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Casadaga Spiritual Camp

 

CASADAGA SPIRITUAL CAMP TIMELINE

1848:  George P. Colby was born.

1874: The Southern Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp Meeting Association was founded by Colby.

In the early 1890s, for example, Spiritualists embarked on
an effort to achieve national consolidation by forming the National
Spiritualists Association (NSA

1893:  Against this backdrop of national organizational infighting, George P. Colby announced inJanuary 1893 that the National Spir- itual and Liberal Association would soon meet at DeLeon Springs in Volusia County, Florida.

1894:

 

1926:  The Casadaga Hotel burned down. Reconstruction began the following year and was complete in 1928.

1933:  The trustees sold the Casadaga Hotel to a non-member buyer.

1933:  George Colby died.

1991:  Casadaga Spiritual Camp was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

FOUNDER/GROUP HISTORY

Casadaga and Lily Dale are two of the most significant remaining spiritual camps in the U.S. (Compton 2019). Casadaga  (a Seneca Indian tribal phrase meaning “rocks beneath the water”), which was established in 1874, is the oldest spiritual camp in the South.

“Psychic Capital of the World,”

 

Colby 2020  Mimna 2017
George P. Colby, the founder of the Spiritualist camp at Cassadaga, Florida, was born to

James L. Colby and his wife Elminia A. (Lewis) Colby

“claimed to be visited by the spirit of his uncle who told him he was a great psychic and would create a great spiritual center in the south.”

In 1867 George broke from his parent’s church and began life as a medium, traveling from state to state performing private readings and parlor séances.

George claimed to have regular communion with several spirit guides: his most prominent, a Native American named Seneca, who he said spoke to him during a seance in Lake Mills, Iowa. Seneca told him he was to go on a great journey, but first he must visit the home of T. D. Giddings in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

In Wisconsin George met a Spiritualist named Theodore Giddings and Seneca instructed him to travel again, this time to Florida with the Giddings Family to obtain land selected by the “Congress of Spirits” as a spiritualist center.

 

Baptist parents in Pike, New York, on January 6, 1848. Eight years later, the family moved to Minnesota. At the age of 12, young George was baptized, an event that became life changing, but in a most unexpected manner. It seemed to catalyze his psychic abilities. One of the first events was his reception of a message that he would one day found a Spiritualist camp in the southern United States. In the meantime, he became known locally for his healing and clairvoyant abilities. In 1867 he formally left the church and became an itinerant medium visiting various Spiritualist centers. He made his living through the pubic demonstration of his mediumistic skills. Like many mediums, he had acquired a set of spirit guides; among them was a Native American who called himself Seneca.

Finally, in 1880 he filed for a homestead grant and in 1884 was awarded 145 acres. However, the fulfillment of the original message would wait until after the formation of the National Spiritualist Association (now the National Spiritualist Association of Churches ) in 1893. Colby attended the initial meeting and the following year, assisted by people from Lily Dale, the Spiritualist camp in New York, organized the Southern Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp Meeting Association. Colby donated 35 of his acres (later adding 20), and the initial meeting of the association was held in his home.

 

In 1880 he filed a homestead claim for seventy-five acres. Four years later the government
ernment granted him title to the land destined to become a mecca
for the Spiritualists

Florida society. On February 8,
1895, after months of preparation, the Association opened its first
season and one hundred people attended the three-day event held
at Colby’s hom

 

Colby subsequently became one of the resident mediums and lecturers, but still continued to travel during the off-season. He also enjoyed some prosperous years, and having never married, he adopted several orphan boys and saw to their education. However, in his later years, as his health failed, he lost all of the little he had accumulated and at the time of his death, July 27, 1933, he was bankrupt. He had no family, and the association had to give money to see to his remains.

 

 

in 1879 began to farm a 150 acre homestead located on the present site of Cassadaga.

Colby and his neighbors belonged to the American Spiritualist Association, an organization that seeks to communicate with spirits and encourage people to develop their psychic abilities. The movement was founded in the 1840s with the establishment of the Cassadaga community in Chautauqua County, New York. That community became the national headquarters of the movement, which quickly spread over the Northeast and then was carried west through the Ohio River Valley, finally reaching even the Far West. By 1855, Spiritualism claimed two million members. In the South, the religion develop

In the 1890s, groups of Spiritualists began searching for a site in Florida where they could establish a resort community where Spiritualists from across the country could congregate during the winter. In 1893 George Rowley attempted to found a community at DeLeon Springs, but the effort failed due to Rowley ‘s inability to convince a sufficient number of Spiritualists to purchase property there. Following the collapse of this effort, George Colby met in his home with Marion Skidmore, a prominent Spiritualist and a board member of the Cassadaga Camp in New York. Colby offered his property as the site for a southern Spiritualist camp. Skidmore became interested in Colby ‘s land, and contacted other Spiritualists about Colby ‘s offer. In March of 1894, that small group of Spiritualists organized themselves as the Southern Cassadaga Spiritualist Campmeeting Association, and the Florida community was born.

