Joseph Smith: The Making of a Prophet
by Dan Vogel
A Family in Crisis
[p. 68]Lucy was proud, socially conscious, and she could never accept the fact of her family’s disinheritance. She believed that they deserved better, and she longed for the day when they would regain their former status, when they would again own their own land and live in their own house. Alvin’s industry and planning had temporarily placed them in favorable circumstances, but the dream was barely realized before it was completely lost. Now, with Alvin gone, the Smiths suffered a period of emotional division and economic paralysis. The house that had been under construction before Alvin died remained uncompleted for nearly a year. While the revival fires were igniting Palmyra, the next two years would be the darkest yet for the Smiths.
Lucy explained the delay in construction by reporting that after “the first shock occasioned by Alvin’s death passed off and we began to resume our usual avocations and having the building of the house already paid for, we thought it would be well to set the mechanics at work and have it completed.”1 The “shock” must have lasted a year, since construction did not recommence until presumably the fall of 1824, and the house was not completed until the fall of 1825.2 Nevertheless, the Smiths were proud of their accomplishment, and as Lucy recalled, “We contemplated [anticipated] much happiness and great enjoyment with the fruit of our labors.”3 They were so attached to their farm and new home that they could not be persuaded to sell, even when the principal workman, Russell Stoddard, offered them $1,500. Alvin’s death had endowed the property with a sentimental value beyond money.
Previous to the completion of the house, the Smiths learned that a new agent for the Evertson lands had arrived in Canandaigua. John Greenwood, a lawyer from New York City, had received power of attorney from Evertson’s widow in May 1824 and, soon afterwards, journeyed to Ontario County.4 Technically, the Smiths were [p. 69]more than a year and a half in arrears, and Greenwood could have legally foreclosed on the property and laid claim to both their land and improvements. However, the Smiths reached “an understanding with the agent,” who promised to retain the property until 25 December 1825.5
Despite Lucy’s claim that the house had been paid for prior to the construction, on 18 February 1825 Russell Stoddard sued Joseph Sr. for $66.59 for “work & labour & lumber … in building a dwelling house.” Stoddard won, but as late as 20 May 1825 had not collected his debt.6 The Smiths seem to have been in serious financial trouble by this time. Greenwood gave the Smiths more than a year to make their final payment, but two harvest seasons came and went without a resolution.
In other words, by the fall of 1825, the Smiths were being hounded by creditors and were on the verge of losing house and farm. In desperation, they hoped to obtain an advance on the next year’s harvest of wheat; but based on past performance, they probably would not have been successful. Six years earlier, Jeremiah Hurlburt’s suit against Joseph Sr. had included “damage for not working land according to agreement.”7
A possible solution came from over a hundred miles away through a new acquaintance, Josiah Stowell, who was a well-to-do farmer from South Bainbridge, Chenango County, New York. Stowell had evidently made his way on the recently completed Erie Canal to visit his oldest son, Simpson, in Manchester.9 The fifty-five-year-old father had just spent the previous summer with other men in northeastern Pennsylvania digging for a lost Spanish mine which a seeress named Odle had located. Neither the mine nor its treasure was discovered, but the stubborn Presbyterian from New Hampshire refused to abandon the hunt—his faith in scrying remaining strong. Perhaps informed by a letter from Simpson, Stowell made the long journey to upstate New York in part, according to Lucy, “with the view of getting Joseph to assist him in digging for a silver mine … on account of having heard that he possessed certain keys, by which he could discern things invisible to the natural eye.”9
The young scryer was invited to Simpson’s house to provide the old gentleman with a demonstration of his gift. Stowell related the details of this encounter when he testified at Joseph Smith’s court hearing in South Bainbridge in March 1826. Stowell testified that when Joseph looked into his stone, he could see and describe Stowell’s house and outhouses—which meant not only the latrine but the barn, chicken coupe, toolshed, or other out buildings. Smith added a description of a tree with a “man’s hand” painted on it, although it is not clear where this tree might have been located.10
We cannot know exactly how Smith convinced Stowell of his ability to see such objects more than a hundred miles away. A skeptic can only suggest that among the [p. 70]possible methods would be those used by present-day psychics in what is called a “cold reading.” This involves moving gradually from general to more specific statements based on educated guesses and reactions from the client.11 One might also compare Smith to “remote viewers” who today seem to view objects at great distances.12 The key operating mechanism in remote viewing, especially under uncontrolled and unscientific conditions, is the subjective interpretation of rough drawings and vague descriptions of target sites.13 Both cold reading and remote viewing exploit a tendency to assign more meaning to random and vague data than might be reasonably deduced. It is the principle that makes a horoscope seem applicable to a specific individual when it applies to others who do not share the same celestial sign. If Smith provided descriptions that were rather unspecific and then let Stowell provide the details, this would have been consistent with the tradition of palm readers and others.
However, the effect can be accomplished by exploiting information that is obtained from a third party or by eavesdropping. This is called a “hot reading” and it may lie behind much of what people assumed was Smith’s clairvoyance both in his formative years and occasionally thereafter. According to John C. Bennett, who in the early 1840s occupied a place of importance in the Latter-day Saint church, the prophet used such a technique in Nauvoo. If Bennett’s 1842 exposé can be believed, Smith convinced people that he was “not far from omniscient” by assembling information gathered from spies and informants.14
That Smith was summoned by the Stowells to Simpson’s house or appeared there by prearrangement implies that his meeting was not entirely cold and that he had a prior acquaintance with Simpson. The younger Stowell may have, at some point, described his family’s comfortable home, barn, and other buildings to someone in Palmyra or Manchester. Maybe a friend accompanied him on a visit to South Bainbridge and then unwittingly passed on information to Smith. A conversation may have been overheard. One could position oneself outside a window and hear Josiah telling his son about various changes made to the farm. If Smith used a form of “hot reading” with Stowell, he would not be the first, nor would he be the last, psychic to do so. This technique was used by spirit mediums in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and continues to be employed today.15
Regardless of the mechanism, it impressed Stowell and he hired Joseph on the spot. Lucy said that Joseph at first refused the offer but that Stowell “was inflexible in his purpose, and offered high wages to those who would dig for him, in search of said mine, and still insisted upon having Joseph work for him.”16 Later, Stowell would tell Justice Neely that Smith “did not offer his services,” and Joseph himself claimed that “he did not solicit business of this kind, and had always rather declined having anything to do with this business.”17 The sincerity with which Joseph refused Stowell’s [p. 71]offer is open to question since he was already an active treasure seer. His hesitation may have been designed to assess Stowell’s commitment and to elicit a better offer.
To coax Joseph and his father to Pennsylvania, Stowell may have suggested that they visit his friend Joseph Knight in Colesville, New York, who might be persuaded to buy the Smiths’ wheat for his mill. The Smiths’ land agent expected final payment in less than two months, and this may have been the only hope the Smiths had of retaining their property.
Before he aspired to be a prophet, Joseph wished only to be the best treasure seer in the Manchester area. That Simpson Stowell referred his father to Joseph rather than to the many other local seers indicates Joseph’s dominance in the area. Joseph would now capitalize on the reputation he had cultivated. Luman Walters had shown him that treasure seeing could be a profitable, albeit legally risky, business. Despite the danger, Joseph pursued his course with Stowell.
