The Spiritual Springs

“Discovery by the Agency of Spirits,” Spiritual Telegraph Papers.  New York: Partridge & Brittan. Volume 1, 1853:1-6.

The following letter, written to Dr. [John Franklin] Gray of this city, gives an interesting account of the discovery of a medicinal spring in Pennsylvania, near Carroll, Chautauque Co., N. Y.  From several sources we have accounts of the beneficial effects of the water when applied to the cure of diseases.  Our opponents are continually asking why the spirits do not tell us something that will be of practical benefit to mankind.  Let this, among hundreds of cases of practical utility, be an answer.

Milwaukie, Jan. 24, 1853.

J. F. Gray, M.D.:

Dear Sir—I avail myself of the present opportunity, to fulfill a promise I made you while sojourning in your city, to give you the result of my observations and personal inquiries in relation to the remarkable mineral spring, alleged to have been discovered near Carroll, Chautauque Co., N. Y., by Spirit-agency.  Having listened to the account given by our friend [Thaddeus] Sheldon, of Randolph, Cattaraugus Co., when he brought the water to New York for analyzation, I resolved to turn aside from my homeward journey and examine the whole matter for myself.  Accordingly I left New York on the 10th inst., and proceeded directly to Dunkirk, where I arrived about two o’clock next morning.  At one o’clock, P.M., of that day, I took the stage for Jamestown, twenty-eight miles south of Dunkirk, thence again by stage six miles to Carroll, which brought me within three miles of the spring.  Fortunately I found the owner of the spring at Carroll, who took me immediately to his house, which is located about a half mile over the line in Pennsylvania.  His name is John Chase.  From early youth he has been a resident of that region, pursuing his trade as a blacksmith, until three or four years since he removed to the farm on which he now resides.  The uniform testimony of his neighbors and acquaintances is, that he is a strictly honest man, possessing a good share of sound judgment in the business relations of life, and respected by all who know him.  The great fault complained of is, that he is fanatical—that is, his thoughts do not run in the great channel of public opinion.  In other words, he is a man that does his own thinking, and never fears to act where his better judgment dictates, regardless of public opinion.

I will now proceed to give you the statement of the parties more immediately connected with the discovery of the spring, from notes I took on the spot.  There were present John Chase and wife, Eliza Birney, an adopted daughter of Mr. Chase, aged about eighteen, Mr. Oliver G. Chase (brother of John Chase), and Mr. William Brittingham and wife.

