The Mountain Cove Community

Various Accounts of a an early Spiritualist utopian community.

These are selections describing a utopian spiritualist community in Fayette County, Virginia (now West Virginia), headed by two ministers, Thomas Lake Harris (Universalist) and James Leander Scott (Seventh-Day Baptist).  Scott gathered his first spiritualist followers from a group of enthusiasts drawn from a Universalist congregation in Auburn, New York, who had begun to meet regularly for seances and had received a number of teachings, supposedly from the spirits of the Christian Apostles.  Scott and Harris together served as the spiritual elders of this group, although its main medium was Eliza Benedict from Auburn.  At some point in late 1851,  Scott led this group, as a kind of modern-day Moses, out of the Babylon of New York State and wandered south, guided by spirit impressions, into the wilderness, until he was convinced that the spirits had directed them to the spot of the New Jerusalem, which he believed was also the location of the primordial Eden, and the Gate of Heaven.  It turned out to be in the mountains of rural Virginia, on the banks of the Kanawha River.—JB

Emma Hardinge, Modern American Spiritualism (New York: The Author, 1870), 208-213:

    This remarkable transaction originated about 1850, at which time spiritual manifestations had taken strong hold of many enthusiastic minds in the town of Auburn, New York.  Here, in consequence of its proximity to the scene of the first demonstrations at Hydesville, and the number of the mediumistic gifts called forth by investigation, Spiritualism had a fair chance of exhibiting its tendency to externalize latent specialties in human character. The egotist became inflated by “the power” into a belief of direct communion with the highest heavens, and especial gifts from heavenly personages. Obscure fanatics suddenly announced themselves authorized by some high apostolic dignitary to undertake “missions,” the least of which was destined to move the world, and subvert all its present existing institutions.
    “The Holy Ghost,” was the favorite authority with this class of inspired ones, and no one under the rank of an apostle—except now and then a Jewish prophet, or patriarch—was deemed worthy to hold communication with these “highly favored of the Lord.”
    Meantime, the immediate personal advent of the “Messiah” was declared to be the aim of the manifestations, whilst the self-elected saints of the dispensation were every one the particular “John Baptists” of the second coming.  The great body of Spiritualists, who happily represented the majority as well as the common-sense of the movement, were contented to seek for the facts of identity which proved them to be in communion with the spirits of recognized friends and kindred.  Such tests were striking and abundant, and with them communications were often made from spirits who were once highly distinguished on earth, and who represented themselves as engaged in the task of missionary labor, for some special season or purpose; but few, if any, whose communications brought with them internal evidence of their claims to respect and credence, attempted to dictate to mortals, or impose upon them any other authority than such as they would have exercised over others legitimately on earth.
    The leaders of the “Auburn Apostolic Circle” were originally a few persons, who, notwithstanding their high and pretentious claim to communicate with no spirit born but of Judea, or after the year 1 of the Christian era, still failed to secure adherents outside “the faithful,” or to induce the sinful world to purchase the tracts, wherein the wisdom of Solomon appeared clothed in very bad grammar, and the theology of St. Paul came forth masked in orthography quite too hard for modern well-bred Peters to swallow.  But though it was at last discovered that the blind made but a poor hand of leading the blind, the usual resort of getting on the blind side of the strong, and pampering to the weakness of the ambitious, in this as in other cases, proved successful.  “In the fulness of time” the “Apostolic circles” were directed by their archangelic leaders, through Mrs. Benedict’s rapping, to summon to the work the two “chosen vessels” before alluded to, namely, the Rev. J. L. Scott, a Baptist preacher, and the Rev. Thomas L. Harris, an Universalist, both of New York City.
    Shortly after the accession of these two “great lights,” a paper superior in tone and orthography to anything that the apostolic band had hitherto put forth appeared, under the caption of “Disclosures from the Interior, and Superior Care for Mortals.”  If the grammar and style of this publication had risen with its new editors, its authoritative claims kept ample pace with its improvements; for whilst its columns were, humanly speaking, chiefly indited by the twin “Reverends,” Scott and Harris, their words, they informed their readers, were wholly dictated or inspired by a circle of prophets and apostles, who derived, in their turn, plenary inspiration from the “Lord Supreme himself.”
    Besides the strongest affirmations of the duty and deference which the whole world owed to the “Apostolic Circle” in general, and Scott and Harris in particular, it was claimed through Mr. Harris that his interior revelations were dictated by Paul, John, Daniel, and other distinguished Biblical personages, whilst the poetry which enlivened the columns of the “Disclosures,” was the spiritual lucubrations of none less than Coleridge, Shelley, Pollock, and a few of the higher geniuses of modern times, to whom Mr. Harris thought proper to assign prominent positions in the celestial realms, of which he alleged himself to be a frequent and privileged visitor.
    The authority maintained by Scott and Harris over the credulity of their followers would be amusing enough to read of, were it not for the monstrous assumption of their pretensions, and the degradation of such intellects as could submit to their claims. After the society had maintained its place amongst the people of Auburn until forbearance appeared to be no longer a virtue, and they received pretty emphatic hints that their holinesses might find their longer residence in that profane city disagreeable, Mr. Scott had a timely vision, which suggested a “change of base,” whereupon “the faithful” removed to Mountain Cove, Fayette County, Virginia, and under the leadership of Scott, were guided to that particular spot, which the inspired ones of the band informed the rest was inhabited by no less a personage than the spirit of Isaiah the Prophet!  Here, in the company of about one hundred persons, who had been induced to join him and throw in “all things in common,” including in some instances very considerable worldly possessions, Mr. Scott became elevated to a height where no other atom of frail mortality could follow him, much less comprehend or question the edicts which he, in a supernal condition of inspiration, enunciated.  In short, Mr. Scott claimed to be “divinely inspired,” and having soared away above even the circle of prophets and apostles who formerly attended him, and attained even “unto the counsels of the Most High,” he henceforward claimed supreme and unquestionable authority in all matters, whether social, religious, temporal, eternal or financial, that concerned those who were privileged with him to share the joys of “the holy mountain.”  If a question should arise as to whether one man, in this nineteenth century, could enunciate such blasphemous pretensions and find rational human beings who could submit to them, let the sceptical reader satisfy himself by perusing the statements of one who had the most peculiar facilities, not only for becoming acquainted with the interior arrangements of the Mountain Cove New Jerusalem, but who preserved in published form many of the literal utterances upon which the great Prophets of the Mountain founded their claims: we refer to Mr. E. W. Capron, from whose admirable work on the facts and fanaticisms of modern Spiritualism, we present the following account of this remarkable movement.

