By the time he was held up by two gun-toting brothers on the road to the Split Rock quarry in 1892, Royal E. Fox, the 49-year-old Solvay Process Company paymaster, was probably one of the most unpopular men in Central New York.

Fox was always identified with his middle initial, which stood for a very unusual name — Evaungeal. Fox's life was marked by three tragedies, but many people blamed him for two of them — the deaths of his first and second wives.

For several years there was a lot of sympathy and admiration for Fox, who was born in Rochester, New York, and later became an insurance agent and a bookstore owner in Oswego, about 40 miles north of Syracuse. Fox, born in 1843, was a wounded veteran of the Civil War. But it was in 1877 that his first personal tragedy struck. By then he had moved to Syracuse.

Syracuse Journal, May 11, 1877
Several days since a little two and a half years old daughter of Mr. Royal E. Fox, residing at 8 Yates Terrace, while running about the room, with a pair of shears, with which she was engaged in cutting out paper dolls, accidentally fell, the point of the scissors penetrating the left optic cavity.

As the eye was not injured, nothing serious as anticipated. Subsequently inflammation set in, and despite the best medical aid, the child suffered severely until yesterday, when she died. Doubtless the point of the scissors penetrated the brain, with the above fatal result.

The funeral services of the deceased took place this noon, the remains being taken to Oswego for interment.

The girl's name was Gertrude Hawkins Fox, and it's possible this incident was a major influence on Mr. and Mrs. Fox, who later declared themselves devout Christian Scientists. However, until 1888, Fox seemed to be associated with St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Syracuse.

And until 1888, the few mentions of Royal E. Fox in print were favorable, such as this item:

Syracuse Standard, January 3, 1887
The chemical engine of Royal E. Fox, 10 First North Street, did good service at the fire of Friday evening, as it was entirely owing to its work that the adjoining house was saved with probably several others.

I'm not quite sure what a "chemical engine" was, and it may be something that actually belonged to the Solvay Process Company, where Fox was employed by then. Later that year, and again on March 24, 1888, Fox was mentioned in connections with stereopticon presentations he had made in connection with church events. But in 1889 Fox became a trustee for the Syracuse Church of Christ. As a Christian Scientist, the faith of Fox and his wife was soon tested. Mrs. Fox died in 1889, and Royal E. Fox remarried a year later to 36-year-old Hattie Dunham of Pompey Hill, an area just outside of Syracuse. Fox was 49 years old. Both Miss Dunham and her mother, Mrs. Roxanna M. Dunham, were Christian Scientists. After giving birth to a daughter,, Rosamond, in August, 1891, without the attendance of a doctor, the second Mrs. Fox became ill, and months later passed away.

By sticking to his Christian Science beliefs, Royal E. Fox became a villain. That he had lost two wives in three years made the situation that much worse.

Syracuse Weekly Express, November 24, 1892
Royal E. Fox, the paymaster of the Solvay Process Company, is a Christian Scientist, and three years ago last May, his first wife died under circumstances which caused comment and aroused the indignation of neighbors.

Some months after her death, Fox married Miss Hattie Dunham of Pompey Hill, also a Christian Scientist. Up to this time, his two daughters, Florence and Bella Fox, had lived with him, but on account of the marriage, they left him and are now with a family named Andrews, who live near the Methodist church in Geddes. Miss Bella is employed at the Solvay Process as a typist.

The neighborhood is again excited. The second Mrs. Fox was taken ill and at once began taking the Christian Science treatment. She continued to get worse, and people protested against the treatment the woman was receiving, but her husband told them to mind their own business. Ladies living in the vicinity of the Solvay Process works who had heard of the case held and indignation meetings, and decided to take action, but no attention was paid them by Mr. Fox.

When the husband of one of the women asked Mr. Fox what medical attention his wife was receiving, he was told that she was in the hands of her friends and was receiving the best of treatment. The wife of this same man went to the Fox home to ask about Mrs. Fox, and was told it was none of her business. Fox ordered the lady to keep away from his dwelling. This tended to increase the ire of his neighbors, who kept a close watch on the house and report they did not see a physician until last week when J. W. Candee, a homeopathic doctor was summoned.

