Gardner Murdock and the Gilded Age

Gardner Murdock

Gardner Murdock and his wife Nellie were involved in an episode of alleged wife swapping, during 1912-1913, with the wealthy Henry C. Edey’s of Bellport which tragically ended in the deaths of Henry and his wife. The story, as it unfolded in the newspapers, follows (pdf):

New York Time 3 Aug 1912. Mrs. Henry C. Edey Leaves Home
New York Times 8 Aug 1912. Gardner Murdock of Bellport Sails
New York Times 3 Jan 1913. Henry C. Edey Fearing Suit Kills Wife and Self
New York Times 4 Jan 1913. Gardner Murdock Wants to Clear Mrs. Edey’s Name
New York Times 5 Jan 1913. Nellie Corwin Murdock Testifies and
Boston Globe 5 Jan 1913. Nellie Corwin Murdock Tells of Amazing Plan To Swap Wives
New York Times 12 Jan 1913. Gardner Murdock Denies His Wife’s Story

It is said that there was more to this story than what appeared in these news articles (as there almost always is). It’s beyond me to sort out fact from fiction. I’ll stick to the published versions.

Gardner and Nellie appear to have continued to live together for the remainder of their lives. It is said that there son Milton, who also got entangled in the lives of the wealthy, was of a very different disposition. But that’s another story.

Boston Globe clipping courtesy of Ken Spooner

Gardner was later involved in another episode, in 1933, which also lead to tragic death. He owned two “tame” bears. One of the bears broke its restraints, mauling and killing an eleven year old boy. The official account began nine months before the actual mauling —
The stories as they appeared in the New York Times (pdf):

New York Times 29 Jan 1932. Posses With Candy Hunt Roving Pet Bear
New York Times 3 Oct 1933. Pet Bear Kills Boy Giving It An Apple
New York Times 6 Oct 1933. Freed In Killing By Bear

Fred Raynor, a nearby neighbor, killed the bear. The Taylor family was living on the Robinson Duck Farm (Historic Site SH04) where Grant Taylor’s father was employed. He was walking home from the South Haven School (Historic Site SH11A) with his sister Betty (although she was some distance behind), a distance of about one mile.

The story was not only of local interest, but also appeared in many newspapers across the nation.

Newspaper clipping courtesy of Ken Spooner