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Spirit and Spa
Spirit and Spa: A Portrait of the Body, Mind and Soul of a 133-Year-Old Spiritualist Community in Lake Pleasant, Massachusetts, was written by the late Louise Shattuck -- animal artist, sculptor, and author -- in collaboration with David James and published in 2003. The 192-page softcover book contains reproductions of more than 100 old photographs and post cards, $20.00, plus $6.00 shipping and handling.
Lake Pleasant, home of "The Bridge of Names" and one of five villages in the Town of Montague in Franklin County, Massachusetts, was founded in 1870 as a campmeeting grounds and lays claim to being the oldest continuously-existing Spiritualist center in the United States. By 1872, Spiritualists had begun to gather in force, making it a tent city in the woods of the Upper Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts, a dozen miles from Historic Deerfield, Massachusetts, and a baker's dozen miles from the University of Massachusetts flagship campus at Amherst, both of which have significant collections of Louise Shattuck's personal and professional memorabilia. In 1874, the New England Spiritualist Campmeeting Association was organized and Spiritualists from around the country and around the world turned Lake Pleasant into a Mecca for believers in continuity of life and communication between souls in the material world and souls in the spirit world.
Louise Shattuck died October 25, 2005, at the age of 85. She was the last member of three generations of a family of Spiritualists whose personal history was inextricably intertwined with the history of Spiritualism in Lake Pleasant. In Spirit and Spa she paints a portrait in anecdotal memories and old photographs of the glory days of a community which lived by the swords of the railroad, recreation, and religion ... and died by the swords of the automobile, conversion of the lake to a municipal water supply source, and attrition through death and disinterest of Spiritualism's practitioners. The book traces Lake Pleasant from its early years as a vibrant resort of 3,000 to the sleepy little village of 300 that it is today ... and looks at the remnant which still remains of those who "talk to the dead," members of The National Spiritual Alliance.
While foreshadowings of so-called Modern Spiritualism were evident in Europe in the 18th and early 19th centuries through the work of Emanuel Swedenborg, Franz Anton Mesmer, and others, notably in America of Andrew Jackson Davis, the "Poughkeepsie Seer," Modern Spiritualism mythologically began in the United States on March 31, 1848. That was the date the Fox sisters, Margaret and Kate, communicated via "rappings" on a bedroom wall with a spirit which haunted their farmhouse in Hydesville, a rural community 20 miles south of Rochester, New York. The spirit was later identified as a peddler who had stayed at the farmhouse about five years earlier. The spirit told the Fox sisters that he had been robbed, that his throat had been cut, and that his remains were buried in the cellar. Excavation of the cellar revealed some hair and bones, but it was not until 1904, according to newspaper reports, that children playing in what had become known as the Spook House discovered a virtually complete human skeleton behind the crumbling cellar walls. As a result of the peddler communications the Fox sisters gained widespread reputations as mediums and spurred an international fascination with Spiritualism ... for in an era of high infant mortality and later in the aftermath of three-quarters of a million deaths in the American Civil War, hardly a family was untouched by untimely death and without desire to be in contact with a lost loved one.
According to the History of National Spiritualist Association of Churches, published in 1983, the first National Convention of Spiritualists occurred in Chicago, Illinois, in 1864. A second convention was conducted in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the following year, and more conventions followed into the 1870s, before the loose-knit organization withered nationally, but was succeeded by numerous independent and state groups of Spiritualist alliances, associations, and organizations.
One of the oldest continuously-existing Spiritualist organizations in the United States is the Lily Dale Assembly on the banks of Cassadaga Lake in a rural area approximately 55 miles southwest of Buffalo, New York. The Lily Dale Assembly evolved from the First Spiritualist Society of Laona (New York) formed in 1855 and Cassadaga Lake Free Association formed in 1879. The Association of Spiritualists at Cassadaga Camp developed a constitution in 1892 and adopted it in 1893. That constitution and bylaws of that group functioned as a model for organizers of the first Delegate Convention of Spiritualists of the United States of America conducted in September, 1893, in Chicago, Illinois. In November, 1893, organizers of the Chicago convention filed for incorporation in Washington, D.C., as The National Spiritualist Association of the United States of America. In November, 1920, the organization filed an amendment to change its name to The National Spiritualist Association. The organization filed another amendment in February, 1953, to change its name to The National Spiritualist Association of Churches, a name the organization still retains. NSAC is an umbrella organization which has hundreds of member churches throughout the country.
