Monday, April 3, 2017

Corinne Elliott Lawton's Real Love Story Revealed!

Back in 2013, I researched and wrote about the true story of Corinne Elliot Lawton. You see, for over a hundred years there had been a lot of gossip and misinformation surrounding the circumstances of her death, that her story became somewhat of an urban legend or tragic love story.

After thorough investigating I had proven that Corinne did not commit suicide as many have claimed, nor was she heartbroken because of a forced marriage. In fact, Corinne died from illness in her home, surrounded by family at her side. Her mother notes all of this in her diary, even documenting Corinne's last breath.

One part of the story though had eluded even the best researcher, including myself, at least until recently. After speaking to Joanna Catron at the Gari Melchers Home and Studio in Fredericksburg, more of Corinne's story has come to light. Corinne was engaged to be married, but not to a man she didn't love. In fact, she was looking forward to her upcoming nuptials with none other than her sweetheart, Ulysses Wade from Screven County. Corinne's sister, Louisa "Lulu" Lawton Mackall wrote this in a notation found with the locket which was found in their mother's jewelry box. 

In my latest book, "Stories of the Forgotten: Infamous, Famous & Unremembered," I cover Corinne's story with a fine tooth comb, retelling it in detail, including the new evidence provided to me by Joanna Catron. Below shows the two photographs that were found inside of a locket that had belonged to Corinne. Ms. Catron at the Gari Melcher's Home and Studio gave me permission to use the photos in my book.

  Gari  Melcher's Studio holds the copyright to the photo below.

Photos discovered inside of locket belonging to Corinne Lawton.
Photo courtesy of Gari Melchers Home and Studio, University of Mary Washington, Fredericksburg, Virginia

Ulysses Wade was "born on March 9, 1845, to parents Payton and Elizabeth Wade. Historical books of the time show that he became a very prominent lawyer in Screven County, Georgia, and also a member of the Constitutional Convention in 1877. The 1880 Census showed that he remained single, but by 1894, he finally married at the age of 49. His bride, English born Kathleen Marion, was only 25 years old. The wedding took place in Louisiana. Only three years later, on November 15, 1897, he passed away. He is buried at Bethel Brick United Methodist Church Cemetery in Sylvania, Georgia."--- from pages 176-177, "Stories of the Forgotten: Infamous, Famous & Unremembered," by J'aime Rubio, Copyright 2017. 

Peek at page 179 of my book "Stories of the Forgotten" (COPYRIGHT PROTECTED, DO NOT COPY) 

So now that part of Corinne's story has finally been revealed to the world. Yes, she was going to get married. No, she wasn't unhappy. The saddest part of the whole thing is that she died before she had the chance to share her life with him. Something tells me though that Ulysses must have taken her death very hard, since he waited so many years to marry.

May they both rest in  peace together.

To read more about Corinne Elliott Lawton's life and the true details surrounding her death please pick up a copy of "Stories of the Forgotten: Infamous, Famous & Unremembered" on Amazon today! 

(Copyright 2017- J'aime Rubio)

Photo courtesy of Gari Melchers Home and Studio, University of Mary Washington, Fredericksburg, Virginia 
Photo of page 179 inside book, Stories of the Forgotten, is copyrighted protected. 

Friday, March 3, 2017

The Hermann Mohr House in Hayward - Hidden History Revealed

Hermann Mohr House (Cronin House)
For those who grew up in or around Hayward, there are several historic family names that may be familiar including Meek and McConaghy. While the Meek House and the McConaghy House represent examples of the county's historic past, there is another historic home that has been literally abandoned and forgotten over the years.

The Hermann Mohr House (sometime's spelled Herman Mohr), otherwise referred to as the Cronin House, is situated at 2595 Depot Rd, in a little community known as Mt. Eden within Hayward, California. The home is just a short walk away from Mt. Eden Cemetery, where the real story behind the home starts. The backstory to this beautiful home starts with Herman's parents, Cornelius and Cecilia Mohr.

Cornelius was born on January 8, 1822, in Schleswig-Holstein, which is located at the most northern point of Germany, but at the time it was considered part of Denmark. Born of Danish-German ancestry, Cornelius came to the United States after spending many years working on whaling ships.
The City of Hayward's documented historical papers state that while in San Francisco, Cornelius took up carpentry and then joined a freight sloop at the San Francisco Bay. He later joined a threshing team on the Joel Russell farm in Mt. Eden, which is how he came to the area and worked hard to purchase his own plot of land to farm.

Mohr Family Plot
By 1856, Cornelius had purchased 200 acres from Joel Russell in order to raise cattle, horses and also grow barley and wheat. He became so successful in his endeavors he quickly accumulated a vast area of land which spanned from areas in Hayward, Pleasanton, along Niles Road, and all of the land where the Hayward Golf Course sits, too. Wide West Newspaper, dated May 10, 1857, notes the marriage of Cornelius Mohr to Cecilia Toaspern on May 3, 1857, which was officiated by Reverend A. Kellner. Their union produced seven children: Henry, John, Willie, Anna, Paul, Hermann and William.  Sadly, Cornelius and Cecilia would lose their first child at the young age of 8, when Willie Mohr died from what I assume was a childhood disease or illness of some sort in 1869. I could not find an obit for his death so the cause of death is uncertain.

By 1876, Cornelius had a beautiful Italianate home built on a 280-acre estate. The home still stands today next to Chabot College on Hesperian Blvd. Built with 25 rooms (14 of which were bedrooms), the property also consisted of a carriage house and cottage, stables and other structures. The stables were built to hold up to 32 horses. Among the structures on the property there was a blacksmith shop, a barn and a tank house.  (The size of property itself was reduced after 271 of the 280-acres were seized by way of eminent domain to construct the newer Chabot College in 1961.)

Cornelius Mohr worked hard as a farmer, land owner and a man who helped employ many new immigrants who came to the area looking for work. He also donated land for Mt. Eden Community Church, Mt. Eden Presbyterian Church and Mt. Eden Union Church (Protestant) as well as being a trustee for the Mt. Eden Grammar School District.