The case had evidently gone so far that there were no hopes for the woman’s recovery, and yesterday afternoon at 2 o’clock, Mrs. Fox died. It is said that at the time of her death she was unconscious and surrounded by a number of the believers in her faith.

An Express reporter called upon Doctor Candee, who said, “I was first called to the house last Thursday. I did not know who the parties were that I was called on to attend until I arrived at the house, and then learned they were Christian Scientists. The woman was the means of having me called, and up to this time she had faith that she could be cured by her belief. She was apparently very ill, and when her mother, Mrs. Dunham, asked me if there was any chance of recovery, I could give her no satisfaction, and said I would not be surprised if she did not live six hours."

"I took full charge of the case and gave them to understand that I would only take the case on condition that I was not to be interfered with in any respect.

“I placed a trained nurse in the house to represent me in my absence. The trouble with Mrs. Fox was that she was suffering from mitral disease of the heart, followed by dilatation. At this time her extremities were cold and of a purplish hue, this being caused by the stagnation of the blood in these places. I began a course of treatment.

“At the end of 48 hours, the patient was far better, and some hopes were entertained for her recovery. She remained in this condition until Tuesday night, when called at the house about 11 o’clock that night I saw there was no possible chance for her recovery.”

The death of Mr. Fox’s first wife, which is recalled by the circumstance attending the present case, occurred on May 7, 1889, at the family home, 80 Erie Street. Mrs. Fox had been subject to bilious attacks for several years. When the first one came on, Dr. J. W. Sheldon was called, and when the patient had begun to improve, she was left to the charge of Dr. E. H. Flint, who lived in the neighborhood. Other attacks followed, and Doctor Flint was usually called in.

Mrs. Fox was at the time, to some extent, a believer in Christian Science, and her husband was, as he said at the time, “very firm in the faith.” During a fit of illness several weeks before her death, Mrs. Fox relied entirely upon Christian Science. Mrs. E. P. Bates, a leading apostle of the science, attended her, and she got better.

Mrs. Fox was told that, it was asserted, that having been once cured by Christian Science, she would be free from the malady and proof against it in any form. However, she was soon attacked by the old complaint with even more severity than before, and three days later she died.

At the last moment, Doctor Flint was called, but arrived at the house too late. He made out the death certificate, assigning inflammation of the liver as the cause of death.

It wasn't long before Royal E. Fox was courting the woman who would become his third wife. Her name was Jenny, she lived with her parents in Buffalo, and she was 34 years old. Fox was 51. Her parents were against the marriage, so Fox convinced her to run off with him, and they were married in Brooklyn in 1895.

Eight years later, she left him, and in 1907 she filed an action for legal separation supported by what the Syracuse Journal called, "The most sensational allegations ever made in a divorce or separation action brought in Onondaga County."

Prior to her marriage, the woman said in her complaint, Mr. Fox visited her at her home a number of times and gave her numerous and varied presents. He claimed to be a wealthy man with a good position with the Solvay Process Company. He said his wife had died and left him a number of children, but he kept servants to do the work of the house and she would have nothing to do except supervise the housekeeping and look after the younger children.

Mrs. Fox further claimed that after the marriage her husband "began to treat her cruelly, telling her that she did not know anything, and forbade her giving any orders about the house; told her that she was to confine herself to her room; that the children did not have to mind her and that she was not to attempt to correct them. He accused her of being unfaithful to him and her marriage vow; told her she was not a good woman and charged her with infidelity. He also forbade her having anything to do with the neighbors.

“In the month of May, 1897, the plaintiff was ill after giving birth to a child and during the several months of her sickness the defendant neglected her and did not give her proper care and medical attendance."

