Spiritualism first came to Ottawa County, Kansas in 1873. The first meetings were held in a home. The group became known as the Universal Church, which is said to be the earliest religious organization in the area, although Methodists, Catholics, and Presbyterians also came to this area in the 1870's.
In 1877, the group traveled to Delphos, Kansas with 13 members. Within a few years, their numbers grew to nearly one hundred members. The camp was located in an oak grove northwest of Delphos, were Spiritualists held summer camp meetings for many years. Hundreds of people attended the meetings, many of them coming in on special trains, which ran two or three times a day from Salina, through Solomon, and onto Delphos.
It's estimated that the trains brought in between 1500 and 2000 people at the peak of the Spiritualist's popularity. The train tracks ran right along side the campsite. The meetings in those early years had a carnival-like atmosphere with many tents and a large stage.
Later, the carnival-like atmosphere that had drawn in so many caused people to think of Spiritualism more as entertainment than as a serious religion. Spiritualism was not being taken serously, and it was becoming a struggle to gain respect and recognition as a sincere religion.
The original charter was issued by the State of Kansas in 1881. And it states, "This Corporation shall be The First Association of Spiritualists of Delphos, Ottawa County, Kansas [...] The purposes for which this corporation is formed are the attainment and promulgation of knowledge, religious, scientific, and educational." Due to the death of many of the older members, the fact that more had moved away, and flooding along the Solomon river (which had caused several meetings to be canceled), the camp was dismantled and moved to Wells, in 1934.
A large tent was used for services for two years after the camp was moved. Later, a local resident had dug a basement on his land in Wells, planning to build a house over it. When his finances ran short, he sold the lot to the Spiritualists. The basement was enlarged and with the help of the men in the community, rock was hauled from surrounding pastures, to lay up the basement walls. Cooking for the men was done on a wood range in one of the cabins, which were moved from the Delphos Camp. Some of the original Delphos cabins are still being used today. More information on the Wells Spiritualist camp can be found at their website.
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