An article in the Times Reporter that was written by Jon Baker a few years back told of a supposed communication from beyond the grave of Tuscarawas County Sheriff John Howard, of Goshen. Howard, who was 56 at the time, died on May 4, 1869, following an April 30th buggy accident near the Goshen Canal bridge. His wife was also in the buggy but received only minor injuries. Maj. Charles H. Mathews, the editor of the Ohio Democrat newspaper of New Philadelphia, who had always had a fascination with spiritualism, attempted to contact Howard. He composed a short letter to the deceased sheriff on May 9:
“My Dear John Howard, I hope you will pardon me for addressing you so soon after leaving the body. Will you do me the favor to answer the enclosed questions? Hoping soon to hear from you.”
The letter was forwarded along with his questions in a separate envelope to famed medium James Vincent Mansfield, who conducted a mail-order spiritualism business out of his New York City home. The cost for the service was $5 and four, 3-cent stamps. Some of Mansfield’s more famous customers included Mark Twain.
Several days later, Mathews received a response. His questions were returned with the envelope seal unbroken and was opened in the presence of Howard’s widow and a witness.
Mathews later published his “spirit communications” from John Howard in the Ohio Democrat.
“I embrace this, the first opportunity to assure you I have a conscious existence beyond the mangled clay tenement that reposes in yonder cold grave,” Howard supposedly told the medium. Howard also said when he became awakened to conciousness days after his death that he was greeted by several people he knew. The first to greet him was supposedly David W. Stambaugh, of New Philadelphia, who had died on January 22, 1869. Stanbaugh had served as prosecuting attorney and was a state senator at the time of his death. Later in the communication, Howard spoke to his widow.
“Say to my dear, now afflicted wife, I will speak to her as soon as I recover sufficient strength to do so.”
Howard also said he could not provide proof to skeptics saying they “are too much wedded in their idols, or preconceived ideas to listen to any new revelation.” He also made a prediction. “The time is rapidly approaching when present theological teachings will be displaced by teachings more liberal- teachings that have vitality and assurances of immortality, beyond the cold, cold grave.”