Summer Reading: The Story of Jane Lathrop Stanford (7)

I wrote this in 1999.

This is the story of Jane Lathrop Stanford and the mysterious circumstances surrounding her death in the early 1900s.

Part 7

Months of crisscrossing continents passed, and upon returning from Egypt, Albert Beverly suddenly quit his position, explaining he was tired of travel and wanted to see more of his family.

The elderly watchman at Mrs. Stanford’s Palo Alto campus residence offered a different version of events. He contended that the butler was dismissed, and his family ordered to vacate their home at the Palo Alto stock farm. This so angered the butler that he broke a water pipe, causing flood damage to the house, before moving to a cottage in San Mateo Heights.

By 1905, the Nob Hill mansion staff consisted of Ah Wing, the Chinese housekeeper, Elizabeth Richmond, the maid; the houseboy, two cokos and Bertha Berner. Mrs. Stanford hired  a temporary butler to replace Albert. Each employee nursed a grievance against the others, and anyone shown favoritism by Mrs. Stanford risked the becoming the victim of petty jealousy.

On the morning of January 14, 1905, Elizabeth Richmond asked the new butler to open a bottle of Poland mineral water for Mrs. Stanford. The water was specially ordered and stored by the case.

The houseboy carried the bottle up the grand staircase to Mrs. Stanford’s thickly carpeted bedroom on the second floor. Mrs. Stanford said she did not sip from this bottle until she retired for the evening. At that time the bottle was half-full and the water tasted bitter and she felt nauseated.

(coming Part (8)

Summer Reading: The Story of Jane Lathrop Stanford (6)

I wrote this in 1999.

This is the story of Jane Lathrop Stanford and the mysterious circumstances surrounding her death in the early 1900s.

Part 6

Intrigue, double-dealing and downright dishonesty pervaded the Stanford household staff in 1904. Jane Lathrop Stanford, now 77, did not know that her butler, Albert Beverly, took commissions by doubling or triplingprices on expensive items she purchased on travels around the world, including art for Stanford University’s museum.

Later, Beverly admitted he offered Mrs. Stanford’s longtime private secretary, Bertha Berner, one-half of the “profits” to approve the altered invoices. This, according to newspaper reports.

To make the scheme work, Albert Beverly had to keep track of what Mrs. Stanford bought, requiring that he closely follow the widow, a practice she discouraged.

While visiting Colombia in 1904, Albert Beverly and Bertha Berner accompanied Mrs. Stanford to a shop. Mrs. Stanford asked the butler to wait outside for her, but he did not obey the order.

It became Bertha’s responsibility to convey Mrs. Stanford’s irritation, and she told the butler not to annoy Mrs. Stanford.

If you don’t want me to follow you,” replied Beverly, “then inform me of what Mrs. Stanford purchases.” The butler also reminded her, “You don’t think I am traveling for pleasure, do you? It costs me to travel almost as much as I can earn, and I am determined to make a commission whenever I can.”

Perhaps Bertha had grown tired of covering up the large commissions and wanted it to cease. Before traveling overseas they had argued bitterly over an exorbitant “rake-off” taken by Beverly for the entertainment he arranged for an outdoor fete hosted by Mrs. Stanford at the Palo Alto Farm.

While they were traveling in Australia, Bertha felt compelled to reveal the butler’s “household graft” to Mrs Stanford. Bertha did not want Albert Beverly dismissed and sent home, but as Mrs. Stanford’s “spiritualistic companion,” she felt confident she could manipulate the outcome.

The disclosure saddened Mrs. Stanford. Her first impulse was to let Beverly go, but after a lengthy discussion, she said, “Commissions or no commissions, I will take Beverly with me.”

(Next Part 7)

Summer Reading: The Story of Jane Lathrop Stanford (5)

This is the story of Jane Lathrop Stanford and the mysterious circumstances surrounding her death in the early 1900s.

