Spiritualism in Nineteenth-Century New Orleans






A New Day



Father and Son



Echoes From Another World



Early Forays into Spiritualism






Stormy Days in Louisiana



Windows of the Soul



Le Cercle Harmonique






Spiritual Rubicon





Capp. 0-2



A New Day


p. 4 emigration from Haiti

"The Haitian Revolution took place in phases, ... and there was a corresponding migration of displaced colonials. ... The primary destinations included

the East Coast of the United States in 1793,

Jamaica in 1798, and

Cuba in 1803."

p. 6 emigration from Cuba

"In March 1809, the Cuban government issued a proclamation commanding the French refugees to leave Cuba ... . Most of the e'migre's left ..., and the preferred ... destination was Louisiana."



Father and Son


p. 8 the couple's first daughter legitimatized by the couple's marriage

"On July 1, 1829, Barthe'lemy Rey and his future wife appeared before the New Orleans notary ... to legalize their three-month-old daughter, Elizabeth.

The bride was Rose Agne`s Sacriste, natural daughter ["born in Saint-Domingue" (p. 160, n. 1:2)] of Jean Marie Sacriste and Rositte Fre`re;

the groom was the son of Joseph Rey and Elizabeth Mickline.

The notary duly inscribed the letters

H.C.L. (homme de couleur libre -- free man of color) for Barthe'lemy and

F.C.L. (femme de couleur libre -- free woman of color) for Rose".

pp. 8-9 the couple's natal countries

p. 8

"In the marriage contract, Barthe'lemy listed his birthplace as

p. 9

Santiago de Cuba, which had been the initial destination for many refugees fleeing ... Saint-Domingue (Haitian) ..., and

Rose was originally from Saint-Domingue."

p. 10 birth of the couple's first son

"The Reys welcomed their first son and second child, Henry Louis Rey, on Sunday, February 20, 1831."

p. 16 founding of the Couvent School

"the Couvent School. [This] The Afro-Creole School was first incorporated ... in 1847, more than decade after the ... bequest ... stipulated the foundation of a school. ... [The executor of the bequaest] kept the legacy a secret and misappropriated some of the funds. ...

An interview ... gives the place of honor to Barthe'lemy Rey as being the first to realize that there was something amiss and to reveal the existence of Madame ... Couvent's generous bequest to the community."

p. 17 democracy & civil rights promoted by Barthe'lemy Rey through his Couvent School

"Barthe'lemy Rey played a prominent role in the history of the Couvent School, staffed by a highly politicized teaching corps that instructed their students in the democratic advances of the American, French, and Haitian Revolutions. Historians today recognize the Couvent Schoold as the "nursery school for revolution in Louisiana." ... In 1852, the school moved from a temporary location ... to the corner of Greatman and Union in the Faubourg Marigny ... . ...

However, Barthe'lemy Rey ... On May 29,1852 ... died. ... No death certificate was filed."

{It is implied that he was murdered on account of his promoting of democracy and of civil rights.}

p. 17 Henry as successor to his father Barthe'lemy Rey

"1852 ... . ... It was now up to Henry to continue his father's work as a pioneering educator ... ."



Echoes From Another World


pp. 19-21 spirit-communcations by the Fox sistren in New York state : statewide publicity

p. 19

"a major gold strike at Sutter's Mill in California ... mhad been confirmed by March 1848. And on Friday night, March 31, 1848, in the hamlet of Hydesville, New York, the adolescent sisters -- Kate and Maggie -- reported [Stuart 2005] mysterious rappings ... . ... The sisters soon discovered that they could communicate with the spirit ... . ... .

... the older, divorced, sister, Leah Fish, intervened and brought the

p. 20

family to her home in Rochester ... . ... The younger sisters acquiesced to Leah's tutelage and agreed to perform private se'ances among Rochester's elite families, the first of whom was a radical activist Quaker couple, Amy and Isaac Post. The Posts were dedicated and intrepid reformers who championed radical causes ... in Rochester ... . Their home served as a hub of discussion and support for famous reform lecturers and abolitionists ... . ... For the Posts, Spiritualism conformed to their Quaker religious belief of the individual possessing an inner light ... of the divine.

