St. Louis Gazette/May 18, 1844
|St. Louis Gazette
May 18, 1844
The 'Golden Plates' said to have been disinterred some years ago in the western part of New York State, covered all over with hieroglyphics on which the Prophet maintains that he based his 'Book of Mormon,' are surely sufficiently well known and in any case so notorious that their story can be passed over here. It is not, however, generally known that certain other plates of brass have been unearthed recently near the village of Kinderhook in Pike County, Illinois, nor is the fact that the Prophet was occupied with deciphering the mysterious characters (with which, like the 'Golden Plates,' they are covered) just at the time of our visit. A description of these brass plates and the circumstances surrounding their unearthing may be interesting enough to be recounted here briefly.
In the latter half of April, 1843, a certain Robert Wiley, a respectable merchant of Kinderhook, dreamed on three successive nights that in an ancient mound in the vicinity were concealed treasures which he could discover by digging. He dug for a whole day alone, but finding it too difficult to excavate the mound from the top down, he asked a dozen friends to help him. At a depth of eleven feet the treasure diggers came upon a layer of stone which had apparently been exposed to fire, for there they found a mingled mass of charcoal, ashes, and human remains. Two feet deeper they found a bundle of six brass plates, each four inches long, two inches wide at the top and three at the bottom. At the pointed end of each plate was a small hole through which was drawn a wire by which they were fastened together. The wire crumbled at the first touch. Upon submitting the plates to a chemical process, it was found that they were covered with hieroglyphics! No one could read these characters, and for that reason they were sent to the Mormon Prophet to be translated. They seem to have been intelligible enough to him, and a second Mormon Bible will very likely appear as a result of the deciphering of these hieroglyphics. The facts of this story are confirmed by written testimony of a number of the most respectable citizens of the place in the neighborhood of which the plates were found and brought forth. The mound must have been one of the oldest in this region, for there were trees growing on it that were two and a half feet in diameter.
The existence of the plates is in any case unquestionably proved, as well as the fact that they were made of brass and covered with strange, unintelligible characters. They were publicly displayed in Quincy and noticed in the newspapers there. It seems also equally unquestionable that these plates were actually taken out of one of the most ancient of those mysterious burial places which are so numerous from one end of the Western valley to the other, and that they were discovered in a place which circumstances indicate was once the burial place of a personage of power and rank. If one assumes this, then the question at once arises: 'What is the meaning of the mystical characters on the plates?' The most plausible answer seems to us to be that these characters, like the hieroglyphics on the walls of old mausoleums, pyramids, temples, obelisks, and sarcophagi of Egypt, present the biography of a potentate with whose remains the plates were buried and the history of the times in which he lived, and if so, the deciphering of these characters could shed a flood of light on a subject which even in this century of knowledge and research remains shrouded in a midnight of ignorance and doubt -- the early history of the Western continent, and the character, origin, and descent of the aborigines of the New World. But such a result, desirable as it might be, can hardly be expected soon, for these remarkable records, the archives of a bygone era and of a race long since vanished from the earth, are in the possession of the archcharlatan of our century; and the only result that can be reasonably anticipated from his pretended translation of these hieroglyphics is another delectable little book, something like the 'Book of Mormon,' only perhaps even more absurd and ridiculous than this is!