Reminiscences of the Early Life of Joe Smith, the Mormon Prophet.
BY HIS OLD EMPLOYER.
[From the Rochester Union.]
Messrs. Editors: In your last evening's paper (Saturday,) in speaking of Mr. Tucker's forth-coming book on Mormonism, you ask who and what was Joe Smith, and you speak of men in Western New York who can intelli-gently answer these and more questions from personal knowledge.
I knew him well before his book was pub-lished. He was then a wood-cutter on my farm, more willing to live by his wits than his ax, and worked through the winter in com-pany with some twenty or thirty others rough backwoodsmen. He and his two asso-ciates built a rude cabin of poles and brush covered with leaves and earth, in the woods open to the south, with a camp-kettle in front for cooking; and here, at night, around a huge fire, he and his companions would gather, ten or a dozen at a time, to tell hard stories, and sing songs and drink cheap whisky (two shillings per gallon), and al-though there were some hard cases among them, Joe could beat them all for tough stories and impracticable adventures, and it was in this school, I believe, that he first conceived his wonderful invention of the golden plates and marvelous revelations. And as these ex-ercises were rehearsed nightly to his hearers, and as their ears grew longer to receive them, so his tales grew the more marvelous to please them, until some of them supposed that he also believed his own stories. But of this fact there is no proof. He was impudent and as-suming among his fellows, but ignorant and dishonest, plausible and obsequious to others, with sufficient low cunning to conceal his ig-norance, but in my estimation, utterly un-qualified to compose even such a jumble of truth and fiction as his book contained.
The most probable theory of its origin that I remember to have heard, is that it was the strange work of an eccentric Vermont clergy-man, written to while away the tedious hours of long confinement by nervous debility, and that this idle production, after his decease, fell into Joe's hands, and that, having learned something of the gullibility of his cronies, this incidental matter incited in him the first idea of turning his foolish stories to account, and thus enable him to make the surreptitious, manuscript the text-book of his gross imposi-tion. I speak understanding in saying he was shameless as well as dishonest, and I re-late a small matter to prove it. During the winter he was chopping for me, I was in the habit of riding through the clearing daily to see that the brush was piled as agreed, the wood fairly corded, and no scattering trees left uncut, and in this way became well acquainted with the conduct of every man; and on each Saturday took an ac-count and paid the hands. My mode was to ride around while each party measured their ranks and turned a few sticks on the top to show they had been counted. In this way I one day took Joe's account, he accompany-ing me and removing the sticks on the top of each rank. After thus going the rounds and returning to the shanty, he said he had an-other rank or two that I had not seen, and led me in a different direction in a roundabout way, to wood that I had already measured, but the sticks on top had all been laid back to their places. I saw the trick at once, and could only make him confess his attempt to cheat by remeasuring the whole lot; and all this he thought would have been a fair trick if I had not found it out. So much for the man in small things.
After he left in the spring I lost sight of him until my friend, Judge Whiting, (long since deceased,) of the very respectable firm of Whiting & Butler, attorneys, who was then loaning money on mortgages for a trust com-pany, asked me if I knew anything about Joe Smith. I told him that I knew him for great rogue in a small way, when he informed me that he pretended to be a prophet, and was about publishing a Book of Revelations; and had induced two credulous men in Pal-myra to apply to him (Judge W.) for money on mortgage to publish it.
I learned afterward that Joe and an asso-ciate had prevailed on a worthy citizen of Waterloo (Col. C.) who was then in a state of great depression from the recent loss of his wife, to join their fraternity and cast in his lot among them; and that while they were at his house taking an inventory of his effects for the purpose, his son, a spirited young man, came in, and on finding what they were about threatened them so strongly with a prosecution as swindlers, that they left for the time until his father had recovered from his delusion, and thus escaped them.
I know nothing further of his doings here, but after his removal to Ohio, where he estab-lished a bank that failed, I was shown one of his bills, and I recollect that on examining it I thought the device on the face of it was most admirably appropriate, viz: A sturdy fel-low shearing sheep.
T. D. B.
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