Sunday, January 20, 2013

My Final Post Regarding the Posts

So, after you have breezed into a small sleepy little southern town and…

*ingratiated yourself with the town’s power brokers
*been named president of one business and invested in others

*become a lecturer for the downtrodden farmer and totally turned every major Democrat in the state of Georgia against you
*supported your wife’s belief that she has the ability to heal

*along with your wife begin a school of mental science attracting students from all over the world
*persuaded ten of the twelve members of the local Democratic party leadership to jump ship for a third party

*attracted hundreds and hundreds to town
*have certain town leaders refer to you as an infidel, an anarchist and a “stench in the nostrils of all who love morality, Christianity, virtue and abhor socialism….”

What do you do next?

You head to Florida where you proceed to build a “City Beautiful”, of course.
Yes, in 1892 C.C. Post and Helen Wilmans Post ended up in Seabreeze, Florida where they purchased several acres of land from C.A. Ballough, and they began to develop a town across the Halifax River from Daytona Beach.

In case you are late to the story and wondering who in the heck C.C. Post and his wife happen to be you can catch up here, here and here.

In her book A Search for Freedom Helen wrote, “At present our town is called Sea Breeze; but after a while we shall give it another name…we will accept the name that even now by a sort of general consent is being bestowed upon it….that of “The City Beautiful.”
Look at this street scene around 1907.
Notice the wide street landscaped with tall palm trees and ornamental planters along the way. This was all part of Helen’s dream of a “City Beautiful”. She wrote in A Search for Freedom….”The two words happiness and beauty are our beacon lights.”

An article dated December, 1901 from Atlanta's Constitution states, “Beautiful boulevards and streets have been laid out and paved, and thousands of dollars have been expended in improvements and buildings.”
The Posts built their own home located on the Boulevard at Valley Street by the river along with the Wilmans Opera House and a  department store. A printing office where all of their books and publications were printed was located on the bottom floor of the opera house.
This was their home in Florida….

The town of Seabreeze was formerly incorporated on May 24, 1901, and C.C. Post was the first mayor.
….and what would the beach be without hotels.  The Posts were partners with C.A. Ballough in building the Colonnades Hotel seen below.

The Colonnades was a 125 room hotel

The Princess Issena Hotel, seen below, was also built with Post money. It opened in 1908 along Ocean Boulevard with 27 rooms and was located in the middle of a five acre park. It was enlarged after the Posts owned it and existed for several years through the 1970s.
Three dollars a day could get you accommodations that included pastries and milk from the hotel’s very own Jersey and Holstein cows.

This article from the Daytona Beach Morning Journal provides a little background on the Princess Issena….
Helen willed the ownership of the hotel to her daughter Ada, and when Ada sold it the new owner granted her the right to live in a cottage on the property for the remainder of her life.
The picture below is of C.C. Post and his granddaughter supposedly on the grounds of the Hotel Issena.

How could the Posts have money to develop a town?  By the turn of the century most people were earning $900 to $4,500 per year, yet Helen’s “mental science” efforts were bringing in $25,000 to $50,000 a year during a time when income tax did not exist.
They certainly had the money to develop a town.

From what I can see, when C.C. Post got off the train at Douglasville in April, 1892 to meet the Democrats (see part three of the story) he had already been forced to move from the town because newspaper accounts mention Douglasville was his “former” home.
The Posts sold their Chicago Avenue home and property to Joseph S. James in1892, and while they tied up their business here they moved into the Sweetwater Park Hotel for about six months.

The Posts were basically run out of town though Helen Wilmans Post writes nothing about the town being unwelcoming. 
Helen described their exit from Douglasville this way in A Search for Freedom…….”But finally we wanted to get away. We had always desired to be close to some large body of water….a suppressed longing for Florida….We had seen that whatever place we remained long enough to impregnate our view, that everything seemed charged with a strongly magnetic power to draw others to us.

She also said Douglasville was too small to accommodate her students and growing financial empire.
Helen also writes about the move to the Sweetwater Hotel….

“Just six miles from us on the road leading to Atlanta was the celebrated Sweetwater Park with its large and splendid buildings. It was a summer resort, and my classes were held in winter. But the proprietor of the Park consented to open his house provided there were enough of us to pay him for the trouble. So we sold our beautiful home and went there with sixty or seventy others, and were there for six months”
She then recounts how she went to Florida, then Boston and back to Atlanta. At some point records indicate the Posts were living at 296 Crew Street in Atlanta, but eventually the Posts ended up in Seabreeze full time.

Of course Helen Post remained busy with publishing, writing and placing ads in various newspapers and journals. Her paper was sent to over 10,000 subscribers.  They paid ten cents for a six week subscription. She remained busy with actual “patients”, too. In one article she estimated she saw seven to ten thousand patients during the 1890s alone. She perfected her mail-order business and came up with a successful hard sell approach.
Her ad in her paper Freedom stated….Do  you own the Wilman’s Home Course in Mental Science? If not you surely want it and if you want it you can surely get it now…..

The ad continued……Have you not heard that through the power of “right-thinking’ you can be healed of every form of disease whether it is physical or mental? can be healed in your own homes while the healer is hundreds of mile away…..Thought….goes from the brain of the healer to the brain of the patient and corrects the error existing there….It not only cures disease, but strengthens the broken will, and plants hope in the breasts of the despairing, and opens the way to success in every undertaking.
For particulars send for the Mind Cure circular.  Circulars free.  Consultations free.  State your case and receive an early reply.

She charged three dollars a week or ten dollars a month for the “absent treatments”.
The replies to Helen’s ads were so enormous she had to hire a team of stenographers to handle the replies.

