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CRISIS AT KIRTLAND II.
D. P. Hurlbut and the Mormons, 1832-1834
by Dale R. Broadhurst
---( April 2001 )---
Intro | Chap. 1 | Chap. 2 | Chap. 3 | Chap. 4 | Chap. 5 | Chap. 6
late Dec. '33 | end Dec. '33 | Jan '34 | Feb.-Mar. | Apr.-May | notes
Chapter 4 Timeline
Part 1: Risky Business
During his previous lecturing in and around the Mormon capital D. P. Hurlbut probably kept his most scorching rhetoric and his most disconcerting ecclesiastical disclosures private. The LDS leaders could ignore his presence and look the other way, even if he occasionally associated with members on the fringe of their society, such as the Ezekiel Johnson family, Joseph H. Wakefield, or Sister Sophia Howe (wife of the vocal editor of the Painesville Telegraph). But the minimal toleration the would-be "Doctor" had thus far sustained, while residing and conducting anti-Mormon activities so near the ecclesiastical lion's den, was about to end. Once Hurlbut had unpacked his bags and assured himself that he still had protecting friends in town, he began to exercise his tongue publicly far more than prudence dictated and making serious threats against Joseph Smith and his faithful followers. (85)
DECLINE & FALL OF Dr. HURLBUT
Part 2: Arousing the Ire of the Prophet
(end of Dec. 1833)
Late in the month of December 1833 D. P. Hurlbut was traveling through the region immediately north of the Mormon headquarters, stopping at Kirtland Flats, Chagrin (Later Willoughby), Painesville, and no doubt also at Mentor. In each town he procured the use of a church-house and assembled an audience to listen to his anti-Mormon discourse. In the course of his lecturing at each place he read from an old manuscript book which he claimed was the well-known Solomon Spalding story entitled the "Manuscript Found." Hurlbut also read very similar passages directly out of the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon. At two or more of these lectures Hurlbut invited the attendees to examine the two writings for themselves and make their own comparisons of the texts.
George A. Smith, like most other Mormon writers who were his contemporaries, passes over the details of Hurlbut's lectures and the legal action taken against him prior to the April 1834 trial at Chardon, supplying almost no useful information. Smith's story does furnish a couple of interesting items, however. He identifies his own friend of earlier days, Joseph H. Wakefield, as one of the anti-Mormon leaders who generated "a persecution against the Saints in Kirtland and the regions round about..." Wakefield's name is linked to that of D. P. Hurlbut during the winter of 1833-34, both in the court records (where he twice testified in Hurlbut's defense) and as a member of the anti-Mormon "Committee" which advertised a forthcoming book attacking Mormonism and promoting the Spalding claims ("To the Public" Painesville Telegraph Jan. 31, 1834 & Feb. 7, 1834).
Smith also identifies D. P. Hurlbut as a potential assassin in alleging that Hurlbut "said he would wash his hands in Joseph Smith's blood." Although George A. Smith makes no direct link between this pronouncement and a second, more starling revelation, he implicitly joins both allegations in space and time when he says that, "In consequence of the persecution which raged against Joseph, and the constant threats to do him violence, it was found necessary to keep continual guard to prevent his being assassinated." To recap Smith's testimony: (1) There was an anti-Mormon persecution begun in or around Kirtland during the winter of 1833-34; (2) Ex-Mormon Joseph H. Wakefield (a known associate of Hurlbut's) was a leader in that persecution; (3) "High Council upon High Council" was held during that time, to "settle difficulties" and to make certain that the "minds" of the faithful were properly "instructed;" (4) D. P. Hurlbut threatened to kill the Mormon prophet; and, (5) guards were stationed around Joseph Smith, Jr. to protect him from assassination by those persons who were causing the persecution.
It is very difficult to verify the precise time-span or nature of the "persecution" George A. Smith spoke of. Newspapers throughout northern Ohio, though reporting many details of the persecution then going in on Missouri, say nothing of any similar persecution in Geauga Co. Apart from the writings of a very few Mormon leaders, no contemporary accounts survive telling of a violent or potentially violent "persecution" of the Kirtland Saints during this period. There are no records of Mormon houses being burned, Mormon families being turned out of doors, property being confiscated, or even of an occasional fist-fight or rock-throwing incident. It is safe to say that if anything remotely similar to this reported persecution did take place, it happened within a very short time-span and actively involved very few of the non-Mormons then living in the county. If the term "persecution" is extended to include non-violent activities, such as warnings, implicit threats, non-cooperation with, and shunning of the Latter Day Saints by their Gentile neighbors, then perhaps the comments of writers like George A. Smith do properly reflect a period of intensely perceived threatenings on the part of the Kirtland Saints. However, it must also be pointed out that some of the ostensible leaders of this perceived "persecution" were ex-Mormons like D. P. Hurlbut and Joseph H. Wakefield. To the outsider, not well-schooled in local religious politics, this mostly verbal squabbling must have looked like an internal affair being carried out among rival factions within the broad bounds of the Mormon movement.
This is not to say that Geauga County Gentiles like Corning, Newell, and the Campbellite Clapp family were not heavily involved in the non-violent aspects of this perceived "persecution." The people who associated themselves with the "Committee" dedicated their time and energy to removing the Mormon presence in ways less overt than what had been happening in Missouri. These people certainly extended considerable support to the work of D. P. Hurlbut, but there is no independently verifiable evidence showing that any of these non-Mormons, anti-Mormons, and ex-Mormons were seriously prepared to assassinate the Mormon prophet. Consideration should be given to the probability that it was Smith himself who drummed up this mass anxiety among the Saints beginning in late December 1833 and eventually petering out with the arrival of spring in the following year. Sometimes, in the corporate affairs of religious organizations, there are available no better means of establishing and maintaining an ardent group identity than exaggerating the power of an external peril -- whether that particular peril be real or imagined. In the case of Joseph Smith, Jr. during the darkest days of that stormy winter, the peril was grave indeed. The most dangerous threat was not aimed so much at his physical well-being as it was at his ecclesiastical position and power. It is to Joseph Smith, Jr.'s credit as a religious leader that he was able to meet and overcome that impending menace. The means he used to accomplish his purposes may, however, reflect no great credit upon Smith the man.
One person who stood in a very good position from which to ascertain the actual events impacting the Mormons during the winter of 1833-34 was Oliver Cowdery. This important top Latter Day Saint official had escaped the chaos of the Mormon exodus from Jackson Co., Missouri and was living in Kirtland during the peak of the perceived "persecution" mentioned by George A. Smith. Cowdery's account is a contemporary one, written as candid reflection in a communication which he never expected to see published:
Cowdery's somewhat cryptic remarks come clear when it is remembered that D. P. Hurlbut had recently been soliciting anti-Mormon testimony in the area just outside of Palmyra, Wayne Co., New York. Lyman Cowdery, Oliver's brother was then living in or near the town of Lyons, a few miles east of Palmyra. D. P. Hurlbut had attempted to "open a communication" with Lyman but had not been very successful in that endeavor. Lyman's non-surviving letter of Jan. 3, 1833 obviously addressed the unsettling issues of Book of Mormon veracity and D. P. Hurlbut's continuing anti-Mormon crusade. Oliver strangely fails to mention that Hurlbut had threatened to murder or assassinate the Mormon prophet, although he does say that as late as Jan. 13, 1833 (the date of the hearing in Painesville to consider the case of Hurlbut's alleged threats against Smith) the anti-Mormon crusader was "pedling slanders," in the region. Since Hurlbut was apparently in close confinement between January 4th and 13th, Oliver must here be speaking of the ex-Mormon's December lectures in and around Kirtland.
HURLBUT'S DECLINE AND FALL
Part 3: Trials and Tribulations
(Jan. - Feb. 1834)
The Canon and the Cannon
The more the primary evidence is consulted the more clear it becomes that the story of there having been a violent (or potentially violent) "persecution" of the Mormons at Kirtland during the winter of 1833-34 was originated and maintained by the top LDS leaders themselves. This does not mean that threats against the Saints in Geauga County were never voiced by the anti-Mormons. It does not mean that the Mormons' fears of their Gentile and apostate neighbors were totally groundless. What it does mean is that those persons occupying the top levels of trust in the Church were knowingly and purposefully fanning the embers of fear among the Latter Day Saints in order to insure their cohesiveness as an exclusive religious body and their faithfulness as devout followers of Joseph Smith, Jr.
HURLBUT'S DECLINE AND FALL
Part 4: Speculative Reconstructions
A Truth Stranger than Fiction?
What Eber D. Howe found in the bundle was a thin, sketchy draft copy of a Spalding romance which resembled the story told in the Book of Mormon only in the most general terms. When Howe attempted to find a paragraph, or even a full sentence, which matched the text in his wife's copy of the Book of Mormon, he came away angry and empty-handed. Not only had the slippery D. P. cheated the dissolving anti-Mormon 'Committee," he had cheated Howe as well. Eber must have bit his lip and sworn then and there that he would never get into such a predicament again. Once he had the book printed and out of his hands he would get out of the publishing business forever. But perhaps he then reviewed in his mind the fact that Hurlbut had never actually promised that the "Manuscript Found" was in the package he was selling to Howe. No doubt the anti-Mormon crusader had spoken of "Spalding's manuscript" being included among the papers, but for obvious reasons he had neglected to point out that what he meant by that was the short, unfinished story wrapped up in a sheet of paper and labeled "Conneaut Creek" on the outside. Howe mentally reviewed his options and decided to go ahead with the book publishing project, minus the unfinished Spalding story. If he strung the printing of a limited number of forms out over the next several months he could fit the production in between other press-work and not lose money by refusing lucrative job-shop orders, or in having to hire additional help. If he assembled and cut pages of the book only when he received sales orders and bound it with cardboard and heavy tape, instead of leather, he could save money there also.
HURLBUT'S DECLINE AND FALL
Part 5: The Court Gesture
Temporary Resolution of the Crisis
After D. P. Hurlbut's April trial at Chardon was over, editor Oliver Cowdery opened a new kind of column in the Kirtland Evening and Morning Star. The April 1834 issue of that Church newspaper contained a page and a half of news, notices, and editorial remarks dedicated to refuting and rebuking the enemies of the Church. The sudden new confidence investing the Mormon publication was palpable. A great deal of muddy water had passed under the bridge since those dark days in December, when the dread of religious assassinations had struck the Kirtland Saints. Apostates had been cast off. A permanent High Council, headed by Smith himself, had been established to effectively deal with the kinds of problems which had faced past assemblies pondering the actions of reprobate members like D. P. Hurlbut and Martin Harris. The United Firm (aka. "United Order of Enoch") had been broken up and its assets saved from the grasp of creditors. An armed force of dedicated Saints was being assembled to redeem "poor bleeding Zion" from the Missourians. And, last but not least, the fears of the faithful had been calmed, their old confidence in the divine origin of the Book of Mormon restored, and the character of D. P. Hurlbut shown to be so bad that no honest man need listen to his troublesome message. If anti-Mormonism had not been fully defeated, it had been given a sound whipping and sent off to skulk among the bushes until Grandison Newell found some new means of attack. The very first response to the failed efforts of anti-Mormonism was Cowdery's full column devoted to the Hurlbut trial printed on page 150:
D. P. Hurlbut Returns to Kirtland: December 1833
During his previous lecturing in and around the Mormon capital D. P. Hurlbut probably kept his most scorching rhetoric and his most disconcerting ecclesiastical disclosures private. The LDS leaders could ignore his presence and look the other way, even if he occasionally associated with members on the fringe, such as the Ezekiel Johnson family, Joseph H. Wakefield, or Sister Sophia Howe, wife of the vocal editor of The Painesville Telegraph. But the minimal toleration the would-be "Doctor" had thus far enjoyed residing so near the Mormon lion's den was about to end. Shortly after his arrival back in Ohio, D. P.'s ego must have outstripped his better judgment, for he soon began making serious threats against Joseph Smith and his faithful followers. (85)
Subsequent testimony would establish, at least to the county court's satisfaction, that D. P. had threatened the life of the Mormon prophet. (86) How he got himself into this unfortunate predicament can be conditionally reconstructed. The Justice of the Peace for Kirtland at the time was John C. Dowen, a Gentile who had a reputation for not persecuting the Saints. (87) Dowen later gave this account:
I heard Dr. P. Hurlbut... deliver his first lecture in the Methodist Church in Kirtland, Ohio, on the origin of the Book of Mormon. He said he had been in New York and Pennsylvania and had obtained a copy of Spaulding's "Manuscript Found." He read selection[s] from it, then the same from the Book of Mormon. He said the historical part of it was the same as Spaulding's "Manuscript Found." He read numerous affidavits from parties in N.Y. and Penn. showing the disreputable character of the Mormon Smith Family.
