Book of Mormon Origins - 1925

Jefferson Gazette - 1925





When the first settlers came to Conneaut, then called Salem or New Salem, they found many evidences of a large population that once inhabited that section. There were mounds or fortifications made by a race long before extinct. There was a grave yard in which were over 3000 graves.

A minister, Rev. Solomon Spaulding wrote a story about the mounds and ascribed them as having been made by the Lost Tribes of Israel. He pretended to find a manuscript in one of the graves telling about the people. He translated the find and from time to time read his alleged translation to friends.

A few days ago the Gazette editor secured a copy of "History of the Mormons" published in 1853 and in it was the following complete story of the Spaulding manuscript and a letter from the old Conneaut minister's wife, which we herewith publish.

It is stated by them that, in the year 1809, a man of the name of Solomon Spaulding, who had formerly been a clergyman, failed in business at a place called Cherry Valley, in the State of New York. Being a person of literary tastes, and his attention having been directed to the notion which at thaf time excited some interest and discussion, namely, that the North American Indians were the descendants of the lost ten tribes of Israel, it struck him that the idea afforded a good groundwork for a religious tale, history, or novel. For three years he labored upon this work, which he entitled The Manuscript Found."Mormon" and his son "Moroni," who act so large a part in Joseph Smith's Book of Mormon,were two of the principal characters in it. In 1812 the MS. was presented to a printer or bookseller, named Patterson, reiding at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with a view to its publication. Before any satisfactory arrangement could be made, the author died, and the manuscript remained in the possession of Mr. Patterson, apparently unnoticed and uncared for. The printer also died in 1856, having previously lent the manuscnpt to one Sidney Rigdon, a compositor in his employ, who was at the time a preacher in connection with some Christian sect, which the proper designation is not very clearly stated. This Rigdon afterwards became, next to Joseph Smith him-self, the principal leader of the Mormons. How Joseph Smith and this person became connected is not known, and which of the two originated the idea of making a new Bible of Solomon Spaulding's novel is equally uncertaini The wife, the partner, several friends, and the brother of Solomon Spaulding, affirmed, however, the identity of the principal portions of the Book of Mormon with the novel of The Manuscript Found, which the author had from time to time, and in seperate portions, read over to them. John Spaulding, brother to Solomon, declared upon oath that his brother's book was an historical romance of the first settlers in America, endeavoring to show that the American Indians are the descendants of Jews, or the lost ten tribes. He stated that it gave a detailed account of their journey from Jerusalem by land and by sea, till they arrived in America under the command of Nephi and Lehi; and that it also mentioned the Lamanites. He added that 'he had recently read the Book of Mormon, and, to his great surprlse, he found nearly the same historical matter and names as in his brother's writings. To the best of his recollection and belief, it was the same that his brother Solomon wrote, with the exception of the religious matter.'

The widow of Solomon Spaulding afterwards married a Mr. Davison; and a statement, purporting to have been made by her in the following words, was published in a Boston newspaper in May, 1839: --

"As the Book of Mormon, or Golden Bible (as it was origlnally called) has excited much attention, and is deemed by a certain new sect of equal authority the Sacred Scriptures, I think it a duty which I owe to the public to state what I know touching its origin.

"That its claims to a divine origin are wholly unfounded needs no proof to a mind unperverted by the grossest delusions. That any sane person should rank it higher than any other merely human composition is a matter of the greatest astonishment; yet it is received as divine by some who dwell in enlightened New England, and even by those who have sustained the character of devoted Christians. Learning recently that Mormonism had found its way into a church in Massachusetts, and has impregnated some with its gross delusions, so that excommunication has been necessary, I am determined to delay no longer doing what I can to strip the mask from this monster of sin, and to lay open this pit of abominations.

