Amos Wilson was born in Lebanon
, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania
, in 1774 to a respectable, although not very wealthy, family. His sister, Harriet, was born two years later and grew up to be known as a virtuous and amiable girl. When she was 19 years of age, Harriet fell in love
with an older man and became pregnant
. Out of desperation, she carried the baby to term and killed it shortly after birth
. Being so young, this aroused quite a scandal and Harriet was arrested and sentenced to death by hanging
. Thus began a series of appeals for lenience made by her family, but all were rejected uniformly. On the day of her execution
, Amos traveled to Philadelphia
to plea before the Governor one last time. His entreaties earned him a pardon and he journeyed home triumphant. However, a rainstorm had caused flooding of a river
separating him from his sister. Several hours later, Amos made it across the river and arrived just in time to see his sister executed.
This was a shock too severe to overcome. After suffering from delirium for several months, Amos declared that the world had no pleasures for him and it was his determination to seclude himself from human society. Upon finding a suitable cave in which to live, he spent the next 19 years writing philosophy and pouring over the Bible and other religious manuscripts. A friend would come periodically to check on his health and supply him with some basic necessities. When asked how he felt to be excluded from society his response was:
"I live the life of my choice; I prefer being a recluse from the jars of a contending world, and the mistrusts and jealousies of an ostentatious race, who have already inflicted a wound which they can never heal. Retired in this lonely cell, I meet not the neglect of ungrateful friends, nor hear the taunts of the children of pride. I court only the company of the Divine Spirit of the Most Holy, and the clamors of the foolish disturb not my pious meditations nor the sneers of ignorance excite painful sensations in my peaceful breast. The shafts of envy, tipt with calumny, spend their force ere they reach me; and the vain of mankind may satiate themselves with folly, iniquity, and deceit, and I shall not be rendered more miserable thereby."
Several of his philosophical treatises were published posthumously and were printed in a small booklet from which I got most of this information. I'll probably node a few at another time.