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In 1919, after a long simmer, the kettle finally comes to a boil. Briefly.

W. E. D. Stokes filed for divorce and his wife, Helen Ellwood Stokes, filed for separation and also claimed her husband had conspired to deprive her of her dower rights.

That little tidbit above — the note to Stokes from his son — set this divorce apart from the rest, though Stokes vs. Stokes, when it finally got rolling in 1921, competed for attention with another divorce case, Stillman vs. Stillman, which in several ways was equally outrageous.

As for the "confession" of W. E. D. Stokes Jr., that was perceived as an obvious put-up job, engineered by his father. Mentioning Narragansett Pier was a nice touch, however.

Mr. and Mrs. Stokes, apart since January 5, 1919, spent the rest of the year preparing for the inevitable courtroom battle. Mrs. Stokes and the children moved to Denver and lived with her mother, Mrs. Emma Miller.

The following story summarized what was known about the case in late fall of the year:

Washington Times, October 18, 1919
Son Is Co-Respondent In Divorce
Suit Filed By Stokes, Millionaire

NEW YORK, Oct. 18 – Coincident with the announcement from Paris that Mrs. Philip Lydig, formerly Mrs. W. E. D. Stokes, had been granted a final decree of divorce from Major Lydig comes the news of the filing in New York Supreme Court of affidavits from the new Mrs. Stokes – Mrs. Helen Ellwood Stokes – and three co-respondents denying charges made early this year by her aged millionaire husband.

Besides an answer to her husband’s complaint, Mrs. Stokes also submitted through her attorneys a motion for alimony and counsel fees pending the action, moved that the complaint against her be dismissed, and asked for a separation, with the custody of her two children, James, five years old, and Helen Muriel, four. Decision was reserved.

The case had a strange aspect from the beginning. Fragmentary news of it became public apparently by accident last March, when an attorney for Roland Miller, one of the co-respondents, filed a notice of appearance in the county clerk’s office.

Stokes Denied Divorce Action
This started an odd tangle. At Mr. Stokes’ office, it was said no divorce action had been started. Mrs. Arthur Miller, mother of Mrs. Stokes, was equally positive, when interviewed at her home in Denver, Col., that there was a mistake, and that her daughter was not being sued.

The attorney for Roland Miller said the notice of appearance was entered by the error of a clerk, who overlooked the fact that a complaint had not been filed. That was the last heard of the case until yesterday.

Mr. Walsh, of counsel for Mrs. Stokes, told a reporter yesterday that Mr. Stokes had never filed his complaint. Mrs. Stokes says a summons was served on her on January 15, 1919, and that the complaint was served on her in March.

Son as Co-respondent
The unusual nature of Mr. Stokes’ complaint is shown by his wife’s affidavit, which says that her husband’s complaint charged her with misconduct with “Weddie” Stokes (William E. D. Stokes Jr., son of Mr. Stokes and stepson of the defendant), with Roland Miller, stepbrother of Mrs. Stokes; with Harold Billig, her cousin; with George Schroeder, and with “persons unknown to the plaintiff.” Mrs. Stokes in answer to the complaint denies all charges.

Affidavits of Miller, Billig, and Schroeder, denying the allegations involving them, were also submitted. Mrs. Stokes said she had failed to learn the whereabouts of “Weddie” Stokes in an attempt to get an affidavit from him, but submitted a statement from him in writing that he never had had “improper relations with deponent.”

Mrs. Stokes swore that her husband’s charges, involving her with men, were the result of a plot on the part of her husband and others to cause her to give up her dower right in her husband’s property, and to deprive her two children of their rights.

She said that her husband used cruel and inhuman treatment to her and on May 17, 1911, forced her to sign a paper, refusing to tell her what it contained, and that she did not learn until April 4, 1919, that it was a deed conveying to the Mervyn Realty Company, “of which the plaintiff is president; Albert H. Gleason, plaintiff’s attorney in this action, is secretary, and Thomas Stokes, his brother, is treasurer,” all her dower interest in twenty-eight parcels of New York real estate, without legal consideration.

