Queer Places:
University of South Dakota, 414 E Clark St, Vermillion, SD 57069
Church of the Good Shepherd, 58 Prospect St, St Ignace, MI 49781
St. James Anglican Church, 1681 E 55th St, Cleveland, OH 44103
St Paul's Episcopal Church, 10 Linden Ave, Vermillion, SD 57069
2533 N Burling St, Chicago, IL 60614

Frank Graeme Davis (July 23, 1881 - June 19, 1938), NAPA Official Editor in 1917-18 and President in 1918-19, was one of the leading intellectual lights of amateur journalism in his day.

Frank Graeme Davis had been born in Sturgis, St. Joseph County, Michigan, on July 23, 1881, the son of Joseph Chapman Davis (1845-1914) and Ella Albertine Graham (1851-1928). Joseph Davis was the son of Benjamin F. Davis (1829-1914), captain of a coastal vessel based in Sag Harbor, Long Island, and Marie [Mary] V. C. Penny (1831/32?-1860+). Joseph served with the Union forces in the Civil war. By the time of the 1870 census, he was a merchant's clerk in Sturgis, Michigan. On April 7, 1875, he married Ella A. Graham, the daughter of Cyrenus Graham (1823-1903) and Mary M. Stoughton (1830-1912). Cyrenus was one of eight children (third son) of “Squire” William R. Graham (1784/85-1870+) and his wife Anna Graham (1788/89-1870+). “Squire” Graham had been born in New Hampshire, but settled in Perry, Lake County, Ohio. His son Cyrenus married Mary Stoughton on December 25, 1850. She was the daughter of a Vermont-born Baptist clergyman, James Carter Stoughton, and his wife Sarah [Sally] Bresee [Burzee]. A second child, a daughter Mary Ruth Davis, was born to Joseph and Ella Davis in March 1885. She was named for Joseph's mother Marie [Mary] and stepmother Ruth Smith (1830-1893). In 1883, Cyrenus and Mary Graham removed from Sturgis, Michigan to Vermillion, South Dakota, and commenced farming. In 1887, Joseph Davis and his family followed.

The University of South Dakota (USD), founded in 1862, was based in Vermillion. For many years, it operated both a preparatory and a collegiate division. Both of the Davis family children, son Frank Graeme and daughter Mary Ruth, attended USD. Perhaps it was the preparatory division which Frank Davis entered at the age of fourteen (c. 1895). An uncle─perhaps his mother's younger brother Charles Stoughton Graham (1867-1900+)─gave young Davis the press on which he did his first printing. Davis's father Joseph Chapman Davis had at least two younger brothers─James Freeman Davis (1854-1931), a captain and merchant of Sag Harbor, Long Island, New York and Frank Addison Davis (1858-1930+), an attorney of Columbus, Ohio─who might have been this uncle. He also had sisters─including at least Emily C. Davis (1842-1914+) (Mrs. John Purdy), a farmer's wife of Leonidas, Michigan, and Elizabeth Davis (b. 1859/60)─who might also have supplied this uncle by marriage. Another sister, Emma Davis (1853-1941), seems not to have married. Charles Stoughton Graham and his Canadian-born wife Christie K. Barr had a son Carlyle Barr Graham (born December 19, 1892 in Clay County, South Dakota, who at the time of the 1930 census was living with his wife and children in Los Angeles, California.)

Davis's associates in publishing Magazette─Dwight Anderson (d. 1953) of Cleveland, Ohio and Charles R. King (d. 1956) of Toledo, Ohio─were later members of The Fossils, Anderson serving as President in 1946-47. Anderson, publisher of Pen, became a notable public relations professional in New York City. King, publisher of Hawk, became a distinguished ear-nose-and-throat specialist in Toledo. In his later years, he published the distinguished amateur magazine The Feather-Duster. Harry R. Marlowe published The Search-Light from Warren, Ohio as early as 1895. Marlowe, who once owned a collection of 35,000 amateur journals, probably inspired Davis as a fellow collector of amateur material. Davis himself lost virtually all of his collection of many thousands of amateur journals in an attic fire in his then home in Momence, Illinois about 1923. A professional printer by trade, Marlowe later served as Official Editor (1924-25) and President (1929-30) of NAPA.

