The Life and Times of Francis Schlatter
By Conger Beasley Jr.
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While living in Denver in the early 1890s, Francis Schlatter, a poor immigrant cobbler from Alsace-Lorraine, heard a voice inside his head that told him to put down his tools and go outside and walk east. For several years Schlatter, a deeply pious man, had been aware that he possessed the potential to cure people of their afflictions if he could only muster enough faith; the time to test that faith had arrived. So began a grueling two-year journey on foot that took him as far east as Hot Springs, Arkansas, then back across the Southwest to San Diego, north to San Francisco, then east to Arizona and New Mexico.
In the summer and fall of 1895, first in Albuquerque then in Denver, he began to treat hundreds of people a day. Word of his miraculous power ran like wildfire all over the Southwest. Appalled by the carnival atmosphere he encountered in Denver, Schlatter slipped away into the wilds of New Mexico, finally into Old Mexico, where he died under mysterious circumstances in the spring of 1897.
Charlatan or saint? Healer or fraud? The question remains. Even his detractors acknowledged the genuine compassion that people felt in his presence. Most telling was the fact that he never took a dime for the therapies he performed.
A hundred years ago Francis Schlatter was one of the best-known figures in the American Southwest; since then he has literally fallen off the map. In this gripping and powerful narrative, based on contemporary newspaper accounts and a memoir that Schlatter dictated to a friend before he died in Mexico, Western Writers of America Spur Award winner Conger Beasley, Jr. reconstructs the life and times of this remarkable man.
Conger Beasley, Jr. has published a dozen books, several dealing with the history of the American West. We Are a People in This World: The Lakota Sioux and the Massacre at Wounded Knee won the Western Writers Spur Award for the best contemporary non-fiction book published in 1995. An earlier book of essays, Sundancers and River Demons: Essays on Landscape and Ritual (1990), won the Thorpe Menn Award for the best book published by a Kansas City author. Mr. Beasley currently divides his time between Kansas City and Colorado Springs.
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