The Battle for Battle Creek: Sectarian Competition in the Yankee West

Brian C. Wilson

Battle Creek, Michigan, is famous as the 19th-century headquarters of Seventh-Day Adventism and its prophet, Ellen White, as well as for the Adventist-­inspired Battle Creek Sanitarium, superintended for years by the dynamic John Harvey Kellogg. Battle Creek also became nationally known for hosting a variety of alternative religions other than Seventh-Day Adventism. Robert C. Fuller, in his excellent book, Alternative Medicine and American Religious Life (1989), observes, “The San in Battle Creek drew many of the period’s metaphysical seekers such as mind-curists and sundry spiritualists. They came to the San despite Ellen White’s biblical theology, and their influence apparently turned some individuals in new intellectual directions.”1

The problem with this historical assessment is that it is actually backwards. As I will discuss in this paper, by the 1840s Battle Creek and the surrounding area was already attracting a significant community of liberal sectarians who would have a major impact on the development of the city and the region. By the time James and Ellen White arrived in Battle Creek in 1855, the city already had a reputation as a place where, according to one early historian, “‘isms’ readily take root and flourish; Sometimes choking up the ‘herbs of grace’ in genuine orthodox soil.”2

    This paper will trace the history of liberal sectarianism in Battle Creek in preparation for making the larger argument, which I am developing in a book project, that the history of Seventh-Day Adventism and the rise of Battle Creek’s health and cereal industries need to be reassessed in light of the ensuing competition—at times bitter—between the conservative Adventists and their more liberal sectarian neighbors.

Battle Creek and the Yankee Diaspora

    The settling of Battle Creek reflects the pattern of hundreds if not thousands of similar town foundings in the 19th-century Yankee Diaspora from Upstate New York to the Far West,3 and its early religious history reflects the patterns of spirituality and church development emanating from the Burned-Over districts of northern New England and Upstate New York. The Methodists were “first on the ground,” forming a class meeting in 1832. A Methodist church was formed three years later under the direction of the Rev. James F. Davidson, who was then followed by a series of supply ministers, including the grand old man of Michigan Methodism, the Rev. E. H. Pilcher. The Methodists, who built their first church building in Battle Creek in 1841, were well known in the area for their loud hymn singing, revivalism, and Bible distribution. Baptists organized a congregation in 1835 and built their first church building in 1849. A “Presbygational” church was formed in 1836 at a meeting in the log schoolhouse, and the members voted to place themselves under the supervision of the Presbytery of St. Joseph; its first church building went up in 1842. 4 Finally, rounding out the early religious scene were the Episcopalians. Rev. F. Cuming conducted the first Episcopal service in 1839, and the Episcopal parish of St. Thomas of Battle Creek was erected in 1842.5 Again: so far, so normal for this part of the country during this era.

Quakers in Battle Creek

    What made Battle Creek different from other Yankee towns in Michigan was the presence early on of a critical mass of Quakers.6 In fact, some of the earliest settlers were Quakers such as Joseph and Isaac Merritt. In 1834, the Merritts, originally from Saratoga County, New York, bought half interest with Sands McCamly in the 837 acres encompassing the confluence of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Rivers. For a time they referred to the village they planned to create there as “Merriton.” The Merritts were soon followed by a number of other Quaker families and individuals, including Erastus Hussey, who would become a well­ known conductor on the Underground Railroad.7 The Battle Creek Monthly Meeting was officially established in 1836, and the first of several Quaker meetings houses in Battle Creek was built in 1843. 8 One early observer remarked, “The town came very near being a Quaker colony, as a large number came among the early settlers.”9

    Quakers had been moving from Upstate New York into Michigan since the early 1820s, tending to settle near one another and creating pockets of Quakers in the southern two tiers of Michigan counties. The Orthodox Farmington (New York) Quarterly Meeting created the first Monthly Meeting in Michigan in the town of Adrian in 1831, followed by meetings at Lenawee County (1834), Palmyra (ca. 1840), Rollin (ca. 1845), and Tecumseh (1851). Hicksite Quakers were soon to follow, resulting in Monthly Meetings in Livonia and Battle Creek in 1834, and later Adrian (1836) and Parma (1840). All of the Michigan Hicksite meetings ultimately fell under the supervision of the newly created Hicksite Genesee Yearly Meeting in Upstate New York. Other Quakers, originating probably from the migrations from the Carolinas, moved up from Indiana into Cass County in the southwest corner of the state, also in the 1830s. Their meetings fell under the jurisdiction of the Orthodox Indiana Yearly Meeting.10

    What is important about the Battle Creek Quakers is that they were Hicksite Quakers. Over a period of about year, from mid-1827 to mid-1828, American Friends suffered a major schism, breaking into two mutually antagonistic factions, the Orthodox and the Hicksites. The origins of the schism lie in the first decades of the 19th century when many Quakers sought to align their tradition to a greater extent with the evangelicalism then sweeping Great Britain and the United States. To this end, Orthodox Quakers insisted on an explicit acceptance of the atoning mission of Jesus Christ and a greater reverence for the Bible, along with a corresponding de­emphasis on the Inner Light as a source of personal revelation. In time, they would also begin advocating for a return to the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist. 11

