Denver’s Extraordinary Faith-Healing Messiah

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Denver’s Extraordinary Faith-Healing Messiah
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Denver’s Extraordinary Faith-Healing Messiah
Wetzel, David N.
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Denver, CO
Center for Colorado and the West
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Auraria Library
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Auraria Library
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Denvers Extraordinary Faith-Healing Messiah | Center for Colorado & the West at Auraria Library[12/8/2015 12:52:15 PM] Home Denvers Extraordinary Faith-Healing MessiahDenvers Extraordinary Faith-Healing MessiahSubmitted by jainlayconley on 4-9-2010 04:36 PMAuthor: Bill Blanning, ed. Publishing: Bill Blanning, ed., Denvers Extraordinary Faith-Healing Messiah. New York: Eloquent Books, 2009. x + 133 pages. 6 x 9. $22.50 hardcover. Conger Beasley Jr. Messiah: The Life and Times of Francis Schlatter Santa Fe, NM: Sunstone Press, 2008. 250 pages. 6 x 9. $24.95 paper. Reviewer: David N. Wetzel Francis Schlatter, one of the most remarkable figures in Denvers early history, believed himself to be the reincarnated Messiah. One might speculate that his wish was fulfilledhistorically, that is. Though he presumably died in 1896 on a mountainside in Mexico, he has reemerged many times through the years. Every decade or so, since Schlatters announced death, reporters, writers, and historians have revived his story. The latest incarnation appears in two books: Bill Blannings compilation of early newspaper articles on Schlatter entitled Denvers Extraordinary Faith-Healing Messiah, and Conger Beasley Jr.s Messiah: The Life and Times of Francis Schlatter, the first full-length biography of the healer to appear in more than a century. Schlatter, an Alsatian cobbler, came to Denver unheralded in 1892. A few months later, while sitting at his shoemakers bench, he heard the voice of God calling him to go on a pilgrimage. Schlatter obeyed, and he wandered for two years across the American West, often without food or water. He arrived in New Mexico in the summer of 1895. There his remarkable healing powers made national news, as did his forty-day fast, which ended in a meal of incredible proportions. Yet he did not dieand that, as well as his Christlike appearance, contributed to his charisma. Invited to Denver, Schlatter bestowed his healing gifts, freely given, on tens of thousands of pilgrims who passed by him at the home of Edward L. Fox, his host at 725 Witter Street (presently 3225 Quivas) in Denvers Highlands. The healing sessions brought worldwide attention to Denver. Newspaper reporters, initially skeptical, came to admire the healer and to respect his sincerity, candor, and humilityas well as his healing powers. People across the country, and the world, sent letters addressed to The Messiah, Denver, Colorado. Schlatter seemed ready to take his healing work to Chicago, New York, Europe, and beyond. But it all ended on the night of November 13, 1895. The next morning, pilgrims waiting at the Fox home learned that Schlatter had left a message on his pillow saying: Mr. Fox. My mission has ended. Father takes me away. Good bye. The healer had disappearedbut not entirely. With the help of his supporters, he eluded scores of reporters and rumor-hunters who went in search of him. Quietly he made his way south on a white horse back to New Mexico. In early January 1896 he showed up at the ranch house of Ada Morley, located in the Datil Mountains west of Socorro. The healer spent three months in seclusion on Morleys ranch, and they EXPLORE BY MEDIABook Reviews Photographs Video Biographies New Publications Resource Guides County Newspaper HistoriesEXPLORE BY TOPICLand & Natural Resources Government & Law Agriculture Mining Commerce & Industry Transportation People & Places Communication Healthcare & Medicine Education & Libraries Cultural Communities Recreation & Entertainment Tourism ReligionEXPLORE BY CULTUREHispanic Native AmericanWithin Colorado boundaries are lands once claimed by Spanish kings and Mexican governors.


