Monday, March 5, 2012

Volney G. Mathison (1897-1965)-Part 7

Personal Life and End

Less than a month after his nineteenth birthday, on September 6, 1916, Volney Mathison married in Columbia County, Oregon. Unfortunately I don't know the name of his bride. It's safe to assume that she was her husband's first wife but not his last. However, there is some confusion on the Internet as to Mathison's marriages. I think that confusion comes from an odd article in the Los Angeles Times from 1935, odd only in light of other facts about his life. Unless Mathison played games with the truth (and if I interpret the facts correctly), the situation was this: Volney Mathison married Dorothy Jean Ashley, nicknamed Jean, in about 1929. The two remained married for the rest of their lives.

Born in Huntington, Indiana, on July 18, 1907, Dorothy Ashley was the daughter of an Illinois barber who died sometime between 1920 and 1930. At the time of the 1930 census, Volney and Dorothy Mathison were living in Berkeley, California, with her mother and her sister, Roberta A. Ashley, also called Audrey. (1) In 1935, the Los Angeles Times unintentionally threw a wrench in the works of this account by reporting:
Jean Darrell, music librarian for the local N.B.C. headquarters, returned from her vacation with a husband--Volney Mathison, who is engaged in [the] shortwave radio business.
The situation is confused further with this, from the same paper, thirty years later:
MATHISON, Jean, beloved wife of Volney Mathison, loving daughter of Mrs. Theodore Warkentin, sister of Audrey Ashley. Services at Pierce Brothers' Los Angeles Mortuary, 720 W. Washington Blvd. (2)
The California Death Index reports that Dorothy J. Mathison, born July 18, 1907, in Indiana, died on November 9, 1964, in Los Angeles--obviously the same woman. (The cemetery where she was buried gives her full name: Dorothy Jean Mathison.) So how is it possible that a woman named Jean Darrell fetched back a husband from her 1935 vacation when that same man was married to Dorothy Jean Ashley from Indiana? Did he divorce Dorothy Ashley, then remarry her after a hypothetical marriage to this Jean Darrell ended? Was Mathison a bigamist (like L. Ron Hubbard)? Or did Jean Mathison go by the name Jean Darrell? If so, why? Maybe the Times meant to say that she returned from her vacation with her husband instead of with a husband. Or maybe the couple had kept their marriage of circa 1929 secret, only to make it public in 1935. The simplest answer may be the best: the article from 1935 is misleading. Who did the misleading? Probably the Mathisons. And who has been misled? Everyone who believes Volney Mathison was married just once to a woman named Jean Darrell in 1935.

In any case, Jean Mathison, Volney Mathison's wife, died on November 9, 1964, at age fifty-seven. Ten years her senior, Volney outlived her by only two months, dying on January 3, 1965, in Los Angeles. He was buried at Rose Hills Memorial Park as she was before him. There weren't any survivors listed in Mathison's death announcement. L. Ron Hubbard survived however, and on June 7, 1965, while the flowers on Volney's grave were practically still fresh, the founder of the Church of Scientology filed a patent for a "Device for Measuring and Indicating Changes in the Resistance of a Human Body." The patent--U.S. Patent 3,290,589--was issued on December 6, 1966. Hubbard had finally wrested the Mathison Electropsychometer from its inventor. (3)

Volney G. Mathison
Radioman, Seaman, Labor Spokesman, Inventor, Author, Chiropractor, Psychoanalyst
Born August 13, 1897, Paducah, Texas
Died January 3, 1965, Los Angeles, California

Volney Mathison's Story in Weird Tales
"The Death Bottle" (Mar. 1925)

Further Reading
Because of his association with L. Ron Hubbard, Dianetics, and the Church of Scientology, Volney G. Mathison has received mention in books on those subjects. If you would like to read more about him, I would suggest finding books on Hubbard and his followers. For more on wireless telegraphy and radio, start with a history of radio or a biography of Guglielmo Marconi, David Sarnoff, or other pioneers in the field. For more on radio in Southern California, see an interesting website called Radio City Hollywood, here. You can find out more about Anthony Cornero Stralla by looking at books on organized crime, the Mafia, and the history of Las Vegas. Going farther back, you can read about Henry George and the single tax in any number of books and on any number of websites. Wikipedia might be a good place to start. Finally, to find out more about Hugo Gernsback and the origins of science fiction magazines, see a history of science fiction such as Alternate Worlds by James Gunn (1975), A Pictorial History of Science Fiction by David Kyle (1976), or Explorers of the Infinite: Shapers of Science Fiction (1963) by Sam Moskowitz.

