We have before us two roads.
It was two years ago, in the bookstore at Pleasant Hill Shaker Village, that we came across Carol Medlicott’s book, Issachar Bates. Wondering at the title, we turned to the index and discovered many entries for Artemas, an uncommon name that appears more than once in our Bates family tree.
We asked the author if we might be related to the early Shaker Issachar Bates and she hastened to lower our expectations, reminding us that it is rare to be descended from the Shakers because they were celibate. She promised to research it.
Issachar Bates: A Shaker's Journey
Winner of the Communal Studies Association book award (2014)Issachar Bates (1758-1837) was a Revolutionary War veteran…
Some weeks later she gave us her verdict. We were directly descended because he fathered a son, Artemas, before joining the order and the son never joined. The ironies compound when you think about Issachar, crossing the Appalachians on foot, through thick bramble and swamp, and arriving in the “West” — then the Ohio Valley — in the late 18th Century, there to found a utopian experiment that grew to 1000 people on 2000 acres. He was a hippy forebearer.
In 1972 we through-hiked the Appalachian Trail and landed at a utopian experiment called The Farm. It was 1000 people on 2000 acres.
Driving through those Kentucky hills today we could swear we could still feel the presence of the Shakers. The tidy farms, the well mended fences and stone walls, the deep fertility of the soils and richness of the pastures, even in Fall, seem to echo a Shaker melody— an epigenetic legacy of microRNA drifting with colored leaves on the autumn breeze.
Two years ago the quarried limestone Deacon’s House had minimally been restored to its original form when we visited. Grandfather Issachar, a founder and later Deacon of Pleasant Hill, was likely given this home in his elder years when the families within relocated to a newer, much larger communal dwelling. The small stone house had been one of the first permanent buildings in the colony, erected in 1809 as Center House. The two and a half story, 30 x 40-foot structure could have housed up to 5 families, although the sleeping arrangements would have been separate for men and women, divided either by sides or floors.
At one time, historian Timothy Miller reminds us, the economy of this continent was 100 percent communal, even after the arrival of the first Europeans. Both Jamestown and Plymouth colonies were shared purse social contracts.
Recent remodeling has made the Deacon’s House suitable for modern guests by including an en-suite bath in what had once been a hallway closet, and a nook for a coffeemaker and minifridge. Issachar would have had to walk to an outdoor privy, even in the winter snow, and the dining hall was still farther. Refrigeration would have been the snow, or the spring house, a considerable trek down the mountain.
We are at this moment attending the annual meeting of the Communal Studies Association in Zoar, Ohio. Making the drive up from Tennessee we decided to put in the first night at Pleasant Hill, renting the house where great great great great Grandfather lived two hundred years ago.
The Shakers were part of an evangelical, “manifest destiny” migration of hominids out of soil-depleted and war-torn Europe into North America. If the locals did not abide by that, well, they were ethnically cleansed and are remembered today only as sports team mascots — Cleveland Indians, Washington Redskins, etc.
We read reports from the Washington Post and The New York Times that killing 59 people and injuring 527 in Las Vegas October 2 was “the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history,” surpassing the 49 people slain by a gunman in Orlando in June 2016.
“Modern” did not appear in the early editions. They had to be reminded of the murder of 2700 Native Americans by Hernan deSoto in 1539–1540; the 200 citizens of Tiguex mowed down while fleeing Coronado and 50 survivors who were raped and then burned at the stake in 1541; the 800 killed by Oñate at Ocoma at 1599; the 900 Tompiro killed at Sandia in 1601; the 250 Powhatan lured to Pamunkey Peace Talks and poisoned in 1623; the Mystic Massacre of 1637 where English colonists burned the inhabitants in their homes and killed all survivors, for total fatalities of about 600–700; the extermination of the Staten Island Raritans in 1640; John Underhill, hired by the Dutch, attacking and burning the sleeping village of Lenape, killing about 500 in 1644; the Great Swamp Massacre in 1647 where 300 women, children and elderly were burnt in their Rhode Island village; the murders of 34 men and 192 women and children by Bacon, Turner and Talcott in 1676; the killing of 600 at Zia Pueblo in 1689; the massacre of 1000 Apalachees in Florida in 1704; killing around 1,000 Fox Indians men, women and children in a five-day massacre near the head of the Detroit River in 1712; the 200 Tuscaroras burned to death in their village and 900–1000 others subsequently killed or enslaved in 1739; the massacre of about 500 Fox Indians (including 300 women and children) as they tried to flee their besieged camp in 1730; the slaughter of 111 Utes on the Chama River in 1747; Spanish Peaks in 1774 with 300 dead Indians (men, women and children); David Crockett’s attack on an unsuspecting Creek town in 1813, with an unknown number of women and children killed, some burned in their houses; the Autossee Massacre that same year with some 200 killings; the 140 Comanches (men, women and children) killed in their village on the Colorado in 1840; the Clear Lake Massacre (150 Pomo and Wappo) in 1840; the Sacramento River massacre (120–200 Wintun) in 1846; the Bloody Island Massacre of 1850 (60–100 Pomo) which led to a general outbreak of attacks against and mass killing of native people all over Northern California; the Old Shasta Town massacre of 1851 (300 Wintu); the Bridge Gulch Massacre 1852 (150 Wintu); the Yontoket and Achulet Massacres of 1853 (600 Tolowa); the Round Valley massacres 1856–1859 (1000 Yuki); Jarboe’s War (reimbursed by the government) that killed at least 283 Indian men and countless women and children 1859–1860); the Indian Island Massacre of 1860 (250 mostly women, children and Wiyot elders); the Horse Canyon Massacre 1860 (240 Wailaki); the Bear River Massacre of 1863 (280 Shoshone men, women and children); the Oak Run Massacre of 1864 (300 Yana as they gathered for a spiritual ceremony); the Skull Valley, Sand Creek, Mud Lake, Owens Lake, Three Knolls and Grass Valley Massacres of 1865; Custer’s Washita Massacre of 1868 (140 sleeping Cheyenne); the 173 Piegan, mainly women, children and the elderly, killed in 1873 at the Marias Massacre; and between 130 and 250 Sioux men, women and children forced into a low depression and killed by rapid fire weapons from above at Wounded Knee, South Dakota in 1890.
