Mrs. Ellen E. Dickinson
New Light on Mormonism
(NYC: Funk & Wagnalls, 1885)
NEW LIGHT ON MORMONISM
MRS. ELLEN E. DICKINSON
T H U R L O W W E E D
F U N K & W A G N A L L S
10 AND 12 DEY STREET
All Rights Reserved
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1885, by
FUNK & WAGNALLS,
In the Office of the Librarian of Congress at Washington, D. C.
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P R E F A C E.
THE rapid growth of Mormonism and the grave political aspect it has assumed render it one of the most important topics of current reform.
The time seems ripe for giving to the public its true origin, and for the re-telling of an old story, with the addition of facts and circumstances that have not hitherto been printed.
A deeper interest may be felt in this attempt to cut to the very root of this monstrous parasite upon our American civilization, by my stating here that the Rev. Solomon Spaulding, the author of the romance called "The Manuscript Found," from which the "Book of Mormon" was formulated, was my mother's uncle by marriage; that this romance was for a long time in the house of my grandfather, William Harvey Sabine, near Syracuse, New York, and that it contained no suggestion of polygamy.
With the intention of writing these pages I visited Mrs. McKinstry, the daughter and only child of the Rev. S. Spaulding, in Washington, D. C., in 1880, and she then made a sworn statement as to her father's authorship of the work which has been used with such disastrous effects by crafty men. (Appendix No. 1.)
This venerable lady at the time mentioned was seventy-seven years of age, but in sound health and possessed of
excellent memory. She resided fifty years at Munson, Mass., where she is favorably known, as well as her son, Dr. McKinstry, of Long Meadow, near Springfield, Mass., and her son-in-law, Mr. Seaton, chief clerk of the Census Bureau, Washington, D.C.
With Mrs. McKinstry's full consent to follow up on the subject, several localities in Ohio and Central New York were visited by the writer in the autumn if 1881, and with the gleanings thus obtained, the family traditions, the letters written by aged people conversant with the topic and roused into action through the publishing of the statement referred to in the Century Magazine (then Scribner's), the following pages have been written. It is the only attempt of the Rev. S. Spaulding's relatives to set this matter in its proper light, a duty long delayed to the memory of an upright man.
ELLEN E. DICKINSON.
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NEW YORK, July 9, 1882.
This seems to be the time to publish a narrative of the early history of Mormonism. The subject is exciting great interest at present; and as no books have been published relating to it for many years, the present generation has slight acquaintance with it.
With my knowledge of Joseph Smith and one of his first followers, Phelps, a Canandaigua printer, it has been for more than half a century the occasion of surprise and regret that such vulgar impostors should have obtained a following, which is even now drawing proselytes by the thousands from Europe.
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CHAPTER I.13 Sketch of the Life of Solomon Spaulding and his Authorship of
a Romance which he called "The Manuscript Found"
CHAPTER II.19 Following the Fate of "The Manuscript Found" from the Year
1816 to 1834
CHAPTER III.28 Sketch of Joseph Smith's Early Life -- The Printing of the "Book
CHAPTER IV.47 Sketch of Sidney Rigdon -- Interview with General and Mrs.
Garfield, at Mentor -- Description of the Mormon Temple at
CHAPTER V.62 Interview with D.P. Hurlburt, at Gibsonburg, Ohio and with
E. D. Howe, at Painesville, Ohio, in 1880
CHAPTER VI.77 Visit to Conneaut, Ohio in 1880 -- Reminiscences of Rev. S.
Spaulding and the First Mormon Conference, in 1834
CHAPTER VII.82 The Mormons in Missouri
CHAPTER VIII.94 The Mormons at Nauvoo -- Description of the Temple -- The
Death of the Prophet
CHAPTER IX.118 Brigham Young's Election in the Presidency -- Expulsion of the
Mormons from Nauvoo, in 1846
CHAPTER X.122 The Early Political Situation of the Mormons in"The Land of
the Honey Bee" -- The Mountain Meadows Butchery -- The
Influence of the Mormons Over the Indians
CHAPTER XI.140 Polygamy in Utah -- The Granting of Woman's Suffrage in
1871 -- The Edmunds' Bill -- Sketch of Brigham Young
CHAPTER XII.167 John Taylor Elected as Successor to the Second Prophet -- The
Trial of Rudger Clawson, Jr., for Bigamy -- Salt Lake City
Its Beautiful Location -- The Tabernacle and Public Buildings
Mormon Conferences -- The Freedom of the Ballot in Utah
-- The Present Generation of Mormons -- Predictions Regarding
the Future of Mormonism -- Far-seeing Mormons Preparing
a Rendezvous for the Victims of the Edmunds' Law
CHAPTER XIII.200 The Doctrines of Mormonism -- Hierarchical Organization --
The "Book of Mormon" -- Church Polity -- The Faith of the
Latter-Day Saints -- Their Modes of Worship
CHAPTER XIV.215 The Josephites -- Epitome of the Faith and Doctrines of the
Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints --
David Whitmer -- The Debate at Kirtland, Ohio, in 1884,
Concerning the "Book of Mormon" -- The Revelation on
Celestial Marriage Given to Joseph Smith in 1843
continue reading with:
THE LITERARY WORLD.
