In 1915 newlyweds Willard and Rebecca Bean were called by President Joseph F. Smith to leave their home in Richfield, Utah and move into the Joseph Smith home near Palmyra, New York. Their mission, which was to last 5 years, stretched into nearly 25 years.
During his time on the farm Willard researched what he called Cumorahland. Much of his research was compiled in the book “Geography of the Book of Mormon” (republished as “Willard’s Cumorahland”). He documented climate changes, artifacts, terrain, distances, and geography and found parallels with the Book of Mormon.
Willard and Rebecca’s son Alvin (1918 – 2007) remembered plowing a field with his father and uncovering a skeleton. The person they uncovered stood approximately 8 feet tall and in the word’s of Alvin, “had a skull the size of a basketball”. Buried with that skeleton was a sword that was so large Willard, a professional athlete, could not hold it up with one hand.
Such human remains have been found all along Lakes Ontario and Erie. In 1883 newspaper publisher and reporter Harvey Rice wrote about an ancient burial mound near Conneaut, Ohio (about 200 miles from Palmyra, NY).
“Human bones of gigantic proportions were discovered in such a state of preservation as to be accurately described and measured. The cavities of the skulls were large enough in their dimensions to receive the entire head of a man of modern times, and could be put on one’s head with as much ease as a hat or cap. The jaw-bones were sufficiently large to admit of being placed so as to match or fit the outside of a modern man’s face. The other bones, so far as discovered, appeared to be of equal proportions with the skulls and jaw-bones, several of which have been preserved as relics in the cabinets of antiquarians, where they may still be seen.” (Harvey Rice, Pioneers of the Western Reserve, pp. 172-173)
The book of Ether in the Book of Mormon describes the Jaredite warriors as “Large and mighty men.” (Ether 15:26) When Limhi’s scouts in the Book of Mosiah found the ruins of the Jaradites, they found “large breastplates” of brass and copper. (Mosiah 8:10)
In an 1850 book, Orsamus Turner describes the same type of skeletal remains found by the Bean family and Limhi’s scouts. Turner describes what was found in an ancient fort in Orleans County, NY. “Some skeletons, almost entire have been exhumed, many of giant size, not less than seven to eight feet in length.” (O. Turner, Pioneer History of the Holland Purchase of Western New York. Pp. 36)
In the ruins of this fortress near Lake Ontario, Turner describes a “depository of the dead”.
“Nearly in the centre of the area was a depository of the dead. It was a pit excavated to the depth of four or five feet, filled with human bones, over which were slabs of sand stone. Hundreds seem to have been thrown in promiscuously, of both sexes and all ages. Extreme old age was distinctly identified by toothless jaws, and the complete absorption of the aveola processes; and extreme infancy, by the small skulls and incomplete ossification. Numerous barbs or arrow points were found among the bones, and in the vicinity. One skull retained the arrow that, had pierced it, the aperture it had made on entering being distinctly visible. In the position of the skeletons, there was none of the signs of ordinary Indian burial; but evidences that the bodies were thrown in promiscuously, and at the same time. The conjecture might well be indulged that it had been the theatre of a sanguinary battle, terminating in favor of the assailants, and a general massacre.” (O. Turner, Pioneer History of the Holland Purchase of Western New York. Pp. 27)
Throughout Turner’s book he writes about the great number of skulls found which had been broken by clubs, stones or other weapons of war.
In 1925, while Willard Bean was living there, a farmer in Palmyra was digging a well and uncovered several large skeletons. The age of the skeletons was determined to be approximately 3,000 years old. This would fit in the time frame of the Jaradite Nation. Of this discovery the “Rochester Herald” reported:
“In this pit were found an axe of peculiar shape, wide bit and other implements that bore signs of ancient warfare. There are dozens of similar ruins near Rochester. [ ] Upon these steep heights invading armies may have pressed a desperate assault, while all along the brow of the hills behind the rude fortifications of the great forest, stood the defenders of camp and home.”
Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Orson Pratt and others believed that two great nations fought their final battle in Western New York, one at Ramah and the other at Cumorah. There was never any question in their minds that the Hill Ramah and the Hill Cumorah were one and the same.
26 And it came to pass that they ate and slept, and prepared for death on the morrow. And they were large and mighty men as to the strength of men.
27 And it came to pass that they fought for the space of three hours, and they fainted with the loss of blood.
28 And it came to pass that when the men of Coriantumr had received sufficient strength that they could walk, they were about to flee for their lives; but behold, Shiz arose, and also his men, and he swore in his wrath that he would slay Coriantumr or he would perish by the sword.
29 Wherefore, he did pursue them, and on the morrow he did overtake them; and they fought again with the sword. And it came to pass that when they had all fallen by the sword, save it were Coriantumr and Shiz, behold Shiz had fainted with the loss of blood.
30 And it came to pass that when Coriantumr had leaned upon his sword, that he rested a little, he smote off the head of Shiz.
31 And it came to pass that after he had smitten off the head of Shiz, that Shiz raised up on his hands and fell; and after that he had struggled for breath, he died.
32 And it came to pass that Coriantumr fell to the earth, and became as if he had no life. (Ether 15:25-32)
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Some of the information in this article comes from the personal writings of Willard Bean and Alvin Bean, which are in the possession of the Willard and Rebecca Bean family.
Skull Photo: wikimedia commons, Xerto