Emily C. Blackman
(1826 - aft. 1881)
History of Susquehanna Co.
(Philadelphia: Claxton, Remsen, & Haffelfinger, 1873)
EMILY C. BLACKMAN.
Claxton, Remsen, & Haffelfinger.
102 HISTORY OF SUSQUEHANNA COUNTY. .turns abruptly to the west, making in fact the great bend, which name, strangely enough, has been given to the point in the township where the river turns northward at a less marked angle. The spot is one of the few localities in our county where indisputable evidences have been found of its preoccupation by the Indians. On the draft of a surbey made a Pennsylvania agent in 1785, six small wigwams are merked at the point of land just below the western abutment of the old bridge, to designate amn old town of the Tuscaroras. Here were found by Mr. Westfall the poles of the wigwams and several pits containing charred corn and an immense qualnity of clippings, showing that arrow heads were manufactured here on a large scale.
William Smith had two sons, Arba and William. All removed to Cincinnati, Cortland County, N. Y. William Greek located very early on the south side of the river, at the mouth of Drinker's Creek. he sold his improvements some years later to Marmaduke Salsbury, who married Clarissa, daughter of William Smith, and after her death married her sister Lydia (the widow Rouse). They had a large family.
John Stid also settled very early on the river in front of what is now known as Shutts; place, and just below the point where the railroad reaches the northern bank. Right opposite, at the mouth of the Third Run, John Travis was located. He claimed the island just below Lovers' Island, and his older brother Ezekiel, the whole of what has since been the Joseph McKune farm.
When the Pennsylvania landlords looked after their interests here, some of the earliest settlers disappeared, and titles to land procured from them were found defective, necessitating a repurchase by those who remained.
Isaac Hale and Nathaniel Lewis lived near each other, on the north side of the river, as early as 1791. Afterwards, Mr. L. bought a place on the south side, and resided there for many years. The one he vacated was purchased by Samuel Treadwell. It was owned by L. P. Hinds, Esq. Here Jason, youngest son of Samuel Treadwell, afterwards hung on conviction of the murder of Oliver Harper, lived until his marriage, when he moved into Great Bend Township. The father, prior to residing here, had been located ten or twelve years opposite Red Rock.
Isaac Hale was born March 21, 1763, in Waterbury, Conn. When a boy he was taken by his grandfather to Vermont. He stayed there through the Revolutionary War. After having worked one summer in Connecticut, he concluded to try "the West." At Ouaquago (now Windsor, N. Y.), he found Major
HISTORY OF SUSQUEHANNA COUNTY. 103Daniel Buck, afterwards "Priest" Buck, with whom he boarded, His son David1 says:--
"He was to furnish the meat, and the major the breadstuff -- frost-bitten corn -- to be pounded in a mortar, as there were then no mills in the country. The first day he went into the woods, he brought home a deer. They shortly afterward moved down the river to Great Bend, which, as near as I can make out (there is no infallibility in the traditions of the elders), was in the fall of 1787, or thereabout.This place is now occupied by James M. Tillman, in Oakland.
In the summer of 1798, Isaac Hale was one of the viewers of the first roads laid out in Willingborough. He was a great hunter, and made his living principally by procuring game. His sons, also, were hunters. His wife was for fifty years a consistent member of the Methodist church. A lady now living at Lanesboro, who knew her well, says: "I never visited her but I thought I had learned something useful." Her death ocurred in 1842, in her seventy-fifth year. Their daughter, Emma, was intelligent, and, that she should marry Joseph Smith, Jr., the Mormon leader, can only be accounted for by supposing "he bewitched her," as he afterwards bewitched the masses.
It is thought that Mr. Hale was a little deluded at first, as well as the others, in regard to Joe's prophecy of the existence of precious minerals, when digging was progressing in the vicinity, under the latter's direction, and the party were boarding at Mr. Hale's, but his common sense soon manifested itself, and his disapproval of Joe was notorious. He was a man of forethought and generosity. he would kill the elk, up the Starucca,
1 David Hale, of Amboy, Illinois.
2 This locality was not then known by this name on the court records. It was in Tioga Township until the following year.
104 HISTORY OF SUSQUEHANNA COUNTY.in the fall, when it was the fattest; make troughs of birch or maple, to hold it when cut up; carry salt on his back, salt the meat, and cover it with bark, held down with heavy stones, and then leave it until the snow came, when he could easily bring it down. The fruit of his labor was sometimes exchanged for assistance on his farm, but perhaps as often found its way unheralded, to the tables of others, when the occupents of the house were ought of sight; and to them the gift seemed almost miraculous.
