"A short History of the Foundation of the Mormon Church"
by Hartwell Ryder
(1902, Hiram, Ohio)
H. Michael Marquardt Papers, Accession 900
University of Utah Marriott Library
Salt Lake City, Utah
bx 247, fd 4
Reproduced with permission: 2010
for posting at: http://www.sidneyrigdon.com/features/hiram1-1902.htm
[-1-] A short History of the Foundation of the Mormon Church, based on personal memories and facts collected by Hartwell Ryder, Hiram Ohio, at the age of 80 years. Joseph Smith, author and proprietor of the Book of Mormons, was born in Sharon, vermont, on the 23rd of December, 1805. When Joseph was 10 years of age his father moved to Palmyra, N.Y., where he lived 4 years. From thence he moved to Manchester Township, Ontario County, N.Y., where Joseph lived and worked with his father on the farm until he was 21 years of age. He is said to have been a very religious boy, often found in his father's grove in meditation and prayer. When he was 18 years old, one day while engaged in prayer he claiemd a light shone about him above the brightness of the noonday sun, and that an angel of the Lord appeared unto him and told him that he was to be an instrument in the hands of the Lord to make known the new institutions which God was about to establish in the world, and that he would find golden plates hidden in the hills of Manchester. He commenced digging in the hills, working for three years, but failed to find the plates. When 21 years of age, while engaged in prayer the Angel of the Lord brought to him the golden plates written over with Egyptian hieroglyphics and with them a pair of stone spectacles which were called Urim Shumnim. By looking through these the Angel told him he would be able to translate the inscriptions into the English language. Before he began the translations, he chose eleven men as witnesses that he had the plates: of these, three were divine witnesses -- Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris. They claimed that while engaged in prayer the Angel of the Lord brought them the plates and they saw them, hefted them and saw the inscriptions, and God told them they were to be true witnesses of these things. The other eight witnesses all belonged to the two families of Whitmers and Smiths. They testified that Joe Smith delivered them into their hands and that they saw them, hefted them, and knew they were true gold plates. These plates were 6 by 8 and made a book 6 inches thick, held together by 3 rings. We are indebted to David Whitmer for the manner of translation. He says it was in a small house of two rooms of which Smith occupied one, and Whitmer, Cowdery and Harris the other. There was a curtain hung at the door between the two rooms so that they could not see Smith. He would read off a sentence by looking through the spectacles, translate it and read it to Cowdery who wrote it down. In this way they spent three years writing the Book of Mormons. It was delivered at the printer's office at Palmyra, N.Y., sometime in the winter of 1830, so that in February the first copy of the Book of Mormons was issued. The foregoing is the Mormon side of the story. There is another which is perhaps the more correct one. In Pennsylvania there lived a certain educated Presbyterian minister, Solomon Spaulding by name, who wrote a novel in which he attempted to show where the Moundbuilders of this country and South America and the Indians of the West came from. He laid the scene at the confounding of the language at the Tower of Babel, from which time a tribe started on a journey through Asia, and falling in with the Ten Tribes of Israel they traveled together for 1020 years, crossing to this country through Behring Straits. The first named tribe was the origin of the Moundbuilders and the Indians the descendants of the Ten Tribes. After the work was completed he sent it to a printing house in Pittsburgh and died before the book was published. At that time Sidney Rigdon was an employee in the Pittsburgh publishing house. After reading the book he got possession of it, -2- and with Joe Smith formulated the Book of Mormons. On April 12, 1830, the first church was organized in Manchester, N.Y. Soon others were formed in that community. Notice went out that a new religion was being given and churches sprang up all over the country. In the fall of 1830 two young men, their saddle bags full of Mormon Bibles, came to the house of Sidney Rigdon, a Disciple minister at Kirtland. Soon they began preaching the Mormon doctrine at Kirtland, and by winter had a large number of converts. The same fall Joe Smith came to Kirtland with all the witnesses to the Book of Mormons. A little later in the fall, Joe Smith and others came to Hiram and began to preach in the south school house, gaining several converts. Mr. Johnson and wife, living in what is now the Stephens homestead, and Mrs. Booth with her husband Ezra Booth, a Methodist preacher of great influence in the community, at this time became members. In the winter a notice of a great convention to be held at Kirtland, identical with the Pentecost recorded in the Book of Acts. Mr. Johnson and wife, of Hiram, Mr. Booth and wife of Mantua, Dr. Wright of Windham, and Symonds Ryder of Hiram, went to Kirtland to attend the meeting. I am indebted to my father, Symon[ds] Ryder, for the account of what took place there. The meeting began by the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Its effects were different on different persons. Some fell down in a stuper; some spoke in strange tongues; one became paralyzed and was in such great pain that they became alarmed until Joe Smith came to the rescue by a revelation that the paralytic was not under the influence of the Holy Spirit but the spirit of the Devil and that they must cast it out. So by prayer and the laying on of hands he was restored. One arose and spoke in a