Forced to Sign Papers
She said that at various times thereafter he compelled her by force to sign other papers, which she said she now believes were deeds conveying her dower interest in property belonging to Stokes in New York and other states, particularly in a farm in Lexington, Ky., “valued at at least $1,000,000.”

According to Mrs. Stokes, her husband owned real estate, coal lands, mining properties, stocks, bonds and mortgages, and once told her that “he could never spend his net income – that it aggregated more than $500,000 per year.”

On many occasions from 1915 to 1918, she alleges, her husband refused her requests to support her in quarters apart from his, and told her, she says, that he intended to get a divorce “by fair means or foul.” She charges him with “scheming, plotting and planning to defraud her and her legal rights and destroy her good name.”

Tells of Alleged Cruelties
In her answer to her husband’s complaint, Mrs. Stokes denies all his charges and charges him with “a deliberate and studied course of annoying, insulting, abusive and cruel acts.”

Within a month after her marriage, she says, he assaulted her in their apartment at the Hotel Ansonia, throwing her against a dresser so that her side was injured. She says he seized her by the throat, choked and shook her violently, in November, 1916, in the apartment of a Mrs. Kearney.

“Several times during the month of March, 1911,” the answer says, “the defendant, who has the habit of talking aloud with himself, stated in the defendant’s hearing that he intended to bring a big, black negro to the defendant’s room, in consequence of which the defendant was greatly frightened and underwent a nervous strain for a long time thereafter, so that she was afraid to go to her room at night for fear the plaintiff might carry out his announced purpose.”

Tested Her Fidelity
She says that in the fall of 1911 her husband asked her to take three men riding in his automobile, and a few days later told her he had sent the men out with her in order to test her fidelity.

In November, 1913, she says, after she had refused “for good cause” to sit at the table with her husband’s brother, Thomas, and asked him to leave the apartment, her husband slapped her face, pulled her into the hallway, pinned her against the wall and held her there till his brother finished his meal. About the same time, she said, her husband threatened to lock her in a closet “for two or three days” unless she did as he wished.

Mr. Stokes says that her husband several times admitted he had had improper relations with other women and warned her that some of these women had threatened to disfigure her, so that he had a butler precede her whenever she left the apartment for the automobile.

In May, 1911, she says, her husband came into their apartment with his clothing covered with acid and said “that one of his women had thrown acid on him; that she was demanding money of him, and that it was necessary that he arrange immediately for the plaintiff and defendant to go South to get away from said woman.”

“On information and belief,” the answer alleges that, “on or about June 7, 1911, the plaintiff was shot by one of his mistresses while he was visiting her in her apartment in New York City.”

Had Her Shadowed
Mrs. Stokes charges that “bad women from the streets” would come to her husband’s private hall to wait for him, with his permission; that he had her shadowed by detectives, chauffeurs and other employees, who made reports on all her actions.

She further charges that at different times in 1912 and 1913 her husband circulated false charges among the servants that she had been guilty of misconduct with his son, “Weddie,” at the farm near Lexington, Ky., during the summers of 1912 and 1913; that her husband constantly suggested to her that there was something between her and “every man who looked at her;” that “throughout their married life the plaintiff frequently caused and procured strange men to sleep in the same apartment in which she lived,” and that at 2 a.m. on October 7, 1918, she awakened and found her husband standing over her with a drawn revolver in his hand pointing in her direction.

Alleges He Uses Drugs
The answer adds the following charge: “That plaintiff has, for many years, been addicted to the use of drugs and has thereby become habitually so morose and ill-natured in his disposition and so filthy and degraded in his personal habits, and generally so coarse, disgusting and loathsome as a man, that life with him has become intolerable”

Mrs. Stokes swore before a notary public in Denver, Col., that the answer to the complaint was true.

Mr. Stokes is now in New York. When he and Mrs. Stokes were secretly married in 1911 in Jersey City, his age was given as sixty-five*, and his wife’s as twenty-five.

