Ohio History Journal





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

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.

Click on image to view full size

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

at Oberlin.

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

Second Advent.


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

the weather."13

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

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,

1881), 547.

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

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

secular press.

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.

28. Ibid.


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

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

Christian Church.

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

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

the days."


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.