In December 1899 Davis commenced publication of El Gasedil (“The Little Newspaper”), conducted in the international language Volapük invented by Johann M. Schleyer (1831-1912). El Gasedil eventually circulated to twenty-seven countries and enjoyed second-class postage rates. Davis published both a series of larger numbers conducted wholly in Volapük and a series of smaller numbers with some amateur departments in English. El Gasedil concluded with an issue dated Winter 1904-5. Davis joined NAPA in 1901, coincident with commencing collegiate-level studies at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion. During his three years (1901-04) at the University of South Dakota, Davis was a member of the Jasperian literary society and the leader of a Buddhist study group. He wrote an early letter dated April 27, 1901 to the editor of Light of Dharma magazine (published in the June 1901 number) about his experiences as leader of this study group, cited by Thomas A. Tweed in his study The American Encounter With Buddhism 1844-1912 (University of North Carolina Press, 1992). The 1902 group photograph of the Jasperian Literary Society reproduced from the 1903 number of Coyote on p. 90 of Cedric Cummins's The University of South Dakota 1862-1966 (Dakota Press, 1975) includes Davis, but it is difficult to identify him. In 1903, he and his recruit Donald Fellows published Par Moi. After completing his studies in Vermillion, he spent six months each in Minneapolis and Chicago, where he became acquainted with local amateurs. The spring of 1905 found him back in Vermillion where he was working as a clerk in the post office when the state census was enumerated. Then in 1907 he completed his studies at Seabury Seminary in Faribault, Minnesota and commenced his “deacon's year” at the Church of the Good Shepherd in St. Ignace in the Upper Michigan peninsula, on the Straits of Mackinaw. During this period, he contributed to W. R. Murphy's The Pioneer, and served as co-editor of Louis M. Starring's The Reflector (1908-10). He appears to have obtained leave, however, and studied at the University of Liège in Belgium for three years, before concluding his diaconal service. By April 1910 he was back in St. Ignace, where eighteen-year-old student Chester C. Cussie was in his household. While still in St. Ignace, he printed the first number (1910) of his amateur magazine The Lingerer. Its fifty pages contained contributions from the leading amateurs of the day.

Ordained to the Episcopal priesthood in Cleveland in December 1910, Davis served first at the cathedral and then as an associate in St. James parish. He returned to Vermillion in September 1912 to officiate at the wedding of his sister Mary Ruth Davis to Adam Spencer Bower (b. December 14, 1884), a farmer of Leonidas Township, St. Joseph County, Michigan. By 1930, Mary Ruth Davis was a widow living with her parents-in-law Henry A. and Viola A. Bower in Leonidas Township. She had children Ruth Emily, aged fifteen, Spencer Davis, aged twelve, and Joseph Henry, aged nine, and supported herself as a teacher in the rural school. Davis did maintain some communication with his sister in later life; when their mother died in March 1928, Mary Ruth came to Chicago to accompany her mother's body back to Vermillion for burial. Davis's connection with amateur journalism lapsed when he took his own first parish in Marshfield, Wisconsin in February 1913. In the spring of 1916, following what he described in his Ahlhauser sketch as “a physical collapse,” he returned to live with his widowed mother in Vermillion, South Dakota, where he became vicar of St. Paul's Church, university chaplain, and assistant professor of French (1918-20). William T. Harrington (The Coyote) helped to reacquaint Davis with amateur journalism after he returned to South Dakota. Soon he was the leading literary light of the National Association─the same role H. P. Lovecraft played in the rival United Association. In the winter and summer of 1917, Davis printed two new numbers of The Lingerer. Lovecraft rebutted Davis's attacks on the rival association in his article “A Reply to The Lingerer” in The Tryout for June 1917.