Incompatibility Alleged
The final decree of divorce for Mrs. Philip Lydig, who was Mrs. W. E. D. Stokes, was signed in Paris a month ago, it was learned yesterday.

The suit alleged incompatibility which is sufficient grounds in the French courts for absolute divorce.

When Mrs. Lydig obtained a divorce from Mr. Stokes she was awarded the custody of their son, W. E. D. Stokes Jr. The boy later returned to his father and is now a lieutenant in the United States Navy. Mrs. Lydig was a member of the mayor’s committee and interested herself in plans recently projected to help drug addicts.

Major Lydig, who is also in Paris at present, is a member of the Knickerbocker, Harvard Union, New York Yacht, Racquet and Tennis clubs.

* When W. E. D. Stokes and Helen Ellwood were married, he listed his age as "over 45." His actual age at the time was 58. His wife listed her age as 24 on the marriage certificate.

A custody battle began in November in the Juvenile Court of Denver. The children, Jame Stokes, 5 years old, and Muriel Stokes, aged 3, were officially in the custody of Judge Ben B. Lindsey, who assumed guardianship on application of the mother, Helen Ellwood Stokes.

A motion filed in Juvenile Court of Denver by W. E. D. Stokes demanded Mrs. Stokes make more specific a bill of particulars she filed earlier in support of her petition to have custody of their children.

Mrs. Stokes charged her husband was a habitual user of drugs and that he used “profane and vulgar language” in the presence of the children. She also declared he had a violent temper and abused the maid and cook.

1920: Harsh words for W. E. D. Stokes
In February, Judge Lindsey awarded custody of James Stokes, 5, and Muriel Stokes, 3, to their mother, Mrs. Helen Ellwood Stokes. He strongly criticized the father, W. E. D. Stokes:

“Instead of making a real home, he seems mostly to have made a hell for his wife during the eight years that she seems to have suffered his flagrant and insulting conduct."

1921: Everything but the kitchen sink
By the time the posturing stopped and the war finally moved into the courtroom in 1921, W. E. D. Stokes had juggled the lineup of his wife's alleged corespondents. The two who would draw most of the attention were Hal Billig, a cousin of Mrs. Stokes, and Edgar T. Wallace, an engineer and oil man, and a late addition to the case.

The 1921 divorce trial, during which Mrs. Stokes' counter-action for separation also was argued, dragged on until September. In this first go-around Stokes was represented by attorneys Francis L. Wellman and Herbert C. Smyth. Mrs. Stokes's chief counsel was Martin W. Littleton, who ten years earlier had been asked to represent Lillian Graham, one of the women who had shot W. E. D. Stokes in the famous case of The Shooting Show Girls. (It was bad timing on Graham's part. Littleton was then a recently elected United States Congressman and chose not to take the case.)

JANUARY: W. E. D. Stokes continued to amend charges originally brought against his wife in 1919. To date Stokes had named 11 correspondents. All would be dropped before a final verdict is delivered. (Wallace's name hadn't yet officially entered the case.)

FEBRUARY: Justice John Ford denied a writ of habeas corpus by W. E. D. Stokes for custody of his children and to compel his wife to bring the children into court. For the time being the children remained in Denver in the care of the mother’s parents.

Said Judge Ford: "[Stokes] would have these children brought from Colorado, where they now lawfully reside or sojourn, before a single valid reason is given for bringing them here. The law is not so harsh and unreasonable."

MARCH: The divorce suit of W. E. D. Stokes against Mrs. Helen Ellwood Stokes, and her counter action for a separation came to trial on March 8 in the Supreme Court. Francis L. Wellman, counsel for Mr. Stokes, announces that by mutual consent W. E. D. Stokes Jr., son of the plaintiff by a prior marriage, no longer is considered a co-respondent.

Over the next few days witnesses for Mr. Stokes will claim they saw Mrs. Stokes kissing or behaving inappropriately with four different men, though one is identified only as a "tall, dark-haired young man" who allegedly went into the woman's bedroom.

There seems little doubt Helen Ellwood Stokes is at ease in the presence of men, though her behavior, as described by witnesses, seems more modern than scandalous. She was a 20th century woman married to an 18th century man.

