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The Mountain Cove journal and spiritual harbinger. [volume] : (Mountain Cove, Va. [W. Va.]) 1852-1853
Place of publication:
Mountain Cove, Va. [W. Va.]
Geographic coverage:
  • Mountain Cove, Fayette, West Virginia  |  View more titles from this: City County, State
James L. Scott & Thomas L. Harris
Dates of publication:
  • Vol. 1, no. 1 (Aug. 12, 1852)-v. 1, no. 35 (Oct. 30, 1853).
  • English
  • Spiritualism--Periodicals.
  • Spiritualism.--fast--(OCoLC)fst01130170
sn 85059628
View complete holdings information

The Mountain Cove Journal and Spiritual Harbinger

The Mountain Cove Journal and Spiritual Harbinger began publication in Fayette County, Virginia (now West Virginia) in August of 1852. The Mountain Cove Spiritualist community from which it took its name no longer exists, but was located on Osborne Creek near present-day Anstead, West Virginia. Some community members believed the site to be the location of the Biblical Garden of Eden. Billed by some scholars as the first paper published in Fayette County and founded as a mouthpiece of the aforementioned Spiritualist group, the Journal was edited by community leaders and preachers James L. Scott and Thomas Lake Harris.

Scott had led his congregation of around 100 people to Virginia from the city of Auburn in Upstate New York's "Burned-over District" (of Second Great Awakening fame) the year prior, to be joined by Harris in the summer before the Journal's publication. Their paper was initially published weekly, on Thursdays, though its frequency was mostly biweekly from October 21, 1852 and nearly exclusively so from December 30 of that same year. But it did not drop the "published weekly" claim from its front page until March 24, 1853. Each issue of the Journal was four pages, and those pages were consecutively numbered beginning with issue 1, such that issue 2's first page was number 5, and so on. The Journal cost its readers $1.50 a year for a subscription, in advance.

The paper declared its Spiritualist leanings throughout. Under the title on the front page of every issue read the words: "God before all, Creator of all, without Beginning, Invisible and Eternal; Man a special creation, his life, exaltation and perfection the result of perfect Design, conducted by special Means, and by the Will and Mercy of God unfolded to Ultimation." Harris's former paper in Auburn, Disclosures from the Interior and Superior Care for Mortals continued in the form of a front-page column in the Journal. The Journal serialized Scott and Harris's many musings and pronouncements, including a "Book of the Melodies of Space," which postulated the existence of planets in the solar system beyond those that astronomers had already discovered. And while Scott and Harris rejected mainstream society and reserved authority to themselves through the use of "spirit" direction, their paper also reported on political goings-on, including the Democratic and Whig Presidential nomination conventions of 1852. Weather and other secular news from around the U.S. and the world at large did not totally escape their notice either. Even advertisements found their way into the Journal.

The Journal was read outside of the community, at least as far afield as New York City, where the Spiritual Telegraph of July 2, 1853 reported that the residents of Mountain Cove were "…deluded by the absurd pretensions of Mr. Scott." Oneida community founder John Henry Noyes described this and other comments in his Histories of American Socialism. Yet despite the Journal's arrival in America's largest city, in her 1870 book Modern American Spiritualism, Emma Hardinge Britten wrote that it was "…only prevented from destroying Spiritualism by the transient nature of its existence and its very limited circulation." She declared it "…a specimen of human audacity, impiety, and egotism…professedly indi[c]ted by orders of 'apostolic, angelic, and arch-angelic spirits'…"

As Anne Braude notes in her 1990 American Antiquarian Society piece News from the Spirit World: A Checklist of American Spiritualist Periodicals, 1847-1900, Harris would later reflect on the nature of newspapers. Perhaps with the negative attention the Journal received in mind, he wrote in 1857 in his Herald of Light that "Periodicals are like children. Some are still born; others barely gasp, and die; a few attain to manhood. Some are born of the lawful marriage of good and true affections; others the furtive product of unnatural lusts." Indeed, the Journal "died" after only 35 issues, ending publication on October 30, 1853, and the Mountain Cove community itself would soon follow. The Spiritual Telegraph attributed the collapse to a "quarrel about property."

Provided by: West Virginia University