Divining Rods & Seerstones

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"The Rodsmen"
(ch. 1)

Mounds Mystery   |   Captain Kidd   |   American Israelites   |   Treasure Seekers   |   Gold Diggers

from: Misc. U.S. Newspapers

excerpt from: Petersburg Courier, Jan. ?, 1815

The Divining Rod

The art of the divining rod or magic wand, has been in practice for several centuries. It had its origin in Germany, but by whom is uncertain. It was used at first in Europe for the purpose of finding metals and minerals, and afterwards inFrance was even employed by impostors for the discovery of stolen property, and to identify characters guilty of crimes. Until within these few years it was always considered as an art similar to that of animal magnetism, founded on error and deception -- but from a series of experiments which have been made and reported by some of the first experimental philosophers in Europe, the art of the divining rod now begins to assume a scientific form, and the laws by which it is directed are ascertained with nearly the same accuracy as those of electricity and galvanism. The uses to which it may be applyed are perhaps even more extensive than those of t[wo] other sciences, and in this country particularly, it is capable of being rendered extremely advantageous.

The following are the results of experiments which have been made:

1st. A single twig of any tree, whatever, when newly cut will diverge a certain number of minutes or degrees from its proper position when brought directly over or in the immediate vicinity of any conducting substance, such as metals or water. But the best conductors for electricity and galvanism are not the best for the divining rod. Water is found to be more powerful than any of the metals, and salt water still more powerful than fresh. The degree of attraction also depends considerably upon the substance interposed between the conductor and the divining rod.

2d. Although a twig from any tree will prove the experiment -- yet some trees are found to answer much better than others -- the branch of the peach and the cherry tree are said to be superior in this respect. A forked twig will also diverge more powerfully than a single twig.

3dly. If the twig be suspended by an electric, or in immediate contact with an electric, no divergence will take place.

4thly. The angle of divergency depends in a great measure upon the nature of the conductor which is used. -- The human body is found to produce a greater degree of divergency than any other substance -- and the bodies of some individuals produce the effect in a most surprising degree, while in other individuals the action is scarcely perceptible. The effect is also found to vary with the state of the system. What appears most surprising is, that in the same individual the greater the state of debility, the greater the effect produced. If the skin of the human body be moistened, particularly those parts in immediate contact with the divining rod, the effect is much increased. Salt water or a weak solution of muriatic acid, has been found to be the best fluid for this purpose.

5thly. The most effectual mode of using the divining rod, is as follows:

The operator to be bare footed in making the experiment -- and to have the soles of his feet and his hands well moistened with salt water, or such a solution of the muriatic acid, as will not prove disagreeable. The divining rod to be a forked twig of peach, cherry or hazel tree. He holds the extremity of each fork by one hand, in such a manner that the twig may rest in a direction nearly perpendicular to the horizon, having the cut extremity upwards. The operator holding the twig carefully in this position, walks slowly forwards, and so soon as he approaches any subterraneous water or metal, not more than twenty feet below the surface of the earth, the twig begins to turn or bend forwards. If the metal or water be but a few feet below the surface of the earth, the twig turns entirely over with the extremity pointing towards the earth.

The same effect will take place with many individuals without being barefotted -- but if the above precautions be taken, the experiment will succeed with every person.

6thly. If the operator in making the experiment, has silk stockings, or uses silk gloves, no effect will be procured.

The divining rod has been practised in the western country for many years with the greatest success in the finding of water; and there are several gentlemen of the first respect in Kentucky, and whose veracity is unquestionable, with whom the experiment invariably succeeds. There are also two gentlemen in Richmond, who are well known, would never attempt to impose upon the public, equally dexterious in the use of it. Those are the Reverend John D. Blair, and Mr. John Foster. The latter I have seen myself make the experiment.

The European theory to explain the phenomena of the divining rod, is chiefly this. The conductor, whether water or metal, is supposed to form with the superincumbent earth and the fluids of the human body, a galvanic circle, and the more perfect this circle is, so much the more powerful will be the action of the divining rod.

Thus what was regarded only a few years ago as a deception practised by impostors and the credulous, is now cultivated, improved, and made the study of men of science.

excerpt from: Washington National Intelligencer, July ?, 1820

The Divining Rod

We have been surprized to find some of our most respectable gazettes giving currency to a story, the object of which is to induce a belief in the instrumentality of a forked hazel twig, held in a certain position, discovering springs or collections of water under ground. This is one of those superstitions which belong to the olden time, and ought to have been, if they were not, long ago exploded. Seriously to employ argument against any hypothesis so absurd, would be a misuse of time, and an abuse of the reader's patience; though, perhaps we ought not to say this when. within a few months, a series of labored essays have appeared in a popular and ably edited paper, in vindication and illustration of the theory of Animal Magnetism, which in its general acceptation, is as unphilosophical as that of the Divining rod. The vulgar belief in omens and like superstitions, have been nearly dissipated in the progress of letters, and consequent enlargement of the sphere of reason. To this effect the discoveries in Chymistry, during the last and present century, have not a little contributed. People do not now-a-days expect to become suddenly rich by finding occult treasures indicated by dreams; a murderer is nolonger expected to be discovered by the congealed blood of his victim flowing afresh at his approach, and its is pretty generally believed that the only way to ascertain the presence of water at any distance below the surface of the earth, is by digging or boring for it, superficial evidence is wanted.

excerpt from: Windsor Journal, Jan. 17, 1825

Money Digging

...A respectable gentleman in Tunbridge, was informed by means of a dream, that a chest of money was buried on a small island in Ayer's brook, at Randolph. No sooner was he in possession of this valuable information, than he started off to enrich himself with the treasure. After having been directed by the mineral rod where to search for the money, he excavated the earth about 15 feet square... [but] the chest moved off through the mud, and has not been seen or heard of since....

excerpt from: Montpelier Vermont Watchman, Jan. 3, 1826

Money Digging

...the main difficulty in the way of unsuccessful money diggers is this -- they do not understand the secret -- they neither dig at the right hour of the day, nor in the right place -- nor do they make use of the genuine mineral rod.... on this point the greatest of men and the gravest of money diggers have heretofore disagreed. While all united in the sentiment that it should be made of genuine metal, lest it point to the wrong place, one contended that the shape and construction of the rod should be straight, like an IRON BAR, -- another believed it would be best to add a lip at the end of the straight rod, to resemble a HOE, -- a third guessed it would be more likely to point at the ready-rhino, by adding the lip to a nose, like a PLOUGH, -- a fourth verily thought that teeth should be inserted like a HARROW -- a fifth had a notion that the handle should be of wood, with two short arms of curved steel in the end, like a PITCH-FORK -- sixthly and lastly came forward neighbors Careful and Successful, who had been long in the practice of digging money, and absolutely declared, "to their own certain knowledge," that the right place was at they very bottom -- not of the ocean to be sure -- but that the only genuine mineral rod that would direct invaribly to the iron chest of dollars, had neither lip like a hoe, nose like a plough, teeth like a harrow...

Note: The above excerpt was, of course, meant as a joke and a put-down for the generally "unsuccessful money diggers" of New England. Mineral rods in the early 19th century were inevitably cut from live wood, and not fabricated from metal. See also the somewhat similar, humorous poem published in the Keene New Hampshire Sentinel of Dec. 23, 1820.

excerpt from: Pittsburgh Recorder, May 26, 1826

"Wonderful Infatuation

Modern Pilgrims. -- In the Summer of 1818, a company of people, calling themselves Pilgrims, appeared descending the Mississippi, in flat boats.... Their leader, a Canadian, by the name of Bullard, (called also by his followers, the Prophet Elijah,) was of a diminutive stature... at the Little Prairie. The prophet's staff, which by the direction of its fall had hitherto pointed out the way, now stood still; and he declared that here he was commanded to settle and build a church...

excerpt from: Pittsburgh Recorder, Oct. 3, 1826

"The Outcasts of Israel

If "the outcasts of Israel" are not to be found in America, where, suffer me to as are they to be found?... the American natives have a tradition, that a long time ago their fathers came here from another country... They have a tradition that, a great while since, they had a common father, and that this father had twelve sons -- in allusion, doubtless, to the twelve sons of Jacob. They tell us, "that their ancestors had once a sanctified rod which budded in a night's time." -- Like the rod of Aaron....

excerpt from: Middlebury Vermont American, May 7, 1828

The Rodsmen

...probably nothing has occurred in our states exhibiting such complete fanaticism, and so utter a destitution of propriety and common sense, as the origin and operations of the of a Fraternity of Rodsmen, formerly existing in this state... They claimed, also, inspired power, which was to cure all sorts of diseases -- intuitive knowledge of lost or stolen goods, and ability to discover the hidden treasures of the earth, as well as the more convenient talent of transmuting ordinary substances into precious metals.... The instrument of their miraculous powers, was a cleft stick, or rod, something of the form of an inverted Y; and when this talisman was firmly grasped in either hand, by its two points, it was believed to indicate the proper course to be pursued, or point out some substance of medicinal utility, or fix the locality of some valuable mine...

excerpt from: Palmyra Reflector, Feb. 1, 1831

Gold Bible, No. 3

Jo Smith, junior, according to the best information we can obtain on this subject, was born in the State of Vermont.... We are not able to determine whether the elder Smith was ever concerned in money digging transactions previous to his emigration from Vermont, or not, but it is a well authenticated fact that soon after his arrival here, he evinced a firm belief in the existence of hidden treasures, and that this section of country abounded in them.... Mineral rods and balls [seerstones?]... were supposed to be infallible guides to these sources of wealth... when some wizzard or witch... declared they saw all the wonders of nature, including of course, ample stores of silver and gold....

Note: This appears to be the first published association of Joseph Smith, Jr. with a "mineral rod" or a "divining rod," (although he is not definitely credited with its use). A more reliable early account of Smith family members using a divining rod can be found in Peter Ingersoll's statement of Dec. 2, 1833. There is some evidence (from a later period) indicating that young Smith may have evolved in his seership, from an initial use of forked sticks to consultations with peepstones -- and, eventually, to direct epiphanies that required no magical apparatus. See Mark Ashurst-McGee's 2000 Utah State thesis, "A Pathway to Prophethood: Joseph Smith Junior as Rodsman, Village Seer and Judeo-Christian Prophet."

excerpt from: Woodstock Vermont Chronicle, June 24, 1831

The Mormon Delusion

...Our readers will recollect a similar delusion which raged some ten years ago in the case of the "Pilgrims." Their Prophet... encamped in Woodstock. Here outraging not Christianity only but humanity, by their absurd opinions and absurder practice... they induced many decent people who should have known better to join them, under the empty practice of being led to the holy land. Taking a south-east direction, they floated along down the Ohio and Mississippi, their number augmenting, till they reached the mouth of the Arkansaw. Here, in the swampy delta if the river they encamped... [and] becoming urgent for the fulfilment of the Prophet's promise, he led them a little further and set his staff in the ground at evening, saying that there was the promised land, and that in the morning, for proof, they would find the staff had out forth bud and blossom. But behold, in the morning the dry staff remained, and the Prophet had vanished...

excerpt from: Fredonia Censor, Sept. 14, 1831

Money Digging

The Bath Inquirer says -- We understand there passed through town yesterday, an old man, 'whose locks were silvered with age,' on his way to the mouth of the Kennebec, to dig for money, which he supposes to have been buried many years since. He supposes there are chests buried there containing 13,000,000 of doubloons -- one of which chests he has ascertained by his instruments to be 5 feet in length, 2 feet in width, and 1 1/2 feet deep. He has all necessary implements for finding and securing the fleeting treasure; the mineral rod, hazel sticks, crow-bars and bibles...

excerpt from: Boston Christian Watchman, Nov. 9, 1832

Intelligence Respecting Mormonites.

Dwelling as I do among a people called Mormonites, and on the very land which they sometimes call Mount Zion, at other times the New Jerusalem, and where, at no distant period, they expect the reappearing of the Lord Jesus, to live and reign with them on earth a thousand years, -- I have thought that it might be a part of duty to inform those who may be interested in relation of this subject... They profess to know where the ark of the Covenant, Aaron's rod, the pot of Manna, &c. &c. now remain hid...

excerpt from: New York Commercial Advertiser, July 25?, 1836


...The next principal character in the humbug of Mormonism, is Joseph Smith, Junr., the great high priest, prophet and founder of the religion. -- Joseph Smith, the father of the prophet, emigrated from Royalton in Vermont with his family, about the year 1820, and settled in Manchester in the state of New York. Young Joseph was at this time 16 years of age. The family appears to have been very little respected by its neighbours, and superstitious. They believed firmly in the appearance of ghosts, the power of witches, and telling of fortunes. -- And from time to time they were engaged, in conformity with dreams and other signs and wonders, in digging in solitary places for treasures, supposed to have been hidden by Kidd or the Spaniards. -- Young Joseph became by degrees very much skilled in the arts of necromancy and juggling. He had the power of using the diving rod and of discovering wonders in a peep-stone; and having had the address to collect about him a gang of idle and credulous young men, he employed them in digging for hidden treasures....

excerpt from: Hudson Rural Despository, Nov. 5, 1842


... Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, was born in Royalton, Vt., and removed to Manchester, Ontario county, N. Y., about the year 1820, at an early age, with his parents, who were in quite humble circumstances. He was occasionally employed in Palmyra as a laborer, and bore the reputation of a lazy and ignorant young man. According to the testimony of respectable individuals in that place, Smith and his father were persons of doubtful moral character, addicted to disreputable habits, and moreover extremely superstitious, believing in the existence of witchcraft. They at one time procured a mineral rod, and dug in various places for money. Smith testified that when digging he had seen the pot or chest containing the treasure, but never was fortunate enough to get it into his hands...

excerpt from: Chicago daily Tribune, Sept. 9, 1877

An Interesting Sketch

Joe Smith was born in Sharon, Vt., in 1805, and was removed at 10 years of age to Palmyra, N. Y. In youth he led an idle, vagabond life, roaming the woods, dreaming of buried treasures, employing his brain in endeavors to find them by the medium of divining rods, twisting forked sticks, and looking through enchanted stones. His father was a "water witch," and little Joe was taught to follow in his footsteps...

excerpt from: Boston Daily Advertiser, July 11, 1879

St. John's Rod

...[In 1801] Rev. Laban Clark, D. D., founder of the Wesleyan University... traveled in the western part of Vermont... In the latter part of the Autumn, while in St. Albans, he heard... accounts of wonderful things accomplished near Rutland by persons who had found "St. John's rod."... A number of men had obtained rods by which they claimed to be able to find roots and herbs curing all diseases.... Some time in December he visited Poultney, Vt., where he found quite a stir among the people... [one of whom, in Middletown,] believed that the rods possessed a mysterious power; that marvelous things could be accomplished by them; that, according to Isaiah, God would cause his people, in the latter-days, "to pass under the rod," when the latter-day glory should be ushered in; that this was soon to take place; that their rods were the seals with which the 144,000 were to be sealed by the servants of God; that the lost tribes of Israel were to be gathered by them from their scattered condition, and that vast numbers of the present inhabitants of this country were Israelites, but had lost their pedigree, and knew not that they were of the house of Jacob. By these rods they would be designated and brought into the New Jerusalem, soon to be built in this country....

excerpt from: Montpelier Cincinatti Daily Gazette, Aug. 16, 1879

The Origin of Mormonism

...Joseph Smith might have found the golden plates from which the "book" was translated -- as Dousterswivel, in Sir Walter Scott's Antiquary, found water -- by the use of the divining rod; but, if such was the fact, it was because Joseph know beforehand where to try for the plates, as Dousterswivel knew where to try for the water.

The divining rod is an implement of unknown antiquity. It is probably older than any traces remain of its employment; and there are at this day persons of some pretensions to science who are, from what they consider evidence of their own senses, firm believers in its efficiency....

The divining rod is most frequently used for the discovery of water; and there is no denying, that, in many instances, water has been found in the places where it seemed to indicate its existance. But as search is seldom made for water, by the use of the diving rod, except in localities where there are other reasons for suspecting its presence, the instances of apparent success through its instrumentality must, until the contrary is shown, be set down as coincidences.

The characteristic circumstance in the phenomena of the divining rod would seem to be the fact that it "works" in some hands and does not work in others. That, in the hands of some, the index of the implement does appear, to the holder, to be drawn forcibly from its perpendicular, while in those of others, under precisely the same circumstances, no such tendency is perceptible, is not without withholding all faith in human veracity -- to be denied. Now if there were really a mutual attraction between the divining rod and some exterior substance or element, this difference would not occur; at least there is no known warrant for its occurence. From wherein, then, does it arise?

Modern science seems to afford the answer. Between the muscles of voluntary and the muscles of involuntary motion the distinction is not absolute. Under the influence of particular physical conditions, the former, in persons In whom the imagination predominates, exert forces of which the indIvidual is altogether unaware. From special states of mind, of which the party may be entirely unconscious, there results special muscular activities and inactivities; the latter often taking the form of decrepitudes which, originating in no physical infirmity, baffle the efforts of the most experienced for their removal.

The person in whose hands tbe divining rod "works," while doing his utmost, with his conscious will and one set at muscles, to keep the staff of the instrument in an upright position, is resisted by a more potent automatic volition of which he is unconscious, which has, under its command, another set of muscles, by which the strength of the first is subdued and overome. The final cause, it may be, of this capacity for a duplicate and antagonistic manifestation exists in the fact that there are two brains, each capable, under special conditions, of acting independently of the other, while there can be consciousness of the operations of only one of them at a time.

