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The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised


Margaret Keith

See Orson Pratt Brown's site for the story of Margaret Keith's family.


Margaret Keith from orsonprattbrown.com
The Mystery Millionairess of Hollywood
    It is told that Margaret Keith hid her face behind veils for nearly 40 years. Beginning in her teenage years it is said that she lived mostly a life of seclusion.
    David Keith, it is reported, wrote the following: "In the home of Alfred Milton Wilson and Julie Ann Wilson of Des Moines, Iowa, on the 10th of April, 1893, a baby girl was born to my youngest daughter, Margaret Keith. As a timid unsophisticated girl of sixteen years, she fell a victim to David (Summers) Keith's (my adopted son) illicit love." [Margaret Keith was born on April 6, 1884. The birth date of her child in 1893 would make Margaret only nine years old.]
    In protecting the family name, Margaret, believing her baby dead, tried to bury her shame with it. A veil of darkness has shut out all rays of sunlight for her forever.
    Sworn to keep the secret of David's and Margaret's unfortunate affair, Alfred Milton Wilson and Julie Ann Wilson were appointed guardians of the illegitimate Keith baby girl, who later became known as Myrtle Mae Wilson.
    The above statement concludes by disowning David and detailing trust agreements and final settlements.
    In later years, Margaret herself explained her behavior in a note to Charles V. Hatter, a detective she employed. She wrote: "I'm just about as mysterious as an onion. I'm not even a man hater. I like to talk to men because they have brains, but I think the Amazons had the right idea. They made all of the men stay out in the shed with the cattle."
    At exactly four o'clock one afternoon, Margaret's gardener followed a special letter of instruction and placed a call to Dr. J. S. Wood, in Hollywood, and asked him to come to the estate. When the physician arrived, the gardener gave him another letter requesting him to enter the house alone.
    Decaying grandeur of the mansion was shadowed by blanketed windows, and there was a musty odor. When Dr. Wood entered Miss Keith's darkened bedroom, it reeked with chloroform. He saw a "figure in a black, shroud-like garment lying on a divan, with a great bouquet of flowers at its head and a basket of blossoms at its feet. Over the face was a towel, wrapped in the shape of an ether cone and an empty bottle lay on the floor." Two black cats stirred. Symphonic music swelled from a radio.
    A suicide note requested fresh flowers and an orchestra to play classical compositions as the only burial ceremony. The undertaker was instructed, "Please have your lady attendant care for my body. I want to be quite sure that I am dead. Please inject an extra amount of formaldehyde into my body. Cover my hands with flowers. When I was alive I always wanted plenty of room, so I do not want to be put in a niche." Miss Keith was cremated, and her mysterious secret was never revealed.
Raye C. Ringholz, Diggings & Doings in Park City, 1983, pages 58-59

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UTAH HEIRESS TAKES OWN LIFE IN CALIFORNIA
Margaret Keith Known a Mystery Woman of Palos Verdes

    LOS ANGELES, April 29--(AP)--The so-called "mystery woman of Palos Verdes," a wealthy recluse who for years tried to prevent anyone from seeing her face, took her own life late yesterday with an anesthetic in her unoccupied Beverly Hills mansion.
    She was Miss Margaret Keith, 60, daughter of the late David Keith, Utah silver magnate. She left a note saying:
    "I don't want to live if I can't see the beautiful trees and the sea. I'm losing my sight, so I've decided to shove off. Please don't let busybodies into my house."
    No one ever seemed to know why Miss Keith tried to hide her face from the world. Living in a mansion which cost nearly $100,000, she had only one servant, a Japanese. To him she gave her orders only by written instructions or through a telephone system in her home atop the Palos Verdes hill overlooking the ocean, 23 miles south of here.
    The mansion is surrounded by 17-foot walls with heavily barred gates. Neighbors would see Miss Keith only when she would drive from her home, heavily veiled. She formerly lived in the Beverly Hills home where she committed suicide.
    In response to a telephone call her physician, Dr. J. C. Wood, went to the Beverly Hills house and was met by a gardener who handed him a note instructing him to enter the house alone and go to a certain room. There he found Miss Keith lying on a wicker couch with a bouquet of flowers at her head and feet and a cloth, soaked with anesthetic, on her face. Taken to a hospital, she died shortly afterward.
    In a note to an undertaking establishment, she left instructions that her body be cremated and the ashes strewn over the sea.
Ogden Standard-Examiner, Utah, April 29, 1933, page 1


