The interest attaching to
the question, Who wrote the "Book of Mormon?" leads us to publish the following
correspondence and communication of Abner Jackson, of Canton, Ohio, through Mr.
John Aiken in behalf of the Washington County Historical Society.
CANTON, OHIO, Dec. 20, 1880.
Mr. John Aiken, Esq.: -- I here send you the document you solicited so long ago. You see, though a long time coming, that it is poorly written: but I am too old to do it very well. I hope you will be able to read it. You probably have seen Mrs. McKinstry's statement in Scribner's Monthly (already published in the Washington Reporter -- Eds.) for August, 1880. I wish to say that I have not seen her or had any intelligence from her, since they left Conneaut. If any should think we have conferred in any way to make out a case of plagiarism against Joseph Smith, let them know that so far as we are concerned, we are now perfect strangers. I did not know that she was living until I heard, as stated in the accompanying paper. If so many errors had not been published there would be no necessity for this statement. When contradicting statements are published, people often say, one is wrong, maybe neither is right, and so ignore both. Mrs. McKinstry says that her father's iron works was a foundry. This was the little girl's view of it. It was a forge of the older type. Iron was made from ore under a trip hammer, as there were no rollers in this country at that time. But this is not essential, and has nothing to do with Mormonism.
If my statement is not published, please return it to me as soon as convenient. Please inform me if you receive this. I am not anxious for myself at all, but if you can do anything for those entangled by the delusion, it cannot be published too quickly. I hope your Historical Society may prosper and do much good.
ABNER JACKSON'S STATEMENT.
It is a fact well established that the book called the Book of Mormon, had its origin from a romance that was written by Solomon Spaulding, in Conneaut, a small village in Ashtabula County, Ohio, about A. D. 1812. Spaulding was a highly educated man about six feet high, of rather slender build, with a dark complexion, black eyes, black hair, rather slow of speech, never trifling, pleasant in conversation, but seldom laughing aloud. His deportment was grave and dignified in society, and he was much respected by those of his acquaintance. He was a clergyman of the Presbyterian order, and for a time a settled pastor in the city of New York. So said his brother John Spaulding and others in the neighborhood, who heard him preach. It was said that failing health caused him to resign the pastorate. He then came to Richfield, Otsego County, New York, and started a store, near where my father lived, about the beginning of the present century.
Spaulding contracted for large tracts of land along the shore of Lake Erie, on each side of the State line, in both Pennsylvania and Ohio. My father exchanged with him the farm on which he lived in Otsego County, New York, for land in Erie County, Pa., where the town of Albion now stands, and moved on it A.D. 1805. It was then a dense forest. Shortly after my father moved, Spaulding sold his store in Richfield, and moved to Conneaut, Ashtabula County, Ohio, and built a forge on Conneaut Creek, two miles from Conneaut Harbor and two miles from the State line. In building this he failed, sold out, and about the beginning of the year 1812, commenced to write his famous romance called by him "The Manuscript Found."
This romance, Mr. Spaulding brought with him on a visit to my father, a short time before he moved from Conneaut to Pittsburgh. At that time I was confined to the house with a lame knee, and so I was in company with them and heard the conversation that passed between them. Spaulding read much of his manuscript to my father, and in conversation with him, explained his views of the old fortifications in this country, and told his Romance. A note in Morse's Geography suggested it as a possibility that our Indians were descendants of the lost tribes of Israel. Said Morse, they might have wandered through Asia up to Behring's Strait, and across the Strait to this continent. Besides there were habits and ceremonies among them that resembled some habits and ceremonies among the Israelites of that day. Then the old fortifications and earth mounds, containing so many kinds of relics and human bones, and some of them so large, altogether convinced him that they were a larger race and more enlightened and civilized than are found among the Indians among us at this day. These facts and reflections prompted him to write his Romance, purporting to be a history of the lost tribes of Israel.
He begins with their departure from Palestine or Judea, then up through Asia, points out their exposures, hardships, and sufferings, also their disputes and quarrels. especially when they built their craft for passing over the Straits. Then after their landing he gave an account of their divisions and subdivisions under different leaders, but two parties controlled the balance. One of them was called the Righteous, worshipers and servants of God. These organized with prophets, priests, and teachers, for the education of their children, and settled down to cultivate the soil, and to a life of civilization. The others were Idolaters. They contended for a life of idleness; in short, a wild, wicked, savage life.
They soon quarreled, and then commenced war anew, and continued to fight, except at very short intervals. Sometimes one party was successful and sometimes the other, until finally a terrible battle was fought, which was conclusive. All the Righteous were slain, except one, and he was Chief Prophet and Recorder. He was notified of the defeat in time by Divine authority; told where, when and how to conceal the record, and He would take care that it should be preserved, and brought to light again at the proper time, for the benefit of mankind. So the Recorder professed to do, and then submitted to his fate. I do not remember what that fate was. He was left alone of his party. I do not remember that anything more was said of him.
Spaulding's Romance professed to find the Record where the Recorder concealed it, in one of those mounds, one of which was but a few rods from Spaulding's residence. Soon after this visit, Spaulding moved to Pittsburgh, and took his manuscript to the Pittsburgh Gazette office, intending to have it printed, but in this he failed. My brother, J. J. Jackson, was a recruiting officer in the U. S. Army, and stationed at Pittsburgh at that time. Being well acquainted with Spaulding and his lady he soon found them, and in his letters home would inform us how they were getting along. The last account he gave us of them was that he was selling pictures and she was sewing up clothing for the soldiers. The next we heard of them was by report. Spaulding moved to Amity, Washington County, Pa., and soon after died and was buried there. His wife and daughter went to her brother, Lawyer Sabine, Onondagp Valley, Onondago, Co., N.Y. When I was returning from Clarksburg, W.Va., to my home in New Brighton, Beaver Co., Pa., A. D. 1840, I passed through Amity, hunted the grave of Spaulding and copied from the headstone the following inscription:
IN MEMORY OF
Solomon Spaulding, who departed this life Oct. 20th, A.D., 1816, aged 55 years.
guard the sleeping clay,
Until the great decision day.