Ordinarily there is little art in the construction of a divining rod; any green branch that divides equally being employed. But for special purposes there are special recipes, savoring of the relics of magical ideas and practices. I remember one that was constructed for the express purpose of searching for "Kidd's money," on the islands of East River, near the city of New York, in which inquest several persons whom I knew were engaged.... A traditional rule... for the construction of the mystical implement which was to assist in the discovery. This was a fork of witch hazel, which, in its natural position, divided north and south, so that the sun passed over the point of intersection, and which had been cut at sqme particular lunar aspect or planetary conjunction. The stock was about a hand's breadth in length and an inch in thickness, and the branches each about an inch long and half an inch in diameter; fastened to each of which was a thin slip of whalebone ahout eighteen inches in length....

excerpt from: Montpelier Vermont Watchman, Oct. 26, 1887

The Book of Mormon

In 1829-'30 I was a stripling in a dry-goods store in the village of Palmyra, Wayne county, N. Y., in the outskirts of which miniature city Joseph Smith, Jr., familiarly and universally called 'Joe,' resided.... Joe was one of those 'ne'er-do-well' persons without any regular occupation that are so often found hanging about such towns... His principal occupation seemed to be digging for gold at night and lying in bed during the day, till he would be driven to make sime effort in employments of less doubtful result than money-digging to maintain an existence. Joe in his excursions after gold carried a 'divining' rod to tell him where there was hidden treasure, and he left many holes in the ground about that region which testified that he could work if the spirit moved....

excerpts from: Oakland Naked Truths About Mormonism, Jan.-Apr., 1888

Isaac Butts' Statement

I was born in Palmyra, N.Y., near where old Jo Smith settled, January 4, 1807. I attended school with Prophet Jo. His father taught me to mow. I worked with old and young Jo at farming. I have frequently seen old Jo drunk. Young Jo had a forked witch-hazel rod with which he claimed he could locate buried money or hidden things. Later he had a peep-stone which he put into his hat and looked into it. I have seen both...

Christopher M. Stafford' Statement

I was born in Manchester, Ontario Co., N.Y., May 26, 1808. I well remember about 1820, when old Jo Smith and family settled on one hundred acres one mile north of our house... Jo [Jr.] claimed he could tell where money was buried, with a witch hazel consisting of a forked stick of hazel. He held it one fork in each hand and claimed the upper end was attracted by the money...

from: American Journal of Science

-- 1820 --

Art. XVII. -- On the Divining Rod, With Reference to
the Use Made of it in Exploring for Springs of Water.

...letter to the Editor, dated
NORFOLK, (Con.) Oct. 23, 1820.      

Remark -- Every person, in the least conversant with the objects of a scientific Journal, must be aware that an Editor is, in no case, answerable for the opinions of his correspondents. We are willing to preserve all well authenticated facts respecting the divining rod, although we have the misfortune to be sceptical on that subject: perhaps, however, we ought in candor to add, that we have never seen any experiments. Those so often related by the ignorant, the credulous, the cunning, and the avaricious, are, in general, unworthy of notice; but when attested by such authority as that of the Reverend gentleman, whose name is attached to this letter, they will ever command our ready attention.

Dear Sir,

I am highly pleased with your Journal of Science; and doubt not of its being at once a source of instruction and an honor to our country.

Permit me to suggest the propriety of inserting an article, embodying a sufficient number of well authenticated facts on the use of "mining rods" in discovering fountains of water under ground -- to put their utility beyond a doubt. I presume that yourself or some of your correspondents are already in possession of such facts and could easily furnish the article.

For myself, I was totally sceptical of their efficacy, till convinced by my own senses.

My class-mate, the Rev. Mr. Steele, of Bloomfield, N. Y. called on me a few weeks ago, and in conversation on the subject, informed me that the rod would "work" in his hands. A twig of the peach was employed on the occasion. It was at once manifest that it bent and often [withed] down from an elevation of 45 degrees to a perpendicular in some spots; and when we had passed them, it assumed its former elevation. At one spot in particular, the effect was very striking, and he at once said there must be a very large current of water passing under that place, or it must be very near the surface. I informed him that a large perennial spring issued at the distance of perhaps fifty rods, and requested him to trace the current, without informing him of the direction of the spring. He did so, and it led him nearly in a direct line to the spring, which was so situated as to prevent his discovering it till within one or two rods of its mouth. The mode of his tracing it resembled that of a dog on his master's track crossing back and forth, and he proceeded with as little hesitation. The result however inexplicable removed all my doubts. It was in vain for me to reply against the evidence of my senses, by saying, How can this be? and why should not these rods operate in the hands of one as well as another?

On a journey to the south-east part of New Hampshire, I found a practical use has been made of these rods in that region, for a year or two past, in fixing on the best places for wells. A man in that vicinity could not only designate the best spot, but could tell how many feet it would be needful to dig to find water, and had frequently been employed for this purpose without having failed in a single instance. I will recite one case out of a number. A man who had dug in vain for a good well near his house, requested his advice. On experiment with the rods, the best place was found to be directly under a favorite tree in front of the house; and there the proprietor was assured he would find abundance of water at a moderate depth. But on reflection, he was loth to sacrifice the tree, and concluded it would answer as well to dig pretty near it. He dug; and after sinking the shaft much deeper than had been directed,

abandoned it in despair. He soon complained of his disappointment. "Did you then dig in the precise spot I told you?" "I dug as near it as I could without injuring the tree." "Go home and dig up that tree, and if you do not find water at the specified depth, I will defray the expence." He did so; and obtained an excellent well at the given depth.

As to the depth, it occurred to me at once, when seeing the operation of the rods in the hands of Mr. Steele, that it might be easily ascertained, by taking the angle they made at a few feet from the spot where they became directly vertical; and this, I conclude, is the mode of ascertaining it, though I was not informed.

Let me also mention a fact in optics, which I have not before witnessed, and which occurred to me when travelling recently in company with a friend. As we were descending the hill perhaps two miles this side of Tolland, we were admiring the fine view of the highlands, which are seen stretching from north to south on the west of the Connecticut. All at once, the northern half of the range appeared to change from the brown hue of an autumnal forest, to a bright and beautiful green, resembling the verdure of a rich pasture in the spring, or a distant wood of deep evergreens. But after descending a few rods further, it assumed its native aspect. The sun, about three hours before setting, was then shining very brightly on the range, and the sky clear, though damp. I conclude the effect was produced by the particular angle of reflection, and the state of the atmosphere.

           Yours with respect,

P. S. -- One morning, we witnessed a beautiful exhibition in nature, of the "sun's drawing water," (as it is commonly termed,) produced by the shadow of a copse on a hill, projected across a valley filled with a dense fog. It led me to conclude, that that appearance is never produced except in clouds of so thin a texture that the sun can shine through them -- contrary to what I had before supposed. But you are too familiar with so common a phenomenon, to need any remarks upon it from me.   R. E.

Note 1: The "Rev. Mr. Steele" who demonstrated a knowledge of the workings of the divining rod was evidently the Rev. Julius Steele (1786-1849) who ministered for the Congregational Church in Bloomfield township, Ontario County, New York from 1815 to 1828. In 1830 Bloomfield township was split into East and West Bloomfield. West Bloomfield borders Mendon township and touches Victor township, in Monroe County, (the area where Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball joined the LDS Church in 1832). East Bloomfield touches Farmington township, which was split into Farmington and Manchester in 1821. Manchester was the boyhood home of Joseph Smith. It seems more than likely that both Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball (who were wont to attend all sorts of relgious meetings, camp meetings, etc., in their neighborhood) knew Rev. Julius Steele prior to his departure from their neck of the woods in 1828. According to Mormon historian D. Michael Quinn, Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball were no strangers to the operation of divining rods. See Quinn's "Latter-day Saint Prayer Circles" in the Fall 1978 issue of BYU Studies, where the historian says "during the Nauvoo period Apostle Heber C. Kimball 'inquired by the rod' in prayer," etc.

Note 2: Heber C. Kimball's parents, Solomon F. Kimball and Anna Spalding Kimball, moved from Sheldon, Vermont to Bloomfield township, Ontario in 1811 and young Heber lived there until 1820. Solomon F. Kimball is listed in the 1820 Ontario Co. Federal Census as living in Mendon township, just north of West Bloomfield. Rev. Julius Steele is listed on page 379 of the 1820 Ontario Co. enumeration for Bloomfield -- the page previous lists the Moses Fairchild family and page 376 lists Sally Fairchild's family, among whom was William Buell. Fairchild. Oddly enough, the 1820 listing shows Sally Fairchild and Rev. Julius Steele living in close proximity to members of the Alger family, probable close relatives of Samuel Alger and Clarissa Hancock Alger, the parents of Joseph Smith, Jr.'s first plural "wife." Another near neighbor was Alpheus Cutler (later a notable Mormon), along with various members of the Hamblin, Noble, and Buell families. Joseph Bates Noble's father once worked for one of the Bloomington Fairchilds. For William Buell. Fairchild's recollection of early events in Bloomfield, the origin of Mormonism, etc. see his 1845 article, "Mormonism and the Mormons."

Note 3: It appears unlikely that the "Ralph Emerson" who contributed the above letter to Silliman's Journal was the famous Ralph Waldo Emerson. The correspondent says that Julius Steele was his "class-mate." Rev. Steele graduated first from Yale College in 1811 and then from Andover Theological Seminary in 1814, while Ralph Waldo Emerson attended the Boston Latin School and graduated from Harvard University in 1821. On the other hand, a Rev. Dr. Ralph Emerson (1787-1863) graduated from Yale College in 1811 and later became a professor at Andover Theological Seminary.

-- 1826 --

Article I. -- The Divining Rod.

Observing men have long been perplexed with the divininig rod, that common discoverer both of salt water and fresh, and of minerals and ores in the bowels of the earth. Those who at once laugh at its pretensions and always laugh at them, make light of the perplexity, without taking a step towards its removal; while those who have paid any attention to the subject, find facts irreconcilable with any known and established laws of nature; and, also, reasonings contrary to known laws and to common sense. If the laws of the divining rod be an absurdity, it is equally an absurdity that honest men should combine to maintain a poor falsehood.

Since the eleventh century the divining rod has been in frequent use. It was first employed "for the purpose of finding metals and minerals, and for the discovery of stolen property, and to identify characters guilty of crimes." Justice coming to be better understood, the divining rod lost credit as a witness of moral turpitude, and now claims, and has long since only claimed, to find metals and ores and fountains and veins of water below the surface of the earth.

More than one English writer has spoken kindly of the esteem in which it has been held by the miners of Britain. In France, so late as 1781, a volume was published, 'detailing 600 experiments, made with all possible attention and circumspection, to ascertain the facts attributed to the divining-rod; by which is

unfolded their resemblance to the admirable and uniform laws of electricity and magnetism.'

We find in our own country, many decided friends of the divining rod. Our public journals not unfrequently contain letters of respectable correspondents, stoutly maintaining its character for truth and integrity.

It is a subject of eager curiosity to some, and is not perfectly understood by any. It admits of being explained to the most moderate capacity; and it is hoped this paper will furnish every reader both with facts and arguments, to sustain him in right views of the divining rod, and to enable him to disprove the false.

It begins with a description of the rod, and a general notice of the present state of the art in our own country.

The divining rod is a forked branch of any tree whose bark is smooth and whose fibre is very elastic. The witch hazel is in the highest esteem, not merely for its potent name, but also for the convenient size and ready forks of its plenteous branches, and the uncommon elasticity of its fibre. The peach and the cherry are often used. The limbs of the fork should be 18 inches or 2 feet in length, and of the diameter of a pipe stem. When used, it is taken thus:

[graphic - not copied]

the palms of the hands being turned upwards. But when the diviner, apprehending the action of the hidden influence.

begins to grasp the rod firmly, the fingers are drawn tightly upon the rod, and it takes this form:

[graphic - not copied]

the limbs of the rod being bent from their middle to their lower extremities outward. The diviner, holding the twig carefully in this manner, moves onward with a slow and creeping step. In due time the head of the fork turns downwards, and, coming to point perpendicularly to the earth, marks the site of the fountain or ore.

The action of the rod under these circumstances, is a fact plain to the vision of every beholder. Those who hold it, are oftentimes men in whose hands we would without hesitation intrust life, property and reputation: and no doubt they are wholly unconscious of the power, which excites the action of the rod, but they confidently believe it proceeds from hidden fountains, or minerals in the bowels of the earth. From north to south, from east to west, the divining rod has its advocates. Men in various callings, men above the reach of mean arts, men of the soundest judgment, of large information, and of the most exemplary lives, do not disown the art, and when a friend demands their aid, rarely if ever, is it made the means of extortion by the meanest professor. Literati and Doctors, in want of fountains for their domestic use, do not disdain to call for the demonstrations of the divining rod, and will, in some instances, acknowledge the accordance of the results with the previous declarations of the diviner.

If there be a fraud, the diviners themselves are the first deceived, and the greatest dupes. But how can they be deceived? They hold the rod steadily in both their hands -- in the diagram, the point of the rod is turned towards the heavens.

In searching, the rod discovers its sensibility by the motion of the point from its vertical position downward through the arc of a semicircle, ontil it rests perpendicular to the earth. This motion, so far from being intended by the holder of the rod, is made in opposition to the closest grasp his hands care give. And although an honest man's word might be taken for this, we have the fact corroborated by our own senses. We can see, and if that be not enough, we can also feel the rupture of the green bark, as it is fairly wrung from the rod, in the contest between the force which bears the point of the rod down, and the pinching grasp of the diviner, to prevent that motion.

The rod does not exhibit this unaccountable action in the hands of every man. Many, all, can urge it to exhibit this motion; while it is only in the hands of a very few that it is supposed to move not merely without urging, but contrary to their best efforts. (One writer says: With the precaution of washing the hands and soles of the feet in a weak solution of muriatic acid or salt and water, and making he trial barefooted, the experiment will succeed with every one.) These few are of no peculiar age, constitution or habits, to distinguish them from their fellow-men. But if any female has ever exercised the gift of divining by the witch hazel, it has not come to the knowledge of the writer.

Diviners are sensible of no change in their feelings, while the rod acts. They determine its nearness to some attracting body, as every beholder may, solely by the demonstration of the rod itself. The only peculiarity Ihave heard commonly remarked, is, that the rod acts more freely in hands naturally moist, than in hands naturally dry -- a mechanical effect which oil would probably increase.

In New-England, where springs are most abundant and always pure, the use of the art is less frequent, because less necessary. In the states south and west, where water is not equally abundant, and fountains are not so certainly pure, the art is better known and more highly valued. The water hunter obtains celebrity. He is sent for to a great distance, and performs wonders with praiseworthy modesty, and for a moderate compensation.

In all parts of the land, if the diviner hunt for metals, he becomes distrusted by the better sort of men. Yet the persuasion is general, that the rod is influenced by ores; and this persuasion is the diviner's greatest defence. "For in pursuit of water, if he direct the search at a wrong place, he is

excused without loss of confidence, upon the discovery of any mineral or vile ore in sinking the well. Traces of iron ore are almost universal in that part of our country, where the divining rod is in the highest repute; and often serve effectually to conceal the diviner's entire defeat.

But the divining rod does not merely point out the site of the hidden fountain: it determines also its depth. This part of the science is equally wonderful and important. To know that water may be obtained by digging at a particular spot, is not enough. We must know more; that the fountain is within a reasonable depth. Accordingly, all men gifted with the use of the divining rod, have a way to determine the depth of the newly discovered fountain, if it be within fifty feet of the earth's surface. Thus the inexplicable motions of a green twig in the hands of a rare man, serve, in the opinion of many, to point out the situation of a fountain in the midst of the dry land, and to ascertain its depth; and to point out veins of salt water with precision from 300 to 600 feet below the surface of the earth. The thing is incredible; and it is equally incredible that the best men. in the land should falsely maintain that the motions of the rod in their hands are entirely contrary to their own well-meant efforts.

In 1820, I was at the residence of a respectable farmer in Ohio, and again in 1821, where I noticed a new well at an inconvenient distance from the house. I inquired why that spot had been chosen for a well. The farmer replied, that it had been selected by the dividing rod. "Ah! and who carried the rod?" He named the father of a large family, one of thirteen brothers, and respected throughout the country. Here was food for curiosity. The well was but 7 or 8 feet deep, a triumphant witness to the power of the divining rod. (* No sign of a fountain, dissoverable to common view, existed at the spot before sinking the well. The diviner told the precise depth it would require to reach the water: so said the farmer.) On learning further that the rod marked perfectly well in the hands of one of the farmer's eight sons, I obtained leave to take him with me, and make experiments. The lad was about 12 years of age, and his character of a diviner was established, where that of a prophet is last allowed: in his own family and among his own kindred. His youth was no reasonable objection to his possessing a peculiar natural gift; and I hoped now to determine, whether the cause of the motion

of the divining rod lies above or below the surface of the earth.

We first prepared divining rods from every species ot shrub and tree in the forest, the orchard and the garden, to determine the kinds of wood which are most apt for divining. We then repaired to the grass plat, in which the new well was situated; for there the rod, when held by experience, had already designated the situation and general course of three veins of water, which the lad might retrace with more certainty, than he could designate a new fountain. A swift brook runs on one side of the enclosure.

The first experiment was to know, whether the rod would exhibit its singular movement in my hands. It would not. The next was to find what notice it would take of water running above ground. The lad held the rod naturally by its limbs parallel to the surface of the swift brook. But the point made not the slightest dip to discover its affinity for water. Then the lad held the rod in the diviner's manner, sometimes standing in the water, and continued standing on stones raising him above the water. After many trials with contradictory results, the boy thought that the brook attracted the rod in some degree, but not so much as a vein of water under ground.

We next turned to the hidden veins of water, on one of which the new well was situated. No one has ever supposed that the attraction between the rod and hidden fountain communicated through the eyes of the diviner. It was clear that these guides of his steps must be quite unnecessary to the lad in retracing the hidden water-courses, if I would gently lead him myself. For the rod is not an eye-servant, to fail of noticing its proximity to hidden fountains, because its master fails to watch its motions.