Before leaving Manchester, Joseph’s father sent his oldest son, Hyrum, to Canandaigua to confirm that the land agent would not sell the land until 25 December. The agent agreed, so without further worry, the two Josephs went in quest of treasure, departing with Stowell sometime in late October.
The trio probably first visited South Bainbridge to gather tools and Stowell’s fellow laborers. As the group journeyed south along the Susquehanna River to Harmony, they very well could have stopped at Joseph Knight’s mill in Colesville. If they did discuss the possibility that Knight might buy the Smiths’ wheat, he was not in a position at that time to advance the money. With the Smiths’ mortgage payment due in two months, the treasure quest took on added significance and increased the burden already resting on young Joseph’s shoulders.
The company of at least eight men arrived in Harmony and boarded at the home of Isaac Hale, a settler from Vermont who was known in the region as a skillful hunter. Hale’s large home was beautifully situated between the Oquago Mountain range to the north and the Susquehanna River to the south. Lucy Smith would visit the area in September 1828 and describe the Hale home as a “mansion” with a “large neatly finished frame … on an extensive and well cultivated farm.”18 The company remained at the Hale home for seventeen days, setting out early each morning with their picks and shovels into the foothills just above Isaac’s farm.
On 1 November, an “Articles of Agreement” was drawn up and signed, stipulating how the group would divide the treasure. The document, published in Salt Lake City in 1880, identified eleven shareholders in the company, although all were not present for the signing. Josiah Stowell, his brother Calvin Stowell, and William Hale, a relative of Isaac Hale living in Colesville, were the major shareholders entitled to two-thirds of the find. The remaining third was to be divided among Charles Newton, [p. 72]William I. Wiley, and the widow of Oliver Harper, who prior to his murder by Jason Treadwell in May 1824 was a major contributor to the Stowell-Hale company. These six parties were considered the “proprietors,” while the remaining five—Joseph Smith Jr., Joseph Smith Sr., John F. Shephard, Elihu Stowell, and John Grant—were laborers and shareholders. The agreement stipulated that “Joseph Smith, Sen. and Joseph Smith Jr. shall be considered as having two shares, two elevenths of all the property that may be obtained, the shares to be taken equally from each third.”19
The company hoped to re-open a mine that was rumored to have been abandoned by Spanish adventurers prior to the arrival of settlers from Vermont and Connecticut in the late eighteenth century. In his 1834-35 history, Oliver Cowdery related the details of this rumor: “In the town of Harmony … is said to be a cave or subterraneous recess, whether entirely formed by art or not I am uninformed … where a company of Spaniards, a long time since, when the country was uninhabited by white settlers, excavated from the bowels of the earth ore, and coined a large quantity of money; after which they secured the cavity and evacuated, leaving a part still in the cave purposing to return at some distant period.”20> According to the 1825 money diggers’ agreement, the company expected to find “a valuable mine of either gold or silver and also [rumored] to contain coined money and bars or ingots of gold or silver.”21
Michael Morse, Smith’s future brother-in-law, said he thought “three different companies had been digging for [gold] in all and that Mr. Stowell with his company were one of the three.”22 Digging for the Spanish mine had already commenced under William Hale who, according to two of Isaac’s nephews, “had been informed by a woman named Odle, who claimed to possess the power of seeing under ground, (such persons were then commonly called peepers) that there was great treasures concealed in the hill north-east from his, (Isaac Hale’s) house.”23 With financial assistance from Oliver Harper of Windsor, New York, William hired workers and the digging began in Harmony in 1822 or 1823.24 After Harper’s murder in 1824, Hale’s company of diggers returned for another try and, according to the agreement of November 1825, “work[ed] during a considerable part of the past summer.”25 Finally, Stowell and company returned in the fall and recommenced digging under the direction of Joseph Smith, the famed seer of Manchester, New York. Stowell’s company was confident that the nineteen-year-old would prove to be more gifted than Odle.
On the first morning, Stowell led Joseph and the others up the steep incline leading to the home of Joseph McKune Jr., situated atop one of the bluffs in the foothills of Oquago Mountain. As the group ascended the rocky slope, they could see evidence of Stowell’s previous labors. Plainly visible from the path leading to the McKune [p. 73]home was a large pit twenty feet deep and 150 feet in circumference.26 Jacob I. Skinner, whose father purchased the land from McKune in 1830, reported that the “big hole was covered by a rough board house.”27
Standing over the spot, Joseph looked at the stone in his hat and corroborated Odle’s assertions, declaring that the Spanish had indeed left behind about a “ton of silver bars.” After digging for some time, Joseph informed Stowell that the treasure was charmed and had slid down the hill to another location. Over the next two weeks, the company would dig four additional holes: three smaller pits to the south and another directly east.
According to rumor, Joseph resorted to blood sacrifice in an attempt to break the charm that held the treasure, just as he had done on the Chase hill in Manchester. However, by the time the residents of Harmony were interviewed, the story of the animal sacrifice had become distorted. Susquehanna County historian Emily Blackman, who first reported it in 1873, said that Joseph had initially requested a “white dog” but that when one could not be located, a “white sheep” was substituted. She also reported a rumor that “Joe’s followers killed a black dog, in lieu of the desired black ram, and dragged it around and around in the pit.”28 Michael Morse said he heard that Smith told Stowell “there must be a sacrifice of a man before the treasure could be obtained, and that finally he said that in lieu of the man, they could sacrifice a black slut that never [had] pups, and that when this sacrifice was made they should drag the dead carcass around the ‘diggings’ and that would break the charm so they could get the said treasure.”29 Jacob I. Skinner heard something similar, reporting in 1880 that when a “black sheep” could not be found, a “black dog” was sacrificed instead and “its blood sprinkled about the ground where the silver was.”30 The speculation about a human sacrifice was further distorted in a later account as a reference to Oliver Harper’s murder. In fact, Harper’s death was anachronistic to the story since he had died more than a year before Smith arrived on the scene.31 Whatever the sacrifice, it seems that there was an offering of some kind that nevertheless proved ineffectual; the treasure would remain out of reach. Although the statements by residents of Harmony were hearsay, other references to animal sacrifice in Manchester and subsequently in Colesville32 leave one to believe that there must have been some substance to the general theme.
Smith concealed the major role he played in this venture when he wrote about it, and he was ambiguous about the circumstances leading to the disbandment of the project. After “nearly a month without success in our undertaking,” he said, “finally I prevailed with the old gentleman to cease digging after it.”33 According to Isaac Hale, “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 [p. 74]would be found—he said the enchantment was so powerful that he could not see. They then became discouraged, and soon after dispersed.”34 Hale’s nephews, Joseph and Hiel Lewis, said: “Their digging in several places was in compliance with peeper Smith’s revelations, who would attend with his peep-stone in his hat, and his hat drawn over his face, and would tell them how deep they would have to go; but when they would find no trace of the chest of money, he would peep again, and weep like a child, and tell them the enchantment had removed it on account of some sin or thoughtless word; finally the enchantment became so strong that he could not see, and so the business was abandoned.”35
The changing disposition of the company’s host probably had much to do with Joseph’s performance. According to report, Hale, who had signed the agreement as a witness, was “at first a little deluded about the digging, while he boarded the party.”36 But his hospitality likely began to cool because of his growing dislike of young Joseph. It was one thing to locate treasure through mineral rods and seer stones and quite another to claim that the Spanish treasure was charmed and slipping through the earth. Joseph’s call for animal sacrifice was probably something Hale’s Methodist sensibilities could not bear.
