The Red Beach community of 1901 was not the sort of small New England village likely to find its way into the national headlines, and it was even more unlikely the very ordinary Red Beach family of James and Margaret Kay, he a sea captain, would have a daughter who became an object of sensational national headlines in the bigamy case of State of New York vs. George Howard. The Kays’ daughter was Annie, then the legal, although not only, wife of George Howard of Massachusetts. Annie had married George Howard in 1890 and lived with him and their son until late 1900 when George married New York socialite Helen Hawkes. Helen was more than a little surprised to discover a few months after the wedding that George had a son and wife he has neglected to divorce and had George charged with bigamy.
There is an interesting connection between the Red Beach Kays and the Red Beach McCarter family which played out, much to their dismay, in the national press in 1901. McCarter descendants still live in Robbinston although back in the days when the Post Office for that part of Robbinston was in Red Beach, the family would, for convenience, claim their place of residence as Red Beach.
The McCarter descendants own the beautiful “Dam” property and cottage and the home just across Route 1 near the Red Beach-Robbinston town line and are connected to the Kay family by marriage. Robert (Bob) McCarter and Kay Ball of Robbinston who many today remember fondly were the grandchildren of Robert Sherman McCarter. In 1901 Robert Sherman McCarter along with his wife Mercy Belle Kay, the sister of Annie Kay, became very reluctantly associated with the bigamy case.
His grandson, Bob McCarter, explains the connection:
My grandfather and namesake was Robert Sherman McCarter, who called himself “Sherm”. In 1902 he bought some shore property in Robbinston from his mother-in-law, Margaret Kay, who had purchased this land as her “sole and separate property” in 1868. The Kay family had lived in Red Beach since the 1850s, having moved there from Canada. Her husband, James Kay, the grandson of an American loyalist who moved to St John, was reputed to be a sea captain. Their home was just north of the Red Beach church on the county road to Calais. Their daughter’s (my grandmother’s) maiden name was Mercy Belle Kay. While located in Robbinston, Sherm (and later we) considered the property to be in Red Beach, because that was the nearest post office location.
In 1901, Robert S. McCarter, then working at Harvard University, and his wife, Mercy Belle Kay of Red Beach, found themselves at the center of the sensational bigamy case in which Mercy’s sister, Annie Kay, was a principal player. The McCarters were hounded by reporters from the Boston papers after the arrest of George Howard, still legally married to Annie Kay, for bigamy in New York. George and Annie had lived together for years in Boston as man and wife, with her sister Mercy Kay Belle living nearby. The Howards eventually moved to New York City where in September 1900 George Howard married Helen Penelope Hawkes of Brooklyn, seemingly with the knowledge and perhaps consent of Annie, although Annie and George had not divorced.
The case became very confusing very quickly as George Howard adamantly denied he was ever married to Annie Kay and claimed the woman he had lived with in Boston was neither his wife nor Annie Kay but rather a woman named Annie Rooney. Annie Kay first told the reporters she was Annie Kay but later denied she was Annie Kay and further denied she was married to George Howard. Reporters soon tracked down the unfortunate Robert Sherman McCarter, Annie’s brother-in-law and her sister Mercy who at first refused to give the Boston Globe reporters any information; but Mr. McCarter later bristled when he was informed George Howard had told the New York court he was not married to his sister-in-law Annie. He finally told the reporters Annie and George were married. Mercy continued to resist the onslaught of reporters.
The Boston Globe and The Brooklyn Daily Eagle were the first papers to break the story on January 4th.
From The Boston Daily Globe on January 5, 1901:
Mr [sic] Sherman McCarter, brother-in-law of Mrs [sic] George W. Howard of 63 Dana St. Cambridge when seen at his place of business in Harvard Sq this morning, declared that notwithstanding her assertion of yesterday that she was not the woman married from 111 Auburn st, says Mrs. Howard’s maiden name was Annie R. Kay.
When first seen by a Globe man Mrs Howard acknowledged that she was formerly Annie R. Kay. Yesterday she denied positively that she was Annie R. Kay or that she was married from the Auburn st. [sic] house.
Mr. McCarter this morning was averse to saying anything. He was asked to explain the case which has somewhat mystified the general public on account of conflicting statements. He said:
“I don’t know anything about the case. I am not mixed up in it and I can’t be dragged into it either, and I haven’t anything to say about it.”
