Mormon History

Spaulding Statements - 1881

Scribner’s Monthly – October 1881

Communications (Letters to the Editor) 

The  Book  of  Mormon.


SIR: In the number of this magazine for August, 1880, appeared an article by myself entitled "The Book of Mormon." The article contained a statement, together with evidence substantiating it in part, by Mrs. McKinstry, a daughter of the Rev. Solomon Spaulding, that the Book of Mormon was derived from a novel called "The Manuscript Found," written by her father in 1812, and that the manuscript of this novel was in 1834 delivered to one D. P. Hurlburt. 

When the article appeared, there seemed to be no other proof that this manuscript was delivered to Hurlburt. Believing it to be important to follow up this clue, I recently visited Hurlburt at his home near Gibsonburg, Sandusky County, Ohio, in company with Oscar Kellogg, Esq., a well-known lawyer of that vicinity. As the result of this visit, I have received the following sworn statement:

"GIBSONBURG, OHIO, January 10th, 1881.

"To all whom it may concern: In the year eighteen hundred and thirty-four (1834), I went from Geauga County, Ohio, to Monson, Hampden County, Massachusetts, where I found Mrs. Davison, late widow of the Rev. Solomon Spaulding, late of Conneaut, Ashtabula County, Ohio. Of her I obtained a manuscript, supposing it to be the manuscript of the romance written by the said Solomon Spaulding, called the 'Manuscript Found,' which was reported to be the foundation of the 'Book of Mormon.' I did not examine the manuscript until I got home, when upon examination I found it to contain nothing of the kind, but being a manuscript upon an entirely different subject. This manuscript I left with E. D. Howe, of Painesville, Geauga County, Ohio, now Lake County, Ohio, with the understanding that when he had examined it, he should return it to the widow. Said Howe says the manuscript was destroyed by fire, and further the deponent saith not.
           "(Signed)   D. P. HURLBURT

"Sworn to and subscribed before me this 10th day of January, 1881.
                "(Signed) J. Kinniger,
"Mayor of the village of Gibsonburg, Sandusky County, Ohio."

In this statement Hurlburt gives the impression that he procured this manuscript from Mrs. Davison at Munson, Massachusetts, but Mrs. McKinstry, in her statement, says he got it by an order addressed to Jerome Clark, at Hartwick, Otsego County, New York, and this is undoubtedly the truth. In fact, Hurlburt admitted as much to me before Mr. Kellogg, in the conversation I had with him at his house in Gibsonburg. This is further confirmed by George Clark, a son of the above-mentioned Jerome Clark, and his wife, in two letters copied below.

In a former statement signed by Hurlburt, -- the original of which is in my possession, -- dated August 19th, 1880, he says: "I do not know whether or not the document I received from Mrs. Davison was Spaulding's 'Manuscript Found,' as I never read it."

In the conversation I had with Hurlburt at his house, and before Mr. Kellogg, he admitted that he "just peeped into the manuscript, and saw the names Mormon, Moroni, Nephi and Lamenite."

The original "Manuscript Found" was in existence at Onondaga Valley, Onondaga County, New York, in 1818, as appears in the following statement, never before published. Mrs. Redfield is now living at Syracuse, New York.

                "Syracuse, June 17, 1880
In the year 1818 I was principal of the Onondaga Valley Academy, and resided in the house of William H. Sabine, Esq. I remember Mrs. Spaulding, Mr. Sabine's sister perfectly, and hearing her and the family talk of a manuscript in her possession, which her husband, the Rev. Mr. Spaulding, had written somewhere in the West. I did not read the manuscript, but its substance was so often mentioned, and the peculiarity of the story, that years afterward, when the Mormon Bible was published, I procured a copy, and at once recognized the resemblance

 between it and Mrs. Spaulding's account of 'The Manuscript Found.' I remember also to have heard Mr. Sabine talk of the romance, and that he and Mrs. Spaulding said it had been written in the leisure hours of an invalid, who read it to his neighbors for their amusement. Mrs. Spaulding believed that Sidney Rigdon had copied the manuscript while it was in Patterson's printing office, in Pittsburgh. She spoke of it with regret. I never saw her after her marriage to Mr. Davison of Hartwick.

          "(Signed) Ann Treadwell Redfield."

The original "Manuscript Found" was in existence at Hartwick, N. Y., in 1831, as appears by the following letters never before published, of George Clark, the son of the Jerome Clark above referred to:

                "Sonoma, Cal., Dec. 30th, 1880.
"Mrs. Ellen E. Dickinson.
"DEAR MADAM: I remember that Mrs. Davison spent a winter in my father's house nearly fifty years ago, and left there to go to Munson, Massachusetts. A year or two later she wrote to my father to sell her effects, bureau, feather-bed, linen, etc., and remit the proceeds to her, which he did. The old trunk still remained in the garret when I sold the farm in 1864, and was given away, to whom I know not. It was worthless and empty. My wife remembers that Mrs. Davison gave her a manuscript to read during her stay with us, and that she read a part of it and returned it to Mrs. Davison, who told her it was written by Mr. Spaulding as a pastime to while away the days of sickness.
           "Respectfully yours,
                "GEORGE CLARK." 

Letter No. 2.

