The Otsego Herald for July 19, 1819, compiled, with comments:

Capt. Symmes’ proposal

The magistrates of Copenhagen, it is said, “have received a letter from the North American visionary, Capt. Symmes, who will take a journey into the interior of the earth, if he can obtain assistance.” A similar letter has been received in many of the cities of Germany.

COMMENT: Capt. John Cleves Symmes Jr. (1780-1829) was an army officer, trader and lecturer best known as a proponent of the Hollow Earth Theory, according to which the Earth was hollow, and its interior could be reached through holes at the North and South poles.

He believed that the Earth consisted of five concentric spheres, of which its surface (and atmosphere) was the outermost, and about 1,000 miles thick. Nevertheless, it was flattened at its poles, with holes at the North Pole 4,000 miles wide and at the South Pole 6,000 miles wide. Through these one could enter gradually into the internal worlds.

Symmes first announced his theory April 10, 1818, and gained a small but enthusiastic group of followers. He wrote constantly and extensively about his “discovery” which he later both expanded and simplified. His theory continues to be discussed frequently to this day. It was advanced by his son, Americus Symmes, (1810-1896), and many others.

Yellow fever

A letter from a correct source, dated Philadelphia, 6th July, to a merchant in Baltimore, contains the following unwelcome intelligence:

“You will no doubt have heard of alarms of the Fever being in Philadelphia. A few cases, it is true, have occurred in Market-street wharf, and out of 7 persons attacked 4 have died; the others have been removed, and we are in hopes it will spread no further. Should it unhappily prove otherwise, we shall advise you of it from time to time, if we are permitted to escape ourselves.” — Albany Argus

It is reported that there have been several; cases of yellow fever at Louisville, Kentucky. — Pittsburgh Mercury

COMMENT: Yellow Fever, sometimes called Yellow Jack, is an acute viral disease from the tropics spread by infected mosquitoes (Aedes aegypti). It is so called because some patients develop jaundice. During the famous 1793 Yellow Fever epidemic in Philadelphia, some 5,000 victims died from August to November, leading 20,000 residents of the city to flee the city of 50,000. The last major outbreak in America was in New Orleans in 1905. A single-shot vaccine is now available.

In 1799, Charles Brockden Brown (1771-1810), an important early American novelist before James Fenimore Cooper, published “Arthur Mervyn” set during the 1793 Philadelphia epidemic.

Death of Jemima Wilkinson

Died, at Jerusalem, Ontario (county), on the 8th July, JEMIMA WILKINSON, commonly called the “Universal Friend,” aged 66 years. Her complaint, we learn, was the dropsy. She, a few moments previous to her death, placed herself in her chapel, and called in her disciples one by one, and gave each a solemn admonition, then raised up her hands, closed her eyes and gave up the ghost — Thus the second wonder of the western country has made her final exit.

We have not as yet learned whether she will have a successor to speak to her people, or whether, having lost their religious leader, (they) will continue united or not. Much curiosity has been excited since her departure. The roads leading to her mansion were for a few days after her death literally filled with crowds of people, who had been, or were going to see the Friend I. Her mansion stands on a barren heath amidst the solitudes of the wilderness, at some distance from this settlement. — Penn Yan.


Wilkinson said she and her parents had died and received revelations from God through two archangels, and that her soul had ascended to heaven, and been resurrected with a new spirit charged by God with preaching his word, that of the “Publick Universal Friend.”

She began preaching in New England and Pennsylvania, quoting scripture from memory and attracting large audiences, some of whom joined her congregation of “Universal Friends.” She opposed predestination, believed that God spoke equally to both sexes, and opposed slavery.

In the 1790s, she and her followers moved to western New York and established a community called Jerusalem, near the present Penn Yan. Early in the 1800s, her health began to fail, and after suffering from “dropsy” (edema), she died on July 1, 1819. Her congregation of “Universal Friends” suffered from splits thereafter and had disappeared by the 1860s. The house (“mansion”) where she died is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Murderer executed

NATHAN FOSTER, who was some time since committed to prison in Delhi, charged with having murdered his wife by poison, has been tried, convicted, and sentenced to be executed at Delhi, on the 8th of August. The trial lasted more than two days.

COMMENT: An Orange County newspaper wrote about the case: “Perhaps no cause ever excited more interest, and no fact was more clearly proven — Not a doubt remained upon the minds of any, after the trial, of his guilt; and the event of this trial shows plainly, that an all wise God superintends the affairs of men — that he sees all their actions, and will make them manifest. The clear and perfect chain of circumstances, together with the conduct of the prisoner and his confessions, and the manner in which they were brought to light, are truly astonishing.”

The execution was carried out as scheduled, one of the few in Delaware County. Foster was aged about 66 and had killed his wife, Eleanor.

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