This story about Mrs. Sophia (Bradley) Craddock (or her preferred “S.B. Craddock”) started with my purchase of a photograph. Shown here to the left, it was taken in Maurice S. Lamprey’s Washington Square studio in Fisherville, New Hampshire.
I can’t be 100% certain that this unmarked photograph is of Mrs. Craddock. However, Sophia Craddock was the most famous spiritualist, “trance speaker” and “test medium” in the Concord area where she resided between the years of 1880 and 1906. Spiritualism, which was the belief that the dead communicated with the living (usually through an individual called a ‘medium’) was most popular between the 1840s and 1920s.
As early as 1876 New Hampshire Spiritualists were numerous enough to hold a state convention. Reportedly “by 1897, spiritualism was said to have more than eight million followers in the United States and Europe.”
This article is not intended to prove or disprove spiritualism, but rather to focus on one woman who was much involved with this belief, and active within its confines. Those who practiced spiritualism, or believed in it, touched our ancestors lives. Many of the practitioners were outgoing, active women, who were also engaged in promoting temperance and women’s suffrage.
The photograph above pictures a somewhat oddly dressed woman. She is seated, with a crystal ball on the table beside her, and a booklet open in her hands. She appears to have bits of cut-out paper or cloth applied to her clothing, and her beaded necklace and headdress seem to be in an American-Indian style. In addition to psychic-type services Mrs. Craddock also sold patent medicines and lecture services. She would have wanted to include the accoutrements of her profession and business in her photo. We know that Maurice S. Lamprey was a photographer in the Concord New Hampshire area from about 1870 to 1912, which overlaps in time with Sophia’s residence there. Sophia was born in 1837 and so would have been between the ages of 43 and 69 when she lived in Concord, which seem to correspond to the mature woman in the photo.
Sophia was not easy to research. There were a number of false leads from misinformation found in various documents. For example, her marriage record stated her father’s name was David Woods, and her 2nd husband (Dr. Craddock) in the 1900 census stated he was a widow–both pieces of information were incorrect. Newspaper stories often provided me with the best source of history on her spiritualist work.
An article in the New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette newspaper of Concord New Hampshire was published on 25 November 1886 (page 8), and offers a good biography of how both she and her contemporaries perceived her. Headline: Mrs. S.B. CRADDOCK–The Well Known Test Medium and Clairvoyant of this City.
“Mrs. S.B. Craddock is a lady resident of Concord who is known the length and breadth of this state and Vermont. Born in Vermont, she was educated and brought up as a Universalist, and has held a license to preach as a minister. She came to Concord about seven years ago, being first invited by one of the officers of the Concord Spiritualist association to speak at the society rooms, Eagle block.
After this she opened circles and gave sittings in this city, since which time she has been in the field as a lecturer and public medium. She is a powerful speaker, and prefers that the audience choose the subject. In towns and villages which she visits, she gives lectures for the benefit of needy individuals and institutions. She is the proprietor of a number of medicines which she recommends for various disorders. As a trance medium, Mrs. Craddock has a wide reputation. Her medical examinations while in this state, have been attended by a large number of patients. She manufactures her own medicine, which is purely vegetable, prepared from gums, roots, and herbs. Formulas are given, as she explains, by her guides, and from these the medicines are compounded.
In 1881 Birch Island in Sunapee lake was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Craddock, and fitted up so as to be an additional attraction at that spiritualist resort. A pavilion for public speaking was erected, where Mrs. Craddock has since held religious exercises. This resort has been named Liberty Island, and here Mr. and Mrs. Craddock have built a commodious house, which has been frequented by larger and larger numbers every year.
Her home in this city is No. 9 Prince street, [today the location of Concord’s city hall and auditorium] and many are the visitors which she receives, either in search of health or knowledge. Many of these are willing to testify to relief afforded, and of satisfaction received. Mrs. Craddock has an immense number of testimonials to the power which she possesses, and which puzzles thoughtful people.
Notable instances of her trance powers were strikingly shown in the discovery, while in this state, of the body of Emma Lizzart, who was drowned at Lake Village in 1884, and the body of Dennis O’Leary [actually it was James] of Laconia, drowned in the same year. She is frequently visited by detectives and others seeking for information pertaining to every variety of public and private interests.”
