Flagstaff Pullen House History
Booze and Strychnine
A fine residence that attracts
much interest is the two-story, two-tone sandstone structure at 612 West
Santa Fe, built in 1909. Its design and use of local materials is
unique, and it is also interesting as a part of the story of Barbara
England, who built it and lived there for nearly 30 years. A start had
been made on foundation and outside walls when, in the spring of 1908, her
husband, William, 48, stonecutter and mason, died of strychnine poisoning,
and Barbara, of the same age, a practical nurse who owned a Hart Prairie
ranch and other property, was charged with his murder.
England suffered with
"stonecutter's consumption" (silicosis). A heavy drinker,
in late May he came in from the ranch and spent four or five days in the
saloons, then sent word for Barbara to come and get him. Before
climbing in the wagon he bought a quart of his favorite "Velvet"
bourbon at the Curio Saloon. He continued drinking on the way home
and through the evening. In the night he became violently ill, and
died in the wagon as she was bringing him to a doctor. Strychnine
was found in vital organs and the half-empty whiskey bottle. Barbara
was arrested and released on $10,000 bail. A bottle of strychnine
was found at the ranch and there was medical testimony that the poison
caused his death. W.H. Switzer Sr. testified that when Barbara came
through the store on the way to the saloon to pick up her husband, he
suggested that she should sober him up, and her response was, "I will
get rid of him." Herman Dietzman, another oldtimer, testified that
the couple had been having trouble.
Barbara took the stand to say
that she warned her husband that drinking would kill him and he replied,
"No, strychnine." C.C. Compton said England had told him
that he used the drug as a tonic and stimulant to brace him up, and that
he had probably eaten "40 pounds" during his life. Several
citizens testified to Barbara's good character. The jury took 20
minutes and returned a verdict of not guilty.
Barbara was soon joined by a
nephew, Steve Eck, 35, of Chicago, also a skilled stonecutter. He
completed work on the house and they moved in. She was active in the
Woman's Club and the Catholic Altar Society and continued to ranch, and it
was said that, strong and well-muscled, she could work with pitchfork,
shovel or ax alongside any man. She also continued to nurse.
Eck worked as a stone mason on the Church of the Nativity, directed both
the rebuilding of the Harold Colton house and the main building of the
Museum of Northern Arizona, and many structures on the campus. He
died of pneumonia on an early morning in October 1937. Barbara
England died of a stroke five hours later, and a double funeral was
held. She was a sister of P.J. Michelbach Sr., one of the
hard-working German-Americans who colonized Hart Prairie.
by Platt Cline 1994