History of the White Star Church
When John B. Evearts tended bar at his flourishing tavern in Green Bay, WI, pulling glasses of draft beer and pouring shots of rum, few of his customers imagined that one day he would abandon his thriving business and become a medium. But that's just what he did, and in the process he founded White Star Spiritualist Church. Located near Brussels in the Gardner area, White Star is a tiny island in a sea of large Catholic Churches. It has a long and colorful history - for over a hundred years people have gathered in the white frame building to experience empowerment, healing, and communication with the Spirit World.
John B. Evearts began his transition from bartender to church founder in the 1880's. He was proprietor of a tavern that was growing beyond his expectations when his wife fell critically ill. Every doctor he consulted told him there was no hope for her survival, so in desperation he turned to a Spiritualist medium who was said to possess the gift of healing; Mrs. Evearts suprised everyone, except the medium by recovering completely.
As he was paying for the medium's services, Evearts felt the Spiritualist healer searching his eyes. The medium told him that he, too, had the gift of healing and gift of prophecy. "If you will stop your business of selling rum and permit the spirits to work through you, you will become a great speaker, bringing messages of power to a people hungering for light."
Thankful and impressed, Evearts dropped the tavern business and began developing his powers as a medium. He soon had a modest following. While visiting relatives in the Catholic community of Gardner, he decided to hold a few Spiritualist services in private homes.
Reverend Stevnard, Pastor of nearby St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, got wind of Evearts' activities and resolved to put an end to them. He declared that no one can communicate with the dead - such a feat would be impossible if he, a priest, were present and forbade it. This proclamation so provoked a Mr. Duchateau, who was one of Eveart's followers, that he bet $1,000.00 that Evearts could indeed communicate with the spirit world. The priest accepted the challenge, and they scheduled a confrontation for June 22, 1885, at the home of an impartial local resident.
A hundred or more spectators assembled on the designated date, eager to witness the showdown. Most were Rev. Stevnard's parishioners. Although Evearts arrived on time, the priest didn't show up. Eventually someone in the restless crowd dispatched a horse and buggy to fetch him, but he refused to return, claiming he wasn't fully prepared. He finally appeared before the gathering and he claimed he never made the bet. He went on to rebuke his parishioners for attending such a spectacle.
Spiritualists refer to their religion as a science because it requires testing and proof of its claims. As a result of such tests, the movement gained adherents. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was an early supporter, and Mrs. Abraham Lincoln used a medium to attempt communication with her son, Willie, who died in 1862. President Lincoln was known to have attended some of the sessions in the White House. Interest in Spiritualism continued to grow in the wake of the Civil War. The enormous number of casualties resulted in an understandable desire to communicate with those who died far from home.
Locally, White Star Spiritualist Church thrived from its inception, and by 1917 it had 300 members. For a time a Spiritualist Church existed in nearby Luxemburg, but in the 1920's, one of its members cut off his hands to test the powers of his belief. When he died, so did the church.
Today White Star Spiritualist Church is the only Spiritualist Church in northeast Wisconsin. Although its congregation is far smaller than previously, it has been in continuous operation since its founding in 1888. Headstones in the cemetery reveal its long history. Graves of the Cobisier family date from the church's first year, while the most recent burial took place this past September.
The tidy, one-room building that has served for so many years stands at the edge of an apple orchard. In the spring, petals from blooming trees float down and cover the lawn and roof. Wide steps with a wheelchair ramp lead to a door topped by a stained glass window that depicts a white star. In front, a sign welcomes all, declaring "Unity in Diversity". Inside, pressed tin walls, lace-curtained windows, an upright piano, and framed sepia toned photographs are reminders of the church's long history. In back, a double door outhouse flanked by a white picket fence nestles among mature oak trees.
Mary Larson Taylor has been pastor of the church for the past twenty-one years. She says its 30 members drive from places as far away as Marinette, Manitowoc, Sheboygan, Appleton, and northern Door County to attend services. Visitors are encouraged and appreciated. There is no proselytizing and no attempt to recruit members. Other religions are not attacked or disparaged. People are allowed to make their own decisions, no matter what their backgrounds. "We are a church for non-churchy people", Mary says, "a church for people who don't like dogma."
