Froilana Lucero likely ended her own life 120 years ago in what is now the ghost town of Weaver, according to the Arizona Weekly Journal-Miner’s reporting the following week. The paper noted her connection to her brothers: one, Vicento, charged for the November 1898 murder of William Segna, on circumstantial testimony. Vicento would be pardoned and paroled 15 years later.
Froilana played a role in most accounts of the death of Charles P. Stanton, who consolidated power in nearby Stanton, formerly Antelope Station, throughout the 1870s and 1880s. Stanton was the dark nexus of a grisly series of crimes, never successfully directly implicated, described as a “puppetmaster” by some historians.
By most accounts, on the night of November 13, 1886, Froilana’s brothers killed Stanton for at least dishonoring, if not assaulting, their sister. The records are not clear. What is clear is almost no party was sorry to see Charles Stanton go.
Many histories point such violence driving Froilana to despair and death. Some newspaper stories about her death describe the Luceros as a gang—“the old coterie of cut-throats that has for over thirty years been encouraged with each succeeding crime”—with Froilana as the ringleader.
What most stories have not included, likely due to lack of access, is a July 27, 1895 story from Tucson’s El Fronterizo.
With the headline Voló al Cielo—“Flew to Heaven”— it memorializes the death of Juaquinito Granillo, a baby “at the tender age of ten months and ten days” on July 15, 1895 in Santa Maria, California.
Juaquinito was born in Congress, near Weaver, and where most Weaver citizens would live after the town’s dissolution. He was the son of Jesus and Froilana Granillo, and among the uncles listed are the Luceros: Vicente—some three years away from prison and twenty years from later freedom, Donaciano, and Pedro. A “furious fever lasting not more than eight hours” killed Juaquinito, “leaving his inconsolable parents in deepest pain.”
Many contemporaneous newspaper stories and later histories involving Stanton, Weaver, and the Luceros invoke lurid spectacles of grisly murders and crimes of the so-called Old West: wagon robberies and massacres, stabbings in mining town saloons in the “decidedly the dark and bloody ground of Yavapai county”. Papers also used plain racism, saying of Weaver: “Hardly ever has a white man ever cast his lot in that hamlet of adobe houses who has been permitted to live unmolested.”
Yet sometimes in the middle of such melodrama, sad facts emerge: a child’s death; grieving parents and family. Jesus and Froilana’s marriage records have not turned up, nor has his death or divorce, for Froilana went by her birth name when she died. This small notice in a newspaper—and a later one from the family, thanking mourners for their support— as yet remains the sole scrap illuminating another facet of tragedy for Froilana. Were it not for optical character recognition and digital newspaper access, who can say how long such a sorrow, forgotten, yet vital, would have remained unknown?
May 2020 update: At the time it was written in January 2020, this post stated “Jesus and Froilana’s marriage records have not turned up, nor has his death or divorce, for Froilana went by her birth name when she died.”
Since then, Parker Anderson’s “Arizona Gold Gangster Charles P. Stanton: Truth & Legend In Yavapai’s Dark Days”, was published April 6, 2020. This excellently-sourced volume, seeking to sort out myths related to Stanton using documentary evidence, does disprove the lack of marriage record.
Anderson relates Stanton acted as Justice of Peace for his precinct and performed marriages, including one on December 19, 1885 for “Jesus Granes to Froilana Lucero, daughter of old Pedro Lucero. (Her name is incorrectly spelled Frylana on the marriage certificate.)” (Kindle Location 1326)
Anderson points out this calls into question formerly accepted lore: If Stanton had dishonored Froilana, motivating his murder by her bothers, why would she ask him to officate her wedding?
Anderson also writes “(It is also notable that generations of Stanton folklore, including the writings of Charles Genung, who knew her, fail to mention Froilana had a husband.)” (Location 1332)
Given the date of her marriage and the date of her child’s death, she had been married nearly 10 years!
John W. Fry Jr. was born in Ohio in 1856. Nicknamed “Frank”, he was the son of John Fry Sr. and Eliza McKnight Fry. Oldest of six, he had emigrated west with his mother, brother, and two sisters sometime in the 1870’s. Reports from that time seem to indicate he was active in the hospitality industry. The Weekly Phoenix Gazette of November 7th, 1884 indicated that following his nuptials, he would be leaving his saloon in the care of Louis Vidal while he embarked on an extended vacation. As a saloon owner, he would have been more than familiar with Samuel D. Lount. Lount owned the only ice making factory in town. In those days, most saloons required between 1 and 5 pounds of ice to be delivered daily. Lount had been the owner of the Lyle ranch since 1882 after Dr. Conyers was forced out of town following legal pressure, likely instigated by a rival physician1. It’s possible that Frank, 12 years her junior, became familiar with Mrs. Sullivan through the Lounts.
