Santa Cruz County History - Religion & Spirituality

Santa Cruz Spirituality: Classical American Spiritualism
by Paul Tutwiler

In General

Spiritualism is the Science, Philosophy and Religion of a continuous life, based upon the demonstrable fact of communication by means of mediumship, with those who live in the Spirit World. (Constitution and Bylaws, Washington D. C.: National Spiritualist Association, 1930; quoted in Melton, Encyclopedia, p. 114.)

More specifically, the California State Spiritualists' Association states:

Our definition of a Spiritualist is: 'A Spiritualist is one who believes, as the basis of his or her religion, in the communication between this and the spirit world by means of mediumship, and who endeavors to mould his or her character and conduct in accordance with the highest teachings derived from such communion.' Our definition of a medium is: 'A medium is one whose organism is sensitive to vibrations from the spirit world and through whose instrumentality intelligences in that world are able to convey messages and produce the phenomena of Spiritualism.' In other words, a medium may be a psychic, that is, able to 'read' information from the energy field in and around another person or object, but not all psychics are mediums." (September 12, 2005 communication from June Johnson, Secretary of the California State Spiritualists' Association.)

Spiritualism in the United States drew upon the 18th and 19th centuries' growing scientific knowledge of the unseen physical forces, electricity and magnetism. Particular impetus was given by the widely known activities of Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815), who popularized mesmerism, that is, hypnotism, theorizing that it was made possible by what he called "animal magnetism." It seemed that there was an unseen world which could be approached physically, rather than through faith and religion. As a popular movement arising in this environment then, American Spiritualism can be dated to 1848 and the Fox Sisters in Hydesville, near Rochester, New York. Kate and Margaret Fox invoked spirit world residents, who answered questions by rapping. The sisters were soon emulated by many other mediums, who held séances throughout the whole country.

The whole country, indeed, was swept by Spiritualism; large numbers of people consulted mediums and other psychics and continued to do so for decades. A prominent Spiritualist chronicler writing in 1871 expressed doubt about the accuracy of the "Catholic council's" estimate of eleven million Spiritualists in the country, but he had no reservations about "one of the liberal papers" saying that there were thirty thousand of them in Philadelphia. (Henry T. Child, M. D., "Spiritualism in Philadelphia," in the 1871 Year-Book of Spiritualism, on 2005. The 1870 U. S. Census enumerated only 38,558,371 people in the whole country. Of course it was not the case that a quarter of the population were members of a Spiritualist church, but it is entirely plausible that as many as this consulted mediums and other psychics at least once and so were given the label of Spiritualist in a loose sense.)

A highly important and little known characteristic of Spiritualism's early phase, which lasted until the 1870s, was the prominence of its female speakers in a society that expected men to do all the public talking. During these years the largest group of orators to preach women's rights and even women's suffrage consisted of Spiritualist women. (Braude, Radical Spirits, Chapter 3, "Thine for Agitation," pp. 56-81 and Chandler, "In the Van," entire article.)

The original movement waned in the 1870s, but it then gathered intensity, became institutionalized, and enjoyed its maximum extent between 1880 and 1920. The National Spiritualist Association of Churches was founded in 1893 and has set the standard for Spiritualist tenets ever since then, although these statements of tenets are more like guidelines than dogmas. (Melton, Encyclopedia, p. 115 and *831.)

Although Spiritualism certainly grew out of Christianity, and there continue to be Spiritualists who are Christians, and The National Spiritualist Association of Churches considers Jesus to be one of the greatest mediums who ever lived, Spiritualism is not considered to be a Christian religion. We honor all the world's great spiritual teachers. (September 12, 2005 communication from June Johnson, Secretary of the California State Spiritualists' Association.)

In Santa Cruz

On the whole, "Sources on California Spiritualism and its opponents are scanty...." (Sandra Sizer Frankiel, California's Spiritual Frontiers, p. 141. Reflecting the sources that were available to her (before 1988), Frankiel comments on p. 41 of the same work, "We have no direct information on California Spiritualists that would tell us what sorts of people were attracted to the movement." This is no longer true, although, to my knowledge, no comprehensive history of Spiritualism in California has been attempted.) There is available, nevertheless, considerable information about Spiritualism in Santa Cruz. This is due in part to its proximity to San Francisco, which was the hub of Spiritualism in nineteenth century California. It is also because of its local historical link with Transcendentalism, America's unique intellectual expression of the unity of all things. Transcendentalism's presence in Santa Cruz is treated under Transcendentalism in the list of associations.

