Thursday, May 16, 2013

Helliwell's First Employer in Tampa

We will recall from a prior post that CIA paymaster Paul Helliwell in his youth was listed as the manager of a liquor distribution company in 1934, the same year Prohibition ended. The treasurer of this enterprise was a Tampa attorney, Cody Fowler, who had arrived from Oklahoma some 12 years earlier.

Cuban Rum, Inc.'s Cody Fowler

Pettingill fired by Pres. T. Roosevelt
Employed by Cuban Rum, Inc. as Secretary and Manager, attorney Cody Fowler, whose mother was a real estate developer who came to Tampa from Jacksonville, was the treasurer for Cuban Rum, Inc. The address for the rum distributor was in the Citizens Bank Building, 706 Franklin in Tampa, coincidentally, where Fowler’s law office (MacFarlane, Pettingill, MacFarlane) was then housed in room 921. The building was torn down in 1978, the same year Cody Fowler died.

One of that firm's senior partners, Noah Brooks Kent Pettingill, came from a family which first moved to Tampa in 1884. He had been appointed Law Judge of the United States Provisional Court for the military district in Puerto Rico during the end of the Spanish-American War. Following that, he became U.S. Attorney in Porto Rico, as it was then called.

He was, however, summarily fired by President Theodore Roosevelt in late 1906 after it was learned he had privately taken a case against other "colleagues" within the insular court system, whose names were not revealed. 

It is possible, however, that what led to his dismissal was a scandal in 1903--a smuggling indictment involving naval officers in a court within Pettingill's jurisdiction--a scandal which saved the careers of the officers by throwing Pettingill under the tracks. We can only wonder what Pettingill learned from this experience.

Macfarlane family
Pettingill eventually retreated to western Florida to practice law in the firm Cody Fowler joined in 1924. 

Pettingill's sister had married Scotsman, Hugh Campbell Macfarlane, who had helped organize the Tampa Board of Trade in 1885 to create a port at Tampa Bay and to lure cigar manufacturers to the area. He purchased 200 acres of marshy land on the west bank of the Hillsborough River, which he developed into West Tampa, a city originally independent of Tampa itself. 

The city included at least 2,000 Cubans as early as 1895. Howard Street in West Tampa was named for Macfarlane's son, Howard Pettingill Macfarlane, a third partner in the law firm. It is, therefore, not surprising that Fowler, or possibly even his partners--Macfarlane and Pettingill--through their investment company, may have been interested in setting up a business to import rum from Cuba to take advantage of the end of Prohibition in December 1933. 

It is not known how long the relationship lasted between Paul Helliwell and the lawyers of the firm, or even whether they may have made use of the strategic position of Paul's father in the Customs house in Tampa, but the question is worth considering. 
Maud Cody Fowler

Click to enlarge. Maude the only woman.
Cody Fowler’s mother, Madeline Maud Cody had been born in March 1871 in Fayette, Tennessee to Joseph L. and Harriet Adeline Cody. She married Orin Scott Fowler in 1890, and their only child, son Orin Cody Fowler, was born in Arlington, Tennessee in 1892. 

Arlington, a few miles northeast of Memphis, was home base for the first few years of their marriage, while O.S. (as he was commonly known) worked as a traveling salesman. In 1897, we learn from the Salem, Missouri, newspaper that O. S. had been aboard a street railway car in that city with Maud's father, Joseph L. Cody, when it was struck by a loose coal car that had come unhitched from the Illinois Central's main train. Neither man was permanently injured but undoubtedly quite shaken up.

O.S., the son of Napoleon Bonaparte Fowler, grew up  in St. Louis, Missouri, and in El Dorado, Kansas, where his parents moved in 1883. Napoleon died there in 1901, while O.S. was living with his wife, Maud and young son Cody Fowler in the Panhandle Plains of Texas. The grocery store they operated was in a small community 30 miles northwest of Charles Goodnight's home. The only means of transport at that time were horses and trains. One train actually, the Fort Worth and Denver City Railroad.

If You  Build It, They Will Come...

