Chapter 22


IT WAS during this winter of 1846-7, while Complex Marriage was heing extended in strict confidence through the cirde of Perfectionists at Putney, that Noyes, availing himself of what he thought a providential opportunity, revealed the facts to a small number of selected Perfectionists abroad


Syracuse, New York, November 12, 1846.

Dear Brother Noyes:
For some time past I have been thinking of writing to you about things in this place. There seems for the first time to be a breaking of ground in Syracuse on the subject of holiness.

I wish you were here. I think it would be a profitable visit to you to come and remain with us for some time; and think if you could remove your press to this place it would do better.

I have had the former conduct of Gatesites to contend with, hut think its influence is destroyed. E- S- alone has to answer for this. His name is stench in this community as a religionist. Brother Wilder has been with us a few days, and would have been glad to speak to us in public; but 1 thought he was not the man, and as things here are now right we want to keep them so. If you will call and see us, I think a foundation can be laid that will tell in future ages. My course has been shielded, perhaps too much so, but I have not suffered so many things in vain.


I commend the course you have taken thus far, and can see the cause of holiness standing clear from all the fogs with which it would have been encumbered, had you not pursued the straight-ahead, determined course you have done. I say these things not by way of flattery, but because it is due to you to say thus much; and may the Lord in his goodness spare you many years to behold the glorious results of your untiring efforts.

Brothers Foot, Hatch and others have formed a sort of organization. What it will amount to I do not know, but hope for the best.

And now in conclusion will only say, that we want very much to see Brother Noyes. We do not wish to be left to the mercies of neophytes. Send us an experienced workman, one that needeth not be ashamed.

Your Brother,

P. S. My love to Cragin, your brother and others. Let us hear from you.



On reaching Syracuse we sought out Brother Cook, and were soon established at his house. And here at the outset I will answer the question, "What do you think of Brother Cook?" I think well of him; much better than I expected to.

He was one of the foremost in the fiery Perfectionism of 1834-5, but I think he steered through the perils of that time more skilfully than many. He escaped licentiousness, and manifested a spirit of discrimination and vigorous severity in the case of F- S- , which pleased me at the time and which has evidently prepared him to appreciate my dealings


with Boyle and others. He has been reduced to order and sobriety by seeing the results of wild-fire, and probably also by being brought under the discipline of regular business. He is restive under the restraints of his situation, but I told him that I thought he was in the best place for his temperament. God can take care of him better where he is than in a life of wandering and excitement. He is a man of good talents; has the true western fire. He reminds me continually of Chauncey Dutton. He has as much imagination and power, and more judgment. He is frank, independent, lively, generous, a good sociable fellow. He improves by acquaintance. His talent for business is certainly wonderful. Many times I wished Brother Miller were with me. I think there will be a great sympathy between them.

The next day after our arrival Cook took us to Salina to see the salt springs and works, and on our way introduced us to "Mother Campbell," a fat, ignorant old woman, who has some reputation among Perfectionists in that region. I was forced somewhat reluctantly to resist her dogmatical testimony about "seeing no evil," and she took fire immediately. Thereupon 1 lashed her severely and left her in a very sore state. Brother Cook was somewhat tried by this affair, but soon came to the conclusion that I did the right thing. On the way back we called on Mrs. Waggoner, a sister of Cook's wife, and had a good talk.

In the afternoon Mary Mabie, another sister of Cook's wife, called upon us. I became acquainted with her in the city of New York in 1837, and was glad to meet her again. We talked over old times with great zest, and had a hearty laugh at Jarvis Rider's broad-brimmed hat. Mary is a lovely girl and faithful, I think, to the gospel. She gave up work and devoted her time to tis during otir whole visit at Syracuse.

The events of the remainder of this week, though interest


ing and profitable, were not prominent enough to deserve a particular narration. 1 shall dispose of them summarily. We spent one day at Mrs. Waggoner's. 1 had much conversation with the three sisters and with Cook's mother. My endeavor was to elevate their views of true holiness, to commend love, and make theni jealous and discriminating in respect to fellowship. I gave them a portraiture of our society at Putney which charmed them exceedingly. Mrs. Cook was brought to a crisis of conviction and a new experience which will be a great benefit to her. Her husband told me that she had assumed a new character under my influence. .

I had several long conversations with Cook. Sometimes we sat talking till past midnight. As we became acquainted I opened my heart to him till at last he clcarly saw my entire p0sition. He met the disclosure with the utmost cordiality. His mind and heart expanded as rapidly and visibly as Buruham's did when we opened his eyes. I convinced him that my ambition was not selfish. He was prepared by his relationship with Hiram Sheldon (who by the way was formerly his oracle) to accept and appreciate many things which I supposed would find no favor in New York. Hiram Sheldon was really in many things a wiser man than I have given him credit for. He foretold to Cook that God would set a leader over Perfectionists. To almost everything I said Cook would respond, "That is just like Hiram Sheldon"' He seemed to have found in me his old champion, as I found in him my old friend Dutton.