The birth of Spiritualism coincided almost exactly with the death of Transcendentalism as a social movement. Brook Farm [the Transcendentalist community near Boston] closed its doors in 1847, and by 1850 the Transcendentalists had lost faith in the alternative social visions that they had hoped would reform the nation. Transcendentalism's Unitarian origins and intellectual elitism limited the scope of its appeal. While the American public flocked to Emerson's lectures and were inspired by what he said, few of them responded by joining communes or becoming Transcendentalists. Instead, they followed his lectures with visits to seances, where the power of Emerson's ideas helped fuel the movement he despised. Those same ideas found a broad and dedicated audience among Spiritualists. The immanence of God, the destructive limitations of the Christian tradition as a path to truth and the necessity of seeking truth instead in the natural world and within the self all found popular acceptance among the mass of Spiritualists... While investigation preoccupied many Concord [Brook Farm] residents, only a few Transcendentalists identified themselves as Spiritualists, notably Elizabeth Peabody and Georgiana Bruce Kirby. What finally separated the apparently sympathetic movements was, of course, spirit communication. While direct communication with individual spirits struck Emerson as a vulgar distortion of the message of Transcendentalism, it impressed many Americans as concrete proof of the immanence of God and as a literal interpretation of Emerson's advice to seek truth within their own souls. Spiritualism's concreteness liberated many of Emerson's ideas from their class-bound character by making them accessible to those without the intellectual bent to grasp their subtler implications. (Braude, Radical Spirits, pp. 45-46.)

The Spiritualist movement came to Santa Cruz in 1850 with two ladies from the East. First came the womens' rights champion and public speaker Eliza Farnham. Later in the year she was joined by the Transcendentalist, Georgiana Bruce, who is known as Georgiana Bruce Kirby from her marriage in 1852 to Richard Kirby.

Farnham wrote in 1850 from Santa Cruz to Eastern publishing friends, "... I have rec'd but little account of the Knocking Spirits but have the liveliest interest in them. My own views of the future life have long been peculiar and very much kept within my own bosom." (Letter to Fowler and Wells, publishers in New York City. Quoted on p. 55 of Stern, "Two Letters from the Sophisticates of Santa Cruz.") Farnham, unlike her friend, did not remain in Santa Cruz, but she came back in 1859 as a lecturer. Bruce Kirby writes about her, "Her manner of advocating spiritualism is very effective. She has lectured (principally on these religious views) every Sunday evening nearly since she came down." (Swift and Steen, Georgiana, pp. 91-92, which also quotes Bruce Kirby's account of the outrage against Farnham's Spiritualist views on the part of leaders of the local Congregational Church.) (Farnham is also said to have been the first person to deliver lectures on Spiritualism in San Francisco, apparently in 1856.) (Schlesinger, Workers in the vineyard, p. 24. According to Levy, Unsettling the West, pp. 139-140, Farnham also lectured on Spiritualism, among other topics, in San Francisco in 1856. Levy quotes the review of the lecture of April 20, 1856 in the newspaper Alta California: "Mrs. Farnham's Lecture.-- The lecture of Mrs. Farnham at Musical Hall last evening, on Spiritualism, was quite largely and respectably attended. The address was characterized by the same intellectual merit which all her previous lectures are entitled to, and evinced a well-read and cultivated mind; but there was very little in her remarks calculated to advance the science or doctrine of modern table-tipping, or spiritual rapping. The lecture embraced copious extracts from able writers, interspersed with the sentiments and opinions of the speaker; and, aside from its spiritual feature, may be considered a very able and interesting address." I do not know why the 1880s Oakland Spiritualist, Julia Schlesinger, does not refer to this lecture) It seems that Farnham remained in Santa Cruz into 1860, delivering more lectures, and left it in that year for the last time. (Levy, Unsettling the West, pp. 195-200.) Farnham expressed her stand on Spiritualism and many other topics in her fictionalized autobiography, The Ideal Attained. (Levy, Unsettling the West, pp. 231-238.)

Bruce had been captivated by Mesmerism while back in Brook Farm before the advent of the Fox sisters, and so she represents the nascent spiritualism that was ripe for development in 1848. She actually tried to become a medium while she was at Brook Farm, as she relates:

Mesmer's discoveries regarding clairvoyance, hypnotism, and somnambulism, had been common property for several years. Cornelia H. had found that she possessed the genuine magnetic power, and she had used it with entire success in the case of a young friend who was supposed to be far gone in consumption. With her superb physique she could afford to dispense a little vitality. The young lady slept peacefully for any desired length of time, gained recuperative strength from her friend, and recovered her health perfectly.

Cornelia had the greatest desire to induce clairvoyance in me, believing that in that state I should see denizens of the other world; and since I had a passion for analyzing character, could describe them so accurately that they would be recognized by their friends. But no matter how negative a mental attitude I assumed, no manipulations availed to overrule my consciousness and subdue my will, greatly to our regret. (Georgiana Bruce Kirby, Years of Experience, p. 161.)

