A Brief Biography of “Magnetic Healer” H.N. Wheelock

March 28, 2017

As presented elsewhere (Nickell 2017), I acquired for my collection a trade card of nineteenth-century “Magnetic Healer” H.N. Wheelock. To learn more about him, I researched various sources, including an authoritative Wheelock genealogy (Sullivan 2017). CFI Libraries Director Tim Binga greatly assisted with this project, tracking Wheelock through federal and state censuses and other records. Here is what we discovered.

Hiram N. Wheelock was born about 1820 at Oswego (Oswego Co.), New York, a son of Alvin and Sophia Wheelock. Before 1850 he married Hannah B., (born about 1830 in Vermont), apparently called by her middle name Bethiah. In 1850 the couple lived with his parents at their farm at Silver Creek (in Sheridan township, Chautauqua Co.), N.Y. Five years later they had a daughter, Marilla J., and Hiram was working as a carpenter.

However, the 1860 federal census shows him with a new wife. (Bethiah, we learn, had died in 1856 at age 26, possibly in childbirth, and was buried in Sheridan Center Cemetery. Hiram’s mother and father also died, in 1857 and 1858 respectively, and were buried there too.) The census records Hiram at age 39 and his new wife as Mary A., 23. In addition to Marilla, now 11, they had another daughter, also named Mary A., age 1.

We do not know when Wheelock had his “Office and Residence” (as his card stated) at 12 Free Street, in Fredonia, just 11.4 miles from Silver Creek. One possibility is that he had moved his family there, then returned to his parents’ home after their death. In any case, throughout the records, Wheelock does not appear again as a “Magnetic Healer” until the latter part of his life—so far as we have learned at this writing.

During the Civil War, Hiram was listed (on draft registration records, 1863–65) again as a farmer, age 43. An 1867 map shows the Wheelock residence was still in the village of Silver Creek. An 1854 Wall Map of Chautauqua County and an 1867 Atlas of Chautauqua County depict the house, at what is now 2791 Route 20 [Wheelock 2017].)

By 1870, the family had moved to Belmont (Amity township, Allegany County—located two counties to the east of Chautauqua County). There Hiram, 48, was listed on the census as “Merchant Hardware S.” His wife Mary was 33; the oldest daughter was not listed (possibly having married), but Mary Adelle, age then 11, was at home. (Residing with the family was Laroy Bowers, 14, a “Clerk in Hardware Store.” On July 4, 1872, however, Mary died (and she too was buried in the Sheridan Center Cemetery).

By 1875, Hiram had married for the third time. Martha E. was less than half his age at 25 years old. In 1873 he petitioned for reinstatement in the Odd Fellows lodge and was soon elected an officer in that order (Minard and Merrill 1896, 464). Meanwhile he was involved in various failed railroad ventures beginning in 1869. For instance, he was an official of the Belmont and Buffalo Railroad Company (e.g., Van Benthuysen 1875, 386–387) which eventually went bankrupt before a single rail was laid (“Allegany” 2017).

In 1880, at age 60, Hiram and Martha were still at the same location, but he was listed on the census without occupation and she was recorded as a “dress maker.” About this time, according to a modern directory, Hiram was considered to be a spiritualist (“1880 Professional Spiritualists” N.d.). Spiritualism was then a magnet for what would become known, a century later, as New Age beliefs. Also, in The Religio-Philosophical Journal (Chicago) of May 15, 1880, he is listed under “healers” with the title “Dr.”

In any case, Hiram N. Wheelock no longer owned his property in 1881, and he next turns up in Cleveland, Ohio. The 1883 and 1884 city directories record him at 12 Vine Street as a “Magnetic Healer,” but he then disappears from our view. The 1885 volume omits him; the 1890 census was destroyed by fire; and he is absent from the 1900 census—so he was probably deceased by then (Sullivan 2017, 587–588).


Allegany County Historical Society. 2017. Online at www.alleganyhistory.org/culture/transportation/railroads/buffalo-a-susquehanna-railroad-co/2024-buffalo-a-susquehanna-expands-north; accessed Mar 2, 2017.

1880 Professional Spiritualists. N.d. Online at https://iapsop.com/spirithistory/1880_professional_spiritualists.html; accessed March 7, 2017.

Minard, John Stearns, and Georgia Drew Merrill, eds. 1896. Allegany County and Its People: A Centennial Memorial History of Allegany. . . . Alfred, NY: W.A. Ferguson & Co.

Nickell, Joe. 2017. Blog, “Trade Card of ‘Magnetic Healer.’” Online at https://centerforinquiry.org/blogs/entry/rare_trade_card_of_magnetic_healer/; accessed March 24, 2017.

Sullivan, Roderick B., Jr., compiler. 2017. Descendants of Rev. Ralph Wheelock of Medfield, Massachusetts. N.p. Online at www.wheelockgenealogy.com/downloads/wheelock.pdf; accessed March 2, 2017.

Van Benthuysen. C. 1875. Annual Report of the Railroad Commissioners of the State of New York. . . . N.p.: New York (State) Board of Railroad Commissioners.

Wheelock home. 2017. Online at https://app.chautauquacounty.com/hist_struct/Sheridan/2791Route20Sheridan.html; accessed March 2, 2017.