Julia Schlesinger, "A Review of the Progress of Spiritualism," Workers in the Vineyard, San Francisco.

Early History of Spiritualism in California and the Pacific Coast [23-28]

The knowledge of, and belief in Spiritualism is quite general upon the Pacific Coast.  As far back as the year 1857 Spiritualism was openly advocated by some advanced thinkers in California.  Most prominent among these was Colonel Ransom, publisher of the Marysville Herald, who was an avowed Spiritualist, and one of his sons, Elijah, was a medium.  When the Banner of Light first made its appearance in that year, Colonel Ransom, its agent, scattered the new paper [24] among the people in the city of Marysville.  In the city of San Francisco seances were held at the house of Russel Ellis on Sansome street, at the International Hotel, and also at the residence of J. P. Manrow, on Russian Hill, where the most remarkable manifestations occurred.

The first lectures on Spiritualism delivered in San Francisco were given by Mrs. Eliza W. Farnham, in 1859.  Mrs. Farnham also lectured in Santa Cruz, and with her intellectual and energetic friend, Mrs. Georgiana B. Kirby, did much to aid the spread of liberal thought in that part of the State.  Nelson J. Underwood, W. H. Rhodes, G. W. Baker, a young man named Beauharnais, and others lectured occasionally, but no regular course of lectures was established until 1864, when Emma Hardinge came to this State.  Mrs. Hardinge lectured, and organized The Friends of Progress, and the meetings were free to the public.

In 1864 Mrs. C. M. Stowe and Mary Beach, mediums, arrived overland.  Mrs. Stowe lectured in Pickwick Hall, Congress Hall, and other places.  From that time until the present, California has been favored with visits from some of the best mediums and finest orators in the world.  Mrs. Cora L. V. Tappan has visited the State three times--the last time as Mrs. Richmond.  She did much to advance Spiritualism on this Coast.

Mrs. Laura Cuppy (who became Mrs. Smith, and afterward Mrs. Kendricks) labored constantly on the platform for ten years.  Benjamin Todd arrived in September 1866 and lectured thoughout the State for several years, during a part of the time editing a spiritual paper here.  Mrs. Laura De Force Gordon came to the State in 1867, and lectured in San Jose, Sacramento and this city.  Selden J. Finney, a brilliant orator, a man of great culture and intellect, spent the closing years of his life here, and did much to advance the cause of Spiritualism.  The speakers who have occupied the spiritual rostrum during the last twenty-five years make a long list.  Among prominent names from abroad are the following: J. M. Peebles, Warren Chase, Benjamin Todd, Dean Clarke, J. S. Loveland, Gerald Massey, P. B. Randolph, William Denton, Thomas Gales Forster, Chauncey Barnes, Bishop Beals, George Chaney, Lois Waisbrooker, Fanny Allyn, Jenny Leys, H. F. M. Brown, Belle Chamberlain, Miss Augusta Whiting, G. P. Colby, W. J. Colville, J. J. Morse, Charles Dawbarn, Moses Hull, Mrs. R. S. Lillie, Mattie Hull, Prof. Lockwood, Cora L. V. Richmond, Dr. J. R. Buchanan, Prof. A. J. Swarts, Mrs. Longley, Walter Howell.

One of the first mediums who gave her services to the public was Mrs. Deiterlee, residing on Capp street.  Ada Hoyt Foye advertised to give sittings at 131 Montgomery street in 1866.  Mrs. M. J. Hendee, who had for several years served the cause as a leader in Sacramento and Petaluma, opened an office in San Francisco in 1869.  Charles H. Foster, Henry Slade and Jesse Shephard have visited the State and given the public evidence of spirit return through their wonderful mediumship.  Among the early mediums we find the names of Mrs. Sproule (now Mrs. Robinson), Mrs. Breed, Lou. M. Kerns, Mrs. E. Beman, Mme. Clara Antonia, Mrs. C. M. Stowe, Mary Beach, Wella and Pet Anderson, Amanda Wiggin, Mrs. Babbitt.  Of those of later year there are a great many.

