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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

The Passing Through Of The Pilgrims

Contributor:
Dallas Bogan on 29 July 2004
Source:
Dallas Bogan, Warren County, Ohio and Beyond (Bowie Maryland: Heritage Press, 1979) page 100

A radical sect of religious extremists, organized about 1817, passed through Warren County, their projectory extending from the Eastern States to the vicinity of Arkansas. Their leader and Prophet, Isaac Buller, was a native of the New England States. Mr. Buller had a spine injury, which was caused from the effects of a fall, which in turn caused partial paralysis. He was confined to bed for many months because of the painful effect. His devout neighbors had repeatedly met in his room and had prayer concerning his recovery. During one of these episodes, he immediately stated his pain was gone and he was restored to complete health. With absolute pain-free insistence, he was now able to walk with two canes.
An announcement was made that the Lord had healed him, and made him His Prophet. Many of the prayerful had believed this act was the intercession of Providence. The new Prophet, now pain-free, told his flock that through the intervention of the Lord, he would lead them to the Promised Land.
This new religion was embraced not only by the common folk, but also by the wealthy, and people of high social standing. The Prophet positioned his cane in an upright position and let it fall. This was a sign of the path the new sect would take. The cane always fell in a southwest direction.
Loading of wagons, teams, a minimal supply of clothes, beds, food and cooking contrivance was for their journey. First, they made their way from New England to New York, and, a year later, they reached Lebanon, Ohio. Their journey was full of revelations by the Prophet, presumably from the Lord, directing the followers to change their way of habit of dress and manner of life. Bathing was outlawed as was washing their clothes. No allowances were made concerning excessive material objects. Their clothing was very minimal, only enough to keep away the cold. The only meat allowed was raw bacon. "Filth, rags and wretchedness" were a need for them to reach the Promised Land.
Their arrival in Warren County was a despicable sight. Some of the more intelligent members of the band had quite readily figured Prophet Buller for an impostor. They in turn returned to New England, or picked out spots along their route to make their homes. The remainder, who stayed in Lebanon, held public gatherings for worship. At these meetings, the Prophet and other speakers warned the people to avoid all pride and everything worldly in dress and food. The speakers at the meetings would utter these words: "Oh-a, Ho-a, Oh-a, Ho-a - My God, My God, My God!" The congregation would in turn repeat the words.
The Prophet and his people traveled from Lebanon to Union Village and remained several days. The Shakers remarked in their notes that the first time they heard of the clan was at Xenia. Two of the Shakers ventured to see them on the 19th of February 1818.
The Pilgrims, on the tenth of March, being only fifty-five in number, reached Union Village. The brethren kindly received them and fed them and their horses. A meeting was called at the church; it was held by five of the Pilgrims of which three men and two women preached. After the preaching the strange clan quickly withdrew.
They had been assigned a single room by the Shakers, in which to lodge, and sent some of their preachers to speak to them, but to no avail, the leaders of the Pilgrims shunned them. The next day, their gratitude was expressed and they set out again for the Promised Land.
Mason was next in line for the visitation of the sect. While in this neighborhood, the smallpox broke out and caused many deaths among them. Still following the direction of the falling cane, they arrived in New Madrid, Mo., where the Prophet became ill and died. Before his death, he promised to return to them in two years, and for them to continue their journey.
The frail band at last found the Promised Land, which was located on the west bank of the Mississippi, not far from the mouth of the Arkansas River. In 1824, Hon. John Hunt traveled to New Orleans in a flatboat, accompanied by two other flatboats along with their crews. They stopped at the mouth of the Arkansas to inquire about the fate of the Pilgrims. The Promised Land consisted of a narrow ridge of dry land, almost surrounded by a swamp, a most decrepit place for habitation.
The remainder of Buller's clan consisted of two ladies living in a wretched tent, made with forks and poles, reed cane and bark. They were neatly dressed and spoke with a very intelligent keenness; still they claimed the reverence of the Prophet's religion.
Mr. Hunt offered a sum of money for their transportation by steamboat to Cincinnati, but they thanked him and refused his service. Mr. Hunt, during a later trip down the Mississippi, learned that one of the ladies had died and the destiny of the other was unknown.


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This page created 29 July 2004 and last updated 28 September, 2008
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