THE FRIEND'S SOCIETY
From the History and Directory of Yates County - Volume 1, by Stafford C. Cleveland
Published 1873, pg 38 - 82
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Whatever conclusion may be reached by the historian upon a fair and patient investigation of the character and career of the woman who planted the first settlement in the Genesee country, and made the soil of Yates county the seat of her remarkable influence and power, it must be acknowledged that she was an extraordinary personage. It has been common to class her with those who have made deception the study of their lives and to dismiss her form honorable consideration as a vulgar mystagogue. She has been relentlessly written down as a cheat and imposter, who by artful assurance made others subservient to her unscrupulous designs. It is now 50 years since she closed her earthly mission, and though the tongue of detraction has grown somewhat sluggish in that long interval, it has never been silenced. The public mind is full of misconceptions engendered by a vigorous and long repeated statement of the malign story that has gone forth, without efficient contradiction, as her life. It is time that story was confronted with, at least, a just statement of accessible facts.
Though it may not belong to such a work as this to enter upon a close analysis of character, it is proper to make it the medium of correct estimates of the principal actors who have preceded us, so far as it may be accomplished by presenting the truth unwarped by prejudice. The space we have will not admit of extended reflections or carefully studied deductions. These must be left to the elaborate biographer. What is aimed at here, is a truthful summary of the leading events of a singular and impressive life.
Jemima WILKINSON was born in the town of Cumberland, and county of Providence, Rhode Island, in the year 1758. Her father, Jeremiah WILKINSON, was a farmer of moderate estate, good character, strong native ability and firm purpose. He married in early life, Amy WHIPPLE, a member of the Society of Friends, and a young woman of excellent character and amiable disposition. Twelve children were born to this couple, the eighty of whom was the subject of this sketch dn the personage who has given celebrity to the family.
Of her earlier life, there is but little known of an authentic nature. When she was 8 years old her mother died, leaving her to the charge of her elder sisters. It is said she was not remarkably plastic to their control, and that she become rather the ruler than the ruled in the domestic realm. Her intellectual culture was that common to the children of New England at that day, and was limited to reading and the more moderate common school accomplishments. She was favored with personal beauty, and took pleasure in adding to her good appearance the graceful drapery of elegant apparel. It is not strange therefore, that she was a punctual attendant of public worship. Until about 16 years of age, her mind was mostly engrossed with external things, and her reading, which was considerable, was that of poetry, romance, current news and light literature.
About this time there appeared in her vicinity a new sect of religious zealots, who rejected church organization and insisted upon constant and direct guidance from Heaven. They awakened much interest, and among the most regular attendants of their meetings, was Jemima WILKINSON, who became very serious and gave evidence of a great change in her thoughts. Social gaiety gave place to gravity and sedateness. The Bible was her constant study, and other reading was rejected. Yet she did not enter into the enthusiasm of the separatists, as they were called, and consequently was not regarded as one of their members. As usual with such spasmodic growths, bound by no external organization, they soon dissolved away; but while they lasted they had the constant attendance of Jemima at their meetings, and apparently her most profound regard. She continued remarkably serious, betook herself to solitude and seemed to be absorbed with studious and melancholy reflections. Her mood was indulged by her family, until she grew averse to social intercourse and finally in the summer of 1776, secluded herself wholly, kept in her room and complaining of ill health, become pale and enfeebled in physical tone. A physician was called who pronounced the malady mental and beyond his skill to counteract.
In the Autumn her illness seemed to increase and she was not only confined to her bed, but required nightly watchers. The solicitude of her friends was greatly excited, but the physician insisted that her disorder was the result of no bodily debility, but rather the outgrowth of a morbid imagination, and the gloomy tendencies of solitude. Her attendants were startled by her repeated stories of sights and scenes not obvious to their senses. She described heavenly landscapes, beautiful visions, angelic forms and seemed to rejoice in society of a brighter world. These remarkable visions were minutely portrayed by the invalid girl and solemnly stated as real and vital to her senses. No contradiction or reproof had the slightest effect to diminish her assurance of their actual existence.
Finally, late in October, she fell into a deep trance, or almost lifeless state, during which she scarcely breathed and her pulse almost subsided. For about 36 hours or more she remained in this state, motionless and apparently hovering on the boundaries of life. She was watched with intense anxiety by her friends, but no perceptible change occurred till about midnight of the second day, when she raised up as if awaking from a profound refreshing sleep. Her attendants were more than ever surprised by the sudden change in her state and demeanor. She called for her clothing with a mien of authority, which admitted of no refusal, and would no longer be treated as an invalid. She dressed herself and went about as if fully restored, though still pale and reduced in flesh. She insisted that Jemima WILKINSON has passed to the angel world, and that her body was reanimated by a spirit whose mission was to deliver the Oracles of God to mankind.
As might be supposed, these declarations were received with surprise and concern by her relatives and friends. To them her conduct was exceedingly strange and unaccountable, and they could not believe she would preserve in claims which seemed so untenable and absurd. Let it be remarked here, that this girl of 18 years, not only did maintain her claims then and there in the face of all expostulations and argument, but steadily and with unshaken firmness to the hour of her departure from the world, at the age of 61 years.
Her solitary live and weary vigils were passed and a new career was about to open before this remarkable woman. On the Sunday succeeding her trance, she went to the place of public worship. After morning service she repaired to a tree nearby, and in its shade delivered a discourse of considerable length to the crowd who assembled about her. Though late in Autumn, the weather was fine, and there was a large attendance of people, who were greatly impressed by such an address from the lips of a young woman who thus broke upon them like a meteor from the sky. Her discourse consisted largely of moral maxims and scriptural quotations. And she evinced a familiarity with sacred topics which astonished the oldest experts in theological lore. After this, her pubic addresses were frequent, and she soon received invitations from far and near, many of which she accepted. She rapidly became famous as a preacher of remarkable power, and the fruits of her labors were apparent in a large number of disciples who were converted by her appeals. She visited various places in Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts; and at New Milford in Connecticut, and South Kingston, in Rhode Island, meeting houses were erected by her converts for their own worship.
She accepted the principal doctrines of the Christian faith, but rejected the formalities and ceremonies generally practiced. With more zeal for the spirit than the form of faith, she inculcated sobriety, temperance, chastity, all the higher virtues and humility before God as necessary to the new life, and entrance into a better world. She continued her work with a good degree of success for about 6 years in the region of her acquaintance, visiting the several localities where her disciples lived; confirming them in the faith, and consolidating her work. Among the more important of her adherents in Rhode Island was James PARKER, a man of high character and wealth, who aided her greatly in her labors, and was strongly attached to her cause. She made her home at his house a share of the time and also at that of William POTTER, another influential and wealthy adherent.
In the summer of 1782, a new mission was entered upon. Accompanied by a small band of her disciples, she went to Philadelphia, where she was cordially received by the Quakers and others. A church was procured for her use, and she preached for some time to large audiences. She then removed to Worcester in the county of Montgomery, about 20 miles from Philadelphia, where she received an enthusiastic welcome and met with much success. It was here that David WAGENER and other important additions were made to her society. She remained but a few weeks before returning to Rhode Island, where she tarried till the summer of 1784, when she visited Worcester again, and remained till the Spring of 1785. She established a society during this visit, and installed her attendants in a home set apart to her use, consisting of a fine farm with an elegant stone mansion.
Leaving the place under competent management, she returned to Rhode Island, and remained till her final leave of that State about two years later. The idea of bringing her disciples together into one community had been cherished for some time, and was much discussed among them. As early as 1786, Ezekiel SHERMAN, one of the Society, made a visit of exploration to the Lake County, spent some time at Kanadesaga with two Indian traders, the only white men there, gathered what information he could of the country and returned. His journey to the country was by the way of the Susquehanna Valley to Newtown, and he was five days working his way in a deep snow form Newton to Kanadesaga, sleeping at night on cedar boughs laid on the snow. On his return he reported that the hostile attitude of the Indians would make it useless to venture on making a settlement in the Genesee country. Notwithstanding this, a meeting of the principal members of the Society was held the same year at New Milford in Connecticut, and a committee was appointed to make further exploration.
The committee, consisting of Thomas HATHAWAY, Richard SMITH and Abraham DAYTON, setout in pursuance of their appointment in 1787. They went to Philadelphia and traveling on horseback, explored the interior of Pennsylvania, and in the Valley of Wyoming heard glowing accounts of the region in the vicinity of Seneca Lake. Following the tract of Sullivan’s army, they reached Kanadesaga, and from thence proceeded to Kashong, where they were entertained by DE BARTZCH and POURDE, the French traders, who informed them that there was nowhere so fine a country as the one they looked upon here. By a brief sojourn, they became satisfied this information was correct, and returned to give an account of what they had learned. It does not appear that this committee fixed upon any precise location, but emigration was resolved upon by the Society, and the region of Seneca Lake was the locality where they resolved to settle. The exact place was left for determination by those who came as the advance guard. In June 1788, Abel BOTSFORD, Peleg and John BRIGGS, Isaac NICHOLS, George SISSON, Ezekiel SHEARMAN, Stephen CARD and others to the number of 25, embarked from Schenectady for the land of promise.