    “I have endeavored from every source to obtain accurate information and give an impartial history of this singular movement.  From an acquaintance who was induced to join the movement and spent a long time at the Cove, I have received a statement of which the following is the substance:
    “Mr. Scott and others arrived in Fayette County, Virginia, in the month of October, 1851, for the purpose of establishing the community of true believers in Spiritualism, with Scott at the head.  It was stated and understood, before any of the company left Auburn, that the land, when purchased, would be sold in small quantities to all who wished to settle with them, and those unable to purchase house and land would be furnished by the association.
    “They also were promised business, such as each were able to perform; each family to be their own regulator, as fully as out of the association.  The labor performed was to be paid for at a fair remuneration.  Schools were to be established, and different branches of business instituted.  . . .
    “It was also understood that there was to be no dictation in the movement; but the whole was to be under the direction of ‘the spirits,’ and that all things should be governed on the principles of brotherhood, unity, and equality.  On the 2d of December, 1851 [the day on which my informant arrived at Mountain Cove], himself and some sixty others were told by Scott, who had somehow been given, or taken the title of ‘Doctor,’ that he was receiving communications from the Deity.  Scott declared that he received these communications, standing ‘face to face with God!’ and strange as it may appear, most of the people there believed this story.”
    “Soon after this, Scott informed the people that he had been appointed, by high spiritual power, medium absolute, and that nothing but truth would or could henceforth be given through him, and that whatever was given through him must not be doubted, all doubting being rank heresy.  Soon after this, Scott informed Mr. H. [my informant] that there had been a serious quarrel among them before he [Mr. H.] arrived.
    “To the question as to what was the cause of the quarrel, Scott replied that a certain individual had slandered his character, and alleged that he had been guilty of licentiousness and adultery.
    “Mr. H. replied that the matter ought to be investigated at once.
    “A meeting was accordingly called, professedly for that purpose.  There were but few persons present, and as soon as it was organized, Scott professed to pass into the ‘superior or clairvoyant state,’ and said, ‘We’—himself and his particular friends—‘must stand firm, and say nothing unless the enemy makes the attack.’
    “And thus ended the investigation into the charges of licentiousness against Mr. Scott.  Those who had first made the charge continued it, but no other ‘investigation’ was ever instituted.
    “Strife and dissension continued from that time to distract the ‘harmonious mount.’  In February, 1852, the plantation originally purchased was returned to the person from whom it was bought, as the payments on it could not be met.  At this time several families left the place on account of the contention and want of confidence that prevailed in the movement.  In this emergency a meeting was called, and Scott passing into the ‘superior state,’ gave the following communication: ‘James must go to New York to seek new minds to carry on the Lord’s work.’  The ‘James,’ of course, was himself.
    “In accordance with his own direction, he went to the city of New York, and with the aid of Rev. Thomas L. Harris, succeeded in inducing several persons of property to engage in the enterprise.  Being thus provided with funds, Scott returned and re-purchased the Cove property, which they had surrendered in February.  About the first of May, 1852, Thomas L. Harris and family, and several other families, arrived at the ‘New Jerusalem.’  It should be mentioned, that as soon as Scott returned from New York, he resumed all his tone of unlimited and arbitrary authority, declaring that ‘the people should work to the line and plummet,’ and those that did not sympathize with his views should leave the place.
    “This latter command was carried out, and the persons obnoxious to him were sent away.  On the arrival of Mr. Harris, a new era in the spiritual affairs of the community commenced.
    “It was announced that Scott and Harris were ‘the chosen mediums,’ through which ‘the Lord would communicate to man on earth,’ and that all other mediums would be silenced, or become the channels of communication for deceptive and lying spirits.  Thus, they claimed for themselves infallibility and ‘truth absolute, direct from heaven.’
    “In proof of this, a letter was sent to the still-confiding circle of believers at Auburn, from which the following passages may be taken as illustrative of the enormous claims set up by these ‘divinely-inspired mediums of the Lord.’ After detailing in the usual inflated style the growth and procedure of the ‘Apostolic Circle’ in its initial steps, the pastoral epistle goes on to say:
    “‘In these, our dictated and recognized records, James L. Scott and Thomas L. Harris are styled ‘vehicles of inspiration,’ provided for the transmission of truth from heaven to the external world.  It is also written therein that these vehicles were specially provided and prepared for this end, and that the apostles, martyrs, and confessors, together with the prophets, patriarchs, and seers, lifted supplication for inspiration to pervade the chosen vehicles; that their prayers received response loud from the angelic messengers; that the glory of God filled the sanctuary, and that the voice of the Lord Creator was audible therein and gave answer favoring the supplication.
    “‘Thus be it known, a further commission was given unto the mortals aforesaid, constituting them in unity as the organ of inspired communication from the celestial sphere. In order that this their work might be accomplished, their minds were blended by supernatural influence, and thus made one adapted vehicle for transmission of truth absolute, and light, in confirmation and exposition of truth previously revealed from heaven to man.’”

