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IX

CALIFORNIA

“Weary souls
By thee have been led up unto the fountains
Whence the deep tide of living waters flow,
And into that fair light of heavenly truth
Which like a blessed rainbow spans the future,
And bridges all the dark abyss of death."

Fanny Green. In 1861, from overwork, physical and mental, Mr. Peebles was thin, pale, nervous, and troubled with bronchial difficulty and lung trouble. He had now toiled in Battle Creek nearly four years, and felt that he needed rest and recreation. He had long cherished a desire to see California, which to him was a land of undefinable charm, — the Western limit of the modern race processions. To him this land is where the beginnings and ends meet, for tradition declares that the great city of the great mankind once existed where the ocean now expands — that golden land where the modern New and the prehistoric Old clasp hands, and where, mayhap, the birth of a new series of expanding nations will be known. At all events, the soul of our brother was drawn hither. To California he must go, and straightway he commenced his preparations.

Upon the temporary suspension of his pastoral relations with the “ Free Church,” resolutions were passed, speaking of him as “a true teacher,” having “purity of life and honesty of purpose; ” and prayers were breathed upon him amid tears that welled up from many hearts.

The Jeffersonian, a secular paper of Battle Creek, thus noticed his departure:

" While we part with him, it is our desire to say that few better persons are found in this mundane sphere than Mr.

Peebles and his amiable lady; for we know that this resolution on their part will effect a vacancy in our midst quite hard to be filled.”

During his absence, his desk was supplied by such personages as Warren Chase, Benjamin Todd, Bell Scougal, F. L. Wadsworth, of whose labors he spoke with grateful credit.

Amid farewells and waving of handkerchiefs, he embarked for California, on New Year's, 1860, in steamer “ Ariel,” sailing from New York and going by way of the Isthmus of Panama. He passed through the Golden Gate, and landed in San Francisco, March 25, 1861. To him this was a new world, for the Western coast is entirely unlike the East, and there was manifest among the people a far greater freedom and independence than anything he had hitherto been familiar with.

The ocean voyage much invigorated him, though he suffered from seasickness and a slight hemorrhage. He said in a letter to Clark's Spiritual Clarion:

"While suffering from seasickness, I felt my spirit friends continually around me; and how delightful the delicate touches of their fingers upon my forehead; their impressions how calming!

"Crossing the Isthmus of Panama, ideally reveling amid those groves of lemons, cocoas, and palms, I coasted the Pacific, recalling the words of Shelley,–

“My soul is an enchanted boat,

Which, like a sleeping swan, doth float
Upon the silver waves of thy sweet singing;

And thine doth like an angel sit
Beside the helm, conducting it.'"

At San Francisco, he made himself known to Rev. A. C. Edmunds, editor of The Star of the Pacific (Universalist), who represented him as a “Universalist-Unitarian-Spiritualist,” with encomiums as follows:

“Mr. J. M. Peebles, of Battle Creek, Mich., arrived in San Francisco on the 25th ult. (March, 1861), and is now temporarily tarrying in Sacramento. We bid him welcome to

California. He comes among us, not as the bearer of parchments from ecclesiastical associations, but as one divinely commissioned by the Father to speak the truth according to the measure of his understanding, imparted by the Spirit and the inspiration which the Fountain of Good has given to every man. We admire the platform of Brother Peebles, believing that every man should think and act for himself.

Bound to no party, to no sect confined,
The world our home, our brethren all mankind:
Love truth, do good, be just and fair with all;

Exalt the right, though every ism fall.” Among the friends that greeted him, there were Judge Robinson, Senator E. H. Burton, V. B. Post and family; Fanny Green, the poetess, who addressed him burning words of encouragement in his reforms; and T. Starr King, the patriot and spiritualist Unitarian, received him with heart warm as the baptism of that semitropical clime.

