Spiritualism in Nineteenth-Century New Orleans, 8-10





p. 123 the 2nd-generation Saint-Dominigue immigrants

"the second generation of the Saint-Dominigue immigration ... tenaciously clung to its French Caribbean roots by the interaction of ... benevolent associations, Masonic connections, the Couvent School, ... the Native Guards, and the French language."

p. 131 relieved in spirit-world

"The departed who suffered grievously on earth were relieved of their earthly pains and assured their living relatives and friends of improved conditions in the spiritual world."

pp. 132-4 the Economy Society

p. 132

"The membership in the Economy Society had grown from 15 black Creoles in 1836 to over 160 members in the 1870s who met for regular bimonthly meetings. In the early days, the members lived in the creole Faubourgs Treme'

p. 133

and Marigny. Now, the area of the members' households had widened ..., including Algiers, across the Mississippi River ... . ...

p. 134

Social activities such as dances and Carnival balls had been the mainstays of Economy Hall since at least the early 1840s and continued throughout the nineteenth century. ...

The association was also known as one that helped during times of natural disaster -- especially the seasonal flooding ... . ...

Another important function of mutual aid societies was to assist with their members' medical bills, and the final obligation of the Economy Society was to attend a departed member's wake and funeral. ... A special committee called the Vigilance Committee watched over the body religiously and did not leave it alone for even one moment. The brothers who accompanied the deceased to the cemetery wore a sprig of cypress for a boutonniere ... . After the religious ceremony, the president of the Economy Society performed a solemn Cypress Ceremony, and the fraternal brothers would disperse in silence. The president of the Economy Society at this time was Myrthil J. Piron, an undertaker who had a funeral parlor on North Rampart Street in the Faubourg Marigny."

p. 135 promises from the spirit-world for protection of the living

"The communications are filled with assurances that members of the circle were not alone in life. "Remember that we will be with you to protect you and

to give you the force,"

{"May the force be with you!" (salutation in Star Wars)

Oscar Dunn, a frequent spirit messenger, assured Rey on November 22, the anniversary of his death>"

pp. 135-6 compromise for the founding of Southern University

p. 135

"former governor P. B. S. Pinchback ... brokered a

p. 136

deal to accept the ... Constitution of 1879 in exchange for the founding of an all-black university, Southern University."



Spiritual Rubicon


p. 139 cemetery

"St. Louis Cemetery No. 2, where numerous ... Creole notables were interred. Behind the faded white brick wall lay the city of the dead with angels ... and marble grave slabs to mark their tombs. It was here {hither} that the faculty and students of the Couvent School made their annual homage on All Saints' Day, November 1, to honor their revered benefactress, Madame Justine Couvent."


p. 141 Desdunes

"Rodolphe Desdunes ... authored Our People and Our History, which contained more than fifty literary portraits of black Creole notables, most with Saint-Domingue roots. Desdunes later corresponded with Rene' Grandjean in the 1920s ... ." (Medley 2003, p. 118)

Rodolphe Lucien Desdunes (transl. by Dorothea Olga McCants) : Our People and Our History. Baton Rouge : LA State Univ Pr, 1973.

Medley 2003 = Keith Weldon Medley : We as Freemen. Gretna (LA) : Pelican.

p. 144 unflagging belief

"the voluminous communications that ... members of the Cercle Harmonique meticulously copied in their spiritual registers ... over a period of almost two decades are a testament of ... unflagging belief in Spiritualism ... ."

pp. 145, 183 demise of (& interrment of cadvare of) Henry Louis Rey

p. 145

"April 19, 1894 ... Henry Louis Rey crossed the Spiritual Rubicon. He died of anthrax".

p. 183, n. 24

"Henry Louis Rey's body is interred ... in St. Louis Ceretery No. 1, near Marie Laveau's crypt. ... Rey's name does not appear on the crypt's plate."

pp. 146-8 destinations for creoles emigrating out from Louisiana

p. 146

"Chicago was a popular destination for Afro-Creoles looking for a better way of life ... . ... The Dubuclets ... migrated to the Chicago area ... . Franc,ois Dubuclet's nephew, Laurent Dubuclet, moved to Chicago from New Orleans and enjoyed a successful career as a ragtime musician, composer, and teacher. ...

