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Memoirs of the Miami Valley - Volume Two
Education and Schools, The Shakers, The Pilgrims, Religious Organizations

(page 283)

 

Education and Schools.

 

             Ohio goes into national record as the first state to provide by land grant for the education of her youth.

            But so necessarily engaged were the early legislators of the state with matters pertaining to the physical conditions and well-being of the people, that not until 1821 was a legislative law passed that touched upon school organization and recognized the responsibility of the state for the mental advancement of its children and youth. The following year a commission was appointed to collect material relative to the organization of a system of public or common schools and report to the general assembly in 1823, the report to embody three things, viz : The necessity and value of a school system, a bill proposing a system of school law, and the actual condition of the school lands. The report was made but its friends were a minority, and no action was taken. But it came up as an issue in the state election of the ensuing year. Legislators were elected who were favorable to a common school system. Fortunately for the state, Jeremiah Morrow, of Warren county, was governor, and his influence was given towards the passing of legislation in favor of the issue. Many in the state were hostile to the measure, for it embodied a tax for educational purposes ; but there were more who recognized the need for public schools, and in 1825, Ohio possessed a law supporting taxation for general school purposes, but effective organization was not in force until 1838, when a state system was formed, an exact school fund established, and schools, in theory, -at least, pronounced free. But there were cities and towns in the state that had not waited for legislative enactments on educational conditions. Cincinnati was far ahead of the rest of the state in planning for the intellectual progress of its youth. As early as 1829, she possessed a school charter by which the city had a free school system supported by taxation.

            Warren county was not forgetful nor negligent of the intellectual needs of her children in the early years of its history. Almost simultaneous with the formation of a settlement, a log schoolhouse stood in its little clearing. Francis Dunlevy, afterward first president judge of the circuit of southwestern Ohio, as far as the records go, taught the first school in Warren county, which was in the year 1798. The little log schoolhouse was located just west of Lebanon, and to it came the boys and girls for miles around. Among the youngest pupils sat sturdy, black-eyed Thomas Corwin. Mr. Dunlevy had a reputation for proficiency in mathematics and languages. Six years before he had been the head of a school (page 284) at Columbia, which was known as a "classical school," the first established in the Miami valleys. There was no "grade system" in his school at Lebanon, and it was certainly a mixed curriculum the common branches, beginning with the alphabet to an advanced reader, spelling, geography, arithmetic, algebra, Greek and Latin.

            After three years Mr. Dunlevy moved the school a little farther northwest from Lebanon, which was not incorporated until the following year, but while there he was elected to the territorial legislature, and the place of instructor was taken by Daniel Spinning; a school was continued in that locality until the year 1825. As the settlements grew in numbers, other schools were opened. Thomas Newport taught north of Lebanon for many years ; the late judge Ignatius Brown opened the first school at Deerfield in the year 1800, while in the first years of the century Matthias Ross instructed the children of Ridgeville in the first rudiments of learning. The first school in Lebanon after its incorporation was under the tutelage of Enos Williams, a pupil of Francis Dunlevy. The common English branches constituted the course of study. The intelligence of the early instructors of pioneer schools varied greatly, and another difficulty in the way was the lack of suitable books for the pupils. Copies for the writing lessons were written by the teacher always, and he was required to be an adept in the making and mending of quill pens.

            Francis Glass, who received -his education in Philadelphia, and came across the mountains in the year 1817, was for several years one of the most famous teachers ever employed in Warren county. So great was his familiarity with the ancient languages, that he was the author, of a Life of Washington written in Latin. In the primitive log schoolhouses, with their huge fireplaces, their puncheon or earth floors and slab seats, sat boys destined to make Warren county proud of their sonship, for their manhood told a story of devotion to principles that brought them merited fame and honor, not only in the restricted limits of their home environment, but placed them among the great men of the state and nation.

            What were afterwards known as "subscription schools" preceded the establishment of the public school system in Warren county. The following excerpt from a Lebanon paper will indicate the manner in which subscription schools were opened and maintained. The advertisement bears date of March 17, 1817. Westfield was an earlier name for Red Lion.

            "Notice-The inhabitants of Westfield, together with the adjacent neighborhoods, will please to observe that as soon as practicable the subscriber intends opening a school at the brick schoolhouse at the customary price of two dollars per quarter, one-half in produce at market price. Those who may wish to encourage literature, may send a short or longer time, discretionally with themselves, of which there will be an accurate account kept, and strict attention paid, by "The public's most obedient humble servant, "Anthony Geohegan."