Hale was pious and gathered his family each morning for prayer. It soon became apparent to him and others that Smith had at that time “made no profession of religion.”37 During the group’s stay, Hale observed that Smith was “a careless young man—not very well educated, and very saucy and insolent to his father.”38 What Hale observed as Joseph’s insolence may have been his insistence that the project be abandoned against his father’s pressure to continue. After all, Joseph Sr. had a lot riding on the outcome. In any case, Hale was not impressed with Joseph. It was also becoming clear that the young Smith had a romantic interest in his daughter, the attractive twenty-one-year-old Emma. Isaac was probably becoming anxious to see the company leave.
Hale said that the company boarded with him until 17 November. (As late as 1834, he still held an unpaid note for $12.68 for one of the company’s members.) Joseph Jr. had been no match for the enchanted Spanish treasure, but his employer, Josiah Stowell, remained a true believer and wanted to continue to exploit the scryer’s gift. Knowing that there were rumors of other treasures near his home in South Bainbridge, he pushed hard to have the Manchester seer accompany him there. Under the influence of his father’s pleas and probably the thought of remaining relatively close to Emma, Joseph agreed to relocate to South Bainbridge with Stowell.
Meanwhile, Lucy was experiencing difficulty in Manchester. One day while she sat in the sitting room of her newly finished house thinking of her family’s recent [p. 75]good fortune, she noticed three men crossing the yard toward the front door. As the men approached nearer the house, she recognized Mr. Stoddard, the carpenter who had enviously offered to buy their property. Lucy met the men at the door and invited them into the sitting room. As soon as they sat down, they began asking questions she considered impertinent about the payment the family owed on the property and where her husband and son were. Stoddard suggested that it would be to the family’s advantage to sell the house rather than lose everything in foreclosure. He may have tried to play on her insecurity by hinting that her husband had abandoned her and his financial responsibilities. Lucy stood firm, refusing to sell and stating that she had neither reason nor desire to as her husband had a firm agreement with the land agent. It had been nearly two months since her husband’s departure—more than enough time to secure the loan—but she had no reason to doubt his return.
As the men were leaving, they ran into Hyrum, who was approaching the house, and asked him the same questions. Upon receiving the same answers, they informed him “that he need not put himself to any unnecessary trouble, for, said they, we have bought the place and paid for it and we forbid you touching anything on the farm and moreover we warn you to leave forthwith and give possession to the lawful owners as we have got the deed in our possession.”39 The transaction with the land agent may not have been completed, but after questioning Lucy and Hyrum, Stoddard was confident that he and his two witnesses could now return to the agent and close the deal.
When Stoddard and company told Greenwood that Joseph Sr. and one of his sons had abandoned the family and that Hyrum was cutting down the sugar orchard and burning the rails, the agent was induced to sell the farm to Stoddard. The latter returned to evict the Smiths. Lucy said she was “thunderstruck” by the event. Hyrum at first refused to believe Stoddard, but Lucy, seeing he was deadly serious, nearly fainted. She fell back into her chair, “almost deprived of sensibility.” Recovering somewhat, she begged the men to consider their course, not to cast her family into the cold. One of them said, “Well, we’ve got the place and d—m you, help yourselves if you can”—words that only a stony heart could utter.
William Smith was fourteen at the time and he remembered that Stoddard “came with a ‘writ of ejectment’ and turned us all out of doors. Our other creditors then came upon us also, and stripped us of every cent and left us houseless and homeless, and almost friendless, to wander into the wide world and again seek a livelihood. Father was gone, our farm was gone, our home was gone. The weather was cold, and the hearts as well as the doors of the people seemed to be closed against us, and our situation was truly deplorable. … Having been ejected from our home thus unceremoniously, we went to my brother Hyrum’s house; a small log-house on a farm of eighty acres which he had purchased, adjoining our old farm.”40
[p. 76]Stoddard’s treatment of the Smiths was perhaps motivated in part by an awareness of Joseph Jr.’s claims about gold plates and a spirit messenger. William implied this when he said that, as a result of Stoddard’s actions, his family “thanked the Lord … that we were counted worthy to suffer in his cause.”41 Prior to his departure, Joseph Jr. had made public statements about what seemed to be necromancy, and rumors of Alvin’s body having been exhumed to satisfy the guardian spirit were probably circulating. That Stoddard knew about such claims is indicated by a quip he made to the land agent in Hyrum’s presence, telling him that he should not worry about the Smiths since the “gold plates” had made them wealthy.42 Perhaps Stoddard had purchased the Smiths’ property to expel them from the neighborhood. Despite the delay in producing the gold plates, the “disturbance” that Lawrence predicted was already materializing.
Hyrum went to Palmyra Village to the office of Gain C. Robinson, M.D., a friend to whom the Smiths believed they could turn for help. After learning of Stoddard’s treachery, Robinson wrote a statement declaring the Smiths to be of dependable and trustworthy character in business transactions. Robinson knew that the Smiths, as patrons of his Main Street drug store for the past nine years, could be trusted to pay their debts. Within an hour, Robinson had gathered the signatures of sixty people who were willing to subscribe to the Smiths’ respectability. More than likely, most of the names were Hyrum’s and Lucy’s new-found acquaintances at the Presbyterian church.
When Hyrum appeared at Greenwood’s office in Canandaigua and explained the circumstances of his father’s absence, the agent was enraged at Stoddard’s deception. Greenwood directed Hyrum to write a letter to his father and have copies deposited at every public house on the road to South Bainbridge. It was hoped that Joseph Sr. would see one of the letters and return speedily to Manchester. As it turned out, the two Josephs would not arrive until about a week before the appointed 25 December deadline.
Greenwood also sent for Stoddard to come immediately to his office. When Stoddard failed to appear, a second message threatened to send the sheriff with a warrant, and then Stoddard and his friends surfaced. Greenwood ordered them to hand over the deed they had obtained by fraudulent means. Stoddard was defiant, stating: “We’ve got the land, sir, and we’ve got the deed, so just let Smith help himself.” Perhaps hinting at his motive, this is when Stoddard added, “Oh, no matter about Smith, he has gold plates, gold money, and gold bibles, he’s rich—he don’t want anything.”43
Greenwood pressed Stoddard for a compromise until the latter responded with an absurd offer. “If Hyrum could raise $1,000 by Saturday at 10 o’clock in the evening,” he said, “they would give up the deed.”44 In other words, Stoddard wanted the [p. 77]current estimated full value of the land. The suggestion must have seemed to Hyrum to be an impossibility.
