Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Hidden History of the Hotel Ryde- Part 2

Ryde Hotel, Walnut Grove, CA

In the last article (Part 1), I spoke about the beginning of Ryde (the community), the origins of the Hotel Ryde and how the original hotel burned down in the fire of 1911.  So what happened after the fire?

Well, after the Giusti family moved their business across the river to the Miller's Ferry Station, the remaining residents of Ryde started rebuilding their businesses.

The 2nd Hotel Ryde

2nd Hotel Ryde (Ad)
Let me first state this, the Ryde Hotel that stands today is not the original hotel, nor does it sit on the original spot that the first or second hotel stood. In fact, the parking lot of the current Ryde Hotel (just south of the hotel) is where both the original and 2nd hotel's once stood.  I spoke to lifetime resident and local historian, Dennis Leary in depth about his life in Ryde and he told me that the 2nd building that was used as the Hotel Ryde was rebuilt on the same spot as the original. When he bought the property in the 1970s, the building was still there but hadn't been used as the hotel since the mid-1920s.

I could not find any documents that state exactly when the 2nd building was erected, however it was rebuilt sometime before the 1920s, because I found some really interesting stories that took place at the Ryde during that time period. From what I read in old periodicals and what Mr. Leary told me, the hotel was rebuilt and run by the Gianetti family. Some accounts state that Joe Miller had the hotel rebuilt and he then leased it to the Gianetti family, while others stated the Gianetti family rebuilt the hotel.

Also, Remember, the current Hotel Ryde wasn't opened until 1927, so the stories you are about to read took place in the hotel that is no longer standing. If you go stand in the parking lot of the current Ryde Hotel, you will be standing in the vicinity where these next few stories took place.

Murder or Self-Defense?

Literally just days before the onset of the Prohibition Era in California, the Hotel Ryde saw a very tragic and scary incident take place in their saloon. On January 2, 1920, after two guests had one too many drinks in the bar area, the bartender Orlando Fontanini told the two patrons, Alex and Gunnar Johnson that they needed to leave. Of course, that didn't sit well with Alex and he grew angry. The bartender continued persisting that it was time for both of them to leave but that wasn't going to be the case. Instead Alex and Gunnar decided to jump over the counter at the bar and proceeded to attack the bartender, choking him. During the scuffle the bartender reached for his gun he kept under the bar and he shot Alex Johnson in self defense, killing him. Although, he adamantly stated that his life was at risk and he was only defending himself, Fontanini was charged with Alex Johnson's murder and was taken to jail. Gunnar Johnson was held as a witness.

Sausalito News (January 10, 1920)-
(See Photo)

"Sacramento--- Alex Johnston (typo), a carpenter, formerly residing in San Francisco at 3470 Twentieth Street, was shot and killed January 2 during a quarrel in the barroom of the Hotel Ryde at Ryde, Sacramento county. Orlando Fontanini, bartender at the hotel, was arrested and charged with murder. He said Alex Johnston and Gunnar Johnston, a companion had attacked him when he ordered them from the place. Fontanini said he shot in self-defense as he was being choked. Gunnar Johnston is being held as a witness.--"

Sacramento Bee (January 13, 1920)--
"The killing in Ryde January 1st of Alex JOHNSON was investigated and a verdict of death resulting from a gunshot wound inflicted by Orlando FONTANINI, was brought in. FONTANINI, who was a bartender at the Ryde Hotel, shot JOHNSON following an argument over the claring of the saloon. The bartender claimed he shot in self-defense after being attacked. He declared when he tried to close the place JOHNSON became abusive and attacked him. He said one of the men grabbed him by the throat and during the scuffle, he fired a revolver."

I looked into the story further and couldn't find whether or not Fontanini was later freed or if they convicted him of the charges.  Honestly, he shows up in the 1920 Census as being a servant for the Gianetti household, but then he drops off from any public records. The possible misspelling of the names Johnson and Johnston in various news clippings is actually quite common for the time period. However, according to the San Francisco Directory for 1920, Gunnar Johnson is listed. So now, we have the correct spelling of their Surname.

Prohibition and Scandal at the Ryde- 1923

By 1923, the Ryde Hotel was in the papers again. This time it was for violating Prohibition laws by serving alcohol to their guests. According to the Lodi Sentinel (November 13, 1923) some federal agents stopped by the Ryde to enjoy dinner in the restaurant. While they were there, they noticed that the restaurant was serving alcohol. Three men who were guests at the hotel confronted one of the three officers when they overheard them talking about the fact the restaurant was violating the law.  One of the men walked up to the officer and accused him of being law enforcement, to which Officer Charlton admitted. The guy then demanded to see his badge. When Charlton showed him the badge, the man reached over, grabbed a bottle of alcohol and broke it over the officer's head. This injury cut him severely and he was in bad need of medical attention. Officer Edmund Hemphill ran out to his car and retrieved his gun and held the men who instigated the fight at bay until back up arrived.

Warrants were issued by the U.S. Commissioner, Gerald Beatty and then federal officers along with Sheriff Eaton Blanchard then arrested the three men from the fight: Allan Eldred, Clay Locke and William Donahue. They also arrested Mrs. Gianetti (the Proprietess) and a waiter (who was serving alcohol) Nick Camicia.  They were all charged with, Conspiracy to violate Prohibition Law, Interfering with Government Officers, Destroying evidence, and Assault of Government Officers.

Mrs. Gianetti and Nick Camicia were released immediately on a $1,000 bond, while the three other men were held on a $10,000 bond. Clay Locke obtained his bail within a few hours. Clay Locke was the son of George Granville Locke. Clay's grandfather was George W. Locke, for which the town of Locke was named after. Clay's father, George Jr., was the one who allowed the town to be built on the edge of the Locke Estate and there it sits today as a reminder of an old Ghost Town that once was a bustling little city. Although the records I have found to date show the town of Locke to be a small community early on (around 1916),  by the 1930's it was full of diverse cultures including Chinese, Spanish, Russian, Portuguese, Italian, Filipino, Mexican, Swedish, German, Hawaiian, Japanese, and Caucasian Americans, As the years passed, people came and went, but that little town remained.

Photo shows 2nd structure and 3rd structure side by side (Circa 1927)
 The Hotel Moves

So sometime in the mid-1920s the newer (3rd) Ryde Hotel was built. This is the current hotel that still stands today. It is said to have been built in 1926 and opened in 1927. What happened to the 2nd Ryde Hotel? Well, after they had built a new one just yards away, north of the property, the old hotel building was then used for other various businesses including "Ryde Electric" and an insurance company.

The current hotel has seen many owners throughout the years. Many reports even claim that Hollywood's "Wolf Man", Lon Chaney, Jr. and his family owned it at one point in time.  The hotel was also said to have an underground tunnel that had stills for brewing wine, gin and whiskey during Prohibition. There was also rumors the very underground tunnel also led to the river for guests to be able escape undetected into the night, in the instance that there was a raid. The lower level of the hotel had a 'speakeasy' and offered music and booze to their guests (as long as you weren't a cop!)

Actor, Lon Chaney, Jr.
There's been talk over the years about it being a bordello, a place where many unsavory characters and even mobsters would frequent to enjoy gambling, women and booze. I could not find anything in any archive to substantiate these claims, although it is a pretty exciting tale to tell. I think that it is safe to say that the Ryde Hotel did, at times, involve itself in "prohibited" acts according to the laws of the time, whether it be related to Prohibition or what not. Anything else is just pure speculation.

The hotel pride's itself as being the place many of Hollywoodland's elite would come for a weekend stay in the old days. Photos fill the walls with stars that are said to have stayed there.  In 1928, Herbert Hoover came to visit the Ryde Hotel and it is reported that at a political rally he held there, he announced his candidacy for President. During the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s newspaper archives note that it was a pleasant place for couples to celebrate their anniversary along the beautiful Delta.

