Union Village: The Shaker Community of Warren County, Ohio

Sign marking the location of the Union Village Shaker community, near where the Morris family made its home in Warren County, Ohio in the early 1800s (front), photo credit: Arne H. Trelvik; taken 4 Aug 2004

Sign marking the location of the Union Village Shaker community, near where the Morris and Spinning families made their home in Warren County, Ohio in the early 1800s, photo credit: Arne H. Trelvik; taken 4 Aug 2004

My 4th g-grand uncle, David Spinning (1779-1841) became a Shaker convert and joined the Shaker community at Union Village, Turtle Creek Township (near Lebanon), Warren County, Ohio before 1812. At one time, Union Village was one of the largest communities of Shakers in the United States. By 1830, David Spinning was “First Elder” of the Gathering Order on the North Family Lot, where he lived until 1832.

Lynley Dunham, Archivist & Assistant Curator of the Warren County (Ohio) Historical Society (WCHS), wrote an article entitled “A Short Sketch of the Life of David Spinning”, which appeared in the Spring 2014 edition of The HistoricaLog (the newsletter of the WCHS):

 

By Linley Dunham:

In 1861, twenty years after his death, Richard W. Pelham described his old friend David Spinning as “the best man I have ever known.” It was at this time that Pelham transcribed his friend’s Life Sketch, written by Spinning in the four months preceding his death. This memoir offers a rare and honest glimpse into life on the Ohio frontier and the first decades of Union Village.

David Spinning was born on August 30, 1779 in New Jersey to Mathias and Hannah (Haines) Spinning [my 5th maternal g-grandparents]. In 1790 the family left the relative comforts of the east for the wilderness of the Northwest Territory, settling first close to modern day Cincinnati. The Spinning’s eventually settled on the Little Miami River and later near what would become Union Village. David was privileged to earn an education. Beers History of Warren County notes that he taught school under Francis Dunlavy. By the time of his conversion to Shakerism, Spinning had a wife, children, and a farm to support. He only briefly mentions his family in the entirety of his autobiography. Records show that David Spinning, brother Stephen, and their wives and children were among the first converts at Union Village. Family sources note that Spinning was disinherited by his father because of his conversion. It is clear that once Spinning joined the Shakers, he was wholeheartedly devoted to his faith.

David Spinning’s Life Sketch, written from August 30 to November 11, 1841, is 29 pages long. It includes two pages of poignant reminiscences and a poem written for Spinning’s funeral by Richard Pelham. Much of the narrative concerns Spinning’s spirituality, a subject he pondered seriously from childhood. He was ill and barely able to speak during the period he wrote the memoir. He used this opportunity to reflect on his life and spiritual beliefs.

Shakers used dancing as part of their religious ritual. They did not follow set figures as did dancers of more mainstream dances but rather freely engaged in several distinctive moves, such as whirling and marching. The Shakers would whirl rapidly, propelling themselves in circles by having one foot continually stepping around the other. Much of the time the whirling would continue for ten or fifteen minutes, though it was known in some instances to have lasted for up to forty-minutes. The Shakers believed that in order to obtain religious revelation one had to labor; part of this endeavor involved writhing and twirling of the body. Though seemingly eccentric, this ritual was a key part of Shaker religious culture.

Shakers used dancing as part of their religious ritual. They did not follow set figures as did dancers of more mainstream dances but rather freely engaged in several distinctive moves, such as whirling and marching. The Shakers would whirl rapidly, propelling themselves in circles by having one foot continually stepping around the other. Much of the time the whirling would continue for ten or fifteen minutes, though it was known in some instances to have lasted for up to forty-minutes. The Shakers believed that in order to obtain religious revelation one had to labor; part of this endeavor involved writhing and twirling of the body. Though seemingly eccentric, this ritual was a key part of Shaker religious culture.

Another major concern throughout the dialogue is diet. Spinning adhered to the Graham Diet, much to the concern of those around him. He also gave up excess in food, including coffee, butter, pie and other foods that were wasteful in preparation time or ingredients, because such waste went against the teachings of Mother Ann Lee. He struggled with his decision to give up the food he loved, especially pie and butter. Spinning compared giving up buttered potatoes to “plucking out a right eye.” But in the end he determined that these sacrifices were right, and of little discomfort because ultimately it was “wrong to waste the least thing” and anything that can be spared should go to the poor.

Spinning’s recollection offers a source of reference to many of his Warren County and Shaker contemporaries. He mentions Francis Dunlavy and the Beedle/Beadle family, notable pioneers of the county. Spinning’s wife is named as “Louise Budle” in some records, but she was possibly from the Beadle family. He makes several references to Richard McNemar and the early days of the Shakers of Union Village. He blames notorious Shaker thief Nathan Sharp for contributing to his medical ailments: “His tyrannical and oppressive dealings with young believers became a source of frequent and ultimately almost constant distress.” He credits fellow Shaker Freegift Wells for providing him with the reading materials that led him to the Graham Diet. Spinning mentions various Shakers with whom he associated while living at Union Village and North Union. His work can be cited as a reference for early life in Ohio and the founding of Union Village.

David Spinning died from consumption “in great peace without a struggle or groan, on the 22nd of December, 1841,” according to Richard Pelham. The last weeks of his life were spent encouraging younger Shakers to stay true to their faith. As his health slowly faded, his convictions remained strong. Pelham remained his “constant companion” during this period.

November 11th

I am very far reduced, and I have a feeling to write and to testify that I am more and more confirmed in the doctrine taught and lived by Jesus and Mother; “Save all, that you may have to give to them that need — If you have but little to spare give it to the poor… And furthermore I believe that if anyone from a sincere desire to do God’s will as manifested through Jesus and Mother become a doer of this heavenly principle, will find it to be a greater means of humbling his heart and subduing his selfish nature, so that his soul may be prepared to receive the Love of God and his neighbor than by all burnt offerings and sacrifices; by all music and dancing; by all prayers and fastings, and by all outward forms and ceremonies. I leave this as my last testimony of what believe.

David Spinning

The last known whereabouts of the original were with the Ohio State Archaeology and Historical Society in 1941, when a copy was made for the Dayton Public Library. WCHS received a copy of the transcribed Dayton Library copy from researcher Tor Hylbom, whom we graciously thank. This copy is available for view in our library Tuesday through Friday 10-4, and Saturdays from 10-5.

[Pelham, Richard W. (ed.). A Short Sketch of the Life of David Spinning, written by himself, August 30 – November 11, 1841 and A Sketch of the Life and Religious Experience of Richard W. Pelham, written by himself, 1862. Typescript of the original manuscript notebook (in Pelham’s handwriting) in the collection of the Ohio State Archeological & Historical Society, borrowed and copied by Dayton (Ohio) Public Library, November 1944.]

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Happy Juneteenth (Freedom Day)!

Ashton Villa in Galveston, Texas, from whose front balcony General Order #3 was read on 19 Jun 1865

Ashton Villa in Galveston, Texas, from whose front balcony General Order #3 was read on 19 Jun 1865

Today is the 150th anniversary of the abolition of slavery in the USA. The occasion is marked in many places by the holiday known as Juneteenth, or Freedom Day. The Emancipation Proclamation of President Abraham Lincoln was issued 22 Sep 1862 with an effective date of 1 Jan 1863. It declared all slaves to be freed in the Confederate States of America in rebellion and not in Union hands. Ironically, this excluded from emancipation many slaves in parts of Tennessee, Virginia and Louisiana occupied by the Union armies, as well as slaves in Kentucky, Delaware, Maryland and Missouri, whose states were not in rebellion.

Juneteenth, a combination of “June” and “nineteenth”, was first celebrated on 19 Jun 1865 (following the end of the Civil War and almost 3 years after the Proclamation), when the slaves of Galveston, Texas formally learned they were free. On that day, General Order #3 was read at Galveston from the front balcony of Ashton Villa. There had been other emancipation days throughout the United States since Lincoln’s proclamation. but Juneteenth was the culminating moment when all American slaves were finally given their freedom. For the first time in American history, black people were legally considered equal to white. They were legally afforded all the rights that their former slave owners enjoyed – the right to marry, the right to own property, the right to assemble and worship. And yet today’s celebration 150 years later holds a bittersweet quality, especially following by only a couple of days, the assassination of nine African Americans in the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. We are reminded by this and by so many other daily observations, that ongoing racism still plagues America.

 

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150 Years Ago Today: General Lee surrenders to General Grant at Appomattox Court House

Ulysses S. Grant commanded the Union Armies to victory over the Confederacy in the American Civil War. Robert E. Lee commanded the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia from 1862 until his surrender in 1865.

Ulysses S. Grant commanded the Union Armies to victory over the Confederacy in the American Civil War. Robert E. Lee commanded the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia from 1862 until his surrender in 1865.

Through my paternal grandmother, Elizabeth Gunnell Hamlin (Hylbom), I am cousin to the commanders of both the Union and Confederate armies in the American Civil War of 1861-65.   I am also a cousin to the Union Generals, George B. McClellan and William Tecumseh Sherman (on my mother’s side):

 

confederate-flagOn the Confederate side:

My paternal 10th g-grandfather, Richard Henry Lee (1617-1664) is the 3rd g-grandfather of Gen. Robert E. Lee, making the General my 4th cousin 7x removed.

 

union-soldier-with-flagOn the Union side:

My paternal 9th g-grandfather, Thomas Minor (1608-1690) is the paternal 5th g-grandfather of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, making the General my 6th cousin 4x removed.

My paternal 11th g-grandfather, George Allen (1568-1648) is the paternal 6th g-grandfather of Gen. George B. McClellan, making the General my 7th cousin 5x removed.

My maternal 10th g-grandfather, Matthias (Matthew) St. John (Sension) (1604-1669) is the maternal 5th g-grandfather of Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, making the General my 6th cousin 5x removed.

 

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Remarks by President Obama at the 50th Anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery Marches (7 Mar 2015)

Edmund Pettus Bridge, Selma, Alabama, 7 Mar 2015     2:17 P.M. CST AUDIENCE MEMBER: We love you, President Obama! THE PRESIDENT: Well, you know I love you back. (Applause.) It is a rare honor in this life to follow one of your heroes. And John Lewis is one of my heroes. Now, I have to imagine that when a younger John […]

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Cogswell Henry Daniel

Henry Daniel Cogswell (1820–1900), 4th cousin 5x removed Dr. Henry Daniel Cogswell was an American dentist and a crusader in the temperance movement.  He and his wife Caroline also founded Cogswell College in San Francisco, California.  Another campus in Everett, Washington was later dedicated in his honor. Henry D. Cogswell was born in Tolland, Connecticut.  As a youth, he worked in the […]

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On Martin Luther King Day: Thoughts on Robert E. Lee, my cousin in more ways than one

“It is well that war is so terrible, or we should grow too fond of it.”

— General Robert E. Lee, at the battle of Fredericksburg, 13 Dec 1862

General Robert E. Lee, commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, the most successful of the Southern armies during the American Civil War (1861-65)

General Robert E. Lee, commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, the most successful of the Southern armies during the American Civil War (1861-65)

Today, the nation observes a holiday to remember the contributions of Martin Luther King.  It is also the birthday of Robert E. Lee (in 1807), which has been and still is observed officially in some states and remembered by many across the country.  There is an uncomfortable tension that arises from the proximity on the calendar, and the way the holidays are understood so differently by different people and in different places.  If there is a cautionary lesson to be drawn from the coincidence, it may have something to do with how even a man like Lee, with honorable intentions and superior intellect, can land so decisively on the wrong side of history.

Few figures in American history are more divisive, contradictory or elusive than Robert E. Lee, the reluctant, tragic leader of the Confederate Army.  Times change, and as history unfolds, those who make history are not always judged not by the standards of the world they lived in, but by the standards of the world as it forms in their wake.  At the heart of Lee’s story is one of the monumental choices in American history: revered for his honor, Lee quit the U.S. Army to defend Virginia and fight for the Confederacy.  “If Virginia stands by the old Union,” Lee told a friend, “so will I, but if she secedes, then I will follow my native State with my sword, and, if need be, with my life.”  The decision was honorable by his standards of honor — which, whatever we may think of them, were neither self-serving nor complicated.  The North viewed Southern secession as an act of aggression, to be countered accordingly.  When Lincoln called on the loyal states (including Virginia) for troops to invade the states of the Deep South, Southerners saw the issue as defense not primarily of slavery but of homeland.  A Virginia convention that had voted 2 to 1 against secession, now voted 2 to 1 in favor, and the die was cast.

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, delivered on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., 28 Aug 1963, is among the most acclaimed in U.S. history. His soaring close “to let freedom ring” still resonates today and inspires those who are moved by his dream.

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, delivered on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., 28 Aug 1963, is among the most acclaimed in U.S. history. His soaring close “to let freedom ring” still resonates today and inspires those who are moved by his dream.

The contradictions posed by King and Lee are emblematic of the divisions that continue to animate our national life 150 years after the Civil War’s end.  The divisions are etched into the DNA of the very different English societies that were founded in Virginia and New England more than 400 years ago, and which grew to encompass a continent.  The foundations of the Republic are aspirational and idealistic (the Declaration of Independence), but deeply rooted in the compromises necessary to ensure unity (the Constitution).  As such, American history is always a story of “becoming” — approaching ever more closely the promise of liberty and equality, but always falling short.  If Lee was a man who could not change and accommodate to a world that was changing rapidly around him, Martin Luther King was an agent of change for those who were left out of the nation’s founding vision.  This is “the Dream” that King shared before a crowd of thousands at the Lincoln Memorial in the “March on Washington” of August 1963.  King’s words communicated a powerful message of hope for those left behind by unfulfilled promises (those he called “the veterans of creative suffering”).  But it also spoke to the hesitant majority, clinging to the status quo or the comfort of gradualism, with “the urgency of Now”.  In doing so, he offered the Nation a liberating possibility: to “rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed”.

Many who embrace King’s vision have trouble with the “old values” represented by Lee.  However, both men gave their utmost to the cause of right as they saw right, putting duty, service and faith above all else.  Lee’s decision to quit the U.S. Army and serve in the Army of Northern Virginia during the Civil War came with great personal sacrifice — federal troops crossed the Potomac and took possession of his 1,100-acre estate shortly after Virginia seceded from the Union.  The estate is today the site of Arlington National Cemetery, perhaps the saddest place in America, although it provides inspiration and hope.  More than 300,000 tombstones and memorials stand in the green rolling hillsides of Arlington.  Many of their inscriptions testify to young lives cut short by war.  At a time when there’s so much talk of terrorism and other outside threats to American values, it’s easy to forget that the greatest losses were not inflicted by the “enemies” of America, but by Americans upon each other, who disagreed on the path forward.

For more information on Gen. Robert E. Lee (1807-1870) and how I am related to him, click — > HERE.

Robert E. Lee is the 3rd great grandson of my ancestor, Richard Lee (1617-1664).  Richard Lee “the Immigrant” was born in England and arrived at Jamestown, Virginia in 1639.  For more information on the family line of Richard Lee, click — > HERE.

King’s speech wasn’t long, but it was memorable and powerful.  Follow the link —> to my “I Have A Dream” page to see, hear & read the speech in various formats.

Arlington House is the mansion on the former estate of Robert E. Lee, which is now the site of Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, a few miles from the U.S. Capital.

Arlington House is the mansion on the former estate of Robert E. Lee, which is now the site of Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, a few miles from the U.S. Capital.

 

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Alden House Historic Site – Duxbury, Massachusetts

This short history of the Alden property was written by Curator James W. Baker, and is a revised version of that was published in Alden House History: A Work in Progress (Duxbury, 2006). It appears on the website of the Alden House Historic Site. The original link is — > HERE.   The events associated with the Mayflower voyage and […]

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Allen Thomson Gunnell

From: Portrait and Biographical Record of the State of Colorado, 1899 HON. ALLEN T. GUNNELL. The services which in the past Judge Gunnell has rendered the people of El Paso County and Colorado entitle him to rank among the prominent public men of his county and state.  From the time of his arrival in Colorado to the present he has […]

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Riggs #7440

Edward Riggs (1589-1672) Born in Roydon, Essex, England.  Arrived in Massachusetts in 1633 and later settled in Milford, Connecticut and Newark, New Jersey and Elizabeth Holmes (1595-1635) Born in Nazeing, Essex, England.  Arrived in Massachusetts in 1633 and died in 1635.   English Origins: Researchers have done a significant amount of work to identify the English family of my immigrant ancestor […]

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Bryant William Cullen

William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878), 5th cousin 5x removed William Cullen Bryant was an American romantic poet, journalist, and long-time editor of the New York Evening Post. Bryant developed an interest in poetry early in life. Under his father’s tutelage, he emulated Alexander Pope and other Neo-Classic British poets.  “The Embargo”, a savage attack on President Thomas Jefferson published in 1808, reflected […]

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Colorado Labor Wars & the Explosion at Independence Depot: 110 Years Ago Today

Men stand on the tracks surveying the damaged Independence Depot building after a bomb exploded, killing 13 non-union miners in Victor, Colorado, 6 Jun 1906 (photo by Schedin & Lehman, from Special Collections, Pikes Peak Library District)

Men stand on the tracks surveying the damaged Independence Depot building after a bomb exploded, killing 13 non-union miners in Victor, Colorado, 6 Jun 1906 (photo by Schedin & Lehman, from Special Collections, Pikes Peak Library District)

Today is the 110th anniversary of the explosion at the Independence Depot near Victor, Colorado, a turning point in the struggle known as the “Colorado Labor Wars” of the early 20th century.  Many scholars who have studied American labor history have concluded that there is no episode in which violence was as systematically used by employers as in the Colorado labor war of 1903 and 1904.   My great-grandfather, Clarence C. Hamlin, was a key leader representing the interests of the mine owners against the demands of the workers – the WRONG side of history, in my opinion – although there was disgraceful behavior on all sides of the controversies.  Of course, the facts remain in dispute down to the present day.

The “Labor Wars” had origins in the Cripple Creek and Leadville strikes of 1894-96 and even earlier, but the spiral of violence that culminated in the Independence Depot explosion began in 1903 when smelter workers in Colorado City went on strike over the crucial issue of the eight-hour work day.  The response of the mine owners was brutal and heavy-handed, and the mining interests were backed politically by the Republican Party of Colorado and militarily by the Colorado National Guard, which was essentially a private militia financed by the mining interests.  Violence on both sides intensified over the course of several months, culminating in an explosion at Independence Depot on 6 Jun 1904, that killed 13 strikebreakers.  The culprits behind the explosion were not brought to account, and remain unknown.  In the aftermath of the explosion, much ugliness ensued, and the situation became very volatile, with throngs of angry men gathered in the streets in Cripple Creek.  The Cripple Creek Mine Owners’ Association (MOA) and an anti-union vigilante organization, the Cripple Creek District Citizens’ Alliance (CA), called a meeting at the Victor Military Club to formulate a response to the violence.  A short time later, Sheriff H. M. Robertson, whom the MOA deemed too tolerant of the union, was confronted and ordered to resign immediately or be lynched.  Robertson was replaced with Edward Bell, a member of both the MOA and the CA.

In a hostile environment ripe for provocation, the MOA and the CA called a public meeting in a vacant lot across from the Western Federation of Miners (WFM) union hall in Victor.  In her book All That Glitters, Elizabeth Jameson describes how my g-grandfather, Clarence C. Hamlin, delivered a passionate speech under fire from union sharpshooters on nearby buildings, blaming the WFM for the Independence Depot explosion and demanding that the union be destroyed.  “The badge of the Western Federation of Miners is a badge of murder,” he declared, “and everyone who is responsible for the outrage at Independence should be driven from the district.”  Alfred Miller, a union miner carrying a rifle, spoke up to challenge Hamlin. Miller was standing next to his brother Christopher, who had, incidentally, earlier been deputized by Sheriff Robertson and assigned to guard evidence at the explosion site and then been relieved of his responsibility along with Robertson.  Fearing trouble, Chris Miller tried to take his brother’s gun, but his action was misinterpreted as a hostile gesture.  In the ensuing riot, two men were killed, five more were shot.  Around fifty union miners fled and took refuge in their union hall across the street.  The Colorado National Guard surrounded the hall and laid siege, firing into the building from nearby rooftops.  Forty union members eventually surrendered, with four of them sporting fresh wounds.  The CA entered the building and trashed it.  Vigilantes subsequently destroyed every union hall in the area.  This was followed by martial law enforced by the state militia, the absolute rule of a military dictator, imprisonment, the exile of guilty as well as innocent men by force, and the crushing of organized labor.

Clarence Clark Hamlin (1868-1940). My g-grandfather was an official of the Cripple Creek Mine Owners Association during the labor-management showdown in the Colorado gold fields in the early 20th century.

Clarence Clark Hamlin (1868-1940). My g-grandfather was an official of the Cripple Creek Mine Owners Association during the labor-management showdown in the Colorado gold fields in the early 20th century.

On the morning of 7 Jun 1904, Clarence Hamlin announced the employers’ plan to deport union miners from Colorado.  The CA set up kangaroo courts and deported 38 union members.  In the weeks that followed, unionism was scoured from the Cripple Creek mining district.  Deportation procedures were approved by Gen. Sherman Bell, who had been sent to the district by Republican Governor James Peabody to deal with the civil unrest.  Peabody saw the WFM as a threat to his own class interests, to private property, to democratic institutions, and to the nation itself.  He had promised in his inaugural address to make Colorado safe for investments, if necessary using all the power of the state to accomplish his aims. General Bell converted the examining committee into a “military commission,” which tried 1,569 union prisoners.  More than 230 were judged guilty – meaning they refused to renounce the union – and were loaded onto special trains and dumped across the state line.  For all practical purposes, in a matter of days the Western Federation of Miners had been destroyed in Colorado’s mining camps. The National Guard stopped all work at the remaining union mines, where miners were arrested at shift change and deported.  The owner of the Portland mine filed lawsuits to challenge the mine closing, but he was stopped by stockholders who preferred a non-union mine.

General Bell then ordered that all aid to families left behind by the deported miners had to be channeled through the National Guard.  By such means he hoped to starve them out, insuring that the miners would have no reason to return to the district.  Members of the Women’s Auxiliary who distributed food in secret were arrested, taken to the bullpen and intimidated, although they were not held.  Over the coming weeks other incidents of intimidation, gunfire, beatings, and expulsion erased every visible trace of unionism in the district.

Clarence C. Hamlin, the secretary of the MOA who delivered the speech that may have incited the riot on 6 Jun 1904, would later be elected District Attorney, and when court cases were brought against mine owners, mine managers, mill owners, bankers, deputy sheriffs, and other members of the CA for deporting the union men, and for beatings and destruction, Hamlin refused to prosecute any of the cases.

A Telluride merchant, Harry Floaten, had been deported for his union sympathies.  He, along with others, tried for three days to meet with Governor Peabody about their treatment at the hands of an anti-union mob, but Peabody refused to see them.  Floaten supposedly penned the following bitter parody (to the tune of “My County ‘tis of Thee”) that channeled the miners’ frustrations:

Colorado, it is of thee / Dark land of tyranny/ Of thee I sing: / Land wherein labor’s bled / Land from which law has fled / Bow down thy mournful head / Capital is king.

 

Famous Western Federation of Miners poster entitled "Is Colorado in America?"

Famous Western Federation of Miners poster entitled “Is Colorado in America?”

 

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