The Spaulding Manuscript

The history of the Mormon Bible has been brought uninterruptedly

to this point in order that the reader may be able to follow

clearly each step that had led up to its publication. It is now

necessary to give attention to two subjects intimately connected

with the origin of this book, viz., the use made of what is known

as the "Spaulding manuscript," in supplying the historical part

of the work, and Sidney Rigdon's share in its production.

The most careful student of the career of Joseph Smith, Jr., and

of his family and his associates, up to the year 1827, will fail

to find any ground for the belief that he alone, or simply with

their assistance, was capable of composing the Book of Mormon,

crude in every sense as that work is. We must therefore accept,

as do the Mormons, the statement that the text was divinely

revealed to Smith, or must look for some directing hand behind

the scene, which supplied the historical part and applied the

theological. The "Spaulding manuscript" is believed to have

furnished the basis of the historical part of the work.

Solomon Spaulding, born in Ashford, Connecticut, in 1761, was

graduated from Dartmouth College in 1785, studied divinity, and

for some years had charge of a church. His own family described

him as a peculiar man, given to historical researches, and

evidently of rather unstable disposition. He gave up preaching,

conducted an academy at Cherry Valley, New York, and later moved

to Conneaut, Ohio, where in 1812 he had an interest in an iron

foundry. His attention was there attracted to the ancient mounds

in that vicinity, and he set some of his men to work exploring

one of them. "I vividly remember how excited he became," says his

daughter,when he heard that they had exhumed some human bones,

portions of gigantic skeletons, and various relics. "From these

discoveries he got the idea of writing a fanciful history of the

ancient races of this country.

The title he chose for his book was "The Manuscript Found." He

considered this work a great literary production, counted on

being able to pay his debts from the proceeds of its sale, and

was accustomed to read selections from the manuscript to his

neighbors with evident pride. The impression that such a

production would be likely to make on the author's neighbors in

that frontier region and in those early days, when books were

scarce and authors almost unknown, can with difficulty be

realized now. Barrett Wendell, speaking of the days of Bryant's

early work, says:--

"Ours was a new country...deeply and sensitively aware that it

lacked a literature. Whoever produced writings which could be

pronounced adorable was accordingly regarded by his fellow

citizens as a public benefactor, a great public figure, a

personage of whom the nation could be proud."* This feeling lends

weight to the testimony of Mr. Spaulding's neighbors, who in

later years gave outlines of his work.

* "Literary History of America."

In order to find a publisher Mr. Spaulding moved with his family

to Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. A printer named Patterson spoke well

of the manuscript to its author, but no one was found willing to

publish it. The Spauldings afterward moved to Amity,

Pennsylvania, where Mr. Spaulding died in 1816. His widow and

only child went to live with Mrs. Spaulding's brother, W. H.

Sabine, at Onondaga Valley, New York, taking their effects with

them. These included an old trunk containing Mr. Spaulding's

papers. "There were sermons and other papers," says his daughter,

"and I saw a manuscript about an inch thick, closely written,

tied up with some stories my father had written for me, one of

which he called 'The Frogs of Windham.' On the outside of this

manuscript were written the words 'Manuscript Found.' I did not

read it, but looked through it, and had it in my hands many

times, and saw the names I had heard at Conneaut, when my father

read it to his friends. "Mrs. Spaulding next went to her father's

house in Connecticut, leaving her personal property at her

brother's. She married a Mr. Davison in 1820, and the old trunk

was sent to her at her new home in Hartwick, Otsego County, New

York. The daughter was married to a Mr. McKinstry in 1828, and

her mother afterward made her home with her at Monson,

Massachusetts, most of the time until her death in 1844.

When the newly announced Mormon Bible began to be talked about in

Ohio, there were immediate declarations in Spaulding's old

neighborhood of a striking similarity between the Bible story and

the story that Spaulding used to read to his acquaintances there,

and these became positive assertions after the Mormons had held a

meeting at Conneaut. The opinion was confidently expressed there

that, if the manuscript could be found and published, it would

put an end to the Mormon pretence.