In March 1894, the Southern Cassadaga Spiritualist Campmeeting Association drafted a charter and formed a stock company. The community was named “Cassadaga” in honor of the Spiritualist headquarters in New York, but was not directly associated with the national Spiritualist organization. A board of directors was elected, and in 1895 George Colby sold the association approximately thirty-five acres of his property for $3,000. In July 1895, the board amended its charter to provide that the association would maintain ownership of all real estate within the development. The residents of the community would be offered ninety-nine year leases to the lots and could construct buildings on them, but the land would remain the property of the association. The campmeeting grounds were surveyed and platted, and in March 1896, the first Cassadaga plat was filed at the Volusia County courthouse.Cassadaga became an important national Spiritualist center. Beginning in 1894, the association sponsored annual winter conventions at which Spiritualists from across the country met to discuss Spiritualist philosophy, participate in seances, and listen to lectures and speeches by notable Spiritualist leaders. They also came to enjoy picnics, dances, and the mild Florida climate. Cassadaga quickly became the national winter resort for Spiritualists, and the seasonal population often grew to more than 100 people. The approximately twenty permanent residents usually rented rooms to winter visitors. Cassadaga soon became the second largest Spiritualist center in the United States, ranking just behind its namesake in New York.A post office was established at Cassadaga in 1910. By 1915, there were approximately forty buildings in the community. The number of winter visitors that year totaled about 250, but the town still had only about 25 permanent residents.

Still, several of the community’s largest buildings were erected during the 1920s. One of these was Colby Memorial Temple (Photo 9), a Mediterranean Revival style auditorium erected in 1923 to replace a nineteenth century facility. The structure was erected at a cost of $8,200 and was used during the annual meetings sponsored by the Spiritualist association.

 

The first notable meeting of Spiritualists in Florida took place in January 1893, at DeLeon Springs, Volusia County. It was organized by the National Spiritual and Liberal Association and a thousand people attended

Colby had been living in Wisconsin twenty years earlier, when his spirit guide Seneca had advised him to travel to the south and establish a major Spiritualist center there. He went to Florida and in the course of his searching, fell into a trance and was led by spirit guides to the place he was to purchase. In 1880, he filed a homestead claim for seventy-five acres and was granted the land four years later. When he offered it to the National Spiritual and Liberal Association for their permanent home, mediums Emma J. Huff and Marion Skidmore went to view it. They played crucial roles in the founding of Lily Dale Assembly. On their recommendation, Colby’s land was chosen for the site of the new Spiritualist community. A non-profit stock company was formed and named the Southern Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp Meeting Association (named for the lake at Lily Dale, New York).

On February 8, 1895, the very first meeting was held in Colby’s home, and more than 100 people went to that three-day event. From there the community grew. In March of 1897 an auditorium was added to the collection of buildings that had sprung up. By 1900, the Webster Sanitarium had joined them, along with the Cassadaga Hotel.

 

The Spiritualist Camp in Cassadaga was founded in the late 1800s by one George P. Colby. Colby, a New York native and medium had been instructed by his spirit guide—a Native American named Seneca—to go to Florida and start a spiritual center. He trekked into the Central Florida wilderness in 1875 and homesteaded the land, in accordance with Seneca’s prophecy. A charter to form the Southern Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp Meeting Association was granted in 1894, and Colby acquired 35 acres. This spirit guide apparently had quite the knowledge of property rights. Over the decades, the Spiritualist Camp has grown to 57 acres.

 

all available cottages and rooms. By then everything indicated that 1925 would be the most successful season in the history of the Cam

aga, Edward F.

RITUALS/ACTIVITIES

visit the Colby Memorial Temple for church services.

They can visit the Lily Dale healing temple for spiritual energy healing that takes place twice a day.
Stop by C. Green’s Haunted History House & Museum to peruse odd and antique items, as well as allegedly “haunted” displays.

Williamson  2008

Once, he was in the temple’s seance room with seven people when money started falling from the air. Another time, a spirit holding a lighted candle followed him and five other people from the room.

“We have had the room get very cold and then real hot. We have also heard voices in the walls and people moving around,” he said. “It would take a long time to tell all the wonderful things that happen in that special room.”