Writing from Santa Cruz, apparently in 1850, to her friend Charlotte Fowler Wells in New York City, she sighs,

"Many times the conversation I had with you & Miss Rich [Mary S. Rich, assistant in the Fowler and Wells office] the hour before I sailed for Cal. has recurred to me & I have wished that we here might be partakers in the experience that is arousing faith in the most stubborn materialists. If you have communication with those who have put off the natural body will you not enquire if the same be not possible to us at Santa Cruz & if you have not will you express our earnest wishes to this effect to some one who has. [The Fowlers were much preoccupied at the time with spiritualism both at séances and in their publications.] Our motives are good & reasonable in desiring this as the spirits will attest. It grows out of no idle curiosity for both Mrs F & myself are firm believers & do not stand in need of evidence but we want religious teaching advice & consolation in our exile." (Stern. "Two Letters from the Sophisticates of Santa Cruz," p. 60.)

Long after Eliza Farnham died (1864), Georgiana maintained her connection with Spiritualism. From 1885 to 1890 J. J. Owen published a weekly Spiritualist newspaper, the Golden Gate, in San Francisco. (Braude, News from the Spirit World, p. 418. Braude notes that Kirby is listed as a contributor to the Golden Gate. With the assistance of my wife, Miriam Beames, I examined volumes 1, 2, and 4 (each covering six months) at the Golden Gate Spiritualist Church in San Francisco. This was made possible by the kindness of June Johnson, Secretary of the California State Spiritualist Association and Del Lauderback, Vice President of the Association and Associate Pastor of the Golden Gate Spiritualist Church. My wife and I also examined some later issues of the Golden Gate in the partial set of them maintained in the research library of the California Historical Society in San Francisco.) From Vol. 1 No. 2 (July 25, 1885) through Vol. 1 No. 17 (Nov. 7, 1885) Georgiana Bruce Kirby and two other people are listed on the masthead as Contributors. In that period the paper published one article signed "Georgiana B. Kirby". It was on the front page of the Aug. 22, 1885 issue, and was entitled "Our Girls." Having nothing whatsoever to do with Spiritualism, the article was concerned with the education of young women. Kirby's main point was that girls are ingenuous and need strong parental guidance to avoid succumbing to deception that would deprive them of their virtue. Then on Sep. 18, 1886 the paper carried a long letter, "Old Doctor Jennings," addressed to the Golden Gate from "GBK" referring to an article about the power of nature to heal itself without the help of drugs. GBK entirely agrees with the doctor's method, but wonders if his healing power was not, unknown to him, a "mediumistic touch which restores harmony to the system." This was the last contribution to the Golden Gate by Kirby, who died the following January. (I have placed a copy of Kirby's two contributions to the Golden Gate in the library of the Santa Cruz County Museum of Art and History.)

The very last of Georgiana's literary efforts to be published before her death was a short novel, Amid Better Circumstances, which appeared in serial form in the Santa Cruz Surf from June to Oct., 1886. The plot details the young hero's escape from the religious oppression of the Irish people, and his eventual finding of happiness in the United States with his immigrant German love. As the plot unfolds, various thoughts of the author's about religion, education, and moral character appear. In the end Basil and Bertha are bonded in love and in spirit by the experience which they — and they alone — share of

hearing the divinest strains, at first of a single voice, clear as bells, sweeter than lark or nightingale, then of many voices combined, which swept downward and rose again triumphant to the empyrean .... The sensation was that of being in some vast cathedral which affered [sic] no limit to the compass of sound.

They heard "the harmonies of the universe;" they stood "on the threshold of the unseen world." (This passage is in the next to last installment, October 9, 1886. The serial is introduced by the editor on June 17, begins on June 19, appears about twice a week, usually on Thursday and Saturday, and concludes on October 14.) It seems fair to interpret this passage not as mere sentimentalism and not as Transcendentalism, but as Spiritualism. Perhaps more thorough studies of Georgiana's life will add to the understanding of what she had in mind when she wrote this. Her longest non-autobiographical work, Transmission, or Variation of Character through the Mother, published by Fowler and Wells in New York (second edition 1882), alludes in no way to Spiritualism, although it has several references (pages 11, 12, 13, and 14) to the magnetic force in people, without, unfortunately, defining it.

Georgiana Bruce Kirby and her husband were long-time members of Unity (Unitarian) Church, where memorial services were held for her in January, 1887. (Levy, Unsettling the West, p. 265. In 1886 this church structure was "not occupied by any religious denomination but is rented for the use of any society that may apply (SC Surf, Jan 2, 1886). In 1888, however, the Santa Cruz Unitarian Church was one of 14 in the American Unitarian Association for the Pacific Coast (Arnold Crompton, Unitarianism on the Pacific Coast, The First Sixty Years. Boston: Beacon Press, 1957, p. 126). I do not know at what point the Unitarian Church reclaimed the use of its building.) It does not appear to me that her documented involvement in Spiritualism became a long-term factor in her influence on Santa Cruz and its residents. One does suspect, however, that she was instrumental, at least through her connections in San Francisco, in making possible the 1885 and 1886 Santa Cruz Spiritualist activity which is narrated below.

