders it reasonably apparent that it is the same document as that which Hurlbut obtained from the old hair trunk in the garret of Jerome Clark. For example, Howe declares that the production under his hands "purported to have been translated from the Latin." The Honolulu Manuscript affirms that the original from which it was derived "appeared to be [a] manuscript, written in eligant
hand with Roman letters, and in the Latin language... To publish a translation of every particular circumstance mentioned by our author would produce a volume too expensive for the general class of readers." (Oberlin Ms). Howe asserts that the original was claimed to have been discovered "in a cave on the banks of Conneaut Creek": a full description of this cave may be read in the "Introduction" of the Honolulu Manuscript, which indicates that it was situated near the west bank of the Coneaught River."
Further, the performance which Howe had inspected "was written in modern style," and the witnesses to whom he applied asserted that it bore "no resemblance to the 'Manuscript Pound'". President Fairchild reports that the present owner of the Honolulu document, "Mr. Rice, myself, and others compared it with the Book of Mormon, and could detect no resemblance between the two, in general or in detail." Prof. Hyde also declares: "The story has not the slightest resemblance in names, incidents or style to anything in the Book of Mormon... There is no attempt whatever to imitate Bible language, or to introduce quotations from the Bible." This agrees to a nicety with the fact that the witnesses whom Howe consulted assured him that Solomon Spaulding had "told them that he had altered his first plan of writing, by going farther back with dates, and writing in the old scripture style, in order that it might appear more ancient." The above is fully confirmed by such extracts as Mr. Bishop has furnished for the Independent.
Howe also states that the book which Hurlbut had fetched from its hiding place in the old trunk gave
an account of a ship's being driven upon the American coast, while proceeding from home to Britain": the Honolulu book describes how "the vessel laden with provisions for the army -- cloathing, knives and other impliments for their use had now arrived near the coasts of Britain when a tremendous storm arose and drove us into the midst of the boundless ocean. Soon the whole crew became lost and bewildered.
Howe likewise reports his document as further representing that at the moment when the ship landed on the American coast, the country was already "inhabited by the Indians"; according to the description supplied by Prof. Hyde the same is true of the Honolulu Manuscript. He says:
the wanderings of the shipwrecked party to the west are next described, and account given of the people, the Ohns, then living in the interior, with their manners and customs, and their wars with king Bombal and the Kentucks, Hadoram, King of Sciota, the Emperor of Labmak and the allied nations under Habosan, king of Chianga, Ulipoon, king of Micheganan, etc.
In conclusion Howe affirms: "This old manuscript has been shown to several of the foregoing witnesses who recognize it as Spaulding's" Mr. Bishop records an inscription that is found on the last page of the Honolulu Manuscript as follows: "The writings of Solomon Spalding, Proved by Aron Wright, Oliver Smith, John N. Miller and others. The testimonies of the above gentlemen are now in my possession, D.P. Hurlbut."
The occurrence of Hurlbut's name identifies this document almost beyond question. On the other hand there are certain discrepancies between the description supplied by Mr. Howe and those which have been recently given to the public. For example Howe says that the romance was "found on 24 rolls of parchment"; the Honolulu manuscript mentions "twenty eig... of parchment," but this difference may be explained by reference to the fact that Howe, being naturally disgusted with the poverty of the document for his purposes had cited it from memory, without giving himself the trouble to refer to the text.
Again, Howe asserts that the "Ms book in Spaulding's handwriting contained about one quire of paper": but Prof. Hyde declares that 71 pages are numbered and written out in full." It is not a violent supposition to refer this second discrepancy to the sane explanation as that given in the foregoing instance, and thereby it may be allowed to press the point that Howe speaks in general terms of "about one quire of paper."
Once more, Howe gives the date of the disaster which brought a Roman ship to the American coast differently from the Honolulu book, affirming that it fell out "a short time previous to the Christian era," while the original in Honolulu plainly signifies that the occurrence took place during the reign of the Emperor Constantine. This appears to be still another case where Howe trusted to his memory, without being at the trouble to consult the work before him.
