In a recent thread here, I wrote:
>Joe Smith's family dug a "cave" in Miner's
>Hill, a couple of miles north of Cumorah, and installed
>wooden beams to support the crumbly aggregate. It was
>more or less a copy of Captain Kidd's cave, near Albany.
>So, a "cave" might well have been excavated into Manchester's
>Gold Bible Hill, had Smith wanted to expend the effort.
>Brigham's tale of Cowdery in a Nephite cave is probably a
>conflation of two separate things -- (1) Cowdery, in his
>letter to Phelps, mentioned that the Nephite stone box
>with the plates had originally been located deep within
>Cumorah, but had eventually been partly exposed by ages
>of erosion, (2) Cowdery had indeed been inside the "cave"
>in Miner's Hill and he probably passed on a vague mention
>of that wonderful place to Brother Brigham. Brigham later
>merged these hill/cave stories into an embellished account
>meant to awe his auditors at Mormon conference.
Looking more deeply into this "cave" business, I see that
Elder Dame (of Mountain Meadows notoriety) made some
mention of Joe Smith's cave in his journal in the 1850s.
But that is not the earliest known reference. Here's one:http://www.sidneyrigdon.com/dbroadhu/NY/miscNYC2.htm#120041
>The delusion got up by Joe Smith, is one of the most
>remarkable, as well as one of the most successful of
>the age.... we see a miserable creature like Smith, all
>at once putting on the garb of sanctity, and guided by
>pretended inspiration, digging into the side of a hill,
>and there secluding himself for months, and then coming
>forth with the pretense that he has found a new revelation...
In my notes accompanying this transcription, I added:
>The writer of the article seems to assert that Joseph
>Smith constructed a tunnel into the side of a hill near
>the scene of his 1820s exploits -- (probably in the
>glacial drumlin later known as "Miner's Hill") where he
>worked on his compilation of the Book of Mormon. This
>same claim was reprinted in the Palmyra Wayne Sentinel
>of Dec. 15, 1841, without any editorial comment. Joseph
>Smith's "cave" was subsequently cited in various books
>on the Mormons and in numerous newspaper articles --
>culminating in a very fanciful story published in the
>Palmyra Journal of July 27, 1898. In the latter tale
>visitors passing "Prospect Hill," between Palmyra and
>Canandaigua are surprised to discover a hidden cave,
>and behind "a huge oaken door" the actual repository of
>"the original gold plates, from which Joseph Smith
>compiled the first Mormon bible," along with "many
>other curious and beautiful things..." The writer does
>not say whether this "Hill of Mormon" cave was located
>in Miner's Hill or in Gold Bible Hill, but the tale
>roughly parallels what Brigham related in 1877: "When
>Joseph got the plates, the angel instructed him to carry
>them back to the hill Cumorah... the hill opened, and
>they walked into a cave, in which there was a large
>and spacious room...They laid the plates on a table...
>Under this table there was a pile of plates as much as
>two feet high, and there were altogether in this room
>more plates than probably many wagon loads; they were
>piled up in the corners and along the walls."
So -- I don't think Brigham fabricated his account out of
thin air. Hints of the cave were appearing in the newspapers
when Smith was still alive, and a description of the cave
was given by Pomeroy Tucker in his 1867 book.
Even as far back as Peter Ingersoll's testimony, there
were hazy mentions of a secret spot where treasures were
deposited and Nephite camel saddles hung on cave walls.
Some of these early accounts mention Smith and Cowdery
in the artificial cave, compiling the Book of Mormon.
Anybody care to guess where in the early Mormon history
timeline this purported Book of Mormon "cave" work fits?