It's not known who or what enticed Joseph Cody and O.S. Fowler to this barren land, which only a few years earlier had been the domain of the J.A. Ranch, a partnership between John George Adair (and his wife Cornelia Wadsworth Ritchie Adair) and Charles Goodnight. Adair had been an Irish securities broker who moved to Denver by way of New York, who began purchasing what would eventually become, we've been told,  "1,325,000 acres in parts of Randall, Armstrong, Donley, Hall, Briscoe, and Swisher counties," by the time of Adair's death in 1885. 

It was all left to his wife, who continued the partnership with Goodnight for a few more years. It is not clear whether she still owned the ranch when she died in 1921. However, it most likely became part of the New York and Texas Land Company consisting of millions of acres all over Texas, or the Francklyn Land and Cattle Company (White Deer Lands Trust Company) in the Panhandle.

"From 1882 to1886, N Bar N leased range in Carson and neighboring counties from the Francklyn Land & Cattle Company, a British syndicate backed by Cunard Steamship Line. Afterward this range belonged to White Deer Land Company. The N Bar N outfit left here because White Deer Land Company wanted the range cleared of large herds.

Joseph Cody's family members were settled into Carson County--including two daughters, Ola and Elsie, who were working as school teachers--where he ranched. Not far away, Maud and O.S. operated a grocery store. From advertisements that later appeared in Oklahoma newspapers, we get the sense that it was actually Maud who was mostly in charge of the grocery store operations. 

Newspapers reported in 1903 that O. S. Fowler had a ranch in Stratford, Texas, and that he ran for election for County Judge of  Sherman County (not Carson, where they lived). 

Though we gleaned all our resources, it was totally unverifiable at this time. If he was a candidate in Sherman County, he lost. Neither could we find reports of his candidacy in Carson County.

By 1903, however, they had relocated to Oklahoma, just a few miles west of Oklahoma City. Maud was clearly in charge, and she didn't hesitate to let everyone know it.

Her sister, Ola Edna Cody, married in 1906. Son Cody Fowler was sent off to military school. The N. B. Fowlers moved east of Oklahoma City to make a homestead claim, which they accomplished in 1909, the same year N.B. Fowler died. Things began to change after that. The O. S. Fowlers sold their grocery store in El Reno and relocated to Kansas City. Before July 1910 Maud and O.S. had seen advertisements for land for sale in Florida, and, just as so many others had done, they bought a few tracts. 

 Florida Drained Land Company

Unlike most, however, they actually visited Florida that year to talk to people onsite about buying more land in the Everglades. The people they saw apparently signed them up as agents to help sell the land. Maud (always called Mrs. M.C.) Fowler was being written up by commercial newsman Gilbert D. Leach in October 1910 as having been engaged in sales of Florida lands only a few months, revealing she had a unique ability to resell the land almost instantly at a much higher price.

Maud was soon on the payroll of the Florida Drained Land Co. with the job of entertaining passengers being taken by train to visit Florida to hear a sales pitch from the company. Articles were placed in Missouri and Kansas papers that mentioned a certain Mrs. M. C. Fowler, also known as "Mother" Fowler, who made the trip so enjoyable for prospective buyers.

In the meantime, O.S. had found his niche as a hotel manager for the Elsmere Hotel in Kansas City, Missouri. The 1911 Kansas City directory listed Maud's name (M. C. Fowler) as vice-president of the Security Underwriters Corporation that year. 

Florida history sites have stated Maud had lived in "Kansas City where she became one of the most successful women of the business world in that city and, as Vice President of the Security Underwriters Corp. of Kansas City, she was one of few strong businesswomen of that day and also headed the Kansas City Women’s Athletic Club." In fact, Maud's name did appear in Kansas City newspapers as "Mrs. M. C. Fowler," president of the Women's Athletic Club, in 1913.

She somehow avoided being tainted by the white-collar scandal that began to hit the news in 1912. Some of the land buyers panicked when they noticed the monthly checks they were sending to Plantation Lands or Florida Farm Land Co.--there were other similarly named companies as well--were being deposited into accounts held in New York by an octopus-like entity known as Security Underwriters Corporation. 