In August they reached the spot where they made their settlement at City Hill. The sound of falling water heard across the broad expanse of the Seneca at that point, it is said, determined the location of the New Jerusalem. Though late in the season, they made a clearing in the forest and sowed, it is said, about twelve acres of wheat. Who staid and who remained during the first winter, does not seem to be clear in the mist of all the traditions. But that some remained is quite certain, for some of the pioneer families were in that company. Nor does it appear that they had any distinct notion of whom the lands were to be purchased. Application was made however, to Gov. George CLINTON, at an early day, for a grant of land. But they were not ignorant of the operations of the Lessee Company, and James PARKER very early became interested in the claims advanced by that organization. There is reason to believe that Thomas HATHAWAY and Benedict ROBINSON also acquired some interest in the Lessee Company.
The Spring of 1789 brought large accessions of the Society to the new settlement, both from Connecticut and Rhode Island, and from Pennsylvania. It is quite clear, however, form a careful examination of all the accessible evidence on that subject, that the Friend herself did not come till 1790. She remained at Worcester in charge of the interests of the Society, and raising from the farm permitted to her use means, which were afterwards employed to purchase lands and found a home in the New Jerusalem. It was designed on the part of the Friend to come in 1789, and the journey was undertaken, but owing to a casualty which occurred about 50 miles from Worcester, she returned, and postponed her coming to the new seat of her influence and labor till the following year. The accident which caused this delay, resulted from a perilous attempt to ford the Bushkill Creek, which swollen by recent rains, had a deep, swift current. The driver of the carriage, Barnabus BROWN asked a man standing near, if they could ford the creek. Misunderstanding his answer, they drove in and soon found that the horses were obliged to swim, and the carriage was afloat on a violent current. Mehitable SMITH, who accompanied the Friend, escaped with very little harm, as did the driver, but the Friend herself, came near being drowned, and was so much enfeebled by the shock, that her health was not restored for some time.
Instead of coming that year to join her colony on the banks of Seneca Lake, she sent Sarah RICHARDS, who had become her most important counselor and associate, too serve how affairs were progressing, and make report to her of the state of things in the distant settlement. Sarah came and visited the struggling pioneers and the writher learns form the last member of the Society able to recount its traditions, that she was not altogether pleased with the doings she saw. One night in very warm weather she refused to sleep within the log tenement where the larger number abode, and made her lodgment outside under a tree. During the night a heavy thunder storm arose with a fearful display of lightning and an incessant roar of thunder. Sarah availed herself of the occasion to go inside the dwelling and give a very earnest and impressive lecture, in reproof for unseemly proceedings, the nature of which is happily forgotten. This is the most that is known of Sarah RICHARDS’ first visit to the New Jerusalem. She did not come again till two years later.
The year 1789 was a trying one on the settlers. They harvested a small crop of wheat, but the wild animals had preyed upon it so much that it afforded a light supply. They had to subsist principally on provisions brought with them, eked out with such additions of game as the forest afforded to hunters who had their skill to acquire in the boundless wilderness around them. Some families subsisted for days and even weeks on milk and boiled nettles. Castle DAINS and his family lived in this way for 6 weeks, with no other nourishment except nettle sand a little bohea tea they had brought with them. John LAWRENCE finally discovered their situation and furnished them with a small supply of Indian meal. Jonathan DAINS to obtain relief for his family, went to Newtown and worked by the day until he obtained two bushels of wheat, which he had ground, doubtless at the mill at Tioga Point (now Athens). He carried it on his back to the head of Seneca Lake, thence by boat to Norris’ Landing, and then on his back again to his house, near the Log Meeting House. Such were the straits of pioneers.
That year some corn was raised, and about 40 acres of wheat sowed by joint effort, which gave them abundance the next year, and famine never afterwards visited the Friend’s settlement. The same year, Richard SMITH, James PARKER and Abraham DAYTON, erected a Grist Mill which was put in operation about the first of January 1790. Before the gristmill was built, wheat and corn were prepared for cooking by pounding in a pestle. This consisted of a stump hollowed out on the top, with a cavity into which a small quantity of grain would be placed and pounded, with a mallet or large round stone until pretty thoroughly pulverized. Sometimes an apparatus like a well sweep would be used to expedite the work and render it lighter. Henry BARNES states that a white oak stump, which had been used for this purpose, was standing near the Friend’s house, in Torrey, as late as 1814. Adam CLARK remembers another which stood near the present four corners, just west of Charles J. TOWNSEND’S, near where Elnathan and Jonathan BOTSFORD first settled. The mill soon put this primitive system of manufacturing meal, out of use. Indeed the mill was a great achievement, humble as it was, and added largely to the wealth of the young settlement. It was the first structure of its kind by at least two or four years, west of Seneca Lake. The only one that could have preceded it west of Fort Stanwix, was that at Tioga Point, before alluded to. The pioneers come to it with their little grists for a distance of 30 to 50 and even70 miles. This mill was located on the south bank of the point where the Oil Mill now stands, and a cascade is formed by the waters of the outlet of Keuka Lake, falling over the Tully Limestone. It was a well selected point for a good mill site, and it was that waterfall that determined the location of New Jerusalem. That the saw mill just below it was built a little sooner, is inferred from the fact that the gristmill probably could not have been constructed without some sawed lumber, for which there was no other resource. The mil stones were brought, like most of the supplies of the early settlers, on bateaux, to Norris’ Landing, and on ox sleds from the landing to the mill seat.
An anecdote was long current in regard to the millstones to the effect that Richard SMITH transported them in his leather apron. The fact was that, in putting them into place, by some accident, one was allowed to slip from the platform on which it rested, and it fell to the story below. This was looked upon as a very discouraging situation, as the means of raising it were not apparent. While the rest of those engaged in the work went to dinner, Friend Richard remained, and when they returned from their repast, greatly to their astonishment, he had the stone, which seemed so difficult to move, almost back in its place. He had accomplished alone, by ingenious leverage and industrious prying, in a single hour, what they had supposed would be a much longer task for a large number of men. Hence the jest arose that Richard SMITH had picked up the millstone and carried it in his apron.
In March 1790, The Friend left Worcester, In Pennsylvania, for the Genesee Country, accompanied by a number of her followers, and greatly rejoiced the new settlement by her arrival among them early in the Spring, the journey occupying but two weeks. Many of the Society had not seen the Friend for about three years, and her coming, on which they had earnestly relied, added greatly to their confidence in the success of their arduous enterprise. Doubtless it would have been better for the unity and stability of the Society, had she come still earlier. It was now a community of 260 persons, as proved by the census report of that year; and amore orderly, industrious and well-disposed body of people than these, were never brought together for the foundation of a new community. They were held together by a common bond of religious sentiment, in which they were peculiar and alien to the world. Their apostle and head was present with them. They had every moral and material element of success within and about them. This year they erected a Log Meeting House, a sketch of which, as described by Henry BARNES, is here with given. It was located very near the present residence of James M. CLARK on the road from Norris’ Landing to the Friend’s Mill, as the road then run direct by the head of Bruce’s Gully, or Lander’s Gully, as it was then called, and cutting off the angle since made. It was in this rude edifice that the Society held its public worship, for about nine years, except when it was held at the residence of the Friend. A domicile was also erected the same Summer for the Friend and her household, which still stands on the farm of Charles J. TOWNSEND. A sketch of the original part of this structure is also given. It was built by Elijah MALIN, who was at that time an inmate of the Friend’s family, and was the first framed house erected in the new settlement, or in the whole of Genesee Country, as all west of Seneca Lake was called. Anna WAGENER furnished much of the means to erect this building. It was a quaint structure, and for so small a building accommodated a large household. Mr. TOWNSEND states that when he remodeled it internally, after it came into his possession he found it to contain nine fireplaces, all attached to the same chimney. This house was also on the road from Norris’ Landing to the Mill, about a mile from the lake, and when it was built that highways was the only one in the country; other roads at that time were quite informal and without system.
The Friend was now located with comparative comfort in the midst of her flock. She was 32 years old and had labored 14 years as a religious teacher and evangelist. Early in her apostleship she had dropped the name of Jemima WILKINSON, and adopted that of Public Universal Friend. By this title she was ever called by her disciples, who always spoke to her and of her as Friend, or The Friend, and never used pronouns to designate their mistress. That they regarded her with great reverence and affection is an unquestionable fact. A large share of those who had given credence to her teachings, were now whit her in a separate community, and nothing was needed but unity and industry to make it a great power in the land. That unity, however, was the difficult thing to preserve, though the most needful for the perpetuity and prosperity of the Society, we shall soon see how dissensions disturbed this admirable community, and greatly circumscribed its influence.
