The Communistic Societies of the United States
Part 4 out of 8
English, and more than half of the adult members came in when they were
full-grown. About forty years ago there was in Rhode Island a religious
revival among a sect of Baptists who call themselves "Christians," and
many of these entered the Enfield Society. They now adopt a good many
children, and do not seem displeased at the result. They have a school,
and are fond of music, having a cabinet-organ in their music-room, and
holding a weekly singing-school for the young people. They take "a great
many" newspapers and magazines, and have a variety of books, but no
regular library. The elders have the selection of reading-matter, and,
as in all the societies, exclude what they think injurious.
They have been, they told me, somewhat careless of sanitary regulations,
and have had typhus fever in their houses; but they are now generally
They make very few articles for themselves, but buy a good deal.
They make no regular business statement, and owe no debts. They once had
a defalcation, but only of a trifling amount.
There are four Shaker societies in Massachusetts: at Harvard, Shirley,
Tyringham, and Hancock.
The Harvard Society lies in Worcester County, about thirty miles
northwest from Boston. It was founded in 1793; and had in 1823 two
hundred members. It has now four families, containing in all ninety
persons, of whom sixteen are children and youth under twenty-one--four
boys and twelve girls. Of the seventy-four adult members, seventeen are
men and fifty-seven women. The Church Family has fifty members, of whom
forty-one are women and girls, and nine men and boys. It is usual among
the Shakers to find more women than men in a society or family, but at
Harvard the disproportion of the sexes is uncommonly great.
The members are mainly Americans, but they have some Scotch, Germans,
and Welsh. A considerable proportion of the present membership came in
as adults, and these were, before becoming Shakers, for the most part
Adventists, some however coming from the Baptist and Methodist
denominations. The elder of the Gathering Family was a Baptist, and the
leading minister was an English Wesleyan. The people are mostly in
middle life. The health of this society has always been good; the
_average_ age at death, I was assured, ranged for a great number of
years between sixty to sixty-eight. One sister died at ninety-three, and
other members died at from eighty to eighty-six.
Their home farm consists of about eighteen hundred acres; and they have
besides a farm in Michigan, and another in Massachusetts. Their living
is made almost entirely by farming; and they have drained very
thoroughly a considerable piece of swamp, which yields them large crops
of hay. They make brooms, have a nursery, and press and put up herbs;
and employ sixteen or seventeen hired laborers.
They have a small library, but "do not let books interfere with work;"
there is a school, but no musical instrument; most of the people eat
meat, and drink tea and coffee; and a few are indulged in the practice
of chewing tobacco. They are not very musical, but they take a great
"Do you like to take children?" I asked; and an eldress replied, "Yes,
we like to take children--but we don't like to take monkeys;" and, in
general, the Shakers have discovered that "blood will tell," and that
they can do much better with the children of religious parents than with
those whose fathers or mothers were dissolute or irreligious.
This society has no debt, and is prosperous, though its buildings are
not all in first-rate order according to the Shaker standard, which is
very high. It has suffered from one defalcation.
The ministry among the Shakers usually occupy their spare time in some
manual labor, as I have explained in a previous chapter. The leading
minister over Harvard and Shirley makes brooms; his predecessor made
shoes. The leading female minister is a dress-maker.
The Society of Shirley lies about two miles from Shirley Station, on the
Fitchburg Railroad. It was gathered in 1793, the meeting-house having
been built the year before. Mother Ann Lee passed nearly two years among
the people in this vicinity, preaching to them; and this accounts for
the early building of the meeting-house. In 1823 the Shirley Society had
one hundred and fifty members. At present it has two families, numbering
altogether forty-eight persons; of these twelve are children and youth
under twenty-one--eight girls and four boys. Of the adults, six are men
and thirty women. Until a year ago there were three families, but
decreasing numbers led them to call in one; and they now let the
buildings formerly used by that one. Thirty-five years ago this society
numbered one hundred and fifty persons; twenty-four years ago,
seventy-five; twenty years ago it had sixty. As the old people, the
founders, died off, new members did not come in. They have not now many
applications for membership; and of the children they adopt and bring
up, not one in ten becomes a Shaker.
The society owns two thousand acres of land, which includes several
outlying farms. They employ nine or ten hired laborers; and their main
business is to make apple-sauce, of which they sell from five to six
tons every year. One family makes brooms; and they all preserve fruit,
make jellies and pickles, dry sweet corn, and in the spring make
maple-sugar. The women make fancy articles for sale. Farming is also a
considerable business with them, and they have good orchards.
Most of the members grew up in the society, and the greater number of
them are, I believe, past middle age. Like all the Shakers, they are
long-lived--one sister, a colored woman, is eighty, and another
eighty-eight--and their mortality rate is low. Most of the members are
Americans, but they have a few Nova-Scotians. Most of them eat meat, and
drink tea, but no coffee; and they are especially fond of oatmeal. One
old member both smokes and snuffs, but none others use tobacco in any
shape. They are fond of flowers, but do not cultivate any; have "plenty"
of books and newspapers, but no regular library; like music, but have no
musical instrument; and they are fond of the Bible. Among their meetings
is one for singing.
Their buildings are not so large as those of a Shaker settlement usually
are, but they are in excellent order, and include an infirmary, a house
for aged and feeble members, a nice school-room, and a laundry. They
have the reputation in the neighborhood of being wealthy; and had the
enterprise once to build a large cotton factory, on the shore of a pond
which they then owned. This building they have sold. It ran them into
debt; and this they did not like. They were poor at first; have never
had any defalcation; have no debt now; and make no regular business
statement, trusting to the ministry to keep a proper oversight of their
In the school at Shirley physiology was taught, and with remarkable
success as it seemed to me, with the help of charts; the children seemed
uncommonly intelligent and bright. The school is open three months in
the summer and three in the winter--two hours in the forenoon and two in
the afternoon; and the teacher, a young girl, was also the care-taker of
the girls. Singing-school is held, for the children, in the evening.
The societies at Hancock and Tyringham lie near the New York State line,
among the Berkshire hills. They are small, and have no noticeable
There are three Shaker societies in New York: at Mount Lebanon,
Watervliet, and Groveland.
The Mount Lebanon Society lies in Columbia County, two miles from New
Lebanon. It is the parent society among the Shakers, and its ministry
has a general oversight over all the societies. It is also the most
The Mount Lebanon Society was founded in 1787. In 1823 it numbered
between five hundred and six hundred persons; at this time it has three
hundred and eighty-three, including forty-seven children and youth under
fifteen. This society is divided into seven families; and its membership
has one hundred and thirty-six males and two hundred and forty-seven
females, including children and youth.
It owns about three thousand acres of land within the State of New York,
besides some farms in other states; and several of its farms in its own
neighborhood are in charge of tenants. The different families employ a
considerable number of hired laborers. They raise and put up garden
seeds, make brooms, dry medicinal herbs and make extracts, dry sweet
corn, and make chairs and mops. The women in all the families also make
mats, fans, dusters, and other fancy articles for sale; and one of the
families keep some sheep.
In a previous chapter I have given so many details concerning the Mount
Lebanon Society that I need here say nothing further about it, except
that it is in a highly prosperous condition.
The society at Watervliet lies seven miles northwest from Albany, and
upon the ground where Ann Lee and her followers first settled when they
came to America. Her body lies in the grave-yard at Watervliet. No
monument is built over it.
The society there has now four families, containing two hundred and
thirty-five persons, of whom sixty are children and youth under
twenty-one. Of the adult members, seventy-five are men and one hundred
women. In 1823 it had over two hundred members; between 1837 and 1850 it
had three hundred and fifty.
It has in its home estate twenty-five hundred acres of land, and owns
besides about two thousand acres in the same state, and thirty thousand
acres in Kentucky. Its chief industry is farming, and the families keep
a large number of sheep and cattle. They shear wool enough to supply all
their own needs in cloth and flannel, but have these woven by an outside
mill; they raise large crops of broom-corn and sweet corn: the first
they make into brooms, and the other they put up dry in barrels for
sale; they put up fruits and vegetables in tin cans, and also sell
garden seeds. They have given up their tan-yard, which was once a source
of income. Finally, they make in their own shops, for the use of the
society, shoes, carpets, clothing, furniture, and almost all the
articles of household use they require.
They hire about seventy-five laborers.
Most of the members are Americans, and three quarters of them grew up
from childhood in the society. Among the membership are some Germans,
English, Irish, Swedes, Scotch, and two or three French people. Some
among them were originally clergymen, others lawyers, mechanics, and
gardeners; but the greater number are farmers by occupation. Some of
those who came in as adults had been "Infidels," some Adventists, others
Methodists. The society at this time contains more young than old
Most of the people eat meat, and drink tea and coffee. Some use tobacco,
but this is discouraged.
They had formerly a good many colored members; and have still some, as
well as several mulattoes and quadroons.
One colored sister is ninety years of age.
The members here have been long-lived; the register proves this: it
shows deaths at ninety-seven, ninety-four, ninety-three, ninety, and so
on. They are careful to have thorough drainage and ventilation, and pay
attention to sanitary questions. They were formerly subject to bilious
fevers; but since rejecting the use of pork, these fevers have
They take a number of newspapers, and have a library of four hundred
volumes, but the people are not great readers, and are fonder of
religious books and works of popular science than of any other
literature. There is a school; and the children are now to have
instruction in music, as one of the families has bought an organ, and
asked a musical brother from New Hampshire to come down and give
lessons. Instrumental music, however, has been opposed by the older
members, and here as in some of the other societies it has been
introduced only after prolonged discussion.
This society has no debts, and has never suffered from the
unfaithfulness of agents or trustees. It is in a very prosperous
condition. Each family makes a detailed annual report to the presiding
ministry, and a _daily_ diary of events is kept.
