Religion and Social Movements

The Live-Forevers and the Mysterious Death of Eleazer Fletcher

Among the unusual religious sects to spring up in Massachusetts, one of the oddest were the Live-Forevers.

The  1700s were a period of some religious turmoil in the Colonies. The First Great Awakening revived and reshaped the churches in America. But the period also allowed less conventional religions to take root, including the Shakers.

the live foreversThe Live Forevers never gained a following as large as the Shakers, but they did build up small groups of believers, including one in Sutton, Mass. Eleazer Fletcher’s wife Lucy and her sister were active Live Forevers.

The Live Forevers believed that if someone appeared dead, it was possible, through rituals and prayers, for them to be restored to life (which is how they got their name). But they also had a number of other unconventional beliefs.

For example, they thought that each man, like Adam of the Bible, had a wife who was made from one of his ribs. And, they believed, that it was possible for a couple to be incorrectly paired, resulting in an unhappy life.

The unhappiness was probably amplified by the practice of the woman placing her pillow at one end of the bed and the man’s at the other while they slept.

Lucy’s sister became so sure that she was improperly mated to her husband that she left him, and he had a difficult time persuading her to return.

In Lucy’s case it’s not clear if she felt she was incompatible with Eleazer. But it is well established that Eleazer was incompatible with the Live Forevers.

One evening he came home during a rainstorm and found the Live Forevers were holding a service in his living room. When he told the group to leave, they demurred. They preferred not to go out in the rain.

“If you fear rain more than fire, you can stay,” Eleazer shouted. With that, he plunged his fireplace shovel into the burning coals of the fireplace and began showering them over the crowd. His home was soon free of the congregation.

However, he was not forever rid of their influence. Several days later, Eleazer travelled to nearby Grafton with his ox cart, and he never returned home. He was found dead in the road. Most suspected he was killed by the Live Forevers.

The date of his death isn’t noted, according to the History of the Town of Sutton, but it does note that Lucy remarried, this time to John Goodale on Dec. 12, 1781.

To Top