    [A vast deal more of a similar nature follows, which it would be equally repulsive and unnecessary to reprint.  The message ends thus.]

    “Having thus guided the vehicles of communication to the place directed by His most holy will and united them thereupon, the spirit who desireth and establisheth the redeeming procedure, issueth commandment unto us, His messengers, to resume ‘the Disclosures’ of his truth without delay, that His name may thereby be glorified, His people instructed and comforted, and His compassionate and loving kindness, in accordance with the purpose in the consummation of His procedure, be manifest unto the earth and the inhabitants thereof.”

    Of the communications whereby “the Lord’s people” were to be so specially “instructed and comforted,” the following sentences, spoken, of course, in the “interior condition,” by Scott, may be taken as a specimen.

    “I read written in letters of fire, ‘Dost thou believe? and what dost thou believe? Who, thinkest thou, called thee here?  Who inspireth?  Not an angel, for he is led; not a seraph, for he is controlled; not created existence, for that is inspired.  Who, then, thinkest thou, called thee to the mountain?  Who but God inspireth.  . . .  I am that I am now inquireth of thee; and prepare to answer thou me.  . . . None other than God, thy Redeemer, calleth for thee.  None other than He who hath the keys of death and hell addresseth you through one of your members.” .  .  .

    And in pursuance of this claim—to which, as the reader will perceive, Moses’ claim of direct personal intercourse with the Jewish Jehovah was humility itself—Mr. Scott soon after called upon his followers to yield up all pecuniary interest in their own possessions to him, which command he issued in a general address “to Spiritualists everywhere,” of which the following is an extract:

    “But while spirits operate from the interior, man in clay demandeth external benefit, and God supplieth, by laws operating externally and external means conducted by external stewards; chosen for external purposes.  He hath therefore aforetime committed to your charge, as his stewards, the means designed to be employed while conducting the external in the manifestation unto its consummation.  And lo! now he cometh and calleth upon you, and requireth the charge committed with its improvement. [To wit, principal and interest.—AUTHOR.]  Who so hath and now consecrateth to this great work, to him shall be given, and he shall have more in abundance.  To him who holdeth in his hands the gifts of God, and hath not occupied for His glory, and is wanting in disposition to render back to the author of all blessing, from him shall be taken even that which he hath; for the earth and the substance thereof is the Lord’s, and in the redemption He establishes therein His kingdom; hence his will shall be done on earth, as by angels in heaven.  Come, then, to the mountain with thy substance; give it to the Lord, who calleth for thee! for he now provideth a feast of fat things which shall be unto all people, and proceedeth to remove, by the immortalizing procedure, the veil of mortality, cast through sin over all nations.”