p. 147

California was another popular destination for Creoles of color ... . Such was the case of George Herriman Jr., who was a participant at the Henry Rey se'ance table and a neighbor of Rey. He and his family were part of the black Creole diaspora of the 1890s and moved to Los Angeles ... .

p. 148

George Herriman [Jr. (p. 183, n. 29)]'s son, also named George, later gained fame as the Krazy Kat cartoonist ... ."





p. 150 Minerva Hall during the 1880s

"In New Orleans during the 1880s, Minerva Hall continued to be the premier venue for Spiritualist actitivies such as trance lectures, public se'ances, ... and the annual celebration on March 31 of the genesis of Spiritualism."

p. 150 Grunewald Hall

"Grunewald Hall was used for ... [DAILY PICAYUNE, March 27, 1881] "reading the contents of sealed letters, reading from a book [not visible to the reader] held by one of the audience, making tables and pianos perambulate, and playing instruments while bound hand and foot.""

p. 150 Spiritualist camp-meetings

"Spiritualism diversified and evolved in the 1890s ... . This was the period in which Spiritualists began to create effective, national-level organizations ..., and founded camp meetings -- rural communities where Spiritualists could spend their summer vacations ... contacting their spiritual friends. Some of the better known camps were located at Lily Dale, New York; Cassaga Lake, Florida; and Harmony Grove, California."

p. 151 particular Spiritualist associations/churches

"the National Spirtualists' Association in Washington ... had been founded by Cora L. V. ... Richmond in 1893. The Reverend ..., how in her fourth marriage, had moved to Chicago ... . ... The following year, she became the pastor of the Church of the Soul in Chicago."

"Church of the Soul : First Society of Spiritualists Adopts Another Name : Cora L. V. Richmond Takes Charge of the Congregation". DAILY INTERNAT OCEAN (Chicago), June 8, 1896.

pp. 151, 183-4 demises of famous Spiritualists

p. 151

"The founders of Modern American Spiritualism died within ten months of each other ... . Catherine (Kate) Fox Jencken died on July 2, 1892 ... . Eight months later, Margaret (Maggie) Fox Kane died ... on March 8, 1893, in a New York apartment loaned to her by Henry Newton, president of the First Society of Spiritualists. ...

On January 2, 1923, Cora L. V. Hatch Daniels Tappan Richmond ... died. Less than a year prior to her death, Dr. James Martin Peebles passed away at the last stop of his long spiritual pilgrimage : Los Angeles. Dr. Peebles had .. missed the century mark by just thirty-six days."

p. 183, n. 7

["CSSS"] "Peebles's wife, Mary M. Corkey, was from around Watertown, New York. According to newpaper articles from across the nation, Dr. Peebles actually attended his one hundredth birthday party. The centennial birthday celebration was held as planned, and a chair was reserved at the head of the table

p. 184, n. 7

for the spirit of Dr. Peebles. Dr. Guy Bogart read a message from him ... . San Diego Evening Tribune, March 24, 1922."

"CSSS" = "Could See Spirit Seated at Table ... ." SEATTLE DAILY TIMES, Jan 5, 1923; WATERTOWN (NY) DAILY TIMES, Feb 16, 1922.

pp. 151-2 Dubuclet family and an AmerIndian female guide/control

p. 151

"Franc,ois Dubuclet ... moved from New Orleans to Jamaica, in the Caribbean, in 1913 with his daughter Assitha and his son-in-law Rene' Grandjean. Together, the three lived in St. Andrew, Jamaica, for seven years ... . ...

p. 152

Sidney Dubuclet assured his grandfather of ... a figure of six million Spiritualists in the United States. ... Odette Dubuclet Gauthier, another grandchild, ... assured him of ... her Spiritualist church in Chicago, the Soul Circle Church. Odette described an Indian guide named Honto who talked like a little girl and gave "beautiful messages" and controlled the minister, Mrs. Williams. ...

