Two 1830 Court Cases
NOTE: It is possible that there may be a discrepency of a few days in relation to the dates on the bills, when they were recorded, and
the time they were turned into the respective counties to receive payment on the services performed.
Court Case before Justice of the Peace Joseph Chamberlin, South Bainbridge, Chenango County, New York:
Constable Ebenezer Hatch arrested Joseph Smith on June 30, 1830, held him over night, and brought him before Justice Joseph P.
Chamberlin on a charge of being a disorderly person.
EBENEZER HATCH BILL OF COSTS, JULY 4, 1830 (costs not included):
To Serving warrant on Joseph Smith & keeping
him twenty four hours
3 meals Victuel & 1 Lodging
Suppoenying 5 witness
. . .
Dated at South Bainbridge July
(Ebenezer Hatch, Bill of Costs, 1830, Chenango County Historical Society, Norwich, New York.)
JOSEPH CHAMBERLIN BILL OF COSTS, JULY 1, 1830 (costs not included)
Joseph Smith Jr
a Disorderly person
July 1st 1830
Included costs for oath on Complaint, filing Complaint, warrant, Examination 1 Day, 10 Subpoenes, and Swearing 12 witnesses.
(Joseph Chamberlin, Bill of Costs, 1830, Clerk of the Board of Supervisors, Chenango County Office Building, Norwich, New York.)
Joseph Smith was discharged.
Abram Willard Benton of South Bainbridge, New York, wrote:
This trial led to an investigation of his [Joseph Smith Jr.'s]
character and conduct, which clearly evinced
to the unprejudiced, whence the spirit came which dictated his inspirations. During the trial it was shown that the Book of Mormon was
brought to light by the same magic power by which he pretended to tell fortunes, discover hidden treasures, &c. Oliver Cowdry, one of the
three witnesses to the book, testified under oath, that said Smith found with the plates, from which he translated his book, two transparent
stones, resembling glass, set in silver bows. That by looking through these, he was able to read in English, the reformed Egyptian characters,
which were engraved on the plates.
So much for the gift and power of God, by which Smith says he translated his book.
Two transparent stones, undoubtedly of the same
properties, and the gift of the same spirit as the one in which he looked to find his neighbor's goods. It is reported, and probably true,
that he commenced his juggling by stealing and hiding property belonging to his neighbors, and when inquiry was made, he would look in his
stone, (his gift and power) and tell where it was. Josiah Stowell, a Mormonite, being sworn, testified that he positively knew that said
Smith never had lied to, or deceived him, and did not believe he ever tried to deceive anybody else. The following questions were then
asked him, to which he made the replies annexed.
Did Smith ever tell you there was money hid in a certain place which he mentioned?
Yes. Did he tell you, you could find it by digging?
Yes. Did you dig? Yes. Did you find any money? No. Did he not lie to you then, and deceive you? No! the money was there, but we did not get
quite to it! How do you know it was there? Smith said it was! Addison Austin was next called upon, who testified, that at the very same time
that Stowell was digging for money, he, Austin, was in company with said Smith alone, and asked him to tell him honestly whether he could see
this money or not. Smith hesitated some time, but finally replied, "to be candid, between you and me, I cannot, any more than you or any body
else; but any way to get a living." Here, then, we have his own confession, that he was a vile, dishonest impostor. As regards the testimony of
Josiah Stowell, it needs no comment. He swore positively that Smith did not lie to him. So much for a Mormon witness. Paramount to this, in
truth and consistency, was the testimony of Joseph Knight, another Mormonite. Newel Knight, son of the former, and also a Mormonite,
testified, under oath, that he positively had a devil cast out of himself by the instrumentality of Joseph Smith, jr., and that he saw
the devil after it was out, but could not tell how it looked!
[Abram W. Benton], "Mormonites," Evangelical Magazine and Gospel Advocate (Utica, New York) 2 (April 9, 1831): 120, emphasis omitted.
Court Case before Justice of the Peace Joel K. Noble, Colesville, Broome County, New York:
"Mormonism," New England Christian Herald, 4 (November 7, 1832):22-23, Boston, Massachusetts, emphasis retained.
