Love, Freaky American Style

Filed under: Newsworthy — olivander April 5, 2011 @ 1:28 pm

From the August 12, 1897, edition of the Colorado Springs Weekly Gazette comes this curiosity:

WHEELS ON BOTH SIDES

Man Claiming to be Schlatter Says

He will Marry Mrs. Ferris

Canton, O., Aug 10 – The man who says he is Schlatter the healer has taken out a license to marry Mrs. Margaret Ferris, widow of the man who invented the Ferris wheel.

Mrs Ferris says she has not thought of marrying him. She calls him a freak.

Mrs. Brockins, Mrs Ferris’ sister, says Schlatter must have hypnotized her.

Schlatter and Mrs. Ferris first met on Sunday at Brady’s lake, a summer resort of the spiritualists about 25 miles north of the city. Mrs. Ferris became ill and Schlatter was called to treat her. The sick woman appeared benefited and the two met several times afterward. Then he went for this marriage license.

Francis Schlatter

Francis Schlatter was a French-born Denver cobbler who one day had a vision in which God instructed him to devote his life to healing the sick. He sold his business and everything he owned, gave his money to the poor, and traveled around the country, often on foot, supposedly curing thousands with just a touch.

He disappeared in 1895, leaving behind a note saying that he was through with his ministry, only to resurface occasionally and resume his healing ministry. One report said that he was in New Mexico, preparing for a sort of faith center that God told him was destined to be there. Doubtlessly, at least some of the men who emerged as Schlatter were opportunistic impostors, Hence, the article’s hedgey wording of “the man who says he is Schlatter”. At that time, it could never be assumed that any person who showed up in town calling himself Francis Schlatter was the real deal.

The strange story of Schlatter and Widow Ferris’ questionable engagement would not be complete if it did not grow only stranger, with Schlatter himself claiming that the whole story was made up by the media to get back at him (sound familiar?). On October 2, 1897, the South Bend Weekly Tribune reported this rather bizarre encounter with the healer:

SCHLATTER IN TOWN
NOTED HEALER RESTING HERE

To a Tribune Representative

He Denies He is Married to Mrs. Ferris and Shows Aversion for Reporters

Will Remain Here Two Weeks

Francis Schlatter, the western man who connected himself with fame by his healing of the sick by laying on of hands at Denver, Col., a trifle more than a year ago, slipped into town Wednesday.  With him were his secretary, F. W. Martin, and manager, G. C. McCallister.  The trio was snugly housed in the Grand View hotel Wednesday where Schlatter was seen by a tribune reporter.

“My manager will be here in a few minutes and he will do my talking,” said Schlatter in response to a question as to what he was doing here.  “Newspaper reporters have caused me a great deal of trouble since I came before the public and I have adopted a rule not to talk to any of them,” he continued.  “A few weeks ago I was in Pittsburg and I had not been in town an hour when there was a drove of reporters at my hotel seeking an interview.  I refused to see any of them so they invented that story about my marriage to Mrs. Ferris, widow of the late George Ferris, of wheel fame.”

“Is there no truth in the report that Mrs. Ferris has become Mrs. Schlatter?”  was asked the healer.

“None, whatever,” he replied.  “I have treated Mrs. Ferris for several years and naturally we became the best of friends.  We used to take long walks together and accidentally stop at the same hotel in Pittsburg.  The reporters manufactured the story of our marriage out of these circumstances.  My managers and I came here from Chicago and will remain about two weeks, giving clinics or demonstrations in public.”

Schlatter was very reticent in speaking of himself.  “That story has been worn threadbare by newspapers all over the country,” he said when asked how he discovered that he possessed superhuman powers of healing the sick.

Schlatter is a demure little man with a husky voice.  The only thing he possesses to distinguish him from a thousand others of his kind is a profusion of shaggy curls which hang down upon his shoulders.  He talks with the air of one who takes little interest in what is going on about him.

To add an even more unusual twist to the story, the real Francis Schlatter may in fact have died months earlier. After another man claiming the name Schlatter died in October, 1909 (only to be afterward revealed as one Charles McLean), the Los Angeles Herald ran this piece:

Believe Healer Died In New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, N. M., Oct. 22.— That Francis Schlatter, the so-called “divine healer,” died in Mexico is believed by those who knew him here. In June, 1897, a letter was received by J. A. Summer of this city, from John J. Sexton of Casa Grande, Mex., dated June 1 of that year, telling of the finding of a body in Funga canyon, near that place, which was believed to be that of Schlatter. Near the body was a horse similar to the one Schlatter rode. A Bible, with the name “Francis Schlatter” written on the flyleaf, and a copper cane like that carried by Schlatter were found.

1 Comment »

  1. As it happens, the Canton healer who claimed to be the original Francis Schlatter was speaking the truth. He never married Margaret Ferris, but he went on to marry another spiritual healer, Luverna Comer, and they traveled as a healing team throughout the Midwest and East for the next twenty-five years, until the healer died in St. Louis in October 1922. He never said why he left his possessions behind, including some poor soul’s skeleton, on a mountainside in Mexico sometime in 1896. But his “copper cane,” shaped like a baseball bat, now rests on display at the Museum of New Mexico in Santa Fe–its meaning and significance unknown.

    Comment by dogsoldier96 — June 26, 2011 @ 11:59 pm

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