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Heaven's Ditch: God, Gold, and Murder…
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Heaven's Ditch: God, Gold, and Murder on the Erie Canal (utgåvan 2017)

av Jack Kelly (Författare)

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
828258,656 (3.38)1
"The technological marvel of its age, the Erie Canal grew out of a sudden fit of inspiration. Proponents didn't just dream; they built a 360-mile waterway entirely by hand and largely through wilderness. As excitement crackled down its length, the canal became the scene of the most striking outburst of imagination in American history. Zealots invented new religions and new modes of living. The Erie Canal made New York the financial capital of America and brought the modern world crashing into the frontier. Men and women saw God face to face, gained and lost fortunes, and reveled in a period of intense spiritual creativity. Heaven's Ditch by Jack Kelly illuminates the spiritual and political upheavals along this "psychic highway" from its opening in 1825 through 1844. "Wage slave" Sam Patch became America's first celebrity daredevil. William Miller envisioned the apocalypse. Farm boy Joseph Smith gave birth to Mormonism, a new and distinctly American religion. Along the way, the reader encounters America's very first "crime of the century," a treasure hunt, searing acts of violence, a visionary cross-dresser, and a panoply of fanatics, mystics, and hoaxers. A page-turning narrative, Heaven's Ditch offers an excitingly fresh look at a heady, foundational moment in American history"--… (mer)
Medlem:snrylisa
Titel:Heaven's Ditch: God, Gold, and Murder on the Erie Canal
Författare:Jack Kelly (Författare)
Info:St. Martin's Griffin (2017), Edition: Reprint, 304 pages
Samlingar:Ditt bibliotek
Betyg:
Taggar:history, transportation

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Heaven's Ditch: God, Gold, and Murder on the Erie Canal av Jack Kelly

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Kelly undertakes an ambitious project here in trying to tell the story of the creation of the Erie Canal and its economic and social impact; the rise of religious fundamentalism in the United States; and a fatal argument within the Freemasons. Unfortunately other than the three things took place around the same time in roughly the same area of the young country, they have no real connection to each other. The result is a confusing read as Kelly’s narrative constantly jumps between the three threads, leaving you feeling that none of them were covered to the depth they could have been. This is three separate books struggling for attention between the covers of a single volume. ( )
  gothamajp | May 29, 2021 |
As a resident of central New York who's interested in its 19th century history I found this book a great read. The author uses the construction of the Erie Canal to bring focus on the exceptional social and political movements and events in this region in the mid-century years.

The canal was one of the most significant public works projects in the nation's history and the book tells the story of its construction well. To take the history beyond the canal and its economic impact, Kelly uses the canal's path across the state to recount the explosive emergence of religious fervor and eccentric sects in upstate New York.

He chronicles the so-called Second Great Awakening led by the famed evangelist Charles Grandison Finney, whose emotion-packed revivals created the so-called "burned-over district" of central and western New York. (Finney's rise to prominence started in the local church in my small village; in his memoir he tells of converting the occupants of our present home. He went on from here to achieve national and international fame.) Finney's influence can be linked to the emergence of the temperance movement and to efforts to secure women's rights that took hold in mid-century.

William Miller drew a large following of "Millerites" who accepted his end of time predication that pegged the second coming of Christ to an exact date in 1843. Miller based this belief on arcane calculations from biblical history. His most fervent believers disposed of property or closed businesses to be ready for the apocalypse. Millerism is the forerunner of the Adventist denomination that exists to the present day.

The founding of Mormonism is told from the discovery of the golden tablets and revelations of Joseph Smith, Jr. to the exodus of the Mormons to Ohio, Missouri and Illinois where Smith was killed by an outraged mob. Kelly is careful not to criticize the tenants of Mormon theology, but in the context of the times and culture in which it arose one is drawn toward skepticism. Smith's "revelation from God" about the imperative of polygamy seems to have been based more on Smith's sexual needs than on revealed doctrine.

There is a brief description of the prophetess Jemima Wilkenson and a short history of the Shakers. He touches on the abolitionist Theodore Dwight Weld who advocated for the spread of the "Manual Labor" movement as an educational reform and was a leading light in the rise of abolitionism in the 1830's. One omission that would have been interesting is the Oneida Community in nearby Kenmore, NY. A utopian communal religious sect founded by John Humphrey Noyes, the Oneida Community is most remembered today for its practice of "free love" manifested through so-called complex marriages. The industrious Oneidas were the antecedents of the Oneida Silversmiths, a major producer of silverware for many years.

Equally fascinating is the story of the abduction and (likely) murder of William Morgan in western NY. Morgan was a former Freemason who, to make money, planned to publish a book revealing some of the Mason's secret rituals. He was kidnapped and held by unknown persons and never seen again; his body was never found. This act gave rise to vehement and widespread public opposition to Masonry resulting in the Anti-Mason political party that operated for some years on a state and national level.

Another interesting history of many of the esoteric spiritualist movements in this region during the 19th century is "Upstate Cauldron" by Joscelyn Godwin. ( )
  stevesmits | Oct 16, 2020 |
Oddly structured book. Found it distracting with constant back and forth. Sparse coverage of canal building, which was what pulled it from the bargain bin in the first place. The number of unique religious figures with ties to the area was interesting. ( )
  Whiskey3pa | Jan 29, 2020 |
Having recently finished "American Eden: Botany and Medicine in the Garden of the Early Republic" which has some overlap with the Erie Canal, I realized how little I knew about this grand public works project. The author provides quite a bit of social background on what was occuring in the settling of the "West"; religion, politics, economic advancement, abolition. The idea of wages as a "cunning device to retain advantages of slavery without the expense and trouble" is quite foreign to our current model. Not quite as much detail or accuracy on the construction of The Grand Western Canal as I was expecting. Canal construction brought some nifty innovations (drill hardening, the Dibble crane, cement and DuPont's black powder) but mostly lots and lots of hand labor via expendable workers. Interesting book, but I could have done with less of the social milieu. ( )
  MM_Jones | Apr 1, 2019 |
Living in Syracuse I am constantly reminded of the Erie Canal. In fact, I purchased this book at the Erie Canal Museum on (wait for it) Erie Boulevard. So my desire to learn something new was high. I had already read about the founding of the Mormons and the 'burned-over district' and was aware of the Freemason murder from other sources. So far, nothing new.
I was confused by the jumping back and forth between the stories of murder, God and the design and financial support of the canal. I would say if you were completely unaware of these topics you would find this a good over-all source for that information. ( )
  book58lover | Aug 11, 2017 |
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"The technological marvel of its age, the Erie Canal grew out of a sudden fit of inspiration. Proponents didn't just dream; they built a 360-mile waterway entirely by hand and largely through wilderness. As excitement crackled down its length, the canal became the scene of the most striking outburst of imagination in American history. Zealots invented new religions and new modes of living. The Erie Canal made New York the financial capital of America and brought the modern world crashing into the frontier. Men and women saw God face to face, gained and lost fortunes, and reveled in a period of intense spiritual creativity. Heaven's Ditch by Jack Kelly illuminates the spiritual and political upheavals along this "psychic highway" from its opening in 1825 through 1844. "Wage slave" Sam Patch became America's first celebrity daredevil. William Miller envisioned the apocalypse. Farm boy Joseph Smith gave birth to Mormonism, a new and distinctly American religion. Along the way, the reader encounters America's very first "crime of the century," a treasure hunt, searing acts of violence, a visionary cross-dresser, and a panoply of fanatics, mystics, and hoaxers. A page-turning narrative, Heaven's Ditch offers an excitingly fresh look at a heady, foundational moment in American history"--

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