By Sue Moore
Spiritualism in Vicksburg was alive and well especially between 1900 and 1910 according to Randy Seilheimer, who has been researching the topic for the Historical Society. On Tuesday, November 21 at 7 p.m. in the Community Center, he will present a program on the history of the spiritualist camp that existed on Grove Street in Vicksburg. It is the final presentation in the Historical Society’s speaker series for this year. The public is encouraged to attend.
Jeannette Fraser, who lived on a farm outside of Vicksburg, was a true believer and the force behind the movement that brought thousands of people to the village. On weekends in the summer scheduled for seances, Seilheimer learned through his research, there would be weddings and funerals as well. Sometimes as many as 1,500 people would descend on the campgrounds, which were surrounded by woods at the edge of the village. There would be parades through downtown, ice cream, music and dancing. No smoking or drinking was allowed; Fraser believed in many of the tenets of the Quakers.
The camp was beside the Pennsylvania railroad line that ran north and south through Vicksburg. The railroad even set up a terminal right beside the property in the early 1900s. It cost 50 cents for a round trip from Kalamazoo, 10 cents to get in the gate, 25 cents for two people for a chicken dinner and 30 cents to participate in a séance. They would set up a megaphone on the stage and voices would come out through that medium to get the crowd all revved up for meeting the dead, according to Seilheimer.
All these facts and many more will be presented by Seilheimer who was a teacher at Portage Northern and after retirement settled near Vicksburg with his wife, Donna. Both have been on the society’s board and have helped to plan many of the programs.