For many years there stood at Mr. Hale's door a stump-mortar and heavy wooden pestle, worked by a spring pole, and his boys were obliged to leave work an hour or two before dark, to grind out meal enough for mush for their supper. the hand-mill afterwards took the plave of the mortar and pestle, and could grind half a bushel in a day -- a great improvement.
His sons were: Jesse, David, Alvah, Isaac Ward, and Reuben. The last named "assisted Joe Smith to fix up some characters such as Smith pretended were engraven on his book of plates." To David Hale, however, "it always appeared like a humbug."
Jesse and David were drafted in 1814, and marched in Captain Frederick Bailey's company to Danville.
The following statements are also from the pen of David Hale:
"Brother Jesse Hale was a man of business, fifty years ago. His height was six feet in his moccasins, and his common weight one hundred and eighty pounds. He had learned to hunt panthers with our father, Isaac Hale.From Dr. Peck's "Early Methodism" we obtain the following:--
"Joe Smith married a niece of Nathaniel Lewis. This same 'Uncle Nat. Lewis' was a most useful lical preacher. He was ordained Deacon by Bishop Asbury, in 1807. After the story of the Golden Bible, and the miracle-working
HISTORY OF SUSQUEHANNA COUNTY. 105
spectacles had come out, Joe undertook to make a convert of Uncle Nat. The old gentleman heard his tale with due gravity, and then proceeded:Selah Payne was a school teacher here, early in the century. He had been a student in the first school at Ouaquago, and was ambitious to fit himself for teaching. He afterwards became a Methodist preacher, and, it is said, a chaplin to General Jackson during the southern campaign of the war of 1812. He was an eccentric man, but had considerable ability. On a large tract of land (540 acres) which he purchased near Ichobod Swamp, he designed a kind of African college; but, after laying the foundation, 1 the enterprise was abandoned for want of funds, and Mr. Payne left the place. The tract passed through several hands, and all the timber was cut down and shipped off. Within a few years Mr. P. returned, and was killed by being run over by a train of cars near Susquehanna Depot. His wife was a daughter of Judge McAllister.
Joseph McKune, Sr., came in 1810 to the place first occupied by Ezekiel Travis, near the burying ground. He died about 1851. Joseph McKune, Jr., located on Belmont turnpike in 1825, but in 1832 came to a place previously occupied by his father in Oakland, and died here in 1861. It was on this farm that Joe Smith translated the Mormon Bible. It is now occupied by B. F. McKune, son of Joseph, Jr.
The sons of Joseph McK., Sen., were Robert, Joshua, Joseph, Charles, William, Hezekiah (now in Illinois and the only son living), John, and Fowler. He had five daughters.
Dr. Israel Skinner and his twin-brother Jacob, came in 1814 to the farms adjoining or lying on the line between Great Bend and the present township of Oakland (then Harmony). Dr. S. is remembered as the author of a "History of the American Revolution in Verse."
Jonathan Brush came in 1819; and his brother Ard, in 1820.
Ard was accompanied in 1819 by his son Samuel, who is still living on the homestead, near the line of Jackson. At a recent gathering there of his friends, among whom were old settlers and pioneers of the vicinity, he exhibited "a stuffed panther skin that looked enough like life to frighten even dogs." It is said he "never looked amiss along his rifle-barrel, and never had an
1 This is incorrectly marked on the new atlas, as "Foundation of the first Mormon Temple."
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There appears to be some uncertainty as to the time of his arrival in Harmony (now Oakland), but it is certain he was here in 1825 and later; and, in 1829, his operations here were finished, and he had left the county.
In 1830 the Book of Mormon was published, the requisite funds being furnished, it is said, by Martin Harris, a coadjutor of Smith, during its translation, and who had sold his farm for the purpose, and reduced his family to straits in consequence. His wife and daughters were greatly exasperated at his course, but he appeared to have been a sincere believer, firmly convinced of the truth of Mormonism. (Mrs. David Lyons, of Lanesboro, once heard Joe's wife speak of Mrs. Harris' complaints to her of the destitution of the family.)
