New Hampshire Repeats End of the World: 1844 and 2011

According to New Hampshire new sources, May 21st 2011, aka Judgment Day, came and went without any significant disruptions.

Perhaps a dozen billboards within the State proclaimed the coming of the end. One New Hampshire reporter creatively provided a handy list of appropriate music to celebrate the day. At least one entrepreneurial New Hampshire businessman cashed in on the needs of believers.

New Hampshire history buffs should have been experiencing a sense of deja vu. One hundred and sixty seven years ago, the Millerites predicted that the end of the world would occur sometime between March 21, 1843 and March 21, 1844.  The date was later changed a few times, to April 23, 1843, and finally to October 22, 1844.

New Hampshire residents along with many others were caught up in the Armageddon-like frenzy, giving up their property, and preparing for the end of days.  In September of 1842, a camp of Millerites appeared in New Bedford, MA to preach, with 10,000 to 15,000 persons present.

“We learn from the Post that the Miller excitement is doing its worst among the power of the lower part of New Hampshire. In Kingston, Mr. A.N. Brown, publisher and printer has become entirely insane.  His brother, carried away by the delusion, has given up every thing like work, believing it to be clinging to this world’s things….The believers of the pernicious doctrine in that section, generally, have almost entirely neglected to provide for future wants–apples are rotting on the trees, and crops in the fields remain unharvested.  In Newington, likewise, the fanaticism has been alarming progress.  We have yet to learn how far the expiration of the Miller ‘chronology’ goes toward restoring these deluded people to their reason”–[Farmer’s Cabinet, Amherst NH, 31 October 1844;Volume: 43; Issue: 11, reprinted from the Boston Transcript]

Of course, When the year 1845 dawned, those who followed the Millerite belief were mightily disappointed.  If you aren’t an “end of world” believer, then you probably reacted much like the critics of the Millerites back in 1843, by cracking jokes or making statements about their sanity (or lack thereof).  I searched through some old newspapers and found some intriguing reading.

–“A Millerite came into this village one day last week, and the way he made the dust fly when he heard the small pox was in the place, was really laughable to those who don’t expect to “g’up” in a hurry.” — Belknap Gazette. [New Hampshire Patriot, page 2, vo. IX, iss. 453: June 1, 1843]

–“IN KEEPING.  A Millerite at Dover (NH) said, “I believe that the Miller doctrine come from God whether it prove true or not.” [New-Hampshire Patriot, page 2, vol. IX, iss. 467, September 7, 1843]

— “We cannot help relishing the sly vein of burlesque which pervades the reply of a man who was asked by a Millerite, “What is your idea of the end of the world?” “My idea,” said the man, “is that the world is round, and consequently has no end!” This, in one sense, is much more rational and true than the absurd theory of the Millerites.”– [originally printed in Boston Transcript, found in Farmer’s Cabinet, Amherst NH; 31 October 1844; Volume 43, Issue 11, Page 1]

Still others used this time of disappointment to caution their neighbors and New Hampshire against an even greater religious fear…the dreaded Catholics.

–(In a letter written to the newspaper denying the beliefs of the Millerites was found the following…)”The world is full of new things. Like floods, novelties have been pouring in upon us.  Most of them in their adaptation to society, seem to lack every thing but one–a peculiar charm over the passions of men.  I am not opposed to improvements–but I am a decided enemy to the many distracting innovations which float in the fickle brain of novelty.  But this section of the country has more to fear than New Hampshire–there being less of general intelligence among the people.  The Roman Catholics have something of a footing here, which is decidedly worse than a society of infidels.  Some of my neighbors do actually go, periodically, fifteen miles to get their sins pardoned, and perhaps return drunk? There is one important face, in regard to the multitudes that emigrate to the wiles of America from foreign countries–that is scarcely a minister of the gospel is found among them.  They come and settle, and form a society little above the savage nations and that too in enlightened, christian America!” [Farmer’s Cabinet, Amherst NH, 11 April 1844; Volume: 42, Issue 34, Page 1]

By 1847, some of those who survived New Hampshire’s and New England’s end of the world, were seeking to recover their given-away goods.

–“A singular suit.–A case is now being tried before a board of Referees….in the Common Pleas Court room, of rather a novel character.  The parties to the suit are Ezekiel Hale, plaintiff, and his son E.M.J. Hale, defendant, both of Haverhill (Massachusetts). It appears that in the autumn of 1842, the plaintiff having become a convert to the “Millerite delusion” made over to the defendant his property, valued from $40,000 to $50,000–the latter to pay the heirs $20,000 and inherit the residue himself.  The old gentleman has since recovered his ‘right mind’–the anticipated ‘burst up’ of all things earthly not coming to pass as old Miller predicted–and he now seeks to regain possession of the property.  The grounds upon which the plaintiff rests his cause are, that his mind was not in a state to render the transfer of the property valid, and that the defendant took undue advantage of his weakness in urging such a step.  From fifty to seventy-five witnesses are in attendance.  Hon. Rufus Choate and — Minot, Esq. for the plaintiff; for the defendant, Messrs. B.R. Curtis Rand and Fisk.–Boston Mail [New Hampshire Sentinel, Keene NH; 14 April 1847; Volume: XLIX, Issue 15, Page 3] [[NOTE: the son prevailed in court]].


–Wikipedia: Seventh-day Adventist Church

May 21, 2011 Judgment Day: Profiting on Doomsday?

–Days of Delusion – A Strange Bit of History

–Cow Hampshire: The Osgoodites of Warner, New Hampshire

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