Mr. Howe further declares "The fact also, that Spaulding, in the latter part of his life inclined to infidelity, is established by a letter in his handwriting, now in our possession." This letter was likely given a place in the middle of the manuscript for convenience of preservation and reference; it is an interesting circumstance that it has probably also been recovered along with the Honolulu book. Prof. Hyde reports:
There are two manuscript leaves in the parcel, of the same size and handwriting as the other 171 pages of manuscript. A few sentences will show the views of the writer: 'It is enough for me to know that propositions which are in contradiction to each other cannot both be true, and that doctrines and facts which represent the Supreme Being as a barbarous and cruel tyrant can never be dictated by infinite wisdom... But, notwithstanding I disavow my belief in the divinity of the Bible, and consider it a mere human production, designed to inrich and aggrandize its authors, yet casting aside a considerable mass of rubbish and fanatical rant, I find that it contains a system of ethics, or morals, which cannot be excelled on account of their tendency to ameliorate the condition of man'.
It may be worth while to inquire concerning the process by which this document was conveyed to Honolulu, Prof. Hyde reports that in the year 1839, just five years after it was deposited with Howe by Mr. Hurlbut, the former sold his printing office and the Painesville Telegraph, of which he was editor, to Messrs. L. L. Rice
and P. Winchester, who continued to carry on the business.
After forty years of active labor, Mr. Rice retired from business and in the year 1879, went to reside with his daughter, Mrs. J.H. Whitney, at Honolulu. In the month of July 1884, he received the honor of a visit from President Fairchild of Oberlin College, who suggested that Mr. Rice should examine his collection of pamphlets for the purpose of finding out whether he might have in it some rare productions relating to the conflict against slavery in the United States. Giving himself to the labor of this enterprise, his pains were rewarded by the discovery that has here been discussed, in his paper for the Bibliotheca Sacra, President Fairchild says: "Mr. Rice has no recollection how or when this manuscript came into his possession," but subsequent consideration, it would appear, has
suggested to his mind the forgotten transfer of the Painesville Telegraph, "with all the appurtenances of the printing office." Perhaps the Honolulu Manuscript was not even mentioned in that transaction, because before the year 1839 Mr. Howe had lost it out of sight and out of mind, amid the rubbish of his establishment. Meanwhile for the past five and forty years both himself and Hurlbut have been exposed to a shower of old-wives gossip and ignorant suspicion. Notwithstanding Mrs. Spaulding Davison in the year 1834, was entirely unable to declare what fate had befallen the "Manuscript Found," and could not be at all sure that it had ever been returned from the printing-house of Patterson & Lambdin in Pittsburgh, it has been confidently claimed that Hurlbut actually recovered it in the old hair trunk, sold it to the Mormons, who destroyed, and with the money obtained from that source, purchased a farm near Gibsonburg, Ohio.
Mr. Howe, in his turn, could give no account of it; he said it was in his possession, "till after the publication of Mormonism Unvailed, and then disappeared and was lost, I suppose by fire." It will vindicate the reputation of both these gentlemen that it has now been brought to light. Prof. [Hyde] gives notice that Mormon missionaries of the island of Oahu are eager to publish the Honolulu book, in order to show that it has no connection with the Book of Mormon. Nobody ever claimed that such a connection existed, who had any kind of right to form a judgment. This entire investigation has no bearing of any sort upon the issue whether Spaulding was the author of
the Book of Mormon; that question rests upon grounds that are quite aloof from any that have been traversed, and must be judged upon its own merits. But it is hoped that no obstacle will be placed in the way of Mormon missionaries who may desire to perform such a service to science and to Messrs. Howe and Hurlbut. A certified copy might be speedily committed to their charge; the original would be safe and serviceable in the keeping of the librarian of Oberlin College.