The Mohr family along with the community of Hayward suffered a great loss when Cornelius passed away in 1880, leaving a huge fortune behind to his wife and children.  Cecilia  passed away in 1891, and the rest of her surviving children inherited the family estate. Unfortunately Paul and John passed away in 1895, and then Anna passed away in 1897, leaving Henry, William and Herman left to inherit the bulk of the family business and properties to be divided among themselves.

Hermann Jasper Mohr House
Henry Mohr took the family's 685-acre estate in Pleasanton, including the beautiful the two story English-Mohr house set on the property. He cultivated grain and sugar beets on the land, but also bred Clydesdale horses, too. The home remained in the family's care until his daughter's deaths, after which the home was left abandoned and in a state of disrepair. Unfortunately, by the 1990's neighborhood delinquents burned the house down and the history of the home burned along with it.

William Mohr inherited the family farm on Hesperian Blvd (next door to Chabot College), He is remembered for his love of  hybridizing plants successfully, including iris, lilly, tulips and other species. Unfortunately he met an untimely death in 1923, when he and his wife, along with passengers in their vehicle were struck by a train on the Southern Pacific line just four miles north of Willows, California at a railroad crossing. During adulthood, his daughter Marian later took over the property with her husband and kept the home and farm going until the college was built around the property, leaving just enough land surrounding the home and structures to preserve the Mohr estate, which still remains today.

And finally, Hermann Jasper Mohr inherited a 280-acre estate in Mt. Eden. By the 1900 Census, he is listed as a farmer, but later he decided that he didn't want to continue the family business of agriculture. Instead, he chose to break up his share of the family farmland, subdivide it and sell it, in order to finance his passion in the arts and travel. And that is where the beginning of the story for this house starts.

Herman Mohr was born on November 7, 1869. His 1913 Passport application describes him as being 6 foot 1 inches tall, having blue eyes and light brown hair. He married Louise Katie Behrens in San Francisco on September 25, 1898. The couple did not have children.

History of the Home

Designed by architect Thomas Newsom, the home on Depot Road was constructed for Hermann Jasper Mohr and his wife around 1900, and was nicknamed "The Sea Breeze." The May 23, 1900, edition of the Oakland Tribune mentions the home and states:

Hermann Jasper Mohr
"Mt. Eden is a progressive little country town of ancient origin and has as thrifty and well-to-do people as any small town of its size in the State. Diversified farming is carried on here, and as good salt is produced from the salt beds and can be had anywhere. The improvements of the past two years are noticeable to a marked degree, there  have been erected one merchandise store, five as neat cottages as can be found in the county, and two mansions which are a credit to any community, Mr. Herman Mohr's "The Sea Breeze," and Miss Gading's fine two story dwelling. Mr. Mohr's residence is built upon the colonial style, and presents a fine appearance, while it is furnished within with electric lights and all the conveniences of a city residence."---

The 1900 and 1910 census records show the Mohr's residence in Mt. Eden, although their U.S. Passport records show that they also had residences in S.F. and later in Oakland. The couple traveled a lot.  By 1916, Louise's passport application alone states their intention to "travel to New Zealand, Australia, Java, Japan and China" that year. By 1920, their passport applications listed their primary residence in Oakland. That year they listed their intent to visit "Japan, China, French Indo China, India, Siam, Dutch East Indies, Straits Settlements, New Zealand, Australia, Columbia, Bolivia, Chile, Peru, Argentine, Uraguay and Paraguay."

Besides being avid world travelers, the Mohr's were also licensed attorneys (both Hermann and Louise). Hermann was also listed as a "Farmer & Banker." According to California Death records, cross referenced with the Social Security Death Index,  Hermann Mohr passed away on June 22, 1942 and was buried at Cypress Lawn Cemetery in Colma. Ten years later, his wife passed away on February 11, 1952, at her home in Redwood City, California, after suffering from a long illness.  She was interred with her husband.
Louise Katie Behrens Mohr

It seems that at some point during the mid to late 1930s-1940s the home on Depot Road was transformed into a Sanitarium of sorts. Many assume that means that mentally ill people were treated or lived there, but that isn't always the case. Sanitariums during that time period were more like health resorts, while Sanitoriums were usually places for those with extreme illness (fatal to chronic) such as tuberculosis. Asylums were the type of places for the mentally ill.

I could not find any records online about the facility treating the mentally ill, so it is anyone's guess for now. I found several ads for jobs placed in various newspapers listing the facility as the Dar-Dell Sanitarium which was closely associated with the Dar-Dell Lodge in Berkeley. The last ad posted for the location on Depot Road I could find was dated 1976.

It appears that the facility was closed and abandoned either in the late 1970s or around 1980, until Horizon Services purchased the property and built their "Cronin House" facility on the same lot. That is how the name "Cronin House" has become associated with the property. The house has been closed up and dilapidated for many, many years which makes me think the hospital was shut down in the 70s rather than the 80's.

I spoke with someone who was born and raised in Hayward, who explained that he used to roam around the old building in the early 1980's, when his father was assigned to mandatory AA meetings at the newer building on the property. He said that he was very drawn to the old house and even attempted a few times to enter the empty, neglected home just out of sheer curiosity since everyone thought of it as a "haunted house." He said even back then in the early 80's it was in disrepair and forgotten.

A forgotten treasure in Hayward's historic past!
It hasn't changed much if you drive by it today. It is very obvious that at some point the exterior of the beautiful home was remodeled, warping the original features of the home's design. The deteriorating rooftop, the peeling paint and dry-rot wood gives off an emotion of sadness. If only those walls could speak to us, and tell us the stories of that home's past.  But now you know some of the history of this property, including some of the Mohr family history as well.

Happy History Hunting!!