All seemed well in "A City Beautiful", BUT....a storm was brewing.
Not only was the volume of mail overwhelming Helen and her staff, the sheer number of envelopes addressed to her was overwhelming the post office at Daytona, so it was moved to Seabreeze to be closer to the Post home.

Naturally, the move didn’t set well with some of the folks in the area, and they began to complain.
They complained enough that certain government officials began to check into Helen’s “business”.

What was this lady doing to get so much mail?

For someone who might be doing “absent treatments” for a fee…government investigations might not be the thing you want or need.
On October 5, 1901 the New York Times reported an order had been issued by the Assistant Attorney General to the Post Office Department to stop Helen Wilman Post’s mail by issuing a fraud order. C.C. Post, Helen and their son-in-law, Charles Burgman had been arrested in August that same year.

Basically, Mrs. Post was accused of running a scam and using the post office to run it. Part of the language to the affidavit included the following.....“Helen Post aka Helen Wilmans, did devise a scheme and artifice to defraud diverse persons….”
The words “false and fraudulent representation” were bandied about the affidavit as well. She was accused of making false and wild claims that her “mental science” could cure and heal “every form of disease and weakness.”

Part of the problem with the scheme was Mrs. Post would advise her “patients” to connect with her mentally at certain times during the day. The government stated that their investigation showed that during some of the times she indicated, Mrs. Post was otherwise engaged. She had been seen fishing, entertaining friends, or absent from the city.
Mr. Post was charged and arrested because he was in “charge of the financial branch of the enterprise, and devote[d] his time to the development of the property and community”. The son-in-law, Mr Burgman, was the business manager of the concern with the Affidavit stating, “he had general supervision of the printing, distribution and sale of Mrs.  Post’s books, etc.”

An article published in the Constitution dated February 3, 1904 reported from the ongoing trial that evidence had been produced that Mrs. Post would open her mail to extract the money and then hand the correspondence over to her staff. Of course the evidence was given to show that Mrs. Post was not familiar with her patients since she didn’t correspond with them, so….how could she heal them?
A Mr. Bishop had been interviewed. He had worked with the Posts while they were here in was in Douglasville. Bishop published a labor paper and at some point Mrs. Post began to run her “Mental Science” ads in his paper. Later, Bishop advised  his hands were tied. He felt he had to run the ad copy she submitted or he would lose his position. Wild claims were made that so many believed and were being helped by Mrs. Post’s “Mental Science” that “every morning the yard [at their Douglasville residence on Chicago Avenue] was filled with carriages, wagons and ox carts filled with people who had come from miles around to take advantage of Mrs. Post’s healing powers.”
The government asserted this was a gross exaggeration and that “there never were more than three people to see Mrs. Post at any one time….”.  

Fannie Mae Davis’s account of the legal entanglements mentions that Dr. T.R. Whitley was at the center of the allegations against the Posts, and while I never saw his name mentioned in any of the legal reports, I don’t doubt that he and Joseph S. James who were very well connected far and wide was following the events very closely and got a certain enjoyment from the whole thing.
The next month…in March, 1904… the Constitution was almost gleeful as it reported a guilty verdict against Helen Wilmans Post stating, "The sentence was that she be confined for one year and one day in the penitentiary at Nashville, Tennessee.”
Of course an appeal was filed right away and Helen Wilmans Post said, “You cannot pronounce sentence of guilt against me. The sentence you are going to pronounce will be against the ignorance of the age and this sentence will not only fail to condemn me, but it will exonerate me from all participation in such ignorance."

Yes! Those silly people crying mail fraud were simply ignorant and didn't understand.

After a second trial in January, 1906 Helen Wilmans Post was found guilty again. She was ordered to pay a $500 fine and serve 30 days. She was then 75 years of age and appealed again.
One of the last mentions of Helen Wilmans Post published in the Constitution advised on December 3, 1906 that “Helen Wilmans Post, the alleged divine healer joins the …..down and out club with an admission she is stricken with a disease her own cunning cannot reach.”

….and apparently SHE couldn’t heal herself. The stress of having her income flow totally stopped, the stress of the arrest and trials took a toll on Helen and on her husband. 
He passed in June, 1907.  She passed two months later in September during the midst of yet another re-trial. Both are buried at Pinewood Cemetery in Daytona Beach, Florida.

But wait……there IS another Douglas County connection with the Posts. The son-in-law mentioned above…..C.F. Burgman….he was married to Helen’s daughter….Florence Baker. They had a daughter who married a Baggett. It seems about the time C.C. and Helen Post went to Florida. Baggett family history relates William Alfred Baggett was a music teacher at Daniels Mill here in Douglas County during the 1880s. He and his wife, Missouri Ann Dorsett Selman, moved to Seabreeze, Florida at the turn of the century where he began to deal in real estate with.....guess who?
Yes, none other than C.C. Post. It seems that Colonel Post was still persuasive at getting Douglas County folks to buy into his plans, but in this case it actually paid off.

Later on the Baggett’s son, Billie Byington Baggett married the daughter of C.F. and Florence Burgman who was named for her “mental science” grandmother, Helen Wilmans Burgman.
Billie went on to be very prominent in local politics serving as mayor of Daytona Beach.

.....and that, my Dear Reader, is the very strange and twisted tale of C.C. and Helen Wilmans Post.

Go back to installment one here.

Go back to installment two here.

Go back to installment three here.


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  2. Some good pix on wikipedia concerning "Seabreeze" too... The Posts sounded like "modern carpetbaggers' somewhat... Wow!,_FL.jpg


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