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Inside the life of a Civil War-era spiritualist

Addie is the true story of a young woman in the mid-1800s, who marries into a family of Universalists and becomes a practicing Spiritualist, a published poet, a nurse during the Civil War, and a successful trance speaker all by her 29th birthday.

The book is by Alice Allan, who grew up in Glenwood Springs in the late 1940s and 1950s. Readers may remember her Glenwood Post column, The Percolator Club, published from 1997 to 2001.

In 1998, Allan published “An Intimate Look at Glenwood Springs circa 1957,” now out of print. In honor of her late husband, Andy Allan, she revived that book as “Glenwood Springs, Colorado, circa 1957: 2011 Edition,” released in August 2011. She now resides on the Front Range of Colorado.



Addie Ballou was Allan’s great-great-grandmother.

Based on family diaries and Addie’s memoirs written in verse and published in “Driftwood,” (The Hicks-Judd Company, 1899), Allan’s story gives us a rare insight into a pivotal time in American history when young women began speaking in public while in trance and families gathered in secret to have a seance or two.



Born in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, on April 29, 1837, Addie was the fifth child of Alexander Hamilton Hart and Polly Eldredge. Her parents were strong orthodox members of the Methodist Episcopal church. They did not support Addie’s connection with the spirit world, yet the family was active in the anti-slavery movement.

It was a perfect background for a young woman destined to be a successful trance speaker. She could rebel for a good cause.

It helped that she was exposed at an early age to the death of several family members, including her mother. It also helped that she witnessed, as a young girl, a traveling speaker, the abolitionist and radical social reformer Abigail Kelley.

Add to the mix a marriage into the Ballou family with a radical Universalist history, and Addie had the perfect environment to blossom within the Spiritualist movement.

With the outbreak of the Civil War, it was only natural for Addie to find suitable boarding for her three rambunctious boys and begin serving as a nurse for Wisconsin’s 32nd Regiment when it was on patrol in Memphis, Tenn.

She followed her heart, not necessarily the rules of the day.

She wanted to leave her earthly life a better place through her writing, art, and social reform work.

That she did, but she also left us a good story.


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