SPALDING STUDIES LIBRARY -- SPECIAL  COLLECTIONS

Sp. Col. Index   |   Mormon Classics   |   Bookshelf   |   Newspaper Articles   |   History Vault


LETTERS  TO  JAMES T. COBB
Written by Rev. Samuel Williams and Elder J. J. Moss



James Thorton Cobb (1833-1910)


Samuel Williams Letters   |   Jasper J. Moss Letters


 
Rev. Samuel Williams (1802-1887)
Letters to James T. Cobb


Nov. 12, 1878    Dec. 3, 1878    Dec. 14, 1878    1842 Williams Pamphlet


 


Nov. 12, 1878 Samuel Williams Letter
Theodore Albert Schroeder Papers: Box 2, folder 1.
Wisconsin State Historical Society Library, Madison, WI
Partial Catalog: Theodore A. Schroeder Papers

Typescripts: page 1  page 2  page 3  page 4

[Williams: Nov. 12, 1878]
[ 1 ]
  Castle Shannon Allegheny Co, Pa, Nov 12th Dear Sir, I recd yours of the 25th ult but have had no time to reply until now. I shall try to answer some questions in both of your letters: 1st. The place of Rigdon's birth is twelve miles south of Pittsburgh, near the old Peter's creek Baptist Church. Joseph Boyer was Rigdon's brother in law and was for some time with the Mormons but returned heartily sick of the adventure and died in the old Baptist church a few months ago. Some of Rigdon's nephews are members of the baptist churches in Pittsburgh. Every one who desires to know what they know of Rigdon's deceptions feel delicate about asking them anything about him. I did hear from what I thought good authority that Rigdon when near his death expressed the wish that he was back in the Reg Bap Denm The dates from the family records are of little importance. The dates in my pamphlet are from the old church book in regard to his coming to Pittsburgh and his exclusion from the Baptists. He did not preach for the 1st Chh quite one year and when disowned on account of his errors he went to the Court House



[Williams: Nov. 12, 1878]
[ 2 ]
  with some 50 or 60 followers who had embraced Campbellism. It was for preaching those doctrines he was excluded. The principal one was "hydraulic absolution" i e water power salvation. After remaining in Pittsburgh some months he went back to the Western Reserve. Even at this early date he tacked on the common stock system and tried hard to induce people to go with him to Kirtland out near the Lake. When he explained his theory fully it was that all were to bring what they had and lay it the Elder's feet. They were to be the custodians and disbursers. Parley Pratt was a tin Pedlar who passed from Conn. out to the West who brought about the acquaintance between Rigdon and Smith. And Martin Harris furnished the first money for the publication of the manuscript. Rigdon was naturally an orator but he had not the assurance to set himself up as a miracle worker. Now as it regards the authorship of the Novel, I became pastor of the old 1st Chh in May, 1827. I was well acquainted with Mr. Patterson until the time of his death. He was the pastor for many years of a small church 5 miles north of the City. About in 32 or 3 John E. Page came to Pgh and had been a zealous Methodis Exhorter and raised some excitement made some proselytes from among the Methodists.



[Williams: Nov. 12, 1878]
[ 3 ]
  But only remained about two years, took a few off to the west with him, but in a few years renounced the whole thing. About this time I delivered four lectures on Mormonism to crowded houses and the substance of these lectures were published. In regard to his reply to my pamphlet I do not believe 300 copies were ever printed. I never saw but one. Rigdon was in Pittsburgh in 1824 with Mr Brooks had a tannery for a short time. They did not succeed and Rigdon was intimate with Engles and all of the old residenters knew of the printing office in which he was forman. And Mr Patterson wished to be understood that Engles had the care of various Manuscripts that came to the office, not that Engles handed to Rigdon other Manuscripts. Mr. P. simply certifies that he supposed that Engles had returned it to Mr. Spaulding. The whole history of the rise of this imposture proves that Rigdon and his partners were men of insatiable avarice all of them determined to get rich without any regard to the means employed. The aged members of my church all knew of the fact of the firm of Patterson and Lambdin up to as late as 1825 and the probability is that as the firm was about to dissolve and the printing to cease Rigdon



[Williams: Nov. 12, 1878]
[ 4 ]
  and as Mr. Spalding was now dead he easily persuaded Engles to give or sell to him the historic novel. For hours he tried to persuade some of these old members to go into the community of saints, and sometimes he would make some references to the Ten Tribes as being the nucleus of the future church of the latter day saints. And every one knows that this was the basis of the Novel by which Mr. Spaulding hoped to retrieve his losses. For this purpose he came to Pittsburgh. Lambdin was a portrait painter and Patterson was in his little Book store on the corner of market St. and the Diamond, so that everything was in the care Engles during 23 and 4. Mr. Spaulding living in Virgin Alley and sometime moved to a country village to save rent as it was supposed and died either there or returned to the City and died. Mr. Patterson was a plain old fashioned sort of man and he wrote as he did to make it plain. The substance he often stated to others as well as myself. I have looked through my library and cannot find another copy, but I think it so important to you that I will send it with hope that you will return it to me. Rev. S. Wilms