Shortly after the above chapter was written and put to press in the New York Independent, the Honolulu book was duly issued from the Mormon press. An examination of it has vindicated every statement here advanced. It is possible that Spaulding borrowed the suggestion concerning a vessel driven away from Italy and England from the introductory section of More's Utopia, a book which very easily might have come within the range of his reading.
By turns he employed three different theories to account for the origin of the American aborigines. The first of these is set forth in the Honolulu Ms. In the Book of Ether he traced them back to the Tower of Babel and in the Book of Mormon to the age of the Jewish captivity in Babylon.
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There is no kind of help for it; criticism imperatively demands the rejection of the statement that was sent forth on the first of April 1839 under the name of Mrs. Spaulding (Davison). The mistake by which she there placed her former husband on friendly terms with the Rev. Robert Patterson of Pittsburgh, and established Mr. Rigdon as an employee in the printing office under the firm of Patterson & Lambdin was likely not made by her, but rather for her, through the agency of an inventive gentleman who at the moment was engaged in the business of evolving history from his internal consciousness. The other mistake it contains regarding the return of Spaulding's manuscript of the Book of Mormon to its author, and the assertion that after his decease in the year 1816, "It fell into her own hands, and was carefully preserved" was possibly of the widow's own construction.
It was the manuscript recently discovered in Honolulu that fell into the hands of Mrs. Spaulding after the death of her husband, With a liability to err regarding such matters, which often may be observed in women, she had jumped to the conclusion that this production, that is described as being "about an inch thick" (Dickinson, p.233) was the original of the Book of Mormon, although in the year 1834 she was still dimly aware of the difference between the two works (Howe, p.288). Mrs. Spaulding never at any time had the
manuscript of the Book of Mormon under her control; it was likely delivered to the printer sometime during the year 1813, prior to the removal of her husband to Amity, and it was not returned to the Spaulding house any more.
But the rejection of the testimony of Mrs. Spaulding does not in the least affect the question of whether her husband composed the Book of Mormon and whether Rigdon got possession of the manuscript and altered it to suit his purposes. In a word, the proof that this occurred would be stronger if Mrs. Spaulding had never allowed herself to open her lips touching these matters; her assertions have been a stumbling block to many people and of no advantage to any except the Mormons, for whom she fancied she was preparing a fatal blow.
Setting aside the representations of Mrs. Spaulding, there are eight other unimpeachable witnesses that Solomon Spaulding is the author of the work, which lies at the foundation of the Book of Mormon. Their names are John Spaulding and his wife, Martha; Henry Lake. Solomon's partner in business; John N. Miller, a hired man lodged In Solomon's house; Aaron Wright, Oliver Smith, Nahum Howard and Artemas Cunningham. These persons testify that he was engaged in composing a work which represented the American Indians as deriving their origin from the Jews, and detailed an account of the journey of a party of Jews from Jerusalem to America;
they recall the name and history of Laban; the name and situation of Zarahemla; the name and station of Lehi & Nephi; the struggle between the Nephites and the Lamanites; the effort to imitate the style of the Christian Scriptures, and the circumstance that Spaulding claimed to have discovered the original where it had been buried in the earth.
Now all of these peculiarities are reproduced in the Book of Mormon almost precisely after the same fashion as these eight witnesses recall them. It is further deposed by them that the performance of Spaulding was incomplete at the time of his quitting Conneaut in the autumn of 1812, and that he chose Pittsburgh for his next place of residence because he hoped to find persons there who would be in a situation to print it for him (Howe, p.286).