            (page 285) Mr. Geohegan's consent to take half of his earnings in "produce" must have brought him various and sundry commodities for him to dispose of at "market price," for Mr. Samuel Lewis, the first superintendent of common schools in Ohio, states in his History of Higher Education in Kentucky, that the schoolmaster "was obliged to accept `bear bacon, buffalo steak, jerked venison, furs, potmeal, bar iron, linsey, hackled fax, young cattle, pork, corn or whisky,' as well as tobacco." In the year 1840, the princely salary received by a male teacher in Warren county was in the neighborhood of twenty dollars per month ; the instructors unfortunate enough to be of the opposite sex, though equally qualified by mental endowment with the sterner sex, were paid six dollars less per month. But public justice and public opinion slowly but gradually increased the salaries of all teachers. The system of common schools demanded an association of teachers for mutual improvement and general understanding of grade work, and teachers' institutes were organized and held in different parts of the state. The first institute of southern Ohio met in the spring of 1847 in Cincinnati; five years later, Warren county possessed an organization of its own, which held its first meeting in the Waynesville academy, and among the instructors were C. W. Kimball, of Maineville ; Josiah Hurty, of Lebanon ; J. S. Morris, W. T. Hawthorn and C. W. Harvey, all teachers in the county. Following the passage of the first Ohio law for the support of schools by taxation, boards of examiners as to the qualification of teachers were made imperative. The first appointees in Warren county under the legislative enactment of 1825 were Phineas Ross, A. H. Dunlevy and John M. Houston. Other names, prominent in promoting the best interests of the county, are found on the list of those who passed on the capability of school instructors among which are Gov. Morrow, Judge Joshua Collett, and others scarce less renowned.

 

The Shakers.

 

            It is a remarkable fact that the two greatest upheavals recorded in the religious history of our country were caused by the propaganda of two women, fearless enough to promulgate their earnest convictions of what they deemed to be Scriptural truth. The tenets of faith advanced by Mary Baker Eddy, which today are held by many formerly orthodox followers, were preceded, not quite a century before, by the peculiar doctrines taught by "Mother Ann Lee," an English woman, some of whose adherents came to America in 1774, and in the short space of five years established a strong community of believers at New Lebanon, New York. The first settlers in the Miami valley were far from being adventurers in the common acceptation of the word. With few exceptions, they were all Christian professors, but, perchance unfortunately, adherents to varying creeds, and many of the pioneer preachers were almost as intense and bitter in their denunciations against the dogmas held by a sister church as they were against the heinousness of sin; possibly more so. Arminianism was a red f lag to the Calvinist; he who had been immersed saw no possible hope of eternal salvation for one whose infant brow had felt only the baptismal drops of sprinkling. A chronicler of that. primitive period in our national religious life, in referring to the antagonism (page 285) that existed between different denominations, says they "stood entirely separate as to any communion or fellowship, and treated each other with the highest marks of hostility ; wounding, captivating and bickering another."

            Five years previous to the coming of Shaker missionaries to Warren county, a wonderful religious awakening, that has gone into history as the "Great Kentucky Revival," almost destroyed the power and influence of the Methodist and Presbyterian churches whose members fell under its sway. Starting in Logan county, Kentucky, under the preaching of the Rev. John Rankin, a Presbyterian clergyman, the work was almost immediately taken up by another Presbyterian minister, named McCready, who well deserved the appellation bestowed upon him, "a son of thunder," for in most grewsome, terrific terms would he describe the future eternal abode of all who refused to abandon their sins and accept the overtures of mercy, picturing it as the "furnace of hell with its red-hot coals of God's wrath as large as mountains." Under this fiery rain of invectives, men and women fell screaming to the floor, beseeching their Creator for compassion and pardon.

            At the opening of the century, both Methodist and Presbyterian denominations had followings in Warren county. The first sermon of the former faith was preached by the Rev. John Kobler at Deerfield, on August 9, 1798, he being the first regularly appointed missionary in the Miami valley, his riding circuit extending from Dayton to the Ohio river. But, within the space of two years, there were four or five local preachers within the district, whose duties kept them busy every day in the week. Two days' meetings were often held by them, and the quarterly meetings, which they established, were a favorite place of assemblage to the pioneers ; men and women would walk as far as thirty miles to be present at these testimonial teetings. The Presbyterian sect was more regularly organized than the members of the Wesley persuasion, and, strange to say, the stiffness of its orthodox creed bent easily to the new doctrines promulgated by the leaders of this strange, wonderful revival, and the followers of John Wesley proved equally amenable ; but the principal leaders were ministers of the Calvinistic belief.