At this period, the Indians, although they had sold to Phelps and Gorham the great tract, reaching from the Pre-emption Line to the Genesee River, still had hunting and fishing privileges in the country, and were still very ill-disposed toward the State authorities and white people generally. They had been incited to hostility by the wiles of the Lessee Company, who had intended to get control of all the Indian lands under their long lease, but had been successfully thwarted by Gov. George CLINTON. The bewildered and demoralized natives were also influenced to hostile action by British agency on the Frontier, which still dreamed of repossessing the country. The Indians of the west were also full of warlike feeling and costing the Government much trouble. The boldest warriors of the Six Nations were mingling with the contest against white encroachment, and it was but natural that those who remained on the glorious territory of the Senecas, should regard with sullen discontent the settlement of these lands by the hated race. The powerful settlement of the Friend’s Society would have been easily exterminated by an onslaught of the native warriors. They felt the critical nature of their position, and the well known vindictive attitude of the Indians, gave them much concern. It prevented many from coming to the new country, and gave those who were on the spot much solicitude to avoid all occasion of offence toward their red brethren of the forest. The Friends succeeded in making a favorable impression on the natives, who always treated her with great respect, and none of her followers ever had reason to complain of their aggressions. In the summer of 1791, when Col. PICKERING, on behalf of the U.S. Government, held a treaty at Newtown, about 500 Senecas on their way thither, encamped at Norris’ Landing. Red Jacket, Corn Planter, Good Peter, an Indian Preacher, Rev. Mr. KIRKLAND, the Indian Missionary, Horatio JONES and Jasper PARRISH, the celebrated Indian Interpreters were in the company. The occasion was improved for an interchange of civilities. The Friend preached, and the Indians listened to her interpreted words with attention and respect. She did not claim to be Christ nor his substitute, but rather his messenger, and the story afterwards reported that Good Peter turned away in disgust, because she had not the supernatural power to understand the address he made after hers, in the Indian dialect, was a wanton fabrication. The Indians were cordial and sincerely friendly, as all their subsequent conduct toward the Friend and her Society most clearly proved. It is true they were always treated with hospitality and generosity at her abode. They were never turned away hungry, and they never made unreasonable requests. Singly and in larger delegations, they often called at the Friend’s house, and were always treated with the same unvarying kindness and respect. They did not fail when hunting in the vicinity, to keep the Friend’s larder well supplied with venison, and they never missed a suitable reward for their thoughtful attention. When the great treaty was held in Canandaigua in 1794, which ended all the Indian troubles in Western New York, the Friend attended and preached to a large concourse of the Indians and pioneers, from the text: “Have we not all one Father? Hath not one God created us all?”
The Indians were greatly pleased with this discourse and pronounced the Friend – Squaw Shinnewawna gis taw, ge- “ A great Woman Preacher.” Nor did they forget ever after to manifest their respect for the personage whose benevolence toward them was so earnest in both word and deed, thus proving that the native heart was prompt and true in its response to just and generous treatment.
In1791, Sarah RICHARDS, who had remained at Worcester to close up affairs at that place, came to the New Jerusalem with a number of others. Sarah was the prime minister, so to speak, of the Friend, and the household and Society were now fully consolidated. The following memorandums made by Sarah RICHARDS, which have been preserved, are interesting scraps of this early history:
First of the 6th Month, 1791
I arrived with Rachel MALIN, Elijah MALIN, E. Mehitable SMITH, Marian and the rest of the Friend’s family, together with the Friend’s goods, which the Friend sent Elijah to assist in bringing them on. We all safe arrived on the west side of the Seneca Lake, and reached the Friend’s house which the Universal Friend had built for our reception, and with great joy met the Friend once more in time and all is walking health as well as usual. - SARAH RICHARDS
Jerusalem,7th of the 6th Month, 1791
Then reckoned and settled up with Thomas ORMAN, the boatman, for bringing up the Universal Friend’s goods. Settled, I say, to his full satisfaction, being in trust for the Friend. The Friend has paid him ten dollars and a half, which is his full demand. – SARAH RICHARDS
In the year ninety-one, settled with Elijah MALIN, being in trust for the Universal Friend at this time, reckoned and settled with him for building the Friend’s house, and passed receipts 24th of the 6th Month, 1791. – SARAH RICHARDS
Reckoned and settled with Richard HATHAWAY, being in trust for the Universal Friend, for goods, which the carpenters took up at his store for building the Friend’s house in Jerusalem. Settled, I say, this 3rd of the 7th Month, 1791. - Sarah RICHARDS
19thof the 7th Month, 1791
This day the Universal Friend sent me with Rachel MALIN to Benedict ROBINSONS to deliver $100 in sliver, for which he promised and agreed with the Friend to let the Friend have land out of the second seventh township, in the Boston Pre-emption at the prime cost and necessary expenses, for which he gave me his receipt. – SARAH RICHARDS.
About the 26th of the 7th Month, 1791, I and Rachel MALIN were taken sick, about the time of wheat harvest, and never were able to go out of the house until the ground was covered with white snow, but entirely confined to our chamber, which finished up the year 1791. – SARAH RICHARDS
16thof the 6th Month in the year 1792
Then reckoned and settled with Jacob WAGENER, in trust for the Friend, and he was received 12 pounds of the Friend in full of all demands whatsoever. – SARAH RICHARDS
26thof the 6th Month, 1792
Asa RICHARDS departed this life 28th. The Friend attended his funeral. He said he had a hope in his death, that he was going into a better world. The Friend spoke from these words: “The wicked is driven away in his wickedness, but the righteous hath hope in his death.”
Asa RICHARDS came to the Friend’s house sick with consumption nearly two years before his death. He gave the Friend the receipt which he held from ROBINSON in proprietorship to draw land in his stead at the prime cost and necessary expenses. This he delivered to the Universal Friend sometime before his death, to make remittance for the care of all his sickness and funeral charges to the amount of 50 pounds lawful money of the State of Connecticut. – SARAH RICHARDS
7thof the 7th Month, 1792
Then reckoned and settled with Benjamin BROWN for driving the Friend’s cattle from New England, by delivering him $10 in trust for the Friend, being in full of all demands. – SARAH RICHARDS
5thday of the 1st Month, 1792 (3?)
This day I received a deed of Benedict ROBINSON, to hold in trust for the Universal Friend, for which the Friend sent me with $100 in silver, and then sent two yoke of fat oxen to Phelps and Gorham, to make out the payment for the land, which he said would not be more than one shilling per acre, and the deed contains five lots which makes 1,600 acres. – SARAH RICHARDS
10thof the 3rd Month, 1793
First day morn. This day, Mehitable SMITH left time after about four month’s illness. She joyfully met death, giving glory to God and the Lamb. The Friend attended her funeral. Test– “The righteous perisheth and no man Layeth it to heart, and the merciful are taken away, none considering that the righteous are taken away from the evil to come.
2ndof the 5th Month, 1793
This day I received a deed from Thomas HATHAWAY to hold in trust for the Friend, and the Friend has paid all the consideration money to HATHAWAY. – SARAH RICHARDS
1stof the 6th Month, 1793
This day I have received another deed from Thomas HATHAWAY to hold in trust for the Universal Friend, bearing date 1st of the 6th Month, ninety three, lot number 47th, which the Friend purchased for Mary BARLTESON, widow, and has paid the consideration money. – SARAH RICHARDS
24thof the 10th Month, 1793
Being in trust for the Universal Friend, then settled with Barnabas BROWN, by delivering him a pair of oxen valued at $40. – SARAH RICHARDS
The old Pre-emption Line which was run in 1788, indicated that the lands on which the settlement made its start, were to be obtained of the State of New York, though the operations and claims of the Lessee Company, very actively prosecuted at that time, involved the question in some confusion. Early measures were adopted to make interest with the company, by James PARKER and his associates, as papers of Mr. PARKER very clearly show. As soon as November1788, a portion of township number seven, first range, now Milo, was set off to James PARKER and several others, his associates, by Caleb BENTON on behalf of the Lessee Company. The amount thus taken was 1,104 acres and is the belt since known as the Garter, and shows that the Friends built their mill on their own land, though a trifle west of the old Pre-emption Line.
Early application was made to Gov. George CLINTON, for land by James PARKER and his associates, and they were invited by the Governor to attend the land sales in Albany, and make such purchases as they wished. They did so, and secured 14,040 acres, afterwards called the Potter Location, lying on the west bank of Seneca Lake, bounded on the north by Reed and Ryckman’s location, west by Lansing’s location and other lands already granted, and extending south far enough to include the number of acres before specified. This deed was signed by George CLINTON, the Executive of the State, and the grantees were James PARKER, William POTTER and Thomas HATHAWAY, as Tenants in Common, and not as Joint Tenants, for themselves and their associates, with no consideration expressed except the requirement that there shall within seven years, be one family located on each 640 acres of the land. This deed was dated October 10, 1792. It would seem, that while waiting on the operations of the Lessee Company, some lands occupied by the Society, had been located by others.
At what precise time the New Pre-emption Line was run, has not come to the knowledge of the writer, but probably as early as 1793. That line run through the Friend’s settlement more than a mile eastward of the Old Line, and the space between fell into the possession of Charles WILLIAMSON, then acting agent for the London Association, who had become successors, through Robert MORRIS, of Phelps and Gorham. Thus the State grants west of the New Pre-emption Line, became void, and the settles were obliged to look elsewhere for their source of title. The following letter shows that those residing on the Gore, or space included between the two Pre-emptions Lines, had become satisfied that the were on Phelps and Gorham’s Purchase.
