Early Life of Joseph Smith in New York
by H. Michael Marquardt
© 2000 by H. Michael Marquardt All rights reserved.
People do not live in isolation from their historical and cultural situation. They are influenced by their own time and place. The origins of Mormonism are closely tied to the Joseph Smith, Sr. family. Even though we have moved far from that day, Latter Day Saint heritage is linked to the America of the early decades of the 1800s.
Besides the historical narrative which Joseph Smith wrote, Lucy Mack Smith, Joseph's mother, dictated in 1844-45 a history of the Smith family. Her narrative, therefore, is a very valuable record of the Smith family in New York. Undoubtedly her narrative contains some errors, but it remains a valuable record of her family's life.
Father taught school; children attended school
Prior to moving to New York the Smith family lived at several locations where their children who were old enough attended school.(1) Joseph Sr. did farming and one winter taught school.(2) He was well lettered in the common branches of English studies.(3) His son Hyrum attended an academy at Hanover, New Hampshire.(4) Hyrum would later teach school and became a school trustee.(5)
Smith family was religious
In religious activity Joseph Sr. had embraced the doctrine that all people will be saved,(6) while Lucy avoided joining any church, regarding all churches as devoid of "the religion which I seek."(7) She found a minister who was willing to baptize her and leave her free from membership in any church.(8) Religion remained an important focus of the Smith family during Joseph Jr.'s childhood. In 1811, when young Joseph was five years old, his grandfather, Solomon Mack, published an account of his life's experiences and religious conversion.(9)
Move to Palmyra
When the Joseph Smith family reunited in the village of Palmyra, New York in the winter of 1816-17 their family consisted of Joseph Smith, Sr. (age 45), Lucy Smith (age 41); there children Alvin (about 18), Hyrum (about 16), Sophronia (age 13), Joseph Jr. (age 11), Samuel Harrison (age 8), William (age 5), Catherine (age 4) and young Don Carlos (almost a year old). The family was poor and needed to consolidate their efforts to sustain themselves. Lucy Smith worked at painting oil cloth coverings, her husband Joseph Sr. opened a "cake and beer shop," and hired himself and his elder sons out for the village and farming people. They were able to make an honest living for themselves.(10)
Joseph Sr. is listed on the Palmyra Highway Tax records for April 1817 as a resident on Main Street.(11) Residing on Main Street may represent the cake and beer shop the Smiths reportedly operated in town. In April 1820 Joseph Sr.'s name appears at the end of the list, showing he was now living outside the business district and near the Palmyra-Farmington town line.
The Smith family cabin would be mentioned two months later in the "Palmyra Town Book," as "Joseph Smiths dwelling house," located about fifty feet north of the line dividing Palmyra from Farmington. It stood about two miles south of Main Street on property owned by Samuel Jennings, a merchant with whom the Smiths did business.(12)
Lucy Mack Smith subsequently reported that the family contracted for 100 acres of Evertson land held by the estate of Nicholas Evertson, an attorney in New York City, who had acquired considerable land holdings in western New York before his death in 1807. It was June 1820 before his executors conveyed to Caspar Eddy, a New York City physician, power of attorney to sell his holdings. Eddy traveled to Canandaigua, New York, the seat of Ontario County, and on 14 July 1820 transferred his power of attorney to his friend Zachariah Seymour.(13)
The new Smith farm embraced approximately one hundred acres, one third of the original Lot No. 1 in that township. According to the assessment roll for 22 June 1820, the entire three hundred acres of Lot 1 were taxed to the heirs of Nicholas Evertson at that time. In the following year's assessment (7 July 1821) only two hundred acres were taxed to the Evertson heirs, while the balance were assessed to Joseph Smith.(14)
From the Palmyra road tax list it is clear that at least Joseph Sr. and Alvin were still living in Palmyra as late as April 1822. It is probable that the Smiths did not move to the Manchester farm until after the summer of 1822. It could not be earlier than July 1821 because the Smith family genealogy mentions the birth of a daughter named Lucy, the youngest child of the family. The genealogy specifically states that Lucy was "born in Palmyra."(15)
Move to Manchester ca 1822
Lucy Smith's narrative corroborates the assessment roll evidence for an 1822 move to the Manchester property. She introduces events leading up to her son Alvin's death by saying: "In the spring after we moved onto the farm we commenced making Mapel [maple] sugar of which we averaged 1000 lbs per year. We then began to make preparations for building a house, as the Land Agent of whom we purchased our farm was dead and we could not make the last payment."(16) The land agent Zachariah Seymour had previously died on 2 July 1822.(17)
Finally she reports that in November they succeeded in raising their frame house and had the necessary materials on hand for its completion. However, Alvin's sudden sickness on 15 November and his death four days later on 19 November 1823 left the house incomplete. Lucy remembered that on his death-bed Alvin told Hyrum, "I now want you to go on and finish the House."(18)
Pomeroy Tucker, an early resident of Palmyra, recalled the family's economic activities during this period:
The chief application of the useful industry of the Smiths during their residence upon this farm-lot, was in the chopping and retailing of cord-wood, the raising and bartering of small crops of agricultural products and garden vegetables, the manufacture and sale of black-ash baskets and birch brooms, the making of maple sugar and molasses in the season for that work, and in the continued business of peddling cake and beer in the village on days of public doings.(19)
Benjamin Saunders, a neighbor living near the Smiths, remembered them as "good workers by days work. They were coopers by trade. Did not like to make steady business of it. <They were> Big hearty fellows. Their morals were good."(20)
Coopering or making barrels, the essential containers for all sorts of goods and commodities at the time, was a Smith family trade. Asael Smith, the father of Joseph Sr., was a cooper.(21) Mrs. Anderick recalled that Joseph Sr. and his son Hyrum "worked some at coopering."(22)
Joseph Jr.'s Education
Joseph Jr.'s formal education was irregular because of economic pressures on the family: "as it required the exertions of all that were able to render any assistance for the support of the Family therefore we were deprived of the bennifit of an education. Suffice it to say I was mearly instructid in reading, writing and the ground <rules> of Arithmatic which const[it]uted my whole literary acquirements."(23)
Isaac Butts attended school with young Joseph in the Palmyra area,(24) as did Christopher Stafford.(25) John Stafford, recalled, "Joe was quite illiterate. After they began to have school at their house, he improved greatly. . . . they had school in their house, and studied the Bible."(26) Young Joseph most likely received some training from his father who at one time had been a school teacher.
Joseph Jr.'s lack of formal schooling sometimes yielded the erroneous impression that he was illiterate. In the latter part of 1825 while Smith was in northern Pennsylvania, Isaac Hale, his future father-in-law, remarked that he was "not very well educated."(27) Perhaps in response to such impressions, Smith, though almost twenty years old, enrolled in school in the Bainbridge, New York, area while working for Josiah Stowell during the winter of 1825-26.(28)
Other accounts confirm this. Stowell's son Josiah remembered Joseph as "about 20 years old or there about. I also went to schoal [school] with him one winter."(29) Asa Searles reported that he was a fellow student with Joseph in Bainbridge when his brother, Lemuel, was a teacher there.(30) Local tradition holds that "Smith, while here, attended school in District No. 9."(31)
Smith family and newspapers
With opportunities for formal education limited the Smith family relied on other avenues of instruction and information. One source of wide ranging information was the newspaper, which the Smiths received weekly in Palmyra. Orsamus Turner, who served a five-year printer's apprenticeship in Palmyra between 1818 and 1822, recalled that young Joseph came to the village to pick up his father's newspaper, the Palmyra Register.(32) He also received the Wayne Sentinel, a successor to the Register and the Palmyra Herald.
