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1858-1889  |  1890-1929

IntM Mar 18 '91  |  DTm Aug 18 '01  |  FFl Sep 11 '03

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Semi-Weekly Inter-Mountain.
Vol. VII.                               Butte, Montana, March 18, 1891.                              No. 43.


A Green Pebble that the Mormon Prophet
Credited, with a Wondrous Property.

The germ of Mormonism originated in this city, says the Syracuse Journal. About the year 1818 a teamster in the salt works by the name of Joseph Belcher, found a peculiar stone, or a stone that the owners claimed contained great powers. Soon after Belcher and family removed to Susquehanna county, Pa., where Joseph Smith was engaged as gold hunter, prophet and treasure hunter. Belcher called his find a "seeing stone." It was green with brown, irregular spots on it, and about the same shape and size as a goose egg. In those days the county was very wild and the people very superstitios, and strange stories were told of lost animals and children that were found by the aid of this stone. The modus operandi was to conceal the stone in some dark place, and Belcher's little boy could then see from its unnatural powers the exact location of any object he desired to find. Joesph Smith heard of this miniature bureau of information and soon sought out Belcher, secured the stone and renewed his researches.

In 1825 Joe had in his employ a set of men who were called money diggers, and his occupation was that of seeing or pretending to see, by means of this stone placed in his hat, and his hat closed over his face. In this way he claimed the power to discover minerals and hidden treasures. It is said he was insolent, poorly educated, and very careless in appearance. One story told of Smith is that a straggling Indian, who was passing up the Susquehanna river, had told of a buried treasure. Joe hunted up the Indian and induced him to tell the place where it was buried. The Indian told him at a point a certain number of paces due north from a certain point in the river. Joe's exchequer was very low at this time, and so it became necessary to get a well-to-do farmer by the name of Harper to assist him in the scheme. It seems that farmers were "taken in" in those early days as well as now. They commenced digging on a farm near the river and continued so long as Harper's cash held out. Smith now declared to Harper that there was an enchantment about the place that was removing the treasure further off; that Harper must get a perfectly white dog and sprinkle his blood over the ground, and that would prevent the enchantment from removing the treasure. Search was made all over the country, but no perfectly white dog could be found. Joseph thought a white sheep would do as well. A sheep was killed and the blood sprinkled as directed. The digging was then resumed by harper. After digging for several weeks more and an outlay of $ 2,000 more of the farmer's shekels, Harper refused to "come down" any further and the digging was abandoned.

Joe now said that the enchantment had removed all the treasure; that the Almighty was displeased with them for trying to palm off on him a white sheep for a white dog. He would sit for hours looking into the hat at the round stone, and tell of seeing things far away and supernatural. On one occasion a neighbor had a piece of corn planted rather late and on a moist piece of ground, and, feeling a little doubtful about its ripening, got Smith to bless it. It happened that it was the only piece of corn killed by frost in the neighborhood. When the prophet's attention was called to the matter he got out of the difficulty by saying that he made a mistake and put a curse on the corn instead of a blessing.

About this time Smith procured a box of of plates, which it is supposed he brought from Palmyra, New York, where he lived for a short time, which he kept carefully locked. They were alleged to contain a great quantity of characters and hieroglyphics, which no one but himself could interpret. From these plates Smith, with the assistance of Martin Harris and Oliver Cawdry [sic], produced the manuscript for the book of Mormon. The book was compiled in a small building on the Susquehanna river, about two miles from the side hill village of Susquehanna, and was printed in 1830, the manuscript being taken to the printing office each morning, and, together with the proofs, etc., taken away each night. The first account we have of Joe and his followers trying to start a colony was in the year 1831, in a remote corner of Luzerne county, where the climate soon got too warm for them and they vacated. Their next colony was near Painesville, O. The most prominent of Joe's diggings is on a farm near Susquehanna depot. The excavation was 150 feet in circumference and 10 feet deep, and although it has been under cultivation for several years now, it is easily discernible, and often visited by the curious. The old house where the manuscript was produced is still standing, and is owned by one of the ex-officials of Susquehanna county.

Notes: (forthcoming)


Vol. ?                               Denver, Colorado, August 18, 1901.                              No. ?


