Original Document
Original Document
Petition that the Residents of Celestia, PA, Be Considered "Peaceable Aliens, and Religious Wilderness Exiles," 1864.

In March, 1864, Hon. George D. Jackson representative from Sullivan county, presented the legislature the petition of P.E. Armstrong, representing God's people worshipping at Celesta, Sullivan county, asking the passage of a resolution that the people of Celesta, Sullivan county, while conforming to the faith they profess, be considered peaceable aliens, and religious wilderness exiles from the rest of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

As soon as the somewhat lengthy petition was read, Mr. Cochran, of Philadelphia, moved that the petition be referred to the committee on divorce.


Mr. Allemnan: "I move to amend by providing that it be referred to the 'fancy committee,'- the committee on federal relations."

Mr. Jackson; "I move that it be referred to the committee on the judiciary general. Whatever may be thought of the people who have requested me to present this petition, whatever opinion may be formed of that people from hearing that petition read,- I must say one thing: They are a sect that have come into the county of Sullivan, and have chosen a piece of land on the mountain tops. They are building a home for themselves. While I believe they are monomaniacs on this one point, they are good citizens of the county; they live sober and industrious lives and while I do not believe in their doctrines, I believe that they have the right, equally with the citizens of this commonwealth, to send their petitions to this house, and I hope that this memorial will be treated with respect."

The petition was referred to the committee on the judiciary general.

Mr. Armstrong, who presented the petition alluded to, had some years previously laid out a village in Laporte township, between the county-seat and Lewis lake, which he named Celesta. He was a believer in the second advent of Christ, and founded his belief on the prophesies in the Bible. He was a man of ability, and had studied the Scriptures with great attention. From his premises he could make a strong argument in favor of his religious belief. He made a large clearing in the wilderness, put up a number of buildings, purchased printing materials and published a newspaper at Celesta called The Day Star of Zion. He gathered around him quite a number of those who shared his belief. He held that it was his duty to prepare the way for the second coming, and to that end he dedicated all his landed property to the Lord. He made out, and had recorded in the recorder's office, a deed which has excited great attention. It was the conveyance of a square mile of land to "Almighty God and his heirs in Jesus Messiah."

The deed, dated June 14, 1864, sets forth as its inducement that he "is taught by the inspired word of God and his Holy Spirit that his children should not claim or own any property, but should consecrate unto God all things they possess for the common good of the people who are waiting for his Son from heaven, and who are willing to live together in holy fellowship, relying upon his word and bounty, and to the end that his saints may be fully separate from the world and gathered together and enjoy the light and liberty which they did in the once faithful days of theocracy."

Although the legislature took no further notice of his petition, Mr. Armstrong acted on the assumption that the land conveyed was sacred ground and not within the jurisdiction of state or national authorities. He, consequently, refused to pay taxes. The result was that the collector sold his sheep for personal property taxes and the county treasurer sold his land for unseated land taxes. Finding that his hope of founding an independent community could not be accomplished, he left the place and returned with his family to Philadelphia.

The writer was intimately acquainted with Mr. Armstrong and respected him very much. He was a well educated, honest and trustworthy man and entirely sincere in his religious convictions. The land sold at treasurer's sale was purchased by his son, A.T. Armstrong, who holds it by treasurer's deed at this time.

On Thursday, October 1, 1863, the Dushore Union, a new paper, was started at Dushore, by S.F. Lathrop. Mr. Lathrop had formerly been connected with the Sullivan County Democrat, and had acted as clerk to the commissioners. The Dushore Union was established as an independent paper, but was strongly committed to the prosecution of the war. The paper was published about a year. It was well printed and ably conducted. In 1864 the publication was suspended and Mr. Lathrop enlisted and went to the war.

Credit: Thomas J. Ingham, History of Sullivan County Pennsylvania, Chicago: Lewis Publishing, 1899.
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