Memoirs of the Wilkinson Family in America, published 1869
Memoirs of the Wilkinson Family in America, 1869

Biography No. VIII — Esek Hopkins, cont.

This has been photographed, and the author acknowledges the receipt of one of them from J. H. Clark. A steel engraving of Commodore Hopkins is in the possession of the Secretary of the State of Rhode Island.

Many ancecdotes concerning him are related among the older men of Providence. He was laughed at for living in North Providence on such a miserable farm, and by way of reproach was told by one of the metropolitans "that nobody but a fool would live on such a piece of land," he replied, "no fool could live on such a piece of land—he would starve, but you see, I'm well fed."

On another occasion, when Gen. Greene's fame as a military chieftain was at its height, he happened in Providence and Com. Hopkins gave him an invitation to dine with him. "At what hour do you dine?" enquired the polite General whose habits in this respect had become somewhat modified by his contact with Southern chivalry. "At 12 o'clock"—responded the Com. whose naval discipline was without parallax or shadow of changing in these matters. "But I do not dine until two or three"—rejoined Greene. "Then you won't dine with me by a _____ long chalk!" replied Hopkins with characteristic sangfroid.

Biography No. XII — Jemina Wilkinson, cont.

Pages 400-423 were not scanned and are not included here.  The following section begins at the top of the page numbered 324, which was apparently numbered in error, as the next page is numbered 425.

. . . upon eternal matters, and the solemnities of religion. Such aceticism was very repulsive to many of her followers, and one woman who much given to mirth, was ordered to have her mouth sealed up with strips of paper and wafers! Her insanity was confined to her religion, and whatever pertained to her society's solemn aspect was deemed all important. One Amos Ganzey was severely chastised for climbing a tree for the purpose of looking into the ladies' sleeping apartment;—he fell and broke his shoulder, whereupon he made confession of his fault to the "Friend," and was sentenced by her to wear a sheep bell for three weeks! Another member for some immoral or irreligious act was required to wear a black cap for the same length of time! Every irreligious act in her members was sure to meet with censure, and the above instances are only a few of the proofs of her insanity on that subject. Upon any other subject she was perfectly rational, but upon religion she was a wild enthusiast, a monomaniac. This however, did not interfere with her executive ability in planning the removal of her society to the West, where they should not be molested by an inquisitive and meddlesome world. Her whole energies were bent for several months in the preparation. She labored with the utmost assiduity and in all business meetings she did not fail to paint in glowing colors the beauties of the "New Jerusalem," the Land of Promise, where an asylum would be opened for the oppressed and where they could worship God under their own vine and fig tree and no one to molest or make them afraid. At length all preparations were completed, and in April, 1789, she bid farewell to Worcester, Penn., and started for the wilderness, or the "Lake Country," as she sometimes called it, in the State of New York. Her retinue consisted of her firmest followers and their families, and their route first lay to Wilksbarre, thence by boat to Newtown (now called Elmira), along the east branch of the Susquehanna and Chemung Rivers. From Newtown they proceeded to a point ever since called the "Friend's Landing," about one mile south of the village of Dresden on Seneca Lake. A man by the name of Hencher living in 1850, at Elmira, says, he well remembers, when a boy, helping along Jemima and her retinue with his father's teams, and that it seemed strange to him to see the movements of so large a company of men, all ordered by a woman.

The Society from R. I. and Conn. started June, 1787, by way of the Mohawk Valley in batteaux, and reached their destination before Jemima arrived. During the fall they prepared the ground and in the following season sowed it with winter wheat which they harvested in 1789, and this was the first wheat crop raised in Western New York.* Mr. Hudson, pages 78 and 79, "Life of Jemima," indulges in some very severe reflections upon the ruin of Mr. Wagener, Judge Potter, and some other wealthy men by Jemima. It is very singular that they should both follow her to Jerusalem, where they become, not only the first men of the country in influence, but also in wealth and respectability. "My grandfather, David Wagener" says A. J. Wagener of Holtsville, L. I., "brought Jemima from Montgomery Co., Pa. to Yates Co., N. Y., where she, from a gift-farm proceeds in Pa., bought a township of land, called the "Friend's Tract," six miles from Penn Yann."

