As presented by Jane Fiander at the Office of the Harvey Regional Heritage & Historical Association on January 21, 2019
How did this interest start?
As a youngster we always called the second cove on Harvey Lake Worth’s cove. I learned to call it that because the Roberts’ kids who were my summer playmates on Harvey Lake always called it that. We walked back to Worth’s Cove when I was little but I don’t remember what was there. A while back I was talking with someone who had purchased a property on Harvey Lake and I remarked that they had a great view of the entrance into Worth’s Cove. They said “I’ve never heard it called that – where did that name come from?”. I thought “Good question” and since I was already on Ancestry I thought I might do some digging. What I can tell you is that, like all good mysteries, every answered question about the Worth story has generated a new list of unanswered questions. Therefore, what I am sharing with you this evening from my research so far, is really just a snapshot of where I am today on a continuum with “I know nothing” at one end, and “All is revealed” at the other end. So here we go.
Where to begin?
A. The Worths of those childhood stories suggested two people married to other people who ran away with each other, were passing through Harvey on the train, thought it was as good a place as any to hide out, jumped off the train and made a home here. She was a wealthy socialite, he the family butler – as a youngster I thought this sounded pretty romantic. Was this the true story? Was their choice to be here a random impulsive whim? Where to begin – five places (not in order)
- The article published in the Lion’s News in 1996 in which Walter Brown recounts his memories of the Worths to Rev Dr Bill Randall. Old Harvey Photos has made that available again along with a picture of the Worth’s Cabin.
- The Roberts family – my friends now adults – do they know more as adults than they did as kids?
- Newspaper Archives
B. The Walter Brown account gave me the names Mr. Worth and also Mrs Schaffer (of the beer Schaefers) and the names of two girls and a bit of a timeline – 1906 onward. Also, the state of Maine, a description of their camp, the birth of a child in NB, their moving on to western Canada and a letter sent to Walter’s mother. (which Walter’s descendants have no knowledge of)
C. The Roberts Family – Do they know more now? No they don’t but they do know that their ancestors established a friendship with the Worths after they came to Harvey.
D. On to Ancestry. No problem finding lots of information on Schaefer Beer Company or its owners the Schaefers. There were 133,000 trees for the name Worth but with the beer company reference it didn’t take long to find someone in the Schaeffer family with a divorce – Emil Schaefer and his wife, 22 years his junior, the former Miss Aurelia Runk. It also gave me the names of two daughters but not matching the names in the Walter Brown interview. None of the Schaefer family trees gave any info on Aurelia’s past or how they came to be divorced and at this point I’m only assuming a man named Worth plays a role but there are a lot of Worths. So, assuming this Mrs. Schaefer might be the Mrs. Schaefer from the Walter Brown interview, I began to build a tree for Aurelia Runk in hope that some clue as to what happened might pop up on Ancestry. It didn’t.
E. PANB. I was hoping that I could find a Worth/Schaefer birth if, in fact, a child was born in NB as Walter Brown suggested. We’ll circle back to them later
F. The fix was a subscription to a Newspaper Archives site where much was revealed regarding the salacious details of the Schaeffer – Runk divorce and the involvement of one Gorham Acme Worth. So, using articles primarily from the New York Times, here is my best attempt at an overview of the Schaefer – Runk – Worth scandal that rocked New York high society and somehow found its way to Harvey Station.
For the sake of context, let’s first learn a little bit about Aurelia Elsa Runk. She was born in New York City in November 1876 to Charles Runk and Aurelia Esther Beck, upper middle class parents of Germanic descent. The 1880 census tells us that the Runks have 2 children, Aurelia age 3 and Frederica age 5 months. They also have a servant. Mr. Runk is a liquor dealer. Their neighbourhood is composed of a wide variety of family situations from those with three or more servants to those who are labourers or hucksters.
