Near the west Bank of the Coneaught River there are the remains of an ancient fort. As I was walking and forming vario[us] conjectures respecting the character situatuation & numbers of those people, who far exceeded the present race of Indians in works of art & inginuety I hapned to tread on a flat stone. This was <at> a small distance from the fort; & it lay on the top of a smal[l] mound of Earth exactly horizontal-The face of it had a singular appearance. I discovered a number of characters which appeared to me to be letters-but so much effaced by the ravages of time, that I could not read the inscription. With the assistance of a leaver I raised the stone- But you may easily conjecture my astonishmen[t] when I discovered that ttt its ends & sides it [rJested on stones & that it was designed [-]\ a cover to an artificial Cave.-1 found[-] examining that its sides were lined with [-1 built in a connical form with 1.-] down-& that it was abou[t] [p. 2] [e]ight feet deep- Determined to investigate~ design of this extraordinary work of antiquity-I prepared myself with necesary requisites for that purpose & decended to thf el Bottom of the Cave- Observing one side to be bttttt <perpendicular> nearly three feet from the bottom, I began to inspect that part with accuracy; Here I noticed a big fla[t] stone fixed in the form of a doar, I imm[e]diatly tore it down & Lo a cavity wit[h]in the wall presented itself-it being about three feet in diamiter from side to side & about two feet high Within this cavity I found an earthan Box with a B6’t <cover> which shut it perfect[ly] tite- The Box was two feet in length one & half in breadth & one & three inche[s] in diameter. My mind filled with awful sensations which crowded fast upon me would hardly permit my hands to remove this venerable deposit, but curiosity soon gained the assendan[- -] the box was taken & raised to open[-] When I had removed the Cover I f[ound] that it contained twenty eig[ht -J of parchment. & that when [ - -] [p. 3] appeared to be manuscri ps written in eligant hand with Roman Letters & in the Latin Language. They were written on a variety of Subjects. But the Roll whic[h] principally attracted <my attention> contained a history of the authors life & that part of America which extends along the gr<e>at Lakes & the waters of the Mississppy.
Joseph Smith History
Compare to Joseph Smith’s account in Joseph Smith History:
51 Convenient to the village of Manchester, Ontario county, New York, stands a hill of considerable size, and the most elevated of any in the neighborhood. On the west side of this hill, not far from the top, under a stone of considerable size, lay the plates, deposited in a stone box. This stone was thick and rounding in the middle on the upper side, and thinner towards the edges, so that the middle part of it was visible above the ground, but the edge all around was covered with earth.
52 Having removed the earth, I obtained a lever, which I got fixed under the edge of the stone, and with a little exertion raised it up. I looked in, and there indeed did I behold the plates, the Urim and Thummim, and the breastplate, as stated by the messenger. The box in which they lay was formed by laying stones together in some kind of cement. In the bottom of the box were laid two stones crossways of the box, and on these stones lay the plates and the other things with them.
Also compare to accounts of the Hill Cumorah Cave, copied from the Joseph Smith Foundation site:
Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 17 June 1877
Oliver Cowdery went with the Prophet Joseph when he deposited these plates. Joseph did not translate all of the plates; there was a portion of them sealed, which you can learn from the Book of Doctrine and Covenants. When Joseph got the plates, the angel instructed him to carry them back to the hill Cumorah, which he did. Oliver says that when Joseph and Oliver went there, the hill opened, and they walked into a cave, in which there was a large and spacious room. He says he did not think, at the time, whether they had the light of the sun or artificial light; but that it was just as light as day. They laid the plates on a table; it was a large table that stood in the room. Under this table there was a pile of plates as much as two feet high, and there were altogether in this room more plates than probably many wagon loads; they were piled up in the corners and along the walls. The first time they went there the sword of Laban hung upon the wall; but when they went again it had been taken down and laid upon the table across the gold plates; it was unsheathed, and on it was written these words: “This sword will never be sheathed again until the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our God and his Christ.” I tell you this as coming not only from Oliver Cowdery, but others who were familiar with it, and who understood it just as well as we understand coming to this meeting. … [Don] Carlos Smith was a young man of as much veracity as any young man we had, and he was a witness to these things. Samuel Smith saw some things, Hyrum saw a good many things, but Joseph was the leader.