The first house built for the Friend was a log hut erected on a three cornered piece of land a few steps from a beautiful cascade formed by a small brook and at least 40 feet in height. Here she staid sic nearly a year and then went up the brook nearly three-fourths of a mile to the west where the society built her a gable roofed house. This was the first frame house built in Western N. Y., and is still standing. It is now (1866) occupied by Reuben Turner, a farmer—it has a parlor and two bedrooms on the first floor, the whole building being but 24 feet long by 18 wide. Up stairs there are two large rooms. Originally it had a large brick chimney with half-a-dozen fire places. At the time of my visit one of Jemima's old arm chairs was standing out doors with flower pots in it. Its location is one mile south of Dresden and one and one-half miles directly west of the "Friend's Landing" on Seneca Lake. The scenery in this vicinity is picturesque and beautiful. The house is surrounded by two ancient orchards, the one at the west consisting of sweet apples, and the other to the east of sour apples, set out by the Friend. It appears she did not believe in mixing up trees, any more than she did the sexes. Some years after her arrival she selected William Potter, James Parker and Thomas Hathaway to go to Albany, and buy the land where they had settled—it being then in market. The committee fulfilled their mission—purchased 14,000 acres, and took the deed in their own names. They paid about 25 cents per acre, but kept the deed secreted. They soon back-slid, and then for the first time it was ascertained that they owned all the land, but they generously offered to sell it at one dollar per acre to the settlers whose money they had used in making the purchase. Some refused to pay the stipulated price—lawsuits followed—the society were sic beaten. Governor Clinton knew the object of the purchase, and had the society sought relief at the proper source, there is no doubt they would have been re-instated in their possessions. The great expense of securing legal aid, as there was no lawyer nearer than Utica [Oneida Co.], rendered the settlers powerless, and they submitted to the traitorous conduct of the purchasers. The settlers were obliged to go to Newtown to get their wheat ground before they erected mills of their own—corn they pounded in the tops of stumps after the Indian fashion.

*See Gazetteer of N. Y., 718.

Mr. Luther Sisson a resident of Dresden, N. Y. informed me, that he was well acquainted with the Friend. "When I was a boy," says he, "She had me read for her. I was frequently in her room as she allowed any body to be. I knew her intimately, and consider her to be a good woman. If a person is bad, as they say she was, it would be apt to show itself in her own household, and among her own friends, for she had respectable people with her who would not for a moment tolerate wrong. The Friend's house was always open, and free to all who came. The French Duke Laincourt sic was entertained gratis; I saw him at her house. Gentlemen with their families from the south would stay all summer free of charge. She was a benevolent woman. When strangers came, her servants immediately put out their horses, and prepared a table for them. When she died, she gave her property to the Malins, and one of the Malins at her demise gave her share to James Brown, and his widow afterwards married Peter Oliver of Penn Yan."

At this first place of settlement the Friend had one thousand acres set apart for her own especial use.* Such was her influence over her followers that they gratuitously planted and hoed her corn, sowed and reaped her wheat, cut and gathered her hay, always careful to cause the Friend no trouble nor expense upon these occasions. Her society increased in wealth and number as the country became settled. They generally purchased lands and held them in their individual rights, each being the owner of whatever he brought with him, or afterwards acquired. They made their own selection and were not obliged to locate near the Friend.