One evening Charles Jones of Dernyter called. Our words with him were few and cool. He said that Alexander Wilder was staying at his house. 1 asked if Wilder preached. Jones said, "No, he does not presume to;" and added, "To tell the truth, I do not think he is qualified." This is one of Wilder's best friends. Jones attempted no discussion with me, but told Cook in the street that he himself and I and all would have


to "come down." He cautioned Cook against embarking in any organization "auxiliary to Putney."

We attended Miner's prayer meeting one evening, but heard only a discussion of church business. We also attended a theater one evening, much to the amusement of Brother Buruham, who had never seen anything of the kind before

During the week Cook had sent notice of our visit to brethren in Baldwinsville and other places in the vicinity. We were expecting Hatch and Foot daily, hut they did not make their appearance and we had nearly given up the idea of seeing a gathering of believers. But on Sunday morning Brother Robinson and others called, and we found ourselves surrounded by quite an assembly. I preached familiarly on love and discrimination, and gave an accomit of the state of things at Putney In the afternoon Cook was pressed in spirit to speak in a manner unexpected by himself. He said that in years past he had thought me amhitious of leadership, and had resented my censure of Boyle and others; but within a year he had begtin to see that my course was right, and at last he had sent for me He expressed entire confidence in me, and gave his vote for my appointment to the post of generalissimo of Perfectionists This gave me occasion to open my whole heart on the subject of leadership. I explained the law of spiritual gravitation, by which every man in a true medium finds his just level, and showed that by that law I could not help being a leader. In conclusion I said: "1 care nothing about titles; but I shall serve the church of God with all my might, and if this makes me generalissimo, so be it. I cannot help it, you cannot help it, and we ought not to wish to if we could."

Brother Burnham spoke next. He poured out his heart on the necessity of Perfectionists having a center of unity, a post in the middle, which could be relied upon. His words came with power.


After this Brother Robinson and several others expressed themselves freely. There was but one mind. All followed the lead of Brother Cook, confessing their former doubts, their present confidence, their hearty assent to all that I had said, and their rejoicing at my coming among them. The meeting was sober and quiet, and in that respect, as Brother Cook said, unlike the usual meetings in that region; but it was sublime like some of our meetings at Putney Truth and peace presided.

After all had spoken their minds I gave my views of God's general plan and the position occupied by the church at Putney I said that God's first object was to provide depots and officers for his army; that in the present state of things, destitute as we were of these necessaries, the more raw recruits we obtained the worse we were off; that the object of our undertaking at Putney was to establish a military school, a West Point for the training of engineers and officers. I assured them that I wished not to force my views upon any one, but said that I was convinced myself that this was God's scheme, and that all who saw it to be so would in due time labor and sacrifice heartily to sustain our enterprise at Putney

All present thanked God that they had seen me and heard my voice, and we parted with many good words and hopes.


Putney, February 12, 1847.

Brother Gould:
I am glad to hear from you again after so long silence, though your letter places me in the attitude of a culprit and calls me to plead at a bar where I have thus far found but little favor. I am not fond of the defensive position; yet I will frankly present to you, and through you to those unnamed leaders who have taken offense at my proceedings, my apology


for that unceremonious advent and departure of which you complain.

In the first place I have a "thorn in the flesh," which has precluded me from public speaking and from much conversation for four years past. . . . I have not been abroad at all during that time till this winter and, though my throat is much stronger than it was a year or two ago, I am by no means in fit condition now to attend conventions or involve myself in such a hubbub of disputation as your plans would have brought upon me. In fact I went to Syracuse at some apparent risk to my life, but I went for an object which was worth the risk, and by the good providence of God 1 was shielded from what I feared, a flood of gossiping and preaching, and accomplished my mission not indeed without suffering but I hope without serious injury.

In the next place neither my care for my lungs nor any fear of Opposition nor feeling of disfellowship prevented me from giving what I deemed sufficient notice of my visit to Syracuse. . . . My brother informed W. S. Hatch of it two weeks beforehand, and requested him to circulate the information; and my mother sent Hatch ten dollars by my advice to make it more convenient for him to meet me at Syracuse. I waited a week in daily expectation of a visit from him and those in communication with him, and really thought that instead of being a culprit I had reason for surprise if not complaint at their keeping away. .

If I am asked why I pitched upon Syracuse for my visit in preference to other places in New ~7ork, my answer is that I received from Cook a more cordial and urgent invitation than from any other person. He asked me to visit him not for the purpose of settling difficulties or helping him in a scheme for organization, but that I might look into Syracuse as a field of spiritual and business operations, and that we might become


acquainted and form a cordial union. The frankness with which he confessed that his prejudices against me had been removed, the ungrudging freedom with which he acknowledged the wisdom of my past course and the value of my labors, his unembarrassed position in relation to your organization, with which I have no connection, drew me toward him, and I am satisfied that I have hit the mark in devoting what time and strength I had to opening full communication with him.