Band Plays at Bier of Elderly Recluse
    LOS ANGELES, May 3.--(UPI)--The body of Margaret Keith, aged recluse who chloroformed herself to death, lay in state today in an undertaking parlor while a 20-piece orchestra played in the chapel. The body will remain in the chapel for three days while the orchestra plays and a guard stands by to bar all save attendants.
Oakland Tribune, California, May 3, 1933, page 3


Last Rites for Margaret Keith
    LOS ANGELES, May 5--(AP)--Without prayer or eulogy, the last rites for Margaret Keith, 49-year-old millionaire recluse who was known in her life as the "veiled mystery woman of the Palos Verdes hills," were to be held today.
    In accordance with the spinster's last request, her ashes will be scattered to the winds.
    For three days, in accordance with her wish, an orchestra played classical music at her bier. Only a woman attendant was permitted to look on the body.
    Miss Keith had remained apart from the world since young womanhood. She maintained two mansions, one in the Palos Verdes hills and the other in Beverly Hills. It was in the last that she took her life by self-administered anesthetic last Friday after surrounding herself with flowers.
    Miss Keith's fortune was estimated at $5,000,000. Letters of administration were granted yesterday to a bank pending probate of her will.
Lowell Sun, Massachusetts, May 5, 1933, page 43


Recluse Leaves $5,000,000
    LOS ANGELES, May 18.--(UPI)--The will of Miss Margaret Keith, millionaire recluse, leaving a reported $5,000,000 to Albert C. Allen, Jr., of Central Point, Ore., was scheduled to be filed today.
    Allen, 27, is a nephew of the dead woman who, according to police, recently ended her life with chloroform when she feared blindness.
    The entire estate, including palatial establishments in Beverly Hills and Palos Verdes, with the exception of a few minor bequests to seven other relatives, is understood to have been left to Allen.
Oakland Tribune, California, May 18, 1933, page 8


$5,000,000 LEFT TO OREGON MAN
Albert C. Allen Jr. to Get Keith Estate.
TRUST FUND ESTABLISHED
Central Point Orchardist Refuses to Get Excited.
INCOME PAID AT FIRST
Bulk of Fortune to Be Released When Heir Reaches 35, Seven Years Hence.

