Neshaminy Falls Grove Spiritualist Campmeeting

Bucks County Gazette (Bristol, Penn.), August 7, 1879.

The Spiritualist Encampment.

    Neshaminy Falls Grove, which has been brought into prominence by the camp-meeting of Spiritualists now being held there, is quite a romantic looking place.  The grove is not as in so many cases one only in name, but is a grove in reality, the branches of the noble looking trees forming a far reaching shade.  There are several fine springs in the vicinity, but only one is used; the water from it being pure and cool.  Upon the lake numbers of boats lie all ready to take excursionists up the Neshaminy a short distance, and everything is arranged for the accommodation of the public in a pretty complete manner, although of course the grounds will admit of much improvement.  The camp is composed of a dozen or more very substantial looking and neat tents, which are stretched in a line along the border of the grove towards Oregon.  All that we saw the interior of looked very comfortable and homelike, notwithstanding the cards, advertising the different mediums, were rather suggestive of uncanny beings floating around in the air.  It was last Sunday when the writer visited the place.  The people from the city and the surrounding country had begun to flock into the woods and by the time the morning service began there were many hundreds present.  It may be imagination, but I thought it would be easy to pick out the Spiritualist from the congregation.  There is a look about them which is not easily mistaken.  It is not easy to describe; perhaps it is a look which all enthusiasts wear in their countenances, at any rate Spiritualists and Greenback fanatics always seem to go together.  They have a wild eager look out of the eye and a confident expression of countenance as if they are convinced that they are wholly right and everybody else wrong, and fools for not knowing so.

    This does not apply to all Spiritualists of course, for many of them are fine looking men and women, and are beyond doubt upright, moral and self respecting people.  The mediums are an unattractive set, especially the women, who all seem to have a sensuality about them antagonistic to all ideas of Spiritism; but their public speakers are nearly all very able talkers, and many of them really eloquent.  The speaker on Sunday morning was Rev. Samuel Watson of Memphis, Tenn., who was, until within a few years, a Methodist preacher.  He became a convert to Spiritualism, and since then has been quite prominent in Spiritual circles, both as a speaker and a writer.  He differs from most of his colleagues, in that he uses the Bible to prove his belief; interpreting its texts according to his ideas.  His address on Sunday was a very clear presentation of Spiritualism, and although his views were often unorthodox they were generally pretty sensible, and some of his observations were quite shrewd.  To most of his hearers, however, his remarks lost force, when he asserted as a matter beyond doubt that spirits could be materialized, so that they could be seen in this world, and stated that he had witnessed such phenomena.  The Bliss exposure and numerous other explosions of materializing farces are too well known to make even the word of so sincere a man as Mr. Watson appears to be accepted.  It is much more rational to believe that Mr. Watson has himself been deceived.

    The services at the camp-meeting are conducted much the same as religious meetings in the churches.  A hymn is sung then follows an “invocation” similar to this:

    Oh, Holy Spirit, Spirit of Wisdom and Love, Though who art the God of all the Universe, we bring ourselves in prayer to Thee, to the Throne of Infinite Goodness.  We thank Thee, oh, Father, for the truth which at last has dawned.  Oh, Father, teach Thy children, and give them patience, peace, courage and hope.  Oh, Father, pour Thyself out upon all the nations.  Oh, God, may we strive earnestly for all that is holiest, best and highest, and when we pray, “Thy Kingdom come,” oh, breathe into our spirits Thy strength, that we may work for it, and so insure its coming.  Amen.
    Then follows another hymn after which the address, or sermon, is delivered.  The singing at Neshaminy Falls Grove was accompanied by a portion of an orchestra which in the evenings furnishes music for the dancing, which takes place in a pavilion provided for that purpose.

