Monday, December 10, 2018

Meredith Beyers (1899-1996)-Part Four

After fleeing Chicago and his wife's suit for divorce, Joseph A. Sadony went to Michigan, and it was there that I believe he lived out the rest of his life. His story is tangled. Some of what he claimed was almost certainly made up. He was a called a psychic and a philosopher. Implications are that he was some kind of scientist, researcher, or inventor, too. We might just as easily say that he was a fraud, a scoundrel, a crackpot, and a fake who nonetheless may have believed in his own fakery. Sadony was also an occultist of one kind or another who lived at a time when the bounds between religion and science (or history), at least in the popular imagination, were fluid and uncertain. That mixture has yielded all kinds of pseudosciences, pseudo-religions, and pseudo-history. Thus we have Mormonism, Marxism, Theosophy, Christian Science, Lysenkoism, and later still Dianetics and Scientology--which bear, with their creator, some resemblance to Sadony and his beliefs. We can add to all of that, I think, Sadony's own Society of Psychological Science, Institute of Mental and Athletic Development, and Society of Psychical Research of Chicago and the many more brainchildren of his life's work in Michigan. The main thrust of all of this seems to have been to establish or describe (like Charles Fort) some kind of continuity between science and religion, between the material and the spiritual or supernatural. Did he ever succeed in his work? I'm not sure that anyone can say. Whatever he did or failed to do, Sadony created and shaped a world for and around himself and his family, a world from his own vision and his own efforts. In that, he might be called a great man, great in his qualities and accomplishments but also in his flaws and failings.

* * *

Joseph A. Sadony married Mary Lillian Kochem (or Kochems) on July 3, 1906. Having been born in September 1886, she was at the time of their wedding nineteen years old. Sadony's marrying Mary Lillian would have made him (like Joseph Smith and L. Ron Hubbard) a bigamist but his two sons by her legitimate (I think). In any event, Sadony, who lived in Michigan as a child, had acquired a place in or near Montague, Michigan, in April 1906. (It was purchased as a winter home for his society by a wealthy woman of Milwaukee.) When things fell apart in Chicago in 1908, he seems to have repaired to that place, and it was in Michigan that he was counted in the U.S. Census of 1910 with his wife, called Lillian; their two very young sons, Joseph A. Sadony, Jr., and Arthur J. Sadony; his daughter, who was called Stella (meaning star), aged eleven; and a servant, Florence Smith, aged thirty-two. Stella Sadony was almost certainly Mercedes Sadony, daughter of Sadony's first wife, Lola P. Sadony. Thereby hangs another tale of scandal:

From The Inter Ocean, Chicago, Illinois, April 26, 1908, page 2.
The encampment in Michigan, called "Camp Philosophy," must have, at some point, given way to a new, permanent home for Sadony, his family, and his followers. By 1909, they were living in "the Valley of the Pines," an 80-acre farm located southwest of Montague and not far from the shoreline of Lake Michigan. (The farm is still in the Sadony family, who have lent their surname to nearby Sadony Bayou and Sadony Road or Sadony Bayou Road.) In the 1920 U.S. Census, the Sadony household was more or less the same as it had been ten years before except that Pearl M. Smith had taken the place of her sister Florence. (Both had been followers of Sadony since his Chicago days.) By 1930, though, more were added to the household: Charles Abel, caretaker; Marie St. Claire, an elderly widow of Wisconsin (and perhaps the original benefactress of the Sadony society); and (finally, finally) Meredith Beyers, listed as a lodger and as a secretary and writer. The Sadony household was even larger in 1940. It included all of those who had lived there in 1930, as well as Edith Smith, cook (another Smith sister); and R. John De Fraga, an electrician, machinist, or machine operator.

In 1910, Sadony had given his occupation as farmer, in 1920 as machinist, and in 1930 as newspaper writer. (He wrote a newspaper column and other newspaper items for decades. He also wrote many books.) In 1940, though, he and his younger son were engaged in "educational research," and it was in this field that Meredith Beyers is supposed to have worked as well, for the elder Sadony's Educational Research Laboratories.

