The Old Subject of Propagation

“Shakers and Spiritualists—The Shaker Service—&c., &c.,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, September 3, 1867

Warrensville, O., Sept. 2, 1867.


The Shaker and Spiritual combination meetings draw large audiences, hundreds of whom come from Cleveland to enjoy the novelty of the situation as well as the delightful ride.  At the Shaker Settlement, about one mile from this village, the church is located, a large frame building capable of seating from 800 to 1,000 of the “world’s people,” in addition to the congregation of faithful members of the two sects.  The space given to the public is about two-thirds of the interior of the building and is furnished with raised seats, giving all a fair view of the Shakers and their Spiritual friends.  The remaining space is furnished with small, low benches.  These benches are set aside during the Shaker promenades that occur during their services, or serve to seat the circle of Spiritualists in their communion with “departed spirits.”  Early last Spring, the Shakers opened the doors of this, their church, and invited the Spirits to enter.  Since then the two sects have occupied the premises in harmony, the Shakers holding forth in the morning, the Spiritualists in the afternoon, until a slight misunderstanding occurred on Sunday, the 18th of August.  A picture of the proceedings of that eventful day is herewith penciled.


had opened previous to our arrival.  A venerable brother was lecturing the faithful, telling them of the uselessness of men mounting on their heads the broadbrim hats, of women sporting the cap of purity, unless they kept their hearts free and themselves apart from the World’s people and the vanities of fashionable life.  He turned on his heel, paused a moment, and then walked as majestically as an old cock back to his seat.  The faithful then arose to their feet, some twenty men and women advanced to the center and formed in single lines, open column, men and women facing.  The remainder formed in double column to the rear of the two center lines.  The parties in the centre then began singing a chant, the columns stepped off, keeping time to the singing, and clapping their hands up and down before them.  They resembled a troop of frogs waddling off on their hind legs, or a party of Pawnee Indians at a pow-wow dance.  Occasionally they would clap their hands, stamp their feet and join in the singing.  After circling around several times the singing closed, the column halted, broke ranks and returned to their seats.  A brother then advanced to the front and slowly, lowly and smoothly stated that an address would be delivered by a young brother, an unlearned man, just from the work shops and fields near Mr. Morris, New York.


A tall, pale-faced youth, with long, light colored hair, blue eyes, thin lips, open mouth and white teeth, advanced and commenced to quote scripture, to misconstrue its meaning and murder the English language.  For two mortal hours he talked without subject, point of truth, and finally wound up with a lame appeal for women’s rights as an onward step towards making earth a heaven.  When he got off an idea of unusual magnitude, something he could not comprehend himself, or any of his audience, he would look wise, rise up on his toes, and grin.

When he took his seat, a third Brother came down and stated that the views expressed by the speaker coincided exactly with the views of the Shaker community and that his belief was their belief.  He then dismissed the meeting by declaring an


Of half an hour.  Fortunate indeed were those who had been there before and came provided with their dinner, for be it known to all future visitors to the Shaker settlement that those who come on the Sabbath unprovided with “grub” will be forced to go away hungry.  There is no place of public entertainment at the settlement, and the nearest port of supply was Abe McGrath’s, three miles away.  We were one of the unprovided.


Opened their meeting at 2 o’clock, by forming a circle, into which all were invited.  Shakers, Spiritualists and “worldly people.”  When completed, the ingredients were in equal parts.  While the circle was being formed, that beautiful song, “Over the River,” was sung.  A tall, tremulous youth, dressed in soiled linen, then went into a trance, and delivered an invocation with the spirits.  Some of the sentiments expressed were truly beautiful.  A tall, broad, but round shouldered, stooping, bald-headed Spiritualist announced that a stranger, a gentleman just arrived from New York, was in attendance and would address the meeting.


Then took the floor.  He was a tall, well proportioned man of thirty-five or forty, sandy complexion, sandy hair and long beard of the same color.  His hair was combed back from a high and well developed forehead.  His eyes were gray, sharp and piercing, and from them he darted rapid glances as he spoke.  He read a short poem entitled, “Put your house in Order,” after which he spoke at length on that subject, making his remarks apply directly to his Shaker friends, telling them in plain but choice language that if they did not speedily depart from at least a portion of their past folly, and do more towards peopling the world with little Shakers, the time was near at hand when the last Shaker would depart from earth.  He honored them for endeavoring to make a heaven upon earth, but if all mankind should become Shakers, they might have a Heaven here for one generation.  After that time there would be no one left to carry on the heaven they had made.  He referred proudly to his own wife and child as an evidence of what active cooperation will do towards propagating the species, and keeping the world peopled.


Of this speech upon the Shakers was magical.  The old women exchanged rapid glances and looked as sober as a lot of old maids at a wedding.  The black eyes of the younger members shot gleams that proved they were with the speaker some on that, and there were smiles playing around the corners of their mouths, very much resembling the smiles of the world’s people in another part of the church.  The old males laid their heads together in conversation.  It was evident a bomb had been exploded among them.  Finally one of their number advanced and said the Shakers disagreed with the late speaker in every respect.  When they invited their spiritual brother into the church, they did not expect the occasion would be taken to sow sedition among them.  A dozen Spiritualists sprang to their feet and declared that it was entirely through inadvertence that the speech had been made.  The speaker was a stranger and knew not of the arrangements made by the two sects to breathe through the same quill.  Things were going from bad to worse.  The Shakers did not accept the situation kindly.  An old lady got the power, spun around like a top, shook hands all around, and called upon the Shaker women to sing as a mode of harmonizing the discordant elements.  The women sang and it seemed as if the storm had blown over.  The lull was momentary.  A Spiritualist arose and declared his sympathy with the stranger, and stated that it was part of the creed of Spiritualism that a member should hold himself responsible to no man for the free exercise of his thoughts.  More debate followed of an angry character, when the late speaker arose to a personal explanation.  For about fifteen words he kept on the straight track, and then ran off into abuse of the Shakers and upon his old subject of propagation.


was a sound, like distant thunder, among the Shakers, then came stamping of feet, clapping of hands, and the singing of a song which commenced with

“Your father is above.”

The uproar only ceased when the speaker, who remained standing for some moments with his fingers pointing upwards, was prevailed upon to take his seat.  The mad of both parties was now well up, the Shakers as they bustled about did not much resemble men of peace.  The Spiritualists were stretching their masses preparatory to an engagement.  At this moment, the wife of the stranger, a brunette, hair long and black as a rainy night in Oberlin, eyes large and full and black as her hair, finally formed features, dressed in deep mourning, went


and delivered a prayer which was truly sublime, every sentence, every word, was choice and in place.  When she concluded, there was not a dry eye inside the church.  Its effect was wonderful.  Discord closed, and harmony and good will prevailed.

The youth in soiled linen then came in from one of the out rooms, also in a trance, and after the Shaker women had ceased singing a beautiful hymn, he notified the assembled hundreds that it was the will of the inhabitants of the other world that all controversy cease.  He made a few remarks by aid of the Spirit, and answered a few questions, when the meeting was dismissed.  Such was the first “war of words” between the Shakers and Spiritualists of Warrensville and vicinity.  There is service at the church every two weeks.  The next meeting will be on the 15th of September.  Let all who go remember to take along their chairs.


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