Adam H. Dickey, C.S.D.

  • Anne Holliday Webb
ADAM H. DICKEY, C.S.D. Portrait – P0373-6 Longyear Museum Collection.

WHEN ADAM H. DICKEY first learned of Christian Science he was associated with the W. S. Dickey Clay Manufacturing Company of Kansas City, Missouri, then one of the largest firms of its kind in the United States. It had been founded by his father, Nathaniel Dickey.

Nathaniel Dickey, a native of Lisburn, Ireland, came to the United States in 1848, eventually settling in Toronto, Canada, where he engaged in the foundry business. The Dickeys were originally from Scotland, but Nathaniel Dickey’s forebears had settled in Northern Ireland in the early seventeenth century as part of a colony having a grant from King James I of England (1603-1625). Adam Dickey’s great-grandfather, also named Nathaniel Dickey, was one of the petitioners for lay representation in the Presbyterian church. For having thus questioned the authority of this church, he was dismissed from membership.

When converted to Methodism, he spent a considerable time with John Wesley on Wesley’s tour of Ireland and became a class leader and lay preacher in the Methodist church, a church affiliation maintained by his descendants.

Adam Dickey was born in Toronto in 1864, the second son of a family of nine children — six boys and three girls. He was educated in the Model School and Upper Canada College, founded in 1829 on English lines as a state institution by the Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, Sir John Colborne.

Adam Dickey at the age of 17. P0372-1 Longyear Museum Collection.

In 1881 the Dickey family had moved to Kansas City from Toronto where Nathaniel Dickey utilized the abundant clay in the area to establish his clay manufacturing company. He was an active member of the Methodist church and after his passing the Nathaniel Dickey Memorial Church of Kansas City was erected in his memory. Adam Dickey said of his father, ”I never knew a better man than my father.” His mother, “scrupulously honest and frank,” was a descendant of George Soule, who came to America on the Mayflower. Thus, Adam Dickey was reared in the atmosphere of America’s highest ethical ideals of industry and service. As a youth, he was active in the Methodist church and continued in its activities until he came into Christian Science in 1893.

In 1887 Adam Dickey and Miss Lillian Selden, also of Kansas City, were married there on the 16th day of November. Miss Selden was the only child of Mr. and Mrs. Herald Pope Selden, who came originally from Connecticut to Rome, New York, where Lillian was born. While she was still a child, her mother and father settled in Kansas City, Missouri, where her father became one of the pioneer railroad builders of the West.

At the time Mr. and Mrs. Dickey were married, he was affiliated with the family-owned clay manufacturing company, an association he held from 1884 to 1899, when he entered the practice of Christian Science.

Early in the 1890s, Mrs. Dickey was stricken with a serious physical condition which medical treatment failed to heal. She turned to Christian Science and was restored to health. This experience brought both Mrs. Dickey and her husband to a close study of this healing Science. When Mrs. Henrietta E. Graybill, then practicing Christian Science healing in Kansas City, announced a course of instruction in Christian Science, Mrs. Dickey wished to attend. Mr. Dickey was also invited to attend that he might accompany his wife. During this time he was permanently healed of the use of tobacco, and he related that for fifteen years thereafter he read Mrs. Eddy’s writings almost exclusively.

Subsequent to their course of instruction, Mr. and Mrs. Dickey left for Mexico City to negotiate with city officials about installing the Dickey clay products in that country. While traveling to Mexico City, the Dickeys heard of the serious illness of an American citizen, and he and Mrs. Dickey felt impelled to offer their services as Christian Scientists to this man. They were invited to his home and remained with him throughout the night. In the morning he was much improved and complete recovery rapidly followed. Before the Dickeys left Mexico City, they and seven others were attending Sunday morning Christian Science services for which they served as First and Second Reader. These initial meetings led eventually to the establishment of First Church of Christ, Scientist, Mexico City, one of the first Churches of Christ, Scientist, in a non-English speaking country and the first in the Mexican Republic.