    The opponents of the Orthodox saw this as an abandonment of the essential teachings of George Fox and an unwarranted compromise with the world. They rejected what they saw as creeping creedalism, sacramentalism, and bibliolatry, and rallied around an elderly Public Friend from Long Island named Elias Hicks (1748­-1830) who had become a lightning rod for these disputes. The label Hicksite, however, implies a unity that this faction never had. There were at least two ideological groups within the Hicksite schism: traditionalists who wished to hold on to the Quietist past, and the Liberals, who were committed “to principles of tolerance and free inquiry.” Both were united against the inroads of Evangelicalism and “desired a loosely knit structure which would preserve the sectarian characteristics of the Society of Friends.” Moreover, “all segments accepted an individual religion based on continuous revelation in which the cultivation of the inner spirit was emphasized rather than specific outer belief.”12 Needless to say, this did not make for a very stable organization, and before long the Hicksites too suffered a schism, an event in which Michigan Hicksites–including those of Battle Creek– played a prominent role.

    Among the more radical Hicksites of Central and Western New York, Ohio, and Michigan, there emerged a party who openly advocated for increased involvement in the great reform movements of the day, especially abolitionism, temperance, and women’s rights. They also agitated for abolition of the Meetings of Ministers and Elders and the Meetings for Sufferings, both of which, in their supervisory capacity over the Monthly Meetings, the radicals believed, served as a conservative counterweight against reform. 13 In 1841, the Michigan Quarterly Meeting of Hicksite Friends unilaterally decided to discontinue their Meeting for Ministers and Elders, eventually sending a report to the Genesee Yearly Meeting urging them to revise the Discipline to make supervisory meetings optional. This they refused to do, and in fact, in 1848, exasperated by Michigan’s continued insubordination, Genesee Yearly Meeting summarily “laid down” or abolished the Michigan Quarterly Meeting and attached Michigan’s Monthly Meetings to the Pelham (Ontario) Quarterly Meeting. Other Monthly Meetings, which had also proposed like changes, took notice of the Yearly Meeting’s high-handed action, and in response a group of about 200 Hicksite dissidents met that year in Farmington, New York. Out of this and subsequent meetings there formed what would come to be called the Congregational or Progressive Friends.14

    The Congregational or Progressive Friends adopted as their platform the “Basis for Religious Association,” written by Thomas M’Clintock and Rhoda de Garmo.15 This was an ambitious and (for the day) extremely liberal document, made even more liberal by specific additions to it made by individual Monthly Meetings.16 Some ten new Annual Meetings sprang up in the wake of the Farmington Meetings and the publication of M’Clintock and De Garmo’s “Basis.” These Meetings were located in New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and Iowa; and while only one–the Pennsylvania Yearly Meeting of Congregational Friends at Longwood–seems to have survived the Civil War, they all became hotbeds for religious and social reform and magnets for such speakers as Theodore Parker, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, William Lloyd Garrison, Gerrit Smith, Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, Lucretia Mott, and Susan B. Anthony.17

    Those Michigan Hicksites who were disowned by the Genesee yearly Meeting organized themselves in 1848 into the Michigan Yearly Meeting of the Friends of Universal Progress, or Progressive Friends for short.18 In Battle Creek, they organized the Independent Church of Battle Creek and elected Jeremiah Brown as President and Richard B. Merritt (son of Joseph), as Treasurer. 19 Within a year or two, they adopted the name The Progressionists. A broadside entitled, “A Declaration of Principles Believed and Advocated by The Progressionists of Battle Creek,” hand-dated 1858, still exists in the archives of the American Antiquarian Association.20 It reproduces, although with more brevity, much of the platform of the “Basis.” Some of the differences between the Battle Creek broadside and the “Basis” are striking, however. For example, “A Declaration of Principles” does not explicitly call for the equality of the sexes, although it does quite explicitly call the liberalizing of divorce laws, a position that would open up the Progressionists to persistent accusations of “Free Love” in later years. The radical nature of this proposition is indicated by the fact that a delegate to the famous Rutland, Vermont, Free Convention held in July 1858 specifically cited it as a model to be followed in all discussions of this delicate topic. 21

    Unfortunately, no minutes of the meetings of the Battle Creek Progressives survive, so detailed documentary information about this group is scarce. We do know that the Progressives helped organize the 1856 Michigan Yearly Meeting of Progressive Friends in Battle Creek, and that the Battle Creek Progressive Quaker, Henry Willis, prevailed upon none other than Sojourner Truth to address them on that occasion. 22 At the subsequent 1857 Michigan Yearly Meeting of Progressive Friends, which congregated at the Battle Creek Meetinghouse, Truth was joined by abolitionists Charles Burleigh and Parker Pillsbury, a feminist named Mary Davis, and “Friend” Pease, who advocated economic justice. 23

    We also know that the Battle Creek Progressionists were eager to welcome non-Quakers into the organization. One of them was the local Universalist minister, Justin P. Averill (1821-1872). Quakers and Universalists had long had cordial relations, sharing many of the same theological ideas, including an emphasis on rationalism and anti-sacramentalism.24 Universalists organized their first society near Detroit in 1829, and there were enough congregations in Michigan by 1843 to warrant a state convention.25 Averill, who was originally from Vermont by way of Upstate New York, founded Universalist congregations in Marshall and Battle Creek before joining the Progressionists in 1856.26

