John Taylor describes discovery of Kinderhook Plates.

May 1, 1843
John Taylor

“Ancient Records,” Times and Seasons 4 no. 12 (1 May 1843): 185–187.

Times and Seasons
G. W. F. Ward, W. P. Harris, George Deckenson, Fayette Grubb, Wilburn W. Fugate, John Taylor, J. R. Sharp, Joseph Smith, Jr., Ira S. Curtis, W. Longnecker, Robert Wiley
Latter-day Saints, Reading Public


Circumstances are daily transpiring which give additional testimony to the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. A few years ago, although supported by indubitable, unimpeachable testimony, it was looked upon in the same light by the world in general, and by the religious world in particular, as the expedition of Columbus to this continent was by the different courts that he visited, and laid his project before. The literati looked upon his expedition as wild and visionary, they suspected very much the integrity of his pretensions, and looked upon him-to say the least-as a fool, for entertaining such wild and visionary views. The Royal courts, aided by geographers, thought it was impossible that another continent should, or could exist; and they were assisted in their views by the learned clergy, who, to put the matter beyond all doubt, stated that it was contrary to Scripture; that the apostles preached to all the world, and that as they did not come to America, it was impossible that there should be any such place. Thus at variance with the opinions of the great, in opposition to science and religion, he set sail, and actually came to America; it was no dream, no fiction; but a solid reality; and however unphilosophical, and infidel the notion might be, men had to believe it; and it was soon found out, that it would agree both with religion and philosophy.

So when the Book of Mormon first made its appearance among men, it was looked upon by many as a wild speculation, and that it was dangerous to the interest and happiness of the religious world; but when it was found to teach virtue, honesty, integrity, and pure religion, this objection was laid aside, as being untenable. We were then told that the inhabitants of this continent were, and always had been, a rude barbarous race, uncouth, unlettered, and without civilization. But when they were told of the various relics that have been found indicative of civilization, intelligence and learning; when they were told of the wealth, architecture and splendor of ancient Mexico; when recent developments proved beyond a doubt, that there was ancient ruins in Central America, which, in point of magnificence, beauty, strength and architectural design, would vie with any of the most splendid ruins on the Asiatic continent; when they could trace the fine delineations of the sculptor's chisel, on the beautiful statue, the mysterious hieroglyphic, and the unknown character, they begun to believe that a wise, powerful, intelligent and scientific race had inhabited this continent; but still it was improbable, nay, almost impossible-notwithstanding the testimony of history to the contrary, that anything like plates could have been used anciently; particularly among this people. The following letter and certificate, will, perhaps have a tendency to convince the skeptical, that such things have been used, and that even the obnoxious Book of Mormon, may be true; and as the people in Columbus' day were obliged to believe that there was such a place as America; so will the people in this day be obliged to believe, however reluctantly, that there may have been such plates as those from which the Book of Mormon was translated.

Mr. Smith has had those plates, what his opinion concerning them is, we have not yet ascertained. The gentlemen that owns them has taken them away, or we should have given a fac similie of the plates and characters in this number. We are informed however, that he purposes returning with them for translation; if so, we may be able yet to furnish our readers with it.

It will be seen by the annexed statement of the Quincy Whig, that there are more dreamers and money diggers, than Joseph Smith, in the world, and the worthy editor is obliged to acknowledge that this circumstance will go a good way to prove the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. He further states that, "if Joseph Smith can decipher the hieroglyphics on the plates, he will do more towards throwing the light on the early history of this continent than any man living." We think that he has done that already, in translating and publishing the Book of Mormon, and would advise the gentleman and all interested, to read for themselves, and understand. We have no doubt however, but Mr. Smith will be able to translate them.


On the 16th of April last a respectable merchant by the name of Robert Wiley, commenced digging a large mound near this place: he excavated to the depth of 10 feet and came to rock; about that time the rain began to fall, and he abandoned the work. On the 23d he and quite a number of the citizens with myself, repaired to the mound, and after making ample opening, we found plenty of rock, the most of which appeared as though it had been strongly burned; and after removing full two feet of said rock, we found plenty of charcoal and ashes; also human bones that appeared as though they had been burned; and near the encephalon a bundle was found that consisted of six plates of brass, of a bell shape, each having a hole near the small end, and a ring through them all, and clasped with two clasps, the ring and clasps appeared to be of iron very much oxidated, the plates appeared first to be copper, and had the appearance of being covered with characters. It was agreed by the company that I should cleanse the plates: accordingly I took them to my house, washed them with soap and water, and a woolen cloth; but finding them not yet cleansed I treated them with dilute sulphuric acid which made them perfectly clean, on which it appeared that they were complete covered with hieroglyphics that none as yet have been able to read. Wishing that the world might know the hidden things as fast as they come to light, I was induced to state the facts, hoping that you would give it an insertion in your excellent, paper for we all feel anxious to know the true meaning of the plates, and publishing, the facts might lead to the true translation. They were found, I judged, more than twelve feet below the surface of the top of the mound.

