Nestled in the quaint historic district of Anaheim, sits a majestic home originally constructed for a member of the Rimpau family, one of Anaheim’s earliest families. Designed in 1915, by architect, Charles Trudeau, the home was a wedding gift from Theodore “Robert” Rimpau to his new bride, Enid. Their love story has been shrouded in just about as much mystery as the tragic events that took place in the home itself.
“Robert,” as he was best known, was born on October 11, 1882, to parents Adolph Rimpau and Natalia Carillo. His legal name was Theodore R. Rimpau, no doubt named after his paternal grandfather, an Anaheim pioneer. Enid Williams was born in Pueblo, Colorado, sometime in February of 1892, to parents William S. Williams and Catherine Ferguson. Enid’s father was originally from Boston, Massachusetts, while her mother was a native of Ohio.
Some point after the turn of the 20th century, the Williams family moved to California, settling in Los Angeles. Enid’s mother, Catharine eventually separated from her husband after the move to California. The 1910 Census shows that Catharine and Enid were listed as one household. Enid, who was barely 18 years of age, was listed as “single,” while her mother was listed as a “widow.”
Why Catharine listed herself as a widow we will never know for certain. More than likely Catharine did not want to explain why she was still married but living alone, given the time period. Although the census did not show Enid as having any occupation, her mother was listed as a “promoter” for a mining company.
It appears that Enid wouldn’t stay with her mother for very long, as records indicate that she married Charles Stone of Glendale, at the courthouse in Santa Ana, on September 21, 1910. Some newspapers of the time state that the couple lived in Long Beach during their marriage. Within a year, Enid could see that she had made a huge mistake. Charles’ “intemperate habits” were cause enough for Enid to file for a divorce in 1913, when she finally left.
Enid wanted a fresh start, as far away from Charles as she could travel. Given the fact that she watched her own mother show strength and independence by leaving her own husband during the early part of the 20th century, must have given Enid the gumption to venture out into the world on her own, knowing she could do it, too. But where would young Enid go?
On July 31, 1914, Enid’s divorce decree was finalized, and she became a free woman again. The small, newly settled town of Anaheim, famous for their citrus trees and walnuts, seemed to be just what Enid needed to start over. Once she settled in, she took on two jobs to support herself.
First, she worked at Weber’s bookstore and then also at the millinery store, which designed hats. It is unknown when exactly she met Robert Rimpau, but I assume she must have crossed his path at some point during a visit to Miles Grocery store, where he worked as head clerk.
Enid was thought of as attractive, with a “sunny disposition and pleasing manners,” and one who easily became friends with anyone that she met. It didn’t take long before Robert wished to court Enid and propose marriage. As a gift to his future bride, Robert Rimpau hired architect Charles Trudeau to design “one of the finest dwellings” in Anaheim, according to an archived newspaper clipping provided to me by long time Anaheim resident and history enthusiast, John Marshall. The house, located at 503 N. Zeyn Street, reportedly cost Robert Rimpau $3,000.00 to construct.
The pair were married on July 5, 1915, in Anaheim, and moved into their beautiful new home shortly thereafter. Its grand décor and impeccable design was built to please Enid. From the exquisitely constructed staircase and ornate light fixtures in the entry way, to the built in bookcases and romantic fireplace in the sitting room, every detail showed that Robert Rimpau spared no expense to make his new bride happy.
A shocking event took place on Sunday, October 17, 1915. Enid and Robert Rimpau attended mass at St. Boniface church, where they then departed separately after the services. Robert claimed he had some errands to run, so Enid went home by herself. After returning home within an hour, Robert stated that he came to find his wife dying from poison. He called several doctors to the home, and the first to arrive was Dr. Truxaw.
The doctor believed that she was already too far gone from cyanide poisoning and there was nothing that he could do to reverse the effects, and so Enid passed away. Dr. Truxaw ascertained that the vial used to poison Enid was still quite full, enough to kill several more people.
According to the Santa Ana Register, Enid was found in an upstairs bedroom, along with a suicide note that read, “I am a failure. God forgive me and bless you.” There was no “official” inquest done on her death, therefore no one verified as to whether or not the alleged suicide note was even written in Enid’s own hand.
The newspapers reported her death according to Coroner Winbigler’s statement, ruling it a suicide without allowing a proper investigation into her death, and virtually smearing her name as having gone “temporarily insane.” The Santa Ana Register stated that for several weeks Enid had shown signs of despondency and melancholia leading up to her death. The Anaheim Gazette also claimed that Enid’s friends stated that “at times she had been morbid and melancholy without any known cause, consequently it is supposed that she was mentally unbalanced.”
Interestingly though, the same article then goes on to say, “the friends with whom she lived, declared she was always even tempered, independent and self-reliant, and never showed any signs of a diseased mind.”
It also stated, “friends who saw her in the store Saturday night observed no difference in her demeanor, and many who talked to her after the Sunday morning service declared that she was in her usual spirits at the time.”
Enid was a very independent woman, and even after marrying Robert, she still worked at Weber’s bookstore. Yes, she had made remarks that she was alone a lot and that she would rather be working than be alone at the house, meaning that her husband was not spending much time with her. That didn’t necessarily mean she was suicidal. It just meant she was lonely at home, and perhaps she missed her husband.
An insurance man by the name Al Nowotny came forward claiming that just days before Enid died, she had asked him if a life insurance policy would pay out in the event of a suicide. He explained that it would not pay out unless an entire year had lapsed.
If such a conversation had taken place, why would she have decided to go through with the act of killing herself, especially if more than likely any insurance policy she may have had might not have covered her suicide? There was never any mention as to whether or not Enid even had a life insurance policy to begin with. This tidbit of information published in the newspapers seemed even more strange.
