I am going to share information this Sunday on two women connected to Spiritualism’s past. One of these women I have a distant connection to in my genealogy. And also a very special gentleman.
Mother Ann Lee was born February 29, 1736 in a poor district of Manchester, England called Toad Lane. Her father was John Lee a blacksmith. She was the 2nd of 8 children. Hardscrabble was indeed their way of life. She was illiterate. At 22 she joined the Shakers. She married briefly and was very unhappy. During a period of religious persecution in England in 1770, she was imprisoned for giving prophecies. She had a number of visions while incarcerated. These visions led her to believe that to be truly religious, she and others should be celibate. She felt celibacy was a method of redemption. She convinced her husband, brother and 6 others of this belief. They came to America and settled in the woods of Niskeyuna, NY- now Watervliet. In 1780 she was in jail again here in the US for refusing to take an oath of allegiance.
She was the founder of the Shakers here in America. She worked with hands on healing. She taught that the hands are to be put to work and the heart given to God. She was known to have a gift of tongues, discern spirit and perform miracles. She died September 8, 1784 in Watervliet, NY
My fathers mother was a Merrill from the Skowhegan branch. The summer of 1784 a group of Shakers (25) from Gorham ME and New Gloucester chartered a boat called the SHANK to go see Ann Lee in Albany, NY. Members of the party were James Merrill, SR. Nathan Merrill, Molly and Raichel Merrill. “It is stated that Mother Ann Lee saw them in a vision before they arrived at Niskenna (Watervliet) and told the family there to prepare for them, which they did, and were met at the door with the words. “Welcome here; we were expecting you. Mother saw you some days ago and told us to prepare for you.” Mother Ann Lee died a few days after this visit. The New Gloucester group formerly formed in 1794 with Nathan Merrill as a trustee. James Merrill, Sr. is my 5th great grandfather in that Merrill line. Nathan was his son.
Dr. Maria B. Hayden was born in Falmouth, Nova Scotia on November 16, 1825.Her father was Matthew Treholm and her mother (1st name not given) was a Potter. At the age of 25 Maria married Dr. W. R. Hayden of Boston. They had 4 children, but she moved on to pursuing a medical degree graduating in 1866 at the age of 41. She became involved with Spiritualism as a clairvoyant, and found she had an ability to diagnose her patients with that clairvoyant ability. She and her husband traveled to England several times where she was very popular with the royalty and prominent individuals. She worked with what was then called table rapping. She is said to have been the 1st American to take Spiritualism to England.
Now by bringing up the name of Merrill I deem it necessary to share the story of Rev. Joseph Merrill whom I knew and heard speak. “Papa Joe” as he was called served the NSAC as VP and then President for 34 years.
Joe’s mother took him to a spiritualist service in Brocton, MA. Soon thereafter he joined the church. He pursued an education in music as an organist– graduating from Ithica Conservatory of Music. He traveled studying music, but he was also adept at sculpting and painting. At one time he even had his own photography studio.
He was Secretary of the First Spiritualist Church of Lynn, MA from 1951-1961. He served as Secretary of the Massachusetts State Spiritualist Assoc. – now defunct. Closer to home he served as the President of Temple Heights Camp in Northport, ME and one room is especially to this day his room. I’m sure his spirit visits. In 1961 he became NSAC Secretary for about 9 years and then became Vice President of NSAC. In the spring of 1973 he became the NSAC President at the death of President Robert J. MacDonald. Also that same spring he became ordained as a Spiritualist Minister. He served until 1994 when he resigned. From 1975 to 1981 he served as President of the International Spiritualist Federation (IFS. )
Papa Joe was well known by all. He was always at the NSAC Conventions. The last time Mike and I saw him was in 2000 at the NSAC Convention in Connecticut. Even then at 98 his voice was still strong when from memory he quoted to us from the podium his favorite poem The Law by Mary March Baker. Look it up.
He’s been gone almost 20 years, but I still feel the impact he made. As for the name Merrill his niece said he was not related to either of the Merrill lines here in Maine. He was just his amazing self.
Send prayers to the erupting groups bringing such damage and despair at this time. In the Bible He does not refer to male or female. It refers to the eternal soul that we each are. The soul knows no sexual distinction nor color. We are just a soul and spirit.
Look out at the experiences you are in right now and see the good things happening around you. Focus on those to refresh your body, mind, soul and spirit. Plant something even if it is only a small plant in a pot. Watch it grow. Watch the miracle of growth from a seed.
Blessings, Rev.Beth Carter