The "juicy" testimony concerned her relationship in 1917 with Edgar T. Wallace, a wealthy oil man, but W. E. D. Stokes' witnesses contradicted themselves; some unknowingly may have confused Mrs. Stokes with a Wallace acquaintance who bore a strong resemblance to her.

From San Francisco, Wallace told the press: “I was acquainted with Mrs. Stokes and her mother some years ago, having met them in New York and Denver. I have not seen Mrs. Stokes nor spoken to her since 1910, at least a year before her marriage to Mr. Stokes. The testimony being given at the present time in regard to her and myself in wholly unfounded.”

On March 14 the Brooklyn Daily Eagle puts into print something that already occurred to people – W. E. D. Stokes bears a striking resemblance to Germany's much despised Kaiser Wilhelm. The headline says it all: "Stokes Resembles Kaiser, Spectators Sorry for Wife"

APRIL: It's Mrs. Stokes' turn, and her witnesses rebutted all stories about her involvement with other men. Martha Jones, a maid in the Wallace apartment, claims she was told by some of Mr. Stokes' witnesses that they were paid for their testimony.

Martin W. Littleton, attorney for Mrs. W. E. D. Stokes, argued to dismiss her husband’s divorce complaint against several of the alleged corespondents, saying nothing has been proved against them. Supreme Court Justice Edward R. Finch dismissed charges involving S. M. Roosevelt, an artist, since deceased; Will H. Meyers, former school friend of Mrs. Stokes, and Roland Miller, her stepbrother. He denied the request to dismiss against Edgar T. Wallace, oil operator; George Edwin Schroeder, mining engineer, and Hal C. Billig, cousin of the defendant. The as yet unnamed "tall, dark-haired man" also remained in the case.

On April 22 Mrs. Stokes testified that W. E. D. Stokes maintained a poultry farm in his apartment at the Ansonia Hotel. Although she did not know the kinds of chickens kept by Mr. Stokes, she said there were 45 hens and several roosters in this collection, and that their presence in the apartment constituted such a nuisance that she was frequently unable to eat there. Mrs. Stokes described the place as “absolutely filthy.”

Mrs. Stokes testified she never posed in the nude for the artist, S. Montgomery Roosevelt, or any other painter. A chauffeur formerly in the employ of Roosevelt had testified that he entered the studio unexpectedly and saw Mrs. Stokes, attired in a kimono and smoking a cigarette, sitting in front of an easel containing the picture of a nude woman smoking a cigarette. It had been insinuated that she was the model for this picture.

On April 26, Mrs. Stokes told the court of her husband’s desire to be rid of her. She says he offered her a liberal settlement for herself and children if she would divorce him on evidence he would provide, but she told him she wouldn’t be a party to a collusive divorce if he offered $50,000 a year.

The identity of the “tall, dark man” is revealed. He was previously an unnamed corespondent who was said by maid Anna Brennan to have gone with Mrs. Stokes into her room at 3 a.m. on Dec. 10, 1918. Mrs. Stokes says he was Elliott Brown, a roommate of her half-brother, Victor Miller, at Yale, who shared the room of Mr. Stokes’s son, “Weddie,” when he was in town.

During her cross-examination, Helen Ellwood Stokes insisted her behavior with her cousin, Hal C. Billig, one of those named as corespondents, always had been proper. She says that if she kissed him on occasions when she met him after an absence, it was only because she had been reared with him, and therefore regarded him as a brother. She says Billig was her “friend and protector,” both before and after her husband had left her.

One member of the Stokes family she detested from the get-go was brother-in-law, Thomas.

New York Times, April 27, 1921
Mrs. W. E. D. Stokes was on the witness stand again all day yesterday before Supreme Court Justice Finch in her husband’s suit for divorce and her counter-claim for a separation on the ground of cruelty. She gave much testimony in behalf of her counter-claim and told of her husband’s desire to be rid of her ...

Mrs. Stokes said that she and her husband had their first quarrel a month after their marriage in 1911, when she witnessed the first outburst of her husband’s temper.