Family prayers and singing hymns
William Smith recalled that his father had morning and evening prayers:
My father's religious customs often become earksome [irksome] or tiresome to me, while in my younger days as I made no profession of Christ[i]anity. Still I was called upon to listen to pray[e]rs boath [both] night and morning. My father's favourit evening humn runs thus:
The day is past and gone
The evening shades appear
O may we all remember well
The night of death draws near.(33)
Joseph Smith was a student of the Bible (1817-1820)
Joseph Jr. begins his earliest narrative of his life by pointing out that his parents "spared no pains to instructing me in <the> christian religion." He then describes his youthful religious questing:
At about the age of twelve years my mind become seriously imprest with regard to the all importent concerns for the wellfare of my immortal Soul, which led me to searching the scriptures, believeing as I was taught, that they contained the word of God. Thus applying myself to them and my intimate acquaintance with those of differant denominations led me to marvel exce[e]dingly, for I discovered that <they did not> adorn their profession by a holy walk and Godly conversation agreeable to what I found contained in that sacred depository [the Bible], this was a grief to my Soul. Thus from the age of twelve years to fifteen I pondered many things in my heart . . . my mind become exce[e]dingly distressed for I become [became] convicted of my sins and by searching the scriptures I found that <mankind> did not come unto the Lord but that they had apostatised from the true and liveing faith and there was no society or denomination that built upon the gospel of Jesus Christ as recorded in the new testament.
Thus convinced that the God of the Bible existed, but no denomination any longer taught the New Testament gospel, he continued praying:
I cried unto the Lord for mercy for there was none else to whom I could go and obtain mercy and the Lord heard my cry in the wilderness and while in <the> attitude of calling upon the Lord <in the 16th year of my age> a piller of light above the brightness of the sun at noon day come down from above and rested upon me and I was filled with the spirit of god and the <Lord> opened the heavens upon me and I saw the Lord and he spake unto me saying, Joseph <my son> thy sins are forgiven thee. . . . behold I am the Lord of glory, I was crucifyed for the world.(34)
Like his parents and many others, he feels conviction of his sins and finds forgiveness through a direct vision of the Savior granting him pardon.
Joseph an Exhorter
Orsamus Turner noted young Joseph's presence at a Methodist camp meeting and found him "a very passable exhorter."(35) Since Turner left Palmyra in the summer of 1822, his words provide a valuable insight into Joseph's religious activities before his seventeenth birthday.
Joseph did not become a licensed exhorter because such persons had to be members in full standing with the denomination. However, Pomeroy Tucker remarked concerning Joseph, "at one time he joined the probationary class of the Methodist church in Palmyra, and made some active demonstrations of engagedness, . . . [but] he soon withdrew from the class."(36) Formal church membership would have required Joseph's meeting with the class leader "at least six months on trial."(37)
Joseph wrote about his "intimate acquaintance with those of differant [different] denominations" during his youth and partiality toward the Methodists. But by the time he was approaching nineteen, during the 1824-25 revival meetings, he felt little need for organized religion. His mother recalled, "Joseph never said many words upon any subject but always seemed to reflect more deeply than common persons of his age upon everything of a religious nature."(38)
About two years after the Smith family settled on their hundred-acre farm, Lucy, Hyrum, Samuel, and Sophronia joined the local Western Presbyterian Church of Palmyra. As a result, family activities during the mid-1820s included some church going.
Participating family members would have taken part in the instruction, confession of faith, membership vows, baptism, and welcome by the elders and congregation which constituted active membership in the church.
From what we can learn about the religious background of the Smith family, Joseph Jr.'s parents taught religious values to their children. Though his father did not regularly attend church, he did sing and pray with his family. Joseph Jr.'s religious instruction included hearing ministers's sermons, private family worship, and personal Bible study. Joseph was not uninformed, ignorant, or illiterate.
The possibility of finding buried treasure fascinated many in late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century America. Reports of searching for such riches were widespread in the Palmyra area,(39) and extant accounts show that treasure was generally sought through supernatural means. Locations for buried wealth and lost Spanish mines were sometimes located through dreams. Treasures could also be located by using divining rods, often made from "witch hazel," or by looking in special stones or crystals. Sometimes when a stone was used, a person would place the stone in a hat and then conjure the guardian treasure spirit. After finding a spot where the cache was supposedly hidden, the seekers would draw a magic circle on the ground around the hidden treasure. Sometimes they would maintain absolute silence, but other times they would recite magical charms or religious verses used as charms. Whatever the means, money-diggers needed to overcome the guardian spirit who had enchanted the treasure, otherwise the treasure would slip back into the earth.
In his official history, Joseph Smith downplayed his experience as a money-digger and sought to cast this activity in the context of manual labor. However, Smith was involved in such endeavors for years in two widely separated areas and enjoyed an established reputation as a gifted seer. He was thought to be able to located lost goods with a special seer stone and magical religious ceremonies.(40)
Joseph was assisted by his father and his older brothers Alvin and Hyrum.(41) In addition neighbors of the Smith family were money diggers, including Willard Chase, Samuel Lawrence, as well as John, Joshua, and William Stafford.(42) Others in the area also claimed to have special stones, including Sally Chase and Joshua and William Stafford.(43) In southern New York and northern Pennsylvania, William Hale, Oliver Harper, and Josiah Stowell also searched for treasures.(44) Financial support was supplied, among others, by Abraham Fish in Manchester and by Asa and Josiah Stowell in Bainbridge.(45)
When Joseph Smith recalled his money-digging activities for his official history, he wrote only about searching for a lost mine in 1825 for Josiah Stowell. But contemporary records suggest that this had been one of the Smith family occupations in the Palmyra/Manchester area since the early 1820s. For example, Joshua Stafford of Manchester recalled that he "became acquainted with the family of Joseph Smith, Sen. about the year 1819 or 20. They then were laboring people, in low circumstances. A short time after this, they commenced digging for hidden treasures, . . . and told marvellous stories about ghosts, hob-goblins, caverns, and various other mysterious matters."(46) Willard Chase, another friend of the family, similarly recalled, "I became acquainted with the Smith family . . . in the year 1820. At that time, they were engaged in the money digging business."(47)
One of the most detailed accounts of this early period was given by William Stafford, a neighbor who lived in Manchester and whose family gave the name to Stafford Road where the Smiths' house still stands.
I first became acquainted with Joseph, Sen., and his family in the year 1820. They lived, at that time, in Palmyra, about one mile and a half from my residence. A great part of their time was devoted to digging for money: . . . I have heard them tell marvellous tales, respecting the discoveries they had made in their peculiar occupation of money digging. They would say, for instance, that in such a place, in such a hill, on a certain man's farm, there were deposited kegs, barrels and hogheads of coined silver and gold--bars of gold, golden images, brass kettles filled with gold and silver--gold candlesticks, swords, &c, &c. [and so forth](48)
Joseph Sr. believed he could locate objects that were lost or hidden from sight under the ground.
Discovered a Seer Stone in 1822
Willard Chase had employed Joseph Smith to help him dig a well on the Chase property where a seer stone was discovered. Willard was twenty-four years old and Joseph was sixteen. Chase gives details of the discovery from his perspective, "In the year 1822, I was engaged in digging a well. I employed Alvin and Joseph Smith to assist me; ... After digging about twenty feet below the surface of the earth, we discovered a singularly appearing stone, which excited my curiosity. I brought it to the top of the well, and as we were examining it, Joseph put it into his hat, and then his face into the top of his hat. ... The next morning he came to me, and wished to obtain the stone, ... I told him I did not wish to part with it ... but would lend it. ..."(49) The stone was returned in about two years. In 1825 Joseph sent his brother Hyrum to borrow back the seer stone from Chase. The magical stone is now in the possession of the LDS church in Salt Lake City.(50)
William Stafford recalled how young Joseph used the stone to search for treasure:
They would say, also, that nearly all the hills in this part of New York, were thrown up by human hands, and in them were large caves, which Joseph, Jr., could see, by placing a stone of singular appearance in his hat, in such a manner as to exclude all light; at which time they pretended he could see all things within and under the earth, ...(51)
The Smiths obtained no gold or silver, but witnesses claimed young Joseph helped find other objects. Martin Harris, who became a close friend of the Smith family, was impressed when Joseph used his stone to find his lost toothpick.(52)
Josiah Stowell was a farmer with substantial holdings in the town of Bainbridge, Chenango County, in southern New York(53) and a member of the local Presbyterian church.(54) In the mid-1820s Stowell organized a money digging company to search for a mine he believed had been hidden by Spaniards in northern Pennsylvania near the home of Isaac Hale.(55) Stowell hired Joseph Smith and his father to help find the mine. It was while digging and boarding at the home of Isaac Hale that Smith met his future wife Emma Hale.
