Sensational child custody case involved daughter of Monmouth banker
MONMOUTH, Ill. — On the morning of Wednesday, April 19, 1905, 76-year-old retired Monmouth banker Harrison Frantz was returning from the funeral service of a neighbor, Mary McQuown, held at Second United Presbyterian Church, just a block south of his home, which stood at the corner of Broadway and South Eighth St. Walking with him was his six-year-old grandson, Lawrence Lindsay.
As they neared the Frantz residence, they passed a buggy parked on the west side of the street. Suddenly, a man jumped out of the buggy, pushed Frantz aside and pulled the child into the buggy. The man’s driver, a Pinkerton detective from Chicago, whipped the horse and turned east onto Broadway, heading out of the city toward Galesburg.
The kidnapper was none other than the child’s father, Dr. John Clarence Lindsay of Chicago. Immediately, Frantz hailed two telephone linemen in their buggy to follow in chase. He jumped into his own buggy, parked in front of his house, and picked up a neighbor to assist. Just east of the city limits, Dr. Lindsay’s horse gave out and the pursuers grabbed the horse. Sheriff Burner was sent for, and the child’s mother also arrived on the scene in a closed cab.
As soon as the sheriff learned the state of affairs, he told all the participants that they would have to go back to town with him and answer to the charge of riot. He also took possession of the child until the case could be heard.
That afternoon, a hearing was held in the Warren County courthouse. The child’s mother, 38-year-old Pearl Frantz Lindsay, approached the sheriff and convinced him to let her son sit with him. Just before the case was called, she snatched the child in her arms and made a dash for the door, but was immediately grabbed and detained. In the trial, all participants were exonerated of riot, and the sheriff attempted to secure the child to return him to his father.
Mrs. Lindsay, however, held tenaciously to her son until the sheriff gave up. For the next 15 minutes, the mother and father struggled physically to take the child, but Dr. Lindsay eventually decided it was fruitless and returned to Chicago without his son.
This was not the first attempted kidnapping in what would turn out to be a long and bitter child custody and divorce case. Two years earlier, on March 11, 1903, Dr. Lindsay had come to Monmouth and hired a rig and driver to patrol in front of his wife’s house. At 8:30 a.m., he spotted his son and pulled him into the carriage, driving rapidly away.
Mrs. Lindsay soon realized what had happened and enlisted the help of her father and several police officers to go after the kidnappers. They first went to the depot to ensure a getaway couldn’t be made by train. Suddenly, the doctor’s carriage was sighted and a chase was begun through the muddy streets at break-neck speed. By prearrangement, the doctor and his driver jumped into another carriage, leaving the chase party to go after the wrong vehicle.
Several hours later, the father and son were located at a house on North First Street, where they were waiting for the departure of the afternoon train. The father and mother each sought to take control of their son, and eventually the state’s attorney was called in as an arbitrator. After more than an hour of discussion, Dr. Lindsay agreed to let his wife take the child home and he headed back to Chicago empty-handed.
A few months later, on Dec. 18, Dr. Lindsay attempted still another abduction. Arriving in Monmouth on the morning train, he ordered a sleigh and driver sent to the Arlington Hotel. Just before 9 a.m., he spotted Lawrence walking to kindergarten and pulled him into the sleigh, heading for Galesburg. This time, he succeeded in getting Lawrence to Chicago to join his older son, Edward. Mrs. Lindsay told a reporter from the Monmouth Daily Review that she believed her husband intended to begin divorce proceedings against her and wanted to have possession of both children before the suit was instituted.
It was just another chapter in a vicious struggle that would drag on for seven years before reaching the Illinois Supreme Court.
Born in 1866, Pearl Frantz Lindsay was one of seven children of William Henry Harrison Frantz and his wife, Mary, whose father had helped to lay out the town of Monmouth and purchased the first lot. Mr. Frantz was a successful farmer and stock raiser, who traveled to England, Scotland and Frantz to purchased cattle and Clydesdale horses. In 1890, he retired to Monmouth and built a fine home at 903 East Broadway. Frantz was also a banker, serving 50 years as a director of the Monmouth National Bank, and as its president from 1900 to 1902.
In 1889, Pearl married J. Clarence Lindsay, a medical student at New York’s Columbia University. A native of Eureka, Ill., he had graduated from Eureka College in 1883, and was considered a promising young doctor. After obtaining his medical license, he opened a practice in his house in Chicago. In 1893, their first son, Edward, was born, and in 1897, a second son, Lawrence, was born.
By all accounts, it was a blissful marriage. In May 1900, the Monmouth Republican-Atlas noted that Mrs. Pearl Frantz Lindsay and children of Chicago had left for Macatawa Park, Mich., where they had rented a cottage for the summer, and that Dr. Lindsay would spend Sundays there with his family.
On the morning of Sept. 16, Clarence arrived for his visit and found an old family friend and neighbor, attorney Charles Babcock, sitting at the breakfast table. Clarence had encouraged Babcock to visit the cottage and check in on the family from time to time, but when he learned that Babcock had spent the night, he was taken aback and left the room. He later returned and commented that he understood why Pearl had not returned to Chicago three days earlier to celebrate their wedding anniversary.