Rev. Graeme Davis was elected President at the NAPA convention in Chicago, Illinois in July 1918 after a successful year as Official Editor under President Harry E. Martin (1917-18). Davis rose quickly in the National ranks upon his return, and was elected official editor for the 1917-18 term. He produced four creditable issues of The National Amateur for President Harry E. Martin during his term as official editor. During this period he also published several issues of The National Amateur Review of Reviews, for overflow criticism. He personally attended the National's convention in Chicago in July 1918, where he was elected President for the 1918-19 term. His ambitious program of growth for the National was evidenced by a motion he offered to incorporate all members of the United as members of the National. This was placed “on the table,” for fear of further straining already delicate relations between the two associations. W. Paul Cook was elected his Official Editor for the 1918-19 term, and Cook proceeded to publish in six numbers the largest-ever volume of The National Amateur. Davis, however, was not able to conduct the ambitious program as President which he had intended. In September 1918, when the influenza epidemic was at its height, he was stricken gravely ill with pneumonia. He had a long and difficult recovery and was left with a serious heart condition. Les Mouches must have been among Davis's reading in the heady days leading up to his election as National President. In its convention-defying editors he believed he had found true soulmates.

Davis was soon corresponding with Roswell George Mills. Probably in the spring of 1919 he completed the printing of a seventy-two page issue of The Lingerer, which contained a seventeen-page, highly laudatory review of Les Mouches. Davis probably sent copies to Elsa Gidlow and Mills as soon as The Lingerer emerged from the press, although he did not mail copies to amateurs at large until late summer or early autumn. In the summer of 1919, Davis took leave from his clerical duties and travelled east toward Montreal. He stopped in New York only long enough to meet with Doc Swift and a few other amateur journalists, and then travelled on to Montreal, where he stayed an entire month with Mills and Gidlow. Davis excused himself from the National convention, which met in Newark, New Jersey over the 4th of July holiday in 1919. Davis's decision to skip the convention─which he would have traditionally attended as the retiring president─ruffled a few feathers, but the convention nevertheless paid Davis the traditional honor of election as one member of the three-member panel of Executive Judges.

From a distance of nearly sixty-five years, Gidlow wrote:

I found Graeme a warm, stimulating, sad, and fascinating man. Older than either of us, probably in his thirties, he was traveled, sophisticated, able to tell of places we had dreamed of seeing and people we admired... In his black suit and white shirt, even without the clerical collar which he did not wear while with us, Graeme looked priestly. He was tall, lean of body, in no way effeminate. His grey eyes looked dark and reflective. There was a sprinkling of grey in his nearly black hair. His cultivated baritone voice was warm, persuasive. I could imagine him influencing congregations and wondered what sort of sermons he preached to his flock in Vermillion, South Dakota.

Gidlow remarked that Davis, during his month-long visit, “was totally absorbed by Roswell─bewitched might be more accurate.” She described the end of Davis's visit:

Before Graeme's month-long visit ended, he had almost persuaded Roswell to agree to join him in Vermillion. He held out the bait of freedom for Roswell to devote himself to music and play-writing as Graeme's lifelong companion. That this was an unrealistic dream was spelled out in the letters of agonizing doubt I received during the next couple of years from Graeme as Roswell vacillated over what course he would take. It ended with Graeme coming to me with the news that he was entering a monastery in New York state. The order he entered permitted no communication after he took his vows, so I have no idea how he fared in that adventure.

Roswell George Mills had taken the Indian engineer Khagendrenath Ghose as lover by 1922, effectively ending any chance of a continuing relationship with Graeme Davis. When he registered for the draft in July 1943, he was an employee of The Brooklyn Eagle and living with his widowed mother Mabel in Brooklyn. Most of Roswell George Mills's surviving correspondence in the Gidlow Collection complains of the difficulties he encountered in later life; however, he and Gidlow remained close friends. By 1961, Mills removed to Miami, Florida, where he died on May 5, 1966, a few weeks short of his seventieth birthday.