(J'aime Rubio, Copyright 2017--

Photos of House and Cemetery, J'aime Rubio
Herman Jasper Mohr and Louise Mohr's photos courtesy U.S. Passport Applications, 1920.
Thanks Roland Boulware and  John Marshall for your help with this! :-)

Historic Context Statement for the City of Hayward; Social Security and California Death Index;
Family Search;;  Findagrave; Census Records 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910;
California Great Registers; U.S. Passport Applications 1913, 1916, 1920;
"Do You Remember"- by Ann Homan, Independent, April 26, 2007;
Oakland Tribune, May 23, 1900; Feather River Bulletin, September 1972; The Argus, December 7, 1976; Santa Ana Register, July 24, 1923; San Francisco Call, September 29, 1898; Wide West, May 10, 1857; Pacific Rural Press, August 5, 1876; American Iris Society, William Mohr Medal.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Louisville Love Triangle - The Murder of Elizabeth Griffith

Elizabeth Griffith

It was Christmas Eve, 1919, in Louisville, Kentucky. A young nurse by the name of Elizabeth F. Griffith was ecstatic. Her wedding was just days away, and she was about to become a new bride. Little did she know that this day would prove to be her last.

The story surrounding the death of Elizabeth Griffith is one shrouded in a complex web of mysterious unanswered questions, scandalous behavior and lies. It appeared that during my investigation into this case, every time it seemed as though I had found answers, I stumbled upon even more questions and clues. After countless hours of researching every avenue I could find, I felt it necessary to bring back Elizabeth’s story from the dark abyss of forgotten ones, and shed light onto this ever perplexing mystery.

Elizabeth Griffith was born on May 13, 1902, to parents Martha McLean and John Griffith of Louisville, Kentucky.  At the time of her death, seventeen year-old Elizabeth was working as an office assistant to a very prominent doctor in town, Christopher G. Schott. After her death, the newspapers brought up the fact that Elizabeth and Schott had briefly been engaged to be married, however the engagement was soon called off.

Stories seem to differ on just who ended the relationship, although Elizabeth continued working for Schott at his office, so it seemed to the unsuspecting eye that the break up was amicable. As time went on, Elizabeth started seeing another male suitor, George Jordan, an Army Captain who was stationed at Fort Zachary Taylor, in Key West, Florida.  The two hit it off, and eventually the pair were engaged to be married on Christmas Day.

Archived Drawing
Unfortunately, due to changes in his military responsibilities, Captain Jordan had to postpone the wedding by a few days. Jordan chose to travel all the way to Louisville to see Elizabeth to break the news to her in person. According to his statements, she was happy and excited about the upcoming nuptials and seemed to be alright with the wedding date change to New Year’s Day. When he left her to go back to Fort Zachary Taylor, she was alive and well.  Knowing the wedding was now a week away, Elizabeth continued on with her day as usual and went to work at the Dr. Schott’s office.  It wasn’t until after 3:30 pm on that day, December 24, when everything changed. 

It was around that time that Elizabeth’s body was discovered in a locked back room of Dr. Schott’s office with a bullet through the heart. The gun, a .45 caliber revolver belonging to Dr. Schott, was found next to her body. It was ascertained that she had been shot from above in a downward trajectory, having been on her knees at the time of her death. In the middle of possibly pleading for her life, she took one bullet to the chest. The person who allegedly found Elizabeth’s body was none other than Dr. Schott himself, who was then accompanied by his thirteen year-old neighbor, Laurene Gardner. Schott claimed that he and his little companion, Laurene came to the office after driving around town for several hours, delivering Christmas gifts. After returning to the office he noticed the back room door was locked.  Using his own key, he unlocked the door and found Elizabeth’s body in a pool of blood. Schott told the police that he was certain that Elizabeth had committed suicide.

Detectives investigating found no evidence of suicide, but instead believed that the lack of powder burns on her body, clothes or hands proved that she was murdered. They also discovered a newspaper clipping in her pocket, which led to even more questions.

The piece of paper had a headline that read: “Paying the Debt in Full”—with a lead pencil underlined sentence, “Who was it that took the pains to tell your husband about the one awful mistake you made in your life?”  Even more perplexing was the handwritten words on the margin of the clipping that read, “The man who persuaded you to make it.

This clue left detectives scratching their heads, but certain that it had something to do with Elizabeth’s murder. With this in mind, the police did not hesitate to arrest Dr. Schott for the murder of the young lady and held him on $15,000 bail until arraignment. When questioned, Dr. Schott claimed that he was innocent, but didn’t make himself look too good with his admission of his odd relationship with the deceased. The Chicago Tribune dated December 26, 1919 quoted Dr. Schott when he was questioned about his relationship with Elizabeth, saying:

The eternal triangle…It was just like many other love affairs. We had been good pals for more than a year and I am confident she loved me. Once, in my office, she saturated a cloth with chloroform and was found in a semi-stupor.” 

 In other words, besides  mentioning there was some sort of “eternal” love triangle, he was also attempting to sully her reputation by claiming that Elizabeth was getting high on the doctor’s supplies.  Interestingly though, Dr. Schott offered more information with that one statement than he would realize. This will be discussed later on in this chapter. According to his statement, Dr. Schott claimed he was happy for Elizabeth’s upcoming marriage and that he felt it would be a good “trial run” for the marriage he believed would take place in the future between the two of them. It was apparent that although he made remarks that Elizabeth was obsessed with him, it was clearly the opposite. Friends of Elizabeth said that she had ended the engagement with the doctor claiming she was actually afraid of him, and that she was too afraid to quit her job, at least until she was married. 

Investigating the dynamic of Schott and Elizabeth’s past relationship reveals much more. One of Elizabeth’s friends, Anna Boswell, did not like the doctor one bit, due to his bad reputation. This caused the two friends to avoid conversation about Elizabeth’s relationship with the doctor. Nurse Cohan, another close friend of Elizabeth, was quoted in the newspapers. She recalled one night when she, Elizabeth, Dr. Lee Botts and another young gentleman were out for dinner and a show.

We walked out First Street from Chestnut Street. At the drug store at First Street and Broadway, Dr. Botts went in and ordered a taxicab. The taxi arrived soon after and we all got in. Just before we started away though, a man stepped up to the side of the cab and peered in the window. Elizabeth exclaimed: “Yes, It’s me, George. It’s Elizabeth.”

 It was later explained to the group that “George” was a man that Dr. Schott had hired to shadow her everywhere. It seemed that the doctor had serious insecurities and trust issues, and this caused Elizabeth not only to resent him, but to fear him for his out of control jealous nature.  Could the good ole’ doctor have hired George to commit the dastardly deed, murdering poor Elizabeth?

