By Robert Clarke & Co.of Hamilton. Two Volumes. Cincinnati :
By JOSEPH ESPY. By SAMUEL WILLIAMS. 3.The Leatherwood God, By. Cincinnati : Robert Clarke & Co.
THE biographical sketches by Mr. McBride are in large part interesting only to the friends and descendants of the pioneers whose adventures they relate. But they have also a general value as history of the pioneer life of the West, and as illustrations of a type of character almost as wholly vanished now as that of the savages who perished before it. The different sketches are simply written, and McBride, who, while he lived, ardently devoted himself to the collection and preservation of the personal records of what seems a very remote period, has imparted no more of his enthusiasm to the work than is entirely agreeable to the reader. Here and there among his obscure heroes appears the name of one who achieved something more than local note, like Robert McClellan, well-known to the readers of Irving’s “Astoria” as one of the adventurers at an early day in what is still the farthest West. He was an Indian hunter from the first, and he fled before peace and civilization after General ayne’s treaty in 1794, and on the Plains and beyond the Rocky Mountains he spent his age amidst the same perils and excitements that surrounded his youth and manhood in the Ohio Valley. The story of his wild and romantic career is the most entertaining of all McBride’s biographies.
A very curious chapter of superstition is that given in the Miscellanies, in Mr. Taneyhill’s account of “The Leatherwood God.” This divinity’s true name was Joseph C. Dylks, who appeared about the year 1817 among the unusually intelligent and devout settlers on the Leatherwood Creek, in Guernsey County, Ohio. They were of all sects, though chiefly Methodists and Moravians, and they were of such an enlightened and tolerant spirit, that they united in building a large log-house for common worship, which they called the Temple. One day at a camp-meeting there suddenly appeared among them a stranger, with
“ His beard a foot before him, and his hair
A yard behind” ;
A yard behind” ;
and, where every one else wore buckskin and linsey-woolsey, with his person arrayed in broadcloth. He called aloud at the top of his voice, “Salvation !” and gave a loud and terrible “snort,” which ever afterwards characterized him in supreme moments. He became known to the community as Joseph C. Dylks, showed himself profoundly versed in Scripture, and began to take the lead in all religious matters. After a while he confided to his more intimate friends that he was the Messiah, and from that it was but a step to his public declaration that he was God the Father. The number of those who believed in his divinity increased, until it included a majority of the people, when they seized the Temple and began to hold public services in his honor, at which they prayed to him, and fell down at his feet and worshipped him as their God. Meantime the heathen were waiting for some occasion to prove his fallibility, and in the coolness which followed his failure to perform a promised miracle, they seized him and carried him before a justice of the peace. The jnstice decided there was no law for trying a man who pretended to divinity, and set him free, and Dylks made good his escape from the mob by running into a cornfield. After some days’ hiding, he cautiously reappeared among his followers, but only to tell them that the scene of the coming of the New Jerusalem was transferred to the city of Philadelphia. Shortly afterwards he set out for Philadelphia with three of his followers, one of whom was a converted Moravian minister. On the way they separated, Dylks and his clerical convert taking one way, and the two laymen another, with the understanding that they were all to meet in Philadelphia. There, however, Dylks and the other never appeared.
In after years the minister returned to Leatherwood Creek, with the report that he had seen Dylks taken up into heaven. This comforted the two who had been abandoned at Philadelphia ; and though there was some falling away among the faithful, the greater part lived and died in the belief that Dylks was God. Even the children whom he had converted remained in the faith, and so late as the middle of this century believers survived.
We greatly regret that with this volume of Miscellanies Mr. Clarke has been obliged to bring his enterprise to a close. Nothing of equal scope or importance has been undertaken with reference to the early history of the country, and it was certainly to have been expected that the people of the region immediately interested would have lent it the warmest encouragement. But the editor is compelled to announce that his chief support has come from the East, and that the plan is relinquished for want of appreciation among the citizens of the Ohio valley, —a fact singularly discreditable to them.