    According to an article in the Battle Creek Journal on April 25th of that year, Averill became the clerk of that organization.27 The following year Averill represented the Battle Creek Progressionists at the Pennsylvania Yearly Meeting of Progressive Friends, and he was on the executive committee that organized the Michigan Yearly Meeting of Progressive Friends in October.28 Apparently, the Universalist Church excommunicated Averill for his involvement with the Progressionists in 1856, after which his Battle Creek Universalist congregation disappeared entirely from the historical record, perhaps absorbed as a body into the Progressionists. 29

    In addition to Universalists, it is possible that the Battle Creek Progressionists also attracted local Swedenborgians as members, although the evidence for this point is largely circumstantial. Swedenborgianism enjoyed something of a vogue in Michigan at this time; it was jokingly called the “State Church” since a number of State officials had embraced that faith, and there was even a serious suggestion that the state capital be called “Swedenborg” instead of Lansing.30 In 1840, the ubiquitous Swedenborgian missionary, the Rev. George Field, made Battle Creek the headquarters of his Midwestern proselytizing efforts. Here he gave a series of popular lectures and began regular services in 1842.31 After the creation the following year in Albion of the “Association of Readers and Receivers of the Doctrines of the New Jerusalem Church in Michigan and Northern Indiana,” Battle Creek was chosen as the site of the second and fourth annual meetings of this organization in 1844 and 1846. 32

    Connections between the Battle Creek Swedenborgians and Hicksite Quakers appear to have been strong. Two of the earliest followers of the New Church in Battle Creek were former Hicksites, Captain Richard F. Titus and his wife Frances, who would go on to be the amanuensis of Sojourner Truth.33 Moreover, one of the most active members of the Battle Creek New Church was a Dr. E. A. Atlee, whose wife was a Quaker. According to local historian A. D. P. Van Buren, writing in 1884, “Dr. Atlee was accustomed to say that Battle Creek was the only place in America where he and his wife could both attend service on the Sabbath, the same day. He was a Swedenborgian, and she was a Quakeress, and Battle Creek was the only town in this country where both of these churches were to be found.”34 Late in 1848, however, the Rev. Field accepted the pastorate of the Detroit New Church and left town for good, and the Battle Creek New Church faded from the scene.35

    That at least some of the Swedenborgians gravitated to the Progressionsists may be indicated by many of the statements found in the Progressionists’ “A Declaration of Principles,” which echo the concepts, if not the technical vocabulary, of Swedenborg. Like the Swedish Seer, the Progressionsts believed that angels were an active presence in the world, that the Divine influx permeated men, and that the soul’s destiny was eternal progress. The goal of harmony, social as well as cosmic, is also strongly emphasized in the document. 36

Spiritualism in Battle Creek

    There is another possible explanation for the Swedenborgian language of the “Declaration of Principles,” and that is the role of Spiritualism. In addition to the roster of social reformers addressing the 1857 Battle Creek meeting of the Michigan Yearly Meeting of Progressive Friends, there was also the Spiritualist, Andrew Jackson Davis, the “Seer of Poughkeepsie.”37 Davis spoke to the group on his Harmonial Philosophy, which was essentially a repurposing of Swedenborgianism in the service of modern Spiritualism.38 It is true that “A Declaration of Principles” omits any direct reference to Spiritualism, but we do know that Spiritualism nevertheless was already the dominant focus of the Battle Creek Progressionists. For example, noted Anti-Slavery activist, Parker Pillsbury, in a letter to Garrison’s Liberator, complained that “numerically the Spiritualists predominated” at the 1857 meeting, and that the Anti-Slavery cause in Michigan was being ruined by “a morbid, mawkish Spiritualism, that had infested it like potato-rot.”39 This provoked a furious letter war from those who either defended the Progressive Friends’ Spiritualism or lamented of it.40
    The rise of Spiritualism in Battle Creek was perhaps predictable given that, throughout the Yankee Diaspora, large numbers of Swedenborgians, Universalists, and Quakers were all being drawn to this new religious movement.41 Progressive Quakers, however, seem to have caught the Spiritualist bug earlier than most. The Swedenborgian minister George Field reported that as early as 1848, Farmington, Michigan, a stronghold of Hicksite Quakerism, was now also a hotbed of Spiritualism—and this in the very year that the Fox sisters and their purported spirit communications became national news.42 Other early converts to Spiritualism in Michigan were Reynolds and Dorcas Cornell, founding members of Battle Creek’s Hicksite Meeting. The Cornells, residents of Bedford Township just outside of Battle Creek, sought to reproduce the spirit manifestations they had read about in the press—apparently with success if their stories are to be believed—and they thus became firm believers in Spiritualism.43 Their son Hiram, a recent graduate of Olivet and also a convert to Spiritualism, founded the Bedford Harmonial Institute in 1851, “the object of [which] is to accommodate a liberal progressive class of minds.”44 The Cornell family envisioned the Institute as the centerpiece of a larger Spiritualist community, and to this end they officially incorporated the Village of Harmonia in 1855. In the early years, both the school and the intentional community enjoyed some success, attracting Spiritualist families from the area, as well as several Spiritualist luminaries such as ex-U.S. Senator Nathanial Tallmadge, Spiritualist lecturer and Fourierist, Warren Chase, and most famously, Sojourner Truth. 45