Mrs. Ellen E. Dickinson was born Miss Ellen E. Stewart, in Syracuse, Onondaga Co., New York, in 1826. She was a grandniece of Solomon Spalding, her great uncle having been William Harvey Sabin (also spelled "Sabine"), Esq. (1779-1842) the brother of Spalding's wife, Matilda D. Sabin Spalding (1767-1846). William married Sarah "Sally" Ward Forman (1784-1832) on May 17, 1806 in Onondaga Hollow, Onondaga Co., New York. They had seven children, the first of which was Sarah Sabin, born Jan. 17, 1807, in Syracuse and who died March 17, 1843, in Cleveland, Cuyahoga Co., Ohio. Sarah married an Onondaga lawyer, Royal Stewart (c. 1803-1849), on July 19, 1825 in Onondaga Valley, near Syracuse. Sarah and Royal had at least two children: Ellen E. Stewart (born c. 1830) and William S. Stewart (born 1832).
Although the confirming documentation has yet to be found, it is known that Ellen. E. Stewart, in the 1850s, married William Hawley Dickinson, a cousin of poetess Emily Dickinson (see Jay Leyda's Years and Hours of Emily Dickinson -- however, some records say she married an Obediah Dickinson ). It appears that Ellen may have married a first husband before William and that she was divorced from him (an Obediah?) in the early 1850s. William Hawley Dickinson (1832-?) was a lawyer in New York City; he died some time before 1883. His probbale widow, Ellen E. Dickinson, is variously said to have lived in New York City and Boston. The 1860 Census shows an "Ellen Dickinson" as a household head in New York City. One account says that she died in 1898.
Ellen occasionally acted as a journalist and newspaper correspondent during the late 1870s and early 1880s; she had articles published in the Syracuse and New York City papers, as well as in various magazines. Typical representations of Ellen's style of article writing may be seen in her "Smith College for Women" in The Domestic Monthly for April 1884 and her interview with President-elect James Garfield, as published in the New York Evangelist of Dec. 23, 1880 (reprinted on pp. 253-257 of her 1885 volume). Books authored by Mrs. Dickinson include: Emmanuel and Other Stories (NYC: 1871), Stories for Children (c. 1875), Wayside Flowers, Original and Contributed Poems (NYC: 1882, 1884), The Christmas Wreath (1883), New Light on Mormonism (NYC: 1885), The King's Daughters (Philadelphia: 1888, 1890).
Ellen E. Dickinson and Solomon Spalding
It seems that Ellen E. Dickinson was long aware of her family relationship to Solomon Spalding, but that she did little or nothing to study that connection until the late 1870s, when she began actively investigating the Spalding authorship claims for the Book of Mormon. It is possible that Ellen's interest in this subject was awakened by her reading of an interview with her cousin, John A. McKinstry, first published in 1877. Late in 1879 Ellen wrote a letter to Spalding's adopted daughter, Matilda S. McKinstry, who was then living in Washington, D. C. In that letter Ellen apparently solicited family information from her relative and Matilda wrote a reply to Ellen. By a stroke of fortune, Mrs. McKinstry's response to Dickinson was eventually passed along to Joseph Smith III, the President of the Reorganized LDS Church. The letter was preserved in the files of the Community of Christ Library and Archives in Independence, Missouri and remains the earliest document so far discovered, providing any information on Ellen E. Dickinson and her research activities prior to 1880.
In her various published writings on Solomon Spalding, Ellen E. Dickinson does not disclose what it was that first motivated her to research the alleged connection between her great uncle's manuscript stories and the Book of Mormon. As mentioned above, her interest may have sparked by a reading of the widely reprinted 1877 Springfield Republican interview with John A. McKinstry. In that interview John related that he was the "grandson of Rev. Mr. Spaulding" and that "the religion of Joe Smith and Brigham Young had its origin in a romance written by Rev. Solomon Spaulding." John was then living in Longmeadow, Massachusetts, not far from Boston. It is altogether probable that Ellen, then apparently living in Boston, read the report, contacted her cousin John, and from him obtained the address of his mother, Matilda Spalding McKinstry, who by mid-1879, was living in Washington D. C.
According to Ellen's own account, as published in Scribners Magazine in Aug. 1880, from her "earliest childhood" there had been "a tradition" in her family that the Book of Mormon "was taken from a manuscript written by [her] great-uncle, the Rev. Solomon Spaulding." Ellen says she went to Washington, D. C., (apparently in late March of 1880), where she "had the pleasure of meeting for the first time Mrs. M. S. McKinstry, the only child of Mr. Spaulding, and received from her lips full confirmation of the story." Dickinson had the good fortune of submitting her article to Scribner's Monthly just when public interest in polygamy, the Utah theocracy, and Mormonism was on the rise. Her 1880 article was widely reprinted and summarized, resulting in an almost unprecedented popularization of the Spalding authorship claims among the reading public. Scribner's continued to keep Dickinson's ball rolling by printing her follow-up article on this subject in 1881.