Dec. 3, 1878 Samuel Williams Letter
Theodore Albert Schroeder Papers: Box 2, folder 1.
Wisconsin State Historical Society Library, Madison, WI

Typescripts: page 1  page 2  page 3  page 4

[Williams: Dec. 3, 1878]
[ 1 ]
  Castle Shannon Allegheny Co. Pa Dec 3d -- 78. Dear Sir, A few days since I handed to Mr. Isaac Craig a copy of my pamphlet against Mormonism to forward to you. I fortunately found another copy and I hope you have received it safely. The Rev. Robert Patterson's only surviving son is the assistant editor of the "Presbyterian Banner" published in Pittsburgh. To make matters doubly sure I showed to him his father's certificate in my pamphlet and he added his confirmatory of that I received from his father which I gave to Mr. Craig to send to you. And I also found that my dates were all correct to the very day. He had no old account books or other documents from which he could learn the time when Lambden came into partnership with his Father but from all that he had heard about it it must have been in 14 or 15 and existed until 23 or 24 when they failed and dissolved. Then some friends assisted his father to continue the Bookstore as Agent. He continued only a few years and gave up the business to his eldest son and a Mr. Ingram.



[Williams: Dec. 3, 1878]
[ 2 ]
  He then moved a few miles into the country where he died in fifty two if I remember rightly. His son's certificate gives the exact date. I also learned that Silas Engles the foreman in the printing office was a cousin of the Rev. P.'s and entrusted with the management of the business. It makes no difference whether Rigdon copied it or procured it from either Lambdin or Engles the identification of it and the Mormon Bible could not be proven more strongly. It is more probable however that Rigdon obtained the Manuscript and modified it here and there in order as he imagined better to accomplish his purpose. It is said that Whitmer who remained in Mo. near Nauvoo has that Manuscript. When Rigdon fled from Mo. with the Danites on his track he no doubt was in great haste and was not able to collect all of his traps. This was not very long before the murder of Smith, but he was evidently frightened. He came through Pittsburgh and was pointed to me one day and two of his family but they did not remain any length of time.



[Williams: Dec. 3, 1878]
[ 3 ]
  In my last I was led into a great mistake by Mr. Craig which I now correct. He said he had Mr. Robt P.'s death from his tombstone whereas it was his Father's death Mr. Joseph P's he had which made me think that the date of the certificate should be 32 instead of 42, but when I had a little time to think about it I remembered a number of things that made it clear that the date was entirely correct. And I also said that Rigdon was Pastor only about a year of the first Bap Chh -- what I should have said was that before he was with them a year he preached his errors and was charged with them but not excluded until the 11th of Oct 1823, making it one year and nine months. These dates are taken from the old church book and the Minutes of the Association. It was shortly after Page left Pittsburgh that Smith and Rigdon quarrelled and the flight of the latter from the saints in Mo. It is amazing to what a magnitude this imposture has grown in this land and century!



[Williams: Dec. 3, 1878]
[ 4 ]
  And yet when one reflects that the poor ignorant foreigners in those old feudal lands can never hope to possess a foot of land for themselves or posterity are told by the Elders from Salt Lake that they can every one have 160 acres of the best land in the world and live in the New Jerusalem they become willing to make any profession the Elders may dictate. From the first, Rigdon, Smith, Harris, Pratt &c. were evidently impelled by the spirit of insatiable avarice to pursue this course and practice these impostures. They became so hardened in this wickedness that they were ready to commit any crime to accomplish their object. And no doubt although Rigdon had to leave the community he took a good sum of money with him. But not enough to enrich himself and family as he expected to do. I hope you will publish a full and complete history of this great imposture. It has not yet been done. You may rely on Mr. Howe's statements for he took great pains to inform himself about the Smiths but he had not the facts about Rigdon. And you rely implicitly upon my dates and facts as I have been the Pastor of the same 1st Bap Chh for 28 years and often conversed with the old members about the tricks and errors of Rigdon. Resp. &c S. Williams.