Josiah Stowell eventually took up the search. In the fall of 1825 he went north to the Manchester area to visit his son Simpson. While there he heard about the Smiths' ability to locate buried treasure. Reportedly Joseph Jr. told Stowell that he could see the treasure Stowell had been looking for in Harmony through his peep stone even while still in Manchester. He also, according to Stowell's account described his house and outhouses accurately.(56) Stowell was impressed and hired Smith and his father to help locate the treasure.
Lucy Smith recalled that Stowell had sought her son's help because he heard Joseph "possessed certain keys, by which he could discern things invisible to the natural eye."(57) Joseph Smith was now nineteen years old.
Lost of Farm
It was while they were away in southern New York that a new land agent in Canandaigua agreed to sell the Smith's delinquent Manchester farm to their neighbor to the south who wanted to add it to his holdings. Only panic-stricken appeals by Lucy and Hyrum Smith to sympathetic neighbors and the return of Joseph Sr. prevented eviction. A kindly Quaker, Lemuel Durfee, bought the land and allowed the Smiths to remain as tenants.(58)
One valuable discovery which Joseph Smith did make during this period was Emma Hale. Smith told her that as soon as he saw her, he recognized that she was the one who had to be with him to enable him to find the treasure which he had been promised.(59)
Hyrum Smith continued working as a cooper and with his father and brothers worked for local farmers including Lemuel Durfee. They apparently took their wages in credits toward their purchases.(60)
Inhabitants of Ancient America
Joseph Jr.'s interest in prehistoric America affected family life during these years. Lucy recalled the recitals about the land's ancient inhabitants which Joseph began recounting during his teenage years.(61)
By the summer of 1827, when newlyweds Joseph and Emma Smith(62) were living with his father's family in Manchester, New York, people began to hear from the Smith family about a treasure Joseph had found. They told the story of a book written on plates of gold which had been buried in the ground in a Manchester hill (later called the Hill Cumorah) about two miles southeast from their home. This glacial drumlin had been, according to one scholar, "the site of treasure digging both before and after Joseph Smith's receiving the golden plates."(63)
In contrast to the account which was later told, the earliest versions linked the finding of the plates with the practice of searching for buried treasure. They also linked obtaining the plates with magical rituals traditionally associated with winning treasure from its guardian spirits.
Willard Chase was a neighbor and friend of the Smith family. He had known them since 1820 and later recalled that the family followed the money-digging business "until the latter part of the season of 1827." That June, Joseph Smith, Sr., told Chase a remarkable story, whose beginnings went back more than three years:
That some years ago, a spirit(64) had appeared to Joseph his son, in a vision, and informed him that in a certain place there was a record on plates of gold, and that he was the person that must obtain them, and this he must do in the following manner: On the 22d of September, he must repair to the place where was deposited this manuscript, dressed in black clothes, and riding a black horse with a switch tail, and demand the book in a certain name, and after obtaining it, he must go directly away, and neither lay it down nor look behind him.(65) They accordingly fitted out Joseph with a suit of black clothes and borrowed a black horse.
Chase reportedly was told that Smith in fact went to the stone box in which the book of gold was deposited and removed the book. He laid the book down, turned around and it disappeared. He opened the box again and was struck by the spirit. On asking "why he could not obtain the plates," he was told that he had not obeyed the orders of the spirit. He was then instructed to bring his oldest brother Alvin. Shortly thereafter Alvin died.
When Smith returned a year later, the spirit asked about his brother. Learning he was dead, the spirit "commanded him to come again, in just one year, and bring a man with him. On asking who might be the man, he was answered that he would know him when he saw him."
According to Chase's account, filtered through his and Joseph Sr.'s perspectives, Joseph Jr. first decided that the next year he should bring Samuel Lawrence, another treasurer seeker and seer in the Manchester area.(66)
One hundred miles to the south, a resident of Colesville for whom Smith worked briefly, recounted a very similar story. Joseph Knight, whose recollections were written sometime between 1835 and 1847, when Knight died, also told of the spirit requesting that Joseph bring Alvin to the hill. Knight does not mention Lawrence, but his account adds the identity of a third person Smith felt compelled by the spirit personage to take to the hill in order to obtain the treasure--his future wife Emma Hale.(67)
Clearly the gold plates story had been repeated outside the Smith family before September 1827, and no doubt seemed familiar to those who heard it and were acquainted with stories about the treasure-digging activities of the Smith family. A number of accounts have survived describing how Smith obtained possession of the gold plates. According to his mother's detailed account, on September 20, 1827 Joseph Knight and his friend Josiah Stowell arrived at the Smith family house.(68)
On the morning of the twenty-second, Joseph and Emma left the Smith home "taking Mr. Knight's horse and wagon" without his knowledge to travel to the hill about two miles away.(69) When they arrived at the hill, Joseph left Emma with the wagon while he went to the side of the hill. Joseph said he then took the plates out of a box in the ground and hid them in a fallen treetop, concealing them with the bark of the tree.(70) He returned to Knight's wagon, where Emma was waiting, and they started back to the house.
The story now went abroad from the Smith family that Joseph had obtained some gold plates which had been buried under the ground. Since Joseph and his father had been involved with a treasure-seeking group, his former partners wanted their share of the find. As Martin Harris explained, "The money-diggers claimed that they had as much right to the plates as Joseph had, as they were in company together. They claimed that Joseph had been [a] traitor, and had appropriated to himself that which belonged to them. For this reason Joseph was afraid of them."(71)
Joseph gets plates from hiding place
While Joseph Jr. was working in Macedon, helping a widow named Wells wall up a well, Emma took a stray horse that had been on the Smiths' premises two days and rode to Macedon. Joseph came up out of the well because he had perceived that Emma was coming to see him. She informed him that the money-diggers claimed to have located where he had hidden his golden book. Joseph looked in his peep-stone and said to Emma that the plates were safe. Joseph promised Mrs. Wells that he would come back when he could, then he mounted the horse "in his linen frock" (smock or work apron), and rode back home with Emma.(72)
Joseph then walked by himself to where he had hidden the gold plates on or near the hill. Several people remember the story they heard of how he brought the plates back to the Smith house. According to Lucy's version,
he took the plates from their [hiding] place and wrapping them in his linen frock put them under his arm and started for the house. After walking a short distance in the road, he concluded it would be safer to go across through the woods. In a moment he struck through the timber where there was a large windfall to cross. He had not proceeded far in this direction till, as he was jumping over a log, a man spran[g] up and gave him a heavy blow with a gun. Joseph <leveled> him to the ground.(73)
Smith claimed he knocked down several men as he ran home, arriving out of breath. When all the commotion settled, Smith showed those in attendance his dislocated thumb, which his father put back in place.(74)
The family became directly involved in Joseph's passion after the gold plates were retrieved from the fallen treetop where he reported leaving them the first night.
Before Joseph deposited the artifact in a chest, he permitted the family to feel and handle the plates.(75) Joseph then locked the record in the box and with the family's help hid it under the brick hearth in the west room of the house. This hearth surrounded the fireplace where the Smith family discussed the events of the day and where Joseph talked to his family about his adventures. They listened and believed "all that was told them" by Joseph.(76)
Concerned about the safety of the plates, Joseph took the box from the hearth and carried it out to the "cooper shop across the road." He put the box under the floor of the shop. The money-diggers located it there and smashed the box to pieces but did not find the plates.(77) According to Martin Harris, Joseph had taken the plates out of the box and hidden them in the loft under some flax.(78) The gold plates were then "put into an old Ontario glass-box." (79)
Lucy Smith went to the Harris home just north of the village of Palmyra and invited Martin Harris's wife and daughter to come and see the container. Harris recalled, "My daughter said, they were about as much as she could lift. They were now in the glass-box, and my wife said they were very heavy. They both lifted them."
Martin arrived later but found that Joseph had gone to Peter Ingersoll's farm to get some flour. Harris talked with Emma and the Smith family and said that Joseph "found them [the plates] by looking in the stone found in the well of Mason Chase [brother of Willard]. The family had likewise told me the same thing."