Franc,ois Dubuclet and the Grandjeans returned to New Orleans to Jamaica in 1920. After the death of Franc,ois in 1924, the Chicago family members gathered for se'ances .. to contact their beloved relative. Across the spiritual divide, the deceased patriarch answered ... ."

pp. 152-3 Divine Fellowship

p. 152

"Spiritualist churches similar to the ones founded in Chicago appeared in other American cities ..., including New Orleans. According to the New Orleans City Guide (1938) written by the Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), in 1938 there were three such churches in New Orleans. Oscar Lewis Clark, a ... minister from Plymouth, Massachusetts, founded the First Church of Divine Fellowship of

p. 153

Spiritualism in 1920. That church was the only one of the three Spiritualist churches affiliated with the National Spiritualists' Association, which had its headquarters in Washington, DC. After a few years ..., that church moved to its permanent location at 823 Spain Street, where it offered a variety of Spiritualist activities throughout the week, including healings on Monday, message circles ... on Tuesday, trance lectures on Friday ... . ... Rene'Grandjean and his wife attended services regularly and were very involved with the First Church of Divine Fellowship of Spiritualism and the ministry of Rev. Clark."

pp. 153-6 eclectic : "Spiritual churches" (as distinct from non-eclectic Spiritualist churches)

p. 153

"In other parts of the city, the eclectic Spiritual churches of the 1920s and 1930s were established. Spiritual churches were a syncretic blend of

p. 154

nineteenth-century Spiritualism ... and Voodoo. It was a matriarchal

religion led by women called Mothers,

{The Lukumi` religion (of Yoruba provenience) in Brazil is led by priestesses styled \Mambo\.}

who moved to New Orleans during this time. ...

One of the most famous and popular Mothers was Leafy Anderson of Chicago, who arrived there in 1921. ... While in Chicago, Mother Leafy had established a church in 1913 ... : the Eternal Life Spiritualist Church. Her religious dogma consisted of ... a twentieth-century version of spiritualism with the addition of a revered spiritual guide, Black Hawk, a tall Sauk who lived in the early nineteenth century ... . Black Hawk had also been a favorite spiritual guide of Dr. James Peebles. ...

In New Orleans, African Americans and Native Americans had historically been linked ... with shared lineage ... over the centuries ... . ...

The New Orleans City Guide details eight Spiritual churches in the 1930s. Out of the eight churches listed, women were pastors {pastrices} in five.

Catherine Seals ... ministered the Church ... on Charbonnet Street ... . She had a highly unusual and entertaining way of entering her church -- a rough red, white, and blue building resembling a

p. 155

circus tent. Mother Catherine, a large African American woman, was lowered from a hole {skylight} in the roof of a side room, intimating that she descended from Heaven ... . ...

Spiritual churches were ... a religious movement that occurred in other major American {United States} cities such as Chicago, Detroit, New York City, Houston, Baltimore, and Philadelphia. During the Great Depression, Spiritual churches were the fastest {swiftest}-growing denomination among the small and intensely religious groups that arose throughout the black population. A large number of unchurched Spiritualists kept home altars or worked as spiritual advisors. [Albanese 2007, pp. 474-5] ...

The denial of Voodoo by the Spiritual church ministers belies the reality. ... Mother Catherine and other ministers wore a long white gown with a blue cord at their waists, the exact same type of clothing that the Voodoo priestesses wore to distinguish themselves from [t]he[i]r followers. [Jacobs & Kaslow 1991, p. 86]

p. 156

The interior of a Spiritual church was decorated with countless candles, statues, banners, and pictures. Mother Catherine's altar was a motley array of religious artwork ... . ... Marie Laveau's house had [Ward 2004, pp. 113-4] a similar de'cor with numerous figurines of Catholic saints, dozens of burning candles, and amulets scattered helter-skelter near the altar."

"One of the hallmarks of the Spiritual churches was the lively and enthusiastic movement as members entered a trance or spirit-possession stage. Claude Jacobs & Andrew Kaslow describe [1991, pp. 129 & 132] this as "violent seizures, long periods of dancing, dervish-like spinning, writhing on the floor" with a ... drum and organ in the background."

Albanese 2007 = A Republic of Mind and Spirit.

Jacobs & Kaslow 1991 = Claude F. Jacobs & Andrew J. Kaslow : Spiritual Churches of New Orleans : Origins, Beliefs, and Rituals of an African-American Religion. Knoxville : Univ of TN Pr.

Ward 2004 = Martha Ward : Voodoo Queen : the Spirited Lives of Marie Laveau. Jackson : Univ Pr of MS.

p. 157 Spiritualism as of yet continuing

"Spiritualism has evolved from the nineteenth century and continues today in the twenty-first century."



pp. 186-7 archives

p. 186

National Archives and Records Administration, Washington D.C.

p. 187

Federal Writers' Collection

p. 187 online sources


Library of Congress website : https://lccn.loc.gov


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