Nor should the point be overlooked that these damaging revelations appeared under his very nose in the year 1834 and were followed by complete silence on the part of Rigdon until the year 1839; he was only enabled at that time to break the force of them by reason of the blundering paper of Mrs. Spaulding, But even in his reply to her he sedulously avoids the main points at issue, and the averments of the above eight witnesses. For example, he declares that until D.P. Hurlbut informed him of the fact, he had never heard of the earthly existence of such a creature as Solomon Spaulding (Mackay, p.38); which was likely a true assertion, but nothing to the point. He denies that Spaulding's
writings were committed to the hands of Patterson; which is also true, since it is likely that Patterson never had them under his eyes more than a few hours, and this occurred at a date that preceded by nearly ten years the moment when they came under the eye of Sidney (Patterson, p.7). Nay, he even claimed that "there was no man by the name of Patterson during my residence at Pittsburgh, who had a printing office": which was also correct, since the printing office that had formerly been connected with the book-store of Mr. Patterson, by an arrangement that had been effected on the first of January, 1818, was owned and conducted by Butler & Lambdin (Patterson, p.9). Mr. Rigdon was perhaps familiar with the above change of business as occurring under date of January 1, 1818, [for] he seems to refer to it when he adds: "Mr. Robert Patterson, I was told, had owned a printing office before I lived in that city, but had been unfortunate in business and failed before my residence there" (Mackay, pp.38-9).
It was well enough that he should supply these historical corrections for the advantage of those who might be readers of the deposition of Mrs. Spaulding, but he actually eludes the main issue, namely whether during his residence in Pittsburgh he got possession of a certain production which was subsequently altered and sent forth by the aid of Joseph Smith under the title of the Book of Mormon. It signified little that he had never heard the name of Spaulding;
that is an interesting fact for which the student must be grateful to him, but it determines nothing. It signifies little that he did not obtain the manuscript from the Rev. Mr. Patterson, and that Mr. Patterson "was the owner of no property of any kind, printing-office nor anything else during the time when Sidney resided in the city"; namely from the 28th of January 1822 until December 1825. The real Issue is quite different from any of these inquiries. In the year 1812 Solomon Spaulding was engaged in composing a work at Conneaut, Ohio, which he carried to Pittsburgh in order that he might complete and publish it; during the year 1813 it is claimed that this performance was referred to in some of the papers of the city of Pittsburgh under the title of the Book of Mormon (Patterson, p.7); in the year 1830 that same work appeared at Palmyra, New York under the auspices of Joseph Smith as "author and proprietor". There were certain changes in the new version of the performance setting forth the theology of the Disciples of Christ, which point directly to an editor of that form of belief; it is not possible that they could have been effected by any other than the hand of a Disciple theologian. The real question is whether Mr. Rigdon had any kind of agency in securing the document of Spaulding from the keeping: of any person whatsoever, and by any means whatsoever, and in adding to its contents the creed and practices
of the Disciples, and afterwards conveying it to the care of Mr. Joseph Smith, then a resident of Ontario County New York.
It may be repeated that concerning this portion of the controversy Mr. Rigdon was silent; not a word was at any time contributed to the press, by which it was possible he might be held to any responsibility. The task of denying what was styled "the Spaulding lie" was deftly committed to Mr. Parley Pratt, whose only qualification in that way was a total ignorance of the facts of the case. In the year 1838, with evident reference to the title of Howe's volume, Mr. Pratt published a book(let) entitled "Mormonism Unveiled, or Truth Vindicated" (Bennett, History of the Saints p.143). It seems to have enjoyed a circulation that was mainly esoteric, although William Harris cites it in his "Mormonism Portrayed" p.47; Professor Turner in his "Mormonism in All Ages", p.30, note; and Dr. Kidder in his "Mormonism and the Mormons", pp.67-9. The extract in which Parley deals with "the Spaulding lie" is supplied with a degree of fullness in Reynolds' "Myth of the Manuscript Found," pp.32-34.
In this place Mr. Pratt offers the current Mormon statement that Mr. Rigdon did not know anything touching the Book of Mormon until it was placed in his hands by four missionaries to the Lamanites, at his own house in Mentor during the closing days of the month of October 1830. But this argument, it must be insisted, was drawn wholly from Parley's ignorance
of the real condition of affairs, It expresses the small amount of information that he possessed, but that is totally insufficient to meet the demands of the situation. Why did not Sidney speak out in his own vindication? It was impossible for him to do so without committing himself to a plain falsehood, and having some conscience in that direction he dodged the issue by entrusting his defense to his enthusiastic but misinformed lieutenant.