About the year 1834 Mrs. Davison received a visit at Monson from

D. P. Hurlbut, a man who had gone over to the Mormons from the

Methodist church, and had apostatized and been expelled. He

represented that he had been sent by a committee to secure "The

Manuscript Found" in order that it might be compared with the

Mormon Bible. As he brought a letter from her brother, Mrs.

Davison, with considerable reluctance, gave him an introduction

to George Clark, in whose house at Hartwick she had left the old

trunk, directing Mr. Clark to let Hurlbut have the manuscript,

receiving his verbal pledge to return it. He obtained a

manuscript from this trunk, but did not keep his pledge.*

* Condensed from an affidavit by Mrs. McKinstry, dated April 3,

1880, in Scribner's Magazine for August, 1880.

The Boston Recorder published in May, 1839, a detailed statement

by Mrs. Davison concerning her knowledge of "The Manuscript

Found." After giving an account of the writing of the story, her

statement continued as follows:--

"Here [in Pittsburg] Mr. Spaulding found a friend and

acquaintance in the person of 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, as 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 where Mr. Spaulding

deceased in 1816. The manuscript then fell into my hands, and was

carefully preserved."

This statement stirred up the Mormons greatly, and they at once

pronounced the letter a forgery, securing from Mrs. Davison a

statement in which she said that she did not write it. This was

met with a counter statement by the Rev. D. R. Austin that it was

made up from notes of a conversation with her, and was correct.

In confirmation of this the Quincy [Massachusetts] Whig printed a

letter from John Haven of Holliston, Massachusetts, giving a

report of a conversation between his son Jesse and Mrs. Davison

concerning this letter, in which she stated that the letter was

substantially correct, and that some of the names used in the

Mormon Bible were like those in her husband's story. Rigdon

himself, in a letter addressed to the Boston Journal, under date

of May 27, 1839, denied all knowledge of Spaulding, and declared

that there was no printer named Patterson in Pittsburg during his

residence there, although he knew a Robert Patterson who had

owned a printing-office in that city. The larger part of his

letter is a coarse attack on Hurlbut and also on E. D. Howe, the

author of "Mormonism Unveiled, "whose whole family he charged

with scandalous immoralities." If the use of Spaulding's story in

the preparation of the Mormon Bible could be proved by nothing

but this letter of Mrs. Davison, the demonstration would be weak;

but this is only one link in the chain.

Howe, in his painstaking efforts to obtain all probable

information about the Mormon origin from original sources,

secured the affidavits of eight of Spaulding's acquaintances in

Ohio, giving their recollections of the "Manuscript Found."*

Spaulding's brother, John, testified that he heard many passages

of the manuscript read and, describing it, he said:--

* Howe's "Mormonism Unveiled," pp. 278-287.

"It was an historical romance of the first settlers of America,

endeavoring to show that the American Indians are the descendants

of the Jews, or the lost tribe. It gave a detailed account of

their journey from Jerusalem, by land and sea, till they arrived

in America, under the command of Nephi and Lehi. They afterwards

had quarrels and contentions, and separated into two distinct

nations, one of which he denominated Nephites, and the other

Lamanites. Cruel and bloody Wars ensued, in which great

multitudes were slain.... I have recently read the "Book of

Mormon," and to my great surprise I find nearly the same

historical matter, names, etc., as they were in my brother's

writings. I well remember that he wrote in the old style, and

commenced about every sentence with 'and it came to pass,' or

'now it came to pass,' the same as in the 'Book of Mormon,' and,

according to the best of my recollection and belief, it is the

same as my brother Solomon wrote, with the exception of the

religious matter."

John Spaulding's wife testified that she had no doubt that the

historical part of the Bible and the manuscript were the same,

and she well recalled such phrases as "it came to pass."

Mr. Spaulding's business partner at Conneaut, Henry Lake,

testified that Spaulding read the manuscript to him many hours,

that the story running through it and the Bible was the same, and

he recalls this circumstance: "One time, when he was reading to

me the tragic account of Laban, I pointed out to him what I

considered an inconsistency, which he promised to correct, but by

referring to the 'Book of Mormon,' I find that it stands there

just as he read it to me then.... I well recollect telling Mr.

Spaulding that the so frequent use of the words 'and it came to

pass,' 'now it came to pass,' rendered it ridiculous."