After Enid died, her body was taken to Backs and Terry’s Undertaking to be prepared for burial. Her body was brought over to her father-in-law’s home at 412 E. Center Street, for her viewing. On Tuesday, October 19, 1915, Enid’s funeral took place at St. Boniface Church, and the eulogy was given by Father Dubbel, the same person who officiated over her wedding just three months earlier. The Knights of Columbus were in attendance and acted as pall bearers; E.E. Brus, Leo Sheridan, L.B. Webber, Al Erikson and Ben Dauser.
After the services, Enid was laid to rest in a crypt inside the Anaheim Community Mausoleum at the Anaheim Cemetery, on Sycamore Street.
Enid Rimpau is not interred in the Rimpau family crypt as most would assume. The Rimpau family crypt is a private crypt on the grounds of the cemetery. The Community Mausoleum, where she is interred, is the oldest public mausoleum in the State of California and located at the other end of the cemetery.
If you visit Enid’s wall crypt you will find that the marker on her crypt has the wrong year of birth. You see, Enid fibbed when she married Robert. She was not twenty-two years old, but in fact she was twenty-three. When Enid married Charles Stone, she claimed to be nineteen years old, although she really was eighteen. The census records from 1900 and 1910 verify that she was born in February of 1892, therefore when she died her age was in fact twenty-three years and eight months.
So the question remains, how did Enid meet her demise? Yes, we could believe that she was just so miserable in her life that the only way she could escape was to end it. Unfortunately, I have always had a hard time believing this. Her very character, which was long since established in the community along with her past actions in life, prove that she was not a quitter.
She left an abusive husband and started a new life on her own. She worked two jobs to support herself and yet always kept a kind and humble demeanor, making friends with just about everyone she met. Does that really sound like someone who would just give up? If she was unhappy with her marriage to Robert, what was stopping her from leaving him?
Considering the theory that Enid didn’t kill herself, then who poisoned her? I have often wondered what the Rimpau family thought of Enid. Could it have been someone within in the Rimpau family, who may not have approved of Robert marrying a divorcée ? Maybe it was even her own husband, Robert Rimpau. Another thought, possibly it wasn’t the Rimpau’s at all, but perhaps her ex-husband Charles who may have caused her death?
Had someone poisoned her, then how was it done? Was she forced to swallow the cyanide or did she drink unknowingly, such as from a glass laced with poison? If she was poisoned that way, the killer would have probably taken the small vial of poison and conveniently placed it near her along with a “suicide note,” to make the scene believable as to not draw suspicion.
If Enid was truly suicidal, wouldn’t she have downed the entire vial, to guarantee her death was sure and fast? But instead she lingered, and died in a most horrible way.
Another possibility is that when attempting to commit suicide, after tasting the foul poison on her palate, she found that she couldn’t compel herself to drink any more, leaving the vial still quite full, but having ingested enough to be a fatal dose. I have come to the conclusion that there is no way to know for certain what exactly happened that day in 1915. Enid took those answers with her to the grave.
The current owners of the house, Tracey Drennan and Thomas Gaul, came across the history of home while searching the address on the internet. They had looked at over 40 houses on the market before they came across the Rimpau House. After doing a search on Google, they came across my original blog on Enid’s story. The couple later made contact with me. They revealed that it was Enid’s story that intrigued them even more and consequently convinced them that the house was the perfect home for them!
“The house was in bad shape,” Drennan recalled. “It had such a sad character about it. It had been neglected and damaged by the previous owners, but it was love at first sight for us. We knew there had to be a lot of restoration involved, but we appreciated the history behind the home and saw the potential in what it could become again. We closed in December of 2013, and moved in March of 2014.”
Although a great portion of the home had been neglected for so many years, Tracey mentioned that parts of the home were still intact, such as the closet under her staircase which still has the home’s original wallpaper.
Tracey and her husband, Thomas bought the home through Anaheim’s famed realtor Meghan Shigo, who specializes in the town’s historic homes. Keeping the homes historically accurate and preserved is part of the Mills Act Program which Megan is very passionate about. Through the Mills Act, the current owners have restored the Rimpau house to its original grandeur, once again breathing life back into this beautiful home.
I remember seeing the house on Zeyn Street many times while riding in the backseat of my mother’s Oldsmobile when I was just a child. Even just in a passing glance on a trip to the park, the house seemed to lure me in, though I never knew there was a story to discover hidden behind its very walls. It wasn’t until I was an adult, and a mother myself, that I noticed the house again on a trip with my children to Pearson Park.
I felt that yearning to explore the home once again. I asked my grandfather, George Mac Laren, about it and he directed me to the Anaheim Library to do some investigating. It was there that I satisfied my curiosity and unraveled a mystery. I fell in love with the home, just the same as the current owners. There is a certain air of mystery and familiarity that has always drawn me to the Rimpau home.
Enid’s death was my very first in-depth historical investigation which spiraled me into the world of historical investigative writing that I am known for today. In many ways, Enid is responsible for pushing me in that very direction. Although she never knew that her life, or tragic death, would in turn, change someone else’s life so many years later.
The desire that ignited inside of me and the drive that fueled my tenacity to research, all started as one tiny spark that lit into a flame. That spark started when I became enamored by the home at 503 N. Zeyn Street and grew as I learned of the tragedy of Enid Rimpau’s mysterious death. With that in mind, I felt it was only right that Enid’s story be my very first chapter in my book, so that she no longer remains one of the “forgotten.”---
From the book "Stories of the Forgotten: Infamous, Famous & Unremembered," by J'aime Rubio (Copyright 2016).
To Purchase your copy on Amazon click here: https://www.amazon.com/Stories-Forgotten-Infamous-Famous-Unremembered/dp/1523981172