The first California State Convention was held in San Jose, in May, 1866.  It elected a State Central Committee, consisting of J. H. Atkinson, J. D. Pierson, P. W. Randle, J. C. Mitchell, H. J. Payne, J. H. Josselyn, C. C. Coolidge and C. C. Knowles of San Francisco; A. C. Stowe, J. J. Owen and W. N. Slocum of Santa Clara; Henry Miller, W. F. Lyon, H. H. Bowman and C. W. Hoit of Sacramento; E. Gibbs, San Joaquin; A. B. Paul, Inyo; Lena Hutchinson, Mona; Thomas Loyd, Nevada; A. Shellenberger, Yuba; B. A. Allen, Butte; Dr. Hungerford, Napa; Mrs. Thomas Eager, Alameda; J. Glass, Tuolumne; C. P. Hatch, Sonoma; L. A. Gitchell, Del Norte; James Christian, Plumas; J. J. Fisk, Yolo.  This Committee [25] issued an address to Spiritualists, asking co-operation in efforts to advance the cause, sustain local societies and annual conventions.  The result of this effort was productive of good for a time; but gradually the work languished, and finally ceased.

In the year 1874 a secret society of Spiritualists was originated by A. C. Stowe, and “circles,” as they were called, were instituted in San Francisco, San Jose and Sacramento.  Mrs. Laverna Matthews was President of the San Francisco branch, serving two terms.  This society was also a failure.  Other local societies were formed and after serving their purpose passed away, leaving little record of their work.

The first Children’s Progressive Lyceum organized in the State was in Sacramento, early in 1865, by Mr. R. Moore, of New York.  Mr. Moore then came to San Francisco, and organized the first lyceum in this city, July 16th, 1865, at a hall on the corner of Fourth and Jessie streets.  Mr. Moore was chosen Conductor, and J. C. Mitchell Assistant, with a full corps of Leaders of Groups, among whom were Mrs. E. P. Thorndyke, Mrs. S. B. Whitehead, Dr. J. R. Payne and J. W. Mackie.  The Lyceum did good work for two years, and then suspended.  Several attempts were made to revive it, but they were short-lived efforts, and not until June 14th, 1872, was a permanent lyceum established.  Mr. William M. Ryder was the first Conductor, and Mr. J. M. Mathews, was next elected Conductor, and served for many years.  That lyceum is still alive, and is ably conducted by Mr. and Mrs. Wadsworth, Mr. Gilman and Mrs. Richardson.

The first Oakland Lyceum was started in 1876, with Father Mabry as Conducter, assisted by Mrs. Mabry, Marshall Curtis and others.  It also was discontinued.  The second Oakland Lyceum was organized in 1882, with Mrs. M. A. Gunn as Conductor.  It was in the interests of this Lyceum, in which Mrs. Julia Schlesinger was an active worker, that the CARRIER DOVE was started in September, 1883.  The first number was issued as a little lyceum paper, edited by Mrs. Schlesinger and Mrs. Jennie Mason.  That lyceum has continued until the present time, and is now ably conducted by Mrs. Charles Gunn.

The first society incorporated under the incorporation laws of the State of California was “The First Spiritual Union of San Francisco,” of which Mrs. Laverna Mathews was the able President.  This society suspended its meetings when “The Golden Gate Religious and Philosophical Society” was organized and incorporated in the year 1885.  The former society still exists, and its Trustees hold regular business meetings, while the latter society has become entirely a thing of the past, although at the beginning it seemed to promise great results.  Its meetings were held at Metropolitan Temple, under the business management of M. B. Dodge, with Mrs. Elizabeth L. Watson as speaker.

The Society of Progressive Spiritualists was incorporated in 1883, with H. C. Wilson as President.  This society owns property to the value of about forty thousand dollars, the donation of Mrs. Eunice Sleeper, and hopes sometime to build a temple worth of the cause in this city.  It also owns the largest spiritual library on the Pacific Coast, and supports the leading meetings in the State, always employing the best speakers and mediums to occupy the platform.

