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 (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)