Judgment Day, Oct. 22, 1844
People took their religion seriously in 1844, and some of the most serious were the Millerites, followers of the Rev. William Miller of
. Miller had been studying parts of the Bible and had calculated that the Second Coming of Jesus Christ would take place on October 22, 1844. His followers were so thoroughly convinced that this would happen that some sold their houses and their businesses, and made no plans after October 22. New York
It was a big disappointment to Millerites when nothing happened on Oct. 22, but writers to The Gleaner had a field day. The October 26 issue had four letters ridiculing the gullible followers in four different towns around
, reporting how the Millerites had been so surprised. In the Nov. 2 issue, a letter to the editor from Manchester, NH complains about Millerism "gulling the weak and credulous out of their money"… Haverhill, MA
Old newspapers give you a wonderful view of life in another time, and they give it as it rolls along, without the wisdom of a historian, just as reporters see it at the moment. You see mention of things that the observer thinks are interesting at the time, but all these years later, mean nothing. And, you see the first mention of events that grew and grew in importance over the years.
I read about the big Judgment Day of Oct. 22, 1844, and it surely sounded like the one coming up on May 21, 2011.
Laborers extended the canals providing more water power from the
Merrimack River, and mill buildings began to go up rapidly. By 1844 two buildings were operating over 20,000 spindles and some 545 looms.
Farmers all over New England and New York, faced with tough times keeping their families clothed and fed, found that with more than one woman in the home, there wasn’t enough spinning, weaving, butter churning and such to justify another mouth to feed, and so they sent their daughters down to work in the mills of Manchester, for a dollar a week.
Immigrants from French Canada and
also began to stream into town. Ireland
The Gleaner was an irreverent weekly paper of four pages per issue, loaded with snide remarks, insults, sneaky questions and innuendo. With a town full of young, single mill girls, living in boarding houses many miles from their families for the first time, local men saw an opportunity for illicit affairs.
Many of these girls, all who worked perhaps six 12-hour days a week in the mills, came from God-fearing homes, but there were many stories of local Lotharios who succeeded in seducing some of them.
The Gleaner of Sept. 28, 1844 published a poem that captured the sense of the times:
"The Factory Girls Soliloquy-- Oh were my dwelling far remote, From men of evil minds; Away in some secluded spot, Or on some lonely mountain top, Where sol forever shines….";
There are numerous mentions of various males having questionable appointments with young mill girls.
The Gleaner’s readers kept this weekly paper well supplied with juicy gossip, offered as “Gleaner pills.” It seems that there was always someone around to observe men or women engaged in a bit of extramarital activity, or who were observed drinking or getting drunk; probably as often as not, people made up scandalous behavior for publication in this little paper.
In 1844 the Temperance movement was up to full steam, and with it came letters to the Editor of The Gleaner, noting which members of a temperance society were consuming alcoholic beverages, or even selling them.
In the Nov. 9, 1844 issue of The Gleaner, an editorial notes that
's only bookbinder is a "tyrant", a "jackass" and an "ignoramus". In that issue election news reported the status of electors voting for Clay and Frelinghuysen or Polk and Dallas, and predicted that next week should reveal who will occupy the White House for the next four years. [It was James Knox Polk.] Manchester
In the March 8, 1845 issue, there is more innuendo about activities at the mills: Letter from Exeter: Exeter wants to know if that swell head, E. Tuttle has told all he knows?"..."Ask E.T. if he did not get a dollar for telling a lie about a web he found on fire in the weave room?" "Wants to know how much the quaker, J.S. makes by keeping soap, combs, &c. to sell to the girls in the card-room?"
Advertisements in The Gleaner give more color to the picture.
Announcement of New Oyster Saloon in
, oysters and clams kept constantly on hand; also fruit, confectionary, nuts, cigars, &c. Manchester
And now….here are some items I’m offering…
Booth Shoots President Lincoln
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