Ida Alice and Her Long-Lost Family (1848 - July 13, 1930)
Ida Alice, the daughter of an Episcopalian minister, was born in 1848 and spent her early years in Philadelphia. Her father died when she was a child and her family was subjected to poverty in an age when there were no social services to provide a safety net. She had a short career as an actress and then went into nursing. She was the nurse of Mary Harkness Flagler, Henry Flagler's first wife. Two years after Mary Flagler's death Ida Alice became the second Mrs. Henry Flagler.
St. Augustine owes a lot to Ida Alice. It was on their honeymoon that the seed was planted for the Ponce de Leon Hotel and other Flagler enterprises in St. Augustine. The full extent of her involvement is not known, but is probably substantial. She was not accepted socially in the New York scene so this would be the substitute palace where her husband's wealth and position would put her at the head of every event.
However, somewhere the stress on Ida Alice's personality began to show. She was prone to fits of anger and there were also questions about opiates. At one of her New York parties they had gone off on a yacht when the weather soured. Instead of returning safely to shore, she insisted that they continue the party. The yacht barely made it back to port. After receiving a Ouija board, Ida Alice began communicating with the Czar of Russia who, in her delusions, she decided was her husband.
The spiritualist movement was in full swing at this time and Ida Alice was one of many people who became part of this movement. In St. Augustine a large group of several hundred people met to hear about talking with the dead, table tapping, astrology, tarot cards, and the Ouija board. (And you thought this was just from the 1960's!)
There was one unsuccessful attempt at treatment. When she returned home after treatment, someone gave her another Ouija board and the sessions began again. On the way to her second and final commitment she attempted to kill the doctor by stabbing him with a pair of scissors. In March of 1899 she was legally declared insane.
On August 14, 1901 Henry Flagler divorced Ida Alice through a law that he had passed in the Florida legislature. Within a few days he was married to Mary Lillie Kenan. As part of the divorce he set up a $1 million trust fund to take care of Ida Alice. Her expenses were minimal and the trust fund grew. By the time Ida Alice died on July 13, 1930 the value of the trust fund had increased to $12 million even with the loss of money that was being syphoned off by various relatives.
Here are some of the stories of the looters taken from the files of the New York Times, New Smyrna News and The Washington Post:
Court Splits Income (WP - July 28, 1910) Relatives of Mrs. Ida A. Flagler, the former wife of Henry M. Flagler, and those in charge of her estate, received the increase that they asked for in the allowances made to them several years ago from the income which Mrs. Flagler cannot use when Justice Bischoff, of the supreme court, today approved the report of A. S. Norton, referee. This report passed favorably upon the accounting of Andrew Freedman, who constitutes the committee in charge of the estate and recommended the further increase.
Mrs. Flagler has been adjudged incompetent and is in a sanitarium. Freedman's accounting shows that he has $2,532,478 in hand. By today's order he gets $2,258 as a commission and $20,000 as compensation for his services. Phoenix Ingraham, as special guardian, comes in for $2,000. Mattie Johnson, Mrs. Flagler's sister, and her two brothers Charles F. Shourds and Stephen Shourds each receive $3,500 a year in addition to the $4,000 that they have been getting, and Richard W., George A., and William W. Taylor, Mrs. Flagler's nephews, will receive $1,166 a year apiece besides the $1,333 that they have been granted.
Mrs. Flagler Has Released Her Dower. (NSN Feb 27, 1914) Dispatches from New York state that in return for releasing her dower rights in the estate of the late Henry M. Flagler millionaire and builder of the Florida East Coast railway, Ida A. Flagler, an incompetent whom Flagler divorced after she became insane, will receive $65,233 in cash.
The supreme court of New York authorized this arrangement on the recommendation of Andrew Freedman, who has charge of Mrs. Flagler's property.
Guardian for Mrs. Flagler (WP May 15, 1914) Justice Blanchard today appointed Edward E. McCall, chairman of the public service commission, special guardian of Ida A. Flagler, who was divorced by the late Henry M. Flagler, builder of the East Coast Railroad in Florida, and prominently identified with Standard Oil interests. Mrs. Flagler has been declared an incompetent by the court. Andrew Freedman is the committee of her property.