I explained my purpose to the lad, who readily consented to further it. He traced the three hidden veins over the space of an acre, while I, following close behind him with a heavy stick, tore off the light turf, and made a continued furrow along his course. While thus employed, I repeatedly asked him, if he surely found the veins as the aged man had done; and to his constant answer in the affirmative I replied, that any mistake now would render it impossible for him to retrace his path blindfolded.

This done, I blindfolded him so that he could not see, -- took him lightly by the elbow, and led him away from the

furrow marking the vein of water on which the new well had been sunk. After a few steps, I turned with him, requesting him to hold up the rod for discovery. I guided him back, but he chose the time of every step. The rod began to turn, and, when having finished its circuit it turned perpendicular to the earth, he stopped. "Do you mean that the rod points exactly to the vein of water?" "Yes," he replied. And indeed it did: with his eyes he could not have pointed it better.

This was demonstration. Conviction could neither be resisted nor avoided. The sight of the new well had prepossessed me in favour of the divining rod. The experiment with the lad had been conducted fairly, and its result was irresistibly conclusive. It must convince every one: and to obtain a collection of facts which would put the question at rest forever, I continued the experiment. I led the lad to the next furrow, and the rod missed it. I led him back, and it missed again. I led him to and fro, across and then along his three furrows; and he failed incessantly. I tore off the turf at every new place, where the rod pointed out a fountain, and ceased not from discoveries, until the russet and bleached turf of the acre on which the experiment was conducted, became figured with black spots, denoting fountains every where. This was as it should be. There could be no mistake. The illusion of the fountains, and of all attraction under ground, vanished at once. The motion of the rod remained, but it must be accounted for some other way.

In all my experiments with diviners since, I have found them very shy of a blinder. No diviner has proved so traitorous to his own self-respect as to test the skill of the rod by depriving it of the light of his own eyes. One whose age and respectability obliged me to pay him deference, was pleased with the suggestion of trying the rod over running water above ground. Across a neighboring stream, a huge tree had been prostrated; its capacious trunk serving for a firm pathway over the swift waters. On this the good man crossed the brook, holding the divining rod properly in his hands. As he came over the waters, the point of the rod began to turn, but did not reach the end of its motion, until he had fairly crossed the stream, and stepped upon the opposite bank. In repeating the experiment, his own motions and those of the rod were better timed together. His conclusion, carefully drawn, was, that the rod was affected by running water above ground, but not so much as by water under ground.

He held the rod with peculiar spirit, and an air of determination. Hoping to catch his lively manner, I took a rod, as I stood on the bank of the rivulet, and tried my own hands again. I moved neither hand nor foot, but the rod was in action; neither could I restrain it. He who has held the Leyden jar in one hand, while, for the first time in life, he received its electric charge with the other, will recognize the sensation which communicated itself to the heart, when I felt the limbs of that rod crawling round, and saw the point turning down, in spite of every effort my clenched hands could make to restrain it. To my great satisfaction, without moving from the spot, I found the bark start and wring off from the limbs of the rod in the contest; just as the diviner often shews, to convince himself and his employer of the strong attraction of the discovered fountain. It was manifest that the force moving the divining rod is unconsciously applied by the hands of the diviner, and that the great art in holding the rod consists in holding it spiritedly. A smooth bark and a moist hand appeared to have a substantial connection with divining; and from that day to this the rod has never failed of moving in my hands, nor in the hands of those I instruct.

Take the rod in the diviner's manner, and it is evident that the bent limbs of the rod are equivalent to two bows tied together at one extremity; and, when bent outwards, they exert a force in opposite directions upon the point at which they are united. Held thus the forces are equal and opposite, and no motion is produced. Keep the arms steady, but turn the hands on the wrists inward an almost imperceptible degree, and the point of the rod will be constrained to move. If the limbs of the rods be clenched very tightly that they cannot turn, the bark will burst and wring off, and the rod will shiver and break under the action of the opposing forces. The greater the effort made in clenching the rod, the shorter is the bend of the limbs, and the greater the amount of the opposite forces meeting in the point: and the more unconsciously, also, do the hands incline to turn to their natural position on the wrists. And this gives true ground for the diviner's declaration: the more powerful his efforts are to restrain the rod, the more powerful is its effort to move.

It would be absurd to suppose, as he does, that the fountain or mineral increases its attraction, in proportion to the resistance he opposes to the motion of the rod induced by that attraction: and he never once suspects, that the very effort to

restrain the rod is so applied by the unnatural position of his hands, as to become itself the sole cause of the rod's motion. Let the diviner release his grasp, and the rod can no more turn itself in his hands, than the unbent bow can throw an arrow. By grasping the rod smartly, he strains the bows; and if the rod be small and elastic, and of a smooth bark, it will weep round in moist hands slowly and mysteriously. -- But if the rod be large, and otherwise properly qualified, its limbs are too stout, and its motion, when smartly bent, becomes ungovernable. This renders a small rod essential to the diviner; a rod whose motions he can bridle, but not wholly overcome.

The motion of the divining rod forwards rather than backwards, is produced by the slight turn of the hands on the wrists towards their natural position. The rod may be mad with perfect ease to turn backwards rather than forwards, only by turning the hands still more upward. This motion of the hands on the wrists is not observed by the diviner, but if he mark the position of his hands in the commencement, and again at the end of the experiment, he will find it apparent.

Two large goose quills tied together at their tips, and held like a divining rod, are a fine test of the nature of this moving force. Two sticks of polished whalebone, flattened and joined at one extremity, form a perfect divining rod. The motions of these quills and bones are as perfect for the discovery of fountains as those of any green branch ever cut. Indeed, polished whalebone excels witch hazel itself in divining, as it is firmer, smoother, and more elastic. But polished whalebone has neither sap nor juices to be attracted by metals nor by fountains. (Since writing this, I have learned that a professional gentleman, a most excellent man, and a well-known diviner, not many years deceased, commonly used a fork of whalebone for a divining rod.)

The laws by which the depth of the discovered mines of fountains is supposed to be determined, are a curiosity sufficient to attract a moment's attention. There is something amusing in the oddity of their moonstruck features; but it is a sober and a melancholy sight to see a good man working by them, wise men confounded by the results, and the multitude inclined by the whole operation to trust in superstitious observances.

The diviner, having ascertained the site of a fountain, and wishing to determine its depth, makes it a centre from which he retires to some distance, and returns again very slowly with the rod on the search. The moment the rod is perceived to move, he stops and marks the ground. He then retires from the centre in another direction, and carefully approaching again, he marks the ground where the rod is first moved by the supposed fountain. Repeating this several times for the greater certainty, he makes it appear that the rod is every where affected within a circle, whose centre is the site of the fountain; and the diameter of this circle is precisely twice the depth of the fountain required. If the water be 7 feet below the earth's surface, the rod will be affected in a circle of 14 feet diameter; but if the water be seven times seven feet deep, the rod will be affected in a circle seven times greater than the first. The attraction extends with the distance! It is absurd. The deeper the fountain lies, the sooner the rod will discover its existence I It is most unnatural. Moreover, the amount of the attractive forces is always just sufficient to draw the point of a rod through the arc of a semi-circle, and no more; whether the attractive forces be expanded throughout a circle of 100 feet diameter, or compressed into one 14 feet diameter. Then these forces ought to be very active, when the circle is reduceed so as to bring the atracting bodies into near contact. But after they come in sight of each other, all mutual attraction ceases, and they remain at rest!

I am unable to say what law is used to determine the depth of salt-water fountains. That which remains to be noticed is more applicable to their case, than the law already expounded. It would extend the first rule too far for the simplest understanding, to suppose, that a salt-water fountain, 300 feet deep, would influence the divining rod in a circle of 600 feet diameter; and that a fountain 600 feet deep would influence the rod in a circle of 1200 feet diameter. This second law, however, was invented before salt-water fountains of that depth were discovered, and is extensively known to diviners, and for variety frequently used. It can be deduced from the manner of operation, which is this: the diviner holds the rod by the extremity of one of its limbs, extended over the discovered fountain or mine. In this situation the point of the rod is exposed to two conflicting forces, viz: the attracting body, and the elasticity of the rod. In the contest

between these, the rod vibrates, and the number of its vibrations is the depth of the attracting body, not in yards or inches, but in running feet!

Such are the laws of the divining rod; and such their boasted "resemblance to the admirable and uniform laws of electricity and magnetism."

Some good men will yet be reluctant to surrender the divining rod; to rank it among the monstrous births of the dark ages which yet survive. They will urge instances of its successful operation: they will assert, and perhaps prove, that fountains have been and are discovered according to the predictions of the diviner. They will take particular notice of the exactness with which the blinded boy struck the vein of water the first time, and be almost ready to suspect that the natural incertitude of mind, peculiar to one led about blindfolded, communicated itself to the divining rod, and caused its mistakes.

That the lad succeeded perfectly the first time, ceases to be a wonder, when it is recollected that afterwards he failed incessantly. Possibly he kept some count of his steps, to aid him in the first trial, and then became bewildered. He should be bewildered. He ought not to know north from south, but only that the ground he would tread on was safe. Then his mystical rod might have ceased to move, if it were not where the waters were. But it did move, and point most knowingly. And if the young fox had had his eyes, I doubt not that in fifty trials, the rod would have pointed more than twice in the same place.

I am not one to believe that a series of coincidences on the same point is often accidental. If fountains have been and are discovered according to the predictions of the diviner, (which I allow,) it is because, in this country, men can hardly fail of finding water in from 20 to 50 feet deep, any "where: they cannot miss oftener than diviners actually do. That sometimes the diviner hits the truth closely, as in the case of my farmer's new well, I shall not deny, when others honestly assert the fact. But they do sometimes mistake altogether; and their failure being no wonder, is soon forgotten, while their success is matter of astonishment long to be remembered.

After a faithful and patient investigation, I know not the slightest ground on which the claims of the divining rod can be sustained one moment. I allow to the utmost, that the

motions of the rod take place contrary to the sincere intentions of the diviner. But the same force which he applies to restrain the motion, does, actually, from the peculiar manner of holding the rod, compel that motion. If the attraction between the rod and water be real, it will show itself, one would think, when the rod is held fast in the diviner's hands, in any position. This, however, is not the case. It requires a smart binding pressure of its limbs, together with an imperceptible turning of the hands on the wrists, to put it in action; and then the more you hold it, the more it will go; This singular conduct of the rod has imposed on diviners, and, mistaking its true origin, they have, with common consent, imputed it to ores and fountains in the bowels of the earth.

The whole character of the divining rod may be safely rested on the single experiment of blinding the diviner. Young or old, if guided solely by the divining rod, he could repeatedly trace the same courses blindfold, which he has before traced, always marking his veins and fountains of water in the same places, the rod would gain credit; but since he cannot, it must sink, -- it must be forsaken.

The supposed laws of the divining rod are absurd. It goes blindfold when the diviner is blindfolded; and the cherry, the peach, and the hazel itself, are excelled in the subtilty of their divining motions by dry and nervous whalebone.

The pretensions of diviners are worthless. The art of finding fountains and minerals with a succulent twig, is a cheat upon those who practice it, an offence to reason and to common sense; an art abhorrent to the laws of nature, and deserving universal reprobation.

Note 1: The reader should not assume that a review such as this one, published in a "scientific journal," would not have reached a popular readership. Indeed, the essentials of this very article were reprinted in various newspapers of that period -- for example, by the Sandusky Clarion in its issue of Dec. 2, 1826. Practitioners of water witching and mineral rod divination in those days needed to be aware of contemporary rational arguments against their special activities, and it is reasonable to assume that information such as that printed in the 1826 "Divining Rod" article had wide circulation.

Note 2: Given the fact that Silliman's Journal attempted to provide truly scientific reporting, it is strange that even its skeptical reporter was so unfamiliar with geology and hydrology. In instances where permeable underground rock strata are ubiquitous (as is often the case), there are no underground streams or fountains. The scientific basis for mineral rods locating underground "slippery treasures," (that move about of their own accord), is -- of course -- nonexistent.

from: Quarterly Review (London)

-- March, 1820 --

Art. III. -- Popular Mythology of the Middle Ages.


Art. III. -- 1. Dictionnaire Infernal; ou Rechcrches et Anecdotes sur les Demons, les Esprits, les Fantomes, les Spectres, les Revenans, les Loup-garoux, les Possedes, les Sorciers, les Sabbats, les Magiciens, les Salamandres, les Sylphes, les Gnomes, les Visions, les Songes, les Prodiges, les Charmes, les Malefices, les Secrets merveileux, les Talismans, &c. &c. &c. Par J. A. S. Colin de Plancy. 2 vols. Paris, 1818.

2. Histoire de la Magie en France depuis le commencement de la Monarchie, jusqu a nos Jours. Par M. Jules Garinet. Paris. 1819.

3. Danske Folkesagn, samlede af J. M.Thiele. Copenhagen. 1818.

4. Deutsche Sagen, herausgegeben von den Brudern Grimm. 2 vols. Berlin. 1816ó18.

5. Des Deutschen Mittelalters, Volksglauben vnd Heroensagen, von L. F. von Dobeneck. Berlin. 1815.

6. Tales of the Dead, principally Translated from the French.

Tales of supernatural agency are not read to full advantage except in the authors by whom they are first recorded. When treated by moderns, much of their original character must necessarily evaporate; like tombs, which lose their venerable sanctity when removed from the aisles of a cathedral, and exposed in a museum. We reason where the writers of former days believed, and the attention of the reader is riveted by the earnestness of their credulity. Besides which, the very outward appearance of their volumes diffuses a quiet charm....

...Mining countries have often become the strong hold of popular mythology. Cornwall may be instanced; and thus also the Harzwald in Hanover, the remnant of the Hercynian forest, is entirely enchanted ground. 'In this district,' says an old author, 'are more than an hundred and ten capital mines, some of which have small ones belonging to them; some are worked for the king of Great Britain (as Elector of Hanover) on his own account, and the rest farmed out. According to ancient chronicles King Ilsung held his court at Weringerode in this forest, about the time of Gideon, judge of Israel, and Ilsung was the son of King Laurin the dwarfish monarch and guardian of the garden of roses, who flourished in the time of Ehud, judge of Israel, in the year of the world 2550.' -- These dates have been ascertained by the diligent chroniclers of the uncritical ages, who took great pains to force ancient fables into synchronism with the facts recorded by authentic historians. In the existing text of the Book of Heroes the Hercynian forest is not assigned to the sway of Laurin; but the chroniclers were probably also guided by local traditions, and even now the dwarfs and cobolds (spirits of the mine) still swarm in every cavern.

Malignity is constantly ascribed to the goblins of the mine. We are told by the sage demonologist quoted by Reginald Scott, 'that they do exceedingly envy man's benefit in the discovery of hidden treasure, ever haunting such places where money is concealed, and diffusing malevolent and poisonous influences to blast the lives and limbs of those that dare attempt the discovery thereof. -- Peters of Devonshire with his confederates, who, by conjuration, attempted to dig for such defended treasures, was crumbled to atoms as it were, being reduced to ashes with his confederates in the twinkling of an eye.'

Peters of Devonshire sought his fate. But the Demons who

haunted mines were considered as most tremendous. 'The nature of such is very violent; they do often slay whole companies of labourers, they do sometimes send inundations that destroy both the mines and miners, they bring noxious and malignant vapours to stitle the laborious workmen; briefly their whole delight and faculty consists in killing, tormenting and crushing men who seek such treasures. Such was Annabergius, a most virulent animal that utterly confounded the undertakings of those that laboured in the richest silver mine in Germany called Corona Rosacea. He would often shew himself in the likeness of a he-goat, with golden horns, pushing down the workmen with great violence, sometimes like a horse breathing pestilence and flames from his nostrils. At other times he represented a monk in all his pontificals, flouting at their labour and treating all their actions with scorn and indignation, till by his daily and continual molestation he gave them no further ability of perseverance.' ...

...The Norman peasants believe that there is a flower which is called the herbe maudite -- he who treads upon it continues walking round and round, imagining that he is proceeding onwards, though in fact he quits not the spot to which the magic root has bound him. This spell seems to bind us; for we find ourselves still in company with the goblins of the mine, whom we imagined we had left far behind us. The Emperor is, undoubtedly, to be identified with those capricious powers. In the middle ages the winning of these riches became the trade of those sages who are the prototypes of the Dousterswivel of our northern enchanter, and the employment of treasure-finding was a regular profession in the mining countries, where some traces of it still remain. Each of these adepts had his own mode of operating. One was the Theurgist; he prayed and fasted till the dream came upon him. He was a pious man, and his art was holy; and if the eager disciple sinned against faith or chastity, the inspiration fled, the treasure vanished.
Guilt, guilt, my son! give't the right name: no marvel
If I found check in our great work within,
When such affairs as these were managing.
The natural magician smiled at the mystical devotee, whom he affected to treat either as the dupe of his own enthusiasm, or as an impostor. Trusting only to the secret powers of nature, he paced along with the divining rod of hazel * which turns in obedience,

* The employment of the divining rod when employed to discover ore or metal, was associated with many superstitions observances. The fact, however, of the discovery of water being effected by it when held in the hands of certain persons seems indubitable. The following narrative, which has been lately communicated to us by a friend residing in Norfolk, puts the subject in the clearest point of view. And we shall simply state that the parties, whose names are well known to many of our readers, are utterly incapable cither of deceiving others, or of being deceived themselves.