The Globe representative then asked Mr. McCarter what he thought of Howard’s denial in court in New York yesterday that he and Mrs. Howard of Dana st. were ever married.
Mr. McCarter bristled up somewhat at that and said: “Did he say that? I don’t know what right he has to say so. I thought they were married all right.”
Continued from the Globe:
NEW YORK, Jan 4–George W. Howard. known to his Brooklyn wife, Miss Helen Hawkes, and his father, Henry Hawkes, as “confidential adviser and consulting engineer to the great Whitney-Widener-Elkins syndicate and the Metropolitan railway company, at $15,000 a year,” but known to the company as an operative engineer in charge of the powerhouse of the Lexington av [sic] branch of the street railway system, at $35 a week. was interviewed by a reporter this morning.
Howard is a full-figured, fashionable man. He has a small brown mustache on an unusually full face, a double chin that fills his collar, and a lack-luster eye of light brown.
“I don’t want to talk about my case,” he said recently to the reporter. “I don’t care to make any answers to my accusers, only to say that their charges are false. Miss Helen Hawkes is my wife, my only wife. I have no other, and they can’t show any true certificate.
“I admit I did live with this Cambridge woman for some time and her little boy, I admit, is my child. But I’ve fixed her out all right. She has every want provided for, and she has nothing to complain of.
“It isn’t true that I have been over to Cambridge to see her every week since my marriage. No, indeed. I’ve had occasion to go to Philadelphia on business once or twice. That’s all, though it is true I was over to Cambridge to see my—this woman—on New Year’s Day, when Miss Haw—my wife was away in Albany.
“We lived here in quiet comfort.”
From The Boston Daily Globe on January 4, 1901:
This story unraveled even before it was printed. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle also published an article on January 4th in which George contradicted his statement to the Boston papers by admitting to the Eagle that the Boston woman was Annie Kay and further admitting that while he had lived with her and fathered a son, they were never legally married. George apparently had a problem keeping his lies straight. The Eagle also obtained evidence that Annie had lived with George in New York the entire time he was courting Helen Hawkes; and Annie had only left New York to return to Red Beach just before the wedding. The papers began to refer to Annie Kay as George’s Boston wife and Helen Hawkes as Mrs. Howard of Brooklyn—or as wife number 1 and wife number 2. It was later found that this was incorrect, as Howard was married before he married Annie Kay in 1890 and had fathered a son. He had gotten a divorce from this unfortunate woman before marrying Annie and both the first wife and his son from that marriage showed a great interest in the bigamy proceedings, expressing their opinion to the press about George’s being indeed a despicable character, an opinion with which Helen Hawkes, the “new wife” wholeheartedly agreed.
From The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, January 4, 1901:
Mrs. George W. Howard No. 1, the Cambridge wife of the alleged bigamist, was legally married to him and lived right here in New York with him as his wife up to the time of his marriage to Miss Helen Hawkes, according to a Brooklyn woman who was in Cambridge at the time of the first matrimonial venture ten years ago, and who knows all the parties concerned and the circumstances relating thereto.
Detective Hamburger, who has searched into the past life of Howard and who has secured a history of his movements for eleven years back, corroborates what the Brooklyn woman says, and gives the addresses at which Howard lived with his Cambridge wife. Hamburger says this wife is No. 2, instead of No. 1. He is positive of it, because the Cambridge marriage certificate shows that Howard’s marriage there was his second and because he has almost positive information that Howard was married to a woman in Rochester. The detective is now on his way to Rochester to get evidence of this first marriage.
Howard and his Cambridge wife moved here in 1896 and rented a flat, 142 East Forty-eighth Street, from a man named Volsing, living at 953 Third Avenue. They lived at the Forty-eighth street place for several months and afterward moved to Harlem, where they lived in an elegant home on Ninety-first street, near Amsterdam avenue. They were well acquainted in the neighborhood. A druggist at Ninety-fourth street and Amsterdam avenue knew them well and will testify to the fact that they lived there as man and wife. The little son was with them.