When the disheartened young man returned home, he found that his father and brother had arrived from South Bainbridge after they had stumbled across one of Hyrum’s letters within fifty miles of home. The next day Joseph Sr. asked Lucy to visit an old Quaker friend in Palmyra and request his help while Joseph Sr. probably visited Greenwood. Lucy was a half hour too late. Her Quaker friend had just given a land agent nearly $1,500 to help another friend redeem his property. The gentleman told Lucy he would make every effort to find someone else who could help them and promised to come by their home later in the evening. It was near nightfall when Lucy returned home, having failed to secure any definite help.
As promised, the Quaker arrived that evening and told them to visit Lemuel Durfee, a fellow Quaker who lived about a mile north of the village, “and see what he could devise for our benefit.” Arriving at Durfee’s home before sunrise, Joseph Sr.’s urgent knocks awoke the sixty-six-year-old occupant, who after a brief introduction sent Smith three miles farther to bring his son, a high sheriff of Wayne County. Joseph Sr. returned with Durfee’s son and the three sat down to discuss business over breakfast. Durfee agreed to help the Smiths and began drawing together his resources to make the purchase.
Joseph Sr. and the two Durfees arrived at Greenwood’s office at 9:30 p.m. When Stoddard and friends showed up, they claimed that the clock was slow and that it was really past the agreed ten o’clock. This objection was brushed aside and Stoddard handed over the deed. On 20 December 1825, Lemuel Durfee, who paid $1,135 for the Smiths’ Manchester land, became the legal owner and the Smiths became his renters. At this time, Durfee agreed to let the family remain on the farm for one year provided they send Samuel to labor on his farm for six months.45
The loss of the farm was more devastating to Lucy than were any of her family’s previous setbacks. Describing her feelings when she first learned of Stoddard’s scheme, she recalled: “I did not feel our early losses so much for I realized that we were young and might by exertion better our situation and I further had not felt the inconvenience of poverty so much as I had now done, and consequently did not appreciate the value of property justly, but at this time I now felt that all must go at one fell swoop … and we be left in the decline of life destitute [and] a burden upon our children’s hands. And I looked upon the proceeds of our industry which smiled on every side of me with a yearning attachment that I had never felt before.”46
The situation compromised Lucy’s class consciousness. Significantly, she chose to follow the Presbyterians, the religious and economic elite of the community. Although momentarily saved by Durfee’s intercession, it was only a matter of time [p.78]before they would have to return to the cabin. She undoubtedly recalled the embarrassment she had felt when the wife of one of Palmyra’s merchants said at a tea party, which Lucy had attended several years earlier—“Mrs [Smith] ought not to live in that log house of her’s any longer she deserves a better fate and I say she must have a new house.”47 Lucy had responded defensively, claiming that she did not envy their lifestyles, that true wealth was in family cohesiveness. Privately, she was a proud woman for whom appearances mattered. With the loss of the farm, the social humiliation of poverty would once again weigh heavily on her.
The loss added stress to an already strained marriage. One can only speculate about the fallout that must have followed this event, and it is doubtful that Joseph Sr. would have escaped blame. After all, it was he who had unwisely decided, following the death of their land agent in 1822, to invest his money in building a house instead of saving it for the time when a new agent would be appointed. Why did he not contact the Evertsons and make arrangements for continued payments? That would have been the appropriate way to handle the situation. Instead, he had chosen to take advantage of the fortuitous event, probably counting on Alvin’s help. Alvin’s death greatly impaired the family’s ability to meet their obligations. Nearly two years of economic stagnation following his death contributed to their continuing disenfranchisement. Joseph Sr. floundered when he had had more than a year to come up with the final payment. When his family needed him most, he had gone off to another state chasing an imaginary treasure. Despite Lucy’s view that Stoddard was to blame, the Smith family was partially responsible for their predicament.
In her history, Lucy skips over the events immediately following the loss of their farm and jumps ahead to Joseph Jr.’s departure in the fall of 1826. This narrative gap is the result of her suppression of information dealing with the family’s involvement in treasure seeking. In dictating her history, she had not volunteered the circumstances of how her family met Josiah Stowell, but her editors, Martha and Howard Coray, knew of the account in her son’s history and likely questioned her about it and referenced it in the final version. However, in following Joseph’s published history, the editors concluded the account of Joseph’s work in Pennsylvania with a statement Lucy would have known was false: “It was from this circumstance of having worked by the month, at digging for a silver mine, that the very prevalent story arose for Joseph’s having been a money digger.”48 Of course, she knew of Joseph’s long involvement in the Manchester area as a treasure seer.
Despite the editors’ inclusion of the Stowell episode, the final version of Lucy’s history failed to mention Joseph Sr.’s involvement in Pennsylvania, which created the erroneous impression that Joseph Jr. had accompanied Stowell alone and then returned to join his father on a trip to procure a loan from Stowell and Knight. In fact, [p. 79]Joseph Sr. was deeply involved in the Stowell operation as a signatory of the diggers’ contract. Immediately following the loss of the farm, the two Josephs returned to the South Bainbridge area and resumed their pursuit of lost treasure. Despite her own belief in buried treasure, soothsaying, and magic circles, Lucy could not have been entirely pleased with her husband’s behavior, and it is likely out of embarrassment that she skipped this period of her family’s history.
While mother Smith would later defend her family against charges of laziness and insist that they did not allow their interest in magic to distract them from other work, Joseph Sr.’s activities during the latter part of 1825 led neighbors to conclude differently. The fact that he dug for treasure with Stowell’s company in Harmony when he should have been working to pay for his Manchester property undoubtedly contributed to his neighbors’ assessment of his character. Those steeped in the Puritan work ethic naturally considered treasure seeking to be an idle pastime, one that Joseph Sr. could hardly afford to pursue. In his mid-fifties and with little chance of recovering fully from a financial reversal, Joseph Sr. had clung to his son’s gift and the possibility of becoming rich as a life-line in a sea of uncertainty. It was his only hope of redeeming his loss, healing his wounded ego, and restoring his self respect. Joseph Jr. undoubtedly felt this pressure, too.
Despite the family’s obvious industry in the early 1820s as they had cleared sixty acres of heavily wooded land and built a cabin and a frame house, their interest in the 100-acre Manchester lot diminished after Durfee became owner. Their decreased activity during the remaining three and a half years—partly due to their changed status and partly because of the loss of Joseph Jr., when he went to Colesville to work for Joseph Knight, and of Samuel, who worked for Durfee six months out of the year for rent—reinforced any judgment the neighbors had made about the Smiths. Despite their growing reputation for laziness, the Smiths were known by many to be good workers to hire even though Joseph Jr. was particularly singled out as “lazy” by a sympathetic observer.49
When Joseph Jr. learned of Stoddard’s jeering remark about the gold plates, he must have felt some responsibility for having prompted the persecution of his family. He had violated his own instructions to his family by telling Samuel Lawrence and the Methodist minister about the gold plates. The family was now being denigrated because of him, and he must have struggled to make sense of their misfortunes in this context.
