Carter, Dr. Jeremiah F.

Carter, Dr. Jeremiah F. (1814–1897)

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Jeremiah F. Carter was born in Franklin City, New Hampshire, in February 1814. On July 6, 1836, in Laona, New York, he married Joan Bull (1813–1889) and they had four children: Dexter, Ellen, Wesley, and William.

In the 1840s, a mesmerist from Vermont, Dr. Moran, was invited by William Johnson to lecture in Laona. Johnson was the son of a minister and the father of Marion Skidmore, who became a leading Spiritualist. Carter had been having medical problems and hoped to be treated by Moran, but Moran left the area again before that could be arranged. Johnson suggested that they try Moran’s techniques themselves and Carter quickly went into a trance. Through him, a spirit guide named Dr. Hedges spoke. Hedges had been well known as a skilled physician in the Chautauqua area before his death. Through Carter, Hedges gave messages to various people and also taught the art of laying-on of hands for healing. Carter became a very successful spirit healer and diagnostician. However, this activity brought him conspicuously before the public and as a consequence he and his family suffered greatly from persecution and ridicule by the local Orthodox Christian community. Carter remained firm in his beliefs and practices, and he and his wife made their home an asylum for the sick and afflicted.

Carter was one of the founding members of the camp meetings held in upper New York State that eventually led to the Lily Dale Assembly. He belonged to The Religious Society of Free Thinkers, started in 1855. In 1871, the members of the society began gathering for picnics at Alden’s Grove on the shore of Cassadaga Lake. The grove was owned by Willard Alden, also a member of the society.

In the spring of 1877, Carter was sitting at home reading a newspaper when he heard a voice say to him, “Go to Alden’s and arrange for a camp meeting.” He tried to ignore the voice but it was insistent, repeating its command time and again. Carter went to bed and tried to shut out the spirit voice. He was unsuccessful and spent a sleepless night. The following morning he walked the six miles from his home to the Alden Farm, home of fellow Spiritualist Willard Alden. There they made plans for a big camp meeting to be held in Alden’s land. They presented these plans to the membership at the annual meeting in June, 1877, and as a result a committee was formed to organize everything. The committee met at Jeremiah Carter’s home and decided to hold a camp meeting that would start on Tuesday, September 11, and close on Sunday, September 16, 1877. This laid the groundwork for what would eventually grow into the Lily Dale Assembly. At that first camp meeting, Jeremiah Carter stood in the roadway and collected a fee of ten cents for each visitor. By the following year the camp season was extended to ten days and Carter and three others arranged for the grounds to be fenced in and saw to the building of the first cottage.

Jeremiah Carter died on August 7, 1897, at the Cassadaga Lake Free Assembly.

Sources:

Vogt, Paula M. and Joyce LaJudice: Lily Dale Proud Beginnings: A Little Bit of History. Lily Dale: Lily Dale Museum, 1984
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