Picture from San Jose Historical Museum Archives
Mary Folsom was born in New York State. She was a school teacher. As a young girl she was aware that she possessed a spiritual ability. She met a young engineer working on the Erie Canal named Anson Hayes and married him. She began to get "feelings" that if they moved to the midwest they would find ore. Mary and Anson moved to Michigan and became wealthy mining the ores that Mary's "feelings" found for them.
They had two sons, Everis Anson and Jay Orley. Both sons became lawyers.
When Anson's health began to fail Mary's dream of a grove of Oaks led them to California to visit friends. Her search for the oak grove ended in what is now the Edenvale area of South San Jose on property then owned by Frederick Tennant.
Frederick had inherited the land from his grandfather, John Tennant, who had become postmaster in what is now Morgan Hill. John Tennant had bought his land from a grandson of Joaquin Bernal who had been granted nearly 10,000 acres of land in what is now South San Jose by King Carlos of Spain. Under the terms of this land grand the land would have gone back to the king of Spain when Joaquin died. When Mexico won its independance from Spain Governor Figuroa granted the title to Joaquin Bernal completely, allowing his children and grandchildren to inherit the land.
Anson Hayes died when they returned to Michigan. Mary and her sons moved to Eden Vale and built a beautiful English Tutor mansion. The mansion burned down, so Mary had it rebuilt as the current Mediteranean style mansion. The house was built to public building code, with fire doors between each of the three sections of the house. The house had three wings--one for Mary, one for Everis Anson and one for Jay Orley.
Mary was a spiritualist who was friends with Sarah Winchester. Although Mary died in 1905, just before the house was completed, Sarah was such a close family friend that she had her own bedroom in the mansion when she came to visit.
After Anson died, Mary remarried. Her second husband was a San Jose attorney named Thomas Chynoweth.
Mary's spiritualism caused her to form her own churched called the True Life Church. She built a chapel on her land which later burned down. She also held services in the Unitarian Church in downtown San Jose. Her daily spiritual sayings are published in two volumes. Copies of these, along with pamphlets from the True Life Churched are housed in a small museum at Edenvale School at 285 Azucar Ave. in San Jose.