They have baths in the dwellings, and well-arranged laundries.
The Watervliet and Mount Lebanon Societies have a number of members
living in the outer world, but holding to Shaker principles, and
maintaining by correspondence a connection with them. Some of these are
inhabitants of cities, and "above the average in wealth and culture," I
was told. The Watervliet Society has also a branch at Philadelphia,
consisting of twelve colored women, who live together in one house under
the leadership of an old woman, who was moved about twenty years ago to
leave this society and go to Philadelphia to preach among her people.
The members find employment as day servants in different families, going
home every night. They mainly support themselves, and have never asked
for help from the society; but this occasionally makes them presents,
and keeps a general oversight over them.
The Groveland Society lies near Sonyea, in Livingston County,
thirty-seven miles from Rochester on the Dansville and Mount Morris
branch of the Erie Railway. This society Was founded at Sodus Point in
1826, and removed from there to its present location in 1836. They had
at that time one hundred and fifty members; and were most numerous about
twenty-five years ago, when they had two hundred members. At present
they have two families, with fifty-seven members in all, of whom nine
are children under twenty-one; of these last, six are girls and three
boys. Of the adults, thirty are females and eighteen males.
They own a home farm of two thousand acres, and an outlying farm of two
hundred and eighty acres, mostly good land, and very well placed, a
canal and two railroads running through their home farm. They have a
saw-mill and grist-mill, which are sources of income to them; and they
raise broom-corn, make brooms, and dry apples and sweet corn. The women
make fancy articles for sale. They also keep fine cattle, and sell a
good deal of high-priced stock. Farming and gardening are their chief
employments, as they have a ready sale for all they produce. They employ
eight hired laborers.
The members are mostly Americans, raised in the society; but they have
French Canadians, Dutch, German, Irish, and English among them. The
French Canadians were Catholics, and some of their other members were
Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and Methodists. Most of those who came in
as adults were farmers. They are long-lived--living to beyond seventy
in a considerable number of cases.
They eat meat, drink tea and coffee, and some aged members who came in
late in life, with confirmed habits, are allowed to use tobacco. One
They have a school, and a good miscellaneous library of about four
hundred volumes, in a case in the dwelling-house of the Church Family.
They sing finely, but are opposed to the introduction of musical
instruments. In some of their evening meetings they read aloud, and the
last book thus read was Mr. Seward's "Journey around the World."
They do not adopt as many children as formerly, and experience has
taught them the necessity of knowing something of the parentage of
children, in order to make judicious selections.
"Formerly we had one or two physicians among our members, and then there
was much sickness; now that we have no doctor there is but little
illness, and the health of the society is good."
One of the families is in debt, through an imprudent purchase of land
made by a trustee, without the general knowledge of the society.
Moreover they have suffered severely from fires and by a flood. Once
seven of their buildings were burned down in a night. In this way a fund
they had at interest was expended in repairs. But the society seems now
to be prosperous; its buildings are in excellent order, and the brick
dwelling of the Church Family, built in 1857, is well arranged and a
fine structure. They have a steam laundry and a fine dairy. In their
shops they carry on blacksmithing, carpentry, tailoring, and
They make a regular annual business statement to the presiding ministry.
At intervals they send out one or two brethren to preach to the outer
world upon Shakerism.
There are four Shaker societies in Ohio: Union Village, near Lebanon;
North Union, near Cleveland; Watervliet, near Dayton; and Whitewater,
The society at Union Village lies four miles from Lebanon, in Warren
County, Ohio. It is the oldest Shaker settlement in the West; the three
"witnesses" sent out from Mount Lebanon in 1805 were here received by a
prosperous farmer named Malchas Worley, who became a "Believer," and
whose influence greatly helped to spread the Shaker doctrines among his
neighbors. His small dwelling still stands near the large house of one
of the families, and is kept in neat repair; it lies in the heart of the
society's present estate.
The ministry of Union Village, while subordinate to that at Mount
Lebanon, rules or has a general oversight of the western societies in
Ohio and Kentucky; and in former times there has been a good deal of
printing done there, a number of Shaker publications having been written
and published at Union Village.
The society at Union Village consists of four families, containing at
this time two hundred and fifteen persons, of whom ninety-five are males
and one hundred and twenty females. Of the whole number, forty-eight are
children and youth under twenty-one, and of these twenty are boys and
twenty-eight girls. Between 1827 and 1830 it had six hundred members,
and at that time there were six families. It had, however, about that
time received sudden and considerable accessions from the dissolution of
the Shaker Society in Indiana, which left that state on account of the
unhealthfulness of the country, and whose members were divided among the
Ohio societies. In the last ten years I was told there had been neither
gain nor loss of numbers, taking the average of the year; for here, as
elsewhere, there is usually a swelling of the ranks in the fall, from
what are called "winter Shakers."
The society at Union Village was "gathered" between 1805 and 1810. The
oldest building dates from 1807, and others, of brick and still in
excellent preservation, bear the dates of 1810 and 1811. All the
buildings are in good order; and this society is among the most
prosperous in the order. Its families own a magnificent estate of four
thousand five hundred acres lying in the famous Miami bottom, a soil
much of which is so fertile that after sixty years of cropping it will
still yield from sixty to seventy bushels of corn to the acre, and
without manuring. They have also some outlying farms. They have no debt,
and one of the families has a fund at interest.
They let much of their land to tenants, having not less than forty thus
settled and working the soil on shares. Besides this, the different
families employ about thirty hired laborers. Their industries are
broom-making, raising garden seeds and medicinal herbs, and preparing
medicinal extracts. They also make a syrup of sarsaparilla, and one or
two other patent medicines: they have a saw and a grist mill; the women
make small fancy articles and baskets. But their most profitable
business is the growth of fine stock--thoroughbred Durham cattle
chiefly. They have, of course, shops in which they make and mend what
they need for themselves--tailor's, shoemaker's, blacksmith's,
wagon-maker's, etc. Formerly they manufactured more than at
present--having made at one time, for the general market, steel,
leather, hollow-ware, pipes, and woolen yarn. Prosperity has lessened
their enterprise. Three of the families have very complete laundries.
They eat meat, but no pork; and only a very few of the aged members use
tobacco. They have an excellent school, of which one of the ministry, an
intelligent and kindly man, is the teacher. They have a small
library--"not so many books as we would like;" and one of the sisters
told me that she got books from a circulating library at Lebanon, and as
a special indulgence was allowed to read novels sometimes, which, she
remarked, she found useful to set her to sleep. They have two
cabinet-organs, and believe in cultivating music.
The founders of this society were mostly Presbyterians. Their successors
have been Methodists, Baptists, Quakers, and I found, to my surprise,
several Catholics, one of whom was originally a Spanish priest. Almost
all are Americans, but there are a few Germans and English.
They do not care to take children unless they are accompanied by their
parents; and refuse to take any under nine years, unless they come as
part of a family. Not more than ten per cent of the children they train
up remain with them; but they said it was not uncommon to see them
return after spending some years in the world, and in such cases they
often made good Shakers. During the war a number of their young men went
off to become soldiers. Several of those who survived returned, and are
now among them.
They have no provision for baths.
In 1835 they suffered from the defalcation of a trustee, to the amount
of between forty and fifty thousand dollars.
I looked over a list of deaths during the last thirty years, and was
surprised to find how many members had lived to ninety and past, and how
large a proportion died at over seventy.
"Are you all Spiritualists," I asked, and was answered, "Of course;" but
presently one added, "We are all Spiritualists, in a general sense; but
there are some _real_ Spiritualists here;" and I judge that here as
in some of the other societies Spiritualism is not much thought of. I saw
the "Sacred Roll and Book" on a table, but was told it was not much read
nowadays, but that they read the Bible a good deal.
I found that for the last three years they have had here what they call
a Lyceum: a kind of debating club which meets once a week, for the
discussion of set questions, reading, and the criticism of essays
written by the members. The last question discussed was, "Whether it is
best for the Shaker societies to work on cash or credit."
This Lyceum has produced another meeting in the Church Family, in which,
once a week, all the members--male and female, young and old--are
gathered to overhaul the accounts of the week, and to discuss all the
industrial occupations of the family, agricultural and mechanical, as
well as housekeeping and every thing relating to their practical life.
These weekly meetings are found to give the younger members a greater
interest in the society, and they were established because it was
thought necessary to make efforts to keep the youth whom they bring up.
"We will never change the fundamental principles and practices of
Shakerism," said one of the older and official members, an uncommonly
intelligent Shaker, to me. "Celibacy and the confession of sins are
vital; but in all else we ought to be changeable, and may modify our
practices; and we feel that we must do something to make home more
pleasant for our young people--they want more music and more books, and
shall have them; they are greatly interested in these weekly business
meetings; and I am in favor of giving them just as much and as broad an
education as they desire."
The business meeting lasts an hour, and the "Elder Brother in the
Ministry" presides. I saw some evidences that this meeting aroused
thought. Any member may bring up a subject for discussion; and I heard
some of the sisters say that one matter which had occupied their
thoughts was the too great monotony of their own lives--they desired
greater variety, and thought women might do some other things besides
cooking. One thought it would be an improvement to abolish the caps, and
let the hair have its natural growth and appearance--but I am afraid she
might be called a radical.
The founders of Union Village were evidently men who did their work
thoroughly; the dwellings and houses they built early in the century,
all of brick, have a satisfactory solidity, and are not without the
homely charm which good work and plain outlines give to any building.
Two of these old houses in the Church Family are now used as the boys'
and the girls' houses, and are uncommonly good specimens of early
Western architecture. The whole village is a pattern of neatness, with
flagged walks and pleasant grassy court-yards and shade-trees; but I
noticed here and there a slackness in repairs which seemed to show the
want of a deacon's sharp eyes.
