Historical Albion Michigan
By Frank Passic

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Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.

SPIRITUALISM IN ALBION

Morning Star, October 24, 1993

This week we conclude our October series on Riverside Cemetery as we approach Halloween. Last week we presented the story of Henry Slade. This week we are featuring another prominent spiritualist in town who is buried in Riverside--Sarah M. Tuttle (1819-1907). Sarah opened and operated her millinery store (hat shop) in Albion for 40 years. She was a cousin of Upper Peninsula entrepreneur Peter White of Marquette; and a grand-daughter of Captain Stephen White, a hero of the Revolutionary War who unfurled and hoisted the first United States flag on August 6, 1877.

Her husband was Dr. Samuel Tuttle (1798-1879), a physician who operated a drug store in town where spiritualist Henry Slade purchased his drugs. Mrs. Tuttle was a faithful member of the local Presbyterian Church for over 45 years, according to Dr. Elmore Palmer, in his Biographical Sketches (1908-09), copies of which are available for sale at the Albion Chamber of Commerce. Both Tuttles are buried in the old section of Riverside cemetery amidst Albionís pioneers.

Sarah M. Tuttle was a prominent spiritualist medium, a practice that involved contacting dead spirits. Spiritualism was big in Albion during the 19th century, and many prominent Albion families were involved in it. They would meet in "The Grove," a wooded park bounded by Hannah, E. Cass, Jackson, and Mingo Streets. Today this is the site of Albion Collge and Baldwin Hall.

In her book, A Michigan Childhood, the Journals of Madelon Louisa Stockwell 1856-1960, local researcher Leslie Dick writes (page 181): "The Grove...was a beautiful oak park where many community events were held over the years. Spiritualist tent meetings, picnics, church revival meetings, ball games, Chatauqua events...were held on the shady grounds before sorority houses were built there around the turn of the century. With the exception of a few remaining oaks, all hint of the stately grove that sheltered much of 19th century village activity is obscured by College buildings and parking lots."

Sarah Tuttle placed advertisements in a local paper, along with other spiritualist mediums. The advertisement published on June 4, 1857 states, "S.M. Tuttle, who has for some three years been before the public as a highly acceptable Trance Lecturing Medium, will answer demands upon services in the above capacity."

Madelon Stockwell (later, turner) was childhood friends with the Tuttleís daughter Sarah (later Mrs. Rienzi Loud, wife of Albionís leading late-19th century lawyer), and spent time in their house at 211 W. Erie St.

Leslie Dickís annotations in her book give us more insight as to the spiritualist beliefs and their meetings in Albion. We quote (pp. 159-160): "Spiritualism is the belief that the dead can communicate with the living, usually through a medium. In an age of uncertainty and uprooting, spiritualism reached a peak in the United States in the 1850s, with over a million followers in a population of approximately 25 million."

In an age of religious flux, table-rapping, trumpet-blowing, and slate-writing mediums, often speaking in tongues, persisted in bringing spirit messages, occasionally with the endorsement of well-known personalities of the day. [E. Douglas Branch, The Sentimental Years 1830-1860 (1934), pp. 372-378.]"

Most of the practitioners were women whose extra-sensory powers and intuitions were presumed to make them best suited for communication with the spirit world." [Page Smith, Daughters of the Promised Land (1970), p. 148]

Spiritualistic tent meetings were held at Albion in The Grove adjacent to the Albion Seminary (now Albion College. According to historians Massie and Schmitt, "Spiritualism was a potent force in 19th century Calhoun County, with Battle Creek being a stronghold."

Albert Whiting (1835-1871) described as an Albion clergyman in an 1869 directory, wrote spiritualistic tunes entitled, "Waiting, Only Waiting," and "Land of the So-Called Dead." [Larry B. Massie and Peter Schmitt, Battle Creek, the Place Behind the Products (1984), p. 43-44]

There are still a few copies of Leslie Dickís book including A Michigan Childhood document folder available for purchase at the Albion Chamber of Commerce for anyone interested in reading the diary of Madelon Stockwell, and Leslieís annotations.

With spiritualism being very prominent among Albion residents in the 19th century and their meetings in "the grove," at what is today Albion College, one canít help but wonder what influences these meetings had upon the decisions made by the Seminary administrators, village officials and prominent members of the community. Are there still spirits hovering above Albion, waiting to be contacted in "The Grove" by followers of Henry Slade and Sarah Tuttle today?

The spirit of Halloween certainly was in Albion during the 19th century, and is timely recalled this week in our Historical Notebook. Suggested reading would be the best-selling novel, This Present Darkness (1986) by Frank Peretti, which describes how the spirit-world influences a college town, its politics, and churches. "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world-forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in high places." (Ephesians 6:12)

From our Historical Notebook we present photographs of Sarah and Dr. Samuel Tuttle, and an 1873 map showing the wooded area labeled "PARK" where Albionís spiritualists contacted the dead and held their tent meetings in the 19th century. What can we learn from this map? This concludes our series of Riverside Cemetery/Halloween articles here in our Historical Notebook. Next week we will move on to other topics.


Sara & Samuel Tuttle


The Grove at Albion College in 1873

Next: ALBIONíS GREATEST HUNTER


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