Aurelia’s future husband, Emil Friedrich Schaefer, was also born in New York City in November 1854 which means that when his future wife was born he was already 22. Emil was born into a wealthy family of brewers. Emil’s father and uncle immigrated to USA from Germany in 1840 bringing with them their parents and soon set about the business of building the F & M Schaefer Brewing Company. Emil, along with a sibling and two cousins inherited the profitable business. The Census of 1860 finds Emil as a 5 year old in one huge building housing parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins and brewery employees and their families. By 1870, Emil is a student at Mount Pleasant Boarding Academy and by 1880 he is living once again at home with his parents and employed full time at the brewery.
There is no obvious evidence of how Aurelia and Emil came to know each other. There are, however, some interesting possibilities. Emil is in the brewing business and Aurelia’s father is a liquor salesman. Both families immigrated from Germany and all of the Schaefer men of Emil’s generation married women of German descent. Regardless, on Feb 20, 1895 Emil and Aurelia are married. He is 40. She is 18.
The couple are soon joined by two daughters, Eleanor Marie born 5 May 1896 and Frieda Elsa born 15 April 1897. The 1900 census finds Aurelia, Emil and the girls living with her parents which is odd. Perhaps they were between residences because by 1902 they are in their own place and it is there that the trouble begins, at least from the outside looking in.
On the night of Feb 12, 1902 Emil and Aurelia are alleged to have had a huge fight. Gorham Worth will later tell the papers that Emil threatened her life and was violent and that Aurelia fled the house in fear (leaving the girls with their Nanny). He will say that she called her lawyer and that he advised her to stay away from Emil. Eventually we will learn that a lawyer was not the only person she called upon leaving the house of her husband.
By late February, Emil, the girls and their nurse have moved in with Emil’s brother Rudolph and Aurelia sees the girls during scheduled visits.
On March 31, 1902, so a month and a bit later, Emil has his will drawn up which replaces all wills. In it he leaves the bulk of his estate to the girls for their”…education, maintenance and support” .
It further states that the girls are to receive equal shares of the remainder of the estate at age 21 and that, until that time, Uncle Rudolph will control the purse strings. Finally, Emil indicates in his will that if something should happen to both girls his assets should be disposed of as if he had never been married or had children.
Feb 9, 1903 A day like any other day for little Eleanor and Frieda Schaefer. As is their daily habit they are walking with their German nurse in Mount Morris Park which is very near their home with their father and Uncle Rudolph. Suddenly, their mother appears and invites the girls and their nurse to join her in a carriage ride. Later, the nurse will testify that this was not really out of place as Aurelia had regular visits with her children. The nurse remembers agreeing to the ride as long as they are home by 5 pm when they are expected.
What happens next is reported in the NYT 26 Feb 1903 under the headline:
“Rich Brewer Negotiating for Return of Children”subtitled “Mrs.Emil M. Schaefer, Who Fled with her Two Little Girls, Believed to be in Connecticut”. In summary it tells us a little about the history of the Schaefers, that their wedding was attended by George Ehret (founder of the Hell Gate Brewery) and William Steinway (think Steinway pianos), that Emil is unwell and 20 years Aurelia’s senior. There is also an account of the abduction which suggests that Aurelia and a close family member approached the nanny and two girls as they were walking in Mount Morris Park, convincing them to go for a ride in her carriage. It is said that she took them to the Waldorf Astoria for lunch, then the West 23rd street ferry taking a boat to the Pennsylvania Railway Station and from there to Philadelphia. The nurse claims she went part of the way then came home the next day to raise the alarm. It maintains that Emil immediately called his lawyer to initiate a search for the girls and their lawyer.
The next day, The Evening Telegraph (also a New York paper) carries the following headline “Brewers Wife Outwits Army of Detectives” with the subtitles “Mrs. Schaefer and Children Fled Through Six States Eluding Writ Servers” and “Called a Kidnapper but Couple not Divorced” and “Husband Seeks to Prove before Court That she has no Right to Little Ones”. This article reiterates much of what was covered in the NYT the previous day except that the account of the circumstances surrounding the taking of the children as credited to the nurse is quite different in the two articles. This time, the nurse is quoted as saying that Mrs. Schaefer approached them in the park to go for a ride and took them shopping. That she left the nurse at a counter and told her to wait there which she did until the store closed. That she searched the store until they put her out and that lost and without English she wandered until she found a German speaking person who directed her as to how to get home. No mention is made of anyone accompanying Mrs. Schaefer. By the way, both articles indicate that Mrs. Schaefer sent a telegram later the same day she took the girls to let Emil know they were safe.