And saints complete in glory rise,
To share the triumphs of the skies."
Spaulding frequently read
his manuscript to the neighbors and amused them as he progressed with his work.
He wrote it in Bible style, "And it came to pass" occurred so often that some
called him "old come to pass."
So much for Spaulding's Romance; now for the Book of Mormon.
The first account of the Book of Mormon that I saw, was a notice in my father's newspaper, stating that Joseph Smith, Jr., professed having dreamed that an angel had appeared to him and told him to go and search in a place he named in Palmyra, N. Y., and he would find a gold-leaf Bible. Smith was incredulous and did not go until the second or third time he dreamed the same dream. Then he said he went and, to his surprise, he found the golden Bible, according to his dreams. But it was written in a language so ancient that none could be found able either to read it or tell in what language it was written. Sometime after another statement appeared, that an angel had consented to read and interpret it to Joseph Smith, and he should report it to a third person who should write it in plain English, so that all might read the new Bible and understand its import. Some time after, in 1830, the book was published at Palmyra, N. Y., called a "New Revelation: the Book of Mormon." This purports to be a history of the lost tribes of the Children of Israel. It begins with them just where the romance did, and it follows the romance very closely. It is true there are some verbal alterations and additions, enlarging the production somewhat, without changing its main features. The Book of Mormon follows the romance too closely to be a stranger. In both, many persons appear having the same name; as Maroni, Mormon, Nephites, Moroni, Lama, Nephe, and others.
Here then we are presented with Romance, second, called the Book of Mormon, telling the same story of the same people, traveling from the same plain, in the same way, having the same difficulties and destination, with the same wars, same battles, and same results, with thousands upon thousands slain. Then see the Mormon account of the last battle, at Cumorah, where all the righteous were slain. They were called the Nephites, the others were called Lamanites (see Moroni's account of the closing scene) "and it came to pass that a great battle was fought at Cumorah. The Lamanites slew all the Nephites" (except Moroni), and he said "I will write and hide up the Recorder [sic] in the earth, and whither I go it mattereth not." Book of Mormon, page 344, third American edition. How much this resembles the closing scene in the "Manuscript Found." The most singular part of the whole matter is, that it follows the Romance so closely, with this difference: the first claims to be a romance; the second claims to be a revelation of God, a new Bible! When it was brought to Conneaut and read there in public, old Esq. Wright heard it, and exclaimed, "'Old come to pass' has come to life again." Here was the place where Spaulding wrote and read his manuscript to the neighbors for their amusement and 'Squire Wright had often heard him read from his Romance. This was in 1832, sixteen years after Spaulding's death. This 'Squire Wright lived on a farm just outside of the little village. I was acquainted with him for twenty-five years. I lived on his farm when I was a boy and attended school in the village. I am particular to notice these things to show that I had an opportunity of knowing what I am writing about.
After I commenced writing this article, I heard that an article in Scribner's Monthly, for August, 1880, on the "Book of Mormon," contained a note and affidavit of Mrs. Matilda S. McKinstry, Solomon Spaulding's only child, stating that she remembered her father's Romance. I sent at once for the Monthly, and on the 613, 614, 615 and 616 pages, found the article and her testimony. Her statement from the commencement, until they moved to Pittsburgh, in all essential particulars I know to be true. She relates those acts as they occurred to my own personal knowledge, though she was then a little girl. She is now about seventy-five years of age.
I stated before that I knew nothing of Spaulding after he moved to Pittsburgh, except by letters and newspapers. He soon moved to Amity, Washington County, Pa., and shortly after this he died and his wife went to her brother's. His daughter's account of the deceitful method by which Hurlburt gained possession of and retained Spaulding's manuscript, is, I think, important and should not be lost sight of. She was no child then. I think she has done her part well in the vindication of the truth by her unvarnished statement of what she remembered of her father's Romance. I have not seen her since she was a little girl, but I have seen both of these productions, heard Spaulding read much of his Romance to my father and explain his views and reasons for writing it. I also have seen and read the Book of Mormon, and it follows Spaulding's romance too closely to be anything else than a borrowed production from the romance. I think that Mrs. McKinstry's statement fills a gap in my account from Spalding's removal to Pittsburgh, to the death of his wife in 1844. I wish, if my statement is published that hers also be published with it, that the truth may be vindicated by the truth beyond any reasonable doubt.
(Signed) ABNER JACKSON.
Canton, Ohio, Dec. 20, 1880.
* The headstone which marked Mr. Spaulding's grave, and which bore the above inscription, has almost if not altogether disappeared, through the ravages of time and relic hunters. It is due to the memory of Mr. Spaulding, who was the innocent cause of this stupendous fraud of Mormonism, and also to the truth of history, that this tomb-stone be replaced by a suitable and substantial monument bearing the original inscription together with such other legends as may perpetuate the memory of the origin of the greatest imposture of the century. The Christian Church owes it to its own vindication, that such a monument be erected. The Historical Society should also assist in perpetuating a local incident.
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