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Wonewoc Spiritualist Camp

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camp.jpg.bcf345c521a8e10dca4d4cce436072fa.jpgWonewoc Spiritualist Camp


Wisconsin was fertile ground for Spiritualism in the 1800s and is home to the Morris Pratt Institute in Whitewater which remains the only Spiritualist College in the United States. The small village of Wonewoc, northwest of Madison, became home to the Western Wisconsin Camp Association at that time.

In the mid-1800s, a group of 13 pioneer families led by Rubin Fisk traveled west from Erie County, New York and settled in the hills of the Baraboo Valley, establishing the town of Wonewoc. Many of them were spiritualists, including Jerome Potter. Potter was born in Massachusetts in 1835, and moved to Wonewoc where he taught at the school house. He organized the first Spiritualist meetings in 1874 and they formed the Joint Stock Spiritualists Association soon afterward.

Early members included medium Mrs. Cecelia Ray, daughter of John Rowan and her sister, Arella, who practiced slate writing. Charles S. Marsh was listed as a semi-trance speaker in the 1871 Year Book of Spiritualism and Rubin Fisk was a delegate to the First National Convention of Spiritualists in Chicago in 1893.

Members hosted dances and lectures to raise money, and by 1893 they had saved enough to purchase densely wooded land along the bluffs. They cleared brush, drilled a well, pitched tents, and by 1901 the camp was established. It was named Unity Park, and was intended to be the site of their annual statewide convention. In 1902, they formed the Western Wisconsin Camp Association. Tents rented for $3.00 a week and hundreds of people came by train to visit the camp.

Tents were eventually replaced by cottages in the early 1900s. Some are one-room; others have multiple rooms and screened porches. A number bear dedications to those who have passed on. The largest, the Andrew Jackson Davis house, has guest rooms and a larger meeting space to host workshops. A chapel and dining hall were built to deal with the crowds, but the chapel was damaged and has fallen into disrepair.

Spiritualists have been on the grounds every summer for over 125 years. There is no admission charge to enter. Visitors can sit at the healing tree or just stroll the grounds of the historical Camp. Mediums, clairvoyants, and healers from across the country live at the camp for all or part of the summer season. There are workshops and classes. Readings are available at cost and the camp offers ice cream socials, campfires and budget-rate lodging in the cabins.

Additional Reading:

Ulch, Judith (2007) Wonewoc Spiritualist Camp: A Brief History, Eureka Book Works.

“Spiritualist Camp at Wonewoc Closes,” LaCrosse Tribune, August, 19, 1965

“Hearing from the Dead,” The Spokesman Review, Spokane Washington, Scott Bauer Associated Press, August 25, 2007



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