Camp Chesterfield & the National Antispiritualist Association

Newspapers from 1895—1897

[Camp Chesterfied, which is still the center of the Indiana Association of Spiritualists, was established in 1886 by spiritualist leader John Westerfield.—JB]

Daily Review (Decatur, Ill.), March 14, 1895:

    Anderson, Ind., March 13—The Indiana Association of Spiritualists has fixed on July 18 as the date of opening their park at Chesterfield.  The meeting will last about a month and will be attended by many noted speakers and mediums.

Fort Wayne Sentinel, April 5, 1895:

    Anderson, Ind., April 5—The Indiana Association of Spiritualists will hold their annual camp meeting at their park near this city, beginning July 18 and continuing four weeks.  The business meeting will be held August 2.  The park is called Chesterfield, and is one of the finest in the state.  Many Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Chicago people have cottages at the place and will attend.  Among the lecturers of note who will be present this year will be Mr. Sprague, of Jamestown, N. Y.; W. R. Colby, of Columbus, Ohio, and Mrs. Tutler, of Muncie.

Fort Wayne Sentinel, July 24, 1895:

    Elder Covert, of Anderson, who is warring on spiritualism and is making a special fight because of the spiritualistic camp meeting at Chesterfield, has ordered a tent capable of seating 3,000 people, which he will pitch close by the camp grounds.  He will also go to Benton Harbor and Bangor, Mich., to pay his respects to Medium King, who is particularly well known in that section.  Yesterday he posted notices reflecting very severely on Medium Foster, of Columbus, Ohio, whom he warned against venturing inside the state.

Fort Wayne News, October 31, 1895:

    Anderson, Ind., Oct. 31—The sensational libel suit, wherein Mrs. Dr. Hilligass [sic], a Spiritualistic medium, charges Elder W. R. Covert with saying that “all mediums are liars, frauds, knaves or ignoramuses,” was commenced in the superior court here yesterday.  Mrs. Hilligass demands $10,000 because of this statement.  The defendant is pastor of the Church of God of this city, and Mrs. Hilligass is one of the speakers of the Spiritualistic association.

Colorado Springs Gazette, October 31, 1895:

A Matter of Spirits.
A Medium and an “Exposer” to Meet in Court.

    Anderson, Ind., Oct. 30—In the Superior Court of this county the $10,000 damage suit of Mrs. Dr. Hilligess [sic] vs. W. R. Covert was opened to-day.  This case has attracted national interest for the past six months.  It involved the question of spiritualism for the first time really brought into court.  Mr. Covert has for years through eight nations and in five languages made the sweeping assertion that all persons claiming to be spiritualistic mediums are either liars, knaves, fools, frauds or ignoramuses, and he has posted for five years $500 that he can prove it by going before a jury and exposing any of the so-called spiritual manifestations any medium will bring before him and the jury.  It has never been taken up.

    Mrs. Hilligess claims that he made the assertion regarding her personally.  She wants damages.  The case will come to a point to-morrow where tests will have to be made before the jury.  Spiritualists are here from different parts of the country, and it is understood are backing Mrs. Hilligess.  Mr. Covert made oath that he was worth $250,000.  The court rooms and halls were packed to-day.

New York Times, November 4, 1895:

    Anderson, Ind., Nov. 3—The ten-thousand-dollar damage suit brought by Mrs. Dr. Hilligoss against W. R. Covert, the anti-Spiritualist, came to an abrupt end last night, and the jury, after being but twenty minutes, found for Covert, denying even a cent of damage.  The suit involves the question of Spiritualism, and for that reason and the prominence of the principals, it attracted a great deal of attention.

    Mr. Covert in his addresses against Spiritualism repeatedly published that Spiritualist mediums were liars, frauds, thieves, or ignoramuses.

    Mrs. Hilligross [sic], who leads Indiana Spiritualists, took the assertion as personal, and brought a suit for damages.  Naturally she is not at all pleased with the way it has turned out.

Marion (Ohio) Daily Star, November 7, 1895:

     Anderson, Ind., Nov. 7—W. R. Covert, the anti-Spiritualist lecturer, who as defendant in a $10,000 damage suit last week came out victorious, retained attorneys to bring damage suits against the National Association of Spiritualists.

Lorain County Reporter (Elyria, Ohio), November 9, 1895:

A Damage Suit.
Elder W. R. Covert Will Bring Another Case Against Indiana Spiritualists.

    Anderson, Ind., Nov. 7—Elder W. R. Covert, who was victorious in a $10,000 damage suit which was brought by Mrs. Dr. Hilligoss, leader of Indiana spiritualists, announces that he will at once bring suits against the Indiana association of spiritualists, the Hilligosses and the national association for sums varying from $10,000 to $50,000.  He claims that the suit against him was really brought by the national association and that it was the association of Indiana, backed by Mrs. Hilligoss, who was, he says, simply a figurehead.