During the 1960s and 1970s the crowd it attracted had changed and at one point had even changed it's name to the Grand Island Inn for awhile. The Ryde Hotel's website even states that at one point the hotel turned into a boarding house when the levee's were built.  The hotel has been bought and sold so many times over the years. During the 1970s, when the building that housed the 2nd Ryde Hotel was demolished, Dennis Leary (the owner of that property) allowed the Ryde Hotel access to pave a new driveway down the side of the hotel. Originally the Ryde's driveway was the one on the north side of the building, but after having issues with delivery trucks for so many years due to the fact it was so steep, Leary was nice enough to let them pave a second driveway on the southside of the hotel for easier access. Later, Mr. Leary sold the land on the south, to the hotel where they eventually used it for the parking lot they have today.  

Hotel California?
The Ryde Hotel's water tower.

I found some sites claiming adamantly that the Ryde Hotel was the "inspiration" for the Eagle's song "Hotel California". This is absolutely incorrect. First off, my step father was a huge Eagles fan, and that song was his favorite. I have heard every idea that has been thrown out there about possible meanings and inspirations for that song over the years, none of which ever mentioned the Ryde Hotel.

If any hotel would be mentioned for the inspiration for that song, it would be the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles. The Eagle's themselves were quoted stating the song is about the "interpretation of the high life in Los Angeles", plus the Chateau Marmont was the "spot" for everyone in the entertainment world to party at, so that one makes more sense to me.

Secondly, over the years there's been so many ideas about the true meanings of the song, some people have gone so far as to state it was about a hotel in San Francisco that was purchased by Anton LaVey and turned into a Satanic church. Others have even tried to say the song is about the Camarillo State Mental Hospital, in Camarillo, CA. So for the theory that the Ryde Hotel was the inspiration for that classic song, it just doesn't add up. Sorry.

Deaths, Murders, Mystery

copyright: J'aime Rubio
In all the searching I have done on the original Ryde, the 2nd Ryde and the final Ryde Hotel that stands today, I haven't found any other deaths besides Alex Johnson's death in 1920. Not to say that no one else died there, maybe I just haven't found it yet. I read on a 'less than credible' website, that a local artist committed suicide there and that he haunts the place. I see no real proof of this, nor to I believe this. I did find that this artist sadly took his life in 2006, however there was no mention that he took his life at the Ryde Hotel.

The newspaper article that I read, stated that he had suffered from depression and mental illness and that he took his life at his home on Grand Island. Honestly, whether he killed himself there or not, I find it in poor taste and given the fact this tragedy was so recent, that for someone to be putting his death on a website to claim a place is haunted or not, is just plain wrong!

I write about historical facts and stories that took place a long time ago. I do this to pay tribute and honor those who can no longer speak for themselves, therefore I will not go any further into this man's life or death, nor will I even mention his name out of respect for him and also to his family. Again, I could find NO EVIDENCE that he took his life at the Ryde Hotel so other websites should NOT be posting this information if they do not have the facts.

In Conclusion

In the time I have spent looking into the vast history of the Hotel Ryde and the community of Ryde itself, I have become even more fascinated with this beautiful piece of heaven. I always enjoyed taking drives out here on weekends and just enjoying the peace and serenity that this little Delta town has to offer, but now even more so it holds a special place in my heart now, and forever.

I am glad to have been able to research and document this history that had been forgotten for so long. It makes me happy that others out there who really want to know the real history of this place can now know what I know. If you are ever in the area of the California Delta, (just about 30 miles northwest of Stockton or 30 miles southwest of Sacramento), I suggest you take a little drive down to Walnut Grove and visit Ryde. It's worth the trip!!

(Copyright 2013- J'aime Rubio, Dreaming Casually Publications)

Sausalito News (January 10, 1920)
Sacramento Bee (January 13, 1920)
Lodi Sentinel (November 13, 1923)
Interview with Dennis Leary
Ryde Hotel Website ( 
Free Lance Star 8/5/1977
Sacramento River Delta Historical Society- periodicals
various websites, census records, archives and newspaper clippings

Photo Sources:
All photos of the Ryde Hotel are copyright protected and property of J'aime Rubio
photo of Lon Chaney, Jr. from public domain
Prohibition photo public domain

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Hidden History of the Hotel Ryde- Walnut Grove, CA (Part 1)

Ryde, CA (Walnut Grove Area)
A while back, someone very special took me to a quaint little Delta town known as Ryde.  In fact, it was one of our first "dates" you could say. I had never been on the windy roads of the Delta, so I didn't know what to expect, although I was more than pleasantly surprised. While driving along the levee roads, you can literally watch the river flow by. It doesn't take much imagination to think of how it must have been to be there in Ryde's heyday when Sternwheel steamers and paddle boats traveled up and down that Delta and all the people who passed through.

When we arrived, my certain "someone" pulled the car down a steep driveway next to an old 1920's styled hotel, named the Hotel Ryde. As a gentleman does, he went around to the passenger side and opened the door for me, leading me to the back of the vehicle. He had then pulled out an old crank record player as well as a very old 78 rpm vinyl record and played it for me. Then, like all romantic movies play out, he asked me to dance with him. No one was around, it was nearly sunset, and the wind was blowing quite fierce, but it didn't was the most romantic thing anyone had ever done for me. So, like the true romantic that I am, I engulfed myself in the moment and danced!

After we were done, he took me for a walk around the property, telling me what he knew of the history there. In fact, at one time he and some of his friends wanted to purchase the hotel themselves. The history within the walls and the very community of Ryde itself had me chomping at the bit to investigate. What secrets lie there? What history could be told that had been long forgotten? And who did I need to speak to, to reveal that history? So many questions, and not a lot of people around to ask.

Soon after, I contacted the Ryde Hotel and the California Delta Chamber & Visitors Bureau to see if I could find out more about it's history. I reached at dead end with the Ryde Hotel at first. After contacting the hotel itself, the manager told me that he didn't know any more of the history prior to 1927. Thankfully, I did get one lead through Bill Wells at the California Delta Chamber & Visitors Bureau because he pointed me in the right direction, Giusti's!

You see, from what Bill Wells told me, Giusti's is a restaurant in Walnut Grove that has been around for generations. Not only that, but he told me that he thought the cash register at the bar was actually one of the original registers from the first Hotel Ryde. That was because the owner's grandfather was the one who started the first Hotel Ryde in the late 1800s.  This was the lead I was looking for!

I continued researching in the old microfilmed archives, I checked old newspapers and periodicals and hit a gold mine of historic information. With all that I discovered, plus after finally contacting Mark Morais (owner of Giusti's), who so very kindly pointed me to lifetime local resident Dennis Leary, I was well on my way to getting a clearer picture of just what this hotel and the town itself was like, long ago.

Thanks to the wonderful conversation I had with Mr. Leary, I received a first hand account from someone who lived there. Along with the information I dug up in old newspaper archives, I was able to put the pieces together to give you this in depth history of Ryde, and the Hotel Ryde. Enjoy!

The History Of  Founder Of  Ryde

Many say the reason for the name Ryde was given because the founder of the town was born in the town of Ryde, Isle of Wight in England. This is incorrect. In fact, the man who bought the land that Ryde was built on was born in Monticello, Kentucky and his name was General Thomas Williams. The name Ryde was later chosen by William Kesner and General Thomas Williams, for what reasons, I guess is left for speculation. Perhaps relatives in Williams' genealogy had come from that region of England long ago? Or perhaps William Kesner's family had originated there. Kesner was the one who took the land and made it into a town, thus he is Ryde's true founder. Although I couldn't find any definite evidence that says why he chose the name, for now we can only speculate.

According to the Daily Alta California (3/2/1886) it speaks of Thomas Hansford Williams death from heart disease and disorders of the stomach and liver. It also goes on to summarize his accomplishments. He was born May 18, 1828 and died February 28, 1886. He was a native of Wayne County, Kentucky. He was also the son of Kentucky Congressman, Hon. Sherrod Williams.  Williams came to California in 1850 and settled in El Dorado County, where he became a successful lawyer. By 1851, he was elected as the El Dorado County District Attorney. By 1857, he became the State Attorney General, where he was again re-elected in 1859. Once his term expired he moved to Sacramento, where he continued to practice law until moving up to Virginia City around 1863.