As Mr. and Mrs. Dickey were returning from Mexico City — almost in awe at the recent healing, one of their first — they must have asked themselves, What are we doing in the clay business? Later, Mr. Dickey resigned his business connection and they turned to the healing work of Christian Science. He had been an officer and commercial traveler for his company; now their financial prospects had become rather uncertain. At this time his former company made him a most attractive offer to rejoin it, which he at first accepted, but the following day cancelled the acceptance. Soon they were fully occupied in their chosen field. They gave unquestioned proof of their dedication to Christian Science when later they withdrew from the bank their remaining savings and sent $2,000 to The Mother Church for the church extension building program.

In 1897 Mr. Dickey joined the many Christian Scientists congregated in Boston for the Communion season of The Mother Church, accepting Mrs. Eddy’s invitation to visit her at her home, Pleasant View. Specially chartered railroad cars brought a crowd of 2,500 to hear Mrs. Eddy speak. This was the first and only time Mr. Dickey saw her until he was called in 1908 to serve Mrs. Eddy at Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.

In The Christian Science Journal of 1899, both he and Mrs. Dickey were advertised as practitioners in Kansas City. In 1900 he was invited to attend the Normal class, Board of Education, taught by Edward A. Kimball. Only twenty-one teachers could be authorized that year, and at its close Mr. Dickey recommended that another student from Kansas City, because of seniority, be awarded the degree which might have been his. However, Mr. Kimball invited him with Mrs. Dickey to attend the next Normal class, meeting in 1901, and at its close both were awarded the degree of C.S.B. Thus he was privileged to have Normal class twice with Mr. Kimball.

Mr. Dickey held his first class in 1901 (beginning November 14) in Kansas City and taught there until called to Boston. Mrs. Dickey sat on the platform with him and handed him references as needed. From 1912 to 1923 his classes and Association met in Boston. After his passing in 1925, the Dickey Association continued its meetings in Boston, and Mrs. Dickey addressed it many times before her passing in 1934. Although authorized, she never became a teacher.

First Church of Christ, Scientist, Kansas City, Missouri, where Mr. Dickey served in various capacities.

In 1898 Mr. Dickey served as Sunday school Superintendent of First Church of Christ, Scientist, Kansas City, Missouri. He served on the Board of the church and as its chairman, and on various committees. In 1906 he was elected First Reader, filling the post until called on January 29, 1908, by The Board of Directors of The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, to serve Mrs. Eddy in her household.

The following Monday, February 3, found him on his way, speeding to Chicago and thence by railroad to Boston through blinding snowstorms. As he traveled over the snow-swept country, his thoughts were buoyant as he realized that no greater blessing could fall to him than to receive such a call to serve Mrs. Eddy, Discoverer, Founder, and Leader of Christian Science. This far outweighed any regret at having to leave his home, a busy practice, many students, and active work with First Church. He arrived in Boston near midnight on February 5 and reached Chestnut Hill the next morning in time for seven o’clock breakfast and a first meeting with members of the household.

Mr. Dickey became Mrs. Eddy’s private secretary through whom business matters often came to her. Between them there existed a compatibility of thought and action which greatly facilitated her work. His sole purpose, as he saw it, was to help her fulfill her mission for God and mankind. In the Pink Room at Chestnut Hill there hangs a picture of Mr. Dickey, placed there by Mrs. Eddy near the portraits of Dr. Asa Eddy and herself.

In matters which required a decision from the standpoint of wisdom, Mr. Dickey tells us, “She was always able to appeal to the divine Mind and get her answer,” but there were “times when she seemed to bend beneath the heavy load that mortal mind had placed upon her and it was then that she really yearned for human aid and sympathy.”

First edition of “Poems” inscribed by Mrs. Eddy to Adam Dickey.