From sources which in no way allude to Georgiana Bruce Kirby there is evidence of Spiritualist activity in Santa Cruz County from the 1860s to the early 1880s.

In 1866 Ira Allen of Watsonville was a member of the State Central [Spiritualist] Committee, which met at the California State Convention of Spiritualists in San Jose in May of that year. (Banner of Progress, Vol. I, No. 4, Feb. 2, 1867 and subsequent issues.)

In 1868 Ira Allen and at least two other Watsonville people, Alfred Lansdell and Mrs. A. J. Tripp, promoted the San Francisco Spiritualist weekly, the Banner of Progress, although no one from Santa Cruz County was a member of the State Central Committee in that year. (Banner of Progress, Vol. II, No. 18, May 10, 1868. Later in 1868 there was dissension in the San Francisco Spiritualist community, and the Banner of Progress was discontinued that October. In November George C. W. Morgan undertook to supplant it by launching The Spiritual Light in San Francisco, but this small newspaper lasted only five issues, through Jan. 1, 1869. The dissension is apparent from reading The Spiritual Light. Unlike the Banner of Progress, it makes no mention whatsoever of Santa Cruz, and it lists in the first and second issues under "Spiritual Societies and Meetings - Pacific States" only San Francisco, Sacramento, and Portland and Salem, Oregon.)

In 1880 Santa Cruz residents Augusta Foster, born 1843 in Massachusetts, clairvoyant doctor, and Lucy Powers, born 1854 in Greece, medium, were among those who listed a Spiritualist function as their occupation in the U. S. Census. ( 2005.)

The year 1885 marked the beginning of a documented period of notable Spiritualist presence in Santa Cruz. In that year Dr. T. B. Taylor opened the Glen Haven Sanitarium, two miles up from Soquel. The advertisement for the sanitarium in the Santa Cruz Surf for September 11, 1885 read,

Open winter and Summer. For Board, Lodging, and Treatment of Invalids. Elegantly located out of reach of the cold winds and fogs, where flowers bloom the year round, and pure, soft, mountain spring water flows, and bracing air fans the cheek. A Beautiful Grove, elegant drives from 1 to 15 miles along the beach. Pleasant walks, a large new house, wide double verandas on three sides. Two of the Best Mineral Springs, Not excepting the Baden-Baden in Germany. Female Diseases a Specialty. Tumors and Cancers Internal and external, removed without the knife. All forms of Chronic Diseases Successfully Treated.

On September 19, 1885 the Glen Haven Sanitarium was also advertised for the first time in the Golden Gate of San Francisco:

Open Winter and Summer. All forms of Diseases and Deformities successfully treated. A Home for Aged and Infirm People. Board with or without treatment. Building Lots and small Farms for sale. Cheap. Immigration solicited. High school to be started. Community of interests to be inaugurated.

The same issue contains an article entitled "Dreams and Visions" by Dr. Taylor. (A clue to Dr. Taylor's origin is his statement in this article that he practiced medicine "in an Eastern city.") The ads continue for a number of issues, at least as far as Dec. 31, 1885. A three part article by "T. B. Taylor," entitled "The Origin of Life" appears in the Golden Gate of Oct. 3 and 17 and November 28, 1885. In "The Origin of Life" he asserts that the universe is eternal and its activities, including life, need no god outside it to operate it. Another article of his, "I Want to Know More About It," it being the curing of disease by mental power, is in the Dec. 5, 1885 issue.

Although Dr. Taylor does not mention Spiritualism in either advertisement, he had reason to appeal to the readers of the Spiritualist newspaper because he was, in fact, a Spiritualist. He was, indeed, known as such in Santa Cruz, as is shown by the fact reported in the Golden Gate of Feb. 27, 1886 that he had just finished lecturing on Spiritualism in Unity Church, Santa Cruz.

Other information about Taylor's background also shows him to be a Spiritualist. Thus, we are told that Dr. Theodore B. Taylor attended the Freethinkers Convention in Watkins Glen, New York, August 23-25, 1878, the Proceedings of which state that "Spiritualists listed here as active in the convention as 'Freethinkers' included: James M. Peebles... Theodore B. Taylor.... In addition, some had been active in the new Theosophical Movement — A. L. Rawson... as well as Taylor, Peebles, and Copeland." Furthermore, at the evening meeting of the convention's first day, "addresses were delivered by Dr. T. B. Taylor, [and others], ..." ( 2005.) Moreover, the May 23, 1875 issue of the Spiritualist publication Religio-Philosophical Journal contains a letter written in response to an article entitled "Prenatal Influences," by T. B. Taylor, M.D. in its Jan. 2, 1875 issue. ( 2005. Dr. Taylor is quoted as recounting an experience of his at "Carbondale." The town of Carbondale, Pennsylvania lies in the northeastern corner of the state, not far from Watkins Glen, New York. As noted in Braude, News from the Spirit World, p. 403, the Religio-Philosophical Journal was published by the Religio-Philosophical Society from 1865 to 1907, and was one of the longest running Spiritualist periodicals.)