            To the little Presbyterian church at Turtle Creek, in the spring of 1802, came as its pastor, Rev. Richard McNemar, who had been one of the most zealous workers in the Kentucky awakening. He is described as "tall and gaunt, but commanding in appearance, with piercing, restless eyes ever in motion, and an expressive countenance, a classical scholar," earnest and ardent in his preaching, and holding most implicit faith in the wonderful revival as of divine origin. His religious services in his new field of labor were attended with the same physical manifestations which accompanied his preaching in Kentucky. Men and women would fall to the floor, spin "around on the foot after the manner of the whirling dervishes of the East," or imitated "the bark of a dog and ran upon all fours, growling, snarling and foaming at the mouth ;" while others would prophesy, see visions, and children preach with such fervor, that they would be regarded as oracles of divine wisdom. The Kentucky (page 287) synod, whose fostering care was over the church at Turtle Creek, wished to institute proceedings against Richard McNemar for advancing tenets contrariwise to Calvinistic teaching, but a large majority of his congregation concurred with their pastor in the new theology, and in the spring of 1804 the entire communion, by unanimous vote, withdrew from the Presbyterian fold, and formed a separate church known as the "Schismatic" or "New Light." But these names were repudiated by the revolters, and in 1804 the name of "The Christian church" was adopted by the organization generally. For the church at Turtle Creek was, by far, not the only one that seceded from Presbyterian ranks; nearly every Methodist and Presbyterian church in the valley of the Great Miami was weakened if not entirely disorganized by the new propaganda, a propaganda that rejected the doctrine of the Trinity, advocated immersion as the true mode of baptism, and disavowed all man-made creeds and confessions of faith, claiming the Bible, as the inspired Word, was the only necessary, safe, and true guide for the achievement of eternal happiness.

            Tidings of the Kentucky revival, and its wonderful effects, in due time, reached every town in our growing republic. The Shaker settlement at New Lebanon, New York, was quick to apprehend that the unsettled condition of the hitherto orthodox congregations, who had broken away from time-honored moorings of creed and confessions of faith was, potentially, a ft season for the scattering of their own peculiar propaganda, and brethren, sound in doctrine, were at once started out to promulgate the somewhat mystical tenets taught by Ann Lee.

            It was on the twenty-second day of March, in the year 1805, that John Meacham, Benjamin S. Young and Issachar Bates, wearing the broad-brimmed hats and peculiar fashion of dress which had been adopted by the followers of George Fox, 'in England, many years before, arrived at Turtle creek. One thousand miles had these disciples of Ann Lee traveled on foot since leaving New Lebanon on New Year's day. They were kindly welcomed, and at once realized that the ground was favorable for the sowing of the Shaker doctrines. Their missionary efforts at once bore fruit worth the gathering. Maclom Worley, one of the most influential and wealthy men in the settlement, was the first convert; his retrogression was speedily followed by that of the pastor, Richard McNemar, and before four weeks had slipped by, a dozen families had embraced the new faith. Most of them were the leading men in the settlement, "honest, conscientious and benevolent," and gave up family relations and property, under the honest conviction that in so doing they were renouncing the evil world and its manifold temptations, and adopting a life that was pleasing to their Creator. The surrender of their property meant the passing of four thousand acres of land in Turtle Creek township, into the ownership of the first Shaker society organized west of the Allegheny mountains, its establishment bearing date of May 25, 1805. Nearly all of the entire communion of Turtle Creek church followed the example of their pastor and embraced the new doctrines, and, in truth, nearly every New Light church in that section of the country war swept into the (page 288) Shaker fold, which made itself known to the world as "The United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing." The name "Shaker," which was at first applied to them, grew out of the peculiar dance which was a part of their religious service, and was used as a term of reproach by other denominations, but it was accepted by the members of the society and found a place not only in common usage but also in their own literature.