Part 5

And what was the true nature of the relationship between Bertha Berner and the “shrewd” butler Albert Beverly?

Albert Beverly was an experienced traveler; he had escorted many wealthy families on globe-trotting adventures, and now he accompanied Mrs. Stanford and Bertha Berner around the world.

“Never mind me, is Mrs. Stanford comfortable? the butler inquired while traveling always willing to give up his own comforter and pillow for his elderly employer.

But there was another side to Albert Beverly. He often complained he did not earn enough wages to support his wife and two children. To compensate, he allegedly engaged in “household graft,” taking rake-offs” or commissions from certain high-priced items purchased by Mrs. Stanford

Bertha Berner also created another serious enemy in the maid Elizabeth Richmond, “a cold, formal type” who believed the private secretary exerted too much control over Mrs. Stanford. Eizabeth Richmond had witnessed a bitter argument between the butler and Bertha Berner at the “Palo Alto Farm,” following an outdoor fete hosted by Mrs. Stanford. The maid hinted that the argument was over money.

Intrigue and jealously ruled Mrs. Stanford’s Nob Hill mansion.

Could this bitterness cause someone to poison the mineral water Jane Stanford sipped?

Could the famous philanthropist’s ife be in jeopard?

Summer Reading: The Story of Jane Lathrop Stanford (4)

This is the story of Jane Lathrop Stanford and the mysterious circumstances surrounding her death in the early 1900s.

Part 4

The servant staff resented secretary Bertha Berner’s influence over Mrs. Stanford, and worse, when ordered to obey Bertha, the “people below the stairs” became intensely jealous.

The servants often gossiped about Mrs. Stanford’s last will. They were certain Bertha Berner was in it and the private secretary was certain they were right.

Instances of petty jealousy pervaded the household. Wong Wing, the Chinese housekeeper, the senior member of the servant staff, who had worked for Jane Stanford the longest, abhorred taking orders from Bertha Berner.

Now wonder Wong Wing became agitated when Bertha ordered him to make her a cup of coffee every afternoon. Finally he became angry about the extra “duty” and complained to Mrs. Stanford who commiserated with him.

Learning of the conversation, an annoyed Bertha Berner burst into the kitchen, reportdly confronting Wong Wing: “You made trouble for me with Mrs. Stanford,” she charged. “I will make a lot of trouble for you and everybody else.”

Despite his seniority, and Mrs. Stanford’s sympathy, Wong Wing was also a victim of household rumors. It was said that when Mrs. Stanford’s brother, Harry, died, the Chinese housekeeper told her that Harry promised him $1,000. Without asking questions, Mrs. Stanford gave him the cash, while the servants downstairs whispered to each other that Wong Wing’s story was a lie.

And what was the true nature of the relationship between Bertha Berner and the “shrewd” butler, Albert Beverly?

(Part 5 coming)

Summer Reading: The Story of Jane Lathrop Stanford (3)

This is the story of Jane Lathrop Stanford and the mysterious circumstances surrounding her death in the early 1900s.

Part 3

By June Morrall

When Leland Jr. sailed to Europe in 1884, it would be their last time together. The teenager collected his souvenirs, but while visiting Florence in Italy, he fell seriously ill with typhoid fever. Jane and Leland Stanford’s only child failed to rally, and Leland Jr. died at age 16.

Their son’s tragic death devastated the Stanfords. Jane’s migraine headaches intensified, and she felt a crushing sadness, lessened only by occasional visits to spiritualists. Constant travel also became a palliative to dull her pain.

One account releates that while Leland Stanford sat at his feverish son’s beside he fell asleep and dreamed his son said: Father, don’t say you have nothing to live for, you have a great deal to live for, live for humanity, father.

Perhaps the dream led Jane and Leland Stanford to co-found Leland Stanford Jr. University on the site of their Palo Alto Farm soon after their son’s death. About the same time Leland Stanford was elected US Senator by the California State Legislature.