Hurlbut staid at my house every three or four days for as many months. I read all of his manuscript, including Spaulding's "Manuscript Found," and compared it with the Book of Mormon; the historical part of which is the same as Spaulding's "Manuscript Found"... Hurlbut said he would "kill" Jo Smith. He meant he would kill Mormonism. The Mormons urged me to issue a writ against him. I did... He was brought to trial... The trial lasted several days, and he was bound over to appear at the Court of Common Pleas at Chardon. Hurlbut let E. D. Howe, of Painesville, have his manuscript to publish. I should not be surprised if Howe sold Spaulding's "Manuscript Found" to the Mormons. (88)
Dowen's statement saying that D. P. Hurlbut "obtained a copy of Spaulding's "Manuscript Found" agrees with several others collected in the Kirtland region by Arthur B. Deming. The alleged holograph then in Hurlbut's possession reportedly read much the same as did material found in parts of the Book of Mormon. (89)
The Strange Story Told by James A. Briggs
Judge Dowen's recollections are corroborated in part by the testimony of Hulbut's lawyer, James A. Briggs. His claims appeared in the pages of a reputable publication years before John C. Dowen and his neighbors made similar statements regarding the activities of D. P. Hurlbut:
In the winter of 1833-34, a self-constituted committee of citizens... met... [at] Mentor, to investigate the Mormon humbug. At one of the meetings we had before us the original manuscript of the Rev. Solomon Spaulding... From this work of the Rev. Mr. Spaulding the Mormon Bible was constructed. I do not think there can be any doubt of this. It was the opinion of the committee after comparing the Mormon Bible with the manuscript. The style of composition, the names, etc., were the same.... (90)
Like John C. Dowen, Mr. Briggs does not say how Hurlbut could prove that the manuscript he exhibited to the "committee" in Mentor by Hurlbut was truly written by Solomon Spalding holograph. Briggs latter wrote three additional accounts of his recollections about Hurlbut possessing a copy of Spalding's "Manuscript Found." In one of these published recollections he asserts that the "self-constituted committee" inspected "Spaulding's original manuscript" and "compared it, chapter by chapter with the Mormon Bible," discovering that it "was written in the same style" and that "many of the names were the same" (91) In another account Briggs relates that " In the winter of 1833-34... [we]... met... in Mentor... Dr. P. Hurlbut also met with us... and we had before us in that investigation, the original 'Manuscript Found' written by Rev. Solomon Spaulding... we compared it with the Mormon Bible... the style in which the 'Manuscript Found' was written was the same as that of the Mormon Bible. The names -- peculiar -- were the same..." (92)
The least that might be said about Briggs' writing these various statements is that he is as consistent as he is insistent. There is no reason to doubt his sincerity in saying he and others believed they saw Spalding's famous "Manuscript Found" in D. P. Hurlbut's possession during the winter of 1833-34.
Three Other Witnesses from 1833
John C. Dowen's statement seems creditable, because he was the judge who processed Smith's December 1833 complaint against D. P. Hurlbut and because his name appears in Ohio court documentation of Hurlbut's 1833 hearing and 1834 trial. Several of James A. Briggs' statements both support Dowen's recollections and provide additional credibility by not first appearing in anti-Mormon publications. The corroberating evidence supplied by others who heard Hurlbut lecture in 1833-34 may be somewhat less reliable, primarily because it was first presented in the context of anti-Mormon rhetoric. (93) William R. Hine affirms that he "became acquainted with D. P. Hurlbut before he left the Mormons" and that he "heard Hurlbut lecture in the Presbyterian Church in Kirtland" where he seeminlgy proved that "the 'Book of Mormon' was founded on a fiction called "Manuscript Found," written by Solomon Spaulding..." Hine also states that at this time "many persons were becoming disgusted with Mormonism, and many left them and exposed their secrets..." (94)
Another Ohio resident, Jacob Sherman, says that he attended a Hurlbut late in 1833 or early in 1834 and was invited to examine a Spalding manuscript whose historical narrative was identical to text in the Book of Mormon. (95) Jacob Sherman's neighbor Charles Grover also remembered attending one of D. P. Hurlbut's lectures where Hurlbut publicly compared the Book of Mormon to an original Solomon Spalding manuscript. (96)
Hurlbut's Intended Book
Late in the month of December 1833 D. P. Hurlbut was busy canvasing the region immediately north of the Mormon headquarters. In each town where he stopped the anti-Mormon crusader procured the use of a church and assembled an audience to listen to his startling disclosures. In the course of these lectures he read from an old manuscript book claimed to be Solomon Spalding's "Manuscript Found." D. P. also read very similar passages directly out of the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon. At some of these lectures Hurlbut invited the attendees to examine the two texts and make their own comparisons. At the same time Hurlbut also reported in private to the anti-Mormon "Committee" members who had hired him to acquire just such damning evidence as the alleged origin of the Book of Mormon.
Hurlbut's work was not yet finished; the "Committee" had also hired him to compile for publication the various documents he had collected on his recent trip. No doubt the would-be "Doctor" requested and received its funding to support him in this effort. (97) The expose of Mormonism D. P. Hurlbut was commissioned to collate was expected to contain copious extracts from an original Spalding story, the text of which reportedly matched parts of the Mormons' own book. This important literary task was entrusted to D. P. Hurlbut by "Committee" members who should have known better than to proceed without first obtaining copies of his documentation. But, by some means or another, D. P. was able to avoid such restrictions. And, as will be shown, he eventually managed to avoid even the writing of his promised book. (98)
Arousing the Ire of the Prophet
By the end of 1833 "Doctor" Philastus was obviously playing more than one game among the Mormons and anti-Mormons of Geauga County. Rather than retiring from public view to complete the expose he had promised his financial backers, D. P. seemingly tried to catch the attention of Joseph Smith, Jr., whose will and word were practically law among the Kirtland Saints. His public lecturing in Kirtland, under the very nose of Smith and his followers, was calculated to raise a response. And it did. Hurlbut's biographer, Dale W. Adams gives impression of what happened next:
... Hurlbut returned to Kirtland about the middle of December and began attacking Joseph Smith. Understandably, Smith and his supporters lashed back and this may have involved publicizing allegations about Hurlbut's alleged indiscretions with women... Hurlbut reacted violently. The mud slinging on both sides quickly escalated until Hurlbut threatened Joseph Smith. This caused Smith to file a complaint on December 21, 1833 against Hurlbut before the Justice of the Peace in Kirtland, J. C. Dowen. A warrant for Hurlbut's arrest was issued... Hurlbut appeared before the Justice of the Peace in Painesville.. [on] the 13th and 14th of January 1834 that the case was heard... (99)
Adams' reconstruction is probably at least partly correct. Shortly before December 21, 1833 D. P. Hurlbut unwisely boasted in public of his intention to "kill Mormonism" and perhaps even Smith himself. (100) But Adams overlooks the reported content of Hurlbut's lectures given prior to Smith's swearing out the complaint against him. He also leaves out the important fact that Hurlbut was at about this time attempting to bring legal action against Joseph Smith and his family. (101)
D. P. Hurlbut's legal maneuvering as well as his blatant publicizing of the Spalding authorship claims may have been partly a ploy to gain publicity for his lectures and intended book, but they must have also been intended to gain Joseph Smith, Jr.'s attention. More than likely Hurlbut was then playing a "second game" in hopes of blackmailing Smith and the Mormons leaders. If those leaders could be induced to paying him sufficient hush money, perhaps D. P. was willing to tone down his attack upon the Mormon prophet and the Church. Given a sufficient incentive, perhaps he was even willing to drop his legal harassment and keep his most incriminating documentary evidence from ever being published. (102)
A Kingdom in Jeopardy
At the end of 1833 the Kirtland Mormons were by no means a wealthy congregation, but their leaders (103) could have still found a few hundred dollars in order to pay off D. P. Hurlbut and remove the growing threat he he posed to "the Kingdom." Reports of disillusionment and defection among the LDS ranks following arrival of the bad news from Missouri at the end of November 1833 are no doubt reliable ones. (104)
In the last weeks of December 1833 the LDS leaders were reeling under pressure directed at them on four fronts: (1) From the disastrous events coming out of the anti-Mormon persecution in Jackson County, Missouri; (2) From calls for the immediate repayment of large sums of money owed by the Church and members of its semi-independent "United Firm;" (3) From numerous wavering and withdrawing Saints like Joseph H. Wakefield; and, (4) From the developing menace of "Doctor" Philastus Hurlbut and his anti-Mormon supporters.
Faced with these critical challenges, the top Mormon leaders regrouped themselves, shed as much unnecessary and burdensome baggage as possible, and set out to save their deeply endangered "Kingdom." In the past, historians of Mormonism like Max H. Parkin have taken notice of the internal threat posed by disillusioned and defecting members during this perilous period in Mormon Kirtland. And, although Parkin himself pointed out the winter of 1833-34 as the crucial time and the activities of D. P. Hurlbut as being the catalyst for a critical turning point in Mormon history, the precise origin of that "Crisis at Kirtland" has never before been identified. Simply put, the crisis amounted to the very real possibility of the Mormon "Kingdom" being terminated then and there -- the impending threat of Smith's public exposure as a fraud and loss of all that he and his close associates had labored so hard to build up. That impending threat, if successful in its intent, would result in the defection of hundreds of members from Church almost overnight. That impending threat was posed by none other than "Doctor" Philastus Hurlbut, the purported possessor of the secrets of the origin of the Book of Mormon.
The Arrest and Confinement of D. P. Hurlbut: January 1834
On December 21, 1833 Joseph Smith, Jr. swore out a complaint against D. P. Hurlbut with John C. Dowen, Justice of the Peace in Kirtland. (105) An account of what transpired next was preserved in the introductory section of the transcript of the subsequent State of Ohio vs. Doctor Philastus Hurlbut case heard at Chardon Court House beginning March 31, 1834. (106) The court record says that Dowen issued an arrest warrant for D. P. Hurlbut on December 21, 1833. In order for Dowen to have done that he must have first heard some testimony from Smith and a few witnesses Smith intended to call in his own behalf. With this warrant in hand, Kirtland Constable Stephen Sherman was poised to arrest Hurlbut wherever he might apprehend him. (107)
Since the Constable would have had not desire to drag Hurlbut around with him as he went about his duties, it is reasonable to assume that Sherman did not arrest D. P. until very shortly before the defendant was brought before Judge Holbrook in Painesville on January 4, 1834. (108) Allowing Hurlbut's plea for a continuance, Holbrook rescheduled the hearing for January 6th. Constable Sherman brought D. P. back before the Judge on the morning of January 6, 1834, but the hearing was again rescheduled, this time for January 13th. (109)
Joseph Smith: Assassination Target?
