By Thomas D’Agostino
The Eddy family of Chittenden found fame in their well-publicized acts of mediumship and séances in their family home. Only five miles south of the Eddys, another man, Solomon W. Jewett, was making waves of his own. By the end of the nineteenth century, both parties had put the otherwise sleepy state of Vermont on the spiritualist map.
Jewett was born May 22, 1808, as the seventh son of Samuel and Lucy. He was believed to be born with a “second sight” as his birth took place at a time when all planets but Saturn was ascending. Jewett became a sheep farmer, having the largest flock in the state and one in Oakland, California, to match. It was said he purchased farm animals from none other than Prince Albert of England. Jewett was a successful businessman, but the spiritualist movement would turn him into a man of other unworldly traits.
Jewett attended the séances frequently held at the Eddy home in Chittenden, becoming fully engrossed in the phenomena then taking the world by storm. He soon turned his talents toward healing with magnetism, advertising his uncanny ability in local newspapers as Doctor Solomon Jewett. His claims ranged from healing bad habits to fatal diseases and his charge was quite a lot for the day.
He traveled west for a spell, and upon returning east, met with Wella and Pet Anderson in New York. The couple claimed they could paint portraits of dead people who they saw and communicated with. Jewett became convinced of their talents when they produced a painting of his deceased wife, Fidelia who had passed several years before. This led to a long friendship between the two parties. Something else happened while he was in New York. For reasons unclear to him, he was thrown in jail in 1868. He was not sure if it was a bad debt, lawsuit or a fraudulent claim on his medicinal cures. Either way, after five months incarcerated, he restored to life, the dead body of a fellow inmate, John Cronham.
Two days after Cronham was admitted, he began to writhe in pain before falling into convulsions upon the floor of his cell. The attendant and Solomon both came to his side and Dr. Jewett began to relax the patient with his magnetic healing method. The doctor in attendance ordered Jewett back to his cell. Five physicians could not save Cronham and he died in front of them and the jail keeper.
Jewett was allowed to pay final respects before the body was to be removed to the morgue. It was then that Solomon saw a league of angels and spirits surround him, enveloping him with power. He then boldly spoke to the people in attendance to give him but forty-five minutes and he would restore the life in the deceased man. The warden agreed, as he was in danger of losing his position. Jewett set to work praying, then passing his hands over the corpse. Slowly at first, and at a distance but as his magnetic power increased, he moved them closer, praying and breathing his life force into the dead man’s mouth.
As he continued this process, he noticed the eyes twitch, move to the left and then straight forward. He continued forcing breath into Cronham’s body until the man began to gasp and choke. It took only fifteen minutes for the lifeless body of John Cronham to be resuscitated. Dr. Jewett sat the man up and beckoned for the others. Upon entering the room, the crowd realized they had just witnessed a miracle. Cronham then spoke, saying, “I have been a great way off, I have seen many things...” Cronham’s wife was called to take her husband home.
Less than one month later Jewett was granted an unconditional release. He met up with Wella Anderson but Wella had suffered a stroke and could not paint. Within ten minutes, Jewett cured his friend of the affliction. Jewett settled in Rutland where he built a specific spiritualist home. Guided by the spirits, Solomon built an octagonal home two stories tall complete with a spirit cabinet and a gallery of spirit portraits painted by his friend Wella.
Many were skeptical of Jewett’s abilities and often tried to test them. The mainstream wannabes called him a fraud (how ironic) but the doctor never let his clientele down.
Solomon Jewett died in Santa Barbara, California, in 1894 at the age of 86. He was brought back to his hometown of Weybridge, Vermont, and there lies in repose in the Weybridge Hills Cemetery. The octagonal home he named “Shepard Home” still stands in Rutland and is a private residence.