Ben Affleck was a featured guest on “Finding Your Roots,” a series on PBS that is hosted by Henry Louis Gates. The idea behind the show is to find interesting ancestors of celebrity guests. Last October, Affleck was on an episode dubbed, “Roots of Freedom.” Affleck’s mother was a Freedom Rider, his third great-grandfather was an occultist after the Civil War, and he also had a Revolutionary War ancestor.
Affleck’s third great-grandfather, Almon Bruce French, was a lawyer in the 1870’s. Quite reasonably, the Civil War left behind great pain and suffering. French wanted to help these suffering families who had family fighting in the Civil War. There was so much misery and torment and many had lost family and loved ones to the war.
Two percent, or 750,000 people, in the United States were killed in the Civil War. That does not sound like a lot, but in today’s numbers it would equal 7 million Americans lost over four years. Affleck gasped at the thought of how many people that would truly be lost in the war.
A story about Almon Bruce French, regarding how he was able to comfort people, was found in a book written by the man himself, in regards to the occult. This book was an extremely rare find, that Affleck was presented with, as the book was originally published in 1892. In the introduction of the book, given to Affleck, Almon French says that one night he came home to find that his mother and sister were in some sort of altered state. Affleck was stunned to hear this story. They were entranced. Almon French tried to leave the house, but the invisible beings that were controlling his mother and his sister told him to stay. because they had work for him to do that was too great to be revealed right now. He believed that this was his calling.
In the 1870s, Spiritualism was popular. People believed that spirits of the dead wanted to communicate with those they left behind. Scholars believe Spiritualism was so popular because of the high death rate from the Civil War. French believed that he was a paranormal medium. Almon French began traveling the country, performing séances. He spoke to the dead for the living. He believed that the dead had something to say to the living as well. Affleck laughed and said that when asked if Almon could see the ghost of someone’s father, of course Almon would say, “yes.”
His obituary says he died August 30, 1923. It says the following, “Mr. French was an inspirational orator of great force and effectiveness.” It continues on to say that he received his special gift and developed it in his youth. It was because of that development, he was in very high demand. He was highly sought out in Spiritualism. For years he spoke at gatherings of other Spiritualists and was a great speaker of that time.
Affleck says learning about his third great-grandfather, Almon French, makes him proud, as the man tried to comfort people in the middle of great tragedy. Affleck is also proud of his mom who was a freedom rider. He says he gets his desire to help people and speak out for social justice from her. The book written by French is called Gleanings from the Rostrum, and can be downloaded for free from the internet.
By Jeanette Smith