Monday, September 19, 2011

Marchie Gress, The Little Heroine of 12 Parental Kidnappings in 3 Years - 1908

FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 2)

~ Chronology of Marchie Gress’ Adventures ~

March, 23, 1905—Born at Spokane, Wash.

November 23, 1905—Spirited away by mother and hidden in suburbs of Spokane.

December 23, 1905—Discovered by father and taken to Santa Barbara.

December 31, 1905—Mother makes futile attempt to kidnap Marchie.

January 23, 1906—Two detectives steal child from father at Santa Barbara; overtaken and at point of revolver made to deliver her to father.

April 23, 1906—Taken to San Francisco by father.

May 13, 1906—Mother attempts to get possession of child at San Francisco. Father returns with Marchie to Santa Barbara.

September 23, 1906—Mother hires detectives; attempts to get child at Santa Barbara. Father makes sensational getaway when friend tosses baby to him on rapidly moving train.

January 30, 1907—Marchie taken to Santa Cruz, where father later joined church and took minister’s advice to write to mother suggesting reconciliation.

November 10, 1907—Mother attempts to kidnap child at Santa Cruz. Mother goes to Arizona for health.

March 23, 1908—Mother wires she is dying; asks to see child. Father takes child to Phoenix; finds he has been hoaxed. Mother allowed to keep child.

April 13, 1908—Marchie taken by father; placed in Catholic institution at Tucson, Ariz.

June 3, 1908—Taken by mother from institution and brought to Los Angeles.

June 13, 1908—Father finds child; takes her to Pasadena.

June 23, 1908—Marchie taken by father to home of J. E. Ware, 1854 West Adams street, Los Angeles.

July 13, 1908—Taken by father to children’s training school, Pasadena.

July 30, 1908—Taken from school by mother, who took Marchie to Pasadena.

August 13, 1908—Father regains possession of child at Pasadena.

August 31, 1908—Marchie taken to Mrs. Ware, West Adams street, Los Angeles.

September 1, 1908—Taken by mother to San Diego.

September 5, 1908—Recovered at San Diego by father, who made sensational dash to Santa Ana in automobile and into Los Angeles by electric car.

September 6, 1908—Father starts for Kansas City on Santa Fe route.

Snatched from her mother’s side, tossed into an automobile, and whirled away  through the darkness and pursued mounted police who had  been detailed to guard her; sleeping fitfully, cuddled in her father’s arms, while the big motor car plunged into the night in a record-breaking run from Diego to Santa Ana, smuggled into Los Angeles, hidden for a night and a day in a big downtown hotel and last evening taken aboard a train bound for Kansas City – such is the latest tragic experience of beautiful, golden-haired Marchie Gress, who in her brief life has been buffeted about like a leaf in an autumn wind.

Kidnaped twelve times, trailed across a dozen states and Canada, this little brown-eyed lass now is safe with her father, after figuring on Saturday and yesterday in one of the most thrilling abduction escapades ever resorted to by a parent to regain possession of a child.

When little Marchie was taken from the home of John E. Ware, 1816 West Adams street, last Tuesday and spirited away by the mother to Pasadena, A. R. Gress, the father, decided that the twelfth. abduction would be the last and that he would take his child far beyond all chance of pursuit and recapture. And when he boarded the Santa Fe overland train last night, undiscovered, although the police of two cities had been asked to find him. Gress strained the little girl to his breast and expressed the belief that now he and she are safe.

~ Father Frantic with Grief ~

Tragic events in the life of Marchie after she was taken to Pasadena last Tuesday followed fast on one another. On Tuesday night the little girl was taken on the Owl train to San Diego by her mother, who is now the wife of a well known business man in the southern city. When Gress realized that his daughter was lost to him again he was frantic. He controlled himself, and calmly. Old with the utmost deliberation began to lay plans recovering her. He learned the name of his former wife’s husband and the address of the couple. Friday night he left Los Angeles and early the next morning arrived in San Diego. He found the address, and asked the husband of the former Mrs. Gress if he might I have a last talk with Marchie, saying he was going away for a long time and might never see her again.  After discussing the subject a few moments the couple decided Gress, could see the child in the park in the afternoon, but only in the presence of  the mother and her present husband. The latter also took occasion to inform Gress that he was armed and intimated that the father need make no attempt to steal the child.

Gress acted promptly. Going to a garage he hired two of the most powerful cars in the place and daring drivers. He stationed the automobiles one at either side of the park – and waited. About 3 o’clock came Mrs. Gress, her husband and Marchie. The child gave a joyous shout as she recognized her father. Soon. the parent was petting and fondling his little girl, all the time endeavoring to draw her away from the mother and near enough to one of the automobiles enable him to make a sudden lash. But all in vain. Mrs. Gress and her husband would not allow Gress and the child more than a few feet away from them and the father began to despair. Time and again he sought to escape with Marchie, but to no purpose.