About 1809 the Friend changed her location to the head of Crooked Lake. Benedict Robinson and Thomas Hathaway purchased for her of Phelps and Ghoram sic about fourteen hundred acres of land lying in the town of Jerusalem paying for the same 1s 3d per acre. "This tract was extremely well chosen," says Hudson, "being in a healthful and pleasant situation, the lands having generally an eastern and southern aspect, finely wooded with the sugar maple occasionally interspersed with the majestic oak and lofty pine, and the soil of the first quality for agriculture." On this tract of land, within sight of Crooked Lake, on the south side of a gentle declivity, she erected a large, plain two story house, having in the upright part a wide hall from side to side east and west, with two rooms on each side of it about 20 feet square. The one in the north-east corner was used for a dining room—the south-east room for a parlor, south-west room for a library, and the north-west room for meetings. In this last mentioned room, Jemima, with her maids of honor seated each side of her, held forth the word of truth as she understood it. If her "advice," as presented in the tract reprinted on a subsequent page, is a specimen of her preaching, no Christian could find fault with it. These rooms were appropriately furnished. Her household consisted of her maids of honor, Sarah Richards, Rachel Malin, Eliza Richards, daughter of Sarah, four or five male and nine or ten female domestics—about eighteen persons in all. These were men, women and girls who willingly took up their abode with the Friend, and were only too glad to do her bidding. She not only received the products of her large farm, but it was the custom of many members of her society to make her liberal donations. When the season for ploughing and planting arrived, those even who resided many miles away would be on the ground at early sun-rise, and such would be the number that many acres would be turned, and whole fields planted in a single day. Says Hudson, "There is not to be found, perhaps, in the annals of human society, an instance of such strict, uniform and persevering fidelity and devotion to any leader, as was shown by these people to Jemima." Her society was now in the height of its prosperity. Every thing that heart could wish seemed to be at their command. They found it literally a land flowing with milk and honey. Their flocks increased—their teams and horses were not to be excelled. Visitors of rank and distinction from the South, from France, and England were frequently enjoying the hospitality of the "Universal Friend."

*See Gazetteer of N. Y., 719.
But these palmy sic days were not always to last. The disaffection of some of her society and the cupidity of others, as well as the opposition to the rigid austerity of her religious observances, excited no little persecution at a later period. It is said by Hudson that "a short time after she removed to the Lake Country she got into some difficulty by reason of her pretenses. She maintained the sacredness of her person and the divinity of her character with such impudent boldness as to give public offense, in consequence of which a complaint was made to the Grand Jury of Ontario County who presented an indictment against her for blasphemy. But she was never arraigned upon this indictment. Doubts were entertained by some as to the propriety of pursuing her with a criminal prosecution in a land where freedom of opinion and religious toleration are secured by a Constitution, and constitute the boast of every citizen; and others from delicacy to her sex, and compassion for a misguided fanatic, were unwilling to see anything done which could be ascribed to a spirit of persecution. These sentiments coming in aid of the earnest solicitations of her friends, prevented a public trial." And still had there been the least shadow of a chance, these enemies would have not scrupled to avail themselves of it. No delicacy in regard to sex—no compassion for her fanaticism or lunacy would have barred them. Their will was good enough, but they well knew the facts would not sustain an action. Mr. Remer, now living in Dresden, says, "I knew the Friend, have heard her preach at my father's house many a time. I respected her as a woman of good morals, possessed of great powers of mind. Her preaching was like the proverbs of Solomon—she was emphatically a proverbial speaker, and spoke in proverbs. Her eye had the power to charm—it was the secret of her influence. I never believed the stories reported about her—did not believe in her religion nor in her mode of worship—she was an enthusiast, a sort of religious monomaniac. She was no more deluded however than the Methodists, Presbyterians or Episcopalians are, in my opinion." Expressions like the above are common from the most respectable people in the vicinity of her last residence. It was her custom to preach regularly every week till near her death, and she sometimes traveled abroad for that purpose. Her carriage is still in existence, and is now (1866) owned by ex-Sheriff Remer near Penn Yan. It is a quaint looking vehicle, in good running order—hung upon thorough-braces—and easy to ride in. Originally the tires were in pieces spiked on. The letters "U. F." with a cross between them, and a star over the cross are on the back of the carriage, thus, These symbols greatly offended the ignorant people, and constituted, no doubt, the head and front of her blasphemy. All her goods and utensils are marked with "U. F.," and she was always called—and is to this day, by the people in her vicinity, the "Universal Friend." And well she merited the name. It matters not who the sufferer might be—her ready hand administered relief as well to foe as friend. The sick far and near found in her a ready visitor and sympathizer. Hudson ridicules this trait of her character, and can see no motive in it all, but selfishness and imposture.

