History of The General Assembly

Our history dates back to 1897


The General Assembly’s early history as an organized religious body goes back to November 15, 1897, at which time it was incorporated as the New York State Association of Spiritualists.


The General Assembly of Spiritualists is a sovereign, self-governing ecclesiastical body, incorporated by a special act of the Legislature of the State of New York, under chapter 485, Laws of New York 1914.

At the convention in Rochester, New York, on June 20, 1914, delegates assembled, by unanimous vote authorized changing the constitution, bylaws and name to the General Assembly of Spiritualists, to conform with the Laws of New York, 1914, Chapter 485, Section 1, Chapter 53 of the Laws of 1909, entitled An act in relation to religious corporations, constituting Chapter 51 of the consolidated laws , adding Article XIII, Spiritualist Churches section 262 to 273, inclusive.

By this Act, Spiritualism for the first time was recognized by law as a religion with distinct powers conferred by the Legislature upon the General Assembly of Spiritualists.


The first Annual Convention of the General Assembly of Spiritualists was held June 18, 19, and 20, 1915. The Board of Directors consisted of:

  • President: Hiram M. Savage, East Aurora, New York
  • Secretary: Frank Walker, Hamburg, New York
  • Seymour J. Richardson, Lily Dale, New York
  • Richard R. Schleusner, New York, NY
  • Harriet M. Rathbun, New York, NY
  • Matilda U. Reynolds, Troy, NY
  • John Steckenreiter, New York, NY
  • Charles J. Tucker, Rochester, NY
  • Samuel Newman, Buffalo, NY

The original charter of the General Assembly of Spiritualists was signed by the above named members of the Board of Directors, and recorded in Monroe County, NY on October 19, 1915.

Hiram R. Savage was succeeded in the Presidency of the General Assembly of Spiritualists by John F. Steckenreiter of New York, NY, followed by William H. Burr of Rochester, NY.


On December 17, 1927, John Heiss of NY became president until 1948.


At the convention in Buffalo, NY, June 19, 20, 21, 1931 the delegates assembled, in order to preserve the lofty principles expressed by the pioneers of Spiritualism, the Spiritualist principle of universal brotherhood, and to protect our movement against encroachments of prejudice and sectarianism, voted to sever its affiliations with other groups.

The Board of Directors was authorized to amend the certificate of incorporation and revise the constitution and By-laws accordingly.

The Board of Directors consisted of :

  • President: John Heiss, New York, NY
  • Vice-President: Matthew Stephenson, Albany, NY
  • Secretary: Fredrick W. Constatine, Buffalo, NY
  • Treasurer: Everett F. Britz, New York
  • Alexander J. McIvor-Tyndall, Lily Dale, NY
  • Leila Williams, Syracuse, NY
  • Howard Mason Pitman, Buffalo, NY
  • Sarah Cushing, Lily Dale, NY
  • Emily Doyle, Buffalo, NY

The necessary legal papers were duly consummated, papers signed by the Directors of the Board, and filed, establishing the General Assembly of Spiritualists as a sovereign, self-governing ecclesiastical body, with executive powers vested in the Board of Directors of the General Assembly of Spiritualists, with jurisdiction extended to the several states of the United States and the Dominion of Canada.