THE DENVER TIMES.
Denver, Colorado, August 18, 1901.
SHE SAYS JOE SMITH REALLY
"SWIPED" HIS MORMON BIBLE.
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 "...at 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
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.