“He held me in bed for several hours in the morning,” said Mrs. Stokes. “And when he finally released me I asked him if he were going to pay for some clothing I had ordered. He struck me several times and hurled me against the wall, and told me he was the boss of that household and the sooner I found it out the better it would be for me.”

Mrs. Stokes told of occasions in 1913 when her husband abused her. She said on one occasion he threw her against the wall and pinned her there while his brother, Thomas Stokes, ate a luncheon she had refused to share with him.

“Tom Stokes was an objectionable guest,” said the witness, “and I told my husband that I would not have him there any longer. He talked vilely, called me vile names, and in the presence of Mr. Stokes taunted me often about my husband’s preference for his first wife, saying that Mr. Stokes was sorry from the day he lost her.

“I left the table and said that Tom Stokes would have to leave. Then my husband slapped me, threw me against the wall and held me there until after Tom Stokes had eaten luncheon. He told me he would hold me a prisoner in the room, behind locked doors, for a week unless I would consent to entertain Tom at my table.”

But by now her husband had insulted her beyond anything Thomas Stokes had ever said. W. E. D. Stokes employed a private detective from Chicago to dig up evidence that before their marriage, Helen Ellwood had worked as a prostitute in the Windy City. He also paid a New York City detective to link her with a murderer. Martin Littleton, lawyer for Mrs. Stokes, made these accusations while he convincingly discredited every witness who even hinted that his client was guilty of nefarious behavior.

But those who covered the trial felt that Mrs. Stokes was her own best weapon. During questioning about a November 20, 1916 physical encounter with her husband, she displayed a refuse-to-be-intimidated attitude that prevailed over her husband's lawyers throughout their courtroom battles.

Herbert C. Smyth, attorney for Mr. Stokes, asked: “Isn’t it a fact that you injured your husband that day and that he was laid up for five days with the wounds you inflicted?”

“Oh, no, but I defended myself when he choked me.” Mrs. Stokes answered.

“How?”

“With all I had, my hands and fingernails, I guess.”

“You scratched him good and plenty, didn’t you?”

“I hope I did.”

The 1921 Stokes vs. Stokes clash, though played out in the spring, wasn't settled until the fall:

Syracuse Journal, September 19, 1921
NEW YORK — W. E. D. Stokes, millionaire hotelman, was refused a divorce today from Helen Ellwood Stokes.

The court, however, granted Mrs. Stokes an interlocutory decree on her counter-complaint.

The question of alimony was not settled in the decision handed down by Justice Finch.

Stokes’ divorce action has been under consideration in the Supreme Court since the taking of testimony was finished several months ago.

Had Sensational Trial
The case was one of the most sensational in the history of the New York courts which have been the scene of many world famous divorce suits.

Stokes demanded a divorce naming a number of co-respondents. He produced witnesses to swear that Mrs. Stokes had been familiar with a number of men.

The wife, in her defense, declared that Stokes’ charges were a “frame-up” and on her part alleged that the millionaire was unduly familiar with many women.

Files Long Review
Judge Finch’s decision covered 15 closely typewritten pages and was an exhaustive review of all the evidence introduced by both sides.

In his suit, Stokes alleged that Mrs. Stokes, a Denver, Col., girl, had committed indiscretions with his own son (her stepson) and also with Roland Miller, a stepbrother; Harold Billig, a cousin; George Schroeder and other persons. Mrs. Stokes made a sweeping denial of all these charges and produced the alleged corespondents, who, themselves, flatly denied that they had had improper relations with her.

She declared her husband had plotted to divorce her, force her to surrender her dower rights and obtain custody of their two children, James, 5, and Helen, 4.

Had Threatened Divorce
Mrs. Stokes declared her husband had told her he would divorce her “by fair means or foul,” furthermore, she said, he forced her to sign various papers, which she feared later were documents signing away her rights in valuable properties.

Mrs. Stokes also declared that her husband admitted he had had improper relations with other women. Stokes was accused by her of slapping and pinching her.