Dickinson and the Honolulu manuscript discovery
Between 1881 and the end of 1884, Ellen E. Dickinson worked on her planned exposure of the LDS Church, a book entitled New Light on Mormonism. Then, in the middle of February 1885, Dickinson became aware of the Spalding manuscript discovered among the papers of Lewis L. Rice in Honolulu. With her book about to go through the press, she quickly wrote to the son of Lewis L. Rice, the Rev. William H. Rice of Addison, New York. The younger Rice replied to Dickinson on Feb. 21, 1885 and she barely had time to forward his initial reply regarding the Honolulu discovery to her publisher before New Light on Mormonism was put through the press in New York City. The Rice letter appears as item no. 26 in the appendix of Dickinson's book. Before the end of February the authoress wrote directly to the aged Rice, speaking of "my great uncle, Rev. Solomon Spaulding" and asserting her family's claim upon the manuscript (then still in Rice's possession), calling for the document to "be sent at once" to Mrs. McKinstry, whom she reportedly said was "the daughter of Solomon Spaulding" and from whose mother (Matilda Spalding Davison), the manuscript then in Rice's hands had been "stolen by D. P. Hurlbut." In his Mar. 14, 1885 letter to James H. Fairchild, Lewis L. Rice relates: "I have a letter, just received, from Mrs. Ellen E. Dickinson of Boston, who styles herself the grand niece of Solomon Spalding, She is 'having a book published on the origin of Mormonism' and wishes to have the manuscript in my possession. She thinks at least it should be returned to 'Mrs. McKinstry, Mr. Spaulding's daughter.' But where Mrs. McKinstry lives, or how it could be restored to her, she does not say."
With her book finally published, Ellen E. Dickinson at last had both the opportunity and the leisure to study reports of the Spalding manuscript recovery in Honolulu more carefully. Lewis L. Rice refused to return the newly found document to the remnants of the late Rev. Spalding's little family (Mrs. McKinstry, her children, Mrs. Dickinson, etc.) and so Ellen was unable to consult the holograph herself. She relied upon news reports for her information. On Sep. 10, 1885 the New York Independent ran an article on the manuscript discovery, written by the Rev. Sereno E. Bishop of Honolulu and the authoress didn't like what she saw printed in that newspaper's columns. She penned a reply at years' end and the paper published Dickinson's letter in its issue for Jan. 7, 1886. In her letter Dickinson summarized one of the main points made in her book, by saying: "The impression conveyed in this talk [with D. P. Hurlbut, was that... he [Hurlbut] found two manuscripts in the old trunk to which Mrs. Spaulding gave him access: the one he gave to Howe, which was unimportant, and the other, which he sold to the Mormons; the romance which Spaulding had written and rewritten, and had submitted to a publisher in Pittsburgh, with a view of having it printed, and where Rigdon had copied it without permission." Although Dickinson's startling allegation helped explain Hurlbut's little reported activities during the winter of 1833-34, Dickinson was unable to provide much additional evidence for her assertions and there the matter rested.
The pre-1885 RLDS Response to Dickinson
Some of the earliest published response to Ellen E. Dickinson and her renewal of the old Spalding authorship claims came from prominent members of the Reorganized LDS Church. Their Saints' Herald mentioned Dickinson several times during the 1880s. RLDS Apostle, Thomas W. Smith launches into a lengthy rebuttal of Dickinson in a letter written to the editors of Scribners, but published only in the Herald of Sept. 15, 1881. In his refutation of Dickinson's assertions Smith says: "The statement of Mr. Howe removes all the edge from the report stated by Miss Dickenson that Hurlbut had sold the original, or the "Manuscript Found," to the Mormons for three hundred dollars. No, no; the Spaulding family must in honor produce the original... We demand evidence that he ever saw it, much less handled it, copied it, or stole it."
In the Herald of Mar. 17, 1883 the RLDS President Joseph Smith III published a reply to the Rev. Robert Patterson. Jr. in which he demonstrates a thorough knowledge of Dickinson's allegations, by saying: "It is claimed that it [Spalding's manuscript] was not returned by Hurlbut, or Howe, up to as late as 1844, when, as stated by Miss E. Dickinson, an effort was made by Mr. Spaulding's family to get possession of it by demanding its return... This is strikingly peculiar; for in the same article written by Miss E. E. Dickinson, from which you quote, Mrs. McKinstry states that she "perfectly remembers the trunk and its contents, one of which was the 'Manuscript Found.'... It is claimed that it was not returned by Hurlbut, or Howe, up to as late as 1844, when, as stated by Miss E. Dickinson, an effort was made by Mr. Spaulding's family to get possession of it by demanding its return. No part of this manuscript thus obtained by Hurlbut, was ever published by E. D. Howe..."
1885 -- Dickinson's Publishes Her Book
Ellen E. Dickinson's New Light on Mormonism was published in late April or early May of 1885. It received a two sentence notice in the Atlantic Monthly of July 1885, where Dickinson's "new light" was described as being "thrown chiefly upon the origin of the sect, and especially on the invention of the Book of Mormon." A marginally more substantial response was printed in the Salt Lake Tribune of May 24, 1885, which characterized the book as having been written "by a sincere and capable author." The Salt Lake City reviewer notices that the book contains a section on the "life of Solomon Spaulding, and his authorship of 'The Manuscript Found," but that "there is not much in the book which is new to the residents here..." Perhaps the most detailed review of the 1885 Dickinson volume appeared in The Literary World of June 21, 1885, in which Dickinson's "argument" for the allegedly true origin of the Book of Mormon is called "ingenious, striking, and at most points well substantiated." Dickinson's publisher for her 1885 book was Funk & Wagnalls, a firm that invested considerable effort in publicizing its many annual offerings in the nation's book shops. In what may have been a large dollop of the publisher's typical prepared "boilerplate," the San Francisco Sunday Chronicle of May 31, 1885 offered a highly complimentary book review of the Dickinson volume, saying (among other things): "Through trickery one Dr. D. P. Hurlburt obtained possession of the coveted [Spalding manuscript] book for the purpose, as he claimed, of comparing it with the Book of Mormon... The natural assumption is that Hurlburt sold it to the Mormons... Mrs. Dickinson paid a visit to Hurlburt in 1880, but although he showed signs of great uneasiness when questioned on the subject, he denied the charge that he had sold the manuscript to the Mormons."
