The day the world didn't end

LOW HAMPTON, N.Y. Just west of the Rutland County, Vt., line, is the tiny community of Low Hampton, N.Y. In the late 1700s, this frontier area began to be settled by restless New Englanders in search of good land and business opportunities. The Miller family, from Pittsfield, Mass., eventually settled there with their young son William. As a young man, William Miller moved 10 miles away to Poultney, Vt., and lived at the home of his wife Lucy Smiths family. There, Capt. Miller recruited Vermont soldiers to fight in the War of 1812. After the war, he returned to family lands in Low Hampton to homestead. Capt. Miller wore many hats. He was a farmer, county sheriff, justice of the peace, decorated Army officer of the Battle of Plattsburgh, self-educated biblical scholar, and a controversial prophet of the end times. As the father of todays Christian Adventist and Jehovahs Witnesses movements, Miller is best remembered for a bold prediction that preached the world would end on Oct. 22, 1844. Millers bucolic 19th-century farmstead is now a National Historic Site located along New York County Road 11, off Route 4, between Fair Haven, Vt. and Whitehall, N.Y. At the Miller farm and adjoining chapel site, visitors can rediscover the simple farming life of the 1800s and the humble prophets mighty contributions to Protestantism. Visitors can also stand on a beautiful, rivulet-eroded limestone outcrop where Milleritesas his early followers called themselvesawaited the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. The day was Oct. 22, 1844. Millers prophesy grew out of his interpretation of the Bibles Book of Daniel. Miller figured that the 2,300 day (year) prophesy of Daniel 8:14 could be pinpointed on a modern calendarthe day of reckoning, he determined, was Oct. 22, 1844. I am almost home, Miller said as his predicted day of judgement approached. Be warnedrepent... Millerites from across New England and New York gathered at Ascension Rock, the rock outcrop on Millers farm. The outcrop boasts majestic views of Vermonts Taconic hills and a vast open sky to the southno wonder such a natural place evoked a prediction of heavenly import. But after the expected day passed, and Jesus was not to be seen, the faith of many Millerites vanished in the autumnal dusk of Oct. 22. In fact, the embarrassing event became known as the Great Disappointment. While Miller was deeply disappointed, he never gave up on the Second Coming. I believe it will come; but if it should not come, then I will wait and look until it does come..., Miller told his followers. Following Millers end-of-the-world fiasco, the local Baptist church dropped Miller, his family, and other Millerites from its membership rolls. Four years after the prophesy failed to materialize, Miller built a small chapel on his farm where passionate Millerites began to gather and worship. Just a year later, on Dec. 20, 1849, Miller died quietly at age 68. His large funeral was held at the Congregational Church in Fair Haven, Vt. Millers followers grew in the years following the prophets death. Both the Seventh Day Adventist and Adventist Christian churches as well as the Jehovahs Witnesses identify themselves with Millers legacy. In 1975, the Miller farm was listed on the Federal Registry of National Historic Sites and is now maintained by both Adventist denominations. The site remains as a monument to the humble man of God who predicted the end of the world and instead left a lasting legacy of hope, faith and salvation. Visitors to the William Miller Home are welcome daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Call 518-282-9617 for more details. The Miller Heritage Shoppe is open Sunday-Friday.

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