As soon as Joseph Sr. had settled the situation with Stoddard, he and Joseph Jr. returned to Stowell’s home in South Bainbridge. In March 1826, Joseph would tell Justice Neely that for the past five months he had for a “small part of time been employed in looking for mines,—but the major part had been employed by said Stowel [p. 80]on his farm, and going to school.”50 This statement minimized his treasure-seeing activities, but his continued involvement in this business spanned two townships in southern New York—South Bainbridge, Chenango County, and Windsor, Broome County—both on the Susquehanna River immediately north of Harmony.
In his March 1826 statement to Justice Neely, Stowell said that Smith boarded at his home for five months and used his stone to locate “hidden treasures” at several locations in the area. In addition to locating the Spanish mine in Harmony at a place Stowell called “Bend Mountain” because the Susquehanna River curved around it, Smith had looked in his stone for a gold mine on “Monument hill” in Windsor, for a “salt spring,” probably in South Bainbridge, for a gold mine for a “Deacon Attl[e]ton” (perhaps Charles Atherton of South Bainbridge), and for treasure said to have been buried by a “Mr. Bacon” (perhaps Asher Bacon of Windsor).51
William D. Purple was in attendance at Smith’s court hearing and said in 1877 that he had seen holes on Josiah Stowell’s farm which he assumed were Smith’s digs. According to Purple, Jonathan Thompson, a participant in at least one of Smith’s ventures, testified that “Smith had told the Deacon [Stowell] that very many years before a band of robbers had buried on his flat a box of treasure, and as it was very valuable they had, by a sacrifice, placed a charm over it to protect it, so that it could not be obtained except by faith, accompanied by certain talismanic influences.” Still, the treasure slipped away.52 Martin Harris told Joel Tiffany in 1859 about an “old Presbyterian,” evidently referring to Stowell, who had mentioned that “on the Susquehanna flats he dug down to an iron chest, that he scraped the dirt off with his shovel, but had nothing with him to open the chest; that he went away to get help, and when they came to it, it moved away two or three rods into the earth, and they could not get it.”53
At some point, Smith’s search for treasure shifted to Windsor, home of “widow Harper,” for whom Stowell’s “Agreement” had made provision. One location mentioned by Stowell was “Monument hill,” where Smith saw in his stone a deposit of gold. Upon visiting the elevation located in the chain of hills on the west side of the Susquehanna River in the northern section of Windsor township, Smith located the “digging part,” or evidence of a previous digging. Many hills in the vicinity had been previously excavated by money diggers and others looking for salt and shale. One resident, William R. Hine, claimed that Asa Stowell, a relative of Josiah from Bettsburgh, Chenango County, “furnished the means for Jo to dig for silver ore, on Monument Hill.”54
In his statement to Justice Neely, Stowell described another incident that apparently took place in Windsor. Stowell said that Smith saw in his stone “where, a Mr. Bacon had buried money—that he and prisoner [Smith] had been in search of it; [p. 81]that [the] prisoner said that it was on a certain root of a stump 5 feet from [the] surface of the earth, and with it would be found a tail feather, that said Stowel and prisoner thereupon commenced digging, found a tail feather, but the money was gone, that he supposed that [the] money moved down.”55
While Stowell interpreted this as proof of Smith’s seeric gift, skeptics—as Neely and many of those in attendance undoubtedly were—suspected that Smith had either planted the tail feather at the location or had more likely placed it in the hole during the process of digging, perhaps allowing Stowell to discover it himself. Joseph may have planted evidence while looking for a mine for “Deacon Attl[e]ton,” at which time, according to Stowell, there was discovered “a (piece) of ore which resembled gold.”56 In other words, the ore was not gold but probably some specimen of iron or copper pyrites, “fool’s gold,” which was present in a natural mineral deposit or had been planted there.
At the court hearing, Jonathan Thompson, a shoemaker living in Plymouth, Chenango County, told Neely that Smith looked for a “chest of money” for a “Yoemans,” apparently a resident of Windsor.57 Thompson believed in Smith’s gift and said that one night, Smith led Yoemans and himself to a certain spot where they dug several feet and “struck upon something sounding like a board or plank.” Anxiously, the two men asked Joseph to look in his stone to see what was there, but he refused. He had an “alarmed” expression on his face, explaining that the last time he had looked “the circumstances relating to the trunk being buried came all fresh to his mind … [and] he discovered distinctly, the two Indians who buried the trunk, that a quarrel ensued between them and that one of said Indians was killed by the other and thrown into the hole beside of the trunk, to guard it as he supposed.” Thompson told Neely that he believed in Smith’s skill and that “the board he struck his spade upon was probably the chest, but on account of an enchantment, the trunk kept settling away from under them while digging, that notwithstanding they continued constantly removing the dirt, yet the trunk kept about the same distance from them.”58
Despite later attempts to minimize his early treasure-seeking, Joseph’s activities in South Bainbridge and Windsor were prolific until his arrest and court hearing in March 1826. Peter Bridgman, a nephew of Josiah Stowell who believed that Smith was defrauding his uncle, issued a warrant accusing Smith of being “a disorderly person and an imposter.”59 Bridgman was evidently acting on behalf of other family members, for Purple reported that Stowell’s sons “plainly saw their father squandering his property in the fruitless search for hidden treasures, and saw that the youthful seer had unlimited control over the illusions of their sire.”60 Joseph’s demonstrations could not convince every skeptic.
[p. 82]While there was no specific law against being an “imposter,” the warrant’s use of the term pointed to a specific section of the New York statute that described various kinds of offenses under the definition of “disorderly persons.” The section of the statute applicable to Bridgman’s charge reads: “All jugglers, and all persons pretending to have skill in physiognomy, palmistry, or like crafty science, or pretending to tell fortunes, or to discover where lost goods may be found … shall be deemed and adjudged disorderly persons.”61 The frequent use of the term “pretended” in the court record, even in testimonies of defense witnesses Josiah Stowell and Jonathan Thompson, indicates that Neely was examining Joseph based on that section of the “disorderly persons” statute dealing with scryers. In preparing a bill for his services during the 1826 term, Neely listed “People vs. Joseph Smith The Glass Looker” and charged the county $2.68.62 Although the statute referred to those “pretending” to find lost objects, the law in fact made no distinction between fraudulent and real scryers.
The crime Neely noted on his bill as a “Misdemeanor” was usually ignored unless a complaint was filed by someone who had lost money to a scryer. In such a case, the defendant could be fined and imprisoned, depending on the circumstances.
Joseph was arrested by Constable Philip DeZeng and brought before the justice on 20 March 1826. Purple remembered that “there was a large collection of persons in attendance, and the proceedings attracted much attention.”63 Joseph’s activities had become widely known in South Bainbridge. Perhaps perceiving the unusual nature of the case, Neely asked Purple to keep notes. The procedure began with a reading of affidavits from Stowell’s sons, which probably had been the basis for the warrant against Smith.