The North Union Shaker Society lies eight miles northeast from
Cleveland. It was founded in 1822, in what was then a thickly timbered
wilderness, and the people lived for some years in log cabins. The
society was most numerous about 1840, when it contained two hundred
members. It is now divided into three families, having one hundred and
two persons, of whom seventeen are children and youth under twenty-one.
Of these last, six are boys and eleven girls. Of the adult members,
forty-four are women and forty-one men. Their numbers have of late
increased, but there was a gradual diminution for fifteen years before
About a third of the present members were brought up in the society; of
the remainder, the most were by religious connection Adventists,
Methodists, and Baptists. They have among them persons who were weavers,
whalemen, and sailors, but most of them were farmers. The greater number
are Americans, but they have some Swiss, Germans, and English. They do
not like to take in children unless their parents come with them. The
health of the society has been very good. Many of their people have
lived to past eighty; one sister died at ninety-eight. In the last fifty
years they have buried just one hundred persons.
They eat but little meat; use tea and coffee, but moderately, and "bear
against tobacco," but permit its use in certain cases. But they allow no
one to both smoke and chew the weed. They have a school, and like to
sing, but do not allow musical instruments.
Less than a quarter of the young people whom they bring up remain with
They own 1355 acres of land in one body, and have no outlying farms.
They have a saw-mill, and make brooms, broom-handles, and stocking
yarn. But their chief sources of income arise from supplying milk and
vegetables to Cleveland, as well as fire-wood, and some lumber, and they
keep fine stock. They used to make wooden ware. Their dairy brought them
in $2300 last year. They employ nine hired men.
The buildings of this society are not in as neat order as those of
Groveland or others eastward. I missed the thorough covering of paint,
and the neatness of shops. They have no steam laundry, and make no
provision for baths. But they have the usual number of "shops," among
them an infirmary, or in Shaker language a "nurse-shop." They have a
small library, and take two daily newspapers, the New York _World_
and _Sun_. They read the Bible "when they have a gift for it," but
depend much upon their own revelations from the spirit-land.
They owe no debts, and have a fund at interest. They make a detailed
annual report to the presiding ministry. They have never suffered
serious loss from mismanagement and defaulting agents or trustees.
_Watervliet and Whitewater_.
The two societies of Watervliet and Whitewater, in Ohio, I did not
visit. They are small, and subordinate to that of Union Village.
The society at Watervliet has two families, containing fifty-five
members, of whom nineteen are males and thirty-six females; and seven
are under twenty-one. They own thirteen hundred acres of land, much of
which they let to tenants. They have a wool-factory, which is their
This society was founded a year after that at Union Village; it had in
1825 one hundred members; and is now prosperous, pecuniarily, having no
debt, and money at interest. One of its families once suffered a slight
loss from a defalcation.
The society at Whitewater has three families, and one hundred members,
of whom fifteen are under twenty-one. There are forty males and sixty
females. It was founded in 1827, and many among its members came from
the society which broke up in Indiana. It had at one time one hundred
and fifty members.
It owns fifteen hundred acres of land, and has no debt, but a fund at
interest in each family. The families put up garden seeds, make brooms,
raise stock, and farm.
There are two societies in Kentucky, one at South Union, in Logan
County, on the line of the Nashville Railroad, and one at Pleasant Hill,
in Mercer County, seven miles from Harrodsburg. They are both
The society at South Union was founded nearly on the scene of the wild
"Kentucky revival" in the year 1807, the gathering taking place in 1809.
Some of the log cabins then built by the early members are still
standing, and the first meetinghouse, built in 1810, bears that date on
its front. I judge that the early members were poor, from the fact that
they lived for some time in cabins. Some who came into the society at an
early date were slaveholders; and as the Shakers have always
consistently opposed slavery, these set their slaves free, but induced
them to the number of forty to join them. For many years there was a
colored family, with a colored elder, living upon the same terms as the
whites. From time to time some of these fell away and left the society;
but I was told that a number became and remained "good Shakers," and
died in the faith; and when the colored family became too small, the
remnant of members was taken in among the whites. There are at present
several colored members.
There were originally three families, but now four, one of which,
however, is small. The society numbers two hundred and thirty persons,
of whom one hundred are males and One hundred and thirty females, and
forty of these are under twenty-one--twenty-five girls and fifteen boys.
In 1827 they were most numerous, having three hundred and forty-nine
persons in all the families; they had at one time but one hundred and
seventy-five, and have risen from that in the last twenty years to their
present number. For some years they have neither increased nor
diminished, except by the coming and going of "winter Shakers," and "we
sift pretty carefully," they told me. [Footnote: The "Millennial Church"
gives their number at four hundred about 1825, but I follow the account
given me at South Union.] Most of the members are Americans, but they
have some Germans and a few English, and they had at one time several
They own nearly six thousand acres of land, of which three thousand five
hundred acres are in the home farm, the remainder about four miles off.
The South Union Shakers were early famous for fine stock, which they
sold in Missouri and in the Northwestern states and territories. They
still raise fine breeds of cattle, hogs, sheep, and chickens, and this
is a considerable source of income to them. Some of their land they let
to tenants, among whom I found several colored families; they have also
extensive orchards; the remainder they cultivate, raising--besides the
pasturage of their stock--corn, wheat, rye, and oats. They have also a
good grist-mill, from which they ship flour; they own a large brick
hotel at the railroad station, which, I was told, is a summer resort,
there being a sulphur spring near it, also a store, both of which they
rent to "world's people;" and they make brooms, put up garden
seeds--which was formerly an important business with them--and prepare
canned and preserved fruits, which they sell largely in the Southern
States. I saw here on the table those very sweet "preserves" which a
quarter of a century ago were to be found on every farmer's table in New
England, if he had a thrifty wife, and which, after breeding a kind of
epidemic of dyspepsia, have now, I think, entirely disappeared from our
Northern tables. It seems they are still served on "company occasions"
in the South.
They have for their home use a tannery, and shops for tailoring,
shoemaking, carpentering, and blacksmithing; and they employ fifteen
hired people, all Negroes.
Their buildings, which are both brick and frame, are all in excellent
condition; and the large pines and Norway spruces growing near the
dwellings (and "trimmed up"--or robbed of their lower branches, as the
abominable fashion has too long been in this country), show that the
founders provided for their descendants some grateful shade. Near the
Church Family they showed me two fine old oaks, under which Henry Clay
once partook of a public dinner, while at another time James Monroe and
Andrew Jackson stopped for a day at the country tavern which once stood
near by, when the stage road ran near here. "Monroe," said one of the
older members to me, "was a stout, thickset man, plain, and with but
little to say; Jackson, tall and thin, with a hickory visage."
Naturally, this being Kentucky, Clay was held to be the greatest
character of the three.
Here, too, as I am upon antiquities, I saw old men who in their youth
had taken part in the great "revival," and had seen the "jerks," which
were so horrible a feature of that religious excitement, and of which I
have previously quoted some descriptions from McNemar's "Kentucky
Revival." To dance, I was here told, was the cure for the "jerks;" and
men often danced until they dropped to the ground. "It was of no use to
try to resist the jerks," the old men assured me. "Young men sometimes
came determined to make fun of the proceedings, and were seized before
they knew of it." Men were "flung from their horses;" "a young fellow,
famous for drinking, cursing, and violence, was leaning against a tree
looking on, when he was jerked to the ground, slam bang. He swore he
would not dance, and he was jerked about until it was a wonder he was
not killed. At last he had to dance." "Sometimes they would be jerked
about like a cock with his head off, all about the ground." The dancing
I judge to have been an involuntary convulsive movement, which was the
close of the general spasm. Of course, the people believed the whole was
a "manifestation of the power of God." There is no reason to doubt that
McNemar's descriptions are accurate; from what I have heard at South
Union, I imagine that his account is not complete.
The South Union Shakers have no debt, and mean to obey the rule in this
regard; they have a very considerable fund at interest. They eat meat,
but no pork; drink tea and coffee, and some of them use tobacco--even
the younger members. They have as their minister here a somewhat
remarkable man, who studied Latin while driving an ox team as a
youngster, and later in life acquired some knowledge of German, French,
and Swedish while laboring successively as seed-gardener, tailor, and
shoemaker. His mild face and gentle manners pleased me very much; and I
was not surprised to find him a man greatly beloved in other societies
as well as at South Union. Nevertheless his example does not appear to
have been catching, for I was told that they have no library. They read
a number of newspapers, but the average of culture is low.
They have no baths; have lately bought a piano, and had a brother from
Canterbury to instruct some of the sisters in music. The singing was not
so good as I have heard elsewhere among the Shakers. They have a school
during five months of the year; and they like to take children--"would
rather have bad ones than none." They have brought children from New
Orleans and from Memphis after an epidemic which had left many orphans.
The young people "do tolerably well."
The founders of this society were "New-Light Presbyterians;" since then
they have been reinforced by "Infidels," Spiritualists, Methodists, and
It is certainly to their credit that, living in a slave state, and
having up to the outbreak of the war a great part of their business with
the states farther south, these Shakers were always anti-slavery and
Union people. Formerly they hired Negro laborers from their masters,
which, I suppose, kept the masters quiet; it did not surprise me to hear
that they always had their choice of the slave population near them. A
Negro knew that he would nowhere be treated so kindly as among the
Shakers. During the war they suffered considerable losses. A saw-mill
and grist-mill, with all their contents, were burned, causing a loss of
seventy-five thousand dollars. They fed the troops of both sides, and
told me that they served at least fifty thousand meals to Union and
Confederate soldiers alike. There was guerrilla fighting on their own
grounds, and a soldier was shot near the Church dwelling. "The war cost
us over one hundred thousand dollars," said one of the elders; and
besides this they lost money by bad debts in the Southern States. Since
the war they lost seventy-five thousand dollars in bonds, which,
deposited in a bank, were stolen by one of its officers; but the greater
part of this they hope to recover. Like all the Shakers, they are
long-lived. A man was pointed out to me, now eighty-seven years of age,
who plowed and mowed last summer; two revolutionary soldiers died in the
society aged ninety-three and ninety-four; one member died at
ninety-seven; and they have now people aged eighty-seven, eighty-five,
eighty-two, eighty, and so on.