During the inquest, some of Elizabeth’s letters to Dr. Schott were read to the jury. One was dated in May of 1919, while Elizabeth was in nursing school at the city hospital. It read: 

                      "Did you ever stop to think that the time would come when I didn't want to come back? You seem to think you can have me or leave me at will. I'll admit that I waited, hoped and prayed during my first three months that you would come back to me, but now it could not be if you wished it. Your unjust suspicions today settle the question forever. Didn't you tell me that you had a different girl every night, and  when I merely go downtown to supper you say that everything is not on the level? Had I never gone with any one and let you do all the going, you would have found some other excuse. They are nothing new.

I have been fed up on excuses and promises for the past three years and let me relieve you of responsibility of making more, for I have forgotten the place where I do not even want to return.  It doesn't matter to me if you come or go. It's hell to feel that way, and I never thought I could feel any other emotion but love for you. Don't ever think of me personally again, as I have already schooled myself to an impersonal feeling for you. I want to keep on fixing your books and I want some money, in fact, need it. I don't mean to borrow it, as I feel that I am earning a little bit working on the books. It doesn't matter how deficient I was, it will be hard to find another girl to help you as I did and be as true as I was, considering everything, and I realize, too.  You just want to get something on me so you can go around and talk about me as you did Jennie Cole, and I have been good to you, too, but I see that it is all you are after. If that is gratitude and appreciation, well.”- "Elizabeth Griffith."

archived photo
By his own admission, Dr. Schott claimed that during his time engaged to Elizabeth, he hired a private detective to shadow her wherever she went, out of fear that she would be unfaithful. During the time he was being held, Dr. Schott remained somewhat arrogant in his stance. He even went on record for the newspapers intimating that he expected to be released immediately and “to be calling on patients again” by New Year’s Eve. “They have not even proved Miss Griffith was murdered,” Schott told the press.

The Richmond Times Dispatch offered a full page spread on their take of the story. This included  information that clearly pointed to the doctor as the best possible suspect and the theory of how it took place.

“More probable that this is the theory that Elizabeth Griffith– a high-spirited, courageous girl, as all her friends say– snatched the weapon from the doctor’s table and wielded it first herself in an effort to force her tormentor to cease the threats to go to her sweetheart with the stories of her past. A struggle followed and the weapon was wrested from Elizabeth’s hands. She fell to her knees to plead for mercy, but her prayers went unheeded, for a mad rage at this unexpected show of resistance nerved the hand that now held the automatic. The trigger was pressed, the muzzle spat fire and the ill-fated little bride-to-be was suddenly transformed into a ghastly bleeding corpse.”—- Richmond Times Dispatch.

 During the inquest, witnesses came out of the woodwork favoring both sides. Some claimed they saw the doctor coming to the office around the same time he claimed to have found her body.  Another person, a patient of Dr. Schott,  Mrs. Paul Stone claimed that she called the office about an hour before Elizabeth’s alleged time of death, claiming that Elizabeth was depressed and had mentioned she didn’t have anything to live for. She stated that Elizabeth told her that the wedding was postponed because her fiancé’s mother was out of town visiting his sister and he refused to be married without his family present.

 During an era when a sense of propriety was expected from everyone, it seems very unlikely that Ms. Griffith would have expressed her emotional state to a patient over the phone in a casual conversation. Not only would it be unlikely, but unprofessional for that time period. The only thing I could imagine was perhaps Dr. Schott had leverage on certain “witnesses” in his defense, and possibly threatened exposure of personal secrets had they not gone along with his story. After all, most people disclose personal information to their doctor that normally they would never share with others, and in a pinch the doctor could have easily blackmailed certain people to help aid in his alibi or defense.

It seemed that the doctor was shady, hiring men to shadow Elizabeth, and from her own letters to the doctor she mentions that he was trying to “get something” on her, in order to ruin her reputation. The newspaper clipping found in her pocket eluded to that very thing. But what was it that Dr. Schott knew about her that no one else did? And was that information something the doctor held over her head and threatened to take to her new husband-to-be?

Laurene Gardner
When it came down to questioning all the eye-witnesses in the case, not all stories matched up. William J. Ryan, a local baseball umpire, claimed that he saw the doctor leaving his office around 3:30p.m. This was the opposite of what Schott had previously stated. He claimed his arrival was around that time, which would put him at the scene of the crime at the time of Elizabeth’s murder. Whether Schott was there or not, he could have easily made that alibi, knowing all too well that he had hired someone to do the job for him.

Even more strange was the fact that an anonymous writer sent a letter to Dr. Schott’s attorney’s threatening to kill Mr. Ryan for his testimony against the doctor. The letter which was also published in the newspapers claimed that Ryan “needed killing,” and that he was only going to cause the doctor more problems. The letter was signed simply as “A Friend.”

Elizabeth’s sister, Kate Griffith was quoted in the newspapers explaining that she had called the office around the time that coroner’s claim Elizabeth had died, and that Dr. Schott had answered the phone at his office. She also was very insistent that Dr. Schott had some sort of hold over her sister and she was unsure why. With all these conflicting statements, it seemed the doctor’s story wasn’t adding up that well. He did have one trick up his sleeve. That was his little companion, thirteen-year-old Laurene Gardner. Her testimony at the grand jury hearing gave him an alibi.  I found it quite interesting that at the very same time the detectives were searching for more witnesses to question in regards to the case, a discomforting headline pops up connected to the story, “Girl Takes Life To Escape Going To Witness Stand.”  Could that actually be? Was there another girl, dead?

The Appleton Daily Post, for January 9, 1920, stated that a young lady by the name of Theodosia Saunders was found dead in her house. It was suspected that she took her life to avoid speaking to detectives or to Dr. Schott’s attorneys about her possible knowledge of Elizabeth’s death.  I tracked down several newspaper articles mentioning this tragic turn of events, all of which seem to be conflicting. Although some state that Miss Saunders killed herself to avoid being named a witness, others claim it was accidental, and that she had been ill with tonsillitis and was self-medicating. According to the papers, her personal doctor came by earlier in the day to check on her and left his medical bag there by mistake.  Later on, Theodosia’s mother found her body with a handful of chloroform soaked cotton. It was apparent that she had died from inhaling the toxic fumes.