We have before noticed the bare-faced and outrageous delusion abroad in the country,
under the name of Mormonism; and though it is so shocking to common sense, to reflect upon such a silly, and egregiously absurd, though wicked
system, yet the public mind ought to be informed of every circumstance connected with the history of these deceivers and disturbers of good
order and decency. We understand that Smith is now in this city, or has been within a few days; and a Christian community ought to arise,
and thrust him back to the den of his ignominy. A friend has requested us to insert the following account of the trial of Joseph Smith, Jr.,
for a breach of the peace, in "looking through a certain stone to find hid treasures,
&c." The account was published in the Boston Christian Herald, some few weeks since; and the editor remarks:-
"Our readers are probably acquainted with the origin of this sect and their
Bible; and that two of the Mormonite preachers have visited this city, and made a number of proselytes. Joseph Smith, Jr. is the founder;
"a bare-faced imposter, his moral character of the darkest hue, his name a derision, shunned by all decent society, and disowned by his
pious father-in-law." He has associated with himself, characters, though of less intellect, yet equally base and profligate, and for some
years have been practising upon the credulity of the weak. Many have been swindled out of their property by these false prophets-let others
We extract the following from a letter written by a gentleman in Windsor,
Broome Co., N. Y., acquainted with Smith, and entitled to confidence, to his friend in this city, dated August 30, 1832."
It is more difficult to obtain information of this kind than one would think,
other than hearsay. The fact that J. Smith, Jr., and others, dug in various places for money, is easily proved; at the great bend or near
there, that there was a company digging part of two years could be easily proved;-but that Smith said that there was money buried there by
some Spaniards could not be so easily proved, though it
is generally believed; and also that toward the last of the digging there, he sold out shares in the treasure to as many as he could, and
when he quit digging, said that the money had sunk down to a great depth. I have seen a hole eight or ten feet deep, on the creek back of
Captain Waller's, where it was said Smith said there was treasure. On Monument Hill near to what is called "The Monument," there is a hole
dug 25 or 30 feet deep, where it is said Smith said that two veins of gold crossed each other as large as a barrel. On Mr. Samuel Stowe's
flat, a hole was dug one night and filled again, and Smith was said to be one of the number. I might mention a hole on the back side of
the hill over the river against where I live, and other places, if it were necessary; but I forbear.
I called on several persons to gain what information I could. The most
I could get was hearsay.-Among others, I called on Mr. William Devenport, who went out with the Mormons to Ohio-and has since returned.
He says that he bore his own expenses out, but was often importuned by their leader to put his money into the common stock, and was told,
that those who did not would be struck dead the moment they arrived on the promised land-like Ananias and Sapphira. He said that the only
object of the leaders was in this, to get the money into their own hands and keep it. He mentioned a widow Peck of Bainbridge, who, he said,
paid in $500 and went with them; but could not get a cent on the way to procure something for a sick child. Said that he lived between two
and three miles from where they settled in Ohio, and that Smith had a new commandment every few days through the summer, a year ago, and
that last summer he thought there was not a fortnight in which he did not have a new commandment. Smith pretended to go into the woods
and converse with the Almighty. Mr. Devenport said he had lately received a letter from William Youman's widow, who went out with the
Mormons, and had since left them and got married, stating that a Mr. Rigdon, or a name that sounded like it, their principal preacher
under Smith, said lately that the Mormon religion was not true, and in consequence had been silenced by Smith. Enclosed I send you some
testimony taken on trial in Colesville. Several offered to testify to what N. Knight had said of Smith's casting a devil out of him; some
thought he had returned and would seem to allude to the unclean spirit mentioned in the Gospels."
The following is the report of the trial forwarded by the writer above, and
referred to in the letter:
STATE OF NEW YORK, } JOEL K. NOBLE,
BROOME COUNTY, SS. } Justice.
The People, }
Joseph Smith, jr. } Complainant.
The defendant was brought before me by virtue of a warrant on the 30th day of June,
A. D. 1830, on a charge "that he, the said Joseph Smith, Jr., had been guilty of a breach of the peace, against the good people of the state of
New York, by looking through a certain stone to find hid treasures, &c., within the Statute of Limitation.
To the charge, the defendant plead not guilty. At the instance of the people,
Joseph A. S. Austin was by me duly sworn, and says "that he had been acquainted with Smith, the prisoner, for several years; that prisoner
pretended to look in a certain glass, or stone, and said he could tell where stolen goods were, and could discover mines of gold and silver
under ground; made some pretence at telling fortunes, but he, witness, never knew of prisoner's finding any thing by his pretended art. Once
witness asked prisoner to tell him if he, prisoner, could tell any thing by looking in said glass, and wished a candid and true answer. Prisoner
told witness frankly, he could not see any thing, and in answer, prisoner likewise observed to witness, any thing you know for a living: says,
two years before this present time, he saw prisoner drink a certain quantity of distilled liquor, and was drunk, as he does believe; for he could
not stand up, but lay in the woods for some hours.