In September 1920 Rev. Graeme Davis resigned his position as vicar of St. Paul's in Vermillion to take a new parish in Momence, Illinois. He remained there through December 1923, when he transferred to Waupun, Wisconsin. He was dismissed from the Episcopal priesthood by the Bishop of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin on August 7, 1925. He may have devoted some of the next several years to travel in Europe. He became a disciple of the French occultist and magnetic healer Henri Durville (1887-1963). He also became affiliated with the Liberal Catholic Church founded by James Ingall Wedgwood (1883-1951) (presiding bishop, 1916-23) and Charles Webster Leadbeater (1854-1934) (presiding bishop, 1923-34), both also members of the Theosophical Society. It is possible that Davis was received into the Liberal Catholic Church by Bishop Edwin Burt Beckwith (1870-1929), consecrated as a bishop by Wedgwood on July 18, 1926 for service in Chicago. Beckwith would probably have ordained Davis as a Liberal Catholic priest sub conditione, since Liberal Catholics generally doubted the validity of Anglican orders. Pope Leo XIII had declared Anglican orders null and void in 1896, whilst the Anglican Lambeth Conference in 1920 declared null and void all Liberal Catholic orders descending from Old Catholic BishopArnold Harris Mathew (1852-1919).

Not later than July 1927, Davis and his mother relocated to Chicago, Illinois, where they rented the second-floor apartment at 2533 North Burling Street─a large brownstone duplex (2531-2533) which is still standing. When Davis and his mother moved to their apartment on North Burling in mid-1927, there were two active Liberal Catholic congregations in the city─St. Francis, generally meeting in rented quarters on East Van Buren Street, under Bishop Edwin Burt Beckwith, and St. Raphael's, at 1105 Lawrence Avenue, under Rev. Edmund Walter Sheehan (1892-1988). The St. Francis congregation also apparently had a “mission church” at 1206 South Newberry Street, south of Roosevelt Drive near the current University of Illinois Circle campus; the 1928-29 Chicago Directory lists Francis G. Davis as pastor of this church. Chicago Tribune listings of religious services show Rev. Davis conducting religious services at the Van Buren Street address between May and September 1928. Most Liberal Catholic congregations offered a morning and an evening service, but Rev. Davis offered a schedule of three morning masses at the Van Buren Street address. Some of Davis's Liberal Catholic sermon topics as reported in The Chicago Tribune are interesting to note: “Faces Set Forward” (May 20, 1928), “Seeing the Unseen” (June 3, 1928), “The Possibility of Attainment” (June 10, 1928), “The Discipline of Discernment” (August 19, 1928), and “Renewal of Heart” (September 9, 1928). On May 6, 1928, Dr. Ernest Wood (1883-1965), a senior official of the Theosophical Society in Adyar, lectured at the Church of St. Francis on “The Science of Love” and “The Science of Occult Law.” When Mrs. Annie Besant, the President of the Theosophical Society, died in 1933, Liberal Catholic Bishop George S. Arundale (1878-1945) and Dr. Ernest Wood were the two candidates to succeed her; Bishop Arundale prevailed, but Dr. Wood continued to serve the Society for the rest of his life.

After September 1928, there was a gap in services of the St. Francis Liberal Catholic congregation. Davis apparently accepted episcopal consecration from an Old Catholic bishop, possibly from Henry Alfonso [aka Carmel Henry] Carfora (1878-1958), whose headquarters were in Chicago. (Davis used the title“Right Reverend”─denoting episcopal consecration─in his membership listings in The National Amateur in the 1930s.) Whether he broke formally or not with the Liberal Catholic Church may be questioned. However, accepting episcopal consecration from an outside, Old Catholic Church bishop would probably have been perceived as a hostile action by Liberal Catholic clergy and laypeople. Bishop Beckwith was himself too ill to resume charge of the St. Francis congregation; after six months of illness, he died at his Chicago home on March 3, 1929. By 1930 Rev. A. F. Hardcastle had taken charge of the St. Francis Liberal Catholic congregation, then meeting on South Wabash Avenue. After many years of meeting in rented quarters, this congregation built its own church in Villa Park, Illinois, in the late 1970s, and still survives. In the 1940s the Liberal Catholic Church split into several divisions, of which the most numerous (in the United States) is that to which Villa Park's St. Francis congregation belongs. This Liberal Catholic faction does not recognize Davis's episcopal consecration in its table of apostolic succession.