Dec. 14, 1878 Samuel Williams Letter
Theodore Albert Schroeder Papers: Box 2, folder 1.
Wisconsin State Historical Society Library, Madison, WI

Typescripts: page 1  page 2  page 3  page 4

[Williams: Dec. 14, 1878]
[ 1 ]
  Castle Shannon Allegheny Co Pa Dec 14th -- 78 Dear Sir, I have just recd. yours of the 27th ult through Mr. Craig, and answer your questions as well as I can in detail. Mr. Patterson of the Presn Banner says Engles was his Father's cousin and was in his employ during the term of his partnership with Lambden, and was entrusted with the management of the printing office. I am not certain about Lambden being a Portrait painter. I distinctly recollect of a Mr. Lambden a Painter being in Pittsburgh when I came to the city in 1827 and somehow I received the impression that it was the same man. They may not have been the same. Mr. Craig has made a great mistake in regard to the death of Robert Patterson -- he gave you the date of the death of his Father the Rev. Joseph Patterson. Robt Patterson was the Pastor of the Highlands Chh twenty years and all that time was engaged in the Book business on a small scale up at least to 1840 when his son and a Mr. Ingram succeeded him and he moved about six or seven miles out on the Washington road south of the city where he lived until 51 or 2 or about that time. I have been in his store a hundred



[Williams: Dec. 14, 1878]
[ 2 ]
  times, had books or pamphlets on sale in his store, and was standing near him when he wrote that certificate in 1842. Besides I often met him on the street and preached once or twice for him in his church at Hilands. The date of his death is now certified by his son as you will see the by the scrap of paper with the pamphlet. The small chh to which he preached gave him but a small support and he was obliged to do something else for a living, as many others of us have to do. I was led to think 1842 was a misprint by Mr. Craig and without much thought gave you that date, 1832, but 1842 and not 32 is the correct date. Because when I came to recollect distinctly, I got the certificate when I was opposing John E. Page and I know he flourished in Pittsburgh in 1841-2, and all the other dates in the Pamphlet are correct for they were taken from the minutes of the Redstone Association and the old Church Book of the 1st Bap Chh. Mr. Patterson stated to me that Mr. Spaulding brought the Manuscript to the Office and of course it came under the charge of Engles, and at or about that time Engles spoke to Mr. Patterson about it. That time must have been 1814 or 15. All of the old men of our Church knew about Rigdon hanging about that Printing Office, and whether he spent his time there in copying it or concocting his schemes while



[Williams: Dec. 14, 1878]
[ 3 ]
  conversing with Engles and others, or at length procured the Manuscript by purchase or otherwise, makes not the smallest difference. If it is true that Mrs. Spaulding had the Manuscript returned to her, then unless Mr. Spaulding had duplicate copies leaving one in the office, Rigdon must have copied it. The identification of the Mormon Bible with the Novel of Mr Spaulding I consider complete and placed beyond cavil. Now I wish to write about J. Patterson. He was Mr. Joseph Patterson who I suppose was in with his brother Robert before Lambden came into the firm. He married a very wealthy lady, built a long block of buildings on one of the principal business streets 6th producing high rents, retired from active business, and finally moved to Philadelphia to enjoy his fortune. I knew him well. I have no doubt you are right in the matter of Mrs. Spaulding's statement concerning the interest Jos. P. had taken in the Manuscript. But Mr. Spaulding not being able to furnish the money for its publication -- there it remained. I have never supposed that Rigdon ever saw Mr. Spaulding for at that time he had not as yet come on the stage, but finding such a document there shown to him by Engles in 1822 or 3. But I do not think he ever wished Patterson



[Williams: Dec. 14, 1878]
[ 4 ]
  to publish it, thinking he might turn it to account in making a fortune. And suppose the Novel was returned to Mrs. Spaulding -- it being a strange production, Engles might during his leisure hours have copied it with the intention of making something out of it and perhaps not being able to publish it, sold it to Rigdon. Any one of these Lambden, Engles, Joseph Patterson, or Rigdon might have taken a copy. I think Rigdon had his plan of a community formed, { indeed the old members told me that when in Pittsburgh he often broached the subject to them of a common-stock system as he then called it } before he met Joe Smith, and at first expected to use him as a tool to carry out his plans. So that it may be that Rigdon had a little community begun at Kirtland before he met Joe Smith. But I remember well the report that Parley Pratt the tin pedlar told Rigdon of Smith and was the means of bringing them together, and I suppose it was 1829 or '30. Another thing I learned that about the time they published the first edition of the Mormon Bible they established a Bank at Kirtland without a basis issued notes, and the Elders put them into circulation. I saw one of the notes. I hope you will persevere and collect all of the facts and publish an authentic history of that huge imposture. You will see by my pamphlet that you can get nowhere else the first facts in the history. I feel thankful that I can help a mite toward the object. I was sick for three or four weeks but have recovered. If I can aid you any further I shall be glad to do it. Judge Cobb. Very respectfully, S. Williams.