Jerusalem,13th of the 1st Month 1794
Friend WILLIAMSON: - We take this opportunity to let thee know our wishes, who are not on thy land at the Friend’s Settlement in Jerusalem, in the county of Ontario, and in the State of New York. We, the subscribers, wish to take deeds from Friend WILLIAMSON for the land our improvements is on, rather than any other person. Our desire is, that thee would not dispose of the land to any other person but to use who are on the land.
Benajah BOTSFORD Asahel STONE
Eleazer INGRAHAM Samuel DOOLITTLE
Solomon INGRAHAM John DAVIS
Richard SMITH Benedict ROBINSON
Abel BOTSFORD Philo INGRAHAM
Enoch MALIN Samuel PARSONS
William DAVIS Jonathan DAVIS
John BRIGGS Elijah MAILN
Elnathan BOTSFORD Thomas HATHAWAY
Daniel INGRAHAM Mercy ALDRICH
Richard MATHEWS Elisha INGRAHAM
Elnathan BOTSFORD Jr.
Other letters from Benedict ROBINSON and others of the Friends are of similar import. James PARKER says to Mr. WILLIAMSON, “It is my desire to settle the several branches of my family near me; for that reason we began where we now are, with the intention to buy of the right owner when I could see him. The 1,000 acres may seem too much for one man, but when it is divided between myself and son, and three sons in law, it, I think will not be deemed extravagant; especially considering I know not how soon I may have two more sons in law. A man like myself, who was one of the first settlers, and began our settlement, which would have been elsewhere had it not been for me; and also encouraged many emigrants into this country, may claim to be indulged in having the several braches of his family settled near him.
Satisfactory arrangements were made with Mir. WILLIAMSON, who was a man of remarkable fairness and liberality in his dealing with all the settlers, and their titles were confirmed as they desired. The space known as the Little Gore, lying in a triangular form between the New Pre-emption Line and Walker and Lansing’s locations, was released to Mr. WILLIAMSON in 1797, by Arnold POTTER and Eliphalet NORRIS. It was stated in the deed to contain 1,147 acres of land and the consideration of $6,308.50 is also expressed. Why this release was necessary, after the New Pre-emption Line was established, is not understood by the writer.
Before the Universal Friends left New England, they had, according to their means, contributed and pledged themselves to contribute to a joint fund of the purchase of land, in which each contributor was to share in proportion to his or her investment, the land to be valued at prime cost. The land purchased of the State was entered upon by the Society in common. It was early surveyed into lots, and the members of the Society took up locations, some larger and some smaller, according to their ability, confidently expecting to be secured in their several titles, by a faithful execution of the original compact, in pursuance of which the deed from the Land Office of the State had been granted. They were however, to undergo a painful experience. Where unity of interest and action should have prevailed, there was to be severance of interests and bitter discord.
Up to this time, James PARKER had been the most important member of the Friend’s Society, as well as the most active and valuable man to its interests, as a negotiator for land and a ready and efficient man of business. His force and activity were felt in every direction. He has been a magistrate for 20 years in Rhode Island, and was a man of substance and high consideration. Beside she was an enthusiastic devotee of the Friend and one of her most useful and trusted counselors. It was through him that interest was obtained in the Lessee Company and at the Land Office. He was appointed a Justice of the Peace almost as soon as Oliver PHELPS was appointed Judge of Ontario County and held the office sometime after 1800and did a large amount of business as such magistrate. For reasons not fully brought to light, Mr. PARKER and the Friend came toa parting of the ways. Whether he felt that just consideration was not permitted him in the councils of the Society, or his religious sentiments had undergone a change, or whether the Friend had just cause of any character for impugning his fidelity to the faith, is now enveloped in too much of the mists of oblivion to be distinctly traced. Let it suffice to say that there was a separation, a schism. Mr. PARKER was no longer a member of the Friend’s Society, and the Friend no longer countenanced Mr. PARKER.
That this was a great misfortune to both sides is most evident form all the subsequent history of the Society. Whether the alienation of James PARKER carried that of William POTTER or not, it is evident that they were simultaneous seceders. From having been friends they became opponents of the society and very damaging opponents. Mr. POTTER, who had also been a very prominent man in Rhode Island and Treasurer of the State, had been the largest contributor in the purchase of the land, having paid $2,000or more than half the entire cost of the 14,040 acres, patented by the State at25 cents per acre. That a convulsion in the Society should be the result is not to be wondered at, and that both sides should insist on all the law would allow, is perhaps the most natural result of the passions engendered.
A suit was tried at the Ontario Circuit in June 1800, in which William POTTER was the plaintiff in the action, for ejectment, against George SISSON, who held lot No.16 in the Parker, Potter and Hathaway Patent. POTTER claimed the sole title, by a deed from PARKER and HATHAWAY to himself, their common title resting on a deed from the State. The defendant showed by letters of James PARKER, addressed to the Society, and the petitions of the Society addressed to the Commissioners of the Land Office, the nature of the compact by which the purchase of lands had been effected, and thejust rights of its members.
In JOHNSON’S reports of cases, volume two, the report of this case goes on to say:
“Thecontract with the Commissioners was fulfilled by the Society, of which James PARKER appeared to be the principal member, on the 29th of February,1792. By another litter of James PARKER, addressed to the Commissioners on the 15th of September 1792,he stated his former contract with the Commissioners for 12,000 acres of land (finally 14,040), for himself and his associates, and named the other two patentees and defendant.”
“Thecommunity of Friends met on the 27th of October, 1791, among whom was William POTTER, one of the lessors of the plaintiff. They came to sundry resolutions, by which they appointed the other two patentees above named, a committee to receive the contract form PARKER, and to indemnify him for his contract with the Commissioners of the Land Office, and compensate him for his trouble, and directed the members of the Community to pay their proportion of the expense of the lands, and that they should received land in proportion to their advances.”
It was made to appear that George SISSON, had paid $37.50, while William POTTER had paid $2,000. Upon these facts, averdict was taken for the plaintiff, by consent, subject to the opinion of the court. That opinion was rendered by Justice KENT, to the effect that no legal estate was created by the patent, but what vested in the three patentees named, PARKER, POTTER and HATHAWAY, and that an equitable title cannot prevail in ejectment against the legal estate, especially if such equitable estate be dubious. In other words, that the equitable title was too indefinite for a court of law, and the only remedy was by an action of equity. This was one of those fine legal discriminations so glorious for the profession, but so wearisome to justice, and oppressive to those seeking the aid of courts to redress their wrongs.
The remedy indicated by the opinion of Judge KENT, was attempted with very unfortunate results. Richard SMITH, John BRIGGS and George SISSON, Trustees of the Society of Friends, consulted one William STEWART, a pretentious lawyer, who gave them encouraging advice, and exacted of them a note of $1,500 as a modest retaining fee, before commencing an equity suit. With a remarkable lack of wise foresight, they gave the note, which STEWART sold, and went his way without doing anything for the relief of his clients. No step was taken to initiate the equity suit. But payment of the note of $1,500 was exacted to the uttermost fathering. The Society had not sanctioned the action of the trustees, and declined to be held accountable for their loss. Being comparatively poor, the consequences were disastrous to them. George SISSON and John BRIGGS had all their property sold by the Sheriff to the last and least of their household goods, and SISSON was taken to Canandaigua and confined within the jail limits, according to the stupid law of those days which allowed imprisonment for debt. His wife made a weary pilgrimage on horseback every week, to carry him provisions and carry some word of home, or what should have been home, until he was in some way, released. His fellow trustees were greatly straightened and distressed by this procedure, and the Society could but feel it as a deep injury.
At the time when these troubles began, Abraham DAYTON was sent to Canada to negotiate with Governor SIMCOE for a grant of land for a new location, and partly form fear of Indian troubles. The Governor made a grant in the township of Beauford, Canada West. But after some preparations had been made to remove thither, the Governor annulled his grant. He exculpated himself by the statement that he had supposed the society to be Quakers, of whom he entertained a high opinion, but learning that this was a new sect, he did not wish to encourage their emigration to his territory. He made the grant, however, to Mr. DAYTON, individually, who removed to it with his family, and died there in early years. The DAYTON family, it would seem, was one of the best in the Society, and one desirable to retain. They were besides sincere Friends, and it must have been a strong temptation that led them away. Possibly the troubles of the Society may have influenced them somewhat to leave.
Mrs. DAYTON is said to have been the first Cheese maker in the Genesee Country. Her curd was laid in a hoop on a stump, and stones laid on to press it. Mrs. DAYTON was always mentioned with great affection for her kindness in affording relief in the season of great scarcity, 1789, from the stock of provisions her husband brought into the country. The DAYTON family lived near the primitive mill, and Mrs. DAYTON had one day rather a thrilling adventure with a snake. Near the bank she was a large black snake entwined about the limb of a tree projecting over a stream. Taking a stick in her hand, she stepped on a pile of boards and gave the snake a blow, which loosened its hold in it fell into the stream. At the same time the boards gave way and precipitated Mrs. DAYTON down the bank about 30 feet, along with the snake and the boards. When her husband came to her aid, he found her standing in the water, the bones from a broken leg protruding through the skin and stocking, while she was beating off the snake with a stick in her hand, his snake ship having concluded to give battled under the new turn of affairs. She was rescued and the bones were set and the limb dressed by the Friend in the absence of a surgeon, and the fracture was as speedily cured as if managed by the most skillful expert in surgery. She married a second husband. (Col. STONE) and died at the age of 93years. A daughter of Mrs. DAYTON married Benajah MALLORY, who was a trader in the settlement at a very early day, and died at an advanced age, at Lockport, a few years ago.