Mr. J. B. Buck narrates the following:--
"Joe Smith was here lumbering soon after my marriage, which was in 1818, some years before he took to 'peeping', and before diggings were commenced under his direction. These were ideas he gained later. The stone which he afterward used was in the possession of Jack Belcher, of Gibson, who obtained it while at Salina, N. Y., engaged in drawing salt. Belcher bought it because it was said to be 'a seeing-stone.' I have often seen it. It was a green stone, with brown irregular spots on it. It was a little longer than a goose's egg, and about the same thickness. When he brought it home and covered it with a hat, Belcher's little boy was one of the first to look into the hat, and as he did so, he said he saw a candle. The second time he looked in he exclaimed, 'I've found my hatchet' -- (it had been lost two years) -- and immediately ran for it to the spot shown him through the stone, and it was there. The boy was soon beset by neighbors far and near to reveal to them hidden things, and he succeeded marvellously. Even the wanderings of a lost child were traced by him -- the distracted parents coming to him three times for direction, and in each case finding signs that the child had been in the places he designated, but at last it was found starved to death. Joe Smith, conceiving the idea of making a fortune through a similar process of 'seeing,' bought the stone of Belcher and then began his operations in directing where hidden treasures could be found. His first diggings were near Capt. Buck's saw-mill, at Red Rock; but because his followers broke the rule of silence, 'the enchantment removed the deposits.'"
The first reference in the county papers to Joe's influence appears to have been in November, 1831, and December, 1832 when "two or three wretched zealots of Mormonism created much excitement, and made some proselytes in a remote district on the borders of this county and Lucerne." The new converts then proposed removing to "the promised land," near Painesville, Ohio.
In December, 1833, Isaac Hale, of Harmony, addressed a letter to D. P. Hurlbut, in the State of Ohio, in reply to his application for "a history of facts
578 HISTORY OF SUSQUEHANNA COUNTY.relatingto the character of Joseph Smith, Jr., author of the Book of Mormon, called by some the Golden Bible." The Mormons pronounced the letter a forgery, and said that Isaac Hale was blind, and could not write his name. This was followed by a request from another gentleman of Ohio, that Mr. Hale would assist in laying open Mormonism to the world, by drawing up a full narrative of the transactions wherein Smith, Jr., was concerned, and attesting the same before a magistrate. The result is here given: --
Statement of Isaac Hale. Affirmed to and subscribed before Chas. Dimon. J. P., March 20, 1834. The good character of Isaac Hale was attested to the following day by Judges Wm. Thompson and D. Dimock.
"I first became acquainted with Joseph Smith, Jr., in November, 1825. He was at that time in the employ of a set of men who were called 'money diggers,' and his occupation was that of seeing, or pretending to see, by means of a stone placed in his hat, and his hat closed over his face. In this way he pretended to discover minerals and hidden treasure. His appearance at this time, was that of a careless young man, not very well educated, and very saucy and insolent to his father. Smith and his father, with several other money-diggers boarded at my house while they were employed in digging for a mine that they supposed had been opened and worked by the Spaniards many years since. Young Smith gave the money-diggers great encouragement at first, but, when they had arrived in digging to near the place where he had stated an immense treasure would be found, he said the enchantment was so powerful that he could not see. They then became discouraged, and soon after dispersed. This took place about the 17th of November, 1825.
A P P E N D I X. 579
"After this, Martin Harris went away, and Oliver Cowdry came and wrote for Smith while he interpreted as above described. This is the same Oliver Cowdry, whose name may be found in the Book of Mormon. Cowdry continued a scribe for Smith until the Book of Mormon was completed. as I supposed and understood.
Alva Hale, son of Isaac, stated that Joseph Smith, Jr., told him that "his (Smith's) gift in seeing with a stone and hat, was a gift from God;" but also states, that "Smith told him, at another time, that this peeping was all d----d nonsense. He (Smith) was deceived himself, but did not intend to deceive others; that he intended to quit the business (of peeping) and labor for his livelihood." * * *
Hezekiah McKune stated that, "in conversation with Joseph Smith, Jr., he (Smith) said he was nearly equal to Jesus Christ; that he was a prophet sent by God to bring in the Jews, and that he was the greatest prophet that had ever arisen."
Joshua McKune stated that he was "acquainted with Joseph Smith, Jr., and Martin Harris, during their residence in Harmony, Pa., and knew them to be artful seducers." * * *
Levi Lewis stated that "he had been acquainted with Joseph Smith, Jr., and Martin Harris, and that he has heard them both say adultery was no crime * * * With regard to the plates Smith said, 'God had deceived him -- which was the reason he (Smith) did not show the plates,'"
Nathaniel C. Lewis stated he "has always resided in the same neighborhood with Isaac Hale, and knows him to be a man of truth and good judgment." He further states that "he has been acquainted with Joseph Smith, Jr., and Martin Harris, and knows them to be lying impostors."
