The cover was addressed to Dr. J.M. Peebles, San Diego, Cal, Residence, 3121 H Street, U.S.A and the address was crossed out in red ink and readdressed to Battle Creek, Michigan. The blue 2½d QV stamp of New South Wales was cancelled with a duplex SYDNEY/ JY 4/ 11-A-M/ 00/ 36 with the N.S.W obliterator. There was a duplex reception postmark of SAN DIEGO/ JUL30/ 1 P.M./ 00 (Figure 1).
The reverse had a transit SAN FRANCISCO, CAL./ ( ) 29/ 1900/ ( ) as well as the redirect arrival postmark BATTLE CREEK/ AUG 3/ 3-30P/ 19 00/ MICH., combined with an oval RECEIVED/ ( )/1, plus eleven vertical lines (Figure 2).
There was no dearth of information concerning this remarkable man, but Sue Young’s Homeopathy website was the only one that identified three important facts shown by the above cover, namely a San Diego, California address, another address in Battle Creek, Michigan and the recognition that the much travelled Reverend Spiritualist had an association with Australia.
The ancestors of James Martin Peebles, originally from the town of Peebles in Peebleshire Scotland, settled in the north of Ireland more than 300 years ago. They were staunch Protestants and they endured much persecution during a period of intense and bitter controversies. In 1718, Robert and Sarah Peebles and children migrated from Ulster Ireland to America and settled in Pelham, Massachusetts. James Martin Peebles was born March 23, 1822 at Whittingham, Vermont, the second born of eight children of James and Nancy Peebles.
He was an excellent pupil at the Oxford Academy in New York State majoring in the classics, and by the age of 20 he was ordained a Universalist minister and preached at several towns in New York and at Baltimore. He became a spiritualist and by 1856 he was preaching at the Free Spiritualist Church in Battle Creek, Michigan, moving to Sacramento, California in 1860. Soon he was spreading his Spiritualist’s philosophy through lectures, writings and travels around the United States and the world. In 1852 he had married Mary Conkey, a well educated teacher in Clinton, New York and they moved to a large home in 1867 at Hammontown, New Jersey, where she died in 1909 at the age of 83. James was always on the move, for his life’s work was more important than a normal married life.
James studied medicine in his youth but it was not until the age of 54 that he completed his medical studies as a Homeopathic physician in Philadelphia. He was peripatetic both in his religion and medicine, and in 1894 he was living and practicing medicine at his health-home sanitarium in San Diego, California. In 1902 he founded the Peebles’ Institute of Health in Battle Creek, Michigan (note that the cover was dated 1900), but within a couple years he moved his practice to Los Angeles.
An international lecturer, prolific and talented author and journalist, he published more than 30 books and endless newspaper articles and essays during his lifetime. He was a regular columnist for the Spiritualist paper, The Banner of Light. The frontispiece for one of his books, Around The World: on Travels in Polynesia, China, India, Arabia, Egypt, Syria, and other “Heathen” Countries is seen in Figure 3.
He travelled the world five times, the first in 1865, and he completed his fifth trip in June 1913, at the age of 91. He was in Australia on at least 3 occasions, the first in 1872, when he had a three-column spread in The Argus (Melbourne) 30 October 1872, page 7, which reported more extensively on his life’s work than I have recorded above. He spoke in Sydney at least three times, once in 1902, as shown in The Sydney Morning Herald on 8 January 1902, page 8, and twice in June 1907, on the 4th and 6th, as advertised in the same newspaper. These 3 Sydney talks had only a same-day small advert, and there was no report of the lecture found. An example of the 1902 Sydney advert is seen as Figure 4.
James Martin Peebles died a few days short of his 100th birthday in Los Angeles in 1922. A picture of him on his Carte de Visite is seen as Figure 5.