This is a story that’s been taking up space in my files for several years and I’ve been promising to fill in some blanks and share it with others. So here goes. It’s a largely forgotten but sparkling little gem of a story about a strange man who lived briefly in the Toledo area, then set out to become one of the more notorious characters of American matrimony. His name and exploits are still talked about in parts of California to this day.
Around 1911, newspapers around the nation began following the saga of Mr. Andrew Franklin MacFarland who was said to have been a resident of Genoa, Ohio at one time in the 1880’s and was in the insurance business. But it seems Andrew liked to move about the country and liked ladies and money. For MacFarland, it proved a dangerous combination of pursuits. I will begin this tale somewhere in the middle, when in September of 1911, while Andrew MacFarland was living with his wife Ella MacFarland in a Colorado Springs Colorado hotel, he was arrested and charged with embezzlement from a a woman by the name of Ethel Groom in San Francisco. Ethel was a lady whom MacFarland had married earlier that year promising her a life of wedded bliss, but she claimed in a warrant that soon after the wedding, he left her, and emptied her safety deposit box of some $10,000 in cash, then absconded with the funds and vanished. He was missing for months, only to be found in Colorado Springs Colorado by detectives who had been in hot pursuit. When captured that September day of 1911, it was reported that he was preparing to leave for a long trop with his third wife Ella, on a trip to Puerto Rico.
A scandalous article in the San Francisco Call newspaper and other papers around the nation referred to Andrew F. MacFarland as a wealthy businessman who had started an insurance company in that city. The articles took delight in providing the sordid details of his “hymeneal venturism” as they called it. For at this point in his life, MacFarland had exchanged vows with four women over the course of his 44 years. Some of the wives, however, he had not bothered to divorce or annul the nuptials before moving on to the next one. And his first marriage took place in the 1880’s near Toledo where he wed a lady by the name of Leona Maville. After the wedding, they made their home in the little village of Genoa, not far from Toledo.
Just why he was in Genoa, or what he did there is still yet to be determined, but he and Leona didn’t stay too long. They stayed long enough to have one son and left Genoa a few years later and moved to Indiana where they had more children and as best can be determined, they moved back to Toledo, where MacFarland was working as a “clerk”, per census records.
Then in about 1895, MarFarland, for whatever his reasons, deserted his wife Leona and three sons and moved to Kansas. This is where in Wyandotte Kansas in 1896, forgetting his first wife, he met and married wife number 2, Minnie Gerard. This marriage occurs despite MacFarland never having legally ended or divorced poor Leona whom he had left high and dry and destitute.
MacFarland’s second wife, Minnie, however, also turned out to be as indifferent to the laws of matrimony as was he. For MacFarland soon discovered that Minnie was married to someone else. Taking umbrage, he left her and trekked south to Oklahoma where he met future wife number three, Ella Clem. The story is told that he was able to convince her that he really wasn’t married to wife number two(Minnie Gerard of Kansas) and never bothered to mention his first marriange or family he had in Genoa from many years before. It was a tangled web indeed and MacFarland didn’t seem too vexed by it all. In a few years he moved on to California with his wife Ella. They settled in the San Diego area of Pacific Beach where they became respected citizens of the community. MacFarland, having built an insurance company as massing a tidy sum of cash built a grand home near the Hotel Balboa in 1907. The story of their lives in Pacific Beach can be found here.
A few years later, however, they left their home in Pacific Beach and relocated to San Francisco and carried on a life of prosperity in that region with his Pacific Life Insurance Company. Then in 1911, in a burst of sudden epiphany, MacFarland announced to Ella that he wanted to straighten everything out with his matrimonial entanglements of the past. To make it happen he asked for annulment from his wife Ella so he could be free to get an annulment from wife #2(Minnie of Kansas) and to be finally cleared from that former marriage. Ella consented but only if MacFarland would agree to remarry her immediately after the annulment from (Minnie) wife#2. (if you’re confused, I was too. Best bet read it again. We’re just getting started)
And as you might have guessed, once a lothario, always a lothario, MacFarland got his annulment from Minnie,and an annulment from Ella. But he had no intention of remarrying Ella as promised, instead he promptly traveled to Ogden Utah and married a fourth woman, Ethel Groom, one of his young stenographers. After the wedding, they took an extended honeymoon to the East Coast and didn’t return for a month. Upon returning to California though, he was to learn that his strange behavior was now the talk of the town. The story of Andrew MacFarland’s sudden new marriage and all of his matrimonial adventures had made the front page of the newspapers and third wife Ella, now a woman scorned, was not a happy camper. She went back to court and had the annulment to Andrew rescinded, thus MacFarland was now officially a bigamist.
The case became a front page butt of jokes and comedy. The San Francisco Call newspaper published one article in March of 1911 entitled “Now Just Who Is MacFarland’s Wife?”
