The Story of Liberal, Missouri – The Great Spiritual Awakening

THE STORY OF LIBERAL, MISSOURI
BY O. E. HARMON
Published by THE LIBERAL NEWS, J. P. MOORE PRINTER, LIBERAL, MO, 1925

The Great Spiritual Awakening

Various shades of Free thinkers first settled in Liberal. They ranged from out-and-out Agnostics to the more spiritual minded Deists and Spiritualists. Mr. Walser, himself an Agnostic when he founded the town, became in the course of years a Spiritualist, and there was quite a group in the town minded the same way.

But the reader must remember that there are various kinds of spirits. There are the spirits of turpentine, the spirits of nitre, and the spirits of alcohol. Most people are familiar with these different kinds of spirits, and some are most too familiar with the latter kind. But there is still another kind–the spirits of the departed, or as the good old preacher once put it, “The spirits of just men made perfect.”

It is this kind of spirits that attracted attention in Liberal in an early day; and there are men and women who claim the power to call the spirits of the departed back to earth and talk with them. Such men and women are called “mediums,” and

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there were some of them in Liberal. At least they thought they were mediums. They could cause table rappings, produce messages from departed spirits, and even beautiful bouquets were handed out to mortals by spirit hands.

There came a time when all this was to be tested, and it was done at the house of Dr. Bouton late in 1887 or early in 1888. All the above manifestations were made there and many believed they were genuine. But, alas! when great numbers were rejoicing over these wonderful revelations, Dr. Bouton’s house caught fire, and then what? A trap door was discovered as people were gathering to put out the fire. It was through this door that spiritual beings came to observation, dressed in spiritual regalia. These spiritual beings proved to be Mr. W. S. Van Camp and Mr. J. H. Roberts. They confessed they were associated with Dr. Bouton in the deception, and they were engaging in it to prove that all the so called spiritual performances could be counterfeited by trickery.

This exposure lulled the excitement over spiritualism for some time, and there was a remarkable thinning out of mediums. It is of interest to note that the last spiritualist camp meeting in Liberal was held at Catalpa Park in the fall of 1899.

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