In the first years of the twentieth century Madie Arnott Barr held title to a substantial portion of the land in Pacific Beach as well as a good deal of other property around the San Diego area. In 1905, for example, the city Lot Book listed her as owner of 5 acre lots as well as portions of other blocks in Pacific Beach totaling over 60 acres. Mrs. Barr was also named in almost daily real estate transactions recorded by the San Diego county recorder, many of them in Pacific Beach.
Madie Arnott Atkinson had been born in New Jersey but moved to California in 1862 when she was five years old. Records show that she married a Mr. McFadden and had two sons about 1880. Then she married Edward Henry Byrons and was divorced from him in about 1897. She came to San Diego and apparently met Frank M. Barr, who had originally arrived in San Diego in irons to serve a sentence in the San Diego County Jail for sending improper letters in the U. S. Mail. In April 1898 they sailed two miles off the coast of California where they were married on the high seas by a Methodist minister with the boat’s captain and crew as witnesses. Back in San Diego, Barr entered into a real estate partnership, Turner & Barr, with Marcus C. Turner. Mr. Barr later explained that, for convenience, all the the firm’s purchases were recorded under his wife’s name.
By 1907, however, Frank Barr’s relationships with both his business partner and his wife had deteriorated. In February 1907 he embarked on a voyage to the Orient, supposedly for his health. Before leaving he executed a deed granting his wife all right, title and interest in any and all property, real or personal, which he owned or had any interest in. Turner & Barr, the partnership with M. C. Turner, had also apparently been terminated before his departure. Soon after he sailed, Turner, Madie Arnott Barr and her son Ward E. McFadden incorporated a new real estate business, the Turner-Barr Company.
When Barr returned a few months later he initiated an action in superior court demanding one-half interest in the properties held in the name of Madie Arnott Barr, contending that the property purchased by Turner & Barr was recorded in her name for convenience only and the February blanket deed to all of his property was made solely for the purpose of facilitating any transfers of property, without any consideration. In July, Barr upped the ante, commencing an action against Turner for having an undue and improper influence over his wife; wrongfuly, wilfully, wickedly, unlawfully and maliciously depriving him of her comfort, affection, fellowship, society and assistance. For all of this he asked for $50,000 in damages.
Both of these complaints were dismissed and the parties apparently agreed to a division of property, but in October Barr was back in court to complain that his wife and former partner had failed to convey the agreed-upon real property. Mr. Barr also initiated a separate action against Mrs. Barr claiming that she had ‘inveigled’ him to go through a bogus wedding ceremony on the boat two miles out to sea with the intent of evading California marriage laws, when she had not actually been divorced from her previous husband. In this action he asked that their ‘pretended’ marriage be annulled and that she be denied any interest in what she claimed to be community property.
The parties reached a settlement on the property issues in November 1907, but problems with the Barrs’ marriage continued. Frank Barr filed an amended complaint; he said that their marriage was not legal because no license had been issued and that it should be annulled. Madie Arnott Barr answered with a cross-complaint; she said that Barr represented to her that he had complied with the law in reference to marriages and if he failed to obtain a license, if such licenses were necessary, he was at fault. She also denied that she had induced or persuaded him to go to sea and be married off California. She added that the publication of the false and slanderous statements contained in his complaint caused her suffering in mind and body, her health had been impaired and her peace of mind destroyed, and her marital relations rendered intolerable. She also asked that their marriage be dissolved, but that he take nothing. This complaint was also dismissed, in January 1908.
