Was Abraham Lincoln a Apiritualist? by Nettie Colburn Maynard 1917



Some time after this I was invited, with a number of others, to attend a séance at the home of my sister, Mrs Walker. Amongst the guests present was Thomas H. Seymour, who had been Governor of the State, and who also held many other offices under our Government. I was seated at the table with my sister and a number of others, when the rappings were heard, and my hand was moved to write a message to someone in the room. As the pencil dropped from my fingers, Governor Seymour, who was standing behind me, laid his hand upon my head, and in a moment a quiet, dreamy feeling stole over me, and a prickly sensation passed through my fingers and along my arms. This is the last I remember until an hour later when I awoke in a different part of the room, finding myself seated on the sofa with the company gathered about me.

It appeared that I had been completely entranced, had personated different individuals who were known to be in the spirit world, and had spoken to a number present, giving messages that were recognised as from deceased friends; the parties thus addressed being entire strangers to me. Of these messages, or their import or significance to those to whom given, I had no recollection whatever. The time had been a blank, and my awakening impressed me as simply being aroused from a natural sleep, with the exception of a return of the prickly sensation in my arms which gradually left me, and I was conscious of no ill effects from this new and strange experience.

From this time forward, whenever I sat down for the purpose of writing, or getting the raps, I would, when it seemed desirable, be entranced, and communications be given, and on occasions when large companies were present, some influence would take possession of me and deliver what seemed to be an address upon matters pertaining to the welfare of the human family, so full of instruction as to satisfy the most sceptical, and so complete that it could not have originated with myself.

It was in this way that I became invested with my strange gift of mediumship. It came to me in a sense unsought and took me, an untaught child, from my humble home in the ranks of the labouring people, and led me forth, a teacher of the sublime truth of immortality, opening to me the doors of the wealthy and the prominent, as well as leading among the poor and lowly, speaking through my unconscious lips words of strength and consolation, suited to all conditions, until everywhere, from the farmer’s quiet fireside to the palatial city mansion, I found only words of welcome and kindly care.

Late in the fall of 1856 a large company were gathered at my father’s house, and among them a gentleman by the name of Welch. On this occasion I had been controlled to deliver a lecture upon some religious subject, and when the séance was over, Mr. Welch asked my father to permit me to deliver a lecture in a public hall, saying I ought to be upon the rostrum teaching, and that if he would consent he would make every arrangement and provision for the same. My father half reluctantly consented. For myself I refused to do this unless a friend whose acquaintance I had made some time previously, would accompany me and share in the exercises. This young girl was Miss Flavia Howe of Windsor, Conn., herself a fine medium, giving much of her time to clairvoyant examinations of the sick. Mr. Welch visited her


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home; she consented to join me; and he then engaged a hall in Pequannock, Conn., and freely advertised the lecture which took place on Christmas Eve.

In those days Spiritualism was an unpopular theme; yet, notwithstanding the public prejudices, the pleasant hall was filled with a curious company of anxious to hear a trance-speaker expound the new doctrine. On the rostrum were seated Mr. Welch, the presiding elder of the occasion; a Dr. Norton of Hartford, a clairvoyant physician; Miss Flavia, and myself. I shall never forget the sinking sensation I experienced, and how my heart palpitated in facing the sea of faces on this my first public appearance. I felt I should never become passive enough, or still the violent throbbings of my heart sufficiently to enable the unseen intelligence to obtain control. I felt the colour come and go in my cheeks, and experienced all the trepidation of stage fright that could characterise a novice for the first time facing a critical multitude. My young companion Flavia was not so troubled, as she knew many of those present, there being a large number from her village, Pequanock, which is part of the town of Windsor, where she was likewise well acquainted.

Dr. Norton, being a man past middle age and having been long before the public in the capacity of clairvoyant physician, had full possession of his nervous system. Mr. Welch stepped forward to the front of the stage and requested those that could to join in singing some familiar hymn. He said it would assist conditions. Very soon, a thin, quavering voice started the familiar line: “When I can read my title clear,” which was soon joined from the other side of the hall by a strong voice with a decided nasal tone, one after another joining in. The chorus was full and strong by the time the first verse was ended.

Some of the comical features of this attempt at creating “conditions” occurring to my mind, diverted me for the moment from the part I was expected to play in the evening’s entertainment. This moment was evidently improved by my unseen friends, as I immediately lost consciousness of what was passing around me and knew nothing further until an hour and a half later, when the exercises were over. It seemed that my friend Flavia had been used to open the meeting with a beautiful invocation, after which our spirit friends had taken me to the front of the rostrum and delivered an address from the text, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” The text had been suggested by the fact that many unkind remarks had been made throughout the town regarding the forthcoming meeting, saying there would be no good in it, as it had all been originated among people no one knew anything about, etc. At the conclusion of the address, which I learned was frequently applauded as it progressed, Dr. Norton was controlled to pronounce the benediction, and the meeting was dismissed.

Many crowded around me with congratulations, asking me questions regarding my strange gift. My father, and mother, both being present, were questioned regarding me and the advantages I must have had to be able to speak with such fluency and readiness on matters supposed to be only discussed by learned divines or those who made such subjects a life study. My youth forbade the belief that I had studied for any length of time upon any subject, and when my father assured them that my fragile health from childhood had prevented me receiving even the most ordinary instruction that girls of my years were supposed to enjoy, the wonder increased. For myself, I was simply pleased with the novelty of the position and pleasant life that seemed to open before me.


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On this same day a gentleman partially engaged me to speak in a church in Windsor the next evening. After consulting my friend Flavia and getting her to promise to join me therein, I agreed to accept. The scenes of this occasion were a repetition of those of the last evening, and at its close a gentleman from Warehouse Point, who was present in the audience, engaged me to speak in that village one evening the following week. This engagement I also kept, accompanied by my young friend Flavia. At this gathering a gentleman was present, whose home was Winsted, Conn., and who on this occasion arranged with me to lecture every two Sundays, for three months thereafter, in the town of Winsted. Still feeling timid about going so far from home, I persuaded the parents of my friends to let her remain my companion. This she became, and my career as a public lecturer was fully inaugurated.

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