I am most respectfully a citizen of Kinderhook,


The following certificate was forwarded for publication, at the same time.

We the citizens of Kinderhook, whose names are annexed do certify and declare that on the 23d April, 1843, while excavating a large mound, in this vicinity, Mr. R. Wiley took from said mound, six brass plates of a bell shape, covered with ancient characters. Said plates were very much oxidated-the bands and rings on said plates mouldered into dust on a slight pressure. The above described plates we have handed to Mr. Sharp for the purpose of taking them to Nauvoo. ROB'T WILEY, W. P. HARRIS, G. W. F. WARD, W. LONGNECKER, FAYETTE GRUBB, IRA S. CURTIS, GEO. DECKENSON, W. FUGATE, J. R. SHARP.

(From the Quincy Whig.)


A Mr. J. ROBERTS, from Pike county, called upon us last Monday, with a written description of a discovery which was recently made near Kinderhook, in that county. We have not room for his communication at length, and will give so much of a summary of it, as will enable the reader to form a pretty correct opinion of the discovery made.

It appeared that a young man by the name of Wiley, a resident in Kinderhook, dreamed three nights in succession, that in a certain mound in the vicinity, there was treasures concealed.-Impressed with the strange occurrence of dreaming the same dream three nights in succession, he came to the conclusion, to satisfy his mind by digging into the mound. For fear of being laughed at, if he made others acquainted with his design, he went by himself, and labored diligently one day in pursuit of the supposed treasure, by sinking a hole in the centre of the mound. Finding it quite laborous, he invited others to assist him. Finally, a company of ten or twelve repaired to the mound, and assisted in digging out the shaft commenced by Wiley. After penetrating the mound about 11 feet, they came to a bed of limestone, that had apparently been subjected to the action of fire, removed the stone, which were small and easy to handle, to the depth of two feet more, when they found SIX BRASS PLATES, secured and fastened together by two iron wires, but which were so decayed, that they readily crumbled to dust upon being handled. The plates were so completely covered with rust as almost to obliterate the characters inscribed upon them; but after undergoing a chemical process, the inscriptions were brought out plain and distinct. There were six plates-four inches in length, one inch and three quarters wide at the top, and two inches and three quarters wide at the bottom, flaring out to points. There are four lines of characters or hieroglyphics on each; on one side of the plates are parallel lines running lengthwise. A few of the characters resemble, in their form, the Roman capitals of our alphabet-for instance, the capital B and X appear very distinct. In addition, there are rude representations of three human heads on one of the plates, the largest in the middle; from this head proceeds marks or rays, resembling those which usually surround the head of Christ, in the pictorial representations of his person. There is also figures of two trees with branches, one under each of the two small heads, both leaning a little to the right. One of the plates, has on it the figure of a large head by itself, with two [diagram of a pointing finger] pointing directly to it.

By whom these plates were deposited there must ever remain a secret, unless some one skilled in deciphering hieroglyphics, may be found to unravel the mystery. Some pretend to say, that Smith the Mormon leader, has the ability to read them. If he has, he will confer a great favor on the public by removing the mystery which hangs over them. We learn there was a Mormon present when the plates were found, who it is said, leaped for joy at the discovery, and remarked that it would go to prove the authenticity of the Book of Mormon-which it undoubtedly will.

In the place where these plates were deposited, were also found human bones in the last stage of decomposition; also some braid, which was at first supposed to be human hair, but on a closer examination proved to be grass; probably used as a covering for the bodies deposited there; this was also in the last stage of decay. There were but few bones found in the mound; and it is believed, that it was but the burial place of a small number, perhaps of a person, or a family of distinction, in ages long gone by, and that these plates contain the history of the times, or of a people, that existed far-far beyond the memory of the present race. But we will not conjecture any thing about this wonderful discover, as it is one which the plates alone can reveal.

On each side of this mound in which this discovery was made, was a mound, on one of which is a tree growing that measures two feet and a half in diameter, near the ground. Showing the great antiquity of the mounds, and of course, all that is buried within them. These mounds like others, that are found scattered all over the Mississippi valley, are in the form of a sugar loaf.

The plates above alluded to, were exhibited in this city last week, and are now, we understand, in Nauvoo, subject to the inspection of the Mormon Prophet. The public curiosity is greatly excited, and if Smith can decipher the hieroglyphics on the plates, he will do more towards throwing light on the early history of this continent, than any man now living.

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