In an effort to find some new tidbit on the tragic Maud Lee (subject of my book A Pair of Shootists), I stumbled across a reference to a name that appeared in my earlier book on Alfred Lawson (Baseball Fiends and Flying Machines). Lawson, between the years 1917 and 1921, befriended Wilbur Glenn Voliva, leader of the community/cult “Christian Catholic Church” of Zion, Illinois. Voliva was a serious proponent of the theory of a Flat Earth. He had taken over as leader of Zion in 1906 from John Alexander Dowie, an Australian faith healer who developed a huge following in America. As he aged, Dowie became increasing messianic, and proclaimed himself the Prophet Elijah.
However, back in the mid 1890s, Dowie held huge faith healing events in Chicago. On November 17, 1895, one such event was held in the Chicago Auditorium in front of 4000 people. Typically, Dowie planted individuals in the crowd to get up and attest to his miraculous cures. On this day, it appears that Maud was one of the plants:
There’s no proof positive that this was Maud, but circumstances fit–she often posed as the sister, daughter or niece of Buffalo Bill. The year 1895 is a blank in her history, but in July of 1894 she was injured while parachute jumping from a smoke balloon in Indiana. (see earlier post). This could be the injury that she claimed Dowie healed.
What would it mean to her story if this was Maud? At the least, it’s more evidence that Maud was desperate enough to do nearly anything for money–especially if it involved being in front of a large audience. Or maybe a favor was dangled by Dowie–it was the next summer the she obtained her best gig, the Wild West show at the Cincinnati Historical Exposition. Could he have put in a good word for her?