It was reported that this company's stock was controlled by a syndicate of engineering companies which had allegedly contracted with the original owners of the land engaged in selling it off by agent companies to dredge laterals and canals in connection with the work previously done by the State of Florida, as promised by the Governor.

Without using that language, the reports alleged the sales companies were engaged in a ponzi scheme. The buyers' payments were being spent as rapidly as they were received, and none of those funds were being used to drain the land. It was fraud, pure and simple, attorneys for the buyers claimed. 

When their lawsuits rendered them no recovery in the form of damages, by the end of 1912 they filed applications for receivership under state laws akin to federal  involuntary bankruptcy. That seemed to  have put a halt on Maud Fowler's cash cow for the time being.

The Fowlers--Hotel Managers
Orin S. and Maud C. Fowler's names cropped up as managers of Artesian Farm Land Sales in the 1913  Jacksonville, Florida, city directory. They were then living at the Hotel Jackson at 206 Main, but in 1915 their names appeared in connection with the Seminole Hotel in Jacksonville, Florida. Son Cody was also in Jacksonville in 1913, but living at the YMCA while practicing law at Miller & Fowler.

Oklahoma City addresses 1918
The Fowler, however, moved back to Oklahoma City, apparently to care for Maud's mother, Harriet Cody, who died in January 1917. The city directory listed their names as proprietors of the Martinique (112 NW 7th) and Hadden Hall (215 N.W. 10th)  hotels in Oklahoma City.  A year later they were managing the Hotel Lawrence at 15 West Grand Avenue.

Cody Fowler married in 1915, two years after graduating from Cumberland University in Tennessee with a law degree. He and his wife, the former Maude Stewart, lived with her parents--Mr. and Mrs. Thomas J. Stewart, Sr., a wealthy lumber man in Arkansas before relocating to Oklahoma City, where his office was in the Insurance Building, 114 No. Broadway. 
In 1917 he began two years of military service during WWI and, after returning, was elected Department Commander of the American Legion of Oklahoma, serving until August 1924. At that point he set out for Tampa, Florida, where he already had a job, working for the Macfarlane, Pettingill law firm.
Even after moving to Florida, Cody Fowler continued his involvement with the American Legion and also became active in the chamber of commerce. In 1950 he was named president of the American Bar Association. He was about as conservative politically as one could be at that time, according to a write-up about him in the Tampa Daily Times.
His father had long since died, but his mother was then still living in Tampa, Florida, involved in selling real estate.

Artesian Farms had been incorporated in 1910 by a partnership of the Bolles Trust Co. and the son of former Florida governor, William Sherman Jennings. Governor W. S. Jennings moved from Chicago to Florida in 1885, settling in Jacksonville after serving as Florida's governor 1901-05. William Jennings Bryan's mother, Mariah Jennings, was a sister of William Sherman Jennings. She married her brother's law partner, Virginia-born Silas Bryan, in 1852. Silas had moved west to Illinois after his parents died. His own death occurred in Marion, Illinois in 1880. At that time the Bryans' eldest son, named for the future Florida governor, was a young student of 20 with four younger siblings.

In 1881 William Jennings Bryan began law school in Chicago, spending much of his time at the home of former Senator Lyman Trumbull. In 1883 he began practicing law in Jacksonville, Illinois, where he married in 1884, but by 1887 the newlyweds had moved to Lincoln, Nebraska. He was first elected to Congress as a Democrat and from Nebraska and began serving in Washington in January 1891.

His mother's brother, William Sherman Jennings, had since moved to Florida. In 1900, Jennings was elected governor of Florida for the term from 1901 to 1905. While governor, Jennings is credited with coming up with the idea of draining the Everglades by cutting the natural rock dams in the rivers and allowing the water to run out. His successor as governor, Napoleon Bonaparte Broward, a gunrunner between Jacksonville and Cuba during the Spanish-American War, continued the effort to drain the Everglades until his term ended in 1909. He died the next year.