While in Virginia City, he and his business partner David Bixler opened the firm Williams & Bixler. One of their many clients, including many of the Silver Barons of the Comstock fortunes, owned the mining claim named "Central Number Two". Later it was organized into the Consolidated Virginia and California Mining Companies. Upon failing to pay their attorney's fees, the firm had no choice but to sue the company for what they did have, property. Although Williams thought that since the company couldn't pay their bills, obviously the claim was worthless, it in fact was not. They were sitting on a very profitable claim which they sold to George T. Marye & Son for the sum of  $3,000,000.00 (three million dollars).

Original Hotel Ryde c/o Giusti's
By 1877, Williams and Bixler acquired 17,000 acres of the Delta region. Later in 1891, Williams' son sold 40 acres where the community of Ryde sits, to William Kesner, the man who founded Ryde. According to Dennis Leary, he stated that another man by the name of Cardoza had land adjacent to the Kesner properties and that the land the original Ryde Hotel was built on belonged to Cardoza, although the building itself was built by the Giusti family.

The Original Hotel Ryde

In 1886, the Giusti brothers (Egisto, Morro, Paolo and Pietro) immigrated from Lucca, Italy to the Walnut Grove area of the Delta, and built the very first Hotel Ryde. The Giusti family owned and operated the hotel and saloon for many years successfully, until the day of November 6, 1911. That was the day that the entire town of Ryde burned to the ground, leaving little to nothing left.

The San Francisco Call (November 8, 1911) noted:

Almost  Every Building Goes Before Flames, With Loss of $100,000

- Almost every building in town was destroyed by a fire which started here last night, causing loss of nearly $100,000. The fire started in the kitchen of the Ryde hotel, burned down the hotel and spread to an adjoining stable. The store of S.E. Brown and Fred Weber's saloon, the $50,000 pumping plant of reclamation district No. 3 and two wharves owned by W.A. Kesner were destroyed. The fire burned out because there was nothing left for it to feed on."

Sadly, the Hotel Ryde, along with all the other businesses and homes were burned to the ground. Thankfully, everyone was able to rebuild. Instead of staying in the same spot, the Giusti's decided to move to their current spot on the other side of the river in Walnut Grove. At the time they built it, it was originally called the Miller's Ferry Saloon. There was also a general store and a toll station for the ferry that was run by the family as well. After all these years, the Giusti family has run a very successful family owned and operated business along one of the most beautiful places in the Delta that still remains today.

So in 1911, with the town of Ryde burned to the ground, and all the residents struggling to build back their livelihood, what was to be the future of the Hotel Ryde?

In the next article I will go more in depth to uncover some unknown facts and history about the rebuilding of the Hotel Ryde and a few mysteries as well.


(Copyright 2013- J'aime Rubio/Dreaming Casually Publications)

Thank you Dennis Leary, Mark Morais (Giusti's), Bill Kesner, & Bill Wells for all your help!

Photo Sources:
Photo of Original Hotel Ryde, property of Mark Morais (Giusti's)
Photo of Delta-Walnut Grove, property of J'aime Rubio

San Francisco Call 11/8/1911
Daily California Alta 3/2/1886
Free Lance Star 8/5/1977
Overland Monthly (1918)
Sacramento River Delta Historical Society- periodicals
Interview with Dennis Leary
Various Census Records, Archives, etc.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Review: A Look at "Folsom's 93"

Folsom's 93
This past Summer, I was fortunate to pre-order my copy of a highly anticipated book. Written by the talented and very tenacious writer, April Moore and published by Craven Street Books, "Folsom's 93" takes a look at the 93 men who were executed at the old Folsom Prison between 1895-1937.

The whole story behind April's decision to write the book, is just as intriguing as the book itself. Apparently, April's great-great aunt Betty had information and photographs of these "condemned" men from Folsom that had been acquired by her late husband. Growing up, April had seen the photos when visiting and became fascinated with them. Years later, after coming across the very same photos again, she was inspired to write about their stories for the rest of the world.

This book tells the back story to each and every inmate that was executed at the old Folsom Prison with great detail. Within this 'page-turner' there are some tales of men who seem to have been possibly framed, while other stories depict mad characters committing  some of the most atrocious acts.  The wide range of the demented go from men who found pleasure killing for fun, men who lost their tempers in a fit of rage, revenge killing, even a few sociopaths as well as everything else in between.

Inmate, Willard C. Shannon
One of the many men convicted for murder and sent to the gallows was Willard C. Shannon, whom I have even researched and wrote about before on my blog. In fact, April Moore was kind enough to allow me to use one of her photographs from her collection for my article "Murder at the Defender Mine" as well.  In April's book, "Folsom's 93", she goes into great detail describing Shannon's shenanigans and crimes that led him to the noose in 1928.

There are so many great stories of so many disturbed men, it would be impossible to write about each one, let alone name my favorite story of the 93 tales. When I first received my copy, honestly I couldn't put the book down. I had to force myself to stop half-way through the book and take a rest. I ended up finishing the book the very next day, it was that good! April has a way of telling the stories of these men, so that the readers themselves can instantly be transported back in time, as a "fly on the wall" imagining in detail just what sort of things took place.

All I can tell you is to order your copy of this book today. See for yourself the impeccable and thorough job that was done by writer April Moore to give us such a fine historical true crime book, that I enjoyed immensely.

Get Your Copy of "Folsom's 93" Today!

(Copyright 2013 J'aime Rubio- Dreaming Casually Publications)

Photo Sources:
Photo of " Folsom's 93" (book cover), property of Craven Street Books.
Photo of Willard Shannon, property of  April Moore.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Who Was The Beautiful Stranger?- Part 4

Who was she?
If you have read my last three blogs on the subject of "The Beautiful Stranger" of the Hotel Del Coronado, you may wonder what happened to "Part 4"?

Well, my latest book, "Stories of the Forgotten: Infamous, Famous & Unremembered" is now available via Amazon, and features an even more in depth look at this story.

Thank you for stopping by my blog!---

J'aime Rubio

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Who Was The Beautiful Stranger? Part 3

If you have read my last two blogs on the subject of "The Beautiful Stranger" of the Hotel Del Coronado, you may wonder what happened to "Part 3"?

Well, my latest book, "Stories of the Forgotten: Infamous, Famous & Unremembered" is now available via Amazon, and features an even more in depth look at this story.

Thank you for stopping by my blog!---

J'aime Rubio

(Copyright 11/20/2013; updated 8/22/2016 - J'aime Rubio)

Monday, November 18, 2013

Who Was The Beautiful Stranger? Part 2

If you have read my last blog on the subject of "The Beautiful Stranger" of the Hotel Del Coronado, you may wonder what happened to "Part 2, 3 & 4"?

Well, my latest book, "Stories of the Forgotten: Infamous, Famous & Unremembered" is now available via Amazon, and features an even more in depth look at this story.

Thank you for stopping by my blog!---

J'aime Rubio

(Copyright 2013- J'aime Rubio; updated 2016)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Who Was The Beautiful Stranger? Part 1

Hotel Del Coronado, Coronado Island, San Diego County
Coronado Island is a picturesque and amazing spot on the San Diego bay, that tourists flock to by the millions every year. Whether you enter this small piece of heaven via the Coronado Bridge or by driving up the good old "Silver Strand", one thing is for certain- you will never forget the majestic beauty when you see the grand architecture of the famous Hotel Del Coronado, the most exquisite structure there.

Setting of the Story

The story I am about to tell you, (and trust me it's going to take several blogs to do this), takes place at the Hotel Del Coronado, towards the turn of the Century, in fact the year was 1892. I actually stumbled upon this story in an old newspaper archive while searching for another story. I felt drawn to this story after reading the first news article about it, and after realizing how this story has perplexed many over the last 100 years or more, I felt that I should try my hand at this mystery and see what I could find. Many will probably disagree with my findings, however, we should always first state the facts and the evidence when researching or writing about history. One should never put their own speculations or opinions ahead of the facts. I am going to present to you the facts of the case, the proof I found or the facts I have to discredit other "theories" of this story. Then once you are fully educated in this story, you can make your own opinion on the story.

A Mystery Woman's Corpse Found!

After buckling down for a terrible storm that had swept through San Diego, engulfing the small island of Coronado, no one was to know the real storm of events that would take place the following morning.  It was November 29th, 1892 and Mr. David Cone, one of the electricians of the Hotel Del Coronado, came upon a ghastly sight while making his rounds at 7:30 a.m.