Dickinson's 1885 book is an uneven combination of commendable personal investigation, interesting source documents, lackluster analysis, and generally miserable reporting, in which the authoress manages to reproduce practically every erroneous report regarding the Mormons ever printed, while presenting her own unique material and findings in an unprofessional manner which does not well engage the readers' confidence and conviction. Dickinson's lasting impact upon the Spalding authorship claims consists almost entirely of the useful original source materials she provides in her book.
Later RLDS Response to Dickinson
The first two published RLDS responses to Dickinson, as previously mentioned, were written before the Saints became aware that she was writing a book covering the Spalding authorship claims. In the Herald of Jan. 31, 1885 a correspondent mentions being interviewed by the authoress because she was "expecting to publish a work on Mormonism." Apparently Dickinson garnered very little useful information from such personal interviews of the "Mormons."
An interesting Lewis L. Rice letter of March 28, 1885 was printed in the Saints' Herald of May 16, 1885 (reprinted in: RLDS History pg. 472). In that letter Rice says:
"Mrs. Dickinson, of Boston, claiming to be a relative of Spalding, and who is getting up a book to show that he was the real author of the Book of Mormon, wants it. She thinks, at least, it should be sent to Spalding's daughter, a Mrs. Somebody -- but she does not inform me where she lives. Deming says that Howe borrowed it when he was getting up his book, and did not return it, as he should have done, etc."
Another Lewis L. Rice letter was printed in the Saints' Herald of July 11, 1885. There Rice shares this information with the RLDS readers: "Miss [sic] Dickinson, whom you call a grand daughter of Solomon Spaulding, represents herself to me as his grand niece: 'My great uncle, Rev. Solomon Spaulding,' she writes." Through the assistance of Mr. Rice the RLDS eventually obtained (from Rice's friend, James H. Fairchild) a copy of the Spalding manuscript found in Honolulu. This sketchy, incomplete story the RLDS leaders were pleased to label "Manuscript Found" and publish (in part) in the pages of the Saints Herald. A correspondent who read this production wrote into the paper on Aug. 31, 1885: "The advance sheet of the Spaulding story is out. If it holds out as begun, what a monument it will prove to the genius and piety of the Rev. [Spalding] ... I wonder what Ellen Dickinson will think of her great uncle's novel? Too much piety (of a kind) in the Spaulding family! ... Ellen Dickinson has misrepresented and slandered the Saints in this country; but the people are getting their eyes opened, and Phariseeism must procure new cloaks. Miss [sic] Dickenson, too, wants her Uncle's manuscript! and thinks she ought to have it! Perhaps she had!"
In the meanwhile, Elder Hiram P. Brown, editor of the RLDS Expositor, was busy defending the Saints from Ellen E. Dickinson in the pages of his newspaper. In his issue of July, 1885 Brown reproduces the book review of the Dickinson volume from the Sunday Chronicle of May 31, 1885. Although Elder Brown offers a few words of condemnation, aimed against proponents of the Spalding claims in general, he apparently had neither the time nor the interest to address Dickinson's assertions specifically in his caustic editorial reply.
After 1885 RLDS interest in Dickinson and her book abated. Her work was relegated to being the object of occasional derision within the pages of the Saints Herald. For example, a notable correspondent whose letter was published in the issue of June 6, 1894 refers to her book as: "'New Light (lie!) on Mormonism' by E. E. Dickinson..." A few months later the Editor deflected a correspondent's question about Dickinson's book by suggesting that the reader consult various of the Church's publications regarding the Book of Mormon, etc.
Prominent RLDS official Richard C. Evans, in a letter published in 1899, says: "I notice... another letter in your paper... regarding my letter, "New Light on Mormonism," The Book of Mormon, and the "Spalding Manuscript Found." The man admits that "there are minor errors in Miss Dickinson's narrative." Now I am prepared to show that there are dozens of errors in her book. In many points she contradicts the best encyclopedias and other works published on the same subject; and worse than all she contradicts herself, and tells stories that are impossible to have occurred." Elder Evans was basically correct in his estimation of Dickinson's uneven book, but that fact did not keep him from eventually being won over by the arguments presented by anti-Mormon writers of her ilk. In 1920 Evans published his own book on Mormonism, in which he accepted and promulgated the Spalding claims with no particular limitation or criticism. RLDS mentions of Dickinson in later years consisted mostly of put-downs of her theories about a young Joseph Smith stealing Spalding manuscripts in New York state and about D. P. Hurlbut having sold the real "Manuscript Found" to the Mormon leaders as early as 1933-34. By 1918 the editors of the Herald had become so immune to Dickinson's old charges that they were content to allow a Gentile to do their responding for them: "A somewhat prevalent theory, which Mrs. Dickinson maintains, is that Hurlbut took two manuscripts from the old trunk in Hartwick, New York -- one the genuine "Manuscript Found," which he treacherously sold to the Mormons, the other which he delivered to Howe... Of this there seems to be no proof."