The interest of Mr. DAYTON in the Pioneer Mills, he sold t David WAGENER, another very important adherent of the Friend, from Pennsylvania, on the “27thday of ye 12th Mo., 1791.” The consideration for grist and saw mill was 150 pounds; and for improved lands adjoining, 50 pounds. The deed was witnessed by Daniel GUERNSEY, a surveyor and Barnabas BROWN.
Among the early sales of Phelps and Gorham, was that of township number 7, second rage, (now Jerusalem) to Thomas HATHAWAY and Benedict ROBINSON, September 2,1790. Consideration, $4,320 for 36square miles. The Senior HATHAWAY, who was Mr. ROBINSON’S associate in this purchase, does not appear to have retained for any length of time an interest in the 14,040 acres patented to himself and PARKER, POTTER and others on Seneca Lake. Neither did he become alienated from the Society, but retained his standing therein till his death, and was ever regarded by the Society with the highest respect.
Benedict ROBINSON was another prominent man in the New Community. He too, was at first an enthusiastic adherent of the Friend, and the design to have the Friend’s abode in his township was very early entertained, as appears by the following letter, which it is supposed was addressed to Sarah RICHARDS:
New Settlement – 13th of the 12th Month, 1789.
Friend Sarah: - I arrived her after a fatiguing journey of twelve days travel; am kindly received, have explored the second 7th township, two days and three nights successively together, and find it not as report says altogether. We are satisfied with our purchase altogether, one thing excepted, that is, the land does not lay so compact as one would wish for every convenience we want. Would the Friend accept the offer of such a piece as I have mentioned in thy hearing? I think it would accommodate our first intention. The most of it that we have seen, is good enough, and I do not want better. The timber exceeds any I have ever seen in this or any other country. The Sugar Maple aboundeth in plenty, the Oak, the Pine and Walnut, with divers sorts makes it complete. I think there is a pleasant brook form the North to the Northwest branch of the Crooked Lake, from the distance of one mile to one and a half miles from the east line, where is a good place for sheep, which we call Shepherd’s Hill, where one may view almost all the township. With some good timber, good springs and some runs of water, all which isvery advantageous to the situation of said hill, descending to the aforesaid brook, which Thomas saith must be called the brook, Kedron. Two very fine mills seats thereon, and a third if wanted can be had; then as excellent an interval, as good as is desired, or can be, from one quarter to one mile wide; from thence ascending until were come to the west side of said town, except about one and one half miles, &c, ***. I thought I would mention my desire – if may be – to be assisted in making the payment, where I have had encouragement from. As circumstances is with us, I can not say what is or will be right, but do mean to do right as far as can be. Desiring to be remembered to and by the Friend in supplication and intercession for a remnant off a remnant, and by all those of whom the spirit of prayer is given, not forgetting my love to thee and all those who were and are my friends. As the bearer can inform more particulars of affairs, I shall omit it, and subscribe with my hand that I mean to be thy sincere friend.
That the township was bought in consultation with the Friend and by her concurrence appears from the fact that ROBINSON and HATHAWAY, under the Friend’s advice, resigned their opportunity to buy the township where Geneseo is now situated. It was a rule at that period in selling picked townships to require the purchasers to draw for another township at the same price. In this way the purchases of Jerusalem drew the rich and valuable township afterwards owned by the WADSWORTHS. The Friend objected to her people, “ trading and buying property at a distance,” and they prevailed on Mr. PHELPS to release them from the bargain, which he was not unwilling to do, as he had learned the value of the township. Possibly the Friend was wiser than most worldly minded people would be wiling to concede.
In January 1792, Benedict ROBINSON conveyed by a deed, witnessed by Ruth PRITCHARD and Lucy BROWN, lots 23,24,25,26 and the north half of lots 22 and 27, in township number seven, second range, supposed to contain 1,400 acres, to Sarah RICHARDS on behalf of the Friend. Thomas HATHAWAY, by a deed witnessed by Susannah and Temperance BROWN, had conveyed his interest in the same land to Benedict ROBINSON for this purpose in September of the previous year. The consideration expressed in HATHAWAY’S deed was 20 pounds, and in ROBINSON’S,40 pounds. June 28th,1793, Benedict ROBINSON conveyed to William CARTER for 1,000 pounds, all his interest in the township, except 550 acres.
August4, 1795, Thomas HATHAWAY made a like conveyance to William CARTER for 6,00pounds, of all his interest in the township, except 3,960 acres, a part of which he had before sold. July 14th,1795, William CARTER conveyed to Rachel MALIN, lots 45 and 46, 640 acres. Consideration, 56 pounds, received by Benedict ROBINSON of Asa RICHARDS, deceased. August 14, 1785, William CARTER conveyed to Rachel MALIN, for 140 pounds, lots 21,22,23,24,25, 26, 27,28, 45, 46,47,50,51 and 52. This would show that the full proportions of the Friend’s estate in Jerusalem, were in extent 4,480 acres, allowing each lot to contain 320 acres as stated in these deeds; and generally they contained more.
The selection of the Friend’s location in Jerusalem, was made in 1791, by herself and Sarah RICHARDS, and others who accompanied Benedict ROBINSON to his township for that purpose; George BROWN, afterwards Supervisor of the town, serving as a guide; and in 1792, some work was done by way of clearing and making preparations for the erection of a house in the valley eastward of the final residence of the Friend.
The question whether the first conveyance of lands by Benedict ROBINSON to Sarah RICHARDS on behalf of the Friend was a give on his part, was a subject of must dispute. The following covenant, witnessed by Lucy BROWN, would seem to set the question at rest:
“Thisagreement witnesseth, that whereas I have this day received a deed of several lots of lands lying and being in the town of Jerusalem, county of Ontario, and State of New York, in township number seven, second range of towns, as they were surveyed and numbered throughout the county, 1,200 acres of which is made a present, on the East part the remainder of which I have at the averaged price as said township may be apprized and given $100 in part pay thereof or if said sum of $100 doth purchase more land than what’s contained in the deed, I am to have it added on the west part adjoining by the grantor thereof. In witness whereof, we have set our hands and seals in presents of this fifth day of the first Month, in the year seventeen hundred and ninety-two (1792).
BENEDICT ROBINSON L.S.
Lots 45and 45, called the Mile Square, or Asa RICHARDS lot, was granted for money, 56pounds paid by Asa RICHARDS to Benedict ROBINSON, the receipt for which on his death was given to the Friend, in compensation for care extended to him in his sickness, and to pay his funeral charges.
The north half of lot 47, (160 acres), was deeded to Mary, the wife of Ezekiel SHEARMAN, by Rachel MALIN, in 1797, for payment in part, of money loaned to pay the expense of transporting the property and effects of the Friend from Pennsylvania to the New Jerusalem; another 100 acres was added from lot 48 by David WAGENER, it is said to pay Ezekiel SHEARMAN for his pioneer explorations for the Society of Friends in 1786.
In1793, Sarah RICHARDS directed in person further improvements in Jerusalem on the new location. Ten or twelve acres were enclosed and a long tenement erected. Her health, which had been poor for some time, and which the hardships of the wilderness did not renovate, continued to decline, and she died late in that year. Her attending physician was Moses ATWATER of Canandaigua, who wrote her Will, committing her trust to Rachel MALIN, who from that time forth held the Friend’s property, as sole trustee, while the Friend remained with her disciples. Sarah RICHARDS left one child, a daughter, Eliza, which she committed to the care of tutelage of the Friend. Her subsequent career had a less favorable influence on the destinies of the Society, than her mother would have wished.
In the Spring of 1794, after a residence of four years in the original settlement, near Seneca Lake, the Friend removed her household to her new abode in the vale of the “Brook Kedron.” It would seem that no ordinary inducements could have impelled such a removal. Most of her people were settled on and east of the Gore, in a region of rare beauty and natural wealth, where they had already made a goodly beginning. On the other hand, the new location was in the midst of a dense, unbroken wilderness. It was not less than 10 or 12 miles away from those on whom she depended for assistance and sympathy. There can be no doubt that a desire to be removed from hostile influences, which had become bitter and intolerant, was largely a motive for this early removal. That the Friend sided with those of her Society who deemed themselves injured in the disposition of the lands, is well attested; and she did not change her attitude on that question when the worst results of the situation were experienced. While this intensified the attachment of one class toward their beloved leader, it greatly embittered others whose powers were much to be dreaded by reason of their position and power.
Whatever the intention may have been in granting a tract of land in the “second seventh”, there is no doubt that its original impulse, was to a large extent to provide a home and nucleus for the Society. If a desire to bring setters to the township was mixed with this purpose, it was not an unwise design, for it produced the desired effect. Members of the Society actuated by a wish to be near the Friend, gathered about in the same vicinity. A number of the poorer ones were granted homes on the Friend’s own land, and for several years the larger portion of the settlers in this township, were Friends or attracted by some influence connected with the Friend’s Society.
