N. GORDON THOMAS
The Millerite Movement in Ohio
A most spectacular and dramatic nineteenth century religious movement in America
developed from the preaching of William Miller. This was the culmination of the pro-
nouncement that Christ's Second Coming would occur in October 1844. Preaching
in a forceful manner and with convincing sincerity, "Prophet" Miller delivered hun-
dreds of lectures in years 1831 to 1844. His message was one of emotion and terror.
It was often sensationalized as well as ridiculed by both the religious and secular
press. But the hostility generated by disbelievers merely led Miller and his followers
to intensify their efforts to warn people everywhere of impending doom, the coming of
the "end of the world." Huge outdoor tent meetings resulted in conversions by the
hundreds to Miller's premillennial doctrine that Christ was coming in person to set
up His kingdom of righteousness on earth for a thousand years and to condemn the
sinners to a burning hell.
As the final date of October 22, 1844 approached, tales circulated of fanatics in
white "ascension robes" waiting on rooftops for Christ's appearing. Whether true or
not, stories of mental derangement and suicide were reported and repeated in many
newspapers throughout the country.1 When the appointed day passed and the Lord
did not appear, most Millerites bitterly returned to their former way of life and the
"Great Disappointment" became history. A few believers, continuing their faith in
the imminent Second Coming, later formed denominational organizations, the major
one being the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
William Miller, the leader of the Millerite Movement of 1843-44, was a self-
educated farmer from Low Hampton, New York. Brought up an orthodox Christian,
he had turned to Deism, which was widely popular at the turn of the nineteenth cen-
tury. After the War of 1812, in which he served with the rank of Captain, he became
dissatisfied with his own skepticism and set out to harmonize all the apparent contra-
dictions in the Bible to his own satisfaction. If he were unsuccessful, he said, he
would remain a Deist. Using only the Bible and a concordance to study and compare
scripture with scripture, he was converted to the Baptist faith and to the conviction
that Christ's second coming was at hand. Interpreting the writings of Daniel in a
literal sense and applying the widely accepted principle of a year for a prophetic "day"
1. Clara Endicott Sears in Days of Delusion (Boston, 1924) repeats the newspaper accounts of
fanaticism and suicides; Francis D. Nichol, in The Midnight Cry (Washington, D. C., 1944), has
a defense of the Millerites.
Mr. Thomas is Associate Professor of History, Pacific Union College, Angwin, California.
to the 2300-day prophecy of Daniel 8:14,2 Miller was startled to discover that the
period preceeding Christ's Second Advent would end, according to his reckoning,
around 1843. He also became convinced that the "cleansing of the sanctuary" fore-
told by Daniel meant the purging of the earth by fire.
Furthermore, the Second Coming would be premillennial:
I found the only millennium taught in the word of God is the thousand years which are to
intervene between the first resurrection and that of the rest of the dead, as inculcated in the
twentieth of Revelation; and that it must necessarily follow the personal coming of Christ
and the regeneration of the earth....
There would be no millennium of righteousness and no general conversion of the
world before the Advent; Christ's coming meant the end of the world for all who were
unprepared for the event. After several years of checking and rechecking his calcula-
tions, and after much hesitation and soul-searching, Miller felt compelled to "go and
tell the world of their danger."3
Miller's ideas soon inspired a movement, spreading rapidly over the evangelically
"burned-over" area of the United States. In the years from 1831 to 1843, thousands
of people from all denominations turned out to hear "Prophet" Miller's predictions
concerning the Last Judgment before the Millennium preached either by Miller him-
self or by one of his converts. Miller did not desire nor anticipate the formation of a
separate sect and hoped to avoid disturbing denominational structure.4
Nor did Miller set a precise day for Christ's appearing but expected the Second
Advent sometime during the Jewish year from March 21, 1843, to March 21, 1844.
As this year progressed, March 21st was looked upon as the final day at the end of
the 2300-day prophecy and the end of time. Working feverishly to warn the country
2. Sylvester Bliss, Memoirs of William Miller (Boston, 1852), 66-69; "And he said unto me,
Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed."