At some point, Beyers made the transition into more conventional research. Sadony's two sons seem to have done the same in their founding and operation of Sadony Brothers Boat Works, which later became Valley Research Corporation. But there are gaps in the record of Meredith Beyers' life, and I'm afraid I can't fill them. He attended and probably graduated from Northwestern University in the late 1910s and/or early 1920s. From as early as 1930 to as late as 1940, he lived and worked at the Valley of the Pines with Joseph Sadony. Sometime in the 1940s or '50s, he branched out into more conventional work at Convair and Ryan Electronics, located in California. In May 1925, though, he had had a poem, "The Golden Nail," in Volume 1, Number 1 of a journal called The Great Work in America, published by John E. Richardson of Hollywood, California. The lead article in that issue, after Richardson's introduction (or manifesto), is one by its associate editor, none other than Joseph A. Sadony. (1) And in his introduction, Richardson mentioned Meredith Beyers, or "Meredith Beyers," as his name appears, "a young man [. . .] who has come to fill a most important place in Joseph's life and work." (p. 6) By that, we can assume, I think, that Joseph Sadony was a formative influence on Meredith Beyers. Whether that influence held after Beyers left the Valley of the Pines and the state of Michigan, I'm not sure that anyone can say. Maybe there are answers buried in the papers left behind after Sadony's death in 1960. (Sadly, all things must pass.) Maybe the books on which Beyers was working late in life carried on in some way Sadony's researches. It seems certain to me that at least one likeness of Meredith Beyers is in the photo gallery on the official Joseph A. Sadony website, called The Valley of the Pines and reachable by this linkThe last gap in Beyers' life of course concerns his final years, from 1978 to his death on April 27, 1996, at age ninety-seven. It seems to me that he would have had voluminous papers, but if a man dies without children, siblings, nieces, or nephews, where do his possessions go? I suppose into the lost and irretrievable past, as all things eventually do.

* * *

The story of Joseph A. Sadony is immense and untellable in a blog, probably even in a book. It's nice to know a little of how things turned out, though, and so here some facts on a few of the principals:
  • Joseph Alexander Sadony, born February 22, 1877, Montabaur, Germany; died September 1960, Muskegon, Michigan; buried Valley of the Pines Cemetery, a place that may be hidden on his farm near Montague, Michigan. Sadony was married twice (I think), first to Lola Pauline Mielke, then to Mary Lillian Kochem or Kochems. These two marriages in fact overlapped. The first presumably ended in divorce, probably sometime in mid to late 1908. The second ended with his death.
  • Lola Pauline (Mielke) Sadony Lincoln, born August 1, 1879, New Ulm, Minnesota; died March 19, 1960, presumably in Chicago. She married William Henley Lincoln (1880-?), November 3, 1908, in Indiana, after her presumed divorce from Sadony. She was also known for some reason as Lizzie A. Mielke and Lizzie A. Sadony.
  • Mercedes P. Sadony Lincoln Bierbaum, aka Stella Sadony, born November 28, 1898, Chicago; died September 1978, presumably in Chicago. She was the daughter and only child of Joseph and Lola Sadony. She married Harold O. Bierbaum (1905-1982).
  • Mary Lillian (Kochem or Kochems) Sadony, born September 1886, Kentucky; died December 27, 1966, presumably in Michigan; buried Oak Grove Cemetery, Montague, Michigan. She was Joseph Sadony's second wife and mother of his two sons:
  • Joseph Alexander Sadony, Jr., born 1908, Michigan; died ?
  • Arthur Joseph Sadony, born April 14, 1909, Michigan; died May 29, 1998; buried Oak Grove Cemetery, Montague, Michigan. He served in the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II and was married to Beatrice H. Sadony (1920-2004). Both he and his brother had children who I think own and operate the Valley of the Pines farm and the official Joseph A. Sadony website of the same name.

Meredith Beyers' Story in Weird Tales
"The Last Entry" in Weird Tales (May/June/July 1924)

Further Reading
There is abundant reading on Joseph A. Sadony on the Internet. The best source I have found on the life of Meredith Beyers is a newspaper article, "He Holds All the Cards as County Votes" by Nancy Skelton, in the Los Angeles Times, June 6, 1978, page 20+.

Note
(1) In the same issue of The Great Work in America is an article about prenatal influences upon the mind of a child, written by the wife of the editor, Noneta S. Richardson. (Like Joseph Sadony, the editor, John Emmet Richardson, ran away from his wife with a younger woman and established a place, in  California, for occult, spiritual, or philosophical activities. His brainchild, The Great School of Natural Science, is still in existence.) Researchers into the history of Dianetics and Scientology might want to have a look at Mrs. Richardson's article, moreover at the lives and works of John E. Richardson, Noneta S. Richardson, and Florence Huntley Richardson, and consider them as a possible precursors not only to L. Ron Hubbard's inventions but also to other West Coast wackiness, including George Adamski's yarns of contact and travels with aliens from outer space.

Professor Joseph A. Sadony, with his wife and associates, from the front page of The Inter Ocean, Chicago, Illinois, March 1, 1908, the day the scandal broke. Mrs. Sadony was Lola P. Sadony. Miss Pearl Smith was a longtime follower of Sadony and later a cook at his camp in Michigan. C.C. Christian was an officer, I think, in his society while in Chicago. Miss Bessie Brown was, I suppose, one of his votaries.

Original text copyright 2018 Terence E. Hanley

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