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Anne Brooks' Ancestry



"Murder is always a mistake. One should never do anything you cannot talk about after dinner.”
Oscar Wilde

  San Francisco Call, 8 December 1910

Sometimes in our quest for details of our descendants we inadvertently discover even more about those for whom we are not looking but who have somehow touched the lives of “ours”. This was true for me in the case of Emaline Florence, the daughter of Henry NOSWORTHY, aka NORSWORTHY, and Mary Jane REDMOND, his second wife. Florence was born in Clinton, Ontario in 1873. She married John W. BRENNAN in 1893 in Wisconsin and in the 1900 census she reported being Florence BRENNAN, a childless widow, living in a boarding house in Seattle, Washington. I next found her as the daughter and informant at her father's death in 1915, living in Emeryville, California; she claimed to be Florence E. BARTLEY. My search for this marriage, which I have yet to find, nevertheless led me to Benjamin Stayton BARTLEY. In the 1910 census he was living, with his son, only two doors away from Florence's father in Emeryville, California! Benjamin's wife, Zula, was not at home in that census; she was living in a boarding house in Oakland which was several miles away..... claiming to be Zula BARTLEY, married, with one living child. First red flag raised. Upon finding Zula BARTLEY's death on the 8th December 1910, her funeral records stated she had died from “shock and hemorrhage from a gunshot wound of chest and abdomen”. Second red flag. Curiosity led me astray.

Census, birth and death information only give us a sliver of lives led. The rich details of newspaper articles can open a wound, bleeding with love, anger, greed, and desperation. Such is the case of Zula. Recently found articles published in the San Francisco Call have disclosed the sad truths surrounding Zula's violent death and the events which led up to it. She was born Zula Anna WEBB and had married Benjamin S. BARTLEY in Covington, Indiana on 23rd September 1897; they had one son. Apparently Zula had been living with a James WHITLEY, age 60, in Salt Lake City as man and wife for much of 1910. The newspaper stated that James WHITLEY had a wife and daughter in Colorado; whether or not Zula was aware of that fact was not mentioned. In August of 1910, James took out a lease on the Brule Hotel at 670 Eddy St., in San Francisco, and deeded Mrs. Bartley an interest in the business. Zula began living at the Brule Hotel. At the same time Zula obtained an interlocutory decree of divorce from Benjamin BARTLEY, claiming he “had broken his marriage vows”.

But deception is not limited to one partner in life. In due time, Zula introduced James WHITLEY to her “brother”, J. W. WEBB. James made him a clerk at the hotel and, at his request, gave him a suite beside Zula. Her “brother” was in fact, J. W. HUDSON, her lover! Upon discovering this on the day of the murder, James discharged Mr. HUDSON and challenged Zula about her intent to leave him, demanding that she redeem her interest in the business. She apparently left the hotel and when she returned later in the day, James met her in the elevator, saying, “Kiss me goodbye!”. After refusing, James promptly shot her with a 22 caliber automatic revolver five times, four of which were to her abdomen. The ambulance was summoned by Mr. HUDSON who had heard the shots; she died in hospital from her wounds. Her dying statement to the detectives was that Whitley had shot her because she had refused to deed back her interest in the hotel. Zula was 32 years old at time of her death.

Immediately after the murder, James WHITLEY went to Zula's bedroom and attempted suicide. Detectives found him lying in a pool of blood which flowed from wounds inflicted in his neck. He told the detectives that he loved Zula “more than life itself” and that was why he had killed her. He said he had tried to drown himself in the bathtub, and then tried to shoot himself, but his gun was empty after using it on Zula. He begged the detectives to give him a gun so that he could kill himself. He was taken to the hospital, placed on suicide watch, and charged with murder. James' case went to court in July of the next year and “because of his age” he was allowed to plead guilty of manslaughter rather than murder. He was sentenced to seven years in San Quentin prison.

Who was James WHITLEY?
According to two newspaper reports written after the murder, James WHITLEY was not an insignificant figure. The article from Grand Junction, Colorado stated he was one of the best known citizens in Grand valley. He was prominent as a fruit grower and had formed a syndicate of local men to take over the properties of the Amador mines company of Amador, California, and became its president. He had sold out his interest only a year ago. He apparently left for the Pacific coast and his wife stated she had received letters from him at intervals but that he told her nothing of his business affairs. The article from Salt Lake City reported he had had a string of race horses at the Buena Vista race meeting last summer; no-one reported seeing him with a woman. Some people said he had been a deputy sheriff at Grand Junction, Colorado and his daughter on one occasion was queen of a local festival in that city.

And of Benjamin BARTLEY?
Not to be outdone in all of this, and because his divorce had not yet been finalized, Benjamin sought probate of Zula's will. Special letters of administration over the estate of Mrs. Zula Anna BARTLEY were granted to him. The estate consisted of realty worth $400. and of an interest in the hotel and its furnishings valued at $3500.

And where does Florence NORSWORTHY fit?
Exactly when Florence and Benjamin became a couple is unknown as no marriage certificate has yet been found. It was most likely sometime between the 1910 census and 1915. Benjamin was living only two doors away from Florence's father in the 1910 census and when Florence's father died in 1915, Florence was already “Mrs. BARTLEY”. The death certificate stated Henry and Florence were living at the same address.

Nevertheless Florence, the second Mrs. BARTLEY, did not last long. Although together in the 1920 census, it would appear sometime after that Benjamin moved on to another wife. In voter's lists between 1928 and 1934 his name appeared with a Mrs. Edna S. BARTLEY, living in Oakland, and in the 1940 census, Benjamin and Edna were married and working together in the retail grocery business. In 1930 Florence BARTLEY was living alone in a home she owned in Oakland, claiming to be a widow; she could not be found in 1940. Benjamin BARTLEY died on the 17th June 1941, ending this story of failed marriages and murder, and demonstrating the passion of living which most often occurs between censuses and rarely on the day of.

June 2013

UPDATE: May 2014. Further research has uncovered a marriage between Florence Emeline KELLER and James E. LOSEE on 19 October 1940 at Los Angeles. The marriage certificate identified Florence as the daughter of Henry NORSWORTHY and Mary Jane REDMOND and stated it was Florence's fifth marriage! As a result of this, I was able to find her in the 1940 census as Florence E. KELLER, a widow, in Los Angeles; that marriage has not been located, nor has any other to make a total of five. James LOSEE died in 1946. Florence lived to the age of 88, dying on 6 July 1961 in San Bernardino, California. Their burial places are yet unknown.


Newspaper articles:
Whitley Fires Upon Woman; Cuts Throat: San Francisco Call, 8 December 1910
Woman Succumbs to Bullet Wounds: San Francisco Call, 9 December 1910
Husband of Murdered Woman Probates Estate: San Francisco Call, 10 December 1910
Death announcement for Zula Anna Bartley: San Francisco Call, 12 December 1910
Woman's Slayer Pleads Guilty to Manslaughter: San Francisco Call, 7 July 1911
Sentencing of James WHITLEY: Sausalito News, 22 July 1911

All above articles online at The California Digital Newspaper Collection