The cornerstone of Stanford was laid in March 1887. Four years later, the first class of 559 students was enrolled, with David Starr Jordan, a doctor of medicine, named president of the new institution.

Deep sorrow struck Jane Stanford again when husband Leland passed away at age 69 in 1893. To blunt this second sorrow, the widow became absorbed in the work of the university. When visiting the college she stayed at her home located near the campus.

The major portion of the university’s endowment came after her husband’s death. In 1897, while reserving life tenancy for herself, Jane gave the university trustees a deed to her Nob Hill mansion for the establishment of departments of economics, history and the social sciences.

Seven years later, the melancholy Mrs. Stanford had long slipped into a routine of traveling extensively, with her longtime private secretary and a butler in tow. While away from San Francisco, she maintained a servant staff at the Nob Hill mansion, including a maid, Chinese housekeeper, houseboy and two cooks.

When at home, she waas kind but distant to the servants, allowing little familiarity on their part.

This rule did not extend to Bertha Berner, Mrs. Stanford’s well-groomed, private secretary–a spinster earning a $200 monthly salary who traveled the world with her employer in utmost comfort.

Wearing her gray hair in a becoming pompadour, Bertha Berner was treated as a companion or guest. Strong and assertive, Bertha, more than anyone else, understood Mrs. Stanford’s whims and eccentricities. Her bedroom at the Nob Hill mansion was located up the grand staircase on the second floor next door to Jane’s bedroom. Bertha’s room served both as her office and as a quiet place where she passed most of her personal time.

By 1904 Jane Stanford dwelled unnaturally on the sad events in her life, demanding more attention from those around her. There were rumors Bertha threatened to quit more than once and that Mrs. Stanford’s brother, Charles Lathrop, paid Bertha an additional salary to stay on–all negotiated without his sister’s knowledge.

(Part 4 coming)

Summer Reading: The Story of Jane Lathrop Stanford (2)

This is the story of Jane Lathrop Stanford and the mysterious circumstances surrounding her death in the early 1900s.

By June Morrall

One year befoe Leland Stanford drove home the golden spike, wife Jane gave birth to Leland, Jr. in the richly furnished surroundings of her Sacramento mansion. The Stanfords had had a long childless marriage, now the couple rejoiced, and the baby boy became the center of their lives.

At an exclusive dinner party, the infant was passed around on a silver platter for guests to admire.

With their great wealth, the Stanfords built a stately residence high atop San Francisco’s Nob Hill, with sweeping views of the bay as well as the Central Pacific Railroad depot. Within the walls of what was described as the largest private residence in California, Jane Stanford entertained leaders from all over the world.

An eclectic decor accentuated the interior of the Nob Hill mansion. Soon after being greeted at the front door by a maid or butler, distinguished guests walked across a marble floor inlaid with a zodiac, while 70-feet above their heads sunlight filtered through an amber glass skylight.

Music of the era flowed through the mansion; its source a huge “music box.” In the East India room visitors studied Gov. Stanford’s mementos; they admired the furnishings in the Chinese room, reportedly provided by the Chinese government and lingered in the mosaic-decorated Pompeian room. Guests experienced a mild shock upon discovering an artificial jungle with mechanically chirping birds in the art gallery.

Leland’s business interests and Jane’s love of travel abroad often separated the pair, but when the couple was together, Leland revealed a romantic side.

On one occasion, he chose Italy’s stunning Lake Como as a backdrop for a surprise birthday party for Jane.

In the morning, Leland presented his wife with an enameled box of jewels; at sunset he arranged for her to be serenaded by musicians aboard a barge draped with hundreds of fresh flowers.

All that was missing in their lives was a country home on the Peninsula.

In 1876, the Stanfords purchased “Mayfield Grange” from Mrs. George Gordon, on eof the notorious characters in local novelist Gertrude Atheron’s scandalous 1899 book A Daughter of the Vine. The Stanfords renamed the acres of vineyards, orchards, stock farm and race track the Palo Alto Farm.