While struck by the beauty of the colorfully forested hills and sturdy stone buildings of Shaker Village, we were at the same time saddened by guilty knowledge of what they had replaced.
Corporate agronomists and town master planners from the Old World, with their inconceivably advanced technologies, systematically obliterated the steady-state, reverent and sustainable societies of the New World. We had to ask ourselves whether our Shaker ancestors, for all their good intentions and faithful husbandry of these lands, were complicit in that atrocity.
Matt Taibbi, writing for Rolling Stone, observed last week:
This is who we’ve always been, a nation of madmen and sociopaths, for whom murder is a line item, kept hidden via a long list of semantic self-deceptions, from “manifest destiny” to “collateral damage.” We’re used to presidents being the soul of probity, kind Dads and struggling Atlases, humbled by the terrible responsibility, proof to ourselves of our goodness. Now, the mask of respectability is gone, and we feel sorry for ourselves, because the sickness is showing.
Not far from Pleasant Hill is the oldest town in Kentucky, Harrodsburg (1774). For the native peoples of this region it is hard to say which was worse — the muzzleloading mountain men or the Bible-thumping missionaries. Ad hoc native attempts to discourage the European invaders from building cabins next to important springs were subdued by disproportionate military campaigns from the east, first by the British, later by State militias. Armistices were short-lived until the Greenville Line was established in 1795, pushing the first nations out of the Eastern Ohio Valley.
This opened the door to the Shakers, who built their settlements right up to the edge of that line.
It bears recalling that the Shakers and the native peoples had a relationship of mutual respect. Ann Lee was recognized by both as a special person, enveloped in a halo of light. Both groups had prophets and revelators, including our grandfather.
In Zoar we found ourselves watching a history play in the Tuscarawas Valley High School which begged the question, who or what were Tuscarawas?
Tuscarawas was the name of the river, where a Lenape chief, Netawatwees (“newcomer”), made the error of inviting Moravian missionary, David Zeisberger to found a mission in 1772. Tuscarawas is a Wyandot name but the Wyandot had to migrate Northwest under pressure from the Lenape who were being pushed out of New Jersey and Pennsylvania by the gruesome ethnic cleansing.
Zeisberger, along with five converted Indian families, established another mission at Schoenbrunn (beautiful spring). They built a school house and a church. By August some 250 Indian converts filled out their congregation.
In late summer 1772, the missionaries and their Lenape converts had established another settlement, roughly 10 miles away, called Gnadenhütten (cabins of grace) — today home to the Indian Valley Braves high school football team. In 1776, 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 400 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. Delawares were involved in skirmishes against both sides, but by 1781 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 1781 destroyed the settlement of Coshocton. Surviving residents fled to the north. Colonel Brodhead’s forces left the Delawares at the other Moravian mission villages unmolested, but the actions set the stage for raised tensions in the area.
In September 1781, British forces and Indian allies, primarily Wyandot and Delaware, forced the Christian Indians and missionaries from the remaining Moravian villages. The Indian allies took their prisoners further west toward Lake Erie to a new village, called Captive Town, on the Sandusky River. 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 1782, more than 100 returned to their old Moravian villages to harvest the crops and collect the stored food they had been forced to leave behind. In early March 1782, 160 Pennsylvania militia led by Lieutenant Colonel David Williamson raided the villages and garrisoned the Indians in the village of Gnadenhütten, accusing them of taking part in raids into Pennsylvania. 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.
In 1795 the Treaty of Greenville was concluded between the US government and the defeated and decimated Shawnee, Cherokee and Lenape. 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. 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 1795, 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 1805.
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 1805. 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. This town was simply called the Prophet’s Town, and there the Prophet began gathering with hundreds of followers by the Fall of 1806. There they built an immense timber structure which served as a meeting house for preaching and religious rituals. The Prophet ceased going by his given name of Lalewethika and began going by the new name Tenskwatawa, which meant, “the Open Door,” a name intended as an allusion to his ability to see into the spirit world.
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. MicroRNA exchange between our grandfather and the brother of Tecumsah could account for, or be explained by, as Carol Medlicott told us, “the spirit alive in the land at the time” As the two men inhaled and exhaled, held hands, and exchanged their “spirits,” the flow of the Zeitgeist and their own microbiomes flicked epigenomic switches on and off.
The Spontaneous Evolution Experience: The Choice to Become a New Species
A momentous change is upon us. In his groundbreaking book The Biology of Belief, Dr. Bruce Lipton outlined the evidence…
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.
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:
We believe it [preaching to the Indians] ought to be done by some of the young believers, that… have not much gift in relation to white people and then leave them [the Indians] to act for themselves, & by no means gather them, for they are Indians & will remain so, therefore cannot be brought into the order of white people, but must be saved in their own order & Nation, we believe that God is able to raise up them of their own Nation that will be able to lead & protect them, by receiving some council from them that is Set in order, therefore we believe it to be wisdom not to meddle much with them, but [honor] them in their own order.
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. It is Tenskwatawa’s predicted path of torment.
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 1492 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.
Those who reverted the seral stage to that infertile ecology called the other “primitive” or “backwards.”
What needs to be conceded is that the vision of Tenskwatawa and our grandfather Issachar was correct. We have before us two roads. 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. It’s time for each of us to choose.