Mormon History

Memories of Solomon Spaulding - 1869

The Daily Evening Reporter April 21, 1869

Solomon Spaulding Again.

Messrs. Editors: --

Here on business with the Government, I have accidentally found, in the Wheeling Intelligencer of the 8th instant, an article copied from your paper, under the caption, "Who Wrote The Book of Mormon?" The statement of Joseph Miller, Sr., enclosed in the communication of your correspondent, J. W. Hamilton, carries me back, in memory, to scenes and occurrences of my youth, at the pleasant old Village of Amity, in your County; and are corroborative, in some measure, of their conjectures as to the real author of that curious production, the "Mormon Bible."

With a view to throw some additional light upon a subject which, in the future, if not at present, may possess historical importance, I have concluded to employ a leisure hour in giving you some of my recollections, touching the Lost History Found, and its author.

In the [Fall] of 1814, I arrived in the village of "Good Will:" and, for eighteen or twenty months, sold goods in the store previously occupied by Mr. Thomas Brice. It was on the Main-street, a few rods West of Spalding's tavern where I was a boarder.

With [both] Mr. Solomon Spaulding and his wife, I was quite intimately acquainted. He was regarded as an amiable, inoffensive, intelligent old gentleman, of some sixty winters; and as having been formerly a Teacher or Professor in some eastern Academy or College; but I was not aware of his having been a preacher or called "Reverend." He was afflicted with a rupture, which made locomotion painful, and confined him much to his house. They possessed but little of this world's goods; and, as I understood, selected Amity as a residence, because it was a healthy and inexpensive place to live in.

I recollect, quite well, Mr. Spalding 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 when, or before, that country was invaded by the Israelites, under Joshua. He described, with great particularity, their numbers, customs, modes of life; their wars, stratagems, victories, and defeats &c. His style was flowing and grammatical, though gaunt and abrupt -- very like the stories of the "Maccabees" and other apocryphal books, in the old bibles. He called it Lost History Found, -- Lost Manuscript, or some such name: not disguising that it was wholly a work of the imagination, written to amuse himself, and without any immediate view to publication.

I read, or hear[d] him read, many wonderful and amusing passages from different parts of his professed historical records; and was struck with the minuteness of his details and the apparent truthfulness and sincerity of the author. Defoe's veritable Robinson Crusoe was not more reliable.

I have an indistinct recollection of the passages referred to by Mr. Miller, about the Amalekites making a cross with red paint on their foreheads, to distinguish them from their enemies in the confusion of battle; but the manuscript was full of equally ludicrous descriptions. After my removal to Wheeling, in 1818, I understood that Mr. Spaulding had died and his widow had returned to her friends in northern Ohio or western New York. She would naturally take the manuscript with her. Now, it was in northern Ohio, probably in Lake or Ashtabula County, that the first Mormon prophet, or impostor, Jo Smith, lived and published what he called The Book of Mormon, or the "Mormon Bible." It is quite probable therefore, that, with some alterations, The Book of Mormon was, in fact, The Lost Book, or Lost History Found, of my old landlord, Solomon Spalding, of Amity, Washington County, Pennsylvania.

I have also a recollection of reading, in some newspaper, about the time of my removal to California, in 1850, an article on this subject, charging Jo Smith, directly, with purloining or, in some improper way, getting possession of a certain manuscript which an aged clergyman had written for his own amusement, as a novel, and out of it making, up his pretended Mormon Bible. Smith's converts or followers were challenged to deny the statement. Both the date and the name of the paper I have forgotten. Possibly, in your own file of the Reporter, some notice of the matter may be found to verify my recollection.

Many changes have occurred in old "Cat Fish's Camp," as well as in Amity, since I first knew them. Mr. Joseph Miller, Sr., is I presume, my old friend Jo Miller, with whom, in about 1815, I had many a game of house-ball, at the East side of Spalding's tavern. If so and this article meets his eye, he will [recollect] the stripling who sold tape and other necessaries in the frame house, nearly opposite old Ziba Cook's residence, in Amity. He was then in the prime of life; always in good humor; told a story well; a good shot with a rifle; and the best ball-player in the crowd. When he and I happened to be partners, we were sure to win. I wish him many happy days in a green old age --

If any of these desultory recollections of the olden time can aid, in any way, the truth of history and the suppression of a miserable [imposture], use them as you deem proper, either in print or in the waste basket.


Note 1: Redick McKee supplied additional information on Solomon Spaulding, etc., in a letter to Robert Patterson, Jr., dated April 15, 1879, as well as in a second letter published in Patterson's Presbyterian Banner on Nov. 15, 1882. McKee also wrote a lengthy letter to Arthur B. Deming on the same topic, dated Jan. 25, 1886.

Note 2: Robert Patterson, Jr. published Redick McKee's obituary in the Presbyterian Banner on Sep. 22, 1886.