BY EVA NEALON HAMILTON
Staff Correspondent, The Oregonian

Albert C. Allen, May 19, 1933 Oregonian    MEDFORD, Or., May 18.--(Special.)--Albert C. (Jimmy) Allen Jr., 28, Central Point orchardist, whom the Medford High School prophecy of 1925 predicted would be "a first-class dishwasher" 20 years hence, was today named heir to $5,000,000, and remarked when interviewed, "It is nothing to get excited about."
    Questioned by telephone regarding the fortune, the ex-basketball star appeared more concerned over the toll of the country telephone line than the sum left by his aunt, Margaret Keith, who recently committed suicide in Los Angeles.
    "What will you do with the money?" brought no line of forecasts from young Allen, who simply replied, "I haven't got it yet. It will be many years from now when I do, and I think the sum is greatly exaggerated."
    He has a wife and young son, Albert C. Allen III, 2½ years old, who will probably help him spend it.
Oregon Man Notified.
    Announcement of the will came as no surprise to Allen today. He recently returned from California, where he attended the funeral of his eccentric aunt. He was informed even before her death that she would name him as heir, the letter coming a short time before news of her suicide, inspired by the approaching loss of her eyesight.
    The money, it is understood here, was left in a trust fund, and the estate will come to young Allen when he is 35 years old. He will, however, receive his income from the money in the meantime.
    Allen, who graduated from the local high school in 1924, is the son of A. C. Allen, orchardist and writer, whose first well-known book was "King of the Wilderness," published a number of years ago. His mother, sister of Margaret Keith, died about two years ago. The women were heirs to the Keith mining fortune in Salt Lake City. Jimmy Allen, as he is known here, has a sister, Mary Allen, in Los Angeles, and said today he did not know whether she would share in the estate.
    In high school Allen played for four years on the basketball team which won the state championship and sought the national title in Chicago. He was also a student body officer and a popular member of the organization.
    Following high school he joined his father in operation of his orchard, "Lafalot on the Rogue," and began writing. He has had a number of stories published in western magazines and uses as his pen name "James Cooper Allen." He is tall--six feet something--of medium complexion, and very quiet in demeanor. His lack of talk today regarding the fortune was characteristic of his general attitude, "little to say, much to do." He is fond of books and the great outdoors.
    A few years ago Allen married Eva Jester of Rocky Point, and they have since made their home on Rogue River, where efforts today to locate him proved they have no telephone communication with the outside world. Allen came to the country store to answer the call.
----
    LOS ANGELES, Cal., May 18.--(AP)--The $5,000,000 fortune of Miss Margaret Keith, eccentric 49-year-old recluse, who had orchestra music played and flowers placed beside her body for several days after her recent suicide, will go to a 28-year-old nephew, Albert C. Allen Jr., of Central Point, Or., it was disclosed in the 220-word will to be filed probably today.
    The terse document, which names the Security First National Bank of Los Angeles as executor and trustee, bequeaths the entire estate to young Allen, with the exception of a few minor bequests to several other relatives, all of whom are described in the will as "in good financial condition."
    Etta K. Eskridge, Los Angeles, a sister, was bequeathed $50 and the cancellation of a $4000 debt. Ten dollars each was left to David Keith, half brother; David Keith Jr., nephew; D. K. Eskridge, brother-in-law; D. K. Eskridge Jr., nephew; M. A. Towle and Albert C. Allen III.
    Heir to a large Utah mining fortune, Miss Keith hid herself from the world behind the barred gates of her Palos Verdes estate, 23 miles south of here, and finally ended her life in her Beverly Hills mansion a few weeks ago.
    A note directed that her body be held several days before cremation, that an orchestra play classical compositions beside her body, and that fresh flowers be put in the room each day. These wishes were carried out.
Oregonian, Portland, May 19, 1933, page 1

Seattle Daily Times July 2, 1933 p32
For 40 Years She Hid Her Face from the World
By Erskine Johnson

