By Travis Sanders
Imagine being born a medium in a small catholic farming town in North Central Ohio on Lake Eerie only to find out many years later as an adult, and Spiritualist, that your area used to be a hotbed of Spiritualist activity? I just did, and my inner history nerd is so excited!
As a regular visitor and presenter at such places like Camp Chesterfield, and Lily Dale Assembly (I’m presenting here for the first time this summer), I am always fascinated by the history of these places. A few years ago I learned of a small but barely surviving Spiritualist camp in Ashley, Ohio as well as a small Spiritualist center in Sherwood, Ohio known as Crystal Fountain.
While the Internet has not shown much in the way of Ashley and Crystal Fountain (Camp Ashley seems to be active partially during the year, but their website is under construction, and to my understanding Crystal fountain Spiritualism is now de-funked but Crystal Fountain is still a public park) it did bring up some interesting search results from Google- mainly because one of the towns mentioned in an article where concerning Clyde Ohio, a mere minutes from my hometown of Bellevue, Ohio.
According to the January 1868 edition of the Banner of Light (Boston), Clyde, Ohio held “First Convention of the Ohio State Association of Spiritualists, November 8th, 9th and 10, 1867.”
Amongst mention of AB French as a participant and speaker is listed R. E. Betts, Thomas Davis, Mrs. S. Vandercook, Mrs. E. Whipple of Clyde Ohio. While I could find no information on Betts, Davis, or Vandercook, there is limited mentions of Mrs Whipple, some mentions referring to her as Prof. Whipple, and shows records of lectures given on natural law and mediumship. However much was found concerning Mr. AB French. (Almon Bruce French).
Coming to Clyde in 1859, he was a seemingly modest man, who started into nursery business, and then moved into law and politics.
While researching mentions of him in the history of Sandusky County, it is told that while studying at Western Reserve Seminary at the age of sixteen, he became interested in Spirit Rapping like those of the Fox Sisters. During the hay-day of Spiritualism AB, his mother, and other unmentioned family members developed both physical and mental power for mediumship, which he became known for amongst Spiritualist circles.
Once, French hosted a cabinet séance in his Clyde, Ohio home with medium Elsie Crindle. Someone however was watching through a window and thought that the medium was using masks and other trickery instead of producing genuine physical phenomena. The masks and other items used to fake the manifestations were found. As a result Crindle and her husband were arrested and taken to mayor Bush, where they were fined $5.00.
French is buried in the notable McPherson cemetery in Clyde, Ohio.
Several minutes from Clyde Ohio, is Berlin Heights next to Milan, Ohio, birthplace of Thomas Edison (who may not have been a Spiritualist but definitely researched the subject and even visited Lily Dale in his lifetime. Also it is said that members of his family were practicing Spiritualists).
I lived in Berlin Heights for several years and one of the things I loved about it was how quiet it was. Berlin Heights if known by people at all, is known for its Basket Festival, and possibly the lesser-known history of its controversial Free Love Community. However Berlin Heights was also home to a major contributor to the Spiritualist movement, Hudson Tuttle and his wife Emma.
Born in 1836, in Berlin Heights, Hudson grew up to be a fruit and horse farmer, the land on which his family lived is now known as Walnut Grove Farm in Berlin Heights, Ohio. However Hudson was so much more than a humble farmer. Tuttle found that while attending séances in his youth, he would fall into trance like states, and could produce automatic writing as well as Spirit raps. Through both spirit inspiration and information channeled via writing, both Hudson and his wife Emma (Rood) Tuttle, produced numerous books, lectures and teachings on mediumship, natural law, spirituality, and Spiritualism, even going so far to establish his own publishing company.
Along with his writings, Tuttle is also the inventor of the psychograph, a planchette-like object that has a dial on it, used to spell out messages, similar to a talking board.
Tuttle is buried in the West End Cemetery in Berlin Heights.