Whatever impression Frank Fry made on Mrs. Sullivan at their first meeting, it must have been profound. The two were married on November 3rd, 1884. It seems that the marriage was done quietly as no reports have been found thus far announcing the union. Within three months, Mary would sign half of her interest in the Woolsey Building over to Frank. On January 7th, 1885 in Deed book 11 on page 9, Mary Fry gives her signature to the following, “… for and in consideration of the love and affection which she bears toward her husband, the said Frank Fry, and for the purposes of making him a gift do hereby give, grant, alien and convey unto her husband…. And undivided one half interest of, in and, to lots numbered seventeen (17) and eighteen (18) in block number twenty…2”. It would seem that following their union and new partnership, all references to the Woolsey Hall end and it is henceforth known as The Fry Building.
Disaster would strike the newlyweds only a few months later. On May 27th, 1885 a fire tore through the blossoming business section of Phoenix. Costing the proprietors nearly $75,000 in damages, the fire was said to have started in the warehouse of Goldberg and Son’s. Arson was the suspected culprit. The warehouse and Goldberg’s store were utterly destroyed. Other notable businesses engulfed in the ensuing inferno were E. Ganz’s Hotel & Saloon, Kern & Luke’s Billiards & Saloon, the St. Cloud Restaurant, The Steinegger Building, and of course the Fry Building. It is said that between $11,000 and $12,000 in total damage was done to the Fry Building alone. Unfortunately, it was only insured for $5,8003. It is possible that following the fire, architect James M. Creighton was solicited to design and manage repairs. Samuel E. Patton, who had managed the telegraph lines for many years, was contracted to complete the work. The partnership of Patton and Creighton would oversee the construction of several other notable buildings in in Phoenix4.
Two months after the fire nearly destroyed everything, Mary and Frank Fry would be able to lease portions of the building out to rent. One of the first leases would be to S. E. Patton and the Knights of Pythias. The entire eastern side of the second floor, use of the property well, private use of the back stairway, and unlimited access to one compartment in the water closet were all included in the terms. For five years, the Knights of Pythias Lodge No. 2 would pay $60 in rent each month to Mary and Frank Fry. They were also required to construct partition walls on the second floor to be paid for by the order itself5. In October of the same year, the bottom floor restaurant would be leased to See Sing Hoe, for two years at the rate of $75 a month. Hoe’s P & O Restaurant must not have been a success as the property and it’s fixtures were then re-leased to a man named Chung Hee in March of the 18866. Mary, now well versed in land ownership, ensured that all property she owned herself was accounted for and claimed7. In the unlikely event of Frank’s demise she wished to ensure no property of a husband would ever again go to auction. Even so, the two would take out three mortgages against value of the property totaling $6,500. $5,000 alone would come from M. W. Kales of Lewis in 18858. It is rumored that the loan monies went to Frank Fry only, and that he then used the funds for his own investments. Such claims, to date, are unsubstantiated.
During this time Mary would continue to feud with the heirs of David Neahr over water rights at Agua Caliente. In May of 1888 the couple claimed a major victory when an adjoining neighbor, and elderly pioneer, Joseph W. Blackwell named the two as beneficiaries in his will9. The will was filed on September 10th, 1888 by Frank and the trio then journeyed to Phoenix. On the evening of September 14th, 1888, John Blackwell was asleep on a cot on the balcony of his room at the Commercial Hotel. The balcony was not yet fully constructed but Mr. Blackwell insisted upon sleeping outside. At about three o’clock in the morning on the 15th, Mr. Blackwell got up and walked off the edge of the balcony. The fall severely injured him. In fact he would succumb to his wounds later that same day. It was reported as an accident, brought on by Blackwell’s drinking and unfamiliarity with his surroundings 10. Mary and Frank inherited his property to the West and additional water claims along Agua Caliente Springs. It seemed as though they would finally have the upper hand against the Neahrs, but there was one small problem.
