Some of the witnesses (Hiram Lake, Matilda Spalding, Jason Briggs) who claimed to be familiar with Manuscript Found were also familiar with the Oberlin manuscript. In 1914 Mrs. Hiram Lake, daughter-in-law of Henry Lake, donated two documents to the New York Public Library. One of these is a draft copy of an unsigned statement, dated 31 December 1833, which reads:
“this is therefore to inform you that I have made a statement to D P Hurlbut relative to Writings of S Spalding Esq. SD Hurlbut is now at my store I have examined the writings which he has obtained from SD Spaldings widowe I recognize them to be the writings handwriting of SD Spalding but not the Manuscript I had refferance to in my statement before alluded to as he informed me he wrote in the first place he wrote for his own amusement and then altered his plan and commenced writing a history of the first Settlement of America the particulars you will find in my testimony.” Dated Sept 18 August 1833. (Cowdrey et al. 2000).
From its context, it is clear that Hurlbut showed Henry Lake a Spalding manuscript in 1833, and that Lake also recognized that it was not the manuscript used as a basis for the Book of Mormon.
A similar statement is found in an unsigned letter attributed to Aaron Wright, another of the Conneaut witnesses:
“Dear Sir, Whereas I have been informed that you have been appointed with others to investigate the subject of mormonism and a resolution has been past to ascertain the real orrigin of the sd Book this is therefore to inform you that I have made a statement to D P Hurlbut relative to writings of S Spalding Esq sd Hurlbut is now at my store I have examined the writings which he has obtained from sd Spaldings widowe I recognise them to be the writings hand writing of sd Spalding but not the manuscript I had refferance to in my statement before alluded to as he informed me he wrote in the first place he wrote for his own amusement and then altered his plan and commenced writing a history of the first Settlement of America the particulars you will find in my testimony Dated Sept 1833 August 1833 — for years before he left this place I was quite intimate with sd S Spalding we had many private interviews the history he was writing was the topic of his conversation relating his progress and Contemplating the avails of the same I also contemplated reading his history but never saw it in print untill I saw the Book of Mormon where I find much of the history and the names verbatim the Book of mormon does not contain all the writings sd Spladings I expect to see them if Smith is permitted to go on and as he says get his other plates the first time that Mr Hyde a mormon Preacher from Kirtland preached in the centre School house in this place the Hon Nehmiah King attended as soon as Hyde had got through King left the house and said that Hide had preached from the writings of S Spalding. In conclusion I will observe that the names and most of the historical part of the Book of Mormon is as familiar to me as Most modern history if if is not Spaldings writings copied it is the same as he wrote and if Smith was inspired I think it was by the same Spirit that Spalding possessed which he confessed to be the love of money.”
Matilda Spalding McKinstry was 10 years old when her father (Solomon Spalding) died. After his death , she read through her father’s manuscripts in the hair-covered chest where he had stored his manuscripts. Matilda later recalled many details about the manuscripts, and many of these details have been confirmed. Among other things, she recalled that the Oberlin manuscript was a precursor to Manuscript Found:
“But touching these I will give below his daughter’s [Mrs. McKinstry’s] recollections, recently narrated by her to me [Redick McKee], which I think more full and explanatory than my own. This lady is still residing in Washington, D.C., with the family of her late son-in-law, Col. Seaton of the Census Bureau, in remarkably good health for a lady of her age. She corroborated her father’s statement about his removal to Conneaut in 1809, his examining the Indian mounds &c, and distinctly recollected that he wrote two or more stories in support of the theory that the Indians of North America were lineal descendants of the Jews from Palestine. In the first of these he brought the Jews from Palestine to America via Italy during the reign of Constantine, and set forth that at Rome they engaged shipping to convey them to some place in Great Britain, but encountered stormy weather and were finally wrecked somewhere on the coast of New England. What became of the manuscript of this story she did not know with certainty but understood that it was published in some Eastern review or magazine. This romance he afterwards abandoned and 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.”
On November 20, 1886, Deming obtained this statement from Matilda:
Mr. A. B. Deming,
I have read much of the Manuscript Story Conneaut Creek which you sent me. I know that it is not the Manuscript Found which contained the words “Nephi, Mormon, Maroni, and Lamanites.” Do the Mormons expect to deceive the public by leaving off the title page — Conneaut Creek and calling it Manuscript Found and Manuscript Story.
Mrs. M. S. McKinstry.
James A. Briggs, the lawyer for D. P. Hurlburt, claimed that Hurlbut recovered both Manuscript Found and the Oberlin Manuscript, and compared Manuscript Found to the Book of Mormon at the home of Warren Corning, Jr. in Mentor, in December 1833. On March 22, 1886, Briggs wrote to Arthur B. Deming to say that the Spalding manuscript at Oberlin College was not Manuscript Found, and was of inferior writing quality:
“…I have just read the Manuscript Story [The Oberlin Manuscript] sent me a few days ago, by request of my old and much valued friend, Mr. L.L. Rice, of Honolulu, and in my opinion it settles nothing, save that the author of the story was a very weak brother, and if written by Rev. Solomon Spaulding, he was a man of indigent talents, and the money paid for his college expenses was wasted. Allow me to doubt if he wrote it. You must get some better and more positive link in the chain of evidence than this story, recently printed, to convince the world that the original “Manuscript Found,” written by Solomon Spaulding, was not the basis for the historical portion of your Mormon Bible. I have no doubt we had the “Manuscript Found” before us, that we compared it with the Mormon Bible, that the style in which the “Manuscript Found” was written was the same as that of the Mormon Bible. The names — peculiar — were the same, not to be forgotten. The names Lehi, Nephi, Maroni, etc., and the expression “and it came to pass” often repeated. This manuscript did not go to Mr. Howe. What did Hurlbut do with it? Some few years ago I wrote to him and asked him who had it — what he did with it. He did not answer my letter. He received it, as [it was] not returned to me. Dr. Hurlbut died in Ohio two years ago last June. He is silent now, the grave closed over him . . .”