    Meanwhile in Battle Creek proper, Justin P. Averill induced one of his ex-­Universalist colleagues, the flamboyant Rev. James M. Peebles of Baltimore, to take over the pulpit in Battle Creek in 1857.46 The colorful Peebles was and would remain until the end of his long life one of the best-known Spiritualist ministers in the United States.47 In 1860, the Progressionists renamed their organization the First Free Church of Battle Creek.48 The name “Free Church” may have been attempt to link the Battle Creek group with the larger Free Church movement composed of religious liberals and rationalists then gaining traction in the country.49 However this may be, Spiritualism remained the primary focus of the Free Church.
    By this time, organized Spiritualism had taken off in Michigan, thanks to missionary work of men like Rev. Peebles, who itinerated throughout most of the towns and villages in Southwest Michigan.50 A State Spiritualist Association was founded in 1868 in Lansing, and in the years ensuing, Spiritualist “Camp Meetings” were established around the state, with that at Vicksburg lasting until the 1920s. Michigan also supported eight Spiritualist newspapers, although none lasted more than two years.51 Indeed, most of the Spiritualist churches had faded by the turn of the century, but for much of the second half of the 19th Century, Spiritualism had a significant presence in both Battle Creek and the State. In 1870, perhaps due to the growing strength and acceptance of Spiritualism in Michigan, the Battle Creek Free Church changed its name again to make its religious focus explicit: The First Society of Spiritualists of Battle Creek.52 This organization would last well into the 20th century. 53


Why is it important to recover this lost history of Battle Creek’s early liberal sectarians? Because, I believe, they had an important impact on the development of Seventh-Day Adventism and on the development of Battle Creek’s health and breakfast cereal industries. As I demonstrate in greater detail in the sequel to this paper, the choice of Battle Creek as headquarters for Seventh-Day Adventism was due at least in part to the religiously tolerant environment pioneered by the Hicksite Quakers and other liberal sectarians in the area. And while Adventists deplored the liberal sectarians—especially Spiritualists—and competition between them was fierce,54 they all shared an intense interest in health reform, specifically diet reform, dress reform, and medical reform. Quaker Spiritualists in Harmonia, for example, practiced temperance, anti-tobaccoism, a Grahamite vegetarian diet, hydropathy, and the use of the American Costume or Bloomers, all before these were adopted by the Adventists.

    Moreover, the first successful water cure facility in Battle Creek was opened by Quaker-Spiritualist Henry Willis in 1858, antedating the Adventist Western Health Reform Institute (later the Battle Creek Sanitarium) by five years.56 Ellen White and the Seventh-Day Adventists are rightly credited for putting Battle Creek on the map as the health mecca of the United States in the late 19th century, but the earlier example of the Spiritualists in this regard cannot be ignored and the connections between the two need to be explored in greater detail.
    What’s more, the presence of Swedenborgians and Spiritualists attracted other forms of alternative medicine to Battle Creek, making it an early center for homeopathy57 and mesmeric (or “magnetic”) healing.58 Mesmeric healers in turn brought in mind curists, opening the way for Christian Science and New Thought,59 both of which would decisively influence the career of Battle Creek’s first cereal magnate, C. W. Post.60 The Kellogg brothers may have invented modern breakfast cereals, but it was Post’s genius for mass marketing these products that led to the massive industrialization of Battle Creek. I would argue that it was Post’s explorations of the psychology of New Thought that led him directly to the new techniques of mass advertising that made his and subsequent cereal companies so successful.

    Finally, the presence of Spiritualists and other liberal sectarians in Battle Creek raises a question that has already been alluded to by Fuller at the beginning of this paper: what was their influence on the city’s most famous Adventist, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg. In 1907, Kellogg was expelled from the Church, ostensibly for expressing in the 1903 book, The Living Temple, theological views that were dangerously pantheistic.61  While the pantheism of The Living Temple is debatable, we do know that Dr. Kellogg was often accused of being too open to new theological ideas, ranging from theistic evolutionism to Spiritualism and Theosophy to New Thought.62 Dr. Kellogg himself was publically circumspect about his views, but the fact that at least three of Kellogg’s associates at the Sanitarium went on to become involved in new religious movements allied to Spiritualist channeling, Theosophy, and New Thought suggests that the religious environment of the Battle Creek Sanitarium was indeed not strictly orthodox.

    A more thorough exploration of Dr. Kellogg’s theological development, I believe, may have a bearing on the subsequent development of alternative medicine in the United States.63 Moreover, in light of the fact that Ellen White abandoned Battle Creek as headquarters for Seventh-Day Adventism at least in part due to Dr. Kellogg’s growing power and heterodoxy, understanding the role of liberal sectarianism in this process will help us better understand the subsequent history of both Battle Creek and the Seventh-Day Adventist denomination.


1 Robert C. Fuller, Alternative Medicine And American Religious Life (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989), p. 54.

2 A.D.P. Van Buren, “History of the Churches in Battle Creek,” Report of the Pioneer Society of the State of Michigan 5: 310-324, p. 323.

