Heaven's Ditch

Heaven's Ditch

God, Gold, and Murder on the Erie Canal

Book - 2016
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"The technological marvel of its age, the Erie Canal grew out of a sudden fit of inspiration. Proponents didn't just dream; they built a 360-mile waterway entirely by hand and largely through wilderness. As excitement crackled down its length, the canal became the scene of the most striking outburst of imagination in American history. Zealots invented new religions and new modes of living. The Erie Canal made New York the financial capital of America and brought the modern world crashing into the frontier. Men and women saw God face to face, gained and lost fortunes, and reveled in a period of intense spiritual creativity. Heaven's Ditch by Jack Kelly illuminates the spiritual and political upheavals along this "psychic highway" from its opening in 1825 through 1844. "Wage slave" Sam Patch became America's first celebrity daredevil. William Miller envisioned the apocalypse. Farm boy Joseph Smith gave birth to Mormonism, a new and distinctly American religion. Along the way, the reader encounters America's very first "crime of the century," a treasure hunt, searing acts of violence, a visionary cross-dresser, and a panoply of fanatics, mystics, and hoaxers. A page-turning narrative, Heaven's Ditch offers an excitingly fresh look at a heady, foundational moment in American history"--
Publisher: New York :, St. Martin's Press,, 2016.
Edition: First edition.
Copyright Date: ©2016
ISBN: 9781137280091
Branch Call Number: 386.4809747 KE
Characteristics: ix, 290 pages : illustrations, map ; 25 cm


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Jan 08, 2018

Surprisingly more a history of the religious revivals/movements at the beginning of the 1800's in America, this book still weaves a great overview of how the Erie Canal opened the then frontier of our country, and how several religious movements also grew along this pathway to the interior as people flocked to the canal for opportunity. Adventists (the world was going to end in 1843), tent revivals, and Joseph Smith's Mormons all had their origins in this era and geography. Seers dug up the countryside looking for buried pirate treasure (really!) I thought the author did a great job weaving together all these histories, and I found he treated them all equally, despite another reviewers comments that the book is pro Mormon/LDS. I probably would not have read this book without the Erie Canal tie in.

Aug 10, 2017

Heaven’s Ditch, God, Gold and Murder on the Erie Canal, by Jack Kelly, is a religious tract posing as history. In his book, Mr. Kelly’s telling of the history of the construction of the 360 mile-long Erie Canal across New York State in the early part of the 19th century is a flimsy disguise for what is actually an uncritical history of the creation myth of the Mormon Church. The author initially weaves the story of the canal construction with the story of the Second Great Awakening, a religious revival movement occurring at the same time as the canal’s construction. But while historians cite the period as being led by Baptist and Methodist preachers, the focus of Mr. Kelly’s history is on Joseph Smith, the founder of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—the Mormons. It may be valid to include the story of the emergence of the Christian church as part of this far-reaching cultural phenomenon. However, in the guise of illustrating how the promise of the canal drew people from more settled areas of the New York and New England to what was still wilderness, Mr. Kelly choses the Smiths, a family that we soon learn is far from being typical of the strivers seeking land and opportunity in the far reaches of western New York State. Mr. Kelly tells of Joseph Smith’s miraculous discovery of the Golden Plates, engraved with writing in an unknown language which he, in great secrecy, translates into the Book of Mormon. Mr. Kelly relates this entire process, from Joseph’s encounter with a mystical spirit who directs him to the hiding place of the Plates, to their translation as established, irrefutable fact, no more questionable than the fact that the earth is round or that it revolves around the sun. It’s not long before the reader discovers that the Canal, God, Gold and Murder of the title are just come-ons, like “click bait” on a website, to drag the unsuspecting into a religious tract. It would have been far more honest had Mr. Kelly just come up to my front door and rung the bell like his co-religionists do every week.


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Jan 08, 2018

danielcorcoran thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over


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