John Spalding’s 1851 statement is important because in it, he indicates that his brother’s work described two migrations from the Middle East to America.
In the first:
“the American continent was colonized by Lehi, the son of Japheth, who sailed from Chaldea soon after the great dispersion, and landed near the isthmus of Darien. Lehi’s descendants, who were styled Jaredites, spread gradually to the north, bearing with them the remains of antediluvian science, and building those cities the ruins of which we see in Central America, and the fortifications which are scattered along the Cordilleras.”
In the second:
Long after this, Nephi, of the tribe of Joseph, emigrated to America with a large portion of the ten tribes whom Shalmanezer led away from Palestine, and scattered among the Midian cities. This remnant of Joseph was soon after its arrival divided into two nations, the Nephites and the Lamanites. These nations made war constantly against each other, and in the year A. D. 420, a great battle was fought in western New-York, which terminated in the destruction of the armies of both the belligerent parties, and the annihilation of their power. One man only was left; Mo[r]oni, the son of Mormon, who hid the records of the Nephites near Conneaut, Ohio, previously at his death. http://www.solomonspalding.com/docs/1851Whig.htm#pg554a
Daniel Tyler (Jan 16, 1878) indicated that after moving to Conneaut in 1823, he learned about Spalding’s writing from Erastus Rudd. Spalding reportedly wrote some of the manuscript in Rudd’s home. Tyler referred to Manuscript Found as a story about how the “ten tribes crossed from the eastern hemisphere via the Behring Straits to this continent, and that said mounds were built by a portion of them, to bury the dead after some hard fighting.” Tyler appears to have been the first witness to claim that Manuscript Found included an account about a passage across the Behring Straits. Abner Jackson made the same claim in 1880 as did Matilda McKinstry in 1885. Tyler was a devout Mormon and thus cannot be characterized as biased against the Church.
The most significant additional testimony for the Conneaut time period is that of Abner Jackson, the son of a friend of Spalding’s, who stated:
“This romance, Mr. Spaulding brought with him on a visit to my father, a short time before he moved from Conneaut to Pittsburgh. At that time I was confined to the house with a lame knee, and so I was in company with them and heard the conversation that passed between them. Spaulding read much of his manuscript to my father, and in conversation with him, explained his views of the old fortifications in this country, and told his Romance. A note in Morse’s Geography suggested it as a possibility that our Indians were descendants of the lost tribes of Israel. Said Morse, they might have wandered through Asia up to Behring’s Strait, and across the Strait to this continent. Besides there were habits and ceremonies among them that resembled some habits and ceremonies among the Israelites of that day. Then the old fortifications and earth mounds, containing so many kinds of relics and human bones, and some of them so large, altogether convinced him that they were a larger race and more enlightened and civilized than are found among the Indians among us at this day. These facts and reflections prompted him to write his Romance, purporting to be a history of the lost tribes of Israel.
He begins with their departure from Palestine or Judea, then up through Asia, points out their exposures, hardships, and sufferings, also their disputes and quarrels. Especially when they built their craft for passing over the Straits. Then after their landing he gave an account of their divisions and subdivisions under different leaders, but two parties controlled the balance. One of them was called the Righteous, worshipers and servants of God. These organized with prophets, priests, and teachers, for the education of their children, and settled down to cultivate the soil, and to a life of civilization. The others were Idolaters. They contended for a life of idleness; in short, a wild, wicked, savage life.
They soon quarreled, and then commenced war anew, and continued to fight, except at very short intervals. Sometimes one party was successful and sometimes the other, until finally a terrible battle was fought, which was conclusive. All the Righteous were slain, except one, and he was Chief Prophet and Recorder. He was notified of the defeat in time by Divine authority; told where, when and how to conceal the record, and He would take care that it should be preserved, and brought to light again at the proper time, for the benefit of mankind. So the Recorder professed to do, and then submitted to his fate. I do not remember what that fate was. He was left alone of his party. I do not remember that anything more was said of him.