'January 21st, 1818. -- It is just fifty years since Lady N.'s attention was first called to this subject; she was then sixteen years old, and was on a visit with her family at a chateau in Provence, the owner of which wanted to find a spring to supply his house, and for that purpose had sent for a peasant, who could do so with a twig. The English party ridiculed the idea, but still agreed to accompany the man, who, after walking some

attracted by the effluvia from the metals concealed beneath the soil. These are delusions, thought a bolder sage who had been instructed in the secrets of Cornelius Agrippa: and he opened the sealed book which taught him to charm the mirror, in which were seen all things, however distant or hidden from mortal view, and he buried it by the side of the cross-road, where the carcass of the murderer was wasting on the wheel, or he opened the newly made grave and caused the eyes of the troubled corpse to shed their glare upon the surface of the polished chrystal. Telesms and pentacles, and constellated idols also lent their aid. Such were the implements of art belonging to an Italian or Spanish Cahalist. -- We give the story as it was related to us many years ago by a right learned adept. -- This Cabalist ascertained that if he could procure a certain golden medal, to be worked into the shape of a winged man when the planets were in a proper aspect, the figure so formed would discover all secret treasures. After great pains, he was so fortunate as to obtain

some way, pronounced that he had arrived at the object of his search, and they accordingly dug and found him correct. -- He was quite an uneducated man, and could give no account of the faculty in htm or of the means which he employed, but many others, he said, could do the same.

The English patty now tried for themselves, but all in vain, till it came to the turn of Lady N., when, to her amazement and alarm, she found that the same faculty was in her, as in the peasant, and on her return to England she often exerted it, though in studious concealment. She was afraid lest she should be ridiculed, or should, perhaps get the name of a witch, and in either case she thought that she should certainty never get a husband.

Of late years her scruples began to wear away, and when Dr. Hutton published Ozanam's researches in 1803, where the effect of the divining rod is treated as absurd (vol. iv. p. 260-7.) she wrote a long letter to him, signed X. Y. Z., stating the facts which she knew. The Doctor answered it, begging further information; Lady N. wrote again, and he, in his second letter, requested the name of his correspondent: that Lady N. also gave.

A few years afterwards she went, at Dr. Hutton's particular request, to see him at Woolwich, and she then shewed him the experiment, and discovered a spring in a field which he had lately bought near the New College, then building. This same field he has since sold to the College, and for a larger price in consequence of the spring.

Lady N. this morning shewed the experiment to Lord G., Mr. S., and me, in the park at W. She took a thin, forked hazel twig, about 16 inches long, and held it bv the end, the joint pointing downwards. When she came to a place where water was under the ground, the twig immediately bent, and the motion was more or less rapid as she approached or withdrew from the spring. When just over it, the twig turned so quick as to snap, breaking near her fingers, which by pressing it were indented, and heated, and almost blistered; a degree of agitation was also visible in her face. When she first made the experiment, she says this agitation was great, and to this hour she cannot wholly divest herself of it, though it gradually decreases. She repeated the trial several times, in different parts of the park, and her statements were always accurate. Among those persons in England, who have the same faculty, she says she never knew it so strong in any as in Sir C. H. and Miss F. It is extraordinary that no effect is produced at a well or ditch, or where earth does not interpose between the twig and the water. The exercise of the faculty is independent of any volition.'

So far our narrator, in whom, we repeat, the most implicit confidence may be placed. The faculty so inherent in certain persons is evidently the same with that of the Spanish Zakories, though the latter do not employ the hazel twig.

the talisman, which lie confided to a workman, who gradually hammered the metal into the astral form, using his tools only at those moments when the Master, consulting the Alfonsine tables, desired him to proceed. It happened that the smith was left alone with the statue when it was nearly finished, and a sudden thought, inspired by his good genius, induced him to give the last stroke to the magical image. His hand fell in the right ascension of the planets; the virtue was imparted, and the statue instantly leaped from the table, and fixed itself firmly on the floor. No effort of the goldsmith could remove it; but, as he guessed rightly of the true nature of the attractive influence, he dug up the pavement, under which he discovered an earthen vessel full of coin, which had been concealed by some former owner of the mansion. Who could be more rejoiced than our goldsmith? Destiny had gifted him with the means of becoming the master of all the secret treasures of the earth. He instantly resolved to appropriate the inestimable talisman to himself; and, to evade pursuit, he embarked in a ship which was then setting sail. The wind blew briskly and favourably, and in a short time they were out at sea; when the ship sailed over a treasure concealed in the caverns of the deep. The talisman obeyed its call: it sprang from the hand of its astonished owner, and, with all his hopes, was lost for ever beneath the waves.

Wretchedness, disappointment, and delusion thus invariably conclude the mystic or legendary narrations, in which human avarice is represented as yearning after gold, and attempting to wrest it from heaven or from hell. If the gift is bestowed, it becomes a glittering curse; but oftener it is denied, and Fate tantalizes the eagerness of humanity. When the Arab searches the ruined temple, the chest of stone sinks lower and lower beneath the soil. The rocks fall in and bury the treasure just when his charm is about to take; if the cavern opens before the suffumigations of the sorcerer, the treasure vanishes from his grasp. The moral is as obvious as the source of the mythos, in which we again observe the varied sway of the good and of the evil....

Note: An excerpt from this article was published in the June 26, 1820 Vermont Intelligencer.

from: The Minerva.
ns Vol. III.   (August 27, 1825)   No. 21.


Is there any virtue in the mineral rod, or Virgula Divinatoria, for discovering precious metals in the ore, hidden treasures, water, and other things contained in the strata of the earth?

The report on this question was substantially in the ensuing terms: -- As far as the country to the northward and eastward of New Spain and its dependencies has been explored, there are, with the exception of the auriferous region of North Carolina, few and scanty vestiges of the precious metals. But, by the kindness of the soil, and the industry of the inhabitants, this scarcity of gold and silver is more than compensated. In exchange for the articles procured by the labour of our United States in agriculture, arts, and manufactures, the most valuable products of the Spanish mines are brought from their respective localities where they abound, to circulate among the Fredes: thus, without the trouble or tyranny of mining, and exempt from thc despotism and slavery incidental to that business, a sufficiency of the two metals most in demand, is obtained for the purposes of ornament, furniture, and money. This situation of our people has been justly considered as conducing in no small degree to their happiness.

There are not wanting persons who think the Fredonian section of North America, contains a due proportion of gold and silver concealed in the deposits of ore. These concealments of nature, they know no mortal has been fortunate or skilful enough to discover, and many of them think it a shame and a hardship that invaluable gifts of the Creator, should lie dormant among the rocks or sands, instead of being brought into action, for augmenting the mass of property and power.

There are others who believe that during the wars, which have from time to time afflicted the country since its settlement by the whites, a great quantity of precious coin and bullion, as well as of gems and choice stones, have been buried in the ground. The individuals who deposited these treasures being dead, strenuous attempts are made by the present race, to find and disinter them. They who have faith in these hidden stores, and they are to this day not a few, ascribe much of their amount to Captain Kidd, who certainly visited as an acquaintance, one of the former proprietors of Gardiner's Island, and who was afterwards, as reported at large in the English State-trials, put to death by sentence of the law for piracy and murder. This famous navigator is extolled for having concealed, on the shores of Long-Island and the adjacent main, many chests and pots of the glittering spoil he acquired by robbery at sea and land. There, they are persuaded, much of it remains to the present moment, waiting to reward the enterprise of those who shall find and raise it. Thus, it seems that the imagined prospects of discovering silver and gold in their native mines, as well as in the forms of concealed coin, plate, and ingots, has excited the cupidity of many men among us for several generations

(Here the entertainer related what he had himself seen of laborious excavations made by night, for finding buried money at Cowneck in Queen's County, and old Ferry-point in Westchester County, N. Y.; also on the island in Hudson River near Coeyman's; and on the bank of Rahway river, near Bridgetown, New-Jersey. He stated too, in strong and descriptive terms, the particulars of an application made to him in solemn form, by a special mission, not long since, to manufacture a powerful mineral rod, for detecting the invaluable and imperishable monies and things deposited by Capt. Kidd, at Egg-harbour, New-Jersey, and which the communicators said they were positively assured lay within a certain five-acre lot of land, but too deeply entombed to warrant them in the manual operation by spade and shovel to undertake the finding, as much as ten or twelve feet or more, below the surface.)

To discover where the supposed treasure is, whether in a natural or artificial state, the searchers, beside the use of the rod, pretend to possess traditionary stories, to have received monitions by dreams thrice occurring, to have a knowledge of certain inscriptions upon rocks or marks upon ancient trees, directing to the objects of their future wealth. But their firmest reliance, or rather their last resort, is in the alleged efficacy of the Mineral Rod. This instrument when properly employed, is affirmed to be so strongly attracted by the precious metals, as to be capable of leading the person who holds it directly to the spot where they lie in concealment. Some really believe in its power, while others employ it as an engine of imposture, to cheat their avaricious and credulous neighbours.

A mineral rod is generally the forked and flexible twig of a tree. The branch is cut off within a few inches of the bifurcation; and the two prongs after being nicely trimmed, also cut off at the distance of about eighteen inches or two feet from the crotch. The wood must be sufficiently grown to possess a good share of elasticity, so that when duly bent and put upon the strain, it may exert a considerable spring in the hands of him who wields it. On the particular skill and slight of bending, crooking and humouring this forked and crotched stick, depends all the strange and peculiar qualities ascribed to it.

Apple-tree, willow, witch-hazel, and some other kinds of wood have been occasionally used for making mineral rods. An account of these has been given so much in detail, in Tilloch's philosophical magazine, that there is no need of making a repetition. But some of our American explorers have introduced the use of whalebone, which they consider a great improvement. A mineral rod of whalebone is made of two pieces of that material, from eighteen to twenty-four inches long, nicely shaped and polished, and near whose junction at one extremity, a knobbed mass of lead or other heavy metalline substance is fixed, and the whole bound firmly together by a strong waxed thread. The string must be wound on so thick and close that nothing within it can be discerned. Herein they pretend that ingredients of singular efficacy are combined and adjusted; one of the most powerful of which is quicksilver, which some of the knowing ones distinguish and dignify by the name of argent-vive.

One of these operators, a man of pre-eminent qualifications in this business, offered himself for the purpose of removing all doubts, and curing sceptics of their unbelief. His rod was constructed of stout and springing whalebone, loaded at the combined or united end with lead, and as was insinuated with mercury too; but all so nicely inclosed and coated round about, that the mysterious part could not be distinguished through the covering. From such a construction it became instantly evident, that when bent and strained according to usage in the performer's hands, through the bare and elastic handles or prongs, the loaded extremity would be agitated as if under a strong impulse or vibration from some external agent. By this curious property, it is admirably calculated to make an impression upon prepossessed and credulous minds. Yet a very short acquaintance with it, will teach the practiser that all the motions of the loaded and pointing extremity, are derived from the hands of the operator through the medium of the elastic handles, and possess not the smallest connexion with any body of attractive materials in the neighbourhood. To render the subject additionally mystical, it is affirmed that the rod will not be efficacious, unless wielded by a person who has an extraordinary power, or gift for its due exercise. It will not work truly in the hands of a common man nor in the hands of any man that is ungifted. But in the hands of the seventh son of a seventh son generally does wonders.

The offer of this proficient to make an experiment was accepted. He declared his art extended far enough to enable him to find precious metals by a prompt and direct process with his whalebone rod. Accordingly, a parcel of silver dollars and plate were collected, until he declared the quantity to be sufficient for his purpose; quite enough to exert a sensible effect upon his instrument. Both himself and his companion were then dismissed for a few moments, and removed quite out of sight. During their absence the silver was concealed in a place distant only a few feet. They were then called back, and he was invited to proceed, after having been told that the treasure had been hid within certain indicated limits, within which he was requested to find it. He began to search by putting his body in a peculiar and somewhat strained attitude, He then raised his rod and bent its handles or prongs so far, as to make the loaded or indicating extremity, draw or pull hard, as the term is. He turned various ways to ascertain the direction in which it worked upon the rod. He seemed to be deeply engaged in thought, and wholly abstracted from other attentions. He even appeared to labour smartly, as was judged from the sweat which broke out upon his face. At length after trying all points of the compass, he pronounced that he felt the attraction of the rod by the silver. Being very sensible of the way that it drew, he followed its guidance. At last he pointed to a precise spot indicated by the rod, and said the dollars, spoons, &c. were there.

But he was infinitely wrong in his indication. The silver at that moment actually lay concealed, in an almost opposite direction from that signified by the rod. To convince him of his error, the parcel was produced before his eyes. He was considerably disconcerted; but after making excuses about the possible operation of other collections of concealed metals, &c. professed a desire to try again. He was gratified (or rather mortified) twice more. And on both occasions, though he was correctly and positively told that the articles were concealed within a defined space, and that quite a circumscribed one, he mistook the direction and was not right in either case.

By this time his powers were sufficiently exhausted for quitting; and so was the patience of the beholders. Still he persisted in the infallibility of his art; and as he departed, declared that though he had failed to find the silver, that very failure was a full proof of the rod's efficacy; for by the various drawings and workings of it, he plainly felt there were more metallic substances thereabout, than those he had undertaken to find. He pointed to the gilded frame of the looking-glass, and to a pair of golden sleeve-buttons as perplexing his operation exceedingly. These latter substances caused great uncertainty in the rod's direction, making it waver and tremble; and, in short, by counter-attraction and counter-influence marring the result. But, by taking more time and another opportunity, he would detect every one of the separate parcels, which thus by their diversified and distracting powers disturbed the true polarity of the instrument. Gold, he said, was vastly more attractive than silver; or, in other words, a small quantity of the former would outdraw a large mass of the latter. Having thus apologised for his want of success, the citizen went away, and nothing has been heard either of him or his mineral rod since.

It was concluded on the whole, however specious the evidence might be in some cases yet the operations of the mineral rod were curious examples of deception, and unworthy of any solid reliance, notwithstanding the bold assertions of cunning intruders and their weak proselytes. Nor did the evidence, the report continued, warrant the conviction that the mineral rod was endowed with the property, in the hands of any person whatever, to discover water in deep subterraneous recesses, especially brine or salt water. This had, indeed, been averred; and the belief matured into a practical art, called Bletonism, from its inventor and promulgator. In the region west of the Alleghany Mountains, more especially on the south east side (or left bank) of the Ohio river, is said, there are many practisers and more believers in Bletonism, than in any other district of our country. This naturally enough arises, from the scarcity of good and wholesome fresh water in many districts, and from the value and importance of the springs and wells containing culinary or table salt, in all the towns and counties there. Where the two sorts of water are objects of such consequence, in a flat country, remote from the ocean, and underlaid to great depth by solid rock, (and that frequently calcarious carbonate abounding in organic remains,) it is not wonderful that all manner of expedients should be tried for finding the invaluable fluid.

Bletonism, and its mineral rod, have been put in requisition. Water has often been discovered beneath the soil where the conjurer carried his cunning apparatus; and because water, sometimes potable, and sometimes saline, has been found by penetrating the spot of earth, over which the grand detector had displayed his apparatus, it was decided that as water is passing naturally through the veins and declivities of the globe and resting in the reservoirs and cavities of its strata, there was no need of this contrivance and trumpery to ascertain its presence. A tolerable judgment could be formed from geographical, topographical, and geological observations, independent of this tricky device, and incomparably preferable. In the hands of an astute manager, the inferences deduced from the observation of natural appearances, were easily transferred to the rod; and the water presenting itself at the profundity of several hundred feet considered as indicated by the rod, though it would as readily and copiously have yielded its liquid store, if no aquatic or bletonic explorer had ever' presented himself.

This was considered as a branch of the subject worthy of special consideration, like the former. There were so many incidents, and coincidences, and circumstances, and collaterals, and contingencies, that in the mingled and perplexed state of the testimony there was nothing to convince the judgment, nor even to solicit credence: whereupon, while it was conceded that our western brethren had often found water by perforating the crust of our planet to the requisite descent, there was no necessary connexion between the bletonist and the water.

from: The Worcester Magazine and Historical Journal.
(October 1, 1825)




The art of discovering streams of water or veins of minerals beneath the surface of the earth by the mysterious properties of the hazel wand, has been generally considered as resting on no better foundations than the credulity of the ignorant, or the delusions of the cunning. There have been periods, when an undoubting faith has prevailed in its singular processes, and when they have been extensively employed for determining the position of the subterraneous spring, or the hidden mine. Believers have not been confined to that class, interested in promoting deception, or those who could make gain to themselves by practising on the simplicity of others. Men of reputation and character, whose intelligence would prevent a deception upon their own minds, and whose known honesty forbids the suspicion of any attempt to lead others into error, have used the art with success. A clergyman of our own neighborhood, of acknowledged uprightness and strict morality, but lately gathered to the sleep of his fathers at a venerable old age, is an example. The fact that some have possessed the power of employing the Divining Rod with advantage is supported by a mass of strong testimony. The principles upon which its operation depends have not been fully ascertained and developed, Sometimes, from unexplained causes, it has been capricious, and perversely remained stationary when it should have pointed downward. Often it has been, in the hands of the Money Digger, an instrument for draining gold from the purses of the infatuated schemers, who expected, by the help of the conjurer, to shovel treasures out from the earth, and aided by his magical ceremonies to riot in easily acquired affluence. Hence have arisen doubts. The abuse of what is good in itself affords no argument against its value. Nor are failures, even numerous and frequent, conclusive against the existence of any art. There is a degree of uncertainty hovering over all the sciences: and the defeat of experiments is more justly to be attributed to want of skill or of knowledge, than to any variations in the laws of nature. It has not been settled by philosophers, if the destructive effects of lightning are always produced by the descent of the fluid from the cloud, or sometimes by rushing upward from the ground -- the metallic rods have not been always an effectual security to buildings defended in the most approved manner: and it has been even doubted whether the point does not bring increased danger and hazard, instead of preserving the structure. -- Yet who doubts the security generally afforded by the electric rod? And wherefore should we question the existence of a power of Water Divination, because it is not always certain?

The art is not of recent origin; neither is it peculiar to our country. It had its birth in Germany, equally the land of wild and fanciful superstitions, as of solid science and profound learning. It then emigrated into the other countries of Europe, and was sometimes absurdly employed for determining the innocence or guilt of persons accused of crimes. In France, it was cultivated, and frequent trials of its power were made. Having attracted the attention of the learned, a series of experiments were instituted to determine the extent of its application. Under the direction of the acute examiners, it assumed a scientific form, and the laws of its action were partially discovered.