Services take place on the second and fourth Sundays of the month. Because so many people come from great distances, no services are held during the winter.
Mary describes the regular Sunday services as similar in many ways to those in any Christian Church, with hymn singing and a sermon. But at White Star a healing meditation takes place at every service, and "spirit messages" are given at the end. At that time Mary channels messages from departed loved ones as well as from saints and other healers who make their presence known to her. This would all be familiar to John B. Evearts. He would still feel at home here. The powers of healing brought him to Spiritualism, and the healing spirit remains at White Star. As Mary says, "We're about love and
light - and healing."
A Church In Touch With The Spirits: White Star Church near Brussels and Pastor Clara Twele
From the Press Gazette, January 29, 1978
Brussels- The year was 1884. Democrat Grover Cleveland had just been elected president of the United States. John B. Everts was Belgian saloonkeeper at Green Bay. Everts didn’t know it then, but an illness suffered by his wife and a traveling spiritualist healer would prompt him to become the founder of a Door County religious group still in existence and known today at the White Star Church of Psychic Science.
The wandering medium claimed to have healing powers. He treated Everts’ wife and she recovered. “You too, have the gift of healing. You also have the gift of prophecy,” the healer told Everts.
“If you will stop your business of selling rum and permit the spirits to work through you, you will become a great speaker, brining messages of power to people hungering for light.”
Everts gave up his saloon and became a medium. In the months to follow he held séances in the homes of friends in the Door County Town of Gardner.
They became a subject of religious controversy in the predominantly Catholic area. A local priest doubted Everts’ powers, claiming he could prevent him from communicating with the dead. Another Belgian businessman name Duchateau beat the priest $1000 that Everts would succeed.
A dual of supernatural powers was set for 10 a.m. June 22, 1885.
The priest didn’t show. Men were sent to get him and he came, but he refused to have anything to do with this “infernal business.”
It was a victory for the spiritualists. Twenty families left the Catholic Church and paid $20 each to build their own church.
The White Star Church of Psychic Science, built in 1893, still stands on the crest of a hill along County C about four miles off Highway 57 north of Brussels.
Today it has 48 adult members each paying $10 dues per year. It has not debts. The congregation buys something only when it has the money to pay cash.
Services are held on the second and fourth Sundays each month from Easter to Thanksgiving. They are suspended during winter months because of the weather.
The pastor since 1951 is the Reverend Clara Twele, 74, a medium. She drives 170 miles from Okauchee, near Milwaukee, twice a month for services.
Mrs. Twele is an ordained psychic science minister, having passed required written and oral examinations in ancient and modern history, comparative religion, philosophy, sociology, public speaking, church administration and parliamentary law.
Some of the White Star members are in the fifth generation. Some are new. “They (new members) tell us they’re seeking something else… something they can’t get in their church,” said Mrs. Twele.
White Star members believe they can communicate with spirits of the earthly dead. They believe they have healing powers, through those spirits and their medium.
Mrs. Twele admits there are skeptics. But she said the White Star Church of Psychic Science is part of a religion. It is not based on dark séances, witchcraft or magic.
Mrs. Zephyrs La Violette, 72 and widowed last year is the secretary of the church. She has minutes of meetings from the founders, written in French. There were familiar Door County names- Peltier, Herlach, Counard, Corbisier.
Alexander Dewarzegar, an early convert who was said to have healing powers and the ability to contact the dead, once was pastor of the church. Nephews Milton and Edward Dewarzegar, both retired farmers, are members of the church today.
Mrs. La Violette is a descendant of a charter church member. “I was born and raised in the church,” said Mrs. La Violette. “I get a lot of comfort from it. I’m not afraid of dying.”
“We don’t meet in dark circles. Everything is done in public daylight. I wouldn’t sit in a dark circle because I could not be sure it’s true. I’m too skeptical.”
Mrs. La Violette said she has communicated with her husband through Mrs. Twele.
White Star is the mother church of the Associated Psychic Science Churches of America. Instead of a religious creed, it has principles of life, parts of which are:
-A belief in God as an intelligent power and force, infinite in scope, manifesting in and through everything.
-That the universe is a demonstration of a purposeful existence.
