Sunday, October 6, 2013

Cora Casey and the Willard Hotel - 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.


Backstory

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's....at 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.

Conclusion

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: 
"STORIES OF THE FORGOTTEN: INFAMOUS, FAMOUS & UNREMEMBERED" AVAILABLE NOW ON AMAZON! 

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

Acknowledgments:

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.

Sources:
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

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