            Bedle's Station, where Turtle Creek church was located, was now known as Union Village, and rapidly became the stronghold of Shakerism west of the Allegheny mountains. Before briefly sketching the growth of this most heterodox system of worship, it may be well to know the peculiar doctrines that made it so obnoxious to the followers of the established creeds. First, membership demanded relinquishment of every claim to private property, the neophyte yielding all "personal right, title, claim and demand of, in and to the estate, interest, property and appurtenances so consecrated, devoted, and given up" to the church or society ; secondly, their spiritual teaching was that Adam and Eve were the physical progenitors of the natural man, but that his spiritual nature sprung from the mystical union of Jesus and Ann Lee; their fanaticism abolished family ties, but justice demands the statement that, as a community, they lived in the strictest morality and, as a recent writer says, one familiar with their history, literature and community life, "they have most thoroughly demonstrated that men and women can live together as a band of brothers and sisters." Never, perchance, was there a settlement, founded on religious principles, similar to that of the Shakers. Men have been carried away by fanaticism, without possessing any stable practical qualities. There were plenty of scholars and theologians in the new community, but there was also a healthful balance of men of all trades, and women who were economical, industrious housekeepers, and side by side with the religious labors, advanced the material well-being and prosperity of the new settlement. It must not be forgotten that it was not a colony of adventurers, but mostly composed of the best elements of the Western Presbyterian church, men and women of good birth, and thoughtful, earnest lives.

            No for a single moment did the leaders forget the sending out of the propaganda of their faith. In the year 1808, a book of 631 pages, principally written by Benjamin S. Youngs, entitled "Christ's First and Second Appearing," was printed in the little office of the Western Star in Lebanon, Ohio. It ran into three more editions; the second and fourth were printed at Albany, New York, and the third at Cincinnati. The literature published by the Shaker church during its palmy days was quite extensive, but consisted entirely of books and pamphlets that were expositions of their peculiar faith, interpreting prophecy, sermons, collections of hymns and anthems, biographies of men and women prominent in the society, in short, all their publications were devoted to the promulgation of their religion and the best interests of each individual member. Union Village at first was a community of log houses; not until the year 1806 was the first frame house built, and in it the elders resided. At that time the settlement numbered about four (page 289) hundred people, over which David Darrow was bishop for about twenty years. He was a strong man in many ways, and the very leader for a religious movement. Just in his dealings, firm in his convictions, wise in his understanding of human nature, to the community he was not only a spiritual leader, but a father in the loving care with which he watched over their temporal interests.

            The practical side of the Shakers was at once evinced in the immediate building of sawmills ; the construction of frame houses succeeded the erection of a church. The first brick house was built in the year 1820. Tradesmen were set to work, and in the year 1819, when the community numbered about six hundred people, the constant hum of industry showed that weavers, spinners, blacksmiths, stone-cutters, masons, cabinet-makers, carpenters, workmen in all trades, were busily engaged for the prosperity of the village. All the shoes and clothing worn by the Shakers were manufactured at Union Village. And the tillers of the soil were not idle. Corn, wheat, flax, rye, barley, etc., came from the splendid fields that lay in every direction. From the carefully watched gardens were dug the roots that made the remedies for which the Shakers were famous. The orchards supplied them abundantly with fruit of all kinds. Yearly, thousands of pounds of sugar were made from their maple groves. And before many years had passed, their milk and butter came from the best herds in the Miami valleys. Yet it must be said, that the wonderful material prosperity of the Shaker community was always secondary in their consideration to the promulgation and the living of the spiritual truth, for which, in their zeal, they would willingly have suffered martyrdom. But not until the year 1812 were steps taken by the community towards the formal organization of a church into "church order," as they expressed it. In that year, the church at Union Village was organized "according to the pattern of the mother church at New Lebanon," and about the middle of January all the members considered eligible signed the first covenant of the church. This covenant or pledge required the absolute surrender of the signer of all earthly possessions, complete consecration to the rules of the church, strict celibacy, and unfaltering obedience to church officers. There was one church rule that -would bring much happiness to the world if adopted by orthodox congregations of today. It was an order commanding the dropping of every personal grievance, and complete reconciliation between persons who had any misunderstanding or. disagreement between them at Christmas time. Then the holiday festivities were celebrated with exchange of presents, dancing and feasting.

            There were men of education among the first Shakers. But as the society was opposed to all scientific, literary and intellectual advancement, with the passing of these men the community was intellectually at a standstill. The children of the founders of the community were not satisfied with the limited education afforded them, as it consisted of but little more than acquiring a knowledge of reading and writing. They clamored for contact with the outside world, and sought the introduction of more of the "world's" literature, which was refused, and upon attaining manhood and (page 290) womanhood, many withdrew from the society. This narrowness of intellectual attainments was the first wedge of defection.