Prior to his death J.B. Blackwell had come to an agreement with a nurseryman named Frank Wagner. Wagner had been granted exclusive use of the springs on Blackwell’s property for the purpose of supplying plants on his property with water. After being granted a half interest in The Agua Caliente Ranch by Mary in January of 188811, and after a full year of arguing with Wagner, Frank Fry had had enough. On September 22nd, 1889 he rode out from Agua Caliente to confront Wagner at his home. Wagner claimed Fry menacingly hopped off his horse and, reaching for his revolver, stated he would kill Wagner where he stood. Wagner, who had been carrying a shotgun with him, turned and unloaded both barrels into Fry killing him instantly12. Wagner then rode to Sentinel Station where he turned himself in. He would be acquitted on grounds of self-defense. Fry’s body was returned for Phoenix and his funeral was held in the building that bore his namesake. He was buried in the same section of plot as Mary’s mother and second husband Woolsey. The town cemetery had been relocated in 1887 and all bodies were re-interned at the City Loosely Cemetery where they remain to this day13. Wagner would show up in several papers in the years following after making threats against several other men. He himself would die in Phoenix in 1908 from suicide following the murder of his teenage daughter at his own hands. A full account of the grisly affair is recorded in the May 8th, 1908 edition of the Arizona Republican.
Following Fry’s death, his family members began to file suit against his estate for his interests in both the Agua Caliente Ranch and the Fry Building. A sympathetic Probate Judge named Frank Baxter ensured that the homestead section of the Agua Caliente Ranch was retained by Mary and that it was exempt to adjudication14. In the same ruling, Baxter required a $100 monthly stipend be granted to Mary from Frank’s Estate while legal proceedings continued. It was an odd ruling as Mary Fry had, for some time, resided exclusively in Phoenix. Against both Mary and the Fry Family’s petitions, the remainder of Frank’s land holdings were scheduled to go to auction. The auction date was set when suddenly a surprise offer was submitted to the court for the entire estate. Judge Baxter had approved Mrs. Fry’s request for a private sale to her sister. Although Elizabeth Rives’ bid of $6,500 was substantially less than the $8,000 appraised value, Judge Baxter signed, approved, and filed the purchase on August 29th, 189015. It is also worth notating that six months prior to his ruling, Judge Baxter had received from Mary Fry $4,000 for a large tract of land in the new Porter-Baxter subdivision of Phoenix16. Baxter would move his offices into the Fry Building in the months to follow. It is not known if he was given a lease. By year’s end he and Mary Fry would be wed in relative secret17. Two weeks after her purchase Mrs. Rives would grant Power of Attorney to her sister, Mary. The land Mrs. Rives purchased would again be solely in the control of Mary Fry. Further evidence of collusion to ensure Mary’s ownership arise from the Power of Attorney form itself18. The motion was filed and notarized in Los Angeles by Elizabeth Rives’ own son James C. Rives. James would later become the District Attorney of Los Angeles County serving from 1899 to 1903.
The Fry Family would not see a dime from Frank’s estate. Tragedy would continue to follow the Frys for the next several years. In 1890 Frank’s sister Elfrida Patton would lose an infant son to spinal-meningitis19. In 1892 and 1893 respectively, Frank’s sister Lillian Collins would bury her children Flossie21 and Frank20. Both died before reaching their third birthday. They are buried near their uncle in the family plot. Around this time Frank’s father John W. Fry Sr. had come to Arizona from Ohio. Along with Frank’s brother Joseph, they operated Fry’s Station on the Black Canyon Road near the present day ghost town of Bumble Bee. John Fry Sr. would be murdered at Fry’s station by a man named Sam Gray in 1893. Gray stated that Fry had pulled a gun on him after a dispute arose over 10 gallons of whiskey Fry had allegedly owed Gray22. Gray also indicated he had rebuffed the elder Fry’s solicitation in a scheme to rob and murder travelers along the stage road, and dispose of the bodies in a mine shaft. These statements, among others, were called into question when John Fry’s son in law, Lewis Collins, made an inquiry into John’s death. It was found that Gray’s claim that he fired only in self-defense was a lie. One bullet, post-mortem, was made while the old man was already prone on the ground. Gray also stated he was nearly run off the station by Joseph Fry who, at the time had been staying with Collins in Phoenix23. Gray would be convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to five years in Yuma Territorial Prison. He would serve four before being released early by Governor Franklin due to a terminal case of consumption24.
