"Winchester's Last Testimony"
Text from Wayne Cowdrey, et al., The Spalding Enigma... (Manhatten Beach, CA: The Digital Voice, 2000, pp. 835-836, original cited as: "Testimony of Benjamin Winchester, Council Bluffs, Iowa, Nov. 27, 1900," used with permission. Pagination of typesecript in the RLDS Archives not used. See also David J. Whittaker, "East of Nauvoo: Benjamin Winchester and the Early Mormon Church," Journal of Mormon History XXI:2 (Fall 1995) pp. 31-83).
TESTIMONY OF BENJAMIN WINCHESTER
"Q. What is your name?
"A. Benjamin Winchester.
"Q. What is your age?
"A. Eighty-three. . .
"Did Joseph Smith, the prophet, ever practice polygamy?
"Yes, I know he had for wives Ella Kimball, Louisa Beman, Eliza Snow and two Partridges. Also before the revelation came out on polygamy he had a child to a Miss Smith of Philadelphia. She had two children before he sealed her as his wife. She was a fine looking woman, and traveled for months with Smith, about nine or ten months before her child was born. I could not have been any other man's child. Smith got Philo Dibble to marry here so as to avoid scandal."
"Were you personally acquainted with any of Smith's wives?
"Yes, but especially with Louisa Beman from a girl. About the year 43 Joseph Smith took rooms for her in my fathers house, and Smith came to see her about once a week."
"Did they sleep together?
"Yes they did.
"Was there only one bed in the room?
"Yes just one bed." Are you sure it was in 1843? "No, but it was about that time, or from 42 to 44."
"Where did your father live at that time?
"At Nauvoo, Illinois. I got much information concerning polygamy from Hiram Smith. He was a great friend of mine. He was satisfied that it was the will of the Lord that we should permit polygamy, so he admitted to me that he had went into it. I had many talks with him on this subject in the winter of 43 and 44, while I was sick at my father's house. He often came there and talked for hours with me on this and other subjects relating to the church. Many of the leaders here (in Council Bluffs) and in other places have admitted to me that Smith like Moses fell, and that as Moses had sinned and therefore could not enter Canaan, so Smith had sinned and this was the cause of his death.
"What kind of man was Smith?
"I have entertained him for a month at a time while we lived in Philadelphia, while he was hiding from a mob. There was not a particle of true religion in him. His talk was never about anything pure or elevating. He liked to talk about be[ing] a great general or leader, and commanding people, and getting beforethe public. He could not reason on anything. He was well versed in Billingsgate vocabulary. Well versed in blackguard language for his evidences. He liked to use slang and cutting remarks on his persecutors. He loved to give orders to the church and to show authority. As a boy he was wild and curious. His mother and father expected great things of him. He carried what he called a 'Peep stone' through which he claimed to see hidden treasure & etc. This is what he afterwards called his 'Urim and Thummem.' Finally he took the notion to get up a book. Then he claimed to have made the discovery of the plates. Then he got Cowdery, Harris and Whitmer into it."
"Cowdery was his scribe, or the writer of the book, as Smith dictated it. It was done this way. The report went out about the plates and a mob gathered to get hold of them. Smith fled to Pennsylvania, and Oliver Cowdery went with him. They either built, or went into a shanty already built, and hung blankets across the room. Smith was behind the blankets in the dark with this 'peep stone' in his hat and then his face in the hat. As he looked into the hat there would come sentence after sentence upon the stone, and he would dictate it to Cowdery, and Cowdery would write it down.
"Q. Have you any theory as to the origin of the Book of Mormon?"
"A. I am satisfied that it originated with Smith and Cowdery and possibly Harris contributed some to it. Afterward as Smith was very quarrelsome -- the most abusive man I ever saw -- he quarreled with the three witnesses, and all the other witnesses only his own family. Cowdery at the time however, claimed to not know the source of the book. As the church increased in numbers Smith got more saucy and more abusive and he got to drinking badly."
"[Q.] Did you ever see him drinking or drunk?
"I can not say that I ever saw him drinking, but I have seen him drunk."
"Why did you join his church knowing all these things? "I was just 15 when I joined it, so as I was young, I was led into it, not seeing any more truth any where else. There were not over 150 members when I joined it. I kept educating myself. I often saw Smith's bad conduct but they admonished me to keep on. They pointed out to me just as bad things in other churches. They pointed to the men of the bible, how wicked many of them were, and how oppressive they were; yet that God approved of them -- so I kept on and thought it was all right.
"They showed me how God 'took the weak things to confound the wise' & etc. After Smith died I left them and have had nothing to do with them since, though I had written much in their defense.
"What were some of your writings?
"I wrote a concordance called "a Synopsis of the Scriptures," "A History of the Priesthood" and edited for a while the "Gospel Reflector." It did not run long. I was deputed by them to hunt up the Hulbert case. It was Hulbert, (A relative of mine) that got up the Spaulding story. Hulbert was a sharp, tonguey fellow. He joined the Mormans and became an elder. He seduced a girl named Barns. We as the church, to cover up the matter, urged him to marry her. He refused and then we expelled him."