In a letter that he gave to the New York Era, for the 27th of November 1839, Mr. Pratt allows himself to traverse the same line of defense as the year before he had adopted in his "Mormonism Unveiled and Truth Vindicated" (Myth of the Manuscript Found, pp.29-32); but nothing he was able to offer would in the least affect the subject, for the excellent reason that Parley, not having come into the secrets of the conspirators until the summer of 1830, was an incompetent witness. It is possible he may have told all he knew but he was in possession of no knowledge that was of any consequence to the issue. Having dismissed the Mormon defense along with Mr. Pratt, it will now be in order to deal with the question touching the fate of the manuscript of the Book of Mormon in the city of Pittsburgh. It was not completed when it was carried thither, and likely several months of the year 1813 had elapsed before it was ready for the printer. When that event arrived the investigation becomes pertinent as to which of the printers
of the place Mr. Spaulding saw fit to consult about his project. Several other firms with facilities for printing books existed in Pittsburgh as early as the year 1813 besides the firm to which reference has been so often made. For example, according to the authority of Robert Patterson [Jr.] as stated in a private letter under date of Pittsburgh, January 13th, 1885, one John N. Snowden had a job office, as also Cramer & Spear, and the Gazette newspaper, at any one of which places it is conceivable Spaulding might have called when in search of a publisher. In fact there is no absolute proof that one of these other establishments might not have had the keeping of the Book of Mormon until such time as it was delivered into the hands of the party who undertook to inoculate it with the Disciple creed and send it forth through the agency of Smith.
While this point must be conceded, it is yet probable that Patterson & Lambdin were entrusted with that function; it is therefore important to record the history of the business firm of Patterson & Lambdin, and such facts and considerations connected with it as may have an application here. No information has been supplied regarding the exact date at which the firm of Patterson & Lambdin was founded, but as early as the year 1812 a house was in existence under the style of Patterson and Hopkins. According to an advertisement in the Pittsburgh Mercury for October 22, 1812, as supplied by the kindness of Robert Patterson [Jr.], these gentlemen then had a book store at the "corner of Fourth
and Wood Sts." They are believed to have conducted a job (printing) office in connection with their business; the titles of two pamphlets are given which are said to have been printed by them in the year 1812. In the year 1813 it is certain that the firm issued an edition of a volume of Meikle's "Solitude Sweetened."
But before that date, namely on the 5th of November 1812, the announcement is given of the dissolution of the firm of Patterson & Hopkins, whose place is supplied by R. & J. Patterson. As early as 1812 Mr. J. Harrison Lambdin, who having been born on the 1st of September 1798 (Patterson, p.9), was then a boy of fourteen years, is mentioned as being in the service of Patterson & Hopkins (Patterson, p.7). He continued with the new firm of R. & J. Patterson which was in existence until the first of January, 1818 (Patterson p.7). By the understanding of Rigdon, as expressed in May 1839 (Mackay, pp.38-9) the firm of R. & J. Patterson was overtaken by bankruptcy on the first of January 1818. He affirms as follows:
Mr. Robert Patterson, I was told, had owned a printing-office before I lived in that city, but had been unfortunate in business and failed before my residence there... He was then acting under an agency in the book and stationary business.
It is possible the above representation may be correct, and that the firm of R. Patterson & Lambdin, which was formed on the 1st of January 1818 (Patterson, p.7) were nothing but the
agents of their creditors. As such they continued until the first of January 1838 (Patterson, p.9), when the concern was entirely broken up.
In the interval between the first of January 1818 and the first of January 1823 the firm of Patterson & Lambdin are said to have had under their control the book-store on Fourth Street, a book-bindery, a printing office under the name of Butler & Lambdin, and a steam paper mill on the Allegheny under the name of R. & J. Patterson (Patterson, p.9). These five years are the season to which the Rev. Robert Patterson had reference, when in the year 1834 he remarked that "the business of printing was wholly conducted by Lambdin" (Howe, p.289). The job-office having been under the management of Messrs. Butler & Lambdin throughout this period, it is a singular oversight that, though Lambdin died in August 1825 (Patterson, p.7), nobody should have considered it worth while to inquire of Butler the probably surviving partner in the printing enterprise, for facts and incidents regarding the Book of Mormon.
