Young, vulnerable widow falls victim to two-timer

February 18, 2017

 

Adah Honeyman Quealy’s first husband, John J.A. Quealy, died at the age of 30 in 1875, and is buried at Holy Family Cemetery. PHOTO/MARY LOU MONTGOMERY

 

 

MARY LOU MONTGOMERY

 

Adah Byron Honeyman Quealy was but 27 years old when her husband, John J.A. Quealy, 30, was called to his eternal rest in Hannibal, Mo., at the end of August 1875.

The daughter of R.D. Honeyman – a prominent Hannibal contractor – and daughter-in-law of the recently deceased W.J. Quealy, the well-known founder of the "Quealy Car and Iron Works of Hannibal," Adah was considered to be both handsome and accomplished, and was a favorite in Hannibal society.

The death of her husband – who had recently concluded a term in the Missouri legislature – was a shock not only to the family, but also to the citizens of Hannibal and beyond.

 

James Slocum

James Slocum, representing himself as a wealthy investor from the East, had come to Hannibal circa 1878, announcing plans to build a new $40,000 hotel on the corner of Fourth and Center streets. The grand structure would be a boon to Hannibal, and businessmen and local investors alike got on board with the plan. Slocum, for his development fee, would collect $10,000. It wasn’t long before three quarters of the money was pledged by citizens eager to earn a good return on their money.

Unfortunately, before the hotel was built, the subscription drive fell apart. No hotel. No return on investments.

But yet, James Slocum came out OK. He endeared himself to local citizens, touting his personal wealth and past successful development projects. He remained in town, and with his big talk, co-mingled with society folk.

 

Courtship, marriage

During the course of Hannibal’s society gatherings, Adah Byron Honeyman Quealy caught the eye of James Slocum, and his charm proved irresistible to the widow. “He wooed her in the usual manner of a love sick swain, and evinced such a genuine affection and such manly artlessness, that in short time they were engaged,” the Shelbina Democrat reported on July 3, 1878.

Some reports indicate that it was only six weeks after the initially met – on June 12, 1878 - when Slocum and Quealy stood before Rev. Father Kennedy, of the Catholic Church, and exchanged vows at her father’s home on North Fifth Street.

The pair had planned a wedding trip to the West, but shortly after the ceremony, plans changed.

 

Suspicion

While Slocum won the trust of many people in town, there were a few doubters amongst the population.

Particularly, there were two young men who had heard rumors that Slocum had a wife and three children that he had abandoned – penniless - in Elmira, N.Y.

They sent a marked copy of the wedding notice to Mrs. James Slocum, and another to the newspaper in Elmira, New York.

Almost immediately after the notice’s arrival in Elmira, a telegram arrived in Hannibal, addressed to Mr. Honeyman, Adah’s father.

“Elmira, N.Y. June 21. R.D. Honeyman: Arrest James Slocum, my husband. Hold him till I get there. Mrs. James Slocum.”

 

Abbreviated trip

Instead of leaving for the West, Slocum took his new bride by train to Quincy, Ill., where they registered under the pseudo name of “J.C. Sloan and Lady, of New York.”

Under the pretense that he was awaiting a large check from the East coast before he could proceed with his honeymoon plans, they remained at the Wilson House for a few days.

“Things began to look black for our modern Lovelace,” Shelbina Democrat reported.

Adah’s brother-in-law, William Baker, after hearing the rumors, began an investigation into charges of bigamy lodged against Slocum. Once satisfied that the rumors were true, he swore out a warrant for Slocum’s arrest.

Adah was convinced to return to Hannibal by train, and Slocum agreed to travel to Galesburg, where he said that his friend, the town’s attorney, would vouch for his innocence.

On the way to Hannibal, Adah’s friends told her of the unfortunate situation regarding her new husband. At the same time, officers arrested Slocum and lodged him in the jail at Quincy.

“Slocum’s bride was in ignorance of what had been said and done, and not until she was on her way to Hannibal did her friends break the rash facts to her,” the newspaper reported.

At the time of his arrest, he was in possession of Adah’s watch, and it was believed that he had also secured her jewelry.

Adah returned to the home of her parents, where she would continue living until 1880. Embarrassed over her vulnerability, Adah gained the sympathy of her hometown friends for her ordeal.

Slocum spent a year in jail, first at Quincy, Ill., and later at Ohio. In August 1879, he was reportedly traveling through Vermont, “where he is acquiring some newspaper notoriety by swindling the proprietors of hotels and livery stables,” according to the Shelbina Democrat, Aug. 6, 1879.

 

Marriage

Adah Quealy married Charles B. Sloat on June 17, 1880, at the residence of the bride’s parents, by the Rev. Father Morris, according to The Palmyra Spectator, June 25, 1880.

Adah died in Oakland, Calif., on July 28, 1936, where she had lived for 33 years. She was 87 at the time of her death. She had no children.

 

Quealy barn

At the time of his death, John and Adah made their home at 900 Lyon Street, on the lot where Karen’s Dance Academy is located in 2017. Their home was directly across Lyon Street from the Quealy Foundry.

A barn was situated on the lot. In May 1875 – some three months before his death – Mr. Quealy sold the barn to Mrs. Col. J.B. (Eliza) Rogers, who lived on the west side of the 100 block of South Maple. The barn was subsequently moved from the Quealy property, to the back of the lot (the west end) of Mrs. Roger’s property.

In August 1877, the barn caught fire, but a quick-thinking neighbor reported the fire before it had the chance to spread, and the fire department was able to save the structure. Ironically, the Hannibal Clipper, in reporting the fire, still referred to the barn as “The Quealy barn,” despite the fact it had been purchased and moved by Mrs. Rogers.

By the time the first Sanborn maps were drawn in 1885, the Quealy house was gone, replaced by a vacant lot.

 

Fine casket

John Quealy’s largess was reflected in the family’s choice of final resting container.

The Hannibal Clipper of Aug. 29, 1875, offered this description:

“The most beautiful and costly burial casket that we have ever seen in the one that is to receive to-day the remains of Mr. J.J.A. Quealy. It is a full ornamented and silver plated metallic case of rosewood finish and trimmed inside with the very richest of white satin and heavy silk fringe. A silver cross at the foot and silver name plate is at the head of the casket while between them are silver cherubims watching the sleeper as if they were the messengers of God.”

 

 

Mr. and Mrs. R.D. Honeyman lived in the 400 block of North Fifth Street, the street known in its heyday as “Millionaires Row.” Their daughter, Adah, married James Slocum in 1878, and they later found out that Slocum already had a wife and three children that he had abandoned in Elmira, N.Y. PHOTO/MARY LOU MONTGOMERY

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