On January 13, 1834 Painesville Judge Holbrook determined that there was enough evidence available to support Joseph Smith Jr.'s expressed fear that "Doctor P. Hurlbut would beat wound or kill him." Or, failing in that possible venture, that Hurlbut might al least "injure his property." In order to properly consider what happened to D. P. Hurlbut that January it is necessary to first back-track to see what he was doing before his arrest, on or shortly before Jan. 4, 1834. Although Mormon writings relating events in the Church during the early Kirtland period generally make some mention of D. P. Hurlbut's 1833 threat to harm Smith, LDS writers who were Hurlbut's contemporaries and who were then living in Kirtland Ohio relate practically no information on the provenance of Hurlbut's threatening words. Benjamin Winchester, a Mormon writer who had ample opportunity to search out and relate the details of events transpiring in Geauga County that winter, is strangely economical with his words in his account of these matters:
After Mr. H.[Hurlbut] returned from Pittsburgh, he went to Kirtland, Ohio, and stopped in that region of country, as he said, to learn other particulars, and finish writing his book. Mr. H. had not been there long, before he threatened to murder Joseph Smith, Jun., for which he was bound over in the sum of five hundred dollars, to keep the peace. While there, his best friends began to lose confidence in him, his reputation waned rapidly, and the dark side of his character began to develop itself more fully, and he began to play his old pranks. (110)
George A. Smith was also a Mormon resident of Kirtland who took an interest in D. P. Hurlbut at this time. Like Benjamin Winchester, George spoke of Hurlbut posing a grave threat to Joseph Smith, Jr., but his recollections supply only the sketchiest of additional information:
In consequence of the persecution which raged against Joseph, and the constant threats to do him violence, it was found necessary to keep continual guard to prevent his being assassinated. During the fall and winter I took a part of this service, going two miles and a half to guard. (111)
George A. Smith, like most other Mormon writers who were his contemporaries, passes over the details of Hurlbut's lectures and the legal action taken against the anti-Mormon crusader prior to his April 1834 trial at Chardon, supplying almost no useful information. Smith's story does furnish a couple of interesting items, however. He identifies his own friend of earlier days, Joseph H. Wakefield, as one of the anti-Mormon leaders who generated "a persecution against the Saints in Kirtland and the regions round about..." Wakefield's name was closely linked to that of D. P. Hurlbut during the winter of 1833-34 in contemporary records. (112)
George A. Smith also identifies D. P. Hurlbut as a potential assassin, alleging that Hurlbut "said he would wash his hands in Joseph Smith's blood." Although George A. Smith makes no direct link between this pronouncement and a second, more starling revelation of an insinuated assassination attempt upon his cousin Joseph, he implicitly joins both allegations in space and time when he says that, "In consequence of the persecution which raged against Joseph, and the constant threats to do him violence, it was found necessary to keep continual guard to prevent his being assassinated." To recap Smith's testimony: (1) There was an anti-Mormon persecution begun in or around Kirtland during the winter of 1833-34; (2) Ex-Mormon Joseph H. Wakefield, a known associate of D. P. Hurlbut, was a leader in that persecution; (3) "High Council upon High Council" was held during that time, to "settle difficulties" and to make certain that the "minds" of the faithful were properly "instructed;" (4) D. P. Hurlbut threatened to kill the Mormon prophet; and, (5) guards were stationed around Joseph Smith, Jr. to protect him from assassination by those persons who were causing the persecution.
It is practically impossible to verify the precise time-span or nature of the "persecution" George A. Smith speaks of. Newspapers published throughout northern Ohio at this time, though frequently reporting many details of the very real persecution then going in on Missouri, say nothing of any similar "persecution" in Geauga County. Apart from the writings of a very few Mormon leaders, no contemporary accounts survive telling of a violent or even a potentially violent "persecution" of the Kirtland Saints during this period. (113)
This does not mean that Geauga County Gentiles like Corning, Newell, and the Campbellite Clapp family were not heavily involved in the non-violent aspects of this perceived "persecution." The people who associated themselves with the anti-Mormon "Committee" dedicated their time and energy to removing the Mormon presence, using methods less overt than those employed in Missouri. These Gentiles certainly extended considerable support to the work of D. P. Hurlbut, but there is no independently verifiable evidence showing that any of these non-Mormons, anti-Mormons, and ex-Mormons were actually attempting to assassinate the Mormon prophet. Serious consideration must be given to the probability that it was Smith himself who drummed up this mass anxiety among the Saints, beginning in late December 1833 and eventually petering out early in the following year. (114)
One person who stood in a very good position from which to ascertain the actual events impacting the Mormons during the winter of 1833-34 was Oliver Cowdery. This important top Latter Day Saint official had escaped the chaos of the Mormon exodus from Jackson County, Missouri and was living in Kirtland during the peak of the perceived "persecution" mentioned by George A. Smith. Cowdery's account is a contemporary one, written as candid reflection in a communication which he probably never expected to see published:
Dear Brother Lyman... I was pleased with your observations relative to the Book of Mormon. That "if it is true it will stand, but if not it will fall"... Hurlbut is now in this country pedling slanders, but has said nothing about myself as I have learned. If you were acquainted with his character, as represented to me, you would never regret that you did not open a communication with him... (115)
Oliver strangely fails to mention any allegation that Hurlbut had threatened to murder or assassinate the Mormon prophet, although he does say that as late as Jan. 13, 1833 (the date of the hearing in Painesville to consider the case of Hurlbut's alleged threats against Smith) the anti-Mormon crusader was "pedling slanders," in the region. Since Hurlbut was apparently in close confinement between January 4th and 13th, Oliver must here be speaking of the ex-Mormon's December lectures in and around Kirtland.
The Canon and the Cannon
The more the primary evidence is consulted the more clear it becomes that the story of there having been a violent (or potentially violent) "persecution" of the Mormons at Kirtland during the winter of 1833-34 was created and maintained by the top LDS leaders themselves. (116)
Max H. Parkin, whose pioneering research into "internal and external conflict" at Kirtland has largely inspired the writing of this current paper, speaks of this perceived "persecution" among the Kirtland Saints during the winter of 1833-34. As previously quoted, Parkin isolates "the winter of 1833 and 1834" as a "particularly threatening period of time for the Saints in Kirtland." Parkin also points out that it was Joseph Smith, Jr. who attestes that the people of Ohio "threaten our destruction, and we know not how soon they may be permitted to follow the example of the Missourians." (117) Parkin also points out that Smith says:"All the Church in Kirtland had to lie every night for a long time upon our arms to keep off mobs, of forties, of eighties, & of hundreds to save our lives...(118)
Parkin goes on to say that.
The night of January 7, 1834, was an especially threatening one, for a mob assembled near Kirtland and attempted to frighten the inhabitants with the firing of a cannon. In the words of Oliver Cowdery, "They came out on the 8th about 12 o'clock at night, a little west and fired (a) cannon, we supposed to alarm us, but no one was frightened, but all prepared to defend ourselves if they made a sally upon our houses (119)
To this report the writers of the "History of Joseph Smith," published in the Times and Seasons, added:
The threats of the mob about Kirtland through the fall and winter had been such as to cause the brethren to be constantly on the lookout, and those who labored on the temple were engaged at night watching to protect the walls they had laid during the day, from threatened violence. On the morning of the 8th of January, about 1 o'clock, the inhabitants of Kirtland were alarmed by the firing of about thirteen rounds of cannon, by the mob, on the hill about half a mile northwest of the village. (120)
Parkin ends his comments on this episode of perceived "persecution" by mentioning that "Heber C. Kimball adds further testimony to the threatening conflict that existed in Kirtland during the construction of the temple":
...our enemies were raging and threatening destruction upon us, and we had to guard ourselves night after night, and for weeks were not permitted to take off our clothes, and were obliged to lay with our fire locks in our arms. (121)
Given Hurlbut's reputation as a would-be killer of Joseph Smith, Jr., the finger of suspicion might well be pointed at him as being the instigator of these threatening provocations at the Mormons' expense. The problem involved in making that guess is that D. P. was under arrest at Painesville "on the morning of the 8th of January." More likely candidates for the firing of the canon thirteen times early that morning would have been persons like Joseph H. Wakefield or Ezekiel Johnson. This reported cannon fire seems to mark the high-point of some very localized and clearly ineffectual hostilities directed at the Mormon ranks; the arsenal of external weapons directed at the Kirtland Saints appears to have been decommissioned in the days leading up to Hurlbut's January 13th hearing at Painesville. The attack that Joseph Smith, Jr most feared was not the firing of a cannon at their unfinished temple; it was the metaphorical setting afire of the Mormons' scriptural canon which then posed the greater threat. No matter what the verdict the Judge in Painesville might reach regarding the threats of D. P. Hurlbut, he would sooner or later be free of his confinement and ready to mount a more insidious attack upon the Restoration Faith. The time had arrived to deal with the man directly.
"Persecutions" and Prosecutions
On January 22, 1834, barely a week after D. P. Hurlbut's release on bond from the Painesville Jail, Orson Hyde was visiting Kirtland and took the trouble to pen a comforting letter to his co-religionists back in Missouri on behalf of the First Presidency. Following the party line laid down by his leaders during the past few days, Hyde struggled to make some convincing reference to the "persecution" of the Kirtland Saints. The strongest rhetoric he was able to voice said only that there was then "not quite so much danger of a mob upon us as there has been..." Following the outcome of the hearing at Painesville, Hurlbut's "influence was pretty much destroyed" and the local "spirit of hostility" held by some of the non-Mormons had "broken down in a good degree." These remarks indicate that D. P. Hurlbut's release from imprisonment was not met with any great apprehension by the Mormon officials. Within a week of his release, officials like Hyde were not nearly so fearful of the anti-Mormon threat as they had been only a few days before. (122)
There is reason to believe that not long after he was set free, D. P. Hurlbut dealt independently with two sets of mutually declared enemies. The first meeting was with the anti-Mormon "Committee" of Geauga County residents whose payments had largely financed his basic needs and special activities for the past four months. It is likely that members of this group were the ones who paid his bond at Painesville following the outcome of the hearing which ended there on January 16, 1834. The "Committee" no doubt wanted a firm commitment from D. P. to furnish them with his promised book, affidavits, and the loan of Mrs. Matilda Spalding Davison's copy of the "Manuscript Found." The immediate outcome of D. P. Hurlbut's agreement with the Committee was contained in a notice its members published in the next issue of the local newspaper. In part that notice said that the Committee was preparing to publish a book, based upon D. P. Hurlbut's research, which would "prove the 'Book, of Mormon' to be a work of fiction and imagination, and written more than twenty years ago, in Salem, Ashtabula County, Ohio, by Solomon Spalding, Esq...." (123)
Here then was the end-game strategy for one of the schemes D. P. Hurlbut had long been planning, a strategy laid out in no uncertain terms in the public press: to publish "the real origin of the Book of Mormon... and [thus] completely divest Joseph Smith of all claims to the character of an honest man..." (124)
Awaiting publication of their notice in the Telegraph for a second time on Feb. 7th the "Committee" leaders were ready to begin the next phase in their campaign. While they were running Hurlbut's promised prose through the press they could also print occasional excerpts or summaries of the allegedly fatal secrets that volume intended to disclose. The content of such pre-publication excerpts might leave even the most faithful followers of Joseph Smith, Jr. ready to abandon his ecclesiastical ship. Nothing more was ever printed by the "Committee," however. Shortly before the second appearance of the "To the Public" notice on Feburary 7, 1834, the "Committee" folded its rhetorical tents and abandoned the field. Whatever battles they might fight with the Mormons would be fought on different ground and on another day. D. P. Hurlbut failed to produce the expected goods. "Manuscript Found" was not in the bundle which D. P. Hurlbut handed over to Eber D. Howe when he received his $50 and a promissory note for 400 <500?> copies of Howe's book. (125)
The Carrot and the Stick
Even before his arrest and confinement in January 1834, D. P. Hurlbut must have realized the potential peril in locking horns with the Mormons in an all-out battle to "completely divest Joseph Smith of all claims to the character of an honest man." Fighting too hard against the Mormons on his own might end up in D. P.'s undoing. So long as he maintained good relations with the other active anti-Mormons in Geauga County he could rely on their support and protection, but, even as early as December 1833 their unconditional support for his efforts may have been fading. (126)
Foreseeing an imminent break with some of his anti-Mormon supporters and fearing the attack of Mormon strong-arms like Orrin Porter Rockwell, Hurlbut no doubt pondered the possible advantages he might reap by secretly disposing of the troublesome document he had been recently exhibiting as Spalding's "Manuscript Found." Divesting himself of that particular manuscript would also allow D. P. to shed the irksome task of writing the first anti-Mormon book himself. D. P. Hurlbut was in his element pronouncing thunderous speeches from the pulpit and looking down into the admiring eyes of a live audience; but writing a book was lonely and tiresome work. (127)
D. P. Hurlbut's attempts to haul the Mormon Smiths into court during the winter of 1833-34 went nowhere; his young legal advisor, young James A. Briggs, proved practically useless in accomplishing that part of Hurlbut's scheme. Just when Hurlbut was expecting to see the Mormon prophet humiliated in the halls of justice he discovered that on December 21, 1833 Kirtland Justice of the Peace John C. Dowen issued a warrant for Hurlbut's own arrest. (128) The current author believes that it was D. P.'s Hurlbut's fearful reaction to this unexpected impending arrest and inescapable court trial which would follow that prompted the D. P.'s little-known subsequent activities.
