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Healer and the Cross

By Alice Bullock

There was no ladder on the ranch, nor was there any white paint, but there was the ten-foot high Cross on the west wing of the Morley ranch house near Datil. It had not been there the day before, but the next morning, there it was. No footprints, no signs of activity of any kind – but the Cross, a heavy one, shone stark in the early morning sun. It was still there when the ranch house was moved several years later.

Mrs. Ada Morley, widow of the famed Maxwell Land Grant manager at Cimarron, later surveyor of the Santa Fe railroad over Raton Pass, chose not to tell her daughter Agnes until she came home from school on the west coast. When she drove the buggy up in front of the ranch house, daughter Agnes gasped. “Who did that?” she demanded, pointing to the huge Cross.

 “We don’t know,” Mrs. Morley said quietly. “It appeared the morning after Francis Schlatter left.” There’s a long, fascinating story back of the name Schlatter.

Francis Schlatter was a big question, a highly controversial one in New Mexico in 1895-96. He showed up at the village of Peralta, south of Albuquerque, after walking through the Mojave Desert in mid-summer with only a small pail for water, a few pounds of flour, and the copper rod that he always carried. That rod 35 inches long, weighing slightly over 27 pounds, is now in the Museum of New Mexico.

He began healing all sorts of the ills that beset man – sight, hearing rheumatism, broken bones, stomach and intestinal disorders, heart troubles. Crowds formed wherever he was, and he healed some, failed with others. Long lines formed and he never accepted any recompense for his services. “I do what the Father commands,” he answered questions quietly.

Leaving the villages, he went to Albuquerque, and was promptly mobbed by seekers for relief from misery as well as curious non-believers. The newspapers, pro and con, printed daily stories, and his fame spread from coast to coast, with national coverage in newspapers and magazines.

From Albuquerque, he went on to Denver, and thousands waited in line for his ministrations. He stayed in the home of Alderman Fox, whom he had healed of a hearing deficiency. While there, he was given a gray horse, retired by the fire department. Mrs. Morley saw him in Denver, and believed in him.

On November 13, 1895, Fox entered The Healer’s (as he had become known) room when he did not appear at the usual time. He was gone with a note explaining, “Father has called me. I must go.”

There was a great furor, of course, for different cities had offered as much as $5,000 if he would come to them. Special trains of the sick and ailing were drawing into the Denver station. A search, such as is normally reserved for a dangerous criminal, was instituted. He could not be found. He had ridden the gray horse, but every clue turned out to be false.

Weeks later, he rode into the Morley ranch, an isolated, difficult one to find at the time, following a heavy snow. He accepted their hospitality with the proviso that his presence be kept a secret.

During the weeks spent at the ranch, he wrote an account of his wanderings and entrusted it to Mrs. Morley for publication. The print of his large feet in the corrals, his gray horse, caused speculation and people began to “drop by” in increasing numbers. He then told Mrs. Morley that he had to go on – down into Mexico.

His hostess tried to persuade him not to go, but he assured her that he would return, no matter what tales she might hear, for this was “The New Jerusalem.” Mrs. Morley believed him, saw that his manuscript was printed, and died waiting for Schlatter to come back.

A few years later Dr. Edgar L. Hewett, of the Museum of New Mexico, ran into the copper rod and the story of his [Schlatter’s] death on a lone hillside near Casas Grandes, in Mexico. The villagers sent the rod to Hewett in Santa Fe. Hewett writes about this in his book “Campfire and Trail.”

Agnes Morley (Cleveland) grew up and became well-known as a writer. She devotes a chapter of her book “No Life for a Lady” to The Healer. The huge Cross on the Morley two-story ranch home was never explained. Neither has The Healer been categorized firmly unto this day. Was he a divine healer? A fanatic who cannot be explained? Doctors at the time tried, but were unsuccessful in arriving at a consensus even among them. His history can be traced – nothing highly unusual until he began a long trek three years before his death, and it was only because of his healing from mid-1895 through November, when he left Denver, that he became nationally known, a mysterious man – and a mysterious cross on the wall of a New Mexico ranch house.

The Schlatter book, only three copies known to survive, gives no real clue. He was much better as a healer than a writer. Mrs. Cleveland’s daughter, Loraine C. Lavender, of Santa Fe, has permitted the Museum of New Mexico to replicate her copy so that it may be read there.