Elder Jasper Jesse Moss (1806-1890)
Letters to James T. Cobb


1834 news article    Dec. 17, 1878    Jan. 23, 1879    Jan. 30, 1880
1875 Hayden book    1937-38 Biography (excerpts)


 


Dec. 17, 1878 Jasper Jesse Moss Letter
Theodore Albert Schroeder Papers: Box 2, folder 1.
Wisconsin State Historical Society Library, Madison, WI
Partial Catalog: Theodore A. Schroeder Papers

Typescripts: page 1  page 2  page 3  page 4

[Moss: Dec. 17, 1878]
[ 1 ]
  Dallas, Polk Co. Or. Dec. 17" / 78 J. T. Cobb. -- Sir. Yours of Nov. 3" per favor of A. S. Hayden came to hand in my absence from home & came first to my notice last week & it is with pleasure that I comply with your request but I am not pleased with your making Rigdon 'the connecting link between the two sy- stems Mormonism & Campbellism.' There is no system of Campbellism & never was see Webster’s New ed Please dont nickname us. That Rigdon forms the connecting link between Spalding’s book & the Bible & put all the Juda- ism & Christianity there is in Mormonism into it there is not a shaddow of a doubt in my mind That 'he stole (not all but the best part) of his thun- der from the Disciples' by taking their plea for the restoration of primi- tive Christianity & if the Disciples could be successful in bringing the people back to the old Apostolic doctrine of faith repentance & baptism for the conversion of sinners so could the Mormons. With this he coupled the common expectation of Many in almost all the churches that before the Millennium began we should have faith & purity enough & miracles would be restored This coupled with the other constituted the elements of their success. -- My wife was a niece of E. D. Howe & his wife and her moth- er were Mormons. Myself & wife were immersed by Rigdon before he publickly espoused Mormonism. I taught school at Kirtland Flats five months & the first week of my school three Mormon missionaries came from New York to this place It was here Rigdons common stock comm- unity the Morley family was located & it was in this family that they made their first converts in Ohio & it was here they stuck their first stake their Zion & it was here that I began the battle in opposi­tion w. Br. Moore making the first speech & I the second the same evening in one of their meetings & the battle once begun we never ceased firing & our lives were threatened so much so that our friends were afraid for us to be out at night alone & if the Danites had then been in exis- tance I have no doubt we would both have been assassinated. -- The Morley family would invite strangers from abroad & citizens of the



[Moss: Dec. 17, 1878]
[ 2 ]
  immediate vicinity to stay with them all night & every one that stay- ed however strong their opposition before were baptized the next morning. Having studied in my boyhood the Black Art Ledgerdemain & jugling I had my suspicions aroused & I confess I acted the hypo- crite so as to deceive them & obtained an invitation to stay all night circumstances prevented & again I was invited the next night & again circumstances were unpropitious both times on their part & before the third night a good brother was so distressed throug fear that I was going to join them & so worked upon my sympathies that to relieve him I told him what I was doing & he to relieve others told them & it got to their ears & I got no further invitation. As soon as I found my secret was out I made a publick statement of my design & the object I had in view & my suspicions & I told how Angels could be manufactured & strange wonders made to appear in the night & from that time forth invitations to stay over night ceased to be given & no more converts were made in that way. -- They partook of the Lords supper at night with darkened win- dows & excluded from the room all but their own till they got through & then opened the doors & called the outsiders in to witness a scene far exceeding the wildest scene ever exhibited among the Methodists. They had some wild & strange scenes at their ordinary meetings but none to compare with this Myself & a young companion were the first to remain he had fallen a- sleep & could not be wakened & I was deaf & dumb & after considerable deliberation they finally con- cluded to proceed with the administration without carrying us out My companion soon waked & we witnessed the administration & be- came fully satisfied that the wine was medicated & I tried to steal the bo- ttle with the ballanc of wine left & came near doing it & when I told my suspicions & how near I came to getting the wine those performances ceas- ed & soon after they got a revelation from Joseph that all those things were from the Devil. -- Martin Harris one of the three witnesses to the Book of Mormon in the course of the winter came to this place with a reve- lation from Joseph to the saints & they were commanded not to let the



[Moss: Dec. 17, 1878]
[ 3 ]
  Gentiles see it or know anything of its purport. One evening he was in a large social circle in deep conversation when I discovered the rev- elation in his hat pocketed it & with a young man by the name of Taneur withdrew unobserved from the company copied it & returned it to his hat before the company broke up & in a few days copies of it were circulating among the Gentiles verry much to their consternation & mystification. -- My wifes mother being a Mormon she was naturaly verry anxious to have her daughter go with her & believing that if she married me she would never be a Mormon she was therefore bitterly opposed to the match & never gave her consent till Joseph got a revelation that I was to be a bright & shining light in the Mormon church & told her to let me have the girl & so I got the girl & afterwards converted the mother & she died in the christian faith.The bait did not take & Joseph’s prophecy is not yet fulfilled & I guess it is now too late for I am in my seventy third year. -- I cannot give you Walter Scotts estimate of Rigdon & know of no one that can give it. Your estimate of Rigdon is true to life & your judgment of his motives & his disappointment in his endeavor to lead the Disciples into Communism is correct but I can add no facts & can only evalu- ate the truth of what you have said One fact I will give you. I met an ex-judge of the Co. Court of Ashtabula Co. Ohio at Conneaut in that Co. who told me that he read Spalding’s romance in manuscript week by week & day by day as it was written & that the book of Mormon was the same except the religious element that had been added to it & I had the clerk's office in connection with an Iron Smelting Works pointed out to me where it was written & where the judge read it, he being one of the owners of said works. I had heard Joseph spoken of as green & squash looking. The first time I saw him was in a Mormon meeting at Kirtland he was acting as door keeper & seating the people. I told my wife that the door keeper was the smartest keenest & the largest headed man in the crowd judge my sur­prise then after what I had heard to learn that that



