John Ballou Newbrough - Vehicle for Oahspe:

J. B. Newbrough led a varied and interesting life that ultimately prepared him for the task of a lifetime - receiving and publishing the Oahspe. A natural clairvoyant with automatic writing ability, Newbrough became the amanuensis though whom the Oahspe was transmitted.  

John Ballou Newbrough 1828-1891

John Newbrough was 52 years old when, through his automatic writing, Oahspe was transmitted into mortal language. This event was the significant life changing, life defining event for not only him, but many more people who would read Oahspe.  

Born on June 5, 1828 in a log cabin in Mohican Township, Ohio, John was one of seven children whose ancestry included Scottish, Swiss and English. Like many pioneers, John's family lived off the land, raising their own food. His father also worked as the local schoolmaster and John also taught school during the winter of his last year at home.

When John was a young boy his spiritualist mother taught him about the communion of angels, and John first communed with angels in the peaceful outdoors of his family home under the great oaks and sycamores. John's father disapproved of spirit communion but eventually became a spiritualist when, after his wife's passing, he received messages from her.

When he was 16, Newbrough attended High School in Cleveland, Ohio, boarding with the family of a dentist and working as his assistant. Thus he learnt the practise of dentistry while he studied to be a physician at medical college, which he graduated at 21. He then worked for a short time under the supervision of his uncle, who was the head physician in an "insane asylum".

Newbrough's adventurous spirit took him to the California Gold fields in 1849 where he found gold. He shared part of his good fortune with his family back in Ohio where his parents and younger siblings still lived. He also cared for the sick and fevered. During his time in the gold fields, John witnessed and deplored the injustice of bigotry, especially toward the Chinese in the general grab for personal fortune. Here he teamed up with Scottish born John Turnbull with whom he travelled to the Australian gold fields of Ballarat around 1951. After a couple of more years of "living in a tent" in the Australian gold fields, and adding considerably to his gold fortune, he sailed to Europe, China, India, Africa and many far off places before returning to the U.S. a couple of years later.

Newbrough began practice as a physician in Cincinnati, but soon switched to dentistry, which he practiced successfully for many years. His concern for the needs of the suffering poor led Newbrough to develop an inexpensive alternative rubber composition that made dentures more accessible to the poor. The profit driven Dunlop Rubber Company attempted court action to suppress the cheaper product but failed. Newbrough also published a number of his own writings, his pre-Oahspe publications included Spiritalis - (Spirits Interviewed), in which his developing clairvoyant skills produced a transcript in question and answer format on subjects such as the nature of spirit and the spirit world, marriage and human government from a spirit point of view.

In 1860, Newbrough married Rachel Turnbull in her native Scotland. The Newbroughs settled at 128 West 24th St in New York where he also practiced dentisty until 1884. They had three children but one died in infancy.

Newbrough's ability to see and hear spirits and automatic writing talent; his interest and investigations into spiritualism and mediumship; his various philanthropic activities and social/civic reform activism; as well as generous donations to the needy became contentious issues in his marriage. By the time he adopted a vegan diet around 1870, Newbrough and his wife were living separate lives under the one roof until 1884 when he departed, leaving the residence and his thriving dental practice to his separated wife. Newbrough was divorced in 1886 and married Frances Van De Water who was the mother of his youngest child, Justine.

Newbrough's Life Change

John B NewbroughNewbrough became vegan following a momentous angelic visitation where he was asked if he would do a work for the Creator, to which he agreed. The angels advised him that to prepare for such a work would take 10 years during which time he was to adopt a vegan diet, practice clean habits including daily bathing, introspection for self-improvement and providing service to others regardless of profit. During that period Newbrough published "Spiritalis" (Spirits Interviewed) in 1874.

By 1876 Newbough's health and spiritual condition had improved so much so that his mediumship blossomed to the extent that angels no longer held his hands for automatic writing, instead they held their hands above his head while a light from heaven fell on his hands. He could now see the angels' materialized hands and hear them speaking in his presence. Instructed by spirit to buy a typewriter, Newbrough acquired the first commercial model of the Scholes and Glidden typewriter in 1878. He began to practice but developed very little typing competency.

