James Henry Foss.

The Gentleman from Everywhere online

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Our varying days pass on and on,
Our hopes fade unfulfilled away,
And things which seem the life of life
Are taken from us day by day.

Our little dramas all may fail,
And naught may issue as we planned,
Our costliest ships refuse to sail,
Our firmest castles fall to sand.

But God lives on, and with our woe
Weaves golden threads of joy and peace,
And somewhere we will surely know
From sorrow and pain the glad release.



This year of our Lord, 1886, brought an infinitely greater sorrow
than the mere financial losses which pressed so hardly upon us in
connection with our Florida endeavors. On Christmas morning, while
alone in my room, I distinctly heard my father's voice whisper:
"James, James, good-bye," and an hour later the telegraph flashed the
news that he passed away at the exact time when I heard him bidding me

My father was an honest man, the noblest work of God; he had gained
none of what the world calls the great prizes of life, but he had what
was better far, a conscience void of offense towards God and man. In
the words of Thoreau - "If a man does not keep pace with his fellows,
perhaps it is because he hears a different drum beat; he should step
to the music which he hears, however measured or far away." This my
father always did, though the music of his life-march came not from
earth, but from the sky, and without a shadow of fear, sustained by a
deathless faith, he passed within the gateway of eternal life.

The winter at last retreated sullenly and reluctantly to his arctic
home, and when the first harbingers of spring appeared, singing the
memorial songs of the Resurrection, the old country fever, inherited
from many generations of farmer ancestors, seized me, and we bought a
small plantation for $4,200, in N - - , Mass., to which we moved April
28, 1887. Here, as usual, much money was expended on improvements and
for horse, carriages, cow, pigs, hens, also for scanty harvests of
vegetables, and our only returns therefor consisted of large crops
of backaches, nasal hemorrhages, and rheumatism incurred in frantic
attempts to coax from the reluctant soil, some slight compensation for
excessive labor.

Here, as usual, I was busied with many cares, lecturing in various
places on the subject of Florida and selling our private lands in that
state. Like Mr. Pickwick, I was founder of many societies, notably the
N - - club, which, with a fine orchestra and much dramatic talent
soon became the social and literary attraction of the town; also the
Republican club, which conducted a vigorous campaign for protective
tariff and sound money, attracting large audiences by political
debates. I was president of both these flourishing organizations, was
chairman of the parish committee of the Unitarian Church, leading
to its enlargement and extended usefulness, was a member of the
congressional committee of the district which wrested a congressman
from the Democrats, electing, after a desperate struggle, John W.
Candler, to the National Legislature in place of Russell, "the
sheepless Shepherd."

On the 16th of June of this year, Rebecca, the wife of my only
surviving brother, left her body, and was welcomed to the evergreen
shores of the summer-land, by her father, mother, our father, mother,
my spirit-bride and her father, mother, and my two brothers who had
long gone before. She was a good, honest woman, a veritable help-meet
to my brother, and we all gratefully cherish the memory, which is the
best attained by any life, that she left the world better than she
found it.

One by one, we miss the voices which we loved so well to hear,
One by one their kindly faces in the darkness disappear.

On the evening of the 16th of August in this year, an experience
came into our lives which changed the whole current of our religious
thought, and forever banished from our minds all fear of the so-called
death, and all doubt as to the eternal continuity of existence.

My brother, my wife, four children and myself were recreating for a
week in the woods and waters of Onset Bay, and while walking in the
gloaming through the grove, listening to the music of the band, we saw
a notice posted on a tree stating that the B - - sisters would give
a materializing seance in their cottage at this hour. We were all
skeptics of the most pronounced type, having seen much of the
contemptible trickery and fraud of so-called mediums; but we yielded
to the temptation to enter the seance room through mere curiosity.
Here we found in the "dim religious light," about a score of
intelligent looking ladies and gentlemen intently watching white-robed
figures which occasionally glided from a cabinet on a slightly
elevated stage and embraced people from the audience who were called
to meet them.