April 12, 1903 NYT headline “Mrs. Schaefer Arrested With G A Worth with subtitle “Brewer’s Wife Tried to Shoot her Captors at Morristown, N J” and “Served With Writ of Habeas Corpus for her Two Children – Prisoners Released – Come to New York”. In summary this article details the arrest of Aurelia in New Jersey and a new name, Gorham A Worth, in New York who is a friend of Mrs. Schaefer. A couple of lines in this article worth highlighting. And I quote “When Mrs. Schaefer was arrested her two children were with her. She drew a revolver and tried to shoot the officer, but she was quickly disarmed, and taken to the office of Police Justice Stillwell, where she demanded a hearing and asked for time to notify her lawyer. While a discussion is going on regarding custody of the children, GA Worth arrives and demands to know who is his accuser. Detective Sweeney pipes up and says “I am!” Sweeney then goes on to explain that he has followed Worth all over, on trains, in hotels, that he knows who he is. Worth claims it is a case of mistaken identity. Before the judge Sweeney recounts his knowledge of the various false names they used. Mrs. Schaefer defends herself and Worth claiming they have never traveled together as man and wife. When it was all said and done, Mrs. Schaefer and her children were released into the care of her lawyer. Worth was released on $300 bail which he did not have so the judge gave him a week to raise it.
Interviewed by the press later that night Worth claims it is a case of persecution, that Emil Schaefer is a brute. He claims that Mrs. Schaefer called him the day after she left Emil and they went together to seek advice from a lawyer. He claims that Mrs. Schaefer felt compelled to take the children because he (Worth) had heard a rumour that Emil was planning to take the girls to Europe out of their mother’s reach. Worth then goes on to give an account of all the places they hid out including Montreal and Quebec stating that at all times they occupied separate rooms saying that Aurelia paid for her room with money provided by her father and that he paid his own bill. After this interview Worth, Aurelia, the girls and the lawyer all catch a train for New York.
So, what do we know about Gorham Acme Worth? He was born in November 1864 in New York to Francis Ward Worth and Anna Rowe Worth. He was the oldest of three children having two younger sisters Ida and Anna. Gorham’s grandfather, Gorham Akin Worth, amassed his fortune while rising to the position of President of City Bank in New York. His father, Frank, continued as a successful businessman. Gorham’s father dies when he is only 6 and his mother remarries 8 years later in Sept. 1879 in Manhattan, NY. His stepfather is Austin Abbott, a widower originally from Maine who is one of the four highly esteemed sons of Rev Jacob B. Abbott. Austin is a lawyer. All the Abbott men were published, headed major institutions, and founded charities.
May 3, 1903 NYT, the headline is “Mrs. Schaefer Discharged.” with the subtitle “Brewer’s Wife, Accused with GA Worth, is Freed in New Jersey”. Worth and Aurelia appear together in court to answer to charges of impropriety. However, no complaining witness appeared and the defendants were discharged. Worth, Aurelia and Aurelia’s mother head back to New York.
May 14, 1903 NYT, “Schaefer Case in Court” with subtitle “Contest for Brewer’s Children Before Vice Chancellor Pitney” and “Mr. Schaefer Testifies That he is Dependent on his Relatives – Other Witnesses Heard.” This article really gets down to the nitty-gritty of the facts regarding Worth and Aurelia. Aurelia’s lawyer requests that the press be excluded from the courtroom but the judge refuses. What follows is a parade of witnesses (a hotel clerk, a hotel owner and a porter on a train) all who claim they saw behaviours which led them to believe that Worth and Aurelia were intimate. When Emil Schaefer is called to the stand people are shocked at his poor condition. He claims he can care for his children because of family support but, to the shock of all present, indicates that he is a pauper with no money or property. In contrast, Aurelia’s mother tells the court that she is worth $60,000 and can well afford to take care of her grandchildren. She was forced to admit, however, that she knew about the relationship between Worth and her daughter and saw nothing wrong with it even though Worth is a married man. On the stand, Aurelia’s sister admits that she and Worth helped Aurelia take the children. She declared that Mr. Schaefer “is of a morose and disagreeable disposition.”