On the contrary in the interval between the first of November 1812 and the first of January 1818, Robert Patterson did have the job-office under his control; his method of managing the business may be gathered from the following statement made by his own hand (Patterson, p.7):
R. Patterson had in his employment Silas Engles at the time, a foreman printer and general superintendent
of the printing business. As he (S. E.) was an excellent scholar as well as a good printer, to him was entrusted the entire concerns of the office. He even decided on the propriety or otherwise of publishing manuscripts when offered -- as to their morality, scholarship, &c., &c. In this character he informed R.P. that a gentleman from the East originally, had put into his hands a manuscript of a singular work, chiefly in the style of our English translation of the Bible, and handed the copy to R.P., who read only a few pages and finding nothing apparently exceptionable, he (R.P.) said to Engles he might publish it if the author furnished funds or good security. He (the author), failing to comply with the terms, Mr. Engles returned the manuscript, as I supposed at that time, after it had been some weeks in his possession, with other manuscripts in the office.
By the above description it will be clear that in [this] case the "gentleman from the East originally" was Solomon Spaulding and the manuscript offered was the Book of Mormon; Robert Patterson was not in a good way to find out a great deal in regard to either of them (author or Ms). Yet it is within the bounds of possibility that the production to which he refers might have been Spaulding's work, and that it might have been laid away, at that moment, among the rubbish of the establishment until the first of January 1818, when it
Butler & Lambdin, who kept it until the deluge broke over them on the first of January 1823. If Silas Engles, who perhaps remained with the last named gentleman also, in the character of foreman, had survived, it might have been in his power to supply definite testimony concerning the manuscript of Spaulding; but Eagles passed away on the 17th of July, 1827, in the 46th year of his age (Patterson, p.7).
The probability that the document was in the keeping of Butler & Lambdin in preference to any other firm of Pittsburgh printers is, in a measure, confirmed by the circumstance that a sort of intimacy existed between Sidney & Mr. Lambdin. Rigdon never denied the statement of Howe to the effect, when in 1834 the latter affirmed: "we have been credibly informed that he was on terms of intimacy with Lambdin, being seen frequently in his shop" (Howe, p.289). Mr. Robert Patterson, who must have kept a sort of eye upon the movements of his partner in business, also declared that Lambdin and Rigdon were very intimate during the residence of the latter in Pittsburgh (Patterson, p.11); and Mrs. Eichbaum, whose husband was postmaster from 1822 to 1833, makes allusion to the fact, instancing the circumstance that the twain often came to the office together. She recalls a remark of Silas Engles to the effect that Rigdon was always hanging around the printing office (Patterson, p.11). Though in one or two points this lady may be mistaken in what she communicated
for the valuable pamphlet of Patterson, her memory is generally so precise and accurate that much respect is due her testimony. She is one of the main witnesses to the indubitable fact that while a resident of Pittsburgh, Sidney was engaged in a tannery.
This intimacy between Rigdon and Lambdin, and the habit of the former of visiting his friend at the printing office, will go far to encourage the supposition that the manuscript of the Book of Mormon was obtained at the hands of Butler & Lambdin in preference to any other Pittsburgh printers. But the reader should bear in mind that while it may be uncertain from what particular source the document was procured, it is a thing beyond any question that it was obtained from some source; which after all is the point of leading concern.
