Andrew Jackson Davis and His Wives
Some of this material has been published before, but I gleaned much of it from the collection of the Edgar Cayce Foundation, which acquired some of the papers of Andrew Jackson Davis after the death of his last wife, Della. She had kept quite a collection of documents that detailed the labyrinthine turns of the love lives of her and A. J. Davis. Thanks to Leslie Price for suggesting that I put this information on the website—JB
Andrew Jackson [“A. J.” or “Jackson”] Davis was born in Blooming Grove, Orange County, New York, on August 11, 1826, the son of Samuel and Elizabeth (Robinson) Davis. The family moved to Poughkeepsie, New York when he was a boy. His father was an alcoholic; his mother died when he was still a boy. While a young man, he became an entranced seer and traveling medium, often psychically diagnosing illnesses of audience members, and publishing, in New York City, the contents of his cosmic revelations.
Catherine [Catharine, Katie] H. De Wolf was born on July 16, 1806 in Bristol, Rhode Island. Her father was James De Wolf; her mother was Ann Nancy Bowman Bradford De Wolf. On October 5, 1823, Catherine married wealthy Joshua Dodge (born about 1803 in Plainfield, Connecticut) at Mount Hope, in Providence County, Rhode Island.
In 1847, she became a patron and lover of Jackson Davis, staying with him when he boarded at the home of Universalist Minister Samuel Byron Brittan in Bridgeport, Connecticut. “Mrs. Dodge had been long separated from her husband, but had not procured a divorce. This was granted by a special Act of the Legislature.” [W. N. Slocum, “Andrew Jackson Davis: Seer, Author and Spiritual Teacher,” Carrier Dove, October 1886:231-237.]
In June 1848, she was granted a divorce from Joshua Dodge (then listed as residing in Salem, Massachusetts) by the Supreme Court of Rhode Island, in Providence Plantations.
The marriage between 22-year-old A. J. Davis of Poughkeepsie and 42-year-old Catherine De Wolf of Bristol was performed by a Justice of the Peace on July 1, 1848. Witnesses were Universalist Minister William Fishbough and his wife Eliza, from Williamsburgh, New York.
Catherine, who was sickly even when she met Jackson Davis, died on November 2, 1853. In his 1856 book, The Penetralia, A. J. Davis detailed a series of etheric meetings he had with Katie after her death. In one of these meetings, she told Jackson that she had been given a new name, “Cylonia” [or “Silonia” or “Sylonia”] and he sometimes referred to her afterwards by this name when he spoke of her.
Mary Fenn Robinson was born in Randolph, New York, on July 17, 1824, the daughter of Chauncey Robinson (born about 1790 in New Jersey) and Damaris Fenn (born December 14, 1794, in Salisbury, Litchfield County, Connecticut), farmers from Clarendon in Orleans County. She and Samuel Gurley Love (1821-1893), also a native of New York, were married June 20, 1846 at Clarendon. Love was a graduate of Hamilton College and an educator—he was the Principal of Randolph Academy in Randolph, New York, and eventually he would become the Superintendent of Schools for the city of Jamestown, New York, and a national leader in the vocational education movement (He also served as a Major in the 154th New York Infantry during the Civil War). Mary and Sam had two children together—Frances [“Fanny”] Eliza Love (born in 1847) and Charles G. Love (born in 1849).
On August 12, 1854, Mary filed for divorce in Jefferson County, Indiana, “declaring herself to be a bona fide resident of said County and State, that her husband the said Samuel G. Love had ill treated her, he had on May 30, 1854 taken her to Cleveland Ohio among strangers, and there abandoned her, without money for her support.” A divorce was granted September 26, 1854. The 1860 Census shows their children living with their father Samuel in Randolph.
It was later said that “Mr. Love was greatly attached to another woman,” and that both Mary and Samuel had wanted the divorce, but that New York would not have granted one. Mary therefore went to Indiana to get the divorce. Mary had met Andrew Jackson Davis during a trip that she and Samuel had made to Rochester in 1854 to attend a series of lectures Davis gave through spirit-guidance on medical subjects.
