18 November 2009

The Saga of Julia (McEachern) Barker And A Millionaire Murder

Mrs. Julia M. Barker came to my attention because her stationery was used to jot down biographical details of Colonel Joseph Hayes Acklen and the letter was then sent to the Franklin Co., Tennessee, Library by Pauline (Acklen) Landis (the Colonel's daughter) from Detroit, Michigan. I copied the letter because I have Acklen ancestors, and being from Detroit, was intrigued by the "Michigan" connection.

Oh, what I found through a "Google" search of Mrs. Julia M. Barker*, real estate agent in Detroit, Michigan:

Per the Utica Daily Press
Tuesday, January 18, 1938
Detroit - Mrs. Julia M. Barker, once reported to have made a million dollars in real estate, sat in a jail last night, faced with the likelihood a first degree murder warrant would be issued against her, and worried over the loss of a dollar bill.

Held in jail since last Saturday in connection with the death of Mrs. Edith Mae Cummings, her friend and partner in many transactions...

Prosecutor Duncan Cameron McCrea said his staff had uncovered evidence to contradict Mrs. Barker's statement that it was Mrs. Cummings who took the pistol used in the shooting to the lonely spot on the banks of the Huron River near Belleville, Mich., Saturday. The pistol had been stolen from a friend of the two women.
--No fingerprints on the gun
--Mrs. Cummings did not wear gloves; if she handled the gun, there would have been prints
--Mrs. Barker wore gloves

The Utica NY Daily Press issue dated Monday, January 17, 1938 mentioned Prosecutor William E. Dowling, and included pictures of Mrs. Cummings & Mrs. Barker.

The St. Petersburg, Florida, newspaper, The Evening Independent, noted that Mrs. Barker wintered in St. Petersburg in its January 17, 1939 issue.

The Evening Independent, January 18, 1938 mentioned the Kentucky land deal that triggered the chain of events leading to Mrs. Cummings' murder. The St. Petersburg Times, February 13, 1938 stated that Arthur McEachern (Mrs. Barker's brother) was extradited from Detroit to Kentucky for the Barker case.

This issue of The Evening Independent, 19 Feb 1938, included a picture of Arthur McEachern as he was remanded into the custody of Mrs. Lena Maiden Craig, a lawyer, and under special commission for Gov. Happy Chandler for the McEachern extradition. Arthur McEachern explained that he was the Secretary/Treasurer for the Wayne County Holding Company, but that the holding company had been absorbed by another company. Originally indicted in the Kentucky land scheme were Arthur McEachern, Mrs. Edith Mae Cummings, Mrs. Julia M. Barker, George W. Brooks, and R. W. McAfee.

The New York Times dated June 18, 1938, noted that "Mrs. Julia M. Barker, former Detroit real estate operator, was sentenced today to serve ten to fifteen years in the House 'of Correction...".

The Ludington Daily News noted that Mrs. Barker was denied new trial, on 2 April 1940, and mentioned that Mrs. Evelyn Fosha had been a witness.

This article mentioned Mrs. James Fosha as the witness as well as an Albert Dolph (this one?) who gave Mrs. Barker a ride to Ida, Michigan, and whose car was left in Dearborn.

The judge in the case was Judge Ira Jayne whose family lived in the Fenton, MI, area.

The Evening Independent of St. Petersburg, in the obituary of Jeannette I. McEachern, on 6 April 1936, identified her sister as Mrs. Julia Barker of Detroit and her brother Arthur McEachern, also of Detroit.

*Marriage record found online for Julia M. McEachern & Sylvester Barker
Groom's name: Sylvester Barker
Bride's name: Julia Mildred Mceachern
Marriage date: 1915
Marriage place: Monongalia, West Virginia, United States
Collection: West Virginia Marriages 1853-1970

Julia McEachern Barker had her real estate license revoked not long before she shot Edith Mae Cummings. It would be interesting to see what the Archives of Michigan held regarding her license and that of the other parties involved in the Kentucky land dealings.

I do not know when Julia Barker died or what happened to her children or the children of Edith Mae Cummings.

Pauline (Acklen) Landis's husband, Robert, was a real estate broker in Detroit; I'm assuming that's how she (Pauline) came into possession of Julia M. Barker's stationery, but would be interested to know the relationship between the Landis family and the Barker, Cummings, and/or McEachern families, if any.


Kate T said...

Edith Mae Cummings was my great-grandmother. Her son Robert was my paternal grandfather. He died in 1967 or 68. I'm very interested in the research you have done regarding this case.

PalmsRV said...

Kate, Thanks for the additional information. I sort of stumbled on this case and found it fascinating. The prosecutor mentioned in this case was my grandmother's cousin.

Patricia Beth Barker said...

I am one of many grandchildren of Julia Barker. Julia had two children: Donald Graham Barker and Penny Barker.

As many families did in our US history, Julia took custody of 2 of her sister's children; Phyllis and Florence and raised them as her own. My father was much younger than his older sister and cousins. Until is adulthood, he believed Phyllis and Florence to be his siblings.

My father and his sisters/cousins went to Cranbrook School for Boys and Kingswood School for Girls, later my father attended Howe Military School. Donald Graham Barker joined the US Army Air Force and served in England. http://www.unc.edu/~landon/clyde.html

Donald Graham and Anne Paton Barker met via mail correspondence during WWII, married and had 10 children; Nancy Sue, Diana Gene, Donald Gordon, David Sylvester, Patricia Beth, James Morgan, Robert Scott, Phyllis Dee, Kimberly Sue and Florence Anne.

We were told that when Edith Mae Cummings wrote the book, "Pots & Pans to Millions" (http://www.amazon.com/Pots-Pans-Millions-Womans-Business/dp/1258785064/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1405087641&sr=1-2), Julia realized Edith had embezzled funds.

Julia confronted Edith and shot her, the case went to trial, she was found guilty, was incarcerated and shortly thereafter was deported to Canada. I haven't been able to discover much about the events.

From there we were told little else. I didn't even know the history of the events until my adulthood. Julia was not a topic for discussion as we grew up.

My father was in the mess hall at military school when the radio broadcast of his mothers arrest was announced. You can imagine the reaction for a young man in his late teens. Especially since he and his peers rarely saw their families - boarding schools were convenient for parents who had wealth and privilege.

My father often talked about his childhood and his "confab" with Phyllis and Florence across the fence at boarding school as well as his trips to Florida during summers to stay with his grandparents in St Petersberg.

President Truman was my father's second cousin. I know my father visited the White House during Truman's Presidency, but little else.

I can only recall 2 occasions when he was willing to discuss anything related to Julia or his sister Penny...and that only after much pleading and begging for information.

My father and Penny had a "falling out" before, during or after Julia's deportation to Canada. Julia never served out her entire sentence, we are unsure why or how that was arranged. We were told her attorney later became the Treasurer of the State of Michigan. Privilege?

My father's sister Penny was a forbidden subject. I never met her and my father never spoke to her or had any communication with her in my lifetime.

Phyllis and Florence Barker, my father's cousins, lived in Palos Verdes Estates, California until their death. My father was very close to both of them.