While at the Smith home, Harris hefted the plates and thought that they weighed about forty or fifty pounds. Harris told Joseph that if this was the Lord's work, "you can have all the money necessary to bring it before the world." He then went home, prayed, and was "satisfied that it was the Lord's work" and that he "was under a covenant to bring it forth."(80)
Fearing the hostile money-diggers around Manchester, Emma's family allowed her and her husband to move back home to Harmony, Pennsylvania. The plates were "nailed up in a box and the box put into a strong cask made for the purpose, the cask was then filled with beans and headed up."(81) Alva Hale helped transport the couple and their barrel of beans to the Hale property where Joseph started dictating the text of his book. Harris paid off Joseph's debts and gave him $50 for the journey.
In the spring of 1828 Martin Harris arrived at Harmony to assist Smith as a scribe during the process of translating. Surviving accounts of the translation process suggest that Smith worked without directly using the plates--this despite all of the difficulty in obtaining, hiding, and bringing the plates along.
Translation of the Gold Plates
It is not clear from the early accounts whether Smith used a single seer stone or, as in one tradition, a pair of stones or spectacles. In Smith's 1832 account he mentions there were spectacles "to read the Book."(82) Joseph Knight, who visited Smith in Harmony, wrote,
Now the way he translated was he put the urim and thummim into his hat and Darkned his Eyes then he would take a sentance and it would appe[a]r in Brite Roman Letters. Then he would tell the writer and he would write it. Then that would go away [and] the next sentance would Come and so on. But if it was not Spelt rite it would not go away till it was rite, so we see it was marvelous. Thus was the hol [whole] translated.(83)
The biblical term "Urim and Thummim" in Knight's account seems to be a later term used to apply to the seer stone. Lucy Smith remarked, "Joseph kept the urim and thum[m]im constantly about his person," even having it with him while he was working down in a well.(84)
Taken together, these earliest accounts about the gold plates place the event within the larger context of treasure hunting. Smith reported that he obtained the gold plates from the ground where they had been hidden for 1,400 years. Like his earlier attempts to locate lost objects and valuable treasures in the earth, he located the plates by means of the stone.(85) He removed his find from its depository and laid it down. After laying it down, however, it suddenly disappeared and went back into the box. This is similar to another treasure dig he participated in, with the guardian standing by and protecting the item.
The guardian spirit is a consistent focus of these earliest stories. Whether the guardian of the plates was a spirit or angel, its purpose was to watch over the buried box and its contents. Smith went to great lengths to obey the spirit's commands. Lucy mentioned that Joseph worked "with his Father on the Farm in order to be near the treasure that was commit[t]ed to his care."(86) Many aspects of the story told in New York and Pennsylvania were later revised, especially details which linked the gold plates and treasure hunting.(87)
Organization of Church of Christ
By 26 March 1830 5,000 copies of the Book of Mormon had been printed.(88) Baptisms had been performed in May and June 1829, but no formal ecclesiastical organization had yet occurred.(89) In late March Joseph Knight drove Joseph Smith from Harmony, Pennsylvania, to the home of his father and brother Hyrum in Manchester. It was in the township of Manchester where the Church of Christ was organized on 6 April 1830.(90)
The Book of Commandments, published in 1833, contained a collection of six revelations dated 6 April 1830, given to six persons who attended the organizational meeting: Oliver Cowdery, Hyrum Smith, Samuel H. Smith, Joseph Smith, Sr., Joseph Knight, and Joseph Smith himself. One of the revelations to Joseph Jr. instructed him to proceed with the first ordinations. He ordained Oliver Cowdery an elder, and Cowdery ordained Smith a seer, translator, prophet, apostle, and first elder in the Church of Christ.
The Manchester residence of the Smith family was the center for many of the events associated with Joseph Smith's emerging religious vocation. Inquirers would stop at the Smith home and visit with Joseph Sr., Lucy or one of their sons until they moved to Waterloo, New York, in the fall of 1830.
Joseph Smith believed that he spoke with supernatural beings, and he produced impressive transcripts of interviews with them. Whether he actually did is ultimately left to each as a matter of faith. Smith is an important figure in western religious development, and he deserves a preeminent place among other millennialists of his time. Much of the subsequent history and world view of the United States was influenced by such reformers whose social experiments, redaction of religious tradition, and consideration of alternative futures brought us to where we are today.
1. Lucy Mack Smith, Preliminary Manuscript (MS), "History of Lucy Smith," 33. This manuscript was dictated to Martha Jane Coray and the original is in the historical department, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah (hereafter LDS archives). The page numbering corresponds with a typed transcript in LDS archives and with the page numbers in the photocopy of the manuscript. Where the manuscript has lacunae, the first publication of Lucy's history, Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet, and His Progenitors for Many Generations (Liverpool: Published for Orson Pratt by S. W. Richards, 1853), is used. Orson Pratt used a manuscript that had been revised by Martha and Howard Coray from the earlier preliminary manuscript. Extracts were inserted in this revision from the "History of Joseph Smith" published in the Times and Seasons (Nauvoo, Illinois).
In the notes that follow, the Preliminary Manuscript is cited where available, the second citation will be to the first publication of it, shortened to Biographical Sketches, and the third citation to the current edition titled, History of Joseph Smith By His Mother, Lucy Mack Smith (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1958), shortened to History of Joseph Smith.
Joseph Jr. would have been about six years old at the time. Later he evidently owned a copy of First Lines in Arithmetic (Hartford, CT, 1818), photocopy in the Wilford C. Wood Collection, Wilford C. Wood Museum, Bountiful, Utah.
2. Lucy Mack Smith, Preliminary MS, 32; Biographical Sketches (1853), 56; History of Joseph Smith (1958), 46.
3. William Smith, "Notes Written on 'Chambers Life of Joseph Smith,' by William Smith," about 1875, typescript, 20, LDS archives.
4. Lucy Mack Smith, Preliminary MS, 33; Biographical Sketches (1853), 60; History of Joseph Smith (1958), 51.
5. Statement of Mrs. S.F. Anderick in Naked Truths About Mormonism 1 (Jan. 1888):2, original publication in the Yale University Library; Lucy Mack Smith, Preliminary MS, 97; Biographical Sketches (1853), 128; History of Joseph Smith (1958), 138.
6. William Smith, "Notes Written on `Chambers Life of Joseph Smith.' by William Smith," typescript, 18, LDS archives.
7. Lucy Mack Smith, Preliminary MS, 23; Biographical Sketches (1853), 48; History of Joseph Smith (1958), 36.
8. Lucy Mack Smith, Preliminary MS, 23-24; Biographical Sketches (1853), 48; History of Joseph Smith (1958), 36.
9. Solomon Mack, A Narraitve of the Life of Solomon Mack, Containing An Account of the Many Severe Accidents he met with during a long series of years, together with the Extraordinary Manner in which he was converted to the Christian Faith (Windsor [VT]: Printed at the Expense of the Author ). For the text and dating of this work, see Richard L. Anderson, Joseph Smith's New England Heritage: Influences of Grandfathers Solomon Mack and Asael Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1971), 33-61, 161-62n3.
10. Pomeroy Tucker, The Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism (New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1867), 12. James Gordon Bennett in his diary, entry for 7 Aug. 1831, recorded: "Old Smith [Joseph Sr.] . . . made gingerbread and buttermints &c&c" (in Leonard J. Arrington, "James Gordon Bennett's 1831 Report on `The Mormonites,'" Brigham Young University Studies 10 [Spring 1970]: 355). This was published as "the manufacture of gingerbread" in The Morning Courier & Enquirer (New York), 31 Aug. 1831. It was reprinted in such publications as the Christian Register, 24 Sept. 1831, and the Hillsborough Gazette (Hillsborough, Ohio), 29 Oct. 1831.
11. Palmyra Highway Tax Record, Palmyra, New York, Copies of Old Village Records, 1793-1867, LDS Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah, microfilm #812869; microfilm 900, reel #60 at Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah. A copy is also in the King's Daughters Library, Palmyra, N.Y. The record is labeled at the beginning, "A Copy of the Several Lists of the Mens Names Liable to Work on the Highways in the Town of Palmyra in the Year 1804." The original record itself cannot be located at the present time, but a typescript made by Doris Nesbitt, is presently the only copy. Richard Palmer of the Palmyra Historical Society suggested that the original book may have been destroyed when, in about 1976, someone took the wrong boxes to the town dump.
