Here is story that was published in 1843, about treasure digging quest that the prophet Joseph Smith (or rather, "Joe Smidt") was said to have been involved in. The historical accuracy of the story will no doubt be disputed (and understandably so), but since I am unaware of it being cited before, I decided to post a transcription here. Enjoy!—Mike
Near the waters of Unadilla, in the state of
In this dilemma, the good woman took it upon her, one night, to dream a dream; and awoke therefrom in a very agreeable frame of mind. Her first impulse, was to arouse her husband, who was sleeping like a log at her side; but she bethought herself that he had had a hard day’s work, and after all, it was but a dream; and so with commendable self-control, she again composed herself to rest.
Half an hour after, she awoke in a state of joyous trepidation, which would admit of no further delay. The self-same dream, complete in all its parts, had presented itself to her fancy again, giving an importance to the subject matter thereof, not to be attached to the ordinary vagaries of the night. She shook Samuel by the shoulders, and proceeded to recount it to him.
She had dreamed that a little old man, in a tarpaulin hat and sugar-paper small-clothes, stood before her; and after complimenting her and her husband, as very worthy, well-disposed people, if they only had the wherewithall to live, proceeded to inform her, that near at hand, under a certain tree on the banks of the Unadilla, was buried a rich treasure; which might be theirs for the taking, and would do them and their little ones much good.
“’Twas the ghost of Captain Kidd,” said Samuel.
“O no, not a ghost!” said Ruth, starting.
“Well, well, ghost or no ghost,” said Samuel, “it is a singular dream—a very singular dream—an extraordinary dream. Twice you have dreamed it, Ruth?”
“Well, good Ruth, go to sleep again, and remember, if you dream it over the thirrd time, it will come true to a certainty. Go to sleep, go to sleep!”
In obedience to the wishes of her spouse, the dame composed herself on her pillow; and Samuel, after fidgeting an hour or more in uneasy expectancy, becoming too nervous for repose, carefully got up and lighted a candle. With it in his hand, his face flushed with hopes, new and exciting, he approached the bed; and leaned over to see if he could get any clue to the success of his wife, in the expression of her features. She, good woman, with a start of terror, opened her eyes, and met his inquiring gaze. The candle fell from his hand; and she bounded out of bed to extinguish it, and as she did so, exclaimed:
“Why, Samuel, what on earth is the matter? Are you going to burn me up alive?”
“What luck? what luck?” shouted Samuel.
“Dear me!” returned his spouse, “I have not been asleep.”
Crest-fallen and discomfitted, the shoemaker crawled back into bed; and there he lay quietly until daylight, but he lay awake. Whether his wife slept, he knew not; and though he would have given half the contents of his shop to know, he dared not disturb her. At length, as gray morning had fairly got over the hills, he was electrified by a sudden spring on her part, as she came bolt upright in bed, exclaiming, “I have it, Samuel! I have dreamed it again!”
“The Lord be thanked,” said Samuel: “and now, wife, dress thee, and speed the breakfast; while I myself will attend to the children; and then we will go and consult shaker Brown respecting this most singular visitation.”
Shaker Brown was a tall, venerable man, of near three score and ten, who lived hard by. His long locks were faded nearly to a white, but his limbs retained a goodly portion of their vigor, and his pure, clear, blue eye, was still delightful to look upon. He had passed most of his life as one of a community of shakers; indeed, for many years, had been the principal of one of the most respectable societies of that singular sect; whence having emerged, and taken to him a young wife, in his old age, a child to the world, but deeply imbued with a knowledge of hidden things, and a love for the mystical, he was peculiarly qualified to act as counsellor on an occasion like the present. Hither went Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Fish, for advice; and the result of the visit was satisfactory in a high degree. Shaker Brown recommended that Joe Smidt, an itinerant vagabond glass-looker, who has since made quite a figure in the world, and was then in that region, but few miles away, should be sent for, to take the command of the important affair in hand; and for him, a messenger was accordingly despatched.
Joe Smidt, at that time, a sturdy, ruddy, square-built young fellow; in manner half way between clown and a sheep thief, had already begun to lord it in a small way, in matters mysterious and occult. When he arrived, he listened very respectfully to the narration of dame Fish, but did not condescend to ask any questions or to gape, or wonder over her dream; but treated the subject, in all respects, as though it were a matter of course, that coffers of gold should be buried, that she should dream about them, and he be called upon to bring them again to the light of day. He told some marvelous stories of his success in this way; and finally, having secured to himself a certain compensation, to be paid in hand, by Samuel and shaker Brown; beside an equal share in the venture, he proceeded to arrange a plan of operations for disemboweling the particular treasure which the little tarpaulin man had mentioned to Ruth in her dream. He exhibited a flat opaque glass, or stone, about the size of his palm; which, he said, was found in the grave of an Indian magician, lying upon the bones of the skeleton, over the heart; and which possessed the property of revealing to him the hidden things of earth.