-That man is obligated to establish hope, faith, and trust in his fellow humans and to understand his physical, mental and spiritual nature.
-That man is born free of sin possessing both physical and spiritual body, and that death is a transition from physical to spiritual life.
-That some persons have or can develop extrasensory perceptions (ESP).
-That healings documented in religious history are possible by those who possess ESP.
-That the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule are basic rules of conduct.
“We believe in Christ as a master teacher,” said Mrs. Twele. “We believe in the Bible as written by men about men. We believe a person is immortal and that life is a universal experience.”
It is also the belief of church members that forgiveness for a wrong deed cannot be granted by anyone but the person who was wronged, and forgiveness is possible in the spiritual as well as the physical life.
Mrs. Twele, an energetic gray-haired woman with pale blue eyes, said she has been able to communicate with spirits since childhood at Roundup, Montana, a small town founded by her father.
“I was raised a Catholic,” she said. “But from the time I was 3 or 4 years old I saw things. My parents thought I was telling fibs and I would get spankings.
“After a while, I stopped telling my parents about the things I saw. But I would tell my brothers and they would tell my parents. And I would get spanked again. One time I saw a fire but I wouldn’t tell. My father came home at noon and said there was a brush fire. I saw it before it happened. I always could see and hear things, but I couldn’t explain it. I was about 9…. I was sitting in a hammock and I saw a very beautiful lady with a high collar and beaver hat, carrying a little umbrella. My mother was in the house taking care of my uncle Edgar, who was ill. The lady told me my uncle would be all right. I ran into the house and told my mother what the lady said, but she didn’t believe me.” She said, “If you’re so smart, ask your lady her name.”
“A couple of days later I saw the lady again. She said her name was Adelaide Schindler. I went in and told my mother and she said, ‘don’t ever mention that name again.’ My uncle, who did recover, fainted when I said the name. I was young and didn’t think much about it. But when I was about 20 I was visiting another uncle and going through an old photo album, I saw a picture of the pretty lady, and I said, I know her.”
My uncle said, “You couldn’t know her, she died in childbirth before you were born. Adelaide Schindler was your Uncle Edgar’s wife.”
That’s when I got involved with the psychic science church.
Mrs. Twele said spirits communicate through her during church services as well as during private sittings or consultations.
“I have never written a sermon,” she said. “I ask if a person (in the congregation) has a question relevant to the philosophy. I hear a voice putting words in my head and I repeat them. The spirit works through my mind. I’ve been told that sometimes my voice changes and my eyes look different, but I’m not aware of it. I don’t retain what I’ve said. If someone asks me what I meant by what I’ve said, I can’t tell them. I don’t know.”
Mrs. Twele, who was studying to become a nurse when she got involved with the psychic science church, said she “has the gift of healing, but for ailments such as broken bones, I prefer they go to a doctor. If the bone does not mend properly, they probably would not go after the doctor, but you know they would go after a spiritualist.”
Mrs. Twele said she does not believe in fortune telling, card reading, reincarnation, or what she calls spook chasing.” She said she can predict some future events, but usually does not. “I don’t believe it’s anybody’s business. I don’t want to be a Jean Dixon, talking about public figures such as President Carter. That type of thing gives us, in our religion of psychic science a black eye.”
Mrs. Twele said she does not contact spirits. They contact her. “You cannot command them. They come. I’m the go-between, like the telephone. You can hear it ringing, but someone has to answer it.”
Mrs. Twele believes her link the spiritual world is her deceased brother, Arthur, who was killed in a plane crash in August 1929. She said she regularly communicates with him.
“People talk about heaven and hell. They tell us (psychic church members) we are going to hell because of our beliefs, but heaven and hell depends on the way you have lived on earth.”
Arthur, she said, told her, “if you want to know what hell is, it’s going up to your wife and children (as spirit) at your funeral and they don’t know you’re there. That is hell.”
Mrs. Twele said there are non-believers who criticize members of the White Star Church. “If they don’t believe, we don’t care. We don’t advertise, we don’t ask people to come. But you would be surprised how many people are holding their feelings locked in their hearts. Catholics, Protestants, people of all denominations come to me for consultation. If others don’t believe, it is their business. But we must be honest and sincere. It is our religion.”