The post office serving the Smith family was in Palmyra. Joseph Smith, Sr., is included in a list of unclaimed letters at the Palmyra Post Office on 31 December 18l8. See Palmyra Register 2 (13 Jan. 1819):4.
12. "Palmyra Town Book," (Old Town Record [1793-1870]), 221. Also recorded in "Record of Roads," (l793-1901), 120, Town Clerk's Office, Palmyra, New York. The "Record of Roads" book reads "dwelling home," while the "Town Book" reads "dwelling house." Both are recopied from a now missing original road record book, but the latter reading was transcribed earlier.
A 1982 excavation confirmed a dwelling site at this location. See, Dale L. Berge, "Archaeological Investigations at the Joseph Smith, Sr., Log Dwelling, Palmyra, New York, Interim Report," (Salt Lake City: Historical Department, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1982), 15; and Dale L. Berge, "Archaeological Work at the Smith Log House," Ensign 15 (Aug. 1985): 24.
The assertion that "the Smiths inadvertently built their cabin on the Palmyra side" (Donald L. Enders, "A Snug Log House," Ensign 15 [Aug. 1985]: 16) instead of on the Manchester property, is unlikely. The Palmyra merchant who owned the property on which the home stood, and who knew Smith and extended him credit, would hardly have allowed Smith to mistakenly build on his land. (See Samuel Jennings, Estate Papers, 5 June 1822, now house in Ontario County Records Center and Archives, Canandaigua, New York, 10, line 23, and 12, line 10, for Joseph Smith Sr.'s debts of $11.50 and $1 respectively at the time of Jennings's death on 1 September 1821.)
Pomeroy Tucker wrote that the land the Smith family lived on was included in the farm of Seth T. Chapman who owned the Manchester property at the time Tucker wrote his book. (Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism, 13.)
13. For the probate of Nicholas Evertson's estate, see County of New York, Manhattan Borough, Surrogate's Court, Wills, 47:7-11. On the power of attorney, see Miscellaneous Records, C: 342-44, 347-48, Ontario County Records Center and Archives, Canandaigua, New York.
14. Farmington, New York, Assessment Roll, 7 July 1821, 25, 32, Ontario County Records Center and Archives, Canandaigua, New York.
15. "Genealogy," Manuscript History, A-1: 10 [separate section], reads, "Lucy Smith, born in Palmyra, Ontario Co. N.Y. July 18, 1821." See Dean C. Jessee, ed., The Papers of Joseph Smith: Autobiographical and Historical Writings (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1989), 1:19. Lucy received a patriarchal blessing from her father on 9 December 1834 at the age of thirteen. Her birth date and place was given as 18 July 1821 at Palmyra, Ontario County, New York, in Patriarchal Blessing Book 1:8 and recopied in 2:14, LDS archives. See Milton V. Backman, Jr., A Profile of Latter-day Saints of Kirtland, Ohio and Members of Zion's Camp 1830-1839 (Provo, UT, 1982), 112. Lucy is incorrectly listed as "(wife of Joseph Sr.)." William Smith on Mormonism (Lamoni, IA: Herald Steam Book & Job Office, 1883), 5, gives 1821 as the date for the move to Manchester.
16. Lucy Mack Smith, Preliminary MS, 45-46; Biographical Sketches (1853), 72; History of Joseph Smith (1958), 66. William Smith wrote that the family moved into the township of Manchester and "Here my father purchased one hundred acres of new land heavely [sic] timber[e]d and in the clearing up of this land which was mostly done in the form of fire" ("Notes Written on 'Chamber's Life of Joseph Smith.'" 20).
17. Walter Hubbell Papers, Princeton University Libraries, Princeton, New Jersey: Letter from Henry Penfield to James Kent, 8 Aug. 1826, 1; and his eulogy in the Ontario Repository, 16 July 1822, a reprint of the previous week's Ontario Messenger.
18. Lucy says that the frame house was still being built when Alvin died but has the year as 1822, which is incorrect (Preliminary MS, 45-46, 51-52; See Biographical Sketches (1853), 87; History of Joseph Smith (1958), 85). She gives Alvin's death variously as 1822 and 1824, but his tombstone shows he died on 19 November 1823 at the age of twenty-five years. Early sources for the death of Alvin are the following:
1. Gravestone in the General John Swift Memorial Cemetery, Palmyra, N. Y., inscribed: "In memory of/ Alvin. Son of Joseph/ & Lucy Smith. who/ died Nov. 19. 1823./ in the 25. year of/ his age." (See photograph in Alma P. Burton, Mormon Trail from Vermont to Utah [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1966], 35.)
2. Day Book of Dr. Gain C. Robinson, 20 November 1823, the day after Alvin's death: "Joseph Smith visit attend 300 [$3.00]," possibility indicating a charge in assisting in the autopsy of Alvin Smith (Gain Robinson Day Book, [21 July 1823 to 2 June 1826], King's Daughters Library, Palmyra, NY; microfilm #833096 at LDS Family History Library).
3. Wayne Sentinel 2 (29 Sept. 1824): 3, contains an ad put in the newspaper by Joseph Sr., dated "Sept. 25th, 1824," stating he had exhumed Alvin's body to refute rumors that it had been removed for dissection.
19. Tucker, The Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism, 14.
20. Interview of Benjamin Saunders, (William H. Kelley Collection "Miscellany 1795-1948" (1883-85), [19-20], Library-Archives, Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Independence, Missouri, hereafter RLDS archives).
21. Anderson, Joseph Smith's New England Heritage, 92, 94, 193nn136-37; and Pearson H. Corbett, Hyrum Smith: Patriarch (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1963), 14.
22. Statement of Mrs. S. F, Anderick, 1887, in Naked Truths About Mormonism 1 (Jan. 1888): 2.
23. Joseph Smith, "A History of the life of Joseph Smith Jr.," (1832) MS, 1, LDS archives; cf. Jessee, Papers of Joseph Smith, 1:5. Orson Pratt wrote in 1840: "He could read without much difficulty, and write with a very imperfect hand; and had a very limited understanding of the ground rules of arithmetic" (Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions [Edinburgh: Printed by Ballantyne and Hughes, 1840], 3).
24. Statement of Isaac Butt, in Naked Truths About Mormonism 1 (Jan. 1888): 2.
25. Statement of C. M. Stafford, ibid., 1 (Apr. 1888): 1. For a listing of books in the Manchester Rental Library, see Robert Paul, "Joseph Smith and the Manchester (New York) Library," Brigham Young University Studies 22 (Summer 1982): 333-56.
26. Saints' Herald 28 (1 June 1881): 167. This material comes from the notes of the interviewer, William Kelley. His notes about John Stafford are "Joe was quite illit- [illiterate] until after they began to have school at their house - they had school at their house. and studied their Bible" (William H. Kelley Papers, RLDS archives).
27. The Susquehanna Register, and Northern Pennsylvanian 9 (1 May 1834): 1, original newspaper in the Susquehanna County Historical Society, Montrose, Pennsylvania; also E. D. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed (Painesville [OH]: Printed and Published by the Author, 1834), 263.
28. Charles Marshall, "The Original Prophet. By a Visitor to Salt Lake City," Fraser's Magazine 7 (Feb. 1873): 229.
29. Josiah Stowell, Jr., to J. S. Fullmer, 17 Feb. 1843, in LDS archives, and printed in LDS Church News, 12 May 1985, 10. See also Mark Ashurst-McGee, "The Josiah Stowell Jr.-John S. Fullmer Correspondence," Brigham Young University Studies 38:3 (1999):108, 113. Another student was Lyman Stowell who "In his youth he was a schoolmate of Joseph Smith" (The Biographical Record of Henry County, Illinois [Chicago: The S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1901], 714).
30. History of Lee County [Illinois] (Chicago: H. H. Hill and Company, Publishers, 1881), 397. Searles "had many a wrestle [with Joseph]; but young Smith was a large, strong fellow and could handle any of the boys."
31. James H. Smith, History of Chenango and Madison Counties, New York (Syracuse, NY: D. Mason & Co., 1880), 154.
32. O[rsamus]. Turner, History of the Pioneer Settlement of Phelps and Gorham's Purchase (Rochester, NY: Published by William Alling, 1851), 213-14.