Said Detective Hamburger this afternoon: “Howard lived right here in New York with his wife almost up to the time of his marriage. Then he sent her to her mother at Red Beach, Me., while he courted Miss. Hawkes. Just before he married Miss Hawkes, he sent his Cambridge wife back to Boston to live with her married sister, Mrs. McCarter, whose husband is a printer on the Harvard Crimson. She has been living there since.”
The news that Howard’s first wife lived in New York with him comes as a surprise. No member of the Hawkes family, apparently, took the trouble to make any investigations into the life of the man who was to marry Miss Hawkes, and it now develops from the story told by the Brooklyn woman, that Howard was living with his Boston wife at the time he was courting and preparing to wed Miss Hawkes. Last summer, when the Hawkes moved to their country place at Huntington, Howard sent his first wife to Red Beach, Me., her old home, to spend the summer, so that he could be free to spend all his time, presumably, with Helen Hawkes at Huntington.
As to Helen Hawkes’s account of her marriage to George:
“My husband always kept his business papers and bank books concealed from me. He never let me know anything. Our first quarrel occurred about a month after we were married. He was very rough and used bad language to me. Since then, we have had many quarrels over little or nothing. He has told me all along that if I did not like the way he treated me he would be glad for me to leave him, that he would be happy to pay my board at any hotel away from him.”
Quarrels Occurred Over Howard’s Trips to Cambridge:
“A great many of our quarrels were over his trips to Cambridge, when he went away to see his other wife. I used to want to go with him and he would never take me. He told me he had a brother and sister in Boston. He has a brother named John who works with the Metropolitan Railway Company here, but I never saw John except one time he called. He is a widower. I was told that he went with my husband to see the Cambridge wife New Year’s Day.
“Now I will tell you about the ring my husband took from me. I was restless one night about a month after we married and woke up during the night. I felt my husband’s hand on my engagement ring and asked him what he was doing.
“‘Oh, I’m just feeling of your rings,’ he said.
“The next morning when I woke up the diamond was gone from the setting of my engagement ring. My husband took the loss lightly. Of course, I had my suspicions, but I never lost faith in him: never, even after he had cursed me and talked to me so shamefully.
“I have never told anyone that I thought he drugged me and picked the set out of the ring. I never mentioned chloroform to anyone. I did say that I was very sick to the stomach the following day.
husband was always a nervous man and he worried me a great deal. He kept a
loaded revolver in his bureau drawer all the time. I felt nervous and took the
revolver out and removed the cartridges. They were put back in again. I feel
now that my husband was under such a strain because of his position that he
might have killed me.”
While the evidence seemed to be accumulating against him, Howard did not appear concerned. He maintained a cocky attitude with the press and the authorities because he believed Annie Kay Howard was prepared to support his claim that the two had not been legally married. Why she did not feel the woman scorned is never explained; and there were suggestions she was his accomplice in the crime.
From The Boston Daily Globe on January 5, 1901:
George W. Howard, charged with bigamy in New York, makes statements which indicate that he has no fear that the woman living at 63 Dana St, Cambridge, whom he married in 1890 will assist the New York district attorney in furnishing evidence for an indictment.
Coupled with his declaration that Helen Hawkes of Brooklyn, whom he married in September last, is his only wife, are statements that the woman in Cambridge whom he has been living with since 1890 and whom has a child by him, was not Annie R. Kay, but that her name is Annie Rooney.
With marked cheerfulness Howard yesterday told the New York reporters that the Cambridge woman would not make any trouble, that she had been taken care of satisfactorily.
Howard’s assurance on this point appears to be verified by the attitude of the Cambridge Mrs. Howard within the last two days. Thursday afternoon she made the statement that she was not married to Howard, and since then she has refused to say a word about her marital affairs.
The efforts of her relatives to avoid any admission on this point, together with Mrs. Howard’s denial of her marriage, indicate a disposition to assist Howard in defending the criminal proceedings instituted by the father of his Brooklyn bride.
As the Cambridge marriage certificate may be questioned by Howard, through a matter of official record, The Globe has secured one of the invitations to the wedding, together with the addressed envelope in which the card was mailed to the person who received it.
An old friend of the Annie Kay of Red Beach, Me, who knows Howard also, is positive that the woman living as Mrs. Howard at 63 Dana St is the same Annie Kay as she has within a month called on his family.