~ Resorts to a Ruse. ~

It was growing late.

“Well, good by,” said Gross, “I must go. Come here, Marchie.”

He kissed the child again and again as she clung to him and apparently with the deepest emotion besought the mother to always be tender and kind to Marchie and never to allow her to forget her father. Then he turned and walked rapidly away.

Believing all danger was past the mother led Marchie to a street car, which they boarded, and Johnson, the husband, returned to his place of business.

But they had reckoned without Gress.

Hardly had they motorman started his car when around the corner of the park came in big automobile, driven by B. I. Blanchard, a skillful chauffeur, and as a passenger, Gress. The chauffeur obligingly exchanged hats with Gress in order that the latter might not be recognized so easily. They followed the street car until it stopped to allow Mrs. Gress and the child to alight.

Gress’ heart beat high with hope of success, but as he pictured himself fleeing with his child she saw at the corner a mounted policeman. The chauffeur urged Gress to delay until the officer had departed, but the father-love was overpowering.

“You’ve got to beat him,” be whispered to Blanchard. “Be ready.”

~ Makes Dash for Open ~

When the automobile’s pace slackened as the gear was thrown out, the engine speeding swiftly, but silently. Gress leaped from the tonneau, rushed forward and seized Marchie in his arms,” dashed back to the motor car and jumped in, holding the child close to his breast. The chauffeur threw in the clutch, went immediately to the third speed and the great car plunged forward before the astonished mother and the policeman on guard could realize what had transpired.

“Oh, I knew you would come, papa,” sobbed Marchie joyously, as she lay in her father’s arms.

The mother was in a frenzy.

“Stop him! Arrest him!  He has stolen my child!” she screamed, but the policeman needed no urging, Spurring violently he wheeled his horse and dashed in pursuit, blowing his whistle to summon assistance. He was joined by another officer and the two took on the mad chase while the frantic mother alternately prayed and shouted words of encouragement.

Down D street flew the motor car, the explosions in the cylinders making only a continuous roar; a scant block behind rode the police, calling on Gress and the chauffeur to halt in the name of the law.

~ Escapes from Pursuers ~

As if realizing the precious burden and the hopes it carried, the motor sped as a thing alive, the engine responding: to every touch of the driver’s hand. Slowly the gap between pursuer and pursued lengthened. A block and a half, two blocks, and as Gress shielded Marchie as best he could from the biting dust and wind he blessed the man who invented the automobile.

Turning on to Union street Blanchard opened wide the throttle and advanced the spark and out toward Oldtown the car dashed, drawing farther and farther away from the police whose panting and exhausted horses gave evidence that the chase soon must end.

Not until ten miles had been covered did Blanchard slacken speed, and then, as though the fickle goddess of Chance had smiled too approvingly on Gress, they lost their way. A road leading to a cul de sac seven miles distant was their first misfortune. Seven miles there and back, fourteen in all, and a good half hour lost. Inquiring their way they again found themselves on the main thoroughfare, and with renewed hope they rushed on toward Oceanside.

But poor little Marchie, who had neither coat nor hat, nothing but a little pink frock, pink stockings and sandals, was shivering with the cold. Gress took off his coat and wrapped it closely about the child. He pressed her to his breast, bending far over her, his body a shield against the wind.

~ Mother Love Everywhere ~

At Del Mar Gress, fearing for the life of his child, decided to stop and purchase a coat or at least a shawl for Marchie. But the mother-love with which all women are imbued made this unnecessary. As they drew up in front of a store Mrs. F. O. Stelzner, seeing the condition of the child, took her own shawl, wrapped it about Marchie, and going inside brought out a little cape.

“It belonged to ---,” she said softly; “the child is welcome to it.”

Dusk was at hand, and Blanchard lighted the big acetylene lamps on his car. “Now for Santa Ana,” he muttered, as he turned again into the highway and rushed past a group of rustics, who to Gress’ fearing eyes appeared to be constables armed with telegraphic warrants for his detention.

From Del Mar to Oceanside the car skimmed smoothly over the oiled roads, reeling off the miles as though space was nothing to a motor. At Oceanside the tank was replenished with gasoline, and the dash toward Santa Ana was resumed.

The last street car leaves Santa Ana for Los Angeles at 11 o’clock,” suggested Gress. The remark touched chauffeur’s pride.

