Spiritualism in Nineteenth-Century New Orleans, 3-5



Early Forays into Spiritualism


pp. 44-6 a miracle performed by spirits at the behest of Henry Louis Rey while without human company

p. 44

"Henry Louis Rey composed an autobiographical essay in his first se'anace register in which he recounted his first encounter with the spiritual world as a ... young man ... . On May 29, 1852, just one hour qafter his father's death, Henry Rey was at home alone ..., when he saw his father's spirit appear. ...

p. 45

According to Henry Rey, he heard about Spiritualist four or five months after seeing the spirit of his father in 1852, ... corresponding with the time that the northern Spirituaiist, Thomas Lake Harris, visited the Crescent City.Rey ... to communicate with the spirits while alone ... proved successful, and

he levitated a heavy table

{more accurately, the spirits (of course) levitated it for him [as, indeed, is the case in every similar levitation]}

that three strong men would have had trouble in raising."

p. 46 local Spiritualists known to, and associated with, Henry Louis Rey

"One Sunday evening in the 1850s, Henry Rey attended a se'ance at the home of Soeur (Sister) Louise, a neighbor and a popular black spiritualist. ... Rey levitated a heavy wooden table, and then Soeur Louise presented him with a pencil and some paper. ... Rey reluctantly took the pencil, and at this point an invisible hand seized his hand. His deceased father commanded, "Write our dictation ... ." Thus began Rey's vocation as a medium -- a vocation that he excelled at ... . Rey conducted se'ances ... . Included in these se'ance circles were members of the elite black Creole intelligentsia, among them ... Joanni Questy. The participants were ... predominantly ... free people of color ... connected with the Couvant School. Joanni Questy was the assistant principal and upon the death of Armand Lanusse in 1867, he became principal. ... In 1843, Questy founded a short-lived interracial literary journal, L'album litteraire ... ."

p. 49 Hardinge in New Orleans

"From December 1859 into January 1860, Emma Hardinge (Britten) visited the Crescent City ... . ... During her stay in New Orleans, Hardinge lectured without charge ... Sundays and two weeknights per week. ... The venue had to be changed to a larger venue, Odd Fellow's Hall, to accommodate the overflow crowds."

pp. 50-2 Mansfield in New Orleans

p. 50

"On year after Hardinge' successful lecture tour ..., ... James V. Mansfield ... visited the Crescent City ... ....

p. 51

While he stayed in New Oreans during December 1860 and January 1861, the Spiritual Postmaster advertised his exceptional mediumistic ability in the local newspaper. The "world-renowned Writing Test Medium" received visitors in his parlor ... daily ..., except for Sundays. ...

p. 52

In early February 1861, the Spiritual Postmaster departed from New Orleans just a few days after Louisiana had sececded from the Union on January 26, 1861.

... by early 1861 the volatile political situation had pulled apart the city and state governments in Louisiana ... ."





p. 67 Spiritualism remained in hiding in New Orleans during and immediately after the Civil War

"in 1864 ... in New Orleans ... there were ... Spiritualists in New Orleans, but ... they were reticent to openly declare their spiritualistic sympathies. ... these clandestine Spirtualists shunned the conservative public's critical eye."

pp. 67-8 two meeting-halls for La Socie'te' d'Economie et d'Assistance Mutuelle

p. 67

"The purchase of the Economy Society's first meeting hall was notarized in February 1836 ... .

Twenty years later, the Economy Society purchased a lot directly across from the original hall and began construction of a second meeting hall, finishing the work in 1857. According to Fatima Shaik [1863Fatima Shaik [1863 ], this second home to the Economy Society was "a large, two stor[e]y building that towered over the neighborhood ... . It had a large ballroom, an auditorium,

p. 68

and several meeting halls. ... On the hall itself was a copper cornice and

a beehive for decoration, which was a symbol of organization."

{A beehive is likewise emblem of the State of Utah, and is figured on that state's flag.}

Fatima Shaik 1863 = "The Economy Society". NEW ORLEANS TIMES, Nov 6, 1863, pp. 2-4.

p. 68 lieutenant-governor Pinchbeck

"P. B.S. (Pinckney Benton Stewart) Pinchbeck ..., the eighth child of a white Mississippi planter and his manumitted black mistress, ... became lieutenant governor and, briefly, acting governor."

p. 69 Friends of Universal Suffrage; resumption of se'ances

"Friends of Universal Suffrage, a precursor to the Republican Party in Louisiana. The Friends' platform was threefold : universal education, universal suffrage, and distribution of land by the states to heads of families.