During the following two years, the angels had Newbrough research various scientific subjects such as astronomy, and write down the accepted logic of the scholars in those particular fields. The angels questioned Newbrough on these topics systematically as he completed each subject. They informed him that there was little or no accurate information in all the subjects covered. Afterwards they told him that the purpose of this exercise was to clear his mind of human fallacies so that the subject matter of the work he was to undertake would not be influenced by his own thoughts.

It is also likely that during these two years, there were practice sessions on the typewriter with the angels taking control so as to develop a clear steady connection in preparation for the transmission of Oahspe.

One early morning (before sunrise) in the spring of 1880, Newbrough was sitting at his desk and the light struck both his hands and they went for the typewriter and typed "very vigorously" for 15 minutes. The angels told him not to read what was written. This pattern continued every day before sunrise in 15 to 30 minute sessions for 50 weeks. Newbrough was instructed not to read any of the typed pages for the whole 50 weeks until the transmission was completed.

Following an unpublished incomplete edition in 1881 (The Lant Proof Sheets), Oahspe was published by the Oahspe Publishing Association sometime in late September or early October, 1882 more than a year after transmission, with 3000 copies printed.  

Post Oahspe Publication and Shalam

Following the publication of Oahspe, Newbrough and a number of volunteers began receiving orphans from the streets of New York. In June, 1883, they accepted an offer of land and accommodation near Woodbury, New Jersey on a trial basis of 2 years before the owner would hand it over to the community. Although Newbrough remained in New York, he paid more than $700 to support volunteers with 4 orphans to get started and planned to join as soon as he was able.

The owner and his wife continued to reside at the Woodbury property and tents were needed by the volunteers. It soon became apparent that the temperance (abstinence from alcohol and tobacco) and herbivorous diet of the faithist volunteers was resented by the owner and his wife. Less than two months later, the owner retracted his offer and gave notice of eviction to the volunteers. Newbrough wrote: [1] "So much for our first attempt that failed for no fault of our own - and in a way we never dreamt of. Now we have learned to let wealthy people alone - and to let alone such people as follow their "spirit guides" instead of good sense. ...Bye and bye we shall all learn to understand the phrase "try the spirits and learn if they be Godlike" and we may know them by the company they control."

Consequently, in November 1883, a group of close to 100 people gathered at Pearl River, New York, forming the "Oahspe Lodge of Faithists". Their goal was to promote the Shalam orphanage plan. After that Newbrough wrote "The Government and By-Laws of Faithist Fraternities" which was somewhat modeled on Oahspe's Jehovih's Kingdom on Earth. In that same year Newbrough and Frances Van De Water cared for a number of infants at the Pearl River Farm. This was a small property made available by a Faithist Lodge Brother which functioned as a temporary place before a permanent place was found.

Shalam Building

The Shalam Orphan Home in Dona Ana, New Mexico

By 1884 with the financial backing of an Oahspe reader, Andrew Howland, Newbrough purchased 1,490 acres of land at Dona Ana, "on a bend of the Rio Grande" near Las Cruces, New Mexico where the Shalam Colony was to be established. In October, 1884 Newbrough and a small party of about a dozen volunteer Faithists with infant orphans arrived at "Shalam". They pitched tents and roughed it through a bitterly cold winter and some volunteers died before the following spring. The members and children were strict vegetarians, although honey was included in their diet.

In March 1885, the volunteer members were informed that county deed records showed that Howland was the sole owner of the property. This caused a wave of shock and dismay for they thought Howland's financial support was donated and the property was held in common. As it was, all resident volunteers including Newbrough who joined the colony had been required to give up all possessions, giving away all they had before entering. Consequently, the members requested the property be transferred to the resident volunteers.

By December 1885 there were some 10 children and 47 members, of these there were "probabionary" members and "consecrated members". The 24 "consecrated members" became incorporated as a legal entity, "The Church of Tae", and a conditional Deed of Trust was signed between the Church of Tae and Howland.

