News & Tall Tales. 1800s.

San Francisco Gold Rush 1849.


The Swedenborgian Church

The Swedenborgian Church was founded in the early 1800s in America and in 1895 in San Francisco, influenced by an elite group of early California pioneers including the painter William Keith, naturalist John Muir, architect A. Page Brown, draftsman Bernard Maybeck, and most particularly by the Reverend Joseph Worcester, who would be its first minister.

The spirit of the church arose from an appreciation of the beauty of nature, and a will to express that beauty as divinity itself.

May 19, 1853, Daily Alta California, San Francisco

Clairvoyance and Spiritualism


Swedenborgian.Emanuel Swedenborg.
Emanuel Swedenborg

By the best informed men, Swedenborg is looked upon as a profound scholar and philosopher, while at the same time, in many parts of his writings, there is acknowledged to be much obscurity and some incongruity. This can all be easily accounted for. In addition to his scholastic education, he enjoyed to a certain extent the powers of clairvoyance; but was by no means equally clairvoyant at all times, and never perhaps in the highest condition of that state, although sufficiently so to be able to see by spiritual vision what was occurring hundreds of miles distant, as well as to converse with the inhabitants of the spirit world. He evidently mixed up in his mind, his educational opinions, with the revelations which he received by spiritual communion, yet he succeeded in elaborating a spiritual philosophy, which he predicted would be confirmed in its essential elements about the middle of the nineteenth century. This prediction is now being fulfilled. I shall now relate three authenticated cases of his clairvoyance and spiritual mediumship, and give the authorities at the same time.

Wilkinson, in his biography of Swedenborg, quotes from Emmanuel Kant the following statements:--On the 19th July, 1759, Swedenborg arrived from England at Gottenburgh, which is three hundred miles distant from Stockholm, and dined that evening at the house of Mr. Wm. Castel, with a party of fifteen persons. About six o'clock, he went out, but shortly returned, ;ale and alarmed, saying that a great fire had broken out and was then raging at Stockholm. At eight o'clock, having been out again, he returned, exclaiming: " Thank God, the fire is extinguished the third door from my house." Two days afterwards a messenger arrived from Stockholm who had been despatched during the fire, and on the third day the royal courier arrived, and both brought accounts describing the fire, etc., precisely in the manner in which Swedenborg had done.

Second instance, in 1761, at Stockholm, he was consulted by a lady, the widow of Louis Von Martinville, who had been ambassador from Holland to Sweden. Her husband had paid away twenty-five thousand Dutch guilders, and she being applied to again for the money could not produce the receipt. She asked Swedenborg to enquire about it of her husband who was in the spirit world. Eight days afterwards Von Martinville told her in a dream where to find the receipt, which at 2 o'clock in the morning she found as directed. She then slept till late, and at 11 A.M., Swedenborg was announced. His first remarks before she could open her lips was, that "during the preceding night he had seen Von Martinville, and had wished to converse with him, but the latter excused himself on the ground that he must go to discover to his wife something of importance." Swedenborg added that "he then departed out out of the society in which he had been for a year, and would ascend to one far happier," owing it may be presumed to his being lightened of a worldly cure.

The instance in which Wilkinson selects as his authority, out of many others, Capt. De Stahlhammer. It was in the same year, 1761, that Louisa Ulrica, a sister of Frederick the Great of Prussia, and married to Adolphus Frederick, King of Sweden, received a letter from her sister, the Duchess of Brunswick, in which she mentioned that she had read in the Gottingen Gazette an account of a man at Stockholm who pretended to speak with the dead, and wondered that the Queen, in her correspondence had not alluded to the subject. This no doubt stimulated the Queens curiosity, for some time after, Swedenborg was summoned to Court. As soon as he was perceived by the Queen, she asked him if he had seen her brother, the Prince of Prussia, who had died a short time previous; but this was more in jest than from an expectation of receiving any information about him. Swedenborg answered No; when she replied, "If you should see him, remember me to him." Eight days after, Swedenborg came to Court, went to the Queen, and whispered in her ear. She was struck with astonishment, taken ill, and did not recover herself for some time. After going to herself, she said to her maids of honor and ladies of the Court, who were about her, "There is only God and my brother who can know what he has just told me." She owned that he had spoken of her last correspondence with the Prince, the subject of which was known to themselves alone.

Similar cases occur now continually. In a small work entitled "Exposition Or A New Theory Of Animal Magnetism: With A Key To The Mysteries, Demonstrated By Experiments With The Most Celebrated Somnambulists In America (1837)" several good cases of clairvoyance are mentioned. The work is published in this country; it has been publicly stated, have lately commenced the investigation of the spiritual phenomena on scientific grounds; but there have been reliable witnesses enough on this subject to satisfy any reasoning man, if their testimony and evidence was only well-weighed and analyzed. We court investigation. I desire, however, to make due allowance for the opinions of all who, owing to the want of opportunity or inclination for investigating, are partially or totally unacquainted with these phenomena. And it is simply and solely with a view to the benefits which it is evident tot the investigator, must eventually accrue to mankind generally from a more intimate acquaintance with the philosophy of spiritual intercourse, that the students of that philosophy, at least many of them, are induced, regardless of ridicule and burlesques, to state to the public from time to time, some of the marvels which are under their own immediate observation. I take it for granted Swedenborg's motive was equally disinterested in giving tests of his clairvoyant powers, which motive some who profess to be his followers seem to lose sight of, when they desire to repudiate the very facts upon which his philosophy was founded. Except through well developed mediums, spirits find it extremely difficult to communicate correctly.