The president of the Friends of Universal Suffrage was Thomas Durant, and Henry Rey was the recording secretary and a member of the Central Executive Committee. ... .

... Rey ... in December 1865 ... resumed his first se'ance register in New Orleans after a hiatus of two years."

pp. 69-70 postbellum se'ances by Valmour

p. 69

"Valmour's ... haling abilities and mediumistic skills were legend in New Orleans in the 1850s and 1860s. ... Valmour's residence/blacksmith ship faced the Carondelet Canal, which connected ... to the Basin ... . In 1794, the two-mile canal was cut through the cypress

p. 70

swamp ... under the orders of Baron de Carondelet, then the Spanish governor of Louisiana. The thirty-foot wide canal could ... accomodate ... sloops and schooners ... . ... This ... area was the setting for the reverend Valmour's ... public se'ances. Franc,ois Dubuclet desctribed the house as having a central door ... . The forge was to the right, and to the left was a "healing" room that he ... used ... ."

p. 70 Valmour's wife Dianah

"Valmour kept a large register, which was full of communications from various mediums, especially those from Paulin Durel. ... Valmour's wife, Dianah, retained her husband's register after his death. ...

Franc,ois Dubuclet ... recounted to his son-in-law, Rene' Grandjean, ... anecdotes about ... Marie Laveau, the Voodoo Princess of New Orleans ... . This would be the younger Marie Laveau, sometimes called Marie the Second ... to differentiate her from her mother with the same name. Her full legal name was Marie Heloi:se Euchariste Glapion. ... Possibly they were related indirectly by marriage through Valmour's wife, Dianah, who was a free woman of color from New Orleans".

pp. 71-2 Valmour & Desbrosses

p. 71

"Valmour was ... very involved in Voodoo ... . ...

Voodoo was {is} "a fusion of ancient West African beliefs {and practices, enthousiastically undertaken} and {absolutely minimal} Roman Catholicism."

{This is merely feigned. In Vodun (the usual term in for Dahomey for 'deity', including also 'possession by deity') as practiced in the Antilles, in its pictorial art, Catholic saints' cards and Catholic saints' pictures are employed ostentatiously so as to repraesent Vodun deities (along with Catholic annual celebration of saints' days for glorification of those deities) in order to comply with minimal requirements so as to be regarded and treated (therefore tolerated) by the Church as Catholic; but nothing more that such minima are ever employed.}

Caryn Bell observes that "the vibrancy of

West African religious retentions in nineteenth-century New Orleans

{similarly (mainly from Cuba) in twentieth-century Miami, FL}

unquestionably proved hospitable to Spiritualism's emphasis on spiritual healing ..., spirit possession and an egalitarian religious ethic." ...

Besides Valmour, ... Couvent School instructor Nelson Desbrosses had Voodoo connections. Desbrosses

p. 72

visited Haiti for several years to study Voodoo. Upon his return, he received additional instruction from Valmour and developed into a healing medium. Rodolphe Desdunes notes that Desbrosses achieved widespread acclaim for his ability to heal with a simple touch of his hands."

p. 72 authoress M. G.'s unwarranted disparagement of Vodun

"the Voodoo practitioners did not believe that the supernatural world offered guidance toward a more perfect self and perfect world.

{How could acquirement of miraculous power of healing through Vodun deities not be regarded as "toward a more perfect self", or the goal of attainment of governance of the world through Vodun deities not be considered as guidance toward a more "perfect world"?}

The philosophy of progress ... was far too esoteric for Voodoo practitioners.}

{How could advocacy of study of esoteric Vodun ways of bringing deities into human life not be treated as a "philosophy of progress"?}

pp. 73, 76 political success, in United States Congress, of Radical Reconstruction

p. 73

"President Andrew Johnson ..., a Democrat from Tennessee, lost several key legislative battles in 1866. His imprudent vetoes of the Civil Rights Act and the renewal of the popular ... Freedmen's Bureau Bill were overridden by Congress."

p. 76

"in Washington, ... presidential Reconstruction came to an ignominious end. The obvious ... pushed the US Congress to replace the Confederate-friendly policies of President Andrew Johnson with a congressional Radical Reconstruction that would ... protect the civil rights of African Americans and prevent the return of the old regime in which moneyed Democrats controlled every aspect of both society and politics in the South."



