140 years ago today - Sep 29, 1879

I will give what I can from my own knowledge and memory and from what I heard at the time. When Emma Hale eloped with Joseph Smith, the Hale family was greatly exasperated, and perhaps it would not have been safe for Smith to have shown himself at his father-in-law's house. Emma was, or had been, the idol, or favorite, of the family, and they all still felt a strong attachment for her. Permission to return and reconciliation were effected and accomplished by her and perhaps her sister, Mrs. Wasson, who lived near Bainbridge, New York. The persuasions for Smith to return all came from the other side, not from Mr. Isaac Hale or his family in Harmony, Pa. The statement of Mr. Hale, made under oath before Esquire Dimon, was strictly true. * *

Reuben Hale is but little older than myself, was living with his father at the time of Smith's money-digging, and wrote for Smith when he first began to translate, before [Martin] Harris came to Harmony. It is true that Alva Hale went with his team to Palmyra, N.Y., one hundred miles or more, and moved Smith and wife to Harmony. It was stated by Alva Hale, at the time, that the "Gold Bible" was in a barrel of beans in his wagon, and that he (Hale) slept in his wagon to guard that barrel of beans and its treasure. I remember hearing my older brother Joseph tell Alva that if he, Joseph Lewis [Emma's cousin], had been in your place (Alva Hale's) he would have known whether that barrel of beans contained any golden Bible or not, perfectly regardless of Smith's statement that it would be certain death for any one to see the plates. The Hales seemed, for a time, to be kept in awe by Smith's statements, but that awe did not last long. Alva Hale is over eighty and his memory has failed much in a few years past. Some things he remembers distinctly, and some things I have been able to help him to recall; for example, I asked him if he remembered the letter he wrote to Smith and Emma when they eloped. He said no, and had no recollection of writing a letter to them. When told the contents of the letter, which was as follows--"My Creed! I believe in love-powder, in gun-powder and hell fire," he replied, I recollect it as plain as if but yesterday. I asked Alva, on one of our late visits, if he remembered weighing the gold Bible; but he did not. My brother Joseph tried to refresh his memory, but in vain. Joseph remembers hearing it stated by Alva that he (Hale) was permitted to weigh the gold Bible in a pillow case, and, according to our memory, it weighed thirteen pounds! There were many persons in Harmony who had from Joe Smith positive promise that they should see the plates and the spectacles, but all say that they never saw them. Alva Hale says he never saw them. I presume he saw that old glass-box that Isaac Hale spoke of, said to contain the plates. Smith's excuse for using his spectacles and hat to translate with, instead of those spectacles, was that he must keep the spectacles concealed; but any and all persons were permitted to inspect the peep-stone; and that he could translate just as well with the stone.

My sister Mrs. E[lizabeth]. L. McKune, says: "I worked in the families of Joseph Smith and uncle Isaac Hale for about nine months, during which time Mrs. Emma Smith had a child which was still-born and much deformed. The dwellings of Mr. Hale and Joseph Smith, jr., were near each other. I saw Smith translating his book by the aid of the stone and hat. Reuben Hale, acted as scribe, writing down the words from Joseph Smith's mouth, but after a short time Martin Harris did the writing. I heard Smith tell his wife Emma that he was nearly equal to Jesus Christ, and was as good to her as her Savior. The time when Smith told the story of the bleeding ghost was after the close of the money-digging, after Smith was married and had moved back to Harmony, and had commenced the translation of his book, I think, either before or about the time that Mrs. Harris had abstracted the 130 pages of their manuscript. The date I cannot precisely recall. I have a distinct recollection about that bleeding ghost." Your idea that the first start of the book was a money speculation, not a new church, is perfectly correct. Your general idea of Smith's plates is also correct. He had something which he would permit a select few to handle, as they were done up in a cloth, or in a box, but doubtless the plates were something prepared for the occasion. Among the first of Smith's scribes was one Martin Harris who operated in our immediate neighborhood. His residence was then, I, think, in Palmyra, N.Y. He was a man of some property, and his wife was very strongly opposed to his spending his time and money in Smith's speculation, and once, while Harris was writing for Smith, she came to Harmony township and got hold of some of the manuscript they were making and carried it off, or destroyed it, and caused them considerable trouble. I am able to get near the exact date of Smith's joining the Methodist Episcopal Church. My sister, Elizabeth L. McKune, says she was working in the family of Michael B. Morse the latter part of the winter and spring, and soon after that Joseph Smith, Jr., joined the Church, and while she was working for Mr. Morse he made her a chest and when he painted it put the date, 1828, in red paint on the inside of the chest. She has said chest and date now in her possession. Also my brother Joseph Lewis, from circumstances and business transactions, is able to fix the date to be Harmony, Susquehanna county, Pa., June--1828. The day of the month I am not able to ascertain. We have another witness to Smith's joining the Church, in Elder Cadwell's reply to my statement in the Amboy Journal. Yours Truly, HIEL LEWIS.

[Hiel Lewis (cousin to Emma Smith) to [James T. Cobb?], 29 September 1879, Salt Lake City Daily Tribune 18 (17 October 1879): 2., as cited in Dan Vogel, Early Mormon Documents: Hiel Lewis To [James T. Cobb?]]

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