The Quaker compass was set [Albanese 2007, p. 181] "in a direction that could point conformtably spirit communication." The young Fox sisters, acting as mediums, were able to use their inner lights to hear and translate echoes from another world. No ministers or priests were requird for a connection to the spiritual realm, and common people were able to commune with the dead. ...

On November 14, 1849, the older sister arranged for Kate and Maggie to perform sat the Corinthian Hall in Rochester ... . .. Newspaper reports added to the girls' newfound celebrity as they toured they toured major cities in New York, with Leah Fox acting as a type of stage manager. Their arrival in New York City in early June 1850 attracted the eye of Horace Greeley, the influential and decidedly liberal editor of the New York Tribune. Greeley and his wife, Molly, attended one of the private se'ances the Fox sisters

p. 21

were holding at Barnum Hotel and ... became [Braude 1989, p. 16] strong devotees ... . Horace Greeley's positive coverage of the girls' uncanny abilities in the prestigious New York Tribune ensured the viablity and national growth of Modern American Spiritualism. Following the lead of the New York Tribune, newspapers throughout the country reported on the supernatural events ... ."

Stuart 2005 = Nancy Rubin Stuart : "The Raps Heard Around the World". AMER HISTORY (Aug), pp. 42-8.

Albanese 2007 = Catherine L. Albanese : A Republic Of Mind and Spirit : a Cultural History of American Metaphysical Religion. New Haven : Yale Univ Pr.

Braude 1989 = Anne Braude : Radical Spirits : Spiritualism and ... Rights in Nineteenth-Century America. Boston, Beacon Pr.

p. 21 western New York

"Revivalism, new sects , and social reforms occurred so frequently that western New York became known as the Burned-over District [Cross 1950], an epithet alluding to

the ... fires of the human spirit.

{such as, the fire (or flames) of the Holy Spirit}" : "with the Holy Ghost and with fire"

The Fox sisters' spiritual encounters were the latest ... and engendered a new interest ... in the eary 1850s."

Cross 1950 = Whitney R. Cross : The Burned-over District : the ... History of Enthusiastic Religion in Western New York, 1800-1850. NY : Harper & Row.

pp. 21-2 methods for communicating with spirits

p. 21

"The original communication method relied on rappings and translations of the raps, similar to tapping on a telegraph key and decoding the message using Morse code, which had been recently developed during the 1840s by Samuel Morse. The term spiritual telegraph was frequently used in the early 1850s and even applied [McGarry 2008, p. 177, n. 1] as a name for one of the earliest Spiritualist periodicals, founded by Samuel Byron Brittan and Charles Partridge in 1852.


mediums used

{more accurately, /divine spirits (divinities) used the praesence of a mortal medium in order to induce/}

automatic writing, trances, {praeternatural} moving of furniture, and {praeternatural} playing of musical instruments to make

p. 22

communication faster {swifter}, more efficient, and perhaps more entertaining and phenomenal."

McGarry 2008 = Molly McGarry : Ghosts of Futures Past : Spiritualism ... of Nineteenth-Century America. Berkeley : Univ of SA Pr.

p. 22 radical Spiritualism

"Braude links Spiritualism to radical social reforms such as ... abolition [of slavery] during the 1850s. "Spiritualism," she says [Braude 1989, pp. 56-7], "became a magnet for social and political radicals throughout the nineteenth century." ...

As Spiritualism spread and became more popular, favorite male mediums and lecturers such as James Peebles, James V. Mansfield, and the Banner of Light editors became more visible to the public. ... ... Men were drawn to Spiritualism and were counted among its celebrity trance lecturers".

pp. 22-3 mention in newpapers of the Deep South

p. 22

"New of the Fox sisters and Spiritualism eventually crossed the Mason-Dixon Line and spread to the South, ... literary editors, reporters, and religious leaders ... often referring to the Fox sisters as the "Rochester knocking girls." The influential and prestigious Southern Literary Messenger, published in Richmond, ... labeled their followers as "ardent zealots, ... enthusiasts and

p. 23

... dreamers" ... . The editorial staff issued ...