            The Shakers never lost the missionary spirit. In the spring of 1807, Benjamin S. Youngs, Richard McNear and David Darrow carried their religious propaganda to a settlement of Shawnee Indians, whose tepees were scattered over the site of the present city of Greenville, Ohio. They were kindly received by the red men, but the peculiar doctrines advanced fell on barren ground, and the stay of the propagandists was of short duration. The visit was repeated later in the summer with the same unsatisfactory results, and thereafter all missionary efforts of the Shakers were confined to the proselyting of the more enlightened white brother. The death of David Darrow in the year 1825 was an irreparable loss to the community. He was succeeded in the responsible office of leader by men who realized the obligations of the position, but were not his equal in certain qualifications that made his government so successful.

            It was not always fair sailing with the society. Their records chronicle schisms that weakened their numbers by withdrawal of the disaffected members. Valuable property was destroyed by fire.

            In the year 1835 the forests and orchards were denuded of leaves by a plague of caterpillars. In June of the same year rain fell to the depth of nine inches ; the stream rose and washed away one-half of the clothing, fulling and dye shops ; milldams were broken or swept away, timber carried off and lands overflowed, destroying the summer's crops. The amount of damage done was estimated by the society at $25,000.

            It was during the government of Elder Freegift Wells, 18361843, that the strange phenomena of Spiritualism both excited and interested the society. The manifestations continued for several years and were carefully noted in the Shaker records. Their religious life was rendered more mystical by the revelations and prophecies which the more ascetic souls claimed to have received from spirit sources, and their zeal increased almost to fanaticism by revivals which warmed their faith into glowing activity. As tillers of the soil, abundant crops were generally the merited reward of their unremitting diligence ; in addition to the harvesting of grain and staple vegetables, their "industries consisted of raising garden seeds, preserving and packing herbs, manufacturing woolen goods, brooms, flour, oils, extracts of roots for medicine, sorghum, and of cattle." Their reputation for fine stock was well deserved, as they imported fine cattle from overseas, principally Durham stock, and many purchasers, interested in the improvement of the live-stock of the country, found their way to the Shaker farm. Improved machinery gradually was accepted and did away with some primitive forms of labor. But intellectual development was less welcome, consequently less rapid in attainment. Many of the younger Shakers in the community hungered and clamored for wider knowledge and more general literature. The path was but slowly widened, for the older brethren, many of them, were opposed to everything that would lead the mind into more open channels of thought and investigation, believing "that science was destructive (page 291) to religion and dangerous to Christian character." Consequently, many of the younger people abandoned the community and went out into the world to test for themselves the things against which they had been so strictly warned. So rapid was the decrease in the membership of the society that at the opening of the year 1868, it only numbered one hundred and fifty-two souls. But in 1870 the ministry was compelled to heed the desire of its younger members for "worldly pleasures," and instrumental music and singing schools were admitted as lawful amusements. In the following year, according to the interesting article by the same authority, from which the foregoing excerpts have been taken, "a Lyceum was established, which interested the younger portion, and even some of the middle-aged. In it were taught grammar, composition, declamation, and correct language in address. There were also rehearsals of comic and absurd pieces, as well as recitations of serious, didactic, poetic, and sententious character." The local ministry frowned upon these worldly amusements, but the coming of the eastern ministry to the village in the year 1875 was productive of less restraint, for the visitors sanctioned the work of the lyceum.

            The story of the Shakers is quaint with their peculiar customs and controversies concerning them. The wearing of the beard brought about much acrimonious argument between the conservative and more progressive members of the society. The original rule called for shaving at least once a week, if not more often; the independent or progressive brethren asserted that if a brother was afflicted with eye or throat trouble, his beard should be permitted to grow long as a preventive against "catching cold. After much heated argument the bridge was crossed by permitting those who pleaded health to wear beards; it finally ended in the matter becoming optional, and in 1895 the men were permitted to have their hair cut as it suited their fancy; the wearing of caps by the women was abandoned in the same year. In the year 1880, the religious dance which had been a feature of their worship since the organization of the society was dropped from the church services, owing to the age of the few members that were left, and the habit of kneeling before dining was later abandoned also.