(1) A woman named Audrey Ashley is credited as co-author of the story on which the movie Raw Deal (1948) was based. Her collaborator was Arnold B. Anthony. That may be the same pseudonymous author of the novel Parched Earth (1934), a story about agricultural workers in California (perhaps like Volney Mathison's father) and dedicated to the author's mother, "Who has known the heartbreak of lean harvests" (like Mathison's mother). My feeling is that Arnold B. Anthony was not Volney Mathison, but it's always good to consider possibilities.
(2) Theodore Warkentin was a boatbuilder, carpenter, and stevedore in California.
(3) The following year, Hubbard--like Tony the Hat before him--took to the sea where he could operate away from watching eyes.
Postscript (Aug. 14, 2016): It seems likely to me that--given his father's interest in intellectual ideas--Volney George Mathison was named after the French author, intellectual, and politician Count Constantin de Volney (1757-1820). Although he was a friend of Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, Volney also associated himself with the intellectuals behind the French Revolution and with their ideas. These men tended to be religious skeptics, materialists, or atheists. They also tended--as history has shown--towards pseudoscience and otherwise crackpot ideas about economics, politics, philosophy, science, and human nature.
"Looking North on Vine Street from Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood, California," a postcard of the 1930s or '40s. This was the milieu of countless stars, executives, and technicians, as well as Volney and Jean Mathison, the fictional Philip Marlowe, and the infamous real-life case of the Black Dahlia.

Original text and captions copyright 2012 Terence E. Hanley


  1. Could Jean Darrell be some kind of artist name? A Jean Darell seems to have been associated with NBC in some ways according to the NBC Transmitter there is also and weak music association to bing crosby during that period. That might have been the name she for reasons became known for and then contined to use..?

    I find it however somewhat nutritive to believe that "Rex Volney" one of Mathisens pseudonymes arived from a possible call sign when he was working on SS Tango and probably also on SS Rex. What do you think?

  2. Oops Dex Volney was Mr Mathisen's pseudonyme, of course.

    Finding some notes about School Children and Electroppsychometer in
    "Burchim One of the busiest It is a scientific fact (hat our emotions lead to, and assravate, our physical ald mental health. With the aid of the Mathison Electropsychometer "

    This blog has an impressive ability to dig out facts that i can not find. First wife I have not found at all, What are your favorite sources for the information here? and favorite searches in general? Here I really think I could learn something.

  3. no Volney G Mathison was probably not a bigamist. A Volney George Mathison was marrying to a Josephine J Harrison, father Percy w Harrison. about 4 years later is the same girl not divorced and not married, so i must guess some fraud have been involved in some way.

    The bride was 16 years old at the time of the marriage so one can think back and forth a lot without getting wiser about it. The Volney George Mathison (Mathisen even) who marries is only stated as over 21 for some unknown reason.

  4. 1931 Volney G Mathison arrives to US with a Dorothy D Mathison on SS Colleen.

    Probably the same girl, Dorothy Jean Jean that marry Volney. A Dorothy Jean Mathison dies in 1964.

    The two anomalies is in a probable birth-name Ashley and in the name i guess she used as her artist name ... since Volney used pseudonym's so whynot Dorothy Jean?

    1. Hi, Scientology,

      I have some further information for you and others.

      I don't think and never did think that Volney Mathison was a bigamist. I think that "Jean Darrell" was a pseudonym of his second wife, Dorothy Ashley. Thanks for the information you have provided, though, for it has led me to clear things up when it comes to Mathison and his wives. I have discovered the identity of his first wife. Most of the information below comes from Ancestry and

      Volney George Mathison
      Born August 13, 1897, Paducah, Texas
      Died January 3, 1965, Los Angeles, California

      He married twice:

      Josephine Jannie (or Jennie) Harrison
      Date and place: Sept. 6, 1916, Columbia County, Oregon
      She was born in Dec. 1899 in St. Helens, Columbia County, Oregon.
      Her date of death is unknown.
      She remarried:
      Clyde Wilfred Baumgardner, Baumgartner, or Baumgaertner (1906-1995).
      Date and place: Aug. 15, 1932, Olympia, Washington
      (He also remarried, to Pearl Baldwin.)

      Dorothy Deane "Jean" Ashley aka Jean Darrell
      Date and place: June 1, 1929, Pleasanton, Alameda County, California
      She was born on July 18, 1907, in Huntington, Indiana.
      She died on November 9, 1964.

      Jean Darrell worked for NBC radio in Los Angeles from about 1932 to 1937. There was also a singer and a stage actress named Jean Darrell, but I don't know whether these were all the same people. While at NBC radio, Jean Darrell worked for Sid Goodwin, who was later a radio actor in "Captain Starr of Space" and "This Is Your FBI."

      Thanks for reading and for writing, and good luck with your own research.