Stormy Days in Louisiana


pp. 78-81 Cora Scott

p. 78

"Cora L. V. Scott ... was born in 1840 near

the oddly named village of Cuba in Allegany County, New York,

{"John S. Minard's Civic History of Cuba, published in 1910, states : "Cuba is a Roman word and means Goddess or Protector of the Young. ..."" (W"CNY--E")}{More praecisely Cuba is "the goddess who protects the lying down of children, Varro ap. Don. Ter. Phorm. 1,1,15." (L&Sh:LD, s.v. "Cuba") -- A related Latin word is \cubile\ 'couch, sofa', a piece of furniture convenient also for sitting (\se'ance\ 'sitting' in French).}

and ... at the tender age of eleven ... began delivering trance lectures in Lake Millds, Wisconsin. ... returning to western New York. A few years later, fourteen-year-old Cora was engaged as a regular trance-lecturer in Buffalo ... .

p. 79

... Cora married ... in Attica, New York, during the summer of 1856, when she was only sixteen. ... During the late 1850s, under the tutelage of her husband, Cora achieved national notoriety as a celebrated Spiritualist, traveling the lucrative lecture circuit and packing in large, enthusiastic, paying audiences ... with her trance lectures delivered with supernatural eloquence. [Barrett 1895, p. 4]

The marriage did not last, and ... after ... very public divorce ...

p. 80

Cora Daniels was invited to participate in marking the first year anniversary of the New Orleans ... Mechanics' Institute. ... . ... Cora Daniels recited in a sonorous voice a poem she had composed to commemorate the solemn occasion. The lenghty poem ... ws printed in its entirety in the New Orleans Tribune. ...

p. 81

Clora ... returned to the NOrth, first stopping in Ohio ... and then resuming her Spiritualist activities, which would extend well into the twentieth century."

W"CNY--E" = WIKIPEDIA article "Cuba, New York -- Etymology". https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuba,_New_York#Etymology

L&Sh:LD = Lewis & Short : A Latin Dictionary.

Barrett 1895 = Harrison Barrett : Life Work of Cora L.V. Richmond. Chicago : Hack & Anderson.

p. 81 racially integrated admission to membership in lodges of Freemasonry

"In May 1867, Euge`ne Chassaignac, a French e'migre' and head of the Scottish rite Masonry, opened the doors of the city's French lodges to black members. ... Prominent black Creole leaders such as Paul Tre'vigne, the Rey brothers, Louis Nelson Fouche', and Arnold Bertoneau founded new, racially integrated lodges. On June 16, Chassaignac installed Henry Rey as the first secretary of the Fraternite' #20".

pp. 81-2 domination of state-politics by carpetBAGGers-and-zamBAGGoa

p. 81

"the former free people of color were well represented at the Constitutional Convention

p. 82

when it convened in New Orleans on November 23, 1867. By March 1868, the Convention had completed its work, which resulted in a new, liberal constitution guaranteeing all blacks their civil rights. ... Those referred to in Reconstruction history as carpetbaggers were generally men ... who were already in the South ... . ... The office of lieutenant governor went to Oscar James Dunn, a former free man of color from New Orleans. ... Franc,ois Dubuclet described O. J. Dunn as a "griffe bien capable ... ." A griffe was ... a person with one parent of pure African ancestry and one parent who had a combination of African and European ancestry. Sometimes the definition of griffe included

people of mixed African and Native American ancestry."

{Zambo (Spanish: [ˈθambo] ... and cafuzo (Portuguese ...) are racial terms used in the Spanish and Portuguese Empires and occasionally today to identify individuals in the Americas who are of mixed African and Amerindian ancestry ... . Historically, the racial cross between African slaves and Amerindians was referred to as a zambaggoa, then zambo, then sambo.}

p. 83 postbellum meetingplace in New Orleans of the Harmonious Circle

"Rey ... made a venue change in March 1867. No longer was Valmour's home the se'ance site.

[p. 174, n. 19 "Valmour had moved from his house/blackmisth shop seven blocks further north on St. ouis Street (in the direction of Lake Pontchartrain) ... . His new residence still fronted the Carondelet Canal."]

Now Valmour ws the visitor to Rey's new residence on St. Louis Street ... . ... Henry Rey, now independent of the Valmour mediumship, dubbed his Spiritualist group Le Cerle Harmonique (the Harmonious Circle) ... . "Circle" had a ... meaning : ... as

the configuration around a circular se'ance table ... . ...