According to Mrs. Diadama Chittenden, of Utica, Mo, Joseph Smith "swiped" the Mormon "bible." which he claimed was "revealed" to him. While this is not a new charge by any means, Mrs. Chittenden tells an interesting story in connection with it.

Mrs. Chittendon is now 87 years old. She was born in Canada and her maiden name was Whitney. In 1852 she was married to R. M. Chittenden, and in 1860 [sic, 1870?] the couple went to Utica, Mo., where she ever since has resided. Her husband engaged in the mercantile business, and she did much of the buying, making long trips on horseback to Lexington, Quincy and other points.

Mrs. Chittenden is hale and hearty and of sound mind today. One of her most vivid memories of the early 60s is of the origin of the Mormon "Bible," which, she declares was never revealed to Joseph Smith nor written by him, but which he stole from a millwright named Spafford, of Salem (now Conneaut), Ashtabula county, Ohio. Smith was in the employ of Spafford, who was a sort of overseer or superintendent for Squire Wright of Salem. One of Spafford's hobbies was to decant upon the Bible. He contended that he could compose and read them alternately with chapters from the Good Book and that none who heard them could tell the original from the imitation.

On a wager, Spafford, so Mrs. Chittenden says, prepared a number of chapters of his own composition in imitation of the Bible and they were read to a select number of his acquaintances. None of these were able to distinguish the imitation from the real or to tell which had been written by Spafford and which had not. Joseph Smith was among those present at the test, Mrs. Chittenden says, and he was an attentive listener at the reading and others given afterward by Spafford to exercise his hobby.

Spafford preserved the characters [sic, chapters?] he wrote with the idea of one day publishing a treatise on his hobby. Death prevented the carrying out of this plan, and when his executors came to search for his manuscripts they had each and every one of them disappeared.

It was some years after Spafford's death that the Mormon "bible," said to have been "revealed" to Joseph Smith, appeared. A copy of this work found its way to Salem and into the possession of Squire Wright, Spafford's employer. Surprised at its contents, he called two other friends of Spafford, a Doctor Hart and Zaph Lake, into consultation on "Smith's bible," and after a thorough examination they made an affidavit to the effect that the greater part of the Mormon Book was made of chapters written for his own amusement by Millwright Spafford. Mrs. Chittenden is of the impression that the affidavit was either published by or offered for publication to the Salem Reporter, a paper long since out of print.

Note 1: No original clipping of this article has yet been located. The text comes from a reprint published in the Aug. 28, 1901 issue of the RLDS Saints' Herald. This same story was republished in another Colorado paper twelve years later and was again reprinted in the Saints' Herald for July 2, 1913. Diadama Whitney Chittenden was probably the same Diadama Whitney who married John L. Edwards on May 17, 1835, a few miles west of Conneaut, Ashtabula Co., Ohio. If so, she would have been a contemporary of Zaphna Lake, the son of Solomon Spalding's business partner at New Salem, "Conneaut Witness" Henry Lake. It is possible that Diadama later married a Mr. R. M. Chittenden and moved to Missouri. A "Job Whitney" is on the 1819 New Salem, Ohio voter list and an "Aaron Whitney" is on the 1835 Ashtabula voter list. Diadama Whitney was apparently the daughter of John Whitney and Rachael Thayer. The Thayer family was numerous in the Ohio Western Reserve during the early days.

Note 2: The Spafford family were among the very first pioneers in the Ohio Western Reserve. Amos Spafford was a member of the first surveying party sent into northern Ohio. Another member of that party was Seth Pease, a relative of Calvin Pease, the lawyer with whom Solomon Spalding transacted land sales in Ohio. There were no known Spaffords living in the Conneaut area during the early years of the 19th century, however. The closest sounding name to "Spafford" among the residents of that era would have been "Spalding." Mrs. Chittenden has almost certainly confused the two family names in her memory.