"Spaulding's novel pretended to give a history of the origin of the Indians from four nations who were the first navagators, and who drifted over to America, from the Mediterranean Sea. It had no connection with the Book of Mormon. Spaulding wrote this in 1812, on about two reams of foolscap. Hulbert expected to make something by claiming it was Smith's book of Morman. Hulbert saw Spaulding's document in Connecticut, and saw that he could make a better thing out of it by not publishing it at once. I asked him why he did not publish it. He said shrewdly that he could do better without publishing it yet. Spaulding's story was well written and good language. The book of Mormon was from an illiterate person."
"Was Smith prayerful? "No. He often stopped at my house and though I have asked him to say grace at the table or to offer family prayers he always refused. There was not a particle of piety in him. He never wanted to talk on piety or any thing religious or on piety, but always on some ideas of greatness, etc."
"What caused Smith's death? It was the masons who killed him. Hiram Smith had been an arch mason, but left them after the book of Mormon came out, as it denounced secretism, etc. But afterward Smith applied for a charter to initiate members and conduct masonry among his followers. The charter was granted and he began to initiate into the lodge every Tom, Dick and Harry. Every male among us that was old enough was admitted into membership. This was at Nauvoo. This conduct caused trouble, and the charter was revoked. Smith never stuck long to any thing. The mob consisted mostly of masons, and those who were indignate over plural marriages, seduction, etc. Smith was a perfect libertine. Women got to running after him because they believed him to be a prophet. The whole church is a rotten concern."
"A Professor of the Electic college of Cincinnatti got to running around with Smith. His name was John C. Bennet. They ran with other men's wives so much that much trouble arose over it. Then Bennet got up this revelation on polygamy, which was a fraud, to cover their perfidy. He got out of Nauvoo before Smith's assassination, but he and Smith had a "big time" before that."
"How would you account for so much truth being brough[t] forth in the book of Mormon ?"
"Cowdery was the scintific man of the age and well informed generally, and what he [had?] Smith lacked -- but I will tell my opinion of the whole business, from my later investigations in spiritualism. Judging from Smith's make up -- his family -- the dark room behind the blanket, etc., I believe that Smith was simply a spiritual medium, and when he went into the dark room he became inspired from some spirit -- perhaps that of Spaulding, or some other spirit, and the spirit gave him the words."
"Did you ever know of any wonderful miracle or healing through Smith or the church? "I never did. No organic disease ever cured to my knowledge. Smith said he had no faith in it, and refused me when I a [sic] asked him to lay hands on the sick. Some little headaches or toothaches claimed to be cured by laying on of hands, but no organic trouble ever cured to my knowledge."
Mr. Winchester was very feeble from jaundice. This testimony was taken in the presence of his daughter-in-law, Mrs. Benj. J. Winchester. I returned next day to have him read it and give affidavit, but he was not able to hear it read.
[Signed] W. L. Crowe, Sac City, Iowa
We, the undersigned certify that we have carefully compared the three copies of a purported interview by Elder W. L. Crowe, of Sac city [sic], Iowa, with Benj. Winchester, at Council Bluffs, Iowa, said interview being on Nov 27th 1900; one copy written with pencil, one with pen and ink, and one with typewriter; and further certify that the three copies contain the same matter in substance, except the question in reference to miracles and healing, which does not appear on the original written by pencil; Elder Crowe stating that this question was asked at a second interview as it appears on copy written with ink and pen. Sac City, Iowa.
Signed Wesley Cheney, R. Wight, I.A. Cory.
Dec. 12th 1900
State of Iowa, Sac County, /ss./
I hereby certify that the foregoing typewritten testimony of one Benj. Winchester, taken at Council Bluffs, Iowa, is a true copy of the testimony of the same Benj. Winchester purported to have been taken and made by one Elder W. L. Crowe, and as handed to me to be copied. Owing to some slight errors in making the copy on the typewriter the corrections have been made by me with pen.
Sac City, Iowa, Dec. 13th 1900.
Miles W. Newby
"Last Testimony of Benjamin Winchester"
The contents of this autobiographical document correspond in several places with that of Winchester's 1889 article "Primitive Mormonism," and it is best read in parallel with that published article. For example, in both accounts Winchester relates the story of a Mrs. or Miss "Smith of Philadelphia," whom he indentifies as being a mistress or early plural wife of Joseph Smith, Jr. This woman, Hannah Ann Duboise Smith (also known as "Widow Smith"), eventually became the second or third wife of Philo Dibble at Nauvoo in 1841; she went west with him and died in Springville, Utah.
Another early female Mormon convert mentioned by Winchester in his 1900 interview is the woman he calls "a girl named Barns" who lived near his parents' home in Erie County, Pennsylvania. This was almost certainly Huldah (or Hulda) Barnes (Oct. 1,1806-Sept. 20, 1898), the daughter of Abijah Barnes and Abi Bradford. The Barnes family moved to a location just east of Jacksonville in Conneaut Twp., Erie Co., Pennsylvania in 1818 from Cayuga Co., New York. Hukldah's parents were probably Mormon converts; both died in Erie County early in 1833. Huldah was likely baptized at Mormon in Conneaut Township during April 1833, perhaps under the hand of Elder D. Philastus Hurlbut, then a Mormon missionary in the area. Her older sister, Anna Barnes Harmon (1798-1847) was baptized in Erie County on May 29, 1833 by Hurlbut's senior missionary companion, Orson Hyde. At some point between the beginning of 1834 and the biginning of 1838 Huldah moved from Pennsylvania to Geauga County, Ohio. Elder Oliver B. Huntington identifies her as having served as a maid in Joseph Smith, Jr.'s house at Kirtland (Diary of Oliver B. Huntington, Vol. 2:5-6; Brigham Young University Library, entry for Jan. 12, 1881; see also Cheryl Harmon Bean, Rediscovering History, Mormons in Erie County Pennsylvania 1832-1833, St. Anthony Idaho: privately published, 1995 pp. 48-49).