Neely then questioned Smith, who admitted that he had “been employed in looking for mines.” Neely noted that Smith “had a certain stone, which he had occasionally looked at to determine where hidden treasures in the bowels of the earth were, that he professed to tell in this manner where gold mines were a distance under ground, and had looked for Mr. Stowel several times and [had] informed him where he could find those treasures, and Mr. Stowel had been engaged in digging for them.” Smith told Justice Neely that “at Palmyra he had pretended to tell by looking at this stone, where coined money was buried in Pennsylvania, and while at Palmyra he had frequently ascertained in that way where lost property was of various kinds.” Smith admitted that “he has occasionally been in the habit of looking through this stone to find lost property for 3 years, but of late had pretty much given it up on account of injuring his health, especially his eyes, made them sore—that he did not solicit business of this kind, and had always rather declined having anything to do with this business.”64
Seven witnesses were subpoenaed, but the official record summarizes the testimony [p. 83]of only five: Josiah Stowell, Horace Stowell, Arad Stowell, a McMaster, and Jonathan Thompson. By law, justices were required to record only testimony that was “relative to the fact” or “material to prove the offence.”65 Neely may have deemed two of the witnesses immaterial. One of those was evidently Joseph Smith Sr., whom Purple said looked like a “wandering vagabond” with his “lank and haggard visage” and “his form very poorly clad.” Purple said the old man followed his son on the stand and confirmed what Joseph Jr. had stated and “described very many instances of [Joseph’s] finding hidden and stolen goods.” He said that “both he and his son were mortified that this wonderful power which God had so miraculously given him should be used only in search of filthy lucre, or its equivalent in earthly treasures.” Joseph Sr. told Neely that “his constant prayer to his Heavenly Father was to manifest His will concerning this marvelous power” and that he “trusted that the Son of Righteousness would some day illumine the heart of the boy, and enable him to see His will concerning him.” Purple said that Joseph Sr.’s words made a “strong impression on my mind” as “they seemed to contain a prophetic vision of the future history of that mighty delusion of the present century, Mormonism.”66
Next, Josiah Stowell took the stand and told Neely that he had asked Smith to look in his stone for treasure in New York and Pennsylvania. He testified that he had been given many evidences of Smith’s gift and that therefore “he positively knew that the prisoner could tell and possessed the art of seeing those valuable treasures through the medium of said stone.” Because Smith had located the previous diggings on Bend Mountain and Monument Hill and because “a (piece) of ore which resembled gold” was found while digging a mine for Deacon Attleton, because a tail feather was found five feet below the surface of the earth while digging for buried money as Smith had predicted, because Smith at Palmyra had accurately described his house, out houses, and a tree with a painted hand on it, Stowell avowed, he “had the most implicit faith in [the] prisoner’s skill.”67
Jonathan Thompson described Joseph’s apparent success in locating treasure for Yoemans and stated his belief that the trunk had magically slipped away through the earth. Thompson’s account likely evoked a scoff from some of the court’s spectators, but he persisted, declaring that he was “certain that [the] prisoner, can, divine things by means of said stone and hat.” Continuing, he added that Smith had proved his skill to him by seeing in his stone some money Thompson had lost sixteen years earlier and describing the man who he suspected had taken it as well as explaining what the money had been used for.68 This old story was one that Smith might well have heard from any one of Thompson’s acquaintances in South Bainbridge.
Others at the hearing had not found Smith convincing. Horace Stowell, a cousin of Josiah who lived in South Bainbridge, told the justice that he saw Smith “look into [p. 84]that strange stone, pretending to tell where a chest of dollars were buried in Windsor a number of miles distant, [and] marked out [the] size of [the] chest in the leaves on [the] ground.” Horace did not know how Smith could see treasures in the ground and miles away.
Another of Josiah’s cousins, Arad Stowell, who lived in South Bainbridge, told Justice Neely that “he went to see whether [the] prisoner could convince him that he possessed the skill that he professed to have, upon which [the] prisoner laid a book open upon a white cloth, and proposed looking through another stone which was white and transparent; [Smith] held the stone to the candle, turned his back to [the] book and read, [but] the deception appeared so palpable that [the witness] went off disgusted.”
A Mr. McMaster confirmed Arad’s testimony, stating that “he went with Arad Stowel, to be convinced of [the] prisoner’s skill, and likewise came away disgusted, finding the deception so palpable.” McMaster testified that Smith “pretended to him that he could discern objects at a distance by holding this white stone to the sun or candle; that prisoner rather declined looking into a hat at his dark-colored stone as he said that it hurt his eyes.”69
Joseph’s book-reading demonstration would foreshadow his future dictation of the Book of Mormon when he would similarly put the stone into his hat and dictate without the plates even being present in the room. Arad Stowell and McMaster may have believed that Joseph was simply repeating a portion of the book that he had previously memorized. Indeed, Smith had evidently chosen the book himself, perhaps the Bible, and the page to be read. With his back to the men, the insinuation may have been that he read from a duplicate book. Regardless, Stowell and McMaster remained unconvinced.
Smith countered that he was a real seer, and his witnesses, Josiah Stowell and Jonathan Thompson, gave reasons for believing that Smith possessed a genuine gift. Yet, New York law did not distinguish between fraudulent and real scryers, so the court would treat Smith’s defense as a confession of guilt and find cause to proceed with a formal prosecution on the charge of “disorderly conduct.” The court record and associated bills indicate that Neely planned to bring the accused before a three-justice Court of Special Sessions. Neely recorded his preliminary finding in his docket book: “And therefore the court finds the defendant guilty.” He put Smith and the three material witnesses under “recognizance” to appear at the forthcoming Court of Special Sessions. He ordered Constable DeZeng to notify the two other justices of the forthcoming case.70 Despite this intent, a Court of Special Sessions was never held in Smith’s case.
Historical sources suggest a possible explanation for why this transpired as it did. [p. 85]Bainbridge resident Abram W. Benton said in 1831 that Smith was “condemned” by Neely’s court but that “considering his youth, (he then being a minor) and thinking he might reform his conduct, he was designedly allowed to escape.”71 It is unclear if Benton attended the 1826 proceedings, but in bringing a warrant against Smith on the same charge in July 1830, he demonstrated that he was familiar with issues of the first prosecution.72 In an 1842 statement, Joel K. Noble, the Colesville justice before whom Smith appeared in 1830, explained that Smith had been “condemned” but that “whisper came to Jo. off off” and so he “took Leg Bail.”73 In other words, someone suggested to Smith that he jump bail and leave town. If this is true, it would explain why a Court of Special Sessions was not held. However, Smith subsequently returned to South Bainbridge, first about November 1826 seeking employment with Stowell and again in January 1827 to be married by Justice Zechariah Tarbell. This suggests that there must have been more involved than an escape from custody because, if this had been the case, he probably would not have been so bold in returning to South Bainbridge. I therefore suggest the following scenario.
At the conclusion of the examination, Neely released Smith on his own recognizance to appear at the forthcoming trial, but when Neely subsequently learned that Smith had unlawfully crossed the county line into Colesville, presumably to the home of Joseph Knight, Neely issued a “mittimus” to have Smith taken into custody and returned to South Bainbridge. Constable DeZeng traveled “10 miles … with mittimus to take him,” according to an entry in DeZeng’s bill. Upon being returned to South Bainbridge, Smith must have managed to work out an off-the-record agreement with Neely. Smith had good reason to negotiate since it was becoming clear that his defense had no legal basis and a formal trial would likely result in his conviction and possible imprisonment. Smith’s youth (nine months short of his twenty-first birthday) may have inclined Neely toward leniency. Besides, Smith seemed willing to abandon his scrying career.