This ghostly procession interested us but slightly, until a form
whose features seemed strangely familiar, advanced to the edge of the
platform and beckoned my wife to come to her. On responding to the
invitation, she was at once encircled by the arms of the visitor,
kisses were exchanged, she was called distinctly "my dear sister,"
informed that the lady in white was Mary, my spirit-wife, who in
loving tones expressed her thanks for the kindly care that Lillian had
exercised over her three children, saying that she was always with her
to help. Suddenly, the form called for me, and I went to her as one

"James," she said, "I am Mary, your wife." She embraced me with many
kisses as in the long ago, and continued: "I am so glad to see you
and Lillian, who has so lovingly taken my place; bless her for her
goodness to our children; my time here is so short." Then turning;
"Jot," she whispered to my brother, "come here;" she kissed him, said:
"Rebecca, father and mother are here in the cabinet, but too weak
to come out. We give you all our love and blessing; good-bye," and
disappeared through the floor at our feet.

There was no possible shadow of doubt about this visitation from the
unseen world. We had "felt the touch of the vanished hand, we had
heard the sound of the voice that is still," and henceforth we knew
that we walked hand in hand with angels. We realized unmistakably the
truth of the words of the poet Longfellow:

"The forms of the departed enter at the open door,
The beloved, the true hearted come to visit us once more,
And with them the being beauteous, who unto my youth was given
More than all things else to love me, and is now a saint in Heaven.
Oh, though oft depressed and lonely, all my fears are laid aside,
If I but remember only such as these have lived and died."

The pages of the Bible, the testimony of all the sweet singers of all
the ages, confirm indisputably our certain knowledge of spirit return,
and _we know_ the truth of what the saints and sages of all time have
dreamed, and by faith have believed, all religions have taught, it is
now demonstrated beyond all doubt and we can say most joyfully -

"Oh land, oh land
For all the broken-hearted,
The mildest herald by our fate allotted
Beckons, and with inverted torch doth stand
To lead us with a gentle hand
Into the land of the great departed,
Into the silent land."

We turned to our duties, inspired by the knowledge that we were guided
and assisted by the loved ones gone before. After living on the
flat-as-pan-cake plain of N - - for three years, again was I
disenchanted; all the poetic illusions of farm life vanished, all the
oxygen seemed to be exhausted from the air, the romance of raising
potatoes at a cost of five dollars a peck disappeared, the old farm
hung like a millstone round my neck, we sold it and hired a pretty
cottage in the lucre-worshipping town of B - - , on the 29th of March,
1890, where we led uneventful lives for one year, until my fickle
fancy was captivated by a fine new house on the hilltop overlooking
the sea, in the town of W - - , Mass. This we bought and entered on the
14th of May, 1891.

Here at last we thought we had found the Mecca towards which, all our
lives we had been drifting. Once more came the passion for beautifying
our own, and we made our lawns to bud and blossom like the roses;
worshipping at the shrine of the majestic ocean,

"Its waves were kneeling on the strand,
As kneels the human knee,
Their white locks bowing to the sand
The priesthood of the sea."

Here we passed four very pleasant and useful years; consciously near
to us, though unseen, were all our loved ones of the spirit world.
Almost every night our angel friends communicated with us unmistakably
through the ouija, and planchette; they would draw caricature pictures
of us all, and give us conundrums and jokes that we had never known
before. One evening in particular, Mary wrote us to give her children
the best possible musical instruction, stating that May would become a
great singer and flute player, and that Ada would be a fine organist
and pianist, as well as singer; that Ida would do well with violin and

We were incredulous, as they had inherited no musical talent, neither
had they manifested any inclination in these directions; but Mary was
so persistent and strenuous in her appeals, that we heeded the advice,
gave the girls good teachers along these lines, and soon, their
spirit-mother's predictions were fulfilled to the very letter, and the
so-called "Foss triplets" became a veritable inspiration to thousands
of delighted listeners to their rendition of instrumental and vocal
strains of music.