During "meeting" on Sunday I saw the children, many of them small, and
all clean and neat, and looking happy in their prim way. They came in,
as usual, the boys by one door, the girls by another, each side with its
care-taker; and took part in the marching, kneeling, and other forms of
the Shaker worship. After the war, the South Union elders sought out
twenty orphans in Tennessee, whom they adopted. Last fall, when Memphis
suffered so terribly from yellow fever, they tried to get fifty children
from there, but were unsuccessful. Considering the small number who stay
with them after they are grown up, this charity is surely admirable. And
though the education which children receive among the Shaker people is
limited, the training they get in cleanliness, orderly habits, and
morals is undoubtedly valuable, and better than such orphans would
receive in the majority of cases among the world's people. Nor must it
be forgotten that the Shakers still, with great good sense, teach each
boy and girl a trade, so as to fit them for earning a living.
The Pleasant Hill Society lies in Mercer County, seven miles from
Harrodsburg, on the stage road to Nicholasville, and near the Kentucky
River, which here presents some grand and magnificent scenery, deserving
to be better known.
They have a fine estate of rich land, lying in the midst of the famous
blue-grass region of Kentucky. It consists of four thousand two hundred
acres, all in one body. They have five families; but the three Church
families have their property in common. In 1820 they had eight families,
and between 1820 and 1825 they had about four hundred and ninety
members. At present the society numbers two hundred and forty-five
persons, of whom seventy-five are children or youth under twenty-one.
About one third are males and two thirds females.
Pleasant Hill was founded in 1805, and "gathered into society order" in
1809; at which time community of goods was established.
The members are mostly Americans, but they have in one family a good
many Swedes. These are the remnant of a large number whom the society
brought out a number of years ago at its own expense, in the hope that
they would become good Shakers. The experiment was not successful. They
have also two colored members, and some English. They have among them
people who were Baptists, Methodists, Adventists, and Presbyterians. A
considerable number of the people, however, have grown up in the
society, having come in as children of the founders; and one old lady
told me she was born in the society, her parents having entered three
months before she came into the world.
They eat meat, but no pork; use tea and coffee, and tobacco, but "not
much;" have baths in all the families; have no library, except of their
own publications, of which copies are put into every room, and a good
supply is on hand, especially of the "Sacred Roll and Book," and the
"Divine Book of Holy Wisdom," which appear to be more read here than
elsewhere. They have no musical instruments, but mean to get an organ
"to help the singing." They receive twenty newspapers of different
kinds; and they are Spiritualists.
The buildings at Pleasant Hill are remarkably good. The dwellings have
high ceilings, and large, airy rooms, well fitted and very comfortably
furnished, as are most of the Shaker houses. Most of the buildings are
of stone or brick, and the stone houses in particular are well built. In
most of the dwellings I found two doorways, for the different sexes, as
well as two staircases within. The walks connecting the buildings are
here, as at South Union, Union Village, and elsewhere, laid with
flagging-stones--but so narrow that two persons cannot walk abreast.
Agriculture, the raising of fine stock, and preserving fruit in summer
are the principal industries pursued at Pleasant Hill for income. They
make some brooms also, and in one of the families they put up garden
seeds. They have, however, very complete shops of all kinds for their
own use, as well as a saw and grist mill, and even a woolen-mill where
they make their own cloth. Formerly they had also a hatter's shop; and
in the early days they labored in all their shops for the public, and
kept besides a carding and fulling mill, a linseed-oil mill, as well as
factories of coopers' ware, brooms, shoes, dry measures, etc. At present
their numbers are inadequate to carry on manufactures, and their wealth
makes it unnecessary. They let a good deal of their land, the renters
paying half the crop; and they employ besides fifteen or twenty hired
hands, who are mostly Negroes.
Hired laborers among the Shakers are usually, or always so far as I
know, boarded at the "office," the house of the trustees; and this often
makes a good deal of hard work for the sisters who do the cooking there.
At Pleasant Hill they had two colored women and a little boy in the
"office" kitchen, hired to help the sisters; and this is the only place
where I saw this done.
They have a school for the children, which is kept during five months of
the year. They do not like to take children without their parents; and
very few of those they take remain in the society after they are grown
up. They are troubled also with "winter Shakers," whom they take "for
conscience' sake," if they show even very little of the Shaker spirit,
hoping to do them good. They were Union people during the war, and a few
of their young men entered the army, and some of these returned after
the war ended, and were reinstated in the society after examination and
confession of their sins. During the war both armies foraged upon them,
taking their horses and wagons; and they served thousands of meals to
hungry soldiers of both sides. Their estate lies but a few miles from
the field of the great battle of Perryville, and this region was for a
while the scene of military operations, though not to so great an extent
as the country about South Union. The Confederate general John Morgan,
who was born near here, always protected them against his own troops,
and they spoke feelingly of his care for them.
This society has no debt, and has never suffered from a defalcation or
breach of trust. Some years ago they lost nearly ten thousand dollars
from the carelessness of an aged trustee.
They are long-lived, many of their members having lived to past ninety.
They have one now aged ninety-eight years.
* * * * *
SHAKER LITERATURE, SPIRITUALISM, ETC.
"It should be distinctly understood that special inspired gifts have not
ceased, but still continue among this people:" so reads a brief note to
the Preface of "Christ's First and Second Appearing," the edition of
In the "Testimonies concerning the Character and Ministry of Mother Ann
Lee," a considerable number of her followers who had known her
personally, being her contemporaries, relate particulars of her teaching
and conduct, and not a few give instances of so-called miraculous cures
of diseases or injuries, performed by her upon themselves or others.
The hymns or "spiritual songs" they sing are said by the Shakers to be
brought to them, almost without exception, from the "spirit-land;" and
the airs to which these songs are sung are believed to come from the
same source. There are, however, two collections of Hymns, to most of
whose contents this origin is not attributed, though even in these some
of the hymns purport to have been "given by inspiration."
[Illustration: A SHAKER SCHOOL]
[Illustration: SHAKER MUSIC HALL]
In the older of these collections, "A Selection of Hymns and Poems for
the Use of Believers," printed at Watervliet, in Ohio, 1833, one can
trace some of the earlier trials of the societies, and the evils they
had to contend with within themselves. The Western societies, for
instance, appear to have early opposed the drinking of intoxicating
beverages. Here is a rhyme, dated 1817, which appeals to the members in
the cause of total abstinence:
"From all intoxicating drink
Ancient Believers did abstain;
Then say, good brethren, do you think
That such a cross was all in vain?
"Inebriation, we allow,
First paved the way for am'rous deeds;
Then why should poisonous spirits now
Be ranked among our common needs?
"As an apothecary drug,
Its wondrous virtues some will plead;
And hence we find the stupid _Slug_
A morning dram does often need.
"Fatigue or want of appetite
At noon will crave a little more,
And so the same complaints at night
Are just as urgent as before.
"By want of sleep, and this and that,
His thirst for liquor is increased;
Till he becomes a bloated sot--
The very scarlet-colored beast.
"Why, then, should any soul insist
On such pernicious, pois'nous stuff?
Malignant _spirits_, you're dismissed!
You have possessed us long enough."
As a note to this temperance rhyme, stands the following:
"CH. RULE.--All spirituous liquors should be kept under care of the
nurses, that no drams in any case whatever should be dispensed to
persons in common health, and that frivolous excuses of being unwell
should not be admitted. Union Village, 1826."
"Slug," in the third of the preceding verses, seems to have been a cant
term among the early Shakers for a sluggard and selfish fellow, a kind
of creature they have pretty thoroughly extirpated; and presumably by
such free speech as is used in the following amusing rhymes:
"The depth of language I have dug
To show the meaning of a Slug;
And must conclude, upon the whole,
It means a stupid, lifeless soul,
Whose object is to live at ease,
And his own carnal nature please;
Who always has some selfish quirk,
In sleeping, eating, and at work.
"A lazy fellow it implies,
Who in the morning hates to rise;
When all the rest are up at four,
He wants to sleep a little more.
When others into meeting swarm,
He keeps his nest so good and warm,
That sometimes when the sisters come
To make the beds and sweep the room,
Who do they find wrap'd up so snug?
Ah! who is it but Mr. Slug.
"A little cold or aching head
Will send him grunting to his bed,
And he'll pretend he's sick or sore,
Just that he may indulge the more.
Nor would it feel much like a crime
If he should sleep one half his time.
"When he gets up, before he's dress'd
He's so fatigued he has to rest;
And half an hour he'll keep his chair
Before he takes the morning air.
He'll sit and smoke in calm repose
Until the trump for breakfast blows--
His breakfast-time at length is past,
And he must wait another blast;
So at the sound of the last shell,
He takes his seat and all is well."
"Slug" at the table is thus satirized:
"To save his credit, you must know
That poor old Slug eats very slow;
And as in justice he does hate
That all the rest on him should wait,
Sometimes he has to rise and kneel
Before he has made out his meal.
Then to make up what he has miss'd,
He takes a luncheon in his fist,
Or turns again unto the dish,
And fully satisfies his wish;
Or, if it will not answer then,
He'll make it up at half-past ten.
"Again he thinks it quite too soon
To eat his dinner all at noon,
But as the feast is always free,
He takes a snack at half-past three.
He goes to supper with the rest,
But, lest his stomach be oppress'd,
He saves at least a piece of bread
Till just before he goes to bed;
So last of all the wretched Slug
Has room to drive another plug.