While trimming the electric lights, Cone discovered the corpse of a lady who had been a recent guest at the hotel. She appeared to have a bullet wound through her right temple, so immediately it was assumed that her death was self-inflicted. Although her death proved to be the end of the line for her, the mystery surrounding her death proved to be just beginning. Nearly 121 years later and no one has really been able to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt who, in fact, this lady really was.

The Beautiful Stranger-

Just who was this "Beautiful Stranger" as the newspapers would later name her? Why and how did she die? Was she murdered? Or could it have been a suicide? There were so many questions at the time, and so many of them have still remained unanswered even to this day.

According to the Coroner's Inquest report, upon discovering the woman's body, the electrician noticed a pistol next to her body and a pool of blood. "There was a large pistol lying at the right hand side of the body," stated Cone, in the Coroner's Inquest report.  The gardener, F.W. Koeppen's sworn testimony stated the same information, that the woman's body was found "laying along the steps in a sitting position, and after being dead, dropped over on the stairway." He also stated that he "noticed the pistol lying on one side."  The electrician stated that when he had went to fetch help, he ran into the gardener. Curious about the discovery, the gardener went back with the electrician to view the body, then they both separated, going different directions around the hotel in order to notify the hotel clerk of the discovery.

One Headline Of The Many Dozens
The clerk for the hotel, Mr. Gomer viewed the body, realizing that she appeared to be a female guest of the hotel, Mrs. Lottie A Bernard. He then instructed the gardener to cover her body with tarpaulin so that other guests would not see her, while he called upon the Deputy Coroner and the undertakers at Johnson's & Company to further address the situation. When Deputy Coroner Stetson arrived he immediately looked over the corpse. He ascertained that she had been dead for about six or seven hours given the condition she was in. It was the Coroner who removed the pistol from the ground and collected it as evidence for further inquiry. As the undertakers came and removed the woman's body from the hotel, they placed her in a receiving box to take back to San Diego at Johnson's & Company mortuary.

The Coroner then went to room 302, where she had been staying to investigate there. Upon entering her room he realized that the bed had not been slept in. In the Coroner's Inquest he was quoted stating,
"I found that valise, and on the table I found this envelope she had addressed... Denman Thompson, the Old Homestead. And "Frank" is written here four times, and "Lottie Anderson Bernard," and "Mrs. Lottie Bernard," "Lottie Anderson Bernard, Detroit," and then on this paper I found "I merely heard of that man, I do not know him." Here is an invitation — here is an invitation to the Hotel del Coronado, signed by Louise Leslie Carter and Lillian Russell." He went on to say, "She had a purse on her person, that contained $16.50, and there was a little ring in the purse, a plain ring, and the key to her valise**."

Among the other things mentioned were some handkerchiefs that were stitched with what appeared to read "Little Anderson," along with her night dress hanging in the closet and a hat on the mantle. A bottle of Brandy, a penknife, a bottle of camphor, some quinine pills and a wrapped up paper with the writings that said "If this doesn't relieve you, you better send for the doctor," which was signed Druggist.

(**One thing I find interesting here is the fact that nowhere in the copy of the Coroner's Inquest report do they mention if anything was found in the valise.)

The staff then needed to figure out who to notify of this young lady's death, and see to it that the proper identification of the body be made. But they weren't even sure who she was, so how would they do this? The Coroner had his job to do, that was to figure out exactly how and why she died. To gather up witnesses and evidence and determine what occurred in the evening of  November 28th and in the early morning hours of November 29th, 1892.

With so very little to go on, it seemed that the more they looked into this woman's life, the less and less they could really say about her. They had to go back, back to when she arrived and try to remember any detail they could about her, where she came, and what she said to others about herself in order to figure out just who was Lottie Bernard, the Beautiful Stranger?  To find out more about the history of this intriguing case, and read all of my research and findings, please read "Stories of the Forgotten: Infamous, Famous & Unremembered."

UPDATE: 10/17/2016 -- My latest book, "Stories of the Forgotten: Infamous, Famous & Unremembered" is now available via Amazon, and features an even more in depth look at this story. Don't forget to purchase your copy today!

Thank you for stopping by my blog!---

J'aime Rubio

(Copyright 2013- J'aime Rubio ~ Dreaming Casually Publications)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Wild Escape From The Preston School of Industry

Preston Castle
If you have read my other blogs about the history of the Preston School of Industry, or if you have purchased a copy of my book "Behind The Walls," then you are aware of the many events that have taken place behind the ominous brick walls of Preston Castle. During my search for more stories to include in my upcoming special edition eBook, I stumbled upon a tale of attempted murder and a wild escape too good to ignore. This particular event took place in 1904, by two very dangerous wards determined to stop at nothing for their chance at freedom.

April 20, 1904- It was a Wednesday night, at approximately 10:00 p.m. when the night watchman in the boys dormitory upstairs in the Castle appeared for his shift. He hadn't been on duty for more than fifteen minutes when he decided to quickly use the restroom while the boys were supposed to be in bed.  When night watchman J.S. Phillips returned from the bathroom he noticed that two of the wards, Rowe and Gillette, were up at the water fountain (to the right of the door) getting themselves a drink.

side of the Castle
Before Phillips could even get inside the room and lock the door behind him, one of the boys came up and struck him with a slungshot. They had used a woman's stocking and placed a hard, large rock inside of it and continued to hit Phillips over the head until they knocked him out. The boys then continued to beat on Phillips, kicking him in the head and leaving a deep gash. Had it not been for the rock tearing the hosiery and falling out onto the floor, Phillips may have died from being continually struck by it.

Once the boys had completely incapacitated the watchman, they climbed out the window of the dormitory and down the water pipe alongside the castle's brick walls. Barefoot and in their pajamas, the boys immediately separated upon reaching the outskirts of the Preston property.  Rowe headed out west and was caught the next day near Carbondale, California (which used to be about six miles northwest of Ione). However, Gillette went east towards Jackson, causing a big ruckus along the way.

While on the lam, Gillette headed down Ione Road and decided to break into the Cuneo residence. There he stole a change of clothing as well as a shotgun. When he was done scavenging through the Cuneo's personal belongings he then retreated off into the night.

Kennedy Mine, Jackson CA
By Friday,when he made it towards Martell's station, it was said that he hid his gun near some iron pipes outside. He then was spotted at the Kennedy Boarding House where he even managed to sneak in a meal, staying undetected as a wanted fugitive.  Perhaps he wanted to fit in with the miners and laborers working at the mine, but Constable Kelly (also spelled Kelley) was hot on his trail, apprehending him just outside the mine without any further bloodshed. Gillette was then charged with "assault to commit murder" and later taken to Humboldt County on charges for a crime he committed before he had been sentenced to Preston. The authorities as well as the administration at the Preston School of Industry were intent that both Rowe and Gillette not return to the reform school but be sent to the State Penitentiary due to their brutal dispositions.


PLEASE CHECK OUT "BEHIND THE WALLS"-- now available at Amazon!

(Copyright 2013- J'aime Rubio, Dreaming Casually Publications)

All photos are copyright protected

Amador Ledger (4/22/1904, 4/29/1904)

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Willard Hotel & Pueblo Hotel History - Tucson, Arizona

S.F. Call (11/14/1903)
While researching a story for my blog, I came across a headline in the archived newspapers that I couldn't ignore.

 "YOUNG BRIDE KILLS HERSELF- Wife of Tucson Mining Man Swallows Carbolic Acid." - San Francisco Call, November 14, 1903.

As I read the article, I felt myself being pulled deeper and deeper into this somber tale. I wanted to know more. I wanted to know who this woman was, and why she felt that there was no way out of her misery and that ending her life seemed to be the only option in her mind.

I then decided to research further into this story by digging through every archived newspaper I could find that mentioned anything to do with Cora Casey and her husband the miner and capitalist, Alexander Casey.


So as history shows, Alexander Casey was born in Cookstown, Ireland in 1842. Around 1883, Casey had moved to the United States and found himself settling in a small town then known as Turquoise.  Cora Casey, was born Cora Taylor in 1879. She lived in Gleason, Arizona although I believe she was originally from Eldon, Missouri. Her father was said to have been from Virginia, while her mother had been born in Kentucky (her death record states this).