Theodosia’s death certificate states it was accidental overdose of chloroform poisoning.  It is quite odd that she died the very same way in which Dr. Schott claimed he had once found Elizabeth in his office, as I previously mentioned. Another thing I found strange about Schott’s statement was the fact he even mentioned the chloroform at all. Was that a slip up by the doctor?  Did Theodosia really accidentally overdose on the chloroform? Or was her death just as questionable as the way Elizabeth died?

This story seemed to take me even further down the rabbit hole with a sense of uneasiness along the way. How did Theodosia fit into the story? What did she know that perhaps cost her life? Why did Dr. Schott, a middle-aged man, choose to take a thirteen year old girl with him to deliver Christmas gifts alone? And how did Elizabeth end up in a locked room in the doctor’s office, to which only he had the key?

There were even more questions. What was the cryptic newspaper clipping found in Elizabeth’s pocket all about? Was that sent to her anonymously by an ex-lover? Or perhaps a jealous woman who had affections for one of Elizabeth’s male suitors? I found myself theorizing so many possible scenarios in both Elizabeth and Theodosia’s deaths.

Records indicate that Dr. Schott had been released from police custody a few days prior to Theodosia’s death, and newspapers relay that Dr. Schott did stop by Theodosia’s home to give her parents his condolences, so he obviously knew where she lived.  Was he that desperate to have been involved in her death, too? Or did her death have nothing to do with Elizabeth’s death, and was just merely coincidental?

After all the incriminating evidence and suspicious circumstantial evidence against the doctor, ultimately the grand jury accepted the alibi given to them by the little girl, Laurene Gardner. After dismissing all murder charges against the doctor, Elizabeth’s death slowly to faded in the papers, and over time became forgotten. 

Her friends and family could find no reason that Elizabeth would have killed herself. Her wedding was days away and her new life was in clear view. By newspaper accounts prior to her death, it shows Elizabeth’s personality to be adventurous, spirited and fearless. She was mentioned five months before her death as being a volunteer passenger on an  JN-4 airplane that was delivering newspapers to Shelbyville, Lexington and Frankfort. The pilot admitted that she asked him to perform stunts such as tailspins, flip-flops, nose dives and barrelrolls.  She seemed to be full of surprises and open to exciting new things. To imagine that someone as spirited as she was would end her life when she was fully capable of making any choice she wanted, just doesn’t add up.

                  It was so clear that she had been murdered, even the newspapers expressed their opinion of it; yet,  it seemed that Dr. Schott was out of the reach of the law.  How did he manage to get away with it?  Dr. Schott owned nine properties in town and the Gardner family rented one of those properties. In fact, they lived just next door to the doctor.  As I had mentioned before, perhaps Schott threatened his “witnesses” to help provide an alibi for himself.  Something as serious as threatening to throw them out on the street could have been used as leverage to persuade the young girl to lie to the grand jury, giving him a solid alibi. Of course, that’s just speculation. Again, he could have very well been with Laurene as he stated, all the while a hired gun could have been waiting for Elizabeth in the office.

And where does Theodosia fit into this story? Did she know something crucial to the case and thus she needed to be silenced, for fear that the truth could come out? Or was her death just a coincidence? It seemed so unfair to think that if Dr. Schott was responsible for ending these two young women’s lives, how was he was able to get away with it?

Fast forward to April 16, 1928. We find that Dr. Schott now has his own sanitarium for the treatment of opium and morphine addiction in Louisville, at the same location where Elizabeth’s heinous death had taken place only nine years earlier.  Schott is much older now, a heavy drinker and a tyrant of an employer.  Abusive to both patients and employees, even making inappropriate sexual comments towards women in public. It seemed the doctor’s true colors came out eventually with time and carelessness.  After verbally abusing the cook for misplacing a key, one of the male nurses on staff, Dan Newman, approached Dr. Schott and stood up to him, making it clear that his abuse toward his employees would not be tolerated. This did not sit well with the doctor and it immediately created tension between the two men.

This continued for several weeks. According to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, dated April 17, 1928, after watching Dr. Schott bring in an unidentified woman, who was not a patient to the sanitarium, abusively dragging her across the floor and screaming to his employees to “put her to bed,” Newman had enough.  After some heated words were exchanged between the two, Newman felt his life was in danger, so he went to his room and retrieved his pistol to keep in his pocket for his own safety.

(Photo: Rob Mitchell)
According to testimony by Newman, a drunk Dr. Schott had previously bragged that he had gotten away with killing Elizabeth Griffith many years ago, as well as knocking off a fellow physician, too. Perhaps after realizing he had once shared too much information with Newman, Schott felt that his livelihood was now threatened.  When the two met again that evening,  their argument started again. When Newman witnessed the doctor reaching into his own coat for what he believed was a weapon, the nurse was quick on the draw, pulling his own pistol out and shooting the doctor down, dead. After the deed was done, Newman called the police and confessed to the events that had taken place. A jury freed Dan Newman on June 14, 1928, dismissing the murder charge and citing that he had acted in self defense. One can only imagine that perhaps some of thejury members from the community, who remembered Elizabeth Griffith’s case, may have been relieved that justice had in a round-about way been served. After all, it was better late than never.

(Photo: Rob Mitchell)
                  According to Robert Mitchell, Find-a-grave contributor and avid historical researcher, it was discovered that both Dr. Schott and Elizabeth are interred just a few feet from one another at Cave Hill Cemetery, in Louisville, Kentucky.  It appears that Elizabeth was buried somewhere in the cemetery in December of 1919, but that she was later moved to her current plot in March of 1920. The burial documents are in the name of Mattie Griffith, Elizabeth’s mother. Why or how Schott convinced Mattie to allow him a spot next to her daughter, the very man that so many were convinced caused her death is yet just another aspect to this unanswered mystery.  Sadly, it appears that even in death Elizabeth could not seem to escape the grasp of Dr. Schott. ----- Chapter 14 of the book, "Stories of the Forgotten: Infamous, Famous & Unremembered" - by J'aime Rubio

 (ISBN-13:  978-1523981175  ISBN-10:  1523981172)  Copyright October 17, 2016.  All rights reserved.  