    Among other specimens of this movement put forth by the leaders, we have in our possession a paper called the Mountain Cove Journal, but as its columns are simply reiterations of the claims alleged above, sermons to the same purpose by Harris, and bulletins issued direct from the high empyrean courts of Heaven, by Scott, it would be simply a repetition of an already disgusting theme to reprint them.  We conclude our notice of the Mountain Cove drama by a further quotation from Mr. Capron’s informant, and one of the participators in the scenes he so graphically describes.  Mr. H. says:
    “Mr. Harris frequently declared that the house which he and Scott inhabited was the house of God, while Mountain Cove was the gate of Heaven; that the redemption of man on earth would commence there, and all who opposed them, ‘the two perfect prophets,’ would be driven from the mountain, from which there would be no redemption.  Some time during the summer of 1852, it was declared that the spirits, through Scott and Harris, had announced to ‘the faithful’ that a certain piece of land within a boundary which contained the Cove buildings must be leased to the Lord as his heritage.  Accordingly, ‘the faithful’ assembled, and the spirits, through the two prophets, directed the lease to be made out in their names, as the ‘Lord’s chosen vessels,’ a command that was obeyed accordingly.  The Lord and his chosen ones being secured in their lease, a series of persecutions were commenced against all who in any way rebelled from the authority of the ‘two perfect mediums.’  Slander, discord, and contention were rife, and peace and harmony were unknown among the chosen people.
    “In the fall of 1852, Scott and Harris had proclaimed that they were the two witnesses named in the tenth chapter of Revelations, and that they possessed the powers, to their fullest extent, spoken of therein.  Strange as it may appear, they found adherents and firm believers in this declaration; persons who were kept in awe by these self-appointed saints and their constant assertion of their own divine authority.  In one of his prayers, uttered about this time, Harris said: “Oh Lord, thou knowest we do not wish to destroy man with fire from our mouths!” etc.
    The state of discord continuing to increase into a perfect pandemonium, and one after another becoming more and more disgusted with the arbitrary assumption of divine power and holiness on the part of the dictators, many departed and left the Cove to the most fanatical, but finally the whole movement entirely dispersed.  . . .  This history adds another to the wild and numerous schemes conceived in the spirit of religious fanaticism, and born of the spiritual excitement, which was made a convenient hobby for men who graduated through the old forms of theological mysticism, until there was nothing new in the field to feed their ambition but a pretence to special calls and special inspiration.”
    Thus ended the “Mountain Cove movement,” but unfortunately the spirit that gave it birth was still in active existence.
    The love of rule and the insane desire for spiritual distinction seem to surpass in greed all other forms of human ambition.  Whether it be that men really deem the divine government, whose empire they audaciously assume, is strictly impersonal, or too far off to interfere with them, or that they can actually psychologize themselves into a belief in the reality of the claims they arrogate, it would be difficult to decide, but certain it is that the demon of ambition which had vented its arrogance at Mountain Cove could not be laid by a single failure.
    Mr. Thomas L. Harris returned to the world to run a mingled career of supra-mundane usefulness and sub-mundane folly, which the spirits that held sway at Mountain Cove, alone could have been the authors of.

John Humphrey Noyes, History of American Socialisms (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1870), 568-570:

    All the witnesses we have found, testify that this Community was set on foot by the rapping spirits in a large circle of Spiritualists at Auburn, New York, sometime between the years 1851 and 1853.  It appears to have had active constituents at Oneida, Verona, and other places in Oneida and Madison Counties.  Several of the leading “New York Perfectionists” in those places were conspicuous in the preliminary proceedings, and some of them actually joined the emigration to Virginia.  The first reference to the movement that we have found is in a letter from Mr. H. N. Leet, published in the [Oneida] Circular, November 16, 1851.  He says:

    “The ‘rappings’ have attracted my attention.  I have scarcely known whether I should have to consider them as wholly of earth, or regard them as from Hades; or even be ‘sucked in’ with the other old Perfectionists.  The reports I hear from abroad are wonderful, and some of them well calculated to make men exclaim, ‘This is the great power of God!’  But what I see and hear partakes largely of the ridiculous, if not the contemptible.  They have had frequent meetings at the houses of Messrs. Warren, Foot, Gould, Stone, Mrs. Hitchcock, etc.; and ‘a chiel’s amang them them taking notes;’ but whether he will ‘prent ‘em’ or not, is uncertain.  I have from time to time been writing out what facts have come under my observation, and do so yet.
    “Yesterday in their meeting, I heard extracts of letters from Mr. Hitchcock written from Virginia; in which he states that they have found the garden of Eden, the identical spot where our first parents sinned, and on which no human foot has trod since Adam and Eve were driven out; that himself, Ira S. Hitchcock, was the first who has been permitted to set his foot upon it; and further, that in all the convulsions of nature, the upheavings and depressions, this spot has remained undisturbed as it originally appeared.  This is the spot that is to form the center in the redemption now at hand; and parts adjacent are, by convulsions and a reverse process, to be restored to their primeval state.  This is the substance of what I heard read. The revelation was said to have been spelled out to them by raps from Paul.”