Sophia Lewis testifies that she "has frequently heard Smith use profane language. She heard him say "the book of plates could not be opened under penalty of death by any other person but his first-born, which was to be a male." 1 * * *
"We certify that we have long been acquainted with Joshua M'Kune, Hezekiah M'Kune, Alva Hale, Levi Lewis, Nathaniel C. Lewis, and Sophia Lewis (the individuals furnishing the several statements above referred to), and that they are all persons of good moral character, and undoubted truth and veracity.
"Jason Wilson, Postmaster.
Many stories respecting Joe Smith are still current in the localities frequented here:--
"A straggling Indian, who was passing up the Susquehanna, had told of buried treasure. Joseph, hearing of this, hunted up the Indian, and induced him to reveal the place where it was buried. The Indian told him that a point, a certain number of paces due north from the highest point of Turkey Hill, on the opposite side of the Susquehanna River, was the place. Joseph now looked about for some man of means to engage in the enterprise. He induced a well-to-do farmer by the name of Harper, of Harpersville, N. Y., to go in with him.
580 HISTORY OF SUSQUEHANNA COUNTY.
They commenced digging on what is now the farm of Jacob I. Skinner, in Oakland township. After digging a great hole, that is still to be seen, Harper got discouraged, and was about abandoning the enterprise. Joe now declared to Harper that there was an enchantment about the place that was removing the treasure farther off; that Harper must get a perfectly white dog, 1 and sprinkle his blood over the ground, and that would prevent the enchantment from removing the treasure. Search was made all over the country, but no perfectly white dog could be found. Joseph said he thought a white sheep would do as well. A sheep was killed and his blood sprinkled as directed. The digging was then resumed by Harper. After spending $2000 he utterly refused to go any further. Joseph now said that the enchantment had removed all the treasure; that the Almighty was displeased with them for attempting to palm off on Him a white sheep for a white dog, and had allowed the enchantment to remove the treasure. He would sit for hours looking into his hat at the round colored stone, and tell of seeing things far away and supernatural. At times he was melancholy and sedate, as often hilarious and mirthful; an imaginative enthusiast, consititutionally opposed to work, and a general favorite with the ladies
Harris came from Coventry, Chenango County, N. Y. (Query. Was he not the same Martin Harris who, in 1799, was imprisoned and broke jail at Wilkes-Barre?).
Joe often told Mrs. D. Lyons of the hidden treasure, and of the "enchantment" about it, and that it was necessary that one of the company should die before the enchantment could be broken.
After Oliver Harper's death the digging was prosecuted with renewed energy. Harper had been efficient in procuring men and means to carry on the enterprise, which was not to search for the "plates" from which Joe pretended to receive revelations, but for reported hidden treasure.
A belief that money will yet be found as predicted still affects some weak characters, and even within the last five years digging has been carried on slyly at night on or towards Locust Hill, but not in the same place where Joe's believer's worked.
The compiler herself visited the place where the Book of Mormon was prepared for publication. A part of the building forms the rear of the house at present occupied by Mrs. Joseph McKune. It was (in Joe's time) close by the brook, and had been used by Mr. Hale for dressing deer-skins. Mrs. Lyons saw both Smith and Harris there with the manuscript in hand.
Samuel Brush, of Oakland, often talked with Harris upon the subject of the translation; but, though Mr. B. was often in company with Joe Smith, fishing, etc., the latter never referred to it, and "this was after all the digging."
Reference has been made to the difference of opinion in regard to Joe's first operations in Susquehanna County. R. C. Doud asserts that in 1822 he was employed, with thirteen others, by Oliver Harper, to dig for gold under Joe's directions (though the latter was not present at the time), on Joseph McKune's land; and that Joe had begun operations the year previous. He states that George Harper, a brother of Oliver, had no faith in the enterprise, __________
1 Another version of this is: "To remove the enchantment, Joe's followers killed a black dog, in lieu of the desired black ram, and dragged it around in the pit."
A P P E N D I X. 581
but tracked the party to Hale's farm. The digging was kept up constantly; seven resting and seven at work.