    The "man in the iron mask," celebrated character in French history, now has a modern, feminine parallel--Los Angeles' "woman of the unseen face." She is Miss Margaret Keith, 59-year-old daughter of a Utah silver king, who chose to die by her own hand. Although her identity was known, while the name of Louis XIV's mysterious political prisoner never was definitely ascertained, their lives, separated by two centuries, were strangely similar.
    Like the "man in the iron mask" whom writers Voltaire and Dumas popularized, Los Angeles' woman of mystery chose to keep her face hidden from the world.
    Although rich, and, according to relatives, fair of face, she lived secluded for 40 years in Los Angeles and wore heavy veils on the rare times that she ventured forth.
    Even in her own palatial homes, one by the sea and one in exclusive Beverly Hills, Miss Keith concealed herself from the eyes of others.
    To her many servants, she gave orders only over an intricate, room-to-room telephone system or in notes. And guards were employed solely to keep curious visitors away. She had no friends. She was lonely--by choice.
    Then this strange, wealthy recluse, who was "just a kindly woman afraid of the world of people," as a relative explained later, came to fear that blindness would shut out her small world of trees, books, flowers and the sea. So she took chloroform.
    But the anonymity she so carefully preserved through life didn't end when she died. In death, as in life, Miss Keith remained secreted from the eyes of the world. Only a lone woman attendant saw her body as it lay in state for three days, surrounded with flowers and with flowers blanketing her hands
    Such was the strange request for absolute isolation made by the elderly millionaire "of the unseen face."
    "Kindly do not allow anyone to look at me," Miss Keith wrote in a farewell note. "I didn't care to be Exhibit A when I was alive, and I do not want to be gaped at when I'm dead."
    Since early childhood, Margaret Keith had imprisoned herself within her own soul; had displayed a timidity and dread of contact with the outside world which defied the efforts of her late multimillionaire father, David Keith, owner of the fabulously rich Silver King mine, near Park City, Utah, and her family to counteract.
    This much was learned following her suicide from a sister living in Los Angeles. "She was the youngest of our family," said the sister, "and Father and the rest of us showered her with attention. We did everything in our power to defeat her shyness of the world, but we were helpless. There was no reason for her to mask her features with heavy veils.
    "She was a beautiful girl. She had a brilliant mind and loved books, music and flowers. Father gave her every educational advantage, and she had traveled throughout the world. But she could never overcome her aversion to meeting people and leading the full life that her wealth and culture afforded her. No, there was no unhappy love affair."
    At the same time, the sister told how Miss Keith put aside all of her associates in Salt Lake City, the family home, when she was a girl of 19 and went to Los Angeles to begin her existence of seclusion. Her father sent her an allowance until his death, when she was reputed to have inherited nearly $5,000,000.
    It was learned after her death that she had given much of this away. Her attorney revealed that she gave about $2,000,000 to orphanages and the unemployed during recent years. Her will left the bulk of her estate to a 27-year-old nephew, Albert C. Allen, Jr., of Central Point, Ore. Minor bequests were made to seven other relatives, all of whom, according to the will, are "in good financial condition."
    Miss Keith was a strange girl, even while attending school as a child in Salt Lake City, the sister explained. She was afraid of other children, the sister said, and preferred staying at home to playing games. But she wasn't abnormal, the sister added, except when it came to meeting people and associating with the outside world.
    Several trips to distant parts of the world didn't cure her of that shyness, as the father expected. Finally, when she reached the age of 16, Silver King Keith sent his daughter to school in Chicago, where he hoped she would cultivate friends. But she didn't.
    She was graduated from St. Mary's Academy in Chicago with an excellent scholarship record at the age of 19 and returned to Salt Lake. The shyness had not been lost during her four years away from home. Soon afterward she practically divorced herself from everyone.
    "We all argued with her without avail," the sister said. "But she always would reply: 'I like to be alone. I don't like other people. I want to read and be in seclusion. That is my right.'"
    Eventually, the young girl went to Los Angeles, where, with money furnished by her father, she built two large homes and immersed herself in a life of loneliness that lasted nearly four decades.
    "I only saw her three times during the eight years I have lived in Los Angeles," the sister added. "When she wanted a favor she would send me typewritten letters with the requests."
    The strange way in which Margaret Keith lived and the strange manner in which she ended her own life are still causes for wonder in Los Angeles, where she was a silent, unseen resident.
    When Miss Keith arrived in Los Angeles 40 years ago she built a home in Beverly Hills. Then, some years later, she constructed another large residence, costing $200,000, high among the hills by the Pacific Ocean. In both instances, all her business transactions with the contractors were carried out in notes and by telephone, without the contractors once seeing her.
    On the rare occasions when she left her big homes, guarded by high walls and heavy, barred gates, neighbors never saw her face.
    They would only see her at a distance, heavily veiled, as she got into her automobile, with its shades drawn, or alighted from it.
    Only one servant, a Japanese who had worked for her for many years, ever saw Miss Keith's face. And then, he said, he saw her features only once, when she awoke him in the outside quarters at 4 o'clock in the morning last December to drive her on a mysterious visit to her Beverly Hills mansion.
    She told him when he was employed, the Japanese declared, that she was "very timid" and did not like people to see her. She employed a maid and a cook, but communicated her orders only by written note or through the private telephone system. She paid salaries to her trusted servants that were almost fabulous, and she lavished costly presents on them, too, they revealed after her death.
    Each of Margaret Keith's homes is a labyrinth of rooms--so many that the servants never counted them. Billiard rooms, libraries, guest rooms, yet nobody enjoyed the treasures within them. Always they remained untenanted, unvisited.
    Around each estate are high, barbed-wire barricades and iron gates, through which nobody had ever passed except Miss Keith, her servants--and stray cats.
    In both homes she offered regal refuge to all homeless cats. Beneath the mansion walls are myriads of little doors, large enough for the passage of cats, but too small for dogs. To one cat, shortly before her own death, Miss Keith gave a $500 funeral.
    Each night, strangely enough, her mansion on the hilltop, where she spent most of her time, was brilliantly lighted up on the outside by powerful flood lights. Just why Miss Keith had this done is not known. Perhaps she thought it offered greater protection from prowlers.
    The tragic finale to Margaret Keith's strange life of solitude came a few weeks ago in her Beverly Hills home. Her personal physician received a mysterious phone call to come to the house "after 4 p.m." He did so, and was met by a gardener, who handed him a note instructing him to enter the house alone and go to a certain room.
    The doctor went to the bedroom, the door of which was blocked with a chair. He forced the door and discovered Miss Keith lying on a wicker couch in the bedroom with flowers at her head and feet, her face swathed in chloroform-soaked rags. A radio was softly playing a classical selection. She was still alive, but died soon after being rushed in an ambulance to a nearby hospital.
    Reasons for taking her life, and the plea for absolute isolation even in death so she would not "be gaped at," were revealed by the eccentric woman in a series of notes.
    "I am losing my sight," she wrote, "so I've decided to shove off. I don't want to live if I can't see the beautiful trees and the flowers and the sea, and read. Please don't let busybodies into my homes."
    Further instructions were that her body be kept in a private room for three days and that it be clothed in fresh garments.
    "An Alice blue or black shroud," she wrote. "Please cover my hands with flowers. I love flowers. Please do not insert funeral notice in the daily papers."
    Enclosed in the notes was a long list of compositions she wished played while her body rested in the funeral parlor.
    "I love music," she wrote, "so will you please get a fine orchestra? I do not want any praying or a religious ceremony. Just the beautiful music. I may be able to hear it."
    The orchestra she requested was composed of a 20-piece group, and true to her wishes, it played for three days in the tiny room where the body rested in a silver casket, playing the compositions she had named in her notes.
    When the strange, preacherless and prayerless funeral ended, Miss Keith's ashes were strewn to the winds over the ocean near her home. Before she courted death in her dramatic, deathbed scene, the wealthy recluse had written:
    "When I was alive, I always wanted plenty of room, so I do not want to be put in a niche."

