Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, October 17, 1993, pg. 6
Continuing with our October series on Riverside Cemetery stories, there is a 12-foot high monument erected right (south) of the cemetery receiving vault. The vault, by the way, is the place where they stored dead frozen bodies during the winter months when the ground was too frozen to dig and bury corpses. The vault contains holding shelves built to house caskets. Today, lawn mower and trimming equipment occupy these spaces. Anyway, the aforementioned monument stands next to a towering pin tree. It is the resting place of Henry Slade, once a world-famous spiritualist. Spritualism was big in Albion during the 19th century, and many prominent Albion families were involved in it.
Henry Slade was a famous 19th century spiritualist medium known for his independent slate writing abilities. Slade came to Albion in 1855 at the age of 20, and resided here and in Marengo. The story of this man is best recalled again by Dr. Elmore Palmer, who was a clerk in a local drug store during the year Slade came to town. Palmer writes:
In the year 1855 when this writer [Dr. Palmer] was a clerk in S. Tuttle & Sonís drug store in Albion, there came to reside in the village a young man, who claimed to be a spiritual doctor. He was well dressed, very affable and soon became quite well known. My position as a drug clerk brought me in daily contact with him. Our acquaintance grew quite intimate as he purchased all of his drugs and medicines at the store where I was employed.
Occasionally he gave demonstrations of his spirit rappings, slate writings, moving of tables, etc. that seemed quite miraculous.
Dr. Henry Slade was born in 1835 at Johnsonís Creek, Niagara County, New York. When he was a mere child of eight or ten years old, he seemed possessed of strange powers and manifestations. When he was only 18 years o age he could stand five feet from a table and cause it to tip over by a wave of his hand, while a lighted lamp standing upon it never lost its equilibrium. He could hold his hand a few inches from the cottage organ and cause it to rise from the floor.
Slade was one of the greatest slate writing mediums ever known. His fame grew so rapidly that many curious people as well as spiritualists from all over the country were attracted by his demonstrations. At twenty years of age he started on a tour of the cities of the United States, and he astonished and puzzled everyone by the mysterious and wonderful things he performed.
As he grew older his miraculous powers seemed to grow stronger. Soon his fame reached the old world. About 1865 or 1866 he went to Europe and spend several years in giving demonstrations in all the large cities on the continent. He created a great furor wherever he went. He gave seances before many of the royalty. When he returned home he had many valuables that had been given to him by the crowned heads, and among others a three-carat diamond which Emperor Napoleon III had presented to him.
At one time Slade was reputed to be worth $1 million. When he was at the height of his fame it was impossible to gain an audience with him without making arrangements weeks in advance. He lived with great prodigality, but as he grew older, his wonderful powers weakened and gave way under the strain of his dissipation. His fortune was soon squandered and he eked out a miserable existence by slate writings at 50 cents a sitting.
Slade visited his old home near Lockport, N.Y. for the last time in 1899. He was then a poor old man, nearly or quite penniless and friendless. In 1905 he had wandered to Michigan, at Battle Creek he fell ill and was placed in the sanitarium in that city, where he died September 8, 1905. He had no known relatives living and no friends to claim the body. He died in dire poverty.
When it became known that Sladeís remains were buried at Battle Creek in a pauperís grave, some of the greater spiritualites started a subscription among themselves to re-inter the body at Riverside Cemetery in Albion, where it was ascertained Slade had a lot. This work was accomplished under the supervision of Dr. A.B. Spinney and Grant, in September 1906. Is there not a moral to be drawn from this manís life?"
Again, Dr. Palmerís firsthand account of Henry Slade is available in his Biographical Sketches series which is available at the Albion Chamber of Commerce. Another account of Slade appeared in a local newspaper at the turn of the century, and reveals more about this man and his fate:
Henry Slade, the most famous slate writing medium in the world, who has dropped completely out of sight for several years past, and by many was thought to be dead, has gone to the Phelps Sanitarium at Battle Creek for treatment, said the Detroit Evening News recently. Four years ago while in New York, he was sandbagged on night and robbed of $10,000 worth of diamonds and his money. One side of his body became paralyzed from the effects of his injuries.
With the paralysis of his body, his remarkable mediumistic powers vanished away. Broken in health and shattered in fortune, he dropped out of sight. Slade probably gained more notoriety than any other medium who ever lived. He has appeared before almost every crowned head and royal family in Europe. In Germany he was subjected to the most rigid tests by the most famous scientists in that land of eminent scientists, among whom was Professor Zolner, and baffled them all.
In London he was arrested and placed on trial, charged with fraud and trickery, and gained his freedom by allowing himself to be searched, handcuffed, gagged and blindfolded, and while in this condition in open court, gave a seance. The fact that his wonderful power, whatever it may be, is returning to him will be welcome news to the thousands of spiritualists throughout the country. Mr. Slade has relatives in this city as well as Marengo, and they will be glad to learn that his wonderful powers are commencing to return to him."
Sladeís tombstone in Riverside Cemetery reads, "Henry Slade, renowned throughout the world as the first spiritualist medium for the independent slate writing. Retired to spirit life September 8,1 905 after an earthly visit of 69 years, 5 months and 22 days. With toil now finished, with soul set free, he now enters eternity."
From our Historical Notebook this week we present a photograph of Henry Slade, and his towering grave marker at Riverside Cemetery in Albion.
Next: SPRITUALISM IN ALBION
All text copyright, 2016 © all rights reserved Frank Passic