The exact date of Huldah's move from Erie Co., Pennsylvania to Kirtland has not been recorded, but her sister Anna was there by the first half of 1834, so it is likely that Huldah had also made the move by that date. Prior to her removal to Kirtland, Huldah may have been the "Mormon woman of very bad character, who lived alone" and who played hostess to D. P. Hurlbut during the late summer of 1833 (Rachel Miller Derby Statement, Naked Truths About Mormonism I:1, Jan. 1888). Wayne Cowdery et al., on pp. 435-36 n.45 of Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon: The Spalding Enigma, (St. Louis, 2005), says:
Dale Broadhurst... argued that the woman involved may have been Hulda Barnes (ca. 1806-1898)... one of the many wives of Heber Kimball. This intriguing prospect is somewhat diminished by Benjamin F. Johnson's description of her as "a large corpulent (i.e., very obese) woman." See Autobiography of Benjamin F. Johnson, Chapter 5 (December 1840) in My Life's Review... 1947).
The Enigma authors' negative reasoning on this matter may be flawed, in that D. P. Hurlbut, a "good sized" man himself, may have preferred a robust female (who may have been less "corpulent" in 1833-34 than she was reported to be in 1840). In his 1900 statement eye-witness Benjamin Winchester describes Hurlbut as "a sharp, tonguey fellow" who "became an elder... seduced a girl named Barns... [and] the church, to cover up the matter, urged him to marry her. He refused and then we expelled him." It seems that the Erie Co. Pennsylvania Mormon leaders met at local "conference" held late in May 1833 (probably in the home of Winchester's father), where they disfellowshipped Hurlbut and confiscated his Elder's license. Shortly thereafter, on May 29, 1833, Elder Orson Hyde baptized Anna Barnes Harmon, who was almost certainly the sister of the Mormon girl whom Hurlbut had seduced. Hyde then proceded to Kirtland, and there brought excommunication charges against his wayward missionary companion, the already disfellowshipped D. P. Hurlbut. In his 1840 booklet, Elder Winchester provides some additional details, saying: "he was cast off from the church, and his license taken from him by the conference; at first he appeared impenitent and obdurate, but afterwards professed penitence and humility; he soon left for Kirtland, to appeal to the general conference, when his case was reheard, and, in consequence of confession and acknowledgment, his license was restored." In order for the Kirtland church court to have rendered such a decision, Hurlbut must have offered acceptable satisfaction in the matter of the "girl named Barns." Possibly the two were married at that time, but no record of their brief union was recorded at the county courthouse, because Mormon elders at that time were not licensed by civil authority to perform legal marriages. If this is what actually happened, all mention of her ill-fated 1833 ceremony may have been purposely forgotten, when Huldah Barnes of Erie Co., Pennsylvania later moved to Nauvoo and there wed Apostle Heber C. Kimball, on Feb. 3, 1846.
If Huldah Barnes was indeed married to D. P. Hurlbut during the spring of 1834, that hitherto unsuspected union may help explain a certain odd historical episode involving Hurlbut, his Mentor, Ohio landlord, and a woman identified only as his "wife". According to Joseph Smith, Jr., writing at the end of 1835:
Mr. Hurlburt about this time [Dec., 1833] was bound over to court for threatening [my] life. He is also an associate of the celebrated Mr. Clapp, who has of late immortalized his name... by his polite attention to Hurlburt's wife, which cost him (as we are informed) a round sum.
At first glance, the above accusation (joining the intimate affairs of Deacon Orris Clapp of Mentor, Ohio with those of the unnamed "wife") may appear achronistic, in that D. P. Hurlbut is not known to have been married when he was staying in Mentor, near (or at) the home of Orris Clapp. Not until April 29, 1834 (three weeks after the end of the period alluded to by Smith) was D. P. Hurlbut legally married -- when he wed Maria Sheldon Woodbury in Kingsville, Ashtabula Co., Ohio. By that time he had left the immediate vicinity of Kirtland and Mentor, not to return until well after Smith published his accusation. However, if Hurlbut had taken Huldah Barnes as his illegal LDS bride sometime between April, 1833 and April 1834, she may have been the "wife" in question.
The same story of Hurlbut's "wife" and Orris Clapp was told with more detail by Sidney Rigdon in 1839:
while Hulburt was busily employed in the service of the [anti-Mormon] company, old deacon Clapp was employed in taking care of his wife. How many others of the company aided in this business must be left to futurity to disclose. At a certain time, Hulburt being out till a late hour in the night, returned to his house, and in going to his bed room where his wife was. Behold and Lo! there was the pious old deacon, either in the bed with his wife, or at the side of it. He had a five dollar bank note in his hand, and his dress was rather light, to suit the Doctor's taste... Hulburt laid hold of him and called for help, which soon came to his assistance. The pious old deacon was arraigned before a justice of the peace, and was on the eve of being bound over for his appearance to the county court, when to put an end to the evils which might result from his pious care of Mrs. Hulburt, he kindly offered a yoke of oxen and a hundred dollars; this was accepted. Hulburt took his wife and left the country forthwith
While Rigdon provides no exact date for his nasty assertion, it is reasonable to assign the alleged affair to the period after D. P. Hurlbut had been permanently expelled from the Mormon Church, but before he departed from Geauga Co., Ohio for Kingsville in April of 1834. During part of that time it is very likely that Hurlbut temporarily abandoned his previous lodgings with the family of Mrs. Ezekiel Johnson, in Kirtland, and went to live with her non-Mormon husband (or one of his neighbors) in nearby Mentor. In fact, one factor contributing to Rigdon's venomous remarks, may be that Hurlbut and his female companion took up residence in the same cabin on Orris Clapp's land where Rigdon and his own wife had resided only three years earlier.