The LDS Response to Dickinson
The officials and editors among the Mormons of Utah were not especially interested in debating the points offered up for inspection by the authoress in her 1880 and 1881 articles in Scribners' Monthly. One passing mention of the lady and her work appeared in the Salt Lake City Deseret News of Jan. 3, 1881 --- "Since the publication in Scribner of Miss Ellen E. Dickenson's article on the Book of Mormon... the Syracuse Journal reproduced some portions of Miss Dickenson's and other papers have copied the affidavit of Mrs. McKinstry." The editors of the Deseret News had quite a bit more to say in their issue of Sep. 28, 1881 Among other things, they remarked: "Scribner's Magazine for August, contained an article on the Book of Mormon by Ellen E. Dickinson, in which the writer revived the oft-refuted fable known as "The Spaulding Story." In the October number of the same magazine the lady has another communication on the same subject, containing letters and affidavits which we reproduce, as they form important links in the chain of evidence which encircles the Spaulding romance, axes it as a failure, and holds it up as a baseless attempt to account for the origin of the Book of Mormon. The lady may not see it in this light, but it will so appear to all unprejudiced eyes."
While the Deseret News henceforth gave Dickinson only minimal notice, at least one Mormon luminary was busy reading her offerings regarding the Spalding claims -- reading them with a jaundiced eye and a desire for public requital, that is. Elder George Reynolds had already written a series of articles attacking the Spalding claims for the Salt Lake City magazine, The Juvenile Instructor. When Reynolds compiled these articles into a booklet in 1883, he added some new material, dedicating an entire chapter i response to the 1880-81 Dickinson-McKinstry allegations. In his "MRS. DICKENSON'S SPECULATIONS," After giving an introduction to this material Reynolds says:
"Possibly doubting the Spaulding story herself Mrs. Dickenson suggests another solution, yet still more ridiculous. She writes: "Smith, however, could easily have possessed himself of the manuscript if he had fancied it suitable to his purpose, for it is understood that he was a servant on the farm, or teamster for Mr. Sabine (Mrs. Spaulding's brother) in whose house the package of manuscript lay exposed in an unlocked trunk for several years."
This theorizing represents Dickinson's amateur analysis at its worst and Reynolds was sensible to make some capital for his cause by ridiculing the "teamster" theory. Reynolds was also cunning enough to turn Dickinson's reliance upon McKinstry against the generally accepted Spalding claims in a couple of cases. Obviously Dickinson's pre-1885 writing presented little hindrance to Mormon apologists like Reynolds. The more dangerous part of her reporting was her presentation of the McKinstry affidavit, and this Reynolds was able to work around by not directly confronting some of McKinstry's most serious allegations.
For a few short months Elder Reynolds little book "held the fort" for the Utah Mormons, but it quickly became an outdated and insufficient LDS response in the wake of the Spalding manuscript discovery in Hawaii. The Deseret News of May 20, 1885 broke with its usual policy of not quoting RLDS sources defending Mormonism and reprinted the Mar. 28, 1885 L. L. Rice letter from the Saints' Herald. As previously mentioned, in that missive Rice says: "Mrs. Dickinson, of Boston, claiming to be a relative of Spaulding, and who is getting up a book to show that he was the real author of the Book of Mormon, wants it. She thinks, at least, it should be sent to Spaulding's daughter, a Mrs. Somebody -- but she does not inform me where she lives." Probably more than one editorial eyebrow raised at the news of Mrs. Dickinson's plan of "getting up a book" to demonstrate that Solomon Spalding was "the real author of the Book of Mormon." In the Deseret News of July 21, 1885 Joseph F. Smith (who was then dodging the anti-polygamy laws and hiding out in Hawaii) offered his personal observations as of June 24, 1885, including the following: "Mrs. Ellen S.[sic] Dickenson, of Boston, grand-niece of S. Spaulding. Mrs. Dickenson demanded that the MS be sent forthwith to her or Mrs. McInstry, from whose mother it had been 'stolen by D. P. Hurlburt.' She also asserts that she is writing a book against the 'Mormons,' and desires the manuscript from which to make extracts, provided it is the one that Hurlburt stole 'which she scarcely thinks is the one.'" Perhaps think that one good turn deserved another, the editors of the Saints' Herald reprinted this Utah cousin's report in their issue of Aug. 8, 1885. Joseph F. Smith spells Dickinson's name more correctly than the Church editors, in his journal entry for May 1, 1885: "Names of parties who had written to Mr. Rice for the Ms. were as follows: ... Mrs. Ellen E. Dickinson, grand niece of Solomon Spaulding, She claimed the Ms. should be sent at once to Mrs. McInstry, the daughter of Solomon Spaulding, from whose mother, Mrs. Davison, the Ms. was stolen by D. P. Hurlbut."