Mr. McCall will remain special guardian of Mrs. Flagler until Mr. Freedman renders his yearly accounting. The last accounting on April 11, 1913, showed the full amount of the estate to be $3,987,625.71.
$4,665,569 For Mrs. Flagler. (WP - August 5, 1915) The annual accounting of Andrew Freedman as committee of the property of Mrs. Ida A. Flagler, divorced wife of Henry M. Flagler, was filed in the supreme court today. The accounting states that the present value of the property is $4,665,569, consisting chiefly of securities, which is an increase of $185,549 over last year. The income the past year was $219,818 and the amount of income unexpended was $85,606.
Mrs. Flagler is in the sanitarium of Dr. Carlos F. MacDonald, at Central Valley, N. Y.
Property of Late Capitalist's First Wife Increased $2,051,087 in 1916 (WP March 29, 1917) The estate of Mrs. Ida A. Flagler, first wife of the late Standard Oil multimillionaire, Henry M. Flagler, increased $2,051,087 last year. It is now valued at $8,133,301.
This was shown today in the report to the supreme court of the committee handling her property.
Mrs. Emma Cox (NYT-Dec 28, 1924) Another relative of Mrs. Ida A. Flagler, who was divorced by the late Henry M. Flagler on the ground of insanity and has been in a sanitarium at Central Valley, N. Y., for many years, has applied in the Supreme Court for an allowance from Mrs. Flagler's surplus income. The income is derived from a trust fund valued at $2,000,000 when it was established by Mr. Flagler, but which amounted to $10,900,000 when an accounting was made recently.
The new claimant whose petition was filed yesterday, is Mrs. Emma F. Cox of 5832 Cedarhurst Street, Philadelphia, who states that she is a first cousin of Mrs. Flagler. She says she was 80 years old on Jan. 13 last, and that she is the widow of a Civil War veteran. Her only support at present is a pension of $30 per month. Her widowed daughter aided her until recently, she said, when a serious accident incapacitated her.
Mrs. Cox points out in her statement that a brother, two nephews and a grandniece of Mrs. Flagler are now receiving a regular allowance from the surplus income of the estate, and says: Mrs. Flagler was on affectionate terms with me before her mental condition became deranged and we exchanged letters and gifts. She was the daughter of a clergyman, our mothers being sisters. If the said incompetent had any lucid interval, I believe she would make me a generous allowance out of her great abundance to support me for the short balance of my life.
It is expected that a referee will be appointed to take testimony as to the relationship of Mrs. Cox to Mrs. Flagler and, if her claim is verified by the testimony, that the Court will act favorably on the petition of the aged claimant.
Mrs. Sarah Moore (NYT August 5, 1925) A woman of 85, widow of a Civil War veteran, grandmother of sixteen and great-grandmother of twenty-four, applied in the Supreme Court (New York) yesterday for an allowance of $200 a month from the income of Mrs. Ida A. Flagler, who was divorced by the late Henry M. Flagler and who has been incompetent since 1890. The applicant is a cousin of Mrs. Flagler. The petition was filed by Mrs. Sarah Moore of Lamberton, N. J., and shows that when the two women were children Mrs. Moore's parents were well-to-do and were generous to Mrs. Flagler, who was the daughter of a poor clergyman.
The application was made as the result of the recent decision in the Supreme Court granting $200 a month from the Flagler estate to Mrs. Emma Cox of Philadelphia, sister of Mrs. Moore, who applied on the ground that she was one of the next of kin and was in want. Mrs. Moore asked for the same amount, and requested that if the Court does not wish to grant this sum without a hearing a referee be appointed to take testimony.
The petition says that Mrs. Moore lives in a house for which she paid $300. She has resided there alone since the death of her husband thirty years ago. Her only income is a Civil War pension of $30 a month. She maintained herself by nursing until her extreme age compelled her to give it up, and her total income now is not more than $385 a year, which includes gifts of money from her seven children. Mrs. Moore said:
"Our mothers were sisters. Mrs. Flagler's mother, Margaret Leek Shourds, was the wife of a clergyman of limited means, while my mother, Hester Leek Tash, was the wife of a prosperous farmer near Lamberton. My father and mother showed generous hospitality to the Shourds family on their many visits to my father's farm and they were always treated kindly. Mrs. Flagler was always generous to her friends and relatives after her marriage, and I believe if she were competent she would aid her cousins now."