John N. Miller, an employee of Spaulding in Ohio, and a boarder

in his family for several months, testified that Spaulding had

written more than one book or pamphlet, that he had heard the

author read from the "Manuscript Found," that he recalled the

story running through it, and added: "I have recently examined

the 'Book of Mormon,' and find in it the writings of Solomon

Spaulding, from beginning to end, but mixed up with Scripture and

other religious matter which I did not meet with in the

'Manuscript Found'.... The names of Nephi, Lehi, Moroni, and in

fact all the principal names, are brought fresh to my

recollection by the 'Gold Bible.'"

Practically identical testimony was given by the four other

neighbors. Important additions to this testimony have been made

in later years. A statement by Joseph Miller of Amity,

Pennsylvania, a man of standing in that community, was published

in the Pittsburg Telegraph of February 6, 1879. Mr. Miller said

that he was well acquainted with Spaulding when he lived at

Amity, and heard him read most of the "Manuscript Found," and had

read the Mormon Bible in late years to compare the two. "On

hearing read, "he says," the account from the book of the battle

between the Amlicites (Book of Alma), in which the soldiers of

one army had placed a red mark on their foreheads to distinguish

them from their enemies, it seemed to reproduce in my mind, not

only the narration, but the very words as they had been impressed

on my mind by the reading of Spaulding's manuscript.... The

longer I live, the more firmly I am convinced that Spaulding's

manuscript was appropriated and largely used in getting up the `

Book of Mormon."

Redick McKee, a resident of Amity, Pennsylvania, when Spaulding

lived there, and later a resident of Washington, D. C., in a

letter to the Washington [Pennsylvania] Reporter, of April 21,

1869, stated that he heard Spaulding read from his manuscript,

and added: "I have an indistinct recollection of the passage

referred to by Mr. Miller about the Amlicites making a cross with

red paint on their foreheads to distinguish them from enemies in


The Rev. Abner Judson, of Canton, Ohio, wrote for the Washington

County, Pennsylvania, Historical Society, under date of December

20, 1880, an account of his recollections of the Spaulding

manuscript, and it was printed in the Washington [Pennsylvania]

Reporter of January 7, 1881. Spaulding read a large part of his

manuscript to Mr. Judson's father before the author moved to

Pittsburg, and the son, confined to the house with a lameness,

heard the reading and the accompanying conversations. He says:

"He wrote it in the Bible style. 'And it came to pass,' occurred

so often that some called him 'Old Come-to-pass.' The 'Book of

Mormons' follows the romance too closely to be a stranger ....

When it was brought to Conneaut and read there in public, old

Esquire Wright heard it and exclaimed, "Old Come-to-pass' has

come to life again."*

* Fuller extracts from the testimony of these later witnesses

will be found in Robert Patterson's pamphlet, "Who wrote the Book

of Mormon," reprinted from the "History of Washington County,


The testimony of so many witnesses, so specific in its details,

seems to prove the identity of Spaulding's story and the story

running through the Mormon Bible. The late President James H.

Fairchild of Oberlin, Ohio, whose pamphlet on the subject we

shall next examine, admits that "if we could accept without

misgiving the testimony of the eight witnesses brought forward in

Howe's book, we should be obliged to accept the fact of another

manuscript" (than the one which President Fairchild secured); but

he thinks there is some doubt about the effect on the memory of

these witnesses of the lapse of years and the reading of the new

Bible before they recalled the original story. It must be

remembered, however, that this resemblance was recalled as soon

as they heard the story of the new Bible, and there seems no

ground on which to trace a theory that it was the Bible which

originated in their minds the story ascribed to the manuscript.

The defenders of the Mormon Bible as an original work received

great comfort some fifteen years ago by the announcement that the

original manuscript of Spaulding's "Manuscript Found" had been

discovered in the Sandwich Islands and brought to this country,

and that its narrative bore no resemblance to the Bible story.

The history of this second manuscript is as follows: E. D. Howe

sold his printing establishment at Painesville, Ohio, to L. L.

Rice, who was an antislavery editor there for many years. Mr.