Another early Spiritualist organization began to form in 1875 in Volusia County, Florida, about 25 miles southwest of Daytona Beach. Its founder, George Colby, a medium who traveled the Midwestern circuit, was led south by a Native American spirit guide to establish a new center for Spiritualists. In 1880, Colby filed a homestead claim on almost 75 acres and was granted a partial claim in 1884 to 57 acres of that land. Colby was joined by Spiritualists from Lily Dale, New York, and a charter to form the Southern Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp Meeting Association was granted in 1894. Cassadaga has evolved from a seasonal camp to a year-round center and is the oldest continuously-existing Spiritualist community in the southern United States.
A third early independent group, the New England Spiritualist Campmeeting Association (NESCA), formed in Lake Pleasant, Massachusetts, in 1874 and was incorporated in 1879. Lake Pleasant is approximately 90 miles west of Boston. According to Henry A. Buddington, who published the "History of the New England Spiritualist Campmeeting Association" in 1907, a partial list of speakers and mediums appearing in the last quarter of the 1800s at Lake Pleasant included luminaries of that era such as: John Collier, Sarah Byrnes, J.M. Peebles, Nellie Brigham, J. Rhodes Buchanon, Juliette Severence, Moses Hull, William Denton, H.B. Storer, Ed S. Wheeler, Charles Dawbarn, J. Frank Baxter, Edgar Emerson, Tilley Reynolds, Carrie Twing, R. Shepherd Lillie, Fred Willis, Lyman Howe, Lizzie Doten, A.B. French, Sidney Dean, Prof. Lockwood, Oscar Edgerly, Kate Stiles, Jennie Hagan, Cora Richmond, Maud Lord, George Fuller, J.J. Morse, Mattie Hull, Hudson Tuttle, J. Clegg Wright, N.J. Willis, Henry Kiddle, Fanny Allyn, Col. Robert Ingersoll, Juliette Yeaw, Ira Moore Courliss, W.F. Peck, Fanny Davis Smith, F.A. Wiggin, Dean Clark, A.E. Tisdale, Hortense Holcomb, and Andrew Jackson Davis.
NESCA was affiliated with the National Spiritualist Association of Churches. The National Spiritual Alliance (TNSA) was formed in 1913 after members of NESCA were unable to resolve philosophical differences (primarily regarding reincarnation) and decided to follow separate Spiritualist paths. NESCA members who did not believe in reincarnation -- contending that reincarnation is retrogressive -- continued affiliation with the National Spiritualist Association of Churches, while members who believed that reincarnation was a learning vehicle which assisted the soul's progression toward perfection split from NESCA and formed the independent TNSA. Lake Pleasant was thus the home of rival Spiritualist organizations, each with its own temple and followers, until the NESCA temple burned in 1955 and was not rebuilt. NESCA continued operations until 1976, before donating its property to the Town of Montague and disbanding.
The National Spiritual Alliance originated with issuance of incorporation papers September 12, 1913, by the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. TNSA continues to be an active organization. Several thousand people visit Thompson Temple annually to participate in Sunday services, Psychic Development Circles, Psychic Fairs, classes, and other activities. "Ghost Flowers" is a book of poetry published by Dorothy Evelyn Conant Begg, the first person born in Lake Pleasant in 1898, and illustrated by her grandson, nature photographer Kevin Talbot.
"In the Spirit: Varieties of Spiritual Experience in the Franklin County Area of Western Massachusetts," by David James, published in 2002, 55 feature stories/columns focusing on religious/spiritual themes submitted to The Recorder, Franklin County's only home-based daily newspaper, $10.00, plus $4.00 shipping and handling.
"In the Spirit2: More Varieties of Spiritual Experience in the Franklin County Area of Western Massachusetts," by David James, published in 2003, 50 feature stories/columns compiled from The Recorder focusing on people, practices, and places of worship, $10.00, plus $4.00 shipping and handling.
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