Many Clergyman, as well as Lawyers and Judges, visited her for the purpose of entangling her in her words but they were willing to confess a failure after the attempt was made. Some of these anecdotes are given hereafter. Hudson relates the following. A Mr. Day asked her if she did not belong to the family of Jeremiah Wilkinson? She replied "thou hast said it." He then said. "Is not Jeremiah Wilkinson your father?" She replied, "The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from Heaven." She then enquired his name,—although she knew it well—and on receiving his answer, she replied "Day! Day! thy day will be turned into night unless thee mends thy ways." As to the miracles which it is pretended she performed it is not a little surprising that she stoutly denied them in her life time. Even Hudson, himself says—she used the following language, "The servants of the devil have accused me of all manner of wickedness. But their evil doings will fall upon their own heads. They have accused me of attempting to walk upon the water, and also, of obtaining presents and donations from my people by saying 'the Lord hath need of this thing' "which things are false." "With great earnestness, she denied the truth of these assertions," says Hudson. A singular imposture that! Space forbids a further discussion of the life of this remarkable woman. It only remains to add that her last sickness was dropsy. Toward the last part of her life she grew fleshly and corpulant, and as her disease was peculiarly painful her fortitude in suffering without a murmur becomes the more remarkable. Her last words were—"My friends I must soon depart—I am going—this night I leave you." She died about 2 o'clock in the morning of Thursday, the first day of July, 1819. She had previously given directions that her body should be kept four days—that the coffin should have a glass inserted over her face, so that it might be seen without removing the lid. She desired no funeral obsequies—no display, but that her body should be consigned to its last resting place without parade.

The people came in large numbers the following Saturday and Sunday expecting to witness some performances, but nothing but the ordinary meetings of those days were observed. For many years her body remained in a tomb just east of the house but it was subsequently removed to the grave yard in the vicinity. A paper purporting to be her will was found, a copy of which is given below. As to her religious tenets it would be somewhat difficult to give an intelligible account. She had many of the forms, ceremonies and practices of the Quakers. She interdicted marriage, and in that respect conformed to the Catholic doctrine of celibacy. She was a clairvoyant, and a spiritualist as it would now be termed. This latter power gave her the title of "Prophetess." She observed and regarded the seventh day, or Saturday, as the Sabbath, and so far she was a Sabbatarian. She did not believe that man had any authority over the woman as such, and was consequently a firm believer in women's rights. She had her maids of honor, or "two witnesses" as she called them, and gave the names of the ancient prophets to some of her followers—Sarah Richards was called the "Prophet Daniel"—another woman was called the "Prophet Enoch," a third "John the Beloved"—and one man was called the "Prophet Elijah"—but for some immorality was deposed from his position. These persons held positions similar to that of deacon in other societies or churches, but it is difficult to ascertain what her insane fancy intended by them. She preached against the vanity of riches—the sinfulness of pride and pomp of the world, and inculcated meekness and humility. The following is the only printed document containing the substance of her doctrines or advice, extant:

"The Universal Friend's Advice to those of the same Religious Society, recommended to be read in their public meetings for Divine worship."