[Moss: Dec. 17, 1878]
[ 4 ]
  was Joseph Smith. I concluded that my judgment or that of others was erro- neas & I think after events proved mine the most correct. I knew noth- ing of Mermerism Biology Clairvoyance or Spiritualism then but I have since been pretty familiar with them all & I should say emphaticaly that Smith was not nor could not be made a Clairvoyant but that he had great Mesmeric power & could make Clairvoyants of others. I have no doubt Rigdon thought to make a tool of Smith but Smith was too sharp for him and turned the tables upon him and made a tool of him. I advise you to get one more book 'The Portrait -- A Romance of the Cuyahoga Valley' By A. G. Riddle a lawyer of Cleveland Ohio I suspect the author is the ‘Fred’ of the novel but whether he is or no I think you could get much valuable information by communi- cating with him. The Book was published by Nichols & Hall Boston and by Cobb, Andrews & Co. Cleveland 1874. -- Now for your P.S. Your first question is already answered. 2" qu. With Harris (not Martin the witness to the book) at Braddock's field Pa. in the Spring of 1833. 3" qu. already an- swered. I can tell you nothing about Hyde only that he was a Disci- ple preacher & joined the Mormons, neither can I answer your question about Pratt. If I could give any other facts that would be of use to you would be of use to you I would do so with plesure I do not think you speculate over much or that your spec- ulations are so verry wild but rather that they are reason- able deductions from the facts & premises, at any rate they are the same that I drew long ago. Respectfully Yours J. J. Moss






Jan. 23, 1879 Jasper Jesse Moss Letter
Theodore Albert Schroeder Papers: Box 2, folder 1.
Wisconsin State Historical Society Library, Madison, WI

Typescripts: page 1  page 2

[Moss: Jan. 23, 1879]
[ 1 ]
  Dallas, Polk Co. Or. Jan. 23" / 79 James T. Cobb -- Sir. Yours of the 12" inst is just at hand & before me Your apology for the use of that obnoxious epithet is perfectly satisfactory I cannot give the date of Harris’s visit to Kirtland any nearer than to say it was in the winter of /30 & /31 Cant say positively but I think it was as late as Jan. or Feb. neither can I recollect the tenor of the revelation But for the loss of everything by fire I think I could have produced a copy from the original Thomas Clapp of Mentor Lake Co. O. can come nearer answering some of your questions than any man living now D. Atwater married his sister & I presume he can answer your question there I can’t. He married Adamson Bentleys daughter & Bentleys wife & Rig- dons wife were sisters & they were both Baptist preachers to- gether & he can therefore perhaps tell where Rigdon was in /24 & /25 & I am very sure he can tell verry near if not the exact time when Rigdon & Partridge left Mentor (not Kirtland R. never lived in K. till after 'the Stake' was set there & did not belong to the Morley Family though it was his child) for N.Y. & perhaps he could tell whether Rigdon was in Mentor when Harris was in Kirtland. The two places are I think about 8 miles apart. -- I cannot give you the name of the judge & he must be dead long ago for he was an old man then & I was a young man It must have been from /35 to /38 It was at Conneaut & I think that was where Spalding lived & preached till on account of ill health he was unable to preach & I recollect distinctly that he told me that the Furnace Co. employed him more from charity than from need of his services & that he was obliged to be in the office but had many idle hours & that he filled up those hours writing this romance & I think he gave me the title but not sure & I think you will find this judge’s name in Howe’s Book.