The theory explaining the phenomena of the Divining Rod is this, -- that its action is similar to, and probably produced by Galvanic Electricity: that the metal or fluid, with the muscles of the arms, forms a circle analogous to the connexion of the wires of artificial machines, and that the twigs are strongly attracted towards the line of communication. All will readily acknowledge the influence is sufficiently powerful, who have read of the experiments made with the voltaic apparatus on the muscular and nervous systems of the human frame, or have witnessed the frightful exhibitions on the bodies of executed criminals, when the limbs have been thrown out, the faces convulsed, the eyes unclosed, and the whole forms of the recently dead seemed animated with returning life.

Reserving the remarks that occur to occupy a page in some future publication, we will briefly state the facts ascertained in relation to this art, whose operations are governed by the mysterious laws, hitherto inscrutable to human wit, and indefinable by human investigation.

A fresh twig taken from any tree will diverge from a perpendicular, or dip below a horizontal line, by a greater or less angle with its first position, when brought directly over, or in the near vicinity of a vein of metal or water. The effect is more perceptible when two twigs are taken and brought closely in contact at the cut extremities. When a forked branch is used, the degree of diverging is much greater than with the single or double sticks.

The Hazel, Peach, Plum, and Cherry, are more susceptible to the attraction than other trees, and therefore preferable for experiment. Whalebone, when moistened with a solution of salt or acid in water, has been employed instead of the vegetable growth.

The forked stick is generally used, and the mode of procedure is this. The operator holds the extremity of each branch in one hand, with the united portion pointing upwards, in a direction as nearly as possible perpendicular to the earth. Carefully preserving this position of the instrument, he walks slowly forward: when he approaches the fountain or the bed of the metal, the end inclines downward; if the attracting bodies be near, it turns entirely over. The depression closely resembles the dip of the magnetic needle, when traversing a bed of ore.

The attracting influence does not extend to a greater depth, than about twenty feet below the surface, and is diminished or freely communicated, according to the composition of the medium interposed. In some spots where waters are known to flow, the. Rod does not incline. This unfaithfulness is attributed to the nature of the mineral covering.

The inclination is much more free when the twig is in the hands of some individuals than others: as the Galvanic power produces feebler or more powerful convulsions and contractions when applied to different animals of the same species. The action is facilitated, if the operator be barefooted, and previously wash the palms of the hands and soles of the feet with salt and water, or muriatic acid so diluted as to occasion no inconvenience. When these precautions are taken, it is said the experiment will succeed with every person.

The divergence varies with the condition of the system. When the frame is debilitated, and the circulation slow, the effect is greater than in vigorous and athletic health.

Silk is a most perfect non-conductor of Electricity. If the operator wear stockings or gloves of this material, no effect is produced.

These are some of the results of the experiments which have almost placed the Divining Rod, by the side of the instruments of philosophy, and if prosecuted, will raise the practice to a rank among the sciences ministering to human convenience and pleasure.

from: The United States Mag. & Dem. Rev.
Vol. XXVI. (March / April, 1850)

part one  |  part two  |  notes



With a large portion of the simple-hearted people in the agricultural districts of the country, from the earliest ages there has been an implicit belief in the powers and virtues of the Divining Rod -- either for the discovery of water, mines, or hidden treasures. This belief, it would seem, has originated from the wonderful powers of the miraculous rod in the hands of Moses and Aaron, imparted to it by the Almighty. Their rod was made from a simple twig of the almond tree; with this, water was discovered and brought forth from the flinty rock. The peach is a family variety of the almond; and with a branch of this wood our modern rodsmen, or water-wizards, make search for hidden springs of water. Others make use of the "Witch-Hazel," for this purpose; probably from its wonderful property of bringing forth its blossoms out of season, like the rod of Aaron, late in autumn, when other trees are quiescent, and also for metallic deposits. The most learned, however, in this occult science, construct them of various materials, chiefly from the mineral kingdom. Since the discovery of the mines in California, a Spanish gentleman in the city of New-York has advertised for sale to the adventurers, a mineral rod, or instrument, which will direct them to the richest deposits, and by which he had made his own fortune. In proof of their undoubted excellence, he also published the certificates of several men of science. These articles, whatever they may be, whether quicksilver, oil of amber, or dragon's-blood, are enclosed in some small, tight vessel, commonly the tip of a young heifer's horn, and mounted on two strips of slender whalebone, about eighteen inches long. The free ends of these are held in a peculiar manner, between the closed fingers and the palm of the hand in a state of supination; so that a slight pressure of the fingers, or any movement of the wrist-joint, will cause the rod to turn either towards or from the operator, despite his utmost efforts to prevent it. This motion is called the attraction of the rod to the hidden or sought article, whether water or anything else, similar to that of the magnet for iron. Others of the more modern diviners, in searching for metals, make use of a small ball, made of a similar metal to that for which they search, suspended by a long horse-hair, or silk thread. As the operator approaches the hidden mine, the ball deviates more or less from the perpendicular, and thus points out the proximity of the object sought.

Many wonderful things are told of these rodsmen, especially in searching for streams of water under ground, for the purpose of excavating wells. A few years since, in the eastern part of the township of Marietta, a farmer wished to dig a well; and fearing he might have to go very deep, or perhaps not find water at all, he applied to one of these professors of the art for information. After the usual flourishes and perambulations, he pitched on a spot near the farmer's house, where he said water would be found. Before commencing the work, to make the matter sure, he applied to another water diviner; and lest he should discover some indications from the make of the ground, he had him blindfolded, and

1850.]                         History of the Divining Rod.                         219

conducted him over the location where he desired to dig the well. Either from the actual truth of the science, or by accident, this man fixed on the same spot with the other; deviating only a few inches from the place where he said water would be found. The farmer dug the well, and found a plentiful supply. How this coincidence could possibly happen, without some truth in the art, would be difficult to explain. Water can, no doubt, be found at a certain depth, in any country, where rains prevail and springs abound, unless cut off by strata of rocks; and these always contain crevices, so that it can be obtained by boring, or blasting the rock. One well is within my knowledge, dug under the direction of the divining rod, which descended to the depth of seventy feet before water was found. It was on the slope of a hill-side, near a large creek, and penetrated to the level of the bed of the stream; so that, in this case, nothing was gained by the application of the science. Another instance is known, where the assistance was apparent. A gentleman commenced a well near his house, which stands on the declivity of a low ridge, bordered on the east by a deep ravine, only a few rods distant, while westerly it descends on to the Muskingum bottoms. At the depth of twenty feet, a shaly rock obstructed the work. About ten rods west of the house, a spring bursts out of the earth, and runs down to the low lands. Could the sources of this spring be found, a well of water might be obtained, probably not far from the house. A master of the divining rod was employed, who, after considerable labor, and many traverses back and forth between the spring and the house, pointed out a spot for the well, about midway between the dwelling and the spring. Here, he said, two small branches of water united, and running westerly, formed the fountain. At the depth named, about twenty feet, water was found, and coming into the well from two veins -- one from the ridge northerly, the other easterly, towards the house. In proof of their identity, when the well fails in droughts, the spring dries up also.

A few months since, the same rodman pointed out a spot for a well to a man, on the elevated plain back of Marietta, about a quarter of a mile south-easterly from the one just described. After fixing on the location, the man wished to know the depth to the water. This question was decided by the peach-tree rod in the following manner: -- The diviner stood over the place, and holding the rod in the usual way, it dipped down, or was attracted six times towards the earth, and then ceased. It is a rule amongst the diviners, in searching for the depth to the water, that each inclination of the rod indicates five feet; and as in this case the sixth dip was made rather tardily, it was inferred that the depth would be something less than thirty feet. On digging the well, an abundance of water was found at twenty-six feet, establishing the truth of the prediction. This plain is an ancient alluvion of the Muskingum river, rising more than one hundred feet above its present bed, and composed of strata of sand and gravel. At the depth of twenty-five or thirty feet, all over the northern and eastern portion of the plain, a bed of blue clay is found. The rain-water having percolated through the sand and gravel, is arrested by the clay, and conducted by its own gravity to the borders of the plain, bursts out in numerous springs along its margin. How far a knowledge of this fact might have aided in deciding the depth of the well, is best known to the operator. Wells, south or west of this clay deposit, are sunk to seventy or eighty feet, in search of water.

220.                        History of the Divining Rod.                        [March,

If there is any truth in the foregoing experiments, and there is a natural law on which that truth is based, we must first ascertain, as nigh as we can, what that law is, by some theory; as many new truths have been discovered by theory, or a course of reasoning, as well as by experiment. A theory of this kind has been proposed by a very intelligent man, who is a close observer of cause and effect, in whose hands the peach wood rod works well. It has been long known that the human frame is a good conductor of electricity; and since the discoveries in animal magnetism, which is but a modification of electricity, many new facts have been elicited. The body of the diviner or rodsman, then, makes a good conductor between the electricity of the atmosphere and the earth; while the peach twig in his hands answers to the points of the iron lightning rod. With these premises, the following theory is proposed, until a better can be found: -- "The ocean is constantly in a state of negative electricity -- of course the rivers emptying into it will be in a similar state, with their tributary rivulets and springs; as will also the still smaller veins ramifying beneath the surface of the ground. The layers of earth and rocks above these streams of water, are comparatively bad conductors, and therefore something like the coating of a Leyden jar. The atmosphere being in a positive state, and its electricity influenced by the negative condition of the streams, will be collected over them, as they are passing under the ground. The rod being made of a wood very sensitive to electricity, as it is borne over the surface its motion is produced by the extra charge of electricity in the air, above the places where water may be found." Assuming this as the true principle on which the action of the rod is to be explained, the exact depth to the water may also be calculated. It is a known fact, that the lightning rod will only protect a surface equal in extent to the base line of an angle of forty-five degrees from its top. The higher the rod, the longer the base line, and the broader the surface protected. If this surface were given, the height of the rod might be calculated, since you would then have one side given, and all the angles of a triangle to find one of the remaining sides. Imagine the rod reversed, and the principle will be the same. Measure the ground over which the electrical influence is exerted on the water rod, and this will answer to the surface protected by the lightning rod. By a similar calculation, the length or depth of the perpendicular line from the surface of the earth to the water, may be ascertained.

These preliminary facts having been duly set forth, we may now proceed to narrate the adventures of "An Old Rodsman;" which, however marvellous and apocryphal they may seem in the eyes of some people, are nevertheless the legitimate offspring of truth. For the better understanding of the character of the man, who will be designated by the name of "the Commodore," which he acquired from his life on the water as commander of various boats, with the origin of many of his peculiar views and turn of mind, it will be proper to give a brief history of his birth and parentage. He was born in August, 1775, at Westport, a small village on the southerly coast of Massachusetts, near the line of Rhode Island. The old Indian name of the place was Peckicheck. The early navigators of this region, from the intricacy of the harbour, being at the bottom of a deep narrow inlet, guarded outside, and beset within, by clusters of rocks -- called, from fancied resemblances, "the old cock," "hen and chickens," "sow and pigs," &c., requiring both skill and patience to

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enter it safely -- christened it with the name of "the devil's pocket hole." The father of "the Commodore" was a descendant of the early settlers of Plymouth, and originally from Wales, a land of sight-seers and believers in the divining rod. The region which gave him birth was prolific in witch stories, and all along the coast abounded in legends of pots and chests of money secreted by the pirates, who once infested these seas, amongst which the names of Captain Kidd and Captain Low were pre-eminent. His maternal grandfather had in his possession a musty old manuscript, describing the location where some of these pots of treasure were hid, given him by Captain Low, who died at his house, and finally fell into the hands of "the Commodore," kindling in his youthful mind an insatiable desire for the discovery of hidden wealth, that time could never extinguish. During the summer months, his father carried on ship and boat building, at which his son also worked. While quite a boy, he sometimes accompanied the fishermen, who in their small coasters plied their trade off the shoals of Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard, in quest of mackerel and other fishes, which greatly abound in those waters. When some years older, in the winter months, he went before the mast in the small schooners of seventy or eighty tons, which traded to the West Indies, in various articles of produce and other "Yankee notions;" bringing back sugar, salt, Jamaica rum, and especially molasses, without which no family could live comfortably. These early piscatory "employments and occupations on and about the ocean, begat in him a love for the water, whether salt or fresh, that never left him. When twenty-two years old, having become "his own man," he left his father's house, the "devil's pocket hole," with all the cherished scenes of childhood, and emigrated to the town of Sidney, on the Kennebec river. Here he followed his favorite pursuits; fishing for salmon, shad, and herrings, in the river during the spring months, and the rest of the season pursued he finny race in a small coaster, off the island of St. John's and the mouth of the St. Lawrence; returning through the Gut of Canso, selling the produce of their fare at Boston. This occupied three or four of the summer months. These voyages sometimes led him so far north, that the nights were only an hour long. Many of the rocks and islands abounded in sea fowl; and when tired of fishing, thousands of these birds were killed by the men, with their long fowling pieces, for their feathers. One of these guns was brought by "the Commodore," in afterlife, to Ohio; and many a black and brown duck was shot by him on the waters of the "Belle rivere."

At twenty-three, he married a young woman from his native place, who had either preceded or followed him to the Kennebec. With her he lived many years happily, and raised a family of six children.

During his residence here, he made a winter voyage to the West Indies, with lumber. In this he suffered great hardships from a storm of five days continuance. The cold was so intense as to freeze the spray to their clothes and rigging, and he narrowly escaped shipwreck. No event in the mariner's life is more trying than a storm of snow and wind, off our eastern coast, in the winter. His only safety is in running out to sea till he meets the gulf stream, which is providentially stretched along the whole length of our shores, and with its bland atmosphere and tropical warmth of water, soon melts the ice from the decks and rigging -- transporting the famished sailor, in a few hours, from the chilling winds of winter, to the mild breezes of summer. But for this blessed stream,

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many additional shipwrecks would darken our now long calendar of marine disasters.

It was during his residence here that "the Commodore" made his first attempt to find some of the buried treasures of the buccaneers. The bays, inlets, and islands near the mouth of the Kennebec, were favorite resting places for the pirates, in the early settlement of Maine. The bold, deep waters, along the outlet of this stream, affording the finest careening grounds for the cleansing of their ships' bottoms, and repairing of damages. The forest furnished timber for masts and spars, while the unsettled and remote position of the country allowed them to remain here for weeks unmolested. Captain Kidd, the most noted of these freebooters, with Bradish, and a number of his men, had been taken prisoners at Boston in 1669, sent to England, and hanged, affording them no opportunity of reclaiming the buried treasure themselves; so that the inference was fair, if they had actually hidden money in the sand, as there was every reason to believe, it must be there still. The ancient certificate of his grandfather was brought forth from the "till" of the old seachest, where it had long been carefully concealed; and conned over with deep interest. It was written in a cramped, stiff hand; many words nearly illegible from the fading of the ink, and other casualties. Enough, however, could be made out to ascertain that it was somewhere on the shores of the Sheepscott Bay, with several of the landmarks where it was hid; while the potency of the mineral rod, it was thought, would overcome the remaining obscurities. Accordingly he associated two other men with himself, and sent to Connecticut for a far-famed and wonderfully skillful rodsman, who agreed to come and make the trial for thirty dollars. This sum was made up among them. Having shipped a store of provisions on board said boat, with spades and crowbars, they started for the place. After spending two days in digging holes in the sand, at the places indicated by the mineral rod, which they thought came nearest to the location noted in the pirate's certificate, without any success, they reluctantly gave up the search. A number of the landmarks were readily found; such as "a large rock," "scrubby oak," &c., bearing thus and so; but they were sorely puzzled to find out the meaning of the phrase, "Brandy-way"!! -- Could they, have decyphered the hidden import of this mysterious word, "the Commodore" always thought the pot of money would have been found.

A few years after this time, it is said, that a man whom no one knew, came and took lodgings at an obscure tavern in Wiscasset. He was a rough, stout, sea-faring personage, who had lost one eye -- his face was much seamed with scars and the marks of the small-pox. On the beach, near the mouth of the Sheepscot, is a large rock, with the figure of a cross rudely cut on its face. He was seen one day with a compass and chain, to take his departure from that rock, and after measuring off so many yards, to stop, and run a line at right angles with this, a certain distance, where he drove down a stake. The next day a hole, several feet deep, was found where he planted the stake, and at the bottom the impression of a pot was distinctly marked in the earth. He was never seen again after that night: and the believers in hidden treasures all said there was no doubt, that the man was a descendant of the pirates, and had come into possession of one of their old certificates, describing the place where the money had been buried, and had thus been

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able to find it. "The Commodore" being unwilling to abandon the project after so much expense and preparation, persuaded his companions to visit a noted spot for hidden money in Portland harbor, called "Jewel's Island;" whether so named from the treasure there reputed to be buried, or from some man, is unknown. This island was a famous place in the early settlement of Portland, or Falmouth, as it was formerly called, for combats between the whites and the Indians, and many of the slain had been buried there. Some of the earlier diggers for money, it was said, had sometimes been grievously disappointed in their hopes, in excavating a chest of the hidden treasure, and on breaking it open, to find it filled with dust and dead men's bones, instead of silver and gold. The party having arrived at the island in the afternoon, postponed their operations till night; after digging holes in various places pointed out by the rodsman till they were all heartily tired, they gave up the search at day-light. The island is ten miles from Portland, and as some little consolation, and proof of his faith in the virtue of the mineral rod, "The Commodore" was heard to say, many years after, that it was powerfully attracted towards the Portland Bank, whose vaults contained a large amount of silver. His belief was, that he failed in finding the treasure not from any fault in the rod, but from the malevolence of the devil, or evil spirit, who was put in charge of the money by the pirates; and was thus inducted into the office of "keeper," by the blood of some man, or animal, killed on the spot, and poured into the pit. This is but a sample of the thousand and one attempts that have been made by the honest, credulous people on the seashores of New-England, to find the money hidden in the sand -- scarcely a mile of coast, from the mouth of the Connecticut to Penobscot, but has its legends of the feats of Capt. Kidd, and stories of pots of money, some of which may have possibly been found, and led to a never-ending desire of still further search, until the beach in many places abounds in excavations, like those of the gold regions of California.

