Beginnings of the Strangites - 1846
Warsaw Signal – March 4, 1846
JAMES J. STRANG.
We have received the Voree Herald, No. 2, edited by James J. Strang, who claime to be the successor to Joe Smith as President of the Mormon Church. Strang was once a Lawyer in the western part of New York, but not being very successful in his profession, he determined to change his business -- thinking no doubt that if as great a fool as Joe Smith could gull mankind into the belief that he was a Prophet he would stand, at least, some chance of making a fortune by the same means -- Strang, accordingly procurred a revelation, disclosing the fact that certain plates were deposited under a certain tree -- Joe, it will be recollected, when in search for his plates went alone; but Strang determined to be a little smarter than this, and, therefore, took witnesses along, so that the proof woulf rest on other testimony than his own. The following certificate discloses what they did and saw.
On the thirteenth day of September, 1845, we,
Aaron Smith, Jirah B. Wheelan, James M. Van Nostrand, and Edward Whitcomb,
assembled at the call of James J. Strang, who is by us and many others approved
as a Prophet and Seer of God. He proceeded to inform us that it had been
revealed to him in a vision that an account of an ancient people was buried in a
hill south of White river bridge, near the east line of Walworth County; and
leading us to an oak tree about one foot in diameter, told us that we would find
it enclosed in a case of rude earthen ware under that tree at the depth of about
three feet; requested us to dig it up, and charged us to so examine the ground
that we should know we were not imposed upon, and that it had not been buried
there since the tree grew. The tree was surrounded by a sward of deeply rooted
grass, such as is usually found in the openings, and upon the most critical
examination we could not discover any indication that it had ever been cut
through or disturbed.
We then dug up the tree, and continued to dig to the depth of about three feet, where we found a case of slightly baked clay containing three plates of brass. On one side of one is a landscape view of the south end of Gardner's prairie and the range of hills where they were dug. On another is a man with a crown on his head and a scepter in his hand, above is an eye before an upright line, below the sun and moon surrounded with twelve stars, at the bottom are twelve large stars from three of which pillars arise, and closely interspersed with them are seventy very small stars. The other four sides are very closely covered with what appear to be alphabetic characters, but in a language of which we have no knowledge.
The case was found imbedded in indurated clay so closely fitting it that it broke in taking out, and the earth below the soil was so hard as to be dug with difficulty even with a pickax. Over the case was found a flat stone about one foot wide each way and three inches thick, which appeared to have undergone the action of fire, and fell in pieces after a few minutes exposure to the air. The digging extended in the clay about eighteen inches, there being two kinds of earth of different color and appearance above it.
We examined as we dug all the way with the utmost care, and we say, with utmost confidence, that no part of the earth through which we dug exhibited any sign or indication that it had been moved or disturbed at any time previous. The roots of the tree stuck down on every side very closely, extending below the case, and closely interwoven with roots from other trees. None of them had been broken or cut away. No clay is found in the country like that of which the case is made.
In fine, we found an alphabetic and pictorial record, carefully cased up, buried deep in the earth, covered with a flat stone, with an oak tree one foot in diameter growing over it, with every evidence that the sense can give that it has lain there as long as that tree has been growing. Strang took no part in the digging, but kept entirely away from before the first blow was struck till after the plates were taken out of the case; and the sole inducement to our digging was our faith in his statement as a Prophet of the Lord that a record would thus and there be found.
JIRAH B. WHEELAN,
J. M. VAN NOSTRAND,
After reading the above, we were forced to confess this is a pretty decently got up humbug. One of three conclusions is inevitable: either the witnesses lie, or Strang deposited the plates under the tree some time since so that all trace of his work was obliterated, or else James J. Strang is a Prophet, or wizzard.
But return to the Voree Herald. -- Strang is evidently a better scholar and a more refined man than any of the prominent men amongst the Saints, whose writings we have ever seen. He handles the Twelve without gloves and proves, incontestibly, by the Book of Doctrines and Covenants, that they are usurpers. He is evidently a man of some talent and of quick discernment; well calculated to give currency and plausibility to a humbug.
He invites all his followers to come to Voree, the city of peace, where doubtlessly, he will soon collect a sufficient crowd, to enable him to drive a flourishing business.
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