33. William Smith, "Notes Written on `Chambers Life of Joseph Smith,'" 18. The hymn, written by John Leland, a Baptist minister, was published in the first LDS hymnal. See A Collection of Sacred Hymns (Kirtland, OH: F.G. Williams & Co., 1835 ), 62-63.
34. "A History of the life of Joseph Smith Jr.," 1-2, LDS archives, and Jessee, Papers of Joseph Smith, 1:5-6. In June 1830 there was a brief reference to Joseph's experience of forgiveness recorded in the Book of Commandments: "For, after that it truly was manifested unto this first elder [Joseph Smith], that he had received a remission of his sins, he was entangled again in the vanities of the world" (BC 24:6). Joseph saw this experience as his call to start into the ministry. In his 1832 recollection he wrote that he was in his sixteenth year of age (1821) when he received forgiveness. In 1838-39 he recorded both the season and the year, "It was on the morning of a beautiful, clear day, early in the spring of Eightteen hundred and twenty" (Manuscript History, Book A-1:3; JS-H 1:14, PGP; Papers of Joseph Smith, 1:272). For various accounts by Joseph Smith and others of this vision, see Milton V. Backman, Jr., Joseph Smith's First Vision: The First Vision in its Historical Context (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1971; 2d ed., 1980), and Richard P. Howard, "Joseph Smith's First Vision: An Analysis of Six Contemporary Accounts," Restoration Studies I (Independence, MO: Herald Publishing House, 1980), 95-117.
35. Turner, History of Phelps and Gorham's Purchase, 214. See also Calvin N. Smith, "Joseph Smith as a Public Speaker," Improvement Era 69 (Apr. 1966): 277. The Methodist work in Palmyra was still only a "class meeting" on the circuit at this time. It was not until 3 July 1821 that the Methodist Society of Palmyra was incorporated as a church "by the name of the first Methodist Episcopal Church of Palmyra" (see Miscellaneous Records, Book C: 385-86, in the County Clerk's Office, Ontario County, Canandaigua, New York). Four days later, on 7 July 1821, Durfee Chase deeded to the Methodist Church his property on Vienna Road (see Deeds of Ontario County, Book G:345, Ontario County Records Center and Archives, Canandaigua, New York). It was not until 1822 that they were able to begin construction of a meeting house (see Palmyra Herald 2 [19 June 1822]: 2).
36. Pomeroy Tucker, The Origin, Rise and Progress of Mormonism (New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1867), 18.
37. The Doctrines and Discipline of the Methodist Episcopal Church (New York: J. Emory and B. Waugh, 1828), 80. For background on the Methodist Class, see David Lowes Watson, The Early Methodist Class Meeting: Its Origin and Significance (Nashville, TN: Discipleship Resources, 1987). Members of the class were to "bear one another's burden's" (94) and "there was no prerequisite for Methodist membership other than a desire for salvation, the societies were open to all, regardless of their spiritual state" (108).
38. Lucy Mack Smith, Preliminary MS, 46, not in Biographical Sketches or History of Joseph Smith.
39. Newspaper articles mention unnamed people who claimed to have found vast treasures. The Orleans Advocate published in Albion, New York, contains the following: "A few days since was discovered in this town, by the help of a mineral stone, (which becomes transparent when placed in a hat and the light excluded by the face of him who looks into it, provided he is fortune's favorite,) a monstrous potash kettle in the bowels of old mother Earth, filled with the purest bullion" (reprinted in Wayne Sentinel 3 [27 Dec. 1825]: 2).
40. Wayland D. Hand, "The Quest for Buried Treasure: A Chapter in American Folk Legend[a]ry," in Folklore on Two Continents: Essays in Honor of Linda Degh (Bloomington, IN: Trickster Press, 1980), 112-19; D. Michael Quinn, Early Mormonism and the Magic World View (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1987). As Rodger I. Anderson explains,
the practice of money digging by no means originated with Smith. Long before Smith's neighbors accused him of hunting for buried money by occult means, the art of magical treasure hunting was already widespread in America. Accounts of men pursuing enchanted treasures with divining rods appear throughout the eighteenth century, and in combination suggest that the practice had very early become ritualized. The treasure was located by a divining rod, immobilized by charms, magic circles, or special steel rods driven into the ground for that purpose, and incantations recited to protect the diggers from "certain malicious Demons who are said to h[a]unt and guard such Places." Any deviation from these prescribed rituals on the part of the treasure hunters, any "Mistake in the Procedure, some rash Word spoken, or some Rule of Art neglected, the Guardian Spirit had Power to sink it deeper into the Earth and convey it out of their reach" ("Joseph Smith's Early Reputation Revisited," Journal of Pastoral Practice 4 : 77-78; see also Rodger I. Anderson, Joseph Smith's New York Reputation Reexamined [Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1990], 12-13).
41. In January 1859 Martin Harris, an early Mormon convert then residing at Kirtland, Ohio, was interviewed by Joel Tiffany. This account was subsequently published in Tiffany's Monthly 5 (Aug. 1859): 163-70, a spiritualist publication at New York City. See also the affidavit of Peter Ingersoll, Palmyra, Wayne County, New York, 2 Dec. 1833, in Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 233. Philastus Hurlbut (a former member of the Mormon church) visited Palmyra and Manchester townships during November and December l833 and obtained, besides two general statements, a number of statements from some Joseph Smith family acquaintances. These were subsequently printed in Howe's compilation Mormonism Unvailed in 1834. Joseph Smith's biographer Donna Hill wrote, "there is testimony from early Mormons that Joseph had searched for treasure, that to some extent he had accepted the myths which often accompanied belief in buried treasure at that time and that a number of his close friends in the church were `money-diggers' and rodsmen" (Joseph Smith: The First Mormon [Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1977], 66).
42. Tiffany's Monthly, 5 (Aug. 1859): 164; John Stafford in Saints' Herald 28 (1 June 1881): 167; and C. R. Stafford, statement of Mar. 1885, in Naked Truths About Mormonism 1 (Jan. 1888): 3.
43. Statement of C. R. Smith, Mar. 1885, in Naked Truths About Mormonism 1 (Apr. 1888): 1; interview of John Stafford in William H. Kelley papers, RLDS archives; see Saints' Herald 28 (1 June 1881): 167.
44. Joseph and Hiel Lewis, "Mormon History", The Amboy Journal 24 (30 Apr. l879): 1; Frederic G. Mather, "The Early Mormons," Binghamton Daily Republican, 29 July 1880, see also Lippincott's Magazine of Popular Literature and Science (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott and Co., 1880), 26:200, 202; Tiffany's Monthly 5 (Aug. 1859): 164.
45. Copy of a letter from six leading citizens of Canandaigua, New York, dated Jan. 1832, in answer to a query about Mormons from Rev. Ancil Beach, in the Walter Hubbel papers, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey; Statement of W. R. Hine, in Naked Truths About Mormonism 1 (Jan. 1888): 2; and A. W. Benton, "Mormonites," Evangelical Magazine and Gospel Advocate 2 (9 Apr. 1831): 120.
46. Statement of Joshua Stafford, Manchester, Ontario County, New York, 15 Nov. 1833, in Mormonism Unvailed, 258.
47. Affidavit of Willard Chase, before Justice of the Peace, Frederick Smith, 11 Dec. 1833, in Mormonism Unvailed, 240.
48. Affidavit of William Stafford, Manchester, New York, 8 Dec. 1833, in Mormonism Unvailed, 237.
49. Willard Chase, in Mormonism Unvailed , 240-41. Willard, a son of Clark Chase (1770-1821), was on born 1 February 1798. His brother Mason was born on 19 November 1795 (Wm. E. Reed, The Descendants of Thomas Durfee of Portsmouth, R.I. [Washington, D.C.: Gibson Bros., 1902], 213-14, and George Grant Brownel, comp., Genealogical Record of the Descendants of Thomas Brownell 1619 to 1910 [Jamestown, NY: 1910], 200). Martin Harris stated, "Joseph had a stone which was dug from the well of Mason Chase, twenty-four feet from the surface" (Tiffany's Monthly 5 [Aug. 1859]: 163).