Joseph Fry, who had suffered from a cancerous growth on his arm since childhood finally had the limb amputated in 189425. Down an arm, the Fry’s luck seemed to have taken a turn for the better in November of the same year when matriarch Eliza McKnight Fry, Frank’s mother, was listed as heir to a Scottish Lord’s nest-egg26. Their good fortune would be short lived. Joseph who had seemingly recouped from his amputation, suddenly took a turn for the worst. The cancer had spread internally and he died at his sister Louisa’s home in Phoenix in 189527. Eliza herself would die of natural causes in 1901 leaving her property to Lewis and Lillian Collins28. Further tragedies followed. Eliza’s second daughter living in Phoenix, Elfrida Patton, would lose two sons of her own. Walter Patton died instantly following a head injury sustained while peering out from a moving train car in 191129. A son named Glen Patton would die in a mysterious fire at his home in 1922 while attempting to save his infant son Glen Jr. Unfortunately both would lose their lives30.
It seemed as though the building itself had been cursed from the start. In a few short years since its construction, King Woolsey dropped dead at his Lyle Ranch. Mary’s mother soon followed. F.G. Wentworth, after selling his share, would bury his son in Mesa in 189331. He would be found guilty of forgery that same year. In divorce proceedings it was found he had coached his daughter to show his spouse in a negative light. He also forced his wife to sign a false confession of infidelity32. Mary’s fourth husband had been murdered at Agua Caliente. His father at Fry’s Station four years later. Joseph, the nieces and nephews, all died within the next few years. But, the Fry name would not end with Joseph. It lived on into the modern day in the building that bears their namesake. But Mary Baxter and the Fry Building’s story is far from finished…
King Woolsey was doing very well for himself. He had received a contract to build a road between the new town of Phoenix and Yuma. He ensured it would run straight through Stanwix and Agua Caliente. He owned hundreds of acres of land in Maricopa County and had just purchased two lots in the growing business district of Phoenix. Fronting the main street on Washington, lots 17 and 18 in block 20 sat empty. A large town plaza, one square city block, sat across the street. Any public event was sure to draw crowds. Businesses were opening all along the Washington strip from Maricopa (2nd St.) to Central (then Centre Street). Phoenix was blossoming from a small farming community into a full-fledged town. Here King would help establish the Democratic Party of the new County of Maricopa. Yet, he found himself drawn to Tucson. He was about to be elected for the 5th time to the 9th Territorial Legislature, being named Council President. In Tucson during the Assembly he likely had his first encounter with a man named Frederick G. Wentworth.
Wentworth was a grocer from Tucson and had proven to be a keen promoter. Operating as floor manager for Charaleau’s Hall and the Cosmopolitan Hotel, he hosted many skating and dancing events. No doubt this drew more patronage to the establishments he worked for. At some point he was approached by Woolsey and solicited for partnership. The idea was simple, the two would go half in on the construction of a large two-story dance hall in the fledgling town of Phoenix. Woolsey would provide the ideal location and once built, Wentworth would act as floor manager for any booked events. In 1878 construction started in earnest on lots 17 and 18 in Block 20 in the town of Phoenix. The April 13th, 1878 Edition of the Salt River Herald gives us the following account of the soon to be christened Woolsey-Wentworth Building…
Further details about the building are given in the August 24th issue. The building, furnishings, and faux brick façade was to cost roughly $5,000. The upper floor dance hall would also house two ante rooms for those of the gambling profession. The article goes on to name some of the organizations that would later meet there in secret. Of the three organizations named; the Knights of Pythias, The International Order of Odd Fellows, and the Masons, only the Masons could claim Woolsey as among its members.
Once constructed the building became a focal point for the new town. New tenants rushed to the surrounding lots. The Woolsey-Wentworth Building would host not only a 4th of July celebration, but a New Year’s Eve Ball within its first year of operation. In June of that first year while the floor was still being built, Wentworth once again opened a hall for skating. This would be the first rink opened in Phoenix. Skates rentals would cost patrons 50 cents3. Back in Phoenix, Woolsey was enjoying his new-found success. He even devised a plan in early June of 1879 to partner with David Neahr, to whom he had previously sold half his interest in Agua Caliente, to open a new health resort on the property. Unfortunately the partnership would not come to pass.
The night of June 28th Woolsey was out late into the evening tending to business at the Flour Mill. By the time he had returned to the Lyle Ranch on the outskirts of Phoenix, the hands had all gone to bed. He put away his horses and buggy himself and prepared for bed. The cook, who frequently slept outside, would later say he heard groaning from Woolsey’s room. He paid it no mind as, no doubt due to the atrocities seen and enacted by King during his life on the frontier, the old pioneer was prone to nightmares. The cook drifted off to sleep but was awoken by a loud prolonged moan. Rushing into the house he found Woolsey on the floor, partially under a table. A dispatch was sent to Dr. B. L. Conyers but upon his arrival at the estate, no aid could be rendered. King Samuel Woolsey died at three o’clock in the morning on June 29th, 1879. He was 47 years old. A wire was sent to Mary at Stanwix and she started the trek into Phoenix. The first Masonic funeral in Phoenix was held for Woolsey the following Monday4.
