Liz here. Usually when I do research for an episode, it’s pretty scattershot. I’ll Google around a bit, check on Newspapers.com, swing by the local library, and stop when I’ve got enough to fill an episode. In this case though, I’ve spent more time and I still don’t have a very clear picture of what’s going on here. So I thought I’d lay out what I have right now, and share it with everyone so you can see what we know, how we know it, what we don’t know, and what questions remain.
Raleigh Faulkner is the primary focus of this mystery. He got on my radar during the research for the Manito episode, but I was very intrigued by what I found out about his life before and after. He had plenty of criminal activity and arrests in his day, which led to plenty of headlines. But then he fades from the record, without any of the notice or obituary that I would expect for someone of his relative prominence (or notoriety).
Searching for him is complicated by the fact that records from the time are incomplete, he used aliases, and sometimes had his name misspelled (“Rolly”). Some sources give his middle name as “Montral” and some as “Montrose.” Most results for Raleigh turn up the city and most results for Faulkner turn up the author.
Among my efforts, I’ve been in touch with one of his descendants, who has been very helpful. She has this lovely picture of Raleigh, which was passed down from his daughter to her daughter to the descendant. Take a good look, because we have a handful of pictures of this guy over the years and he’s a bit of a chameleon. This is also the only one we have that isn’t a mugshot.
Here’s a timeline of what I know about Raleigh Faulkner:
1884 (estimated) – Born in Kentucky. I don’t have a copy of his birth certificate though, this is derived by subtracting his age in various newspaper articles from the year of the article. Kentucky is also based on what the newspapers say.
1905, August – Raleigh first gets into the papers for a romantic misadventure. He’s listed as aged 21, and his bride, Blanche Taylor, is 16. He and Blanche are both residents of Seattle and attempt to elope to Vancouver. This makes the papers because he was originally engaged to her older sister, May.
1907 – Daughter, Alice Bessie, is born.
1908, November – Blanche has filed for divorce from Raleigh and moved back in with her parents. It’s ambiguous from the newspaper articles whether Raleigh showed up with a gun and abducted Blanche or showed up and convinced her to come with him for a while, then showed up with a gun after she returned home. Either way there is a gun and he threatens to kill the entire Taylor family.
Note: A search on the name “Raleigh Faulkner” won’t turn up stories related to this incident, as he’s identified as “R. M. Faulkner.”
1908, December – Raleigh is arrested in Tacoma. He states that his real name is Rolla Hargis, and that he is of the “famous feuding” Kentucky Hargises.
I was briefly intrigued by the possibility that Raleigh could actually be Beech Hargis, who was born in 1884 and disappeared in 1908 after murdering his father, but the timelines don’t quite line up (Raleigh was already raising hell in Seattle as of 1905, as we know) and I don’t think they look alike other than being white guys with dark hair:
Beech’s daddy has similarly magnificent ears. I don’t think Raleigh looks like a Hargis, and I can’t find evidence of a Rolla, Raleigh, Errol, Roland, etc. in the family, but it’s preliminary.
For a run-down on the whole Hargis-Marcum feud, check this out: http://www.breathittcounty.com/BreathittWeb2/HargisDeath.html
I’ve reached out to an expert on the history of Breathitt county and the feuds to see if he’s ever heard of a Raleigh/Rolly/Rolla/etc., and I will definitely pass it along if there are any leads on that front. (Incidentally he also wrote a collection of ghost stories set in that county, so clearly a kindred spirit from another part of the country: http://jerrydeaton.com/#et_page_74)
1909, February – Raleigh and Blanche remarry. WHY, YOU TWO.
1909, April – Raleigh is arrested for check fraud in Oakland, California. In commission of the crime, he uses the alias “August Nelson.” He is released due to insufficient evidence. Raleigh’s age isn’t given, but if his age in the earlier papers is correct, he is about 25 here. The papers indicate that Raleigh was “known to the Seattle police” for similar crimes, but but that Blanche’s father (a newspaper man) had told Raleigh that he’d keep things out of the papers if Raleigh left Blanche alone. He did so and came down to California, and she filed for divorce. You know. again.
1910, early February – The Spokane Press runs a story about how Raleigh has obtained a restraining order preventing Blanche from contacting him. As it explains, he “rescued” Alice and took her to Spokane to keep Blanche from “stealing” her. His problem with Blanche is that she frequented “doubtful dances” and “immoral resorts” with “strange and immoral men,” and that she ran away from him in January to live with another man.
1910, mid-February – This is the story where I first encountered Raleigh. Because you see, it is not so much that he “rescued” Bessie as he abducted her because there was a court order that he had to give her over to Blanche. The police come after him for this and find that he does not have Bessie, who is three at this point, in his custody. He states that he has put her in an unheated shack somewhere in the Manito area, but refuses to tell police where. The city launches a huge search to find Bessie before she freezes or starves. Raleigh says he doesn’t care if she dies.
A note in the Seattle paper of this time notes that he has “been arrested many times for wife beating, but his wife always refused to prosecute him, declaring he would kill her if she did.” COME ON, 1910.