language none could understand. Thinking this to be the Indian tongue they passed him by. They then began to cure the sick and afflicted. Mrs. Johnson, of Hiram, was afflicted with the rheumatism so she could not raise her hands to her head. Some one therefore proposed that she go forward to be cured, but before she had decided to go Joe Smith came around through the crowd and taking her by the hand said, "In the name of Jesus Christ I pronounce you whole," and sure enough her arms were limbered and returning home was able to do her own work for some time thereafter. The reason for mentioning this is because I find it to be one of the greatest miracles of the Mormon Church. Miracles. They claimed to receive power to perform miracles by the laying on of hands, and young men often went out to preach who claimed to have performed miracles but none of these could ever be found. Once a young Mormon went from Hiram to preach at a small town on the Lake Shore, and upon returning to Hiram told of a wonderful miracle he had performed there. Jason Ryder, doubting this, went on horseback to the place and found that the people knew nothing about it. They often tried to perform miracles which failed. A noted instance of this is the attempt by Joe Smith to walk on the water. (A friend reminded me of this instance while in conversation a short time ago.) At Chagrin Falls, having given out notice that he would walk on the water on a certain day, he had some chestnut slabs, supported on long legs, laid across the Chagrin River just a few inches under the water. On the night before the miracle was to be performed, some boys who knew about the slabs removed one in the middle of the stream. When Smith fell in, they went in after him but told him that if the -3- Angel of the Lord was helping him they would leave him alone, but if it was Joe Smith alone they would help him. he said he was alone and begged them to help him. When he began to walk, the people became excited and he bagan to walk faster, and when he came to the end of the slabs, in he went, and when he arose to the top he called for help. To young missionaries called on me last summer (1901) with whom I spent some time in conversation. The subject turned on miracles and I asked them if they could raise the dead. They said they could and could cure the blind and heal all manner of diseases. Saying also, "you ought to know for there was a noted miracle performed here," and cited the case of Mrs. Johnson. I told them I remembered of a greater miracle than that which took place here, and told them of my grandmother, a woman of 80 years, who lived just across the street and who had been confined in her bed some time with rheumatism. One day upon hearing that my mother was sick, jumped out of bed, dressed and was half way across the street before she thought of her rheumatism. She felt for it but it was gone. ------ In April of the spring of 1831, by the invitation of Messrs. Johnston and Booth, the Mormons came to Hiram. The object of their coming was to make Hiram their "New Jerusalem."Mr. Johnston owned several log houses which he offered to them to occupy. Joe Smith and his wife settled in part of what is now the Stevens home. Sidney Rigdon and family settled just across the street in a small log house, the Whitmers, Smiths, Cowderys and Poormans occupied another house. They soon began preaching and gained many converts. They built a dam across the creek on the property now owned by Mr. Vaughn, and thither they went to baptize converts, sometimes to the number of 15 or 20. ------ Their manner of baptism was by immersion, after which they knelt on the banks of the stream, when the Administrator laid his hands on their heads and they received supernatural powers, except the power of prophecy which could only come by the use of the Seer's Stone or Urim Shumnim. As an example of the use of the Seer's Stone to fortell the future, the following instance might be cited. Oliver Cowdery, one of the witnesses, had one of these which after his death went to his daughter. During the Rebellion, on the eve of a skirmish between the Regulars and Bushwhackers, in Missouri, after looking through the Seer's Stone, she predicted that her cousin, John Page, would be killed on the following day by the Bushwhackers. ------ In the fall of 1831 the church in Hiram became very large. In June, preceding, my father, Symonds Ryder, united with them, and soon Smith had another revelation, that he was to act as Elder of the Hiram Church, but in spelling his name the Lord made a mistake and he began to doubt. A little later in the fall, Smith had a revelation that 12 men must go from Hiram to Independence, Jackson Co., Missouri, to lay the foundation of the Mormon Temple. These men were to go in twos, to take nothing with them but get their living as they went. When they reached Missouri, Mr. Booth said they were anything but honest men and he began to doubt. Besides the laying of the corner stone was so foolish that he lost all faith and returned. While they were gone, those left behind found the papers of the church and among them was a revelation that all who had property should give it over into the hands of Smith for the good of the Hiram Church. When Mr. Booth returned from Missouri, he called on my father and after talking together they began to undo what they had done in the way of influencing people to join the Mormons. In a short time there were only a few professed followers of the Mormon religion left in Hiram. These, however, still continued their meetings at the Johnson house. They had already had notice that they would be mobbed. Accordingly in a -4- meeting held at the Johnston house on the 27th of February, 1832, to arrange for a great day in the following spring. Smith dared anyone to touch a Mormon saying that anyone who should do so would be stricken