However, perhaps the virtue of Sister Huldah Barnes need not be held up to such close inspection, when it is noticed that D. P. Hurlbut appears to have promoted the doctrine of "spiritual wifery." One hint of this his odd proclivity in this direction may be inferred from an allegation made against him in regard to the daughter of Frederick G. Williams: "I became acquainted with D. P. Hurlbut before he left the Mormons. He courted Dr. Williams' beautiful daughter [Lovina Susan Williams (1816-1847)], and told her he had a revelation to marry her; she told him when she received a revelation they would be married." The notion that certain couple are divinely destined to meet and share their affections (despite other marital bonds) was a belief of some practioners of 19th century spiritual wifeism -- as was the notion that a man might simultaneously enjoy the spiritual (or carnal) favors of more than one such female companion. According to a report from the a member of the Kirtland family where Hurlbut had his lodging in 1833:
"[regarding] the great exploit of D. P. Hurlburt... He was... of a low moral status. He had been baptized, ordained, and sent eastward with others, to preach the gospel. He labored for a time near Jacksonville, Erie County, Pennsylvania, but was soon for illicit association called back to Kirtland, where he was excommunicated, but afterwards rebaptized. He soon became enamored or greatly in love with Electra [sic], sister of L[yman]. R. Sherman... she despised him for his immorality and rejected his suit.
The young Mormon lady here mentioned was Electa Elenor Sherman, whose mother, Asenath Hurlbut Sherman, was from the same branch of the Hurlbut family as were Benjamin Winchester's Hurlbut uncles (Asenath was their sister and Wincher's aunt). Since Benjamin Winchester admitted a family relationship with D. P. Hurlbut, it appears likely that Miss Electa Elenor Sherman was Hurlbut's near relative also. At any rate, it appears that D. P. Hurlbut was not adverse to courting two different Mormon girls in the Kirtland area, at practically the same time, and to extending offers of some sort of divinely sanctioned liasons to both females within what must have been a very short period of time (while he was yet a Mormon).
A Woman Trap?
Given the possibility that Orris Clapp was assured that D. P. Hurlbut was not then a bachelor, the pious old Deacon may have furnished temporary quarters to Hurlbut and a "Mormon woman of very bad character" who had previously "lived alone" in Pennsylvania. It is also possible that such a "Mormon woman" (whether she were Sister Huldah Barnes or not) may have intentionally placed her landlord, Deacon Clapp, in some sort of compromising situation, just as D. P. Hurlbut was about to return home, late in the evening. By such means the woman (perhaps with the connivance of Hurlbut himself), might have quickly raised a much-needed "hundred dollars," or procured "a yoke of oxen" for her male companion.
The story related by Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon, in relation to D. P. Hurlbut's immoral "wife," is given some further confirmation, in the form of a curious account, again related by a member of the family with whom Hurlbut lodged in Kirtland for several months. The narrative is well summarized by Dale W Adams in note 40 of his 2000 paper, "Dr. Philastus Hurlbut":
25-26 provides a story that weakly corroborates some of Rigdon's allegations. This story was told him by his father Ezekiel, a non-Mormon, who lived in Mentor and was a friend of the Clapps and other anti-Mormons. Benjamin states that Hurlbut and his wife lived with Elias Randall in Mentor near Ezekiel's home. Johnson alleges that Randall became disgusted with Hurlbut and that this caused Hurlbut "with his wife, [to] put up a job on the old man [Randall], and drew him into a women snare, from which they would not release him until after payment of $500.
Adams speculates that "Johnson may have transposed Randall for Clapp in his story," but it is just as reasonable to speculate that D. P. Hurlbut and his alleged "wife" played this same confidence game on two or more of the residents of Mentor within a short time, and relying upon the duped mens' embarrassment to avoid immediate detection in playing their "woman snare" game. While it is highly unlikely that Hurlbut's future bride, Miss Maria Woodbury (a lady of good reputation), would have taken up residence with her husband-to-be at Mentor during D. P. Hurlbut's stay there, the same degree of virtue cannot be automatically applied to all the young women with whom Hurlbut had close association.
Adams offers some additional reporting that may be of interest at this point in the reconstruction of D. P. Hurlbut's affairs, both as a Mormon and afterwards:
to say, that "A little flush came into her pale cheeks, and she replied: "Well, he wa'n't a Mormon long; and I was his first wife." Phrasing her answer this way allowed Maria to tell the truth, but avoid saying that Hurlbut had thrown her over for another woman for a time.