"The Commodore" spent sixteen years on the Kennebec; where, having added much to his experience, and little to his worldly wealth, he concluded to pack up and move inland. The war with Great Britain had destroyed the coasting trade and fisheries, as well as foreign commerce, leaving many honest men without the means of supporting their families. In the year 1813, he transported his wife and children across the States of New-Hampshire and Vermont, to the town of Palmyra, in New-York. Here he passed a year in cultivating the earth. The following year he moved over into the vicinity of Sacket's Harbour, and was in the neighborhood of many stirring events that took place there during the war; but it is not known that he was in any action. Peace was declared between the hostile nations in 1815, and the country being exhausted and poor from the drain and expenses of the war, "The Commodore" decided on moving farther west, where land was cheap, and food abundant. In the Spring of 1816 he packed his wife and little ones, with all his worldly goods, into a two-horse wagon, and traveled across the country to Olean, a village on the head waters of the Alleghany river, within the State of New-York, and a noted place for emigrants moving to the west, to take boats for the country below. Here he sold his horses and purchased a large canoe, or perogue. The water being his favorite element, he felt himself more at ease than for a long time before; and in a few days transported himself and family to the mouth of the Muskingum,

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where he landed in June. Marietta was then a small village, and, with other portions of the country, had suffered much from the war by the stagnation of business and depression of trade. What little money he possessed at the commencement of the journey, was now expended; and he was penniless amongst strangers. In a land like ours, where provisions are cheap and labor dear, no man who has a mind to work need starve. "The Commodore" was both industrious and ingenious; he could turn his hand to anything that promised an honest livelihood. On a river of the magnitude of the Ohio, boats are in constant demand, and he applied his knowledge in. that handicraft to good use, earning daily more than sufficient for the family use. Being a master of water-craft, he was soon employed to act as ferryman across the Muskingum river, between the towns of Marietta and Fort Harmer. It was an important and profitable thoroughfare, the avails of which in the course of a year enabled him to act for himself.

It was not until the year 1820, that steam-boats had come into use for the transport of merchandise and provisions, on the Ohio river -- as early as 1816 one or two had been built, but their labors were confined to the Mississippi and the river below the Falls of Ohio -- all the freighting for many years was done by flats, barges, and keel-boats, forced up stream against the current by setting poles, and the muscular power of man. From one dollar to a dollar and a-half per hundred was the usual price for the transport of goods from Pittsburgh to Cincinnati. It was a lucrative business, and many snug fortunes were made by the industrious and prudent boatmen of that day.

"The Commodore" was not slow to see the advantages of this inland commerce; and hauling his long Alleghany canoe on shore, he sawed her in two from stem to stern, and with the pieces made the gunwales of a flat-bottomed boat, about fifty feet long and eight wide. This he covered with a roof like a keel boat, making a staunch and sea-worthy craft, of eight or ten tons burthen. He was now in the way to independence, if not to wealth. His oldest boy was taught to act as helmsman, and with the assistance of two hired hands, the little "Rising Sun" was pushed up to Pittsburgh. His honesty and punctuality soon brought him into the favorable notice of the merchants; and for a number of years during the summer and autumn, the "Rising Sun" had constant employment. Wealth, the honest gains of industry, flowed in a moderate but steady stream, so that he was able to buy a town lot and erect a comfortable dwelling-house. In a few years, a tract of one hundred and sixty acres near town was added to his gains, on which he proposed to retire in his old age. In their night encampments, on the heads of islands and along the shores of the river, "The Commodore," often entertained the boatmen with stories of his early adventures on the coast of New-England; his faith in the mineral rod, and the burying of pots of money by the pirates. They, in return, would rehearse accounts of mines of silver and lead in the hills, worked in early days by the Spaniards or Indians, and boxes of money buried in the mounds, or on the heads of islands, by emigrants on the river, when hard pushed by the hostile savages. These soon aroused the dormant passion of hunting for hidden treasures, as well as the mines of precious metals; to find which it was necessary to be provided with a rod, constructed by some one versed in the true principles of the art. It was not long before he met with such a man, in the person of

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an old German Hessian, who said he had spent many years in Mexico; and from the Spaniards, familiar with minerals of all kinds, had learned to make the most approved mineral rods. Under his direction, one was fabricated about the year 1824. The tip of a young heifer's horn was filled with quicksilver, oil of amber, and dragon's blood. Two slender branches of whalebone, about eighteen inches long, were securely fastened into the small end of the horn; the free extremities of which being/ scientifically held in the hands of the rodsman, was now ready for use. This rod "The Commodore" carried constantly with him in his voyages; and by frequent practice in the adjacent hills, in search of mines, became a great adept in this mysterious art. He also procured, as a great and valuable secret, from the same old German, the manner of overcoming the "spell," or charm, laid upon the mines in the valley of the Ohio, by the Spaniards, when they were forced to leave the country, to prevent their being found by their enemies, called by the old German, "the single and double Spanish cross." This was a common belief among the old mineral hunters of the West. It was done by drawing a circle on the surface of the ground round the spot, so large that the earth thrown out of the hole should not roll over the ring -- nine new nails were then dropped into the ring at equal distances; while the operator, reading the chapter in the Apocrypha, where the angel Raphael exorcises the devil, walked round the circle with the course of the sun. This, he asserted from experience, would entirely overcome the charm of "the Spanish cross," and the mine be brought to light. The "spell" was put on the mine it seems in the same way that the pirates put theirs on their buried treasures, by the shedding of blood; and was probably a legend obtained from some of their prisoners, in their bucaneering cruises on the Spanish main, and from them transmitted to the credulous descendants of the puritans. There is some ground for the belief of the discovery and occupation of mines by the Spaniards, or some other people, in this part of the valley, at a remote period. On the waters of Duck Creek, fifteen or twenty miles north of Marietta, the ruins of a number of old furnaces have been discovered. The walls were built of stone and the hearths of clay. They are generally erected on the slope of a hill side, somewhat in the manner of the early lead furnaces in Missouri; so that the current of air drawn through them by the heat, made a sufficient blast for the melting of ores. In some of them stove coal was used, shown by the cinders of that combustible still remaining on the hearth. They are so ancient that large forest trees have grown over and on them. The writer of this article assisted in opening one of them, but was unable to determine what kind of ore had been smelted. The bed of an adjacent river was full of a rich pyrites ore, and might have been the article worked. In that vicinity, a large number of these furnaces were discovered on clearing and cultivating the land; which, in the eyes of the simple-hearted people, was ample proof of rich mines in that vicinity.





The first trial of the powers of the new mineral rod, was made on the coffers of a man who lived a few rods from "the Commodore," and was thought to have a considerable sum of specie in his house. It was strongly attracted that way, and the operator said there must be a large amount to draw it so powerfully. The man being credulous, and easily alarmed, and happening to have three or four hundred silver dollars in his house, complained loudly of "the Commodore," as exposing him to be robbed, and immediately deposited his money, for safe-keeping, in the bank. This highly gratified the old rodsman, and established both his character and his faith in the use of the rod.

In the course of his various voyages up and down the Ohio, he became acquainted with a boatman, named John Steel, whose father was intimate with a man that had been taken prisoner by the Indians from near "Red Stone, Old Fort;" who, in their return, passed down the waters of Grave Creek. At their encampment, one of the Indians, after a short absence, returned with a deer skin full of lead ore, yet dripping with water, which they melted into bullets. He said it was only a l=few miles from the mouth of the creek, and that the Indians had covered the opening in the bed of the stream, from which the ore was taken, with a flat stone. This story he had often related to his son. "The Commodore" tried to persuade him to go with him in search of it, believing that if he could arrive anywhere in the vicinity of the mine, he could find it with

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his rod. After several applications to Steel, he finally consented to come to Manilla and make the trial. Accordingly, in September, 1828, they left home in a canoe, accompanied by B. Devoe, a good judge of ores, and a thorough proficient in the mysterious science of alchimy, at which he had experimented for several years, with a stock of meal and bread for a two weeks' tour. After reaching the mouth of Grave Creek, seventy miles above the outlet of Muskingum, they pushed up it to the for us. Here Steel was unable to decide whether his father had said the mine was on the right or the left hand branch. "The Commodore" answered that it was of no consequence, as he could decide it with his rod; he having for some time past referred all doubtful questions to the superior intelligence of this talisman with satisfactory results. Stepping ashore, on to the point of land between the forks, he set, and flourished the instrument, in the true scientific manner, when it pointed towards the left hand branch. Up this they therefore marched, with their tools and baggage, leaving the canoe at the shore; the water being too low for further navigation. After spending two days in examining the borders and bed of the creek, with the ravines and branches, for ten or fifteen miles up, without finding the mine, they began to think they had either taken the wrong branch, or that some slip in the banks had covered it up. While debating the matter, and while Devoe was engaged in pulling out great lumps of iron ore, with his mattock, which filled the hill sides, it so happened that the land surveyor of the county was running a line near them, and found the party at their researches. After the usual salutations, and seeing they were strangers, he inquired the cause of their visit and business in this remote place. "The Commodore" frankly told him they were searching for a lead mine he had heard of in that neighborhood, and that he expected to find it with his mineral rod. * The surveyor had heard of their wonderful powers in finding lost mines and other articles, but expressed his doubts of its truth, and told "the Commodore," that if he could find some curious stone monuments that were in that vicinity, he would have full faith in their virtue, and feast him and his company at his house, not far distant, as long as they would stay. "Enough said," replied the old rodsman; "I will give it a try." So putting the rod in order, and raising it to a perpendicular, on a level with his head, he turned round on his feet to each point of the compass, watching carefully in what direction it leaned. After repeating this movement two or three times to his satisfaction, and finding it moved towards a certain direction each time, he lowered the instrument and started off in the course pointed out; the surveyor and Devoe a few rods behind, with Steel and the chain carriers close at his heels. The man looked at Devoe with a smile, as much as to say, he is on the right course. After going about two hundred yards, he stopped and again set the rod, to be sure that he had not deviated from the right line. When he had started again, the surveyor said to Devoe, "Has he ever been here before?" He answered, "No, he thought he never had." "Well," said he, "the course he is now on is as direct as I could lay it with my compass." When they had travelled about three miles, or

* It is a well known law in geology, that lead and iron are not found in the same formations; so that no fault could be attributed to the rod for not finding what did not exist.

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within a quarter of a mile of the monuments, "the Commodore" stopped, and said "We are within a short distance of them, as I know by the trembling of the rod." The whole course was in the woods,- which, here, was full of underbrush, and the progress slow, occupying about an hour and a half in accomplishing it. The surveyor was greatly astonished, and said to Devoe, "Is your old friend a witch or a wizard?" "He comes very nigh to one," was the reply. It so happened, that the monuments were on the man's farm, and as they approached a field which lay across the line of attraction, "the Commodore" pointed out the course, and said, "They are over yonder, near the foot of that rise." As they deviated round the corner of the fence, instead of crossing the lot, they soon came up to them. They proved to be a cluster of flat stones, four in number, set in the earth; about two feet wide, three or four inches thick, and from six to eight feet high. Some of them were partly fallen, and stood leaning considerably from a perpendicular. The largest, and one the next in size, had a number of curious characters, or "Harlogriffigs," as "the Commodore" called them in relating the story, cut on their faces. The most of them were much weather-worn and indistinct. "What they imported, no one knew. The history of their origin was equally obscure, as they had been found there when this part of the country was first settled, about the year 1773. The surveyor then said he should like to know by what people they had been erected, but did not suppose that would ever be discovered. Much elated with his success so far, the old man replied, "If anybody can do it, I can, and will consult the rod in this matter." "When inquiries were to be made as to the discovery of anything but minerals, such as stray animals, stolen goods, &c, his course of procedure was to swear the rod. It may seem to some people to be irreverent, if not blasphemous; but by those who knew the man, it was thought he did it in sincerity, and a confident belief in the virtue of the rod; which he supposed must be indued with some supernatural power, or it could not make such strange discoveries. Having uncovered his bald head, he raised the talisman before him, and looking reverently upwards, administered in a solemn tone the usual form of an oath; directing it to tell him the truth to such questions as he should ask, in relation to these monuments. He then inquired whether the French, the Spaniards, the English, the Dutch, the Romans, End several other nations, had erected them; to all which the rod remained immovable. Finally he asked if it was the Welsh, or the same people who had built the mounds. To this it gave a gentle nod, which the rodsman knew, from former trials, meant yes.

A few years after this curious adventure, the great mound near the mouth of Grave Creek, was opened and carefully explored. Amongst many other singular relics of that ancient people who erected it, was found in one of the vaults, a small flat stone, covered on one side with characters and letters of the old Saxon and Welsh languages; a full description of which, with a fac simile of the relic, was given by Mr. Schoolcraft, and published in the transactions of the Ethnological Society, in New-York; thus confirming the sagacity of "the Commodore" and his talismanic rod. The surveyor intimated a desire to know how long it was since the erection of these monuments? The same ceremonies were again performed, and various periods of time named, until the answer was, "fifteen hundred years before the discovery of America

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by Columbus;" which is probably about (he actual time of the building of the earth-works in the valley of the Ohio; as is partly confirmed by the age of the immense trees found growing on these ruins, when first noticed by the whites. The ceremonies here terminated, much to the wonder and astonishment of all present, even to the old rodsman himself, who never before had witnessed so plain a demonstration of the marvellous powers of the divining rod. The exploring party was liberally and freely feasted for that day and following night at the man's house, which stood not far from the monuments. While here, "the Commodore" regaled his host with many wonderful tales of his discoveries and adventures. He was very anxious to learn the art of making them; and said he would come down to his house fur that purpose, and pay any price he would in reason demand. He accompanied the party the next day, by a shorter route than the one by which they ascended the creek, to their canoe, and from thence to the mouth. They left here on their way home, about sunset. Two or three miles below, in "the narrows," is a huge rock, which had tumbled out of the cliffs above, and lies at the edge of the water, called "Kate's Rock." It is a spot well known to all the old keel-boat-men as a difficult, pass in ascending the Ohio, from the strong current around the base of the rock. Somewhere on the opposite, or Ohio shore of the river, on the second bottom, are several small mounds, in one of which was buried an iron pot full of silver and gold; deposited there many years ago by two foreigners, who were on their way to Kentucky in the early settlement of that country to purchase lands. As they descended the Ohio in a canoe, with a frontier's-man as a pilot, a little below "Kate's Rock" they discovered a large party of Indians crossing the river on rafts and bark canoes; they hastened to the opposite shore, and taking out their money, blankets, and iron pot for cooking, fled into the woods. The money being heavy, a thousand or two dollars, they concluded to bury it in a small mound they found near the base of the hills, as a spot more readily recognized. They dug a hole, and placing in it the pot, covered it with a flat stone, over which they threw earth and leaves. Fearing to proceed on their voyage, or return to the canoe, they travelled back to Wheeling, and ascended the river to Fort Pitt. On their route up they again met a party of Indians, and two of their number were killed; the pilot and one of the Englishmen. This so disheartened and alarmed the remaining one, that he re-crossed the mountains and went home to England. The fact of the buried money was known to only one or two persons; one of these, an early settler of Kentucky, it seems, had met the Englishman when on his way back, and learnt these particulars. "The Commodore" in one of his voyages down the river had met with this man, and got from him a certificate of the locality, who was to receive one-half of the treasure if found, and the old rodsman the other. He had tried several times before this to find it in his trips, but being generally in haste, the land cleared of the forest trees, and the people about, he could not make a fair trial without being seen. It was now night, and a favorable time for such an adventure; so taking Steel with him to carry the tools, and leaving Devoe in charge of the canoe, he elevated the rod, and started off in the direction of the mounds. In about two hours he returned, in a very ill humor, and reported that he found the mound very readily, and after digging a few feet he came to the flat stone over the pot, when Steel involuntarily cried out.