A reference by Dr. Taylor to his earlier experience is found in the Golden Gate article (cited above) on the origin of life. In the article he mentions a difference of opinion between himself and the eminent Freethinker Robert Ingersoll. He is evidently referring to Ingersoll's answer to questions Taylor posed to him in the 1882 discussion, "To the Indianapolis Clergy." Ingersoll's answers to Taylor clearly show that Taylor, although himself a Freethinker, was also a Spiritualist. (The Works of Robert G. Ingersoll. Volume VII Discussions. New York: The Dresden Publishing Company, MCMIX. Ingersoll's reply to Taylor is on pp. 141-152. "To the Indianapolis Clergy" answers questions posed by several clergy and by T. B. Taylor, who has no title. Originally it was published in the Iconoclast of Indianapolis. The only other clue I have found which might refer to the early life of our Taylor is that in the U. S. Census of 1870 a certain Theodore Taylor, age 24, was boarding with the family of a grocer in Philadelphia. The few other Theodore Taylors who were in the Eastern States in that Census were either farmers or children.)

An advertisement for the Glen Haven Sanitarium (under the name T. R.[sic] Taylor, A. M.) is found also in the Santa Cruz Surf of Sep. 11, 1885 and subsequent issues, through March 3, 1886. (In collating the sources, we find it clear that this man's name was Theodore B. Taylor. Consistent with the use of the time, he was normally referred to as T. B. Taylor. The B becomes R in the Sentinel and Surf ads, apparently the result of unclear copy. In 1875 he is practicing medicine as Dr. Taylor, M.D; ten years later he is practicing as Dr. Taylor, A.M, but signs himself M. D. in his Golden Gate articles. It would be interesting to known where he obtained his medical credentials; in fact, Theodore B. Taylor's life story might be very interesting.) On March 4, 1886, however, the Surf carried an advertisement according to which

Dr. ROBERT BROWN — Graduate from Canada — Begs to inform his friends and the public that he has bought out the — Glen Haven Sanitarium — And has located his office at — No. 149 Pacific Avenue — Where he will be prepared to treat all diseases, acute or chronic, in the utmost scientific manner. — DR. BROWN — Diagnoses disease without any explanation from the patient. This is done, however, through the knowledge of astrology, phrenology and the occult sciences. — OFFICE HOURS in the city from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The ad goes on to extol the virtues of the sanitarium, although it is silent about the possibilities of people buying lots and living near it. Dr. Brown's ad in the Surf continued unchanged until Sep. 11, 1886, when it was modified to state that "Dr. Robert Brown has removed his sanitarium practice near Soquel, to his place in Santa Cruz, where he has Board and Rooms for Invalids." (The Santa Cruz Sentinel carried an ad for the sanitarium on May 7, 1886 and, presumably, other dates as well.)

More about Dr. Brown can be gleaned from the Golden Gate of July 31, 1886, and subsequent issues, in which he has a brief ad that reads "Dr. R. Brown & Co, physicians, surgeons, electricians, magnetic healers" in Santa Cruz. No details are given. This identification of Dr. Brown, taken in connection with his statement about astrology, phrenology and the occult sciences, yields a strong impression that he, too, operates within the worldview of Spiritualism. At that time, it should be remarked, the term "occult sciences" did not have the connotation of mysticism that it now has, but referred to such forces as hypnotism and mental power. According to Dr. Brown's later advertisements in the Santa Cruz Sentinel (at least through January 28, 1887), he continued to practice medicine and operate his private hospital in Santa Cruz, employing "All Scientific, Hygienic and Medical appliances, with an original and entirely new method of Electrical and Oxygen treatment." Both Dr. Brown and Dr. Taylor represented themselves as men of science, medical men with the latest technology.

Dr. Brown's modified advertisement ran in the Santa Cruz Sentinel and the Santa Cruz Surf at least through the latter part of February, 1887. Nevertheless, the 1887-88 San Jose City Directory, which is also the city and business directory for Santa Cruz County, has no Dr. Taylor, no Dr. Brown, and no Sanitarium in Soquel. (It is also clear from the negative results of a search of Santa Cruz County land records that neither Dr. Taylor nor Dr. Brown owned the property on which the sanitarium was situated.)

Glen Haven Sanitarium
Glen Haven Sanitarium, Soquel
Image courtesy of P. Tutwiler.