As to settling the difficulties between me and Perfectionists in the State of New York, I have had much precious evidence (among the rest the testimony of your own letter) that God has been settling them, and I have been willing to leave the work in his hands without anxiety. I think the honest and true are already reconciled to me, or are in the way to be without difficulty, and those who are liable to flame up into enemies because 1 go and come when and where I please have no hearts to know me, no love for the truth which God has sent them by me, and will not be saved from hostility by my courting them personally. .

I have no definitive judgment about your organization, because I know but little about it The unfavorable impressions which I have received have arisen from the following circumstances: John B. Foot invited me to attend a convention and take part in forming an organization. I replied that 1 thought a local convention of a few days' continuance was not likely to concentrate the hearts and views of the whole body of Perfectionists and settle rightly the fundamental principles of organization. I therefore proposed that the movement be commenced by a free discussion in the paper, and I offered our columns for that purpose. To this suggestion I received no answer. The next I heard was that Foot, Hatch and others had formed an organization and appointed bishops; and since


then I have been invited directly or indirectly to cooperate and even to take the post of "generalissimo." Waiving all difficulty about Foot's lack of courtesy in taking no notice of my suggestions I must say that 1 cannot have confidence in an organization formed under such circumstances unless it simply proposes to be local and temporary. \Vhether this is the intent of the movers, or whether they stippose that they are laying permanent and catholic foundations I know not, but I think it safe for me to stand aloof from them. At the same time I have none but friendly feelings toward some of those who are prominent among them.

One other circumstance has made an unfavorable impression. I perceive that Alexander Wilder has prominent agency in your proceedings. I have no confidence in him, and I do not believe that he has the confidence of any considerable number of believers in New York or elsewhere. I might say the same of several others who are reported to be among your pillars. Now I am sure that confidence in one another is essential to your agreement and success, and I shall not expect much good from an organization which does not commence with this element.

Your intimation that another paper will be started does not disturb me. If God allows it, it will be for some good purpose. If a new paper should serve the truth, I would rejoice in its success. If it should fight against the truth, I would expect to be enabled to destroy it. I have long expected a move of this kind. Perhaps no prudence on your part or mine can prevent it. . .

Now, Brother, I think you can see that my visit to Syracuse was neither unmeaning nor hostile to New York Perfectionists. Your plans for me have been frustrated, but I think God's plans have succeeded and will succeed. If I accomplish what I intend, I shall put things in train for consumniating the union


between New York and New England far more effectually than could be done by conventions or my personal labors. I frankly acknowledge my hope of help from you, and solicit your cooperation. Will you not take hold of this business with Cook? If your heart is for it, write to him, or better still go and see him, and he will open to you his whole heart and mine. . . In love to you and your wife,



Putney February 12, 1847.

Dear Brother:
I think of my visit at your house with great satisfaction. It was attended with too little noise and smoke to suit the taste of some, but I prefer the sharp crack of the rifle when it carries the bullet of execution to the bluster of the musket loaded with never so big a blank cartridge. 1 think I have hit the nail in the center of New York, and I shall be very sure of it if the scheme I have laid before you comes to a prosperous birth.

My heart is all sunshine toward you, and your wife, and Mary, and many others that I communed with at Syracuse. I shall receive a letter from your wife as a great favor. Will not Mary also correspond with me?

On my way home I stopped two days at Belchertown, and had much profitable interchange with believers there. . . . On the very day of my arrival home Brothers Kinsley and Dunn with their wives came to visit us and stayed a week My discourse with them and at Belchertown turned on the same topics that we handled at Syracuse, and the electricity of heaven was equally active. So you see God is making a simultaneous movement in many quarters.

Yours truly, JOHN H. NOYES.


The Kinsleys and Dunns drove all the way from their Northern Vermont home to Putney, one hundred and twenty-five miles, with their own teams and sleighs. The morning they started for home, commented Miller, they "felt quite sober, but well satisfied with their visit."

Suspicions as to Complex Marriage in the group immediately around Noyes now began to be felt by Perfectionists at Putney who had not yet been admitted to the secret. In the spring of 1847 Lydia, wife of Dr. John Campbell, obtained a knowledge of the facts by cross-questioning Harriet Skinner. In the tempest that followed the disclosure Mrs. Achsah Campbell entreated Lydia to request an explanation in person from Noyes, saying, "I do not believe that men or even devils can deceive you." Lydia accompanied by Mrs. Achsah Campbell's daughter Helen called on Noyes, and he gave them the explanation they asked. After conversing with several others of Noyes's household Lydia became convinced that Noyes was right, and she convinced Mrs. Achsah Campbell without pressure from Noyes. Mrs. Achsah Campbell then tried to persuade Dr. Campbell, her step-son, to talk with Noyes, but he refused.


Chapter 23: Conversion of Helen, Emma and Lucinda | Contents