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Historic Diaries: Marsh, 1834

Sabbath-Keeping at Appanoose's Village

Editor's Note:

In this entry Marsh reveals how differently he understood the world than most people do today. To him, the Sabbath was a fact of nature. That God had created a specific day for spiritual activities seemed as obvious as that He had made the seasons come around one after another.

When the Fox and most of the frontier settlers that Marsh met failed to acknowledge this, they appeared to him to have denied an obvious fact rather than to simply view the world from a different, perhaps equally valid, perspective.

In addition to his notes on Fox and Sauk sabbath-keeping, or lack thereof, Marsh also recorded on this day several pages of notes on “Time of Continuing at Their Villages” (concerning the Fox seasonal migrations, on pages 103-105 of the online facsimile of his manuscript) and “Feelings of a Young Man after Killing a Child in War" (pages 105-106), on the intersection of Fox religion and morality. These notes are too long to transcribe here but can be seen in the original manuscript by clicking the links just above.

Aug. 3rd Sabbath.

Rejoiced to behold its sacred light. Still, here it dawns upon those who have for ages and generations sat in pagan darkness and superstition. I made some effort to have a meeting but found an unwillingness because their chief was not present. They depend greatly upon him and besides are strongly attached to their superstitions.

Spent a portion of the day in retirement and found it good and profitable. Surely God is good and gracious, for whilst I am far from the sanctuary, still I trust that I have found his presence and blessing whilst sitting in the grove upon the banks of the Des Moines…

Manner in which the Sacs hold their Sabbath: I cannot find that they have any idea of it even by tradition, or that their Meshaum [medicine bundles] which is considered as containing their system of morals, require that any part of the time should be kept holy. Thus man in his wickedness and darkness of mind when left to himself forgets and blots out the memory of the Sabbath. They therefore spend it the same as other days…

Closed the day after the noise of the drum had ceased by commending ourselves to God in prayer.

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