Early in 1909 an ad campaign began throughout the Midwest, begging for sales agents on behalf of Florida Fruit Lands Co., one of many companies controlled by Richard Bolles.

"On December 26, 1908, the trustees of the Internal Improvement Fund [of the State of Florida] signed a contract with Richard Bolles, conveying to the latter 500,000 acres of overflowed state lands for two dollars an acre. As part of the deal, the State agreed to use half the proceeds of the sale for drainage and reclamation purposes. Dicky Bolles became the second million-dollar purchaser of lands from the State of Florida (matching Hamilton Disston's investment in the 1880's)."

"Bolles' land promotions reached a feverish pitch in March, 1911, when his Florida Fruit Lands Company held a giant land auction in Fort Lauderdale. When representatives of the potential bidders realized that no auction was to take place; that they were expected to execute deeds already designated by the Company; and that the purchased lands were still under water, they brought suit against Dicky Bolles and the Florida Fruit Lands Company. The case was settled in November 1913, with the court allowing Bolles to keep the $1,400,000 already paid him, but prohibiting him from collecting any further funds until the State had fulfilled its contract to drain and survey the Everglades lands." 
At the same time the civil settlement was reached, however, a federal indictment was issued for fraudulent use of the mails and using the mail to conduct an illegal lottery after the defendants lost in their petition to be able to present witnesses before the grand jury that they had proceeded legally. Even so, those charges were dismissed in April 1914, stating the company and its officers were guiltless.

But it had been a harrowing two-year period for the sales agents, who had no means of making money. In Tampa, for example, the Daily Times reported about one agent who was so desperate for money he had  bought a typewriter on credit and sold it for $20. The buyer was suspicious, investigated, and found out the typewriter was not legally owned by the seller. Police were called and arrested the man in his hotel room. 
He died in a Tampa cell that night after drinking a vial of carbolic acid carried in his shoe. Police and reporters were curious about the man's real name and residence. A card found in his pocket bore the name Florida Land Co., with an address at the Chemical Building in St. Louis. On investigation it was learned that Mrs. M. C. Fowler had rented an office in that building for two months the previous summer; her real address, however, was in Kansas City. 
When passing through Tampa, she had talked to railroad officials about a man in the Jacksonville office who had committed suicide with a gun a week earlier than the Tampa suicide. Sounds like sales agents were dropping like flies while sales were being held up by the courts.

After leaving the governorship in 1905, Jennings became "very active locally, promoting the sale of real estate for George Merrick, the founder of Coral Gables."
The Artesian Farm Land Co. was at that time housed in the Dyal-Upchurch Building, at 4 East Bay in room 310, next door to the Atlantic and East Coast Terminal company--near the corner of Main and East Bay years before the Main Street bridge was constructed.

Church near old Hadden Hall in 1917
Directories for 1917 and 1918 also show the O. Cody Fowler family living in Jacksonville at 721 West 15th Avenue, though simultaneously claiming to be a resident of Oklahoma City, at Hadden Hall, on West (now NW) 10th Street (between N. Robinson and N. Harvey avenues), only a half block from First Christian Church.

A duplicative listing in the 1920 Census, however, showed Cody and his wife living with her parents in Oklahoma City.
At some point prior to 1920 the elder Fowlers bought a house in Jacksonville, Florida, as the U.S. Census for that year shows Orin S. and Maude C. Fowler living on Edgewood Avenue. Maude's younger sister Elsie Lee Cody, an unmarried school teacher, moved to Florida from the Texas panhandle and later lived at 1860 Oak in Jacksonville, later relocated to Tampa.

The Fowlers listed their occupations that year as a druggist and truck garden farmer.
Perhaps the lies had something to do with the massive fraudulent schemes which had already been occurring in Florida as early as 1912. One newspaper, the Miami Metropolis, had traced the fraud to Wall Street and to some land investors operating all over the country at the time, in particular the Security Underwriters Corp. of Kansas City mentioned above.

Click image to enlarge.

 We'll examine these allegations in future posts.

[Originally published 5/16/2013]

Next, see:
When White Russians Invaded Florida

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