Young Leland Jr. frolicked in the stables and rode his father’s sleek, fast horses across the fields and over the hills. He displayed a talent for languages and a curiosity for archaeology, filling his doting parents with immense pride.

But when Leland Jr. sailed for Europe with his mother in 1884, it would be their last time together.

(next Part 3)

Summer Reading….The Story of Jane Lathrop Stanford (1)

I wrote this in 1999.

Jane Lathrop Stanford was the wife of U.S. Senator Leland Stanford; together they founded Stanford University in 1891. Leland passed away in 1893. This is Jane Stanford’s story and the strange circumstances surrounding her death (based on contemporary newspaper accounts.)

“Get me a doctor quick. I have been poisoned!” Jane Lathrop Stanford cred out shortly after swallowing a glass of mineral water and bicarbonate of soda on February 28, 1905. It was about midnight when the 77-year-old co-founder of Stanford University collapsed and died in her Honolulu hotel suite.

Was the famous philanthropist murdered by poisoning?

Mrs. Stanford confided to friends that someone had tried to poison her with strychnine at her Nob Hill mansion one month earlier; she said she fled her San Francisco home for the safety of Hawaii.

Dr. Humphris, a physician who was staying at Honolulu’s Moana Hotel, rushed to Mrs. Stanford’s room but was unable to save his patient’s life. The doctor observed Mrs. Stanford’s symptoms and later stated that she died of strychnine poisoning, leading to a full investigation of the strange circumstances surrounding Jane Stanford’s death.

Until she died in Hawaii, Jane Lathrop Stanford’s life had been a range of extremes: a mixture of joy and sorrow.

One of six children, Jane Eliza Lathrop was born in Albany, New York on August 25, 1828. Her father, Dyer Lathrop, was a successful merchant and humanitarian, founder of the Albany Orphan Asylum, an institution his daughter, Jane, often visited. Her education included the Albany Female Academy, where reading, grammar and arithmetic were emphasized, a common curriculum for young women of that era.

Jane met and fell in love with Leland Stanford, a farmboy who resided nearby. By the time the couple wed in 1850, Leland had studied law and passed the state bar exam.

Two of Leland’s brothers already had moved West, establishing a prosperous mercantile business in Sacramento. They encouraged Leland to become a partner, and he pioneered his way across the Plains, driving his own team to California. His wife, Jane, joined him in Sacramento after her father’s death in 1855.

Ambitious and talented, Leland soon took over the Stanford brother’s store. With Jane’s considerable help, Leland made wise financial decisions, and the business flourished. In Sacramento, the energetic couple constructed a luxurious 44-room mansion.

There, he also helped to found the California Republican Party.

As Leland’s interest in the family business began to wane, he concentrated all his efforts on moving ahead in the exciting world of politics.

Leland’s impressive and growing Republican Party affiliations resulted in an invitation for Jane and himself to President Lincoln’s inaugural ball held in Washington, D.C. in 1861.

When the Stanfords returned to the West, Leland’s political star was ascending. Barely 38-years-old, he was inaugurated governor of California in 1862. Simultaneously, he was named president of the Central Pacific Railway Company, the western part of the newly formed trans-continental railroad.

Leland turned down a second term as governor, preferring to devote all his energy to the great challenge of linking the East and West by rail with partners Charles Crocker, Mark Hopkins and Collis Huntington.

Despite the geographical barriers, the Central Pacific pushed its rails over the formidable Sierra. With the melding of the Central Pacific and Union Pacific at Promontory, Utah, the iron link between East and West coasts was completed on May 10, 1869.

As the railroad’s most widely recognized public figure, Leland Stanford drove home the last symbolic golden spike, opening up the West to unprecedented growth, while bringing extraordinary wealth to the railroad’s founders.

(next Part 2)