3. Bliss, Memoirs, 73-76, 92.
4. Ibid., 361-362.
Millerite Movement 97
of its impending destruction, Millerite leaders promoted their work northward to
Canada, into Kentucky and Virginia on the south, and westward to Ohio. But March
21, 1844, passed without the return of Christ and the day went down in history as
the "First Disappointment" for the believers. Miller sadly stated, "I confess my error,
and acknowledge my disappointment; yet I still believe that the day of the Lord is
near, even at the door."5
Meanwhile, one of the Millerite preachers, Samuel S. Snow, was growing more
popular daily with a belief he had held even before the March day of failure. According
to Snow's calculations, the Lord would come on October 22, 1844, the calendar
equivalent of the Jewish Day of Atonement for that year. Miller, together with his
colleagues and followers, gradually accepted the "seventh month movement" which
predicted a definite terminal day, the tenth day of the seventh month (Jewish time).
With Snow's re-interpretation, the millennial fires burned brighter than ever during
the summer of 1844 only to be extinguished by the "Great Disappointment" on
the 22nd day of October.
From the beginning, Miller's preaching brought sharp opposition from many clergy-
men and from the press. For while it was true that millennialism was an integral
part of American belief, Miller's doctrine ran counter to at least two main currents
in America's religious thought at that time.
The first was the belief in postmillennialism which was the prevailing millennialism
of the day. Professor George Bush of New York University wrote Miller, 'you have
entirely mistaken the nature of the events which are to occur when those periods
expire....' The great event, Bush argued, was not to be a physical conflagration but
a moral regeneration. The cleansing of the sanctuary (Daniel 8:14) was not to be
done with fire, but in the course of a temporal millennium.6 As the Millerite leaders
themselves realized, the main issue was not really the time factor, since many theolo-
gians accepted Miller's "millennial arithmetic." The common charge against Miller
was: 'You may be right in your dates, but you are mistaken in the event. You con-
fuse the Millennium with the Judgment.'7
Secondly, in addition to opposing the popular belief of the postmillennial return of
Christ, Miller was in conflict with the accepted form premillennialism was expected
to assume. Many premillennialists, perhaps a majority, agreed with postmillennialists
that the Millennium would be "temporal," that is, one in which unregenerate mortals
existed and in which there was still sin and repentence. The main difference between
the premillennial and the postmillennial positions was the question of whether the
return of Christ would be spiritual or physical. Even so, according to both theories,
there would be a probationary period for sinners after Christ's return, regardless of
whether the Second Advent was spiritual or literal. For example, the great evangelist
Charles Grandison Finney, a postmillennialist, believed that God was too benevolent
to destroy all sinners without a continuing probationary period during which the
greater part of mankind would ultimately be saved. In debate with the Millerite
preacher, Charles Fitch, at Oberlin College in September of 1843, Finney argued that
5. Ibid., 256.
6. Quoted in James White, Sketches of the Christian Life and Public Labors of William Miller
(Battle Creek, 1875), 9-10.
7. Quoted in The Midnight Cry (New York), December 1, 1842. One of the books written
to refute the Millerites' teachings was an anonymous 216 page work printed in Cincinnati in
1843 entitled The Kingdom of Grace; or, The Millenarian Theory Rigidly Examined and Demon-
strated to Be False.
God would never have created the earth in the first place if more evil than good should
result in the majority of the human race being lost. The benevolence of God, he
stated, proved by His actions in the past, was entirely against the ending of the pro-
bationary existence of the world in 1843 or 1844.8
To Miller, by contrast, the Millennium meant the personal, visible return of Christ,
the absolute destruction of the wicked by fire, followed by a thousand years of peace
and happiness in which Christ and the "saved" ruled on the earth restored to a sinless
condition. Christ was literally to come at the close of human probation before the
Millennium. Judgment would be pronounced at that time, and sinners would have no
second chance for repentance. One can readily see why Miller's belief in the Second
Advent was unpopular in an age of material improvement and faith in progress and an
age in which many were breaking away from the restraints of the Calvinistic tradition.
Miller's teaching seemed pessimistic to the average American, and not a "blessed
hope" at all. He soon discovered that his emphasis on a wrathful God, an imminent
judgment day as a last chance for sinners, and salvation for the few was not popular.
But he felt compelled by God Himself to give his warning message to the world.