Seattle Daily Times, July 2, 1933, page 32


Kin Battle for $300,000 Estate of Dead Eccentric
    LOS ANGELES, Dec. 11.--(UPI)--As indicated by questions asked talismen, a group of relatives prepared today to try to prove that the late Miss Margaret Keith was insane when she made the will leaving her $300,000 estate to Albert Allen, Jr., Oregon rancher.
    Miss Keith, who during her lifetime was said to have given more than $2,000,000 to charity, died last spring, leaving Allen the bulk of her estate and cutting off other relatives with bequests ranging from $10 to $50. Suit to contest the will was brought by David Keith, half-brother, and other relatives. An indication of the contestants' position was contained in the question asked prospective jurors by Brigham Rose, attorney:
    "Would you consider that a woman who lived in a home with a dozen bedrooms, all elaborately furnished, yet slept in a hall; a woman who surrounded herself with servants who were not permitted to look at her or speak to her upon pain of dismissal; a woman who bought 100 pounds of seed weekly for two canaries; who kept the windows of her home darkened with bed sheets; who would not sit beside her sister and would not talk to other persons in the same room, but would write them notes instead; who insisted on having a cat taste all food before she ate it; would you consider such a woman sane?"
    The question drew various answers.
Oakland Tribune, California, December 12, 1933, page 10


