25 April 2010

A Lesson for Sunday

A cautionary tale concerning faith from Thomas Conant's Upper Canada Sketches:
During the winter of 1842-3 the Second Adventists, or Millerites, were preaching that the world would be all burnt up in February, 1843. Nightly meetings were held, generally in the school-houses. One E— H— , about Prince Albert, Ont, owned a farm of one hundred acres and upwards, stocked with cattle and farm produce, as well as having implements of agriculture. So strongly did he embrace the Second Advent doctrines of the Millerites that he had not a doubt of the fire to come in February and burn all up, and in confirmation of his faith gave away his stock, implements and farm. Sarah Terwilligar, who lived about a mile east of Oshawa "corners," on the Kingston Road, made for herself wings of silk, and, on the night of 14th of February, jumped off the porch of her home, expecting to fly heavenward. Falling to the ground some fifteen feet, she was shaken up severely and rendered wholly unfit to attend at all to the fires that were expected to follow the next day.
The apocalypse was to have begun at two o'clock in the morning, at which time the fresh February snow would have turned to blood and started to burn. Obviously, the Millerites were a bit off in their prediction.

Conant was less a year old at the time of the anticipated apocalypse, and so relied on others in penning his sketch. This including a manufacturer named Whiting, who complained that come morning "he could do no business, because the people had not gotten over the surprise of finding themselves alive."

And poor Sarah Terwilligar? The author tells us she broke her leg.


  1. In a weird coincidence, I just finished reading Francine Prose's 'Goldengrove', whose 13-year-old narrator's father is obsessed with eschatology, and in which the two of them go hunting for the hill where Miller and his flock gathered, hoping to get some weird vibe from the place (only to find a strip mall).

  2. I'd have considered strip malls to be a sign of the apocalypse, but now they're being torn down. Could this mean we're actually pulling back from the brink?