3 A. D. P. Van Buren, “The City of Battle Creek—Its Early History, Growth, and Present Condition,” Michigan Pioneer and Historical Collections 3(1881): 347-67; Berenice B. Lowe, Tales of Battle Creek (Battle Creek, MI: Miller Foundation, 1976), p. 11-20; Mary G. Butler, “The Village of Battle Creek: ‘Distinguished for its Love of Liberty and Progress,” Heritage Battle Creek 9 (Winter 1999): 23-30. See also Brian C. Wilson, Yankees in Michigan (Lansing, MI: Michigan State University Press, 2009).

4 Despite the break up of the Plan of Union in 1850, the church remained denominationally mixed until 1883 when under the leadership of the Rev. Reed Stuart it severed all denominational ties and became the ultra-liberal Independent Congregational Church.

5 Van Buren, 1881, pp. 349, 356-57; Van Buren, 1884, pp. 310-24; Lowe, 1976, p. 13; E. G. Rust (ed.), Calhoun County Business Directory (Battle Creek, MI: E. G. Rust, 1869), pp. 103-107; E. H. Pilcher, Protestantism in Michigan  (Detroit, MI: R. D. S. Tyler & Co., 1878), pp. 376-83; Washington Gardner (ed.), History of Calhoun County (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, 1913), pp. 394-414. Later arrivals in Battle Creek were the Reformed Church of America  (1850); the African Methodist Episcopal Church (1850); the Second Baptist Church (Colored) (1859), the Roman Catholic Church (1860), and the Reform Temple (1880) (Van Buren 1881: 356-57; Lowe, 1976, p. 40; Rust, 1869, pp. 106-107).

6 For an overview of the Quaker branches in Michigan during the 19th century, see John Cox, Jr., “The Quakers in Michigan,” Michigan History 29(1945), pp. 512-21.

7 A. D. P. Van Buren, “Pioneer Annals: Containing the History of the Early Settlement of Battle Creek  and Township,” Michigan Pioneer and Historical Collections 5(1884): 237-93, pp. 270-72; Lowe, 1976, 16-17; Gardner, 1913, p. 897; Martin L. Ashley and Frances Thornton, “A Quaker Anti-Slavery Family: The Merritts of Battle Creek,” Heritage Battle Creek 9 (1999): 38-45.

8 Carlisle G. Davidson, “A Profile of Hicksite Quakerism in Michigan, 1830-1860,” Quaker History 59:2  (1970): 106-12, pp. 109-110.

9 Francis M. McCrea, quoted in Martin L. Ashley, “”The Early Quakers of Battle Creek: Followers of the Inner Light,” Heritage Battle Creek 9 (Winter 1999): 31-36, p. 32.

10 Hugh Barbour, et al., Quaker Crosscurrents: Three Hundred Years of Friends in the New York Yearly Meetings (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1995), pp. 132-33; Davidson, 1970, pp. 106-108.

11 See Thomas D. Hamm, The Transformation of American Quakerism: Orthodox Friends, 1800-1907  (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1988).

12 Robert W. Doherty, The Hicksite Separation: a Sociological Analysis of Religious Schism In Early Nineteenth Century America (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1967), pp. 77, 83, 87, 13 Davidson, 1970, pp. 106-12; A. Day Bradley, “Progressive Friends in Michigan and New York.” Quaker History 52:2  (1963): 95-103; Allen C. Thomas, “Congregational or Progressive Friends,” Bulletin of Friends’ Historical Society of Philadelphia 10:1 (November 1920): 21-32.

13 Davidson, 1970, pp. 106-12; A. Day Bradley, “Progressive Friends in Michigan and New York.” Quaker History 52:2  (1963): 95-103; Allen C. Thomas, “Congregational or Progressive Friends,” Bulletin of Friends’ Historical Society of Philadelphia 10:1 (November 1920): 21-32.

14 The dissidents would not mince words when it came to their grievances against the larger body of Quakers. According to a pamphlet published by Kennett Monthly Meeting of Congregational Friends, “A ministry, though under the specious garb of inspiration, which makes the Infinite the author of wars, which divorces religion from practical works of benevolence, directs the weight of its influence so as to co-operate with political demagogues, slaveholders, and rum-sellers, in crushing reformation of the age, is at once infidel to humanity and rank atheism before God” (Quoted in Friends Weekly Intelligencer 8:52 [Seventh-Day, Third Month, 1852], p. 412).

15 The full text of the Basis for Religious Association can be found in Friends Weekly Intelligencer 8:52  (Seventh-Day, Third Month, 1852), pp. 413-15. Bradley (1963, p. 98) claims M’Clintock as sole author of the document, but it was promulgated under the signatures of both M’Clintock and De Garmo at the second Farmington Meeting (Sixth/Seventh-Day, Tenth Month, 1848).