Born Sophia Bradley, she was a daughter of Calvin and Sally (Temple) Bradley of Dummerston and Dover, Vermont. [Her detailed genealogy is provided below, this segment is an overview]. She was born 1837 in Vermont, the middle child of ten, and she died in 1909 in Vermont. She married twice during her life, first in 1861 to William H. Woods, and secondly in 1881 (in Concord NH) to Ebenezer B. Craddock.
It is unknown exactly how early or when Sophia began her ‘practice’ as a spiritualist. What is known, based on published records, as early as 1872 she was a “trance speaker,” and by 1873 deemed a “Reverend” who was authorized to solemnize marriages. In 1874 she performed a funeral service for a controversial Valcour Island “free-love” family member. By 1880 she was able to gather a crowd to listen to her lectures. After her 2nd marriage in 1881 she is known in newspapers as “S.B. Craddock.” She continued to lecture and offer a variety of spiritualist services including locating dead bodies, and healing.
1872: The Banner of Light (Boston) July 27
List of Spiritualist Lecturers–MRS. SOPHIA WOODS, trance speaker, Burlington, Vt., care Col. S. S. Brown. [Col. S.S. Brown owned a meeting hall where spiritualists often held visiting hours and gave lectures].
Watchman (Montpelier, Vermont) 9 April 1873—The “Religio Philosophical Society,” of Chicago have granted a letter of fellowship to Mrs. Sophia Woods of Burlington, constituting her a regular minister of the gospel, and authorizing her to solemnize marriage, according to the law. This is the first lady in Vermont ever clothed with all the authority of a “Rev.”
Juneau County Argus (New Lisbon, Wisconsin) 8 October 1874—Isabella Shipman, daughter of Orrin Shipman, the man who is taking such an interest in the proposed free-love community on Valcour Island, died at Winnoski, Vt., a few days ago, and failed of a Christian burial. Sophia Woods, a Spiritualistic “medium,” pronounced an oration and a sort of benediction, and the body was buried in Shipman’s orchard. A large number were present at the funeral, out of curiosity to see the members of the Valcour community.
According to the Sunapee Historical Society, “on 30 March 1881 Sophia Woods purchased from Lucy Hezeltime of Stoneham MA, an island in Lake Sunapee for $400″ (called Birch Island at the time). “They purchased a steam boat built by the Boston Life Boat Company, 20 feet long that was said to carry 20 people.”
Again according to the Sunapee Historical Society, “by July 1881, they had changed the island name (from Birch Island) to Liberty Island and were putting up cabins and tent for religious services on Sundays. They planned the island as a spiritualist community. In 1888 they began to build the bridge to the island, which (a local landowner) Col. Dana fought in court. The bridge was completed Apr 1892. In 1895 their home took in 10 boarders. The island has also been known as Craddock’s Island, Burkehaven Island, Tuxbury’s, Shepard’s Island and is today officially Isle of Pines.”
For years spiritualists gathered at Lake Sunapee (and other places) for annual camp meetings. ” These meetings begin usually about the first of August and last four or five weeks. Crowds of visitors are attracted by the exercises, which are held either in the grand open-air auditorium in the adjoining grove or in Association Hall.” [from booklet, Lake Sunapee, Illustrated, 1897]
SUNAPEE LAKE, N.H. — Summer boarders, Liberty Island, unsurpassed location and scenery, pine groves, salmon, bass and trout fishing, steam launch and rowboats, accommodate 30, correspondence solicited, terms reasonable. S.B. CRADDOCK, Sunapee, N.H. –Boston Sunday Globe, June 6, 1897 — Resorts Section.
Within the same year as the island purchase Sophia married (as his second wife) Ebenezer Craddock, an immigrant from England, who was a real estate investor and “collector,” who acquired an eclectic physician degree (somehow) in 1896, and “dabbled in astrology.” During this time Sophia was active in the Spiritualist organizations of New Hampshire and Vermont, and she was often noted in the newspapers as a ‘test medium’ lecturer and camp meeting speaker.