For the fate of the building which served only a short time as a sanitarium ("sanatorium" is the more common spelling) one turns to the reminiscences of Phyllis Bertorelli Patten, who writes that the Grover Brothers of Maine had bought timber land two miles up from Soquel on Bates Creek in the 1850s in a valley that became known as Grover's Gulch. They located their first saw mill on the west side of the creek at the end of the present Prescott Road. This spot remained the center of their enterprises, which included a ranch corral and sheds, a general store, a school, several homes, and "A big two-storey structure, architecturally impressive ..." (Phyllis Bertorelli Patten, Oh, That Reminds Me.... Felton California: Big Trees Press, 1969, p. 9.)

Patten continues:

Old-timer Mr. John Bradley, age 93 summers, formerly a resident of Grover's Gulch, informs us that this imposing building was built for a Dr. Taylor for a sanatorium appropriately named 'Glen Haven Sanatorium'... He also recalls the title 'Glen Haven' was taken from the sanatorium ... The sanatorium, schoolhouse, and store were constructed with first-class rustic siding. All three were painted white ... Evidently the Glen Haven Sanatorium did not exist for long, because it was dubbed 'The White Elephant' at an early stage due to its size. The building was then used as a dwelling. At the time it met its demise by fire, July 4, 1894, it was occupied by a Johnson family.
(Ibid., pp. 9-11. Not to be confused with the Taylor-Brown Sanitarium is Dr. Beechler's Sanitarium, which was on Main St. near Walnut in Soquel in the early years of the 20th century. It burned down in 1934. Information about Dr. Beechler's facility is in the County News, Aptos CA, July 2, 1969 and the SC Sentinel, Sep. 28, 2002. If it is true that the "building was built for a Dr. Taylor for a sanatorium," then there must be a story about how he and the Grovers came to know each other. Were the Grovers Spiritualists, or at least interested in Spiritualism? Some of the Grovers actually lived in Santa Cruz, where, as prominent businessmen, they can be presumed to have known Richard Kirby and probably his wife. Did Georgiana Bruce Kirby play a part in introducing Theodore Taylor to Santa Cruz and the Grovers? Such matters might figure in more extensive studies of local history.)

For later use of the location by spiritual associations see Tibetan Buddhist groups, Land of Medicine Buddha.

A third piece of the story of 1885-1886 Spiritualism in Santa Cruz has to do with the use of Unity Church. From early in the year the church building is not being used exclusively by any group, but "the Spiritualists frequently occupy it." (SC Surf, Jan. 2, 1886.) In particular, according to the Santa Cruz Sentinel, Feb. 16, 1886, "A fact meeting was held Sunday [Feb. 14] at 11 o'clock, in Unity Church, in which several Spiritualists related their experiences, which, we are informed, was of thrilling interest." The Santa Cruz Surf of the same day added that the principal lecturer was a certain Paul Smith and that "Mrs. Logan's poems constituted a part of the service, and the lady also has established what is called a 'fact meeting' to be held in the same place Sundays at 11 o'clock ..." The Surf that day also carried an advertisement for "Mrs. F. A. Logan, Magnetic & Mind Healer," who "is stopping at the Duncan House, Santa Cruz."

More on the Spiritualist meetings in Unity Church is contained in a letter sent by Mrs. F. A. Logan to the Golden Gate, printed Feb. 27, 1886. She states that she has been in Santa Cruz since New Year's Day. "It is said," she writes, "that there are four to five hundred Spiritualists in Santa Cruz." Furthermore, "Here we found Dr. T. B. Taylor, of the Glen Haven Sanitarium, lecturing on the Sabbath in Unity Church." Mrs. Logan herself delivered a number of Sunday lectures and then yielded the pulpit to a well-known Spiritualist lecturer (evidently Paul Smith) who asked the Golden Gate not to mention his name. Dr. Taylor ceased lecturing, and Mrs. Logan instituted the "Fact Meetings" in imitation of an Eastern U. S. usage. (Both the SC Sentinel and the SC Surf of Feb. 16, 1886 reported that [some?] participants in the Feb. 14 meeting were, in addition to Mrs. Logan and Rev. Smith, Messrs. Grover, Baxter, Shaw, and Spofford or Spafford, as well as Mr. and Mrs. Fox. Whether or not Grover and the others were Santa Cruz residents is not stated. There were many Grovers living in Santa Cruz County in 1886, but it is tempting to suppose that there was a connection between the Mr. Grover at the meeting and the Grover Brothers who built the Glen Haven Sanitarium "for a Dr. Taylor." Later, in the Sep. 18, 1886 Golden Gate, Mrs. Logan advertised that she was a "Magnetic and Mind Cure Healer" in Alameda, holding "Healing and Developing Circles, Wednesday evenings, free.")

One additional note about Spiritualist activities in Unity Church is that this was the church of Georgiana Bruce Kirby and her husband. As noted above, she was writing for the Golden Gate in 1885 and 1886, and when she died, January, 1887, services were held for her in Unity Church. It is hard to imagine that she had no knowledge of or interest in Dr. Taylor and Mrs. Logan.