The dews of heaven descend upon all the flowers of the field, some
open their petals, welcome the refreshment and are blessed thereby;
while others close their buds, refusing the blessing, and as a result,
wither and die. Even so come to all souls the spirits of the departed,
and they inspire or fail in their mission of love according to whether
we open or close to them the doors of our inner sanctuaries.

The departed, the departed,
They visit us in dreams,
They glide above our memories
Like sunlight over streams.

The melody of summer waves,
The thrilling notes of birds
Can never be so dear to me
As their softly-whispered words.



We found in this town of W - - , a moribund Unitarian Church, with
scarcely a handful of attendants, listening once a week to a lifeless
minister and an asthmatic harmonium accompanied by a few feeble,
inharmonious voices.

Our sympathies were aroused for this expiring infant, and we resolved
to rescue it if possible from its open grave. My wife and I,
accompanied by the "Triplets," on the front seat of our carriage
as drivers, canvassed the entire town, asking all we met to lay up
treasures in heaven by "rescuing the perishing," and we soon secured
money to buy a fine toned organ and to hire a wideawake pastor. Ada
played the new organ; May formed a quartette with herself as soprano,
Ida often accompanying with her violin; my wife teaching in the
Sunday-school, myself serving as chairman of the Parish Committee, and
soon our church was filled with attentive and much edified listeners
and helpers. I organized the Channing Club, which soon included in its
membership all the leading musical and dramatic talent of the town. We
met weekly in the church vestry which was soon decorated by handsome
pictures, scenery and bric-a-brac, the gifts of our members, making a
very spacious and attractive resort.

This club over which I presided, developed to a remarkable degree the
latent talents of many who had never before thought themselves capable
of entertaining and instructing the public. We had an orchestra of
stringed and brass instruments, in which May played the flute, Ada
the piano and organ, Ida second violin, while all our four girls sang
solos, duets, trios, and quartettes. Many elderly people paid generous
fees for honorary membership, while the large, active membership,
responded regularly when called upon with musical, literary, or
dramatic renditions individually or in combination as they might
prefer. It was a delightful and instructive symposium which ought to
be found in every town.

The Channing Club soon became famous, and gave first-class
entertainments to very large audiences at high admission fees in our
own and surrounding towns as well as in Boston, thus replenishing the
church treasury and greatly promoting sociability and friendship by
regular dances and suppers which made hundreds seem like one large
family, bound together by many friendly ties, each one readily
responding to the call of the president to render his or her full
share of entertainment and good cheer for the good of all.

It was an ideal socialistic order, and we truly "sat together in
heavenly places." All gladly contributed to the needs of the poor
or the sick; we chartered steamers and went on picnic excursions to
attractive island resorts in our beautiful harbor; class distinctions
were banished, envy and jealousy disappeared like snow before the sun,
and good fellowship reigned supreme. Our rich and poor met together as
brothers and sisters.

Such an organization in churches would soon banish class hatreds, and
do much to make this world a paradise like to that above.

The winter of 1892 was a red-letter season in the history of us all.
We rented our house in W - - , to a friend, and lived in Florida,
our four girls attending Rollins College at Winter Park, where they
enjoyed life immensely in the incomparable climate which, with their
studies in this excellent school, was of great benefit to them,
physically and mentally. I was favored with free passes all over the
state, and devoted my time to a careful examination of large tracts
of land in various counties, but found none to my liking until on
our return trip, we spent several weeks at Lawtey, in the county of

Florida, within its vast area, contains a great variety of land and
climates, and the person who has traversed only the beaten track
of the tourist knows nothing of the fertile tracts and delightful
temperatures of these green-grassed and Piny-woods Highlands. Here, as
nowhere else in the world, nature has provided all the essentials to
agricultural success; there was but one mortgaged homestead in the
entire township; it is the greatest strawberry mart in the world; the
abundance of nutritious wild grasses render cattle and sheep raising
throughout the year a source of great revenue, and the maximum of crop
returns is secured with a minimum of labor.