She was the sister of Bud Taylor of Gleason, Arizona and related somehow to Rebecca Taylor of Eldon, Missouri, (possibly her mother?) as Cora briefly mentions her in her suicide note. While living in Gleason, Cora was the postmistress at the post office when she met the wealthy miner Mr. Casey.

Casey had come to the town of Turquoise, Arizona (later named Gleason) to buy out the land that held deep veins of turquoise in order to mine it, which he made a great fortune from. He later sold the mine and became quite wealthy. He was always interested in business deals and at the time of Cora's death was in the middle of a deal for $60,000. He was also considered a "Pioneer" of the general area, and had strong ties to many high-profile men from the town of Tombstone, Arizona as well.

On November 17, 1902 the couple was married. Cora being around 22-23 years of age, and Mr. Casey about 61 years old. Within weeks of the marriage, they moved out to Tucson, where Casey had invested in building a grand hotel. Cora was leaving the small mining town of Gleason and heading out to Tucson, a bigger and more active city, a move she later would regret.

 History of the Hotel

Photo Credit: Andy Taylor
I did some digging online and found several sites that state different information about the history of this historic hotel located at 145 S 6th Avenue in Tucson, Arizona.  I wrote the local historical society in Tuscon and had not heard back in regards to information pertaining Cora, Alex and the Willard Hotel (which was later named the Pueblo Hotel and Apartments).  So here's what I dug up on my own:

Photo Credit: Andy Taylor
Alexander Casey invested his money into the building of the hotel. One of the websites I first found stated that initially Casey wanted the hotel to be named the "Hotel Casey", which makes sense being that it was his last name. However, according to a few sites, the hotel was opened in September of 1902  as the "Willard Hotel." These same sites claim that it was Willard Wright and Charles Fleming who had built and designed the hotel as the "owners"--- This is incorrect, according to all the information I found.

The Facts

Architect, Henry C. Trost was hired to design this beautiful building, a building that Alexander Casey owned. According to the Tombstone Epitaph, dated March 23, 1902, it stated that Alex Casey contracted to McMillen and Southworth to construct the building for $15,750. The construction was pushed to be done rapidly, in order to complete the hotel by the coming Summer of 1902.

from Piccaretta Davis PC (law office website)

The hotel design contained the 30 rooms and was to be of pressed brick instead of the original proposed design for plain brick plastered. The building was to be set on the corner of Twelfth Street and Sixth Avenue, and a rear courtyard was to be constructed in the back. It goes into detail that Mr. Casey even traveled all the way to Los Angeles to purchase a fountain to be installed in the patio. It also states he would be spending an additional $1,500.00 to $2,000.00 on improving the grounds around and in front of the hotel.

Willard Hotel (via Laurie's Wild West)
Casey then "leased" the building out to Willard Wright and Charles Fleming who in turn used the name "Willard Hotel" ( via Henry C. Trost Historical Organization).  The Tucson Citizen (9/2/1902) and the Arizona Daily Citizen (9/3/1902) as posted online, was said to have quoted the hotel decor of the building as being "solid oak and birds eye maple", with "iron bed steads", Brussels carpets, large windows that were elegantly curtained and that each bedroom had different carpets and rugs. In fact, it was said "no two carpets were alike for each room."  Certainly, the design and thought given to decorate this hotel took a person with impeccable taste and class. It was supposed to be the grandest hotel known to the area for that time period.

According to a blog known as "Laurie's Wild West", she writes that an article in the Star (July 8, 1903) stated that within less than a year of the Grand Opening, Wright and Fleming could no longer afford the rent of the hotel. They requested a reduction in the rent of the hotel to Mr. Casey but he would not compromise. Instead, it is mentioned that Casey even turned the water off at the hotel after being told they could not make their regular payments for their lease. It seems that Wright and Fleming were booted out and Casey took back control of his hotel.

Newspaper archives confirm that Casey then hired William Siewert, to help him manage the hotel. Did Casey turn over the "ownership" of the Willard  to Siewart, but continued to be the manager and proprietor all the while residing in the hotel? I cannot say for sure, however, Casey remained the manager and proprietor in recorded documents and I haven't seen any records state that he sold the hotel to Siewart.  Regular advertisements in the Bisbee Daily Review of that time period show that every weekly ad referred to Mr. Alexander Casey as the "Proprietor and Manager" of the hotel. It also mentions that Casey had re-opened the hotel as of September 1, 1903.

The Shootout

At around 5 pm, on October 27th, 1903, Alex Casey went crazy in his own hotel. As the Bisbee Daily Review (October 29,1903) states, Casey was "tanked up on whiskey" in his room (#11) "entertaining himself loudly, swearing and calling for vengeance." Many of the staff at the hotel were concerned by the noise he was making from his room that they approached Mr. Siewart to see if he could quiet him.

Mr. Siewart came down the hall to Casey's room just as he was opening up the door into the hallway. He had his Winchester Rifle and a six-shooter with him and he was hell bent on causing a ruckus. Mr. Siewart thought he would try to calm the situation by trying to shake hands with Mr. Casey and saying,
"How are you Mr. Casey? Haven't seen you today."

His diplomatic approach to distract Mr. Casey fell on deaf ears, as Casey threatened destruction to everyone in the building. He then went on a rampage, running out towards the office and then outside to the north of the building. He saw Mr. Gleamer (the hotel head waiter) and "took a couple pot shots at him," but missed. Then Casey went back into the hotel shooting 40 shots and leaving the hallways, doors and walls of the first floor riddled with bullet holes, and guests terrified for their own safety.

The paper stated, "It is a little less than miraculous that someone or a dozen were not killed. Bullets struck the door of the main entrance and marks checkered all over the plastering of the office and hallway."

The authorities were called in, and Constables Frazer and Pacheco arrived shortly thereafter. Although Casey resisted arrest and a gunfight ensued, eventually he was apprehended by Constable Pacheco. During the ruckus, both Pacheco and Casey were wounded in the shoot out. Thankfully neither one of their injuries proved to be serious. Pacheco had been shot in the left arm while Casey had graze wounds on his face and under the arm pit area.

After he had been sent to the County Jail, friends of Casey spoke out, mentioning that he seemed to be "mentally unbalanced", especially after a few drinks. It seemed as if the honeymoon was over between Casey and his wife Cora, and friends mentioned his constant abuse to his young wife.

You see this wasn't the first time Casey had been arrested for assault. In fact, after marrying Cora and moving to Tucson, Casey had started drinking a lot more than usual. He began to strike his wife and beat her regularly, always threatening to kill her and tormenting her into submission. Sadly, no one did anything to intervene and help this poor girl so it had escalated to an altercation where Cora had him arrested. Obviously suffering from "battered woman's syndrome," instead of fleeing her abuser she took him back and even managed to get her husband out of Jail on a peace bond for the amount of $3,500.00, although the Judge lowered it to $1,500.00.  After the hotel fiasco, this was the second incident where Casey had caused harm so the authorities planned on keeping him in jail this time.

The  Tragic Event

According to the Bisbee Daily Review (November 17, 1903), it states, "Tired of a full life of sorrow, the wife of Alex Casey took the poison which ended her unhappy life- expired in great agony."
It goes on to state in great detail the date of her tragic suicide. According to eye witness accounts told to the newspaper was that earlier in the week Cora had received a note (either by way of Casey's attorney Roscoe Dale or A.W. Smith), notifying her to vacate the room in which the couple had been living. Basically, she was served an eviction notice that was ordered by her husband.

Cora had confided in Mr. Siewart that she was "heart broken" when she received the notice, that she didn't have anyone in the world to turn to and that she wanted to die and end her troubles. On Thursday the 12th of November, she went to the Pima County Jail to visit her husband. She had wanted to speak to him about leaving Tucson and moving back to Gleason so she could stay with her brother, Bud Taylor. It is unknown as to what the reaction or answer Casey gave her, but he did order that she be given $50.00 when she left.