Ohio proved to be a key state in the Millerite Movement. While it is true that most
of the intense Millerite activity centered in the eastern part of the United States, the
movement in Ohio was considerable and quite significant. In fact this state was looked
upon by the Millerite leadership as its western center, a convenient headquarters for
the conversion of the West. No doubt, accessibility was a major factor in the choice;
water transportation from New England-New York by the Erie Canal as well as the
network of rivers and canals within the state brought the large centers of population,
particularly Cleveland and Cincinnati, within range of itinerant lecturers. In any
event, the Buckeye state became important enough in the eyes of the Millerite leaders
that Charles Fitch, one of the "big four," consisting of William Miller, Joshua V.
8. Report of a Discussion on the Second Advent Near by Rev. Chas. Fitch, Rev. Henry
Cowles, Rev. Asa Mahan, &c. Lately Held at Oberlin (Cleveland, 1843), 11-12.
Himes, Josiah Litch, and himself, was designated to carry out the work in the state
and, as one prominent Millerite put it, to see that "the West shall have light" even if
it meant spending the "last farthing we possess."9
The Ohio leader, Charles Fitch, former pastor of a Congregational church in
Boston, was a capable organizer. An abolitionist of some note in Massachusetts, he
became converted to millennial reform by reading one of William Miller's published
sermons. Soon after associating himself with Miller in 1841, he moved to Ohio to
head the work there and endeavored to make Cleveland the leading city of Millerism
in the West. As evidence of his influence, Oberlin College Professor Charles G.
Finney and President Asa Mahan invited Fitch to deliver a series of lectures on Ad-
ventism at the college in 1842, and another series in 1843.10 It is possible, however,
that Fitch's abolitionist sentiments as much as his eschatological views won him favor
To warn the populace of impending destruction, Fitch neither relied completely on
his own speaking ability nor solely upon the effectiveness of his converts to spread the
news to all parts of the state. The printed word, also, he felt, must be given wide distri-
bution. Thus soon after his arrival in Cleveland he started editing the Second Advent of
Christ, a paper for printing his own sermons but more often for reprinting lectures
and articles from the eastern Millerite publications. The two principal Millerite news-
papers in Ohio, the Second Advent of Christ at Cleveland and the Western Midnight
Cry published at Cincinnati by Himes, were widely circulated throughout the state
but especially in the larger centers of population. Besides their two periodicals, the
Millerite ministers made an attempt to supply every town with a Second Advent
library; clergymen were furnished publications free of charge if they could not afford
to purchase them. The coming of Charles Fitch to Cleveland and his subsequent
9. Western Midnight Cry (Cincinnati), January 13, 1844.
10. Nichol, Midnight Cry, 186, 187; for a text of the 1843 debates, see Discussion on the
100 OHIO HISTORY
success in sounding the alarm from that part of the state resulted in making that city
the center of Millerite activity in the West by 1842.
Adventist ministers developed a method of tent and camp meetings which worked
quite effectively for the large crowds attracted. During the summer of 1843, Joshua
V. Himes, second only to William Miller and a first class promoter and organizer,
decided to travel West and to pitch the "great tent" in Ohio. So together Himes and
Fitch toured the state with their tent, drawing large crowds and stimulating much in-
terest wherever they spoke. After this tour, Himes went to Cincinnati to establish
the Adventist weekly, the Western Midnight Cry, and Fitch returned to Cleveland to
minister to his growing congregation of Second Adventists.