“I’ll get you to Santa Ana before 11 o’clock if this machine stays in the road,” he replied. “And if I don’t, well, I’ll take you on to Los Angeles.”

Not another word was spoken, Blanchard, bending low over the steering wheel, gave all his attention to the road as it disappeared beneath him. Marchie slept fitfully, shuddering as though her restless life and tragic experiences formed the substance of her dreams. Gress crooned over the child, holding her closely in his arms.

~ A Human Chauffeur ~

On they sped at a rate never before traveled by motor car over that road at night. At 10:35 they saw ahead the lights of Santa Ana. At 10:45 Blanchard stopped the car at the street railway station and the humming of the engine died away in a deep diapason which softened into a sigh, almost human, as though the big machine realized a stupendous task had been completed.

“Here you are,” said the chauffeur, cheerily. “The trolley will be here in a few minutes. Good-by and good luck.” He stooped and kissed the child’s forehead, and drove away to the garage.

Gress and Marchie boarded the 11 o’clock car for Los Angeles, the child asleep, the father keeping watch. At midnight they arrived in Los Angeles, and, still carrying the little girl, Gress went to a down town hotel, where he put Marchie to bed and lay down, but not to sleep. Asthmatic for years, he had contracted a severe cold in his wild flight, which resulted in a high fever. Arising in the morning, haggard and racked by frequent fits of coughing, he hastened to communicate with Mr. and Mrs. Ware, from whose home Marchie had been taken last week, and asked their assistance. Mr. Ware went to the hotel, where he assured Gress he would aid him in every way possible.

~ Loves Marchie as Her Own Child ~

“Little Marchie won her way into my heart with one smile,” said Mrs. Ware yesterday. “We knew Mr. Gress several years ago in San Diego. He came to my husband and told him of his trouble. Mr. Gress brought Marchie to our home and I told him I would keep her as long as he could leave her. My children were devoted to her and we were heartbroken when she was taken away.”

Assured that Marchie was with her father and would soon off far away where her troubles would cease, Mrs. Ware’s eyes filled with tears. “I am so glad it has turned out as it has. I know little of her mother, but I know she loves her father and will be happy with him. How any one could be cruel to a cherub like that is beyond all comprehension.”

Questioned along the line of cruel treatment, Mrs. Ware said:

“Some one mistreated the child. Between the time she was taken from me and returned nearly three weeks later she was beaten and in some manner the hair torn from her head in two places. Marchie said it was not her ‘truly mamma’ who beat and maltreated her, but she gave the name of a woman in a Pasadena institution. She said she was struck with a ruler because she could not dress herself. Her side and back were a mass of blue marks. Her own mother was as indignant as I was about it. It is my intention to take the affair up with the Pasadena people. She was a well behaved, sweet-tempered child, a wee philosopher. Her experience has made a little woman of this baby. Why, when I was forced to awaken her in the night to tell her they were going to take her away, Marchie sighed but did not cry. ‘All yite, if papa wants me I guess I’ll go, but I’m coming back to you some day. Mamma Dare, ‘cause I love you best of all.”

~ Scene Is Heartrending ~

Perhaps the most heartrending scene in the history of this young child’s life was enacted at the beautiful home of Mrs. Ware when Mrs. Gress, accompanied by J. E. Byrne, the Pasadena attorney, went there to take her away last Tuesday. They reached the Ware home when Mr. Ware was away and the woman who had been such a good mother to little Marchie was alone, with no one to advise her. Mrs. Ware forced the attorney to administer a solemn oath to Mrs. Gress that she was the mother of the child; to give her true name and to swear she would forever be kind to the little one. Then came the sad scene of parting. Little Aileen Ware, about Marchie’s age and her inseparable companion, was inconsolable.

“If you take Marchie away I must go, too,” said little Aileen, shaking her dark curls as she set about to pack up small belongings to Join her playmate in a journey out into the big world. Marchie clung to Mrs. Ware, whom she loves better than any of the many mammas in her little life and whom she has always affectionately called “Mamma Dare.”

Those who saw the woman kneel and clasp the tiny girl to her bosom; saw the tears swell up from her big motherly heart, heard her mingle her sobs with those of the babe and heard the child’s words will never forget that scene:

“Don’t let them take me away, Mamma Dare, I love you. Mamma Dare. You don’t beat me. I want to stay with you and sister,” sobbed Marchie.

“But, dearie; don’t you want to go with your truly mamma?”

“No, Mamma Dare. I love my papa, but that other mamma don’t love me. They take me away in the night, why don’t they let me rest, Mamma Dare. Don’t let them take me. Nobody loves me but you. That woman beat me because I couldn’t dress. They pull my hair out.” And the big brown eyes filled with tears as the child looked at the lawyer who turned away.