The Golden Gate had two more items about 1886 Spiritualism in Santa Cruz. The one, dated July 31, was a follow-up on Mrs. Logan's activities entitled "The Work in Santa Cruz." In it Paul A. Smith described a three-day series of Spiritualist meetings held the previous week in an unnamed Santa Cruz location. Notable Spiritualist speakers from Oakland and San Jose spoke to small, but satisfying audiences, and one of them even conducted a seance. A week earlier, on July 24, the Golden Gate had reported that the Watsonville Pajaronian had favorably reviewed the Spiritualist publication Our Sunday Talks, first edition. The same statement is repeated in subsequent issues of the San Francisco newspaper.

The next year, the Santa Cruz people Dr. W. R. Joscelyn and "Mrs. Dr." J. A. Joscelyn are on a national list of "Spiritualist Lecturers." ( 2005.)

About this time, according to the undocumented source, The McHugh Scrapbook,

Spiritualists for many year [sic] had many adherents here. They also met in Unity Church, later in the Farmers Union hall, sometimes in Bernheim's hall, in addition to groups which gathered in homes. Quite a group of Spiritualists lived at Bonny Doon ... Spiritualism had a large following in the seventies and eighties but its organization soon lapsed. Groups would hold their 'circles' in private homes. There were in the city many mediums who in a way were fortune tellers and would give readings. (McHugh Scrapbook, Vol 1, page 15.)

Noteworthy is the recollection handed down in a family of early settlers that in the late nineteenth century there was a settlement of Spiritualists close to the lower end of Pine Flat Road on the seaward side of Ben Lomond Mountain 14 miles northwest of Santa Cruz. These people, according to the family story, laid out streets and gave the area the name Bonny Doon. Unfortunately, the earliest documented use I have of the name Bonny Doon, the naming of the Bonny Doon post office in 1887, is silent about the reason for the use of this name.

(Private communication in 2005 from Janet Grinnell Heimann of Carmel Valley, California. Ms. Heimann had this information from her mother, Charlotte Burns Grinnell, who lived on Ben Lomond Mountain from her birth, Nov. 19, 1887 to about 1916, when she moved to Santa Cruz city. Charlotte Burns was the daughter of the Scottish born Thomas Burns, who, together with his father and siblings, settled on the mountain in 1862. Although I have found no other primary source for this story about the naming of Bonny Doon, another secondary local historical source states, "The name of Bonnie Doon, applied to part of the mountain top, originated three decades after Burns' arrival, being given by a group of families to whom spiritualism was a religion. In the three decades after the Civil war the region grew to farms, orchard and vineyards." (Rowland, Annals, p. 105. Rowland's own notes, preserved in Special Collections in the University of California Santa Cruz Library, do not give a source. It would be helpful if Rowland or McHugh cited their sources regarding Spiritualists in Bonny Doon. Since Charlotte Burns was closer both physically and chronologically than either of the two, however, it would not be out of line to suggest that they, too, were referring to the Burns family tradition. Documents concerning the establishment of the Bonny Doon post office are in the U. S. Post Office Department. Reports of Site Locations. 1827-1950. National Archives Microfilm Publications. Microfilm Publication M1126, Reel 66, California: Santa Cruz-Sierra. Washington, D. C., 1980.)

Spiritualism maintained a presence in Santa Cruz for at least thirty years after the events of 1885. Significant in this regard are the figures of the 1890 U. S. Census. Among the 4,143 Santa Cruz County residents whose religious preference was declared for the Census were 60 Spiritualists. In comparison, nine religious bodies reported more than 60, and five reported fewer.

The Census reported that the total number of Spiritualists in California was 1,689, and that for the United States was 45,030. Unlike the huge figures of Spiritualists stated above, these represent the adult members of formal Spiritualist churches reported by their pastors. On the basis of these numbers, one person out of every 321 in Santa Cruz County, one out of every 718 in California, and one out of every 1,398 Americans was a Spiritualist. (Eleventh Census of the United States: 1890. The calculations are: 19,270/60 = 321; 1,213,398/1,689 = 718; 62,970,755/45,030 = 1,398.)

In 1892, Spiritualist meetings were held Sundays AM and Wednesday evenings in Buelah [sic] Hall, 56 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, (San Jose City Directory: including Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties, 1892.) and the following year the Unity Spiritual Society was meeting at 159 Pacific Ave. (SC Surf, March 4, 1893.)

In 1893, among the delegates to the First National Delegate Convention of Spiritualists of United States of America, at Chicago, Ill., September 27th, 28th and 29th, 1893 was Dr. E. A. Adams of Santa Cruz, Cal. ( 2005.)