Denvers Extraordinary Faith-Healing Messiah | Center for Colorado & the West at Auraria Library[12/8/2015 12:52:15 PM] spoke of everything from economic and social injustices to reincarnation and biblical prophecy. In fact, it was here that Schlatter revealed his religious destinyto return at the centurys end to establish New Jerusalem in the wake of a worldwide Armageddon. In the meantime, he planned to find solitude in Old Mexico. Before departing Morleys ranch, Schlatter recounted the story of his two-year walking pilgrimage, an ordeal he compared to Christs forty days in the wilderness. By then, Morley had become his most devoted disciple. With his permission, she proposed a book based on his spiritual tramp. Over the next few months, after he left, she added accounts of his Albuquerque and Denver healing sessions, written by two of his supporters, and contributed a lengthy narrative detailing her multifaceted conversations with the healer. Entitled The Life of the Harp in the Hand of the Harper, the book was meant to be the Gospel of the New Agethe new millennium. But it was not to be. The Life of the Harp, privately printed in Denver, appeared in July 1897. Its timing was inauspicious, for news reports confirming the healers death had already come out of Mexico. Morley refused to believe them, and she awaited Schlatters promised return for another twenty years, until her own death in 1917. Meanwhile, the Life of the Harp went into obscurity, and today only a handful of copies exist. Sad, because the Life of the Harp constitutes the blueprint of Schlatters personal messianic dream. Blannings book on Schlatter adds color to the historical record since it draws primarily from actual newspaper reports. However, he relies almost entirely on the Rocky Mountain News, an unfortunate selfimposed limitation since some of the best scenes and stories of Schlatters healing sessions appeared in other Denver newspapersthe Post, the Times, and the Republican But thats not the books only limitation. Inexplicably, Blanning represents nearly the entire two-month span of Schlatters public healing in Denver, from mid-September to mid-November 1895, with only one issue of the News out of twenty published during that time by the News alone. He thus misses much of the storyfrom lines extending around several blocks, to the tent city of Schlattertown, to the arrest of confidence men who mailed blessed handkerchiefs bearing Schlatters image at inflated prices. Until recently, books about Schlatters life and career have not risen much above edited compilations like Blannings. In 1989 Ada Morleys grandson, Norman Cleaveland, published The Healer: The Story of Francis Schlatter (Santa Fe, NM: Sunstone Press), a compilation that has one excellent virtue: it reprints and makes available for modern readers the century-old Life of the Harp in the Hand of the Harper But two years ago, Conger Beasley Jr., a writer of fiction and nonfiction, published a full biography of Francis Schlatter. Beasley, an industrious researcher, compiled a bibliography of previously untouched books, articles, and newspapers on the healer. He traveled widely, found manuscript sources, and consulted with other researchers on Schlatter. Beasleys book, more than any other, takes the healer from his birth in Alsace to his death in Mexico in a chronologically sound narrative progression, and he explores the larger world in which Schlatter livedin particular the economic depression of the 1890s. But, against all reason, Beasley dramatizes his biography. From the opening paragraph, in which Francis Schlatter rides in the comfort of a Union Pacific train toward Denver (never documented historically), to the moment of his solitary death, when the healer sees two ravens bouncing toward him over the rocks (233), Messiah: The Life and Times of Francis Schlatter cannot decide whether it is fact or fiction. At one point during his pilgrimage, Schlatter encountered a peach orchard. Beasley has him devouring them: He ate so many peaches his stomach cramped, he says (32). In truth, Schlatter listened to the Fathers


Denvers Extraordinary Faith-Healing Messiah | Center for Colorado & the West at Auraria Library[12/8/2015 12:52:15 PM] Auraria Library 303-556-4587 1100 Lawrence Street Denver, Colorado 80204 In the News Partners & Donations About Us Contact Us command and ate raw corn instead ( Life of the Harp, 26). Schlatters story continues to weave its spell on new generations of readersand writers. After more than a century, the mystery of his disappearance and fate may never be known. But almost certainly it lies buried somewhere in the 115-year-old Life of the Harp in the Hand of the Harper. Reviewer Info: David N. Wetzel, retired director of publications for the Colorado Historical Society, volunteers as an editor for the Center for Colorado and the West. He has written on Denver architecture, Plains Indian ledger art, and childhood expressed in historical photography. He is writing a book on the known and unknown lives of Francis Schlatter. Add new commentComments FRANCIS SCHLATTER Permalink Submitted by Anonymous on 1-14-2011 10:52 PMThere is another book that was published in 1896 called "The Biography of Francis Schlatter "The Healer" by Harry B. Magill. It has some wonderful photographs but is mostly copied from newspapers articles. I was able to get it from the internet. Bill Blanning reply