All rights reserved.  J'aime Rubio identified as the AUTHOR and PUBLISHER of the work in accordance with all U.S. Copyright laws. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior written permission by the author/publisher.

PHOTOS: Archived Newspaper Photos
Photos of Elizabeth's grave at Cave Hill Cemetery in Kentucky, by: Rob Mitchell

(Thank you Rob!!)

Thursday, January 19, 2017

A Dead Man's Hand -- The Murder of Poker Tom

(Copyright: J. Rubio)
It's widely known throughout history that many men have lost their lives around a poker table, or because of gambling. Sensational stories told over the years such as the death of Wild Bill Hickok at the hands of Jack McCall in the No. 10 Saloon of Deadwood, South Dakota, might come to mind. Even the narrative about Fred Chisholm, a young gambler who was shot to death after cheating and running out during a game at a Chinese casino in Locke, California, is another one I recall off hand.

It appears that when it comes to money and gambling, the two do not mix well, at least not when you are on the losing end. Famous poker champion Doyle Brunson was once quoted saying, "Poker is war. People pretend it's a game," and that statement appears to be right "on the money."

In the end of May, 1891, in a little town known as Bridgeport, California, two individuals would cross paths with one another, and set in motion events that would ultimately seal both of their fates. The two people in this story went by the names Ah Quong Tia and Poker Tom.  Ah Tia was a Chinese merchant who ran a business in Bridgeport, while Poker Tom was a Piute Indian who lived on the Walker River Reservation just east of Yerington, Nevada.  According to all the recorded documentation, it appears that Poker Tom came to Bridgeport to purchase some calico and ended up spending a few nights gambling with the Chinese. The first night that he was there he played in a poker game with a few people, which included Ah Tia. The night resulted with Tom winning some pretty good money. Since Ah Tia had lost, and wanting to win back his money, he offered Poker Tom to come to his store the next evening and have a private game, just the two of them.  Poker Tom accepted and the plans were set.

The next evening, Poker Tom arrived at Ah Tia's store, who quickly locked the doors behind him and began their game to settle scores. Five local Indians had passed by Ah Tia's store that night, and when they tried to enter the business they found the door to be locked. So they peeked through a hole in the window curtain and saw Ah Tia and Poker Tom playing cards. They thought nothing more of it, and went on their way. What really happened next will forever remain a mystery, since there were no eye witnesses to confirm or deny the stories. Some say that Tom won again, which infuriated Ah Tia, who in turn attacked and killed the Indian. Other versions of the story claim that Poker Tom lost the game, and in anger he attacked Ah Tia, which led to a fight, where ultimately Tom was killed. Either variation ultimately ended with the same result, Tom was dead.

So what did Ah Tia do? Did he contact the Sheriff and tell him that he acted in self-defense and that he had been attacked by the Indian? Nope. Did he try to get help from anyone? Nope. Instead, he dragged the body to the kitchen and began hacking it to pieces. First he cut off the legs, and the arms, and then the head and packed them in brine. Then he gutted the torso, carefully removing the organs and chopping them up into small pieces. The gutted trunk of his body was then thrown into the river.

He took the time to meticulously clean the front room of his store, reapplying new wall paper to the bloody walls, attempting to cover up any sign of foul play. He was seen scrubbing and re-scrubbing his floors, which according to newspaper reports were clearly blood stained. If that wasn't bad enough, he boiled up flesh he had saved from Tom's body, and prepared meals with it. To add insult to injury, several reports claim that Ah Tia went out of his way to invite some of the local Indians over to enjoy a "feast" that he had cooked up---which subsequently was his way of getting rid of the evidence. Even Tom's brined legs were cut into chops and sold that week for 6 cents a pound, under the guise that it was goat meat. No one suspected a thing, at least for the moment.

It wasn't until a few weeks later that some of the Indians from Tom's tribe began to worry about their friend after his horse came back to the reservation by itself, unsaddled and without it's bridle. It was then that they came to Bridgeport to look for him. The natives from the Walker River Reservation gathered up some of the local Mono Lake Indians and they discussed the situation, asking if they knew anything about the disappearance of Tom. Some remembered that he had been seen playing cards with Ah Tia in his store the night he disappeared, but when questioned, Ah Tia denied having seen him at all. They knew that was a lie, and so they were certain now that he had done something to their friend. They searched the area for any sign of Poker Tom, finding some of the calico he had purchased and his reservation coat at the outskirts of town.

At one point Sheriff Cody came by, at the request of the Indians, and even the Sheriff found a bullet hole in the wall, that Ah Tia had tried to cover up with new wallpaper. Ah Tia blamed "red ink" for the red stains on the walls and floors, that he seemed to be seen continuously scrubbing clean. Later on some of the natives fished the headless torso out of the river, identifying it as that of Poker Tom.

An native woman, known as the wife of Mono Lake Indian "Lundy" came forward claiming that her husband and Tom were drunk the day he disappeared and that he and his friends probably killed him. It turns out though that Lundy had left his wife, and she had been shacking up with none other than Ah Tia! It was assumed that she tried to place blame on her estranged husband and his friends to draw attention away from Ah Tia, the real murderer.  At this point the situation was getting heated. The Walker River Indians were ready to kill some of the Mono Lake Indians in retaliation, thinking that they killed one of their men. Eventually the story sorted itself out and they all turned their eyes back to the real monster, Ah Tia.

Knowing that the Indians were closing in on him, Ah Tia willingly confessed to the Sheriff that he was responsible for the death of Poker Tom, claiming that he was acting in self defense after being attacked by Tom during their card game. Of course there was no way to prove his story, but the authorities knew they had enough to charge him for the murder and so they held him in the jail, which was also at the request of Ah Tia.