The Public Universal Friend

"Adviseth all, who desire to be one with the Friend in spirit and to be wise unto salvation, that they be punctual in attending meetings, as many as conveniently can.
That they meet at the tenth hour of the day, as near as possible.
That those, who cannot well go to meetings, sit down at their several homes, about the time meeting begins, in order to wait for and upon the Lord.
That they shun, at all times, the company and conversation of the wicked world, as much as possible:  But when any of you are under a necessity of being with them, do your business with few words, and retire from them as soon as you can get your business done; remembering to keep on your watch, and pray for assistance, especially when the wicked are before you.
That you do not enquire after news, or public reports of any one; and be careful not to spread any yourselves that are not of the Lord.
That you deal justly with all men, and do unto all men as you would be willing that they should do unto you; and walk orderly that none occasion of stumbling be given by you, to any.
Let all your conversation, at all times, be such as becometh the gospel of Christ.
Do good to all as opportunity offers, especially to the household of faith.
Live peaceably with all men as much as possible; in an especial manner do not strive against one another for mastery, but all of you keep your ranks in righteousness, and let not one thrust another.
Let not debate, evil surmisings, jealousies, evil speakings or hard thinking be named among you; but be at peace among yourselves.
Take up your daily cross against ungodliness and worldly lusts; and live as you would be willing to die, loving one another, and forgiving one another, as ye desire to be forgiven by God and his Holy One.
Obey and practice the divine counsel you have heard, or may hear, from time to time; living every day as if if were the last; remembering you are always in the presence of the High and Lofty One who inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; and, without holiness, no one can see the Lord in peace, therefore be ye holy in all your conversation, and labor to keep yourselves unspotted from the world, and possess your vessels in sanctification and honor, knowing that ye ought to be temples for the Holy Spirit to dwell in; and, if your vessels are unclean, that which is holy cannot dwell in you:  And know ye not your ownselves, that if Christ dwells not, yea, and reigns not in you; ye are in a reprobate state, or out of favor with God and his Holy One; therefore, ye are to shun the very appearance of evil in all things, as foolish talking, and vain jesting, with all unprofitable conversation which is not convenient; but flee from bad company as from a serpent. Be not drunk with wine, or any other spirituous liquors, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Holy Spirit, building one another up in the most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost.
Keep yourselves in the love of God, and when you come into Meetings or Evening Sittings, make as little stir as possible, that you may not disturb the solemn meditations of others, but consider you are drawing near to approach the holy, pure, eternal Spirit, that cannot look on sin with any allowance.
Endeavor to meet all at one time, and keep your seats until the meeting is over, except upon some extraordinary occasion.
Gather in all your wandering thoughts, that you may sit down in solemn silence, to wait for the aid and assistance of the Holy Spirit, and do not speak out vocally in meetings, except ye are moved thereunto by the Holy Spirit, or that there be real necessity. Worship God and his Holy One in spirit and in truth.
Use plainness of speech and apparel, and let your adorning be not outward, but inward, even that of a meek and quiet spirit, which, in the sight of God is of great price. Thus saith the Psalmist—It is most like the King's daughter, all glorious within; her clothing is of wrought gold.
Consider how great a thing it is to worship God and the Lamb acceptibly, who is a Spirit, and must be worshipped in spirit and in truth:  Therefore, deceive not yourselves, by indulging drowsiness, or other mockery, instead of worshipping God and the LambGod is not mocked, for such as each of you sow, the same must ye also reap:  If ye sow to the flesh, ye must of the flesh, reap corruption; but if ye are so wise as to sow to the Spirit, ye will of the Spirit, reap life everlasting, Rom. viii, from the 6th to the 19th verse.  "For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace:  Because the carnal mind is emnity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then, they that are in the flesh cannot please God:  But ye are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now, if any man hath not the Spirit of Christ he is none of his. And, if Christ be in you, the body is dead, because of sin; but the spirit is life because of righteous:  But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead, dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies, by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die; but if ye, through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the Sons of God. For, ye have not receive sic the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirt sic of Adoption, whereby we cry Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirits that we are the children of God; and, if children, then heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; If so be that we suffer with him, that we may also be glorified together with him. For I reckon, that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us. "Ye cannot be my friends, except ye do whatsoever I command you; Therefore be not weary in well-doing, for, in due season ye shall reap if ye faint not.