Manuscript History of Brigham Young, 5 May 1867
President [Heber C.] Kimball talked familiarly to the brethren about Father Smith, [Oliver] Cowdery, and others walking into the hill Cumorah and seeing records upon records piled upon table[s,] they walked from cell to cell and saw the records that were piled up. …
Wilford Woodruff Journal, 11 December 1869
In his journal, Wilford Woodruff recounted what he had heard Brigham Young say about the cave: President Young said in relation to Joseph Smith returning the Plates of the Book of Mormon that He did not return them to the box from wh[ence?] He had Received [them]. But He went [into] a Cave in the Hill Comoro with Oliver Cowdry & deposited those plates upon a table or shelf. In that room were deposited a large amount of gold plates Containing sacred records & when they first visited that Room the sword of Laban was Hanging upon the wall & when they last visited it the sword was drawn from the scabbard and [laid?] upon a table and a Messenger who was the keeper of the room informed them that that sword would never be returned to its scabbard untill the Kingdom of God was Esstablished upon the Earth & untill it reigned triumphant over Evry Enemy. Joseph Smith said that Cave Contained tons of Choice Treasures & records.
Jesse Nathaniel Smith Journal, February 1874
A southern Utah Saint, Jesse Nathaniel Smith, heard Brigham Young speak in Cedar City, Utah, and recorded: I heard him [Brigham Young] at an evening meeting in Cedar City describe an apartment in the Hill Cumorah that some of the brethren had been permitted to enter. He said there was great wealth in the room in sacred implements, vestments, arms, precious metals and precious stones, more than a six-mule team could draw.
Heber C. Kimball, Journal of Discourses, 28 September 1856
In response to a Brother Mills’s statement about the handcart pioneers, Heber C. Kimball said: How does it compare with the vision that Joseph and others had, when they went into a cave in the hill Cumorah, and saw more records than ten men could carry? There were books piled up on tables, book upon book. Those records this people will yet have, if they accept of the Book of Mormon and observe its precepts, and keep the commandments.
Orson Pratt, The Contributor, September 1882
But the grand repository of all the numerous records of the ancient nations of the western continent, was located in another department of the hill, and its contents put under the charge of holy angels, until the day should come for them to be transferred to the sacred temple of Zion.
Orson Pratt, in Journal of Discourses, 16:57
Will these things be brought to light? Yes. The records, now slumbering in the hill Cumorah, will be brought forth by the power of God, to fulfill the words of our text, that ‘the knowledge of God shall cover the earth, as the waters cover the great deep.
Edward Stevenson, Reminiscences of Joseph, the Prophet, 1877
In his book Reminiscences of Joseph, the Prophet, and the Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon, Edward Stevenson relates an interview with David Whitmer in 1877: It was likewise stated to me by David Whitmer in the year 1877 that Oliver Cowdery told him that the Prophet Joseph and himself had seen this room and that it was filled with treasure, and on a table therein were the breastplate and the sword of Laban, as well as the portion of gold plates not yet translated, and that these plates were bound by three small gold rings, and would also be translated, as was the first portion in the days of Joseph. When they are translated much useful information will be brought to light. But till that day arrives, no Rochester adventurers shall ever see them or the treasures, although science and mineral rods testify that they are there.
David Whitmer, Deseret Evening News, 16 August 1878
In an interview with P. Wilhelm Poulson, David Whitmer gave another account of the cave: [Poulson]: Where are the plates now? [Whitmer]: In a cave, where the angel has hidden them up till the time arrives when the plates, which are sealed, shall be translated. God will yet raise up a mighty one, who shall do his work till it is finished and Jesus comes again. [Poulson]: Where is that cave? [Whitmer]: In the State of New York. [Poulson]: In the Hill of Comorah? [Whitmer]: No, but not far away from that place.
William Horne Dame Diary, 14 January 1855
Attended meeting a discourse from W. W. Phelps. He related a story told him by Hyrum Smith which was as follows: Joseph, Hyrum, Cowdery & Whitmere went to the hill Cormorah. As they were walking up the hill, a door opened and they walked into a room about 16 ft square. In that room was an angel and a trunk. On that trunk lay a book of Mormon & gold plates, Laban’s sword, Aaron’s brestplate.
Elizabeth Kane Journal, 15 January 1873
Although not a member of the church, Elizabeth Kane lived in St. George, Utah, and entertained the company of Brigham Young. She recorded the following discussion: I asked where the plates were now, and saw in a moment from the expression of the countenances around that I had blundered. But I was answered that they were in a cave; that Oliver Cowdery though now an apostate would not deny that he had seen them. He had been to the cave. … Brigham Young’s tone was so solemn that I listened bewildered like a child to the evening witch stories of its nurse. … Brigham Young said that when Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith were in the cave this third time, they could see its contents more distinctly than before. … It was about fifteen feet high and round its sides were ranged boxes of treasure. In the centre was a large stone table empty before, but now piled with similar gold plates, some of which lay scattered on the floor beneath. Formerly the sword of Laban hung on the walls sheathed, but it was now unsheathed and lying across the plates on the table; and One that was with them said it was never to be sheathed until the reign of Righteousness upon the earth.
I am not suggesting literary dependence between Manuscript Found and the Book of Mormon, merely that the idea of stone boxes holding ancient records can be demonstrated to be part of the early 1800s American cultural milieu. ↩