Although Fitch was a Millerite and had been one of the first to advise the Adventists
to "come out of Babylon," leave their churches, and establish a new sect, he main-
tained his ministry within the Cleveland Congregational church. The Cleveland
Herald of February 13, 1844, however, recorded some opposition to Millerite Ad-
ventism arising within his church:
The doctrine of the final destruction or annihilation of the wicked, held by a portion of
the Second Adventists, has been under discussion for some weeks past in the Congrega-
tional churches in this city, Rev. C. Fitch, pastor. Mr. F. having announced himself a
believer in the doctrine and brought forward his proofs, the following resolution was intro-
duced and debated: Resolved: That in the opinion of this church, the views expressed by
our pastor, Rev. Mr. Fitch . . . respecting the final destruction of the wicked are
unscriptural, and consequently erroneous.11
There is no later mention of disfellowship or dismissal, and Fitch continued as
leader of the Millerite faction. Since the group sensed the Second Coming was at
hand, they built a "temple of brick, round and with a circular window or skylight on
top, on Wood street near Rockwell." At the appointed time the Millerites would
assemble at this temple to await the rolling aside of the window overhead for their
journey to heaven.12 With the structure completed, Fitch and his associates baptized
their converts into the Second Adventist Church. Time was short and rites were
often held in spite of near zero temperatures. The Herald described one baptism as
The Rev. Mr. Fitch baptized some 12 persons in the Ohio Canal at 2 o'clock this afternoon,
not all converts to Millerism however, but to the doctrine of baptism by immersion now
taught by Second Adventists. Piercingly cold and driving as was the snow storm, the sup-
posed "shortness of time" would not admit of the postponement of the rite "on account of
An organized Millerite Movement was also making progress in other parts of the
state. At Akron, J. P. Pickands, a Congregational church pastor, was the principal
Second Adventist leader. When conflicts developed within his church, he finally
found it necessary "to ask for a dissolution" of his pastoral connection, taking with
him over one hundred members and leaving his former church with a minority.14 In
fact the number of believers in the Akron-Canton area grew large enough to warrant
11. Cleveland Herald, February 13, 1844.
12. William Ganson Rose, Cleveland The Making of a City (Cleveland, 1950), 190. Fitch
died on October 14, 1844, before the final date set for Christ's return on October 22.
13. Cleveland Herald, March 18, 1844.
14. Western Midnight Cry (Cincinnati), April 6, 1844.
Millerite Movement 101
building a tabernacle in Akron. Pickands proved so effective here that he was later
asked to labor with Fitch in Cleveland.
The Millerite leaders visited Dayton several times, however, without any real suc-
cess. George Miller, who assisted his father in the tent meetings of 1844, wrote con-
cerning the hostility that existed in this city:
We pitched the tent in this place on Wednesday the 3rd of September. Our meetings have
been well attended and very good order has been observed considering the spirit of the
times and the days in which we are living. This place is said to be the worst in the state
for rowdies. But we have managed to keep them under, and quite a number of the respect-
able citizens have been interested and feel it is a privilege to assist in keeping order.15
Despite the interest of which young Miller spoke, the Adventist press did not mention
any large following in Dayton.
Another important Millerite city, Cincinnati, where E. Jacobs led out in the move-
ment, grew to be equal with Cleveland by 1844. The "Queen City of the West" was
headquarters for the southern part of the state as well as a point for pentrating into
other states to the south and west. Here at Cincinnati J. V. Himes and Jacobs pub-
lished and edited the Western Midnight Cry, a western counterpart of the New York
City Midnight Cry, a powerful organ of the Millerite movement in the East. Using
the tent meeting extensively in the surrounding area, Jacobs converted many to ad-
ventism. But after the failure of Christ to come on October 22, 1844, he joined the
Shakers and in later years connected himself with Spiritualism.16
Starting in May 1844, Jacobs and Fitch held a major effort in Cincinnati. Crowds
so large attended their tent meetings that often "1 to 2 thousand were unable to obtain
seats."17 With the conversions came the usual opposition from the established
churches; the Adventists were deprived of their regular meeting places, such as Col-
lege Hall, the Engine House, and the Hay Scales. They decided to use the tent
exclusively for a meeting place until they could erect a building large enough to accom-
modate all who would listen. At a Second Adventist Association meeting they agreed
on a modest structure eighty feet square, built of brick, to be erected on Seventh and
John streets. William Miller and Joshua V. Himes spoke in this tabernacle on their
tour of Ohio later in 1844.18
In southeastern Ohio, Millerite activity centered in the Muskingum Valley, a region
composed of small rural villages. Leaders spoke in both Marietta and Zanesville, the
only cities of importance. In 1843, the Marietta Intelligencer printed an article en-
titled "Life and Views of William Miller" which aroused the interest and curiosity of
many readers who wrote letters of inquiry to the Western Midnight Cry at Cincinnati.
These letters convinced E. Jacobs that souls could be saved in the area and he de-
parted for Marietta. But he did not find the fertile field for converts that he had
expected. In 1844, while speaking on the Ohio River steamboat U. S. Mail, Jacobs
was nearly mobbed:
A company gathered around me, like hungry wolves, hungry for their prey ... Reason
and argument were out of question. What they would have done, I know not, but for two
15. George Miller to William Miller, September 8, 1844. Aurora College Collection, Aurora,
16. Isaac C. Wellcome, History of the Second Advent Message and Mission, Doctrine and
People (Yarmouth, 1874), 299.