The Friend retained a farm of about 300 acres in the original settlement while she lived. Anna WAGENER occupied the house for a few years after the Friend removed to Jerusalem. A room was kept in it for the Friend when she visited there, and a bed which no other person ever occupied, till about 1812, after which she seldom, if ever, came there. Meetings were held not only at the Friend’s house in Jerusalem, but at her house in what is now Torrey, at the Log Meeting House, and at the residences in later years of Isaac NICHOLS and Adam HUNT, who after a few years had commodious framed dwellings. The Log Meeting House was only used for worship till 1799. Henry BARNES, still living, remembers the last service in that primitive temple. It was a warm summer day, and a heavy thunder shower arose, the rain come down like a flood and the roof leaked badly. Some of the women held a blanket or shawl over the Friend for protection, while she continued her discourse, which was one of the most impressive and eloquent of her life, and was listened to with profound attention by a large congregation, who crowded very compactly into the leaky structure. The Log Meeting House served as a school house as well as a meeting house for some time. Here Sarah RICHARDS commenced teaching a few weeks before she died, another proof of her rare excellence of character. Here, also, Ruth PRITCHARD taught a school in 1796 and John BRIGGS not far from the same time. The old Log Meeting House finally became a dwelling. It is remembered by very few who still survive.
The Friend gradually improved her surroundings in the deep forests of Jerusalem, by the co-operation of her Society, of whom she retained a large number in spite of all hostilities and persecutions. The single log house had added to it another, and afterwards a third. The first and east part, of somewhat the largest dimension, was finally raised a story higher and covered with clapboard, making a very comfortable abode. Her own room was above stairs in the east portion. The middle building was used as a room for the meetings of the Society. The triple log house was the home of the Friend and her household till about 1814. Thomas CLARK, whose wife, Elizabeth, was a sister of Rachel and Margaret MALIN, commenced the erection of the large dwelling since known as the Friend’s House in 1809, and finished the principal part in 1814. He was evidently not a rapid builder, but his work was exceedingly well done, and all the materials used were of the most substantial quality. The building is still in a good state of preservation, and when new was a marvelous advance upon the current ideas of architecture. The rooms are high and commodious and well arranged for a patriotiate residence. After 24 years of hard sacrifices and doubtful struggles, this residence in the midst of her own domain, afforded a home of comfort commensurate with the wants of her family and its relations to the Society. Here, after the erection of this dwelling, the meetings of the Society were held. Here the career of the Universal Friend came to a close, five year slater, and her the Society held its shrine after that sad event, until its diminishing votaries had mostly passed away.
The influence of this remarkable woman continued unabated with a large body of her followers throughout her life and after her death, notwithstanding all adverse circumstances, all the litigations, personal asperities, and the repugnance of many to the strictness of the faith held by the Society. That this wonderful ascendancy was the result of mere religious credulity and superstitious awe, is not to be tolerated as an explanation of the fact, when we take into account the intelligence, conscientiousness and independence of character, that prevailed with a large share of these people. The secret of her power rested in her sterling humanity, far more than any peculiarity of doctrinal teaching. She had a lively and zealous concern in all that affected the welfare of her people She was truly a nursing mother to her flock. Her ministrations were first and foremost in sickness and sorrow. Her affectionate hand was a sure support in every trouble; and her sympathy was unfailing. All funeral services within the Society, and many without, were attended by her. When called upon for aid to the poor, or comfort to the sorrowing, whether within or without her own fold, it was never withheld.
life of the Friend, therefore, was one of manifold cares and labors. For many ears frequent visits were necessary to the neighborhood of
the first settlement, sometimes to attend the burial of the dead, or visit the
sick, and often for religious service at the public meetings. These journeys, until the later period of the Friend’s life,
were performed on horseback, always with one or more attendants, and often with
a dozen, more or less, of whom Rachel MALIN was usually one, and frequently
Margaret. Saturday was the Sabbath
day of the Society, and when meetings were to be held in Milo, the cavalcade
went down on Friday afternoon, and would go back on Sunday afternoon; although
Sunday, which they did not hold as a Sabbath or sacred day, was generally
observed as a day of rest by the Society, from deference to other people whose
Sabbath it was. To the public meetings in Jerusalem, there would usually go up a
company from Milo on horseback, many of them remaining two nights at the Friend’s house, and the hospitality of that mansion was never at fault. A dinner was always provided for those who attended the public
meetings, free to all who would partake. This
liberal hospitality was always a feature of the Friend’s abode, and was
especially extended to all strangers or persons from a distance who happened to
be present from motives of interest or curiosity.
At the meetings, the Society usually gathered promptly at the proper hours and sat in silence. The Friend would enter soon and sit for a few moments, lay off her hat, kneel and pray aloud fervently for some time, then after remaining seated in silence for a few moments, arise and speak, generally from an hour to an hour and a half. These discourses were always listened to with the utmost quiet. The voice of the speaker was musical and pleasant to the ear. The gestures, mostly an easy waving motion of the hand, were always graceful. The eyes black and highly expressive, seemed to animate the language of the Friend, and add intensity to her eloquence. After his discourse closed, others sometimes spoke. Of these were Richard SMITH, Asahel STONE, Benajah BOTSFORD, Elnathan BOTSFORD Sr., Deborah MALIN, Mercy ALDRICH, Abigail BARNES, Lucina GOODSPEED, Experience INGRAHAM, Lucy BOTSFORD and others. When all speaking was closed, the meeting was dismissed by shaking hands. The Friend commenced usually by shaking hands with Rachel MALIN, when all would arise and the hand shaking would become general. Every member present would make it a point to shake hands with the Friend. There was no singing in public worship, but a profoundly devotional spirit was cultivated, and a more reverential body of worshippers it would be difficult to find.
The separation of James PARKER from the Society, occurred very soon after the new colony was planted near Seneca Lake, and bore bitter fruits on both sides. Mr. PARKER lost his religious home, and was very much afloat in spiritual relations thereafter. For a time he was somewhat zealously identified with the Free Will Baptists, afterwards strongly inclined to the Universalists, and finally died at a very advanced age, a member of the Methodist Church, by which people he was cordially received and kindly regarded in his later years. For a time after his breaking off from the Society, he was a leader in the hostilities which raged against the Friend and her Society.
As a magistrate, he issued a warrant on the complaint of William POTTER, against the Friend, for blasphemy. The event proved this to be a grave error, but the prosecution was urged with a nearnestness which showed that strong and passionate feeling was enlisted in the work, and that many prominent persons in the community gave it countenance and support. This was in the Autumn of1799. The warrant was placed in the hands of an officer, who met the Friend on horseback accompanied by Rachel MALIN, a short ways from Smith’s Mills, on the road to Norris’ Landing. He made a dash to seize his intended prisoner, who being an accomplished horsewoman, was not easily caught. She turned her horse about instantly and galloped swiftly down the hill and her pursuer not being able to follow so rapidly, was left considerably in the rear. She reined up at the house of Richard SMITH, a little west of the mills, dismounted and took refuge among those who were ready to protect her. The officer found the door barricaded and threatened to break it down, but met with so much resolute resistance, that he desisted and went his way.
Shortly after, another officer made his appearance in Jerusalem, armed with his warrant. The Friend was in a little house opposite her then residence on the north side of the road, used as a shop for weaving. Here the Friend, with several women of her household, was engaged when the constable walked in, his attendant, Enoch MALIN, remaining outside. His mission was at once understood and no time was given him to make explanations or commence offensive operations. He found himself outside the door in such precipitate haste, that he could hardly comprehend what was going on. The woman handled him with so little care, that some of his garments were badly torn, and a renewal of the onslaught was impossible without a repair of his breeches. Thus ended the second attempt at arrest.
The next was much more formidable and more craftily managed. A posse of about 30 men was collected, some of them the most prominent men in the new settlement. They took along a cart and oxen to convey their prisoner away, and hearing that the Friend was reported sick, they had a physician in their company to decide whether she was in sufficient bodily health to endure the proposed arrest. Sometime after midnight, they surrounded the house, which was soon in a state of alarm. Stout resistance was made to their entrance, but they broke down the door with an ax, and took possession of the premises. The physician soon informed them that an attempt to carry the Friend away, would not be advisable. A man from the outside of one of the windows called out, “throw her in the cart and carry her off.” This was a man too, who had been one of her warmest adherents. And this same man, in after years, when diseased reminded him of his mortality, was glad to be reconciled to the Friend, and become the subject of her sympathy and her spiritual consolation.
Finding that their third attempt at arrest must prove abortive, a parley was held. An attorney representing the Friend was on hand, as it happened; are cognizance was entered into for her appearance at the next Ontario Circuit and the idea of a trial before Justice PARKER was abandoned.
In the following June, the Friend and her accusers were in attendance at the Circuit Court in Canandaigua. The venerable Ambrose SPENCER was the presiding Judge. The Grand Jury listened to all the evidence presented on the charge of blasphemy against the Friend, and unanimously agreed that there was nothing on which to base an indictment. When this conclusion was announced, the Friend was respectfully invited to preach before the Court and the people in attendance. She did so, and was listened to with the deepest attention. Judge SPENCER, on being asked his opinion of this discourse replied: “We have heard good counsel, and if we live in harmony with what that woman has told us, we shall be sure to be good people here, and reach a final rest in Heaven.”
