Issachar Bates: A Shaker’s Journey

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Review of Issachar Bates: A Shaker’s Journey, by Carol Medlicott

LOG IN. In this Book. Additional Information. Issachar Bates was a Revolutionary War veteran in rural upstate New York who, at the age of forty-three, abruptly turned from his family life to become a celibate Shaker. He immediately became instrumental in Shakerism's westward expansion, and his personal charisma, persuasive preaching, and musical talent helped stimulate the movement's growth. Bates drew "western" converts in abundance, profoundly changing the character of Shakerism by increasing its geographic reach.

He also helped shape the Shakers' unique theology and hymnody through his many influential texts and songs. Table of Contents. Cover pp. Title Page, Copyright pp.

UMass Amherst Department of History

Contents pp. By August some Indian converts filled out their congregation. In , Chief Netawatwees donated land for a third settlement, Lichtenau meadow of light , near present-day Coshocton , then the principal Lenape Delaware village in the region. Within two years white settlers claimed control over every spring within a square mile area.

The American Revolutionary War brought the demise of these first settlements. The Delawares, who at the time populated much of eastern Ohio, were divided over their loyalties, with many in the west allied with the British out of Fort Detroit and many in the east allied with the Americans out of Fort Pitt.

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Delawares were involved in skirmishes against both sides, but by the American sense was that the Delawares were allying with the British. In response, Colonel Daniel Brodhead of the American forces led an expedition out of Fort Pitt and on 19 April destroyed the settlement of Coshocton.

Surviving residents fled to the north. In September , British forces and Indian allies, primarily Wyandot and Delaware, forced the Christian Indians and missionaries from the remaining Moravian villages. The British took the missionaries David Zeisberger and John Heckewelder under guard back to Fort Detroit , where the two men were tried but eventually acquitted on charges of treason against the British Crown.

The Indians at Captive Town were going hungry because of insufficient rations, and in February , more than returned to their old Moravian villages to harvest the crops and collect the stored food they had been forced to leave behind. Although the Delawares denied the charges, the militia held a council and voted to kill them. The next morning on 8 March, the militia tied up the Indians, stunned them with mallet blows to the head, and killed them with fatal scalping cuts. In all, the militia murdered and scalped 28 men, 29 women, and 39 children.

They piled the bodies in the mission buildings and burned the village down. They also burned the other abandoned Moravian villages in the area. So much for conversion and assimilation of the natives. The Treaty ceded Kentucky and Ohio for white settlement. That was when the New Lebanon shakers sent our grandfather and two other missionaries west.

Carol Medlicott tells us:. As the Shaker missionaries were integrating themselves into the region of southwest Ohio they were acutely aware that Indians were very nearby.

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The trio kept a journal, in which they noted how close the Turtle Creek community was to the Treaty Line established at the Treaty of Greenville in , the line separating Indian land to the north and west from land available to white settlers. One early convert to the Shakers was one Calvin Morrell, and his farmland between Dayton and Cincinnati sat nearly bordering the Treaty Line, and it was on this farmland that a major sacramental meeting was held in mid April It may be one of the great coincidences of history that the Shawnee in far western Ohio were also in the grip of an unprecedented religious revival, not so very far away from where the Shakers were becoming established in the region.

The dramatic conversion of the Shawnee Prophet Tenskwatawa, a younger brother of Tecumseh, from drunkard to religious leader is well known. What is less well known is the uncanny timing of his conversion, relative to the arrival of the Shakers. Lalewethika is believed to have had his conversion experience in late April or early May While sitting by a fire, he went into a deep trance which lasted for more than a day and people took him for dead. He astonished the community by coming out of the trance and describing a vivid set of visions in which he saw the afterlife and observed two paths, each with people moving along it, one leading to paradise and the other leading into a place of torment.

He realized that the way he was then living would lead him to that place of torment, and he determined that not only was he in error, but so were his people.

He began to prophesy with extraordinary power that his people needed to rid themselves of wickedness, renounce various superstitious practices, and renounce all influence of white people. Over the next several months, his image in the Indian community completely transformed, and he gained broad following as a religious leader. He led a movement to establish a new town near the site where the Greenville Treaty had been signed ten years before. There they built an immense timber structure which served as a meeting house for preaching and religious rituals.

We asked Carol about the mysteries of these connections between the Shakers and the Original People. She said, at least as far as the Prophet is concerned, it was difficult, if not impossible, to establish because, although the Prophet spoke with Issachar and may have attended energetic Shaker revival meetings, he spoke no English. For reasons we have delved into here before , that does not present an insurmountable barrier. The Shakers, who believed in following their revelations and honoring those of their indigenous friends, were also believers in what the Haudenosaunee Peacemaker memorialized as the two road wampum.

Mother Ann Lee is known to have had contact with the Iroquois Confederacy and to have gained Mohawk followers.

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Both Haudenosaunee and Shakers believed that the indigenous inhabitants of Turtle Island were separate but equal — white and red walked parallel paths. Mother Lucy Wright, principal authority at the New Lebanon ministry, upon hearing of the Kentucky conversions, instructed her missionaries:. Actually, as we see plainly from what has transpired over the past two hundred years, the civilization the whites brought is a heat engine — not only unsustainable for itself, but destructive of all other ways of living.

It leads to mass extinctions, two-leggeds included. Nomadic cultures that hunt and gather from the abundance of the forest and plain and then move their camps and villages understand that land and human population are inextricably paired. They became a K-sere, the stage of ecological succession that favors efficiency over growth, diversity over competition, and complexity of exchanges, interconnection and symbiosis. In that stasis was upset by an invasive R-sere, the arrival of a less poetic and unsophisticated culture based, like weeds, on rapacious overproduction by resource depletion, unlimited growth, and extreme competition that destroys indigenous diversity.

Within a few hundred years it erased the social and ecological harmony built over ten millennia. Then it erased the knowledge. What we are left with is false stereotypes; caricatures; mascots.

What needs to be conceded is that the vision of Tenskwatawa and our grandfather Issachar was correct. One leads to paradise and the other into torment. A door between paths now opens, but not for long. It is time leave the path with no future.