"Solomon Spaulding, to whom I was united in marriage in early life, was a graduate of Dartmouth College, and was distinguished for a lively imagination, and a great fondness for history. At the time of our marriage he resided in Cherry Valley, New York. From this place we removed to New Salem, Ashtabula County, Ohio, sometimes called Conneaut, as it is situated on Conneaut Creek. Shortly after our removal to this place, his health sunk, and he was laid aside from active labors. In the town of New Salem there were numerous mounds and forts supposed by many to be the dilapidated dwellings and fortifications of a race now extinct. These ancient relics arrest the attention of the new settlers, and become objects of research for the curious. Numerous implements were found, and other articles evincing great skill in the arts. Mr. Spaulding being an educated man, and passionately fond of history, took a lively interest in these developments of antiquity; and in order to beguile the hours of retirement and furnish employment for his lively imagination, he conceived the idea of giving an historical sketch of this long lost race. Their extreme antiquity led him to write in the most ancient style, and as the Old Testament is the most ancient book in the world, he imitated its style as nearly as possible. His sole object in writing this historical romance was to amuse himself and neighbors. This was about the year 1812. Hull's surrender at Detroit occurred near the same time, and I recollect the date well from that circumstance. As he progressed in his narrative the neighbors would come in from time to time to hear portions read, and a great interest in the work was excited among them. It claimed to have been written by one of the lost nation, and to have been recovered from the earth, and assumed the title of 'Manuscript found.' The neighbors would often inquire how Mr. Spaulding progressed in deciphering the manuscript; and when he had sufficient portion prepared, he would inform them, and they would assemble to hear it read. He was enabled from his acquaintance with the classics and ancient history, to introduce many singular names, which were particularly noticed by the people, and could be easily recognized by them. Mr. Solomon Spaulding had a brother, Mr. John Spaulding, residing in the place at the time, who was perfectly familiar with the work, and repeatedly heard the whole of it read. From New Salem we removed to Pittsburgh, in Pennsylvania. Here Mr. Spaulding found a friend and acquaintance, in the person of Mr. Patterson, an editor of a newspaper. He exhibited his manuscript to Mr. Patterson, who was very much pleased with it, and borrowed it for perusal. He retained it for a long time, and informed Mr. Spaulding that if he would make out a title-page and preface, he would publish it, and it might be a source of profit. This Mr. Spaulding refused to do. Sidney Rigdon, who has figured so largely in the history of the Mormons, was at that time connected with the printing-office of Mr. Patterson, as is well known in that region, and as Rigdon himself has frequently stated, became acquainted with Mr. Spaulding's manuscript, and copied it. It was a matter of notoriety and interest to all connected with the printing establishment. At length the manuscript was returned to its author, and soon after we removed to Amity, Washington County, &c., where Mr. Spaulding deceased in 1816. The manuscript then fell into my hands, and was carefully preserved. It has frequently been examined by my daughter, Mrs. M'Kenstry, of Monson, Massachusetts, with whom I now reside, and by other friends.

After the book of Mormon came out, a copy of it was taken to New Salem, the place of Mr. Spaulding's former residence, and the very place where the Manuscript found was written. A woman-preacher appointed a meeting there; and in the meeting read and repeated copious extracts from the book of Mormon. The historical part was immediately recognized by all the older inhabitants as the identical work of Mr. Spaulding, in which they had all been so deeply interested years before. Mr. John Spaulding was present and recognized perfectly the work of his brother. He was amazed and afflicted that it should have been perverted to so wicked a purpose. His grief found vent in a flood of tears, and arose on the spot, and expressed in the meeting his sorrow and regret that the writings of his deceased brother should be used for a purpose so vile and shocking. The excitement in New Salem became so great, that the inhabitants had a meeting, and deputed Dr. Philastus Hurlbut, one of their number, to repair to this place and to obtain from me the original manuscript of Mr. Spaulding, for the purpose of comparing it with the Mormon Bible, to satisfy their own minds, and to prevent their friends from embracing an error so delusive. This was in the year 1834. Dr. Hurlbut brought with him an introduction and request for the manuscript, which was signed by Messrs. Henry Lake, Aaron Wright, and others, with all of whom I was acquainted, as they were my neighbors when I resided at New Salem. I am sure that nothing would grieve my husband more, were he living, than the use which has been made of his work. The air of antiquity which was thrown about the composition, doubtless suggested the idea of converting it to the purposes of delusion. Thus, an historical romance, with the addition of a few pious expressions, and extracts from the sacred Scriptures, has been construed into a new Bible, and palmed off upon a company of poor deluded fanatics as Divine. I have given the previous brief narration, that this work of deep deception and wickedness may be searched to the foundation and the authors exposed to the contempt and execration they so justly deserve.


Note: The date of the above article is uncertain. It evidently appeared on the front page of a mid-1920s issue of the Jefferson Gazette.