Midcoast Maine Day Hike: The Great Disappointment (1844 revisited)

The hikers gather
The hikers gather

Just before day break on Oct. 22, I drove up the Maiden Cliff Road to join Rosey Gerry and three other men at 6:30 AM to follow the footsteps and wagon wheel ruts of a group of heavenly-focused Lincolnville residents in recreating a most unique, but disquieting event that occurred on this exact date in 1844.

For the past 30 years, Lincolnville historian Gerry has recreated this Oct.22 hike.

The walk commemorates the exact path taken by a band of religious zealots, followers of an upstate New York farmer and Baptist layman named William Miller (1782-1849). Miller was certain from his studies of the Bible that Jesus Christ was going to return on that day.

photo 11
Ciphering the old road

The hike took place on the western edge of Camden Hills State Park.  Rosey led us up an ancient wagon trail that can still be traced on the back side of Mt. Megunticook up to the Millerite Ledges.

Millerite Ledges
Millerite Ledges

A crowd gathered here to meet Jesus Christ, who was prophesied to arrive on Oct.22, 1844 in order to lift up to the glorious afterlife all who heeded the good reverend’s call.    Camden area believers had reached the same spot on the Ledges from traveling directly north from town.  Another large contingent of believers congregated on the open ledges atop Mount Pleasant, some 5 miles southwest.

On this date in 1844 over 100,000 Christians gathered on hillsides, in meeting places, and in meadows. But Jesus was nowhere to be found, at least on the earthly sphere, with the event that became knows as The Great Disappointment.

From Grace Communion International (GCI)’s website:
“ Actually, the October 1844 debacle was the second great disappointment for followers of Miller’s chronology and prophecy blueprint. He had previously announced that the coming of Jesus Christ would occur in about the year 1843. The year came and went without Christ’s return. Miller’s prophetic claim had failed and disappointed many people.
Then someone pointed out that he had neglected to take into account the transition from BC to AD, so that his calculations were one year off. Miller then moved the expected return of Jesus forward by one year, this time to Oct. 22, 1844. But The Great Disappointment happened once again to the thousands of followers who had given away their possessions and waited in expectant belief — for nothing.”

There is considerable web info about The Great Disappointment, including  this three minute re-enactment video on YouTube.

We spnt spent most of the morning exploring old foundations, ancient granite bridges, and the glacial scouring of the ledges above Maiden Cliff.

Galcial striations visible on granite trough
Galcial striations visible on granite trough

On the way down, Rosey cut a thin forked branch from what I call a swamp maple tree and demonstrated his dowsing skills, locating what he said was a water source that was below ground on the upper reaches of a former commercial wild blueberry field that is a recent edition to Camden Hills State Park.

The three other members of our hike were unsuccessful in their efforts to make the stick bend to the ground.


Then it was my turn.  I held the stick tightly in my hands and twisted the tip upwards, as instructed by Rosey.  As I approached the same spot where Rosey “discovered” water, I began to feel an unmistakable pull of the tip of the twig downward to the ground.  Then the tip was pulled almost 180 degrees downward with enough force that the green bark cracked and separated from the white inner layer.  It was unmistakable, and unexplained, but so are a lot of events that occur in the natural world.
“ Tom, you got it!”  said Rosey.
I can all dowser to my vitae, although I have not tried to do it since last week.

I experienced another satisfying discovery on the way down, when I located a white birch tree that had several growths of a fungus known as chaga on it.

Chaga on birch tree
Chaga on birch tree

I recorded the spot via a GPS waypoint button for a future hike to harvest a few chaga chunks.  The chaga mushroom is considered a medicinal mushroom in Russian and Eastern European folk medicine; medical evidence is emerging.

This was one of the most unique day hikes that I have experienced.  I plan to redo it again on Oct. 22, 2016, where I’ll show up at the end of the Maiden Cliff Road at 6:30 AM and see what other adventures Rosey will have in store for us.

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