Laona NY Spiritualists in 1855

A Spiritualist Society was formed at Laona in 1855 called The Religious Society of Free Thinkers. The Society purchased an old Universal Church to hold their meetings and many noted men and women appeared on platform in those early days. The eminent Scientist William Denton delivered lectures on geology and the Philosophy of Spiritualism. Later at various times lectures were: P.B. Randolph, George W. Taylor, Andrew Jackson Davis, Mary F. Davis, Elizabeth Lowe, Cora L.V. Scott, Henry C. Wright, Warren Chase, Selven J. Phinney, S.B. Brittan, John M. Spear and Lyman C. Howe.

Willard Alden a member of the Laona Spiritualists owned a farm along Middle Cassadaga Lake, about six miles from Laona. Mr. Alden used a section of his large house as a “stop over” for the travelers who used the Frisbe Road Stage Coach. Mr. Alden along with the Laona Spiritualists started a yearly “Spiritualist Picnic” on his farm grounds in 1873. Each year it lasted an extra day, hosted guest speakers and drew large crowds. In the spring of 1877 Jeremiah Carter of Laona heard an unseen voice clearly say to him “Go to The Alden’s and arrange for a camp meeting.” This unseen voice repeated it’s self again very clearly. The next morning Jeremiah Carter walked the entire six miles from Laona to Cassadaga. Did Jeremiah walk that long distance so he could clearly consider how he was going to present this spirit command to Willard Alden?

Willard Alden gladly accepted the plan of a Spiritualist Camp Meeting being held on his grove and grounds with the exception the expenses of paying for the lectures and provisions be met by the Spiritualists. A committee was formed and a Camp Meeting was held September 11 to September 16th, a total of six days. Mr. Carter collected a fee of ten cents from each visitor.

Willard Alden Passed to spirit life on February 25th 1878 and the 1878 Camp Meeting was held September 6th to the 16th with an added expense of $160 for the reason that Willard’s son Theodore had the Camp Grounds fenced in. A fee of ten cents was still collected from each visitor. At the business committee meeting on May 17, 1879 Theodore Alden asked that a percentage of the gate receipts be turned over to the Alden heirs as rent. The committee was unwilling to do this as they assumed the responsibility for the general expenses. Theodore Alden held to the percentage basis and the meeting was adjourned with a feeling of dissatisfaction and uncertainty as to the future.

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