16 See for example Albert J. Wahl, “The Pennsylvania  Yearly  Meeting  of Progressive Friends,” Pennsylvania History, 25:2 (April 1958): 122-36. According to Allen C. Thomas, the overall goals of the Congregational Friends can be summarized as follows: “(1) Freedom of belief or liberty of conscience; (2) Absolute individual freedom of speech  and  action as far as practicable; (3) Congregational meetings with freedom of action in each meeting; (4) Annual meetings with advisory powers only; (5) All meetings open to interested persons whether members or not; (6) No recording Ministers, and the abolition of Meetings of Ministers and Elders; (7) Whole-hearted support of the Anti-Slavery Cause and of the “Abolitionists”; (8) Absolute equality of the sexes, including suffrage; (9) Refraining from the manufacture, sale and use of intoxicating liquors as a beverage; (10) General reformation of the Penal Laws, and abolition of capital punishment” (Thomas, 1920, p. 28. See also Bradley, 1963, pp. 97-98).

17 Thomas, 1920, pp. 22-23, 28-29; Bradley, 1963, p. 101; Davidson, 1970, p. 111.

18 Davidson, 1970, p. 111; another source refers to the “Michigan Yearly Meeting of Congregational Friends” (Cox, 1945, p. 517).

19 Battle Creek Journal (April 25, 1856).

20 In the AAS American Broadsides and Ephemera Collection (Call Number BDSDS. 1858).

21 Proceedings of the Free Convention held at Rutland, Vt., July 25th, 26th, and 27th, 1858 (Boston: J. B. Yerrington and Son, 1858), p. 65-66. For the Rutland Free Convention see Luisa Cetti, “The Radicals and  the Wrongs of Marriage: The Rutland Free Convention of 1858,” Quaderni On-Line (1986)
( 77-94; and Thomas L. Altherr, “A Convention of ‘Moral Lunatics’: The Rutland, Vermont, Free Convention of 1858,” Vermont History 69  (2001): 90-104.

22 Liberator (September 19, 1856), p. 155. Apparently, the Yearly Meeting of Progressive Friends had been convening at Battle Creek at least as early as 1854 (Liberator [September 15, 1854], p. 148).

23 Proceedings of the Pennsylvania Meeting of Progressive Friends 1858 (New York: John Trow, Printer, 1858), pp. 104-105. See The Liberator carried announcements for the meeting in their August 28th and September 18th, 1857 editions.

24 Barbour et al., 1995, p. 105.

25 Russell E. Miller, The Larger Hope: The First Century of the Universalist Church in America, 1770­-1870 (Boston: Unitarian Universalist Association, 1979), p. 708-10. A Universalist Church  was organized in Battle Creek under the direction of Dr. Wm. Sias in the 1840s (Evangelical Magazine and Gospel Advocate [September 1, 1848], p. 278.

26 Averill’s birth date and place can be found in Clara A. Avery (ed.), The Averell-Averill-Avery Family,  Volume I (Cleveland, OH, Press of Evangelical Publishing House, 1914), p. 434; the date of his death is found on his headstone in the Oakhill Cemetery, Battle Creek (Lot 435); Marshall Advisor September 22, 1993, p. 46.

27 Battle Creek Journal (April 25, 1856).

28 Proceedings of the Pennsylvania Meeting of Progressive Friends 1857 (New York: John Trow, Printer, 1857), p. 39; The Liberator (August 28, 1857), p. 139. The other members of the committee were R. B. Merritt, E. C. Manchester, J. Walton, Jr., H. D. G. Fuller, and E. C. Cochran.

29 Edward Whipple, Biography of James M. Peebles (Battle Creek, MI: Published by the Author, 1901), p. 62; Van Buren, 1884, p. 323; Rust, 1869, pp. 105-106.

30 Kit Lane, Lucius Lyon: An Eminently Useful Citizen (Douglas, MI: Pavilion Press, 1991), p. 152; George Field, Memoirs, Incidents and Reminiscences of the Early History of the New Church in Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and Adjacent States; and Canada (New York: AMS Press [1879] 1971), p. 134.

31 Field (1971), pp. 11, 32.

32 The First Annual Meeting was held in  the schoolhouse of Erastus  Hussey; the Fourth Annual Meeting in the Long Room of the Eagle Block in Downtown Battle Creek (Field, 1971, pp. 63-67, 102­104, 122).

33 Martin L. Ashley, “Frances Titus: Sojourner Truth’s ‘Trusted Scribe’,” Heritage Battle Creek, A Journal of Local History 8 (Fall, 1997): 35-43; Van Buren, 1884, p. 323. 34 Van Buren (1884), p. 323.

34 Van Buren (1884), p. 323.

35 Field (1971), pp. 185.

36 For example, “As the Divine Being acts through general laws, using the “Ministry of Angels” and  men in developing his providences, so we believe that through these instrumentalities the race will be purified and ultimately harmonized into an actual brotherhood.” Moreover, Jesus is cited as the “one who obeyed the divine laws in every department of his existence,” and “thus harmonizing his  life and actions with the divine government, [he] solved the mighty problem of uniting the human with the divine.” And finally, marriage is strongly spiritualized: “Duality in Unity, being the divine method by which influxes and incarnations manifest themselves in nature, as negative and positive are the necessary agents in creation and government; so does the male and female in the human family compose the parts of a complete oneness, and find the purest enjoyments in the intertwining of their affectional natures.” All of this smacks of a writer steeped in the writings of Swedenborg.

37 Proceedings of the Pennsylvania Meeting of Progressive Friends 1858, p. 105.

38 Marguerite Block, The New Church in the New World: A Study of Swedenborgianism in America (New York: Octagon Books, [1932] 1968), pp 133-37. See also Brett E. Carroll, Spiritualism in Antebellum America (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1997), pp. 16-43.

