Mormon History

Interview with Sidney Rigdon's Grandson - 1888

The Salt Lake Tribune

April 15, 1888


Sidney Rigdon's Grandson Says Their Family
Understood it to be a Fraud.

EDITOR TRIBUNE: -- In the intervals of my literary labors here I have many talks with men who were in Utah at a very early day, and occasionally with original Mormons or their sons, which would be interesting had I the time to detail them. But my chance talks with one of these are so agreeable that I report him briefly for you. Mr. Walter Sidney Rigdon is a citizen of Carrolton, Cattaraugus County, N. Y., and a grandson of Sidney Rigdon, the partner of Joe Smith. He talked with old Sidney hundreds of times about the "scheme of the Golden Bible," and his father still has many of the old Sidney's documents.

"Grandfather was a religious crank," says Mr. Rigdon, "till he lost money by it. He started in as a Baptist preacher, and had a very fine congregation for those days, in Pittsburg. There was no reason at all for his leaving, except that he got 'cracked.' At that time he had no ideas of making money. Indeed, while he was with the Mormons, his chances to make money were good enough for most men; but he came out of it about as poor as he went in."

B. -- "But how did he change first?"

"Well, he tried to understand the prophecies, and the man who does that is sure to go crazy. He studied the prophets and baptism, and of course he got 'rattled.' Daniel and Ezekiel and Revelations will 'rattle' any man who gives his whole mind to 'em -- at any rate they did him, and he joined Alexander Campbell. Campbell then believed that the end of the world was nigh --his Millennial Harginger shows that they 'rattled' all who listened to them in Ohio and other places; then grandfather got disgusted and decided on a new deal. He found Joe Smith and they had a great many talks together before they brought out the plates. None of us ever doubted that they got the whole thing up; but father always maintained that grandfather helped get up the original Spaulding book. At any rate he got a copy very early and schemed on some way to make it useful. Although the family knew these facts, they refused to talk on the subject while grandfather lived. In fact, he and they took on a huge disgust at the whole subject.

Grandfather died at Friendship, Alleghany County, N. Y. in 1876, over eighty years old. His son Sidney, my father, was born at Mentor in 1827 and remembers the stirring times of Mormonism. He lives where I do. Grandfather had preached to his old neighbors in Alleghany and taken converts to Nauvoo, so after the break up in 1844, he returned to live at Friendship. For a while he spoke of Mormonism as an attempt to improve Christianity; but the later phases of the thing in Utah were totally different from what he had taught. His daughter Nancy Rigdon is now Mrs Ellis of Pittsburg, and her husband is a journalist in that city. Her testimony against Joe Smith is very strong. The Prophet was no doubt a thoroughly bad man, etc."

I only report that part of Mr. Rigdon's talk which shows the history of the "Golden Bible," as accepted in the family. Of course, if Sidney Rigdon had wanted the world to believe the Smith story of the plates, he would have told them so. But, though the family do not care to ventillate it, he evidently taught them to treat the whole thing as a fraud.


NEW YORK, April 7, 1888.

Note 1: John Hanson Beadle (1840-1897) was the author of the 1870 book Life in Utah, which went through several printing and name alterations, each of which preserved his sub-title: "Mysteries & Crimes of Mormonism." He is the same correspondent who wrote "Jackson County: Early History of the Saints" for the Tribune issue of Oct. 6, 1875, which featured an interview with former LDS Apostle William E. McLellin.

Note 2: Walter Sidney Rigdon (c.1856-aft. 1893) was the son of Algernon "Sid" Rigdon (1828-aft. 1893), who in turn, was the fifth child of Sidney Rigdon.