Nestled in a quiet residential neighborhood between the White River and Chesterfield’s historic downtown, the Indiana Association of Spiritualism’s Camp Chesterfield has offered adherents and visitors a place to contemplate and to connect with the spirit world for well over a century.
Since 1886, Camp Chesterfield has served as a nationally renowned teaching and healing center for Spiritualism, a religious movement that, in their words, “is the science, philosophy, and religion of continuous life based upon the demonstrated fact of communication by means of mediumship with those who live in the spirit world.”
Camp Chesterfield was also listed in Indiana Landmark’s 2016 Top Ten Most Endangered places in Indiana, given the camp’s historic significance in both Indiana and the United States. The camp’s historical importance and extant buildings also earned Camp Chesterfield a spot on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.
You don’t need to be an adherent of Spiritualism’s beliefs, nor a participant in readings to visit the camp. The facility is open 24/7 and all are welcomed. Visitors of all faiths have made trips to Camp Chesterfield for tours, contemplation, readings, and classes. Regardless of your interests, Camp Chesterfield is definitely worth a trip to see this unique center of Hoosier history!
History The camp’s origins actually date to 1843, when John Westerfield of Anderson began promoting speakers “in mesmerism, phrenology, trance speaking, healing, clairvoyance, and spirit contact” at Union Hall. Westerfield’s interests coincided with the growing Spiritualist religious movement in the United States during the Antebellum era. Spiritualism grew slowly at first, gaining adherents both nationally and locally, before expanding rapidly in the years after the American Civil War.
In the 1890s, the Bronnenberg family, many of whom were Spiritualists, sold land to Anderson’s newly formed Indiana Association of Spiritualists to form a camp. In the earliest years, Camp Chesterfield was exactly that, a place for Spiritualists to gather and camp in tents during the warmer months of the year. In time, Camp Chesterfield grew to add permanent structures, including hotels, residential housing for mediums, a chapel, auditorium, art gallery, prayer gardens, and several places for spiritual contemplation.
Gifts Visitors to Camp Chesterfield can walk freely around the campus, pray, and/or just come to retreat from the busyness of life. For those inclined, Camp Chesterfield’s residential clairvoyant mediums offer a variety of gifts (i.e. services) for visitors. It’s advised that you call, or email a medium before arriving.
Education The camp also prides itself on the educational services it provides through the Chesterfield Spiritualist College. Numerous classes are offered in specified programs, or individual classes. Several retreats are also available throughout the year.
Camp Chesterfield also hosts Spirit Fest each fall. In its 17th year, Spirit Fest welcomes over 2,000 visitors (the town of Chesterfield’s population is only 2,547, mind you) to explore the grounds, partake in free lectures, and visit over 80 different vendors.
The Grounds Even if you aren’t interested in the religious aspects of Camp Chesterfield, the center has an impressive historical character unlike any place else in Indiana. A deep valley runs in the middle of the camp and offers several contemplative and prayer gardens for those seeking solace.
Visitors can also stay at the Western Hotel (the Sun Flower hotel is closed for repairs). Accommodations can be made online here.
Camp Chesterfield is one of Indiana’s oldest historical religious centers. Its uniqueness is unmatched in Indiana. It is also only one of three such camps in the entire United States. Whether your interests are spiritual or secular, it’s worth the trip to Chesterfield for this unique part of Indiana’s history.