    In a subsequent letter published in the Circular, December 14, 1851, Mr. Leete sent us the spiritual document which summoned the saints to Mountain Cove, introducing it as follows:

    “I send inclosed an authentic copy of a printed circular, said to have been received by Mr. Scott, the spiritual leader of the Virginia movement, in this manner, viz.:  the words were seen in a vision, printed in space, one at a time, declared off by him, and written down by some one else.”

Mountain Cove Circular.

    “Go!  Scarcely let time intervene.  Escape the vales of death.  Pass from beneath the cloud of magnetic human glory.  Flee to the mountains whither I direct.  Rest in their embrace, and in a place fashioned and appointed of old.  There the dark cloud of magnetic death has never rested.  For I, the Lord, have thus decreed, and in my purpose have I sworn, and it shall come to pass.  Time waiteth for no man.
    “For above the power of sin a storm is gathering that shall sweep away the refuge of lies.  Come out of her, O, my people! for their sun shall be darkened, and their moon turned into blood, and their stars shall fall from their heaven.  The Samson of strength feeleth for the pillars of the temple.  Her foundation already moveth.  Her ruin stayeth for the rescue of my people.
    “The city of refuge is builded as a hiding place and a shelter; as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land; as an asylum for the afflicted; a safety for those fleeing from the power of sin which pursueth to destroy.  In that mountain my people shall rest secure.  Above it the cloud of glory descendeth.  Thence it encompassed the saints.  There angels shall ascend and descend.  There the soul shall feast and be satisfied.  There is the bread and the water of life.
    “And in this mountain shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined.  And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the vail that is spread over all nations.  He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth; for the Lord hath spoken it.
    “And I will defend Zion, for she is my chosen. There shall the redeemed descend. There shall my people be made one.  There shall the glory of the Lord appear, descending from the tabernacle of the Most High.
    “The end is not yet.
    “You are the chosen.  Go, bear the reproaches of my people.  Go without the camp.  Lead in the conquest.  Vanquish the foe.  As ye have been bidden, meekly obey.  Paradise hath no need of the things that ye love so dearly.  For earthly apparel, if obedient, ye shall have garments of righteousness and salvation.  For earthly treasures, ye shall gather grapes from your Maker’s throne.  For tears, ye shall have jewels, as dewdrops from heaven.  For sighs, notes of celestial melody.  For death, ye shall have life.  For sorrow, ye shall have fullness of joy.  Cease, then, your earthly struggle.  All ye love or value, ye shall still possess.  Earth is departing.  The powers and imaginations of men are rolling together like a scroll.  Escape the wreck ere it leaps into the abyss of woe.  Forget not each other.  Bear with each other.  Love each other.  Go forth as lambs to the slaughter.  For lo, thy King cometh, and ere thou art slain he shall defend.  Kiss the rod that smites thee, and bow chastened at thy Maker’s throne.”

    Here occurs a long break in our information, extending from December 1851 to July 1853.  How the Community was established and what progress it made in that interval, the reader must imagine for himself.  Our leap is from the beginning to near the end.  The Spiritual Telegraph of July 2, 1853, contained the following:

    “MOUNTAIN COVE COMMUNITY.—We copy below an article from the Journal of Progress, published in Knew York. It is from the pen of Mr. Hyatt, who was for a time a member of the Community at Mountain Cove.  Mr. Hyatt is a conscientious man, and is still a firm believer in a rational Spiritualism.  We have never regarded the claims of Messrs.  Scott and Harris with favor, though we have thought and still think, that the motives and life of the latter were always honorable and pure.  There are other persons at the Mountain who are justly esteemed for their virtues; but we most sincerely believe they are deluded by the absurd pretensions of Mr. Scott.”

[From the Journal of Progress.]