Phrasing her answer in such a manner, Maria Woodbury Hurlbut may also have avoided having to admit that her husband was a practioner of spiritual wifery, and that he engaged in intimate relations with other women, both before and after their 1834 marriage. Adams offers some relevant details in presenting his explanation:
When the 1850 census was taken, D. P. Hurlbut was working as an ordained minister for the United Brethren Church in Sandusky Co., Ohio. At the same time, he was reportedly engaged in some unministerlike activities in that same place. At a meeting of the Sandusky Annual Conference of the United Brethren, held Sept. 18th, 1851, the attendees were informed that Rev. Hurlbut had been suspended in his office (evidently subsequent to April 23 of that year) for various improprieties, a suspension which the Conference extended for the term of one year. At the expiration of that period, his case was again examoned and the Conference resolved that "Upon reliable testimony given to this conference, his deportment during suspension, has been unworthy of the sacred office of a minister of the Gospel" and defrocked him permanently. Available church records from that period do not certify that Hurlbut was then excommunicated, but it appears that he was, and that he later joined a local Spiritualist group and carried on additional "religious work" within that "open-minded" sect.
Hyram Rathbun, who was present at these meetings of the Ohio United Brethren Sandusky Annual Conference, reported the following details in 1884:
In regard to D. P. Hurlbut... He was excommunicated from the Methodist Episcopal Church for improprieties with the opposite sex and lying... He was excommunicated from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for improprieties with the opposite sex and lying... [he later] wormed himself into the "Church of the United Brethren in Christ," and was ordained an Elder... in the fall of 1851, when he was held before the Sandusky Annual Conference of said church, for a trial on charges of gross improprieties toward the opposite sex, lying and intemperance. Each charge... was clearly and fully sustained; and he was suspended from the ministry one year and as that year he grew from bad to worse, he was entirely excommunicated at the next, session of the conference which was held In the fall of 1852.
Perhaps some indication of how her husband's "gross improprieties toward the opposite sex" during the early 1850s effected Maria Woodbury Hurlbut, can be inferred from words she penned in 1851:
Sometime in the month of June last, I heard the doctrine [of sanctification] preached experimentally for the first time. I was not pleased with the sentiments at that time... temptations of the deadliest kind assailed my mind. The hypothesis maintained by some that God has no other means of access to the soul than through the medium of the five senses, seemed to be Satan's strong hold. I was, however, enabled to through grace, to consecrate my all to God. I was enabled in full assurance of faith to ask God to cleanse me from every secret fault, and give me a clean heart... All is resignation... Maria S. Hurlbut, March 29, 1851
It is currently unknown exactly when it was that D. P. Hurlbut adopted Spiritualism for his religion, but it may well have been during the early 1850s. in 1867 his daughter Phoebe married Leander Franklin and went to live on his farm near the hamlet of Rollersville, which lies about four miles southwest of Gibsonburg (where Hurlbut had been living when the 1850 census was taken. Later that same year D. P. Hurlbut was chosen as the Rollersville congregation's delegate to Ohio's first annual Spiritualist convention.
More Evidence of Spiritual Wifery
It might be argued that most of America's early believers in Spiritualism had no connection with spiritual wifery. Still, there was an occasional overlap between the two multifacted belief systems and some Spiritualists definitely practiced spiritual wifery, if in no other sense than that they retained their claim to marital union with a departed spouse, while remarrying and establishing connubial bonds with a new mate as well. However, to counter that inevitable skepticism, which some readers will exercise in considering Hurlbut's probable views on this subject, there is further, stronger evidence in support of his belief in and practice of spiritual wifery.
Having made himself unwelcome among the United Brethren in Sandusky County, there is reason to believe that D. P. Hurlbut returned to his old haunts in the area around Kirtland, Ohio -- probably in 1853 or 1854. The Oct. 11, 1854 issue of the Painesville Telegraph carried an advertisement for a certain "Dr. D. Hulburt," who had recently moved to that small Ohio village from parts unknown. And there, in Kirtland, on Oct. 15, 1854, he gave up his daughter Julia into marriage with a young man named Philetus Swift Blackmon, late of Farmersville, Cattaraugus Co., New York -- into a "spiritual marriage," that is. Although notice of the marriage was published in the Painesville Telegraph, and the union produced at least three children, it was evidently never recorded at the Lake County court house, an indication that it was not licensed, (as would have been the case for a regular Spiritualist or Swedenborgian wedding).
Julia Hurlbut was not a child of Maria Woodbury Hurlbut. Julia may have been a child of D. P.'s consort Diana by a previous male association, or she may have been D. P. Hurlbut's actual daughter, born aside from his union with Maria Woodbury. A "Julia Hurlbut" married George Hall near Kirtland on Oct. 22, 1845. If Hurlbut's daughter Julia was already married, that small fact would not have prevented her from entering into extra-legal "spiritual wifery" with Mr. Blackmon in 1854. It stands to reason that any father who would give his blessing to such a quasi-marital bond might well be a participant in spiritual wifery himself. And, given the fact that some Mormons were accused of secretly engaging in such illegal affairs at Kirtland, prior to the 1835 publication of their Doctrine and Covenants (which admits as much), it is not unreasonable to postulate that D. P. Hurlbut himself was then one of those Mormons so accused.
Getting back to Sister Huldah Barnes -- by the late 1830s Huldah was apparently again living in Erie Co., Pennsylvania. Elder Benjamin F. Johnson found Huldah there late in 1840 and assisted her in moving to Nauvoo not long thereafter, (see Benjamin F. Johnson, My Life's Review 1947, new edition: Provo: Grandin Book Co. 1997, pp. 66-67).