17. Western Midnight Cry (Cincinnati), May 11, 1844.
18. Ibid., June 1, 1844.
102 OHIO HISTORY
or three gentlemen who professed no religion, who stepped forward and demanded that I
should be treated like a gentleman, inasmuch as I had thus treated them.19
As a matter of fact, Jacobs did not speak of gaining a single convert on his trip to
J. P. Weethee, and not Jacobs, was the most influential Millerite in the Muskingum
Valley. Professor Weethee, president of an academy in Beverly, Ohio,20 was already
a powerful voice in the area and had lectured up and down the Muskingum River
Valley. In a letter to Fitch in 1843, he spoke of converting thirty people at Lowell and
lecturing with success at Millfield, Athens, and Nelsonville in Athens County.21 On
a return trip from Nelsonville, he also lectured at Amesville and McConnelsville.
Weethee was an enthusiastic worker for the Adventist cause from the day he read
a copy of the Midnight Cry. He wrote Miller how he became converted:
The Midnight Cry came and I soon became confirmed in views of the advent. I then com-
menced preaching the doctrine and have continued to do so ever since. I had heard no
lectures by any persons until I had the pleasure of meeting with you and Brother Himes at
McConnelsville [in 1844].22
Thus, Weethee's zeal led him to be a lecturer on a subject which was entirely new to
him more than a year before he met a Second Adventist preacher. The Movement
in the Muskingum Valley, regardless of Weethee's activity, attained little significance
until the last few months before the day of the "Great Disappointment," October 22,
1844. Miller's tour of Ohio in August of 1844 created increased interest there, but
the work in this predominently rural region failed to achieve an effective organized
Other localities of the state saw some activity, and evidence shows that Millerism
became quite well known all over the state. For instance, a Brother Cherry wrote
that he believed there were "at least 200 believers" at Marysville. J. B. Cook also
reported success from his sermons in Marysville as well as in Zanesville, Granville,
and Youngstown. John W. Thomas, postmaster at Jacksonburgh, Butler County, was
influential in converting many people in that neighborhood to Millerism.23 Both Ohio
Millerite newspapers, the Second Advent of Christ and the Western Midnight Cry,
reported adventist activity and baptism on their pages, listing converts in nearly every
town and village in the state.
The Ohio Movement reached its climax during the summer of 1844, when William
Miller along with J. V. Himes chose to tour the state "to strengthen their brethern
there." The Ohio tour seems especially significant at this late date, since time was
running out and the Lord was expected to appear on October 22. Letters had come
in to Miller and to the Western Midnight Cry publisher requesting them to visit in the
West and to help with the final warning. One of these, a letter from John Kilch, a
layman from Cincinnati, no doubt helped convince Miller that he must visit Ohio:
19. Ibid., January 6, 1844.
20. This was the Beverly Academy, completed in 1842 under the auspices of the Pennsylvania
synod of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. History of Washington County, Ohio (Cleveland,
21. Second Advent of Christ (Cleveland), July 12, 1843.
22. J. P. Weethee to Miller, October 8, 1846. Aurora College Collection.
23. Western Midnight Cry (Cincinnati), February 10, March 16, 1844.
Millerite Movement 103
At the usual weekly meeting of the Second Advent association of this place held yesterday
evening, among their business a resolution was passed requesting me as secretary of that
meeting to write to you to solicit the favor of a visit, should time continue, during the present
season. We have been under the necessity of building a Tabernacle, which we hope will
be finished next week. Bro. Litch is then expected, and we also are promised a visit from
Bro. Himes in July or August. If your health will permit the journey, the friends of the
cause here will be glad if you could possibly accompany Bro. Himes.24
Letters from Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Missouri were addressed to Miller
and Himes asking for help, but the most interest was in Ohio.