Mary Fenn Robinson (listed as residing in Holley, in Orleans County, New York), and A. J. Davis (listed as residing in Brooklyn, New York), were married on May 15, 1855 in Clarendon, New York, by Joseph Pratt, who was a Justice of the Peace and Mary’s brother-in-law.
But the divorce that had been granted to Mary in Indiana was apparently not legal in New York, so when Samuel decided he would remarry [Louise Metcalf, born in New York about 1828], he needed a divorce from Mary that had been issued by New York, which only allowed divorce on grounds of adultery.
In April 1856, Samuel Love, in Erie County, New York State Supreme Court, filed “a bill of complaint against Mary F. Davis alias Mary F. Love . . . showing that since May 1st, 1855, at divers times and places in New York state, the said Mary did commit adultery with one Andrew Jackson Davis.” The court at a special term in Buffalo on May 9, 1856, declared the marriage dissolved—“. . . and it shall be lawful for the said plaintiff to marry again in the same manner as though the said defendant Mary F. Davis alias Mary F. Love, was actually dead. But it shall not be lawful for the said defendant to marry again until the said plaintiff is actually dead.” Mary did not deny charge of adultery at the time Samuel filed for divorce. The judgment was signed on May 24, 1856. The presiding judge wrote that “by the foregoing my opinion is, that the marriage of the said Andrew Jackson Davis and Mary F. Robinson was not lawful in the State of New York.” [Samuel G. Love married Louise Metcalf on July 30, 1857; he died on November 21, 1893.]
In 1871 Mary’s daughter Fanny had married Frank Wilfred Baldwin (born June 26, 1847 in New Jersey). Fanny and Frank had two children, and then on February 27, 1876, Fanny died giving birth to twins. Mary began raising the children. The 1880 Census shows both Jackson and Mary residing in Orange, Essex County, New Jersey.
In 1885, Jackson Davis announced to Mary—much to her surprise after thirty years of marriage—that they were not true “affinities;” that his true “affinity” was someone else. He filed for divorce from Mary.
At the time that Jackson Davis filed for divorce from Mary, she was still living in Orange, but Jackson had moved to Brooklyn. Mary did not contest the divorce. She took her mother’s maiden name, Fenn. She died at the home of Frank Baldwin in West Orange, New Jersey on July 18, 1886 (Baldwin later married Harriet M. E. Cox, from New Jersey).
Delphine (“Della”) Elizabeth Markham was born January 9, 1839, in Plymouth, Wayne County, Michigan. Her father was Dr. William W. Markham (born in 1801 in Paris, New York; died in March, 1887 in Batavia, New York). Her mother was Clarissa Minerva Towner Markham (born July 6, 1798 in Goshen Connecticut; died April 29, 1869). The Michigan Business Directory for 1863 shows William W. Markham as owner of a meat market in Chicago, and John S. Youngs and Justin Lawyer as bankers, real estate and insurance agents (Lawyer & Youngs) in Chicago.
Delphine married John Sprague Youngs (born on October 11, 1828 in Flint Michigan; died in 1898) in Branch County, Michigan. She was his second wife—he had previously married Susan R. Sargent (born 1827) on January 5, 1853 in Branch County.
Delphine filed for divorce from John in Albion, Noble County, Indiana on October 25, 1869 (next year he married Frances Adele Moore). Della took back her maiden name of Markham.
In Rochester, New York on April 3, 1870, Delphine E. Markham of New York City married Dumont Charles Dake (born June 11, 1838 in Nunda, Livingston, County, New York—his father was Dr. Chauncey M. Dake, his mother was Harriet Cady), a homeopathic and “magnetic” physician. He had “removed from Rochester in 1868, locating in the West.” They toured together and, for a while, settled in Chicago. In 1879, they moved to New York City, where Dumont graduated from the United States Medical College in 1882, and rapidly established a practice in New York City.
Della matriculated at the United States Medical College in New York, 1882-83 (as “Delphine E. Markham”) where Jackson Davis was studying as well.
In 1883, Andrew Jackson Davis was awarded the M.D. degree and the degree of Doctor of Anthropology from the U.S. Medical College, and the M.D. was conferred on 24 other graduates, among whom was Della E. Markham.
