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Solomon Spalding (February 20, 1761 – October 20, 1816) was the author of two related texts: an unfinished manuscript entitled Manuscript Story – Conneaut Creek, and an unpublished historical romance about the lost civilization of the mound builders of North America called Manuscript, Found. Whether these texts are distinct is disputed. After Spalding's death, a number of individuals suggested that Spaulding's work was used as a source for the Book of Mormon, a scripture in the Latter Day Saint movement.
Spalding was born in Ashford, Connecticut. He was a member of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. In 1782, he entered Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, graduating with the class of 1785. In October 1787, he became an ordained Congregationalist preacher in Windham, Connecticut.
In 1795, Spalding married Matilda Sabin and opened a store with his brother Josiah in Cherry Valley, New York. In 1799, they moved the store to Richfield, New York. Around this time, Spalding bought a tract of land in and relocated to Conneaut, Ohio. While in Conneaut, Spalding began writing Manuscript, Found. In 1812, due to the disruptions of the War of 1812, Spalding moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 1814, he moved to Amity, Pennsylvania, where he died two years later.
From 1809 to 1812, Spalding worked on a historical fiction about a Roman discovery of the Americas. An unfinished manuscript copy of this work exists, called the "The Oberlin Manuscript" or "Honolulu Manuscript". It is a historical romance "purporting to have been translated from the Latin, found on 24 rolls of parchment in a cave, on the banks of the Conneaut Creek". It tells of a Roman ship which discovers America. Witnesses reported that Manuscript Story – Conneaut Creek bore "no resemblance to Manuscript, Found".
The text of Manuscript Story was published by the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS Church) in 1885, and by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) in 1886 and 1910.
Around 1812, Spaulding completed a historical romance entitled Manuscript, Found which "purported to have been a record found buried in the earth". Both the LDS Church and RLDS Church transcripts of Manuscript Story equate Manuscript, Found with Manuscript Story. Spaulding moved to Pittsburgh and reportedly took Manuscript, Found to the publisher Patterson & Lambdin. Spaulding died in 1816. Manuscript, Found was never published and is now a lost work.
According to John Spalding, Solomon's brother, the plot of Manuscript, Found told "of the first settlers of America, endeavoring to show that the American Indians are the descendants of the Jews, or the lost tribes. It gave a detailed account of their journey from Jerusalem, by land and sea, till they arrived in America, under the command of Nephi and Lehi. They afterwards had quarrels and contentions, and separated into two distinct nations, one of which he denominated Nephites and the other Lamanites. Cruel and bloody wars ensued, in which great multitudes were slain. They buried their dead in large heaps, which caused the mounds so common in this country." Spalding gave this as an affidavit to be published in Eber D. Howe's anti-Mormon book Mormonism Unvailed.
Manuscript, Found was written "in scripture style of writing". Readers recalled its repetitive usage of phrases like "and it came to pass" or "now it came to pass", as well as the repeated phrase "I Nephi".
In 1832, Latter Day Saint missionaries Samuel H. Smith and Orson Hyde visited Conneaut, Ohio, and preached from the Book of Mormon. Nehemiah King, a resident of Conneaut who knew Spalding when he lived there, felt that the Mormon text resembled the story written by Spalding years before. In 1833, Spalding's brother John and seven other residents of Conneaut signed affidavits stating that Spalding had written a manuscript, portions of which were identical to the Book of Mormon. These statements were published in E. D. Howe's 1834 book Mormonism Unvailed, in which the theory was presented that the Book of Mormon was plagiarized from this manuscript. Several years later, Spalding's widow and daughter, other residents of Conneaut, and residents of Amity, Pennsylvania, also signed statements indicating that Spalding had authored a manuscript that was similar to the Book of Mormon.
"I well remember that he wrote in the old style, and commenced about every sentence with 'and it came to pass,' or 'now it came to pass,' the same as in the Book of Mormon, and according to the best of my recollection and belief, it is the same as my brother Solomon wrote, with the exception of the religious matter."
In 1927, however, Professor Azariah S. Root, who had headed the library at Oberlin College, wrote a letter regarding the origins of the Spalding Manuscript and how it relates to the Book of Mormon. In it he states that the Spalding document to which he had access, Manuscript Story, "seems pretty clearly not to have been the manuscript from which the Book of Mormon was written". Root did not have in his possession Spalding's Manuscript, Found; he stated that Manuscript Story "does not seem to throw very much light" on the question of whether Manuscript, Found was used as a basis for the Book of Mormon.
|Wikisource has the text of a 1900 Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography article about Solomon Spalding.|