Armed with this invaluable talisman, the dusk of evening was scarcely suffered to approach, when Samuel, shaker Brown and Smidt sallied forth. The tree, a spreading beach, indicated in Ruth’s dream, was easily found; for there was a bridge across the Unadilla, near by it, hid by an intervening clump of alders; and indeed, both Samuel and his wife, had been to the very spot a hundred times, hunting for their cow, or their pigs, or their children; and knew the tree as well as they did the butternut close by their own door. Arrived thereat, Smidt very gravely put the magical glass into his hat, and that to his face, in such a manner as to shut out all the light; while Samuel and Brown placed themselves on either side of him, and awaited in a very trying suspense his expected revelations. Soon Joe brought down the hat, and with an exclamation of delight, informed them that he had discovered the box of gold, buried but a few feet below the surface of the ground; but that it was enchanted, and he should have to break the spell which held it there, before it could be got at.
Satisfied with this, as a precurser, the party returned to Samuel’s house, where Ruth and Mrs. Brown anxiously awaited them. And there, Smidt showed a strong inclination to remain for the night; but the ardor of the others was too much aroused to permit of inactivity: they insisted, with much show of reason, that a delay of even one night was full of danger; and that the only safe course was to make sure of the treasure while it was within their reach. Joe was obliged to give way: and as soon as the necessary shovels and other implements could be got together, the party, enlarged by the addition of Ruth and Mrs. Brown, returned to the spot; where, by this time, many hopes and fears had become centered.
Joe now disposed himself to play his part with effect. Assuming all the dignity of bearing which he could command, he proceeded to describe a circle around the tree; and stepping within it, he pronounced some cabalistic words, or words, at least, of unknown sound and import to his auditors. Having, by his ceremony, taken possession of the ground, as he termed it, he charged his associates, that, while the work was in the progress, they must not, on peril of their lives, or, what with them was of equal moment, the loss of the treasure now so nearly within their grasp, utter a single word: and, stationing Ruth and Mrs. Brown a little away, as an outpost, to guard against surprise, he seized a bar, and the three men fell most lustily to digging.
Near by the scene of these events, was a little village; and indeed, the housel of Samuel Fish and shaker Brown might be said to for its extreme suburb of the river. The moving spirit of this place, was Colonel Spreeaway; a drinking, gambling, roistering merchant: and on the night in question, the business of the day having been brought to a close, he sat in his store, with several of his boon companions, to a late hour; and they made themselves merry with story telling and brandy and sugar. At length some one of the company said:
“What can have brought Joe Smidt here? I saw him pass by my shop to-day.”
“Yes, and he stopped at Fish’s,” said another.
“My wife was by there after dark,” remarked a third, “and saw shaker Brown through the window, and another man. I’ll wager it was Joe.”
“That puts me in mind,” said the colonel, “that I saw three men going across the fields toward the river, as I was coming home to-night, over the bridge. One of them, I knew was Brown, for he cannot be easily mistaken; but it was so dark that I could not make out the others.”
“Some new money-digging humbug, I’ll warrant,” said another.
“And if so,” continued the colonel, “they are at it now: and I move, boys, we have a little sport. Come, I’ll lock up, and we’ll take a turn down by the bridge.”
This proposition met with universal favor; and the company, to the number of half a dozen, set forth, and soon arrived in the neighborhood of the river. Dividing off into little scouting parties, it was not long before the money-diggers were discovered, who, by this time, by dint of sweat and vigorous blows, had succeeded in excavating the hole of considerable size in the loose, gravelly earth. Having maintained a scrupulous silence, and cut through the matted roots of the beech, with a chisel, they had got on with little noise and the more speed; until the shoulders of tall shaker Brown, as he slowly erected himself in discharging his shovel’s burden, hardly exceeded in attitude the level of the turf.
Carefully approaching close enough to ascertain the position of affairs, which they succeeded in doing without disturbing the sentinels of the night, Ruth and Mrs. Brown, who, like two deserted river nymphs, stood alone at a little distance from their friends, but eyes and soul absorbed in what was going on in the pit, the colonel and his followers re-assembled near the bridge. There was a large bright moon, but an occasional cloud passed over it; and selecting a moment when it was obscured, they betook themselves to the bridge; and, presently, the diggers were interrupted by a noise, as of a thousand cattle upon it. Mrs. Brown screamed and fled toward the pit; but Ruth, with masculine courage, stood her ground. Joe Smidt dropped his shovel, and cautiously peered around; and then motioned shaker Brown to help himself out upon the level of the earth to reconnoitre. This old gentleman did with some difficulty; but by the time he came in sight of the bridge, all was still. The moon was shining brightly again; the bridge was bare and cold, and not a living thing to be seen in any direction. After waiting a little time, he returned, and expressed to his companions, by mute looks and gestures, his inability to explain the strange occurrence: and so, after wondering in silence a minute or two, the trio proceeded in their labor.