After deciding upon the western tour, Miller made the necessary preparations and
left the East July 21, 1844, accompanied by his son George. Arriving at Cleveland
from Buffalo, New York, they held a series of meetings with Himes at the Cleveland
tabernacle. Himes wrote back East to the editor of the Advent Herald that the taber-
nacle was "filled the first day, but on the second it was thronged within and without."25
He wrote also of "laboring day and night" and of conducting baptismal services nearly
every day. The series of seven lectures at Cleveland was followed closely by the
The Cleveland Plain Dealer of August 14, gave its impression of Miller:
We listened to "Father Miller," .... and found him a plain, old fashioned gentleman, a
tolerable speaker, and with all a very honest appearing man for one who has deceived so
many and none worse than himself. We believe he is honest for he acknowledges to one
mistake in his computation of time, and frankly says he might be mistaken again. He
evinces great familiarity with the Scriptures and arrays passages which favor his doctrine in
such rapid succession before his hearers, as to carry their minds by storm to the desired
The Cleveland Herald commented on the "very large congregations" attracted to
the lectures. Congregations so large, in fact, that an awning had to be placed over the
rear of the tabernacle for those unable to obtain seats. The speaker lectured from the
doorway so that everyone could see and hear.27
About a hundred Adventists from neighboring Akron chartered a boat and came up
the canal to attend the Cleveland meetings. Miller and Himes accompanied this
group on the return trip, although very little time was spent at Akron. Miller spoke
at the tabernacle at Akron, then they continued their journey to Cincinnati. Miller,
following his usual custom, preached to an audience of passengers aboard the canal
By the time of arrival in Cincinnati, E. Jacobs, Millerite leader and co-worker
with Himes on the Western Midnight Cry, had done an excellent job of preparing the
city for the coming lectures. Tremendous interest in the Second Advent was evident
on every side. On August 19, the first evening of the meetings, Miller spoke to a
full and overflowing house of over four thousand people who, according to the
Millerite press, listened with "breathless attention."28 "Father Miller," as some called
him, spent a week of successful Adventist evangelism in Cincinnati (August 18-25),
24. John Kilch to Miller, June 28, 1844. Aurora College Collection.
25. Advent Herald (Boston), September 4, 1844.
26. Cleveland Plain Dealer, August 14, 1844.
27. Cleveland Herald, August 12, 1844; Advent Herald (Boston), September 4, 1844.
104 OHIO HISTORY
drawing crowds which even exceeded those at Cleveland.
Anticipating Miller's visit, the Tri-Weekly Cincinnati Gazette promptly sent a
reporter to the tabernacle. Miller had not yet arrived, but the reporter described a
busy scene at the church:
Sunday we visited this new Tabernacle on the corner of Seventh and John streets. It is
an extensive affair, being eighty feet square. Mr. Miller was reported to be in the city, and
the large room was a jam, with the streets about it full besides. He was not there. We
learn, however, that he arrived on the Yucatan late Sunday night, and will preach at the
Tabernacle, every night this week.29
A few days later, after Miller had held several meetings, the Gazette commented:
We attended ... and heard Mr. Miller. There was a jam in the large building, and he was
listened to with attention. Indeed one curious on the subject could hardly help following
the speaker: for . . . he has an ingenuity, natural logic, and plain adaptation of speech,
which command attention....30
The success of the Cincinnati meetings was considered by Himes and Miller to be
the high spot of their tour. Himes, who was accustomed to large crowds at the
Millerite meetings in the eastern cities, wrote that the usual congregation at Cincinnati
was very large and that many new converts were won.
Miller had intended to visit St. Louis, but high water and rumors of fever epidemic
in that vicinity turned him eastward to answer the request of Brothers Weethee and
Marsh. An Adventist conference was announced at McConnelsville to commence on
August 29 and to continue over Sunday, the first of September. Miller and Himes
made the trip up the Ohio and Muskingum rivers reaching McConnelsville, in Morgan
County on August 28. Here the leader of the Muskingum Valley movement, J. P.
Weethee, greeted the touring pair and invited them to start lecturing immediately.