Mr. Peebles wrote several valuable articles for The Star of the Pacific, in which he gave spiritual interpretation to Biblical lore, for the benefit of the Universalist community, with a view of converting some to "a knowledge of the truth; " and was also a correspondent of A. J. Davis's Herald of Progress, in which he reported his spiritual experiences in California. Seeing the favorable notices in The Star, the Universalist papers of the Atlantic States reported him “as preaching Universalism in California !” The Chicago New Covenant (D. P. Livermore) noticed him thus:

"Rev. J. M. Peebles, of Battle Creek, Mich., formerly of our communion, and now advocating a phase of Spiritualism that in no way conflicts with Universalism, is to leave for California in November or December. He will probably locate at Sacramento. His first object is health ; that restored, he will resume preaching."

“The Universalist Companion,” a statistical pamphlet, said,

“ The Rev. J. M. Peebles was preaching Universalist sentiments in San Francisco, by last advices.”

This fling, “by last advices,” Mr. Peebles reviewed in a letter to The Ambassador.

* Advices and reports are unreliable just in the ratio or individual negligence and depravity. The millennium will be near when advices are correct, and men report what they positively know. ... The phrase, 'preaching Universalist sentiments' is correct, allowing the Protestant's privilege of private judgment and free expression. So do Unitarians proclaim

Universalist sentiments; ' so do most of the Swedenborgian clergy; so do lecturers upon the Harmonial Philosophy; so do all spiritualistic mediums, whether normal or abnormal; so does Henry Ward Beecher, when in his highest and happiest pulpit moments: and what of it? Simply this: It demonstrates the moral growth of the race, and a general tendency of the thinking masses to embrace broader theological views, touching the attributes of God, the administration of the divine government, the soul's educational capacity, and the final destination of humanity; and certainly no enlightened Christian gentleman, especially of the liberal school, would forbid the casting out of devils; i.e., the evils and errors of old sectarian theology, though under other names than the one he may have seen fit to adopt.”

Seeing favorable notices in Universalist papers, certain Spiritualists alleged he had renounced Spiritualism; and he drew the sword also on such. Writing to The Herald of Progress," he said:

* Supposing I had, the sun would shine, the stars glisten, the world move,– truth would be truth, and bigots bigoted. No! I have not renounced Spiritualism, Universalism, Unitarianism, Quakerism, or rather the truths that underlie them; for each symbolizes a central truth; and all truths manifest the harmonic law of unity. Octave notes do not jar; nor does unripe fruits contradict the mellowed fruitage of autumn. There are a few one-idea, one-sided ‘Spiritualists, who can perceive no truth in the universe, unless christened Spiritualism; and they seem to think themselves heaven-appointed watchmen, to gruffly growl around, and guard their imper

fectly conceived notion of that 'ism. It becomes a hobby;' and they ride the poor thing hoofless. I would as soon accept the teachings of Pius IX, or sectarian churchdom, as authoritative, as communications from the majority of spirits. Many of them are earth-bound and unprincipled. . . . Every thinker, given to meditation, will discriminate between use and abuse. To affirm there have been no abuses, no' froth nor scum,' under the name of Spiritualism, manifests not only a most deplorable ignorance and imbecility, but the very quintessence of impudence. . .

I am indebted to spirit intercourse for my knowledge - I say knowledge - of immortality, the location of the spirit world, the condition of the immortalized, the occupation of the loved gone before, and their progress toward the infinite. Those love messages that have greeted me from the thither side of death's peaceful river - messages from the angel world

I cherish above all price, and shall till I reach the sunny shores of that 'island home.' Still, I can be the exponent of no ism, to the exclusion of other and all great reforms that begin to glow upon the brow of this illustrious age."

California in those days well illustrated the slang phrase,“The wild and woolly West.” Society here was the very antipodes of New England Puritanism. Here the conventional restraints of Eastern civilization were quite effectually thrown off. Human nature rioted in this “happy hunting ground,” the abode of “Manitou." What a wild and glorious nature was here spread out! The magnificent mountains and cañons, and waterfalls, and fertile valleys bordering the peaceful stretch of the calm Pacific waters; with neither heat nor cold, but just such weather as the angels might petition for in heaven. Here the morning and evening sun Alings its glory on the brown raiment of the hills, and the Spirit of the seasons seems to rejoice as if a new springtime were here, which shall be the opening of a new cycle for mankind.

But these incipient arrivals from the restless, adventurous classes in the East but faintly prophesied the great Commonwealth that will eventually be built up on the Western Coast. This new population, suddenly released from the restraints of

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