In 1896, one of the twelve most prominent Spiritualist associations in California outside of San Francisco was Santa Cruz. (Schlesinger, Workers in the vineyard, p. 26. ) In that same year the National Spiritualist Association of Churches was active in a "convention of spiritualists" held in San Francisco, and Harrison D. Barrett, one of its founders, came to Santa Cruz to speak in the I.O.O.F. Hall. (SC Surf, May 26, 1896.) Shortly after this, when the California State Spiritualists' Association filed articles of incorporation, F. H. Parker of Santa Cruz was one of its directors. (SC Surf, July 23, 1896.)

In 1903 The California Spiritual Messenger, a publication of the California State Spiritualists Association, lists on pages 12 through 17 the local Spiritualist societies affiliated with the Association: they are in only eight cities, Fresno, Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento, San Francisco, San Jose, Santa Cruz, and Stockton. Presumably the Santa Cruz society was the same as the Unity Spiritual Society mentioned above, which met on Sundays at 2:30 p.m. in an unspecified location. Its officers were: President, C. M. Parker; First Vice-President, Minnie Millett; Second Vice-President, Miss M. Wilderspin; Secretary, F. H. Parker; Treasurer, A. St. Clair; Trustees, Magie Currier, R. Y. Tuttle, J. A. Joscelyn, Sam Wilderspin. (The California Spiritual Messenger, p. 17).

In 1909 the Church of the Soul (Spiritualist) met in Forester's Hall, Santa Cruz. (SC Surf, Jan 2, 1909.), and at the same time the First Spiritual Church met in Native Sons Hall, Santa Cruz. (SC Surf, Jan. 2, 1909) The latter congregation was also listed in Thurston's Directory for 1912-1913.

In 1914 and 1915 the Progressive Spiritualists Church met at Beulah Hall, 102 Bay St. Its president was Minnie Millett. (SC Surf, July 4, 1914 and May 29, 1915) Since Ms. Millett had been an officer in the Unity Spiritual Society, I assume that it is accurate to regard this as a continuation of the same group.

Finally, a 1914 local religious census in Santa Cruz City reported 23 Spiritualist families out of the 2,019 families which stated their religious preference. Fifteen religious bodies had a membership larger than 23 and 15 had a membership smaller than that. (SC Surf, June 12. The total number of inhabited houses found by the canvassers was 2,859; this number, divided by 23, yields 124.) Spiritualism's strength — one family out of every 124 — seems quite remarkable, especially in view of the fact that the latest record I have of nineteenth century Spiritualism's carrying over into the twentieth century in Santa Cruz is that of the Progressive Spiritualists Church in 1915.


Banner of Progress. San Francisco: Benjamin Todd & Co., 1867-1868.

Braude, Ann. News from the Spirit World: A Checklist of American Spiritualist Periodicals, 1847-1900. Worcester, MA: American Antiquarian Society, 1989.

---. Radical Spirits: Spiritualism and Women's Rights in Nineteenth-century America. Boston: Beacon Press, 1989.

The California Spiritual Messenger. San Francisco: California State Spiritualists Association, 1903.

Chandler, Robert J. "In the Van: Spiritualists as Catalysts for the California Women's Suffrage Movement," California History, Vol. LXXIII No. 3 (1994): pp. 188-201.

Farnham, Eliza. The Ideal Attained: Being The Story of Two Steadfast Souls, and how they Won their Happiness and Lost it not. New York: C. M. Plumb & Co., 1865. I have not seen this book.

Frankiel, Sandra Sizer. California's Spiritual Frontiers: Religious Alternatives in Anglo-Protestantism, 1850-1910. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988.

Golden Gate. A journal of practical reform devoted to the elevation of humanity in this life and a search for the evidences of life beyond. San Francisco: Weekly, July 18, 1885 through 1890.

Kirby, Georgiana Bruce. Years of Experience: An autobiographical narrative. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1887.

Levy, JoAnn. Unsettling the West: Eliza Farnham and Georgiana Bruce Kirby in Frontier California. Berkeley, CA: Heyday Books, 2004.

McHugh Scrapbooks. University of California Santa Cruz, Special Collections.

Melton, J. Gordon. The Encyclopedia of American Religions. 2nd ed. Detroit: Gale Research Co., 1987.

Schlesinger, Julia. Workers in the vineyard: a review of the progress of spiritualism, biographical sketches, lectures, essays and poems. San Francisco: J. Schlesinger, 1896.

Stern, Madeleine. "Two Letters from the Sophisticates of Santa Cruz." The Book Club of California Quarterly Newsletter, Vol. XXXIII, No. 3 (1968), pp. 51-62.

Swift, Carolyn, and Judith Steen, eds. Georgiana. Feminist Reformer of the West, The Journal of Georgiana Bruce Kirby 1852-60. Santa Cruz, California: Santa Cruz County Historical Trust, 1987.

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