Rice afterward moved to the Sandwich Islands, and there he was

requested by President Fairchild to look over his old papers to

see if he could not find some antislavery matter that would be of

value to the Oberlin College library. One result of his search

was an old manuscript bearing the following certificate: 'The

writings of Solomon Spaulding,' proved by Aaron Wright, Oliver

Smith, John N. Miller and others. The testimonies of the above

gentlemen are now in my possession.


President Fairchild in a paper on this subject which has been

published* gives a description of this manuscript (it has been

printed by the Reorganized Church at Lamoni, Iowa), which shows

that it bears no resemblance to the Bible story. But the

assumption that this proves that the Bible story is original

fails immediately in view of the fact that Mr. Howe made no

concealment of his possession of this second manuscript. Hurlbut

was in Howe's service when he asked Mrs. Davison for an order for

the manuscript, and he gave to Howe, as the result of his visit,

the manuscript which Rice gave to President Fairchild. Howe in

his book (p. 288) describes this manuscript substantially as does

President Fairchild, saying:--

* "Manuscript of Solomon Spaulding and the 'Book of Mormon,'"

Tract No. 77, Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland,


"This is a romance, purporting to have been translated from the

Latin, found on twenty-four rolls of parchment in a cave on the

banks of Conneaut Creek, but written in a modern style, and

giving a fabulous account of a ship's being drlven upon the

American coast, while proceeding from Rome to Britain, a short

time pious to the Christian era, this country then being

inhabited by the Indians."*

* Howe says in his book, "The fact that Spaulding in the latter

part of his life inclined to infidelity is established by a

letter in his handwriting now in our possession. "This letter was

given by Rice with the other manuscript to President Fairchild

(who reproduces it), thus adding to the proof that the Rice

manuscript is the one Hurlbut delivered to Howe.

Mr. Howe adds this important statement:--

"This old manuscript has been shown to several of the foregoing

witnesses, who recognize it as Spaulding's, he having told them

that he had altered his first plan of writing, by going further

back with dates, and writing in the old scripture style, in order

that it might appear more ancient. They say that it bears no

resemblance to the 'Manuscript Found.'"

If Howe had considered this manuscript of the least importance as

invalidating the testimony showing the resemblance between the

"Manuscript Found" and the Mormon Bible, he would have destroyed

it (if he was the malignant falsifier the Mormons represented him

to be), and not have first described it in his book; and then

left it to be found by any future owner of his effects. Its

rediscovery has been accepted, however, even by some non-Mormons,

as proof that the Mormon Bible is an original production.*

* Preface to "The Mormon Prophet," Lily Dugall.

Mrs. Ellen E. Dickenson, a great-niece of Spaulding, who has

painstakingly investigated the history of the much-discussed

manuscript, visited D. P. Hurlbut at his home near Gibsonburg,

Ohio, in 1880 (he died in 1882), taking with her Oscar Kellogg, a

lawyer, as a witness to the interview.* She says that her visit

excited him greatly. He told of getting a manuscript for Mr. Howe

at Hartwick, and said he thought it was burned with other of Mr.

Howe's papers. When asked, "Was it Spaulding's manuscript that

was burned?" he replied: "Mrs. Davison thought it was; but when I

just peeked into it, here and there, and saw the names Mormon,

Moroni, Lamanite, Lephi, I thought it was all nonsense. Why, if

it had been the real one, I could have sold it for $3000;** but I

just gave it to Howe because it was of no account. "During the

interview his wife was present, and when Mrs. Dickenson pressed

him with the question, "Do you know where the 'Manuscript Found'

is at the present time?" Mrs. Hurlbut went up to him and said,

"Tell her what you know." She got no satisfactory answer, but he

afterward forwarded to her an affidavit saying that he had

obtained of Mrs. Davison a manuscript supposing it to be

Spaulding's "Manuscript Found," adding: "I did not examine the

manuscript until after 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.


With this presentation of the evidence showing the similarity

between Spaulding's story and the Mormon Bible narrative, we may

next examine the grounds for believing that Sidney Rigdon was

connected with the production of the Bible.

* A full account of this interview is given in her book, "New

Light on Mormonism" (1885).

** There have been surmises that Hurlbut also found the

"Manuscript Found" in the trunk and sold this to the Mormons. He

sent a specific denial of this charge to Robert Patterson in


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