Spaulding’s Romance professed to find the Record where the Recorder concealed it, in one of those mounds, one of which was but a few rods from Spaulding’s residence. Soon after this visit, Spaulding moved to Pittsburgh, and took his manuscript to the Pittsburgh Gazette office, intending to have it printed, but in this he failed. My brother, J. J. Jackson, was a recruiting officer in the U. S. Army, and stationed at Pittsburgh at that time. Being well acquainted with Spaulding and his lady he soon found them, and in his letters home would inform us how they were getting along. The last account he gave us of them was that he was selling pictures and she was sewing up clothing for the soldiers. The next we heard of them was by report. Spaulding moved to Amity, Washington County, Pa., and soon after died and was buried there….”
Spaulding frequently read his manuscript to the neighbors and amused them as he progressed with his work. He wrote it in Bible style, “And it came to pass” occurred so often that some called him “old come to pass.”
In her old age, Spalding’s daughter Matilda McKinstry was asked about her father’s work. She responded: “When I was about twelve years old I used to read it for diversion.” http://mormonstudies.com/matilda2.htm. Since her father died when she was 10, Matilda would have been reading a copy stored in the family trunk, which may not have been the final version that her father left at the print shop.
Matilda recalled that her father wrote two manuscripts. After her father had worked for some time on the Oberlin manuscript
“…he… set about writing a more probable story founded on the history of the ten lost tribes of Israel. She thought her father must have had wonderful powers of imagination and memory, great command of language and facility of description. Many of his descriptions were of a historical and religious character. Others were grotesque and ludicrous in the extreme.”
“She remembered that in one of them, touching the mode of warfare in that day, (being hand to hand or man to man) he represented one of the parties having streaks of red paint upon their cheeks and foreheads to distinguish them from enemies in battle. The story he called “The Manuscript Found.” It purported to give a history of the ten tribes, their disputes and dissentions concerning the religion of their fathers, their division into two parties; one called Nephites the other Lamanites; their bloody wars, followed by reunion and migration via the Red Sea to the Pacific Ocean; their residence for a long time in China; their crossing the ocean by Behrings Straits in North America, thus becoming the progenitors of the Indians who have inhabited or now live in this continent. This was the story which her uncle John, Mr. Lake, Mr. Miller and other neighbors heard him read at Conneaut on different occasions.
Unlike John Spalding, Matilda McKinstry recalled a division of the Nephites and Lamanites in Asia, followed by a reunion and migration across the Behring straits to America. This differs from John Spalding’s recall of a division after arrival in America, though it is possible that in the original account, a division occurred in both places. Also unique to Matilda is her memory of a time period in China. Matilda’s son, John McKinstry (Aug 1877), provided a confirmation of his mother’s testimony.
According to the apocryphal Book of Esdras:
“These are the ten tribes which were led away from their own land into captivity …they formed this plan . . . that they would … go to a more distant region, where mankind had never lived . . . [to] Arzareth.”
Medieval mapmaker Abraham Ortellius (1564, 1567, 1571) “found” the Lost Ten Tribes close to a tribe in Tartaria named “Nephalites”:
“Here the ten tribes retreated, and changed from the Tartar or Tartar area to Scythia. Since then they are called Gauths or Gauthens, confirming Gods highest glory, and here lies the splendid Kingdom of Cathai”. Of the Nephthalites, Ortelius writes: “The Nephthalites are named Neptali after one of the 10 tribes with a Hebrew name”. Also referred to as the White Huns.
Perhaps the first account of the Ten Tribes coming to America is from Menasseh ben Israel (London, 1650) 21:
“The first ground of the opinion is taken from 2 Esdras 13 v. 40 etc. (which we quote as ancient, though it be Apocryphall) where it is said that the 10 Tribes which Salamanazar carried captive in the raigne of Hoseas, beyond Euphrates, determined to goe into countries farre remote, in which none dwelt, whereby they passed over, and that country is called Arsareth. From whence we may gather, that the 10 Tribes went to New Spaine, and Peru, and possessed there 2 Kingdomes, till then without inhabitants. Genebrardus, quoting Esdras concerning that wandering of the 10 Tribes, saith, that Arsareth is Tartaria the greater, and from thence they went to Greenland; because that America is lately found compassed with it….”