New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette (Concord nH) 21 June 1888; Headline: Spiritualistic Mediumship / Location of Drowned Body at Franklin says Medium /
“There having been some controversy over the finding of the body of Mr. James Bailey, who was drowned in the river at Franklin recently, the following facts were solicited and obtained: A lady called upon Mrs. Craddock of Concord, in behalf of Mr. Bailey’s family to see if she could find what had become of the missing man; she did not tell Mrs. C. what her errand was. It was decoration day. Mrs. C., having been out, was very tired and tried to excuse herself from a sitting. The case being urgent she yielded; the lady got something concerning the departed one; she then wished Mrs. C. to accompany her home; not only was it at the lady’s request, but at Mr. Bailey’s family also. Mrs. C. very reluctantly consented to go; she felt that she would not be successful; she did not wish it known that she had come to Franklin for what she did, was for the grief stricken friends. However, she gave a sitting in the home, describing the body, what he had on, etc, the position of the body show one foot or limb was caught, that it had not gone over the Big Dam; that it looked like an eddy where it was, etc. Early next morning Mrs. C., accompanied only by her husband, walked the shores of the river and at a certain locality she sensed a strong influence; on returning to the friends she told them that if the body was in the river it was within that space where she felt the influence; this she freely told several. A committee solicited her aid. Getting a boat they took her about the river that she might if possible tell them if she passed over or near the body. When a short distance below where the body was found (the water ran too rapid above the place to admit of taking a boat there) she felt a strong signal, although she didn’t get the telegraphic signal or touch she wished.”
Around 1900 Dr. Craddock and Sophia began to lead separate lives. Ebenezer Craddock in the 1900 census was living at 2 Oak Street in Concord NH, and was listed as widowed. In the meantime Sophia was spending her time among relatives in Dummerston Vermont. According to the Sunapee Historical Society, “in January 1902, a Concord court heard their divorce lawsuit and Dr. Craddock was given $750 in alimony.” The island on Lake Sunapee was sold (auctioned) that same year. The Vermont Phoenix newspaper of Brattleboro Vermont on 24 Nov 1905 page 8 announced: “DUMMERSTON. Mrs. S.B. Craddock is very ill, having suffered from a hemorrhage of the stomach.”
In 1908 Dr. Craddock married a third time. Sophia died in 1909, her will showing gifts to her living siblings and some of their children. I have not found evidence that Sophia had children during either of her marriages. Abstract of Sophia’s will: probated 7 March 1907 in Windham VT. Vol 40, Vol 41-42, Vol 43. To my nephews Henry C. Halladay, Leslie Halladay the sum of one dollar. To niece Mary L. Martin one dollar; brother Alonzo Bradley and sister Augusta Bennett her effects equally distributed, plus 1/2 of estate. Other 1/2 of estate among following: sister Elizabeth Worden; sister Louisa S. Hallady; nephew Clifton Worden; niece Mrs Etta S. Nerrick, niece Abbie A. Bennett in equal shares.
Though I have not located her grave, I can state that Sophia is not buried with Dr. Craddock, whose cremated remains lie in his sister’s plot in Blossom Hill Cemetery, Concord, New Hampshire [my thanks to Jill McDaniel of the Concord Cemetery Department for providing that info]. Possibly Sophia now lies in either a Dummerston cemetery or in a Dover, Vermont one.
In closing, I’d like to especially thank Becky Rylander, president of the Sunapee Historical Society and her “primo researcher” who offered additional information to be on Liberty Island and Sophia’s involvement in the spiritualist movement in Sunapee, New Hampshire.