By the time she arrived back at the hotel, she spoke to her maid, and stated that she had saved $75, "enough to bury her." It seemed as though Cora had taken time to think the decision over about committing suicide, and that this was not just a "spur of the moment" idea.

The very next day (Friday the 13th), Cora appeared to be deeper and deeper depressed. She spent the entire morning on the west porch of the hotel alone. By 2 o'clock in the afternoon she had phoned Fleishman's drug store in town and requested a bottle of carbolic acid be delivered.

Her friend, (and I suspect that she was her maid), Miss Conlon attempted to stay with her in her room that evening to keep an eye on her. However, just before the 9 o'clock hour, Cora insisted that she wanted to be alone. As soon as Miss Conlon retired to her room next door, Cora wasted no time attempting her suicide.  Around 9 o'clock, Mr. Siewart was making his rounds of the hotel when he heard "groans issuing from the room occupied by Mrs. Casey and he went towards the door to see what the trouble was. As he was about to turn the knob, the door opened and Mrs. Casey fell forward on him, crying, "I am dying, I am dying!"

Mr. Siewart carried her to bed and called for the doctor, however it took nearly 15 minutes before Dr. Olcott arrived to tend to her. Although he tried remedies to help her and even pumped her stomach, it was too late. The paper stated, "She suffered the most excruciating agony from the effects of the poison as witnessed by the expression on her face and the twisted position of her body when death relieved her of the awful suffering."

Mr. Culver, the Coroner viewed her body and ordered that she be taken to the Reilly Undertaking parlors, where they would view her corpse the next morning for a "Coroner's Jury."  After she was removed from the room, her Bible was located under the foot of her mattress with a note stuffed inside of it. It read:

"November 13.-  
Send all my clothes and belongings to Rebecca Taylor, Eldon Mo.
I am out of my misery now. When I am dead I hope that Casey will be happy.
I want to be buried in Tucson. I die where I was cursed.
Had other people not meddled, he would have done different.
Smith is to blame for it. I have always done what is right and I am not afraid to die.
- Cora

According to the papers, when Casey found out that his wife had taken her own life he went into shock. Then he broke down in tears as if he had gone mad. "What have I done that this should happen!" he yelled out from his jail cell as he begged God to take his life. He crawled onto his cot in his cell, buckled over crying out "Cora! Cora!"  He was inconsolable and friends believed that he basically went mad at that point.

So Who Was Smith?

Cora's suicide note blamed Smith for the destruction of her marriage and for her suicide. So who was he? From what I have found, he was A. W. Smith. What he did for a living I cannot seem to find, however he was somehow connected with Roscoe Dale (Casey's attorney) and he had "Power of Attorney" over Casey, which I am guessing means Smith may have been his accountant, thus the reason he had P.O.A. over Casey's finances while Casey was in jail and unable to manage his affairs on his own? (just a guess). But then, why wasn't his attorney in charge of that? Who knows...

When Smith was questioned about his "meddling" of the Casey's life, he stated "never at any time had I interfered in the family affairs of the Casey' all times I endeavored to reconcile Mr. and Mrs. Casey." It was also said that Smith seemed grieved at hearing of Cora's death and that he was adamant that he did not serve Cora with the "eviction" note, that he was ordered by Casey's attorney to do so, but that he "unqualifiedly refused."

Although there is never a mention on what sort of  issue prompted Casey's acts of violence or madness, one can only assume that perhaps stories of possible infidelity, improprieties or even money troubles could have been the cause of this whole mess. From Cora's own admission, she was adamant that she had "always done what was right." This makes me think that she wanted to once and for all clear the air on any doubts or speculation that either her husband or  possibly others may have questioned about her character.

Casey's Consequences

By December of 1903, Governor Stoddard had denied the application of pardon that was requested by Alex Casey in his "assault with a deadly weapons" charge he was being held for. He had been ordered to serve a six month sentence and pay a $50 fine. Casey's friend, who happened to be the local Justice of the Peace, had attempted to reduce his sentence to time served (33 days) and to pay a larger fine of $250.00.  Being that Casey had already served the 33 days and paid the fine upfront, the JOTP was just about to order Casey's release when the Sheriff actually refused. He claimed that he wanted the State to look over the case, being that they had "inherent jurisdiction" over the matter.

Casey had the help of some pretty powerful friends, including Judge Reilly from Tombstone. Even multi-millionaire mining man, Martin Costello attempted to vouch for his friend Alex Casey in order to secure his release. A "writ of habeas corpus" was sworn out and heard by Judge Davis in Yuma, and  the Judge dismissed that. Eventually the executive clemency was sought by Casey, and it was then that the Governor denied his pardon as well.

Eventually he was able to be released, and newspapers claim that he had made plans to leave the country. Unfortunately, I have not been able to find when and where he was released or when he finally left the U.S. back to his homeland. I did find his death notice posted in the Tombstone Epitaph on February 6, 1910. It stated that he had "recently" moved back to Cookstown, Ireland where he died from pneumonia on January 14th, 1910.

Where Is Cora Casey Buried?

I have been searching for a way to locate burial records for Cora Casey, to no avail. According to her death records, her body was taken back to Eldon, Missouri and buried there. I have not been able to locate where in Eldon she is buried.  So the mystery of where Cora's final resting place still remains unknown, for now. I intend to keep searching for answers.

I have since entered her information into the Findagrave database online. I have the hope that if someone comes across her headstone in a cemetery somewhere, then they can see I have made her a memorial on Findagrave with her information on it and can add her photo and burial information to it. Feel free to visit Cora's virtual memorial here.


During my research to find out Cora's story, I unfolded so much more than even I expected to find. Even at the turn of the Century this was a certain case of domestic violence at its worst. Not only did Alexander Casey beat Cora physically- as confirmed by his own friends accounts, but he mentally and emotionally scarred her beyond the point of repair. The damage was so severe and so overwhelming that ultimately it pushed Cora over the edge, to the point of suicide.

I must confess, while I was reading Cora's story, I could relate to her. I could sympathize with her situation, as I too have been victim of a domestically violent marriage. I recalled the initial phase of the relationship, being so happy, but then so suddenly the person changing like Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde. Feeling like it was something I had done wrong, it was my fault that he was abusive to me. I convinced myself that I must have done something to deserve the way he treated me. I recall a drunk man screaming at me, cursing obscenities and claiming that he would kill me on a regular basis. I also recall several times where he nearly did take my life, and times I considered ending mine as well.

No one should have to suffer through these sorts of relationships, as they are volatile and dangerous.  Perhaps Cora thought she could fix Alexander, but she learned in the end that he was not fixable. He had the problem, he had issues he didn't want to deal with. Sadly, Cora had no one to go to confide in and no one wanted to step up to help her. Thus in her lonely, depressed and fragile state, death seemed to be her only option.

Cora's case is so similar to that of cases seen even at the present day. Her death could have been avoided if she had been helped in time. When I read Cora's story, I feel like I am reading my own story. One that could have ended the same way as Cora's, but one I decided on my own to have a different ending. I changed my situation for the better and removed myself from the abusive relationship, and I will never go back. Everyone deserves to live without fear. Sadly, Cora couldn't be given that safety and security in life that she needed so badly. Although her death is one so tragic and so sad, let's take heart in the fact that perhaps in death, she finally reached that peace she yearned so badly for, far away from Alex Casey.   REST IN PEACE CORA TAYLOR CASEY---

To read more about Cora Casey, as well as other mysterious and bizarre tales from the past, purchase your copy of: 

(J'aime Rubio, Copyright 2013, By Dreaming Casually Publications)


Thank you to Andy Taylor for the recent photos of the Willard Hotel aka Pueblo Hotel and Apartments, which is now an attorney office building.

Thank you to Laurie Powers, from Laurie's Wild West Blog, for the photo
and for the additional information on the Willard Hotel's vast history.

Also, thank you to Barry Davis, from Piccaretta Davis PC (law office) 
which is located in the original Willard Hotel building.