39  The Liberator (November 20, 1857).

40 Writing to defend Spiritualism and its influence on anti-slavery activities  were “Justice”  (11/20/1857), Richard Glazier  (12/18/1857)  and Warren Chase (1/8/1858); G. B. Stebbins (10/28/1857), Samuel D. Moore (12/18/1857) and “J. W.” (12/18/1857) wrote letters decrying the influence Spiritualism on the anti-slavery movement in Michigan.

41 Block (1968), pp. 130-43; Ann Lee Bressler, The Universalist Movement in  America, 1770-1880 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), pp. 97-125; Hugh Barbour, et al., (1995), pp. 135-36

42 Field (1879), p. 222.

43 Kalamazoo Gazette,  September 19,  1851; for the details of Harmonia that follow,  see Frances Thornton, “Harmonia: Memories of the Lost Village,” Heritage Battle Creek 4 (Spring 1993): 16-23.

44 Battle Creek Journal, August 29, 1856, quoted in Thornton (1993), p. 18.

45 Thornton, 1993, pp. 20-21. Harmonia Village and the Bedford Harmonial Institute (or Seminary) were a financial drain that eventually ruined the Cornell family. In 1857, Reynolds Cornell was forced to sell his holdings to Quaker Spiritualist Elias Manchester for $1.00 to protect himself from debt  collectors. The Harmonial Institute limped along until finally closing its doors in 1860. The Cornells fled to Nebraska in 1863 to escape their creditors, and by the mid-1860s, Harmonia was largely taken over by Methodists who had “little sympathy with the ideas of the survivors of the dwindling community.” Reynolds Cornell died in Otoe, Nebraska, at the age of 82 in 1876 and Dorcas in 1881 at 85 (Thornton 21; Warner Cemetery Burials to 1907
[]). Most of the Harmonia’s spiritualists had long since moved into Battle Creek. Sojourner Truth had moved into town in 1857, afterwards becoming a permanent guest of the Merritts and supporting herself by selling fruit from Charles Merritt’s farm (Ashley and Thornton [1999], p. 41).

46 History of Calhoun County, Michigan (Philadelphia: L. H. Everts & Co., 1877), pp. 84-85; The Battle Creek Journal reports that James Peebles will begin alternate preaching schedule with J. P. Averill at  the Independent  Church (6/26/1857); Averill appears to have left  the pastorate soon after: he appears on the 1870 Federal Census as “retired merchant [born in Vermont, aged 48; wife Cornelia M. aged 48, from New York; children Ella M. 15 [born Illinois], Harry E., 11, Ida O., 8 [both born in Michigan]. In article on Elias Manchester, it appears Averill was partner in two general stores, Averill & Manchester and Averill, Briggs & Co. (History of Calhoun County, Michigan, p. 100).

47 See Edward Whipple, Biography of James M. Peebles (Battle Creek, MI: Published by the Author, 1901).

48 The “Articles of Association” of the Free Church are a curious mixture of the prosaic and the lofty: “We the undersigned do hereby associate ourselves together, for the purpose of organizing a religious society at the city of Battle Creek, Michigan, by such corporate name as we may adopt at the regular meeting to be hereafter called; and for the purpose of acquiring and holding in our corporate capacity real and personal property, and for using the same for such legitimate purposes as the law authorizes, and for the further purpose of enabling us, as corporators, and our successors, to promote rational freedom, both religious and political, and to enable ourselves and our successors to labor for the moral improvement and elevation of our race, and to promote the best interests of the  divine and spiritual nature of man, both here and hereafter” (History of Calhoun County, Michigan [Philadelphia: L. H. Everts & Co., 1877], pp. 84-85).

49 Parker Pillsbury, for example, seemed to consider the congregation part of this larger movement; see Louis  Filler, “Parker Pillsbury: An Anti-Slavery  Apostle,” The New England Quarterly 19: 3  (September, 1946): 315-37, p. 335. See also Stow Persons, Free Religion: An American Faith (Boston: Beacon Press, 1947).

50 After the Civil War there were active congregations in Adrian, Coldwater, Sturgis, Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor, Jackson, Grand Rapids, Lansing, Detroit, Capac, Charlotte, Port Huron, Saginaw, Grand Ledge and Kalamazoo. According to Spiritualist Warren Chase, “Even Marshall, one of the most bigoted and  superstitious  towns  in our  little State, is  beginning to hold meetings  and circles”  of Spiritualists  (Quoted in Emma Hardinge Britten, Modern American Spiritualism [New York:  Published by the Author, 1870], p. 392).

51 These were the  Illuminati (Detroit), Antoine V. Valentine, publisher  1857; Present Age (Kalamazoo), Dorus M. Fox, editor (1868-1872); Progressive Age (Kalamazoo), Moses Hull, editor  (1864-1865); Hull’s New Monthly Clarion (Decatur), Moses Hull, editor (1864-1865); Our Age (Battle Creek), Lois Waisbrooker, editor (1873-1874); Haslet Park Meeting Bulletin (Haslet Park), 1887-?; Olive Branch (Grand Rapids), 1890; Sower: The Medium’s True Friend (Detroit), 1889-1895. See Ann Braude, “News from the Spirit World: A Checklist of American Spiritualist Periodicals, 1847-1900,” Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society 99 (October 1989): 399-462.

