“Those of the neighbors who had young sons and daughters set about to rid the village of the evangelist and his followers.”
A charismatic if questionable vegetarian cult leader with an oddly spelled surname descended upon a New Jersey town toward the end of the 19th century and general oddness and attempted fraud ensued. From the April 25, 1893 New York Times:
“Hackensack, N.J.–Nine religious fanatics were taken to the Hackensack (N.J.) jail this afternoon and placed in charge of Sheriff Albert Bogert.
The leader is Hunstman T. Mnason, the well-known evangelist, who has been in jail before, once for enticing two young girls to leave their homes and join his religious band.
Four years ago Mnason settled in Park Ridge on the New-Jersey and New-York Railroad, and at once set about to form a band to praise God in his own peculiar way.
He became acquainted with the family of Herman Storms, a rich farmer, whose property is valued at $10,000. The farmer did not like the new arrival, but the new religious habits were forcibly impressed upon Mrs. Maria Storms, her son Garry, and daughter Mary, both past their teens. Jane Howell, Mrs. Minnie Stewart, and Eliza Berry were also induced to join the band.
Lately the band was increased by two long-haired men, who called themselves ‘Silas’ and ‘John the Baptist.’ The neighbors noticed that the newcomers worked on Sunday, and about twice a month held what was called an ‘angel dance.’ All were scantily robed and waved a huge blanket with which to drive away the devil.
Those of the neighbors who had young sons and daughters set about to rid the village of the evangelist and his followers.
A short time ago three of them were arrested for working on Sunday, and two served four days in the Hackensack jail for the offense.
To-day the whole band was arrested, charged with conspiring to cheat and defraud Herman Storms out of his property. The agreement had been drawn up by which Garry Storms was to have the property and the elder Storms should receive $100 and board and clothing for the remainder of his days. All were to meet in Justice W.B. Smith’s office at Park Ridge this afternoon, and witness the signature to the agreement, but they were all placed under arrest and got a hearing immediately afterward.
The affadavit, in part, states:
‘The conspirators, deny, ridicule, and curse all regular religion and religious customs, recognize no Sabbath, and set up a false god of their own, declaring the said Mnason to be the only true and living God, in consequence of which the household of Herman Storms has been put under a petty and grinding despotism, under the dogmatic rule of Huntsman T. Mnason, aided and abetted by his said co-conspirators, wherein unseemly revelry often occurs and disorder reigns, and the laws of society, religion, and State are defied and reviled, to the scandal of the neighborhood and great injury to public morals.’
Several testified against the evangelists at the hearing before Justices Smith and Wortendyke.
Herman Storms testified that Mnason refused to have meat in the house and also refused to allow him the use of his own wagons and horses. The witness gave a vivid sketch of the angel dance.
He said that Mnason ordered the women to get up on the breakfast table and dance around the eatables before food was partaken. Though the property was to be transferred to Garry, Mrs. Storms’s son, it was generally believed that Mnason would soon have secured control and ownership of it.”