Flagstaff Pullen House History
614 West Santa Fe Avenue
Booze and Strychnine
A fine residence that attracts much interest is the two-story, two-tone sandstone structure at 614 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.