Treasure Seeker

Image: 1826 court bill for $2.68 in the trial of Joseph Smith Jr., identified as a ‘glasslooker’

In the late winter of 1826, according to an early account, Peter Bridgeman, a nephew of the wife of Josiah Stowell, presented a written complaint against Joseph Smith at South Bainbridge, New York, which led to his arrest and trial as a “disorderly person and an imposter.” An anonymous writer claimed to have been given access to an account of court proceedings, which was published in Fraser’s Magazine during 1873. In it, Joseph Smith described his divination methods.[footnote] Fraser’s magazine, 1873   [/footnote]

[Smith said] he had a certain stone which he had occasionally looked at to determine where hidden treasures in the bowels of the earth were; that he professed to tell in this manner where gold mines were a distance under ground, and had looked for Mr. Stowel several times, and had informed him where he could find these treasures, and Mr. Stowel had been engaged in digging for them. That at Palmyra he pretended to tell by looking at this stone where coined money was buried in Pennsylvania, and while at Palmyra had frequently ascertained in that way where lost property was of various kinds; that he had occasionally been in the habit of looking through this stone to find lost property for three years, but of late had pretty much given it up on account of its injuring his health, especially his eyes, making them sore; that he did not solicit business of this kind, and had always rather declined having anything to do with this business. […] And therefore the Court find the Defendant guilty. Costs: Warrant, 19c. Complaint upon oath, 25 1/2c. Seven witnesses, 87 1/2c. Recognisances, 25c. Mittimus, 19c. Recognisances of witnesses, 75c. Subpoena, 18c. – $2.68.

This account has been corroborated by later discoveries, such as Justice Neely’s bill of costs which refers to Joseph Smith as “The Glass Looker,” (i.e. a diviner), discovered in 1971 by Wesley P. Walters.[footnote] Hill, Marvin S. (1972), “Joseph Smith and the 1826 Trial: New Evidence and New Difficulties”, BYU Studies, 12: 2  [/footnote] The total costs exactly matched the amount in Fraser’s Magazine.

Crash Course:

Joseph Smith and the criminal justice system – Wikipedia

1826 Trial Testimonies – Rich Kelsey

Locations of Joseph Smiths treasure hunting quests (Video) – Dan Vogel