To Conneaut - One Last Time
Ten days after Hurlbut's arrest warrant was issued he was still a free man, Contemporary evidence places him miles away from Kirtland, in the relative safety of Ashtabula County, spending New Year's Eve with some of his previous acquaintances in the Conneaut area. (129) Almost certainly D. P. was then avoiding apprehension at the hands of a Geauga County Constable or Sheriff. He was also making some important changes to his recent pronouncements regarding the writings of Solomon Spalding. (130)
While visiting with Spalding's old friend Aaron Wright that New Year's Eve, D. P. Hurlbut produced a thin, moth-eaten old manuscript, the content of which resembled the text of the Book of Mormon only very generally. Wright assured Hurlbut that he recognized handwriting to be Spalding's, but it was "not the manuscript" he had made reference to when Hurlbut had solicited his statement nearly five months earlier. That other Spalding story Wright had described as telling "of the lost tribes of Israel..." and "their journey from Jerusalem to America, as it is given in the Book of Mormon..." (131) Perhaps by December 31, 1833 D. P. Hurlbut had given up on his earlier designs of harrassing Joseph Smith, Jr. in the courts and exhibiting, to Smith's discredit, a document which he claimed to be Spalding's "Manuscript Found" and the source of the Book of Mormon. In place of this failed scheme he would thenceforth speak only of that thin, unfinished story which the winds of fate eventually directed to the Oberlin College Archives. (132)
Magistrate's Hearing: January 13-15, 1834
The arrest Hurlbut had thus far avoided came in Painesville on January 4, 1834. He was in the custody of Geauga County law enforcement officers from that date until the afternoon of January 15, when his pre-trial hearing concluded, very much in his disfavor. Judge William Holbrook decided that threatening to murder religious leaders was serious stuff, even if they were Mormons. (133) Hurlbut was bound over to the Geauga County Court of Common Pleas, which would not convene until the end of March. In the meanwhile he entered into "a recognizance to keep the peace generally and especially towards the complainant..." It is supposed that this legal pronouncement effectively ended Hurlbut's anti-Mormon lecturing activities. (134)
Temporary Resolution of the Crisis
Many interpretations of what actullay went on during this hazy period in Mormon history might be constructed, based upon the sketchy information available for study. The most straightforward conclusion simply admits that Hurlbut's reported exhibition of the "Manuscript Found" ended just prior to the Mormon leaders in Kirtland admitting that the perceived "persecution" against Joseph Smith, Jr. was abating. The pivotal event which brought these two important developments into the exact same historical context was D. P. Hurlbut's failure to exhonerate himself in the pre-trial hearing conducted at Painesville on January 13-15, 1834. There exists no final proof that the document Hurlbut had been exhibiting passed into Mormon hands at the beginning of 1834, but then neither is that pregnant probability ruled unlikely by any of the evidence currently available for study. D. P. Hurlbut was, early on, accused of exactly this secretive betrayal by Spalding's widow, the lady who put her late husband's writings into his hands in the first place. It cannot be expected that a definitive confirmation of her accusations would survive the careful cover-up presumably conducted both by D. P. Hurlbut and the Mormon leaders. All that can be said for certain is that Hurlbut's threats against Smith constituted the primary basis for a "crisis" at Kirtland during the winter of 1833-34 and that the outcome of Hurlbut's pre-trial hearing defused that crisis, whatever the full content of that outcome may have been.
D. P. Hurlbut's April trial at Chardon was an anti-climax in that winter's drama – a mere footnote to the foregone conclusion written at Painesville ten weeks before. After the second trial upheld the previous ruling against Hurlbut, LDS editor Oliver Cowdery opened a new kind of column in the Church's Evening and Morning Star. The April 1834 issue of that newspaper contained a page and a half of news, notices, and editorial remarks dedicated to refuting and rebuking the enemies of the Church. The sudden new confidence investing the Mormon publication is palpable. (135)
A great deal of muddy water had passed under the ecclesiastical bridge since the dark days of late December and early January, when the fear of religious assassinations had struck the Kirtland Saints so intensely. Since then wicked Apostates had been cast off. A permanent High Council, headed by Smith himself, had been set up to effectively deal with sinister internal discord. The vulnerable United Firm (a.k.a. "United Order of Enoch") had been broken up and its valuable assets saved from the grasp of Gentile creditors. An armed force of dedicated Saints was being mustered to follow the Prophet and to redeem "poor bleeding Zion" from the Missourians. And, last but not least, the fears of the faithful had been calmed, their old confidence in the divine origin of the Book of Mormon restored, and the character of D. P. Hurlbut shown to be so bad that no honest man need ever again consider his troublesome allegations.
Cowdery's remarks from April 1834 well summarize the Mormons' new confidence in the successful termination of the Hurlbut challenge:
It is but just, that we should say, with regard to those individuals whose names are going the rounds in the public prints, as a committee, who have employed this Hurlbut to expose, the "Origin of the book of Mormon," that as citizens, and neighbors, they will be as forward to expose his character, and hold him up to the view of community, in the true light which his crimes merit, as they were first to employ him... we are in no fear that he will overturn the truth... (136)
At about the same time that Oliver Cowdery set his type for printing that message he also wrote a personal letter to Elder John F. Boynton. (137) Oliver appended these final remarks to the bottom of that message: "Hurlbut the apostate has just been bound to keep the peace under $200 bond in the circuit court of this county for threatening the life of Bro. Joseph Smith, Jr. We are not in any fear that the kingdom will be overthrown by him..."
The confidence Cowdery expressed in these happy words: "We are not in any fear that the kingdom will be overthrown by him," marked a new beginning for the Latter Day Saints. With the coming of spring the Saints no longer slept in their daytime clothes, with loaded guns at their sides, ready to spring at a moment's notice to the defence of their beloced prophet. Their fear of seeing "truth" overturned and "the Kingdom" overthrown by their enemies faded and their hearts rejoiced, ever hopeful that "the hour of redemption was near."
(85) Hurlbut's absence from the area had been noted and while he was away his young nemisis Benjamin Winchester had moved into the village. With devout Saints like Winchester (whose sister would later become one of a Joseph Smith, Jr.'s plural wives) watching his movements and reporting back the "the brethren," Hurlbut was setting himself up for trouble. He apparently had a run-in with the boisterous Mormon partisan, Martin Harris at about this time. At least Harris was reported attending a meeting where Hurlbut was speaking and in that assembly offensively challenging the anti-Mormon speaker's veracity.
According to early Mormon convert Andrews Tyler, the leaders of the Latter Day Saints adopted their religious doctrines "to cover up a fraud." (more forthcoming)
(86) It little matters now whether Hurlbut hurled down this particular verbal gauntlet or not, the fact that several of Smith's followers were ready to testify to that story under oath was sufficient enough reason to get Hurlbut into serious trouble.
(87) In other words, Justice of the Peace Dowen generally let the The Saints get away with minor offenses and they supported him in his office. John C. Dowen apparently became both D. P. Hurlbut's nemesis (in his issuing a warrant for Hurlbut's arrest) and his protector (in allowing Hurlbut to occasionally reside in the Dowen home at Kirtland in the midst of Hurlbut's hostile interaction with the local Mormons (see note 88 below).
(88) Dowen, John C. Statement dated Jan. 2, 1885, Arthur B. Deming file, Mormon Collection, Chicago Historical Society Library. According to this account, after he returned from his trip to the east, D. P. Hurlbut again took up his previous role of lecturer on Mormonism and scheduled a meeting at the Methodist church, located on the hill next to the foundations of the still unfinished Latter Day Saint Temple. In the course of this lecture D. P. shared information from the statements he had collected and read from a manuscript, the content of which matched some text in the Book of Mormon. Nothing is said by Dowen about Hurlbut's offering these documents for inspection and verification at that time. Following this lecture Hurlbut frequently lodged in the Dowen house, perhaps because he found his previous residence in Kirtland did not offer enough protection against potential harassment or assault. But Hurlbut's presence at the local magistrate's may also have been related to a Painesville judge's subsequent requirement that D. P. make himself available and non-combative until the Circuit Court at Chardon could try him in a case brought against the ex-missionary that winter by Joseph Smith, Jr.
(89) Nothing is related by Dowen to indicate how Hurlbut could prove that the manuscript he was then exhibiting was truly the work of Solomon Spalding. Dowen also speaks of a second manuscript book which he calls "his manuscript." By this he must mean a handwritten book or collection of lecture notes, affidavits, etc. compiled by Hurlbut himself. Dowen says "Hurlbut let E. D. Howe, of Painesville, have his manuscript to publish," but it is doubtful that very much prose penned by Hurlbut ever made it into Howe's 1834 Mormonism Unvailed. Whatever it was that Hurlbut had written, that document has not been seen since the time when John C. Dowen perused its pages..
(90) Briggs, James A. Letter, dated March 1875, in: John Codman, "Mormonism," International Review XI (Sept. 1881) pp. 222-223. Briggs identifies the holograph Spalding story as being "The Manuscript Found" and says that "it was obtained from Mr. Patterson, or Peterson, a publisher of Pittsburg, Pa., with whom negotiations had once been made towards its publication." Briggs' recollection of the alleged Spalding story having been "obtained from Mr. Patterson" is difficult to account for, as there is no hint in any other person's account of either Robert or Joseph Patterson supplying such a manuscript to D. P. Hurlbut. It is possible however, that Hurlbut managed to obtain some pages with verified Spalding handwriting while he was visiting Pittsburgh. Perhaps Briggs confused the origin of some such secondary documentary evidence with that of "The Manuscript Found" copy he saw exhibited.
(91) Briggs, James A. "The Spaulding Romance," New York Tribune Jan. 31, 1886. Briggs worked at the Tribune as its financial editor during the late 1880s. In this statement he also says, "About this time Dr. Hurlbut had some trouble with the Mormons at Kirtland, where they had built a temple and he had the prophet, Joseph Smith, arrested on a warrant of a justice of the peace for assault and battery. He had an examination before two justices in the Old Methodist Church in Painesville." Briggs was apparently selective in reporting old memories, for he does not admit to failing to gain Hurlbut's unconditional release at the conclusion of the hearing. For more on the apparent irregularities involved in this hearing see notes 96 and 128 below.
(92) Briggs, James A. "Open Letter to Joseph Smith III," Naked Truths… I:1, (Jan. 1888). Briggs says in the same account: "In 1834, early in the spring, Dr. P. Hurlbut had Jo Smith, of Kirtland, the Mormon prophet, arrested on a warrant of a justice of the peace in Painesville, Ohio, for assault and battery. The examination was in the old Methodist Church on the southeast corner of the public square..." Briggs also adds this interesting allegation: "Now what is the result of this whole matter?... that Hurlbut obtained possession of the original "Manuscript Found," that we had [it] to compare with the Mormon Bible before the committee at Mentor.... that Hurlbut stated that he had made four hundred dollars by selling it, and I believe he did..." Briggs repeats this claim in still another of his statements: "In the year 1833-'34 I was one of a self-appointed committee... investigating the origin of the Book of Mormon. Dr. D. P. Hurlburt had been in New York and Massachusetts looking up testimony; we had the manuscript of the Rev. Solomon Spaulding before us, that we compared with the Mormon Bible… "Manuscript Found" … was compared with the Mormon Bible and satisfied the committee that it was the basis of the Mormon Bible… I believe, as Dr. Hurlburt stated, that he ‘sold the manuscript for $400.' It is certain that he had it, and who but the Mormons would buy it?... For some reason in 1833 he had some difficulty with "the Saints" in Kirtland. The last known of the "Manuscript Found" it was in Hurlburt's hands..." Briggs, James A. Letter, Chicago Daily Tribune, Oct. 2, 1886; reprinted from the New York Watchman c. late Sept. 1886) For more on Hurlbut's purported sale "Manuscript Found" to the Mormons see note xx below.
