Mamah Borthwick Cheney and Two Children Murdered

On August 15, 1914, one of Wright's recently hired domestic workers, Julian Carlton, murdered Mamah, her two children, three of Wright's associates, and a son of one of the associates.

Carlton set fire to one wing of Wright's house, Taliesin, and then he hacked the seven people with an ax while it burned. At the time, Wright was overseeing work on Midway Gardens in Chicago, Illinois.

The Detroit Tribune
Originally published in The Detroit Tribune, August 16, 1914, Page 1-2

Negro Fires "Love Bungalow," Slays Architect’s Soul Mate, and Cuts Down Eight Others.

Caption: Mrs. Mamah Bouton Borthwick.

Puts Torch to Wisconsin Cottage of Frank Lloyd Wright of Chicago, and Kills Six and Injures Three as They Crawl Out of Window.

SPRING GREEN, Wis., Aug. 15 - A mad Negro, armed with a hand ax, today ended the romance of Mamah Bouton Borthwick, formerly Mrs. Edwin H. Cheney, of Oak Park. Ill., and Frank Lloyd Wright, wealthy Chicago Architect, with whom she lived with as a wife since 1911.
Setting fire to the elaborate bungalow built by Wright for Mrs. Borthwick here after his estrangement from his wife, the Negro stood outside and attempted to brain Mrs. Borthwick and eight other occupants of the building, members of the family and employes (sp), as they fled from the flames. He succeeded in ending her life and the lives of five others, probably fatally injuring a seventh and seriously wounding the remainder.

Mrs. Borthwick is said to have reprimanded the man, Julian Carlton, a chef in her kitchen. He brooded over this. It is thought, and became insane.
Carlton disappeared after the killing, but after a search of several hours had been made for him, reappeared. He was hurried into an automobile and rushed to the Iowa county jail, 18 miles away.
The dead are:
MRS. MAMAH BOUTON BORTHWICK, cut about the head and neck, her clothing burned.
MARTHA BORTHWICK CHENEY, her 10-year-old daughter, cut about head.
JOHN BORTHWICK CHENEY, her 13-year-old son, head chopped open, badly burned.
EMIL BURDELL, 30, Draughtsman, cut about the head and badly burned.
TOM BRUNKER, laborer, cut and burned.
ERNEST WESTON, 18, burned about head.
The fatally injured:
David Lindblum, a gardener, cut about the head.
The seriously injured:
William Weston, carpenter, cut about the neck and burned.
Herbert Fritz, cut and burned, arm broken.

Sheriff Bauer organized a search for Carlton as soon as he learned of the murder. Posses of farmer joined with the sheriff’s deputies and bloodhound were obtained. It was believed the Negro had escaped down the Wisconsin river in a canoe.
While neighbors guarded the grounds and the men with the hounds were searching the countryside, Carlton crawled out of a boiler. He was nearly suffocated from the heat and appeared thoroughly exhausted. He said he had taken poison, but would give no reason for the crime.

Carlton, with his wife, had been in Wright’s employ four months, coming here from Chicago. Mrs. Carlton was found dazed after the tragedy, walking along the highway and was taken in custody. She denied any participation in the affair.
The Negro displayed fiendish ingenuity in arranging his victims for the slaughter. All were in the dining room when he lighted a rug soaked in gasoline in front of the door, according to William Weston, the least seriously injured. In a moment, the room was in flames. But one means of egress, a window, was left.
Mrs. Borthwick was the first to put her head through the window. The Negro, waiting outside, struck her down with one blow, crushing her skill, then dragged her body out and waited for the next. Little John Cheney followed. His head was split open. Then Burdell fell.

"As each one put his head out," said Weston, "the Negro struck, killing or stunning his victim. I was the last. The ax struck me in the neck and knocked me down, but left me conscious. I got up and ran, the Negro after me. Then I fell, and he hit me again. I guess he thought he had me, because he ran back to the window and I got up and ran. When I looked back he had disappeared."
By this time, Weston said, the bungalow was in flames. Neighbors appeared and later officials of the town. A search was made for Carlton and his wife who were missing. Mrs. Carlton’s apprehension soon followed but no trace of her husband was found.
The fire was confined to the bungalow and when it had been controlled, neighbors, many of whom had been bitter against Mrs. Borthwick, joined the posse in search of the murderer.
Word reached here tonight that Wright had left Chicago for Spring Green. He had not been here since Tuesday, when he left for Chicago. Assisted by Burdell, he did much of his architectural work here.