Attorneys Draw Weird Picture of Wealthy Recluse
Keith Heiress Listened for Voice of Spirits, Will Trial Jury Hears

Margaret Keith 1934-1-11p2Oregonian    LOS ANGELES, Dec. 13 (AP)--Attorneys for the contestants against the will of Miss Margaret Keith, before a jury in the superior court, drew word pictures today of the wealthy and eccentric 49-year-old recluse, who chloroformed herself in her Beverly Hills unfurnished home last April.
    The attorneys pictured her as a woman of great beauty and physical attractiveness, who, nevertheless, was not interested in men, but who spent most of her time alone, with black earphones tied to her head, listening for a ghostly hum she thought was the voice of spirits.
    None of those who served her, or with whom she had business, saw her features, because she always wore a black veil. Few, in fact, ever were in contact with her.
    The counsel said testimony would be produced to show she was a woman whose mind no one could know. They said she was careless of financial matters, given to writing checks exceeding the vast amounts she had on deposit, and that she was a person of fine feeling, "a genius by birth and environment."
Builds Two Homes
    When she inherited a great fortune from her father, the late David Keith, multimillionaire mining operator of Salt Lake City, she spent great sums of money, the attorneys said, meanwhile living in another world, according to her relatives, unmindful of such necessities as food and shelter, unless her friends cared for her.
    Later she built two beautiful homes in southern California, one in the Palos Verdes hills overlooking the Pacific Ocean, and the other in exclusive Beverly Hills.
    A will left her estate, valued at a third of a million dollars, to a nephew, Albert C. Allen Jr., an Oregon farmer. Other relatives contested probate of the will.
    It was disclosed that before her death she had left instructions, among which was this statement:
    "I sincerely hope the will will not be contested, as I want my nephew, Albert C. Allen Jr., to have the income and the estate when he is 35 years old. He is a fine young man. His mother was too ill to know what she was about, and in this state deeded her property to her husband. . . . I saved the life of Albert the day he was born, so I have always been interested in him. Please mention this in case the will is contested."
Stunned Men
    A. Brigham Rose, counsel for Miss Keith's niece, Mrs. Mary Allen Towle, a contestant, said that even before the death of Miss Keith's father, she shunned men, and that she told him he was "not in accord with the rest of the universe."
    "Perhaps it was some shattered romance of her school days that turned her against men," Rose said.
    Baldwin Robertson, representing Miss Keith's sister and brother, Mrs. Etta Keith Eskridge and David Keith, presented a picture of the reclusive shunning all human faces. He said that when a Japanese caretaker turned to look at her, she dismissed him instantly, but gave him a check for $1500.
    Robertson said she wrote a check for $285,000 to a real estate agent for the purchase of the former estate of John Torkleson, owner of large borax mines, although the agent advised her to wait for a lower price. Robertson said the agent held the check and later purchased the property for $185,000, but that Miss Keith wrote him another check for $195,000, although she had only $80,000 in the bank on which the check was drawn.
    L. B. Gallagher, attorney for Allen, said Miss Keith was of sound intellect, but "was misunderstood because she didn't worship money."
    "She had no use for money," Gallagher said. "She gave money freely to people to whom it meant more than to her. She preferred to live alone, but so have other persons highly esteemed by their fellow men."
Salt Lake Tribune, December 14, 1933


Kin of Eccentric Heiress Relates Strange Actions
Brother-in-Law of Miss Keith Tells of Breaking in Door