The article laid bare his life and his “matrimonial career”, but interestingly it left out the fact that he had been married and was still married to Leona Mavall of Toledo. MacFarland had held this secret very close to his vest over the years and it was not common knowledge.
Seemingly unrepentant, MacFarland’s folly persisted as he was able to convince wife #4(Ethel) to get an annulment so he could officially divorce wife #3(Ella) and then he and Ethel could settle down in matrimonial bliss. (What’s the saying “Fool me once, shame on me, fool me twice…)
So who got fooled again?
Well once Ethel’s annulment was granted and the ink still wet on the court order, our Mr. MacFarland had a sudden and miraculous memory recovery. He rememebered he still had a legal marriage with Leona Maville with whom he had played house in Genoa Ohio back in the 1880’s. With sudden clarity of purpose, MacFarland reveals the truth to the world and grabs the first train to Toledo to reaquint himself with his old friends there, but then after a few weeks, he vanishes.
Back in San Francisco, Ethel the former wife #4, now also a scorned woman, checked her safety deposit box and found that MacFarland had appropriated the cash from it before heading for Ohio. Not only was a known liar and bigamist, he was now being called a thief.
The weeks turned to months and MacFarland was a wanted man. Just where he traveled or hid is not known, but in September of 1911 he was found by private detectives living in a hotel in Colorado Springs Colorado with his third wife Ella. To whom he was still legally wed.
MacFarland, a wealthy man believed to have a cash fortune into the six figures, voluntarily returned to San Francisco after his arrest in Colorado. He fought the embezzlement charges and a year later his case was still tied up in the courts. The furious and former fourth wide Ethel wanted what she said was her money, a wedding gift of 10,000 dollars. MacFarland claimed it was not her money, and he never gave it to her. He also claimed she was blackmailing him for another $30,000 for her to drop the charges against him. Despite this rancor, and MacFarland’s reputation, Ethel told the court she still loved him and wanted to be with him. (Wow did he have some of male magic or what? Money magic maybe?)
Finally in September of 1912, after his second trial concluded, the jury acquited MacFarland for embezzlement. The headlines and the publicity faded and it is written that MacFarland apparently gave up his wedlock wanderlust and settled down, for awhile, with wife #3 Ella.
He and Ella would eventually move back to San Diego to their luxurious home in Pacific Beach. Considered one of the grand homes of the town and stands to this day and as a landmark of Pacific Beach. But for the MacFarlands, life behind the beautiful facade of that home was a stormy one.
In August of 1918 Andrew MacFarland filed for divorce from Ella and accused her of being “cold and of an unaffectionate manner”, often denouncing him as untrue to her and wasting his money in “riotous living” when he was away from home. He denied the allegations.
Ella MacFarland’s also denied his allegations and claimed he had deserted and abandoned her. In September of 1918 a judge ruled in favor of Ella and granted her a divorce. A week later, MacFarland, now 51 years old married a 25-year-old court stenographer Carmen Kertson, and they apparently went on to lead a what was said to be a quiet life in Los Angeles.
But even that wedded bliss did not end well. They divorced sometime in the 1930. By the 1940 census it showed him living alone in Los Angeles. He died in 1942 at the age of 75 and is buried at Forest Lawn in Los Angeles. Carmen went on to live a much longer life passing away in 1974. Census records show they may have had as many as two children together.
We do not know if he ever reconciled or acknowledged his first wife in Toledo, Leona Maville. A record search shows that he married her in Monroe County Michigan in 1884. It was appear that he was a mere 17 at the time, being born in December of 1866. According to the records I’ve reviewed they took up residence lin Genoa,had three children together before he deserted them in the 1890’s.
At that time he was using the name Frank MacFarland, not Andrew F. MacFarland. Their three sons were named Harrison, Ransalier, and Alonzo. The oldest son Harrison, born in 1884 in Genoa. Evenutally Harrison moved west, had several marriages himself over the course of his life and appears to have moved to the San Francisco area where his father was residing. Harrison also got tangled up in some unsavory behavior and ended up in San Quentin prison for passing bad checks in the early 1900’s. He died in San Francisco in 1961.
The second son of Leona and Andrew Macfarland was Ransalier and he was born near Elkhart Indiana, later moved to California and died in Santa Barbara in 1962.
The 3rd son, Alonzo was born in 1888. The 1900 census shows that he was 12 years old and living with his mother Leona and his brother Ransalier in the 300 block of Buffalo Street in North Toledo. She is listed in the census as a “washerwoman” and Ransalier was listed as a “day laborer”. Alonzo was still in school.
And one final footnote is that keeping to Andrew MacFarland’s crazy quilt world of wedlock, marriages, remarriages, and annulments. While he and Leona were on record as having been married in Whiteford Twp Michigan in 1884, they were apparently remarried in Ohio in 1892. Lucas County probate court records show they were wed again on January 2nd, 1892 in Toledo.