On another occasion, a woman who had been one of the Society, made affidavit that she had reason to fear for the safety of her life, on account of the Friend. That a warrant of arrest was issued in this case is probable but not quite clear. But the woman who made the affidavit, accidentally confronted the Friend sometime after at the house of a sick neighbor. “Chloe”, said the Friend, “did thee think I would kill thee?” “No, Friend,” she replied. “Then why did thee swear so wickedly?” continued the Friend. There was no answer for some time, but she finally declared that she has been “put up to it.”
These incidents serve to show the extreme intensity of hostile feelings that prevailed for a time on the part of some, which was none the less bitter from the fact that it was led by those who had been personal adherents of the Friend.
The long litigation which hung like a cloud over the affairs of the Friend in the last years of her life, and which did not reach its conclusion till some years after her death, was another source of ill-feeling toward her and the Society, and doubtless laid the foundation for much of that venomous detraction which pursued her fame and character through the lifetime of more than one generation after her departure. Sarah RICHARDS, the first trustee of the Friend, and one of the early and firm adherents of the Society, and its founder, dying in the latter part of 1793,left an only child, Eliza, in charge of the Friend to be reared in her family, doubtless with the expectation that she would remain a permanent member of the household and attached like her mother, to the Friend. Sarah, by a will executed a short time before her death, devised her trust to Rachel MALIN, including all the land she held in Jerusalem, and among the rest lots 45 and 46, held by virtue of Asa RICHARD’S Will, leaving to Sarah the receipt (for money paid to Benedict ROBINSON), by which the land was obtained. To her daughter, Eliza, she left nothing except a remnant of property, which she owned at Watertown, Connecticut, before joining the Friend.
Eliza seemed to be more disposed to follow the fortunes of a husband than adhere to the faith of the Friend. In 1796, about three years after her mother’s decease, while she was still very young, she eloped from the house of the Friend, leaving through a window, in the hour of public meeting, met Enoch MALIN, who was waiting for her by previous arrangement, at a house near by, and was wedded to him. It does not appear that claim was immediately made to any of the Friend’s land by inheritance from Eliza’s mother. But in 1799, Eliza and her husband conveyed by deed, a strip of land 100rods in width, off the north side of lots 24 and 25, two miles long, containing400 acres, to Elnathan BOTSFORD Jr., and Benajah BOTSFORD, his brother, and the husband of Deborah, the youngest sister of the Friend. It was afterward testified by Elnathan BOSTSFORD Sr., that he obtained the assent of the Friend to this purchase; and whether such assent was given inexplicit terms or not, it appears that the purchasers held undisturbed possession of it for 12 years, and lived on and improved it. Whether the Friend regarded their source of title just or not, she was probably willing that parties holding their relations to herself and the Society, should hold the land thus taken, so long as no father loss to her domain was involved. There were others and subsequent sales, however, by Enoch and Eliza MALIN, which could not be so tamely acquiesced in. These were to Asahel STONE Jr., Asa INGRAHAM and Truman STONE. It was now perceived that all the Friend’s estate might be taken away in the same manner, and legal redress appeared to be required to establish her rights. Measures were according taken to prove the title of the Friend, through her trustee, Rachel MALIN, to all the land that had been conveyed to her from ROBINSON, HATHAWAY and CARTER.
In 1811, Rachel MALIN filed a bill in Chancery, against Enoch and Eliza MALIN, and the purchasers under their assumed title. The defendants by their answer, denied the trust claimed by Rachel, and alleged that1,000 acres of the land conveyed to Sarah RICHARDS was a gift, and therefore that no resulting trust was conveyed. The cause was brought to a hearing on the pleadings before Chancellor KENT in 1816. After permitting the bill to be amended by inserting the name of Jemima WILKINSON as a party complainant, he directed a feigned issue to be tried by a jury in the County of Ontario, to ascertain whether Jemima WILKINSON had advanced any money or other valuable consideration for the lands, or any other part there of contained in the conveyance from Benedict ROBINSON to Sarah RICHARDS; whether the will of Sarah RICHARDS had been altered; whether the whole or any, and if any, what part of the lands conveyed by ROBINSON to Sarah RICHARDS, passed by that conveyance; and whether the BOTSFORDS and others were bona-fide purchasers, without notice of the trust. This feigned issue was noticed for trial at Ontario Circuit in June 1817, but was put off for want of a material witness by Rachel MALIN.
Enoch and Eliza MALIN both died before this stage of the case was reached, he in Canada and she in Ohio. They left two sons, David H. MALIN and Avery MALIN, who were substituted for their parents as parties to the suit. Elisha WILLIAMS, their attorney and guardian, brought actions of ejectment against parties occupying the lands in dispute, and upon the trial, a verdict unfavorable to the Friend and her claims were rendered, and the case was at once carried to the Court of Chancery, where it was tried before Chancellor KENT in1823, the feigned issue, having bee set aside as the evidence adducted on the trial of the ejectment suits, supplied the information sought by that issue. The decease of the Friend in 1819, left Rachel and Margaret MALIN, under her will, the representatives of her interests in the suit, and John C. SPENCER was their counsel. The Chancellor made a decree affirming the trust, and upholding the title of the Friend, and the defendants took their appeal to the Court of Errors. A final decision was reached in that Court in 1828, nine years after the decease of the Friend, and 17 years after the commencement of the suit.
A full statement of the case is given in the first volume of Wendell’s reports, by which it appears that the litigation was one that must have enlisted the be stenergies of both sides, and the best legal talent of the period. Thomas R. GOLD, of Utica, was the counsel for the respondents, Rachel and Margaret MALIN, in the Court of Errors. The question of the trust was the main point of attack, and it was triumphantly sustained.
The memorandums of Sarah RICHARD, given a few pages back, were offered in support of the trust, and were assailed as forgeries, several good witnesses affirming that they were written by Ruth PRITCHARD, and not by Sarah RICHARDS. The similarity of handwriting on the part of these persons, no doubt led to an honest difference of opinion on the subject. The ultimate conviction of all unprejudiced minds, must have been in favor of their authenticity. And the following letters, which could have presented no stronger claim to verity, were much less questioned, and helped materially the cause of the Friend.
Jerusalem,3rd of the 6th Month, 1793
Dear Ruth: - I take this opportunity to inform thee further about the situation of earthly concerns. The Friend has also taken a deed of Thomas HATHAWAY, containing south of that which ROBINSON deeded to me to hold in trust for the Friend. And this deed is witnessed by William CARTER and Abel BOTSFORD. I hope we shall get together before long. This is from thy affectionate friend,
Jerusalem,12th of the 3rd Month, 1793
Dear Ruth: - This is to be a messenger of my love to thee. Hold out faith and patience. Thy letter was very welcome to me. I want thee should make ready to come where the Friend is in this town. The Friend has got land enough here for all that will be faithful and true. Dear Ruth, I will inform thee that Benedict ROBINSON has given the Friend a deed of some land in the second seventh, in the Boston Pre-emption, which deed contains five lots, and the Friend has made use of my name to hold it in trust for the Friend, and now I hope the Friend will have a home, and likewise for the poor Friends, and such ashave no helper, where no intruding foot can enter. Farewell. From thy affectionate friend,
Justice SUTHERLAND, who wrote an able and exhaustive opinion in the cause, was sustained by a concurring and still more emphatic opinion, by William M. OLIVER, then a State Senator, and member of the Court for the Correction of Errors, and a majority of the Court decided in accordance with their opinions, establishing the trust and confirming the title of the Friend, but affirming a valid title on the part of the BOTSFORDS, whose purchase it was decided had been made without notice of the trust. A life estate only was granted to Rachel and Margaret MALIN, in lots 45 and 46, the title to which was derived from Asa RICHARDS, on the grounds that the title to these lots was the personal estate of Sarah RICHARDS, and that her will conveyed only a life estate thereto to Rachel MAILIN, leaving the remainder in fee to her own heirs. It was also held by the terms of Benedict ROBINSON’S original deed to Sarah RICHARDS, that a consideration was expressed which precluded the idea of a gift, and that what was paid covered the whole conveyance, as the consideration could not be limited to any particular portion. It was also held by Justice SUTHERLAND, that the settlement on the land by the Friend, drawing others as it must, was a very valuable consideration, and probably a sufficient one for the land.
This unhappy litigation, although it resulted in the end favorably to the Friend and her associates and supporters, was a great misfortune to all concerned. It alienated from the Friend and her Society, some who had been early and warmly identified with it. It was tedious, expensive and embarrassing. For many years it was an impending peril that threatened to engulf them. On the other hand, the contestants who gained the 400 acres, admitted that they had better never entered the struggle, for they lost the whole more than once in the finally successful effort to gain it. Yet, though this tedious litigation cost so much in harmony and good will as well as money, it was the fruit of too much confidence and good will, as the writer interprets the facts, and no desire on the part of the Friend to do more than vindicate her just rights.