Soon after the death of his mother in March 1928, Davis relocated to the ground-floor apartment of a three-flat building─now demolished─at 2234 Orchard Street in Lincoln Park, where he maintained his residence for the rest of his life. After his break with the Liberal Catholics in September 1928, he operated his “Old Catholic Church of the Mystic Way” at 2234 Orchard Street for the rest of his life. Neither Liberal Catholic nor Old Catholic clergy generally receive any stipend, so Davis probably maintained himself on his own resources or donations from parishioners. The Theosophical Society in Chicago had a number of wealthy adherents; Bishop Beckwith was himself a physician as was Weller Van Hook (1862-1933), whose son Hubert Van Hook (1895-1984), later a Chicago lawyer, had early been considered by Bishop Leadbeater as a candidate for the “avatar” role for which Krishnamurti was eventually chosen. There is some indication that Davis's family had significant financial resources─Cyrenus Graham was a successful entrepreneur (having been engaged in the manufacture of agricultural implements in Canada in 1861-64) while his wife Mary Stoughton was the daughter of a clergyman and the sister of two lawyers. Davis himself was a substantial collector of antiquarian books, a hobby which would have required some financial means. Left with a severe heart condition as a result of his illness in 1918, he spent seven months at a European sanatorium in 1932, during which time he translated Fr. Wittemans' history of the Rosicrucians (published by Aries Press in Chicago in 1938). Back to Chicago in 1933, he continued to preside over his small “Mystic Way” congregation from his home. His church appears in only two religious service listings in the Chicago Tribune: for April 2 and 9, 1933. On April 2, he spoke on “Claim You Divinity” at 10:30am and on “Cosmic Rays” at 7:30pm; on April 9, he spoke on “Christ On Guard” at 10:30am and on “Overcoming Death” at 7:30pm. Despite his acceptance of episcopal consecration from an Old Catholic bishop, Davis still considered himself a Liberal Catholic clergyman─his 1938 death certificate states that affiliation. One may speculate whether The Tribune's religion editor considered the Mystic Way Church too minor to warrant continued coverage; or whether pressure was exerted by Episcopal or Liberal Catholic clergy to stop listing Davis's small church. Davis's church was probably too small a phenomenon to be noticed by Roman Catholic Archbishop George Cardinal Mundelein and his clergy; historically, fractious Old Catholics were a much greater source of trouble for Episcopal clergy.

Davis attended NAPA's 1934 convention in Chicago, where he was warmly greeted by old time amateurs like Jennie Plaisir and interested to meet “Young Blood” like President-elect Ralph Babcock. His swan song in amateur journalism was the mimeographed publication A Letter from the Lingerer which he published in September 1937. Edward H. Cole gave it a respectful review in The National Amateur for December 1937. Davis died in Chicago on June 19, 1938, about a month short of his fifty-seventh birthday. Chicago publisher Aries Press (Abraham Roth (1894-1965), proprietor) also published Davis' The Way of Wisdomunder the pseudonym “Durvad” (= DUR[ville] + [si]VAD ) in the year of his death. While hampered with archaic language, it is a shortsynthesis of his philosophical and religious beliefs at the end of his life.

Like Bishop Leadbeater's erstwhile “avatar” Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895-1986), Davis rejected all the grades and degrees of conventional esoteric organizations. He emphasized a gradual advancement with emphasis on knowledge and mastery of self. The image of the Sphinx and the Tarot deck were important tools in his scheme of progression. Beset with severe heart disease in his later years, he recommended a strict corporeal culture: “A vegetarian regime, chosen exercises, rhythmic gymnastics, cold baths, a very strict hygenics kept the Pythagorean in good health and weight; his sobriety was his strength”. There was little separation of body and spirit in Davis's philosophy─they were destined to be an harmonious unity as contrasted with the conflict contemplated by more conventional Christian thinkers.

The obituary which Vincent B. Haggerty wrote for The National Amateur in December 1938 reported that Davis was survived by a son, but his mother's obituary in The Dakota Republican for March 8, 1928, mentions her three grandchildren by her daughter Mary Ruth Davis Bower but no grandchildren by her son Frank Graeme Davis. All of the surviving census records give his marital status as single, never married. Davis's death certificate is the sole record giving his marital status as divorced. In the same death certificate, the informant, the son, Alexander V. Davis, denied knowledge of the names of the decedent's parents or of the name of his former wife. It seems likely that Davis, formally or informally, adopted a son and heir.

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