    Mr. Covert has been conducting a fight against spiritualism for the past ten years and says that the national association has been after him that long.  The suits will be brought in the United States courts.

Fort Wayne News, July 7, 1896:

     Anderson, Ind., July 7—W. R. Covert, the antispiritualist, has closed a lease on a tract of land adjoining the Indiana spiritualist campgrounds, and announces he will open an antispiritualist campmeeting July 16, when the spiritualists open.  He is having signs printed, “All Mediums Are Liars, Knaves, Frauds, or Ignoramuses,” and offers $500 to any medium who produces any phenomena he cannot reproduce and expose.  He will post these in front of the entrance to the spiritualists’ gates.

Hornellsville (N. Y.) Weekly Tribune, August 27, 1897:

Will Fight Mediums.
Object of the Convention to Be Held at Anderson, Ind.
No Attack on Spiritualism.

But the Mediums Will Be Assailed in Vigorous Fashion—Proposed Exposure of Alleged Séance Deceptions—Strange Manifestations at Sioux City.

     “We wish to fight the mediums,” said Elder W. R. Covert, pastor of the Church of God at St. Louis, to a Post-Dispatch reporter.  “That’s why we are organizing the antispiritualistic convention, which will be held at Anderson, Ind., Sept. 7.

    “We do not propose to attack spiritualism.  It has many followers who are honest and really believe in it.  It is all right for persons to believe in spiritualism, but it is illegal and wrong for some of the mediums to practice the deception they do.

    “The mediums of the country have organized.  They have obtained a charter from Washington.  They are working on new lines.  A church has been organized by them, and they claim that spiritualism is the modern and scientific explanation of the Bible.  They are gaining recruits from all parts of the country.  We do not care for that.

    “But for mediums to pretend that the so called phenomena which they profess to produce under alleged test conditions are produced by the spirits of the dead and to take money for the same, as some of them do, is a crime both against the law of God and the state.

    “There are about 40,000 mediums in the United States.  Each one has on an average ten confederates, who assist the mediums and act as spies.  Consequently there are between 300,000 and 400,000 persons in this country who are making a living off the gullibility of the people.

    “The tricks of the mediums are easy to understand.  When you consider the vast number of them, their power is easy to understand.  They have a record of every person of prominence in every city of this country.  These records are published.”

    Mr. Covert went to his desk and brought out some printed documents.  They contained excerpts from the printed lists of Cincinnati men.  One is given below, the name being changed:

    Charles Young, 56 years old, graduate of Wesleyan college, dark hair and eyes.  Easy man to manage.
     Wife.  Carlotta Young, died in 1892 of spinal meningitis, age 44.  She had light hair, blue eyes, an oval face and pretty figure.  She sang in a church choir and had an alto voice.
     Charles Young, Jr., died in 1891, 18 years old.  Was a freshman at ---- college and an athlete.  He was captain of the football eleven.  Was 6 feet tall, had dark hair and eyes.
     Kate Young, died in 1890, 15 years old.  Was a pretty little girl, neither a blond nor a brunette.  She was her mother’s pet.
     N. B.—Mr. Young is an easy man.  He is good for séances at his home and is easy for good money.

    “Now,” continued Mr. Covert, “suppose Mr. Young went to a séance in any city in the country.  The medium would look him up in the book, would learn all about the dead members of his family, would know he was credulous and a ‘soft mark.’  What more easy than to make him think his wife was talking to him?  What more easy than for a clever confederate to impersonate his wife and touch his hand?  Why, it’s the simplest thing in the world.

    “There isn’t a trick done by the mediums which I cannot duplicate.  Lectures and exposé séances will be given every afternoon and evening at the convention.”

Fort Wayne News, September 11, 1897:

    Anderson, Ind., Sept. 10—The National Antispiritualistic association organized here by electing J. H. Becker, Dayton, O., president; E. H. Taylor, Columbus, O., vice president; J. D. Hagaman, Adrian, Mich., secretary, and W. R. Covert, St. Louis, treasurer.  There was a large attendance and it was voted to give Moses Hull, the spiritualist lecturer, a hearing and an opportunity for tests.

Stevens Point (Wisconsin) Daily Journal, December 4, 1897:

    Toledo, O., Dec. 4—President Brecker, of the National Anti-Spiritualistic association, of Adrian, Mich., has just issued an invitation to the National Spiritualist association to join in appointing a committee to meet a similar one from the Anti-Spiritualist association to thoroughly investigate the phenomena of modern spiritualism.  Full opportunity is to be given to Spiritualists to state their belief and show phenomena, and equal opportunity for full investigation of the phenomena.  Correspondence is to be addressed to Secretary J. D. Hagaman, Adrian, Mich.


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