[Moss: Jan. 23, 1879]
[ 2 ]
  A Clairvoyant is one who is easily Mesmerized easily controled & influenced by others this was not Smith. He was the one to Mesmerize to control & influence others. He could mesmerize Rigdon but R. could not mesmerize him One cannot be a good Mesmerist & a Clairvoyant All that I can tell you of Campbell’s analysis of the book you can find in the 'Memoirs of A. Campbell' Vol. 2" p 344-348: Yes I was in K. when T. Campbell was in Mentor & wrote to S. R. I was baptized Sept. /24 T. Clapp perhaps can tell when my wife was immersed. Her name was Cordelia Hutt a niece of E. D. Howe She was immersed at Painesville & belonged to the church in Mentor at which place I was immersed & he I presume can tell you exactly when Rigdon first went to Mentor to live. I believe I have noticed every point in your letter to the best of my ability Respectfully Yours J. J. Moss






Jan. 30, 1880 Jasper Jesse Moss Letter
Theodore Albert Schroeder Papers: Box 2, folder 1.
Wisconsin State Historical Society Library, Madison, WI

Typescripts: page 1  page 2

[Moss: Jan. 30, 1880]
[ 1 ]
  Philomath, Benton Co. Or. Jan. 30" /80 James T. Cobb. Sir Yours of Sept. 13" came duly to hand About that time my Son Rufus H. Moss with whom I live & myself were moving into our soldiers homesteads at this place & without entering into partic- ulars suffice it to say that I have had my hands & head so full of labor & care that I have had no time to write & this is the first respite. You ask about Hurlbut I never saw him & know noth- ing about him only what I learned from my Uncle E. D. Howe & Mormonism Unveiled. I know nothing of how the Mormons man- ufactured Angels. I only know how it could be done & was therefore willing to grapple with them & when they found that out the angels ceased their visits Phosphorous dissolved in Sweet oil smeared over hands & face & clothes harms neither clothes nor flesh & gives you a living smoking pillar of fire in human form in a dark room or a dark night



[Moss: Jan. 30, 1880]
[ 2 ]
  & with anything to represent wings would make a first rate angel There is a Chemical compound the receipt for which can be found in almost any Book of Hocus Pocus Ledgerdemain or The Black Art the compound liquified paper tow or cotton saturated in it & then dried put into a stone or earthen jar set on fire & covered over & set under the bed in a dark room & everything in the room is apparently all on fire & nothing consumed A man all on fire & mo- ving amidst the fire would make a first rate angel. Rigdon died not long since in Catauraugus or Chataqua Co N.Y. He was living with a daughter who I think married a Methodist preach- er Have you got on their track? If not I think perhaps you could get their P.O. address from Thomas Clapp of Mentor Lake Co. O. Respectfully Yours J.J. Moss

 


THE  CHRISTIAN  STANDARD.

Vol. ?                             Cincinnati,  January 26, 1938.                             No. ?



Autobiography of a Pioneer Preacher.

The week that I began... [to teach school at Kirtland Flats] the Mormon preachers first came to Kirtland from New York. Living near Kirtland was a disciple named Morley who believed that, in order to return to primitive Christianity, we should have all things in common as they did in the first church in Jerusalem. Accordingly he had established a community family on his farm. This entire community at once embraced Mormonism. Sidney Rigdon and Orran [sic - Orson?] Hyde, another disciple preacher, soon went over to Mormonism also, followed by a number of other disciples and many that were not disciples. This produced an intense excitement in the whole neighborhood and the news spread rapidly to distant neighborhoods, so that many people came from long distances to see and hear of this new thing. Among these was Walter Scott, whom I met then for the first time.

MORMONS  FIGHTING  THE  DEVIL

Soon the miraculous power of the Spirit, which the Mormon leaders claimed had returned to the church, seemingly began to be manifest. Attempts were made to heal the sick, to give sight to the blind, to restore strength to the limbs of cripples, and to raise the dead; but all failed. I personally witnessed some of these attempts, and the only manifestations that were apparent were after the fashion claimed by the Methodists.

These performances, however, were utterly ridiculous. They claimed to have the gift of tongues and talked with all sorts of gibberish. They claimed to have a special mission to the Indians, and they went through all sorts of Indian performances, some of them not very natural. I have seen them, in pantomime, tomahawk and scalp each other, and rip open the bowels and tear out the entrails. At one meeting at which I was present three of them, one a Negro, were impelled by the Spirit to go out and preach to the Indians. They left the meeting house on the run, went up a steep hillside, mounted stumps, and began holding forth in gibberish to an imaginary audience. This was of common occurrence and night was frequently made hideous by their unearthly screams and yells.

On this occasion [my friend] Brother Tanuer and I quietly left our seats in the meeting and went through a cornfield to where they were. About a dozen of the village people were gathered around them. We crouched down and crawled up as near as we could without being seen. Brother Tanuer, who was something of a ventriloquist, clapped his hands to his mouth and imitated the screams of a panther. The preachers jumped from their perches and, with their audience, started double quick for the meeting house. Two of the preachers had presence of mind enough to take the hill [catering], but the Negro started straight down. As there was some snow and ice on the ground, his feet slipped and he sat down with a thud, and as he struck the ground, forgetting his strange tongue, he cried out in plain English, 'Oh Lord, here we go.' Evidently he thought he was a goner. We had a short cut back through the cornfield, so we hastened back ahead of them. When they arrived we were quietly sitting in our seats. They had a wonderful experience to relate of a terrible conflict with the devil from which they barely escaped with their lives, especially the Negro. We had hard work to keep straight faces. The story got out and created much amusement in the neighborhood.