    On Sunday afternoon the people swarmed into the camp from Philadelphia in multitudes; appearing like a caravan as they approached the entrance, in a long line which stretched across the neighboring field.  The tents, especially where the mediums were ensconced, attracted crowds of people, but only one of the mediums gave sittings on Sunday, so that there was not much opportunity to test the spirits.  One tent was covered with painted figures and designs, emblems of magical power, and within for a small fee the horoscope of one’s life could be seen, or at least so the advertisements stated.  The tent seemed to be well patronized, and doubtless many persons now know what blessings and ills are awaiting them in the future.  There were several singular characters standing around surrounded by a group of people to whom in an excited, earnest manner, the phases of Spiritualism were discussed.  One of these apostles had long black hair, slightly mixed with gray, which was gathered together at the back and tied with a string, which made it look somewhat like a chinaman’s queue.  His clothing was very seedy looking, as if he did not care particularly about his material body but his eyes were very sharp and piercing and his features bore the eager, longing look, which denoted that he was an earnest devotee at the shrine of the spirits.  While looking at this man a lady dressed in blue passed by.  She wore her hair, which was auburn in color, in curls tied back with a band.  Her head was hatless and as her slight figure moved through the crowd she attracted a great deal of attention.  Her face was not very pleasing to look at, her voice was harsh and masculine and her features seemed rather coarse, and although she smiled frequently and answered the people who accosted her—she seemed to have numerous acquaintances—good humoredly, there was a weary, tired, look in her blue eyes.  I at once imagined that she was one of the mediums, and was not surprised afterwards to learn that she was Mrs. Allyn, who under the inspiration of some spirit delivered an address in the evening.

    About three o’clock the people gathered in front of the stand and listened to addresses by Messrs. Wheelock and Lynn.  The former spoke for a few moments only.  The latter delivered quite a long lecture, but it was so well received that his audience wished him to continue speaking.  He is lame and has to use a crutch in walking or standing, he was wounded in the war I was informed.  His lameness did not hinder his movements much, or else his eloquence and wit were so attractive that his infirmity was not noticed.  He spoke very little about Spiritualism, alluding to it only twice or three times, and then only incidentally.  His theme was “Anti-Christ,” and he handled his subject ably.  His remarks were often applauded—clapping the hands being the substitute for the glory’s and “hallelujah’s” of our Methodist brethren—and quite often created a ripple of laughter when he made a good point.  Among other things, he said that he did not come to make converts to Spiritualism as a sect, there were enough sectarian religions already, but that the camp meeting was held to let the people of the neighborhood see that Spiritualists were men and women, like other people, and not a set of ghost hunters.  If a Catholic, he said, found comfort in the gorgeous ceremonials of his Church, that was the place for him; if the Presbyterian received good from his Church, he should remain a Presbyterian; if the Christian found that religion was a help and sustained him in his troubles and trials, the Christian religion was where he should seek comfort.  In like manner Brahmanism, Mohammedanism and Spiritualism were commended as beneficial to those who found the doctrines of those beliefs edifying, and aids in attaining to the ideas of perfection advocated by those religious systems.  Truth, the speaker said, was found in every religion, but no religion nor all religions together contained the whole truth.  At the conclusion of the lecture I inquired the name of the lecturer from a man standing by.  I did not at first notice the peculiar Spiritualistic stare in his eyes or I would not have been at all surprised at his reply, which was a follows: “The speaker is C. B. Lynn, of Michigan.  He was once a street organ boy travelling around one of our large cities.  He was picked up by one of our speakers, and the same man who magnetized him magnetized me.  We all have to go through a sort of ordeal.  I knew what Lynn was going to say before he commenced speaking.  There (pointing to a bench where he had written a lot of hieroglyphics with a lead pencil) is his whole address written out in full.  Nobody can read it, though, but those who are initiated.”  The writer not being in the ring, so to speak, could not translate the strange writing, and fearing he would either be talked to death or become magnetized, if he remained longer in the company of the magnetized one, he bade adieu to his informant and returned home to muse over the many peculiarities of humanity.     D. M.


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