Tombstone Epitaph 3/23/1902
Tucson Citizen 9/2/1902
Arizona Daily Citizen 9/3/1902
Star 7/8/1903
Bisbee Daily Review 10/29/1903
San Francisco Call 11/14/1903
Los Angeles Herald 11/14/1903
New York Times 11/15/1903
Bisbee Daily Review 11/17/1903
Coconino Sun 11/21/1903
Bisbee Daily Review 12/15/1903
Arizona Republican 12/25/1903
Tombstone Epitaph 2/6/1910
"Laurie's Wild West" blog
Henry C. Trost Historical Organization

Saturday, September 21, 2013

When Two Similar Stories Collide- Anna Corbin and Bessie Lewis

Mrs. Anna Corbin
If you have read my previous article about the life and death of Anna Corbin, the head housekeeper of the Preston School of Industry in 1950, then you are aware of the fact that I have taken a personal interest in her story. After years of research I have posted findings on my blog and in my  book, "Behind The Walls," that makes it very clear (based on the evidence) that the information various other websites, television shows and other groups have come forward with through the media in the past has either been partially tainted with fictional aspects or all together incorrect.   

This article is to actually bring about some more interesting information to light, to show you the link I have found to another brutal and vicious attack to another head housekeeper at Preston just 29 years earlier. You see, Anna Corbin is not the only head housekeeper from the Preston School of Industry to be viciously attacked and left for dead on the grounds of the school. In fact, Mrs. Lewis' story happened before Anna Corbin's death. 

Head Housekeeper Attacked at Preston- 1921

It was October 26, 1921 and the head housekeeper known as Mrs. Lewis was severely beaten and locked in a closet by four wards in their attempt to make an escape from the School. The story made headlines in the Ione Valley Echo newspaper, dated October 29, 1921.
Ione Valley Echo (10/29/1921)


"Wednesday morning, about 9:30, Mrs. Lewis, in charge of housekeeping for Company A, at the Preston School, was viciously attacked by four boys of her squad. She was knocked down and her head was pounded on the concrete floor several times. She was rendered unconscious, tied, gagged, her keys taken. Then the four boys make their escape. Another boy, who had recently been operated on for appendicitis, pretended to make a fight to save Mrs. Lewis. But it is believed he was faking. Officers hurried to A Company quarters and found her where she had been thrown into a closet. After many hours she regained consciousness, but became hysterical, then unconscious again. Yesterday morning she was regarded as quite ill, and suffering with possibly a clot of blood on her brain.

The four boys were caught at 3:30 in the afternoon by Officers E.E. Hooker and Mr. Cain on the Borden Ranch, who brought them safely back to the school. It is said these two officers "influenced" these four boys to come right along, or "perhaps" it might have been unhealthy.

Superintendent Close is absent, but the whole community is pleased at the prompt and efficient action of Assistant Superintendent Morrin in handling these vicious young criminals, and also at the successful work of messengers Hooker and Cain."----Ione Valley Echo, Saturday Edition, October 29, 1921.

What Does This Have To Do With Anna Corbin?

So you may be asking that question, "What does this have to do with Anna Corbin?" Well, a lot actually. You see, from the time I started researching and reading about Anna's death, even before I wrote about it in my book, I kept hearing and reading accounts where people describe her being locked in a closet. Some people said she was locked in a pantry in the kitchen, some say a small closet under a stairwell in the basement is where Anna was found.

Historical evidence disproves all of that. The persons who found Anna, found her in a larger room (the storage room) which adjoined a supply room which was in the basement. The newspapers quoted the eye witness account of Robert Hall (the ward who found Anna's body with housekeeper Lillian McDowall) which even specifically stated the room as being 16 x 35 in size. Now does that sound like the little closet to you? After speaking to historian, John Lafferty, and comparing our research notes, we both agreed that the room Anna was found in was the room with the disinfecting pool, in the basement. At the time of Anna's death, the pool had been boarded over and was being used as a store room.

So where did the "Closet" idea come from? Well, that is where I believe the story of Bessie Lewis* comes into play. Perhaps over the years the story of Mrs. Lewis' brutal attack and that of Anna Corbin's has been unintentionally fused with one another. The details of Mrs. Lewis being beaten, tied up, gagged and locked in a closet may have been confused with similar details of Anna Corbin being attacked, bludgeoned, strangled and locked in the store room in the basement. I think it didn't help  matters that a few newspapers reported Anna was found in a locked closet when the story first broke in the headlines, further confusing people. As time went on though, and witness accounts were actually quoted, it showed that Anna was found in the storage room covered by a rug or carpet.

The story of Bessie Lewis doesn't state whether she was in the basement or not, although it speaks of her head being pounded into the concrete, so she must have been in some area that would have concrete floors and the basement does have that. I am not certain which area Company A quarters was located at, whether it was the Administration building or another house on the property, so we may never know exactly. However, I am fully convinced that certain aspects of Bessie Lewis' story has become a misinformed attachment to Anna's story, which is very sad for both of these women.

What Happened To Bessie?

I have searched the Census records for Amador, Sacramento, San Joaquin and Calaveras Counties for 1920 (one year prior to the accident) and could not locate a Bessie Lewis or Elizabeth (since Bessie is usually short for Elizabeth). I searched the archived microfilms of both the Ione Valley Echo and the Amador Ledger to no avail, there was never another mention of Mrs. Lewis or what happened after her brutal attack. I checked the obituaries from late October up to the end of the year in 1921, and still, no information on Mrs. Lewis.  Being that there were no more headlines or articles mentioning the outcome of such a brutal attack, one can only assume that she recovered from her injuries. It is also possible that she moved away from the area, perhaps to stay with relatives in another area, so we don't know what happened to her after that.

A Sad Thing

In conclusion, I want to remind all who read this that both Bessie Lewis and Anna Corbin were just like you and I. They were people who had feelings, hopes, dreams and fears. They had loved ones and family. I believe that it is not only a dishonor to Anna's memory by others continuing to tell her story incorrectly, but it is also dishonor to the memory of Mrs. Lewis by her story being completely forgotten for nearly 92 years.

I will keep diligently searching for answers in regards to what happened to Mrs. Lewis and where her life ended up down the line. I think we owe her that much. In the end I hope that whomever reads my blogs or my books sees that this is my passion, to uncover the truth. To set the facts straight and speak for those people who can no longer speak for themselves.  I do my best and hope that others who appreciate history and truth, will also appreciate the work I do.

(Copyright September 21, 2013- J'aime Rubio, Dreaming Casually Publications)

Thank you to Becky at the Amador County Library for all your help!

Amador County Library
Ione Valley Echo, 10/29/1921
Stockton Record, 2/24/1950
State Archives
Behind The Walls: A Historical Exposé of The Preston School of Industry, J'aime Rubio
Preston School of Industry A Centennial History, John Lafferty.

* Footnote: John Lafferty's book, Preston School of Industry a Centennial History, briefly mentions this incident and also mentions her name as Bessie Lewis.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Corinne Elliot Lawton- What Really Happened To Her?

Photo Credit: Historic Cemeteries- Mary Homick © 2011

What Urban Legends Imply

In 1877, a young lady by the name of Corinne Elliot Lawton tragically died after throwing herself into a river just miles from her home. The story circulated in sewing circles and afternoon tea conversations, claimed that the young lady was so depressed that she could not marry the man that she loved, that she was being forced to marry another man, and between both circumstances she chose to end her life in such a tragic way.  

So did this happen, or what? I am trying my best to address this. You see, I was scrolling along on Facebook and I noticed on a lovely page called “Historic Cemeteries”, (which by the way, has awesome photographs of cemeteries!) and I came across an album of photographs from Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah, Georgia. One photograph in particular stood out to me. This lovely headstone to a young lady named Corinne Elliot Lawton.

On the actual headstone it marks her date of death as being January 24, 1877 and her epitaph reads: “Allured to brighter worlds, and led the way.” The statue that appears to be of Corinne’s physical likeness, was brought in from Palermo, Cicily. It had been created by renowned 19th Century artist and sculptor, Benedetto Civiletti at her father, Alexander Lawton’s request.