Soon, however, they were startled and alarmed by a most vigorous caterwauling, set up on all sides of them, and in their immediate neighborhood: and screams and screeches, as of a score of panthers, succeeded; and every variety of noise which mortal organs may be supposed capable of producing. The sounds were enough to curdle one’s blood in his veins. The woman shrieked; and the men, not expecting the king conjurer, Joe, turned pale. And now, to add to their affright, amidst the din, were seen strange beings, on all fours, leaping like frogs from bush to bush; and turning with threatening, and to the excited imaginations of the money diggers, hellish aspect, toward the pit. It was too much for human strength to bear. Joe Smidt, Samuel Fish, and shaker Brown, bold men though they were, as they subsequently proved themselves, when matched with flesh and blood, clambered upon terra firma, as best they might, and taking their women between them, broke from the magical spot, beset, as they believed it, with a host of devils from the infernal regions, and fled toward home.
Up to this time, it is probable, that Smidt, although well aware he was deceiving others, was not deceived himself. But now he appears to have been caught in one of his own snares. Unable to account for the singular interruptions they had experienced, he came to the sage conclusion, that, in the practice of his conjurations, he had indeed called up the spirits of the invisible world; and spirits, it would seem, that it might be no very easy matter to quell.
Colonel Spreeaway and his friends, as soon as the coast was clear, gathered around the pit, and enjoyed a hearty laugh. There lay the shovels, and bars, and picks, as they had been dropped, in the alarm which seized upon those who had them in use: and the lights by which they had worked, were left burning. Dispatching one of his fellows in pursuit of the diggers, to make sure against a surprise in return, the colonel sent another to his store after an old box and some nails. These presently arrived, when the box was filled with stones, nailed down, and lowered into the pit; and the party now in possession, commenced digging in turn. They sunk a hole some two or three feet below the depth previously attained; and placing the box therein, piled stones upon it, and finished by smoothing the surface, as nearly as possible, to the shape in which they found it. This done, they retired to their several homes.
The money-diggers, meanwhile, were brooding over their discomfiture at shaker Brown’s. Their appearance was draggled and woe-begone in the extreme; and to add to their despondency, Joe had made the astounding disclosure, that he had felt the box of gold once that night, with his shovel, just as Mrs. Brown screamed; when it moved away from his touch, grating as it went; and very likely had gone to the other side of the tree, if not farther. This sad effect of the unfortunate scream made Mrs. Brown, for the time being, a sort of scape-goat, on which the rest were disposed to lay, not only their sins, but their misfortunes; and occasionally delights to exhibit to another, added a variety of taunting expressions; so that the pale, but round-face and handsome Mrs. Brown kept aloof in a corner and pouted by herself.
By and by, Smidt and Samuel gathered composure and courage enough to revisit the scene of their unaccountable adventures. They found everything quiet, and to appearance, as they had left it; except that the candles had burned low. These they extinguished, and pilling some loose brushwood over the pit, to conceal it as much as possible from chance of observation, they finally adjourned for the night.
The day following was devoted by the male part of the money-diggers to rest. Samuel slept; but Ruth, as usual, was astir. Her faith in the truth of her dream was by no means shaken; on the contrary, it seemed to have gathered strength from the very obstacles which had presented themselves in the way of its fulfilment. In fact, she was in a sort of bewilderment. Visions of wealth and the pleasures attendant thereon, floated through her brain; and as she dismissed her husband’s customers from the door, she could not well refrain from assuming some unaccustomed airs, and treating them with an indifference very foreign from her usual affable deportment. some, she informed, that her husband was sick, and could not be disturbed—others, that he had given up his shop, and they must go elsewhere; and others still, that he was about to move away to the city and establish a wholesale boot and shoe store. No wonder those who listened, came to the conclusion that the poor woman was demented.
At shaker Brown’s the scene was somewhat similar. Mrs. Brown was rather frail, and found herself flurried from her last night’s exertions. Her head was bound round with a white handkercheif, for she had the tooth-ach; and she would gladly have obtained some rest, but as often as she lay down, or threw herself back in her rocking-chair, on her pillows, with her feet upon a stool, and her tea-pot on a stand at her elbow, she was sure to be interrupted by some one’s calling to examine the little articles of wooden ware which her husband was in the habit of manufacturing. Indeed, Joe Smidt was the only one of the number whom worldly matters that day had no power to disturb. He, the shrewdest of conjurers, having eaten his fill, stretched himself at his length, in Mrs. Brown’s best bed, and snored like a prince, at his leisure.