[quoted from Southern Literary Messenger, 20 (June 1854):343-4 :] ... a series of chapters on Phrenology, Mesmerism, Clairvoyance, Animal Electricity, and ... Spiritual Rappings. And here we have the edifying spectacle of ... gray-haired judges, illustrious senators, staid matrons and even ministers of religion alternatedly excited to enthusiasm or standing aghast with wonder and astonishment ... ."

pp. 23-4 Barthet undertaking Mesmerism

p. 23

"On April 9, 1845, Joseph Barthet founded his mesmerist society, La Socie'te' du Magne'tisme de la Nouvelle-Orle'ans ... .

p. 24

The group met every Monday to ... a healing science ...

that involved submerging patients in a large oak tub filled with water and magnetic substances. ... The patient would sit in the tub, and the magnetized water would ... modify or cure the disease.

{This is an activity of acting out the alchemical allegory of "King" and "Queen" in vats, undergoing transmutations.}

In the 1770s, the Viennese founder of this medical therapy, Franz Anton Mesmer, observed that patients sometimes went into trances called magnetic sleep and descended into dark spheres inhabited by spiritual beings. ... While undergoing the healing process of magnetism, patients would sometimes speak in languages they had never studied, or would play musical instruments of which they had no previous knowledge, or communicate with the dead."

pp. 24-5 Barthet & Lake Harris : both undertaking Spiritualism

p. 24

"Barthet enthusiastically embraced Spiritualism and welcomed the conversion of new members, ... having a large number of participants seated around a large oblong table with their open hands resting on the table's surface. Questions were posed by the participants, and

p. 25

the spirits responded by raising the table and striking the ground once for "no" and twice for an affirmative answer."

"the Reverend Thomas Lake Harris of New York City ... in December 1852 lodged for several months at the Veranda Hotel ..., across from the First Congregationalist Church of New Orleans ... . Harris's winter sojourn was spent ... holding private se'ances, similar to what Kate and Maggie Fox had done at Barnum's Hotel in 1850.

The Reverend was a former Universalist minister who, together with Reverend James L. Scott, had established a utopian community called Mountain Cove in early 1852. Scott ... declared that the community would be for true believers in Spiritualism ... under the direction of the spirits. Mountain Cove was a ten-thousand-acre tract located in Fayette County, Virginia (now West Virginia)."

p. 25 pubiic announcement concerning Spiritualism

"The New Orleans Daily Crescent announced [article "Spirit Rappers", Dec 16, 1852] ... that some of our most respectable citizens are ... converts to the faith of the Spiritual Rappers. ... these invisible nomads can tell them truly of the past and the present, of the dead and the living; control the present and predict the future; ... tilting tables, making them revolve or stand on one leg, compel furniture to dance ..., etc."

pp. 26-8 arrival, in New Orleans, of Harmonical Philosophy founded in New York State by the Poughkeepsie Seer

p. 26

"Advertisements in the Daily Picayune announced the meeting of the Spiritualists of the Harmonical Philosophy School at Temperance Hall in the Fourth District ... . ...

p. 27

According to John Monroe [1999, pp. 223-5], the middle class tended to be disillusioned with Catholicism ... . ... seeing the tables tournantes ..., they wished to make them the basis of a new religion, and ... considered the tables to be harbingers of a new era."

"Andrew Jackson Davis provided the impetus and the leadership for the spiritual transformation to se'ance Spiritualism ... . A. J. Davis -- often referred to as the Poughkeepsie Seer by contemporaries -- first gained national prominence in 1843, when ... he was introduced to mesmerism by J. Stanley Grimes ... . The young apprentice from western New York proved to be a talented medical clairvoyant in his own right and in 1845 began to lecture in an entranced state. One hundred and fifty-seven of Davis's trance lectures were recorded and later published in 1847 in The Principles of Nature, Her Divine Revelations, and a Voice to Mankind. ... During the same year, Davis and his friends began the publication of The Univercoelum and Spiritual Philosopher, a weekly newspaper that appeared in New York City to advance Davis's views. Samuel B. Brittan and Thomas Lake Harris -- both former Universalist ministers ... -- served as editors and writers. A. J. Davis borrowed heavily from Franz Anton Mesmer's healing science and developed his Harmonial philosophy, "a master plan for the radical transformation of existing social, economic, and religious institutions." ...

p. 28

The philosophy of Harmonialism was based on an active and ever-changing afterlife in which the more highly developed spirits would impart their knowledge and spiritual comforting".

