PALMYRA was organized by the general sessions of Ontario county, pursuant to the act of 27th of Jan. 1789; since modified. It comprised two townships of Phelps and Gorham's purchase, being No. 12, in the 2d and 3d ranges. The surface of the town is gently undulating, and the soil of a superior quality. Pop. 3,550.
The village of Palmyra is situated on Mud creek and the Erie, canal, 196 miles distant from Albany by the post route, 11 from Lyons, 13 from Canan-daigua, and 22 from Rochester. It is a place of considerable business, containing about 250 dwel-lings, 1 Presbyterian, 1 Episcopal, 1 Methodist, and 1 Baptist church, a bank, 2 newspaper printing offices, a number of mills, &c. The accompanying engraving shows part of Main-street, looking west-ward.
Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon sect, began his public career in and near this village. The following account of Smith, and his operations, is derived from authentic sources of information.
Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, was born in Royalton, Vt. and removed to Manchester, Ontario county, N. Y. about the year 1820, at an early age, with his parents, who were in quite humble circumstances. He was occasionally em-ployed in Palmyra as a laborer, and bore the repu-tation of a lazy and ignorant young man. Accord-ing to the testimony of respectable individuals in that place, Smith and his father were persons of doubtful moral character, addicted to disreputable habits, and moreover, extremely superstitious, be-lieving in the existence of witchcraft. They at one time procured a mineral rod, and dug in various places for money. Smith testified that when dig-ging he had seen the pot or chest containing the treasure, but never was fortunate enough to get it into his hands. He placed a singular looking stone in his hat, and pretended by the light of it to make many wonderful discoveries of gold, silver, and other treasures, deposited in the earth. He com-menced his career as the founder of the new sect when about the age of 18 or 19, and appointed a number of meetings in Palmyra, for the purpose of declaring the divine revelations which he said were made to him. He was, however, unable to produce any excitement in the, village ; but very few had curiosity sufficient to listen to him. Not having the means to print his revelations, he applied to Mr. Crane, of the society of Friends, declaring that he was moved by the spirit to call upon him for as-sistance. This gentleman bid him go to work, or the state prison would end his career. Smith had better success with Martin Harris, an industrious and thrifty farmer of Palmyra, who was worth about $10,000, and who became one of his leading disciples. By his assistance, 5,000 copies of the Mormon Bible, (so called,) were published at an expense of about $3,000. It is possible that Harris might have made, the advances with the expceta-tion of a profitable speculation, as a great sale was anticipated. This work is a duodecimo volume, containing 590 pages, and is perhaps one of the weakest productions ever attempted to be palmed off as a divine revelation. It is mostly a blind mass of words, interwoven with scriptural language and quotations, without much of a leading plan or design. It is in fact such a production as might be expected from a person of Smith's abilities and turn of mind. The following is a copy of the title page :
"The Book of Mormon : an account written by the hand of Mormon, upon plates taken from the plates of Nephi.
"Wherefore it is an abridgment of the record of the people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites ; written to the Lamanites, which are a remnant of the house of Israel, and also to the Jew and Gentile, written by way of commandment, and also by the spirit of Prophecy and Revelation. Written and sealed up and hid up to the LORD that they may not be destroyed, to come, forth by the gift and power of God unto the interpretation thereof, sealed by the hand of Moroni and hid up unto the LORD to come forth in due time by the way of the Gentile : the interpretation thereof by the gift of God, an abridgment taken from the book of Ether. Also, which is a Record of the People of Jared, which were scattered at the time the LORD confounded the language of the people when they were build-ing a tower to get to Heaven, which is to show unto the remnant of the house of Israel how great things the LORD hath done unto their fathers, and that they may know the covenants of the LORD, and that they are not cast off forever ; and also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile, that JESUS is the CHRIST, the ETERNAL GOD, manifesting Himself unto all nations. And now if there are faults it be the mistake of men, wherefore condemn not the things of God that ye may be found spotless at the judgment seat of Christ.
"By Joseph Smith, Junior, Author and Propric-tor, Palmyra. Printed by E. B. Grandin, for the Author, 1830."