Stokes, she alleged, had so many women loitering around his rooms that she was afraid to go out into the corridor for fear they would attack her.

She quoted him as saying he believed some of the women would throw acid on him, and on one occasion, she said, he came into the house with acid on his clothes, saying a woman had thrown it on him.

The following story describes Stokes as the former owner of the Hotel Ansonia, which assumes – perhaps correctly – that he indeed had given the hotel to his son, W. E. D. Stokes Jr. ten years earlier.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, September 19, 1921
Mrs. Stokes Wins Separation
Decree, Will Keep Children

In a 14-page typewritten decision handed down today, Justice Edward R. Finch of New York Supreme Court denies the application of W. E. D. Stokes, multimillionaire real estate owner and former owner of the Hotel Ansonia, for a divorce from his wife, Helen Ellwood Stokes, and grants the application of Mrs. Stokes for decree of separation. The children of the couple, now in possession of the mother by a decree of the Denver Probate Court signed by Justice Ben Lindsey, will remain with their mother.

Justice Finch goes into detail as to the evidence submitted to him at the lengthy trial held last May, stating that the plaintiff’s husband named ten corespondents. In one instance the alleged improper conduct was committed within several months after the marriage of the couple, Feb. 11, 1911, the husband then being 58 years of age, while the bride was but 24. The corespondent in this case was George A. Schroeder, and the justice says the plaintiff conceded that no finding of such conduct had been established legally.

Justice Finch scores the testimony of the witnesses, Mr. and Mrs. Matteosian. Taking up the other alleged acts of indiscretion on the part of Mrs. Stokes, and showing the contradictoriness of the testimony produced by the plaintiff, Justice Finch concludes his decision in part as follows:

“Thus it is seen that one is forced to the conclusion that no finding of adultery upon this record could stand, since the plaintiff has not sustained the burden of proof cast upon him. Much might be said on behalf of other proof adduced by the plaintiff, but in the interests of brevity only that has been set forth above to point out why it is insufficient to entitle the plaintiff to a decree.

“To give to the plaintiff a divorce which would practically also question the parentage of the children – although in fairness to the plaintiff it should be said that no attempt had been made to prove their illegitimacy – there must be offered proof of exact times and places, and if upon the times and places, as testified to by the witnesses for the plaintiff, it has not been proven that the offenses took place, the decree cannot be awarded.

“Concerning the defendant’s counterclaim, it is plain that a great deal of what the defendant has testified to has been exaggerated, if indeed some of it really happened at all. This is shown by the fact that these occurrences are not entered in the body of the diary which the defendant relied upon, but are placed at the end of the book and are only referred to by a star placed in the regular portion of the diary. In addition, while the defendant was suffering the cruel and inhuman treatment, as alleged by her, she was writing most endearing and affectionate letters to the plaintiff.

“The husband, however, did not take the stand, contenting himself with the announcement of his counsel that he did not wish publicly to take issue on a question of veracity with his wife. In consequence, while making due allowance for the exaggeration and unreliability of the testimony of the defendant, there yet remain sufficient facts upon which to find a decree of separation, especially in view of the fact that the testimony has not been contradicted.”

Unfortunately, this was far from the end of Stokes vs. Stokes. The alimony question left hanging at the end of divorce/separation proceedings was delayed indefinitely, contributing to a legal technicality that forced a rematch in 1923 when Mrs. Stokes' suit for a separation would be heard separately – and heard only if her husband again lost in his divorce bid. And this time a jury would decide. Which meant W. E. D. Stokes should have known he didn't have a chance.


1922: On the horizon, visions of a rematch
JANUARY 16: W. E. D. Stokes secured an adjournment in the Supreme Court suit brought against him by the estate of his brother, the late Thomas Stokes. That made two Stokes suits scheduled for court this week, the other being Mrs. Helen Ellwood Stokes' suit to recover dower rights. Also, a motion to increase her alimony was scheduled before Justice Edward R. Finch.