“Oh, Mamma Dare; does Jesus truly love little girls? Why don’t he make them let me rest?”

“Don’t Marchie; don’t talk like that: you’re breaking my heart.”

“If they break my heart. Mamma Dare, I’ll die; then you can bury me out there under the rose bush with my white yabbet. Then Aileen will put some flowers on top and say, “Here’s poor little Marchie; she’s so sleepy they can’t bother her any more. Mamma Dare.”

That Mrs. Gress and the attorney intend to get away with the child at any hazard is the belief of Mrs. Ware. She says they had an automobile waiting around the corner from her home and that the driver quickly approached as a signal and Marchie was taken away. When Herald reporters found Mr. Gress at a downtown hotel yesterday the man showed the signs of his sleepless nights and exciting days.

“Yes, I’ve got Marchie here, said the father, his eyes flashing; “and I’m going to keep her. She has suffered enough. I am going where I am known and have influential friends. I think it will go hard with anyone who tries to take her away again. I am going to take care of her from this on and she shall have a home where she can be well cared for and have an education. Questioned about his adventure in San Diego Mr. Gress laughed quietly. He said the dispatches from San Diego were in the main correct. He admitted the situation was somewhat dramatic.

~ Will Leave State ~

“I don’t care particularly about heroics,” said Mr. Gress. “I have had about as much of that sort of thing as I want. My ambition is to get clear away from here now where I can have my child in peace. I am not aware the police are looking for me, though I admit I shall breathe freer when I get out of the state. Not that any one has a right to detain me or touch my child, yet I shrink from further annoyance and persecution. We shall leave for my former home on a night train.”

Mr. Gress turned to a trained nurse who entered the room and told her to awaken Marchie for her luncheon, which was served in the suite. The woman returned in a few minutes tenderly bearing her pink burden. Never did a sweeter, more pathetic little face peep out from a frame of tousled curls. Her eyes, big. brown and with a wondrous depth, seemed ready for tears or laughter. She looked wonderingly at the reporters and said: “Oh, papa, Marchie was so sleepy. I dreamed such a beautiful dream. I thought Aileen was here and she climbed on my bed.”

The child’s voice was soft and her drawl delightfully sweet. Marchie turned to the nurse and looked searchingly into her eyes and said:

“Are you going to be a new mamma? If you are you must be careful when you comb my hair ‘tause I dot two places that hurts awful if you don’t be easy with Marchie.”

“Yes, darling, I am going away with you on the train tonight. I’ll be your mamma until you get to your auntie’s beautiful big home. Won’t you love me, Marchie?”

The child stepped up, put her chubby arms around the kneeling nurse’s neck and patted her softly on the back and Marchie had made one more friend for life.

~ Guests of Marchie ~

Marchie insisted that everybody present should be her guests at luncheon. Reporters and artist sat at the table and pretended to eat while the youngster played the hostess. After luncheon she recited a short poem, and, lying on the sofa, crooned two or three little songs in Spanish, which were readily distinguishable as the melodies taught by the good sisters in the Tucson school.

At times she was silent, looking out the window across the gray roofs of the houses and far away toward the blue mountains, and those who gazed into the depths of those eyes wondered what was in the child’s mind.

“Are you going to take me away tonight, papa?” asked the sprite after a pause. Assured that that was the intention, the child waited a long time and then said:

“Papa, I just can’t go without seeing Mamma Dare. She’ll just cry her eyes out.” This with melting pathos that was irresistible.

“You shall see her, sweetheart!” exclaimed the father, and last night before the overland left for the east there was another meeting and parting that will never be forgotten by those who witnessed it.

It was 6 o’clock. The conductor of the overland signalled to the engineer, and the long train moved slowly out of the Le Grande station. Gress sat in a Pullman car, the child in his arms.

“You’re safe now, little girl,” he whispered tenderly. But Marchie was fast asleep.


The experiences of little Marchie Gress are almost unbelievable, in such a remarkable collection of tragedies has she been the principal figure.

The story of her wanderings, thrilling abductions and recaptures was told yesterday to a Herald reporter, who found Mr. Gress at his hotel.

Marchie was born in Spokane in 1905 in March, hence her name. When the child was 7 months old Gress moved to Santa Barbara and engaged in the shoe business. He left Marchie with her mother in Spokane. A month afterward she brought the child to Santa Barbara and the couple separated, Gress keeping Marchie, but allowing the mother to see her whenever she desired. Soon, Gress says, he observed the evident intention on the part of Mrs. Gress to gain possession of the child. He took Marchie and went to Salt Lake, but was compelled, on account of his health, to return to California. Again taking up his residence in Santa Barbara, where the mother was, Gress watched the child day and night. He decided to go to Spokane, but fearing an attempt on the part of Mrs. Gress to take the child from him resorted to extreme measures.

