Wilburn Fugate's confession letter.

Jun 30, 1879
Wilburn W. Fugate

Wilburn Fugate to James T. Cobb, June 30, 1879, reprinted in Wilhelm W. Wyl (Wymetal), Mormon Portraits or the Truth about the Mormon Leaders from 1830 to 1886, Volume First: Joseph Smith the Prophet: His Family and His Friends (Salt Lake City, UT: Tribune Printing and Publishing Company, 1886), 207–208

The Salt Lake Tribune
James T. Cobb, Wilburn W. Fugate, Joseph Smith, Jr.
Reading Public

Mr. Cobb:—

I received your letter in regard to those plates, and will say in answer that they are a HUMBUG, gotten up by Robert Wiley, Bridge Whitton and myself. Whitton is dead. I do not know whether Wiley is or not. None of the nine persons who signed the certificate knew the secret, except Wiley and I. We read in Pratt's prophecy that "Truth is yet to spring up out of the earth." We concluded to prove the prophecy by way of a joke. We soon made our plans and executed them. Bridge Whitton cut them (the plates) out of some pieces of copper; Wiley and I made the hieroglyphics by making impressions on beeswax and filling them with acid and putting it on the plates. When they were finished we put them together with rust made of nitric acid, old iron and lead, and bound them with a piece of hoop iron, covering them completely with the rust. Our plans worked admirably. A certain Sunday was appointed for digging. The night before, Wiley went to the Mound where he had previously dug to the depth of about eight feet, there being a flat rock that sounded hollow beneath, and put them under it. On the following morning quite a number of citizens were there to assist in the search, there being two Mormon elders present (Marsh and Sharp). The rock was soon removed, but some time elapsed before the plates were discovered. I finally picked them up and exclaimed, "A piece of pot metal!" Fayette Grubb snatched them from me and struck them against the rock and they fell to pieces. Dr. Harris examined them and said they had hieroglyphics on them. He took acid and removed the rust, and they were soon out on exhibition. Under this rock was dome-like in appearance, about three feet in diameter. There were a few bones in the last stage of decomposition, also a few pieces of pottery and charcoal. There was NO SKELETON found. Sharp, the Mormon elder, leaped and shouted for joy and said, Satan had appeared to him and told him not to go (to the diggings), it was a hoax of Fugate and Wiley's,—but at a later hour the Lord appeared and told him to go, the treasure was there.

The Mormons wanted to take the plates to Joe Smith, but we refused to let them go. Some time afterward a man assuming the name of Savage, of Quincy, borrowed the plates of Wiley to show to his literary friends there, and took them to Joe Smith. The same identical plates were returned to Wiley, who gave them to Professor McDowell, of St. Louis, for his Museum.

W. Fugate

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