"To fam'ly order he's not bound,
But has his springs of union round;
And kitchen sisters ev'ry where
Know how to please him to a hair:
Sometimes his errand they can guess,
If not, he can his wants express;
Nor from old Slug can they get free
Without a cake or dish of tea."
"Slug" at work, or pretending to work, gets a fling also:
"When call'd to work you'll always find
The lazy fellow lags behind--
He has to smoke or end his chat,
Or tie his shoes, or hunt his hat:
So all the rest are busy found
Before old Slug gets on the ground;
Then he must stand and take his wind
Before he's ready to begin,
And ev'ry time he straights his back
He's sure to have some useless clack;
And tho' all others hate the Slug,
With folded arms himself he'll hug.
"When he conceits meal-time is near,
He listens oft the trump to hear;
And when it sounds, it is his rule
The first of all to drop his tool;
And if he's brisk in any case,
It will be in his homeward pace."
Here, too, is a picture of "Slug" shirking his religious duties:
"In his devotions he is known
To be the same poor lazy drone:
The sweetest songs Believers find
Make no impression on his mind;
And round the fire he'd rather nod
Than labor in the works of God.
"Some vain excuse he'll often plead
That he from worship may be freed--
He's bruis'd his heel or stump'd his toe,
And cannot into meeting go;
And if he comes he's half asleep,
That no good fruit from him we reap:
He'll labor out a song or two,
And so conclude that that will do;
[And, lest through weariness he fall,
He'll brace himself against the wall],
And well the faithful may give thanks
That poor old Slug has quit the ranks.
"When the spectators are address'd,
Then is the time for Slug to rest--
From his high lot he can't be hurl'd,
To feel toward the wicked world;
So he will sit with closed eyes
Until the congregation rise;
And when the labor we commence,
He moves with such a stupid sense--
It often makes spectators stare
To see so dead a creature there."
The satire closes with a hit at "Slug's" devotion to tobacco:
"Men of sound reason use their pipes
For colics, pains, and windy gripes;
And smoking's useful, we will own,
To give the nerves and fluids tone;
But poor old Slug has to confess
He uses it to great excess,
And will indulge his appetite
Beyond his reason and his light.
If others round him do abstain,
It keeps him all the time in pain;
And if a sentence should be spoke
Against his much-beloved smoke,
Tho' it be in the way of joke,
He thinks his union's almost broke.
In all such things he's at a loss,
Because he thinks not of the cross,
But yields himself a willing slave
To what his meaner passions crave.
"This stupid soul in all his drift
Is still behind the proper gift--
With other souls he don't unite,
Nor is he zealous to do right.
Among Believers he's a drug,
And ev'ry elder hates a Slug.
"When long forbearance is the theme,
A warm believer he would seem--
For diff'rent tastes give gen'rous scope,
And he is full of faith and hope;
But talk about some good church rule,
And his high zeal you'll quickly cool.
Indulge him, then, in what is wrong,
And Slug will try to move along;
Nor will he his own state mistrust,
Until he gets so full of lust
His cross he will no longer tug,
Then to the world goes poor old Slug."
"Hoggish nature" comes in for a share of denunciation next in these
"In the increasing work of the gospel we find,
The old hoggish nature we will have to bind--
To starve the old glutton, and leave him to shift,
Till in union with heaven we eat in a gift.
"What Father will teach me, I'll truly obey;
I'll keep Mother's counsel, and not go astray;
Then plagues and distempers they will have to cease,
In all that live up to the gospel's increase.
"The glutton's a seat in which evil can work,
And in hoggish nature diseases will lurk:
By faith and good works we can all overcome,
And starve the old glutton until he is done.
"But while he continues to guzzle and eat,
All kinds of distempers will still find a seat--
The plagues of old Egypt--the scab and the bile,
At which wicked spirits and devils will smile.
"Now some can despise the good porridge and soup,
And by the old glutton they surely are dup'd--
To eat seven times in a day! What a mess!
I hate the old glutton for his hoggishness.
"No wonder that plagues and distempers abound,
While there is a glutton in camp to be found,
To spurn at the counsel kind Heaven did give--
And guzzle up all, and have nothing to save.
"When glutton goes in and sits down with the rest,
His hoggish old nature it grabs for the best--
The cake and the custard, the crull and the pie--
He cares not for others, but takes care of I.
"His stomach is weak, being gorg'd on the best,
He has had sev'ral pieces secret from the rest;
He'll fold up his arms, at the rest he will look,
Because they do eat the good porridge and soup.
"Now all that are wise they will never be dup'd;
They'll feed the old glutton on porridge and soup,
Until he is willing to eat like the rest,
And not hunt the kitchen to find out the best.
"We'll strictly observe what our good parents teach:
Not pull the green apple, nor hog  in the peach;
We'll starve the old glutton, and send him adrift;
Then like good Believers we'll eat in a gift."
[Footnote: To eat like a hog.]
[Illustration: pointing finger]
Following these verses are some reflections, concluding:
"Away with the sluggard, the glutton, and beast,
For none but the bee and the dove
Can truly partake of this heavenly feast,
Which springs from the fountains of love."
Obedience to the elders and ministry also appears to have been difficult
to bring about, for several verses in this collection inculcate this
duty. In one, called "Gospel-virtues illustrated," an old man is made
the speaker, in these words:
"Now eighteen hundred seventeen--
Where am I now? where have I been?
My age about threescore and three,
Then surely thankful I will be.
"I thank my parents for my home,
I thank good Elder Solomon,
I thank kind Eldress Hortency,
And Eldress Rachel kind and free.
"Good Elder Peter with the rest--
By his good works we all are blest;
His righteous works are plainly shown--
I thank him kindly for my home.
"From the beginning of this year,
A faithful cross I mean to bear,
To ev'ry order I'll subject,
And all my teachers I'll respect.
"With ev'ry gift I will unite--
They are all good and just and right;
If mortifying they do come,
I'll still be thankful for my home.
"When I'm chastis'd I'll not complain,
Tho' my old nature suffer pain;
Tho' it should come so sharp and hot,
Even to slay me on the spot.
"I will no longer use deceit,
I will abhor the hypocrite;
His forged lies I now will hate--
His portion is the burning lake.
"My vile affections they shall die,
And ev'ry lust I'll crucify;
I'll labor to be clean and pure,
And to the end I will endure.
"Th' adulterous eye shall now be blind--
It shall not feed the carnal mind;
My looks and conduct shall express
That holy faith that I possess.
"I will not murmur, 'tis not right,
About my clothing or my diet,
For surely those who have the care,
Will give to each their equal share.
"I will take care and not dictate
The fashion of my coat or hat;
But meet the gift as it may come,
And still be thankful for my home.
"I will be careful and not waste
That which is good for man or beast;
Or any thing that we do use--
No horse or ox will I abuse.
"I will be simple as a child;
I'll labor to be meek and mild;
In this good work my time I'll spend,
And with my tongue I'll not offend."
Again, in "Repentance and Confession," a sinner confesses his misdeeds
in such words as these:
"But still there's more crowds on my mind
And blacker than the rest--
They look more dark and greater crimes
Than all that I've confess'd
With tattling tongues and lying lips
I've often bore a part:
I frankly own I've made some slips
To give a lie a start.
"But worse than that I've tri'd to do,
When darken'd in my mind;
I've tri'd to be a Deist too--
That nothing was divine.
But O, good elders, pray for me!
The worst is yet behind--
I've talk'd against the ministry,
With malice in my mind.
"O Lord forgive! for mercy's sake,
And leave me not behind;
For surely I was not awake,
Else I had been consign'd.
Good ministry, can you forgive,
And elders one and all?
And, brethren, may I with you live,
And be the least of all?"
In "A Solemn Warning" there is a caution against the wiles of Satan, who
tries Believers with a spirit of discontent:
"This cunning deceiver can't touch a Believer,
Unless he can get them first tempted to taste
Some carnal affection, or fleshly connection,
And little by little their power to waste.
The first thing is blinding, before undermining,
Or else the discerning would shun the vile snare;--
Thus Satan hath frosted and artfully blasted
Some beautiful blossoms that promis'd most fair.
"This wily soul-taker and final peace-breaker
May take the unwary before they suspect,
And get them to hearken to that which will darken,
And next will induce them their faith to reject;
He'll tell you subjection affords no protection--
These things you've been tau't are but notions at best;
Reject your protection, and break your connection,
And all you call'd faith you may scorn and detest."
"The Last Woe" denounces various sins of the congregation:
"In your actions unclean, you are openly seen,
And this truth you may ever remark,
That in anguish and woe, to the saints you must go,
And confess what you've done in the dark.
"From restraint you are free, and no danger you see,
Till the sound of the trumpet comes in,
Crying 'Woe to your lust--it must go to the dust,
With the unfruitful pleasures of sin.'
"And a woe to the liar--he is doom'd to the fire,
Until all his dark lies are confess'd--
Till he honestly tell, what a spirit from hell
Had its impious seat in his breast.
"And a woe to the thief, without any relief--
He is sentenc'd in body and soul,
To confess with his tongue, and restore ev'ry wrong,
What he ever has robbed or stole.
"Tho' the sinner may plead, that it was not decreed
For a man to take up a full cross,
Yet in hell he must burn, or repent and return,
And be say'd from the nature of loss."
In the following "Dialogue" "confession of sins" is urged and enforced:
_Q_. Why did you choose this way you're in, which all mankind
_A_. It was to save my soul from sin, and gain a heav'nly prize.
_Q_. But could you find no other way, that would have done as well?
_A_. Nay, any other way but this would lead me down to hell.
_Q_. Well, tell me how did you begin to purge away your dross?
_A_. By honestly confessing sin, and taking up my cross.