            Every promulgation of a new faith, especially a religious faith, has met with persecution-malignity of treatment, oftentimes from those professing Christian discipleship and universal brotherhood. The Shakers were not to escape the general rule, although, as one has written who made the Shaker's life and teaching a study, "Of all the Christian sects of America, not one is less aggressive or lives within itself than that known as the Shakers. It is true that in its early history it possessed a little missionary zeal,, but this was not of the offensive kind." Peculiar they were in many things, but they never encroached upon their neighbor's doctrines, and were always charitable and helpful to the needy and unfortunate. It is strange, but nevertheless true, that a denomination is often the most unkind to one who has left its fold, and as many of the converts to the Millennial church, the name first adopted by the Shakers generally, were from the ranks of the New Lights, that denomination was most intense in its rancor against the proselyting (page 292) influence. New Light leaders inveighed against the religious teaching of the Shaker ministry, circulated scandalous reports concerning their mode of life, with the satisfactory result to themselves that, on August 27, 1810, a mob of several hundred armed men, attended by a heterogeneous mass of on-lookers, the whole rabble probably numbering several thousand people, started to destroy the homes and shops of a few harmless persons. Their weapons of attack consisted of knives, hatchets, clubs, and some had fastened bayonets on poles and sticks of varying length.

            The mob had made no secret of its fell purpose, and on the day preceding its cruel visit to Union Village, T. McCray, sheriff of Warren county, and Joshua Collett, then prosecuting attorney, later to sit on the bench of the supreme court of the state, warned the leaders of the mob of the unlawfulness of their purpose. But the evil intent was too deeply rooted in their minds for any warning to deter them from the carrying out of their vandal plans, and noon of the following day found hundreds of men with hearts full of hatred towards a law-abiding and peace-loving community, gathered within its precincts for the sole purpose of destroying it. Fortunately, there were men in the little town of Lebanon fearless enough to stand for maintenance of law and honor, men whose memories Warren county today delights to honor, and when the heterogeneous crowd arrived at Union Village they found a number of Warren county's representative citizens determined, at whatever cost, to protect the objects of the rancor of the mob. Among them were Gen. William Schenck, J. Corwin and Francis Dunlevy, the last-named honored in the history of Warren county as attaining the distinguished position of president judge of the first circuit court, a district which extended to Cincinnati and embraced one-third of the southern part of Ohio.

            Limited space forbids a detailed story of the proceedings of the unwelcome visitors. The Shakers were apparently fearless, meeting all complaints as to their life and religious faith with calmness and dignity. The rabble consented that a committee from their ranks should question the Shakers concerning those things which had prompted its coming, the principal being the detention of some who had desired to leave the community but were restrained by force from so doing. Close inquiry and investigation, to the great disappointment of the mob, soon proved the falseness, not only of this complaint but of every other brought against the society, and judge Dunlevy, with characteristic bravery, rode his horse into the center of the rough crowd, and loudly and peremptorily ordered its dispersion, calling upon the civil officers present to arrest any and all who should violate the peace.

            Similar outbreaks of ill will towards the society occurred in after years, all reasons for the outrages founded on false charges, the favorite or popular accusation being that persons were forcibly detained against their will by the community, every one of which was found to be untrue. The writer from whom the foregoing excerpts was taken says, "There never was a good reason for afflicting the Shakers. Misrepresentation, falsehood, malice and officious persons caused wrong and fear. The order never was strong (page 293) enough, nor sufficiently aggressive to arouse religious rancor and hatred, although such was displayed.  * * * Their persecutors were not savages or barbarians, but those professing to be civilized and believers in Christianity, yet refusing to practise the Golden Rule."

            At one time the society at Union Village numbered seven hundred people, but as the younger members grew up they chafed at the restrictions laid upon them, and one by one many of the aged members were laid away in the quiet graveyard. In the fall of 1912, the Shakers decided to part with their splendid farm of over 4,000 acres, for the society had dwindled down to only thirteen members and all of them were approaching the "old age" side of the descent in life. For some time the United Brethren church had been eager for a home that would shelter both the aged people and orphan children of their denomination needing the care and love of home life. The Shaker farm at Union Village seemed the ideal place for such an institution, and on October 15, 1912, the immense historic Shaker farm, with its fine residences and magnificent working equipment, passed into the ownership of the United Brethren church. It was a proviso of the sale, that the few Shakers still living should have a home on the farm as long as they lived ; and today, six brethren and two sisters of the Millennial faith are honored guests at the beautiful historic place whose story will always f ill a venerated page in the annals of Warren county.

 

The Pilgrims.

 

 The religious history of Warren county would be incomplete, if there was omission of the coming of a strange sect of fanatics to the region a few years after the establishment of the Shaker society at Union Village.

