With the semester coming to a close and paper deadlines looming, I'm going to punt this month and cross-post a piece that I originally wrote last summer for my personal blog. It is timely as an Easter post at least: Francis Schlatter was thought to be Christ resurrected, and he himself had numerous resurrections in the Progressive Era.
But before I get into that, a couples of quick notes. First, I originally came across Francis Schlatter through Ferenc Morton Szasz's Religion and the Modern American West. My post below is culled from Szasz's work and from browsing through the Chronicling America newspaper database for reactions to the Schlatter phenomenon. Second, please note that when I make a passing reference to curanderismo (Mexican American folk healing) in the text, I know next to nothing about the subject. Fortunately, Brett Hendrickson has a book forthcoming with NYU Press on curanderismo, which I am very excited to read later this year. (And as an aside, he told me Schlatter does get discussed briefly in the book).
|Pacific Commercial Adviser (Honolulu), 1896|
On a Friday night in early January, 1896, a Unitarian minister in Salem, Oregon lectured on the topic "Is Francis Schlatter the Lord Jesus Christ come for the second time?" The exact details of his answer to that question are unknown, but we can be sure that his final word on the subject was "no." More interesting than his sermon, though, is why he would even bring up the subject in the first place. Schlatter never set foot in Oregon, neither before nor after his rise to fame. Twelve months prior he was virtually unknown, wandering through the New Mexico desert. But by August 1895, newspapers from coast to coast were writing about the "New Mexico Messiah" and cracking jokes about a new sect of "Schlatter Day Saints."
Who was Francis Schlatter, why did he gain messianic status in the eyes of some, and what, ultimately, happened to him?