“I have seen hands form of ectoplasm on the table next to mine and have had them touch me,” said Cassadaga medium Victor Vogenitz, 54, a veteran of hundreds of seances.

ORGANIZATION/LEADERSHIP

Casadega Spiritual Camp is an unincorporated town near DeLand, Florida and twenty miles from Daytona Beach. The camp consists of fifty-seven acres. The town itself has a post office but no stores except those selling items related to Spiritualism and New Age (Basu 2020)

 

Balogh 2013

The New Agers use tarot cards and stick to the Cassadaga Hotel. A stone’s throw away is the religious organization maintains the traditional belief system that Colby established in the 1800s. That’s not to say the Cassadaga Hotel and its hired psychics don’t stay true to Spiritualism as religion, but they’re a bit more relaxed about it. Its like Episcopalians and Catholics.

Bam. Torre started working as a psychic and got the hookup from fellow clairvoyants to get hired at the Cassadaga Hotel. She isn’t just a hired mind, she also puts on psychic kids summer camps in Orlando.

 

     . A non-profit stock company was formed and named the Southern Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp Meeting Association (named for the lake at Lily Dale, New York).

Cassadaga was founded as a religious community by the Southern Cassadaga Spiritualist Campmeeting Association, formed in 1894 to provide a permanent campsite in the South where Spiritualists from across the nation could come to vacation and worship. In the early 1900s, Cassadaga became the second largest Spiritualist center in the United States, ranking just below the affiliation’s headquarters in the state of New York. Spiritualism served as the motivating force around which the community developed, and the community remains a Spiritualist center today.

A number of residences were constructed between 1895 and 1901. Among these is the Thatcher House (Photo 3) at 1270 Steven

Thirty-three houses in Cassadaga were constructed between 1895 and 1915, and residential construction occurring between 1902 and 1915

Only ten extant buildings were constructed during the 1920s? however, among these were two of Cassadaga ‘s most significant resources. One of these was the Mediterranean Revival style Colby Memorial Temple (Photo 9) at 1250 Stevens Street, one of the more striking buildings in the district. Construc

Another significant Cassadaga landmark erected in the 1920s was the Cassadaga Hotel (Photos 11, 12) at 355 Cassadaga Road. A Mediterranean Revival style building like the Colby Memorial Temple, this facility was constructed in 1927

Recently, the association made a single exception and sold the property on which the Cassadaga Hotel is located to the building’s owner. The local economy is based on seasonal tourism in connection with

 

There is a post office but no stores here, except a few that sell crystals and other New Age accoutrements. Most people make the short drive to DeLand for food, gas and other essentials

The hotel is believed to be inhabited by spirits.

 

The hotel used to be owned by the National Association of Spiritualists but separated during the Great Depression. However, during the Great Depression the camp lost ownership of the hotel, and it was sold to private owners. During the 1990s it was sold again and renovated.

Cassadaga is divided, not just by geography but by principle. On one side of Stevens Street are the 57 acres belonging to the camp. On the other is the hotel and the metaphysical shops that are not necessarily held in high esteem by true Spiritualists. (Basu 2020)

Only certified mediums are permitted to work within the camp.

McCormick informed me; their purchase of a house must be approved by the board of trustees—sort of like in a condo building.

Stop by C. Green’s Haunted History House & Museum to peruse odd and antique items, as well as allegedly “haunted” displays.

Cassadaga offers many of the same spiritualist draws as Lily Dale, plus more activities that appeal to those interested in the occult. You’ll find ads for mediums, psychics, and readings of tarot cards, crystal balls and palms all around this palm-tree-filled town.

 

ISSUES/CHALLENGES

Two distinct tendencies have emerged within the Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp—the New Agers and the religious, non-profit organization charged with running the camp. Like the Jews and the Muslims in certain parts of the world, a single street separates them from each other.

Seeking the Sweet  7 . Volusia County Record  Spiritualists visiting Florida in 1893. Yet in response to such skepti- cism an editorial in a local newspaper claimed: “We have as much respect for a person who is sincere in his spiritualistic ideas as have for those happy in the enjoyment of any other religious belief. Because fraud and impostors have crept into the teachings of Spir- itualism it affords no argument to denounce all those who are en- joying the comforts and promises they sinc7erely find in its doctrine. Firmly … fixed in the belief of Spiritualism can be found people among the best in their com