[When it came to court cases, W. E. D. Stokes always had a full plate. The suit brought against him by the estate of his brother claimed $100,000 was due in principal and interest on loans Thomas Stokes had made to his brother in 1915. Thomas Stokes' widow would eventually win this case.]

FEBRUARY 1: “I considered Mrs. Stokes was a well-trained social pirate,” says Frederick L. Searing, one-time manager of the Hotel Ansonia, in testimony at the trial of Helen Ellwood Stokes’ suit to recover dower rights in the property of William Earl Dodge Stokes. Searing, a notary public, made the characterization during questioning by Samuel Untermyer, new counsel for Mrs. Stokes, about his certification of the signature of Helen Ellwood Stokes to a deed at the direction of Mr. Stokes.

W. E. D. Stokes, pictured by Mrs. Helen Ellwood Stokes as a brutal husband, testified in the Supreme Court that he was the victim of cruelty and violence at the hands of his young wife.

Telling of that encounter on November 20, 1916, at the residence of Mrs. Phil Kearney, 105 West 72nd Street, Mr. Stokes said: “She tore my face to shreds. One of the marks I carry now. She spat in my face and kicked my legs. Then she seized a knife and as I fled from her to the kitchen, the cook came out and saved me.”

FEBRUARY 3: Mrs. Rita de Acosta Lydig, former wife of W. E. D. Stokes, testified that during their married life, which terminated with a divorce in 1899, Mr. Stokes frequently struck her and hurt her very much.

W. E. D. Stokes, questioned on the stand by his wife's attorney, Samuel Untermyer, has another old letter resurface to embarrass him. Here is how the exchange was reported:

New York Telegram, February 3, 1911
Under cross examination Mr. Stokes said he had forbidden his wife to “go around with her friend Mrs. Phil Kearney, because I had learned that Mrs. Kearney was not the kind of woman I wanted her to associate with.” Mr. Untermyer bowed slightly and smiled.

“You wrote letters to Mrs. Kearney yourself, didn’t you?” he asked.

“Oh, business letters,” responded Mr. Stokes.

“Did you write this letter?” asked Mr. Untermyer, offering a closely written sheet of paper which the defendant scanned.

“Yes,” said the witness.

Mr. Untermyer then read the following extract from the letter:

“I learn you are going on the stage. I have had a great deal of experience with the stage and do not think you ought to do it, but if you decide to do so I would like to have you come to my apartment and to hear your voice.

“I would like to see you in tights. Tights are the first requisite to get a proper pitch to your voice. Be sure and bring your tights. If you haven’t any I’m sure I have a pair which were used when I was younger.”

MARCH 26: Mrs. Rita d’Acosta Lydig did not appear for cross-examination in the suit of Mrs. Helen Ellwood Stokes to set aside the release of her dower in the W. E. D. Stokes property. Mrs. Lydig had been served with a subpoena twice, said Isidor Gainsburg, counsel for Mr. Stokes. In behalf of Mrs. Lydig, an affidavit by her physician, Dr. John Colin Vaughan, was presented. Dr. Vaughan said a court appearance at this time would be “perilous to her life” because Mrs. Lydig was suffering from “pernicious anemia.” A court appointed physician was sent to her home and agreed she was too sick to testify. Her testimony was stricken from the record. Mrs. Stokes' attorney, Samuel Untermyer, did not object.

MARCH 28: Mrs. Helen Ellwood Stokes was on the stand for several hours in the trial of her suit to set aside the release of her dower in the W. E. D. Stokes property. She refuted her husband's allegations and declared, "I never heard such nonsense!"

MAY 15: Samuel Untermyer, attorney for Mrs. Helen Ellwood Stokes, made an application before Supreme Court Justice Edward R. Finch for $75,000 a year alimony, the appointment of a referee and an accountant to discover allegedly concealed assets of W. E. D. Stokes.

JUNE 12: Supreme Court Justice Edward R. Finch announced the order signed several years ago by Judge Ben B. Lindsey in the Juvenile Court in Denver awarding the custody of the children to Mrs. Stokes was not binding on the New York courts. Justice Finch would decide under what conditions Mr. Stokes may see his children in connection with the present proceedings, in which Mrs. Stokes asked an increase in her alimony from $18,000 to $75,000 a year under her separation decree.

