Newspaper Account of the Israel Dammon Trial
Portland (Maine) Advertiser (reprinted in The Catholic Telegraph, 24 April 1845, vol. 16, p. 7)
Trial of Israel Dammon
We have seen a report of the trial of a man who is termed Elder Dammon, at Dover, Maine, commenced the 17th ult., before Moses Sweat, and Seth Lee, Esqrs. The trial develops most shocking particulars; and convinces us more fully than before, that town and city authorities should interfere and arrest these sensual and demoralizing proceedings; they are as bad as the worst days of that arch scoundrel and fanatic, Cochran, who 'led silly women captive,' and despoiled the domestic peace of many a peaceful and respectable family. A part of the evidence we have omitted, it being too gross for publication. Dammon was charged with being a vagabond, a common railer and brawler, neglecting to support his family, &c. He pleaded not guilty, and numerous witnesses were examined during the time of the trial, which lasted two days.
J. W. E. Harvey, testified that he had attended their meetings two days and four evenings. They were hugging and kissing each other; Dammon would lie on the floor, and then jump up; they would frequently go into another room. Dammon has no means of supporting himself that I know of. The meeting appeared to be very irreligious; have seen him sit on the floor, with a woman, his arms around her. The room they went into was a back room. They said the world's people must not go there.
Wm. C. Crosby, Esq., testified. He was at the meeting on Saturday night, from about 7 to 9 o'clock. There was a woman on the floor, who lay on her back, with a pillow under her head; she would occasionally rouse up and tell a vision, which she said was revealed to her. They would at times all be talking at once, halloing at the top of their voices; some of them said that there was too much sin there. By spells it was the noisiest I ever attended. He had seen them in groups, hugging and kissing each other. Once saw Elder Hall with his boots off, and the women would go and kiss his feet. One girl made a smack, but did not hit his foot with her lips. Hall said, "he that is ashamed of me before men, him will I be ashamed of before my father and the holy angels." She then gave his feet a number of kisses. Lorton Lambert, testified that he attended a meeting one evening, and that Dammon was very abusive; called all the other denominations liars, murderers, &c. A woman was present, who pretended to have visions, and who was blasphemously called the imitation of Christ. She was said to be from Portland; her name was Ellen Harmon. She told Mrs. Woodbury she must be baptized, or go to hell. Mrs Woodbury concluded to be baptized. A Miss Dorinda Baker of Orrington figured largely. She told Lambert he was the devil, and would go to hell. She subsequently went into the bedroom with a man whom they call Elder White, and when they came out, they were hugging each other.
Miss Baker then went to one Doore, and they kissed each other. This night they went to the water and baptized. The visionist, Miss Harmon, lying on the floor several hours—7 to 1 o'clock, that night. Part of the time Dammon lay on the floor, on his back. Elder White said if the Almighty had anything to reveal, he revealed it to Miss H. She acted as mediator.
Jer. B. Green testified, that in the meeting he attended, he saw men wash women's feet, &c. Elder D. was the Presiding Eider. He saw Dammon kiss Mrs. Osborn.
Ellen Trundy testified that prisoner told her she must live on them that had property—and if God did not come, then they must all go to work together.
The first witness offered by the defence, was James Ayer, Jr. He denied that a man went into the bedroom with Miss Baker. He was an Adventist, and said it was a part of their faith to kiss each other—and that they had Bible authority for it. He admitted that prisoner had no other business than to attend meetings. Dammon admitted that he had a spiritual wife, and was glad of it. He understood Miss Harmon had a vision at Portland and was traveling through the country relating it.
Job Moody, one of the brethren, affirmed that prisoner had repeatedly urged upon them the necessity of quitting all labor. He affirmed that D's character was good. As for himself he had been serving the Lord and hammering against the devil of late.
George Woodbury affirmed he believed in Miss Harmon's visions, because she told his wife's feelings correctly. It was his impression that prisoner kissed his wife. Believes the world will come to an end within two months; prisoner preaches so. This is the faith of the band. He believed the sisters Harmon and Baker's revelations as much as though they came from God. Sister Harmon said to his wife and the girls if they did not do as she said, they would go to hell. His wife and Dammon passed across the floor on their hands and knees. Some man did go into the bedroom. Heard brother Dammon say the gift of healing the sick lay in the church. Dammon advised us not to work, because there is enough to live on until the end of the world.
Thomas Proctor testified that prisoner confessed to him that Miss Baker had an exercise in her bedroom, and that he went in and helped her out.
Much other testimony was received, pro and con, of a similar character, and the prisoner opened his defence. He cited Luke vii, 26; John 13; last chapter in Romans; Philippians 4th; 1st Thes. 5th chapter.
Prisoner again arose, and read the 5th and 126th Psalm. He argued that the day of grace had gone by, and that the believers were reduced, but that there were too many yet, and that the end of the world would come within a week.
The prisoner was sentenced to ten days in the House of Correction; from which sentence he appealed. On Tuesday, after the trial was concluded, and the court was waiting for the counsel to come in, the prisoner and his witnesses asked permission, and sung that hymn by John Craig, beginning—
These scenes are enacted at Atkinson only. In this city, we are informed "gross deeds" are done by one section of the fanatics—for there are two. One worshiping with propriety of conduct, (as far as we know,) at Beethoven Hall; the other at private houses. The latter hold to the "kissing" "washing each other's feet," abandoning work, &c. Many of these were once respectable, happy and comfortably situated. Now, by this delusion of the devil, they are wallowing on the floor, their families broken up, their daughters debased, their minds wild with insanity. It is indeed a melancholy reflection, and well deserving the attention of the humane, how this wild fury may be stopped, our youth preserved from pollution, those saved who are not yet utterly ruined—and those ruined, recovered if it can be so.