On the old Indian road from Windsor to Chenango Point, about four miles west of Windsor, men were digging, at the same time, for silver, upon Joe's telling them where it could be found. Mr. D. further states that he himself had no faith at all, but hired at so much per day, and it was of no consequence to him whether his employer gained his point or not.
It is said that even Mr. Isaac Hale was at first a little deluded about the digging, while he boarded the party. This probably was some time before he had met Joe Smith; as it would appear, that the time referred to by Mrs. D. Lyons, was in 1825, when the digging was renewed after Harper's death, and Joe himself was present.
Jacob I. Skinner. son of Jacob (who was twin-brother of Israel Skinner), has the deed of the land on which Joe's followers experimented. It is something over a quarter of a mile north of the river to "the diggings," up Flat Brook. The accompanying diagram will illustrate the relative positions of the pits.
2. Pit filled and grain growing over it.
3. A larger pit filled.
4. A smaller one partly filled.
5. A pit that has been disturbed, in the woods.
Relative positions only, not exactly proportionate distances, are here given.
Starting from Susquehanna Depot to reach his place, one crosses the bridge and turns to the left following the road nearest the river, which strikes the old river at Shutt's house; then continuing on down until he crosses a creek and comes in sight of a school-house, with a grove beyond it, in front of which, on the opposite side of the road, is a graveyard. Just above the school-house he turns into a road on the right, and follows up "Flat Brook" to the farm now owned by J. I. Skinner. From his house a path leads about 120 yards southeast to the largest excavation, which was also the last one, from which proceeds a drain about twelve rods long.
The sides of the pits were once perpendicular, but one has been wholly filled up, and corn is growing over it; another, in addition to the large one mentioned, is now partially filled, and the sides in consequence are sloping. In the fourth (the one just over the fence), no alteration has been made, except
582 HISTORY OF SUSQUEHANNA COUNTY.
as cattle have pushed in the surface around it to reach the water which gathers there. It is under the trees, the land not having yet been cleared.
Poor Emma Hale Smith lived long enough to rue her "inquiry into Joe's character;" the pretext she gave for leaving home the day she went with him to be married.
(Her mother said to Mrs. D. Lyons, "Don't you think Emma was such a goose as to go up to Joe's father's to find out his character?"
Joe Smith removed to Ohio where he founded a church; from there the "Saints" moved to Independence, Mo. Smith following them January, 1838. From Independence they went to Nauvoo, Illinois, where Smith was imprisoned, on a warrant obtained by the owners of the "Expositor" newspaper, which had been demolished by Smith's orders. On the 27th of June, 1844, a mob of nearly two hundred men broke into the jail and shot Joseph Smith, Jr., and Hiram, his brother.
Transcriber's CommentsBrothers Joseph and Hiel Lewis (whose father, Nathaniel Lewis, is mentioned in Blackman's history) made use of excerpts from this text in innovative ways in the 1879 pages of their hometown paper, the Amboy Journal. The Lewis brothers, along with their cousin David Hale, were solicited by Salt Lake City researcher James T. Cobb to prepare for him a statement of their early memories of Joseph Smith in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania. The contents of the Lewis' statement ended up in the Journal and information from Blackman's history was thus publicized to Mormons and non-Mormons alike.
Joseph Smith's original occupation among the money-digers appears to have been that of a "peeper" or "treasure witch." It seems likely that Smith took over those duties for local money-diggers after the predictions and directions of a certain lady named Odle (or O'Dell) proved useless. The financier of the c. 1823-24 money-digging operations in the Great Bend area was Oliver Harper. Harper's eventual partner in the treasure hunting was Josiah Stowell. Either Stowell or Harper (or both together) contracted the services of Joseph Smith, Jr. (as a replacement for "peeper" O'Dell) some time prior to Harper's death (by murder) in May of 1824. On page 97 of her history Blackman reports that "Oliver Harper was murdered by Jason Treadwell." On page 325 she says that Treadwell was executed for the murder on January 13, 1825. Some reports say that Treadwell was a member of Harper's money-digging crew and that he and another man were incited to kill Harper after Joseph Smith, Jr. announced that one of the company would have to die before a certain "enchantment" guarding the buried treasure would be lifted. Whether or not these reports have any validity, Oliver Harper's widow continued to maintain a family interest in subsequent money digging operations conducted under the supervision of her husband's partner, Josiah Stowell. See the Salt Lake Tribune for April 23, 1880.