(93) None of these three statement providers bear the external credentials of Dowen or the disattachment from anti-Mormon publication generally associated with Briggs' statements. Excerpts from their contents are offered here because they provide some additional information concerning the claims D. P. Hurlbut was then making in his lectures in and around Kirtland. (In regard to the suspect veracity of the statements collected or cited by Arthur B. Deming in his Naked Truths About Mormonism newspaper see: Richard L. Anderson, "Joseph Smith's New York Reputation Reappraised," BYU Studies X:3 (Spring 1970) pp. 283-314 and Rodger I. Anderson, "Joseph Smith's Early Reputation Revisited," Journal of Pastoral Practice IV:3 (Fall 1980) pp. 71-108 and IV:4 (Winter 1980) pp. 72-105).
(94) Hine, William R. Statement, Naked Truths… I:2, (Apr. 1888).Hine's account includes the previously discussed matter of D. P. Hurlbut having "courted Dr. Williams' beautiful daughter" and he is credible in that matter. Hine's recollection of Martin Harris attending a D. P. Hurlbut is supported in some degree by Jacob Sherman's saying much the same. Hine's claim to have advised Hurlbut to write to Isaac Hale fits well with other evidence documenting a Hurlbut-Hale correspondence during the winter of 1833-34. Given Hine's integrity in relation to these other points, his report of Hurlbut having exhibited a purported copy of Spalding's "Manuscript Found" at a lecture given in the Presbyterian church at Kirtland is largely believable.
(95) Sherman, Jacob. Statement, Naked Truths… I:2, (Apr. 1888). Soon after his first inspection of this alleged Spalding novel Mr. Sherman attended another Hurlbut lecture in neighboring Painesville where the same manuscript was again shown to the public. Sherman's recollection of attending a Hurlbut lecture in the Kirtland Presbyterian church, at which Martin Harris was present, supports William R. Hine's statement saying that Martin Harris showed up at a Hurlbut lecture held in that same church and there challenged the anti-Mormon crusader as to the authenticity of an Isaac Hale letter which Hurlbut was then displaying:
(96) Grover, Charles. Statement, Naked Truths… I:2, (Apr. 1888). Since Hine, Grover, and Sherman all speak of hearing Hurlbut lectures in the same Kirtland Presbyterian church, it is probable that they all attended the same lecture given in that place, which must have been in late December 1833. At this meeting Grover discerned the same historical narrative in both the manuscript and the book:
I heard D. P. Hurlbut lecture on the origin of the "Book of Mormon" in the Willoughby town hall in 1833 or 1834. He said that the object of his lecture was to show that the "Book of Mormon" was founded on a fiction written by Solomon Spaulding at Conneaut, O., in the early part of the century, which he called "Manuscript Found." He said he had been to Pittsburgh, Pa., and learned that Sidney Rigdon had stolen it from the printing office where it was left to be printed. He had obtained another copy from which he read selections and then read the same from the "Book of Mormon," the historical part of which was the same as Spaulding's "Manuscript Found." At the close of his lecture he invited the audience to examine it. I took and read from it a little; it was plainly written on letter-sized paper and nearly two inches thick. Soon after I was witness at a lawsuit in Painesville and again heard Hurlbut lecture. At the close Squire Holbrook read to the audience from Spaulding's "Manuscript Found"... The Disciples appointed a committee to prosecute Rigdon and expose his true character, so as to destroy his influence among the Disciples...
(97) Before he departed on his fact-finding journey D. P. Hurlbut had already promised to write the first anti-Mormon book. By late December 1833 he was engaged in that work in earnest. John C. Dowen claims to have seen Hurlbut's own manuscript, prepared for this intended book. Whatever it was that D. P. Hurlbut was then writing, the "Committee" could not simply run off a few hundred copies of his work and expect its readers to believe that its lengthy quotations were actually reproduced from a Solomon Spalding original text, written more than a decade before the Book of Mormon first came to light. Such an expose necessarily would also present affidavits confirming that the printed story extracts really did come from a verified Spalding document. Such a book would also necessarily contain the supporting evidence of signed and witnessed affidavits from testifiers who had personally known the would-be author and his writings. No evidence has survived to indicate that D. P. Hurlbut ever progressed this far in the writing of his own anti-Mormon book
(98) D. P. Hurlbut probably based his subsequent actions upon the original terms of his verbal agreement with the "Committee," a group whose membership probably changed from time to time and which apparently had no single permanent leader. By holding on to his documents and refusing to turn them over to the "Committee" before publication, Hurlbut likely kept all of the writing work and its hoped-for financial rewards safely to himself. For more on the non-publication of this expected book see note xx below.
(99) Adams, "Judge Not…," p. 14.
(100) D. P. Hurlbut's imprecisely reported threatengs may have been little more than an incautious slip of the tongue. But they may have just as well been part of his calculated effort to antagonize and alarm Joseph Smith, Jr. Hurlbut may have even been so foolish as to say in front of witnesses that he would "kill" Joseph Smith, or to vow in his lectures that " he would wash his hands in Joseph Smith's blood." See George A. Smith's "Historical Discourse" of Nov. 15, 1864 (printed in Journal of Discourses . . . Vol. XI, Liverpool and London, 1867, pp. 1-11) for the latter allegation.Whether the witnesses who testified against him at D. P.'s Jan. 13-15 pre-trail hearing at Painesville were all present when he made such threats is immaterial; the fact that they were willing to testify to that remembrance under oath was enough to sway the judgments of magistrates Dowen and Holbrook is Smith's favor. See note xx below for more information on this hearing.
(101) For fragments of evidence relating to D. P. Hurlbut's attempt to bring members of the Smith family to trial see the four published statements of James A. Briggs, op. cit. See also Hurlbut's own 1880 comments as reported by Ellen E. Dickinson: "…the Mormons hated me; they threatened me. I had a fight with Joe Smith, and had to have him bound to keep the peace with me." (Dickinson, New Light…, p. 69).
The recollections of Briggs and Hurlbut in regard to Hurlbut's attempted legal action(s) against the Smiths are corroborated somewhat by a c. Jan. 1834 note written by Joseph Smith, Jr. to Bishop Newell K. Whitney. While this obviously hastily scribbled note contains no date, it must owe its existence to fears among the Mormon leadership that the assests of the "United Firm" were in danger from the actions set forth by "evil" and "unseen" hands. As early as Jan. 11, 1834, Joseph Smith, F.G. Williams, Oliver Cowdery, John Johnson, Orson Hyde and Newel K. Whitney had begun to pray that God would protect them, grant blessings upon the United Firm, and "that the bishop would have sufficient funds to pay the debts of the United Firm." See Phillip R. Legg's Oliver Cowdery... Independence: Herald House, 1989, pp. 78-79 for the latter quote. Since the United Firm did not survive past April 10, 1834, it is likely that Smith's note to Whitney was written several weeks prior to that date, but probably not much before Jan. 11, 1834. Its most probable time of composition was c. late Dec. 1833 or early Jan. 1834, before the Joseph Smith, Jr. vs. D. P. Hurlbut pre-trial hearing was conducted at Painesville. The note reads as follows:
Brother Whitney --
I write this because I forgot to tell you of some things that you [ought to] know [where] Docter P. Hurlbut is commenceing an unjust suit against Brother Hyram to git the prope[r]ty of this farm which belongs to the [[United]] Firm Brother Hyram [and my] father has [not got] any property here but one cow a peace each I have a [bill] for all the rest made over to me more than one year ago for Books and what they owed me and it will involve me or the firm if we let them take this property which you [may] rest asured belongs to us a word to the wise is sufficie[nt] Joseph Smith Jr (Joseph Smith, Jr. "Letter to N. K. Whitney," c. Jan. 1834, cf. Joseph Smith, Jr. "Letter to Edward Partridge and others of the Firm," March 30, 1834. Originals in Joseph Smith, Jr. Letters, LDS Historian's Archives).
Assuming that D. P. Hurlbut was then writing a book intended to provide sufficient evidence "to kill Mormonism," he was simultaneously acting rather strangely by carrying out acts of provocation against a formidable host of Latter Day Saints -- an enemy who could naturally be expected to unite with their prophet and oppose his every move in this direction. It is primarily for this reason that the current author is lead to the conclusion that D. P. Hurlbut was pursuing more than a single agenda in the course of his interaction with the Saints at the end of 1833.
(102) It should be noted that D. P. Hurlbut himself denied that he was ever provided with such an "incentive" or that he cut any deal with the Kirtland Mormons. See D. P. Hurlbut, Statement, dated Aug. 19, 1879, printed in Patterson, Robert, Jr. "Who Wrote the Book of Mormon," Illustrated History of Washington County. Philadelphia: L.H. Everts & Co. 1882. (also published as off-print, 1882, p. 14). A paraphrase of comments along these voiced by Hurlbut on August 19, 1879 may be found in Patterson, Robert, Jr. Letter to Eber D. Howe, dated Sep. 12, 1879. Original in Theodore A. Schroeder Papers, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI. There the following recent recollection from Patterson is recorded: "I also told Mr. Hurlbut, frankly, that I had seen the statement published, though without any authority given for it, that he had sold the real ‘Manuscript Found' to the Mormons for $400. He indignantly repelled the charge and with no little excitement mentioned several circumstances (his being put under bonds by Joe Smith to keep the peace, his life being threatened by the Mormons, &c.,) to show the improbability of any such alleged bargain and sale."
The story of D. P. having clandestinely sold a copy of Spalding's "Manuscript Found" to the Mormons at Kirtland was first published in John A. Clark's Gleanings by the Way in 1842. On p. 265 Clark prints a letter of D. R. Austin, dated June 28, 1841 in which Austin says: He [Hurlbut] stated some time after he had received the manuscript that he had made $400 out of it. Mrs. Davidson has not the least doubt now but that he obtained it in order to sell it to the Mormons… If they purchased it of him, (of which there is no doubt) and refuse to present it, the reason is obvious…" See also D. R. Austin's letter to James T. Cobb, dated April 4, 1879, (original in Theodore A. Schroeder Papers, Madison, WI.) in which Austin says: "Mrs. Davison stated to me that she loaned the manuscripts [including "Manuscript Found"] to to Hurlbut on a solemn promise that he would return them, which he never did. She stated further that she had been informed that he sold them to J. Smith & Co. for a large amount…"
Since Austin credits this important information to Spalding's widow, and since Austin himself took down her Statement dated April 1, 1839, in which she speaks of Hurlbut but says no such thing regarding his disposing of "Manuscript Found," it appears that the widow conveyed this piece of news to Austin sometime between late April 1839 and June 1841. Probably this intelligence from Spalding's widow was passed on to Austin after she received it from some informed reader, following the appearance of her April 1, 1839 statement in the Boston Recorder on April 19, 1839. Although many unfounded rumors probably circulated among the Mormons and their neighbors on the matter of the Spalding authorship claims, the most critical period for the possible breech of Mormon secrets in this regard would have been during the expulsions/defections of many top Mormon leaders at Far West, Missouri in 1838. The source of the Hurlbut sales rumor may well have been the disaffected Orson Hyde, one of the Cowderies, or even W. W. Phelps.