    “Most of our readers are undoubtedly aware that there is a company of Spiritualists now residing at Mountain Cove, Virginia, whose claims of spiritual intercourse are of a somewhat different nature from those usually put forth by believers in other parts of the country.
    “This movement grew out of a large circle of Spiritualists at Auburn, New York, nearly two years since; but the pretensions on the part of the prime movers became of a far more imposing nature than they were in Auburn, soon after their location at Mountain Cove.  It is claimed that they were directed to the place which they now occupy, by God, in fulfillment of certain prophecies in Isaiah, for the purpose of redeeming all who would co-operate with them and be dictated by their counsel; and the place which they occupy is denominated ‘the Holy Mountain, which was sanctified and set apart for the redemption of his people.’
    “The principal mediums, James L. Scott and Thomas L. Harris, profess absolute Divine inspiration, and entire infallibility; that the infinite God communicates with them directly, without intermediate agency; and that by him they are preserved from the possibility of error in any of their dictations which claim a spiritual origin.
    “By virtue of these assumptions, and claiming to be the words of God, all the principles and rules of practice, whether of a spiritual or temporal nature, which govern the believers in that place, are dictated by the individuals above mentioned.  Among the communications thus received, which are usually in the form of arbitrary decrees, are requirements which positively forbid those who have once formed a belief in the divinity of the movement, the privilege of criticising, or in any degree reasoning upon, the orders and communications uttered; or in other words, the disciples are forbidden the privilege of having any reason or conscience at all, except that which is prescribed to them by this oracle.  The most unlimited demands of the controlling intelligence must be acceded to by its followers, or they will be thrust without the pale of the claimed Divine influence, and utter and irretrievable ruin is announced as the penalty.
    “In keeping with such pretensions, these ‘Matthiases’ have claimed for God his own property; and hence men are required to yield up their stewardships: that is, relinquish their temporal possessions to the Almighty.  And, in pursuance of this, there has been a large quantity of land in that vicinity deeded without reserve by conscientious believers, to the human vicegerents of God above mentioned, with the understanding that such conveyance is virtually made to the Deity!
    “As would inevitably be the case, this mode of operations has awakened in the minds of the more reasoning and reflective members, distrust and unbelief, which has caused some, with great pecuniary loss, to withdraw from the Community, and with others who remain, has ripened into disaffection and violent opposition; and the present condition of the ‘Holy Mountain’ is anything but that of divine harmony.  Discord, slander and vindictiveness is the order of proceedings, in which one or both of the professed inspired mediators take an active part; and the prospect now is, that the claims of divine authority in the temporal matters of ‘the Mountain,’ will soon be tested, and the ruling power conceded to be absolute, or else completely dethroned.”

    After the above, came the following counter-statement in the Spiritual Telegraph, August 6, 1853:

Cincinnati, July 14, 1853.

     “MR. S. B. BRITTAN—Sir: A friend has handed me the Telegraph of July 2, and directed my attention to an article appearing in that number, headed ‘Mountain Cove Community,’ which, although purporting to be from the pen of one familiar with our circumstances at the Cove, differs widely from the facts in our case.
    “Suffice it for the present to say, that Messrs. Scott and Harris, either jointly or individually, for themselves, or as the ‘human vicegerents of God,’ have and hold no deed (as the article quoted from the Journal of Progress represents) of lands at the Cove.  Neither have they pecuniary supporters there.  Nor are men residing there required or expected to deal with them upon terms aside from the ordinary rules of business transactions.  They have no claims upon men there for temporal benefits.  They exact no tithes, or even any degree of compensation for public services; and, although they have preached and lectured to the people there during their sojourn in that country, they have never received for such services a penny; and, except what they have received from a few liberal friends who reside in other portions of the country, they secure their temporal means by their own industry.  Moreover, for land and dwellings occupied by them, they are obligated to pay rent or lease-money; and should they at any time obtain a deed, according to present written agreement, they are to pay the full value to those who are the owners of the soil and by virtue thereof still retain their stewardship.
    “I have thus briefly stated facts; facts of which I should have an unbiassed knowledge, and of which I ought to be a competent judge.  These facts I have ample means to authenticate, and together with a full and explicit statement of the nature of the lease, when due the public, if ever, I shall not hesitate to give.  And from these the reader may determine the character of the entire expose, so liberally indorsed, as also other statements so freely trumpeted, relative to us at Mountain Cove.
    “From some years of the most intimate intercourse with the Rev. T. L. Harris, surrounded by circumstances calculated to try men’s souls, I am prepared to bear testimony to your statements relative to his goodness and purity; and will add, that were all men of like character, earth would enjoy a saving change, and that right speedily.
    “Assured that your sense of right will secure for this brief statement, equal notoriety with the charges preferred against us-hence a place in the columns of the Telegraph;  I am, &c,  J. L. Scott.”

    This counter-statement has the air of special pleading, and all the information that we have obtained by communication with various ex-members of the Mountain Cove Community, goes to confirm the substance of the preceding charges.  The following extracts from a letter in reply to some of our questions, is a specimen:

    “There were indications in the acts of one or more individuals at Mountain Cove, that plainly showed their desire to get control of the possessions which other individuals had saved as the fruits of their industry and economy.  Those evil designs were frustrated by those who were the intended victims of the crafty, though not without some pecuniary sacrifice to the innocent.”

    From all this we infer that the Mountain Cove Community came to its end in the latter part of 1853, by a quarrel about property; which is all we know about it.


Appleton (Wisconsin) Motor, March 1, 1860:

From the London Advertiser.

Spiritualism Abandoned by the Rev. T. L. Harris.