Seeking the Sweet  abled the newcomers to plant deep roots in Volusia County.o0
Regardless of such goodwill, allegations of fraud again disrupted
the harmony between the Spiritualists and the local community at
the end of 1896. The Cassadaga controversy stemmed from an inci-
dent that occurred in Boston, Massachusetts, and involved two pop-
ular practitioners at the Camp–the materializing medium O. L.
Concannon and his wife, Edella, a platform test medium. While the
details surrounding the episode remain sketchy, according to one
eyewitness, when Mr. Concannon performed a seance in Boston a
member of the audience called him a phony. Although some excite-
ment ensued, the accuser failed to produce either a wig or the gar-
ment that led to his allegations. Nevertheless, the issue followed the
Concannons to Cassadaga. One editorial in the local paper at-
tempted to vilify the Concannons without maligning the entire com-
munity. “There are too many sincere and earnest believers in the
faith,” it said, “to have [Cassadaga’s] plans upset by the exposure of
frauds such as Concannon.” Some locals, however, defended the
Concannons. In a letter to the same paper, Mrs.J. E Leavitt wrote: “If
this account is proven a mistake, will the Christian world be as ready
to deny [it] as they were to circulate the story, I wonder?””

This time the Association moved quickly to keep a minor prob-
lem from erupting into a serious crisis. In doing so, it dealt directly
30. See Jerrell H. Shofner, “Custom, Law, and History: The Enduring Influence of
Florida’s Black Code,” Florida Historical Quarterly 55 (January 1977), 277-98; Volu-
sia County Record, December 5, 1896.
31. Volusia County Record, February 15 and 29, December 5 and 26, 1896.
This content downloaded from
128.172.10.194 on Fri, 27 Nov 2020 00:20:05 UTC
All use subject to https://about.jstor.org/terms

Despite the strong case made by Loud, the members of the
Association who considered the hotel a burden prevailed. In 1933,
due to its inability to pay either its taxes or the debt owed to the
bondholders, the Association sold the Cassadaga Hotel, which re-
mains privately owned six decades later.82

Schaleman  n.d.  Cassadagatodayistwovillagesseparatedphy-sicallyandspirituallybythemainstreet,thenarrow,two-laneCountyRoad4139.Thenon-Spiritualistpartofthecommunityisnorthofthehighway,whileacroasthestreetistheSpiritualistcampsite.Thecharacterofthecomm

 

IMAGES

REFERENCES

Balogh, Christopher 2013. “Inside Cassadaga, the Psychic Capital of the World.” Vice, January 29. Accessed from https://www.vice.com/en/article/nn4g87/inside-cassadaga on 20 November 2020.

Basu, Moni. 2020. “In Search of Spirits in Cassadaga: A writer unlocks the truths of this mystical community, its energy healers and the supernatural.” Flamingo Magazine.Accessed from https://www.flamingomag.com/2020/10/30/in-search-of-spirits-in-cassadaga/ on 20 November 2020.

“Colby, George P. (1848-1933) .” Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 16, 2020). https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/colby-george-p-1848-1933

Compton, Natalie. 2019. “Interested in traveling to a spiritualist community? Here’s what you need to know.” Washington Post, October 29, 2019. Accessed from https://www.washingtonpost.com/travel/2019/10/29/interested-traveling-spiritualist-community-heres-what-you-need-know/ on 20 November 2020.

Guthrie, John. 1998. “Sweet Spirit of Harmony: Establishing a Spiritualist Community at
Cassadaga, Florida, 1893-1933.” Florida Historical Quarterly 77:1-38.

Mimna, Robin. 2017. “The True Spirit of Cassadaga.” Florida History, February 27. Accessed from https://medium.com/florida-history/the-mystery-and-spirit-of-cassadaga-8a0058b024b1 on 20 November 2020.

Schaleman, Harry. n.d. Casadaga: Just a Medium Place. Florida Virtual Library. Accessed from https://journals.flvc.org/flgeog/article/view/78709/76105 on 20 November 2020.

United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service. 1991. National Register of Historic Places Registration Form: Southern Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp Historic District. Accessed from https://npgallery.nps.gov/GetAsset/2fc1fca3-b02b-475e-90c1-e321209a1423 on 20 November 2020.

Williamson, Ronald. “Since 1923 in Cassadaga, the Seance Room has been
where they call upon and talk to the dead.” Florida History Network. Accessed from http://www.floridahistorynetwork.com/in-cassadaga-the-seance-room-is-where-they-talk-to-the-dead.html

Williamson, Ronald. 2008. Volusia County’s West Side: Steamboats & Sandhills. Charleston, SC: The History Press.

 

 

 

 

 

Therefore, Morn is not subjected to the strict rules that govern the camp. She permits psychics, tarot card readers and palmists—who are not allowed to operate within the camp—to hold sessions in the lobby or in an upstairs hotel room. I

 

 

 

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