It was a common thing for them to have terrible conflicts with the devil. Pantomime fighting, boxing, wrestling, scuffling, running with imaginary foes was a frequent occurrence. I have seen them run from room to room all through the house, through the orchard, around stumps, through the garden, among the out-houses, sometimes after the devil, sometimes the devil after them.

I was once called out of my school to witness one of these conflicts. I found a young man named Calhoun [sic - Cahoon?], in his father's shoe shop, hard by the schoolhouse, engaged in the contest. I went back and took about a dozen of my largest pupils to see the frey. We soon found that the controversy was about a young lady, one of my pupils, who was then looking on. The devil was trying to get the girl and he was trying to save her. The devil was trying to steal a march on him, and would approach now from above, now from beneath, sometimes from one corner, sometimes from another. The young man was oblivious to everything but the devil's attacks. With eyes vacant and staring he was watching for the devil and repulsing him with a dart of the forefinger and an exclamation `Z-z-z-z-t!' upon every appearance. At last his satanic majesty ensconced himself in a pile of old shoes in one corner of the room where I stood. In vain the young man tried to rout him with the dart of his finger and the `Z-z-z-z-t,' sometimes advancing, sometimes retreating. I quietly slipped my foot behind an old shoe, and when he advanced again I sent the old shoe full at him. I think he must have jumped fully two feet from the floor, while a loud peal of laughter burst from the onlookers. Springing to the door he ran into the field, over the fence and up the hill, screaming and yelling at the top of his voice that the devil was after him. Whether the vision of the old shoe followed him or not I do not know, but, at any rate, the old shoe won the victory. The girl afterwards became my wife.

SAVING  THE  VISITORS

For a time no opposition was offered to the Mormons, though they challenged investigation. I told Brother Moore, then of Kirtland, afterward of Mentor, that this was not right and that we ought to be able to defeat them by argument and appeal to the Scriptures, or else be convinced that they were right and go with them. I said that if he would start the movement I would follow. We did, and it was not long until we were masters of the field and their further progress among the people of that vicinity was stopped. We could not influence very much those who were committed to Mormonism, but people were constantly coming from abroad and, if Brother Moore or I could get the ears of these people before they had committed themselves, we invariably saved them from Mormonism. As a result our presence came to be dreaded by this sect either in their public meetings or their private circles, so much so that our lives were threatened. Some of them said that if they could get a revelation to kill us they would not hesitate to do so.

A Methodist preacher came from a distance, put up at the tavern, attended their night meeting and had a conference with three of their elders at a private house the next morning. On my way to school I learned that the conference was in progress, and went to the house and went in. I told the preacher that I understood he had come to learn about Mormonism. I said I had only a few minutes, as I had to be at school by nine o'clock, but that I thought I could satisfy him very quickly if he would listen. He signified his assent. I then gave him a number of quotations from the Book of Mormon which one of the elders held in his hand, and dared them to deny the quotations. Then I told him what I knew of their so-called miracles, and dared them to deny my statements. Lastly, I gave him the testimony of the Scriptures and dared them even to try to set it aside. They were strangely silent. I told him they had been given the same opportunity in public more than once. When I got through he arose and thanked me and, bidding the elders good-by, went directly to the tavern, called for his horse and went home. No wonder the Mormons hated us.

SPYING  ON  A  MORMON  MEETING

About this time a new supply of preachers came on from New York with some of the witnesses of the Book of Mormon, among them Parley Pratt and Martin Harris. Soon afterwards they began to have visitations of angels among them. I was suspicious of these angels from the first. When they partookof the sacrament they always did so at night. In preparation for this they would exclude everybody from the room but the leaders and would then hang up blankets and quilts at the windows. When all was ready they would open the doors and let the people in. I determined to stay through one of their services of the sacrament, so a friend and I went to meeting with that intention. He went to sleep just before the time to exclude the people, and I became possessed of a deaf-and-dumb devil and they could not make me understand anything. After a time they decided to leave us alone and go on with their ceremony. My companion awakened and we saw the whole performance. I became satisfied that their power was in the wine, so I tried to steal a bottle, and would have succeeded if I had been wearing the cloak I usually wore.

Persons coming from abroad were invited to stay with them over-night and were invariably baptized by them in the morning. Soon they began to invite residents to stay all night with them, and they were also baptized next day. In this way they began to make converts again and I wondered how it was. I asked some of them what had made them change their minds, and their answer was, 'If you could see what we have seen you would be convinced too.'

'But what have you seen?' I asked.

'Oh, we dare not tell!' they replied.