Although she became a plural wife of Heber C. Kimball in 1846, Huldah apparently had a penchant for living alone -- both in Wisconsin (where she lived alongside or among the Voree Strangites) and later in Utah, where she died a single woman in 1898. Despite her sojourn among the Wisconsin apostates, Huldah had joined the Brighamites in Deseret by 1852 (see the diaries of her in-law, Appleton M. Harmon). There, following the demise of Apostle Kimball in 1877, Huldah was reportedly sealed to his son, Jedediah H. C. KImball (1855-1827) -- a strange circimstance that may suggest the young man was actually her own son. When Huldah Barnes Kimball died at Holden, Utah in 1898 none of the Kimball family were in attendance, however.
The "Hurlbut Case"
In his 1900 interview, Winchester says that he "was deputed by them to hunt up the Hulbert case." Here he must be making reference to his superiors in the Mormon Church: Joseph Smith, Jr., Sidney Rigdon, and very likely, Parley P. Pratt. Winchester further explains in his 1889 article, that Smith and Rigdon had paid him a secretive visit when he was a leader in the Mormon Church in Philadelphia. In the 1900 interview he makes that assertion with these words: "I have entertained him [i. e. Joseph Smith] for a month at a time while we lived in Philadelphia, while he was hiding from a mob." In the 1889 article Winchester dates this secretive visit to "the winter of 1839 and 1840," explaining that the two top Mormons were then fleeing from "officials" who were "acting for the State of Ohio." It is possible that Smith and Rigdon did briefly reside in Philadelphia, between the time they fled Kirtland and the time they established themselves at Far West, Missouri. But, if that was so, it appears that Winchester has conflated in his accounts that early 1838 flight of Smith and Rigdon from Kirtland and the late 1839 journey of Smith and Rigdon to Washington, D. C., when they stopped over in Philadelphia. The events Winchester was perhaps a bit hazy about here, were the Dec. 23, 1839 special conference held in Philadelphia and the sequel conference held there on Jan 13, 1840. (Whittaker, pp. 39-40). Joseph Smith and Orrin P. Rockwell were present for the first meeting at Philadelphia and were joined there by Rigdon, Parley P. Pratt, and others for the second meeting. Most of the elders remained until Jan. 27, and Rigdon stayed on for yet another six weeks (Richard Van Waggoner, Sidney Rigdon p. 270).
Smith's need to justify his involvement in spiritual wifery in Philadelphia at this time perhaps corresponds to Pratt's recollection that: "In Philadelphia I had the happiness of once more meeting with President Smith, and of spending several days with him and others, and with the Saints in that city and vicinity. During these interviews he taught me many great and glorious principles concerning God and the heavenly order of eternity. It was at this time that I received from him the first idea of eternal family organization, and the eternal union of the sexes in those expressibly endearing relationships which none but the highly intellectual, the refined and pure in heart, know how to prize..." (Parley P. Pratt, Autobiography p. ?).
Benjamin Winchester's being "deputed" by Smith, Rigdon and Pratt "to hunt up the Hulbert case" while attending the January 1840 conference with these top LDS officials was a timely assignment. In May and June of 1839 Matilda Spalding Davison's statement asserting that the origin of the Book of Mormon was linked to her late husband's old writings was circulating throughout the USA in newspaper and magazine reprints. Parley P. Pratt encountered this journalistic nuisance while he was in New York City and wrote a defensive response to the NYC New Era on Nov. 27, 1839. This was only five days after Winchester had attended a meeting hosted by Pratt in New York City (Whittaker, p. 39) and it is possible that he and Pratt then first discussed writing their respective responses to the already well publicized Spalding authorship claims.
During the late summer of 1840 Benjamin Winchester visited England and again apparently had a significant visit with Parley P. Pratt, at the office of the newly founded Millennial Star in Liverpool. David J. Whittaker credits Winchester's encounter with Pratt's 1840 pamphlets in England as "the inspiration for Benjamin Winchester's The Origin if the Spaulding Story..." and adds that the latter was "probably published in November or early December" after his return to Philadelphia (Whittaker, pp. 43-44). It is thus reasonable to assume that Winchester spent 1840 writing his refutation of the Spaulding claims, then carried the rough draft for that pamphlet to Liverpool, and there received Pratt's support in his project to print the text, upon his return to the United States.
D. P. Hurlbut, a "relative"
Winchester says that D. P. Hurlbut was "A relative" of his, but does not provide any details for this disclosure. The probable connection is through Winchester's uncle, Asel Hurlbut. Both Asel and his twin brother Ansel Hurlbut were living near the Winchesters in Erie County, Pennsylvania during the early 1830s. Such a familial relationship would help explain why D. P. Hurlbut stopped early in 1833 to visit at Elk Creek, in Erie County, where both the Winchesters and Hurlbuts lived. When Hurlbut returned to that same place as a Mormon missionary in April 1833, he frequently stayed in the home of Winchester's father, Stephen. This tendency on Hurlbut's part is readily explainable if he was, indeed, a relative of Stephen Winchester and Stephen's local Hurlbut in-laws. The family connection perhaps also partly explains why Benjamin Winchester was selected to write and publish the 1840 Origin of the Spalding Story.