Another incorporated society that did grand work during the four years of its existence was “The Spiritualists’ State Campmeeting Association,” organized in October, 1884.  This movement was first inaugurated by Mrs. Julia Schlesinger and Mrs. Frances A. Logan.  These two ladies outlined the plan of a State Campmeeting, which they presented to Mr. H. C. Wilson, who was then President of the Society of Progressive Spiritualists.  He at once entered in the spirit of the movement, and gave them encouragement and assistance, inviting them to present their views upon the platform.  [26] Mrs. M. Miller, then one of the Directors in the same society also entered heartily into the same work, and the result was a call for a convention to be held at the Neptune Gardens, Alameda, where Mrs. Logan and her brother, Walter Hyde, then resided.  At that convention the State Campmeeting Association meeting under its auspices was held at San Jose, and considerable interest was awakened.  The two following years the conventions were held in Oakland, and the very best talent obtainable employed.  Mr. J. J. Morse, of England, was first brought to this coast under its auspices, W. J. Colville, Mrs. R. S. Lillie and Edgar Emerson, the celebrated platform medium, also came here under engagement of the Campmeeting Association.  During the two years of its great success, its tents were pitched upon the beautiful banks of Lake Merritt, in the city of Oakland.  The last year it was held there, Dr. and Mrs. Schlesinger published a little paper called The Daily Dove, in which was reported the full proceedings each day.  This was continued during the entire month of the campmeeting, with the exception of the last five days, when the regular monthly Carrier Dove, containing a full report of the meeting was issued.

The failure of the State Campmeeting was the result of a change of the officers who had worked it up from the beginning to the height of prosperity and influence.  The following year a tent meeting was held in San Francisco which was a decided failure, and ended the work and usefulness of what was once a strong organization, that wielded great influence for good and for the advancement of the cause.

The press notices of the Convention during the two years it was held in Oakland were fair and liberal, and many were brought to a knowledge of the truth thereby.  The failure of the State Association had a disheartening effect upon the old workers and leaders in the movement, and Spiritualism received a blow from which it has not recovered.

Since the suspension of the State Association, other Campmeetings of a local character have been held in Oakland, Summerland and San Bernandino.  In Oregon, the New Era Camp has attracted some attention; also the meeting held in Washington.  In Portland, Or., are several flourishing societies.  In Seattle and Tacoma, Wash., and as far north as Victoria, British Columbia, are societies where local talent is employed, and where much good work is being done.

Spiritual societies exist in many towns and cities throughout the State of California.  The most prominent outside of San Francisco are in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Bernadino, Riverside, Summerland, Santa Cruz, San Jose, Oakland, Stockton, Sacramento, Pasadena and National City.  In San Francisco there are eight incorporated societies, holding meetings and employing speakers and mediums.

Of spiritual papers there have been quite a number published at intervals during the past thirty-five years.  The first Spiritual paper published on this coast was The Family Circle, issued in San Francisco in 1859.  It was short-lived, and so little impression did it make on the Spiritualists of that day that very few even recall its existence.

Then followed The Golden Gate, started by Fanny Green McDougal, in Sacramento.  It was a well written sheet, as might be expected under the control of a woman of such ability and experience, but it was impecunious from the start, and starved to death before it had time to make its merits known.

That failure served as a warning against future attempts until 1867, when Benjamin Todd, lecturer, and W. H. Manning, practical printer, issued the Banner of Progress, headquartered in San Francisco.  This was a large, well-conducted paper, and continued nearly two years, when it suspended.  The next was Common Sense, started in 1874 by W. N. and Amanda M. Slocum [27], which managed to live through the first year and a few weeks into the second, when it suspended.  In May, 1875, The Philomathean, a pamphlet-shaped weekly, was started by Prof. W. H. Chaney, which also passed away after a brief existence.

A number of years elapsed before the next venture in Spiritualistic journalism, which was made by Mr. and Mrs. Winchester, publishers of Light for All.  This paper did a good work during the two years of its existence, but it finally suspended publication.  During a portion of the brief career of Light for All, the paper had a rival in The Reasoner, published by Dr. J. D. MacLennan of San Francisco.  The reason for publishing the paper was never apparent, unless the paper was intended to serve as an advertising medium for its owner.  This method of advertising, however, was too expensive, and the effort was abandoned.

