Spaulding BOM Authorship Witnesses - 1873

Ashtabula Weekly Telegraph - February 22, 1873


Mr. Editor:
I was reading quite lately in the papers the oft repeated story of the origin of the Book of Mormon. I have long believed that it was substantially true. It is said it was written by one Solomon Spalding a disabled or retired Congregational minister, as a sort of romance founded on the evidence afforded that our country had once been inhabited by a race of people more civilized, and distinct, from the Indian tribes found on its discovery by Columbus. It being a popular theory about that time, these were the lost tribes of Israel, and the probable Mound Builders.

This manuscript, it is said, either before or after Mr. Spalding's death, was taken to a printing office at Pittsburg, where Sydney Rigdon got hold of it and with Joseph Smith and others, published it as found in a miraculous manner in Palmyra, New York. This Mr. Spalding, it is said, lived at an early day at Conneaut, and had a forge or trip hammer in the valley on the creek. This was confirmed to the present writer some years ago by the late Col. Robert Harper, of Harpersfield. He said, when a young man, he spent some time at Conneaut, and well remembered Mr. Spalding and his wife. He spoke of him as somewhat singular, living in a long, low, shanty-like building of boards. In one end was his forge, while in the other he lived with his wife, and kept a kind of grocery store. He said, in common with other young men, he often spent his evenings there. He distinctly remembered one night -- they had been playing cards for amusement; when about to leave he needed something to wrap up his cards, when Mrs. Spalding brought to him a leaf of some manuscript. Upon making some remark about the propriety of his using it, she remarked it was only a piece of the Doctor's novel. This led him to ask if her husband was writing a novel; when she said yes; upon the first inhabitants who lived upon this continent. And upon examination he found this to be the character of the scrap of the manuscript she had given him. All this in connection with what has been published before, and the fact of such remarkable remains in the neighborhood of Conneaut, leads to the probable conclusion that Solomon Spalding wrote the Book of Mormon in substance at least, & probably while living at Conneaut.

I have written in the hope that there were persons still living at Conneaut, or in the vicinity, that knew Mr. Spalding; who can confirm the above, and more than this, can affirm they knew Mr. Spalding to be the author of the book, such as it is.

If there are any such persons, I think it would be promotive of the truth to publish it; at least it would serve to preserve and establish a historical fact. Therefore I am prompted to ask that all such communications shall appear in your columns, or in the Conneaut paper, from which no doubt you would cheerfully copy. Hoping that both the editor of the TELEGRAPH and Conneaut Reporter will feel an interest in the matter, I am yours truly,
                  H. HOLLIS.
  Greencastle, Indiana.

Note: This article in the Telegraph was followed up two weeks later with some recollections of "Dr. Daniel M. Spencer, a resident of Kingsville."


Ashtabula Weekly Telegraph March 8, 1873

The Book of Mormon.

A correspondent of the Ashtabula Telegraph, writing from Greencastle, Indiana says in support of the belief that one Solomon Spalding who once lived in Conneaut was the author of the Book of Mormon, that the late Col. Robert Harper, when a young man was frequently at the said Spalding's, in Conneaut; that Harper told him (the correspondent) that he, Harper, had seen a page of manuscript, admitted by Spalding's wife to have been written by him, remarking farther that her husband was engaged upon a novel, the subject of which was the first inhabitants of this continent, &c. The correspondent seeks farther information upon this subject.

Not long after the appearance of the Book of Mormon, Dr. Daniel M. Spencer, a resident of Kingsville, in a conversation of our hearing, and at our father's house, in this town, said that he was well acquainted with Spalding when he lived in Conneaut; had been at his house often and had read manuscripts written by Spalding; that the matter contained in said manuscripts was touching the lost tribes of Israel, their wanderings and final settlement on this continent; that he saw and read the pages of Spalding's fanciful writings at different times and read much of them. He declared that not only the subject matter of Spalding's novel was incorporated in the Book of Mormon, but much of it was a literal transcript, to the best of his knowledge, after reading the contents of both. His declarations were made when Mormonism first made its monstrous pretensions when the public mind was stirred upon the subject and they made a very formidable impression upon our mind. Dr. Spencer had a decided taste for antiquarian research and speculation, and those who knew him will not wonder that he was interested in Spalding's vagaries about the "lost tribes," Mound Builders &c. -- As the correspondent suggests, some of the older citizens of Conneaut must have some knowledge upon this subject not yet made public.

Note: Two such "older citizens," implicitly solicited above, did eventually come forth with their recollections, published in the newspapers a few years later. See the 1885 account provided by William H. Leffingwell, and the less convincing 1901 reminiscence of Mrs. Diadama Chittenden. Jasper Jesse Moss, a Disciples of Christ Elder, also provided some similar details in 1878-80.