            The organization of these enthusiasts was effected in the eastern states about the year 1817. As their name implies, they were travelers in search of the "Promised Land." Under the guidance of Isaac Buller, who, because of a miraculous healing of a paralyzed condition, claimed also to have been given Divine command to go in search of the Promised Land, about one hundred people, believing in his .superhuman mission, prepared to follow him to the ends of the earth, if their quest would lead that far. Among his followers were persons of wealth and standing; equipped with wagons, horses, clothes, beds, cooking utensils and food, the strange procession

            started towards the setting sun on their visionary search. Patiently, prayerfully and hopefully they toiled up the narrow mountain roads, forded streams, often halting to listen to the strange messages that Prophet Buller asserted he had received from the Lord. These revelations were not certainly of a character to inspire the Pilgrims with holiness and reverence. Bathing and the washing of clothes were forbidden ; only retaining enough clothing to protect them from the cold, all else was to be cast aside ; raw bacon was the only meat permitted for their use ; it was divinely decreed, said the prophet, that the journey to their desired haven should lie through "filth, rags and wretchedness."

            Early in March the wretched Pilgrims, with their number dwindled down to fifty-five, reached Warren county, halting at Union Village, where they were kindly cared for. Reaching the vicinity (page 294) of Mason, many fell victims of the dread smallpox. With unabated courage the remnant continued the weary journey to New Madrid, Missouri, where the prophet was taken fatally ill. He ordered the squalid band to continue their journey, promising to return to them after he had spent two years in the spirit world. Obeying the last command of their deceased leader, the few remaining Pilgrims straggled towards the southwest, finally reaching a place on the west bank of the Mississippi, near the mouth of the Arkansas. Here they made a final halt, believing that the Promised Land had been attained; on what ground or evidence this faith was founded, history is dumb. The conclusion of the story is most tragic. In the year 1824, Mr. John Hunt, journeying to New Orleans on a flatboat with others, stopped at the mouth of the Arkansas to visit the Pilgrims, if any were fortunate, or unfortunate, enough to be alive. "They found the Promised Land a most forbidding place, situated on a narrow ridge of dry land, almost surrounded by a swamp. In a wretched tent made with forks and poles, reed cane and bark, were two interesting ladies, the only persons left of the band of Pilgrims. Neat and clean in their persons and dress, and intelligent in their conversation, they still adhered to their belief in Buller's religion."

            Mr. Hunt kindly offered to help them return to their homes in New England if they so desired ; but, thanking him for his interest in their behalf, said "nothing on earth would induce them to leave the Promised Land," after having found it.

 

Religious Organizations.

 

            Few indeed were the pioneer settlements that did not recognize the duty of religious worship, and the erection of the little church of hewed logs followed speedily, if it did not precede, the building of the rude schoolhouse. But, until the erection of the sacred edifice, religious gatherings were held in private houses in the settlement, and happy and favored was the settler before whose door the minister alighted from his weary horse to be a "week end" guest. He was indeed welcome, not only for the scriptural exhortations and comfort that he would give, but also for the news that he had gathered from outside sources and which would distribute as traveled from settlement to settlement. They were, perhaps, for long weary months, the only agency through which the thought and stir of the great world so recently left, reached a people whose environment was dense trackless forests, for newspapers were exceedingly infrequent visitors, and religious journals were unknown.

            The white banner of Christianity was first carried into western wilds by the circuit riders of the Methodist church. A recent pen has written, "After the Revolutionary war, Mr. Wesley found the people could not get along at all in this country without an organization separate from the Wesleyans of Europe." Consequently, by his authority, Rev. Francis Asbury, in December, 1734, was ordained a bishop of the Methodist Episcopal church in the little city of Baltimore. This was the* foundation stone of that splendid citadel of evangelical Christianity in our Republic. "It began free from ritualism and the many forms of service which had accumulated about the Mother Episcopal church. It was Arminian, not (page 295) Calvinistic in its faith. It had new machinery suited to new conditions. It would be difficult to conceive of a church in organization and doctrine, better fitted to the spirit and life of the pioneers." The circuits of the Methodist preachers many times stretched over a hundred miles, and hard and rough was the journey. But they gloried in the hardships that befell them, traveling always on horseback, their roomy saddlebags hanging across their saddles, receptacles for their scanty wardrobes and beloved Bibles ; but they were universally happy and rejoicing in the privilege of carrying the gospel tidings to those hungering for it. They were generally men of extremely limited education, but their zeal for soul-saving more than outbalanced irregularity of speech and lack of worldly knowledge. It was providentially so. The hardships and privations of the woods-life did not produce genial soil for the sowing of classical, cultured preaching; the itinerant minister met his earnest, simple-minded congregation on the common platform of the universal and individual need of a salvation from sin and was successful in his work. Before churches could be erected, preaching stations were established, and from miles around the congregations gathered, coming on horseback, or in the rude springless vehicles of the times, some walking long distances through the dark forests. But the people could not certainly complain of the briefness of the spiritual menus furnished by the pioneer preachers, for prayers, an hour in length, were followed by sermons twice the length of the prayers that preceded them and, with but a quarter of an hour intermission, a second service, fully as long drawn out, filled the afternoon. The discourses were always extemporaneous ; a written sermon, if the minister possessed sufficient ability to write one, would have been regarded as sacrilegious by his primitive congregation. A pen has written, "The old time Methodist preacher was a providential character. It will take at least another hundred years for the world to find him. To the world at large these itinerants will stand as civilization builders. These preachers never for a moment let the nation forget God."