Upon cooling down, Clarence remarked that he did not believe Pearl had committed adultery, but he did believe she had been imprudent. Much angered, she defiantly questioned his own fidelity. Hoping to diffuse the conflict, Clarence gave her some money and told her to remain at the cottage as long as she saw fit. From Chicago, he sent her a letter asking her to return to their home, but because it also contained a renewed implication of her imprudence, she telegraphed her father to come to the cottage and collect her and the children. The four of them left the cottage and returned to Monmouth.
After allowing Pearl and the children to live in his home for a year, her father purchased for Pearl the home of Ivory Quinby II at 509 East Broadway. Over several months, Clarence made repeated attempts at reconciliation, sending a member of their church to Monmouth to plead with Pearl, and having several interviews with her himself, including one in Chicago at the Palmer House. In July 1902, Pearl wrote Clarence a letter laying out conditions for reconciliation, but they were ambiguous and confusing.
At one point, Pearl sent the boys to Chicago to be with their father and grandmother, following which they were allowed to return to Monmouth for a visit. But when it came time for Pearl to return them, she couldn’t bear to part with Lawrence and only sent Edward back. It was that action that prompted Clarence’s first kidnapping attempt of Lawrence in March 1903.
The next month, Pearl filed for divorce in Warren County Circuit Court, asking for custody of both children and alimony. In May, the judge refused to grant a divorce, but awarded custody of Lawrence to Pearl and Edward to his father.
On Jan. 19, 1904, Pearl appeared at Clarence’s Chicago residence, telling him she had come back to make the best of the future. Clarence distrusted her motives, and his instincts proved correct, as she had recently employed a detective to watch him in hopes of pinning an adultery charge on him. When Clarence discovered she used the telephone in his office to communicate with the detective, he had the phone tapped so he could listen to her conversations from the basement. During the next year, Pearl remained in the home, but essentially locked herself in her bedroom, where she kept notes to be used as evidence in court.
Quarrels and physical combats were almost a daily occurrence. According to a later affidavit by Clarence, Pearl regularly pricked his body with needles and pins, sometimes breaking them off in his flesh. Once she struck him with a curtain pole.
On Jan. 11, 1905, Pearl left her husband and the following day filed for divorce in the superior court of Cook County, after which she returned to Monmouth with Lawrence. On Jan. 22, Clarence filed a cross-suit, charging Pearl with desertion. Things remained at a standstill until April 19, when once again Clarence attempted to abduct Lawrence in Monmouth with the assistance of a Pinkerton detective, but was ultimately unsuccessful.
When the second divorce suit went to trial in July 1905, both parties would be frustrated by the judge. “My mind is made,” he told them, “and you cannot change it. The case is dismissed. Neither party is entitled to a divorce. The youngest child is given to the mother during the school year, while the oldest shall go to the father. As for the principals, they have made their own beds and will have to lie in them.”
The minute the trial was over, Pearl rushed to the telegraph office and sent a message to her son in Monmouth: “Lawrence you are mine forever.” Clarence announced he would appeal the verdict to the Illinois Supreme Court.
Back in Monmouth, Pearl took a job as a stenographer, while renting out her house and moving in with her parents. In February 1907, Clarence’s appeal reached the Supreme Court, which held firm to the earlier custody decisions, but granted him an absolute divorce. Pearl sought a rehearing, but it was denied by the court on April 18. The previous week, Pearl had sold all her household belongs in preparation for moving to Chicago, presumably so she could also be near her older son, Edward.
Having gained his divorce, Clarence in 1914 married Miss Mabel Baldwin of Bloomington, Ill., a woman 20 years his junior. Three years later, they had a son, John Baldwin Lindsay. During World War I, Clarence served as a major in the medical department at Fort Riley, Kansas. In 1921, he and Mabel moved to a farm near Fairbury, Ill. He suffered a ruptured aortic aneurysm in 1924 and died at the age of 60.
Pearl, still living in Chicago, rented her house in Monmouth to a college fraternity, among other tenants. Sometime in the 1920s, after her sons were grown, she moved back to her Monmouth house at 509 East Broadway and took in boarders. In 1932, at the age of 65, she became ill with heart trouble and died at her home on Dec. 13. She was survived by her 94-year-old mother, still living in the family home at 903 East Broadway.
The stigma attached to divorce in those days is reflected in the public record. The 1930 Federal Census lists Pearl as a “widow,” and her obituary obfuscates her true circumstances, ignoring the fact that her husband remarried. “Dr. Lindsay passed away a number of years ago,” it reads, “and after his death, Mrs. Lindsay returned here where she has made her home for several years.”
It is difficult to judge who was primarily at fault for the Lindsays’ epic troubles, but Clarence once told a Chicago newspaper that they had all been caused by his wife’s bad temper. “She can’t get along with her mother, father, brothers, or sisters,” he said. “My wife left our home after a petty quarrel. I tried to bring about a reunion through a mutual friend, but to no avail.”
Jeff Rankin is an editor and historian at Monmouth College. He has been researching, writing and speaking about western Illinois history for more than 35 years.