Confessions of a Love God: “Let Us Prey” (Part 2)

tufts 1912 4-18 wife 1 joins wife 2 s-t
Our story so far (see Part 1): In 1912 Gorham Tufts, leader of a “Hindu psychical cult,” is being divorced by his wife, widow of Fort Worth lumber magnate A. J. Roe. Mr. Tufts is in jail in California, having been accused by Mrs. Tufts of embezzling part of her inheritance from the late Mr. Roe. Now there suddenly appears a second Mrs. Gorham Tufts.

Yes, it seems that in 1895 Gorham Tufts had married fellow missionary Mary Housekeeper when he was operating a rescue mission in the redlight district of Chicago. The missionary couple went to India, where Tufts and his “followers” had established what Mrs. Tufts No. 1 called a “pseudo school of philosophy” and where Tufts had proclaimed himself to be the “Love God.”


(According to The Day Book, a Chicago tabloid of the era published by E. W. Scripps, Mrs. Tufts No. 1 in her legal proceedings against her husband referred to him as the “Love God with Gold Teeth” because “a vision told him every tooth in his head must be of solid gold,” and so Tufts “forthwith proceeded to use some of the money collected for the poor heathen toward that end.”)

Mrs. Tufts No. 1 claimed that while she and her new husband had been in India he had abused her and finally had deserted her, leaving her with only twenty-five cents. Then he had returned to the States and in 1910 had divorced her—without her knowledge—with the claim that she had deserted him. After he had left her, she said, she had been an inmate in an insane asylum in England for two years. Now Mrs. Tufts No. 1 wanted the court to grant her custody of their two sons and to annul the divorce granted to Mr. Tufts. The two Mrs. Tufts—No. 1 and No. 2—agreed to help each other in their legal battles against their shared husband.

tufts 1912 7-10 pilloried trial s-t“Oriental Mysticism”! “Love Slavery”! The Star-Telegram headline shouted to high Heaven as the Love God’s trial for embezzlement from Mrs. Tufts No. 2 began in July 1912. The prosecution said that Gorham Tufts’s “Oriental mysticism . . . was only a cloak for the schemes the former cult leader is alleged to have operated.”

Among Tufts’s “love slaves” was Charles Parnell (see Part 1). When Tufts had met Parnell at the Chicago rescue mission, The Day Book wrote, “Tufts liked Parnell so much he ordained him a minister of the Church of God on the spot” although Parnell’s only training for the ministry had consisted of working as a steward on an ocean liner. But Mrs. Tufts No. 2 (the widow Roe) did not like love slave Parnell. The Day Book wrote: “She objected to Parnell, who was acting as Tufts’ shadow. Tufts called him [Parnell] his ‘love  slave.’ When Mrs. Tufts objected to the love slaving of Parnell, Tufts ordered her out of the house. She went, and had him [Tufts] arrested for embezzling her money.”

tufts 1912 7-12 to seek new trial s-tGorham Tufts was found guilty of embezzling $100,000 from the widow Roe. Meanwhile, a woman in San Francisco had slapped Tufts with yet another charge of obtaining money by false pretenses.

tufts 1912 7-21 convicted 2nd trial dmnIn July Gorham Tufts was sentenced to three years in San Quentin prison. Clip is from the Dallas Morning News.

tufts 1912 9-27 nettie brown sues LAEHAnd the accusations just kept coming. In September Nettie Brown, who had been a lodger of Tufts in Long Beach in 1910 (see Part 1), accused him of embezzlement. The Los Angeles Evening Herald referred to Brown as an “alleged disciple of his East Indian cult.”

tufts 1912 10-4 seeks name change s-tMeanwhile, who could blame Mrs. Tufts No. 2 (the widow Roe) when in October 1912 she sought to have her name changed?

tufts 1912 12-4 day bookAs Gorham Tufts’s eventful year ended, in December 1912 a headline in The Day Book reminded Tufts that double trouble still lay ahead.