Himes reported to the Advent Herald that the valley was a fine field of labor and that
"Brothers Weethee, Marsh, and Boggs" had been doing an excellent work. He
continued to say that stormy weather kept many interested people from the meetings
and that the congregations consisted mainly of unbelievers. Apparently, interest had
been aroused along the Muskingum, but a large following had not been attained.31
McConnelsville, nevertheless, was made the center of Adventism in the Muskingum
area. A Second Advent depot was set up there, as well as in Cincinnati and Cleveland,
for the distribution of Millerite literature. This done, Miller and Himes departed
Aboard the steamboat down the Muskingum to Marietta, Miller engaged in a
rousing debate with several Methodist ministers who were on their way to a Methodist
Episcopal Church conference in Marietta. Upon arrival there, he was met by some
residents and was offered the Methodist Church to hold meetings; Miller declined,
however, and hastened on to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
Miller's tour served to excite Ohio at a crucial hour; for in less than two months,
according to Millerite chronology, the Great Event was expected to occur. His tour
stimulated Adventists to greater efforts in warning the inhabitants of the state and, no
doubt, made Ohio the leader of the West in the Millerite movement.
29. Tri-Weekly Cincinnati Gazette, August 20, 1844.
30. Ibid., August 24, 1844.
31. See Advent Herald (Boston), September 6, 1844.
Millerite Movement 105
Opposition to the movement, though often displayed, was never intense in Ohio.
The main stream of opposition came from religious periodicals rather than from
the secular press. The Western Christian Advocate, the Watchman of the Valley, the
Methodist Protestant, and the Universalist Trumpet were all hostile to Millerism.
Rev. Kilbreth of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Cincinnati, and Rev. Augustus
Webster who wrote in the Methodist Protestant, were named by the Millerite leaders
as being their strongest opponents in the Ohio.32
Most opposition to Millerism was stimulated by its alleged fanaticism. The Cleve-
land Herald reported cases of insanity as early as April 25, 1843:
More Victims--A poor fellow, raving on the subject of Millerism . . has been placed in
jail for safety. He is a stranger, from Pennsylvania.
A respectable married Lady in this city is now a maniac. She has been attending the
Miller meetings and the deplorable effect has been to dethrone her reason.
Then again, on April 26:
Another Victim--One of our city Physicians informed us this morning, that he was called
yesterday to attend an English woman who is perfectly demented on the subject of Miller-
ism. She refuses medicine, says she has seen Christ in visions--the end of the world
has been revealed to her, &c., &c.--She had been an attendant of the Miller meetings in
this city, and the deplorable result of the teachings is recorded above.33
It should be noted that personal names were not usually given, neither were the names
of the jails or asylums where the victims were admitted. Some of these "victims"
could have been mentally deranged long before coming in contact with Millerism.
Whenever possible to do so, the Adventist press checked out and refuted the charges
of fanaticism. The Western Midnight Cry stated that,
If one out of one hundred of the reports of "insanity", "suicide", "starving", "freezing",
"frightening", "hanging", "drowning", "stealing", "absconding", &c., &c., as the results
of this so called, "an awful delusion", now in circulation, had even a shadow of foundation
or truth, we might forever despair of obtaining justice for ourselves from the public press
if disposed to attempt it.34
Yet in a movement of this nature there would without doubt be some extremism;
it would be equally true that excited rumor, gossip, and hostility would multiply with-
out evidence of fact. But stories of white-robed saints on hilltops, housetops, and
haystacks awaiting the Lord's return which were so prevalent in the East, were rarely
mentioned in the Ohio movement. When the excitement died down after October
22, 1844, the editor of the Cleveland Herald gave the Ohio Millerites this friendly
Our Second Advent friends are all "in town" yet, and the "10th day of the 7th month,"
according to their reckoning, is numbered with the past. We hope they will now "give it
up" and, like good citizens, go to work again, and patiently await the great Teacher,