Not mentioned was the fate of her baby, which apparently died in birth or during infancy. According to the 1900 United States census, Royal E. Fox was living with his wife, Jenny, and two children, Grace, 16, and Rosemond, 9.

Mrs. Fox said that in 1900, her husband brought home Marion Coville, and introduced her as a friend of the family. Miss Coville became an important part of the family. To Mrs. Fox, the younger woman — Marion Coville was 30 at the time — was her husband's mistress; he would later say she was his secretary; occasionally she was identified as a nanny for Fox's daughter, Rosemond, and in 1920, long after Jenny Fox was out of her husband's life, Marion Coville would live with Royal E. Fox and be identified in the 1920 census as his niece.

To me, the most interesting part of her complaint was this:

"Shortly after Miss Coville arrived at the house, and while the plaintiff was in a very feeble condition, the defendant and Miss Coville came into the room of the plaintiff the defendant hugged and kissed Miss Coville and when remonstrated with by the plaintiff, the defendant said he was possessed by the devil at the time and that the affair would never take place again.

“The next day the defendant told the plaintiff that he had received a note from Miss Coville, that she was very indignant because of his actions of the evening previous and demanded an apology.

“The defendant requested the plaintiff to take a written apology to Miss Coville, saying that he could not face her himself. Plaintiff took a sealed letter to Miss Coville which Mr. Fox had written, presumably an apology for the defendant’s conduct, but which plaintiff afterward learned was a letter giving particulars of an appointment which defendant was making with her for some future date."

The Syracuse Journal reported on April 5, 1902 that Miss Marion Coville had accompanied Mr. and Mrs. Royal E. Fox on a southern trip that included stops in Richmond, Virginia, and Washington, D. C. In her bid for a legal separation, Mr. Fox said that her husband spent most of that trip alone with Miss Coville.

Later, said Mrs. Fox, her husband brought home another woman, hugging and kissing her in the presence of his wife. Finally, in November, 1903, Mrs. Fox moved out.

In his response, Royal E. Fox admitted he and his wife had a poor marriage, but he denied the reasons she had put forth in her complaint. Putting it simply, he said his wife was insane. Fox was willing to support her to the tune of $8 a week, saying he'd been sending her that amount ever since she left him. In what I thought was a nice touch on his part, Fox said he wanted her to return home, that she'd always be welcome.

Mrs. Fox claimed her husband made $7,000 a year, and she wanted much more than the $8 a week he was sending her. Fox said his salary was less than half of that — only $3,000 a year, that he was he struggling to pay his debts, which amounted to $23,977.

The judge tended to side with Royal E. Fox, and his wife did not win her bid for a legal separation. Just what happened to her was not reported. A New York State Census in 1915 indicated she had moved to Camillus, west of Syracuse, while, as mentioned earlier, Royal Fox remained at 303 North Lowell Avenue with his daughter, Rosemonde, and Mary Coville.

In 1911, Fox retired as the Solvay Process Company paymaster, a position he had held for 30 years. He continued as personal secretary to the company's founder, William B. Cogswell, who, it turned out, was Fox's safety net in the matter of those debts he mentioned in court during his wife's attempt to win a legal separation. When Cogswell died in 1921, his will left $25,000 to Fox, but the legacy was canceled in a codicil which explained that the money had already been given to Fox.

Just how many children Royal E. Fox had is something I could not determine. The impression I got from the newspaper articles I read was the Fox family split in several directions. I believe the first Mrs. Fox had seven children, possibly eight. One of them, Gertrude, was a toddler when she died in Oswego in 1877.

From the story about the deaths of Royal E. Fox's first two wives, it appears daughters Florence and Isabella (aka Bella) had a falling out with their father and moved out. Florence married James Barker Faldo; I found nothing further about Bella.

The 1894 edition of The Onondagan, a Syracuse University publication, listed three students named Fox who all lived at 303 Lowell Avenue in Syracuse — John Nelson Fox, Mary Mason Fox and Royal Edward Fox Jr. Technically, I don't think this Royal E. Fox could be designated Jr. because his middle name wasn't the same as his father's. In any event, Royal Edward Fox graduated not from Syracuse University, but Cornell, class of 1897.