At last, after years of search throughout the state, we found our
ideal location for a colony, and I bonded over 6,000 acres of fertile,
well-wooded lands, returned home, formed a syndicate, and paid for our
tract, to which we gave the appropriate suggestive name of "Woodlawn."
I successfully pursued my avocation of advertising and selling our
lands, having an office in Boston and cooperating agents in several

On June 11th, 1894, my brother Joshua, the last of my father's family
except myself, was suddenly called to join our many loved ones in the
spirit world. All our lives we had been as David and Jonathan, and not
a cloud had swept across the azure of our sky of mutual affection,
until the advent of his second wife. He was one of the best men that
ever lived, and nearly everyone in his town had been benefited by his
well-known generosity and self-sacrifice, and he found awaiting him,
many treasures in the grand bank of heaven.

"I cannot say, and I will not say
That he is dead - he is just away,
With a cheery smile, and a wave of the hand,
He has wandered into an unknown land,
And left us dreaming how very fair
It needs must be, since he lingers there;
We think of him faring on, as dear
In the love of there as the love of here,
Think of him still as the same, I say,
He is not dead - he is just away."

Soon after the departure of my brother to the better land, our
spirit-band informed us very plainly through "Ouija," that it was our
duty to remove to Boston in order that our children might have better
educational facilities, and be admitted to the "musical swim" of the
"Hub of the Universe." We obeyed their mandate, and the predictions of
our angel friends were fully verified. In our new home the older girls
met those to whom they were married in Heaven, and to whom they
gave their hands and hearts. I now look back over a half century of
existence on this earth, and my muse inspires me to record that:

I have ships that went to sea
More than fifty years ago.
None have yet come back to me,
But keep sailing to and fro,
Plunging through the shoreless deep,
With tattered sails and battered hulls
While around them scream the gulls.

I have wondered why they stayed
From me, sailing round the world
And I've said, "I'm half afraid
That their sails will ne'er be furled."
Great the treasures that they hold,
Silks, and plumes, and bars of gold,
While the spices which they bear
Fill with fragrance all the air.

I have waited on the piers
Gazing for them down the bay,
Days and nights, for many years,
Till I turned heart-sick away.
But the pilots, when they land,
Kindly take me by the hand,
Saying, "Surely they will come to thee,
Thy proud vessels from the sea."

So I never quite despair,
Nor let hope or courage fail,
And some day, when skies are fair,
Up the bay my ships will sail.



In our Boston home, there came to us one of the most wonderful and
inspiring experiences ever vouchsafed to mortals beneath the stars;
an experience which solved forever for us the problem of immortality,
which all the religious teachings of all the ages had been powerless
to accomplish. It confirmed beyond a shadow of doubt, our knowledge
of the future life obtained previously at Onset Bay, as the following
named events transpired in our own house in the presence of witnesses
under test circumstances which precluded all possibility of deception.

Mrs. B - - , of Boston, came to our house alone, gratuitously, on her
own volition, sat within a few feet of our entire family and two of
our neighbors, having no cabinet or any paraphernalia which are always
required by those charlatans who have associated the fair name of
spiritualism with fraud and chicanery. In about one hour there
appeared in our parlor, in full view of us all, more than thirty
forms; some tall as were ever seen on earth, others little children,
the forms of our offspring who were "still born"; my brother Joshua,
who had been in spirit life a little over one year came fully
materialized and was clearly recognized by my entire family.

He gave me, while I was standing within two feet of the medium, the
firm grip of a Master Mason; his hand was like that of a living human
being; he whispered a few intelligible words, saying that we should
have no fear if trouble came, that all would turn out for our ultimate
good, and disappeared at my feet; then a tall, finely-formed young man
with dark moustache came, beating his breast with his hand. "You see,
I am all here," he said; "I am John Mansfield, formerly of New Jersey.
I was attracted to your house by the music. I am guardian of your
girls; I am going to try to help in your father and mother." He
vanished; then returned, trying to bring the half-materialized but
recognizable forms as he had promised; but they were weak, and seen
but dimly.

Then came the clearly defined form of the children's aunt, and the
girls, who were somewhat timid, recognized her at once. She kissed
each one several times in rapid succession just as she used to do when
she met them in the long ago; called them and my wife by name, and
disappeared, apparently through the floor. Then appeared Mary, my
spirit-wife, and many others whom we could not recognize.