Having already admitted in the official Church newspaper that Ellen E. Dickinson was about to publish a book advocating the Spalding authorship claims, one might guess that the LDS editors would have published a scathing review of her New Light On Mormonism when it appeared in 1885. Instead, the Deseret News and other Church publications managed to ignore the book almost totally for a considerable period of time. In the meanwhile, Oberlin College President James H. Fairchild delivered the embattled polygamists of Utah a savory piece of reporting on a silver platter at the beginning of 1886. By certifying the old manuscript found in Honolulu as a genuine production of Solomon Spalding -- and as NOT being the original for the Book of Mormon -- Fairchild gave the Mormons a very welcome resource for future defense against the Spalding authorship claims. Fairchild's dismissal of Ellen E. Dickinson's 1885 book was simply icing on the cake in this instance of much appreciated reporting from a much respected Gentile "expert."
Dickinson and James H. Fairchild
By the last part of May 1885, Rev. Robert Patterson, Jr. of Pittsburgh had heard about Dickinson's newly released book and felt that Oberlin College President James H. Fairchild should see it also. Patterson wrote a letter to Dickinson's publisher on June 5, 1885, requesting that a copy of New Light on Mormonism be sent to Fairchild in Ohio. The next day a representative of the Funk and Wagnalls company in New York shipped out the volume, asking Fairchild to publish a review of its contents in the Oberlin College organ Bibliotheca Sacra. Once he knew the book was on its way to Oberlin, Patterson wrote to Fairchild, saying "I am desirous that you should have the benefit of any information she can give... I take for granted Mrs. Dickinson has republished in her book the letter of Mrs. McKinstry (Spalding's daughter) in which she distinctly states that her father wrote several stories."
After exchanging further correspondence with Fairchild, Rev. Patterson again wrote to him, regarding the writings of Solomon Spalding, saying "Mrs. Dickinson's theory (page 62) that Hurlbut gave Howe a copy (made by Hurlbut) of the genuine 'Manuscript Found' has no evidence that I am aware of to sustain it." So, it seems that while Patterson was eager to have the respected college president read Dickinson's book, he was not touting that production as offering the definitive statement of claims for a Spalding authorship of the Book of Mormon. Still, Patterson was hopeful that he could supply Fairchild with sufficient new information, so that he could "look at all sides of this curious question," and the Patterson obviously felt that Dickinson had provided at least some useful information for Fairchild's consideration.
Fairchild's reception of what Dickinson had to offer in explanation of the origin of the Book of Mormon was a decidedly cool one. He read her book; found little there that impressed him; and said as much when he got around to delivering a professional paper on what was by then being called the "Oberlin" Spalding manuscript. According to the Cleveland Leader of Jan 26, 1886, President Fairchild delivered a preliminary version of his paper before the Congregational Club of Cleveland, telling the audience that he "did not believe" that the "Mormon Bible" was "a book which Sidney Rigdon and other Mormon lights had taken and by adding or rewriting into it certain religious ideas had made out of it what was now the Book of Mormon." Rather, he "was of the opinion that... it was more probable that Joe Smith wrote the above-named book." When Fairchild polished up his paper he added into its several references to Dickinson's recently published New Light On Mormonism, essentially taking her book and its claims as representing the thesis he wished to disprove. In the version of his report published in the Bibliotheca Sacra of Jan. 1886, Fairchild begins by giving a brief review of the Dickinson book:
Mrs. Ellen E. Dickinson, in her recent work entitled New Light on Mormonism, introduces herself as a grand-niece of Solomon Spaulding... Her leading purpose seems to be to show that the Book of Mormon had its literary origin in an historical romance written by Solomon Spaulding, but never published by him, and never intended to serve the purpose to which it has been perverted. The volume doubtless derives its title from the effort to establish this theory of the origin of the Book of Mormon, although it contains other matter connected with the history of Mormonism and the character of its doctrines...
The question chiefly discussed in Mrs. Dickinson's little volume, whether the Book of Mormon originated in a manuscript of Solomon Spaulding, is interesting, but by no means of special importance. The book is not so wonderful that it could not have been produced by Joseph Smith or Sidney Rigdon, or some other of the shrewd and unscrupulous, but uncultivated, leaders of the delusion.
Fairchild received a personal letter from Dickinson in early March of 1886, but history has not recorded his reply to her. He soon after refined his report into a finished professional paper (delivered on Mar. 23, 1886 before the Northern Ohio and Western Reserve Historical Society) from which he eliminated his previous review of Dickinson's work as a leading topic for discussion. Instead, in this final version of his report, Fairchild reserved his discussion of Dickinson's ideas for the final page of the paper:
A somewhat prevalent theory, which Mrs. Dickinson maintains, is that Hurlbut took two manuscripts from the old trunk in Hartwick, New York -- one the genuine "Manuscript Found," which he treacherously sold to the Mormons, the other which he delivered to Howe, and which is present this evening. Of this there seems to be no proof. Howe intimates no such thing in his book. It is true that Mrs. Dickinson reports an interview of her own with Howe, in 1830, in which he expresses the opinion that Hurlbut had two manuscripts, one of which he sold to the Mormons, but in the appendix to her book (page 259) she publishes a letter from Howe to Hurlbut, written two or three months before the interview, in which he disclaims any such suspicion.