June 19, 1903, NYT, the headline is “To Attack Gen. Schaefer” with subtitle “Wife’s Counsel Will Endeavour to Show That the Brewer Uses Narcotics” Aurelia’s lawyer asks for an adjournment for time to secure the testimony of several doctors who will testify that Emil is addicted to morphine. The judge refuses this request but does suggest that there might be a possibility of this later. Next, the nurse is called to testify again and gives a third version of what happened. Next, Mrs. Schaefer was called to the stand but her lawyer indicated that she had not yet arrived. So, court was adjourned until later that day at which time Aurelia’s lawyer states that he has received a telegram indicating that she and the children could not come until the next day.
June 20, 1903, NYT. Headline is “Schaefer Wins His Case” with subtitle “Wife’s Counsel Unable to Account for Children’s Disappearance – Instructed to Produce Them”. Court resumes to hear the judge’s decision on custody but Mrs. Schaefer and the children are not present and her lawyer admits that he cannot locate her. What follows is a lengthy dressing down of the lawyer by the judge for losing them. The judge then awards custody of the children to their father declaring that Aurelia “is not a fit woman.” The judge then orders Aurelia’s lawyer to do his utmost to find her and the children.
June 21, 1903, NYT. Headline is “Mrs. Schaefer Again Vanishes” with subtitle “With her Two Kidnapped Children and Gorham A. Worth She Leaves Hotel Normandie for Unknown Parts”. This article gives an overview of events to date and adds that both wronged spouses have filed for divorce.
By early 1905, Worth’s wife and Aurelia’s husband both have received their divorces. Worth’s wife, Minnie, is granted custody of their 14 year old son, Francis Alvin. On March 23, 1905 Emil Schaefer dies. The NYT reports that nothing has been heard of mother or daughters since their second disappearance.
So that is an overview of the salacious details of the Schaefer Worth scandal. We know that they were last officially seen on or about the 20th of June 1903. What became of them?
Well, we have some clues, but admittedly, this is where it gets much more complicated. Where did they go? When did they come to Harvey? Why did they come to Harvey?
Let’s begin with what we know based on documents:
- Worth made purchases on credit at WWE Smith’s Store on Sept. 4, 1901 or 1902(By cash Sept 9) and Oct 14, 1901 or 1902(By cash Nov 9).
- Worth made purchases on credit at WWE Smith’s Store on Nov 13, 1903 (By cash Nov 18, 1903) and Dec 19, 1903 (By cash Dec 24, 1903).
- Worth made purchases on credit at WWE Smith’s Store on May 3, 1904, June 25 and June 27, 1904.
- On April 27, 1905 Aurelia and Gorham were in Boston because that is the date they were married which was just over a month after Emil Schaefer died.
- The first of their two daughters, Muriel, was born in NB on Sept 20, 1905 .
- Their second daughter, Madeline, was born in NB on March 4, 1908 .
- Worth made purchases at WWE Smith’s Store on Nov 10, 1908.
- A. Worth made purchases at WWE on May 7, 1909 and a return on May 19, 1909.
- A. Worth made purchases at WWE on June 12, 1909
- A Worth made purchases at WWE on June 14, 1909
- A. Worth made purchases at WWE on August 12, 1909
- We know that the entire Worth family, Gorham, Aurelia and the four girls were in Battleford, Saskatchewan for the 1911 Canadian Census in which they say that they arrived in Saskatchewan in 1910.
So why did the come here?
- Not related to existing Worth’s in NB as far as I can determine.
- Friends with Glendennings (verified by Roberts family) but not before they came here – only after.
- Possibly Worth first came here as a sport and then decided this might be a good place to hide out. Gleaner gave daily report on sports from New York by name and where they went and sometimes what they caught or shot.
What I don’t yet know:
- Who owned the land they built on at that time?
