My daughter, Meridith, used to refer to certain characters in her favorite television programs as "hopeless love couples." A perfect example of what she meant could be found in the real-life romance of Solvay native Fernando "Freddie" Tagliaferri and his Detroit, Michigan, sweetheart, Elizabeth Martin.

Tagliaferri worked as a tinsmith and as an auto worker, but was mostly known as a boxer who used the names Freddie Ferris and Freddie Ferro. It isn't mentioned in any of the stories below, but Freddie Ferris (aka Ferro) was not a good boxer, winning only two of the nine professional fights included in his official record. He was a small man, fighting in the featherweight division, but he was interesting, albeit in a strange way, given the hoax described in two of the stories on this page.

Because of that hoax, it was appropriate, in a way, that he met his death by drowning. That death occurred when he was still a young man, which means his widow, presumably, was able to start a new life. Hopefully it was a peaceful, happy life . . . because she certainly deserved it after the turmoil she went through because of her love for the young man from Solvay.

Syracuse Journal, July 22, 1930
The romantic career of Freddie Ferris, 28, erstwhile Syracuse and Detroit boxer, who figured four years ago in a Detroit elopement, defeated his wife’s parents in efforts to have the marriage annulled and came back to Syracuse to live for awhile, ended last night in his drowning in the River Rouge at Dearborn, Michigan, while swimming.

Although details of the drowning are lacking, Miss Fannie Tagliaferri, sister of the former boxer, said at the Solvay family home today that two telegrams were received during the night announcing his death.

“The first said Freddie was drowned, and about 3 o’clock my parents got another saying: ‘Your son is dead, come at once.’ ”

This was all the information Miss Fannie could give this morning.

Ferris, who was a son of Mr. and Mrs. Gervasio Tagliaferri, 502 Second Street, Solvay, left in 1926, going to Detroit. He met Miss Elizabeth Martin, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John Martin, and they were married.

After experiencing family trouble, Ferris was the object of a search by Detroit police officials on February 11, 1928, when they found a note on the bank of the Detroit River, suggesting suicide. The note said, “I am going to end it all.”

The river was dragged without finding any body. At the same time Ferris’ wife and child disappeared from the home of her mother, and they, too, were sought by police.

Detectives finally found the couple living on Lodi Street in Syracuse. Ferris had come back to this city and was employed as a tinsmith by the Onondaga Litholite Company.

He also figured in boxing bouts at the Arena, under the auspices of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Annulment proceedings were started after the girl’s father had spirited the wife back to Detroit. These ended in a dramatic fashion when the judge took the matter in his own hands. Lining up the parents on one side of the room and Ferris on the other, he left the decision to Mrs. Ferris, telling her to go where she chose.

“I want to go with Freddie,” she declared, and threw herself into his arms.

This act threw Mrs. Martin into hysterics and she tired to drag the daughter away from the protecting arms of Ferris, but court officials intervened.

Ferris and his wife remained in Detroit, however, where the boxer secured a position with the Ford Automobile Company.

“Everything seemed to be going smoothly recently,” said Miss Fannie Tagliaferri today. “Freddie was here for a vacation visit last week and left to return to his work. We were preparing a box of his belongings which we were making ready to send him when these telegrams came.”

The father and mother left early this morning for Detroit.

Besides his wife and child, his parents and sister Fannie, Ferris leaves several bothers and sisters.


The death of Freddie Ferris was an eerie reminder of the stunt he had pulled two years earlier:

Syracuse Journal, February 11, 1928
DETROIT — Mystery, which detectives here have been unable to solve, surrounds the disappearance of Freddie Ferris, former Syracuse boxer, whose name was found on a suicide note left on a bridge over the Detroit River today.

The situation was complicated still further when the former Syracusan’s wife and infant child later also disappeared from the home of her mother.

Police and morgue officials dragged the river without getting any trace of Ferris’ body or any indication to bear out the threat contained in the note addressed to his wife. Detectives also failed to pick up the trail of Mrs. Ferris.

Mrs. John Martin, mother of Mrs. Ferris, expressed opinion that the note was a hoax to cover the trail of the pair who had been estranged and probably effected a reconciliation.

Ferris and his wife, the daughter of a wealthy Detroit contractor, eloped in April, 1926, her parents having objected to the match. The elopers went to Syracuse where Ferris, a tinsmith by trade, obtained employment at the Onondaga Litholite Company. He also engaged in a series of amateur boxing matches. Successful in these matches, he turned professional and fought several bouts in the Arena. The couple then lived at 716 Lodi Street.

The bride’s father later traced the girl to Syracuse, visited the Lodi Street house while Ferris was at work, and spirited his daughter back to Detroit. Ferris followed, but could not reach his wife because she had been place in a private institution. He sought a write of habeas corpus, but failed.

Later the bride’s parents instituted an annulment action. Ferris fought the suit which ended in dramatic fashion when the judge left the decision squarely up to Mrs. Ferris. With her parents on one side of the courtroom and her husband on the other, she was told by the judge to choose. She hesitated momentarily, then rushed into the arms of her husband, sobbing out her love for him.

The mother became hysterical and tried to wrest her daughter from the arms of the Syracuse boxer, but was dragged away by court attendants and told by the judge she must abide by the decision which gave Ferris back to his wife.

The couple then remained in Detroit, but according to reports, marital troubles developed a few months later.

Ferris was in Syracuse in December and at that time fought at the Arena. He has since returned to Detroit and has been living there.

The note found on the bridge, addressed to Mrs. Ferris read, “I am going to end it all in the river.”

No one saw the note left on the bridge and a search for witnesses also failed to locate anyone who noticed any indication of suicide.


Syracuse American, February 12, 1928
DETROIT — Freddie Ferris, 22-year-old Syracuse boxer, reconciled with his wife, Mrs. Elizabeth Ferris, who scorned the wrath of her parents to return to her husband to keep him from suicide, is speeding toward Syracuse tonight to turn over a new page of marital life.

Slipping out of the home of her parents, Mr. and Mrs. John Martin, Mrs. Ferris yesterday found her husband, who had left a note hinting that he was “going to end it all in the river” and an hour later the marital woes which estranged the couple a year ago were patched up and they were preparing to return to Syracuse, according to Mrs. Josephine D’Mico, a friend.

With their baby, Ileene, Mr. and Mrs. Ferris are reported to have boarded a train at the Detroit station yesterday noon after announcing that they were on their way to Syracuse.

“Freddie was thinking of committing suicide,” said Mrs. D'Mico, “because his wife’s parents tried to prevent him from seeing her. But friends persuaded him to give up this idea. His wife, hearing of the proposed violence, met him after sneaking from her home. Her parents always objected to the marriage.”

A note indicating Ferris had jumped into the Detroit River was found on the Belle Isle bridge on Friday and dragging operations had been conducted in an effort to locate the body.

Members of the Detroit harbor patrol and police who had been dragging the river since the note was found gave up the search a few hours before Ferris was found alive and with his wife.

The searchers concluded the disappearance of Mrs. Ferris from her parents’ home indicated that she had gone to meet her husband and that the suicide note was a hoax. The note, found by a pedestrian, read: “Dear Sweetheart: Nothing else for me to do. Forgive me. Care for baby. Fred.”

Recently Ferris is reported to have gone to the Martin home and to have asked his mother-in-law that he might kiss the baby. He grabbed the child from her arms, kissed her and ran out of the house. The next heard from him was the finding of the suicide note.

For more on Solvay way back when, check out
the Solvay-Geddes Historical Society