by the Lord. But the people did not believe this, for on the night of the 4th of March, 1832, a band of 60 men met in the brickyard belonging to Benjamin Hinckley, on the property now owned by Cyrus Moore. Dividing into two parties they quietly marched to the Johnston house where they found Smith sleeping in the back room with his two children who were sick. Smith was thrown out to those waiting outside who took him into a lot back from the street where he was introduced to tar and feathers. The others in like manner took Sidney Rigdon up the street where the "Old Oak" now stands and administered the same remedy to him. This had the desired effect, for they left Hiram, going to Kirtland where they remained for a number of years. The next morning after the leaders were tarred and feathered, my father went past the Johnston house from which the Mormons came out like bees from a hive and accused him of being the leader of the mob. At the jubilee Convention at Hiram in 1900, L. A. Chapman told me that when going to California two years before he had stopped at Salt Lake City and had attended a meeting at the Tabernacle on Sunday, that they had been very kind to him and had shown him the Book of Records. In looking down the index he saw the account of the Tar and Feathering of Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon, at Hiram. In that account Symonds Ryder, a Campbellite preacher, is given as the leader of the mob and says further that he preached on the following Sunday in the south school-house and gloried in the fact that he had been an instrument in the hands of the Lord in driving the Mormons out of the country. But this account is incorrect, for I can well remember that my father was sick in bed that night and that from early in the evening he did not leave his bed until late the next morning. At Kirtland they established a bank and went into the common stock business, but all who went into it failed. They became so obnoxious to the people at Kirtland that they were compelled to leave the place, going to Independence, Jackson Co., Mo., where by Divine revelation they were to build a magnificent temple, the plan of which was to be revealed from on High. The foundation of this temple had been laid long before. There were evidently soon driven from the State by an armed mob. At this time there was a great defection in the Mormon church. The witnesses of the Book of Mormons left them and formed the Whitmer branch of the Church of Jesus Christ. In 1838 or 1839 they went to Illinois where on the banks of the Mississippi they built the flourishing city of Noveau. In this city Smith was mayor, president of the church, and commander of the military organizations. In 1843 Smith had a revelation from God that all who could support more wives than one could have as many as they could support. This caused a division in the Mormon ranks. In the exposition of Smith and Rigdon, 16 women went before a magistrate and took oath that they had been approached by the leaders of the Mormon church to become their spiritual wives. Foster and Lane, who printed the affidavits of these women, were mobbed and their printing houses destroyed. They were forced to flee to Carthage, Ill., where they obtained warrants for the arrest of Joe and Hiram Smith and several others. On the evening of June 7, 1844, a mob attacked the jail and both Joe and Hiram Smith were shot dead. The excitement became so great that in 1844-5 they found that they could no longer remain in Noveau, and accordingly in a solemn council it was decided to abandon their homes and to seek some spot in the wilds of the west where they could worship according to the principles of their religion. Accordingly, in February, 1845, after exchanging such property as they could for animals, wagons and provisions, a large number of them crossed the Mississippi and started on a journey for Council -5- Bluffs. Here they remained for two years. Before they crossed into Iowa, however, an officer of the state presented himself with a requisite for 500 men to serve in the Mexican war. This demand, though sudden and unexpected, was promptly complied with, but the expedition was broken up for that season. Those that remained were principally old men, women and children, and they prepared to pass the winter in the wilds of the Indian country. By cutting hay, erecting log and sod huts, and digging as many caves as time and strength permitted, they were able to pass the winter; but on account of the severity of the weather and the scant provisions, many died. Besides, the Indians stole many of their cattle, so that they were reduced to a very poor condition. In the following April, 1847, the company consisted of 143 men, 72 wagons, 175 head of horses, oxen and mules, with rations for six months, agricultural implements and seed grain. In this condition they once more set out for a home beyond the Rockies. On the 24th of June they reached the Salt Lake Valley. They consecrated a part of this, broke it up and planted it. Thus was formed the nucleus of the Territory of Utah. A short time after the arrival of this company, Salt Lake City was laid out under the direction of Brigham Young who was accepted as President of the Mormon Church in 1848. In the following October a company of three or four thousand, led by Pres. Young was added to their number. They worked diligently and in a short time nearly 6000 acres were laid down in crops. They established a provisional state called "State of the Desert," of which Brigham Young was appointed Governor. He held this office for three years, at which time this territory was ceded to the United States by Mexico. He was then appointed Territorial Governor by the United States, and continued as such from 1850 to 1857. Copied by Minnie M. Ryder in 1903-4 from the manuscript written by her uncle Hartwell Ryder.