There are those who claim to know that the last manuscript is still in existence, and will be brought forth to light at some future day. It would not seem unreasonable to suspend judgment in the case until the new light shall come. Professor Whitsitt, of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky, has given much attention to the internal structure of the "Book of Mormon," and is about to publish a life of Sidney Rigdon in which he will maintain, and expects to prove, that Rigdon is responsible for the "Book of Mormon," and he had Spaulding's manuscript as the basis of his work.
The discerning reader need not look very far to fathom why Fairchild chose to believe one thing Howe said and to simultaneously ignore the others: by concentrating his confidence in the words Howe wrote to Hurlbut, Fairchild could conveniently dismiss any irritating evidence which did not quite square with his primary thesis regarding the origin of the Book of Mormon. It was not Fairchild's purpose to sort out Howe's statements and Hurlbut's statements and attempt to discern truth from fabrication. Fairchild had made up his mind in the matter and was merely looking for scraps of support to flesh out his paper on the subject. In the end he perhaps threw out several profitable facts, in his discarding of what he no doubt saw as tainted Dickinsonian wash water.
William H. Whitsitt's Response to Dickinson
The candid reader of these comments might, by now, expect to find that practically all those who disagreed with Dickinson's conclusions in New Light on Mormonism also disagreed with her source material and her analytic methodology. Those who agreed with Dickinson (in the 1880s and in the years that followed) tended to swallow her explanations whole, not stopping even for a moment to search out any possible contradictions, inconsistencies, and evident factual errors in her work. For example, Redick McKee, and old friend of Solomon Spalding, had this to say in his letter of Jan. 25, 1886: "In the late publication by Mrs. E. E. Dickinson, I have found much that is interesting, both as to the past history and present status of Mormonism, and recommend its perusal." McKee was in a position to have knowledgeably pointed out and remedied a number of Dickinson's errors in reporting, yet he simply overlooked the problems in her book and praised those parts he found "interesting."
One contemporary of Dickinson, who both agreed with some of her conclusions and faulted her greatly as a reliable reporter. was the third President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the Rev. William H. Whitsitt.
Whitsitt no doubt was familiar with Dickinson's 1880 and 1881 articles in Scribners. He probably also read her 1885 book soon after it went on sale. Whitsitt's first public opportunity to respond to Dickinson came after she wrote a letter for publication in the New York religious newspaper, The Independent. Dickinson's letter was her answer to and refutation of an earlier article in the same paper, written by the Rev. Sereno E. Bishop, a friend of Lewis L. Rice. Dickinson's letter was probably written and received late in 1885, but the editors of The Independent delayed its publication until Jan. 7, 1886. In the meanwhile, William H. Whitsitt (an occasional contributor to the paper's columns) was given a copy of the letter and asked to make an editorial response to the various points Dickinson raised. Whitsitt wrote the required response -- his personal journal entries for Jan. 9 and 16, 1886 read:
The New York Independent for the 7th of January came to hand on yesterday, and contains my notes appended to the article of Mrs. Ellen E. Dickinson, regarding "Solomon Spaulding's Manuscript Found." I trust the Editor who subscribes his title to my effusion will be careful to send me a check for it.
Dr. William Hays Ward, Superintending Editor of the Independent sent me a copy of a letter that he had received from Robert Patterson, of the Presbyterian Banner, Pittsburgh, in criticism of my notes on Mrs. Dickinson's article about Solomon Spaulding's Manuscript Found, that appeared recently in the Independent. Mr. Patterson has not seen the bottom of the problem, but he supposes he has, and is disposed to maintain his ground. There is nothing for me to say.
Whitsitt disagreed with Dickinson on several different points and it is clear that he viewed her book with mixed feelings, saying: "it is plain there must be a mistake somewhere. The Appendix, however, is valuable, and kindly thanks are due for it." After pondering Dickinson's arguments for D. P. Hurlbut having recovered more than one Spalding manuscript in 1833, Whitsitt responds:
It is wholly a blunder to suppose that the particular "Manuscript Found" which fell into the hands of Mr. Rigdon was ever "loaned to D. P. Hurlbut by Mrs. Spaulding." The only document that came into his keeping is now in Honolulu: Hurlbut's signature inscribed on the flyleaf in 1834, will serve to identify it almost beyond any question.
Whitsitt was unyielding on this particular point. He simply could not bring himself to believe that D. P, Hurlbut ever had the infamous "Manuscript Found in his possession. His journal entry for Feb. 3, 1886 reads:
Rev. Wm. Ward Hayes, D. D., of the New York Independent was kind enough to send a slip that he had clipped from the N. Y. Tribune under date of Jan. 31, containing a letter from Mr. James A. Briggs of Brooklyn, N. Y. Mr. Briggs memory has played him several pranks, but the letter is of a certain amount of value. He mentions names of Judge Allen, Dr. Carl. Samuel Wilson, Judge Lapham, and W. Corning as being with himself members of the Committee who had an interview with Dr. Philastus Hurlbut after his return from New England in search of the manuscript of the Book of Mormon. His claim that Hurlbut had obtained the MS. and that it was there exhibited and compared is entirely incorrect...