The adverse fruits of the litigation were manifold. Owing to its cost, the erection of a meeting house was given up, even after the timber for the frame was hewed and drawn on the ground, whereon the edifice was to stand. Lands which had been given by David WAGENER, on condition that such a house should be built, went back finally to his heirs. Old calumnies were revived and strengthened and new ones propagated, and if it were possible for personal fame to be utterly trampled down, the Friend must have been overwhelmed. Yet through it all, the Friend bore her way to the last with firmness, patience and unswerving tenacity of purpose. Preachers of opposing sects often wielded their theological clubs against her, with such denunciation as the spirit of the times seemed to warrant, and weighty words of opprobrium often passed for conclusive argument. But the Friend, retorted not. She yielded no pretension or proper right of her own, but taught her flock the essential virtues of the Christian life with assiduity, and with exemplary consistency.
Her house and grounds were always models of order, neatness and thrifty life. Those who belonged to her household were neither drones nor idlers. The work of her domain west forward in season, and those who performed the labor, whether members of the family or hirelings, were always treated with kindness and respect. Sometimes the members of the Society died the Friend’s work as a voluntary contribution. But this was principally in the earlier years and was always much more than repaid by the generous hospitalities of the Friend’s mansion. She personally directed and controlled the operations of the farm, and would often ride from field to field on horseback, and point out the work to be done. Henry BARNES states, that when a lad, he has often accompanied the Friend about the farm to let down and put up bars.
In the later years of her life, when disease impaired her energies, she ceased riding on horseback, and the running gear of a carriage she had in Pennsylvania, which had been laid away for many years while roads were bad, was taken to Canandaigua and fitted up with a comfortable body. In this she rode during the years of her decline. That carriage is still occasionally seen in our streets, the property of William T. REMER.
Her final illness was long and painful, and for sometime previous to her decease, she was borne to the room where the meetings were held by her attendants, and would address her flock while keeping her seat in a chair. No one could be more devotedly beloved and tenderly cared for than was the Friend by the members of her household and Society. She had proved herself a devoted and heroic leader. She had been their trusted guide and counselor in all difficulties and trying straits, and her ministrations had sufficed for their sorrows and sufferings. It was but natural that her prospective departure should be a source of the keenest grief. Through all her painful struggle with a dropsical disease, the solicitude of her people was unsleeping and most touching in its tenderness. It has been alleged that they did not believe the Fried subject to the conditions of mortality. If any such vies were held by them, it was in direct contradiction of her own solemn and repeated assurances, and does not seem at all probable. Death finally visited her on the early morning of July 1, 1819, at the age of 61 year. Lucy BROWN, Rachel and Margaret MALIN, were he attendants in the last hours, which were peacefully and gently breathed away.
It has been said that the grief-stricken Society were unwilling to bury their dead, and that they deposited the body of the Friend in an apartment of the cellar, which was carefully walled up. This is true. They had been informed, either mischievously or earnestly, that some of the physicians had determined to secure the body for dissection. This they determined to prevent; and hence the conduct so curiously regarded by the public. The burial was finally made on a hillock, where Rachel and Margaret were afterwards laid by her side, but no headstone or monument marks the grave. True to her principles and teachings, she bequeathed her estate to Rachel and Margaret MALIN, who were to succeed her as guardians of the poor of the Society and continue to make the Friend’s house the home of those who belonged to the faith, which they did.
Thus terminated the career of one of the most singular and remarkable characters of modern history. She has been treated as an imposter. A conscious imposter she could not have been; for sincerity, earnestness, probity and undeviating consistency, were the conspicuous elements of her character. Her ministry of 43 years was an unvarying assertion of the same claims, without a lapse or singe act or expression that could be construed into an indication that she was actuated by purposes of chicanery. She confronted her fellow beings with counsel and warning in relation to their spiritual interests, with a manner that always impressed serious minds with the highest respect for her devotional sentiments and the transparent integrity ofher convictions. It is worthy of remark, that those who adhered, with the most fidelity to her teachings, were, without exception, people of pure and upright lives. On the other hand, without casting unkind reflections upon any who left the Society, it may be said with all truth, that those who found delight in vicious ways, no longer found a congenial home in the Friend’s Society. No preaching could be more pointed and emphatic than the Friend’s against the popular voice of her time. Intemperance, licentiousness and like moral irregularities, were never winked at by her. “John,” said she, to one of the early settlers who proposed to erect a distillery, “It will prove a snare to thee.” And the sequel prove that her prediction was true.
A man who had been an early member of the Society, and afterwards left it and united with another religious body, said to one of his former brethren in later years, “The Friend was all love.” The very name she assumed – Public Universal Friend – indicated a sentiment of broad and generous philanthropy, worthy, in this too selfish world, of the most profound respect. It may be said that there was ambition and desire to lead and to rule, mingled with this zeal for the welfare of the human family. All this may be admitted without diminishing the nobility and integrity of her character. If she ruled, it was by virtue of characteristics that made her a ruling mind. If there was too much of unquestioned submission to her rule, that could hardly be deemed a fault of hers. Like all real rulers, she elected herself, and proceeded with her work.
That the Friend was largely endowed with benevolence; there is abundant proof, for no charitable appear was ever made to her in vain. This was also manifested in her uniform kindness to the poor residents, whether of her own flock or not. William HENCHER, a settler who lived at Newtown Point, when the Friend came into the country, helped her on with his teams through the woods on the head of Seneca Lake. His son accompanied the expedition, and in after years related to Mr. TURNER the impression it made upon him. He was struck by the singular dress of the Friend, and still more by the strangeness, as it appeared to him, of a woman directing men in all things relating to the journey. Yet he remembered most gratefully her kindness and hospitality when his father’s family came through the wilderness, and stopped at her residence on their way to the Genesee River.
In one instance, her hospitality was greatly abused. A French Duke, LIANCOURT, visited the Friend’s Settlement in 1795. He was very hospitably entertained by Benedict ROBINSON, Arnold POTTER and others and by the Friend herself, at whose house he was a guest with his traveling companions. It is said that Louis PHILLIPPE, afterwards King of France, was in disguise, a member of this party. The Duke, in a work given an account of his travels, repaid the kindness of the Friend very shabbily, by retailing gossip and giving currency to slanders he should have been ashamed to endorse. He listened with too ready credulity to the partisan animosities of those who at the time were at variance with the Friend and her Society; and it is said she was not slow to express her disapproval of some gallantries imputed to the Duke, by which she incurred his thorough dislike. His revenge was taken in his book, which is not out of print and rarely seen. Another book written tow or three years after her death, was too evidently the work of embittered malice and uncharitable bigotry, to be anywise fair or truthful in its statements. It contains so many wanton, unfounded calumnies and averments clearly false, as to be utterly unworthy of the least historical credit.
The Friend has usually been represented as an ignorant person. This is by no means just. That she was a person of refined literary culture, we cannot pretend. But no mink like hers observes the panorama of life without gaining an education. She had great respect for education, and a strong preference for the society of those who possessed more than common intelligence and accomplishments. This was particularly manifest in her later years, after the buffetings of a hard experience had taught her the value of legal information as well as other general knowledge. The visit of people of note and intelligence were not infrequent at her residence, and they were always cordially entertained. She had a considerable library, mostly of religious and historical books. Her familiarity with the Bible was truly wonderful. She always quoted it largely and with accuracy, from memory, in her discourses and was able to give the chapter if not the verse of her quotation. She was therefore too much learned, and too sharp and practical a nob server of human life to be accounted ignorant.
Space does not permit us to hunt down all the derogatory and scandalous stuff, founded in rumor and senseless gossip, which has been kept alive these many years by the same power that gave it birth. It can be said, however, with the utmost assurance of truth, that the Friend never pretended to be able to walk on the water, and therefore could never have appointed a time and place to do it. She never claimed to be able to work miracles, and never made any pretense of attempting such a thing. She never claimed to be the Messiah nor a substitute for the Messiah, but simply a minister of truth sent by divine authority to preach a better life to the world. She never appropriated the property of her disciples by saying, ”theLord has need of this,: nor exacted anything more than they voluntarily and freely granted. She never made one of her followers wear a bell as a punishment for impertinent curiosity. Sarah RICHARDS did something of that sort while she as at the head of affairs in Pennsylvania in the absence of the Friend, and that was as much a matter of hilarity as otherwise.
In personal appearance, the Friend was, till late in life, when sadly afflicted by dropsy, decidedly prepossessing. She had a good figure, with black, lustrous eyes and black hair, which combed without parting, fell in beautiful ringlets about her neck. She always dressed with good taste, and in such a manner as to heighten the impressiveness of her appearance. She wore a fine silk neck cloth, with a loose fold falling in front with graceful negligence; and a comely broad brimmed hat of fine texture was worn on her head, and laid off when preaching. This, with her style of dress, gave her a singularly masculine look. Her portrait was painted a year or two previous to her decease, by an artist at Canandaigua, whose name is not known, but this was after her figure had lost its finest tone. It is said however, to be a good likeness. The picture is now in the possession of Peter S. OLIVER.Who that shall justly estimate this courageous and large hearted woman, in her remarkable force of character, in her devotion and constancy, in her benevolence and generosity, in her power to rule, in her wealth of affectionate feeling, in her love of justice, in her preserving fidelity to her convictions and personal claims, can deny her genius and originality, and that sincerity of heart and greatness of mind which she luster on the history of her sex?
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