Della E. Dake divorced Dr. Dumont C. Dake (listed as a resident of Wayne County, Michigan) on July 25, 1885.
Della E. Markham, M. D. (listed as a resident of Detroit, Michigan), and A. J. Davis (of New York City) were married in Boston, August 11, 1885, by spiritualist Allen Putnam, who was also a Justice of the Peace.
In 1885, Dumont Dake married Florence Nightingale Middleton (born in Brooklyn in 1858), the daughter of William H. Middleton of Brooklyn.
Jackson and Della Davis moved to Boston, where Jackson practiced medicine for a while and then opened the Progressive Bookstore. He and Della resided in Boston at 46 Clarendon Street; his medical office was at 63 Warren Street.
Andrew Jackson Davis died January 13, 1910, at 4:15 a.m. at 50 Summer Street, Watertown, Massachusetts. His body was cremated at Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts on January 16, 1910.
The 1920 Census shows Delphine E. Davis living as a boarder in Hopkinton, Middlesex County, Massachusetts.
Della Davis died on March 13, 1928, in San Diego, California, and was cremated.
ANDREW JACKSON DAVIS.
His Enunciations on Marriage in the Past and in the Present.
[New York Herald.]
The depth of the agitation in Spiritualistic circles by the recent action of the psychological seer, Andrew Jackson Davis, in seeking to obtain a divorce from his wife [Mary], cannot be more clearly demonstrated than by the fact that he has been moved, against the wishes of the few who cling to him, to publish the statement which follows:
Boston, Mass., January 12, 1885.
What do many Spiritualists and a few personal friends want?
Answer—They want to save and promote the cause.
In the premises and under the circumstances what do they want of me?
Frankly I will answer:
First—They want me to continue to live with a woman as my wife who in the law is the wife of another man.
Second—They want me to continue to live with a woman who for twenty-nine years I have known is not my wife in spirit, and such are they who are sorrowfully concerned about my morality. The superior qualities of Mrs. Davis are not questioned. Were she the twin sister of the great and lovely Diana it would not justify me in assuming to be what I am not to her. Such time-serving and hollow immorality is to be expected from conservators, but for Spiritualists to exhibit such narrowness and insincerity is a universal disgrace and a humiliation. In all this I behold the workings of two evil-generating elements, namely—First, ignorance of me as an individual spirit; and, Second—Insincerity, coupled with that studied duplicity which hypocrites habitually practice in order to maintain a fair reputation for virtue to popular society. I shall draw a two-edged sword in this battle, and I shall not put it aside until the whole truth is established. In that fairer day, I shall have newer but better friends, enlightened minds, who will know in their very hearts that “wisdom, which is from above, is first pure, then peaceable, gentle and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.”
A. J. Davis.
“The John Baptist of Spiritualism is now realizing,” said a leading member of the late Harmonial Society of this city, “that if a man wants to change the entire principle of his life she should never write an autobiography and publish it. Here,” handing a Herald reporter a copy of his life, entitled “The Magic Staff,” “you will find his ideas of marriage and of the wife he now seeks to leave.” Turning over the pages of the book published by A. J. Davis himself in 1876, twenty-one years after his marriage, the following striking passages were discovered, which many of his former mode of thinking say proves the falsity of the position the writer seeks to assume now:
I realized that the truest and most favorable state for every human being is that of true marriage, not a housekeeping, social, humdrum, commonplace relation for purposes of physical comfort and personal convenience, but that nuptial union which consecrates soul to soul—tender, loving, deep, steady, immutable divine—like the marriage between Father God and Mother Nature.—Page 500.
Then speaking of Mrs. Mary F. Davis, whom he then intended to marry, he says on page 504:
I admired the firm and justice-loving woman. I traced her to Cleveland, and, although she was not yet divorced, I looked upon the flow of present circumstances and cast the horoscope of future events; yea, with the speed of the whirlwind I unravelled the skein of her most private experience; and finally resolved to conceal from her the fact that I realized the genuine fitness of her soul to mine.::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::
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