The wedding invitation is printed on a card in script. On the upper half of the folder are the names “George W. Howard” and “Annie R. Kay.” surrounded with a decorative embossed design, while on the lower half of the card is printed:
“Respectfully request your presence at their marriage ceremony Tuesday evening, August 19, 1890, 8 o’clock p m, at 111 Auburn st, Cambridgeport.”
According to acquaintances of both it was known in Calais, Me weeks before the ceremony that Howard and Annie Kay were to be married and the news of the wedding reached that place. Every summer, even last season, Mrs. Howard has stayed with her mother in a cottage on the banks of the St Croix river at Red Beach. Each summer until last Howard spent his vacation of two weeks with his wife and son. Last summer he was there several days only.
During his visits to the home of his wife Howard conducted himself like a devoted husband, and his attentions to his wife were remarked.
Yesterday noon R. S. McCarter, who married Annie Kay’s sister, after a somewhat heated denial of any knowledge or interest in the entanglement, stated, when told that Howard had declared that the Mrs. Howard of Cambridge was not his lawful wife stated that they had been married. He would say no more however.
The newspapers soon found witnesses in Calais, Red Beach and Boston who were sure the Annie who lived with George Howard in Boston was Annie Kay of Red Beach.
Horace W. Tarbox of 66 Irving St., Everett, knew Annie R. Kay when she was a girl at Red Beach, as Mr. Tarbox was a resident of that place until four years ago. Mr. Tarbox said last evening:
Sure of the Marriage:
“I am thoroughly satisfied that Annie R. Kay and George W. Howard were legally married. I knew her very well, and I must say that she is a very fine woman. Several weeks before she was married a woman who then lived at Red Beach told me of the approaching event. I heard when the ceremony was performed.
“I hardly think that Rev Joseph Lambert, whose name appears on the certificate was the clergyman who married them. He was pastor at Robbinston just below Red Beach that year, as I remember it, and did not come to Boston at all that summer.
“I saw Mr and Mrs Howard each summer after the year they were married until I left Red Beach. He always spent his two weeks’ vacation there. Last summer he was only there for several days, I was told.
“They always stayed with Mrs. Howard’s mother and Howard was not seen about very much. He was with his wife, remained about the house most of the time, and appeared to be very devoted. I don’t think I ever saw a man who seemed to think more of a woman than Howard did of Annie Kay.
“He never hardly looked at any other woman and seemed to be doing all he could to show her a good time. She dressed well, appeared to have everything she wished, and was apparently a happy woman.
“I met Howard several years ago down there and liked him. He seemed to me to be a very good fellow.
“I knew when Annie and he left Cambridge and went to Troy and then to Rochester. N Y, and I knew last winter that they were in New York city where I understood that Howard had a very good position.
“During the times they were at Red Beach I never heard a bit of gossip of any disagreement between them. There never was any trouble between them, and I never heard any talk about he having left her.
“It was well known that Howard had been married before, but it was understood that he had been divorced from his first wife. She visited Red Beach, but the fact that Howard had been married before was known there before his divorced wife came down.”
The marriage certificate of George Howard and Annie Kay which was on file in Cambridge, Massachusetts would appear conclusive on the question Annie’s marital status, but there were questions about the Reverend Lambert’s part in the ceremony. He was the minister of the Congregational Church in Robbinston—and many in Red Beach and Robbinston doubted he would have traveled to Massachusetts in 1890 to marry Annie and George; but there were others who not only received the invitation to the wedding of Annie Kay and George Howard, copies of which were provided to the press, but say they attended the ceremony.
On January 8th, 1901, the national papers reported the grand jury had indicted George Howard for bigamy. According to reports in the papers Howard had entered the court in a confident mood, even swaggering mood. This quickly changed when he discovered the DA had several witnesses from Boston available to testify against him. To make matters even bleaker for George the judge had Howard’s friend and bail bondsman, William Price, removed from the court for threatening Miss Hawkes’s father and the District Attorney prior to the hearing.
From The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, January 8, 1901:
(William A. Price, president of the New York Canal and Navigation Company, acted as Howard’s bondsman.)
It seems, from some of Price’s statements, that he and Howard were companions. Price has told of several incidents in which they figured together, according to the District Attorney.