Perhaps Smith agreed to leave town. In a misdemeanor case, justices had the power “to impose a fine not exceeding twenty-five dollars, or imprisonment in the common jail of the county not exceeding six months, or both, as the case may require.”74 In cases involving non-residents, the same statute stipulated that upon payment of the fine and/or release from prison, the “offender shall be immediately ordered or transported out of the said county to his last place of settlement or abode if known; and if any person so ordered or transported shall remain in the said county for forty-eight hours, or return thereto within six calender months after such order or transportation, he shall be again fined as aforesaid, or confined as aforesaid.”75 Neely may have insisted that this non-resident defendant leave for the stipulated time. When Smith returned to South Bainbridge eight months later, he would not have [p. 86]feared arrest as long as he avoided scrying. Unaware of the off-the-record agreement, some townspeople may have assumed that Smith had escaped custody.
While the documents do not give all the information one would hope for, they do not support Oliver Cowdery’s 1835 claim that Smith was “honorably acquitted.”76 Ultimately, conclusions about innocence or guilt are less enlightening than the descriptions from friendly witnesses. Clearly, Joseph was not merely a partaker of the common folklore regarding enchanted treasures and guardian spirits, but also a dispenser of it.
The trial marked a low point in Joseph’s life. He felt the sting of society’s rejection. Even his father apologized for his son’s behavior while suggesting an alternative use of his gift. Joseph Jr.’s unwillingness to discuss the event in later years indicates that he experienced some shame. Through Oliver Cowdery in 1835, Smith asserted that he had been “honorably acquitted”; his official history of 1838-39 would fail to mention the episode in its entirely. Joseph told followers that his early persecutions resulted from his visionary claims, but his severest persecution actually stemmed from his activities as a treasure seer in South Bainbridge. Even Stoddard’s comments about the monetary value of the “gold plates” are better understood in a money-digging context than as religious persecution. Joseph and his father evidently agreed to keep news of the trial from his mother, for she later stated that the March 1829 suit brought by Mrs. Harris against her son in Lyons, New York, was “the first time that a suit was ever brought before any court which affected any of my children.”77
Despite his public humiliation, Joseph had learned a great deal from his misfortune. From a brief encounter with the law, he now realized that no matter how apparent the fraud may appear to some individuals, there were others—his father, Josiah Stowell, and Jonathan Thompson—who would always continue to believe. More importantly, his public ordeal showed him that his career as a magician was too limiting. Following his father’s advice, he would eventually abandon the pursuit of “filthy lucre” and take refuge in religion.
1. Lucy Smith, Preliminary Manuscript, 1845, 50-51, LDS Church Archives, Salt Lake City, UT (Dan Vogel, ed., Early Mormon Documents [Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1996-2003], 1:308-309; hereafter EMD).
2. The date of construction is surmised from a document dated 18 February 1825 that shows Russell Stoddard suing Joseph Smith Sr. for “building a dwelling house” (Common Pleas Transcripts, Ontario County Record Center and Archives, Canandaigua, NY). While major construction was performed by Stoddard, the finishing carpentry apparently occurred sometime afterward since Lucy states that Josiah Stowell came “a short time before the house was completed” (Lucy Smith, Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet and His Progenitors for Many Generations [Liverpool: S. W. Richards, 1853], 91 [EMD 1:309]), which was about October 1825.
8. Evidently, thirty-four-year-old Simpson Stowell was temporarily living in Manchester in October 1825 when his father, Josiah, visited him. His presence in the area is confirmed in a land purchase he made on 29 January 1827, the deed describing him as “Simpson Stowell of the town of Manchester” (Deeds, Liber 45, 400; and Mortgages, 14, 292, Ontario County Records Center and Archives).
10. “A Document Discovered,” Utah Christian Advocate (Jan. 1886): 1 (EMD 4:252-53). The original court record has evidently not survived. Researchers rely on three independent printings: Charles Marshall, “The Original Prophet: By a Visitor to Salt Lake City,” Fraser’s Magazine (London) 7 (Feb. 1873): 225-35 (rpt. in the Eclectic Magazine [New York] 17 [Apr. 1873]: 479-88); Daniel S. Tuttle, “Mormons,” A Religious Encyclopaedia, ed. Philip Schaff (New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1883), 2:1576; and “A Document Discovered,” Utah Christian Advocate (Salt Lake City), Jan. 1886. Of the three printings, the Utah Christian Advocate is apparently the most carefully prepared copy and is the version used here.
11. On “cold reading,” see James Randi, An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1995), 50-52; Ray Hyman, “‘Cold Reading’: How to Convince Strangers That You Know All about Them,” Skeptical Inquirer (Spring/ Summer 1977): 18-37; Robert Novella, “Cold Reading,” Connecticut Skeptic 2 (Spring 1997): 3.
12. Two major studies on “remote viewing” were done at the Stanford Research Institute (1973-89) and the Science Applications International Corporation (1992-94). The results are available in R. Targ and H. E. Puthoff, Mind-Reach (New York: Delacorte Press, 1977).
13. The analogy between Smith’s demonstration and “remote viewing” should not be pushed too far because the latter is closer to ESP (extra-sensory perception/mind reading) or astral-projection (out-of-body travel) than to viewing objects at a distance through a seer stone. In their 1980 book, The Psychology of the Psychic (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1980), David Marks and Richard Kammann describe how subjective validation operates in many remote viewing experiments. While initial experiments conducted at the Stanford Research Institute in the 1970s appeared promising, subsequent investigation revealed flawed methodology, inappropriate cuing, and wishful thinking. Controlled experiments failed to replicate the initial results at Stanford. See David F. Marks, “Remote Viewing Revisited,” Skeptical Inquirer (Summer 1982): 18-29.
14. Bennett said: “These … spies and informants … generally call upon [Smith] every morning, and make a detailed report of the sayings and doings of various persons in Nauvoo, or elsewhere, as the Prophet may direct them. These reports are listened to with great attention by Holy Joe, and carefully treasured up for future use. When he is desirous of making an impression on [a Brother Johnson, for instance,] … he turns to the particulars of that individual’s conduct and conversation, communicated by the spies … [and] Brother Johnson of course opens his eyes very wide, at this revelation, and is more firmly than ever convinced that Smith is the Prophet of the Lord! ‘For how else,’ reasons he, ‘could he know so particularly what I have been doing, when I am quite sure he was not within a mile of me?’” (John C. Bennett, The History of the Saints: or, An Exposé of Joe Smith and Mormonism [Boston: LeLand and Whiting, 1842], 271-72).