We venture to say that the cause of “Spiritualism” never received so heavy a blow since it first reared its hideous head in America, some eighteen or twenty years since, as it did yesterday morning in Edward street Institution, Portman square.  The Rev. Mr. Harris, a Swedenborgian minister, who had embraced Spiritualism fifteen years ago, and who is allowed on all hands to be the ablest and most intellectual man in America that Spiritualism has ever been able to number among its disciples, has been in this country for some weeks, and had been announced to preach on Spiritualism yesterday morning.  Notwithstanding the unfavorable state of the weather, nearly all the most intellectual Spiritualists in London and its neighborhood, amounting to between 200 and 400, assembled to hear what they doubtless expected would prove one of the ablest and most eloquent expositions of Spiritualism that had ever been delivered.  We leave it to our readers to imagine what must have been their amazement, as well as mortification, when they found that instead of this, the reverend gentleman exposed the follies, immoralities, and disastrous consequences, spiritually and physically, of their system, with such a power of reasoning, force of eloquence, and earnestness of purpose, as have seldom been displayed by any orator in modern times.  His triumphant exposures and withering denunciations of Spiritualism, as being the result of Satanic agency, fell like so many bombshells, bursting for nearly an hour, in rapid succession, among his audience.  Probably we have been present, during the last quarter of a century, at more meetings of various kinds, and heard more of the leading public speakers of the day, than almost any one else that could be named; but we never before witnessed anything resembling the effects which were produced yesterday by the arguments, eloquence, and oratory of the Rev. Mr. Harris.  To say that his audience were startled, would be saying nothing.  They were enchained, transfixed, utterly confounded, as he tore into ten thousand tatters their favorite system of rappings, table-jumpings, séances, circles, mediums, and so forth.

We went to the place from a sense of duty, expecting, as did all the 300 or 400 Spiritualists who were present, that we should hear the most masterly vindication of Spiritualism that could be given; and hoping that having once heard its ablest defense, we should be the more fitted, as opportunity offered, to expose with greater success the iniquities, the dangers, and the disastrous results, morally, socially, and physically, of this latest and most insidious form of Pantheism.

We will not attempt to describe, because we could not if we did, the mingled delight and surprise with which we found the task executed to our hands, by one of the master minds of the day.  Mr. Harris held up to the eyes of his audience the system of Spiritualism as the most hideous and horrible thing which had ever come from the neither world.  He said that he himself was a living proof of the danger, mentally and physically, of cultivating the so-called science of Spiritualism.  He mentioned that only a few years ago, it had taken so absorbing a possession of his mind, and had obtained so complete a mastery over him, that it gave rigidity to the muscles of his frame, and a terrible, unearthly expression to his countenance.  He added that he had seen and known many others—excellent and amiable persons before they became Spiritualists—from whom the power which the demoniacal system had acquired over them had taken away their appetites, had unfitted them for the ordinary duties of life, crushed all their energies, mental and physical, deprived them of sleep at night, and caused their bodies to waste away, as if the victims of some fell disease which set all medical skill at defiance.  Others he had known and seen, whose arms and legs had become as cold and rigid as those of a marble statue, while the expression of their countenances was so horrible as more to resemble those of demons than of human beings.  The Spiritualists of America, he further stated, are not only as a body Pantheists, rejecting alike the idea of the Scriptures as a divine revelation, and of the existence of a God, but that they are gross sensualists and utterly immoral in their conduct in all the relations of life.

Mr. Harris added, that this was not only true of the Transatlantic Spiritualists as a body, but that it was true of every 999 out of 1,000 of their number.  Thousands of persons had died in America during the fiteen years that he had been a Spiritualist, who had notoriously lived most immoral lives, and yet the spirits of every one of these persons affirmed that they were all perfectly happy.  The Spiritualist literature of America, Mr. Harris also stated, was, with one or two exceptions in a thousand cases, Pantheistic, feeble, drivelling, nay, almost idiotic.  The Spiritualists were utterly selfish, as well as sensual and grossly immoral.  They were destitute of all human sympathies, and never were known to perform a single benevolent action.  They fully believed that, in a future state, they would live the same licentious lives as they had done on earth.  The American Spiritualists were in reality a body of Pagans, worshiping, like the ancient Pagans, obscene, and in every respect, grossly licentious deities.  And as regards the spirits with whom they held communication, they resembled the sorcerers and demons who took possession of men and women in the days of Christ, and who are so frequently referred to in God’s Word—that word which is the only sure fofundation of our faith, and the only safe rule of our conduct.