A connection between the c. 1839 Hurlbut sales rumor with disclosures from disaffected Mormon leaders in Missouri c. 1838-39 is strengthened by John Storrs' 1841 testimony in this regard: "Dr. Hurlbut took the manuscript. It is reported in Missouri, that he sold it for four hundred dollars; that manuscript is not to be found. I must confess that my suspicions are, that a deep laid plot has been consumated to obtain possession of the manuscript, and thus preclude all possibility of its ever being compared by competent men with the Book of Mormon… I am suspicious that a deep and long game has been played by the Mormons to obtain and destroy the manuscript…" (Letter of John Storrs, dated June 28, 1841, printed in John A. Clark, Gleanings by the Way, NYC: Robert Carter, 1842, p. 263). Though Storrs provides no source for his allegation, he most likely heard this story from the widow's neighbor in Monson, Massachusetts, D. R. Austin, Principal of the Monson Academy
Another source which traces the manuscript sales rumor back to D. P. Hurlbut himself is the account privided by Hurlbut's lawyer: "Hurlbut obtained possession of the original "Manuscript Found"… Hurlbut stated that he had made four hundred dollars by selling it, and I believe he did…" (Briggs, James A. "Open Letter to Joseph Smith III," Naked Truths... I:1 Jan. 1888). The import of Briggs' statement is mitigated somewhat by the fact that this information regarding his old client did not apparently come to him directly from Hurlbut. This point should be kept in mind when consulting Briggs' 1885 statement, in which he says: "I had seen and examined the original "Manuscript Found" of Solomon Spaulding, out of which Sidney Rigdon got up the Mormon Bible. I believe, as Dr. Hurlburt stated, that he "sold the manuscript for $400." It is certain that he had it, and who but the Mormons would buy it?" (Briggs, James A. "The Book of Mormon" Chicago Daily Tribune, Oct. 2, 1886, reprinted from NY Watchman c. late Sept. 1886).
D. P. Hurlbut again implicitly denied selling any manuscripts to the Mormons when he was interviewed by Ellen E. Dickinson on Nov. 13, 1880. According to Dickinson, Hurlbut then stated that if he had possessed a "real" holograph of Spalding's "Manuscript Found" he "could have sold it for $3,000," but that in regard to reports of such manuscript being still extant: "'Taint so." (Dickinson, Ellen E. New Light…, pp. 63-72).
(103) The top leadership of the Church at this time was comprised of Joseph Smith, Jr. Sidney Rigdon, Oliver Cowdery, and F. G. Williams. To these officials might perhaps be added the names of Hyrum Smith and one or two other unofficial advisors to the First Presidency of the Church.
(104) George A. Smith has this to say about retrenchment purges carried out among the backsliding Mormons at Kirtland during the winter of 1833-34:
The Church in Kirtland were few in number compared with the inhabitants of the city of Ogden. We had High Council upon High Council, Bishop's trial upon Bishop's trial; and labor and toil constantly to settle difficulties and get our minds instructed in principle and doctrine, and in the power that we had to contend with. I remember very well the organization of the High Council, at Kirtland as a permanent institution, there had been several Councils of twelve High Priests called for special cases, but they organized it permanently on 17th Feb. 1834... (George A. Smith, Journal of Discourses Vol. XI, 1867, p. 7-8.) George A. Smith's recollections are probably confirmed by the following quote from one of his Gentile neighbors from that period: "All the time I was in Kirtland many persons were becoming disgusted with Mormonism, and many left them and exposed their secrets." (William R. Hine, "W. R. Hine's Statement," Naked Truths…, I:1, (Apr. 1888).
(105) John C. Dowen said in his 1885 statement (op. cit.) that he recorded Smith's complaint in his docket book on Dec. 27, 1833. This date may be a typographical or recollective error on Dowen's part -- or, he may have recognized Joseph Smith's complaint on Dec. 21 (as the official court record indicates) and finished writing down that record six days later. It appears that about this time D. P. Hurlbut was attempting to get Dowen or some other J. P. in the area to recognize his own complaint, made against Joseph Smith, Jr. At the same time, or not very long thereafter, D. P. Hurlbut was also attempting to attack Joseph Smith's family in the local courts and was seeking to obtain a property judgment against Joseph's brother, Hyrum, perhaps because private property held under the brother's name was an easier target in court than was Joseph's own holdings, which were then largely owned by the semi-official LDS "United Firm" at Kirtland. For some unknown reason Hurlbut's attempts to attack Smith through legal action failed and his none of his complaints were acted upon at the J. P. level nor passed on to the County Court. The reason for this legalistic failure on Hurlbut's part was likely due to the incompetence of his attorney, the young law student from Willoughby, James A. Briggs. In his later recollection of Hurlbut's pre-trail hearing, Briggs conflated several events which transpired at that time, leaving out entirely the fact that the pre-trail hearing was conducted to examine the merits of a complaint brought against his client by Joseph Smith, Jr. Briggs, no doubt knowingly, also neglected to mention that his client lost the case. Again, this outcome was almost certainly due to the inexperienced law student being out-lawyered by the Saint's seasoned legal counsel in such cases, Benjamin Bissel of Painesville. Had Bissel championed Hurlbut's complaint and Briggs served as Smith's attorney the hearing results might have been reversed.
(106) The record of the preliminary actions taken by the justice system in Kirtland township and in adjacent Painesville township in December 1833 and January 1834 is as follows:
On complaint of Joseph Smith Junr. against the defendant against [sic] J. C. Dowen a Justice of the Peace for Kirtland Township in said County made on the 21st day of Dec. 1833[,] a warrant was issued by said J. C. Dowen, Justice aforesaid which was returned before me William Holbrook a Justice of the Peace for Painesville township in the County aforesaid on the th day of January A D 1834 by Stephen Sherman a Constable of Painesville Kirtland township with defendant in Court, and not being ready for the examination said Constable is directed to keep the defendant in custody and return him again before the Court on the 6th day of January A. D. 1834 at 9 o'clock A. M. at his office in Painesville, at which time th[is] defendant again appeared, and not being yet ready for the examination on the part of the State this cause is again postponed to the 13th of January 1834 at 9 o'clock A. M. and the defendant required to be kept in custody by A Ritch Const. of Painesville township, at which time the defendant was again brought before the Court by A Ritch Constable. And all parties being ready for trial, the Court commenced the examination, and the following witnesses were examined on the part of the State, Amos Hodges C. Hodges, Sarah Wait, Burr [R]iggs Mary Copley Joseph Al[i]en M. Hodges D. Elliot J. Smith Jr. [D]. Copley C. Holmes S. F. Whitney S. Slayton Mr. Wakefield, [I]. Wait & E. Goodman and the same were examined by the defendant. The examination commenced Monday the 13th January 1834 and ended January 13, 1834. After hearing the testimony it is the opinion of the Court that the complainant had reason to fear that Doctor P. Hurlbut would beat wound or kill him or injure his property as set forth in his complaint, and it is the consideration of the Court that the defendant enter into a recognizance to keep the peace generally and especially towards the complainant and also to appear before the Court of Common Pleas on the first day of the term thereof next to be holden in and for said County and not depart without leave, or stand committed till the Judgment of the Court be complied with. The defendant forthwith complied with the judgment of the Court & entered into a recognizance as provided by the Statute." ("Ohio v. Dr. P. Hurlbut," 9 April 1834, Geauga County Courthouse, Chardon, Ohio, Typescript; as recorded in "Geauga County, Court of Common Pleas Records," Book P, p. 191. This typescript is conveniently reprinted in Smith, Joseph III and Smith, Heman C. (eds.) History of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Vol. 1. Lamoni, IA: Board of Publication, 1896, pp. 444-446.
(107) No known evidence tells of D. P. Hurlbut being present in Dowen's office at the time Smith filed his complaint, but Kirtland was such a small town at the time that news of the arrest warrant must have reached him almost at once; D. P. certainly would have known of the impending arrest within a day or two after Dec. 21st. The warrant was theoretically returnable throughout the entire State of Ohio, but it would have borne the greatest threat to Hurlbut in and around Geauga County. Apparently the Constable did not catch up with Hurlbut until after New Years. Once the anti-Mormon crusader heard of the arrest warrant he likely left the county or went into hiding. Both Hurlbut and Smith knew, however, that the anti-Mormon crusader's possessions, source of income, and social support all remained in Geauga Co. Sooner or later the fugitive would surface and the Constable would apprehend him.
(108) The law officer displayed his charge in the Painesville Court House that day, but Judge Holbrook was not then ready to examine the defendant. The most logical explanation for this delay is that Stephen Sherman had apprehended Hurlbut without warning in Painesville township and brought him before the Judge before D. P. could contact his lawyer. There is no mention in the records that Joseph Smith was present during the Jan. 4 proceedings. Sherman may have placed the hapless defendant in the Painesville jail at this time, but it is more likely that he hauled him back to Kirtland and there kept Hurlbut under lock and key for the following two nights.
(109) On Jan. 6, 1834 no doubt Smith or his Mormon representatives were present in Judge Holbrook's courtroom. Smith's attourney, Benjamin Bissel, must have stopped by, just in case the hearing was commenced that day. But either the Judge or one of the two parties in the case was not yet ready to begin and the matter was again postponed -- this time until the morning of January 13th. Hurlbut would have possessed no desire to be held in Kirtland, so close to his Mormon enemies for a second time. It is likely that he petitioned Judge Holbrook for a change in his confinement. For the next week the anti-Mormon crusader was kept in custody by Constable A. Ritch of Painesville township. Hurlbut was probably confined to the Painesville Jail, but, so long as Constable Ritch was in attendance he might have been allowed to visit as far afield as James A. Briggs' home in Willoughby or John C. Dowen's place in Kirtland. Dowen speaks of Hurlbut stayimg there for a few days around this time.
(110) Winchester, Origin… p. 11. Winchester's relatives, the Johnson Elders, are not much more helpful than is he when it comes to filling in the missing pieces of this story. Both of the brothers were living in Kirtland during the winter of 1833-34 and they probably could have reported what happened previous to D. P. Hurlbut's April trial in Chardon, had they cared to tell that story. Neither of the Johnson brothers supplies the necessary details, however. Joseph E. Johnson says only:
Hurlbut went east and was absent some two or three months -- and on his return publicly declared that he could not obtain it [i. e. the "Manuscript Found"], but instead brought several affidavits from persons who claimed to have heard Solomon Spaulding read his Manuscript Found in 1812, and believed as well as they could remember that the matter and story was the same as printed in the Book of Mormon…(Joseph E. Johnson "The Manuscript Found," Deseret Evening News, Jan. 3, 1881).
Joseph's brother Benjamin added little more to this picture:
The winter of 1833-34 I attended district school in Kirtland. Brother Joel H. [Johnson]... [Hurlbut] soon collected around him the congregations of our enemies, and in pert and pompous style told them the tale he had concocted of the "Manuscript Found," which of course was good enough when they could get nothing better. And so they readily advanced him means to hunt up the manuscript, and were greatly in hopes that now Mormonism would be at an end. But to all of them it was a failure, but not to Hurlburt, for he had their money. Soon afterward by them all he was most cordially despised.... I then occupied a position through which I could obtain accurate knowledge of all that transpired on both sides; my father being regarded as an opposer, knew all their secrets, none of which did he withhold from me; and as Hurlburt had boarded at my mother's, I had good opportunity as well as reason for watching his course...(Benjamin F. Johnson, chapter 2).
(111) (George A. Smith "Autobiography" Millennial Star 27 1865, pp. 406-441). George's recollections of there having been a great "persecution which raged against Joseph" at Kirtland during the Winter of 1833-34 are clearly tied to the reported threats of D. P. Hurlbut. George clarifies this connection in the following statement:
Joseph H. Wakefield, who baptized me... apostatized from the Church... He afterwards headed a mob meeting, and took the lead in, bringing about a persecution against the Saints in Kirtland and the regions round about.... [D. P. Hurlbut] went to work and got up the "Spaulding story" -- that famous yarn about the "Manuscript Found." When about to publish this lying fabrication, in several of his exciting speeches having threatened the life of Joseph Smith, he was required to give bonds, by the authorities of Ohio, to keep the peace. In consequence of this, the name of E. D. Howe was substituted as the author, who published it. (George A. Smith. "Divine Origin of "Mormonism," Journal of Discourses Vol. VII, 1860, pp. 111, 113).