Howland became a resident of Shalam in February 1886, although he did not become a member of the Church of Tae. Shortly thereafter disagreements arose regarding the direction of the colony, and consequently Howland revoked the "Deed of Trust" and demanded payment of $37,282 for the property, which was a condition of the trust. Since no other of the residents of Shalam had any financial resources, the board of trustees of the Church of Tae returned the property to Howland in March, 1886.

Howland evicted five members and the remainder departed as well, except for Newbough and four others. Following the evacuation of the majority of Shalam's volunteers, new members were sought, but the numbers of volunteers remained low with most of the orphan care falling to Frances Newbrough, the much loved mother figure to the children.

Three of the evicted residents filed court proceedings for compensation but ultimately failed. During the trial only Howland remained at Shalam, Newbrough and the few other volunteer residents remained absent from Shalam for almost 3 years from 1887.

During their absence, John and Frances Newbrough resided in New Orleans and published a monthly periodical seeking infants and volunteers for Shalam. They established a receiving home in New Orleans and a number of infants arrived in Shalam from 1889 to 1890.

In 1887 while he was in New Orleans, Newbrough wrote "Levitica", a plan for the next phase of Shalam where many of the high standards would be compromised with the expectation that more volunteers would be attracted to join. The hope was that such volunteers would eventually rise up to the standards of Shalam as expounded in Oahspe. Along this new plan, Howland had a "village" built and animal husbandry was instituted for egg and milk production. The plan however, did not produce the results that were hoped for, as few people responded, and only a couple remained until Shalam finally closed its doors.

In the spring of 1891 there were only two or three other volunteer members other than the Newbroughs. A severe influenza epidemic hit the Shalam colony and there was no relief for the care of the children and sick. Newbrough, himself ill, tended to the sick but following a sleepless night tending a sick child, he was overcome with pneumonia and exhaustion and passed into spirit.

When Howland was alone at Shalam from 1887, he began making notes for a new edition of Oahspe, and when Newbrough returned from New Orleans in 1889, they continued the editing together until the spring of 1891. It was when Howland was away in Boston organizing the publication of the new edition that the influenza epidemic struck the colony and Newbrough passed on April 22, just months before the second edition was published. Howland then wrote the forward to the 1891 edition of which 6000 copies printed.

The end of Shalam and the beginning of many more

Shalam Girls
Following Newbrough's passing, Howland married his widow, Frances in 1893. In those times it was not unusual for widowed men and women to remarry because of economic necessity and to avoid the social stigma of unmarried men and women living in the same home. Howland continued to sink what was left of his fortune into building and implementing Levitica, and trying to make Shalam self sufficient with agricultural products, including cows and chickens for dairy and egg production---with little success. The spring flood of 1900 washed away the buildings and land upon which Levitica had been built. The following spring Howland received the conditional transfer deeds from Levitica and 24 children under the age of 14 were sent away to various homes and orphanages. In November 1907, after exhausting his $400,000 plus fortune, Howland and his family left Shalam and settled in El Paso, Texas.  
                            Three Shalam children who went with the Howlands to El Paso, Texas. From left to right: Havralo (Ral), Nin'ya (Nin), Fiatisi (Fifi).

During the existence of Shalam, Lodges of Faithists continued to meet in most of the large cities of the U.S. forming what was called the "Outer Council". Part of their function was to provide support to Shalam. Each lodge was independent with its own Chief, conducting meetings and keeping records. After Shalam stopped receiving orphans in 1901, the Denver Colorado Lodge which formed in 1898 and incorporated as "The Brotherhood of Light", acquired land and adopted children in Colorado and later in California. After these first ventures to build a Shalam colony more were undertaken by others, one well known being Wing Anderson's "Essenes of Kosmon" in Utah and then later Colorado for a few decades starting in the late 1930's.


[1] Letter from J B Newbrough to Andrew Bates dated July 22, 1883; Published in the Kosmon Communities Newsletter, May 1999.