    LOS ANGELES, Dec. 18 (AP)--Strange incidents in the life of a stranger woman were related today to a jury hearing the contest to the will of Miss Margaret Keith, millionaire recluse, who committed suicide in her Beverly Hills mansion last spring, leaving her entire estate to Albert C. Allen Jr., an Oregon farmer.
    Disregarding the wealthy spinster's prejudice against being seen by men, P. M. Woods, Kingman, Ariz. mining prospector, once pushed through the door of the room in which she shut herself against the world, forced her to see him, and talked to her for two hours. The incident occurred in 1924.
Married Sister
    Woods was married in 1915 to Miss Keith's sister, Lillian. Nine years later he and his wife came to Los Angeles from San Francisco, but found Miss Keith would not see them. Thinking her unable to care for herself, her relatives often sent her food, Woods said.
    "I remember that I used to carry trays of food to her door," Woods testified. "She would admit no one. Finally, I got tired of leaving the trays there for the cats to lick on. I shoved in the door, and walked into the room.
    "The room was dark, lit only by a small blue light. Margaret was dressed in black, and was veiled. She rushed into a far corner of the room, hysterical. I told her not to run, that it wouldn't do any good, and that I'd catch her. She stopped muttering.
Tired of Mystery
    "I told her I was tired of all the mystery she threw about herself and asked her to act like a human being.
    "Finally, she calmed down and talked to me for about two hours."
    Several months later, Woods said, his sister-in-law shot at him through the door of her room, explaining she thought he was a stranger who had come "to get my body."
    The jury was told of an automobile trip Miss Keith made to San Francisco in 1926 to have dental work done.
    Woods said Miss Keith dressed herself in a heavy black silk "shroud" so that no one would recognize her.
Sat on Floor
    "All the way up she squatted on the floor in the back of the car," Woods said. "I don't think she looked out of the window all during the trip."
    Asked if he could describe the woman, Woods said she was a brunette, "with pale gray eyes and a pallid complexion."
    Miss Etta Keith Eskridge and David Keith, sister and brother of the decedent, and Mrs. Mary Ellen Towle, Allen's sister, are contesting the will on the grounds Miss Keith was of unsound mind. Allen is a nephew of Miss Keith, who was the daughter of a multimillionaire Salt Lake City mining man.
Salt Lake Tribune, December 19, 1933, page 5


KIN ACCUSED OF KIDNAPPING
Woman Files $225,000 Suit Against Father, Brother

    LOS ANGELES, Dec. 23 (AP)--A suit for $225,000 damages, charging her father and her brother with kidnapping, threats and intimidation, was filed here today by Mrs. Mary Allen Towle.
    The defendants are Albert C. Allen, senior and junior, of Medford, Ore.
    Mrs. Towle is one of the contestants in the legal fight over the estate of the strange wealthy recluse, the late Margaret Keith, whose will named junior Allen as sole heir.
    She alleges that her father and brother, by threats and intimidation, took her share in the estate of her mother, the late Mrs. Lillian Keith Allen-Woods, who was Mrs. Keith's sister.
    She sets forth that her mother first married Albert C. Allen, senior, and divorced him in 1915, later marrying P. H. Woods. She died May 31, 1931.
    On the day of her mother's death, Mrs. Towle charges, her father and brother "by threats, force and intimidation," took her against her will to Medford, Ore., and induced her to sign a power of attorney which gave them control of her inheritance from her mother. She charges that they deprived her of $25.00 [sic] worth of bonds and properties worth $100,000. She asks, in addition to the reimbursement for such property, damages of $100,000 because of "humiliation and embarrassment."
    "They threatened to have me placed in an insane asylum unless I signed those papers," she alleges. She alleges she was held in Oregon against her will for more than 30 days.
Salt Lake Tribune, December 24, 1933, page 3


