A busy day, so, without much commentary–you can spot the obvious parallels to assorted ecstatic religious states, Voodoo, and Spiritualism for yourselves–I present a Kentucky cult built around “Mother Taylor,” who claimed to be able to raise the dead.
Services Over the Grave
Of a Dead Colored Child in Lexington.
Believers in Old Mother Taylor’s Mysterious powers
Endeavor To Restore the Infant To Life.
Thousands of her Race in a State of Excitement.
Queer Services at the Society’s Last Meeting.
“I Am With You,” Was the Specter’s Weird Chant
Appearance of Stars
Special Dispatch to the Enquirer.
Lexington, Ky., April 23. The colored people throughout the Blue Grass region are in a state of unusual excitement over a “Chosen agent” of God that has appeared among them, and in consequence every Sunday witnesses monster meetings at which weird and uncanny services are conducted. The best colored people in this section are members of the association, which has been organized by the disciple that has just appeared. It is called the “Power Society,” and its members are supposed to be able to raise the dead when acting in concert and under the influence of the faith. As an example of their sincere belief in the power of the new disciple to accomplish miracles that have not been wrought since the Scriptural days, the death of a colored baby ably demonstrated.
The child died after an illness of a few days and so certain were its parents of the ability of the new representative of Christ, Betty Taylor, that they are said to have exercised little trouble in trying to
SAVE THE BABY’S LIFE
The day after the child died a meeting of the society was called by Mother Taylor. The dead infant was interred at 6 o’clock in the morning and at 9 o’clock the “Power Society,” headed by the archdisciple, repaired to the grave side and prepared to raise the child from the land of the dead to that of the living.
Services of the most peculiar nature were gone through with and at times they were of a character that suggested affinity with his Satanic majesty. Even the practices of the black art would stand in the shade beside the demonstrations made by these members of the “Power Society,” who claimed to be in direct communication with God. After sprinkling the grave and calling on the “Spirit” to manifest itself, the high priest of the society commenced to chant a hymn that originated in the fertile mind of some of the elect. It began thus: “Oh. God. Go. God. We are Thy appointed servants and are now preparing to prove our power. Don’t desert us, but show Thyself, show Thyself!”
FOR SIX HOURS
The band played over the grave, and called on the powers that be to infuse life into the body of the infant, but “it never came.” Finally the attempt was abandoned, and the society journeyed back to their head-quarters on Race street. They claim that the parents of the child did not have “faith,” consequently their attempt to restore life proved futile. Every night the society holds meetings in a large house which it has purchased. A glimpse into these ceremonies would please and satisfy the most fastidious lover of mystery.
The spirit asserts its presence by jerking the object on which it fastens its attention. The most delightful and appreciated occurrence that can happen to a member of the society is to find himself suddenly wrenched and jerked in all conceivable ways [another manifestation of the Kentucky Jerks?] This proves that the subject so afflicted is a great favorite with the spirit. [This sounds a bit like loa riding in Voudou.] At a meeting held Friday night some wonderful things are said to have taken place, and, if they are true, then this society, that is revolutionizing the colored people of the Blue Grass, seems to possess some power which in slave times was said to have been held by the
When the members had all assembled in the room at 8 o’clock, Friday night, the lights were turned out and the room was in complete darkness. Mother Taylor called on the spirit to show itself, and her cry was echoed in turn by all the other members present. Suddenly a figure draped in white is said to have appeared in the room. The specter waved its long arms for silence, and spoke only the four worlds: “I am with you.” The frightened blacks made a frantic break at the white object, but it disappeared as quickly and as mysteriously as it had come among them. Suddenly bright stars appeared at different places on the ceiling of the room and at intervals darted through the air, never touching a member, however.
Mother Taylor after this demonstration is said to have become as limp as a rag and was carried to her couch, where, lying on her back, she exhorted the society to stand by the faith. After tis meeting the colored people cannot be convinced but that the woman is possessed of supernatural powers and great excitement is prevalent among them in consequence. An Esquire correspondent saw the arch conspirator of the “Power Society.” When she discovered that her visitor was a newspaper man she suddenly commenced to tremble, and, crying that the spirit of worrying her, began to spring up and down with the agility of a cat. Her legs, arms and hands were jerked about as if
BY SOME GALVANIC FORCE
Her eyes all the time protruding an inch from their sockets. In about two minutes the spirit seemed to tire and left the woman alone. She stated that she was an authorized agent of God, and that he had appeared to her and given her the orders which she was now following out. She showed the correspondent a cross cut in the flesh on her bosom which she said had suddenly appeared there, and was, as she believed, the sign of the spirit. She claimed to be able to raise the dead and related several instances of where she had resurrected the dead several days after death. Among the powers she claims is that of causing women to become pregnant through the spirit.
She was herself, she said, a child of the spirit. Mother Taylor is a remarkably talented old woman and argues in a manner that convinces many of her sincerity. The Power Society now has a membership in the Bluegrass of about 2,000 persons, and is increasing at a rapid rate. The band has purchased a church here and is fitting it up handsomely. Believers from Paris, Winchester, Cynthiana, Mt. Sterling, Georgetown, Williamstown, Nicholasville, Danville and Richmond flock to the city on Sunday to listen to the inspiring words of Mother Taylor.
The Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 24 April 1893: p. 1
Here’s an account of “The Jerks” in early Ohio, for comparison:
The Holy Spirit, as [the Methodist minister, Mr. Antrem] called it, manifested its saving power by giving ladies what they called the jerks, which would commence with a loud groaning, and then the head would jerk back and forth, causing their long hair, which they braided, to crack like a whip-lash, they jumping up and down and shouting, while the preacher called on the congregation to alternately sing and pray… Several young women from the prairie jerked until they fell exhausted, frothing at the mouth, with every nerve twitching. They were pronounced by Antrem to be most powerfully converted; and that appeared to be the uniform working of the Spirit at all his meetings in Ohio, Indiana or Kentucky. Historical Collections of Ohio, Henry Howe, p. 725
This account of The Power Society seems to be a single-source story–the article above (as best I can tell) was repeated only in a Michigan newspaper of the same date. Mother Taylor undoubtedly had the charisma to attract followers, but surely it would take only a few failed resurrections to sow doubt in the minds of the faithful. I’ve previously reported on what happened to a group of devotees when Mrs Martin, hailed as God made manifest in Walnut Hills, Ohio, died. Did the Power Society survive much longer than this notice of it? And my prurient mind wants to know how Mother Taylor worked the “pregnant by the spirit” scheme. If you have any more information on Mother Taylor or the Society, please send by authorized agent to chriswoodyard8 AT gmail.com