- Border crossings – no records found yet
- Daily Gleaner – Mr. Brown said it was in the paper – haven’t found it yet
- Need to go back to the property to search carefully. Roberts remember remnants of a cabin, old bottles etc. Need to go back and do a thorough search with one of the Roberts
- Do the NB born girls have birth certificates – not on PANB – possible they were born in Canada but not NB?
- Brown said that his father “camp sat” for the Worths during two winters. Where did they go? (Possibly Maine as Worth’s mother married into a prominent Maine family)
What became of the Worths?
By 1920 the Worths are back in New York living on Long Island.(Census 1920). Gorham says his occupation is aviator for which he receives a wage. They rent their home. Muriel and Madeline are still with them but Eleanor and Frieda are not.
The 1930 Census finds the Worths still on Long Island in a home they own. Gorham says he is still an aviator but is now retired. It’s just the two of them.
On 30 May, 1936 Gorham dies after a brief illness. Aurelia returns to New York City (Queens – rental) where she lives with her daughter Madeline according to the 1940 Census. Madeline works as a clerk but also has another source of income.
Aurelia dies 15 June 1969 in Larimar, Colorado. Why there, you ask? Well, let’s talk about the girls.
First the girls born to Emil and Aurelia.
Eleanor Marie, born in 1896, was only 7 when all the scandalous events of 1903 occurred. She went from a private tutor and nanny walks in the park to a tent on the shores of Harvey Lake then farm life in Saskatchewan. Eleanor marries a Canadian chap Russell Conrad Paddon (a farmer), in 1916 and they soon have two children, a boy named Shirley Emil and a girl named Frances Jean. By 1928 Eleanor has had enough of the farming life and moves to Independence, Missouri to live with her sister. She applies for a divorce in Reno then moves to California where both the children attend the University of Southern California. She dies there on 4 Nov 1978 age 82. Her son Shirley Emil is buried in Oregon in a military cemetery. He was a Lt-Col in the USAF having served in WW 2, Korea and Vietnam. His wife is buried with him.
Frieda Elsa, born in 1897 makes the same journey to Harvey then Saskatchewan. We next learn of her returning by ship from a trip to Europe arriving in New York in 1920 at age 23 (remember Emil’s will splitting his holdings between the girls at age 21?). She marries Alfred George Saenger, they move to Missouri and have one daughter. Somewhere between 1932 and 1935 the Saengers move to Colorado. Frieda’s mother Aurelia joins them in Colorado sometime after 1940 and, as previously stated, dies in 1969. Alfred dies in 1970 and Frieda in 1988.
Muriel born 1905 in Canada, probably NB, is with her parents in Saskatchewan and then moves with them to Long Island New York. In 1929 she marries Frances Robert Murray and they live out their days in New York where they are both claim agents for a utility. They have no children and both die quite young, she at 48 and he at 56.
Madeline, the baby of the group also comes back to NY with her parents in time for the 1920 census. By 1930 she is a lodger in Manhattan, New York working as a clerk in a broker office. As you may recall Aurelia moves in with her after Gorham dies in 1936. She never marries and dies in New York in 1990 at the age of 82.
Remember Francis Alvin Worth, Gorham’s son by his first wife Minnie? Minnie took Alvin at age 16 to France and then England where they made their home. Alvin marries an English girl and they have two sons. Robert Alvin who stays in England and dies with the rank of Lt-Col in the British military and Stanley Johnson who moves to USA and becomes an aeronautical engineer in California and moonlights as a bit part actor.
My most recent research has led me to believe that I might have figured out why Gorham was here in 1901 or 1902 and why he brought Aurelia back here and stayed here until 1910. I just discovered that his degree from Columbia was in Engineering, specifically mining. The Walter Brown article mentions that he remembers meeting Gorham, Aurelia and the older girls at a boarding house in Lake George. What’s in Lake George – first discovered in 1864 and mined on and off through the 1890’s until – 1910 when it closed for good until our time. (Antimony mines) That would also explain why Gorham moved on to Saskatchewan in 1910.
And the search for answers continues……
Accompanying Powerpoint presentation with pictures: