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Mormonism in Vermont – From the 1831 Burlington Sentinel

(The following is a news account of some supposed early Mormon activities and their result in Vermont.)

Mr. John Stewart of Bakersfield, put an end to his existence May 19th, by hanging himself on a tree. The cause of this dreadful deed was the following —

About ten years ago, a man by the name of Davidson came into this vicinity, pretending to be endowed with the Holy Spirit, and to be inspired of God to prophesy of things to come. He is a disciple, he tells us, of Dilks, who has figured in the state of Ohio for three or four years past. Davidson pretends that Dilks has almighty power, and is God himself. He has gained quite a number of proselytes in the towns of Bakersfield, Fairfax, and Fairfield. He wears his hair long, and pretends to a great deal of piety. He preaches that Jesus Christ is a woman, and quite inferior to Dilks; that the millennium is to take place in 1832 — Philadelphia is the place designated where Dilks is to assemble his followers and then the rest of mankind are to be swept away from the face of the earth, and Dilks and his followers are to inherit their possessions.

This Davidson has got about thirty disciples in the east part of Fairfield and in the west part of Bakersfield. They meet together every Sabbath and carry on in a manner most shocking to human feelings. They roll naked on the floor, both men and women, and commit other sins too revolting to be mentioned. But this is but a faint picture of their shameful conduct. Modesty forbids that I should utter the whole. A few days since they pretended to crucify a woman, and put her into a box and began to pray over her, in order to raise her from the dead; but being wearied with lying shut up in a close box, she finally came forth with her own accord before they intended.

That have a woman among them by the name of Thompson, who pretends now that she is Jesus Christ, and baptizes Davidson’s followers. She sprinkles them, in the first place, with flour. The rest of the ceremony I will omit, for modesty’s sake. She performs her baptism, however, in the name of the Holy Trinity. A man who once represented the town of Fairfax in our General Assembly, I understand, was baptized by this woman at the house of a man by the name of Gardner, in Fairfield. Gardner’s house is the place of their resort.

The man who hanged himself was threatened by Mrs. Thompson that unless he immediately obeyed her commands he should be sent forthwith to hell-fire. She had made him swear by the living God, on his knees, that he would be true to the prophet Davidson and his people, and do whatever he was required to by him or herself. She then required of him things too horrid and indecent to be named. The poor, simple man, went to his home and put a period to his life.

It is thought by many judicious persons that Randall of Franklin, who murdered his family a short time since, was deluded into that atrocious act by believing Davidson’s doctrine. He was one of the disciples, in part, at least.

There is another man among them that is beginning to be crazy. I believe the whole of it is the work of the evil one, and that Davidson goes about and preaches only for the sake of doing all the harm he can to religion.

Immediately after Stewart hanged himself, several men agreed to tar and feather Davidson. One of the men, with several lads, went to Gardner’s with their apparatus for tarring, and found Davidson delivering a lecture. They waited awhile for others to help them; but no one came: the man entered the room and dragged out Davidson, and the boys applied the tar. The others undertook to rescue Davidson, but shared the same fate. The tar was faithfully applied to their pates, in turn. A man from Colchester fled the chamber, but was pursued to his retreat, and was spared by being very penitent, and promising that he would not be seen in Fairfield again.

I have just been conversing with a gentleman of undoubted veracity, who informs me that he has been present, and saw with his own eyes a man get down and kiss the floor at the command of Mrs. Thompson, and says that this is but a faint picture, that I have given above, of the base conduct of Davidson and his followers. Fairfield, June 3, 1831