Civiletti's design of monument (P-415/11)
Wilson Library-UNC

What Other Sites Claim

Many websites state very detailed and over-the-top stories of this young lady being in love with a man who was of a simpler means (lower-class), and that her parents would not approve of their relationship. They also state that an arranged marriage was made by her father, Alexander Robert Lawton. He was a widely known Brigadier General in the Confederate Army, a Lawyer, Politician and Diplomat. I can understand how easy it would be for most people searching for answers, and finding all these websites that claim the same thing, to just assume that their facts are correct and continue to tell the same story again and again. Sadly, this is what happens when facts get mixed up with rumors and suddenly a hundred or so years later it is seemingly impossible to tell fact from fiction. Or is it?

Click here to read my blog that explains Corinne's real love story! 

Who Was Corinne Elliott Lawton?

Corinne Elliot Lawton was born September 21, 1846 to her parents Alexander Robert Lawton and Sarah Hillhouse Alexander. She was the oldest daughter of this highly prestigious family in Georgia. From recorded letters and documents in historical record, it shows that her friends and acquaintances thought of her in a very flattering light. One letter from a friend of the family stated that he believed Corinne to have "elegant culture" and "surprising intelligence." In every mention of Corinne, she is  spoken of very highly as a "spiritual" young lady, with very good Christian values and having plans for her future.

What Really Happened?

Corinne Elliot Lawton (P-415/4)
 Wilson Library- UNC

Historian, Ruth Rawls discovered a most amazing entry in Sarah’s diary and transcribed it on her blog which gives a more detailed look into the thoughts of Corinne’s mother and what was going on at the time. She also goes in depth into locating letters from a friend of the Lawton’s who sent words of sympathy in the passing of Corinne, even going so far as to mention her sickness and that she was a “sweet, noble and Christian girl,” and that Sarah had the hope of seeing her daughter again (thus there was no implication of a suicide.)  Click here to read the letter!

In both the diaries and letters, there is never any mention of Corinne being depressed or distraught, and certainly no mention of any uprising within the family or suicide. On the contrary, it shows the loving and rather close-knit family the Lawton’s actually were.  This helps disprove another rumor that has been widespread online. Many people go so far as to state that her family thought she was “cursed” for taking her own life. Thus the statue of Jesus in their family plot of the cemetery is facing her back, showing she turned her back on her salvation.

The statue of Jesus wasn’t even put in the cemetery until after Corinne’s parents had died. Plus, Corinne hadn’t been buried at Bonaventure cemetery originally. First she was interred at the Laurel Grove Cemetery and years later re-interred at Bonaventure. That could explain why her grave was placed outside of the family plot and the direction it is facing. Perhaps they had run out of spaces.

I do not believe for one second that her family shunned her in death, nor do I think that they believed that she was condemned from receiving her chance at everlasting life. No, I do not believe she took her own life, and the words of her mother speak volumes in comparison to the typed opinions of various bloggers with no facts backing their stories up.  

Lawton Girls
(P-415/9) Wilson Library UNC
Bottom line is that during the weeks leading up to Corrine’s death, she had been ill. Her mother claimed that for 10 days Corinne had been sick with a cold. Other members of the household grew ill, and even notations in the diary mention Sarah's own recollection of suffering sickness the previous Summer, gave mention of a very bad illness.  It seems to me that perhaps the Yellow Fever epidemic that had claimed its toll on many in that area just months prior, hadn’t fully died down. If the weather was continuously raining as she states in her diary, and she mentions the warm temperatures that would make sense about the mosquito theory that Ruth Rawls mentions. The fact that more than one person in the house was ill tells me that something was going around, whether it was Yellow Fever or not, it was obviously bad. Another visitor to the home died only a few weeks after Corinne.

When I read that Corinne had been ill with the cold and then later seemed to be a little better only with slight fever, I started wondering if maybe she had got a slight bronchitis or pneumonia. The only reason I mention this is because two years ago around late December, I had been ill with a cold. I thought I had recovered, but slowly I grew more tired. I didn’t have a fever and if I did, it was slight. I suffered from a sore throat though, so I decided to see the doctor. They told me, to my surprise, that they wanted me to get a chest X-ray, so I agreed. It turned out that I had “walking pneumonia” and had no idea. Within days though, I took a turn for the worse and nearly died.  I was so ill that I had to move in with my mother for weeks. She cared for me and slept by my side, often wondering if I would stop breathing in my sleep. Thankfully, I recovered.

When I read Corinne’s mother’s words, I thought of my own experience and wondered if maybe Corinne’s cold had turned into something far worse, thus the reason her mother stopped writing about Corrine’s illness and referring it to the “days of darkness.”  Perhaps Corinne took a turn for the worse, just as I had. When I was ill, I had antibiotics and still I almost died. I can imagine if I had been sick while living during that time period of 1877, I would have been a ‘goner’ for sure.

Again, it is quite possible given the recorded amount of deaths caused by the Yellow Fever in the state just months prior and the fact that Wallace Cummings died shortly thereafter, that both their deaths may have been caused by that very same Yellow Fever epidemic, so we may never know for sure which illness caused her death. But we do know that illness took her life, not suicide.

Corinne's mother, Sarah even wrote in her diary the moment her daughter took her last breath, at 7:40 a.m. on January 24, 1877. Had Corinne drowned herself as the urban legends tell, then how on earth would her mother know the last moment of her daughter’s life?  Recorded in a preserved letter from a friend of the Lawton family, Mr. Stuart Robinson mentions having had read the The Savannah Morning News (January 25, 1877) which posted her short obituary, where it states that Corinne had died after a "short illness."

In Conclusion

I think that with the tales of “romantic tragedies” or “star crossed lovers” that cannot be, that people become so fascinated with it that it becomes larger than life. The tales and rumors then spread for over 100 years making it hard to decipher between the factual part and the fictional parts.  The rumors of  a young, beautiful southern bride-to-be who jumps to her death into a raging river, to escape an eminent and miserable marriage proved to be just that, a rumor! There are no historical facts backing these over embellished tales.

Corinne's monument (P-415/10)
Wilson Library UNC
In the end, we should all be happy that this young lady did not take her own life. We should be glad that she was not mistreated by her family, nor was she forced to live an unhappy life with a man she didn’t love. If that was the case, she would have been married off by her family at a younger age. No, certainly her parents loved Corinne so deeply that they never shunned her in life, nor in death and even erected a statue made by one of the most sought after Sicilian sculptor's of the 19th Century which I am sure cost a small fortune, and placed it at her grave to honor her memory. Thus, showing the love and respect they had for their daughter. In fact, genealogy records prove that Corinne’s niece was named after her, showing how much the family adored her.

Her death was tragic and very sad, because of the fact that she died so young. It was even more tragic due to the fact it was caused by an illness she could not recover from. But, we should take heart in the fact that she died in bed, surrounded by her mother, her father and her loving family, instead of dying all alone in a dark watery grave at the bottom of the river as others have claimed she did. Corinne’s story is one that should be told over and over again, but told correctly. We should honor her memory by stating the true facts and by remembering her for the good person she was. We should also take delight in the fact that she and her immediate loved ones are all together now, resting in peace.

 Rest In Peace, Corinne. You are not forgotten!

Photo Credit: Historic Cemeteries - Mary Homick © 2011

 (Copyright 2013, Dreaming Casually by J'aime Rubio)

To learn more about Corinne Elliot Lawton, please check out Ruth Rawl's blog. She is certainly dedicated to keeping the correct version of Corinne's life and death alive and available to set the record straight once and for all. Thank you Ruth, for your dedication to find the truth. You are a fellow truth seeker!


All historical photos were provided to me by Alexander Robert Lawton Papers, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Digital Southern Historical Collection: Series 6- circa 1860-1889
P-415/4, P-415/9, P-415/10, P-415/11
Thank you to Laura Clark Brown
Coordinator , Digital Southern Historical Collection

Cemetery Photos provided to me by Historic Cemeteries - Mary Homick © 2011

Thank you to Mary Homick @ Historic Cemeteries for allowing me to use her photos of Corinne's grave at Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah, Georgia. To see more of Mary's absolutely amazing photography please check her out on facebook.

Yellow Fever Epidemic (1876) Savannah Georgia-  Information

Sarah Lawton's diary is available at the Georgia Historical Society at: 501 Whitaker St  Savannah, GA

The Alexander Lawton Papers,  as well as many other documents regarding the Lawton family can also be obtained by Chapel Hill's Wilson Library (University of North Carolina).