The Spokane Press runs a slightly sheepish version of this story with the secondary headline, “FAULKNER EVIDENTLY A BAD MAN.” Top-notch investigative journalism there, guys.
1910, Late February – Bessie turns up. Apparently she’d never been in a shack whatsoever and was staying with a friend of Faulkner’s at the Windsor Hotel in Spokane. Raleigh just made up the shack thing for reasons. Since they had stayed at the Windsor hotel in Spokane before, Blanche came over to Spokane and made some casual inquiries. She managed to con the landlady (hotel manager?) into mentioning the name of the person who was holding Bessie. Blanche took this information to the police and they got Bessie back.
In one article about this, Blanche says that Faulkner is not his real name, and that he is actually Greek.
1910, May – Raleigh makes front page news again. This article explains that Raleigh had been in jail for three months on charges of “desertion” for the whole Bessie/Manito thing. However, an appeals judge had decided that he should get another trial, given that the offense had been committed in another county. Since his case has been moved around to a different venue, Raleigh argues that he should be let out on bond, and he promises to leave his wife alone. The judge finds this convincing and lets him out. This introduces two elements that will become very characteristic for Raleigh – he likes to drag his cases all over the court system, and he’s apparently impossible to get a charge to stick to.
After looking into waiter jobs for a hot minute, Raleigh decides to go kill Blanche. However, it’s her landlord that opens the door and gets the knife to the heart and dies. Another lodger attempts to wrestle Raleigh and gets stabbed in the face, but lives.
The police pick Raleigh up later that day. His attorney says, “I fear his recent troubles have affected his mind. He uses elegant diction and there is a tone of extra refinement about him. He comes from a wealthy family.”
This article gives us this slightly odd picture of Bessie:
1911, October – The Seattle Times headline is “R. M. Faulkner Again In Trouble” which is probably going to be the title of this episode. In this specific case, he’s been taken into custody for crimes related to counterfeiting. An article about an area prosecutor casually drops that he is not in prison for Harbin’s murder because they declared it self-defense. This article also indicates that the time he spent in jail was not for desertion, but because Blanche feared for her life.
1912, May – Raleigh is sentenced to three years in McNeil prison for the counterfeiting. His lawyer has to withdraw from the case because of allegations that Raleigh had attempted to influence the court. This will be another common theme – courts and law enforcement officers tend to get pulled into his orbit.
1915, November – Raleigh is still in prison in Tacoma. He is in the papers because he alleges to have information about a bomb plot, and other prisoners are threatening to kill him if he “peaches.”
1915, December – Raleigh changes his story and says he knows nothing about the plot or plotters.
1918, January – Raleigh is arrested in Grants Pass, Oregon for bootlegging. More details come out as the story progresses, as Raleigh gets very chatty. He implicates many “dry cops” in facilitating his Seattle/Tacoma bootlegging ring, including the head of the Dry Squad. One article mentions that he used “Abe” as an alias when speaking in code about whiskey deliveries. In the end, it is decided that his allegations about the police are an attempted frame-up, and he is sentenced to a year in jail, but is released by February because apparently there’s just a revolving door where this guy is concerned.
1919, May – Raleigh is arrested in Portland, Oregon for smuggling liquor. Two others are arrested as part of the same ring, which is alleged to extend to San Francisco.
I’m not sure what he’s doing from 1919-1926. I don’t think he’s the same R. M. Faulkner who is a school principal and heavily involved in organizing agricultural fairs in Hawaii.
1926, May – Raleigh pops up with a rum-smuggling arrest in Los Angeles. As of the newspaper article, they were waiting to hear back from authorities in Seattle, where he had skipped out on a two-year sentence for bootlegging. (So presumably sometime after the 1919 but before 1926, he’d been arrested but it hadn’t been covered in the papers that I have access to.)
1927, February – Raleigh is on trial in Los Angeles as a “bootlegger king.” There are allegations that Raleigh had paid $50,000 in cash and $300,000 in jewelry and bonds as a bribe to “fix” his sentence and get him out of jail sooner.
1934 – Prohibition is over. A liquor store proprietor (Marcus Aldacosia or Aldocosia) attacks Raleigh outside his facility, breaking his nose. The store owner says he knew Raleigh back in 1926, through his role as a smuggler, as Raleigh Faulkner. However, by 1934, Raleigh is using “Fremont” as his last name.
Note: The paper that covers this, The Woodville Daily Democrat of California, lists the location of this as “MARYSVILLE, VNA.” Aldocosia was living in Marysville California as of the 1935 census, so I suspect a newspaper reporter was hurrying and misidentified the location as one of the many other Marysvilles around the country.
And that, listeners, is where Raleigh Faulkner departs the archives. There are articles about two others who share his name, but whose ages and other details are so unlike our R. M. F. that it’s extremely unlikely that they’re him.
I’m going to conclude part one here, but the research is ongoing. I have a few leads out, including a couple books that I have ordered, some e-mails that I have sent, and a death certificate that I’m waiting on. I have identified someone that I currently lean toward thinking is Raleigh in his second act/later identity, but I’m not 100% sure. I’ll be writing up what I know about him and comparing what we know about him – and the pictures we have – to what we know about Faulkner from his very lively activities 1905-1934.