52 Battle Creek Journal (July 6, 1870).

53 In fact the First Spiritualist Society of Battle Creek underwent a schism in 1913 when its pastor, Belle Yost, was dismissed from that post and went to found the rival People’s Spiritualist Church. See The Battle Creek Daily Journal (6/16/1917). The same article mentions that Rev. Anna L. Gillespie of British Columbia was named pastor of the First Spiritualist Society after ouster of Yost.

54 See, for example, Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, [1888) 1950), pp. 551-62. It is interesting to note that, at least as late as 1989, an official catechism of the Church still cited Battle Creek’s early Spiritualist minister, Dr. J. M. Peebles in their refutation of Spiritualism and defense of conditional mortality (Seventh-day Adventists Believe… A Biblical Exposition of 27 Fundamental Doctrines [Hagerstown, MD DC: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1989], p. 229. Spiritualists could give as good as they got: see, for example, the “Autobiographical Sketch of Moses Hull” in Moses Hull and W. F. Jamieson, The Greatest Debate Within Half a Century Upon Modern Spiritualism (Chicago, IL: The Progressive Thinker Publishing House, 1904), pp. 3-12;  Hull was a notorious apostate from Seventh-Day Adventism to Spiritualism.

55 Thornton  (1993), pp. 18-19;  Margaret Washington, Sojourner Truth’s America (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2009), p. 279. After Ellen White began advocating the American Costume in 1865, began a pamphlet on the subject, The Dress Reform (1868), with the declaration, “We are not  Spiritualists” (Numbers [2008], p. 201). Dr. Peebles was also an early proponent of health reform (Whipple [1901], pp. 46, 185-86, 469, 519, 536, 550-51, 588.

56 Letter of Henry C. Wright, The Liberator (September 27, 1861), pp. 31-39; Gardner (1913), p. 206.  See also Henry Willis and C. Euphemia Cochran, “Meeting at St. Mary’s Lake, The Liberator (October 4, 1861), pp. 31, 40/

57 Cleave’s Biographical Cyclopedia of Homeopathic Physicians and Surgeons (Philadelphia, PA: Galaxy Publishing Company, 1873), pp. 154, 169, 291-2, 319, 401-402, 458. One prominent homeopath, Smith Rogers, worked out the shop of Justin P. Averill, one-time minister to the Spiritualist First Independent Church (Lowe [1976], p. 278).

58 Cleave’s (1873), pp. 458-59; Portrait Biographical Album of Calhoun County, Michigan (Chicago: Chapman Brothers, 1891), pp. 346-7.

59 See, for example, the announcement of C. M. Adams, the “christian science mind healer” from Battle Creek in the Kalamazoo Gazette (August 30, 1894), p. 5

60 The best overview of the life and thought of C. W. Post is Peyton Paxson, “Charles William Post: The Mass Marketing of Health and Welfare” (Ph.D. Dissertation, Boston University, 1993), pp. 36-51.

61 John Harvey Kellogg, The Living Temple (Battle Creek, MI: Good Health Publishing Company, 1903). For a brief review of the events of the Pantheism Crisis, see Richard W. Schwarz, “The Perils of Growth 1886-1905” in Gary Land (ed.), Adventism in America: A History, 2nd Edition (Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press, 1998), pp. 86-88; Richard  W. Schwarz, “The Kellogg Schism: The Hidden Issues,” Spectrum 4 (Autumn 1972): 23-39; Norman H. Young, “The Alpha Heresy: Kellogg and the Cross,” Adventist Heritage 12:1 (1987): 33-42.

62 Theistic evolutionism: Land  (1998), p. 238, n. 75.  Spiritualism and Theosophy: Ellen  White, Testimonies to the Church Regarding our Youth Going to Battle Creek Obtain An Education (Battle Creek, MI: 1905), p. 15; and W. A. Spicer, How the Spirit of Prophecy Met a Crisis: Memories and Notes of the ‘Living Temple’ Controversy (1938) ( The New Thought influence is seen in some of Dr. Kellogg’s vocabulary, especially the phrase, “in tune with the infinite,” taken from Ralph Waldo Trine’s New Thought classic, In Tune with the Infinite; or, Fullness of Peace, Power, and Plenty (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell and Company, 1897).

63 Dr. William S. Sadler, editor of the channeled Urantia Papers (see William S. Sadler, “A History of the Urantia Movement” (; Martin Gardner, Urantia: The Great Cult Mystery [Amherst, NY: Prometheus  Books, 1995];  Tell J. Berggren, the Swedish exercise therapist at the Battle Creek Sanitarium who early became an ardent theosophist (see his Solar Therapy and Corrective Physical Education [Los Angeles, CA: Central Press, 1932]); and Jacob Beilhart, who later became associated with C. W. Post’s La Vita Inn and after founded the Spirit Fruit Society, a new religious group combining New Thought with Theosophy (see H. Roger Grant, Spirit Fruit: A Gentle Utopia [Dekalb, IL: Northern Illinois University Press, 1988).

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