It appears that perhaps the locals didn't want to deal with this issue, although legally they were supposed to. Maybe they knew that if they didn't let the Indians deal with the situation their way, they might have had to deal with hostilities later on from both tribes. To avoid any further issue, the Justice of the Peace dropped all charges. Of course this choice would come back to bite the town in the rear later, but it was what it was. And so when Ah Tia was released, the constable went out onto the street and yelled out the verdict. It was then that Ah Tia realized what waited for him outside the courthouse. He begged the authorities to protect him, he asked anyone to be his hired bodyguards and he offered compensation, but no one volunteered. As for the Sheriff, he went to his office and shut the door. Everyone knew that if Ah Tia was set free that meant a certain death for him, but given the circumstances of his previous actions, I doubt anyone felt sorry for the position Ah Tia found himself in.

When the Indians learned he had been acquitted, several of them charged to the courthouse and dragged Ah Tia out to the streets, binding him with a rope and riding out of town with him dragging behind their horses. According to several newspaper accounts, including this one it states, "a half mile from town, the brother of Tom cut off one arm. The Chinaman cried piteously, but the Indians cut off the other arm. Then they cut off both legs and his head. They cut his breast open with a cleaver and scattered his entrails throughout the sage brush. Two hundred armed Indians were present, and the butchery was witnessed by two white men. As the Sheriff did not protest, no one interfered with the Indians."-- Los Angeles Herald, June 15, 1891.

Bridgeport Courthouse (Wikimedia Commons)
When it came time to hold the Indians accountable for their act, no one would come forward to identify the culprits, and thus nothing could be done further. The town was shamed in newspapers across the country, including law enforcement in the County, who were berated over and over for not following through with the set forms of law and order. According to the Grand Jury investigation quoted in the San Francisco Call, dated December 1, 1891, it states that after a two week session they had completed their final report.

"After a careful and thorough investigation, twenty-eight witnesses having been called and examined, we find that the Indian was murdered and cut in pieces by Ah Quong Tia; that Ah Quong Tia was charged with the murder by the Coroner's jury and was arrested on the Coroner's warrant; that the verdict of the Coroner's jury and the testimony taken by the Coroner were no immediately field with the Clerk of the Superior Court, nor were they delivered to the commuting magistrate as required by the Penal Code. We also find that at the preliminary examination the Justice refused to commit the accused to appear before the Superior Court, but discharged him from custody. In this we are of the opinion that Justice erred, for the evidence seemed amply sufficient. We further find that the Deputy District Attorney did not interpose any objection whatever when counsel for the defense moved for a dismissal, and that the defendant's attorney's urged his dismissal contrary to his expressed request, well knowing that their client would be murdered if left unprotected."--

Of course to the outsiders looking in it was easy to judge, it was easy to complain, but they were not the ones living in Bridgeport at the time. The locals lived among the native tribes and I believe that they didn't want to deal with issues later on over this one incident. The natives wanted an "eye for an eye"-- it was their justice to do to Ah Tia what he did to Poker Tom, and once they were finished they went home. The people in charge of the town looked the other way, not only to avoid possible hostilities with the Indians but I believe they didn't want to waste tax payers money on it either.

Many journals and newspapers blamed the "White Man" for his role in this story, even trying to insinuate that they egged the Indians on to take matters into their own hands. I think that is pretty pathetic that even back then someone had to go and start blaming others for this. The bottom line was that Ah Tia murdered and covered up the murder of Poker Tom. If it really was self defense he could have went to the Sheriff and explained, but the fact he covered it up, and then fed the dead man to who knows how many people in town, even selling his leg meat as goat chops, that is reason enough for the Indians to want to get revenge. They didn't need any coaxing from the townsfolk, that's for sure.

It appears that even back then, the media and even the court systems would find bias in one group over another. In this case they took the side of the Chinese man over the Native Americans. It seemed that Poker Tom's life, or brutal death didn't mean anything to the courts, yet they made the biggest spectacle over the way Ah Tia was treated. The last time I checked Ah Tia was the one who committed an atrocious murder and an even more heinous cover up. Poker Tom didn't kill anyone and there is no way to know if he truly attacked Ah Tia in the first place. It sounds to me like he had a lucky streak gambling but that Ah Tia made sure his luck ran out that night, one way or another.

Famous author Mario Puzo once wrote, "Show me a gambler, and I'll show you a loser." As much as Poker Tom won, he ultimately lost his life. And as fate would have it, Ah Quong Tia, thinking somehow he'd win back the money he lost, he ended up with the worst hand of all...the dead man's hand, which was really his own.

~~Thank you Roland for pointing me in the direction of this story!! ~~

(Copyright 2017- J'aime Rubio,

Photo of gambling paraphernalia: Copyright, J'aime Rubio
Photo of Courthouse: Wikimedia Commons

San Francisco Call, June 11, 1891  
San Francisco Call, July 25, 1891 
Los Angeles Herald  June 15, 1891  
Los Angeles Herald,  June 11, 1891  
San Francisco Call  December 1, 1891  
Sacramento Daily Union , June 11, 1891  
Los Angeles Herald  December 1, 1891
Sacramento Daily Union  June 15, 1891  
Los Angeles Herald  November 20, 1891  
Sacramento Daily Union,  November 20, 1891  
Los Angeles Herald   July 25, 1891  
Weekly Courier,  June 20, 1891  
Scientific American,  January 16, 1892

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Georgia Fisher's Monument of Love

Monument for Georgia Fisher (J.Rubio)
This monument sits at one of the higher points of the Historic Sacramento City Cemetery. Facing east on the northern section close to the Broadway entrance, it's ornate tile design is what caught my eye the very first time I walked by it.  The sheer beauty of the monument is equally matched with the sudden feeling of sadness upon closer examination. It isn't just a sadness solely because of the tragic back story of the grave itself, but also the painful realization knowing how horribly this grave has been treated over the years. If we could have only seen the monument in its full splendor back when it was constructed, then we would be able to fully realize the love and craftsmanship -- literally blood, sweat and tears, it took to create such a masterpiece.

The monument was built for Georgia Fisher, a young lady, only 19 years old at the time of her death. The man who built her beautiful memorial was none other than her devastated groom-to be, Martin Bergman. The couple were to be wed on New Year's Day in 1876, but Georgia passed away just days before the wedding, on December 27, 1875.