In September, 1883, The Carrier Dove was started in Oakland, by Mrs. J. Schlesinger, as a lyceum paper.  It soon outgrew its juvenile character, and assumed the proportions and nature of a first-class illustrated monthly magazine.  It was the first spiritual magazine in the world that made a specialty of publishing portraits and biographical sketches of prominent Spiritualists.  After being issued three years and a half as a monthly, it was changed into a weekly, but still retained its magazine form and illustrations.  The Dove continued until the latter part of 1893—just ten years from its first appearance—when the name was changed to the Pacific Coast Spiritualist, and to the form of a large eight-page weekly newspaper.  This publication was not as successful as the Carrier Dove, and after months of hard work on the part of the proprietors—Dr. and Mrs. Schlesinger—the latter’s health failed completely owing to the long contained and constant taxation of body and brain and the Pacific Coast Spiritualist ceased to exist when its editor could no longer wield her pen.

During the existence of the Carrier Dove, another paper, called the Golden Gate, was started, which was ably edited by Mr. and Mrs. J. J. Owen.  It was a fine eight-page paper, and did good work during the six and a half years of its publication.

The Pacific Leader was started in Alameda, but it only lived three months.

The World’s Advance Thought is an excellent publication, conducted by Mrs. Lucy Mallory of Portland, Oregon.

A paper called The Reconstructor was published by Prof. J. S. Loveland, in Summerland, Cal., for some time; but it changed hands, and was called The Summerland by the new management.  It suspended in 1893.

During the last year three small spiritual papers have made their appearance in California: The Medium of Los Angeles, the Herald of Light, of San Diego, and Progress, of San Francisco.

In July, 1895, the Spiritualists of Southern California organized a Camp-meeting Association, and the first meeting was held in Santa Monica.  Mr. S. D. Dye was the president.  It contained three weeks and much good was accomplished.  Many able speakers and excellent mediums occupied the platform.  At the conclusion of the campmeeting some of the most prominent mediums and speakers visited Los Angeles and held a Spiritualists Congress continuing six days with three sessions daily.  A great interest was awakened in the cause.

When the Congress was ended, Dr. Schlesinger of San Francisco, Mrs. Cowell of Oakland, and Mrs. Frietag of National City, assisted by Mr. S. D. Dye, secured the Los Angeles Theatre and began a series of meetings which were remarkably successful.  Immense audiences packed the theatre every Sunday night to hear the wonderful tests given by Dr. Schlesinger and Mrs. Cowell and the beautiful inspired addresses of the young trance medium—Mrs. Maud Freitag.  The result of their labors was the organization of a new Society called [28] The “Harmonial Spiritualists Association.”  The theatre was secured for a year and the good work inaugurated under most favorable auspices.  Dr. N. Ravlin was engaged as their speaker and the best mediums are employed to co-operate with him.  There are three other societies in that city holding regular meetings.  A new society has recently been incorporated in San Francisco called the “California Psychical Society” which promises good work.  Under its auspices, Mr. J. J. Morse of England was engaged and a spirit of investigation awakened, far reaching and beneficial in its results.  [. . .]

It [Spiritualism] is a heaven inspired movement and the angels are its directors and evangels.  Its mission is to break the fetters and chains which were forged in an ignorant and superstitious past and set humanity free, turn their faces sun-ward, and give them glimpses of glory unspeakable.

Many of our noble pioneers have passed on leaving no written record of noble deeds and unselfish lives.  Such are remembered only by the influence they exerted for good upon the lives of others which, however, is permanent, and lasting as the stars.

All have done good in their own way and awakened an interest in the grand truths of Spiritualism that will some day bear fruit and bless humanity, even though the pioneers who sowed the seed amid persecution and misrepresentation may have passed away, and their names be forgotten among men.  In the land of souls they will live and be loved for their unselfish deeds, their devotion to truth, and fidelity to an unpopular cause, which the present generation cannot understand.


[ Ephemera Home] [ Spiritualist Listings ]