About fifteen years since, while Mr. Chase was residing at Carroll, following his trade, his wife made a visit to a neighboring town, and was absent about six weeks.  In that neighborhood there was a “fortune-teller,” who was considered an “oracle” by those who saw fit to consult her.  Mrs. Chase from mere curiosity, visited her, and during the consultation she was informed that since she left home her husband had bought a farm, that on it was a great treasure, and that he must never part with it.  Mrs. Chase ridiculed the idea, expressing her unbelief in the strongest terms, and gave as a reason that they were so poor that her husband had no means of paying for one.  She was then told that she would have a test of the truth of her assertion.  Her husband would send for her that day to come home, that she would start for, but would not reach, her place of residence.  Just at evening a team arrived to take her home; she started, but when they had reached within one mile of home the horses became stalled, and they were obliged to remain at a neighboring house.  She arrived home in the morning, and immediately asked her husband if he had bought a farm.  He replied, that he had; but said no one knew it except himself, the seller, and a witness, and wished to know how she had heard of it.  She informed him of the interview with the fortune-teller, and the circumstances connected with her return home.  Having bought the tract for the purpose of using a small water-power on it for propelling machinery for the manufacture of wagons, in company with another individual, and that project having failed, he repeatedly offered the tract for sale, placing no confidence in the sayings of seeress, and not feeling able to pay for it.  He could get no offer, and he was obliged to keep it, until about four years since he bought forty acres adjoining, which came to a highway, to enable him to see the whole tract more readily.  Still he got no offers; when about three years ago, William Brittingham, who was a magnetizer, learned through a clairvoyant that there was a great treasure on John Chase’s farm, and, besides, a valuable salt-spring, and that he must not sell it.  This was subsequently confirmed by other clairvoyants and spirit-mediums, until Chase was constrained to act in the matter, and resolved to follow directions, and dig for the reported treasure.  Accordingly he took a good clairvoyant on to the ground some time last spring, who located the precise spot where they afterward dug.  Subsequent trials with other mediums corroborated the statement of the first clairvoyant.  On the strength of the above, he bargained with Mr. Brittingham to dig the pit, for a certain interest in the investment, and early last summer the work was commenced.  They were directed to sink a pit nine feet in diameter to a certain depth, then to bore to a certain specified depth, when they would come to the spring.  (The distances they were directed to dig and to bore corresponded exactly with the account of the digging given below.)  During the progress of the work, they first removed two feet of surface soil, then three to four feet of hard pan; the next in order was nine feet of blue clay, with boulders of all sizes interspersed; the next, six inches of sand and gravel and a little clay; then two feet more of blue clay, when they came upon a layer of eighteen inches of surface soil, vegetable mold, interspersed with leaves and stems (evidently a land slide, as a casual observer will readily perceive by personal inspection).  The next layer was twelve feet blue clay, sand, gravel, and boulders intermixed, which required blasting in consequence of its extreme hardness.  At this point they commenced boring in the same soil for ten feet farther, and struck the rock, which was very hard for the distance of six inches, when it became porous, and through it the water began to flow.  At the depth of three feet they again struck the hard portion, and ceased boring.  Not finding it in sufficient quantities, they were directed by the spirits to bore in the center of the pit, which they did, and struck a full supply, flowing at the rate of about 500 gallons per hour.  They were then directed to commence boring on the north side of the pit, and they would strike the salt water.  After boring through the hard clay and gravel they struck the rock (red sandstone), into which they bored to the depth of four or five feet, and came to strong salt water, flowing at the rate of about 750 gallons per hour, which they were directed to plug up; they did so, but not doing it effectually, the plug escaped during their absence, and the water filled the whole pit and flowed over the surface of the ground.  With much labor for five days, they succeeded in emptying the pit and stopping the flow.  They were then directed to insert a tube in the hole bored in the center of the pit, reaching to the surface of the ground, which they did, when the water flowed to the height of twelve feet above the surface of the earth.  The water obtained from this spring flows turbid all the time, containing a large amount of sediment of earthy matter, of an unctuous character to the touch, emitting a peculiar odor, and the taste strongly alkaline.  Experiments were made by mixing the water with flour, which showed its alkaline properties by raising bread and biscuit very light.  You have doubtless ere this received from Chilton the chemical analysis, but as I have heard nothing from that source, I am unable to say what are its chemical constituents.

The work was completed about the 1st of September last, when they were directed to commence testing, under Spirit-direction, the efficacy of the water in the cure of diseases.  I will not detail to you the cases treated, but simply enumerate a few of the diseases in which, according to the testimony of numbers in that vicinity, the use of the water had been effectual.  Various kinds of fevers, dyspepsia, various bowel affections, hemorrhoids, leucorrhea, pneumonia, rheumatism, inflammations of the throat, burns and scalds, crysipelas, scarlatina, etc.  The details as given to me are exceedingly interesting, and almost incredible; and if there is any truth in the testimony, I think the whole matter is worth a thorough investigation.  It is directed to be used in various ways.  The water from the spring is used internally and by bathing.  Boiled from fifteen gallons to one is directed to be given for various complaints, and in this state it may be transported.

An ointment is also made for external application for all inflammations, such as burns, felons, boils, crysipelas, hemorrhoids, chilblains, rheumatism, etc.  If the statements are to be relied upon, the results of its use are truly remarkable.  I have had but a limited opportunity, since my return home, to test either the water or ointment upon cases of disease.  The results thus far are very favorable.  Two well-marked cases of felon yielded in a very hours to the application of the ointment.  In one case, where the lady had not slept for two night preceding, and was suffering so severely that she could hardly keep from groaning while in my presence, the pain left in half an hour, and in twelve hours the tumefaction had almost disappeared, and she is now well, without any aggravation.  The other case was characterized by a gradual subsidence of the suffering in the course of six hours, together with the swelling, and final complete cure.  No suppuration supervened, although in both cases it seemed inevitable.  Similar results have followed in a severe case of croup, and in obstinate coughs.

I shall continue my testings as opportunity presents, and the results I will carefully note, which I will communicate to you if you desire it.

In conclusion I would say, that the main facts above narrated are fully corroborated by friend and foe in that vicinity.  Indeed, there is no doubt left upon the minds of any in that neighborhood, who have known any thing on the subject, that the discovery was made under the circumstances narrated above.  They were subjected to an amount of obloquy and ridicule that was truly disgraceful, and it is wonderful that their moral courage should have so long sustained them.

But I am wearying you with the length of this epistle, and will therefore close by subscribing myself,

Yours, truly,


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