Column No. 47

Mercantile Murders Epilog: Fraser and Pearson Families

Bob Ring, Al Ring, Tallia Pfrimmer Cahoon

Last spring and early summer, we wrote about two notorious double murders of Ruby mercantile proprietors by Mexican bandits, first the murders of the Fraser brothers in February 1920, and then the murders of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Pearson in August 1921. We wondered what happened to the families of the victims of these crimes, so we did some digging and uncovered the extended story below.

Having been miners all their lives, John and Alexander Fraser had just bought Rubyís general store and were looking forward to a more dependable life of commerce. When John Fraser was shot, his wife Ines was in San Diego with their four children Daphne, Richard, Jean and new baby daughter Constance, born just two and a half months earlier. Notified by telegram of the shooting, Ines rushed to Arizona, arriving only hours after John died in a Nogales hospital. Following the murders of her husband and brother-in-law, Ines returned to San Diego. She remained in San Diego until the late 1930s, teaching at the Montessori primary school, eventually teaching children with learning disabilities. She was involved with the Harmonial Institute and had many poems published in The Harmonial Thinker. After turning 60, she spent most of her time with daughters Jean and Constance, then in the late 1960s she moved to El Paso to be with her sister Mary. Ines died in El Paso on August 4, 1970.

At the time of the murders, Alexander and John Fraserís sister Annie was working at a hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. Speeding cross-country by rail, Annie met Ines in Nogales to attend the funeral of her brothers. A few months later, she moved from Boston to San Diego to help Ines with the children. After settling in San Diego, Annie bought and operated a private hospital, which she named Fraser Sanitarium. She never married. Annie Fraser died in San Diego in 1931.

In 1920 Alexander Fraserís daughter May was married to Dr. Charles Mackensie and lived in the state of Washington. In the late 1920s she separated from her husband and moved to San Diego to help Annie with the sanitarium. After Annieís death, May remained in San Diego to run the hospital. In 1936 May retired, sold the sanitarium, and moved to Los Angeles to live with her son. May died in Los Angeles of lung cancer in 1962.

Inesí oldest daughter Daphne moved away from home in the early 1930s and worked for the Raytheon Company in Waltham Massachusetts. There she met Wilcox Pratt Overbeck, a physicist, and they married, having one son James W. Overbeck. Mr. Overbeck was one of 42 scientists and engineers who produced the first man-made nuclear chain reaction in Chicago, and was a co-holder of the patent on the control rod, the device that regulates power in a nuclear reactor. The Overbecks later moved to Aiken South Carolina, where Daphne was very active with the Red Cross. She died there of cancer on December 31, 1981.

Inesí son Richard, as a young man in San Diego, became very well known as a violinist. He pursued a musical education in Boston, Massachusetts and afterward played violin with the San Diego Symphony. Later, in Los Angeles, California and Seattle, Washington, Richard became a radical socialist. Married twice, he had a son Jon Fraser. Richard died of cancer in Los Angeles on November 27, 1988.

Inesí second daughter Jean left San Diego for Berkeley California where she spent many years as an employee of the 12th U. S. Civil Service Region in San Francisco. She married John Williams who also worked for the Civil Service and was a professor at the University of California. They had no children and spent much of their time in Apache Junction, Arizona. Jean died of cancer on June 6, 1960.

Constance Fraser, born just before her fatherís murder, grew up in San Diego with her mother, her sisters, and brother. She married George Austin Kiely in 1942 and had three sons. Her husband was in the Air Force and they moved around the U.S. and Europe during World War II. Constance came back to Arizona in the late 1960s and resides today in central Arizona.

In early May 1950, three of John Fraserís children, with their spouses, visited Ruby one last time to see the place where their father had been murdered 30 years before.

Frank and Myrtle Pearson, who grew up in Texas farming country, bought the Ruby store after the Frasers were murdered. Their four-year old daughter Margaret, Frank Pearsonís visiting sister Irene, and Myrtle Pearsonís visiting sister Elizabeth Purcell all witnessed the horrible killings. By prior agreement with the family, Elizabeth took over care for Myrtleís daughter, Margaret. When Elizabeth came back to Nogales from her hometown in Texas in 1921 to testify at the trials of accused murderers Placido Silvas and Manuel Martinez, one of the trial jurors, who happened to be on the Patagonia, Arizona school board, offered Elizabeth a teaching job in elementary school. So, Elizabeth and Margaret went to Patagonia, where Elizabeth raised Margaret. In 1923 Elizabeth married rancher and Patagonia Postmaster Woodie Gatlin. They had two sons, William and James. Elizabeth died of cancer in 1986.

Margaret attended Patagonia High School and then started studies at Tempe Teachers College (now Arizona State University). She left college in her Junior year in 1937 to marry William H. Anderson, then a Nogales high school teacher (later worked for the railroad). Margaret and William had two sons, Scott and Dennis, and a daughter, Linda. For many years Margaret operated a nursery school in Nogales. She went back to school to finish her Education degree at age 47 in 1964 and then taught school in Nogales until 1976. Margaret continued teaching part time in the Tucson area into the 1990s. In the early 1990s, Margaret took the Pima Community College tour to Ruby, where her parents had been murdered 70 years earlier. Today, Margaret Pearson Anderson resides in Los Angeles, California.

Following her testimony at the Silvas and Martinez trials in Nogales, Irene Pearson, returned to Texas. Though we have tried mightily, your humble columnists can find no further information on Irene Pearson.

(Sources: Fraser and Pearson families, Margaret Pearson Anderson oral history, The Gatlin Family History, Arivaca Briefs, Arizona Historical Society Oro Blanco files)

Richard Fraser with violin

Ines and John Fraserís son Richard became a well-known violin player in San Diego. (Courtesy of Fraser family)

Fraser women

The Fraser women in San Diego - left to right, Ines Fraser, her daughters Jean and Connie, and her sister Mary Steele. (Courtesy of Fraser family)

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