On August 12, 2015, I had the privilege of visiting Camp Chesterfield, Indiana. The night before, I presented two lectures at the Ohio History Connection (the state archive) in Columbus which took me to the Mid-West anyway.
For years, my friends have heard me ask if they would take me to Camp Chesterfield. This year they graciously agreed!
My cohorts in crime were Russ Pollitt, Jayne Davis and her husband Denny. Russ is the head of the Genealogy Department at the Columbus Metropolitan Library and a vice president of the Ohio Genealogical Society. Jayne is a professional genealogist and president elect of the Franklin County Genealogical & Historical Society in the Columbus area. Denny was along to support and torment us when he wasn’t looking up obituaries or volunteering in the Archaeological Department of Ohio State University.
To say the least, this was not a bad group in which to go exploring, whether old records or the inner-journey.
Camp Chesterfield is the home of the Indiana Association of Spiritualists, founded in 1888. Located near Anderson, Indiana, it has quite a history with all things relating to the physical mediumship within Spiritualists. During our tour of the art museum we saw spirit precipitated paintings from the late 1800s and early 1900s. In addition, there were examples of spirit chalk writing on slate boards, spirit trumpets, spirit photography and trance mediumship. Portraits of spirit guides who have helped the mediums and look after Camp Chesterfield and old photos of the early Spiritualists of the camp were on display. We were treated to a discussion on ectoplasm secreted from the medium’s body while in a trance state.
It was a smorgasbord of the spirit. Physical mediumship is alive and well at Camp Chesterfield. Spiritualism with New Age and Eastern Religion practices have also found a home there.
The focus of the museum was on the history and personalities that made Camp Chesterfield – well, Camp Chesterfield!
The medium who gave us the tour warned me that she better not see any of the museum pictures on the Internet. I understood; these were originals we were seeing. Flash photography was definitely out! In order to preserve the historic collections, artifacts and old records, Camp Chesterfield has received a grant. Their museum items and documents are being scanned and will be placed online.
For a genealogist, the trip to the “cemetery” was amazing. Small plaques marked the cremated remains of the mediums who have been interred over the years. Not only did these mediums live at Camp Chesterfield, but they then became part of its very soil.
Please take time to view my photographs of the grounds of this community. Camp Chesterfield is on the National Register of Historic Places. It was an amazing trip and I applaud them for their record preservation. I wonder what else is hidden in the byways and side streets of America?