Harriss Stowel, being by me sworn, saith, "he has been acquainted with the
prisoner for a number of years past; that prisoner said he could look in a certain stone or glass, and could tell where money and hid treasures were,
and could tell where gold and silver mines, and salt springs were; and that Smith, the prisoner, the pretended prophet and money digger,
had followed digging for money, for salt, and for gold and silver mines for a number of years; that others, by his instigation, had followed
digging; that at one time, witness hid a bag of grain in his barn, told
Smith he had lost a bag of grain, and wished prisoner to find it; prisoner looked in his glass in vain, for he could not find it; prisoner,
after using all his art for a number of days, offered to give witness' brother fifty cents (so his brother told witness,) to find where the
grain was, and tell him, prisoner, unbeknown to witness, so that Smith, the prisoner, might have the credit of finding the grain."
Cross questions-says, he has not known the prisoner to look in the glass within
the space of two years last past.
Josiah Stowel, being by me sworn, saith, he has been acquainted with Smith, the
prisoner, for quite a number of years; that he did pretend to tell, by looking in a stone, or glass, where money and goods and mines were in a
manner peculiar to himself; the prisoner had followed digging for money; pretended to find mines, hid treasures, and lost goods, and frequently
others would be digging with him; says that about three years since, prisoner was put under arrest by an
officer at Bainbridge in Chenango county, for breaking the peace, and that he escaped from the officer and went to Palmyra; and that about two
years since, witness was at Palmyra, and saw prisoner; that prisoner told witness, that the Lord had told prisoner that a golden Bible
was in a certain hill; that Smith, the prisoner, went in the night, and brought the Bible, (as Smith said;) witness saw a corner of it; it resembled a
stone of a greenish caste; should judge it to have been about one foot square and six inches thick; he would not let it be seen by any one;
the Lord had commanded him not; it was unknown to Smith, that witness saw a corner of the Bible, so called by Smith; told the witness the leaves
were of gold; there were written characters on the leaves; prisoner was commanded to translate the same by the Lord; and from the Bible got from
the hill, as aforesaid, the prisoner said he translated the book of Mormon; prisoner put a certain stone into
his hat, put his face into the crown, then drew the brim of the hat around his head to prevent light-he could then see, as prisoner said, and
translate the same, the Bible, got from the hill in Palmyra, at the same time under a lock and in a chest; and the prisoner, when looking for
money, salt springs, hid treasures, &c., looked in the same manner; did not know that prisoner could find money lost, &c.; and that prisoner
told witness after he was arrested in Bainbridge, he would not look for money, &c. any more; told witness he could see into the earth forty or
fifty feet," &c.
Newel Knights, sworn, saith, "prisoner could see in a stone as stated by Stowel;
that formerly he looked for money, &c., but latterly he had become holy, was a true preacher of the Gospel of Christ, possessed the power of
casting out devils; he knew it to be a fact, that he, (Smith, the prisoner,) had cast a devil from him, (witness,) in manner following, viz.
witness was in mind impressed; he and Smith did conclude and knew the devil was in witness; they joined hands, their faith became united, the
devil went out of witness; witness knew it to be a fact, for he saw the devil as he departed; Smith did it by the power of God," &c.
A true copy from minutes taken by me on the trial.
JOEL K. NOBLE, J. Peace.
Dated, Colesville, Aug. 28, 1832.
STATE OF NEW YORK, } Personally came before me,
Broome County, } Joel K. Noble, justice of the
Town of Colesville, ss. } peace of said town of Coles-
ville, Preston T. Wilkins, known by me to be the same person, and being by me duly sworn, saith, that Newel Knights
did style himself a prophet of the Lord, and was ordained by Joseph Smith, Jr., the pretended author of the book of Mormon, as the said Newel
told him, this deponent, and this deponent understood so by others, that the said Newel was so ordained; that the said Newel told
this deponent he knew past, present and future; that in order to ascertain the prophetic ability of the said Newel, the deponent went and
took from the father of said Newel, a Mormon Bible, (so called) unbeknown to any one, as this deponent believes, and buried it under his
own door-step (witnesses); in the morning the book was found; this deponent went to the aforesaid Newel, told him the mystery that had happened;
the said Newel and father told this deponent it did not come from this package of books; they counted them and were certain, as they said; the
aforesaid Newel told this deponent that God told him, the said Newel, that he had sent his angel to put the book on the door-step, to convince
him, this deponent, of the truth of the Mormon book, as also to warn him to flee from the impending wrath.
PRESTON T. WILKINS.
Subscribed and sworn before me, this 28th day of August, 1832.
JOEL K. NOBLE, J. P.
A true copy from the original affidavit on file in my office. J. K. NOBLE.
Colesville, Aug. 28, 1832.
Joseph Smith, jr. was discharged; he had not looked in the glass for two years
to find money; &c.,-hence it was outlawed.
NOTE: The above information by Joel K. Noble was published earlier in the Boston Christian Herald 4
(September 19, 1832):2-3.
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