Gress bribed a porter on the train to open a vestibule door on the side of the train opposite the station. He then hired a coachman to take the child, secrete her until the train started and then pass her to him through the open door. All went well until the train started and the coachman rushed forth. He stumbled and fell, dropping the child. Hastily gaining his feet he redeemed himself by overtaking the train and tossing Marchie to her father while the mother and her friends stood by unable to interfere.

Gress stayed in Spokane a year, saved some money and came to Santa Cruz, Cal. Marchie’s mother also went to Santa Cruz and again the fight for possession of the child was waged. Now in her father’s care, again in her mother’s, the child was dragged back and forth.

Next Mrs. Gress is heard of in Arizona. She wrote to Gress to bring the child there, which he did, with the usual result. Finally Marchie was placed in a Catholic home at Tucson, whence she was taken by Mrs. Gress. Gress In the meantime had asked the advice of a minister, who told him he should allow the mother to have an opportunity to see Marchie whenever she chose.

Gress came to Pasadena and later sent money to Mrs. Gress, and the latter and Marchie joined him there. Being compelled to find a home for the little girl Gress sent her to Mrs. Ware’s, took her away, sent her back, and for a time the child was at an orphanage in Pasadena.

Then began the exciting incidents that culminated in the recovery of Marchie by her father at San Diego and her departure with him last night for the east.

[“In Wild Auto Ride Regains Stolen Child. Father Recovers Babe By Midnight Flight Motorcar Distance Mounted Policemen - Beautiful Little Marchie Greta Again Figures In Thrilling Adventure In Which Auto and Paternal Love Are Victorious,” Los Angeles Herald (Ca.), Sep. 7, 1908, p. 1]

FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 2): Marchie Gress, the little heroine of twelve dramatic if not tragic kidnapping incidents in her three brief years, is now in the hands of her father’s friends in an eastern city. Wherever Marchie goes she makes her own friends, and makes them rapidly. In fact everyone who comes directly in contact with this beautiful and lovable child feels the Influence of her sweet personality.

The story of Marchie Gress, the central figure in the thrilling abduction scene at San Diego Saturday night, and the daring escape of her father in a big motor car which made a record night run from the southern city to Santa Ana, was told exclusively in Monday's Herald.

Despite the fact detectives were detailed on the case and patrolmen were on the watch, Gress had little difficulty in eluding them and spending the remainder of the night and the following day in one of the big downtown hotels and getting away on the overland train Sunday night for the east.

John E. Ware of 1815 West Adams street received the following telegram from Mr. Gress when the latter passed through Needles today:

“Marchie’s fever subsided and she had a good night’s rest, Nurse says she is all right. Don't let our friends worry about us. Thank everybody for their great kindness. A. R. Gress.”

Mr. Ware I explained that Marchie had considerable temperature when they left Los Angeles in the Pullman attached to Sunday night's overland train. Mrs. Ware, whom Marchie affectionately calls “Mamma Dare,” was delighted to receive the telegram.

“I am so glad Marchie is out of all danger and will soon be among her father’s friends,” said Mrs. Ware.

During Mr. Gress’ stay in Los Angeles he made several trips in automobiles to different points in the city. One of these trips took him to the central police station, where he waited half an hour In the corridor while his attorney had a confidential talk with a high police official.

Mr. Gress called on Attorney J. E. Byrne of Pasadena. He met a dozen friends whom he could trust. Again a Herald representative was the only newspaper man to get on his trail.

Mr. Ware and other friends of Mr. Gress believe he is now safe from further trouble and that Marchie’s twelfth kidnaping experience will be the last.

[“Marchie Gress Among Friends - Little Heroine Of Many Tragedies Is Safe - Story of Dramatic Escape from San Diego and Midnight Dash in Auto Told Exclusively in The Herald,” Los Angeles Herald (Ca.), Sep. 8, 1908, p. 1]

1 comment:

  1. Hello, I am the granddaughter of Mrs. J.E. Ware and my great-uncle Frank E. Wolfe was the Editor of the Herald when this story appeared. You have done a remarkable job, except for the photo of the child next to the photo of the child sitting on my grandmother's lap. The singular photo is a picture of my mother, who when that was taken was part of a pair of pictures that appeared in the Herald as baby beauty contestant.
    Please contact me at

    Thank you,
    Vicki Ware Cheesman