John Barton Wolgamot gave his name to a Society in Michigan, founded, more or less, by Keith Waldrop; he also wrote and published (via vanity presses) the poem that was to provide the text and title of Robert Ashley's composition In Sara, Mencken, Christ and Beethoven There Were Men and Women. The same text was also published earlier under the title In Sara Haardt Were Men and Women, and he had been working, when he died, on a third work, also with the same text, but with a third title, Beacons of Ancestorship, that later became the title of a Tortoise album (who also named a track after the previous work, with "Men" and "Women" transposed). Waldrop reports that Wolgamot sent copies of the first two to Mencken, and that those copies were given to the Enoch Pratt Free Library (a catalog search on their website for "Wolgamot" does not currently give any results). For unknown reasons, the Encyclopedia of American Poetry identifies Wolgamot as a literary historian. Aside from that curiosity, basically everything one can find online about Wolgamot concurs with the information given in the poetry foundation link, a recollection by Waldrop (information substantially reproduced in this interview with Waldrop, though he can't quite keep his story straight). Very little actually goes beyond what's contained there; no Ashley or Tortoise fans, for instance, report having actually gotten their mitts on a copy in some library somewhere, or even having confirmed Waldrop's claim that the book is referred to in any account of Mencken's library. The story, or parts of it, is passed around; it comes up, for instance, in Kyle Gann's book on Ashley.
It seems quite probable to me that there never was a Wolgamot; that the name was made up (the family name, perhaps, derived from Rosmarie Waldrop's mother's maiden name, Wohlgemuth?). Looking just at the poetry foundation link, the story is really just too pat. No further copies are extant—no one remembers Wolgamot's name at the first publisher's, and Waldrop buys the last remaining copy the second publisher has. No one is likely to look through all of Mencken's jottings to find the one that Waldrop refers to (without giving any bibliographical information). Waldrop describes the way Ashley's piece was made (reading one page/sentence in one breath, then the next, editing out the spaces between the readings), and later in the story, when he finally meets Wolgamot and tells him that the poem was set to music, the only things Wolgamot is recorded as having said in response are that "it was hard to imagine reading his book out loud", but that "'it would have to be a sort of'—he hesitated, considered—'well, a breathless reading'"—what a nice confirmation for Ashley! Immediately prior to that we get a hypothesis and confirmation much closer together:
Ashley had done a formal analysis of the book, in an elaborate chart, showing that the book is in four movements-there was no sign of this, no markings-four movements of equal length. I was not entirely convinced. But the first thing Wolgamot said was, “You realize, this is in four movements.” And Ashley immediately brought out his chart, which Wolgamot wouldn’t look at. Just as he had no interest at all in hearing the composition.
Note that in the interview, Wolgamot is reported as having found the reading of his piece so imaginable that he at one point actually contemplated it himself:
Which reminds me: when Wolgamot heard that in Bob's composition the text was actually spoken, he said that at one time he had thought of reading it out loud. "But then I decided against it," he said. "I suppose that—if you did read it—it would have to be a kind of, well, breathless reading."
Early on, Waldrop writes that he "claimed that the work was a funeral piece for Sara Powell Haardt, intimating, however, that while Sara was Mencken’s on earth, she was Wolgamot’s in eternity"; in the paragraph before, Waldrop mentions a phone call between Mencken and Waldrop. Then, during the meeting between Waldrop and Wolgamot:
I asked him if he had ever met Mencken. He said he hadn’t but, “I talked to him on the phone once.” I said I supposed, then, he had never met Sara Powell Haardt, and I could see Ashley was remembering my silly theory. And Wolgamot said, “No, I never met Sara Powell Haardt. I used her name, because her last name’s Haardt and my middle name’s Bart.” But he went on, “Of course, in the book, I represent myself as having an illicit relation with her. In a book like this, there has to be some love interest.”
The encounter with Wolgamot reveals no information not already stated or speculated about earlier (sometimes immediately earlier); speculations, moreover, are always confirmed, never disconfirmed, so that Ashley and Waldrop's powers of analysis and perception are emphasized. And since their theories about the structure of the bizarre text are confirmed by the text's eccentric author to be correct, we are encouraged to believe that the structure really is there—as we might not so easily or successfully be encouraged if Waldrop's liner notes just asserted of a text attribute to Ashley or himself that it was in four parts and perfectly suited for a "breathless" reading (not just Ashley's eccentric choice but the result of recognition of just what the text requires). But I suspect that the text really is by Waldrop or Ashley and that the whole Wolgamot story is false, false, false! And obviously false, in fact, in a way that makes its repetition somewhat baffling.