Besides Asel and Ansel, Benjamin Winchester had another Hurlbut uncle -- Uncle David Hurlbut, who, along with his sister, Asenath Hurlbut Sherman (mother of D. P.'s romantic interest, Electa E. Sherman of Kirtland) were very likely D. P.'s closest associates among that branch of the family.
History has provided but few clues in regard to D. P. Hurlbut's early days. His widow (Maria S. Woodbury Hurlbut) stated to interviewer Arthur B. Deming in 1885, that her late husband, "when a young man" had "attended school in Penn Yan, N. Y. Later he lectured about the country on various subjects" -- however, there is no known record of a young "Doctor" Philastus Hurlbut living near Penn Yan and attending school there during this period.
It is likely that D. P. was a relative of those Hurlbuts who first lived in Chittendon County Vermont and who later migrated to Chautauqua County, New York, where some of them became Methodists. David Hurlbut (already mentioned) was born in 1770, in Middletown, Connecticut; but he married in Chittendon Co., Vermont and gradually moved westward on a line of travel passing more or less through Yates Co., New York. At least three of David Hurlbut's children took up residence in or near Rushville, Middlesex twp., in Yates Co. One of the three eventually died in the neighboring township of Jerusalem -- this was Clemana Hurlbut, who married Joel Burtch of Sabintown in about 1827. It is possible -- even probable -- that the young D. P. Hurlbut lived first in Rushville and then relocated with friends or family to Sabintown (within walking distance of Penn Yan) even before Clemana (his step-sister or half-sister?) married Mr. Burtch
The Hurlbut pioneers gradually moved westward, through New York, into the lands south of what became the Erie Canal route. They mostly avoided Niagara and Erie counties, but settled in noticeable clusters on the border of Yates and Ontario counties; in Genesee Co., and in Chautauqua Co., just north and west of Jamestown. This was the region inhabited by Asenath Hurlbut Sherman's branch of the family, along with her Mormon relatives, the Shermans and the Johnsons (both of the latter being families with which D. P. Hurlbut would interact while still living near Jamestown, as well as both before and after he moved westward to Elk Creek and Kirtland.
Refuting the Spalding Claims
Benjamin Winchester's 1840 pamphlet circulated far beyond the its place of publication (Philadelphia) and its contents quickly became the LDS Church's standard response to advocates of the Spalding authorship claims. A reprint edition was published in England by Elder G. J. Adams in 1841. Adams' version duplicated almost all that Winchester had said in America, plus it added important letters on the subject, written by Sidney Rigdon and Orson Hyde. Winchester almost certainly had access to the 1839 Rigdon letter, but he did not include it in his 1840 pamphlet. His reason may have been the close proximity of Philadelphia to Boston, where Spalding's widow might have seen the publication and taken exception to Rigdon's caustic rhetoric (and might have then published still more condemning accusations against the Mormons in the eastern papers). Within a few years the widow was near her death (she died June 22, 1844 or 1846) and her diminishing potential for hostile response was probably seen as no longer being a threat, when LDS Apostle John E. Page wrote and published his updated refutation pamphlet in 1843. Page's edition contained both the 1839 Rigdon letter and the 1841 Hyde letter. What was missing from the new anti-Spalding claims was the narrative previously supplied by Benjamin Winchester. By 1843 Winchester was greatly out of favor with the Joseph Smith, Jr. and well on the way to his eventual apostasy and temporary affiliation with Sidney Rigdon's Pittsburgh splinter group in the fall of 1844.
Having researched and written his 1840 Origin of the Spalding Story, Winchester remained convinced that there was no connection between the writings of Solomon Spalding and the Book of Mormon, even after his separation form the Church and renunciation of much of Mormonism. In his 1889 article he remarks: "I say most emphatically that I do not believe that the Spaulding manuscript was utilized in any way in making up that book." In the 1900 interview he states:
It was Hulbert... that got up the Spaulding story... Spaulding's novel pretended to give a history of the origin of the Indians from four nations who were the first navagators, and who drifted over to America, from the Mediterranean Sea. It had no connection with the Book of Mormon. Spaulding wrote this in 1812, on about two reams of foolscap. Hulbert expected to make something by claiming it was Smith's book of Morman. Hulbert saw Spaulding's document in Connecticut, and saw that he could make a better thing out of it by not publishing it at once. I asked him why he did not publish it. He said shrewdly that he could do better without publishing it yet.
Apart from his very unlikely reference to "Connecticut," Winchester's recollection here corresponds to the report published by Oliver Cowdery in the Church newspaper in April 1834, saying that D. P. Hurlbut had "given a few... expositions" to audiences in the Kirtland area, but then had "changed the title of his discoveries." It seems that the Winchester and Cowdery accounts both preserve a memory of D. P. Hurlbut having lectured in Geauga Co., Ohio in the latter part of December 1833, informing his audiences that he had with him the original of "Smith's book of Morman," but that he shortly thereafter Perhaps at the end of January, 1834) "changed the title" of what he had to offer and only admitted to possessing Spalding's unfinished "Roman story" (the one now on file in the Oberlin College Archives).
Winchester betrays his own belief in late 19th century spiritualism when he says: "I believe that Smith was simply a spiritual medium, and when he went into the dark room he became inspired from some spirit -- perhaps that of Spaulding, or some other spirit, and the spirit gave him the words." Thus, though he denies the direct influence of Spalding's writings upon the Book of Mormon story, Winchester holds open the quaint notion that Solomon Spalding's deceased "spirit" might still have somehow influenced its contents!