Howard was almost overcome by the series of developments to-day. He lost his debonair and jaunty manner and, when finally taken before Judge Aspinall. he had to lean on the railing to support, himself. The judge was not very sympathetic. “Please stand erect, Mr. Howard,” he commanded.
Judge Aspinall Fixes Bail at $10,000.
District Attorney Clarke then announced that his investigations in Boston showed that Howard’s friends had threatened witnesses and had used intimidation to such an extent that it was almost impossible to get evidence.
“I want a bond large enough to keep him watched by those who go on his bond.” said the District Attorney. “This threatening of witnesses must stop. His wife in Boston disappeared directly after his visit there last week.”
Lawyer Bennett contended that the old bond had been increased from $2,000 to $3,000 and that Howard had shown his willingness to be tried by appearing in court. He wanted a small bond.
Judge Aspinall said he thought the bond ought to be a large one or else Howard ought to go to Raymond Street Jail. He spoke of the intimidation of witnesses as a reason. He fixed the bail at $10,000 but stipulated that William A. Price should not be accepted as bondsman.
On January 28th, 1901, George Howard was brought from his cell at the Brooklyn’s Raymond Street jail for his trial. The jury had been selected and the prosecution was prepared to present witnesses to prove both the 1890 marriage to Annie Kay and the September 1900 marriage to Helen Hawkes, but Howard surprised everyone in the courtroom by advising the court he intended to plead guilty.
Apparently, he realized that not even the silence of Annie Kay which from all reports she had persistently maintained would save him.
From The Boston Daily Globe on January 28, 1901:
BROOKLYN, N Y, Jan 28 – George W. Howard surprised the prosecution this morning by pleading guilty to the charge of bigamy. The court considered him entitled to clemency and sentenced him to two years and ten months at Sing Sing.
Just before court was opened Dist Atty John F. Clark was informed that Howard might plead guilty, and thus admit his marriage to Annie R. Kay at Cambridge in 1890, and also admit the illegality of his alliance with Miss Helen Penrose Hawkes, the daughter of Henry Hawkes, purveyor of water, of Brooklyn.
The district attorney had the witnesses to prove both marriages in court.
Among them were Lawrence J. Ducey, who as a member of the Cambridge police force knew Howard and Annie Kay and saw the marriage ceremony performed at 111 Auburn st, Cambridge; Mr. Chandler, who owned the house in which Howard and his wife lived at Cambridge for some months after their marriage; Herbert L. Perry, Howard’s first divorced wife’s brother, and two Boston newspaper men, to whom Annie Kay admitted and then denied her marriage to Howard.
The district attorney was prepared for a full trial before Judge William B. Hurd in the county court, and had, up to a few moments before the session opened, expected a determined defense by Howard’s counsel. The prisoner was represented by Hugh C. Baldwin and John Montgomery Ward, the former ball player.
The prominence of Howard’s wife, Helen Hawkes, and Howard’s wide acquaintance in New York, attracted a large crowd to the courtroom, a large percentage being fashionably dressed women.
At 10 a m, after the jury had been called, Dist Atty Clark called Howard for trial, and he was brought into the courtroom by two officers. He looked worn and by no means the chipper gentleman who had, at the time of his arrest, lightly disclaimed any knowledge of such a person as Annie Kay of Cambridge.
Annie Rooney he then said her name was, but this morning he was quite willing to admit her identity with Mrs Howard.
He wore a light checked suit and an unfashionable black overcoat. When he stepped to the bar his senior counsel, Mr Baldwin, who informed the court that Howard wished to retract his plea of not guilty and to plead guilty to the indictment charging him with bigamy.
Mr. Baldwin said: “I may say for him that as he views the occurrences leading to the indictment, it is impossible for him to understand how, in the face of absolute certainty of detection, he came to go through the marriage ceremony in Brooklyn. It seems to him and to his friends that he must have been suffering from some delusion at the time, as it can be explained in no other way.
“There is only one thing that Howard has asked me to say in regard to the two women whom he married. There was an intimation that at the time of his marriage to the Brooklyn lady she was cognizant of his previous marriage. Another was the intimation that the Cambridge lady was a party to the deception and the second marriage. One is as false as the other.