This aroused my suspicion still more, and I determined to ferret the matter out if possible. For this purpose I ceased all opposition to them and became very grave and sober in their meetings. Soon they began to entertain hopes of my conversion and my friends began to be very uneasy about me. Although they talked to me about it and solemnly warned me, I kept my own counsel. I soon got an invitation from the Mormons to stay all night with them. As this was what I was working for I gladly accepted, but so many strangers came from abroad that they could not accommodate me. They, therefore, requested me to put it off until the next night, and I reluctantly complied. The next day Bro. Matthew Clapp came from Mentor to see me, and taking me into the field after school reasoned with me and pleaded apparently in vain. But when he wept and worked on my feelings and sympathies, I told him my suspicions and plans enjoining the strictest secrecy upon him until I should have the opportunity to test the matter. The next night the same difficulty occurred and I was again requested to wait until a later night. In the meantime Brother Clapp could not forbear to relieve the minds of some of the anxious brethren, and the story got out so that the Mormons heard it and the plot was spoiled.

I then stated publicly my suspicions. I said I had studied the black arts, or necromancy, and knew just how their angels were made, and showed how it could be done. I stated that if I had succeeded in getting to stay there all night, I would have had a wrestle with the angel, and that I was sure it would have been of flesh and blood. Perhaps, however, it was best that I failed in my plan and it may be that I was foolhardy, for they might have taken my life rather than be exposed.

THE  'ANGEL'  GOES  UNDER

This incident and another that took place at the same time put a stop to their angel visits and their making converts by keeping them overnight. The other circumstance was this: As they went to the water to baptize at the close of an evening service, an angel appeared on the bank of the stream opposite the group and walked out on the water and stood viewing the scene. The next night they had some more to baptize and they announced beforehand that the angel would appear again and would speak to them. Some persons, suspecting a trick, examined the place and found a two-inch plank fixed in the manner of a spring board just beneath the surface of the water. They sawed the plank almost in two. Next evening when the angel walked out upon the water the plank gave way, there was a splash and a shriek as the angel's bright and shining glory was extinguished beneath the waves. It proved itself very much flesh and blood as it scrambled desperately to get to shore. The young men who sawed the board were lying in wait to catch the angel, but it escaped by jumping down a high bank and disappearing.

It was getting near springtime and Joseph Smith sent these Mormons a revelation that their performances were of the devil and must cease. Accordingly they partook of the sacrament in the daytime, in the presence of all the people, and their conflicts with the devil, their preaching to the Indians and the visits of the angels all came to an end. None, however, but their members, were allowed to see their revelations. At one time a large company gathered at a public house to converse with Martin Harris, who had returned from New York with certain revelations. His hat sat upon the table in the room where we were gathered and in it I discovered a copy of the revelations. I quietly abstracted them and, whispering to Brother Jones and wife who were present, I took Brother Tanuer with me and left the house. We went directly to the home of Brother Jones and copied them entire. We then returned and I deposited the original revelations in Harris' hat without his having missed them. Soon there were copies of these revelations circulating among the people. It was always a great mystery to the Mormons how these revelations became known, and they could get no revelations to solve the mystery. I don't believe they have solved the problem to this day.

MORMON  BAIT

At the close of school I entered into a matrimonial contract with the girl who was to be my wife. In the meantime her mother and her aunt had joined the Mormons, so that when I went to get her mother's consent to our marriage, she refused. By this time Joseph Smith had come to Kirtland and she went to him for counsel on the matter. He got a revelation that I was to be converted to Mormonism and that I would become a bright and shining light in the Mormon church -- a bait to my ambition. The revelation said that she might give her daughter to me with perfect safety, so she gave her consent. Time has shown the falsity of that revelation. Had it said that I was to convert the mother from Mormonism it would have been of more value as a prophecy.

In the spring of 1831, Brother Tanuer and I left Kirtland...


Note 1: The biography of Elder Jasper Jesse {or, Jesse Japser] Moss (1806-1890) was edited by his son, M.M. Moss. It comprised a series of installments which began in the Christian Standard during Dec., 1937. The excerpt given above was compiled from extracts taken from the issues Christian Standard for Jan. 26 and Feb. 2, 1938.

Note 2: On Nov. 23, 1831 Jasper J. Moss married Cordelia Felicia Hutt (1814-1861) at or near Kirtland, In Geauga Co., Ohio. She was a niece of Eber D. Howe of Painesville (evidently the daughter of Howe's wife's sister).

Note 3: The "angel" episode described by J. J. Moss was perhaps the kernel of fact in the more elaborate stories of Joseph Smith masquerading as an angel and Joseph Smith attempting to walk on the water at Kirtland. Moss does not identify the fake angel as Smith himself, and probably he wasn't.


 

Transcriber's Comments:

(under construction)







Return to top of the page


Special Collections index       |      e-mail site host       |      Home
last revised: March 12, 2012