It was the end of 1842, and Julia Smith expected the end of the world. A believer in the apocalyptic prophecies of the Baptist preacher William Miller, Smith had allowed the plants in the conservatory of her Connecticut home to go unwatered and die. She had even prepared her Ascension robe, to be worn at the Second Coming.
“I read the Bible almost all day,” she wrote in her diary on December 31, 1842. “I have eaten nothing since yesterday noon. It is the last day of the year 1842, which according to Mr. Miller could be the last year of the world.”1
In the 1830s, William Miller had toured Protestant pulpits in New England, New Jersey and New York, preaching that Jesus’ Second Coming, or Advent, was at hand. Basing his predictions on passages in the Book of Daniel, Miller attracted between 50,000 and 100,000 followers, known as Millerites.2