At another place in the 1900 interview Winchester says: "I am satisfied that it [i. e. the Book of Mormon] originated with Smith and Cowdery... Cowdery at the time however, claimed to not know the source of the book." Benjamin Winchester re-expresses practically the same sentiments in his 1889 article, where he says: "I believe that the Book of Mormon was mainly the production of the brains of [Smith] himself and Cowdery."
The following biographical excerpt is taken from David J. Whittaker's Fall, 1995 article from the Journal of Mormon History, entitled "East of Nauvoo: Benjamin Winchester and the Early Mormon Church," copyright © 1995 by David J. Whittaker:
[After leaving the Rigdonites, late in 1845, Benjamin Winchester] briefly supported the claims of David Whitmer, moved his family from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh in 1845, and opened a cigar shop. One of the last references to him in a Church periodical [Times and Seasons Dec. 1, 1845] occurred when George B. Wallace, an early East Coast convert and later president of the Salt Lake Stake, said Winchester told him in November 1845 that "if it had not been for William Smith, he should have been in the church to this day." Samuel Brannan commented in February 1846 that he "should not be surprised" if Winchester "crossed the mountains with the Saints."
In October 1850 Winchester's old friend, Erastus Snow, visited him. "He had lost the spirit of the fullness of the gospel and his mind was very dark," wrote Snow, yet he received me very gladly and listened very attentively to my council and exhortation. I pray my God to wake him from his stupor, for I have loved him, and do love him still, notwithstanding his sins."
After nine years in Pittsburgh, Winchester moved to Council Bluffs, Iowa, in the spring of 1854, established a home, then brought his family from Pittsburgh that fall. His move to Iowa, for whatever reason, could not have come at a better time. Iowa's non-Indian population had mushroomed from about fifty people in 1832 to over 600,000 by the 1850s. The Mormons had founded a way-station there in 1847 (Kanesville) but now were gone. Iowa had been made a territory in 1838 and a state in 1846. Council Bluffs, situated on its western edge, was an outfitting point for western travelers with a population of about 1,500.
Winchester became a successful brickmaker, greatly aided by a fire that had destroyed half the town in October 1853 with a second fire in 1854 demolishing the newly built wooden replacements. Brick was thus a popular building material, and Winchester retained this profession for the rest of his working life. It is not known where he learned this trade.
His first business contract, in the summer of 1854, was mostly in Omaha, Nebraska, just across the Missouri River from Council Bluffs. Also in 1854, the Council Bluffs and Nebraska Ferry Company, which wanted the territorial capitol in Omaha, employed Winchester "to make brick for a building which was to be offered to the authorities for a capitol.... In a short time [he] had several thousand brick set in a kiln ready for burning. [But] lacking lumber for shed to protect the kiln from the weather he covered it with canvas. One night the canvas was stolen and a hard rain [came] at the same time and [the] brick kiln was reduced to a shapeless mass of clay."
Winchester sold his yards to the Ferry Company, though he still supplied the brick from his kilns in Council Bluffs. By his retirement in 1887, his brick yards had become one of the largest in the state, a testimony not only to the growth of western Iowa but also to his organizational abilities. Besides brickmaking, he was noted as "a pretty extensive farmer and fruit grower, and takes an interested part in every improvement, looking to the improvement of those branches of trade."
Winchester described himself as "an active and zealous Democrat." He served two years as a city councilman and ran unsuccessfully in the 1850s for the state legislature. The Democrats were the minority party; but in 1856 he told Franklin D. Richards at Florence, Nebraska, that he lost partly because it came out during the election that he was a Mormon. Iowa had particular reasons for anti-Mormon sentiment. In 1848 the Mormon vote in Kanesville (Council Bluffs) had been challenged; and Lysander W. Babbitt, editor of the Council Bluffs Bugle, nominated on the Democratic ticket for lieutenant governor in 1856, had to defend himself against charges of being a Mormon. Various Mormon off-shoots also settled in Iowa in the 1850s, although they usually had amicable relations with their neighbors.
Information on the remainder of Winchester's life is sketchy. The Zion's Camp roll of 12 October 1864 notes that Benjamin Winchester had become a "spiritualist"; and Winchester, on a trip to Salt Lake City in 1871, perhaps to visit his father, called on Amasa Lyman, an apostle excommunicated, among other things, for spiritualism. Winchester retired in 1887, wrote a biographical sketch two years later for the Salt Lake Tribune, died at Council Bluffs on 25 January 1901, and was buried in its Walnut Hills Cemetery.
Winchester's early life and contributions to the early Mormon Church are the story of attraction to a dynamic system upon which he lavished the creative energy of his young manhood. In his 1889 recollections, he calls that relationship with the tolerance of a man remembering youthful enthusiasms: "I was young, and like many other youthful religious enthusiasts I was induced to believe that many things which seem[ed] to be wrong and absurd would come out right, and with many misgivings about what seemed to me foolish and absurd, I kept on hoping that the outcome would justify the faith I had reposed in the concern." Time dulled and even deadened the enthusiasm that had once motivated and inspired him. On another level, without knowing it, he became fixed on (and against) particular doctrines and practices, unable to evolve at the same speed the Church was changing. Faced with the reality of polygamy, a growing temporal kingdom, and the concentration of authority, Winchester had to make agonizing decisions that, in the end, severed him from the very organization that had given focus and meaning to his life.