Sidney had the period from the 28th of January to the last day of December 1822 in which to cultivate the kind regards of Lambdin, before the commercial crash of the first of January 1823 befell the firm of R. Patterson & Lambdin. This disaster would [have been] a favorable occasion to take an inventory and to cleanse the printing office of the soiled accumulations of many years. Among the jetsam and flotsam of such a wreck it is not unlikely was found Solomon Spaulding's copy of the Book of Mormon. It had been there for nearly ten years, faded and yellowed, until perhaps every single person connected with the business had forgotten both the name of the author and the main incidents of the story. Nobody wanted to purchase it; the faded leaves were not desirable even for
wrapping-paper. Mr. Rigdon in one of his customary loafing visits may have turned it over, and becoming interested in its contents, desired the loan of it at the hands of his friend Lambdin. This gentleman would (have been) content to be rid of such a nuisance upon any terms, and it is conceivable that he willingly made him a present of the old trumpery.
On the other hand, if the contents of the printing office were sold under the hammer, Sidney might have purchased the manuscript Book of Mormon for a song. There is no kind of necessity to suppose that anything improper was connected with the transaction; it was likely one of the most honest and commonplace affairs that could be imagined. Lambdin might not have thought of it a moment afterward; if he could have been consulted in the year 1834 it is a chance whether he would have been in a situation to recall anything that might have been said or done when the bargain was closed. Transfers of this color being enacted every day, and few will consider it improper to charge their minds with a record of the particulars connected with them.
But the acquisition was a very important affair to Rigdon. The moment he became aware of what a prize he had drawn he conceived a fresh ambition in life, and as he often assured his friends in after years, he immediately abandoned other concerns and devoted all the time he could command to the labor of "studying the Bible" (Howe, p. 289).
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Mr. Howe affirms that "Rigdon resided in Pittsburgh about three years, and during the whole of that time, as he has since frequently asserted, abandoned preaching and all other employment, for the purpose of studying the bible" (p. 289). It has been suggested above that the precise duration of his Pittsburgh period was about four years; but the above report is of considerable importance. The period during which Rigdon retired from business and devoted his cares to the study of the Bible was of just about three years' duration, namely from the date of his obtaining Spaulding's Book of Mormon to his removal from the city. It was likely to this season that Howe so often heard him allude and not to the entire space of his sojourn in Pittsburgh.
On the other' hand, it is worthy of investigation, whether Mr. Rigdon represented the case truly, when he would affirm that in the months that intervened between the first of January 1823 and the last of December 1825, he "abandoned preaching and all other employment." As late as the 11th of June 1823, he was the recognized pastor of the Baptist church of the town, and it is likely (that he) ministered before that communion every Sunday. After the 11th of June, and particularly after the 11th of October 1823, he was the fellow elder of Walter Scott in the pastoral charge of the Sandemanian church
that worshipped in the court house. Besides these functions he also secured a position of labor in a tannery.
The explanation of this apparent contradiction must be sought in the circumstance that the study of the Bible was the only occupation in which Mr. Rigdon had any heart. After his eyes had rested upon the Book of Mormon almost all his waking thoughts would be employed in the editorial preparation of it for the purpose he had in mind. His preaching, whether for the behoof of the Baptists, or later of the Sandemanians, was of a perfunctory sort, which required no special preparation, and therefore in later years it was not difficult for him to overlook the fact that he had even gone through the form of it. Nothing really engaged his thoughts and energies except the Book of Mormon, and the task or elaborating from the scriptures such passages and such points of the "Ancient Order of Things" as he should like to insert into his revised edition of it. Already a glimpse has been had of a "diligent student of the Bible," who in the month of August 1821, was teasing Mr. Campbell with very unwelcome inquiries in that regard (Christian Baptist, p.86), which is believed to indicate that Sidney was by that time making satisfactory progress in his researches.