tufts 1913 1-14 sues 2nd wife for divorce LAHEBut in the new year 1913 Gorham Tufts went on the offensive. In a case of “she sue, he sue,” from his jail cell in Los Angeles Tufts sued for divorce Wife No. 2 (Mrs. Jenny Scranton Roe Tufts), who, as you recall, was suing him for divorce. Tufts accused Wife No. 2 of cruelty. The Los Angeles Evening Herald, referring to Tufts as “the love master” and “delver of the East Indian occult,” pointed out that because a court had set aside Tufts’s divorce from Wife No. 1 (Mrs. Mary Housekeeper Tufts) at the request of Wife No. 1, the Love God now legally had two wives. Meanwhile, Wife No. 2 filed a cross-complaint charging Tufts with squandering her fortune, using abusive language, and conspiring to injure her daughters.

tufts 1914 3-3 seeks 2nd wife chicago examinerFast-forward to the next new year. In March 1914, the Chicago Examiner reported, the Love God had been released from jail after a successful appeal in Los Angeles and was headed east. But not east to the Love God’s mystical India. No. East, rather, to New York, where Tufts intended to seek reconciliation with . . . wait for it . . . Wife No. 2. Note that the story says that by 1914 Wife No. 1, who had convinced a court to set aside Tufts’s divorce from her, had divorced him.

tufts 1914 4-2 wins back wife chicago examinerOn April 1, 1914—yes, April Fool’s Day—Gorham Tufts and Jenny Scranton Roe Tufts announced that they had “made up” and that she would convey to him a one-half interest in her fortune. Note that the story in the Chicago Examiner says that Tufts had been a “pupil” of John Alexander Dowie. Dowie was a Scottish evangelist and faith healer who claimed to be the spiritual embodiment of the biblical prophet Elijah. Dowie, like Tufts, was often accused of the ritual of laying on of hands when other people’s money was within his reach. Dowie founded the theocratic city of Zion, Illinois, which one researcher characterized as “a carefully-devised large-scale platform for securities fraud requiring significant organizational, legal, and propagandistic preparation to carry out.”

tufts 1914 11-28 wounded love LAE Herald“It was wounded love which made me turn from by husband and believe the poisonous gossip that led to my suit for divorce from him,” a beaming Mrs. Jenny Scranton Roe Tufts, first divorced and then undivorced from an equally beaming Gorham Tufts, told the Los Angeles Evening Herald in November 1914. The newspaper said she had spent $50,000 ($1.2 million today) to put Tufts (“alleged head of a weird ‘love cult’”) in jail but now was willing to spend that sum to clear his name. “I got a divorce and went away from my husband. But I couldn’t stop loving him. . . . Then all my love rose up against the poison that I had allowed to inoculate my life and ruin my happiness. I came back to my husband, and from now on I shall fight with every atom of my strength and every cent of my money. We will never be separated again.”

tufts 1915 3-28 she conveys half to him s-tAnd, indeed, in March 1915 the Star-Telegram reported that Mrs. Tufts had gone halfsies with the Love God on her fortune, reinstated him as manager of her property, and declared her intention to clear Gorham Tufts of all false charges.

tufts 1918 1-18 jenny obit s-tFast-forward three years. We can only speculate as to what transpired during those three years, but when the former Jenny Henry Scranton died in Fort Worth on January 17, 1918, she died as “Mrs. A. J. Roe.” Her obituary did not contain the word Tufts.

tufts 1918 tombstonesIndeed, after her frenetic fling with the Love God, the widow Roe came back to her heart-of-oak lumberman, if only in death: Addison John Roe and Jenny Henry Scranton Roe are buried side by side with his-and-hers tombstones in Oakwood Cemetery.

As for Gorham Tufts, he lived on—and, no doubt, loved on and litigated on—for several years. The Love God died in Princeton, New Jersey on September 5, 1946.

(Thanks to Fort Worth author and historian Quentin McGown for his tip about the Love God.)

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2 Responses to Confessions of a Love God: “Let Us Prey” (Part 2)

  1. Paula C. Day says:

    Fascinating story. Thanks for your interesting and well-documented stories.

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