Where did the baby name Valoyce come from in 1925?

Valoyce Conklin
Valoyce Conklin

In 1925, the rare name Valoyce was a one-hit wonder in the U.S. baby name data:

  • 1927: unlisted
  • 1926: unlisted
  • 1925: 8 baby girls named Valoyce
  • 1924: unlisted
  • 1923: unlisted

It was one of the top one-hit wonders of the year, in fact.

Where did the name come from?

Valoyce Conklin, a 4-year-old girl in California who was featured in the newspapers in 1925 because of an unusual court case.

Valoyce and several other children were living at a mansion in Oakland called Hickory Hall, which was apparently being used for two distinct purposes: as a boardinghouse for young children, and as the headquarters of the “Oakland Metaphysical Society.”

You’d think these two things wouldn’t mix well together, and…you’d be right. Because Valoyce’s adoptive mother, Ildica Conklin — apparently a former member of the Society — took Joyce Leech, the head of Hickory Hall, to court in January of 1925 in order to regain custody of Valoyce. The papers referred to Leech as the “high priestess” of a “religious cult.”

Mrs. Conklin testified that women members of the Society had been “forced to disrobe and submit to beatings at the hands of other women members.” She also testified that the children had been abused, e.g., “whipped with ropes.”

In the end, Ildica was able to regain custody of Valoyce.

The court case prompted local officials* to investigate Hickory Hall, but the investigation didn’t lead to any charges. Two years later, though, Hickory Hall was back in the headlines due to similar allegations (this time, the child was named Patsy). I’m not sure what the outcome of the second court case was, or what became of the Oakland Metaphysical Society.

What are your thoughts on the baby name Valoyce? Would you use it for a modern-day baby?

*One of the investigators was District Attorney Earl Warren, who went on to become Chief Justice of the United States.

P.S. Curious about the name “Ildica”? My best guess is that it’s a form of the traditional Hungarian feminine name Ildikó. Ildica Conklin (née Eisenmayer) was born in Illinois in 1870. Incidentally, she was the widow of San Diego sheriff Ralph Conklin (who’d died in 1918).


  • “Abuse Tales of Hickory Hall Probed.” Oakland Tribune 14 Feb. 1925: 1.
  • Advertisement for Hickory Hall (in “Children Boarded” section). Oakland Tribune 2 Apr. 1921: 13.
  • “Court Probe of Whipping of Child Set for Hearing.” Oakland Tribune 20 Jan. 1927: 29.
  • “Cult Sensation.” Daily News [New York] 3 Feb. 1925: 15.
  • “‘I Don’t Mind Being a Witness,’ Child Smiles at Judge.” Oakland Tribune 3 Feb. 1927: 2.
  • “In ‘Hickory Hall’ Battle.” Oakland Tribune 27 Jan. 1925: 1.
  • “Mystic Cult of Women Bared in Mother’s Fight to Gain Captive Child.” Bee [Danville] 10 Feb. 1925: 11.
  • Women of Cult Beat One Another, Apostate Declares.” Daily Times [Longmont] 27 Jan. 1925: 2.
  • SSA

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.