32. Western Midnight Cry (Cincinnati), February 3, 24, 1844.
33. Cleveland Herald, April 25, 26, 1843.
34. Western Midnight Cry (Cincinnati), November 20, 1844.
35. Cleveland Herald, October 24, 1844.
106 OHIO HISTORY
After the day of the Great Disappointment on October 22, 1844, a large portion
of the Millerites did return to their former churches; but a hard core, including William
Miller himself, could not believe that their interpretation of Biblical prophecy was
wrong. Since many Adventists expected the 2300-day prophecy would be fulfilled
within a few years, they continued a constant setting of dates but with very little una-
nimity. During this "scattering time," a time of confusion among second-advent
believers, devoted Millerites gathered at each others homes to study and restudy the
scriptural promises. From this reinterpretation of Miller's doctrines several small
Adventist sects were eventually formed: The Advent Christian Church; the Church
of God (Abrahamic Faith); the Life and Advent Union; and the Primitive Advent
But it remained for Hiram Edson, a Millerite preacher from Port Gibson, New
York, to supply the most satisfying answer to what had actually happened on October
22, when no great event had occurred of which the faithful had been conscious. The
cleansing of the sanctuary was not the purification of the earth by fire at all, Edson
explained. The sanctuary was not the earth, but was a "heavenly sanctuary" after
which the Old Testament earthly sanctuary was patterned. The Old Testament sanc-
tuary service consisted of two phases: the regular services day by day all year long,
and the yearly service on the Day of Atonement. Miller had been right in his calcu-
lation but wrong on the event. On October 22, 1844, Christ had entered the heavenly
holy of holies to begin the "investigative judgment" of sinners. In other words, ac-
cording to this teaching, which was accepted by the later Seventh-day Adventists, the
coming of Christ was merely postponed for a short period until the finishing of the
mediatorial work of judgment in the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary. No
one knew how long this work would last, but it would not take long. The "sanctuary
service" was to become a distinctive teaching of Seventh-day Adventists.
The Advent doctrines of this group of "sanctuary Adventists" was never again to
include date-setting. James White, a prominent leader of the early Seventh-day Ad-
ventists movement, declared in 1851, "We are now emphatically in the waiting time,
in the time of the 'patience of the saints.'" He stated that the Advent message "does
not hang on time.... [for] What we have witnessed, for more than six years past,
of the sad results of setting different times, should teach us a lesson on this point."36
The second distinctive doctrine added by this group of Adventists to Miller's belief
in the Second Advent was sanctity of the seventh-day Sabbath. This belief, which had
been gradually spreading among many of the Millerites even prior to October 1844,
was derived from several sources, but the Seventh Day Baptists, some of whom were
Millerites, exerted a steady influence on the Second Adventist believers to keep the
seventh day holy. Joseph Bates, an ex-sea captain and Millerite lecturer from Fair-
haven, Massachusetts, together with James White and his wife Ellen, founders of the
embryo Seventh-day Adventist Church, were preaching and writing the "truth" of
the seventh-day Sabbath by 1846. The seventh-day Sabbath, in fact, became equal in
importance to Miller's original doctrine of the Second Advent. The "Sabbath mes-
sage" was interpreted as having been the last of the "three angel's messages" of
Revelation 14:6-11. This new group of seventh-day keepers believed that the Miller-
ites had proclaimed the first angel's message of the gospel to the world. When the
churches shut their doors to this message, the second angel's message had been given
36. The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald (Washington, D.C.), August 19, 1851.
Millerite Movement 107
"to come out of her [the churches ("Babylon")] my people" since Babylon had fallen.
The Sabbath doctrines were interpreted to be the third angel's message, and those who
did not accept this truth would receive the "mark of the beast."37
The Seventh-day Adventists, the largest of the sects stemming from the Millerite
Movement of 1843-44, created a formal denominational structure in 1863 and
located at Battle Creek, Michigan. Today they have their world headquarters in
Washington, D.C., and report a membership of over two million. The Ohio Confer-
ence of Seventh-day Adventists, with its center at Mount Vernon, Ohio, includes
ninety churches throughout the state and a membership of 9,385.
William Miller, ill and exhausted, never accepted the new doctrines and interpreta-
tions which came after the 1844 movement. In August of 1845 he published his
Apology and Defense reaffirming his belief in the imminent Second Advent: 'The
prophecies which were to be fulfilled previous to the end, have been so far fulfilled
that I find nothing in them to delay the Lord's coming.'38 He died on December 20,
1849, in the sixty-eighth year of his life. At the top of his tombstone are these words:
"At the time appointed the end shall be," and engraved below his name are these:
"But go thy way till the end be; for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of
37. Seventh-day Adventists today teach the angels' messages as a threefold unit. They would
preach the gospel to all, encourage individuals to come out of sin, confusion, and false systems.
They teach that the Ten Commandments are still in effect; the keeping of God's law, which in-
cludes the seventh-day Sabbath, is a final test for God's people.
38. Quoted in Nichol, Midnight Cry, 284-285.