This article is from the 1965 printing of "The History of Friendship, NY", A Sesqui-Centennial publication.  Thanks go to Kathy Schumann for loaning me her copy of the booklet and to Mary Rhodes for reminding me of the article........Ron Taylor 



 (1793 - 1876)


It is difficult to choose the outstanding indi­viduals in the long history of Friendship but cer­tainly Sidney Rigdon is a name to be remembered. Although his life was lived, in part and the most important part elsewhere, he lived for some 30 years in the Town of Friendship and is buried in Maple Grove Cemetery. Even in death his connection to the founding of the Mormon religion is not forgotten. Annually members of that faith from Utah visit his grave here.

Sidney Rigdon was born in Pennsylvania and from an early age showed great interest in religion. He became associated with a sect called Campbellites and in 1821 he became pastor of the First Baptist Church in Pittsburgh. This association was short for he was expelled for expressing doctrines of which the church did not approve. He continued to preach in other churches and became a noted orator. In 1830 he was baptized in the Mormon religion which was founded by Joseph Smith. It was believed by many that Smith and Rigdon had known each other for some time and that while Rigdon was working as a printer in Pittsburgh a book written by a man named Spaulding was brought to him to be printed. This book depicted the American Indians as having been the Lost Tribes of Israel and told a fantastic tale of their settlement in America. Some historians believe that Rigdon provided Smith with a copy of the book and it became the translated version of the "golden plates"


Facsimile of Characters on the Golden Plates

 which Smith said he discovered buried in a hill near Palmyra. These plates are the basis of the Mormon religion.



Although Rigdon denied all connection with the Spaulding book he became an ardent worker in the Mormon cause. He and his family and friends fol­lowed Joseph Smith to Ohio, Illinois and Missouri. They endured great hardships and persecutions. Once Rigdon was stoned and dragged over frozen ground by horses until near death. He became, next to Smith the highest in authority in the Mormon Church. At one time he and Smith were nominated for Vice President and President of the United States by the Mormons.

The adoption of polygamy and the desire of Smith to make Rigdon's daughter one of his plural wives angered Rigdon and he left with his family for the east. On hearing that Smith and his brother had been murdered he hurried back to Illinois but he was too late as Brigham Young had gained control. Rigdon tried, in a brilliant oration, to influence the members to overcome his rival but Young was even a more powerful speaker and the people voted in his favor. Young excommunicated Rigdon who returned east. After living for a time in Pennsylvania where he attempted to start a new church, he came to Jackson Hill near Cuba and later to Friendship where he and his family became prominent citizens.



Rigdon Stone at Maple Grove Cemetery, Friendship NY


One of his sons-in-law, George Robinson was the founder and first president of the First National Bank. Many stories were told about Robinson and his fear of someone or something. He was supposed to have had a bullet proof room in the bank and his house on the corner of Main and East Water Street — the Hatch house — has bars on the lower windows. There have been stories that Mr. Robinson might have bettered his financial state with the aid, of pur­loined Mormon money and feared reprisal.

After Rigdon's death representatives of the Mormons requested a grandson, Edward Hatch, permission to inspect papers left by Rigdon for a clue to a secret which he had said he might reveal but never did. The request was refused. Some believe that Rigdon had intended to reveal his connection with the Spaulding book. A son, John Rigdon, was asked by Mormon officials to come to Salt Lake City and write an account of his father's connection with the Mormon religion. There is no record that he did so.

Sidney Rigdon was one of the charter members of the local Masonic Lodge.


Researched & Submitted by Richard Palmer

Elmira Daily Advertiser
Friday, July 21, 1876


One of the Earliest Mormons 

Death of Sidney Rigdon at Friendship, Allegany County

Friendship, July 16, 1876 

     Sidney Rigdon died in this village on Friday last at the advanced age of eighty-three years.  He was born in St. Clair township, Allegheny County, Pa., in February, 1793. Your readers are familiar with the main features of his career, as they have been forth by historians of the Mormon sect. Since his excision from the ruling body of the church, at Nauvoo, he had been living in our village, in the main very quiet, repelling, rather than courting the curiosity which his prominence  in one of the most extraordinary social phenomena of the times,  drew upon him. He has been often interviewed by those intent upon clearing up some of the mysteries and delusions that attended the origin of Mormonism, but invariably without success.