Her confidence in his motivation and ability was expressed in her appointment of him to responsible posts. On September 22, 1909, he became a Trustee under Mrs. Eddy’s Deed of Trust; and on November 21, 1910, he was elected, at Mrs. Eddy’s request, a member of the Board of Directors of The Mother Church. This was her last official direction to the Board. She asked him to write a foreword for her small publication, Poems. When he brought the first book from the press and bindery to her, she said, “This is a very pretty book.” He answered, “It is a beautiful book.” And she replied, “I will give it to you.” She wrote on its flyleaf: “Number 1, Adam H. Dickey, C.S.D.” (This book is now in the collection of Mr. Roy Garrett Watson, C.S.B., a pupil of Mr. Dickey’s.) The degree of C.S.D. had been conferred on Mr. Dickey by the Board of Education of The First Church of Christ, Scientist, on August 5, 1910, for his individual teaching by Mrs. Eddy and his contribution to her work. The certificate was signed by her. Mr. Dickey served Mrs. Eddy personally for almost three years.

When a request for a German translation of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures was approved by Mrs. Eddy, she directed Mr. Dickey to oversee this work. Miss Florence M. Dickey of Kansas City, Adam Dickey’s sister, has left this record of the initial steps in this work: “When the committee appointed by The Christian Science Board of Directors of The Mother Church met to translate the textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, from English into German, the first day of their meeting Mr. Archibald McLellan told them that Mrs. Eddy had instructed Mr. Dickey to ‘watch the translation and to guard the metaphysical meaning of each line.'”

The German translation of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures was copyrighted in 1912, and a report later submitted to the Board of Directors about Mr. Dickey, included this statement by Frau Oldenburg (formerly Fraulein Schultz): “The German Christian Scientists’ gratitude to our Leader for her precious gift of the translation is inseparably bound up with unceasing gratitude to Adam H. Dickey for the stupendous work he did during all those months of the translation. Only his great love for our Leader, for her textbook and his dutiful care to carry out her wish could have enabled him to self-sacrificingly ‘watch’ in never ceasing patience and encouraging love. Indeed, his ‘works do follow’ him.” (Rev. 14:13)

The years after Mrs. Eddy’s passing in 1910 demanded much of Mr. Dickey, who served as a member of the Board of Directors until 1925 and in the Board’s cabinet form of organization, also as Treasurer from June 1912 to September 1917. On September 18, 1913, he had been made a Trustee Under the Will of Mary Baker Eddy, holding the post until February 8, 1925, when he passed on.

When the Trustees of the Christian Science Publishing Society brought suit against The Mother Church, Adam Dickey was serving as Chairman of the Board, and he became a central figure in the litigation from 1919 to 1921, upholding faithfully the Manual for governing the Christian Science movement about which he had learned much firsthand from Mrs. Eddy.

On November 24, 1921, the Boston Post heralded to its New England readers in large headlines: “CHRISTIAN SCIENCE DIRECTORS UPHELD AS CHURCH HEADS . . . Manual Is Supreme,” and this joyful news was flashed to Christian Scientists around the world. The court decision had been handed down on the 23rd, the day before Thanksgiving.

From 1916 he gave much thought and attention to the building of the Christian Science Benevolent Association. He did not neglect needful articles for the periodicals, however, touching currents of thought at the time. To The Christian Science Journal he gave “God’s Law of Adjustment,” in 1916; “Possession,” in 1917; “The Mother Church and the Manual,” 1922; “Preparedness” in the Christian Science Sentinel, in 1918; and “The Continuity of The Mother Church.” in 1923; besides lesser-known articles.

Mr. Dickey at Mrs. Eddy’s Chestnut Hill home.

In an address to Second Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, on the subject of The Christian Science Monitor, March 31, 1924, he recalled a statement Mrs. Eddy had made to his wife to the effect that Christian Science was touching human consciousness and changing it.

Some measure of Mr. Dickey’s character may perhaps best be found in “God’s Law of Adjustment” and “Possession”. “God’s Law of Adjustment”, he told his Association, was inspired by statements made to him by Mrs. Eddy. For seven years Mr. Dickey pondered these statements before writing the article.

Happily today these two vital publications in renewed and attractive dress are available in Christian Science Reading Rooms. After almost sixty years since first published, they remain undimmed in their healing messages.


This article was originally published in the 1974 spring Quarterly News.

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