How Spiritualism Started In LeRoy, IL
James Thomas Crumbaugh was born of German descent on January 24, 1832, in Empire Township of McLean County, Illinois. He had a twin brother, D. T. Crumbaugh. James' boyhood days were spent on the old homestead farm and in the local public school he acquired a fair English education that prepared him for his future work with the development and progress of McLean County through almost three‑quarters of a century.
Mr. Crumbaugh formed a partnership with his twin brother and purchased 160 acres of prairie land, then entirely unimproved. Soon the furrows showed the track of the plow and the planting was followed by good harvests. The land was divided into fields of convenient size by well‑kept fences. In a few years, they had accumulated almost 1400 acres. The partnership continued for about‑ ten years before the property was divided. Mr. James Crumbaugh located on his share of land and continued farming until he owned 1000 acres. In 1886, he rented his farms, moved to LeRoy, purchased a lot and built a home on Center Street.
The Citizens Bank, a private banking institution later known as the 1st National Bank, was established by Mr. Crumbaugh, L. A. Crumbaugh, his brother, and James Bonnette. Later, Mr. Bonnette sold his interest to the brothers. The Bank was well, managed and ranked among the best.
In Empire Township, September 13, 1862, J. T. Crumbaugh was united in marriage to Elizabeth J. Wiley, a sister of the wife of his brother, Leonard. She was born of English, Irish, and Scotch descent, November 17, 1841, reared and educated in McLean County. She was the daughter of James Wiley, a native of Ireland, who left that land for Jamaica and later came to the United States. On reaching America, he became a resident of Vermillion County, Ill., where he married Permelia Waters, a native of Virginia, and to them were born six children.
The Crumbaugh's only child, a son, was born July 2, 1865 and died August 20, 1865. For some reason, he was known only by the name "Bright Eyes".
They were members of the LeRoy Universalist Church whose minister was the Rev. Carney, who later embraced Spiritualism. He interested the Crumbaughs in the teachings and practices of the Spiritualist. No Spiritualist Church existed in LeRoy during this time although many people in the town believed in its teachings.
The sorrow felt after the death of their baby, and their interest in Spiritualism, served to increase their desire for possible contact with the unseen Spiritual World about the well‑being of their child. According to the record, this contact was made by a Spiritualist medium. The comfort received inspired the Crumbaughs greatly, and thereafter they employed a medium to serve them. They were blessed with success and prosperity. The religion and philosophy of Spiritualism offered their lives an abiding faith and a way of life . They believed in GOD and in the doing of GOOD. The ideals of character and service were clearly demonstrated during their lives.
During their later years, friends and acquaintances of the Crumbaughs always referred to them as Uncle Tom and Aunt Lizzie. Mr. Crumbaugh was a member of the Odd Fellows and the Knights of Pythias. He cast his first ballot for James Buchanan in 1856, and at each election supported the men and the measures of democracy, believing that the party principles contain the best elements of good government. We are told that Uncle Tom had a barn where the Library‑Church now stands, and another barn on the property south of the Parsonage. Besides owning many fine horses, he was a stock raiser. We're also told Uncle Tom had a great sense of humor. Like most ladies, Aunt Lizzie liked nice clothes. The Crumbaughs, while wealthy, lived their daily lives with a sense of humility.
Mr. Crumbaugh passed to the Spiritual World on April 3, 1905. Mrs. Georgia Gladys Cooley, a medium, was asked to officiate at his funeral. Mr. ‑Simeon Henry West, an ardent Spiritualist, who presented McLean County with a park, now known as West Park ' received (according to ‑his account) a "Message" from Mr. Crumbaugh through Mrs. Cooley while in trance. Asked whether the message" should be read during the funeral, he said, "I will leave that to you. It matters not to me!"
The service ‑was held at 2:00 P.M., April 5, in the Methodist Church of LeRoy, it being the largest church and attended to capacity. Mrs. Cooley delivered the main address and Mr. West read most of the "message." Many people did not understand why the "message" was given in the manner presented. This, however, was the first Spiritualist funeral in LeRoy. In concluding, Mr. West said, "I am one of the trustees of his large estate which he bequeathed for the building of a Spiritualist Church and Public Library in LeRoy, Illinois. If labor and suitable material can be obtained, that Church will be built the present year and will be the finest and most beautiful building in the city."
Mrs. J. T. Crumbaugh passed to the Spiritual World on January 24,1906.
The Crumbaughs desired the creation of a living memorial through the building of a Church and Library, and according to their Will, all property and management would be cared for through the Estate, governed by the Trustees. After his death, the heirs tried to break the will, and in its defense, the Trustees were forced to use up the value of 300 acres. The case hung on for five years and was finally decided to uphold the will.
The contract for the Church and Library was assigned to F. C. Swartz of Villa Grove, Ill. for $60,000. The colonial‑designed building was to be constructed of Danville red brick with Bedford stone finish. Mr. A. L. Pillsbury, of Bloomington, Ill., drew up the plans. Plans were also drawn to build a vestibule, but for some reason, it did not materialize. Instead of constructing two separate buildings, the Trustees decided to make one wing the Church and the other wing the Library. The structure was not completed until 1926. On January 1, 1927, the structure was dedicated and opened with about 500 visitors attending during the afternoon and evening.