The Prophet Of Palmyra

: Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land

It was at Palmyra, New York, that the principles of Mormonism were first

enunciated by Joseph Smith, who claimed to have found the golden plates

of the Book of Mormon in a hill-side in neighboring Manchester,--the

Hill of Cumorah,--to which he was led by angels. The plates were

written in characters similar to the masonic cabala, and he translated

them by divine aid, giving to the world the result of his discovery. The

Hebrew prophet Mormon was the alleged author of the record, and his son

Moroni buried it. The basis of Mormonism was, however, an unpublished

novel, called The Manuscript Found, that was read to Sidney Rigdon

(afterwards a Mormon elder) by its author, a clergyman, and that

formulated a creed for a hypothetical church. Smith had a slight local

celebrity, for he and his father were operators with the divining-rod,

and when he appropriated this creed a harmless and beneficent one, for

polygamy was a later inspiration of Brigham Young--and began to preach

it, in 1844, it gained many converts. His arrogation of the presidency of

the Church of Latter Day Saints and other rash performances won for him

the enmity of the Gentiles, who imprisoned and killed him at Carthage,

Missouri, leaving Brigham Young to lead the people across the deserts to

Salt Lake, where they prospered through thrift and industry.

It was claimed that in the van of this army, on the march to Utah, was

often seen a venerable man with silver beard, who never spoke, but who

would point the way whenever the pilgrims were faint or discouraged. When

they reached the spot where the temple was afterwards built, he struck

his staff into the earth and vanished.

At Hydesville, near Palmyra, spiritualism, as it is commonly called, came

into being on March 31, 1849, when certain of the departed announced

themselves by thumping on doors and tables in the house of the Fox

family, the survivors of which confessed the fraud nearly forty years

after. It is of interest to note that the ground whence these new

religions sprang was peopled by the Onondagas, the sacerdotal class of

the Algonquin tribe, who have preserved the ancient religious rites of

that great family until this day.