Despite her alleged suffering, impaired health and destroyed peace of mind, Madie Arnott Barr still held title to a great deal of real estate, including substantial holdings in Pacific Beach, and she soon put it on the market. In March 1908, she was the seller in what the San Diego Union called the largest transfer of Pacific Beach property for several years, 366 lots, a portion of her holdings of Acre Lots 7, 8, 9 and 10. The deal was made by J. M. Asher of Asher & Littlefield and was understood to be for about $40,000. The buyer was the Folsom Bros. Co. These acre lots were between Agate, Gresham and Loring Streets and a line halfway between Everts and Dawes
Although Madie Arnott Barr and Frank Barr had apparently separated, their marital status remained unresolved. In 1908 she was advised that the state supreme court had ruled that even a marriage on the high seas required a license, or as the Los Angeles Herald put it, ‘made it absolutely necessary that a license should be secured before two persons can settle down to the enjoyment of matrimonial bliss or contend with the trials of wedded life’. Apparently feeling that her marriage had become more trial than bliss she left San Diego, moved in with her sons in Los Angeles to establish residence, and in September 1908 filed suit asking that her marriage be annulled, and also that her maiden name of Madie A. Atkinson be restored. The marriage was annulled in superior court on January 8, 1909, and on January 13, less than a week later, a marriage license was issued in Los Angeles for Marcus C. Turner, age 54, and Madie A. Atkinson, age 50, both residents of San Diego.
Back in San Diego Marcus C. and Madie Arnott Turner continued their real estate activities, with a particular emphasis on Pacific Beach. In July 1909 they filed a subdivision map for Turner’s Sea Shell Park, basically the block surrounded by Riviera and Moorland Drives, Haines Street and La Playa Avenue plus a couple of lots on the north side of La Playa, which they owned in the Crown Point area of Pacific Beach. In 1910 they filed a subdivision map for Hollywood Park, incorporating their property within Acre Lots 7, 8, 9 and 10, the same tract they had agreed to sell to Folsom Bros. Co. in 1908. Folsom Bros. Co. agreed to ‘release and forever quitclaim’ the property back to the Turners in 1910.
The Turners, and her sons Ward and Joseph McFadden, continued to be active in the San Diego, and Pacific Beach, real estate market for years but Mrs. Turner played a less visible role and Mr. Turner eventually shifted his interest to mining and minerals. He became known as a champion of local ‘industrial minerals’, especially Otaylite, used in refining the finest grade of oil.
Between her real estate activities and courtroom appearances Madie Arnott Barr also found time to write. When the USS Bennington blew up in San Diego Bay on July 21, 1905, with the loss of 65 lives, she commemorated the tragedy with a poem, Overtaken, ‘dedicated to the boys of the U.S.S. Bennington’, and distributed it in San Diego bookstores. A January 1907 Union ad for Turner & Barr, the ‘Sleepless and Tireless’ realty firm, was also written in verse and credited to Madie Arnott Barr. It featuring such thoughts as ‘We read of San Diego of its climate and its bay, Its sunshine and its flowers and its winter months like May. We hear the tourists speaking of its charming city homes, Where wealth and prosperity smile on banks and money loans’, and odd verses like ‘The city hall and court house where the politicians meet. Where the hands of enemies come in contact as they greet, Are records of our city as its pulse beats warm or cold. And its there that divorces separate the young and old.’
In 1908 she had offered a $10 reward, no questions asked, for the return of her white Pomeranian (Spitz) dog, ‘Rowdy’, lost or stolen. When Rowdy was run over and killed by an automobile in 1911 she wrote a tribute which was published in the Union (‘Dead Dog’s Virtues Extolled by Woman’): Rowdy was probably as near human in his intellect as any dog ever attained, he fully understood conversation, his vocabulary was unusually large, love and fidelity were synonymous with all his actions, he knew every mood of his mistress and in health or sickness showed his beautiful nature.
Madie Arnott Turner died in 1932. Marcus C. Turner died in 1934.
In May 1909 the San Franciso Call reported that a reputed wealthy San Diegan had settled in the French possession of Tahiti in order to acquire legal residence so that he could marry a Tahitian girl under French laws. Under the headline ‘Remains in Tahiti to Wed Dusky Maid’, the paper said that the man, who went under the name of A. J. Stephens, had arrived on the liner Mariposa and had scheduled a return on its next voyage, but shortly before it sailed he tried to charter it for a cruise beyond French jurisdiction and on the high seas have the captain perform the marriage ceremony. The captain refused and Stephens decided to remain, establish legal residence, and ‘have the swellest wedding that Tahiti ever saw’.
