Bill Foss – Farmer and Psychic

My goal this year was to start a blog about Marblehead Musings from long ago and to write about my Marblehead Ancestors. I am related to a slew of them:  Martin, Foss, Woodfin, Smith, Bessom, Freeto, Standley, well just about all of them.  However, I got side tracked, as most genealogists do,  this weekend when findmypast.com offered a free weekend of research.  My first search when I come across a new site is for “Foss.”  This family is my brick wall. I cannot connect them to either the NH or the ME line.  As far back as I have is 1787 with a John and Elizabeth who lived in Newburyport, MA and Marblehead, MA.   I am starting to think there was a name change along the line someplace.

So my great finding was about my great grand Uncle William S. Foss, brother of my great grandfather, Clinton Foss.  In the above photo William is on the left and Clinton is on the right.  William was born on November 6, 1851 in Marblehead.  He married Harriet Melissa Garfield on February 9, 1870 and a few years later he moved to Concord, MA and became a farmer.  I knew that he was a farmer in Concord and there is a section of Concord known as the Foss farm.  He donated his land to the town and it is never to be built on. I found that area this summer and got to romp around the ground he farmed.  Among other things he was an asparagus farmer.  I knew he had 3 sons and a daughter.  He died February 4, 1933 and his wife died December 19, 1922 both in Concord, MA.

Now imagine my surprise when I search and find a headline in the Boston Sunday Post, dated October 29. 1922, written by Myles E. Connolly: “Bill Foss, Concord Farmer, Called “One of World’s Greatest Medium”.   First I would never think to look for him as “Bill”.  From the pictures I have seen of this stocky man he was a “William.”

My second surprise “Friend of Conan Doyle, Professor James of Harvard and others, at 71 is Master of Dark Séances and says, ‘I think of the dead.’” “The farmer is William Foss, 71 years old, for over 50 years has been intimate with some of the foremost intellectuals  in the country including Professor James, the famous Harvard Psychologist; Professor Hyslop of the Psychical Research Society, Professor Daniel Comstock of Tech, William Dean Howells and others.”

The man who met Bill Foss said “getting ready for the night he looked like no medium ‘ever catalogued in fiction or fact.” He was a typical New England farmer. He was stocky but stooped a little with his burden; at the time of this meeting he was carrying two pails of water to his barn.

According to Foss: “I think most always of another world. It is the thought of the dead that makes life worth living. I’ve lost a son and daughter. Both loses are a great sorrow to me. Seven years ago my wife became blind.  She has always been a good wife.  This too, is a great sorrow to me.”

When he was a young boy living in Marblehead he became conscious of his unusual powers. At the age of 12 he would attend spiritualistic meetings in Marblehead, whenever he had saved up ten cents to gain admission and if they did not ask him to leave because he was so young.  He had many come to him for sittings and he never accepted pay even though he was very poor, as he felt his sittings to be sacred to him.  He used his skills to communicate with his deceased son and daughter however he was involved in some research projects.  A living family member can remember when visiting her grandfather, Clinton Foss in Marblehead, he and his wife would often have séances.

Now, I wonder why he has never appeared to me in the sittings with mediums I have attended. I will have to try harder for a connection, and maybe “Bill Foss” will someday help me solve my brick wall of where this “Foss Family” originated.