At the close of the book is "the testimony of three witnesses," viz: Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris, in which they state unto all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, that they have seen the plates containing the record, and the; engravings upon, them, &c. On the last page is contained the testimony of eight witnesses, of which the following is a copy :
"Be it. known unto all nations, kindred, tongues ; and people, unto whom this book shall come, that Joseph Smith, Jr. the Author and Proprietor of this work, hath shewed unto us the plates of which hath been spoken, which hath the appearance of gold ; and as many of the leaves as the said Smith has translated we did handle with our hands, and we also saw the engravings thereof, all of which had the appearance of ancient work and of curious workmanship. And this we bear record, with words of soberness, that the said Smith has shown unto us, for we have seen and HEFTED, and know of a surety that the said Smith has got the plates of which we have spoken. And we give our names unto the world that which we have seen and we lie not, God bearing witness of it. Christian Whitmer, Jacob Whitmer, Peter Whitmer, Jr. John Whitmer, Hiram Page, Joseph Smith, Senior, Hiram Smith, Samuel H. Smith.”
In the preface, Smith states “that the plates of which have been spoken, were found in the town-ship of Manchester, Ontario county, New-York.”
It is stated by persons in Palmyra, that when he exhibited these plates to his followers, they were done up in a canvass bag, and Smith made the de-claration, that if they uncovered them, the Al-mighty would strike them dead. It is said that no one but Smith could read what was engraved upon them; which he was enabled to do by looking through a peculiar kind of spectacles found buried with the plates.
Soon after the publication of the Mormon Bible, one Parley B. Pratt, a resident of Lorrain county, Ohio, happening to pass through Palmyra, on the canal, hearing of the new religion, called on the prophet and was soon converted. Pratt was inti-mate with Sidney Rigdon, a very popular preacher of the denomination called “Reformers” or “Disciples.” About the time of the arrival of Pratt at Manchester, the Smiths were fitting cut an expedi-tion for the western country, under the command of Cowdery, in order to convert the Indians or Lamanites, as they termed them. In October, 1833, this mission, consisting of Cowdery, Pratt, Peterson, and Whitmer, arrived at Mentor, Ohio, the residence of Rigdon, well supplied with the new Bibles. Near this place, in Kirtland, there were a few families belonging to Rigdon's con-gregation, who having become extremely, fanati-cal, were daily looking for some wonderful event to take place in the- world. Seventeen of these persons readily believed in Mormonism, and were all re-immersed, in one night, by Cowdery. By the conversation of Rigdon, soon after, Mormon-ism received a powerful impetus, and more than one hundred converts were speedily added. Rig-don visited Smith at Palmyra, where he tarried about two months, receiving revelations, preach-ing, &c. He then returned to Kirtland, Ohio, and was followed a few days after by the prophet Smith and his connections. Thus from a state of almost beggary, the family of Smith were furnished with the "fat of the land" by their disciples, many of whom were wealthy.
A Mormon temple was erected at Kirtland, at an expense of about $50,000. In this building, there was a sacred apartment, a kind of holy of holies, in which none but the priests were allow-ed to enter. An unsuccessful application was made to the legislature for the charter of a bank. Upon the refusal, they established an unchart-ered institution, commenced their banking oper-ations, issued their notes, and made extensive loans. The society now rapidly increased in wealth and numbers, of whom many were doubt-less drawn thither by mercenary motives. But the bubble at last burst. The bank being an un-chartered institution, the debts due were not le-gally collectable. With the failure of this insti-tution, the society rapidly declined, and Smith was obliged to leave the state to avoid the sher-iff. Most of the sect, with their leader, removed to Missouri, where many outrages were perpe-trated against them. The Mormons raised an armed force to "drive off the infidels;" but were finally obliged to leave the state. By the last accounts, they were establishing themselves at Nauvoo, Illinois ; and it is said are now in a more flourishing condition than ever, rapidly making converts by means of their itinerant preachers in Various sections of our own country ond even in England.—New-York Historical Collections.
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