History of Ashtabula County, Ohio
Sketch of the Early Settlement of Conneaut
by Harvey Nettleton, Esq.
|The following article was found at Conneaut Public
It was taken from the Geneva Times Newspaper - continued -
Among the events that signalize the history of this township it has obtained the distinction of having given birth to the Golden Bible. That the historical part of this book, pronounced "one of the meanest that ever appeared in the English or any other language," had its origin in Conneaut, and was written by Solomon Spaulding, a graduate of Dartmouth College, some twenty years before it made its appearance in the world, is believed to be as certain as any event depending on human testimony.
To place the subject in its true light we shall here introduce the statement of John Spaulding, brother of Solomon, now residing at Conneautville, Pa., copied from a work entitled, "Mormonism Unveiled," by E. D. Howe, Painesville, O., who says "Solomon Spaulding was born in Ashford, Connecticut, in 1761, and in early life contracted a taste for literary pursuits. After he left school he entered Plainfield, Academy, where he made great proficiency in study and excelled most of his classmates. He next commenced the study of law in Windham county, in which he made little progress, having in the meantime turned his attention to religious subjects. He soon after entered Dartmouth College with the intention of qualifying himself for the ministry, where he obtained the degree of A.M., and was afterwards regularly ordained. After preaching three or four years, he gave it up, removed to Cherry Valley, New York, and commenced the mercantile business in company with his brother, Jonah. In a few years he failed in business, and in 1809 removed to Conneaut, Ohio. In the year following I removed to Ohio and found him engaged in building a forge. I made him a visit about three years after, and found that he had failed and considerably in debt. He then told me he had been writing a book, which he intended to have printed, the avails of which he thought would enable him to pay his debts."
The book was entitled, "Manuscripts Found," of which he read to me many passages. It was an historical romance of the first settlers of America, endeavoring to show that the American Indians are the descendants o the Jews or lost tribes. It gave a detailed account of their journey from Jerusalem by land and sea till they arrived in America, under the command of Hephi 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. They buried their dead in large heaps, which caused the mounds so common in this country. Their arts, sciences and civilization were brought into view in order to account for all the curious antiquities found in various parts of North and South American.
I have recently read the book of Mormon, and to my great surprise 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 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. By what means it has fallen into the hands of Joseph Smith, Jr., I am unable to determine. JOHN SPAULDING.
In corroboration of the above statement, Mr. Howe, in the work referred to, has published the testimony of Henry Lake, Aaron Wright and others, well known as gentlemen of probity, confirming the same facts and establishing the print beyond controversy that Solomon Spaulding is the veritable author of the book of Mormon. But, Mr. Howe remarks, "our inquiries did not terminate here, our next object was to ascertain, if possible, the disposition Spaulding made of his manuscripts. For this purpose a messenger was despatched to look up the widow of Spaulding, who was found residing in Massachusetts. From her we learned that Spaulding resided in Pittsburgh about two years, when he removed to the township of Amity, Washington County, Pa., where he lived about two years, and died in 1816. His wife then removed to Onodaga county, New York, married again and lived in Otsego county, and subsequently removed to Massachusetts. She states that Spaulding had a great variety of manuscripts, and recollects that one was entitled "Manuscripts Found," but of its contents she has no distinct knowledge. While they lived in Pittsburgh, she thinks it was once taken to the printing office of Patterson & Lambdin, but whether it was ever brought back again to the house, she is quite uncertain; if it were, however, it was there with his other writings, in a trunk which she had left in Otsego county, New York. This is all the information that could be obtained from her, except that Mr. Spaulding, while living, entertained a strong antipathy to the masonic institution, which may account for its being so frequently mentioned in the book of Mormon. The fact also that Spaulding, in the latter part of his life, inclined to infidelity, is established by a letter now in our possession in his hand writing.
The trunk referred to by the widow was subsequently examined, and found to contain only a single manuscript book in Sapulding's handwriting, containing about one quire of paper. This is a romance, purporting to have been translated from the Latin, found in twenty-four rolls of parchment in a case on the banks of the Conneaut Creek, but written in modern style, and giving a fabulous account of a ship being cast on the American coast while proceeding from Rome to Brittain a short time previous to the Christian Era, this country then being inhabited by Indians.
The 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 farther 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 "Manuscripts Found."
Mr. Howe also observes in a subsequent page, "Now as Spaulding's book can nowhere be found, or any thing heard of it after being carried to this establishment - the office of Patterson & Lamdin - there is the strongest presumption that it remained there in seclusion till about the year 1823 or '24, at which time Sydney Rigdon located himself in that city. We have been credibly informed that he was on terms of intimacy with Lambdin, being seen frequently at his office.
Rigdon resided in Pittsburgh about three years, and during the whole of that time, as he has since asserted frequently, abandoned preaching and all other employments for the purpose of studying the Bible. He left there and came into the country where he now resides, about the time Lambdin died, and commenced preaching some new points of doctrine, which were found to be inculcated in the Mormon Bible.
He resided in this vicinity about four years previous to the appearance of the book, during which time he made several long visits to Pittsburgh, and perhaps to Susquehanna, where Smith was then digging for money, or pretending to be translating plates.
It may be observed, also, that about the time Rigdon left Pittsburg, the Smith family began to tell about finding a book that would contain a history of the first inhabitants of America, and that two years elapsed before they finally got possession of it."
In conclusion, Mr. Howe says: "We have fully shown the Book of Mormon is the joint production of Solomon Spaulding and some other designing knave, or if it is what it purports to be, the Lord has graciously condescended in revealing to Smith his will, through spectacles, to place before him, and appropriate to his own use, the writings and names of men which had been invented by a person long before in his grave.
In justice to Mr. Spaulding, it may be observed, that, however severely he should be condemned for a design to practice on the ignorance and credulity of his fellow men for the sordid purpose of gain, yet it does not appear that the idea of a religious imposture had ever been contemplated by him.
This responsibility rests in other hands, and it will be fully shown in the righteous decisions of a coming day.
"Written in 1844-5."
NOTE by Sharon Wick: There is a Solomon Spalding buried in Durkee Cemetery, Conneaut, Ohio
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