We must use our judgment regarding the circumstances under which communications forge. There may have been communications regarding the election of General Scott, or there may not. But if a good clairvoyant at San Francisco had been put en rapport in the usual way, with any person in the Atlantic States who knew at the time the result of that election, the mind of that individual might have been seen and read by the clairvoyant, and so the result might have been obtained. When communications on such subjects are given by spirit, they are given as tests, not for the purpose of enabling men to gamble successful, or the like. And if the leading skeptics at San Francisco would publish a question, the satisfactory answer to which they would publicly acknowledge as setting aside in their minds the charges of humbug and delusion, I have little doubt but that they might be very soon convinced of their present error.

Some people profess to be alarmed about evil spirits, but I think our own undisciplined passions and appetites are much greater subjects for alarm. If we keep our minds pure and aspirations high, elevated spirits will be attracted to us; and, even should an undeveloped spirit visit us under such circumstances, instead of harm to us, benefit to the visitor might reasonably be expected to result from such a visit. The spiritual literature of the day is replete with sublime thoughts and forcible elegant language coming from the elevated spirits. One of the most beautiful things I ever read was a communication which came from the spirit of Martin Luther, through a clairvoyant medium, at a circle where I was present on Sunday evening last. It occupied several hours in taking down, and consequently is too long for insertion in a journal. Such communications appear in numbers in the spiritual periodicals of the day, and the readers now number about half a million in the United States alone. The requirement of the age demand some tangible evidence of mans immortality. This is to be had in all the various phenomena of spiritual manifestations, which have now extended to Europe as well as California.

April 24, 1893, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

New Swedenborgian Church

The disciples of Emmanuel Swedenborg, who have worshiped for ten years in a room in Druids' Hall, are going to have a church edifice of their own. A lot has been purchased on Clay street, near Jones, for the proposed building, and A. Page Brown, the architect, has made a design for the building.

February 1, 1896, San Francisco Call

William Keith's Handsome Tribute to His Friend,
the Architect
One of a Series of Landscapes to Decorate the Swedenborgian Meeting-House.

When the news of the death of A. Page Brown reached this City it found William Keith putting the body touches or a big wood scene for the Swedenborgian Church. The Rev. Dr. Worcester happened to be the one who first gave the news to the painter. Keith and Brown had been great friends and admirers of each other's worts. Keith was a good deal affected when Dr. Worcester told him of the architect's death. He laid down his brush and palette for a time and the philosopher ana the painter sat down before the glowing coals in the latter's studio and and said nothing for a while.

"Mr. Brown would have liked that picture," said the philosopher, as he cast a last glance at the dreamy green and yellow wood scene on the easel before he left. "Perhaps he would," said the painter. "I know he liked that Kind of work." And all the rest of the day, as he toiled with his colors slowly on the big canvas, making it more dreamy, putting thought and feeling and even a bit of sadness in his work, with just a tiny patch of hopeful blue sky in the far, far distance, at the end of that long somber path through the woods, the artist thought of his absent friend and wondered if he would have approved the picture. And by and by the answer seemed to forge plainly enough, and it was that his friend, the architect, had ever been appreciative. Then a wish came in the artist's mind to pay some lasting tribute to his absent friend, and the thought followed it to make this picture a memorial offering.

Dr. Worcester approved of this. Other friends of the late architect and members of the church of which Dr. Worcester is pastor, and for which this picture and some others were destined to be hung, also approved of it.

And so it was decided. This picture is to be a memorial to the late A. Page Brown, friend of the artist who painted it and architect of the church in which it is to hang. Mr. Brown was not a member of the Swedenborgian Church, but he was the valued friend of its pastor and of many of its members. The picture is particularly designed for mere decoration, and to this end is given a flat tone, so that no matter how the light from the windows strike the canvas the tints and shades show in their natural colors and the whole picture is discernible from any point in the room.

A black and white reproduction hardly does the work justice. It is done in Keith's best style, and in the blending of the shades and tints lies its greatest glory. A. Page Brown would have said, "It is a picture that will bear looking at, and the more one looks at it the more one sees."


Emanuel Swedenborg born in Stockholm, Sweden, on January 29, 1688, was an inventor, a scientist, a civil servant, and a philosopher before he accepted God's call to be a rational revelator during the Age of Enlightenment. His claim to be a revelator, and his spiritual vision, set him apart, and attracted interest in him. His theological writings have been the source of his greatest influence.

In 1710, Swedenborg left Stockholm for England to immerse himself in the most modern scientific currents of his day; he stayed for two years studying mathematics and astronomy. He returned home unsure of his life work. He wrote several treatises, including his work on the brain and his rational psychology, and the scope of his theological writings is immense.

The Church of the New Jerusalem, San Francisco

Swedenborg's religious teachings provide a new vision of God, new insight into the nature of the relationship between the spiritual and natural worlds, and a universal and rational ethic to guide men to a useful life. Shortly after the publication of The True Christian Religion in Amsterdam in 1771, Swedenborg left the Netherlands and again went to England. He suffered a stroke in December 1771 and died on March 29, 1772.

In presenting a vision counter to the prevailing religious and secular paradigms of the day, he invited ridicule; and, in not organizing a group of followers to carry his vision into the future, his ideas did not forge part of the mainstream in the development of modern Western thought.

However Swedenborg's legacy has endured by followers of The New Church, or The Church of the New Jerusalem (right).

The Naval Order of the United States has a history dating from 1890. Membership includes a wide range of individuals, many with highly distinguished career paths.

The San Francisco Commandery meets the first Monday of each month at the San Francisco Italian Athletic Club in San Francisco, California and holds two formal dinners each year.

The Project

Maritime Nations, Ships, Sea Captains, Merchants, Merchandise, Ship Passengers and VIPs sailing into San Francisco during the 1800s.




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Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; and Maritime Museums and Collections in Australia, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, etc.

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