Little Blue Bell, one of the medium's cabinet spirits, them came,
pointing to the door, saying: "See that little fat snoozer?" we looked
around and saw the wondering eyes of our Bessie, who we supposed was
"snoozing" in bed; she had come down in her night-dress. Finally,
Nellie, our hired girl, who, being a Catholic, had been warned by the
priest never to countenance spiritualism, and had locked herself in
her room, came into the parlor, wild-eyed and with her hair streaming
over her shoulders, saying she was compelled to come in. At once the
form of a young Irish girl clad in peasant costume, with hair to her
waist, appeared, and clasped Nellie in her arms; they talked a few
minutes, and the form vanished in air. Nellie told us that it was a
schoolmate of hers who died in Ireland fifteen years before, that they
had been great friends, and vied with each other in growing the longer

These facts may seem incredible to those who have never received
visitations from the other world; but we know that we saw and felt the
forms of our spirit friends on that occasion, as surely as we know
that we ever saw them when they were with us daily in the body on

When alone that night, I "dropped into poetry," and here is what my
spirit-guided hand wrote, February 4th, 1895.

Out of the darkness cometh a light,
Out of the silence cometh a voice,
The pathway of life grows suddenly bright,
And as never before we all rejoice.

The dearly beloved who have gone before
Come back to bless from the beautiful shore;
They speak to us words of lofty cheer,
That banish the clouds of darksome fear.

How sweet to _know_ that there is no death,
That the soul outlives the fleeting breath;
That guardian angels surround us ever
With a deathless love no power can sever.

We mourn no more the vanished youth,
We are nearing the heaven of eternal truth;
We lament no more the earthly ills,
For their power will cease on the heavenly hills.

We grieve no more for the wrinkled brow,
Nor for withering locks as white as snow,
For soon will we greet what is unseen now,
Soon to the sunlit heights will we go.

For many years doubt's saddening shade
On our hearts its pall has laid:
But a gleam comes from the bright forever,
And gloom and fear shall haunt us never.

We have felt the touch of the vanished hand,
We have heard the sound of the voice that is still;
They have come to us from the better land,
Their cheering words our spirits thrill.

"We will know the loved who have gone before,
And joyfully sweet will the meeting be
When over the river, the beautiful river,
The angel of death shall carry me."



It seems to be an unwritten law of human life that every great joy
shall be quickly followed by a great sorrow. The materialized forms
of our spirit loved-ones had scarcely vanished from sight, when the
trouble of which my brother had forewarned us fell like a thunderbolt
from a cloudless sky.

We had, without a thought of deception, and at prices which then
prevailed, sold to many persons, lands in Florida, some for
settlement, some as investments. Phosphate had been discovered in
the immediate vicinity of some of our tracts, and this fact had led
speculators to buy our lands, hoping that these deposits might greatly
enhance values; but the usual competition to sell this valuable
fertilizer had for the time reduced prices to a non-paying basis;
then, too, an unprecedented freeze, which once in about a hundred
years visits all semi-tropical countries, had destroyed many orange
groves in the State, and so frightened short-sighted, timid people,
that Florida lands were at a great discount, and, as when a panic
sweeps over Wall Street, many frantically hastened to sell, and there
were but few buyers.

This led several of my customers to conspire to frighten me into
paying them large sums as hush money, pretending that I had secured
their purchases under false pretenses; but the Yankee spirit of
our fathers, "millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute,"
prompted me to defy their infamous demands.

Under the lead of a fiendishly "smart" lawyer, they declared that I
told them their lands were full of phosphate, and within city limits,
although my published circulars and maps stated nothing of the kind.
They denounced me as a fraud in the newspapers, brought lawsuits
against me, attached property, and proceeded in a most brutal manner
to compel payment of their unjust claims.

My word for half a century had everywhere been as good as my bond,

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Online LibraryJames Henry FossThe Gentleman from Everywhere → online text (page 11 of 14)