Note 3: Solomon Spalding is not known to have been a "millwright," but he did have a mill pond and water-wheel driven trip-hammer constructed as part of his early iron forge operations on the east bank of Conneaut Creek. See his c. 1810-11 draft of an agreement with Itham Joyner to construct a mill at or near his own forge. Aron Wright set up the first flour mill in the Conneaut area and it apparently was also situated near Spalding's forge -- perhaps on the same mill pond (see the mention of Wright in the Spalding-Joyner agreement). It is quite possible that Aron Wright also owned a share in Spalding's water wheel, trip-hammer, and forge operation, at least up until 1811, when Henry Lake became Spalding's partner in that business. While this sort of business relationship would not necessarily have made the Hon. Aron Wright Spalding's "employer," it may have left Spalding financially beholding to "Squire Wright." See also Elder J. J. Moss's letter of Jan. 23, 1879, in which he quotes "Judge" Aron Wright, from memory, as having once told him (Moss) that " Conneaut... where Spalding lived... he [the Judge] told me that the Furnace Co. employed him [Spalding] more from charity than from need of his services & that he was obliged to be in the office but had many idle hours & that he filled up those hours writing this romance & I think he gave me the title but not sure & I think you will find this judge’s name in Howe’s Book.

Note 4: Although Solomon Spalding reportedly did write historical fiction in the biblical style and reportedly did read that work aloud to an audience, there is no other known reference to his attempting to imitate the Bible to the point that "none who heard" that historical fiction "could tell the original from the imitation." While it is not impossible that a man of Joseph Smith, Sr.'s age could have attended a Spalding reading in New Salem, prior to the end of 1812 (when Spalding departed that area), it does seem impossible that his young son, Joseph Smith, Jr., could have listened to anybody read imitation scripture in New Salem, Ohio in 1811-12. Mrs. Chittenden says that "Squire Wright," who was "surprised" at the Book of Mormon's contents, "called two other friends of Spafford, a Doctor Hart and Zaph Lake, into consultation on 'Smith's Bible,' and after a thorough examination they made an affidavit..." Actually, the Spalding associates that Aaron Wright, Esq. spoke with on this subject in 1832 (and who made out affidavits with him in 1833) were Doctor Howard (not "Hart") and Henry Lake (father of "Zaph"). About the only useful information obtainable from the above article is that a garbled version of the Spalding authorship claims was still being told in northern Ohio during the early 1860s, when Mrs. Chittenden apparently heard the account she relates fifty years later. No affidavits written by any of the "Conneaut witnesses" are known to have been printed in Ashtabula county newspapers during the 1830s.


Vol. XXV.                           Fairplay, Colorado, Friday, Sept. 11, 1903.                           No. 32.

Brigham  Young  in  1830.

About the year 1830, Brigham Young and family settled in Port Byron, says the Rochester Post-Express. It was then known as Bucksville and boasted of 100 inhabitants. There was no canal or railroad in those days, and the settlers had to hew down trees in order to make a clearing in which to build a house. During the first few years of Young's stay he made his home with 'Squire Pine, who lived in the corner of Pine and South streets. The Pine house is now about 100 years old. It os now owned and occupied by Mr. and Mrs. James D. Dixon.

Brigham Young was a carpenter, and old residents of Port Byron say that he was an expert at his trade, but his work was scarce and he was always hard up. It was a long time before he saved up money enough to buy lumber to build his own house. It was his intention to build himself a fine house, but it turnd out to be a very ordinary frame structure. It was built soon after the Erie canal was put through, and was located near the heel path side of the canal. The Young house has long since been moved. A part of the original structure now stands back of the Newkirk livery stables and is unoccupied.

Brigham Young's family comprised his wife and one son, Brigham, Jr., who died recently at Salt Lake City. Young at that time was a firm believer in Mormonism. He left Port Byron, or Buckville, in 1830, and went to Seneca Falls. From there he went to Utah and subsequently became famous as the leader of the Mormons. In after years, when he was famous, one of his old acquaintances wrote to him and asked him if he was the Brigham Young of Port Byron, and if he were, could he pay 'Squire Pine for a large board bill. 'Squire Pine was then an old man and in poor circumstances. In a short time 'Squire Pine received a letter from Young, and inclosed was the money in full for his board, with interest. Young was then a rich man and said he was very glad to pay up his old debts.

Notes: (forthcoming)

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