At the same time Whitsitt was making these entries in his journal he was readying his manuscript book, Sidney Rigdon, the Real Founder of Mormonism, for publication. Unfortunately only a small excerpt of the lengthy biography was ever published, and that portion has nothing to say about the Spalding authorship claims. Whitsitt did not forget Ellen E. Dickinson in compiling the Rigdon biography: he makes mention of her work in the following instances:
175: "Mrs. Ellen E. Dickinson (New Light on Mormonism, New York 1885, p. 13) declares that in Cherry Valley Solomon Spaulding "became principal of an academy," but no authority is cited, and she herself is so incurably inaccurate, that it is difficult to decide where her assertions are worthy to be trusted."
Some Later Voices
Dickinson continued to be cited as an authority on the Spalding authorship claims well into the twentieth century. Her allegations and affidavits from New Light on Mormonism were selectively cited and used by A. Theodore Schroeder throughout his 1901 booklet on the Spalding claims. Schroeder was wise enough not to depend too heavily on Dickinson in giving his rendition of the Spalding claims, but he was able to pick out those parts of her book which seemed to him to be more or less reliable.
LDS historian, B. H. Roberts took notice of Dickinson throughout the relevant parts of his 1905 YMMIA Manual No. 9 (see pages 470-71, 472, 479-480 in that work). He renewed his attack upon the anti-Mormon authoress in his 1908-09 reply to Schroeder; there Roberts, takes Dickinson to task several times over. Clearly Roberts saw Dickinson both as an unreliable reporter and as a threat to the traditional LDS explanations for Mormon origins. On pp. 557-8 of his Nov. 1908 installment, Roberts seemingly faults Dickinson for her reporting that Solomon Spalding "intended to publish a fictitious account of its [his Manuscript Found] having been discovered in a 'cave, in Ohio,' as an advertisement, to advance its sale." Roberts is unclear as to whether he is blaming Dickinson for repeating such an "odd story," or whether he simply using the example to show that Spalding's fictional work could not possibly have resembled anything in or about the Book of Mormon. In the process Roberts passes over the fact that Joseph Smith would later tell a story very similar to Spalding's, regarding his own purported recovery of the "Nephite record" from an ancient hill near his home in New York. Oliver Cowdery supplied the information that the receptacle for that "record" was, in ancient times, probably buried deep with the hill. In another case Brigham Young cited Cowdery as identifying a hidden chamber full of records within that same hill. All of this closely matches Spalding's story of discovering his fictional ancient record in an artificial cave or hidden chamber, within an ancient mound builder hill near his home in Ohio.
On pp. 567-568, 570 of his Nov. 1908 article, Roberts raises a potentially important issue: the fact that Dickinson said little or nothing of Matilda Spalding Dickinson's 1839 statement in writing her own book, New Light on Mormonism. This is indeed a matter worth further study; but reasonable explanations of Dickinson's lack of citations of Davidson need not go where Roberts wished to take the answer -- saying that "Mrs. Dickinson would not admit the Davison document into her collection... knowing doubtless its history... the rich dramatic effects infused into it, by the "Reverend" forgerer of it." Here Roberts is crediting Rev Ely and/or Rev Storrs with fabricating practically the entire 1839 Davidson statement, but there is nothing in Dickinson's writings to indicate that she thought such a thing. More than likely she avoided citing the Davidson statement because it provided little exclusive information for her reporting and because reference to the 1839 document would tend to draw her readers' attention from Dickinson's own 1880 solicitation from Matilda Spalding Dickinson's adopted daughter, Matilda Spalding McKinstry.
Roberts was perfectly willing to make use of selections from the testimony offered up in anti-Mormon publications, so long as those excerpts gave support to his own apologetic arguments. On page 578 of the same article, Roberts attempts to mine the Davidson and McKinstry statements for evidence helpful to his own position. He says:
Nothing could be more explicit than these statements of mother and daughter, and both were in the closest relations to Solomon Spaulding; and what they say is supplemented and emphasized by the grand niece of Mrs. (Spaulding) Davison, Ellen Dickinson, who, in her "New Light on Mormonism," represents Mrs. McKinstry as insisting that her mother, said, -- and the impression is created that she repeatedly said it -- "that Mr. Spaulding had assured her that he had recovered his original manuscript when Patterson had refused to publish it, and she never varied or doubted in this belief.
Here Roberts attempts to demolish one version of the Spalding authorship claims, the advocates of which alleged that Sidney Rigdon obtained the one and only holograph of Solomon Spalding's "Manuscript Found." Since both "mother and daughter" speak of having this same artifact in their possession after Spalding's 1816 death, Roberts reasons that Rigdon cannot possibly be credited with obtaining and editing the story. This explanation, of course, falls flat when one understands that Spalding's "Manuscript Found" very likely existed in one or more copies besides the one removed from Pennsylvania after 1816 by "mother and daughter."
It might also be useful to add here that Charles A. Shook also made use of Dickinson's reporting throughout his 1914 book True Origin of the Book of Mormon. Shook was not quite so careful a writer as was Schroeder in this instance, but it is instructive to compare and contrast how the two anti-Mormons made use of the Dickinson material, well after most writers on Mormonism had forgotten her book ever existed.
As alluded to previously, Dickinson's lasting impact upon the Spalding authorship claims lies not so much what she herself had to say in her reporting during the 1880s, as it does the fact that she uncovered and made available a considerable amount of valuable source material for the student of this subject.