What was it about Western New York in
the 1800s that stirred the souls of men and women?Was it the isolation of the
frontier that turned ordinary people into seers and mystics? Whatever the cause,
the Genesee Country certainly had more than its share of cults and true believers
as wave after wave of religous revival spread across the region, thus earning
it the name, "The Burned Over District."
Western New York became
the birthplace of one of the world's great religions when Joseph Smith dug up
the Book of Mormon on a hillside near Palmyra. Other beliefs started with equal
fervor faded out after brief if sensational runs.
The three Fox sisters
of sleepy Hydesville in Wayne County created an international stir in 1848, with
their claims to have heard "rappings" from beyond the grave. They gave
public exhibitions of their ability to communicate with the dead.
humble beginnings the modern role of a medium evolved, and the new religion of
Spiritualism was founded. The church is now based at Lily
Dale in Chautauqua County, where the work of the Fox sisters goes on.
Yates County a group of followers of Jemima Wilkinson settled near Keuka Lake.
She was a preacher who awoke from a severe illness to announce that her body was
now inhabited by the "Publik Universal Friend."