15. Psychics exploit many sources of information for their “readings,” including conversations between clients before a seance (Magic and Mystery: The Incredible Psychic Investigations of Houdini and Dunninger [New York: Tower Publications, 1963], 121-25), use of public directories (Walter B. Gibson and Morris N. Young, Houdini on Magic [New York: Dover Publications, 1953], 131), telling a man his name after seeing it on some personal property (Edward Abbott Parry, Vagabonds All [New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1926], 208-209), listening to a conversation through a telephone intentionally left off the hook (James Randi, Flim-Flam! Psychics, ESP, Unicorns, and Other Delusions [Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1986], 156), burglarizing an office (Randi, 157), writing down license numbers of cars in a parking lot and taking notes about the people getting out of their cars (Randi, 156; David Marks and Richard Kamman, The Psychology of the Psychics [Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1980], 63), use of confederates who note the contents of pockets and purses of those paying for tickets before entering (Randi, 156), use of confederates who mingle with the audience and take notes on conversations (sometimes called “foyer reconnaissance,” Marks and Kamman, 63), use of confederates in the audience who convey information through gestures (Marks and Kamman, 112-13; Randi, 156), and through unsuspecting third parties (Henry Gordon, Extrasensory Deception: ESP, Psychics, Shirley MacLaine, Ghosts, UFOs … [Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1987], 30).
24. R. C. Doud of Windsor, New York, asserted that “in 1822 he was employed, with thirteen others, by Oliver Harper, to dig for gold … on Joseph McKune’s land” (Emily Blackman, History of Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania [Philadelphia: Claxton, Remsen, and Haffelfinger, 1873], 580 [EMD 4:395]).
26. For a discussion of the location and nature of the digging in Harmony, see Dan Vogel, “The Location of Joseph Smith’s Early Treasure Quests,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 27 (Fall 1994): 213-19.
36. Blackman, History of Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, 581 (EMD 4:395). Frederick G. Mather, who interviewed residents of Harmony in 1880, reported that initially Hale “was taking altogether more stock in this Big Bonanza than was agreeable to his judgment of matters of business,” but soon began withdrawing his support ([Mather], “The Early Mormons” [EMD 4:352]).
44. Ibid. Considering the fact that Lemuel Durfee actually purchased the Smiths’ former land on Tuesday, 20 December 1825, Lucy is probably mistaken about the day of the week being Saturday unless there was a delay before Durfee actually retrieved the deed.
52. W[illiam]. D. Purple, “Joseph Smith, the Originator of Mormonism: Historical Reminiscences of the Town of Afton,” Chenango Union (Norwich, NY), 3 May 1877, 3 (EMD 4:136). A statement by Jonathan Thompson appears in the abbreviated court record where a similar, but not identical story is recorded (cf. “A Document Discovered” [EMD 4:254]).
54. William R. Hine, Statement, ca. Mar. 1885, Naked Truths About Mormonism (San Francisco, CA) 1 (Jan. 1888): 2 (EMD 4:183). Hine’s claim that Smith “dug over one year without success” on Monument Hill is likely an error. Asa Stowell’s father, Hezekiah Stowell, was Josiah Stowell’s second cousin once removed.
55. “A Document Discovered” (EMD 4:252). The only Bacon listed in the 1830 census for either Chenango or Broome County is Asher (or Ashel) Bacon of Windsor, Broome County, New York (U.S. Census, 1830:83). He is also listed in the 1825 state census of Windsor, Broome County (Broome County Historical Society, Binghamton, NY).
57. While the “Yoemans” mentioned by Thompson could be Andrew Yeomans of Preston, Chenango County, New York (U.S. Census, 1830:229), Dale Morgan suggested either William, Solomon, or Jeremiah Yeomans, all apparently of the same family, living in Windsor (see John Philip Walker, Dale Morgan on Early Mormonism: Correspondence and a New History [Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1986], 399, n. 13). Land records indicate that the Yeomans owned property on Windsor Lot 11, situated on the south or east side of the Susquehanna River and just east of Ouaquaga Mountain, and across the river on Colesville Lot 287 (original Lots 22/23) (see Jeremiah Yeomans to Solomon Yeomans, 9 Feb. 1825, Liber 9, 108; 4 Sept. 1827, Liber 10, 344; 5 Sept. 1827, Liber 10, 344-45; Solomon Yeomans to William Yeomans, 28 June 1827, Liber 10, 364, Broome County Clerk’s Office, Binghamton, NY).
59. For various approaches to Smith’s 1826 court hearing, see Wesley P. Walters, “Joseph Smith’s Bainbridge, N.Y., Court Trials,” Westminster Theological Journal 36 (Winter 1974): 123-55; Marvin S. Hill, “Joseph Smith and the 1826 Trial: New Evidence and New Difficulties,” BYU Studies 12 (Winter 1972): 223-33; Paul Hedengren, In Defense of Faith: Assessing Arguments against Latter-day Saint Belief (Provo, UT: Bradford and Wilson, 1985), chap. 13; Gordon A. Madsen, “Joseph Smith’s 1826 Trial: The Legal Setting,” BYU Studies 30 (Spring 1990): 91-108; and my discussion in EMD 4:239-48.
61. See Laws of the State of New York, Revised and Passed at Thirty-Sixth Session of the Legislature, 2 vols. (Albany, NY: H. C. Southwick and Co., 1813), 1:114, sec. I, emphasis added; see also A New Conductor Generalis: Being a Summary of the Law Relative to the Duty and Office of Justice of the Peace, Sheriffs, Coroners, Constables, Jurymen, Overseers of the Poor, &c. &c. (Albany, NY: E. R. Backus 1819), 108.
70. “A Document Discovered” (EMD 4:255). Perhaps the clearest indication that Neely found cause to proceed with a formal trial in Smith’s case is the itemization in Constable DeZeng’s bill: “Notifying two Justices” (Philip DeZeng, Bill of Costs, 1826, Clerk of the Board of Supervisors, Chenango County Office Building, Norwich, NY [EMD 4:265]).
72. See J. Smith, Manuscript History, 48 and n. 162 (EMD 1:125). Dale Morgan believed Benton’s reminiscence (now supported by Noble) “harmonized the discrepant accounts,” arguing that “Joseph Smith would appear to have been given the equivalent of a suspended sentence” (J. P. Walker, 399, n. 21). While Morgan may be correct that Benton’s account seems to harmonize various accounts, his interpretation implies that a judgment was reached in Smith’s case. This does not appear to have been the case for two reasons: (1) Benton’s 1830 warrant would have amounted to double jeopardy and (2) Smith successfully defended himself in 1830 by appealing to the statute of limitations (see Joel K. Noble to Jonathan B. Turner, 8 Mar. 1842, 2, Jonathan Baldwin Turner Papers, Illinois State Historical Library, Springfield, IL [EMD 4:108]). Time limitations apply to prosecution, not to sentencing. If a judgment had been reached and Smith was given a suspended sentence in 1826, a second trial would have been illegal and unnecessary.
77. L. Smith, Preliminary Manuscript, 96 (EMD 1:384). She apparently also forgot that in 1819 Jeremiah Hurlburt had sued both Joseph Sr. and Alvin (Jeremiah Hurlburt v. Joseph and Alvin Smith, May 1819 and 20 June 1819, Ontario County Record Center and Archives).