Those whose mouths have been opened to speak, or to pray in public, are to wait for the movings of the Holy Spirit, and then, speak or pray as the spirit giveth utterance; not running without divine authority; nor speak nor pray any longer than the Spirit remaineth with you; nor linger when moved to speak as mouth for the Holy One, or moved to pray by the same power.
Let not contention, confusion, jarring or wrong speaking have any place amongst you. Use not whisperings in meetings, for whisperers separate chief friends.
Above all, give all diligence to make your calling and election sure, and work out your salvation with fear and trembling, redeeming your time, because the days are evil. Forget the things that are behind, and press forward towards the mark and the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus; that ye may be found without spot or rebuke before the Lord; that ye may be delivered from the bond of corruption, and brought into the glorious liberty of the Sons of God, where Morning Stars sing together, and all the Sons of God shout for joy; having oil in your vessels with your lamps, like the wise virgins, trimmed and burning; having on your wedding garments that when the Holy One ceaseth to intercede for a dying world, you may also appear with him in glory, not having on your own righteousness, but the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ.
You, who are Parents, or intrusted sic with the tuition of chldren sic, consider your calling, and the charge committed unto you, and be careful to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord and educate them in a just and reverent regard thereunto:  And whilst you are careful to provide for the support of their bodies, do not neglect the welfare of their souls, seeing, the earliest impression in general lasts the longest. As it is written, "Train up a child in the way that he should go, and when he is old, he will not, easily, depart from it;" and let example teach as loud as your precepts.
Children obey your parents in all things, in the Lord for it is right and acceptable in the sight of God. Honor your fathers and mothers, and the way to honor father and mother is not to give them flattering titles, or vain compliments, but to obey the counsel of the Lord, and them, in the Lord. Thus saith the wisdom of the Lord by the mouth of the wise king Solomon, My son forget not my law, but let thine heart keep my commandments, for length of days, long life, and peace, shall they add to thee. Let not mercy and truth forsake thee, bind them about thy neck, write them upon the table of thine heart, so thou shalt find favor and good understanding in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding; In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes; fear the Lord, and depart from evil. Hear, ye children, the instruction of your father, and attend to know understanding; for I give you good doctrine, forsake ye not my law. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother, for they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck. My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not; if they say, Come; let us lay wait for blood, let us lurk privily for the innocent without a cause; let us swallow them up alive as the grave, and whole as those that go down into the pit, we shall find all precious substance, we shall fill our houses with spoil; Cast in thy lot amongst us, let us all have one purse:  My son, walk not thou in the way with them; refrain thy foot from their path; for their feet run to do evil, and they make haste to shed blood. They lay in wait for their own blood; they lurk privily for their own lives; so is every one that is greedy of gain, that taketh away the life of the owners thereof. All of you be careful not to grieve away the Holy Spirit that is striving with you, in this day of your visitation, and is setting in order before you, your sins and short comings:  But turn ye at the reproof of instruction, which is the way to life.
Masters, give unto your servants that which is lawful and right, and deal with other people's children as you would be willing that others deal with you, and your children also in your absence, knowing that whatsoever ye would that others do unto you, ye ought to do likewise unto them for this is the law and the prophets.
Servants, be obedient to your masters, according to the flesh, in fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as unto Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, with good will doing service as unto the Lord, and not unto man; knowing, that whatsoever any good thing any man doeth, the same same sic shall be received of the Lord, whether he be bond or free. And you, masters do the same things unto them, forebaring threatening, knowing that your Master is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him, but he is merciful and kind even to the unthankful and to the evil.
And all of you who have been, or may be so divinely favored as to be mouth for the Holy One, I entreat you, in the bonds of love, that when you are moved upon to speak in public, that ye speak as the Oracles of God, and as the Holy Spirit giveth utterance, not withholding more than it meet, which tendeth to poverty; neither add to his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar. But do all with a single eye to the Glory of God, that God and the Lamb may be glorified by you and through you:  for he that winneth souls is wise, and the wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousness, as the stars forever and ever.
The time is fulfilled—the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent ye, and believe the gospel, that the kingdom of God may begin with you.
He hath shewed thee, O Man! what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to
 Do justly,
 love mercy and
 Walk humbly with thy God.

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