Jonathan Koons (1811-1893) was a farmer outside Athens, Ohio, who became deeply involved in the ambiguous edges of spiritualist thinking. In the 1850s he presided over a spirit room where he invited the public to communicate with their dead loved ones. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, came. Some went away transformed and grateful while others were more skeptical. This book is the first comprehensive study of the life of Jonathan Koons and provides a thorough look at the context of his spiritual journey. “This is a marvelous book. It reads like a novel or a screenplay but also functions as a prism that opens up into dozens of other important aspects of nineteenth-century American religion: spiritualism, Johnny Appleseed, Swedenborgianism, atheism, social reform, women’s rights, psychometry, and so on. Perhaps most significantly of all, the author’s rare combination of humanistic sympathy, intellectual generosity, and healthy doubt is a model of what this kind of historiography can be.”—Jeffrey J. Kripal. “By an evocative rendition of his story, Hatfield neatly dispels the view that Koons’s ‘spirit room’ was just one more trivial example of the public’s fascination with nineteenth century spiritualism. Instead, her explanation of Koons’s influence in Ohio and the Midwest clearly establishes his significance as one of the most important mediums of the era.”—Nancy Rubin Stuart. The author, Sharon Hatfield, grew up in Pound, Virginia, and graduated from Lincoln Memorial University. She earned her masters at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, where she has resided for most of her adult life. She is the author of Never Seen the Moon: The Trials of Edith Maxwell and co-editor of An American Vein: Critical Readings in Appalachian Literature.
Athens, Ohio: Swallow Press/Ohio University Press, 2018. 342 pages with an Index, Bibliography, Notes, photos and maps. Hardback in dust jacket