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As It Was: Southern Oregon Teacher Rejects Religion, Accepts Spiritualism

A teacher at the Wagner Creek School, Willis J. Dean, believed children should be taught science, health and practical skills, but never religion.  He was also a spiritualist.  Dean taught at the school, located at present-day Talent, Ore., from 1884 until he retired.

A member of the Oregon Secular Union, which promoted “the complete disjunction of church and state,” he published a pamphlet called “the Bible Prophecies.  It stated, in these words, “It is difficult …to comprehend how any intelligent person can consider the prophecies of the Bible as other than a jumble of absurdities, contradictions and meaningless phrases.”

Dean recounted in his diary that one night he visited the spirit world, although he admitted it might have been a dream.  When close friends, Fred and Alpha Goddard, lost their son Jack in December 1917, Dean attended sittings with them every few days for months.  He even made two dial boards to aid in communications with the dead.  Although Jack was usually the first to respond during a sitting, Dean reported many others.

Did Dean totally believe in spiritualism?  Quién Sabe.  This Spanish phrase, meaning “who knows,” ended many of his diary entries.

Sources: Dean, W J. "Diary of W. J. Dean." edited by Ben Truwe, Ben Truwe, 24 Oct. 2013, www.truwe.sohs.org/files/deandiary.html.  Accessed 21 Sept. 2017;  "Notes on Willis John Dean." Southern Oregon History, Revised, edited by Ben Truwe, Southern Oregon History, Revised, 8 Aug. 2016, www.truwe.sohs.org/files/dean.html. Accessed 21 Sept. 2017; Dean, Willis J. "The Bible Prophecies." Southern Oregon History, Revised, edited by Ben Truwe, Ben Truwe, 15 Feb. 2012, www.truwe.sohs.org/files/prophecies.html. Accessed 21 Sept. 2017.

Pat Harper is the archivist for the Southern Oregon Historical Society, where she digitizes records, manages websites and learns more about regional history from the SOHS volunteers. After receiving her Master’s Degree in library science from the University of Illinois in 1980, Harper worked as a reference librarian, then as a library administrator. From 1994 to 2005, she was the Siskiyou County library director and lived in the country near Hornbrook, California.