_Q_. Was it before the Son of man you brought your deeds to light?
_A_. That was the mortifying plan, and surely it was right.
_Q_. But did you not keep something back, or did you tell the whole?
_A_. I told it all, however black--I fully freed my soul.
_Q_. Do you expect to persevere, and ev'ry evil shun?
_A_. My daily cross I mean to bear, until the work is done.
_Q_. Well, is it now your full intent all damage to restore?
_A_. If any man I've wrong'd a cent, I'll freely give him four.
_Q_. And what is now the greatest foe with which you mean to war?
_A_. The cursed flesh--'tis that, you know, all faithful souls
_Q_. Have you none of its sly deceit now lurking in your breast?
_A_. I say there's nothing on my mind but what I have confess'd.
_Q_. Well, what you have proclaim'd abroad, if by your works you
You are prepar'd to worship God, so, at, it, you, may, go."
"The Steamboat" seems to me a characteristic rhyme, which no doubt came
home to Believers on the western rivers, when they were plagued with
doubters and cold-hearted adherents:
"While our steamboat, Self-denial,
Rushes up against the stream,
Is it not a serious trial
Of the pow'r of gospel steam?
When Self-will, and Carnal Pleasure,
And Freethinker, all afloat,
Come down snorting with such pressure,
Right against our little boat.
"Were there not some carnal creatures
Mixed with the pure and clean,
When we meet those gospel-haters,
We might pass and not be seen;
But the smell of kindred senses
Brings them on us fair broadside,
Then the grappling work commences--
They must have a fair divide.
"All who choose the tide of nature,
Freely take the downward way;
But the doubtful hesitater
Dare not go, yet hates to stay.
To the flesh still claiming kindred,
And their faith still hanging to--
Thus we're held and basely hinder'd,
By a double-minded few.
"Wretched souls, while hesitating
Where to fix your final claim,
Don't you see our boiler heating,
With a more effectual flame!--When
the steam comes on like thunder,
And the wheels begin to play,
Must you not be torn asunder,
And swept off the downward way?
"Tho' Self-will and Carnal Reason,
Independence, Lust, and Pride,
May retard us for a season,
Saint and sinner must divide;
When releas'd from useless lumber--
When the fleshly crew is gone--
With our little faithful number,
O how swiftly we'll move on!"
The "Covenant Hymn" was publicly sung in some of the Western societies,
"so that no room was left for any to say that the Covenant [by which
they agree to give up all property and labor for the general use] was
not well understood." I quote here several verses:
"You have parents in the Lord, you honor and esteem,
But your equals to regard a greater cross may seem.
Where the gift of God you see,
Can you consent that it should reign?
Yea I can, and all that's free may jointly say--Amen.
"Can you part with all you've got, and give up all concern,
And be faithful in your lot, the way of God to learn?
Can you sacrifice your ease,
And take your share of toil and pain?
Yea I can, and all that please may freely say--Amen.
"Can you into union flow, and have your will subdu'd?
Let your time and talents go, to serve the gen'ral good?
Can you swallow such a pill--
To count old Adam's loss your gain?
Yea I can, and yea I will, and all may say--Amen.
"I set out to bear my cross, and this I mean to do:
Let old Adam kick and toss, his days will be but few.
We're devoted to the Lord,
And from the flesh we will be free;
Then we'll say with one accord--Amen, so let it be."
It is evident from these verses that the early Shakers had among them
men who at least could make the rhymes run glibly, and who besides had a
gift of plain speech. Here, for instance, is a denunciation of a
"In the Church of Christ and Mother,
Carnal feelings have no place;
Here the simple love each other,
Free from ev'ry thing that's base.
Therefore when the flesh is named,
When impeachments fly around,
Honest souls do feel ashamed--
Shudder at the very sound.
"Ah! thou foul and filthy stranger!
What canst thou be after here?
Thou wilt find thyself in danger,
If thou dost not disappear.
Vanish quick, I do advise you!
For we mean to let you know
Good Believers do despise you,
As a dang'rous, deadly foe.
"Dare you, in the sight of heaven,
Show your foul and filthy pranks?
Can a place to you be given
In the bright angelic ranks?
Go! I say, thou unclean devil!
Go from this redeemed soil,
If you think you cannot travel
Through a lake of boiling oil."
In those earlier days, as in these, idle persons seem to have troubled
the Shakers with the question "What would become of the world if all
turned Shakers," to which here is a sharp reply:
"The multiplication of the old creation
They're sure to hold forth as a weighty command;
And what law can hinder old Adam to gender,
And propagate men to replenish the land?
But truly he never obey'd the lawgiver,
For when the old serpent had open'd his eyes,
He sought nothing greater than just to please nature,
And work like a serpent in human disguise."
"Steeple houses" are as hateful to the Shakers as to the Quakers and the
Inspirationists of Amana, and they are excluded in an especial manner
from the Shakers' Paradise:
"No sin can ever enter here--
Nor sinners rear a steeple;
'Tis kept by God's peculiar care,
For his peculiar people.
One faith, one union, and one Lord,
One int'rest all combining,
Believers all, with one accord,
In heav'nly concert joining.
"Far as the gospel spirit reigns,
Our souls are in communion;
From Alfred to South Union's plains,
We feel our love and union.
Here we may walk in peace and love,
With God and saints uniting;
While angels, smiling from above,
To glory are inviting."
Occasionally the book from which I am quoting gives one of those lively
brief verses to which the Shaker congregation marches, with clapping
hands and skipping feet; as these, for instance:
"I mean to be obedient,
And cross my ugly nature,
And share the blessings that are sent
To ev'ry honest creature;
With ev'ry gift I will unite,
And join in sweet devotion--
To worship God is my delight,
With hands and feet in motion."
"Come, let us all be marching on,
Into the New Jerusalem;
The call is now to ev'ry one
To be alive and moving.
This precious call we will obey--
We love to march the heav'nly way,
And in it we can dance and play,
And feel our spirits living."
In the newer collection, entitled "Millennial Hymns, adapted to the
present Order of the Church," and printed at Canterbury, New Hampshire,
in 1847, a change is noticeable. The hymns are more devotional and less
energetic. There are many praises of Mother Ann--such lines as these:
"O Mother, blest Mother! to thee I will bow;
Thou art a kind Mother, thou dost teach us how
Salvation is gained, and how to increase
In purity, union, in order and peace.
"I love thee, O Mother; thy praise I will sound--
I'll bless thee forever for what I have found,
I'll praise and adore thee, to thee bow and bend,
For Mother, dear Mother, thou art my known friend."
"I will walk in true obedience, I will be a child of love;
And in low humiliation I will praise my God above.
I will love my blessed Mother, and obey her holy word,
In submission to my elders, this will join me to the Lord.
"I will stand when persecution doth around like billows roll;
I will bow in true subjection, and my carnal will control.
I will stand a firm believer in the way and work of God,
Doubts and fears shall never, never in me find a safe abode.
"When temptations do surround me, floods of evil ebb and flow,
Then in true humiliation I will bow exceeding low.
I will fear the God of heaven, I will keep his holy laws,
Treasure up his blessings given in this pure and holy cause.
"Tho' beset by wicked spirits, men and devils all combin'd,
Yet my Mother's love will save me if in faithfulness I stand:
No infernal crooked creature can destroy or harm my soul,
If I keep the love of Mother and obey her holy call."
Or this hymn, which is called "Parents' Blessing:
"My Father does love me, my Mother also
Does send me her love, and I now feel it flow;
These heavenly Parents are kind unto me,
And by their directions my soul is set free.
"They fill up my vessel with power and strength--
Yea, make my cross easy, my peace of great length;
My joy fall and perfect, my trouble but light,
My gifts very many in which I delight.
"I truly feel thankful for what I receive,
In each holy promise I surely believe;
They're able and willing to do all they've said,
And by my kind Parents I choose to be led.
"I love to feel simple, I love to feel low,
I love to be kept in the path I should go;
I love to be taught by my heavenly lead,
That I may be holy and perfect indeed."
I add another, which has the lively, quick rhythm in which the Shakers
delight. It is called "Wisdom's Path:
"I'll learn to walk in wisdom's ways,
And in her path I'll spend my days;
I'll learn to do what Mother says
And follow her example.
All pride and lust this will subdue,
And every hateful passion too;
This will destroy old Satan's crew
That's seated in the temple.
"Come, honest souls, let us unite
And keep our conscience clear and white,
For surely Mother does delight
To own and bless her children.
In Father's word let us go on,
And bear our cross and do no wrong,
In faith and love then we'll be strong
To conquer every evil.
"For love and union is our stay,
We'll be strong and keep it day by day;
Then we shall never go astray,
We'll gain more love and union.
Obedience will still increase,
And every evil work will cease,
We'll gain a true and solid peace,
We'll live in Mother's union."
I make no excuse for these quotations of Shaker hymns, for the books
from which they are taken have been seen by very few outside of the
order, and not even by all its members, as they are not now in common
The Shakers have always professed to have intimate intercourse with the
"spirit world." Elder Frederick Evans says in his autobiography that
from the beginning the exercises in Shaker meetings were "singing and
dancing, shaking, turning, and shouting, _speaking with new tongues and
prophesying_." Elder Frederick himself, as he remarks, "was converted
to Shakerism in 1830 by spiritual manifestations," having "visions" for
three weeks, which converted him, as he relates, from materialism. He
"In 1837 to 1844 there was an influx from the 'spirit world,'
'confirming the faith of many disciples' who had lived among Believers
for years, and extending throughout all the eighteen societies, making
media by the dozen, whose various exercises, not to be suppressed even
in their public meetings, rendered it imperatively necessary to close
them all to the world during a period of seven years, in consequence of
the then unprepared state of the people, to which the whole of the
manifestations, and the meetings too, would have been as unadulterated
'foolishness,' or as inexplicable mysteries."