Howe further deposes that Sidney "resided in this vicinity (at Mentor) about four years previous to the appearance of the book, during which time he made several long visits to Pittsburgh
and perhaps to the Susquehanna, where Smith was then digging for money or pretending to be translating plates" (p.289). If the historian had been familiar with the details of the Pittsburgh period, after the discovery of the Book of Mormon, it is more than probable that he would have had something to relate concerning several long journeys undertaken between the first of January 1823 and the last of December 1825. For example, there is reason to suppose that Sidney was in Manchester, New York, on the night of the twenty-first of September 1823, and on the following day, in conference with Mr. Joseph Smith, Jun. Returning from that journey about the 1st of October, it will be remembered that he accompanied Mr. Campbell to Kentucky, where the debate with McCalla was appointed. Sidney had more ready cash at this moment than was usual in his scanty exchequer; he had received from James Means on the 28th of June, a portion of the money due for the land that gentleman had purchased in St. Clair township, so that it was not difficult for him to put himself in readiness for a considerable visit.
The years 1824 and 1825 it is believed were also signalized each by a visit to New York in the month of September. When the month of December 1825 had come round it was apparent that his work in Pittsburgh was closed; it is also possible that he had already completed the greater portion of his labor on the Book of Mormon, and he resolved to return to Ohio. About the first of January 1826 he must
have celebrated his entrance into the township of Bainbridge, Geauga County. This place was probably selected because Mr. Brooks of Warren, his wife's father, possessed a landed estate there, where Sidney being stranded, it would be convenient to dispose of him. He could employ his exertions in raising a farm crop, and in that way earn an honest living. The above explanation is suggested by the circumstance that Adamson Bentley, who married another daughter of Ms. Brooks, established himself there in the year 1831, possibly in the very house which Rigdon had occupied in the beginning of 1826. Reliable information exists to the effect that the house of Rigdon was in the neighborhood of Chagrin Falls in Cuyahoga, and that was the postal address of Mr. Bentley also (Hayden, p.106). Rigdon was never able to forgive Bentley for the fact that Mr. Brooks was induced to disinherit his daughter, Mrs. Phoebe Brooks Rigdon (Messenger & Advocate 2:335).
At Bainbridge Sidney continued as opportunity was offered to put the finishing touches on the Book of Mormon. The following glimpse of him and of the book is supplied by Mrs. Amos Dunlap, of Warren Ohio:
When I was quite a child I visited Mr. Rigdon's family, He married my aunt. They at that time lived in Bainbridge, Ohio. During my visit Mr. Rigdon went to his bedroom and took from a trunk, which he kept locked, a certain manuscript. He came out into the other room, and seated himself by the fireplace and commenced reading it. His wife at that moment came into the room and exclaimed 'What! you're studying that thing again?' or something to that effect. She then added 'I mean to burn that paper.' He said 'No, indeed, you will
not. This will be a great thing some day.' Whenever he was reading this he was so completely occupied that he seemed entirely unconscious of anything passing around him" (Patterson, p.12).
The closing remark would seem to suggest that during the visit of Mrs. Dunlap it was not an unusual thing for Sidney to be occupied with his manuscript.
In the month of June 1826 he was invited to Mentor on the occasion of the death of the Rev. Warner Goodall. This gentleman, pastor of the Baptist church in Mentor, had rendered himself esteemed by promptly yielding to the innovations that had been proposed by Mr. Campbell, and at his death it was the desire of his brethren to do him distinguished honor. Mr. Rigdon, the mighty orator in the Boanerges vein, was sent for to preach the funeral sermon. The church at Mentor were content with the manner in which the service was performed, and in a short season this eloquent defender of the "Ancient Order" was called to the honor of succeeding "Father Goodall." Meanwhile, however, in the last days of August 1826 Sidney appeared at the Mahoning Association, who were convened in their annual session at Canfield, where the distinction was conferred upon him of being put forward to preach before the body on Sunday morning along with Walter Scott and Alexander Campbell. (Hayden, pp.34-5). Several weeks later he removed his residence from Bainbridge to Mentor, and threw himself into the thick of the combat then waging
in that quarter on behalf of Sandemanian views and practices. But it is possible that even at Mentor he prosecuted as industriously as he could the business of putting the finish touches upon his redaction of the Book of Mormon. The work did not leave his hands until nearly an entire year after his removal to Mentor; it was first committed to the providence of Mr. Smith on the 22nd of September 1827.
continue reading on: p. 205