The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Southcott, Joanna
SOUTHCOTT, Joanna, an English religious enthusiast, born at Gittisham, Devonshire, about 1750, died in London, Dec. 27, 1814. Until nearly 40 years of age she was a domestic servant, and for some years was a member of the established church, but shortly before promulgating her peculiar notions she united with the Wesleyans. In 1792 she began to attract attention by claiming supernatural powers and narrating remarkable revelations made to her in dreams. She published prophecies and warnings in extravagant prose and rude doggerel, challenged the clergy to investigation and discussion, and labored with so much energy and zeal that her sect at the time of her death was estimated at 100,000 persons. When upward of 60 years old she announced that she was pregnant and would give birth to a second Shiloh. Shortly before her death she expressed the conviction that “if she was deceived, she had at all events been misled by some spirit, good or evil.” A post mortem examination disclosed the fact that dropsy was mistaken by her for pregnancy. Before her death a communication, said to be from her, directed her followers to hold no more meetings until after the birth of Shiloh. Little was heard of the sect till 1825, when a man named Twort professed to be the Shiloh promised. One George Turner made a like claim. In the census of 1851 there were reported in England four congregations of her followers. John Wroe became their leader in 1822, and in 1857 opened a mansion at Wenthorp for a community of Southcottians.