           "Sonoma, Cal. Jan. 24th, 1881.
Mrs. E. E. Dickinson.
"DEAR MADAM: My wife does not remember the words 'Mormon, Maroni,' etc., nor anything else of the contents of the Spaulding manuscript in question. She remembers perfectly that it looked soiled and worn on the outside. She thought it dry reading, and, after reading a few pages, laid it aside. She remembers perfectly, too, what Mrs. Davison said about it as being the origin of the Mormon Bible, and she thought it would die out in a few years. It was in 1831 Mrs. Davison left our house for Munson, Massachusetts.
           "GEORGE CLARK."

(My interview with Hurlbut is too long to be inserted here. The gist of it is that he admitted before Mr. Kellogg and myself that he obtained a manuscript at Hartwick, Otsego County, New York, through an order from Mrs. Davison, in 1834, which he believes was written by Solomon Spaulding, that it was called "Manuscript Found," etc., that he peeped into it and saw the words Mormon, Maroni, Nephi, Lamanite, etc.) 

What is the fair conclusion from these new facts? Is it not that Hurlburt got the original "Manuscript Found" in 1834? It has probably disappeared. It was obviously of value to the Mormons. They have probably had it in their control, and the fate of it will never be known.

That this "Manuscript Found" was the basis of the "Book of Mormon" still further appears from the following statements, never before published.

        "Conneaut, Ashtabula County, Ohio,              "December 23, 1880.
"I have resided in the neighborhood of Conneaut, Ashtabula Co., Ohio. sixty-six years. During all that period I have known Hiram Lake, whose statement, dated December 23d, 1880, I have read. This statement I believe to be true. I was acquainted with Henry Lake, Aaron Wright, John N. Miller, and Nathan Howard, the persons named in Hiram Lake's statement, and about 1834-5, the time of the excitement concerning Mormonism, I heard them all say that the Book of Mormon was undoubtedly taken from a manuscript written by Solomon Spaulding, which they had heard Spaulding read in 1811 or 1812, called 'The Manuscript Found, or, the Lost Tribes.'              "LORIN GOULD."

        Conneaut, "Ashtabula County, Ohio,              "Dec. 23, 1880.
"I am sixty-nine years of age, and have lived all my life in Conneaut, Ashtabula County, Ohio. My father, Henry Lake, was partner with Solomon Spaulding in 1811 and '12, in a forge in Conneaut (then Salem). About 1834, when I was about twenty-three years of age, I remember that there was a great excitement concerning Mormonism in Conneaut. My father read the Book of Mormon, or heard it read, and was familiar with its contents, and he told me it was unquestionably derived from a manuscript written by his former partnerm, Solomon Spaulding, called 'Manuscript Found. or, the Lost Tribes.' I believe my father, about this time, made an affidavit to the same effect, which was published. Since 1834 I have conversed with Aaron Wright, John N. Miller, and Nathan Howard, old residents here, now deceased, all of whom lived here in 1811 and '12, and who had heard Spaulding's manuscript read, and they told me they believed the Book of Mormon was derived from Spaulding's 'Manuscript Found.' Some or all these persons made affidavits to this effect, which were published in a book called 'Mormonism Unveiled,' edited by E. D. Howe, of Painesville, Ohio.
             "HIRAM LAKE."

These two gentlemen are highly respected residents of Conneaut, where the writer saw them in November last. E. D. Howe, above referred to, in conversation with me at Painesville, Ohio (the same month), gave it as his opinion that the Book of Mormon was derived from Spaulding's manuscript, and that this manuscript was of too much value to the Mormons, when it was in their possession, to allow it to escape them. The theory he advanced was that Hurlbut got the real Spaulding manuscript, but what disposition he made of it has not been told, and that the one given by Hurlburt to him was something else.

It may be interesting to state that on my trip to Ohio, I called on General Garfield at Mentor, and conversed with him on this subject. I found that he was much interested in Mormonism. The first Mormon settlement was at Mentor, which is only three miles from Kirtland, where the first Mormon temple was built, a structure which is still in tolerable preservation. President Garfield's farm at Mentor was purchased from a Mormon. Mrs. Garfield told me that her father studied Latin and Greek with Sidney Rigdon; that she and her husband remember to have heard Rigdon preach. She also said that her father told her that Rigdon, in his youth, lived in that neighborhood, and made mysterious journeys to Pittsburgh. From my conversation with General and Mrs. Garfield, I gathered that they believed that Rigdon was the prime author of the Book of Mormon, and that Joe Smith was merely his tool in that matter.  

From a statement made by John Spaulding, the brother of Solomon Spaulding, printed in a memorial or genealogy of the Spaulding family, I have learned that he (John Spaulding) believed that Rigdon, then a printer, when a very young man, was familiar with the contents of "Manuscript Found," as he resided in the neighborhood of Conneaut, and is said to have been familiar with Mr. Spaulding's writings, and that he secretly followed him to Pittsburgh, worked at his trade with Patterson, and suggested to his employer to borrow the curious romance written by Mr. Spaulding, withthe possible idea of publishing it. Many facts seem to confirm this statement.  

During my recent visit to Conneaut, the locality of the earth-mound which so fired Solomon Spaulding's imagination was pointed out to me, as well as the site of his foundry and dwelling house. Last year some curious evidences of a prehistoric civilization, such as personal ornaments, cooking utensils, fragments of pottery, etc., were found near the old mound, and a number of families in that vicinity possess souvenirs of this kind.

            ELLEN E. DICKINSON.