50. D. Michael Quinn, Early Mormonism and the Magic World View (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1987), 196.
51. Affidavit of William Stafford, 8 Dec. 1833, in Mormonism Unvailed, 237-39.
52. Tiffany's Monthly 5 (Aug. 1859): 164. Lucy Harris, Martin's wife, stated, "About a year previous to the report being raised that Smith had found gold plates, he became very intimate with the Smith family, and said he believed Joseph could see in his stone any thing he wished" (Mormonism Unvailed, 255).
53. Josiah Stowell was married to Miriam Bridgman. They had eight children, four sons and four daughters: Simpson (or Simson; also listed as Simeon), b. 29 July 1791; Martha b. 10 Sept. 1793; Horace b. 10 Mar. 1796; Miranda b. 6 Sept. 1798; Thomas b. 28 Sept. 1800; Rhoda b. 11 Mar. 1805; Miriam (Mary) b. 22 May 1807; and Josiah b. 16 Apr. 1809. See William Henry Harrison Stowell, Stowell Genealogy (Rutland, VT: Tuttle Co., 1922), 229-30. Josiah Stowell's name is in the 1820 census of Bainbridge, Chenango County, New York, microfilm #193721, 158 (LDS Family History Library). Stowell's name is also in the civil Docket Book of Zechariah Tarble in a civil case against him dated 4 Aug. 1823. Written across the entry in the docket book is: "Recd October 26th 1825 [unclear word] Damages in full on this Judgment. Otis Loveland" (Justice Docket Book of Zechariah Tarble, 17 June 1822 - 7 March 1826; Bainbridge Town Hall, Bainbridge, New York).
54. Stowell was a deacon in the First Presbyterian church in Bainbridge. He was assessed on four hundred sixteen acres in Bainbridge in 1826. See Assessment Roll, 29 July 1826, Bainbridge Town Hall, Bainbridge, New York (18). The total valuation was $2,085.
55. Stowell "became infatuated with the idea that he must go in search of hidden treasures, which he believed were buried in the earth" (James H. Smith, History of Chenango and Madison Counties, New York [Syracuse, NY: Published by D. Mason & Co., 1880], 153). This was based on the 1877 recollection of William D. Purple. The name "Isaiah Stowel" in the text should be Josiah Stowell.
56. See Stowell's 1826 testimony in Charles Marshall, "The Original Prophet. By a Visitor to Salt Lake City," Fraser's Magazine 7 (Feb. 1873): 229.
57. Lucy Mack Smith, Biographical Sketches (1853), 91-92; History of Joseph Smith (1958), 91-92.
58. Lemuel Durfee purchased it on 20 December 1825 (Deed Liber 44:232-34, Ontario County Records Center and Archives, Canandaigua, New York). The Smith family eventually lost the farm.
59. Fayette Lapham, "The Mormons," Historical Magazine 7 (May 1870): 307.
60. Lemuel Durfee Account Book, 41-42, location of original in the King's Daughters Library, Palmyra, New York, in 1973, present location unknown.
61. Lucy Mack Smith, Preliminary MS, 49-50; Biographical Sketches (1853), 85; History of Joseph Smith (1958), 83.
62. Joseph Knight wrote that Joseph Smith "looked in his glass and found it was Emma Hale" who was the right person to bring to the hill to obtain the book (manuscript in LDS archives); see Dean C. Jessee, ed., "Joseph Knight's Recollection of Early Mormon History," Brigham Young University Studies 17 [Autumn 1976]: 31; Jessee added minimal punctuation and editing to facilitate reading).
Smith told Henry Harris "that an angel appeared, and told him he could not get the plates until he was married" (Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 252). William R. Hine said, "Jo told Emma he had a revelation about the plates, but that he could not obtain them until he had married her" (Naked Truths About Mormonism 1 [Jan. 1888]: 2; see also Fayette Lapham, Historical Magazine 7 [May 1870]: 307; and Joseph and Hiel Lewis, The Amboy Journal 24 [30 Apr. 1879]: 1).
63. Ronald W. Walker, "The Persisting Idea of American Treasure Hunting," Brigham Young University Studies 24 (Fall 1984): 435.
64. Smith evidently did not give the messenger a name while he was in New York. In his 1838-39 history he mentioned that the personage who appeared to him stated "his name was Nephi" (Manuscript History, Book A-1:5; also in duplicate Book A-2:6, both in LDS archives). In other sources the person who buried the gold plates and appeared to Smith is named "Moroni," son of Mormon. In the manuscript history above the name "Nephi" has been added the name "Moroni" with a footnote added after Smith's death giving three references where the name was published as "Moroni" (Messenger and Advocate 1 [Apr. 1835]: 112; 1835 D&C 50:2 [p. 180], name added to the 1830 text in 1835 [see LDS D&C 27:5 and RLDS D&C 26:2a]; Elders' Journal 1 [July 1838]: 42-43, Far West, Missouri; Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, eds., The Words of Joseph Smith: The Contemporary Accounts of the Nauvoo Discourses of the Prophet Joseph [Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, 1980], 13).
Some historians consider this reference to "Nephi" as a scribal error:
The contradictions in regard to the name of the angelic messenger who appeared to Joseph Smith occurred probably through the mistakes of clerks in making or copying documents, and, we think, should be corrected, and the corrections be published for general information, at as early a date as may be found convenient. From careful research we are fully convinced that Moroni is the correct name. This also was the decision of the former historian, George A. Smith (Orson Pratt, Sr., and Joseph F. Smith to John Taylor, 18 Dec. 1877, 4-5, LDS archives).
65. It is noteworthy that no scriptural passages were cited in Smith's 1832 account of the messenger's visit, unlike his later account. In Oliver Cowdery's description published in the 1835 Messenger and Advocate, the angel quoted many biblical verses. In Smith's 1838-39 narrative history, passages of scripture appear but are revised with new emphasis.
66. Affidavit of Willard Chase, Manchester, Ontario County, New York, 11 Dec. 1833, in Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 240, 242-43.
67. Jessee, "Joseph Knight's Recollection," 30-31. Joseph Knight, Jr., recalled the following: "I think it was in November  he [Smith] made known to my Father and I, that he had seen a vision, that a personage had appeared to him and told him where there was a gold book of ancient date buried and if he would follow the directions of the Angel he would get it. We were told it in secret. I being the youngest son, my two elder brothers [Nahum and Newel] did not believe in such things. my Father and I believed what he told us" ("Joseph Knight's incidents of History from 1827 to 1844," comp. Thomas Bullock, from loose sheets in Joseph Knight Jr.'s possession, 16 Aug. 1862, LDS archives, as cited in They Are My Friends: A History of the Joseph Knight Family, 1825-1850 [Provo, UT: Grandin Book Co., l986], 214).
68. Lucy Mack Smith, Preliminary MS, 66; Biographical Sketches (1853), 99; History of Joseph Smith (1958), 102; and Jessee, "Joseph Knight's Recollection," 32. Martin Harris said that Josiah Stowell "was at this time at old Mr. Smith's digging for money" (Tiffany's Monthly 5 [Aug. 1859]: 165). According to Knight, it was Stowell who took Joseph and his new wife to Manchester after their marriage (Jessee, "Joseph Knight's Recollection," 32).
69. Lucy Mack Smith, Preliminary MS, 66; Biographical Sketches (1853), 100; History of Joseph Smith (1958), 102.
70. Here we follow Martin Harris (Tiffany's Monthly 5 [Aug. 1859]: 165) and Willard Chase (Mormonism Unvailed, 216) that the hiding place was in a fallen tree top. As to the type of tree, Lucy Smith said that Joseph hid the plates "in a cavity in a birch log" (Preliminary MS, 72), and Martin Harris mentioned that they were hidden "in an old black oak tree top" (Tiffany's Monthly 5 [Aug. 1859]: 165, see also 166).