“Mr. Howard does not wish any blame to be attached to anyone but himself. He takes it all. He comes before the court a penitent man. If it is in his power to do so, he wishes to do all he can to lessen the sorrow he caused; and if he could restore what he has taken from the lives of these two women he would do so.
“He asks for nothing for himself, not even the clemency of the court.”
The judge was apparently impressed with the sincerity of the plea of counsel, outlining Howards penitent attitude.
The clerk asked the questions of the prisoners always put in the New York court, but which sound more humorous than dignified, to anyone accustomed to the procedure of Massachusetts courts.
“Where were you born?” asked the clerk.
“In Woburn or Reading, I do not know which place,” said Howard.
“Reading. Pennsylvania?” asked the clerk sharply.
“No, Massachusetts,” replied Howard.
“Where do you live?”
“Well, just at present I am residing at the Raymond St. jail.”
“Where did you live before that?”
“At the New Amsterdam Hotel.”
“What is your business?”
“Are you married or single?”
Howard hesitated, while the court room crowd laughed. His honor rapped sharply, and Howard answered, “Married.”
“Are you temperate or intemperate?”
“What is your religion?”
“Is your father living?”
“No; he is dead.”
Judge Hurd told Howard that he was entitled to two-days postponement of the sentence. Mr. Baldwin said it was the prisoners express wish that sentence be pronounced at once.
Judge Hurd said:
“In view of your action, the court finds that you are entitled to some consideration. You have done wrong, and as you have done what you could for those whom you have wronged, the court does not wish to accentuate your error. It is to be regretted that friends could not have saved you from the second marriage.
“It must be said that you have done what you could to repair the wrong; you have established the status of the Cambridge wife beyond all question as your lawful wife, and you have caused the legitimacy of your son to go on record. You have put it in the power of the Brooklyn wife to annul the marriage.
“You have saved the county a great deal of expense. You have saved the costs of the trial, the expenses of bringing witnesses here to testify for the prosecution. You have therefore convinced the court that you are entitled to considerable clemency.”
His honor passed the papers to the clerk, who read the sentence:
“George W. Howard, you are sentenced to confinement with hard labor to the term of two years and 10 months at the state prison at Sing Sing.”
The maximum penalty for bigamy is five years.
The only member of the Hawkes family present when sentence was pronounced was Henry Hawkes, father of Howard’s Brooklynwife. He would not say whether he was satisfied with the sentence. It is presumed that imprisonment, even if it is not for the maximum term, is agreeable to the Hawkes family, as the prosecuting officer did not believe if Howard had Insisted upon a trial and conviction was secured, he would have received more than four years.
Howard’s change of position from the defiant challenger of the prosecution to prove that he ever married Annie R. Kay at Cambridge to the penitent pleader, acknowledging everything charged against him is believed to be due to the knowledge of the several witnesses to the Massachusetts marriage which Dist Atty Clark found In Cambridge.
It is generally accepted that when he was assured that Annie Kay Howard would not testify against him, he was confident that no one could be found to substantiate the fact of that marriage. He did not expect that Dist Atty Clark would make such a determined hunt for evidence against him.
Howard will be taken to Sing Sing today. He seemed relieved when he heard the sentence and was obviously surprised that a heavier penalty was not imposed.
From The St. Louis Republic, St. Louis, Missouri, 30 November 1902:
Of course, there is a “rest of the story.” In 1902 national newspapers reported that Helen Penelope Hawkes, former wife of the bigamist had married William D. Malane, “a stanch friend of hers through the ordeal which she had passed.” They lived happily ever after as far as we can tell in Flatbush, a district of New York.
Annie Kay kept the last name Howard and in the 1920 census was living in Cambridge at 10 Everett Street. At the time she was the proprietor of the lodging house at that address which was mortgaged and had four lodgers. Her cousin Mary Rowan also lived with her. The son who was born when she was married to George Howard, Charles Rudolph Howard lived nearby. Annie died in February 1949 and her address is still listed as Cambridge.
George Howard served only a year of his sentence in Sing Sing. He didn’t enjoy his freedom long, dying in 1905. Many of the Kay family are buried in the Red Beach cemetery, including Mercy and Margaret, although there is no grave for the patriarch of the family, James Kay. As a sea captain his resting place may be with Neptune.