Georgia's Story

Georgia Fisher, or "Georgie" as she was sometimes called, was the only daughter of George Fisher and Narcissus Tucker. Born on February 25, 1856, in Louisiana, it appears that Narcissus brought Georgia with her to Arkansas at some point shortly after her birth, as the Tucker family: William Tucker and Paulina Adelina Humphrey-Tucker (Narcissus' parents), all traveled together in an ox-team of settlers across the plains from Arkansas to California around 1857-1858. Although I could find no records of a divorce or death, I believe George Fisher more than likely died, leaving Narcissus a young widow.

It was after getting to California that Narcissus, a young single parent with an infant child to raise, married Thomas Kirtlan, a Blacksmith by trade. Their marriage date is estimated at around 1858, when Georgia was 2 years old. Kirtlan had originally been born in England, but came to the United States with his parents across the Atlantic as an infant. He was raised in Ohio, and there he learned his trade. By the time he was 19 years old, he traveled to California, via the Isthmus of Panama and settled in Jenny Lind (Calaveras County). He would remain there until 1869, when he moved his family to Sacramento to set up his new shop on Twelfth and K Streets. Eventually the family moved again, this time to Freeport, just south of Sacramento, along the Delta, near the other small towns of Clarksburg, Locke and Walnut Grove.

Georgia was the eldest half sister of nine children born between Narcissus and Thomas Kirtlan. Around the age of 17 (1873-74), Georgia left home and went to work as a hired domestic for the Bergman family in Sacramento. Other records state that she had only been in the employ of the Bergman's for five months before her death, which would mean she came to work at the household at the age of 19. It is uncertain the exact date that she came to be employed in the Bergman household, but the fact remains that by 1875, she was working there.

The Bergman sons, Johann and Martin, had came to California from their native Sweden in the late 1860s, after having been so impressed by a sample of California clay they had seen in Stockholm. The two potters were convinced that their future was in America, so they left everything behind to start a new life. The journey was long, crossing the Atlantic and then walking the Isthmus only to board another steamer to San Francisco, but their determination was unshakable.

After settling in Sacramento, the two brothers set out to buy out their competition, Sacramento Pottery. The Bergman's began prospecting, not for gold, but for clay, finding a rich deep pocket of the best clay at Michigan Bar and Cook's Bar in Sacramento County (near Rancho Murieta). In fact, according to The History of Sacramento County, California, by G. Walter Reed, Michigan Bar was thought to be "the best bank of clay for pottery" in the entire state. The Bergman brothers became so successful that they paid for their parents and siblings come to California from Sweden.

Georgia Fisher and Martin Bergman 
The monument as it looked Circa 1930
Their Love Story

According to an article from the Sacramento City Cemetery's website,  Georgia was hired by Mrs. Bergman, Martin's mother. Their home was located at 30th and N. Streets in Sacramento.  It appeared that Martin Bergman fell for the young lady while she worked in their household, and although he was much older than her, Georgia reciprocated the feelings.  According to a quote within the article, from a Bergman descendant, Pat Pors, it appeared that the family was quite happy with the union of the two, and they were preparing for the holidays and the upcoming nuptials said to have been scheduled at the Presbyterian Church (13th & N Streets) on New Year's Day.

At some point during the hustle and bustle of getting so much done to prepare for the festivities, Georgia fell ill. Some say she died from typhoid pneumonia, while another genealogical report by Charles Wm. Berberich, another Bergman descendant, listed her cause of death as diphtheria or brain congestion/meningitis.  I could not find any death record for Georgia, so I am undecided on which cause of death is certain. Either way, we know she fell ill and passed on December 27, 1875.

Martin was devastated at the loss of his beloved Georgia, and so in his final act of everlasting love, he chose to construct for her the finest monument, made from the best materials, by his own hand. It was said that he worked tirelessly with tears streaming down his face to create a memorial worthy of Georgia, who undoubtedly was the love of his life.

The plaque erected by the Old City Cemetery Committee in 2010, sits in front of the monument and summarizes the tragic love story for passersby to learn while strolling through the cemetery.

My Sketch of Georgia
According to the plaque, "Shortly after Georgia's death, Martin, together with his father and brother, created this monument on her grave site. Martin, a Swedish immigrant sculptor, constructed the ornately tiled base. His father, John Bergman, added a statue of the angel Gabriel. Martin's brother, John, created an equally beautiful column. Together, they built an ornamented clay pedestal fence around the plot. 

Georgia's picture, in repose, was placed on the monument beneath the angel. Over the years, vandalism, theft and natural forces have taken their toll on the monument, leaving only a shadow of its original beauty."---

 According to the online records posted by Charles Wm. Berberich, he quotes a letter that Georgia had written but never had a chance to send that described Martin in her own words, "a gentleman in every shape and manner...honest and of good principles....He is in business with his brother and another man, but it is good business and pays pretty good. It is the pottery business...he is not rich neither is he well off but he has good health and understands his trade well. He is about 31 years of age and his name is Martin L. Bergman. He weighs about 160 lbs and has long dark beard and dark hair and blue eyes." ---

Martin waited nearly 20 years before allowing himself to marry, in the 1890s. But even so, it appears that he and his wife became estranged over the years. When Martin died in Spokane, Washington, in 1920, he left all his estate to his only daughter, and nothing to his wife. Martin Bergman was a very prominent potter and sculptor who truly made a name for himself in his lifetime.

To date, the only known photo of Georgia Fisher is the one that was taken after her death. In an attempt to see what she may have looked like alive and full of love and happiness, I made my best effort to sketch her portrait, based on the dimensions of her face. I am no Van Gogh, but I took a shot at the task. It may not be exactly what she looked like, but I take comfort in the thought that I tried to give her a we could imagine her in life, not only in death.

Rest In Peace, Georgia.

(Copyright 2017, J'aime Rubio-

Photos at cemetery by: J'aime Rubio
Sketch by: J'aime Rubio
Photos of Martin Bergman and Georgia Fisher and monument from the Sacramento City Cemetery plaque.
"A Monumental Love Story" by Marilyn Demas -(Published June 2005)
via Sacramento City Cemetery website;
Rootsweb post by Helen Fingado (2004)
History of Sacramento County, G. Walter Reed;
Individual Report for Martin Laurentius Bergman, by Charles Wm. Berberich.