Monroe 1999 = John Monroe : "Making the Se'ance Serious : 'Tables Tournantes' and Second Empire Bourgeois Culture, 1853-1861". HISTORY OF RELIGIONS 38.3 (Feb 1999).

pp. 29-30 Spiritualism as a religion

p. 29

"Emma Hardinge, the indefatigable and prolific chronicler of Spiritualism, ... declared enthusiastically ... ([1869{, p. 11} ...]), "Spiritualism, with a large majority of its American adherents, is a religion, separate in all respects from any existing sect, because it bases its affirmations purely upon the demonstrations of fact, science, and natural law ... ."

Another prolific Spiritualist writer, James Martin Peebles, delivered high praise for Spiritualism, calling it "a grand, moral science, and a wisdom religion," which was the cornerstone for all of the ancient faiths. Peebles, a long-lived Spiritualist, announced the ... Roman pope ... and traditional ... priests were supplanted by mediums who officiated at se'ance circles" (1903, pp. 7-12)

"Spiritualism was .. also a ... philosophy. ...

p. 30

For some it was part of a liberal reform movement championing ... abolitionism ...; others considered it a philosophy; and still others ... declared Spiritualism to be a religion,

albeit not a traditional mainstream nineteenth-century religion."

{Spiritualism (i.e., spirit-mediumship) is indeed traditional (i.e., having been practiced continuously for many centuries) in VietNam, whence (upon that country's becoming occupied, by being conquaered, by the government of France) it was transplanted into France, and thence into North America.}

Hardinge 1869 = Emma Hardinge : Modern American Spiritualism : ... the Communion between Earth and the Realm of Spirits. NY, 1870. [reprint New Hyde Park : University Bks, 1970]

Peebles 1903 = James Martin Peebles : What Is Spiritualism, Who Are These Spiritualists and What Has Spiritualism Done for the World? Battle Creek (MI) : Peebles Institute Pr.

pp. 30-2 francophone Spiritualist newspaper in New Orleans

p. 30

"in New Orelans ... in 1857, ... Joseph Barthet launched a Spiritualist newspaper, Le Spiritualiste de la Nouvelle-Orle'ans -- the only French-language newspaper in North America devoted exclusively to Spiritualism. Barthel used his monthly journal as a forum to explain the Spiritualist philosophy; report on se'ances in other states; and publish reviews of recently published Spiritualist books and articles from sister Spiritualist publications in the United States, such as the Spiritual Telegraph, the Spiritual Age, and the Banner of Light. ... Articles from French publications such as Myste`res de Paris and Journal du Magne'tism were also summarized.

[p. 164, n. 32 "The periodical was later published in book form as Joseph Barthet, Le Spiritualiste de la Nouvelle-Orle'ans, vols. 1-2 (New Orleans : Joseph Barthet, 1857-1858)."]

p. 31

Spirit communications formed the major portion of Le Spiritualiste ... . Many spirit guides were deceased French writers and philosophers such as Honore' de Balzac, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Pierre-Jean de Be'ranger. ...

In 1858, Barthet reported that

Valmour, a free man of color,

[p. 164, n. 35 ""Valmour's real name was John. B. Averin."]

had generously given his time and energy ... to healing the sick ... . Ailing Spiritualists seeking instant cures at the hands of the skilled healing medium besieged his shop nightly ... . ...

p. 32

Besides ... Valmour, Barthet mentioned Tampico ... in Le Spiritualiste. In the 1850s. Tampico became the destination for free people of color who ... had moved out of the United States to Eureka, a community in Mexico outside of Tampico, Mexico, composed of like-minded Afro-Creoles." (Gehrman 2001-2, p. 86)

Gehrman 2001-2 = Mary Gehrman : "The Mexican-Louisiana Creole Connection". LOUISIANA CULTURAL VISTAS 11.4 (winter 2001-2).

pp. 164, n. 38 self-enslavement

"In 1859, the Louisiana legislature passed one last draconian measure : all free people of color were ordered to choose a master and voluntarily enslave themselves. For a more detailed anaysis of self-enslavement, see [Schafer 2003, pp.] 145-62."

Schafer 2003 = Judith Kelleher Schafer : Becoming Free, Remaining Free : Manumission and Enslavement, 1846-1862. Baton Rouge : LA Univ Pr.

p. 32 Eureka & Tampico

"In 1857, Louis-Nelson Fouche' established a colony of one hundred families in Eureka. The village burned in 1861, and the colonists moved to Tampico. Originally from Jamaica, Fouche' had been a business partner of Barthe'lemy Rey and a mathematics teacher at the Couvent School. ...