JUNE 22: The alimony hearing got bogged down over disagreements about the size and worth of the W. E. D. Stokes estate. It appeared he was worth at least $5,000,000, perhaps a few million more.

The status of the Hotel Ansonia was never made clear in newspaper articles, though it was usually included among the properties said to be owned by Stokes. However, in 1911 it was reported he had given the hotel to his son, William Earl Dodge Stokes Jr., often referred to as "Weddie." Other stories had the hotel being operated by a hotel chain. Mrs. Stokes' legal team were certain the hotel still belonged to her husband.

JULY 10: Supreme Court Justice Cohalan restored to Mrs. Helen Ellwood Stokes dower rights in property valued at $6,000,000 to $7,000,000. Mrs. Stokes's share in her husband's property would be more than $2,000,000. Mrs. Stokes charged she had signed away her rights at the behest of her husband due to misrepresentation on his part. Her husband announced he would appeal the ruling.

Under the decision, Mrs. Stokes came into her dower rights in forty-nine pieces of valuable New York real estate. Included is the Hotel Ansonia. Under, the law she is entitled to a one-third interest in the property.

JULY 11: Since the separation decree Mrs. Stokes has been drawing temporary alimony of $18,000 a year. An application pending before Justice Finch asked for permanent alimony of $75,000 a year. Custody of the two children, aged six and eight, residing with Mrs. Stokes's mother in Denver was still in question, pending the alimony decision

Though Justice Edward R. Finch claimed he could set new custody arrangements, he never got around to it. Thus the alimony decision was delayed. W. E. D. Stokes and his new team of lawyers, brothers Daniel F. Nugent and John A. Nugent found an opportunity to ask for a retrial of the divorce suit.

OCTOBER 4: The New York Evening Telegram reported that W. E. D. Stokes would move to have reopened his divorce suit against Mrs. Helen Ellwood Stokes, which was decided in favor of the wife, who, on her counter claim, was awarded a separation from her millionaire husband.

Mr. Stokes, through his new attorneys, had papers prepared in support of a motion to be made in the Supreme Court to have the case restored to the calendar. Although defeated in his own action and also losing in the counter suit brought against him by his wife, Mr. Stokes asked for a new trial on what he alleged was newly discovered evidence against Mr. Stokes.

Daniel F. Nugent, for Mr. Stokes, pointed out a legal technicality: The long trial, which ended in the victory for Mrs. Stokes, is without result, because Justice Edward R. Finch, who decided in favor of Mrs. Stokes, never signed the decree of separation and now, having been designated for the Appellate Division by Governor Nathan Miller, Judge Finch no longer has the power to sign the order.

Justice Finch, however, although so promoted, had not yet begun his duties in the higher court and continued a justice of the Supreme Court. The divorce and separation suit was one of the longest matrimonial trials ever held in this county. Justice Finch never decided Mrs. Stokes motion for $75,000 a year alimony because when he sailed with Secretary of State Charles E. Hughes as a member of the American commission to the Brazilian centennial celebration the examination of witnesses and the submission of evidence in the case had not been completed.

Long story short: The divorce suit and the counter-suit for separation would have to be tried again.

The Nugent brothers would later claim they didn't want to take the case, but were told Stokes had been abused by his wife. So after turning him down twice, they agreed to represent him. They would regret it when Stokes involved them in an investigation of Mrs. Stokes that might well have crossed the line. Stokes and Daniel F. Nugent wound up being indicted in Chicago on a charge of conspiracy to defame Helen Ellwood Stokes. (That case would be heard in 1925.)

As the Nugents got deeper in mire over the Chicago investigation, Stokes hired yet another lawyer, Max D. Steuer, to handle the 1923 re-trial of his divorce suit. Steuer was considered one of New York's best lawyers. So was Samuel Untermyer, new counsel for Mrs. Stokes. The result would be a clash of titans. Unusually argumentative titans, at that.

CONTINUED
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