Wilson McCarthy Says Spinster Entrusted him with $700,000
    LOS ANGELES, Jan. 2 (AP)--A Salt Lake and Oakland lawyer, Wilson McCarthy, told in court today of a peculiar custom observed by the late Miss Margaret Keith, millionaire spinster recluse, in welcoming guests to her home.
    Testifying in a suit contesting Miss Keith's will, leaving most of her estate to an Oregon nephew, Albert C. Allen Jr., the lawyer said he believed himself to be one of the [few] men who ever saw his client's face unveiled. He said he had been given $700,000 worth of securities to negotiate for her.
    "She told me to come right out to her home and I would find the door partly ajar," McCarthy testified. "She expected me to walk in without knocking, she said. I did as I was instructed and Miss Keith soon appeared, but once I had a wait [of] an hour."
    When he called, Miss Keith always wore a long, black gown, almost to the floor, McCarthy testified.
    He said she told him he and her banker were the only men she could trust.
    "She said her brother-in-law, Paul Woods, was going to kill her, or try to kill her, I forget which," the lawyer said.
    Miss Keith, he related, gave him $700,000 worth of bonds to take to Salt Lake, but a week later he was ordered to send them back. After objections of counsel, McCarthy was not allowed to explain these actions further.
Salt Lake Tribune, January 3, 1934, page 3



FACE OF RECLUSE SHOWN IN COURT
Photographs of Margaret Keith Produced in Will Case
    Los Angeles, January 9.--Margaret Keith's often-expressed fear--"I'd hate to be 'Exhibit A'"--was justified today. Her face, unseen by man for 20 years, was unveiled in Superior Court.
    A jury of seven women and five men, hearing the contestation of her $1,000,000 will, gazed curiously at photographs--two of the few known to exist--of the eccentric veiled heiress and saw a dark-eyed beauty of the 1910 period, hair pompadoured high, chin out-thrust imperiously.
    Mrs. Etta Keith Eskridge, her sister and one of the contestants of the will, produced the photographs of the woman who committed suicide by inhaling an anesthetic in a flower-bedecked room in one of her two pretentious mansions.
    "Margaret never had a picture taken since she was 19 or 20 years old," Mrs. Eskridge testified. "I had vowed to uphold Margaret's idea of not being exhibited to to the public view, but--" the witness vowed her head--"I think it proper to show the photographs now."
    Mrs. Eskridge described many eccentricities of Miss Keith's life, a life dedicated to the ideal of solitude. "Margaret was an unusual child," the witness said. "She exhibited strong passions."
    Miss Keith left her fortune, inherited from her father, a Utah silver magnate, to a nephew, Albert C. Allen, Jr., of Medford, Ore.

The Gazette, Montreal, Canada, January 10, 1934, page 9


KILLS SELF IN FEAR OF ORDEAL IN PUBLIC
    Los Angeles, Jan. 19--(AP)--A theory that Miss Margaret Keith, wealthy spinster recluse, may have committed suicide last April in abhorrence at the thought of appearing publicly in a court action, was hinted today at trial of relatives' suit to break her will, which leaves most of her million-dollar estate to Albert C. Allen, Jr., Oregon nephew.
    Lawyers for the contesting relatives, who have testified Miss Keith had an abnormal fear of crowds and public places, and hated men, attempted to draw testimony from her lawyer, Myron W. Silverton, that he told her on the day she committed suicide she would either have to appear in court or make a deposition before strangers in a suit against her.
Daily Independent, Helena, Montana, January 20, 1934, page 2


RECLUSE'S ESTATE FINALLY SETTLED
    LOS ANGELES, Oct. 1 (A.P.)--Superior Judge Robert W. Kenny today approved a settlement effected out of court in the estate of the millionaire recluse Miss Margaret A. Keith, who committed suicide last year in her Beverly Hills mansion. The Beverly Hills mansion of the wealthy spinster will go to a brother and sister, David Keith, of Salt Lake City, Utah, and Etta Keith Eskridge of Los Angeles. They also will get 4600 shares of Silver King mining stock. Mary Allen Towle, a niece, receives 4000 shares of the stock. Albert C. Allen Jr., Oregon farmer, who was bequeathed virtually all the estate under Miss Keith's two wills, will receive the remainder of the estate, with the provision he shall provide a trust fund of $50,000 for the benefit of his son, Albert C. Allen III. Kenny was informed by lawyers the inheritance tax on the estate will amount to $31,000.
San Diego Union, October 2, 1934, page 7





Last revised April 21, 2015