====PARTIAL GENEALOGY OF Sophia (Bradley) Woods Craddock====
John Bradley, ?son of John Bradley, b. abt September 1758-1761 at Worcester MA, died 21 July 1841 at Jamaica Vermont; m1st) 30 March 1786 Worcester MA to Elizabeth Cowden/Cowdin. They removed to Newfane VT. He was a “poor boy and was brought up by a merchant in Worcester, Mass., till he was sixteen years of age, when he entered the army as a waiter. He afterwards became a soldier and served through the war for independence under Lafayette. After the close of the war he married Elizabeth Cowden, of Worcester, Mass., and moved to Newfane, where he bought and cleared wild land, making himself a home about one and one-half miles northwest of the village. There he lived and brought up seven children. He died in Jamaica, aged about eighty-five years. Calvin K. Bradley, now living on road 12 in Dummerston, aged eighty-one years, is the youngest of seven sons and the only one living. Elizabeth Brown is the only surviving daughter. Calvin K. married Sally Temple, a granddaughter of Joseph Temple, who cleared up the farm on which they now live in Dummerston. He was a native of Worcester, Mass., and drew the land in a lottery which was instituted for the purpose of raising money to build highways and a meeting-house in Dummerston. The farm is now owned by Mrs. Augusta Bennett, the daughter of Calvin K. and Sally T. Bradley. Mrs. G.C. Worden, or Dover, is the youngest of their family of ten children. Alonzo Bradley, residing on road 12, in Dummerston, is their only surviving son. Louisa S. Halliday, of Guildford is their eldest daughter.” [Gazetteer and Business Directory of Windham County VT 1724-1884]. Based on information in his military pension records, he married 2d) 18 August 1811 in Wardsboro Vermont to Mary Wiley. In 1818 when he applied for his pension he describes her as being blind. She died after March 1853 probably in Winhall, Vermont.
Various records speak of this John Bradley’s involvement in the American Revolution, and one source hints that it was his father, John, who served. All documents point to the Bradley, father to Calvin Bradley, and grandfather of Sophia Bradley who served in the Massachusetts Bay colonial army. A detailed description of his service can be found here in the Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors in the American Revolution. The approximate date of his birth along with a physical description can be found here. In 1818 at the time of his pension application, he mentions the following supported children [Fold3 document] who were still in his household or underage. They are: (1) son Eothers? possible Francis age 28, unable to labor 5 years [b abt 1790?]; (2) dau Eleanor aged 14 [b abt 1804] possibly this is Nellie; (3) Eliza aged 12 [b abt 1806] possibly this is Elizabeth; (4) Larry/Lorry aged 7 years [b abt 1811]. This John Bradley is listed in the DAR Patriot Index, with a caveat that anyone new requesting membership under this patriot needs to submit new information proving his service and their relationship. Much of what a descendant would need can be found here.
Known Children of John & Elizabeth (Cowden) Bradley: [also see dependants above]
1. Samuel Bradley, b. abt 1794 Newfane VT; d. 3 April 1874 Jamaica VT, suicide
2. David Bradley, (twin) b. 31 March 1796 Newfane, Windsor Co. VT
3. Francis Bradley, b. 31 March 1796 Newfane VT, d. 2 Nov 1830 VT. In 1830 census living in Dover VT.
4. Levi Bradley, b. 18 July 1798 Newfane VT, d. 4 Dec 1877 East Otto NY. He m. Betsy Morrow. 2 children: Alvin L. and Charles.
5. Sophia Willard Bradley, b. 15 Oct 1800 Newfane VT; d. 7 Feb 1854 Bennington VT. She m. Seth C. Billington.
6. +Calvin Bradley, b. 8 June 1803 Newfane VT, d. 22 March 1891 in Dummerston VT. He m. Sally Temple.
7. Nellie/Nelly Bradley, b. 9 March 1806 Newfane VT
8. Elizabeth Bradley, b. 12 March 1808 Newfane VT
————-N E X T G E N E R A T I O N——-
Calvin Bradley, son of John & Elizabeth (Cowden) Bradley, was born 8 June 1803 in Newfane, Vermont and died 22 March 1891 in Dummerston, Vermont. He married 12 November 1829 to Sally Temple, daughter of Joseph-7 & Amy/Emy (Perry) Temple., and a direct descendant of Abraham Temple of Salem, Massachusetts. She was born 6 June 1809 in Dummerston Vermont and d. 4 September 1892 in Dummerston VT.