(112) Mormon apostate Joseph H. Wakefield's association with D. P. Hurlbut during the winter of 1833-34 is clearly shown in the Geauga County Court records, where he is recorded as testifying in behalf of Hurlbut (or, at least of being "examined by the defendant") at Hurlbut's pre-trial hearing in Painesville beginning on Jan. 13, 1834; see Typescript of "Ohio v. Dr. P. Hurlbut," 31 March 1834, Geauga Co. Court House, Chardon, Ohio; as recorded in "Geauga County, Court of Common Pleas Records," Book P, pp. 431-432; cf. Witness List for D. P. Hurlbut's pre-trial hearing in the "Misc. Record Book" on file at the Geauga Co. Court House, which list includes the name of "Mr. Wakefield." Since these records render it unclear whether Wakefield was a cooperative or hostile witness for the Prosecution, the occurance of his name there should be compared to the "Jos. H. Wakefield" who was a member of the anti-Mormon "Committee" which employed D. P. Hurlbut and which advertised a forthcoming book attacking Mormonism and promoting the Spalding claims; see "To the Public," Painesville Telegraph, Jan. 31 & Feb. 7, 1834.
(113) There are no records of Mormon houses being burned, Mormon families being turned out of doors, property being confiscated, or even of an occasional fist-fight or rock-throwing incident. It is safe to say that if anything remotely similar to this reported persecution did take place, it happened within a very short time-span and actively involved very few of the non-Mormons then living in Geauga County. If the term "persecution" is extended to include non-violent activities, such as warnings, implicit threats, non-cooperation, and shunning of the Latter Day Saints by their Gentile neighbors, then perhaps the comments of writers like George A. Smith do properly reflect a period of intensely perceived external threats directed against the Kirtland Saints. However, it must also be pointed out that some of the ostensible leaders of this perceived "persecution" were ex-Mormons like D. P. Hurlbut and Joseph H. Wakefield. To the outsider, not well-schooled in local religious politics, this mostly verbal squabbling must have looked much like an internal disagreemnent carried out among rival factions within the broad bounds of the Mormon movement.
(114) Sometimes, in the corporate affairs of religious organizations, there can be found no better means of establishing and maintaining an ardent group identity than exaggerating the power of an external peril -- whether that particular peril is fully real or mostly imagined. In the case of Joseph Smith, Jr., during the darkest days of that stormy winter, the peril was grave indeed. The most dangerous threat was not aimed so much at his physical well-being as it was at his ecclesiastical position and power. It is to Joseph Smith, Jr.'s credit as a religious leader that he was able to meet and overcome that impending menace. The means he used to accomplish his purposes may, however, reflect no great credit upon Smith the man.
(115) Cowdery, Oliver "Letter to Lyman Cowdery" dated "Kirtland, Ohio, Monday, January 13, 1834," Original in the Oliver Cowdery Letter Book, Huntington Library. Cowdery's somewhat cryptic remarks to his brother come clear when it is remembered that D. P. Hurlbut had recently been soliciting anti-Mormon testimony in the area just outside of Palmyra, Wayne County, New York. Lyman Cowdery, Oliver's brother was then living in or near the town of Lyons, a few miles east of Palmyra. D. P. Hurlbut had attempted to "open a communication" with Lyman but had not been very successful in that endeavor. Lyman's non-surviving letter of Jan. 3, 1833 obviously addressed the unsettling issues of Book of Mormon veracity and D. P. Hurlbut's continuing anti-Mormon crusade.
(116) This does not mean that threats against the Saints in Geauga County were never voiced by the anti-Mormons. It does not mean that the Mormons' fears of their Gentile and apostate neighbors were totally groundless. What it does mean is that those persons occupying the top levels of trust in the Church were knowingly and purposefully fanning the embers of fear among the Latter Day Saints in order to insure their cohesiveness as an exclusive religious body and their faithfulness as devout followers of Joseph Smith, Jr.
(117) Parkin, Max H. "The Nature and Cause of Internal and External Conflict of the Mormons in Ohio Between 1830 and 1838," pp. 258-261. Parkin's quote is from Joseph Smith, Jr.'s "Letter to Edward Partridge," dated Dec. 5, 1833, original in the Joseph Smith Papers, LDS Historian's Archives. As previously pointed out, Parkin also says in this same place, "It is unfortunate that more details of the threats were not preserved, but according to Cowdery much of the animosity was stirred up by Hurlburt…"
(118) Smith, Joseph, Jr. "Letter to Edward Partridge and others of the Firm," dated March 30, 1834. Original in LDS Historian's Archives, copy available on microfilm in Special Collections, H. B. Lee Library, BYU
(119) Parkin here quotes Oliver Cowdery's "Letter to William Phelps and John Whitmer," dated January 21, 1834. Original in the Oliver Cowdery Letterbook, Huntington Library. A careful reading of the January 21, 1834 Oliver Cowdery quote supplied by Parkin shows that a week prior to writing to his brother Lyman in Palmyra, Oliver had written a another letter which spoke of the situation at Kirtland, this one was addressed to his old comrades among the leaders in the Center Stake of Zion. The most Oliver could report in the way of "persecution" in Ohio was that some nameless pranksters had fired off a cannon half-way between Mentor and Kirtland. If a military cannon was truly fired on that night it must have been in the hands of a contingent of the Geauga County Militia. Theft of such an artillery piece would have been a major crime and would have been reported in the local newspapers. As no such news report was ever filed, it seems that the artillery firing probably fell within the broad interpretation of legitimate use of County property. An examination of the Geauga Militia officers' list for 1833-34 might provide the names of those responsible for this incident. Although the supposed "testing" of the cannon occurred under unjustifiable circumstances, apparently nobody was injured and among the Mormons, as Smith himself says, "no one was frightened."
(120) Times and Seasons
(121) Kimball, Heber C. Times and Seasons VI:1 (Jan. 15, 1845}, p. 77.
(122) The relevent portion of Hyde's letter reads as follows:
On the 22nd [of January 1833], the presidency of the High Priesthood wrote from Kirtland to the brethren in Christ Jesus, scattered from Zion, scattered abroad from the land of their inheritance: Greeting:... We shall not be able to send you any more money at present…. There is not quite so much danger of a mob upon us as there has been. The hand of the Lord has thus far been stretched out to protect us. Doctor P. Hurlbut an apostate elder from this church, has been to the state of New York, and gathered up all the ridiculous stories that could be invented, and some affidavits respecting the character of Joseph, and the Smith family, and exhibited them to numerous congregations in Chagrin, Kirtland, Mentor, and Painesville, and fired the minds of the people with much indignation, against Joseph and the church.
Hurlbut also made many harsh threats, &c., that he would take the life of Joseph, if he could not destroy Mormonism without. Bro. Joseph took him with a peace warrant and after three days trial, and investigating the merits of our religion, in the town of Painesville, by able attorneys on both sides, he was bound over to the county court. Thus his influence was pretty much destroyed, and since the trial the spirit of hostility seems to be broken down in a good degree, but how long it will continue so, we cannot say.... (Letter of the First Presidency, Times and Seasons, VI:14, August 1, 1845, pp. 976-977).
According to Hyde's letter on behalf of the First Presidency, the Hurlbut hearing in Painesville was a "three days trial." The introduction to the official record regarding this "three days trial" may be found in the 1834 Ohio vs. Hurlbut court transcript. In part, it reads:
On complaint of Joseph Smith Junr. against the defendant against [sic] J. C. Dowen a Justice of the Peace for Kirtland Township in said County made on the 21st day of Dec. 1833 a warrant was issued by said J. C. Dowen, Justice aforesaid which was returned before me William Holbrook a Justice of the Peace for Painesville township in the County aforesaid on the 4th day of January A D 1834 by Stephen Sherman a Constable of Kirtland township with defendant in Court... (Geauga County Court record, reproduced in Smith & Smith, pp. 444-446).
The preserved copy of the court transcript in which this hearing is described, appears to say that the "examination" began and ended on the same day: Jan. 13, 1834. The printed version of the typescript contains an error and the termination date of the trial should read "January 16, 1834." (See James A. Briggs letter to John Codman, in Codman's "Mormonism," International Review XI, Sept. 1881, pp. 222-223, where Briggs says that this hearing was "held in the old Methodist Church in Painesville...The trial lasted three days, and the church was filled to overflowing..."). Thus, on January 15, 1834 D. P. Hurlbut was set free, having paid a bond (apparently $500), and thereby entering "into a recognizance to keep the peace generally and especially towards the complainant and also to appear before the Court of Common Pleas" at the end of March 1834. .
(123) "To the Public," Painesville Telegraph V:13, Jan. 31, & Feb. 7, 1834. The text of the notice is as follows:
The undersigned Committee appointed by a public meeting held in Kirtland, Geauga Co., Ohio, for the purposes of ascertaining the origin of the Book of MORMON, would say to the Public, that... The committee were of opinion that the force of truth ought without delay to be applied to the Book of Mormon, and the character of Joseph Smith, Jun. With this object in view, the committee employed D. P. Hurlbut to ascertain the real origin of the Book of Mormon, and to examine the validity of Joseph Smith's claims to the character of a Prophet. The result of this inquiry so far as it has proceeded has been partially laid before the public in this vicinity by Mr. Hurlbut -- and the committee are now making arrangements for the Publication and extensive circulation of a work which will prove the 'Book, of Mormon' to be a work of fiction and imagination, and written more than twenty years ago, in Salem, Ashtabula County, Ohio, by Solomon Spalding, Esq., and completely divest Joseph Smith of all, claims to the character of an honest man...
(124) ibid. To his credit as an editor, Eber D. Howe refrained from making any comment in his Painesville Telegraph, either positive or negative, regarding the Committee's notice. He took their payment to run the ad a second time in the next issue of his paper and apparently remained only an interested spectator at this juncture in the proposed literary battle with Mormonism. In later statements given by Howe and Hurlbut the personal separation between the two men was blurred, with both alleging that Howe was in some way responsible for D. P.'s research activities.
(125) Three days before his second printing of the Committee's pre-paid ad in the Telegraph, Eber D. How penned the following report relating to current events pertaining to D. P. Hurlbut:
I have taken all the letters and documents from Mr. Hurlbut, with a view to their publication. An astonishing mass has been collected by him and others, who have determined to lay open the [Mormon] imposition to the world. And the design is to present FACTS, and these well authenticated, and beyond dispute..." (Eber D. Howe "Letter to Isaac Hale," dated Painesville, Ohio, Feb. 4, 1834, Susquehanna Register, May 1, 1834).
Howe further elucidates his deal with Hurlbut in the following statement:
Hurlbut returned to Ohio and lectured about the county on the Origin of Mormonism and the Book of Mormon. I heard him lecture in Painesville. He finally came to me to have this evidence he had obtained published. I bargained to pay him in books which I sent to him at Conneaut O. Before publishing my book I went to Conneaut and saw most of the witnesses who had seen Spauldings Manuscript Found and had testified to its identity with the Book of Mormon as published in my book and was satisfied they were men of intelligence and respectability and were not mistaken in their statements. I published only a small part of the statements Hurlbut let me have. Among them was a Manuscript written by Solomon Spaulding which he called Conneaut Story...." (Eber D. Howe, "Statement," Apr. 8th 1885, Arthur B. Deming File, Mormon Collection, Chicago Historical Society).
Eber D. Howe employed Esak Rosa (see William W. Blair, 1877, op. cit. and K. AE. Bell, "Mr. Bell's Statement," Naked Truths… I:1 (Apr. 1888) to re-compile Hurlbut's mass of documents and ghost-write a book to be published under Howe's own name later that year. The name he chose was an take-off upon the title a then popular expose of Freemasonry: "Masonry Unvailed." Howe's own Mormonism Unvailed was issued from the press of the Painesville Telegraph and the first copies bound for sale on November 28, 1834. Shortly after that date Howe freighted Hurlbut a bundle containing 400 (or 500?) copies of the work to the port nearest Hurlbut's new home in Girard County, Pennsylvania. Ironically, that was the port of New Salem, Solomon Spalding's old home town, recently renamed Conneaut. That, and the $50 cash D. P. received when he handed over his document stack to Howe, was all the payment that the retiring anti-Mormon crusader ever received. There is no reason to believe that D. P. Hurlbut had any further contact with the anti-Mormon Committee or even with the new author-publisher.