Royal Evaungeal Fox's second wife, Hattie, who died in 1892, was the daughter of Mrs. R. M. Dunham, who had a home in Pompey Hill, a short distance to the southeast of Syracuse. After Hattie Dunham Fox died, her daughter, Rosamond, went to live with her grandmother, whose comings and goings were regularly covered by the Syracuse newspapers. One item, in the Daily Journal on August 30, 1893, really caught my eye:

"Miss Mary and Messrs. John, Eddie and Fred Fox of Syracuse are the guests of Mrs. R. M. Dunham."

Okay, Mary and John, I knew who they were. Eddie? That might have been Royal Edward. But Fred? That one has me stumped. Grace Louise Fox, who was 16 years old in 1900 when she was living at 303 Lowell Avenue with her father, got married in 1906 to Albert Mitchell of Buffalo.

What I noticed about almost all social items about the Fox children was the absence of their father's name among the guests. This apparent alienation shows up more in the next person on my list.

Before moving on, however, some more about Marion Coville, who, like Royal E. Fox, marched to a different drummer, as indicated by these two newspaper items:

Syracuse Journal, June 15, 1916
Miss Marion Coville gave a unique luncheon yesterday at her home at 303 Lowell Avenue. Miss Coville’s guests were the members of the two Emerson classes conducted in this city by Miss Catherine Carter. The unique part of the affair was that though a “roast” which a rich gravy sauce was served, there was absolutely no meat in the entire meal.

The women have become interested in Miss Coville’s principles of living, which preclude not only the killing of animals for food, but the use of fur, wool and leather for clothing.
Syracuse Herald, May 31, 1917
Central City WCTU will meet tomorrow afternoon at 2 o’clock at the home of Miss Marion Coville, 303 North Lowell Avenue. The program is being arranged by M. Elizabeth Hempbill, superintendent of Flower Mission and Relief Work. Miss Coville will speak during the afternoon on “Carnivorous and Predatory Living, a Vital Violation of the Principles of Temperance.” Members of other unions of the city are invited to attend the meeting.

In 1920,, Miss Coville was the Socialist Party candidate for superintendent of the poor, a county position, which, in 1930, was renamed commissioner of public welfare. She did not win the election.

Royal Evaungeal Fox left Syracuse, and died in LaJolla, California, in 1929. His daughter, Rosemond married Edward B. Walters in the 1920s, but they were divorced by 1930.

It's amazing the things you come upon online. For instance, there's a mention of Royal Evaungeal Fox in "The Register of the Empire State Society of the Sons of the American Revolution" which lists all of the Civil War battles in which Fox participated as a member of the 24th New York Volunteers Cavalry. The notation also says he was the son of R. A. Fox and Celinda Hamlin; grandson of Simeon Hamlin and Elizabeth Pierce.

This led me to an interesting tidbit posted by one Susan Larson on genealogy.com on November 29, 2003. Apparently Ms. Larson never received a reply to her request for more information about the connection between Simeon Hamlin and his descendants, one of whom was Royal E. Fox. But Ms. Larson also posted some information gather from an ad placed in the "Green Mountain farmer" on July 10, 1809, which showed me how history can repeat itself.

The ad was placed by Simeon Hamlin, who stated, "Whereas, Elizabeth, my wife, has eloped from my bed and board without just cause or provocation, I will pay not debt of her contracting."

A week later, Elizabeth Pierce Hamlin replied: "Whereas Simeon Hamblin hath advertised me, his wife, for leaving him without cause: this is to give equally public notice that his statement is false. He has not provided anything for the sustenance of myself or our children, but has ordered me to go off and get my living where I can. I am willing to live with him, if he will provide for his family a habitation."

At least, in the case of their grandson, Royal E. Fox, he was willing to provide his estranged wife the not-so-princely sum of $8 per week.