The Call followed up this story by contacting the only A. J. Stephens living in San Diego, who said he had never been in Tahiti, or even out of San Diego for years, and that he believed the man in Tahiti was Frank M. Barr, a formerly well known real estate man and at one time quite wealthy, but who had left San Diego about five months previously after becoming mixed up in a number of shady transactions. Stephens said that Barr had left a trail of worthless checks from Los Angeles to Seattle and was known to be in Tahiti.
Barr’s trail of worthless checks and shady transactions continued to grow. A June 1909 Call article reported:
Bride is Deserted on a Southern Isle
A. J. Stephens, or Frank M. Barr, Gets Money and Flees
The romance of A. J. Stephens, or Frank M. Barr, as it is thought he should be called, has terminated in a gorgeous wedding with the Tahitian belle he left California to wed, the acquisition by the groom of some $2000 on the strength of the marriage, the abandonment of the bride on one of the south sea islands, and the disappearance of the mysterious adventurer with his ill acquired wealth in the direction of Australia.
The Call explained that Stephens, or Barr, had obtained money from an aunt of his bride and various other wealthy persons, then took his bride on a little junketing trip to Raratonga, where he left her to make her way home as well as she could and shipped on a steamer for Auckland.
In September 1909, Frank Barr was finally ‘run to earth’. The San Diego Union reported that ‘with an alleged criminal record extending the length of the coast and to the South Sea islands,and involving clever manipulations with negotiable paper and bigamous marriages as its salient points, Frank M. Barr, the fugitive San Diego real estate man, has at last been run down. He is under arrest at Ashland, Oregon’.
The Union recreated his recent history: After engaging in the real estate business for years, Barr left San Diego on January 1, 1909, abandoning Mrs. Jennie Duffey-Barr, his bride of two months, whom he had married after his legal separation from the present Mrs. Turner. From San Diego, Barr went to Los Angeles and after his departure from there numerous bad checks turned up and his San Diego operations also came to light. In February he was in Seattle under the name of Joe Thomas. Then he went to Tahiti as A. J. Stephens, a San Diego capitalist on vacation, where his elegant manners gained him entrance to the best society on the islands and he entertained his new-found acquaintances with many tales of his experiences, which were for the most part the grossest fabrications. One of his new acquaintances was Edouard Droullet, a retired French planter, who possessed a considerable income and a beautiful young daughter, Mademoiselle Elina Droullet. The imposter ‘had no trouble appearing well in her eyes’ and secured her father’s consent in her marriage. They were married in Papeete and left for Auckland, New Zealand, on their wedding tour, but not before the groom had secured $1000 on two bogus drafts endorsed by members of his new family.
Barr abandoned the French girl in Raratonga, robbing her of her jewelry and leaving her penniless. He next appeared in Salinas, in July, where he passed bad checks and remarked to an acquaintance that he was headed for San Diego where he had some old scores to settle. In San Diego he was disguised; stooped and walking with a cane and with his head swathed in bandages, explaining that he had been burned in an automobile accident. He told friends he was in San Diego to kill M. C. Turner, who by then had married his former wife, and he asked his current wife, the former Mrs. Duffey, for money and threatened to kill her if she let his presence be known. He was finally identified by a local druggist who recognized his voice when he telephoned from his store.
The police were notified but he made his escape, taking the ‘Owl’ train toward Los Angeles. He got off at Oceanside, then got an automobile ride to his destination. San Diego police chief Keno Wilson eventually tracked him to a hotel there but he had ‘taken boat’ for the north. He was finally located in Ashland and arrested. Apparently the crimes he could have been tried for in San Diego involved forging Madie Arnott Barr’s name on negotiable notes and would have required her testimony in court, but since she had been his wife at the time she would not be allowed to testify if he objected. Instead he was tried on the more recent forgery in Los Angeles.
In December 1909 Frank Barr was convicted of forging Madie Arnott Barr’s signature on a check to a Los Angeles jeweller for a $525 diamond ring. In January 1910 he was sentenced to five years in San Quentin; ‘Ordered to the Rock Pile’, according to the Union. Mrs. Duffey-Barr filed for divorce.