The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa


September 4, 2013


The Mississippi Valley Spiritualist Camp, also known as Mount Pleasant Park, came into being in 1885. It has been there ever since, on Bluff Boulevard at 2nd Avenue So. At one time, they owned considerable land north of the Camp as well. Nowadays, however, many people are unaware of its existence. In 2007 it had its 125th Chautauqua or summer meeting.

Groups around the country with similar interests began having summer “chautauquas,” (named after Chautauqua, N.Y.) about the same time. These were relaxing meetings for literary readings, physical fitness outings, dance symposiums, and so on. The word “chautauqua” has become archaic, but the definition is: “an assembly for education and entertainment of adults by lectures, concerts etc., held for several days.” The Clinton Schools dropped the word “chautauqua” from its lists of spelling words a few years ago. Old words often die and new words, like “fax,” are invented.

Clinton’s Mississippi Valley Spiritualist Association grew to be quite prosperous. They were the first ones in our area to build an outdoor swimming pool! Hundreds of people came to their events, but Spiritualism actually began out East. The Fox sisters from Hydeville, N.Y. were early proponents of this form of Christianity in 1848. It was at this time that scientists and other intellectuals desired proofs of the hereafter and the world of the spirit. Séances became quite popular and were held in different ways. Mediums were perceived as instruments of other-worldly communication, and they practiced healing, channeling, premonitions, and other clairvoyant behaviors as they worked through trances -- with loud knocks and rappings, or sometime trumpets, which ushered in “voices from the netherworld.”

As you may know, spiritualism became quite popular in the 1900’s. Some religions and organizations believed strongly that one could contact those who had died, and that conversation with them was possible. Others were afraid of this concept. Although their faith might accept an occasional miracle, contact with the deceased was unheard of and made them queasy. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and many famous persons believed in this new occult theology. Franz Mesmer was a proponent of spiritual healing, and his name has come down to us in the common word, “mesmerized.” Spiritualism was at the forefront of new thinking about God and that ethereal place beyond the grave.

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