Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Spaulding, Solomon

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SPAULDING, Solomon, clergyman, b. in Ashford, Conn., in 1761; d. in Amity, Washington co., Pa., 20 Oct., 1816. After serving in his youth in the Revolutionary army, and beginning to study law, he was graduated at Dartmouth in 1785, studied for the ministry, and preached in New England. In 1795 he settled in Cherry Valley, N. Y., where he entered into business with his brother, and four years later in Richfield, N. Y. In 1809 he removed to New Salem (now Conneaut), Ohio, and established an iron-foundry with Henry Lake. This enterprise proving unprofitable, on account of the war with Great Britain, he went to Pittsburg, and afterward to Amity, Pa., where he died. While residing at Conneaut, he wrote a romance entitled “The Manuscript Found,” purporting to be an account of the original people of this continent, their customs, and conflicts between the different tribes. It pretended to be taken from a manuscript that had been discovered in an ancient mound. Mr. Spaulding read his manuscript to some of his friends in 1811-'12, and tried to get it published, but without success. In 1830 Mormon elders preached in northeastern Ohio, and their account of how the golden plates, from which the “Book of Mormon” was made, had been found, brought to mind the story written by Spaulding twenty years before. A suspicion was raised that the “Book of Mormon” might have been an outgrowth from the latter. This suspicion ripened into a general belief, and in time became the accepted theory of the origin of the “Book of Mormon.” It is alleged that Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon compiled the “Book of Mormon” from Spaulding's manuscript story, Rigdon having stolen it, or a copy of it, from a printing-office in which he worked in Pittsburg. In 1834 Dr. P. Hurlbut, who had been expelled from the Mormon church, obtained from the widow of Solomon Spaulding, Mrs. Matilda Davison, of Monson, Mass., what was supposed to be the original copy of the Spaulding story, and the same year Eber D. Howe, editor of the Painesville “Telegraph,” compiled a book entitled “Mormonism Unveiled,” which was a severe criticism on the “Book of Mormon” and its believers. This book was reproduced in 1840. Upon the title-page and in the last chapter is suggested the “probability that the historical part of the ‘Golden Bible’ was written by Solomon Spaulding.” From the time Mr. Hurlbut obtained the manuscript story in 1834 up to 1884 its whereabouts was unknown to the world. In 1884 President James H. Fairchild, of Oberlin college, visited his old anti-slavery friend, Lewis L. Rice, of Honolulu, Hawaiian islands. Mr. Rice in 1839-'40 succeeded Mr. Howe in the office of the Painesville “Telegraph,” and the books and manuscripts came into his possession. President Fairchild asked Mr. Rice if he had among his old papers anything relating to the early anti-slavery movement which he would contribute to the Oberlin library. When examining for these he came upon “an old worn and faded manuscript of about 175 pages of small quarto,” which proved to be the long-lost manuscript of Solomon Spaulding. Comparisons were made with the “Book of Mormon,” and President Fairchild says: “The manuscript has no resemblance to the ‘Book of Mormon’ except in some very general features. There is not a name or an incident common to the two.” A verbatim copy of the manuscript has been issued by the Mormons at Lamoni, Iowa (1885). See “Who wrote the Book of Mormon,” by Robert Patterson (Pittsburg, 1882); “New Light on Mormonism,” by Ellen E. Dickinson (New York, 1885); and “Early Days of Mormonism,” by J. H. Kennedy (New York, 1888).