Night having again arrived, and the moon and stars taken their places aloft, the party, as before, with the exception that Mrs. Brown was left behind, like so many sheep thieves, stole in a circuit round the hills to the river; and after an anxious survey of the placid water, and the still shore and upland, resumed their labor in the pit. Joe was evidently ill at ease. There was an air of perplexity and doubt upon his countenance; and as he was the central luminary, to whom the others looked for light, it is not be wondered at that every movement betrayed uncertainty and apprehension. The shovels were operated by spiritless wills, and an hour or more wore away before they reached the stones, or any evidence of the handiwork of Colonel Spreeaway and his friends. Then, indeed, there was an increased movement among them; and when finally the box itself was laid bare, the haggard, clutching joy of the money-diggers was beyond bounds; and the greater, as pictured on their faces, that they dared not give it tongue. No word was uttered—no, not even by Ruth, who stood staring at the top of the pit, like one transfixed and dumb.
With much difficulty, for it was found very heavy, the mysterious chest was raised to the surface, and placed upon the ground. Then, while the hands of the silent operators trembled, as with the palsy, it was attached to two poles by a rope; and Ruth readily lending her aid, it was slowly raised between the four, and borne in toilsome triumph toward the village.
Going by the fields to avoid observation, they were about to descend a little hill, which had cost them some trouble to climb, when they were suddenly brought to a stand, by a company of men, whose faces were muffled in handkershiefs; and a furious assault commenced upon them. But the money-diggers were in no mood to be trifled with. Forming a hollow square around their treasure, they gave back taunt for taunt, and buffet for buffet; and grappled with their foes as for life or for death. The exact order of the battle, however, was soon broken; for Ruth, with a quick instinct, perceiving it was likely to go hard with her friends, threw herself upon the box, and grasped it in her arms: and soon thereafter, all its brave defenders were down and lying prostrate upon the turf. While they were there held, each by a strength superior to his own, one of the assailants undertook to disengage Ruth from her hold. This he found no easy task; and losing his own footing in the struggle, cavalier and box, and the courageous spouse of Samuel Fish, together rolled down to the bottom of the hill.
The reader will readily come to the conclusion that the attacking party were no other than Colonel Spreeaway and his friends, who had taken this rough method of closing up the trickery commenced by them the night before. In fact, Ruth’s antagonist was no other than the gallant colonel himself. at the foot of the hill, the two combatants gained their legs at the same instant; and disdaining all parley or maneuvering as unworthy of the occasion, Ruth, rather flew, than ran, upon her foe. The black muffler which concealed his features, vanished in a moment; and then it was that furrows, long and deep, which time in its ravages, had as yet spared him, were ploughed upon his face in a twinkling. To save himself he was obliged to throw her upon the ground, and there hold her.
While the colonel was engaged in this awkward passage of arms, the others of his party came up, and seizing them mysterious box, quickly bore it away. Giving them a little time to secure their retreat, he then shook himself clear of Ruth; and those who had the rest of the vanquished party in charge, on the top of the hill, doing the same, they all took to their heels and disapeared. But they did not go without carrying with them substantial evidence of the fray. Beside the colonel’s smeared and smarting visage, one of his followers had received a cut in the throat; which threatened him with a lockjaw for a month: and another, whose fortune it had been to join in mortal strife with Samuel Fish, received a wound from an awl, or some similar instrument of war, in the region below the back; which compelled him, for a time, to dispense with the luxury of a chair.
Left to themselves, the money-diggers gathered together, and sent up toward the sky, a most woeful howl of despair. Slowly they turned toward home, crying as they went; and making the desolate night more desolate with their moans. As they came near the village, the noise they made alarmed their neighbors; and soon, although at a very unusual hour, a half dressed company collected together to listen to the incoherent accounts they gave of the treasure which they fancied had been even in their very hands, and cruelly wrested from them and their poverty, and turned to the sustenance and enjoyment of others.
By daylight, Joe Smidt and shaker Brown had become comparatively collected, and talked loudly of the law; but by this time the other side of the story got wind. Soon thereafter Joe quietly decamped; but no explanations then or afterward, were found to have any effect upon Samuel and his wife, or indeed, upon shaker Brown. They all believed most firmly, to the day of their deaths, that they had been robbed of countless treasures; and although they came to the conclusion that Colonel Spreeaway had a hand in the robbery, they entirely discarded that potion of the current belief which referred to his agency, the depositing of the mysterious box, where they had found it.
In short, their imaginary losses and disappointments so preyed upon their minds as to unfit them for the business of life. They became dispirited—indeed, broken-hearted; and ere many years rolled away, Samuel and Ruth, (their children having scattered over the world a thriftless, uncombed set,) and shaker Brown and his wife dragged out and at length finished a miserable existence at the public charge.