{Similar to the Round Table of Arthurian legend in Loegyr.}

The emphasis on harmony recalled A. J. Davis's Harmonial philosophy of the 1840s,

{wherein \Harmonia\ is a Boiotian term, name of the wife of Kadmos.}

which was still popular in the North during the 1860s." (Carroll, 1997, p. 131)

Carroll, 1997 = Brett Carroll : Spiritualism in Antebellum America. Bloomington : IN Univ Pr.

pp. 84-5 Good Death for the material body of, & Triumphal Chariot for the soul of, Valmour

p. 84

""Petit," as Franc,ois Dubuclet was known, delivered the spiritual message to Valmour, who ...read the announcement of his own death. The spirit messenger was Nelson Desbrosses ... . Desbrosses informed Valmour in his communication that he and Valmour's deceased friends were preparing a chariot of triumph in anticipation of his beautiful hour of departure. That hour arrived early Saturday, February 6, 1869. Henry Rey and Franc,ois Dubuclet were summoned that night ... to Valmour's house. Assembling family and friends around the deathbed was part of what was known as the Good Death ... . It was important for loved ones to witness ... because ... the departed's spiritual condition ... would carry him {or her} across the Spiritual Divide. Mirrors were shrouded with white sheets ... . ... At four o'clock in the morning, Valmour crossed over to the world of the dead. Rey and Franc,ois Dubuclet stopped the clocks in the house and hung black ribbons, death notices, and an immortelle on the front door and gate. ... An immortelle was a black wreath made of black ribbons which signified that someone had died in the house.

As Valmour's body lay exposed in the same room, Henry Rey conducted a se'ance. Valmour, now a spirit messenger, comforted his bereaved family and friends, declaring, "... my spirit is being carefully lifted towards beautiful regions ... a magnificent and grand panorama ... is unfolding. ..." [Faust 2008, p. 10]

On the following day, Franc,ois Dubuclet filed the death certificate ... . ... On February 7, a death notice framed in black was was prominently placed on the front page of the New Orleans Tribune ... .

p. 85

On Sunday morning, ... After a brief solemn civil ceremony, the pallbearers transported the casket to nearby St. Louis Cemetery No. 2. As the funeral procession slowly proceeded down the earthen street along the Carondelet Canal, crowds gathered on the wooden banquettes to pay their last respects to the great healing medium. ...

He now appeared as a spirit guide who frequently communicated with Rey's circle, giving encouragement, solace, and advice for personal, social, and political problems and dilemmas.

From 1869 to 1871, the circle occasionally gathered at the Valmour {the VALiant MOURned} residence, as Valmour's widow, Dianah, continued ... with Spiritualism until her death in April 1871."

Faust 2008 = Drew Gilpin Faust : This Republic of Suffering : Death and the American Civil War. NY : Vintage Bks.

pp. 88-90 frequently-channeled spirit-guides

p. 88

"the most frequently channeled spirit guides in Rey's se'ance circles were four Catholique figures.

Especially popular was St. Vincent de Paule (1576-1660), a French Reformer

p. 89

known for his pious work with the impoverished and uneducated masses. ... His relentless work in freeing slaves in the French navy and other humanitarian works resonated with black Creoles ... . ...

A second noted Catholic Church spirit messenger was the revered Spanish Capuchin friar, Fray Antonio de Sedella, who was pastor of St. Louis Church (later St. Louis Cathedral) from 1787 until his death in 1829. ... Pe`re Antoine was the only priest to wear monastic dress ... . ... When Pe`re Antoine passed away on January 29, 1829, the city closed down for three days. Flags flew at half-mast, and thousands paid their respects. ...

p. 90

A third popular Catholic messenger was Pe`re Antoine's successor, Father Aloysius Leopold Moni. In the face of growing opposition from the Anglo-American conservative {i.e., slavery-promoting} faction, Father Moni perpetuated the liberal, Latin-American tradition ... . ...

Pe`re Ambroise, a Benedictine monk and Catholic reformer of the seventeenth century, completes the quartet of Catholic clergy who frequently appeared at Rey's se'ance circles. Ambroise ... was also frequently channeled at Joseph Barthet's circles."

p. 90 instance of a dead former politician who appeared at se'ance "to repent and beg forgiveness"

"the French-born Pierre Soule', ambassador, senator, orator par excellence ..., and former friend of the oppressed. ...

Pierre Soule' returned to New Orleans after ... his wife had died ..., and his only son had become insane.

His final two years were spent seated in front of a mirror having long conversations with his reflected image. Pierre Soule' died ... on March 28, 1870."

pp. 91-2 Oscar James Dunn

p. 91

"Dunn ... became America's first black lieutenant governor. ...

p. 92

One week after Oscar Dunn's sudden death, Henry Rey's ... daughter, Lucia, requested him ... . Her deceased grandmother, Rose Gignac, appeared instead and explained that "Dunn ... is deep in thought about his past life. Later, ... he will come ... ." ... On the first anniversary of his death, Oscar Dunn issued ... : "... I am in the light.""


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