Spiritualist Church

Organized ca. 1860s.

  • Former Location: Members’ homes, including Wallace House; at the Universalist Church at the intersection of Whitman and East Washington Streets.

 Church Records

No official records for the church have been identified in historic surveys of Massachusetts parishes.

 Church History

Spiritualism had originated in upstate New York circa 1848, and by the early 1860s a group of Hanson residents formed a Spiritualist society. According to “History of Hanson”, after the Universalist Church congregation stopped meeting in the 1850s, “for a time the church was used by the Spiritualists for meetings. In 1866 the building was remodeled for hall purposes, and called Unity Hall, and remained as such until March, 1876, when it was burned”. According to Representative Men and Old Families of Southeastern Massachusetts, Vol. 3 (Chicago, Ill.: J.H. Beers & Co., 1912), 1209, Barnabas Everson of Hanson “attended the Baptist Church for many years, but the last few years of his life, he embraced Spiritualism”, and Barnabas Everson’s son, Richard Abbott Everson, “in religion [is] a believer in Spiritualism”.

For additional details about the Spiritualist movement in Hanson, read Mary Blauss Edwards’ article “Hanson’s Clairvoyant Physician: Abbie O. Whitmarsh (1829-1921)“, published in the Fall 2013 edition of the Hanson Tunk, the Hanson Historical Society Newsletter.

Spiritualist Meeting, late 19th century, outside of Wallace House's house. From History of the Town of Hanson (1959).

Spiritualist Meeting, late 19th century, outside of Wallace House’s house. 8 men and 10 women. From History of the Town of Hanson (1963).

In the 1960s, the Hanson Historical Commission viewed the religion incredulously, writing in the History of the Town of Hanson (1963): “At one time the current interest in town was spiritualism. Mothers, aunt, grandmothers used to “tip tables” to entertain evening guests. Unless one has actually seen a table tipping, it seems at worst, a hoax, and at best just a good story. Someone actually spoke to the table as though it were a person and went through the alphabet pausing slightly until the table indicated by jerking that the right letter had been reached – thus spelling out names of persons answers to questions and warning. An earlier age would have called it witchcraft, but since we marvel at the magic box we now take largely for granted when it picks not only sounds, but pictures out of the air from miles and miles away, we must admit that there was no trickery to “table tipping”. Strong magnetic hands and intensity of thought were sufficient to make a table perform”.