William Partizan, of the Chicago Partizans, was born into that meat-packing dynasty in 1840. The family’s only heir and scion, he sold the plant to Layton and Plankinton after his parents’ death in a rail accident in 1863 and devoted himself to spiritual pursuits thereafter.

A dedicated follower of and correspondent with the Fox Sisters,
Cora Hatch, and other spiritualists during the movement’s nascent days, Partizan eventually came to the conclusion that the old morals that had informed human religion were morally bankrupt and irredeemable. He preached on this thesis throughout a series of self-finacned lecture tours throughout the midwest in 1870-1875, gradually selling off more and more of the Partizan estate and collections to fund his efforts.

Eventually, Partizan distanced himself from the Foxes and Hatch and claimed that their brand of spiritualism did not go far enough. What the world needed, he claimed, was a revolutionary fucion of spirits and science to provide a “New Moral Power” to replace that of (to him) discredited faiths. Partizan preached that, through the combined sciences of magnetism, electricity, and spiritualism, humanity could create a being of perfect morality, imbued with the wisdom of spirits from spheres beyond the grave, to which the species could turn for guidance.

The massive success of the Armour meat packing company, which had acquired Layton and Plankinton, provided Partizan with the funds needed to realize his vision. He sold all of his remaining stock and gathered the small group of devoted followers he had been able to amass. They retired to Beaver Island in Lake Michigan, which had a reputation for both lawlessness and friendliness to unorthodox religious ideas. There, Partizan established himself a settlement abandoned by the Mormon Strangites after the murder of their king. It appears that this was not lost on him, as several items of religious significance to the departed Strangites were incorporated into his construction plans.

Over the period from 1877 to 1885, Partizan and perhaps a dozen followers worked on the construction of their “New Moral Power.” They sent out the specifications for precision components to firms all over the world and had the manufactured components delivered for assembly on site. Magnets from Germany, electrical components made to order by the Westinghouse Air Brake Company, and more were acquired. The plans do not survive in whole, but contemporary sources indicate that the “New Moral Power” had two components: a large central dynamo unit that was sunk into a subterranean chamber once used as a cistern by the Strangites, and a motile anthropomorphic automaton. Apparently Parizan intended the stationary Power to control the motile one, connected by a “spiritual-magneto tether.”

Alarmed by reports of Partizan’s activities, and wary of another incident like that with the Strangites, the Michigan authorities banned postal shipments to the island in 1885. They were further alarmed by a letter, held at Muskegon due to the order, that called for a female follower of Partizan to “birth” the New Moral Power. Though some have argued that this was a purely symbolic Spiritualist ritual, the authorities were sufficiently inflamed to raid Partizan’s settlement.

The Michigan State Police arrived on June 6, 1885, apparently interrupting the ritual that Partizan’s letter had mentioned. The spiritualist and his followers were taken into custody, while his New Moral Power was photographed but left in place, being too unweieldy to move or disassemble. The authorities sealed the cistern, destroyed the aboveground buildings, and deported Partizan and his few reamining disciples to the maintland.

William Partizan lived out the remaining six years of his life engagning in increasingly far-fetched attempts to return in secret to Beaver Island. Eventually, his funds exhausted, he attempted a solo crossing by rowboat from Wisconsin, drowning in a September squall on the lake. He left behind a massive body of work on the occult, which was rediscovered and eventually celebrated as outsider art in the 20th century.

Notably, though, no trace of the automaton portion of the New Moral Power was ever found.

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