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"By the Lord we have got it!" when instantly, with a low rumbling sound, it settled down out of sight. It is said such searches must always be conducted in silence, as the sound of the human voice irritates the evil spirit who has charge of hidden treasures, and they vanish away. It is, however, by no means certain that the flat stone was the one which covered the pot, for nearly all mounds have more or less flat stones in their bases, placed there by their builders, to inclose the dead body, before heaping up the mound. Raccoons and ground hogs often burrow in the mounds, and the stone most probably sunk into an excavation of this kind. The night being light and pleasant, the party entered the canoe and floated homeward, where they arrived the next day, much improved in their stock of experience, but none in their worldly wealth. "The Commodore" now for several years applied diligently to his calling of transporting merchandise up and down the river; occasionally during the winter months making short excursions into the adjacent regions in search of lead mines, which were said to have been worked by the friendly Indians when they visited this part of Ohio, and spent a winter in hunting at the commencement of the war in 1813, to avoid the tribes hostile to the Americans. Pieces of lead ore, of one or two pounds weight, are sometimes picked upon the surface of the earth, probably scattered there by the aborigines, and brought from Kentucky or Illinois, the nearest known lead mines. These always awakened curiosity, and were counted as certain evidences of lead mines in the vicinity. Lead, however, is never found in a region abounding in argillaceous iron ores, stone coal and sandstone; but in an older formation of limestone is found the true lead-bearing rock. He used at other times to display the powers of this wonderful rod in discovering lost articles. A man consulted him, who had lost a trunk in landing from a steam-boat, by the upsetting of the skiff in the dark. "The Commodore" told hiin that it was taken up by a person who lived on "Goose Island," near the head of Letart Falls, about forty miles below; that there was some money in the trunk as well as clothing, but the finder was an honest man, and he would get it again. He went down and found it as predicted. His friend Devoe once lost a large flat-boat in the night, by a sudden rise in the river; he applied to the old rodsman, who, after due consultation with his talisman, told him it was taken up at a wood-yard, eight miles below the mouth of the Muskingum, about daylight that morning. By inquiry of the mail-carrier, he ascertained that such a boat was there; and on going for it, the man told him that he took it up about daylight, confirming the truth of the diviner. Being constantly on, or about the river, and knowing when the rise of water took place, he could easily calculate the time required for the current to float a boat eight miles, and thus make a near estimate of the place it would reach at daylight. The' keeper of the wood-yard being on the look out for drift prizes, at all sudden rises of the water, would be early up, and probably take Devoe's floating craft at daybreak; so that in his responses, like the priests of the oracle at Delphos, of old, he was aided by a combination of circumstances, which a shrewd mind could turn to account. His talismanic oracle, however, was never ambiguous like theirs; but always gave a plain answer. He undertook no other great mineral achievement, after the adventure at Grave Creek, until the autumn of the year 1834. The man Steel, who had put him on the track of the lead mine, had

322.                        History of the Divining Rod.                        [April,

since been occasionally employed by "the Commodore" in his boating business, although his home was somewhere below Gallipolis. During the long nights of autumn, after the day's work was done, and the evening meal over, it was customary for him to converse on the subject uppermost in his mind -- the existence of rich mines of the precious metals. Amongst other localities which Steel named, as affording silver ore, was the region of country on the headwaters of the Big Sandy and the Clinch rivers, in the Cumberland mountains, on the borders of Tennessee and North Carolina -- where his father had formerly lived -- fifteen miles above the "Boat-yard," in the bounds of the former state. He had assisted in digging the ore, and melted out pure silver; a small bar of which he once had in his possession, and sold to a silver-smith in Cincinnati. For thirty or forty years the region on the head of the Big Sandy had been the head-quarters of a gang of counterfeiters, celebrated for making silver coin, it was pretended, from rich silver mines, known only to themselves. Like the noted bands of rogues in London, who are designated by some cant phrase, these mountain bandits were known all over that region by the name of "Cogniacs:" and the half-dollars, which they chiefly coined, were called "Cogniac dollars." A regular trade was carried on between them, the horse thieves, and other western rogues, in this money, one hundred dollars of these pieces being exchanged for fifty of real silver. They are so well executed that thousands of them are in general circulation, and oftentimes taken in and paid out at the banks as genuine coin. The body of the piece is copper, whitened by arsenic, and coated over with a thin layer of silver; so that a simple examination with a file or a knife does not detect the cheat, and is only discovered by a chemical process. These bands, though often ferreted out by the strong arm of the law, yet again return to their old haunts in the dens and caves of the mountains. This account of the silver mines in that remote region, awakened in "the Commodore" a vehement desire to visit them; as, by the aid of his mineral rod, he felt assured he could select the richest of the veins and appropriate the treasure to his own use. Steel having consented to go with him, they, in September, 1834, started on the journey with two horses, both of which were blind -- and for this reason cheap -- and could not stray far away from their night encampments. The distance was about four hundred miles -- the larger portion of which was through a mountainous and wilderness region, very sparsely inhabited. He took with him fifteen dollars in money, some provisions, and two pair of stout leather portmanteaux, for their baggage, and to bring back the silver ore. Passing down the Ohio river, to the mouth of the Little Kenawha, he struck out southerly across the country, following an old Indian trail, used since by the salt dealers, in their early journies with pack horses, to the salt works above Charleston, on the Big Kenawha, and came out on to that river at the mouth of Elk, distant about ninety miles from his home. After crossing the Kenawha, he passed up Little Coaly, a large branch of the latter river, to near its head, and thence travelled over a very mountainous country to Logan County Court House, on the Guyandotte river. The head waters of this river and the Big Sandy interlock with the Clinch, a branch of the Tennessee, in the "White Top Mountains," belonging to the Cumberland range. In their passage to the Ohio river, these streams traverse the most wild and picturesque region

1850.]                         History of the Divining Rod.                         323

to be found in Western Virginia; abounding in immense hills of sand rocks, cut into deep ravines by the water-courses, containing caverns of various sizes and extent. It was formerly the most famous hunting ground for bears in all the country, and still contains many of these animals. This region is the paradise of bears; affording their most favorite food in exhaustless abundance, as well as safe retreats for their winter dormitories, in its numerous caves. He is not strictly a carnivorous animal; but like the hog, feeds chiefly on vegetable food. The ridges are covered with whole forests of chestnuts, and the hill sides clothed with oaks, on whose fruits they luxuriate and fatten, until their glossy hides afford the finest of peltry, and their flesh the richest and most palatable food. About forty-five years ago, when the wars of Europe had increased the demand for their skins, from six to eight thousand of these animals were killed in one year. For the last thirty years, the attention of the sojourners of these wild regions has been turned to the gathering of the roots of the ginseng, (panax quinquefolia.) This beautiful plant grows with great luxuriance, and in the most wonderful abundance, in the rich virgin soil of the hill and mountain sides. For a long period of time, the forests have afforded a supply of many thousand pounds annually, to the traders stationed at remote points along the watercourses. No part of America, east of the Mississippi, furnishes a more stately growth of forest trees; embracing all the species of the climate. The lofty liriodendron, or yellow poplar, attains the height of eighty or a hundred feet without a limb; having a shaft of from four to six feet in diameter. The white and black oak are its rivals in size. Immense magnolias, of the variety acuminata, tower aloft to an altitude uncommon in any other region, while their more humble relatives, the tripelala and mycrophylla, flourish in great beauty by their sides. It may be considered the storehouse for building future cities on the Ohio, when the prolific pines of the Alleghany river are exhausted. In addition to all these vegetable riches, the hills are full of fine beds of bituminous coal and argillaceous iron ores. Lower down, on the Big Sandy, is a bed of nice cannel coal, and deeper in the earth copious fountains of saline water, from which salt is made. Inflammable, or carburetled hydrogen gas bursts from the ground in several places along the margin of the river, and when discharged through a pool, or spring of water, it is called "a burning spring." Some of these are so copious that, when ignited, they will boil the meat in the camp kettles of the hunters. More recently, at the salines on the Big Kenawha, where wells have been sunk to the depth of fifteen hundred feet in search of stronger brine, so abundant is the flow of gas, that it is used at several furnaces in the manufacture of salt; thus saving much labor and expense in fuel. The inhabitants of this secluded mountain country, cut off from all intercourse with the rest of the world, are as primitive in their dress and manners as the hills around them. Their clothes are chiefly fabricated from the dressed skins of the deer; as well the women as the men. This article is well adapted to their occupation of digging "sang roots," and traversing the woods in quest of game; which affords much of their animal food. Mounted astride, on the back of a little pony, on top of a huge bag of roots, the women were hardly to be distinguished from the men. Huts, covered with bark, were erected in the most productive localities for ginseng; and the months of August and September, when the plant is in

324.                        History of the Divining Rod.                        [April,

perfection, were spent in its collection. A little corn meal, made on large tin graters, and baked into cakes in the embers, with some soar milk and jerked meat, constituted their food. Their code of morals was as rude and aboriginal as their diet. The men often exchanged their wives with each other, giving or taking some article as the difference in value; and sometimes sold them outright for a desirable horse or a fine rifle gun. Amongst these wild denizens of the mountains, "the Commodore" journeyed for nearly a week at free cost, as none of them could change a five dollar bill, and he had no silver money with him. Sometimes the narrow horse-path led through gorges, cut by the mountain torrents, so deep that the sunshine only reached them for a few hours in the middle of the day; and at others ascended amongst loose rocks to the tops of the ridges, one or two thousand feet high, affording a wild, and almost boundless sweep to the eye, over the forests of the mountain ranges. Along the water-courses the inhabitants cultivated small patches of Indian corn and potatoes, and having generally a cow or two, he could get milk and corn-bread with a little meat. They were kind and hospitable to strangers, travellers being seldom seen amongst them, and charged little or nothing for the food of either man or beast. Wherever he went, his main conversation was about silver mines and mineral rods; and so interesting and wonderful was it to the minds of these simple people, that any lodging or food they could furnish him was hardly an equivalent for the entertainment afforded them by his stories, which were heard with wonder and astonishment. As he approached the vicinity of the mineral region, the rocks changed from sand-stones to a transition and primitive character. Fragments of slate, quartz and chert, were scattered on the surface of the earth; and on the heads of the Holstein, the prevailing rock in the mountains was granite. In the Roane and Smoky Mountain ranges, by the measurement of Professor Troost. in his geology of Tennessee, the highest peaks in this quarter attain an altitude of seven thousand feet; towering above any other mountains in the United States east of the Mississippi river. His route led him by the falls of the Clinch, in Russel county, Virginia, where he visited a large bed of the red oxide of iron ore, which "the Commodore" mistook for cobalt -- not being much skilled in the true character of minerals -- and brought back a few small pieces for experiment.

The legends of rich minerals, in the mountain ranges which supply the head branches of the Tennessee river, on the borders of the States of North Carolina and Tennessee, are not entirely imaginary, for Professor Troost, in his exploration of this quarter, at a subsequent period, found several specimens of gold, silver, and lead ores, with an abundance of manganese, and magnetic iron in rich veins; so that this is truly an interesting and actual mineral region. Higher up, near the head of the Holstein, are extensive beds of Plaster of Paris, and deep in the earth vast deposits of mineral salt; specimens of which have been brought up by the auger in boring wells for salt water. At the falls of the Clinch river "the Commodore" met with an old man, a brother professor of the divining rod, the legs of whose instrument were made of brass wire, twisted spirally, rendering it very sensible to the slightest impressions. He passed a day with him, greatly to his edification; and ascertained from his experience and observations, many things in relation to the mines of that region, with the best route in approaching

1850.]                         History of the Divining Rod.                         325

them. About four days' travel from the falls brought him to "Copper Ridge," and near to the farm where his companion Steel was born and formerly lived.

The rod was now put in operation, and directed him to a place where the ground was filled with heavy lumps of brown ore, whose fracture was shining. The surface of the mineral was studded with protuberances, designated in the books as "mammillary;" aptly likened by "the Commodore" to a toad's back. This he had no doubt was the silver ore he had travelled so far to find, and felt highly elated at the success of his journey, fancying himself in a fair way to wealth and independence. To strengthen his faith, he here met with a man who had his saddle-bags loaded with lumps of a white looking metal, as large as goose eggs, which he said he had melted out himself from ore near there. He also saw the owner of an iron furnace near "Copper Ridge," who had melted a white metal from some ore he found in that vicinity. A large "loop" of it was brought to a red heat in the forge, and laid on the anvil to draw out into a bar. The first blow of the hammer shattered it into a thousand pieces, burning the faces and hands of the forgemen. "The Commodore" pronounced the metal to have been zinc, and not silver. To render the ore tight and as transportable as possible, they spent a day or two in roasting it in large log fires, and then selected the finest looking portions, breaking them up with hammers. Having filled their leather bags with about a hundred pounds each, as much as the horses could conveniently carry over the rough mountain roads, they turned their faces homewards, leading the animals by the bridle. In their journey back they came down the "Tug Fork" of the Sandy; which stream for about one hundred miles from the mouth, makes the boundary line between Kentucky and Virginia. This branch received the odd name of "Tug" from the following incident in the early history of the country:

In the year 1757, an expedition composed of four companies of soldiers, was fitted out by order of Governor Dinwiddie, of Virginia, to invade the Indian towns on the Sciota river. To avoid discovery they took an unfrequented route from New River, over on to the heads of the south branch of Sandy, instead of the usual course down the Big Kenawha. They proceeded along this fork until they came to the "burning spring," three or four days march from the Ohio. By this time their aalt provisions, brought out on pack horses, was exhausted. They here killed two buffaloes, and left their skins hanging on a tree near the spring. The party proceeded to the mouth of Sandy, but being out of food, and having received orders by a messenger from the governor to proceed no further, they returned. It was late in November when they arrived at the spring; hunger pressed them so hard, that the two buffalo skins were cut into strips or thongs, the hair singed off over the flames of the burning spring, and eaten by the men. From this circumstance, the south-east branchf of Sandy was ever after called the "Tug Fork," from the resemblance these thongs bore to those used in that day for traces or tugs in harness, by the backwoodsmen. "The Commodore" proceeded down the Sandy to the Ohio river, and then up that stream, on the Virginia shore, to the ferry opposite Gallipolis; the toll for crossing was twenty-five cents, being the last remnant of his money, obliging him to proceed the rest of his journey, sixty or seventy miles, on credit, the best way he could; and glad was he when the welcome sight of his own house met his eyes, after an absence of six weeks.

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Having rested his weary frame a few days, the next thing to be done was to devise a plan for smelting the silver ore At this time there was living with him, in a part of his house, a man who had considerable skill in metallurgy, having worked for several years at alchimy, the transmutation of metals, and the discovery of the "philosopher's stone." With his assistance and direction, a small furnace of bricks was erected in his chamber, and the flue conducted into the chimney. Here their operations could be carried on in secret, and not excite the curiosity of the neighbours. Large crucibles were procured, a quantity of the silver ore, with proper fluxes put in, and the strong blast of a small blacksmith's bellows applied to the furnace. Hour after hour the process of melting was watched with intense interest by the operators; but the metal refused to flow. A more vehement heat was now applied, and kept up for twenty-four hours, so obstinate and refractory was the ore, until the fire descending through the hearth of the furnace, began to ignite the wood of the chamber floor and sleepers on which it was built, and "the Commodore's" house narrowly escaped destruction. The furnace was then suffered to cool, as the obstinacy of the supposed silver ore had bid defiance to the skill of the alchimist. Doubts now began to arise as to its true character; and some of it was shown to a mineralogist, who had a cabinet of ores, for his opinion; he at once pronounced it to be "manganese," an ore much more refractory than iron, and in no way related to silver. It was a great mortification to the old rodsman, that after so much labor and expense, his silver ore should prove a worthless mineral. He sat down however, very quietly under the disappointment, attributing the mistake more to his own ignorance than to any defect in the virtue of the rod; and to the day of his death, was firm in the belief, that the region in the heads of the Holstein abounded in silver ore.


In person "the Commodore" was rather short, thick-set, and stout-built. He had a full, broad forehead, the mark of intellect, which early becoming bald, gave him quite a venerable aspect; small twinkling gray eyes, rather deep-set and tender from a slight chronic inflammation; features manly, with a frank, open expression of face, denoting a condition of mind ready to believe any tale that was related with apparent sincerity, however marvellous it might be; complexion sanguine, but tanned and weather beaten, from his exposure to great hardships both on the salt water and the fresh. The collar of his shirt was open both summer and winter; and his neck hardened by exposure to heat and cold, so as to bid defiance to coughs and catarrhs. In all cases of emergency he was forward, bold, and resolute; mounting, when sixty years old, the tallest ladders on to the roofs of burning buildings, and amidst the fire and smoke performing deeds of daring, that few younger men would think of attempting. In times of flood he was equally active; pushing his boat through the rushing waters under the windows of the deluged houses, and removing the inhabitants and their effects to places of safety, without fee or reward; deeming it a duty to aid and succor the distressed wherever he might meet them. He had a natural turn for physic, and was always ready with some certain remedy for any disease he happened to meet with in his intercourse with the

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sick; these were chiefly drawn from roots and plants in the woods. His most infallible medicine, however, was a large jug of "Hot stuff," as he called it, made from brandy, cayenne pepper and spices. This he always carried with him in his boating voyages, and applied inside and out, was a sure cure for nearly all the ailments of humanity. His political views were purely democratic; hating cordially all monopolies, banks and chartered privileges. In religious belief, although once a "Free-will Baptist," he was in his latter years a thorough Universalist; believing that all mankind would be finally saved, and however vile, made pure and holy. For bringing this about, he had a process peculiarly his own. He compared the soul of a vile man at death, to a puddle of fetid, putrid water. However putrid it might be, he said the particles of vapor which rose from it, were pure and sweet, forming the clouds and nice clear rainwater. Thus, he said, the souls of the wicked at death would be cleansed, and ascend to Heaven in a purified state.

Note 1: In his 1994 The Refiner's Fire, John L. Brooke says in following, on page 53:
"The story of Joseph Stafford brings us back to the "Old Rodsman" of the Ohio Valley. According to the account of his life in the "History of the Divining Rod," the Rodsman was born in 1775 in the Westport section of Dartmouth, Massachusetts, a neighborhood immediately adjacent to Tiverton on the east and known as the "devil's pocket hole" and "prolific in witch stories." The Rodsman emigrated first in 1797 to the town of Sydney in Kennebec County, Maine, and then in 1813 to western New York, arriving in Marietta, Ohio, in 1816. Research by Mormon historian Thomas L. Revere indicates that the Rodsman was a man named Stephen Davis, born in Westport in 1777. There were a number of Davises among the Seventh-Day Baptists in Rhode Island and New Jersey; as was the Rodsman they were descendants of Welsh immigrants. Davis was apparently related to Aron Davis, an early preacher in the Sixth Principle Baptist church attended by Joseph Stafford's brothers Abraham and David in the 1770s; the Keziah Davis for whom Stafford wrote a fortune in 1768 might have been an aunt or a cousin. And when the Rodsman moved west from Maine in 1813, his first stop was in Palmyra, New York, adjacent to Farmington, where David Stafford's son Joshua had settled around 1800, and adjacent to Manchester, where the Smith family would settle on Stafford Road."
Precisely how Stephen Davis was confirmed as being the "Old Rodsman" is not explained. Assuming that the identity is correct, Thomas L. Revere supplies the following additional information: On April 12, 1824 J. C. Bennett [in Marietta] witnessed a deed granting a 99 year lease to Augustus Stone from Samuel P. Hildreth as clerk of trustees. Samuel P. Hildreth subsequently sold land to Stephen Davis, witnessed by the same J. C. Bennett. Hildreth's preserved papers (located in Ohio Historical Society, Marietta College, & Univ. West Virginia) provide additional confirmation that Stephen Davis was the "Old Rodsman." His children: (1) Stephen Davis, Jr. [b. 1811, Augusta, Maine]; (2) James Davis [b. c. 1817, Marietta, Ohio]; (3) William A. Davis†[b. c. 1820, Marietta, Ohio]; (4) Patience Davis†[b. c. 1822, Marietta, Ohio]; (5) William Davis†[b. c. 1822, Marietta, Ohio]; (6) Daniel W. Davis†[b. c. 1825, Marietta, Ohio].