The Spalding Enigma authors postulate that Howe was already working on his own anti-Mormon book when Hurlbut approached him at the end of January 1834 in order to sell the materials he had compiled for the Geauga County anti-Mormon "Committee;" see Cowdery, et al., op cit. pp.24, 70, & 88, n.7. They cite Eber D. Howe's 1885 Statement, op. cit. as basis for making this claim, but Howe is unclear as to whether or not he already had his own book in the process of publication at this time.
It remains unknown whether or not any members of the soon-to-be dissolved "Committee" of Geauga County anti-Mormons knew of the trick D. P. Hurlbut was playing on them until Howe actually had Hurlbut's stack of documents safely hidden away in his office at Painesville. Presumably some word of this treachery reached one or more of the "Committee" leaders and they accepted the transfer of papers to Howe as a matter beyond their control. Like Hurlbut before him, Howe did not surrender the package; but he did promise to publish its contents. That was probably why their ad was not pulled from the February 7th issue of the Telegraph.
(126) Benjamin Winchester tells of Hurlbut's fading support among the Kirtland area anti-Mormons but does not pinpoint the date or provide any details of the circumstances surrounding this change of heart:
While there, his best friends began to lose confidence in him, his reputation waned rapidly, and the dark side of his character began to develop itself more fully, and he began to play his old pranks. Those who were anxious that Mr. Hulbert's work should come out, discovered it would not do to publish it in his name, his reputation was too rotten… (Winchester, Origin…, p. 11).
Benjamin F. Johnson provides an example of the sort of activities Winchester perhaps had in mind in speaking of Hurlbut's "old pranks." However, like Winchester, Johnson fails to give the exact date for his account:
Soon afterward by them all [Hurlbut's non-Mormon associates in Geauga County] he was most cordially despised. One circumstance I relate to more fully show his character. In the township of Mentor near where my father then was, lived an aged man named Randall. He was one of the wealthiest citizens and a great enemy of the Mormons. Soon after starting his anti-Mormon crusade, Hurlburt had married, and Randall had not only donated liberally but had taken Hurlburt and wife to his own house for a home. But when their disgust at his doings became so evident to him, he saw no more money would come from his dupes, and so he in connection with his wife, put up a job on the old man, and drew him into a woman snare, from which they would not release him until after payment of $500. With this money, despised and hated by all parties, he left that vicinity.
The "aged man named Randall" of whom Johnson speaks may have been Elias Randall; see Dale W. Adams' comments on this story in his "Judge Not…" p. 15 n. 25 for a discussion of how Johnson's "woman snare" story matches and mismatches a version told by Sidney Rigdon in his letter published in the Quincy Whig on June 9, 1839. In that same article Rigdon says that "Before Hulbert got through, his conduct became so scandalous that the company [of Geauga County anti-Mormons" utterly refused to let his name go out with the lies [which] he had collected, and he and his associates had made…" Neither Rigdon's nor Johnson's "woman snare" account fits well into D. P. Hurlbut's probable activities during December 1833 and January 1834, months before he married Maria S. Woodbury (whose sister Phebe, incidentally, married into the Randall family). . The Spalding Enigma authors dismiss the "woman snare" story (or, at least the 1839 version as told by Rigdon) as a "blatantly outrageous lie"; see Cowdrey, et. al. Spalding Enigma, pp. 227-228. The general sort of "pranks" ascribed to Hurlbut by Winchester, Johnson and Rigdon may, however, help explain his fading support among the Geauga County anti-Mormons at the end of 1833.
(127) Eber D. Howe calls Hurlbut "full of gab, but illiterate…" (Howe, April 8, 1885). While D. P. Hurlbut obviouslly possessed at least the fundamental skills of reading and writing as early as 1833, there is no reason to suppose that he was an eager and capable book writer.
(128) According to James A. Briggs, Hurlbut's pre-trial hearing was held "in the old Methodist Church in Painesville" and two judges presided, one of whom had "issued the warrant against the Mormon Prophet." The latter could not have been William Holbrook, the magistrate named in the Geauga County Court records as presiding over Hurlbut's pre-trial hearing. The second judge remembered by Briggs may have been a Justice of the Peace with whom Briggs had been communicating, one who consented to bring Joseph Smith, Jr. to trial. It is not impossible that both Smith's and Hurlbut's complaints were heard simultaneously and that Smith was exhonerated. No court record survives to support Briggs' allegation that, at the end of the hearing, "Smith was bound over" to a higher court. That brave talk is likely a cover for the lawyer's own failure to gain the unconditional release of his client, D. P. Hurlbut. See also note 91 above.
(129) Hurlbut's presence in or near New Salem (soon to be incorporated as Conneaut), Ashtabula County, Ohio at this time is confirmed by the content of two pieces of contemporary documentation. The first piece of evidence is found on the final page of the Solomon Spalding Manuscript in the Oberlin Archives. Here D. P. Hurlbut wrote: "The Writings of Solomon Spalding Proved by Aron Wright Oliver Smith John N. Miller and others The testimonies of the above gentlemen are now in my possession D. P. Hurlbut" This note contains no date but circumstancial evidence limits it composition to sometime between late December 1833 and the end of January 1834; it's most likely date is c. Dec. 31, 1833. A reproduction of this document in conveniently printed in Kent P. Jackson. Manuscript Found…, Provo: UT, Religious Studies Center, BYU, p. xiii.
The second piece of evidence is an unsigned letter composed by Aaron Wright of New Salem, dated Dec. 31, 1833, original in Manuscripts, Special Collections, New York Public Library, NYC. The handwriting of this letter is apparently the same as that of the note found on the final page of the Solomon Spalding Manuscript at Oberlin College: both are assumed to be the penmanship of D. P. Hurlbut himself. For a reasoned discussion of how a copy Aaron Wright's letter came to exist in the handwriting of D. P. Hurlbut see Cowdrey, et al., pp. 71-77. Evidence within the Dec. 31, 1833 letter shows that D. P. had the Oberlin Spalding Manuscript with him when he visited with Aaron Wright on that same date. It is reasonable to assume that Hurlbut also showed the manuscript to Oliver Smith and John N. Miller, both of whom lived only a few miles east of Wright at this time. Probably all three men concurred in pronouncing the handwriting in the Oberlin holograph to be Spalding's and Hurlbut scribbled his note to that effect not long afterward..
(130) It is evident from the wording of the Dec. 31, 1833 Aaron Wright letter that Hurlbut had returned to the Conneaut area with only the Oberlin Spalding Manuscript in hand. This was the only Spalding document he then showed to Aaron Wright -- and almost certainly the only one seen by Oliver Smith and John N. Miller as well. From the wording of Wright's letter, it does not seem he was aware that Hurlbut had recently been publically exhibiting a different document attributed to Spalding's pen. It is unlikely that Hurlbut had been showing the Oberlin manuscript in Geauga County in attempt to pass it off as a Spalding composition resembling the Book of Mormon. James A. Briggs specifically testifies against this kind of blatant deception on Hurlbut's part by saying:
Now I am very sure he had the identical story that you [the RLDS] have printed with him. I remember about the ancient fort at Conneaut Creek, the mound, and the statement of finding the manuscript about the Indians. I have no doubt that Hurlbut, as he says, gave the story to Mr. E.D. Howe. But I believe he had also with him, and we had before us in that investigation, the original "Manuscript Found" written by Rev. Solomon Spaulding. I have said and believed for more than fifty years that I have seen and had in my hands the original "Manuscript Found" from which the Mormon Bible was made. (Briggs, 1886).
(131) Aaron Wright, Dec. 31, 1833.
(132) The four witnesses who speak of having seen the "Manuscript Found" exhibited by D. P. Hurlbut in Geauga County (i.e. Briggs, Dowen, Sherman and Grover) do not specifically say that Hurlbut displayed this alleged Spalding holograph only before December 31, 1833; however, between January 4 and January 15, 1834 Hurlbut was likely in confinement and unable to perform any lecturing in public. Between January 15 and March 31, 1834 Hurlbut was under bond to "keep the peace" and no record has survived of his lecturing under the restraint of that court order. It is reasonable to assume that Hurlbut did not exhibit a document which he claimed to be Spalding's "Manuscript Found" during 1834 at all.
(133) The Mormon press, in a near-contemporary article, reports a rumor to the effect that "the Justice's court, held in Painsville, only bound Hurlbut over to the County Court, that the lawyers might have a fair opportunity of ridiculing, and scandalizing, Jo. Smith…" (Oliver Cowdery, Evening & Morning Star, II:19, April, 1834). There may have been a germ of truth in this report, in that the Justice of the Peace who presided over the pre-trial hearing at Painesville was Judge William Holbrook. According to Charles Grover "Squire Holbrook read to the audience from Spaulding's ‘Manuscript Found' during one of Hurlbut's lectures held in or near Holbrook's own court room at Painesville; (see note 96 above). If Judge Holbrook acted as Grover describes him doing, it is likely that he shared the anti-Mormon sympathies of lecturer Hurlbut, at least to some extent; see note 128 above, for James A. Briggs's report of a second magistrate having "issued the warrant against the Mormon Prophet" and then joining Judge Holbrook at the Bench in what may have been a strange double hearing at Painesville.
(134) Geauga County Court Records; see note 106 above for details.
(135) This very first response to the failed efforts of anti-Mormonism was Cowdery's full column on page 150, devoted entirely to the Hurlbut affair. The relevant text reads as follows::
Considerable excitement having prevailed among some of our citizens, of late, in this part of the country, respecting the case in law against Doctor. P. Hurlbut, for a breach of the peace, in threatening the life of brother JOSEPH SMITH JR. and a number of those who doubtless desired that Hurlbut might escape justice, (some whose oaths were sufficient evidence of the feelings of their hearts,) indulged themselves in conjectures, and rumors, raising and spreading them to their own shame, or at least, to the shame of every good citizen who has the smallest regard for truth and righteousness, or peace and harmony in society; and by these means, created considerable feelings on the subject, as far as their influence could extend; trying to excite unfavorable impressions against bro. S. by every foolish report that ignorance could believe, or malice could invent. However, their exertions were in vain; for with all the feelings that they could awaken, (and no exertion was wanting to gain a favorite object,) they could not screen Hurlbut from the punishment due his crime... It has been really amusing to hear the (would be) ruling ones, spending their opinion on this case, between the time of examination before the Justice's court in Painesville, in January, last, and the trial at the county Court, to which Hurlbut was recognized to appear. One would have supposed, that all the abettors of this fellow were lawyers and judges -- they had the case tried and decided a multitude of times in the way they wished it to be....We have been favored with notices from abroad, that "Mormonism," was about to be exposed by this celebrated Doctor, who had learned that the book of Mormon "was written some thirty years since, by a respectable clergyman," in this state, "now deceased. It was designed to be published as a romance." This valuable information, it is said, has been obtained by this eminent (would be called) Doctor, from the widow of this celebrated clergyman. We think a preacher of the gospel must be highly "celebrated," to lay aside the calling of God to declare the gospel of salvation to men, to write "Tales."... We have not, till now, thought this man worthy a notice in our paper, neither would he at this time been noticed by us were it not to undeceive those at a distance who are unacquainted with him and may be deceived in consequence of the above mentioned title, of Doctor. It is but just, that we should say, with regard to those individuals whose names are going the rounds in the public prints, as a committee, who have employed this Hurlbut to expose, the "Origin of the book of Mormon," that as citizens, and neighbors, they will be as forward to expose his character, and hold him up to the view of community, in the true light which his crimes merit, as they were first to employ him... we are in no fear that he will overturn the truth... (Evening & Morning Star, April 1833).
(137) John F. Boynton was one of D. P. Hurlbut's fellow elders in Erie Co., PA, founder of the LDS Elk Creek branch there, and one of the officiators in the 1833 baptisms of the current writer's great-great-great-grandparents in Erie County at that same time.
(138) (Oliver Cowdery Letter dated Apr. 10, 1834, Oliver Cowdery Letterbook, Huntington Library).