In a recent number of the _Shaker and Shakeress_ (1874), Elder James
S. Prescott, of the North Union Society, gave a curious account of the
first appearance of this phenomenon at that place, from which I quote
"It was in the year 1838, in the latter part of summer, some young
sisters were walking together on the bank of the creek, not far from the
hemlock grove, west of what is called the Mill Family, where they heard
some beautiful singing, which seemed to be in the air just above their
"They were taken by surprise, listened with admiration, and then
hastened home to report the phenomenon. Some of them afterwards were
chosen mediums for the 'spirits.' We had been informed, by letter, that
there was a marvelous work going on in some of the Eastern societies,
particularly at Mt. Lebanon, New York, and Watervliet, near Albany. And
when it reached us in the West we should all know it, and we did know
it; in the progress of the work, every individual, from the least to the
greatest, did know that there was a heart-searching God in Israel, who
ruled in the armies of heaven, and will yet rule among the inhabitants
"It commenced among the little girls in the children's order, who were
assembled in an upper room, the doors being shut, holding a meeting by
themselves, when the invisibles began to make themselves known. It was
on the Sabbath-day, while engaged in our usual exercises, that a
messenger came in and informed the elders in great haste that there was
something uncommon going on in the girls' department. The elders brought
our meeting to a close as soon as circumstances would admit, and went
over to witness the singular and strange phenomena.
"When we entered the apartment, we saw that the girls were under the
influence of a power not their own--they were hurried round the room,
back and forth as swiftly as if driven by the wind--and no one could
stop them. If any attempts were made in that direction, it was found
impossible, showing conclusively that they were under a controlling
influence that was irresistible. Suddenly they were prostrated upon the
floor, apparently unconscious of what was going on around them. With
their eyes closed, muscles strained, joints stiff, they were taken up
and laid upon beds, mattresses, etc.
"They then began holding converse with their guardian spirits and
others, some of whom they once knew in the form, making graceful motions
with their hands--talking audibly, so that all in the room could hear
and understand, and form some idea of their whereabouts in the spiritual
realms they were exploring in the land of souls. This was only the
beginning of a series of 'spirit manifestations,' the most remarkable we
ever expected to witness on the earth. One prominent feature of these
manifestations was the gift of songs, hymns, and anthems--new, heavenly,
and melodious. The first inspired song we ever heard from the 'spirit
world,' with words attached, was the following, sung by one of the young
sisters, while in vision, with great power and demonstration of the
spirit, called by the invisible.
"'THE SONG OF A HERALD.
"'Prepare, O ye faithful,
To fight the good fight;
Sing, O ye redeemed,
Who walk in the light.
Come low, O ye haughty,
Come down, and repent.
Disperse, O ye naughty,
Who will not relent.
"'For Mother is coming--
Oh, hear the glad sound--
To comfort her children
Wherever they're found;
With jewels and robes of fine linen
To clothe the afflicted withal.'
"Given by inspiration, at North Union, August, 1838, ten years prior to
the Rochester Rappings.'
"The gifts continued increasing among the children. Among these were the
gift of tongues, visiting the different cities in the 'spirit world,'
holding converse with the indwellers thereof, some of whom they once
knew in the body. And in going to these cities they were accompanied by
their guardian angels, and appeared to be flying, using their hands and
arms for wings, moving with as much velocity as the wings of a bird.
"All of a sudden they stopped, and the following questions and answers
were uttered through their vocal organism:
_Question_--'What city is this?'
_Answer_--'The City of Delight.'
_Question_--'Who live here?'
_Answer_--'The colored population.'
_Question_--'Can we go in and see them?'
_Answer_--'Certainly. For this purpose you were conducted here. They
were admitted, their countenances changed.'
_Question_--'Who are all these?'
_Answer_--'They are those who were once slaves in the United
_Question_--'Who are those behind them?'
_Answer_--'They are those who were once slaveholders.'
_Question_--'What are they doing here?'
_Answer_--'Serving the slaves, as the slaves served them while in
the earth life. God is just; all wrongs have to be righted.'
_Question_--'Who are those in the corner?'
_Answer_--'They are those slaveholders who were unmerciful, and
abused their slaves in the world, and are too proud to comply with the
_Question_--'What were the conditions?'
_Answer_--'To make confession and ask forgiveness of the slaves, and
right their wrongs; and this they are too proud to do.'
_Question_--'What will be done with them?'
_Answer_--'When their time expires they will be taken away and cast
out, and will have to suffer until they repent; for all wrongs must be
righted, either in the form or among the disembodied spirits, before
souls can be happy.'
"And when the girls came out of vision, they would relate the same things,
which, corresponded with what they had previously talked out.
"Now, we will leave the girls for the present and go into the boys'
department. Here we find them holding meetings by themselves, under the
safe guidance of their care-takers, going in vision, some boys and some
girls, for the work had progressed so as to reach adults, and all were
called immediately into the work whose physical organizations would
possibly admit of mediumship. The peculiar gift at this time was in
visiting the different cities in the 'spirit world,' and in renewing
acquaintances with many of their departed friends and relatives, who
were the blissful and happy residents therein.
"But before we go any further we will let our mediums describe the first
city they came to after crossing the river.
"_Question_--'What city is this?'
_Answer_--'The Blue City.'
_Question_--'Who lives here?'
_Answer_--'The American Indians.'
_Question_--'Why are they the first city we come to in the
spirit-land, on the plane, and most accessible?'
_Answer_--'Because the Indians lived more in accordance with the law
of nature in their earth life, according to their knowledge, and were the
most abused class by the whites except the slaves, and many of them now
are in advance of the whites in 'spirituality,' and are the most
powerful ministering spirits sent forth to minister to those who shall
be heirs of salvation.'
"At another time these same mediums, fifteen in number, of both sexes,
sitting on benches in the meeting-house, saw a band of Indian spirits
coming from the 'Blue City' in the spirit world to unite with them in
their worship, and said, 'They are coming;' and as soon as the spirits
entered the door they entered the mediums, which moved them from their
seats as quick as lightning. Then followed the Indian songs and dances,
and speaking in the Indian tongue, which was wholly unintelligible to us
except by spiritual interpreters."
Some of the most curious literature of the Shakers dates from this
period; and it is freely admitted by their leading men that they were in
some cases misled into acts and publications which they have since seen
reason to regret. Their belief is that they were deceived by false
spirits, and were unable, in many cases, to distinguish the true from
the false. That is to say, they hold to their faith in "spiritual
communications," so called; but repudiate much in which they formerly
had faith, believing this which they now reject to have come from the
Little has ever become authentically known of the so-called "spiritual"
phenomena, which so profoundly excited the Shaker societies during seven
years that, as Elder Frederick relates, they closed their doors against
the world. Hervey Elkins, a person brought up in the society at Enfield,
New Hampshire, in his pamphlet entitled "Fifteen Years in the Senior
Order of Shakers," from which I have already quoted, gives some curious
details of this period. It will be seen, from the passages I extract
from Elkins, that he came under what he supposed to be "spiritual"
"In the spring succeeding the winter of which I have treated, a
remarkable religious revival began among all the Shakers of the land,
east and west. It was announced several months prior to its commencement
that the holy prophet Elisha was deputized to visit the Zion of God on
earth, and to bestow upon each individual those graces which each
needed, and to baptize with the Holy Ghost all the young who would
prepare their souls for such a baptism.
"The time at length arrived. No one knew the manner in which the prophet
would make himself known. The people were grave and concerned about
their spiritual standing. Two female instruments from Canterbury, N. H.,
were at length ushered into the sanctuary. Their eyes were closed, and
their faces moved in semigyrations. Their countenances were pallid, as
though worn by unceasing vigils. They looked as though laden with a
momentous and impending revelation. Throughout the assembly, pallid
faces, tears, and trembling limbs were visible. Anxiety and excitement
were felt in every mind, as all believed the instruments sacredly and
superhumanly inspired. The alternate redness and pallor of every
countenance revealed this anxiety. For the space of five minutes the
spacious hall was as silent as the tomb. One of the mediums then
advanced in the space between the ranks of brethren and sisters, and
announced with a clear, deep, and sonorous voice, and in sublime and
authoritative language, the mission of the holy prophet. The ministry
then bade the instruments to be free and proceed as they could answer to
God; and conferred on them plenary power to conduct the meetings as the
prophet should direct.
"After marching a few songs, the prophet requested the formation of two
circles, one containing all the brethren, the other the sisters. The two
mediums were first enclosed by the circle of brethren. They both were
young women between twenty and twenty-five years of age, and had never
before been at Enfield. They had probably never heard the names of two
thirds of the younger members. They moved around in these circles,
stopping before each one as though reading the condition of every heart.
As they passed some, they evinced pleasure; as they passed others, they
bespoke grief; others, yet, an obvious contempt; by which it seemed they
looked within, and saw with delight or horror the state of all. From our
knowledge of the members, we knew they passed and noticed them as their
works merited. Little was said to separate individuals in the first
meeting. In the second, we were requested to form six circles, three of
each sex, and those of a circle to be connected together by the taking
hold of hands; and in this manner to bow, bend, and dance. In this
condition an influence was felt, upon which psychologists and biologists
would differ. It would be needless to enumerate the many gifts, the
prophecies, the extempore songs, the revelations, the sins exposed, and
the hypocrites ejected from the society during this period of two
months. But, as near as we could estimate, four hundred new songs were
sung in that time, either by improvisation or inspiration, of which I
have my opinion. I doubt not but that many were inspired by spirits
congenial with themselves, and consequently some of the songs evinced a
fatuity and simplicity peculiar to the instrument. On the other hand,
many songs were given from spheres above, higher in melody, sentiment,
and pathos than any originating with earth's inhabitants.