71. Tiffany's Monthly 5 (Aug. 1859): 167. David Whitmer in a newspaper interview said: "I had conversations with several young men who said that Joseph Smith had certainly golden plates, and that before he attained them he had promised to share with them, but had not done so, and they were very much incensed with him" (Kansas City Daily Journal, 5 June 1881; reprinted in the Deseret Evening News, 11 June 1881; Saints' Herald, 28 [1 July 1881]: 197; and Latter-day Saints' Millennial Star 43 [4 July 1881]: 422). See also Milton V. Backman, Jr., Eyewitness Accounts of the Restoration (Orem, UT: Grandin Book, 1983), 230, and Lyndon W. Cook, ed., David Whitmer Interviews: A Restoration Witness (Orem, UT: Grandin Book, 1991), 60.
72. Lucy Mack Smith, Preliminary Ms, 70-71; Biographical Sketches (1853), 104; History of Joseph Smith (1958), 107. Lucy makes a point that the stray horse had "a large hickory withe around his neck as it was ac[c]ording to law to put a withe round the neck of a stray horse before turning him into an inclosure."
73. Lucy Mack Smith, Preliminary MS, 72; Biographical Sketches (1853), 104-105; History of Joseph Smith (1958), 108. This is the only account that mentions a gun. Martin Harris understood that he was struck by a club (Tiffany's Monthly 5 [Aug. 1859]: 166).
74. Lucy Mack Smith, Preliminary MS, 73; Biographical Sketches (1853), 106; History of Joseph Smith (1958), 109. The story at this point is taken from Lucy Smith's account. Benjamin Saunders said, "I saw his hand all swel[l]ed up" (Benjamin Saunders interview, 1884, in the W. H. Kelley Collection, "Miscellany 1795-1948," 23, RLDS archives). During the scuffles Smith was struck on his side (Tiffany's Monthly 5 [Aug. 1859]: 166; The Reflector 2 [14 Feb. 1831]: 101, Palmyra, New York; Historical Magazine 7 [May 1870]: 307).
Orson Pratt wrote in 1840 concerning this part of the story:
And after having obtained those sacred things, while proceeding home through the wilderness and fields, he was waylaid by two ruffians, who had secreted themselves for the purpose of robbing him of the records. One of them struck him with a club before he perceived them; but being a strong man, and large in stature, with great exertion he cleared himself from them, and ran towards home, being closely pursued until he came near his father's house (Jessee, Papers of Joseph Smith, 1:400).
Orson Hyde further stated when he published his German pamphlet in 1842, "on one occasion he [Joseph] was beaten by two men with clubs so violently, that he still bears the scars on his body to this day" (ibid., 1:425). In 1844 it was reported that "Joseph Smith was knocked down with a handspike, and afterwards healed almost instantly" (Times and Seasons 5 [2 Sept. 1844]: 635, emphasis in original).
Josiah Stowell was still at the Smith home at the end of September. Martha L. Campbell wrote, referring to Stowell, "If I understood him right he was the first person that took the plates out of your hands the morning you brought them in" (letter dated 19 Dec. 1843, LDS archives; see Larry C. Porter, "A Study of the Origins of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the States of New York and Pennsylvania, 1816-1831," Ph.D. diss., Aug. 1971, Brigham Young University, 365).
75. "Wm. B. Smith's last Statement," Zion's Ensign 5 (13 Jan. 1894): 6; reprinted in the Deseret Evening News 27 (20 Jan. 1894): 11; Latter-day Saints' Millennial Star 56 (26 Feb. 1894): 132. Ten years earlier William Smith wrote, "I was permitted to lift them [the plates] as they laid in a pillow-case; but not to see them" (William Smith on Mormonism, 12).
76. Lucy Mack Smith, Preliminary MS, 73; Biographical Sketches (1853), 106; History of Joseph Smith (1958), 109.
77. Lucy Mack Smith, Preliminary MS, 75; Biographical Sketches (1853), 109; History of Joseph Smith (1958), 113.
78. Martin Harris reported, "After they had been concealed under the floor of the cooper's shop for a short time, Joseph was warned to remove them. He said he was warned by an angel. He took them out and hid them up in the chamber of the cooper's shop among the flags [flax]. That night some one came, took up the floor, and dug up the earth, and would have found the plates had they not been removed" (Tiffany's Monthly 5 [Aug. 1859]: 167).
79. Tiffany's Monthly 5 (Aug. 1859), 167. Joseph B. Noble (son-in-law of Alvah Beeman) wrote that Beeman "was permit[t]ed to handle the Plates with a thin cloth covering over them" (Journal of Joseph B. Noble, LDS archives).
80. Tiffany's Monthly 5 (Aug. 1859): 168-70. Edward Stevenson wrote, "Martin's Wife had hefted them & felt them under cover as had Martin" (Interview of Martin Harris by Edward Stevenson, 4 Sept. 1870, LDS archives). Willard Chase, a younger brother of Mason Chase, talked with Joseph about the same time that Harris asked the family how the plates were found. Chase recalled, "He then observed that if it had not been for that stone, (which he acknowledged belonged to me,) he would not have obtained the book" (Mormonism Unvailed, 246). In the preface to the 1830 Book of Mormon, Joseph wrote: "I would also inform you that the plates of which hath been spoken, were found in the township of Manchester, Ontario county, New-York."
81. Lucy Mack Smith, Preliminary MS, 79; Biographical Sketches (1853), 113; History of Joseph Smith (1958), 118. Also Martin Harris in Tiffany's Monthly 5 (Aug. 1859): 170. Orson Pratt wrote in 1840 that the plates were put "into a barrel of beans" (Jessee, Papers of Joseph Smith, 1:401).
82. Jessee, Papers of Joseph Smith, 1:9.
83. Jessee, "Joseph Knight's Recollection," 35. Regarding the Urim and Thummim, see Kenneth Sowers, Jr., "The Mystery and History of the Urim and Thummim," Restoration Studies II (Independence, MO: Herald Publishing House, 1983), 75-79. Concerning the seer stone in a hat, see J. L. Traughber, Jr., "Testimony of David Whitmer," Saints' Herald 26 (15 Nov. 1879): 341; and David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ (Richmond, MO: author, 1887), 12, 30, 37.
84. Lucy Mack Smith, Preliminary MS, 71; Biographical Sketches (1853), 103; History of Joseph Smith (1958), 107.
85. Interview of Martin Harris, Tiffany's Monthly 5 (Aug. 1859): 163, 169.
86. Lucy Mack Smith, Preliminary MS, 74; Biographical Sketches (1853), 107; History of Joseph Smith (1958), 111.
87. Rodger I. Anderson commented on why such details were omitted from Smith's historical accounts:
His earlier story of the mobile plates which vanished and reappeared so mysteriously was not mentioned because of its similarity to the elusive treasures he was accused of hunting; the spirit's command to bring Alvin to the hill and after Alvin's death, Emma, was deleted because it smacked more of ritualistic magic than religion "pure and undefiled"; and Joseph Knight's recollection that Smith had "looked in his glass" to find the right person was discarded because of its resemblance to the glass looking charge he had been convicted of in 1826. Smith had learned from bitter experience that not all regarded such activities as divine ("Joseph Smith's Early Reputation Revisited," Journal of Pastoral Practice 4 : 98; see also Rodger I. Anderson, Joseph Smith's New York Reputation Reexamined [Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1990], 47).
88. Copies of the Book of Mormon were ready for sale by 26 March 1830. See Wayne Sentinel 7 (26 Mar. 1830): 3. It was first sold for fourteen shillings ($1.75), and later the cost was reduced to ten shillings ($1.25). Cf. Tucker, Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism, 55. Henry Harris recalled talking with Martin Harris: "After the Book was published, I frequently bantered him for a copy. He asked fourteen shillings a piece for them; I told him I would not give so much; he told me [they] had had a revelation that they must be sold at that price. Sometime afterwards I talked with Martin Harris about buying one of the Books and he told me they had had a new revelation, that they might be sold at ten shillings a piece" (Mormonism Unvailed, 252). Sylvia Walker remembered that the price of the Book of Mormon was lowered: "The Mormons said the price of the `Book of Mormon' was established at $1.75 by revelation. It did not sell well and they claimed to receive another to sell it at $1.25" (Naked Truths About Mormonism 1 [Apr. 1888]: 1).
89. BC 9:17; LDS D&C 10:67-68; RLDS D&C 3:16; see also BC 15:1.
90. H. Michael Marquardt, "An Appraisal of Manchester as Location for the Organization of the Church," Sunstone 16 (February 1992):49-57.