False Prophets and Messiahs Jemima Wilkenson

About the false prophet or messiah Jemima Wilkenson, biography and history of the man.



According to Wilkenson, the daughter of a Quaker farmer in Rhode Island, she "died" when she was 20. Before her family could bury her, however, she arose as a reincarnation of Christ, sent on a divine mission to found the Church and prepare the Chosen Few for the Second Coming, scheduled to occur, she said, in her lifetime. A tall, persuasive woman, often clad in kilts and the broad hat worn by men of her time, she won fierce loyalty from her congregation of "Universal Friends," who numbered about 250 and of whom she demanded strict celibacy. She once announced that, like Jesus, she could walk on water. Just as she was about to demonstrate this miracle, she turned to her followers and asked if they believed she could do it. When they all shouted "Yes!" she decided there was no point in actually doing it and walked home on land. Wilkenson preached in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania, and by 1790 she had carved out a religious settlement in the wilderness of the Finger Lakes region of western New York. The community befriended the local Indian population and prospered until 1820, when Jemima Wilkenson died. In keeping with her instructions, members did not bury her but instead waited anxiously for her to rise once again. As her body decomposed, the faith of many of the Universal Friends declined. Their numbers dwindled rapidly, and in 1874 the last believer died.

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