Family Stories · Luke's 1878 Diary

Forays Into Spiritualism

Many stories recounting forays into the realms of Spiritualism involving members of both the families of Ambrose & Matilda Brown and Charles “Luke” & Sarah Keith Jr. have been passed down through the generations. Letters and diary entries of various family members also mention spiritualism or attending a “circle.” The following are just a few:

  • A letter from John Crittenden[1] to Luke Keith Jr. dated October 31, 1852, recounts: “We have had another opportunity to hear from the spirit land through the medium I spoke to you about when in your place the same beautiful language and doctrine as before. She said there were 14 spirits present. Father was one. He took me by both hands gave me a long and beautiful lecture and departed. The medium said they bowed their heads and gave us the parting kiss.”
  • Henry “Hank” Brown’s 1873 diary:
    • Jan 14 – Pleasant but cloudy. Printed to day. We went to Mr Barbers[2] this evening, had a circle. Mr Bailey and wife[3] were there, Pa and Ma,[4] Father & Mother,[5] Mr & Mrs Streator[6] were there. Pa went to Howlands burg to mill to day.
    • Mar 27 – Pleasant. I came over this morning and mounted my prints and retuched them and Eli took 6 home of Allie. Nancy had a trance this evening and she felt better after it.
  • Nancy (Keith) Brown used to go into trances. During these trances she was guided by an Indian spirit guide named Maumee. During her trances she produced very delicate, intricate drawings. She would be so drained after these trances that her husband Hank finally told her that she should tell him if she felt a trance coming on. He then, somehow, kept her from going into the trance.
  • Luke Keith’s 1874 diary:
    • Feb 4 – Bored rims on three wheels. Flanders called here. Sawed out reach and jacks for Lamkins buggy. Went to lecture in Evening Mr Hull on spiritualism 25.
    • Jul 10 1874 – At home[7] all day. Robert and I went to hear a woman lecture in Evening on spiritualism.
  • Ambrose Brown was out plowing one day when there was a sudden downpour. Luke Keith noted in his diary on 08-10-1875: “Mr Brown come up in morning to plow rained and blowed like the mischief. Mr Brown no get wet not a bit of it he came in as dry as he could be.” Family tradition has it that Ambrose’s Indian spirit guide, Chee Chee, held a blanket over Ambrose so that he could finish the plowing.
  • Nancy’s 9-6-1875 letter: Hannah says this picture is for all of you. She wants you should write a tell us what you think of them. I dont know when she will go home but not in two or three yet. Ask Chee Chee if Claude and I are going home with her.
  • Not really a story about spiritualism, but an amusing story. Luke’s March 7, 1894 diary entry: “This was the day that the adevents said the World would be burned and there would be the greatest storm that was ever known but mised fir it was a verry pleasant day in Comstock.” Family story has it that the family ate their dinner and then went up to the top of the hill behind the house to watch the destruction. They were very disappointed when they had to come back to a sinkful of dirty dishes.
  • Nancy’s sister, Hannah Keith Town, was a seamstress. After her death (1935), whenever her name was mentioned, a pair of her sewing shears that hung on the wall would swing back and forth. Before her death, “Auntie” Hannah Town would often recount various conversations she had just had with the spirits of various family members who had previously died.
  • Carol (Boyer) Stafford, Luke’s great-granddaughter, recounted a story about when someone in the family died and the family was worrying about how they could afford to bury him/her. They were sitting in one room, perhaps the kitchen, when they heard a loud crash. They went into the parlor to check it out. The old clock that sat upon the mantle had fallen to the floor. They were quite puzzled as to why it fell as it had been securely situated on the mantle and there was no one around it when it fell or any reason why it should have fallen. When they went to put the clock back on the mantle, there was a piece of paper in its place, which turned out to be the deed for the cemetery plot.
  • Floyd Harris, Luke’s grandson, got “messages” from everybody, not only people he knew but people like Buffalo Bill Cody. One time, Lela (Brown) Mueller (Nancy’s daughter) came up from the basement where they had been making candy, and Floyd, who was visiting at the time, told her he had just had the nicest visit with one of their dead relatives.


Flyer Explaining Spiritualism

Spiritualism A

Spiritualism B


The below is scribbling which perhaps was drawn by a medium as he or she began going into a trance, and the reverse side of the “scribbling,” which appears to be answers given to the medium in response to questions asked of the spirits by the séance attendees


Question yes Harvey Kieth if you ask questions will answer them O yes, yes seem so my dear you will soon be welcomed to the spirit world O yes he dos much quit much better yes I think so very much he is but he is not in this place[?] dont see him they my you may think this through but we can do more than we have do not get to anxious they are do not see them I will go and may come again some time

[drawing] the music o the music it is to nice for the artist so we will rest now

Note: Harvey Keith was the son of James Oscar Keith, Nancy’s uncle. He was murdered in 1885.


A flyer touting the wonderful powers as a “Developing Medium”

Developing Medium Flyer


[1] The brother of Luke’s second wife, Jerusha Crittenden

[2] Neighbor, Richard Barber

[3] Neighbors, John & Eliza Ann (Young) Bailey

[4] Luke & Sarah (Crawford) Keith

[5] Ambrose & Matilda (Allen) Brown

[6] Neighbors, Marius O. & Laura (Rawson) Streator

[7] He was visiting his brother-in-law, Robert Crawford, in Omro, Wisconsin


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