This Gruesome Wisconsin Mass Murder Involves A National Celebrity
Frank Lloyd Wright is easily the most recognizable name in American architectural history, but little does anyone know about the tragedy that would change the rest of his life.
Wright became entangled in a public scandal in 1909, after having news come out of an affair between him and the wife of a client whose home he was working on.
Mamah Borthwick Cheney and Wright had their affair, which led to Wright leaving his wife of twenty years and their six children, to run off to Europe with his new love.
It would take almost 11 years to finalize the divorce because his wife delayed the process, but eventually, Wright wanted to return to America.
He had built a home in Spring Green, Wisconsin, which would be far enough from the public eye of Chicago for him to return quietly with his new love and her two children. It was called Taliesin, a word meaning "shining brow."
In 1911, the family moved into the secret hideaway, which only stayed secret for a short time before the press found out about the love nest.
On August 15th, 1914, Wright had gone to Chicago for business while his family stayed behind at Taliesin. There was work being done on the house at the time, so not only were the family and the usual house-workers there but also a construction crew.
He received a message in Chicago that there was a fire at Taliesin, and he needed to come home immediately.
Mamah set the dining room aside for the workers to eat lunch, while she and the children ate on the veranda.
Julian Carlton, the home's resident butler, came to the dining room to clean some stains on the rugs, which he used gasoline to do, which the workers said they didn't mind. Julian left the room to grab the gasoline.
The details from here are not 100% certain, as there weren't really any witnesses to give any other recountings of what came next.
Carlton then went out to the veranda holding a hatchet, swinging and killing Mamah with one blow to the face. Her son John, 11, was killed next. 9-year-old Martha tried to run, but Carlton caught and killed her as well. He poured gasoline over their bodies and set them on fire.
Then, Carlton went back to the dining room, where the workers were eating, poured the rest of the gas under the door, and lit on fire.
One worker, David Lindblom, jumped out of the window, his clothes on fire, and rolled down the hill before running to a neighbor's house about half a mile away.
By the time the firemen arrived, the house was destroyed. Lindblom later died from his burns.
Carlton was found hiding out in a fireproof furnace, where he'd drank hydrochloric acid to kill himself, but didn't die until 7 weeks later. He claimed that the family and other workers picked on him, and had even told Wright and Mamah that he and his wife were leaving the residence whether or not he'd been given two weeks' notice.
It was reported that he acted strangely in the days leading up to the massacre.
After the home was investigated, it was found that 4 of the workers were murdered, as well as Mamah and her two children, totaling 7 murdered and Carlton's death by suicide.
Wright was distraught about what happened to his family and employees and paid for the funerals of the killed workers.
He rebuilt Taliesin in memory of his love, but in 1925 it was struck by lightning and burned to the ground again. This didn't stop him from building Taliesin III in the same spot.
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