In the Michigan Christian Herald (March, 1886), Briggs had this to say about Hurlbut and the fate of Manuscript Found:
“What has become of the “Manuscript Found” that was written by Rev. Solomon Spaulding? The last person in whose possession it was, so far as we can trace it, is Dr. D.P. Hurlbut. In 1854 [sic, should be 1834] Mrs. Davison, the widow of Mr. Spalding, gave D.P. Hurbut an order for the delivery to him of her copy of her husband’s “Manuscript Found.” And she and her daughter were folly [sic] convinced that Hurlbut obtained the document and sold it to the Mormons. In confirmation of this we quote from a letter of Rev. Mr. Storrs of Holliston, Mass., of June 28, 1841, to Rev. John A. Clark, D. D., in which he says:
“Dr. Hurlbut took the manuscript. It is reported in Missouri that he sold it for $400, that the manuscript is not to be found.”
Rev. D. B. Austin of Monson, Mass., says: “Dr. Hurlbut stated some time after he had received the Manuscript that he had $400 out of it.”
The “Manuscript Found” is in the possession of Dr. D. P. Hurlbut. What did he do with it? Did he sell it to the Mormons? He denied it. He got the manuscript. His statements in regard to it were conflicting. He made no explanation. He kept silent. When I wrote to him a short time before his death, and said to him we were the only persons living who were at the Mentor, Ohio, meeting in 1834, and asked him to tell me what he did with the manuscript of Spaulding we had there, he made no reply. I have believed for fifty years that I have seen and held in my hands the “Manuscript Found” from which the “Book of Mormon” was gotten up by Sidney Rigdon and Joseph Smith.
This is the last trace we have of the Manuscript Found.”
As Briggs says, Hurlburt gave contradictory statements. In one statement he reportedly claimed only to have recovered the Oberlin Manuscript (Manuscript Story):
“I obtained a manuscript, supposing it to be the manuscript of the romance written by the said Solomon Spaulding, called the ‘Manuscript Found,’ which was reported to be the foundation of the ‘Book of Mormon.’ I did not examine the manuscript until I got home, when upon examination I found it to contain nothing of the kind, but being a manuscript upon an entirely different subject.”
In a separate statement, Hurlburt said that he “just peeped into the manuscript, and saw the names Mormon, Moroni, Nephi and Lamenite.” This statement, if true, would indicate that Hurlburt did have in his possession a copy of Manuscript Found because those names were allegedly present in Manuscript Found, but not found in the Oberlin Manuscript.
As noted above, two letters allege that Hurlbut sold Manuscript Found. In a letter dated June 28, 1841, Rev. Storrs, of Holliston, Mass., wrote to Rev. John A. Clark, saying:
“Dr. Hurlbut took the manuscript. It is reported in Missouri that he sold it for four hundred dollars: that the manuscript is not to be found.”
In a second letter, also dated June 28, 1841, Rev. D. R. Austin, wrote to Rev. John A. Clark, saying:
“He (Dr. Hurlbut) stated some time after he had received the manuscript that he had made $400 out of it. Mrs. Davison has not the least doubt now but that he obtained it in order to sell it to the Mormons.”
Both of the above letters were published in the Episcopal Reporter and collected by Rev. John A. Clark in a volume entitled “Gleanings by the Way” (p. 263).
In “Gleanings by the Way” (Phila.: W. J. & J. K. Simmon, 1842), John Clark cites Rev. D. R. Austin:
“Mrs. Davison [Spalding’s widow] is now living about twelve miles from this place; is an aged woman and very infirm. Dr. Hurlbut was an entire stranger to her, and obtained her confidence by means of the letters of introduction which he brought from gentlemen in New Salem. He promised to return the manuscript in a short time. Mrs. D. would only consent to lend it to him. He stated some time after he had received the manuscript that he had made $400 out of it. Mrs. Davidson has not the least doubt now but that he obtained it in order to sell it to the Mormons. If Dr. H. can be found, I have no doubt but that the manuscript may be traced into the hands of the Mormons — which would be about as satisfactory as to find it. If they purchased it of him, (of which there is no doubt) and refuse to present it, the reason is obvious. I can give no information with respect to the present residence of Dr. H. I suppose light on this point may be obtained at New Salem.”
In 1988, previously unpublished documents were published in Berkeley, California as the Centennial Memorial Edition (volume II) of “Naked Truths About Mormonism”,edited by Arthur B. Deming. Vol. II. No. 1. (December, 1988). These documents include the recollections of Redick McKee who recorded the words of Matilda McKinstry (Spalding’s daughter) about the fate of Manuscript Found:
“The Mormons at Conneaut, a year or two after the publication of the Book of Mormon, heard of the discovery made by Mrs. D. [Davison, Spalding’s widow] and immediately determined, if possible, to get possession of the document so found, lest its publication might expose their theory. To effect this they employed the talented money-loving and unscrupulous D.P. Hurlbut to go to Monson, Mass., to obtain, if possible, the document referred to. He made the journey and by subtlety and lying obtained an order from Mrs. D. on her brother — Mr. Sabine — for it, promising that it should be returned to her in a short time. This promise was never fulfilled. Returning to Conneaut, he obtained a certificate from several gentlemen that it was in the handwriting of Mr. Spaulding, delivered it to the Mormons, got his pay — some $400 or $500 — and went his way. What eventually became of this manuscript is not known, but it was probably destroyed. So the whole matter remains to a great extent a mystery yet unsolved.”