"I recollect that the first spiritual gift presented to me was a 'Cup of
Solemnity.' I drank the contents, and felt for a season the salutary
effects. During the revival I became sincerely converted. I for a time,
by reason of prejudice and distrust, resisted the effect of the
impressions, which at length overwhelmed me in a flood of tears, shed
for joy and gladness, as I more and more turned my thoughts to the
Infinite. At last a halo of heavenly glory seemed to surround me. I
drank deep of the cup of the waters of life, and was lifted in mind and
purpose from this world of sorrow and sin. I soared in thought to God,
and enjoyed him in his attributes of purity and love. I was wafted by
angels safely above the ocean of sensual enjoyment which buries so many
millions, but into which I had never fallen. I explored the beauties of
ineffable bliss, and caught a glimpse of that divinity which is the
culmination of science and the end of the world. The adoration and
solemnity of the sanctuary enveloped me as with a mantle, even when
employed in manual labor and in the company of my companions. The
frivolity of some of my companions disgusted me. The extreme and
favorable change wrought within me in so short a time was often remarked
by the elders and members of the society; but the praise or the censure
of mortals were to me like alternate winds, and of little avail.
"Two years thus passed, in which my highest enjoyments and pleasures
were an inward contemplation of the beauty, love, and holiness of God,
and in the ecstatic impressions that I was in the hollow of his hand,
and owned and blessed of him. Still later in life I retained and could
evoke at times the same profoundly religious impressions, contaminated,
however, by other favorite objects of study and attachment. Even the
expression of my countenance wore an aspect of deep, tender, and
benignant gravity, which the reflection of less holy subjects could not
produce. It was my delight to pray fervently and _tacitly_, and this
I often did besides the usual time allotted for such devotion. (Vocal
prayer is not admissible among the Shakers.) I loved to unite in the
dance, and give myself up to the operations of spirits even, if it would
not thwart my meditative communion with God and with God alone. Though
instruments or mediums were multiplied around me, dancing in imitation
of the spirits of all nations, singing and conversing in unknown
tongues, some evincing a truly barbarian attitude and manners, I stood
in mute thanksgiving and prayer. At times I was asked by the elders if I
could not unite and take upon me an Indian, a Norwegian, or an Arabian
spirit? I would then strive to be impressed with their feelings, and act
in conformity thereto. But such inspiration, I found, was not the
revelation of the Holy Ghost. It was not that which elevated and kept me
from all trials and temptations. But my inward spontaneous devotion was
the kind I needed. I informed the elders of my opinion, and they
concurred in it, only they regarded the inspiration of simple and
unsophisticated spirits as a stepping-stone to a higher revelation, by
virtue of removing pride, vanity, and self-will, those great barriers
against the accession of holy infusions."
* * * * *
"In the fall of that season this revival redoubled its energy. The gifts
were similar to those of the spring previous, but less charity was shown
to the hypocrite and vile pretender. It was announced that Jehovah-Power
and Wisdom--the dual God, would visit the inhabitants of Zion, and
bestow a blessing upon each individual as their works should merit. A
time was given for us to prepare for his coming. Every building, every
apartment, every lane, field, orchard, and pasture, must be cleansed of
all rubbish and needless encumbrance; so that even a Shaker village, so
notorious for neatness, wore an aspect fifty per cent more tidy than
usual. To sweep our buildings, regulate our stores, pick up and draw to
a circular wood-saw old bits of boards, stakes, and poles that were fit
for naught but fuel, and collect into piles to be burned upon the spot
all such as were unfit for that, was the order of the day. Even the
sisters debouched by scores to help improve the appearance of the farm
and lake shores, on which were quantities of drift-wood. Thus was passed
a fortnight of pleasant autumnal weather. As the evenings approached, we
set fire to the piles of old wood, which burned, the flames shooting
upward, in a serene evening, like the innumerable bonfires which
announce the ingress of a regal visitant to monarchical countries.
Viewed from the plain below, in the gray, dim twilight of a soft and
serene atmosphere, when all nature was wrapped in the unique and
beautiful solemnity of an unusually prorogued autumn, these fires,
emerging in the blue distance from the vast amphitheatre of hills, were
picturesque in the highest degree. How neat! How fascinating! And how
much like our conceptions of heaven the whole vale appeared! And then to
regard this work of cleansing and beautifying the domains of Mount Zion
as that preparatory to the visitation of the Most High, is something
which speaks to the heart and says: 'Dost thou appear as beautiful, as
clean, and as comely in the sight of God as do these elements of an
unthinking world? Is thine heart also prepared to be searched with the
candles of him from whom no unclean thing is hidden?'
"The following words were said to have been brought by an angel from
Jehovah, and accompanied by a most beautiful tune of two airs:
"'I shall march through Mount Zion,
With my angelic band;
I shall pass through the city
With my fan in my hand;
And around thee, O Jerusalem,
My armies will encamp,
While I search my Holy Temple
With my bright burning lamp.'"
"It was during this revival that Henry, of whom I have spoken, was
ejected from the society. During this, as also during the previous
excitement, he had exhibited an aversion which often found vent in
bitter taunts and jeers. Sometimes, however, a simulated unity of
feeling had prevented his publicly incurring the imputation of open
rebellion. He had learned some scraps of the Latin language, and on the
occasion of the evening worship in which he was expelled, he afterward
informed us that, at the time he was arraigned for expulsion, he was
pretendedly uniting with those who were speaking in unknown languages by
employing awful oaths and profanity in the Latin tongue. A female
instrument, said to be employed by the spirit of Ann Lee, approached him
while thus engaged, and uttered in a low, distinct, and funereal accent
a denunciation which severed him as a withered branch from the tree of
life. He suddenly bowed as if beneath the weight of a terrible destiny,
smiting his breast and ejaculating, 'Pardon! Pardon! Oh,
forgive--forgive me my transgressions'. The elders strove to hush his
cries, and replied that 'all forbearance is at an end.' His ardent
vociferations now degenerated into inarticulate yells of horror and
demoniacal despair. He rushed from the group which surrounded him, he
glided like one unconscious of the presence of others from one extremity
of the hall to another, he smote with clenched fists the walls of the
apartment, and reeled at last in convulsive agony, uttering the deep,
hollow groan of inexorable expiation. In this situation he was hurried
for the last time from the sanctuary which he had so often profaned, and
from the presence of those moistened eyes and commiserative looks which
he never would again behold. The confession of his blasphemous profanity
he made at the trustees' office prior to his leaving the society, which
occurred the subsequent morning."
At another time such scenes as the following are described:
"Shrieks of some one, apparently in great distress, first announced a
phenomenon, which caused the excitement. The screeching proceeded from a
girl of but thirteen years of age, who had previously among the Shakers
been a clairvoyant, and who has since been a powerful medium for
spiritual manifestation elsewhere. She soon fell upon the floor,
uttering awful cries, similar to those we had often heard emanating from
instruments groaning under the pressure of some hidden abomination in
the assembly. She plucked out entire handfuls of her hair, and wailed
and shrieked like one subjected to all the conceived agonies of hell.
The ministry and elders remarked that they believed that something was
wrong; something extremely heinous was covered from God's witnesses
somewhere in the assembly. All were exhorted to search themselves, and
see if they had nothing about them that God disowns. The meeting was
soon dismissed, but the medium continued in her abnormal and deplorable
condition. Near the middle of the succeeding night we were all awakened
by the ringing of the alarm, and summoned quickly to repair to the
girls' apartments. We obeyed. The same medium lay upon a bed, uttering
in the name of an apostate from the Shaker faith, and who was still
living in New England, tremendous imprecations against himself, warning
all to beware of what use they make of their privilege in Zion, telling
us of his awful torments in hell, how his flesh (or the substance of his
spiritual body) was all to strings and ringlets torn, how he was roasted
in flames of brimstone and tar, and, finally, that all these calamities
were caused by his doleful corruptions and pollutions while a member,
and professedly a brother to us. This, it was supposed by many, was by
true revelation the anticipation of the future state of this victim of
apostasy and sin. Two or three more girls were soon taken in the same
manner, and became uncontrollable. They were all instruments for
reprobated spirits, and breathed nothing but hatred and blasphemy to
God. They railed, they cursed, they swore, they heaped the vilest
epithets upon the heads of the leaders and most faithful of the members,
they pulled each other's and their own hair, threw knives, forks, and
the most dangerous of missiles. When the instruments were rational, the
elders entreated them to keep off such vile spirits. They would weep in
anguish, and reply that, unless they spoke and acted for the spirits,
they would choke them to death. They would then suddenly swoon away, and
in struggling to resist them would choke and gasp, until they had the
appearance of a victim strangled by a rope tightly drawn around her
neck. If they would then speak, the strangulation would cease. In the
mean time two females of adult age, and two male youths, were seized in
the same manner. Unless confined, they would elope, and appear to all
intents the victims of insanity. One of the young women eloped, fled to
a lake which was covered with ice, was pursued by some of the ox
teamsters, and carried back to the infirmary. Two men could with
difficulty hold a woman or a child when thus influenced. To prevent
mischief and elopement, we were obliged to envelop their bodies and
their arms tightly in sheets, and thus sew them up and confine them
until the spell was over. Such delirium generally lasted but a few
hours. It would seize them at any time and at any place.
"The phenomena to which we allude was the source of much facetious
pleasantry with the young brethren. One of the infernal spirits had one
evening declared that 'before morning they would have the deacon and
Lupier.' 'Deacon' was an epithet applied to myself, as a token of
familiarity. The tidings of the declaration of this infernal agent were
soon conveyed to me. It happened that my companion of the dormitory, a
middle-aged man, had that evening gone to watch with the mediums, and I
was left alone. I replied to my companions, who interrogated and
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