Not long after King’s passing, Mary’s mother Mrs. Johnson Armstrong came to visit from Los Angeles. She was staying with both Mary and her half-sister Ida when she too would die suddenly in the middle of the night5. She was buried in Phoenix next to her son-in-law. Mary had no time to grieve. Immediately upon Woolsey’s death various creditors and business partners had filed suit against his estate. Even F. G. Wentworth filed a claim. John Alsap would be Mary’s representative in court. Unfortunately King had died without naming a legal heir. His children certainly would not be considered legitimate and without willing his estate to Mary, all holdings would be put to auction. A full list of the land being sold by M.W. Kales, of the Bank of Kales and Lewis, on behalf of the Woolsey Estate appeared in the October 29th, 1880 edition of The Phoenix Herald6. The entire probate process took up most of that court’s proceedings that year. Finally on February 28th, 1881, on the steps of the Phoenix court house M. W. Kales began the auction. At noon, the next parcel up was for not only lots 17 and 18 in block 20, but also the ½ interest in the Agua Caliente Ranch. Mary Woolsey won by submitting a bid for $2,2207. William A Hancock, who surveyed and platted the town site notarized the sale. A day later F.G. Wentworth would sell his remaining half stake in the Woolsey-Wentworth Building to Mary for $1,2008. Exactly how Mary was able to procure $4,500 in cash is unknown. It is possible that her sister Elizabeth A. Rives, a recent widow herself, lent her sister the capital. Dr. Burwell E. Rives died in Los Angeles in 1880 from unspecified causes. At the time of his death he was the Los Angeles County Cororner9. Mary saw to it that none of King’s children he had with Lucia Martinez would receive any inheritance. It’s been theorized that members of the Catholic Church persuaded her to continue a monthly stipend to support the children, although it is more likely the Church provided for the four directly as thanks for King’s generous land grant.
Interestingly, one report from 1880 indicates a Mr. J. M. Wilkins as the new owner of the Woolsey Building, having started plans to re-purpose it as a hotel10. It is possible he was not able to front the cash for the purchase or was convinced not to proceed with the purchase by counsel. This is purely conjecture but it is highly coincidental that when jailed in 1882 for selling goods without a license, his attorney was A. C. Baker. Mr. Baker was in partnership in a law practice with Mary Woolsey’s attorney, John Alsap. Baker would serve on both the Territorial and State Supreme Courts before dying of natural causes in Los Angeles in 192111. However, an even closer link exists between Mary and Judge Baker. In book two of Misc. Records of Maricopa County, on page 233 we find that on May 31st, 1880 Mary entered into an agreement with A. C. Baker. This was for the sale of several books in her possession, mortgaged by Baker in the amount of $300. Some of the books Mary mortgaged to Baker are listed as follows: California Supreme Court Reports: 53 Volumes, Estate Pleadings, F. Yates Mining Law, Bigelow on Fraud, Law of Damages Filed, and Washburn on Real Property. It would seem that Mary Woolsey had developed a keen interest in the practice of law, and was well read on the subject.
Presumably the use of the Woolsey Building continued as normal for the next two years and it is possible Mary returned to her duties at Stanwix. She next surfaces in the probate court records in 1883 where she sold interest in King Woolsey’s Gila Ditch for $1,00012. Strangely she is listed in the probate court as Mary H. Sullivan – A Married Woman. She is referred to as Mary H. Sullivan again in 1884 in the October 30th edition of the Weekly Phoenix Herald. It is noted that she is embattled in a water rights claim with Woolsey’s would be Agua Caliente partner David Neahr. This feud would continue for several years and lead to tragedy. Her marriage to and the life (or death) of her third husband Mr. Sullivan is unknown. Woolsey’s Hall, as it was called then, would continue on under Mrs. Sullivan’s ownership. In January of 1884, proprietors Kern and Luke opened a saloon on the property and in doing so, cut out room for a large set of double doors13. This may have been the first major cosmetic change completed since its opening. It would be the first of several major changes to the building and in Mary’s life.