There are occasional references to Tampico in the Gandjean Registers to "our brothers in Tampico," indicating an ongoing correspondence between the two black Creole communities."


p. 33

"The weekly Banner of Light was the premier Spiritualist newspaper in the nation. ... During the 1850s, a sales agent in New Orleans was listed in every weekly issue ... . ... New Orleans was the only southern city that had a sales agent. ...

p. 34

The weekly Banner of Light defined itself as A Weekly Journal of Romance Literature and

Central Intelligence [sic!]. This motto appeared on its massive, ornate masthead." {Praesumably authoress M. D. hath confounded this innocent newpaper with the sinistre and morbid self-styled "Central Intelligence Agency" (truly a mis-nomer for an agency fanatically devoted to forcibly suppressing all honest, decent intelligence!).}

[p. 33 The facsimile on p. 33 of the Banner masthead hath the wording "GENERAL INTELLIGENCE" (but not "Central Intelligence"!). "GENERAL" could imply "for the general welfare of all", an implication which would not necessarily be available in the word \Central\.]

{Surely some soul-occupying spirit-force must have induced M. S. absent-mindedly to mis-quote the masthead, therewith opening an invitation-and-opportunty to excoriate the hypocritical nature of the mis-nomer mis-leadingly applied to itself by aforesaid "Agency"!}

p. 34 Spiritualist concerns of the Banner

"Much of the Spiritualist portion concerned printed communications the dead channeled through Jennie H. Conant ..., and reprints of lectures delivered by celebrity mediums like Cora L. V. Hatch and Thomas Gales Forster. The Banner of Light also ran a weekly column called Movements of Mediums, which detailed the lecture circuits of the peripatetic mediums who traveled from one major American city to another giving lectures ... . ... In summary, the Banner of Light was depicted by its editorial staff as "... the harbinger of a glorious Scientific Religion.""

pp. 34-5 miracles performed by spirits at the behest of J. Rollin M. Squire

p. 34

"J. Rollin M. Squire ... and Thomas Gales Forster ... became editors [of the Banner of Light] in November 1857, and one month later they traveled separately ... into the Deep South ... . Squire arrived [in the Crescent City, viz., New Orleans] in January 1858, and Forster arrived a few weeks later; having made ... a detour to St. Louis. ... Squire was originally from

p. 35



{natal state of various other renowned occultists, e.g., of Joseph Smith]

and had moved to Boston with his family as a teenager. Squire attracted numerous Barthet circle participants to private se'ances and rewarded them with a display of

his impressive powers

{more accurately, the powers of the familiar spirits of his praeternatural entourage}

such as raising a round table weighing about fifty pounds during the se'ance." (Barthet : Le Spiritualisme, vol. 2, pp. 15-16)

p. 38 why is spirit-mediumship favored among persons of African descent in Louisiana more than in any other state in the U.S. of A.?

"Barthet's se'ance circle and its clandestine nature ... appealed to the elite black Creoles. ... On a national level, African Americans were a small fraction of the Spiritualist movement, which is perplexing ... ."

{Although authoress M. D. was apparently unaware of this fact, spirit-mediumship is practiced among native tribes in only a small portion of Africa, between Dahomey and the Edo of Nigeria : of which portion the majority belong the Yoruba tribe, who are very numerous indeed in Louisiana but sparse elsewhere in North America.}

p. 38 commencement of Spiritualist se'ances held by Henry Louis Rey

"The spark of enthusiasm generated by J. Rollin M. Squire and Thomas Gales Forster that Emma Hardinge mentioned in her spiritual tome energized the black Creoles to form their own circles. ... Henry Louis Rey began his first se'ance register on June 19, 1858, just one month after the zealous editors of the Banner of Light returned to Boston." [p. 165, n. 58 "Both Thomas Gales Forster and J. Rollin M. Squire left the Banner of Light in 1861."]


Melissa Daggett : Spiritualism in Nineteenth-Century New Orleans : the Life and Times of Henry Louis Rey. Univ Pr of Mississippi, Jackon, 2017.