There were a few Christian men who had been deluded into the adoption of the system, but only in a modified degree, and so long as their Spiritualism was kept in subjection by Christianity, the observations he had made did not apply to them.  But these exceptions were so few as to be hardly worthy of notice.  He begged to impress on the minds of his audience, that all that he had said of the system of Spiritualism—which he characterized as an infernal system—was the result of his own personal knowledge and experience.  He mentioned some individual cases, of which he was an eye-witness, in which the demon of Spiritualism had obtained so entire a mastery over its victims, as to thrown them down on platforms and other public places, just as the evil spirit did of which we read in the New Testament.

The marriage vow imposes no obligations in the views of Spiritualists.  Husbands who had for years been so devotedly attached to their wives, that they have said nothing in the world but death itself could part them, have abandoned their wives, and formed criminal connection with other females, because the spirits had told them that there was a greater Spiritualist affinity between these husbands and certain other women, than between them and their lawful wives.  Wives, too, the most devoted, and loving, and true to their husbands, that had ever contracted the marriage obligation, had left their husbands and children, and lived in open immorality with other men, because the spirits had told them that they ought to do so, on the ground of there being a greater Spiritualist sympathy between them and these men, than between them and their husbands.

For those who were the victims of this terrible delusion, Mr. Harris expressed the most profound compassion.  It so completely subjugated them to its demoniacal power, that they could neither think or speak of anything else.  The only way in which they could escape from the horrible tyranny which is exercised over them, was by having recourse to a Throne of Grace, preceded and accompanied by fervent prayer and unceasing watchfulness.  In no other way could their release from the iron grasp of Spiritualism be achieved.

The sermon of Mr. Harris was one of the most evangelical, as well as intellectual, we have ever heard.  He sought in language the most eloquent, and in tones the most earnest, to warn his hearers of the dangers to their mental faculties and their physical frames here, as well as of their guilt in their souls hereafter—of having anything to do with séances, circles, table-rapping, and those other transactions with spirits which are becoming so common in this country, and which has wrought such incalculable mischief to soul and body in America.  He wished to impress upon them, as speaking with the eye of God upon him, and as conscious of his responsibility to the Great Supreme, that the only true Spiritualism was the spiritualism of the Scriptures—the sspiritualism produced through the operation of the Holy Spirit—the spiritualism of the Apostles and first Christians—the spiritualism of Owen, and Baxter, and of the Puritans generally—the spiritualism of such men, in the by-gone generation, as Fletcher and Wesley—men whose spiritualism had, during their life, been the means of converting myriads of sinners, and whose holy example and writings—by which, and through their disciples, they being dead yet speak—had proved the means of converting many millions since their death.

Such is a very imperfect outline of one of the most remarkable discourses, considering all the circumstances under which it was delivered, which we have ever heard.  Application was made to Mr. Harris by one of the very few who were present who were not Spiritualists, to publish the sermon, but, unfortunately, he had no notes of it.  He added, however, the expression of a hope that, before he left England on his return to New York, he would be able to publish something similar to what he had that day preached.

James Leander Scott (born in New York State in 1814) was a Seventh-Day Baptist, an itinerating evangelist.  He wrote, A Journal of a Missionary Tour through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan: comprising a concise description of different sections of country; health of climate; inducements for emigration with the embarrassments; the religious condition of the people; meetings connected with the mission; and of the great western prairies (Providence: The Author, 1843).  His career as a Baptist missionary is described in Cathy Luchetti, Under God’s Spell: Frontier Evangelists, 1772-1915 (San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1989).

He also wrote Scenes beyond the Grave; Trance of Marietta Davis, from notes by Re. J. L. Scott (Dayton: Stephen Deuel, 1859) 16th edition, describing a somnambulist and visionary he encountered while he was pastoring in Berlin, New York.

Scott married Cinderella Cottrell, of Petersburg, New York in January 1834.  He married Eliza Jane Foster in October 1854 in New York City.  The 1870 Federal Census has him listed as living in Brooklyn, with a wife named Caroline.

He edited The Calendar, a religious newspaper, in Hartford, Connecticut, from July 1853 through June 1854.

Like Thomas Lake Harris, he appears to have identified most (other) spiritualists as Pantheists, and to have denounced them as having departed from true Christianity, as he explained in his book, The Anti-pantheist; False Metaphysics Exposed, and Theopneusty Defended (Dayton: Stephen Deuel, 1856).

Harris was a Universalist minister in New York City who became intensely involved in the circle of Universalist ministers—such people as S. B. Brittan and William Fishbough—who early on became devotees of the revelations of Andrew Jackson Davis.  After the Mountain Cove episode, Harris became a member of the Swedenborgian Church, and denounced “spiritualism” as un-Christian.  However, he established his own heterodoxy in the form of the “Brotherhood of the New Life,” first based in Brocton, New York, then, opening up a branch in the vineyard country of California, where he became a kind of cult leader who claimed special access to the Divine.  And, like his former colleague Scott, he continued to teach what he called “Divine Respiration” (Scott called it “Theopneusty”).


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