Almet Reed Latson, Jr., attorney for Mrs. Moore, in an affidavit supporting her application, said:
"It is hardly conceivable that if Mrs. Flagler were competent she would grant an allowance out of her munificence to Mrs. Cox and withhold an identical allowance from Mrs. Moore. All these played together as children in the days when Mrs. Cox and Mrs. Moore were the hosts, rendering entertainment, hospitality and generosity to the daughter of a very poor clergyman. The entire situation has now been reversed, and an opportunity is afforded for Mrs. Flagler to repay the hospitality and generosity afforded to her as a girl by the family of her uncle."
Miss Ruth E. Taylor (NYT June 5, 1924) A Supreme Court Justice Tierney yesterday appointed John R. Halsey as referee to determine whether Ruth E. Taylor of Pasco, Wash., a grand-niece of Mrs. Ida A. Flagler, shall have an income of $10,000 a year from Mrs. Flagler's estate....
The petitioner states that she is the daughter of Richard W. Taylor, a nephew of Mrs. Flagler, who was receiving $10,000 a year from his aunt's estate; that the trust fund provided for Mrs. Flagler, which amounted to $2,000,000 in 1902, has since increased to $10,000,000 and the average annual income over a five-year period has been in excess of $375,000. After making all payments to relatives of Mrs. Flagler, and for her support in the sanitarium of Dr. MacDonald at Central Valley, N. Y. with all the costs of annual accounting proceedings, the average annual net surplus has been $96,352 which sum has been added to the trust estate.
My mother died in February, 1915, and left nothing, said Miss Taylor. The $10,000 paid to my father was his sole source of income. Because of ill-health and the high cost of living, he was unable to accumulate anything form this payment. He left only a small net estate to me, in addition to which I have only about $500. When my father was taken ill, I was educating myself to be a pianist and organist, but I was compelled to forego it, give up my hope of a college education, and accompany him to California for his health.
Unless your petitioner is allowed an annual sum from the surplus income of the estate, she cannot complete her education and she fears her father's home in Pasco may be sold because of an indebtedness against it and she will be left destitute. She has been reared and educated as a daughter of an heir-at-law and next of kin of the incompetent, with every likelihood at some time of enjoying the principal of said estate, and she cannot, form her own exertions, earn sufficient to support and maintain herself on such a basis.
Mr. George C. Tash (NYT) Another relative of Mrs. Ida A. Flagler, incompetent for more than twenty-five years, and having a fortune estimated at $11,000,000 was permitted yesterday to share in the income of her estate, when Supreme Court Justice Levy awarded $1,500 a year to George C. Tash of Red Bank, N. J., a second cousin. Mr. Tash, who is aged and in poor health, is employed as cashier in a cigar store in Red Bank, and his salary is his only source of income.
As in the case of other relatives, Justice Levy finds that Mrs. Flagler was kind to her relatives before she lost her reason and that she would aid her second cousin if she understood his needs. Her estate has grown form a trust fund of $2,000,000 set aside for her by the late Henry M. Flagler when he divorced her on the grounds of her mental condition.
Her Death (NYT - Jul 14, 1930) When Ida Alice died on July 13, 1930 several members of the family had been with her. The funeral was private and held at the Sanatorium where she had lived for thirty years. The Rev. George W. Dumbell of St. David's Episcopal Church, Highland Mills, New York gave the service.
The principal heirs were the two nephews of Mrs. Flagler and her grandniece, the daughter of a deceased nephew. The three nephews were indentured as orphans to farmers in the Middle West in 1876 and were completely lost sight of throughout the period of Mrs. Flagler's married life. They reappeared, with claims as heirs, in 1901 and received allowances.
At the time of the death of Richard W. Taylor, one of the nephews, the courts decreed that Ruth E. Taylor of Pasco, Washington, his daughter, should receive the $10,000 allowance previously allowed to her father. The other nephews are George W. Taylor and William W. Taylor. William was for many years a dealer in harness, and Richard was a railroad engineer until he was left an invalid from a railroad accident.