    On these occasions he would defend the Mormon account of the origin of the Book of Mormon, and also the chief doctrines of the early Mormon church, and in many ways exhibit a sympathetic interest in its prosperity. His mind had a natural religious bias and his conclusions respecting Bible doctrines subject to diverse interpretations, wee conservative. In his prime he took an active part in the theological controversies that raged so fiercely in this and western states, and was then and always familiar with the Bible, and had in him the material for a useful minister of any denomination, yet for many years past he held himself aloof from the church affairs of his vicinity, and his whole conduct led naturally to the inference that his religious ambitions were buried at the time he was superseded by Young, or perhaps at the time when the polygamous doctrines of Joseph Smith were promulgated. The reader will bear these statements in mind when the motives of Mr. Rigdon in connecting himself with Mormonism come under review.

     As a preacher Sidney Rigdon must have exercised a great power over pioneer hearers, by virtue of his fluency alone. Add to this his Biblical knowledge and a self-confidence  that led him into many speculations wholly apart from religion, with boldness and enthusiasm, where now the learned tread with caution, and hesitancy, and we have a person whose advocacy of any cause would commend attention as the apostle of the doctrines of the Latter Day Saints.

     He was very successful and unexcelled by any of his coadjutors, leaving Parley Pratt far to the rear.  It seems probable that as a minister of any denomination he would have demonstrated equal title to superiority.

     In the histories of Mormonism Mr. Rigdon, along with others, is made to appear as the cold-blooded, designing author of what has since proved to be  most stupendous imposture, the Mormon Bible, but a more complete and philosophical survey of the whole subject than I have yet seen, will, without denying for him a considerable agency in getting the Book of Mormon before the world, relegate the methods involved to that class of mental phenomena illustrated by the pseudo-inspirational literature of Mahomet,  Swedenborg, Andrew Jackson  Davis and others. It is surely a misnomer to call these men imposters, although the science of mind is yet so imperfectly understood that we have no resources of classification except such as are implied in the terms of dreamers, enthusiasts, Spiritualists, clairvoyants, &c. It is to such minds that we owe on the one hand a thousand stimulants to noble life, and on the other some of the monstrosities of civilization that are the despair  of the moralist.

     It is claimed for Mr. Rigdon by one was close to his person for many years, that he never saw the Book of Mormon until it was presented to him in Ohio, in its present condition, by Pratt and others. I have heard Rigdon aver very earnestly that he never saw the plates that Joseph Smith claimed to have found, and I am positive that a theory of Rigdon's connection with the book that impugns his honesty cannot be true. His mistake is giving adhesion to Mormonism finds abundant parallel in the history of religious thought. Indeed the record is monumental with follies which arrest the attention of the devout and at least suggest a speculation as to whether the world at times would not have been better off with less of so-called religion. Religionists above all others above all others should be competent to find some explanation of the success of Mormonism without resorting to the charge of wholesale imposture.

    Whatever feeling existed between Brigham Young and the church and Rigdon, on account of the latter's excommunication and the former's usurption, disappeared long ago  Some years since one of Mr. Rigdon's sons visited Brigham Young at Salt Lake City, who received him very cordially, and sent a message to his father to visit the capital of Mormonism. We believe that Mr. Rigdon's advanced age precluded the acceptance of the invitation.

     Mr. Rigdon leaves a wife, five daughters and three sons, who are almost all nearby residents and highly respected. His funeral was attended by many of our citizens, and

by the Masonic fraternity of which he was long an active member. For five years past the infirmities of old age weighed heavily upon his frame, but his mental vigor remained substantially unimpaired until near the close of his life when he became entirely helpless, and death came to him as a happy relief.

'                                                                                             N.E.D.