“Suicide of a Free-Love at Berlin Heights”, July 16, 1858

The below news article concerns the suicide of Charles Latch at the Berlin Heights free love community. He was only nineteen, and as is apparent from his declaration, he had suffered from a seeming life time of depression and despair. A search for the name finds nothing in the 1850 census, but does show his suicide made national news due his letter blaspheming God, and cursing religion and the institution of marriage. None were sympathetic with the pain he describes.

I include it in the blog due the association of James Allen Noyes and Caroline with Berlin Heights, and due individuals having come to Liberal from Berlin Heights.


Suicide of a Free-Love at Berlin Heights

The New York Times, July 16, 1858

The At of Freedom, the organ of the Free Love Community at Berlin Heights, Ohio, devotes its issue of the 8th inst. to an account of the suicide of one CHARLES LATCHA, a member of that community, whose demise was made the occasion of a general expression of blasphemy and ribaldry. LATCHA appears to have been a young man, born of pious parents, and bred in the ways of orthodox propriety. He was a printer, became a convert to the Free Love doctrines a short time ago, went to Berlin, became disgusted because he could find no “affinity” to cherish him, and on the 22nd of June, last, committed suicide. He left the following letter, explaining the reasons for his act:

TO THE BERLIN SOCIALISTS–VAINDICTORY

Justice demands that I should give you my experience before taking my final leave of you. And I will give it as briefly as possible, as well as I can:

I was the only child of an ill-mated pair. They were Orthodox, though not very strict; they were what were called “good, respectable folks.” Neither of them were uncommonly developed in any direction. They “loved each other from first to last,” mother tells me. It must have been a very blind love! Three years after their marriage I was born–a puny little thing with an angular brain. But in the eyes of my parents I was, of course, a little angel, a young God. One year after my birth my father died. I was left in the care of my mother and grandmother, who kept house together. My grandmother was a Presbyterian Church member, and lived up to God’s laws as revealed through the Bible, as well as she could. Looking back to the time when I was but four or five years old, I remember a deep, melancholy feeling which has cursed me to this day. This feeling was my natural condition. I experienced a little interval of happiness now and then. I was not like other children. I did not play. I was unhappy. My mother taught school and I went to her school when I was five years old. She petted me, humored me, let me have my own way almost always. Sometimes grandmother interfered, and remonstrated with mother, and talked seriously to me. Mother and grandmother were very kind to each other. Well, in short, I was spoiled.

Grandmother died when I was thirteen years old; then the housekeeping broke up, and I was apprenticed to a printer to learn the art of printing.

After working at printing nearly a year an uncle came and took mother and I with him to Michigan. We staid there a while, and then moved to another place, and then another, and finally to Iowa where we lived three years. At nearly every place we lived I got employment in a printing office.

I became a Free Lover while in Iowa, through the medium of Nichol’s Monthly. Then through The Social Revolutionist I heard of Berlin. I came to Berlin and found it was my home; I had expected the same.

Well, I have been happier since I have come to Berlin than I ever was anywhere else. But my soul has not found another with which to rest–my heart; no home.

In my younger days I was self conceited, owing to false training; but since coming to Berlin, I have come to a truer knowledge of myself, and discovered that I am a poor, miserable specimen of humanity–and that has added another great weight to crush my aspiring soul. I possess awful aspiration–I want to be a good, wise angel; but, with my miserable organization I can never be even GOOD–never!

When I was miserably existing in the world, and looking to Berlin, I thought, “In Berlin I will be happy; there I will find brave, and loving, and free men and women, and I will be happy.” and I have found the Berlin Socialists as brave and free as I expected, but I have discovered that no earthly outside conditions can make me happy. I exiled myself from the world, to save myself; BUT I CANNOT BE SAVED!–and now, at last, I LEAP INTO OBLIVION!

And none of you will say I did wrong. You will say, “It is well.” Yes, on the contrary, it would be wrong for me to stay here, a burden to myself and those around me. I am of no account. Let me die, die, die!

You have all been good to me, and I have meant to be good to all. If I have not been good to any one, I ask forgiveness. And my persecutors I forgive, and those who have slandered me, I forgive; I forgive all. I believe in Necessity.

There are but few of you but you will be surprised at my final act; you thought I was happy. I tried to appear happy. I did not want to cause others unhappiness. I kept my misery inside; at times, how I burned! Once one of you said to me, “You look as though you was in pain.” I turned it off as though nothing was the matter with me. But there was something the matter with me. I was in pain. There ALWAYS WAS “something the matter with me!”

And here I unite my protest against and utter my curse upon Marriage! And I curse Religion! And I curse “God,” the Father Monster!

And I say to you, seriously, from the depths of mmy sympathizing heart: DO NOT BRING CHILDREN INTO EXISTENCE, TO SUFFER! If you cannot parent a healthy, happy child–if you do not know you can do this–refrain, O refrain!

YOU WILL BE HAPPIER WITHOUT ME. And the chair upon which I sat, and the rooms I lingered in, and the things I touched, will be free from my blighting magnetism; and thus you will be happier! And the spears of grass which I tread upon and sicken will gain new strength and a happier life when I am gone!

Most of you will only think of me as having “passed on” to a happier sphere; but I see no existence beyond, and I think I know what Death will be to me; and I WELCOME the “great fate of SILENCE” which the Universe has in store for its abnormal child! I die—as I lave lived–ALONE! Farewell!

“There was silence deep as death,
And the boldest held his breath.
–For a time!”

CHARLIE

The Age adds that LATCHA “lived several hours, and was perfectly tranquil to the last, conversing freely as he was able in regard to his last act, and in justification of it.” The means he adopted to kill himself are not indicated. After the breath left him, the members of the community got together in “Free Discussion Hall,” and made speeches. FRANCIS BARRY, the present head of the Berlin fanatics, CORA BARRY, one of their High Priestesses, T. E. TABOR and others, indulged in the Rutland style of oratory, MRS. CORA BARRY apostrophized the “brave, noble, beautiful CHARLIE,” as one who had “calmly cut out the web of life from its earthly fastening, and carried the tinted fabric to be woven out in the great loom of the eternities.” This woman, however, did not agree with LATCHA’s idea that he had “leaped into oblivion;” in her opinion, he had gone to the “Spirit spheres.”

Comments
One Response to ““Suicide of a Free-Love at Berlin Heights”, July 16, 1858”
  1. Heather says:

    Travel Channel’s The Dead Files just did an episode in Berlin Heights. A local historian indicated Latcha was one of only a few remaining Free Lovers (FL) in June 1858 after the sheriff ran most out of town after making several sex related arrests. He was bitter, it was true, when he shot himself in the chest. Witnesses say Latcha blasphemed God, FL and the local community before dying four hours later. The community, concerned about the cult, had discriminated against the FL by not letting their kids attend school. The sheriff blocked materials that Latcha, FL printer, needed to do his work. The historian discussed how FL was a magnet for divorcees, widows. Members had to give up their worldly goods to the group and called themselves Socialists. No photos of Latcha, FL members or their residence were presented.

    I wonder if any photos exist out there in someone’s family album or local museum. What is the difference in age between Latcha and his mom, dad and grandma? What did dad, grandma die of? Did mom have other kids, get remarried? Is the uncle on side of mom or dad? Where had he lived previously.

    Interesting how he wrote in such a direct way for that time.

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