From Farm Boy to Cult Leader

I’ve started this post many times but have found myself unable to complete the task. What is so difficult you might ask? Well, I find it hard to write about a man that I see as a user, a deceiver, a man who abandoned his family. And I think it is that last item that bothers me the most. I abhor the idea of men and women, mothers and fathers abandoning their children and when I find it happening in my family as I research my ancestors it bothers me.

Hiram Erastus Butler was born July 1841 in Lee, Oneida County, New York to Solomon Butler and Sarah Duel. He grew up on a farm in Oneida County and had little formal education. Hiram was the first cousin of George Robinson Duel, my 3rd great-grandfather. Although George might have known of Hiram, I see no evidence that they would have ever met.

Hiram, or H.E. Butler as he was also known, served in the U.S. Army during the American Civil War. He suffered some kind of injury because he is in a hospital in Pennsylvania where he is nursed by one Sophia Agnes Wilson, they marry about 1864. Their son Elmer is born in Pennsylvania in 1865, daughter Olla Elutheria is born in Delaware in 1867, and daughter Sophia Agnes is born in Pennsylvania in 1870. And in 1870, H.E. Butler has left his family and is living in New York beginning his new life as an Occultist and Spiritual leader. For a scholarly and more in depth look at H.E. Butler and his beliefs read Mark Demarest’s blog at http://ehbritten.blogspot.com/.

H.E. Butler created the Society for Esoteric Culture and preyed on women first in Boston and run out of that town for what the local newspaper euphemistically alleges as sexually assaulting the students, he heads next for San Francisco and tries once more. It is the 1890’s and so his previous dealings in Boston are quickly found out causing H.E. Butler to leave town once more and so he finds himself in Applegate, Placer County, California. Near Sacramento, Placer County is the home of the 1849 Gold Rush and in the 1890’s is still a wild, unsettled place. Here Hiram purchases land and creates his lasting legacy, The Esoteric Fraternity. What? You’ve never heard of it? I promise that you have most likely participated in it at some time. Don’t believe me?

Hiram Erastus Butler, user, deceiver, abandoner, maybe even a rapist, wrote a book in 1897 entitled, “Solar Biology” and that book and his beliefs are the foundation for today’s horoscope as found in most daily newspapers and many magazines in the United States. H. E. Butler left his children to grow up in a Home for Abandoned Children, apparently thinking only of himself, I think he has received his “just desserts” in that he created something that is used around the world and yet no one today remembers his name.                                                                                                                                       Esoteric Foundation

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A Volcano Among Us

Featured image                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Last week, our county had a 100th remembrance of an event that very few other places in the world can share. The eruption of a volcano. On May 22, 1915, Mount Lassen, the volcano that sits quietly overlooking our town erupted with vengeance, wiping out settlements, farms, and animals. Were you aware that a volcano erupted in California just a hundred years ago? Neither was I. What a surprise it was to learn that the gentle mountain looking down at me held such a secret.

I grew up in the neighboring state of Nevada and I remember being told in school that volcanos in the continental U.S. were extinct. That the only active volcanos were in Hawaii. Not true, I know now. When Mount Lassen began its long 48 hour eruption it was night. The mountain began rumbling but the people took little notice. It was the giant mud-slide that got their attention. The Red Bluff Daily News has a wonderful pull-out section on the Anniversary, giving the history and actual news accounts of the day at www.redbluffdailynews.com under Special Publications.

What could have been a disaster for the people of Tehama and Shasta Counties was avoided because people cared about each other. They warned one another of the coming danger and helped others escape the path of mud heading down the mountain. This episode made me curious about the dangers we face in our towns and counties today. Do you rely on your local government to help you face the onslaughts heading your way or do you turn to friends, neighbors and family when you see floods, fires, and volcanoes?

Remembering the 100th Anniversary also caused me to wonder about other disasters that might have happened in areas in which my family lived in the past. If I didn’t know about a volcanic eruption what other disasters have I missed in my research? It isn’t always very easy to find out about those local disasters if they didn’t make the national or international news. Sometimes though, you might see clusters of information that help you decipher what really happened. If you see family members moving suddenly from one area to another, look at county histories and try to learn what caused people to move in or out of the area. Was it a flood, a famine, or disease? Did a new opportunity spring up in a new area, like gold being discovered in California? Or maybe land was now available in an area that previously belonged to another country?

To understand our family and our past we have to understand what drove those original settlers. Knowing what circumstances made them into the people they were can only better help us to understand the person we are today. Learn more about that volcano sitting in your backyard.                                             Featured image