1860 US Census > VT > Windham Co. > Dover
Calvin Bradley 58
Sally Bradley 52
Calvin Bradley 29
Sophia Bradley* 23
Alonzo Bradley 17
Elizabeth Bradley 14
David Bradley 12
Children of Calvin & Sally (Temple) Bradley:
1. Calvin Bradley, b. 14 March 1831 Dover VT, d. 2 June 1861 Dover VT, single
2. Joseph Temple Bradley, b. 14 Oct 1832, d. 16 October 1832 Dover VT
3. Louisa Sally Bradley, b. 7 Jan 1834 Dover VT; m. O.H. Halladay; resided West Brattleboro VT.
4. Zilpha Bradley, b. 7 Oct 1835; d. 27 Sep 1839 Dover VT.
5. +Sophia Bradley, b. 28 March 1837; m(1) W.H. Woods; m2) E.B. Craddock; resided Concord NH and E. Dummerston VT.
6. Mary Ann Bradley b 9 June/Jan 1839 Dover VT , d. 24 Nov 1885; m. 10 Jan 1871 William Moore Brewer (1813-1888). Their daughter Mary Brewer b. Nashua NH, wife of Forrest W. Martin.
7. Augusta Bradley, b. 12 Oct 1841 Dover VT; m. 17 Sep 1866 to J.T. Bennett; resided E. Dummerston.
8. Alonzo Bradley, b. 4 May 1843 Dover VT; m. 5 Oct 1872 Harriet M. Bennett; res. E. Dummerston.
9. Elizabeth M. Bradley, b. 30 July 1846 Dover VT; m 10 May 1865 George C. Worden; res. Guilford Centre VT.
10. David Bradley, b. 6 Nov 1848 Dover VT; d. 19 Nov 1864 Dover VT of consumption; buried Dover Center Cemetery, Dover VT
————-N E X T G E N E R A T I O N——-
Sophia Bradley [this story is about her, see biography and photo at top of page], daughter of Calvin & Sally (Temple) Bradley, was born 28 March 1837 in Dover, Windsor Co., Vermont, and died 13 April 1909 in Dummerston Vermont. She married 1st) 6 November 1861 in Brattleboro Vermont to William H. Woods. He was born about 1831 based on his marriage record. I have not been able to determine whether he died or they divorced. They had married just as the Civil War was beginning, so it is possible he died during that time period. She married 2d) 30 June 1881 in Concord, NH to Ebenezer B. Craddock, son of Samuel and Susan (Tompkins) Craddock. [Note that the marriage record is incorrect in listing her father as David Woods]. He was b. 1 June 1831 England, [baptized 2 June 1832 in Northamptonshire, England in the Wesleyan church], and he died 20 Dec 1915 in Concord NH. Ebenezer married 1st) 13 Sep 1855 New Haven CT to Charlotte Vickery; He sued for divorce from her in Sept 1880 on the grounds of ‘her absence from him.’ Ebenezer B. Craddock married 3d) 4 March 1908 in Providence RI to Catherine Mary “Kate” Boregard [Beauregard?], daughter of Edward & Sarah (Molloy) Boregard. She was b. abt 1860-1861 in Canada and immigrated to the United States in 1902. Ebenezer B. Craddock had immigrated to the United States about 1852. In 1880 he is in the US Census living in Concord NH a “collecting agent” and an advertisement the same year shows he bought and sold real estate. Reportedly he “attended” Wisconsin Eclectic Medical School, Milwaukee, graduating in 1896 [this school was established in 1894 and closed in 1898, and one source states the school “peddled diplomas, never graduated a class.” Considered an Allopath physician he obtained a NH license in 1897. At his death, besides his widow (3d wife) Kate, he left a sister, Mary A. Johnson of Concord NH, [she b. 14 July 1840 England and d. 3 Nov 1930 in Concord NH, widow of Charles Johnson.] and two nieces, Phoebe J. Newman and Mary E. Childs of Kettering, England [per his probate record]. His death record says he was buried in Concord NH. On 17 September 1912 Kate Craddock of Concord was listed as one of the incorporators of the New Hampshire State Spiritualist Association.
Milford New Hampshire Black Novelist and Spiritualist: Harriet “Hattie” E. (Green) Adams Wilson Robinson (1825-1900)
Nashua New Hampshire Clairvoyant: Leonora Evelina (Simonds) Piper (1857–1950)
Online Book: The Spiritualist v. 1-2; Published 1916