Note 2: Of his several children, only Stephen Davis, Jr. seems to have been old enough to have been involved in treasure divining and treasure hunts during the mid-1820s in Auburn Twp., Geauga Co., Ohio. Even if he followed in his father's rodsman's footsteps, Stephen Davis, Jr. would have only been about 14 or 15, when Sidney Rigdon was reportedly engaged in money-digging in the latter locality. Despite the Davis family's probable association with the Manchester Staffords, it appears unlikely that any of the children would have participated in treasure hunts in company with Gadius Stafford and/or Sidney Rigdon in Geauga County during the mid-1820s.

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(This article is still under construction)

"The Rodsmen"

By Anonymous

-- Author's Preface --

(This article is still under construction)

Historical Quotation

"The Rodsman." -- ... About 1800 one or two families in Rutland county, who had been considered respectable, and who had been Baptists, pretended to have been informed by the Almighty that they were the descendants of the Ancient jews, and were, with their connexions, to be put in possession of the land for some miles around; the way for which was to be providentially prepared by the destruction of their fellow townsmen... [They claimed] power to cure disease, and intuitive knowledge of lost or stolen goods, and ability to discover hidden treasures...

The leaders of the fraternity seeing the 'slow moving finger of scorn' pointed towards them from all their neighbors; and fearing, moreover, that the heavy hand of the law would fall on them for their misdeeds; -- disposed of their property and removed into the county of St. Lawrence [later Jefferson County], New York; where it is said something of their former delusion struck by them....

Vermont American,
Middlebury, Addison Co., VT
May 7, 1828.

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(This article is still under construction)

"The Rodsmen"

By Anonymous

-- Chapter Two --
"I Travel From the East to the West"

The Nathaniel Wood family members and their "Fraterntity of Rodsmen" associates did not remain in Vermont very long after the New Isrealite fiasco of 1802...

(This article is still under construction)

Historical Quotation

If we remember aright, it was in the year 1815, that a family of Smiths moved into these parts, and took up their abode in a miserable hut on the east bank of the river, now near the late David K. Carter's tavern. They had a wonderful son, of about 18 years of age, who, on a certain day, as they said, while in the road, discovered a round stone of the size of a man's fist, the which when he first saw it, presented to him on the one side, all the dazzling splendor of the sun in full blaze -- and on the other, the clearness of the moon. He fell down insensible at the sight, and while in the trance produced by the sudden and awful discovery, it was communicated to him that he was to become an oracle -- and the keys of mystery were put into his hands, and he saw the unsealing of the book of fate. He told his tale for MONEY. Numbers flocked to him to test his skill, and the first question among a certain class was, if there was any of Kidd's money hid in these parts in the earth. The oracle, after adjusting the stone in his hat, and looking in upon it sometime, pronounced that there was..."

"Imposition and Blasphemy!! -- MoneyDiggers, Etc."
The Gem of Literature and Science
(Rochester, Monroe, NY -- May 15, 1830)

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(This article is still under construction)

"The Rodsmen"

By Anonymous

-- Chapter Three --
"Spare the Rod and Spoil The Child"

By 1806 (when his daughter Sally was born) the "great rodsman" Alvah and his Sarah were comfortably settled in what was then the Ontario frontier of New York, just north of West Bloomfield Twp. (see Mendon on map #4). Within a year or two Alvah had moved to Bloomfield and in a subsequent removal he would settle his family just south of Bloomfield's neighboring town of Lima (see northeast corner of Livingston Co. on map #4).

It is not known exactly when Alvah (1775-1837) became a rodsman, but he may have had family connections in Vermont where those skills were attributed to the fathers of Joseph Smith, Jr. and Oliver Cowdery around the turn of the century. In 1848 a Warren H. Beaman (1813-c.1860) "of Tunbridge, Orange, VT" married Cynthia Cowdery (1823-c.1890) (also of Tunbridge) a second cousin of Oliver's and a somewhat more distant relative of Joseph Smith, Jr. It is possible that Alvah acquired his rodsman's skills either while living in Vermont himself, or from a family member who had been living there c. 1800-1802.

Warren H. Beaman's exact relationship to Alvah Beaman remains unclear, but they were probably cousins. Like Alvah, Warren probably eventually became a Mormon. His first son was named "Brigham Beaman" or "Brigham Cowdery Beaman." The LDS Church genealogical records show him as being related both to Oliver Cowdery and to Apostle Erastus Snow. Snow married Alvah Beaman's youngest daughter Artemisa (1819-1882) in 1838, three years before Joseph Smith made another of Beaman's daughter, Louisa (1815-1850), his second plural wife (the next after Lucinda Morgan, wife of the anti-Masonic martyr).

By 1810 Alvah had moved his growing family a few miles to the southwest, across the county line, to Livonia Twp., Livingston (then Genesee) Co., NY. The adjacent township on southwest of Livonia was Groveland, with Conesus Lake separating the two. Alvah remained in northeastern Livingston Co. until late in 1835 when he moved those members of his family who had become Mormons to Kirtland Ohio. During his stay in Livonia Alvah had some very interesting neighbors living just across the lake in Groveland. According to entries in a copy of a physician's and apothecary's ledger kept by Oliver Cowdery's brother Warren A. Cowdery (1788-1851), Warren and several of his siblings were living in the Groveland-Avon area as early as 1816. See footnotes #49 and #112 in Larry E. Morris' "Oliver Cowdery's Vermont Years," (BYUS 39:1 [spring 2000] pp. 106 ff.) for references to this "Warren Cowdery Ledger" at BYU's Lee Library in Provo, Utah. By consulting that ledger it is possible to document members of the Cowdery clan living about 5-10 miles from the Alvah Beaman family in the Groveland-Geneseo-Avon area between 1816 and 1826. Nor were Oliver's siblings the only Cowdery neighbors of the Beamans; the 1820 U.S. Census shows a John Cowdery at Conesus (then Freeport), Ontario Co., NY -- which is 3-6 miles immediately south of Livonia.

In 1829 Alvah pulled up stakes in Livonia and moved a few miles northwest to Avon. By the time the Beamans were settled in Avon the Cowderies had apparently left (what had been since 1821) Livingston County for new homes in places like LeRoy (Genesee Co., NY), Freedom-Famersville (Cattaraugus Co., NY) and Youngstown (Trumbull Co., OH). Alvah became acquainted with Joseph Smith, Jr. of Manchester, Ontario Co., NY at about the same time that Smith first went to Pennsylvania to supervise treasure-digging for Josiah Stowell. In fact, Alvah Beaman may well have accompanied Smith to the Great Bend of the Susquehanna and there applied his rodsman skills as a supplement to Smith's seer-stone diving of treasure sites.

If Alvah Beaman was living so close to the Cowderies prior to his joining Smith's band of treasure-seekers, the question naturally arises as to whether or not Alvah met Oliver Cowdery prior to 1828. Given the fact that Oliver's father was said to have been involved with the Vermont rodsmen, and the additional fact that Oliver himself possessed "the gift" of the witch hazel divining rod, it is entirely reasonable to assume that Oliver and Alvah would have had much in common, long before they both became Mormons. Alvah's close proximity to Batavia, Genesee Co., NY for most of the years between 1806 and 1835 also makes him suspect as a possible intermediary between William Morgan and Joseph Smith, Jr. Morgan, the anti-Masonic "martyr" who disappeared under suspicious circumstances in 1826, was said to have been an admirer of Smith. Morgan's widow Lucinda was a fellow plural wife to Joseph Smith, Jr. along with Alvah Beaman's daughter Louisa. Is there a long-forgotten story here, waiting to be uncovered? Certainly, if Alvah Beaman had "spared the rod" and not joined the Smith treasure-seekers, he could have "spoiled" his daughter safely in Livingston County, and kept her from the hardships of the Mormon expulsion from Missouri and becoming a young widow following Smith's assassination in 1844.

From: Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 19
Kate B. Carter (editor)
Daughters of the Utah Pioneers
Salt Lake City, Utah

Hazel Noble Boyack

In the little town of Lovina, Livingston County, New York, in the early eighteen hundreds, there lived a family bearing the name of Alva and Sally Burtis Beaman. These good Christian folk, through hard work and frugality, had acquired a good home and much land and had become known among the townspeople as well-to-do.

Into the Beaman home several children were born, both sons and daughters. Of the sons, we know very little, but of the three daughters much has been written. These three fine young ladies were destined to be among the vanguard of women to the Salt Lake Valley. Artemissia became the wife of Erastus Snow. Mary Adeline, my grandmother, married Joseph Bates Noble. It is said Louisa became the first plural wife of the Prophet Joseph Smith. These girls were given every opportunity in education. They attended the best schools of the day. They were gifted in music and the Beaman home was one of refinement and culture.

Alva and Sally Burtis Beaman and their daughters were among the early converts to the Church in that area. Old Father Beaman as he was affectionately called, made his home a headquarters for the missionaries as they traveled east from Kirtland preaching the restored Gospel.

Elder Parley P. Pratt, one of these missionaries, relates the following instance in his Autobiography. "Among those whose hospitality we shared in the vicinity of Genesco was Old Father Beaman and his amiable and interesting family. He was a good singer and so were his three daughters. We were much edified and comforted in their society and were deeply interested in hearing the old gentleman and Brother Joseph converse on their early acquaintance and history." He (Beaman) had been intimate with Joseph long before the first organization of the church, and had assisted him to preserve the plates of the Book of Mormon from the enemy, and had at one time had them concealed under his own hearth.

The Beaman family removed with the Saints to Kirtland, Ohio. Here was witnessed those stirring and history-making events of that early period; the construction of the first Temple of this Dispensation, its dedication which took place March 27, 1836. The beautiful and heavenly manifestations that accompanied the dedication, were experiences in the lives of these people never to be forgotten.

There were also dark days in that little city. Apostacy, persecution, extreme financial difficulties of the Saints, brought down upon their heads the wrath and fury of the enemy. To proclaim that Joseph Smith was still a chosen and inspired Prophet was taking great risk with your life. Louisa Beaman, together with her family met the adversity of those days with conviction and fortitude that a testimony of the Gospel had instilled in their hearts.

It was summer of 1838 that an important organization known as the Kirtland Camp which consisted of the Seventy's Quorum, organized themselves into a compact body and journeyed one thousand miles to Far West, Missouri. Louisa and her family joined with that of her brother-in-law, Joseph B. Noble and made
the historic trek to Far West, arriving there in early October, 1838. They were joyfully welcomed by the Saints, but there was to be no rest or peace in that little city. It was already in a state of siege by the mob. On October 27, 1838, Governor Lilburn W. Boggs issued his famous exterminating order which forced the Saints to flee the State of Missouri and take refuge in Quincy and other small towns along the Mississippi River.

The next we hear of Louisa Beaman is in Nauvoo, Illinois. She had made her home with her sister and brother-in-law, Mary Adeline and Joseph Bates Noble. Brother Noble and the Prophet Joseph Smith had been devoted friends. Elder Noble had been almost instantly healed by the administrations of Joseph Smith in the summer of 1838 at Montrose, Iowa. While the Prophet was confined in Liberty Jail, Joseph Bates Noble visited him many times.

After the martyrdom of the Prophet, events were reaching a climax in Nauvoo. During the Fall and Winter of 1845–46, every effort was made to get ready for the exodus to the West. Louisa and Mary Adeline worked hard to dry and make ready vegetables, provide bedding for the winter's journey onto the windswept prairies of Iowa. Far into the night these women worked and planned and prayed. Traveling with the Joseph B. Noble family, Louisa arrived at the site of Winter Quarters sometime during the summer of 1846. The energies of all the Saints were put to work erecting a sod or log house before the advent of winter.

It was in the late Fall of 1846 that Louisa became the wife of President Brigham Young. It was a signal honor to share the respect and protection of this great and noble leader.

As the year 1847 dawned, the eyes of all the Saints were turned toward the West, that was to be their home, their refuge. The womenfolk were busy weaving baskets of willows, making leggings etc., for the journey to the Rocky Mountains. Louisa and her people arrived in the Salt Lake Valley early in October or 1847, having traveled in the Jedediah M. Grant Company.

In 1848 Louisa Young gave birth to her first children, a set of twins, both sons. She named them Joseph and Hyrum. The tiny babes had little vitality and shortly after their birth both babies died. Her tender mother heart was deeply touched by this loss, but hers was the courage and faith of a real pioneer mother. Again in 1850, she gave birth to twin boys. They were named Alva and Alma. Whether it was the effect of childbirth or other difficulties these two sons also passed away.

A few short weeks after the birth of her last children, Louisa became very ill. She passed away sometime during the year 1850, in the Great Salt Lake Valley, she who had been a valiant wife and mother among the vanguard of Latter-day Saint women to the West.

Louisa Beaman Smith Young was born in Lovina, New York the 7th of February, 1815. At the time of her passing she was but thirty-five years of age. In the Church Historical Record these few words were written that sum up the life of this valiant pioneer lady: Sister Louisa was a gentle, affectionate woman, beloved by all who knew her.

Historical Quotations

[Joseph Smith was] obliged to hide them [the golden plates], and they hid them under a Brick harth in the west Room. About this time Came this Samuel Lawrance and one Beeman a grate Rodsman and wanted to talk with him. And he went into the west Room and they Proposed to go shares with him and tried every way to Bargain with him But Could not. Then Beeman took out his Rods and h[e]ld them up and they pointed Dow[n] to the harth whare they ware hid. "There," says Beeman, "it is under that harth.....

Joseph Knight
Joseph Knight's Recollection
c. 1840.

There was a company there in that neighborhood, who were digging for money supposed to have been hidden by the ancients. Of this company were old Mr. Stowell... old Mr. Beaman, also Samuel Lawrence, George Proper, Joseph Smith, jr., and his father, and his brother Hiram Smith. They dug for money in Palmyra, Manchester, also in Pennsylvania and other places....

Martin Harris
Tiffany's Monthly

Soon afterwards, a man by the name of Braman [sic. Beaman] came in from the village of Livonia, a man in whom we reposed much confidence, and who was well worthy of the same. Joseph told him his apprehensions of a mob being there that night ....

Lucy Mack Smith
Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith

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Ch 1.  |  Ch 2.  |  Ch 3.  |  Ch 4.  |  Ch 5.  |  Ch 6.  |  Ch 7.

(This article is still under construction)

"The Rodsmen"

By Anonymous

-- Chapter Four --
"Phony as a Three-Dollar Bill"

The expressing "phony as a three-dollar bill" goes back to the post-Civil War period when US Treasury notes and silver certificates were were only printed for the denominations of $1, $2, $5 and higher. In those days anybody holding a three-dollar banknote probably had possession of a bill issued by a state or local bank, and (chances were) it was probably counterfeit. The US Treasury Department and the Secret Service made valiant efforts to stop the counterfeiting of the national currency, but accepting those local banknotes which still remained in circulation was risky business.

In January 1837 Oliver Cowdery (former Mormon "First Elder," but by then simply "Assistant President") was in Monroe, Michigan, busily signing his name to stacks of those proverbial "three-dollar bills." Little more than a year later, at Far West, Missouri, the erstwhile scribe, missionary, and second-cousin to Joeph Smith, Jr. would be excommunicated from the LDS Church for crimes against his fellow Saints. Among the reasons given for this important ecclesiastical decision was that Cowdery had recently been asociated with other "blacklegs" in the "bogus" business over at Tinker's Creek in Trumbull Co., Ohio.

Cowdery's signature on "Sept. 1836"Bank of Monroe $3 bill -- probably signed Jan. 1837.

Oliver Cowdery's association with the "bogus business" began many years before his 1838 excommunication from the Mormons ...

(This article is still under construction)

Historical Quotation

After Oliver Cowdery had been taken by a State warrant for stealing, and the stolen property found ... in which nefarious transaction John Whitmer had also participated. Oliver Cowdery stole the property, conveyed it to John Whitmer ... Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Lyman E. Johnson, united with a gang of counterfeiters, thieves, liars, and blacklegs of the deepest dye, to deceive, cheat, and defraud the saints out of their property....

During the full career of Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer's bogus money business, it got abroad into the world that they were engaged in it.... We have evidence of a very strong character that you are at this very time engaged with a gang of counterfeiters, coiners, and blacklegs,... we will put you from the county of Caldwell: so help us God

Sidney Rigdon,
1838 quotation
published in:
US Senate Document 189

(Copied from the Mormon Studies  Site)  |  map 1  |  map 2  |  map 3  |  map 4

Ch 1.  |  Ch 2.  |  Ch 3.  |  Ch 4.  |  Ch 5.  |  Ch 6.  |  Ch 7.

(This article is still under construction)

"The Rodsmen"

By Anonymous

-- Chapter Five --
"Cable Tow to the Niagara"

It is entirely possible that William Morgan was never a real Freemason nor a crafty Rodsman...

(This article is still under construction)

Historical Quotation

"A Mason is bound to consult the happiness and to promote the interests of his Brother; to avoid everything offensive to his feelings; to abstain from reproach, censure, and unjust suspicions; to warn him of the machinations of his enemies; to advise him of his errors... and let me add, to further his schemes of interest and promotion"...

DeWitt Clinton

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