            The first Methodist circuit in southwestern Ohio was formed by John Kobler, a preciding elder in the Kentucky Conference, whom Bishop Asbury directed to go "over the river and form a regular circuit." In obedience to the command, on August 1st, 1790, Mr. Kobler reached the cabin of Francis McCormick, a minister of the same denomination, whose cabin stood near the present site of Milford, and in that rude, primitive dwelling was organized the first regular class meeting in the state of Ohio; these testimonial meetings were a delight to pioneer Methodists from near and from far, regardless of weather, they would gather to gain spiritual strength and inspiration from the heart experiences of their friends and neighbors. After five days of sojourn with Francis McCormick, Mr. Kobler, with his host as guide, ascended the Little Miami to its source, also visiting new settlements in the valleys of the Great Miami and river valleys, everywhere forming circuits and making ministerial appointments.

            Three years after Lebanon was laid out, which was in 1802, Methodism had its hold upon the little settlement, and now in nearly (page 296) every neighborhood in the Miami valley its bell summons, every Sunday morning, its adherents to divine worship.

            Baptist Denomination. The Baptists were the first regularly organized sect in Warren county to build a church, which was done in 1797 about one-half of a mile north of the present site of Ridgeville. Its pastor was Elder James Sutton; the following year the supporters of the same creed in Turtle creek district were made a branch of the Clear creek church and erected a meetinghouse east of Lebanon. Its organization as an independent church took place in 1803, and it was admitted into the Miami Baptist association. Presbyterians. Until the fall of 1798, the Presbyterians of the Miami valley were under the charge of the Transylvania Presbytery of Kentucky. They were then transferred to the religious care of the Washington Presbytery of Kentucky, until 1810, when the Miami presbytery was organized. The churches of Clear creek and Turtle creek had previously petitioned for pulpit ministration, but the presbyteries were unable to give any pioneer church the entire services of a pastor, and it was necessary to place one or two congregations in the Miami valley under the charge of one minister. The Rev. Peter Wilson of Cincinnati, and the Revs. James Kemper and William Robinson were appointed as regular supplies on Clear creek and Turtle creek.

            The Rev. James Kemper stands out in the history of southwestern Ohio as the pioneer advocate of the doctrines of Calvin in that religion. Though in care of several congregations, his home was in Turtle creek. But his ministerial service was not of long duration as pastor of the Turtle creek congregation. Two reasons are given for the sundering of his pastorate. One was a difference with one of his elders respecting a dividing line between their farms ; the second, probably more potent, doubtless arousing more comment and criticism in the congregation than the farm line, was the wearing of a "costly and stylish" bonnet by the pastor's wife ; for in pioneer days orthodox Christianity was judged by the simplicity of manners and .plainness of dress of its avowed followers. With the exception of the Presbyterian churches in Cincinnati, the charge at Turtle Creek was the largest and exerted the most influence in  the Miami valleys.             

            Besides the Methodist, Baptist, and Presbyterian sects, whose beginnings in Warren county have been briefly outlined, and who are established as different branches, yet still holding the old family names, other denominations have taken root and are firmly planted in the Miami valleys. From almost the earliest settlements, the Quakers or Friends, have been a valued and important asset, not only in the religious life of Warren county, but their influence for all that comprises true citizenship has also been deeply felt in the civil and social life of the county. Their religion was without forms, priesthood or sacrament. Their mode of life frugal and hospitable ; their love of human liberty kept them from in allegiance to the cause of the oppressed ; but their opposition to all things "worldly," whether expressed by gayety of dress, amusements and the recreations of polished society, has prevented the sect from increasing.

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