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Washington D.C. Real Estate Dealer’s Wild Divorce and Troubled Marriage

Learn the wild story of William F. Matteson, a real estate dealer in Washington D.C. who filed a divorce and two suits against his wife's lovers for the alleged alienation of her affections. Find out the results of the tumultuous legal battle and the drama that unfolded.
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Initially, this was going to be part of the previous post about Cathedral Highlands, but it was too good. This deserves it’s own post. Trust me when I say this is crazy.

Colorado Building at 14th and G St. NW
Colorado Building at 14th and G St. NW

We learned from the advertisement in the previous post that Matteson worked in the Colorado Building on G St. Side note … Thomas F. Walsh struck gold in Ouray, Colorado and moved his family to Washington in the late 19th century. He built both the Colorado Building and a sister building, the Ouray at 8th and G St. NW in the early 1900s. A side, side note … his daughter Evalyn at one time owned the Hope Diamond.

Okay, sorry for the tangent … Back to Mr. Matteson.

William was born in 1876 in Michigan and had been in Washington for almost a decade by the time of the above advertisement. In the 1910 U.S. Census, he was listed as living with his family at 3435 Brown St. NW, in Mt. Pleasant. He’s listed as having been married 11 years, but no wife is listed. There were four sons, and a daughter, as well as two servants living there.

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William F. Matteson family in 1910 U.S. Census (Ancestry.com)
William F. Matteson family in 1910 U.S. Census (Ancestry.com)

I can’t resist. I’m curious about Matteson’s family situation. Aren’t you?

A quick Washington Post archive search and I have my answer. An article from June 23rd, 1911 sheds light on what was likely a rocky family relationship.

Five Washington tots, children of William F. Matteson, of 1821 Lamont street, will inherit about $14,000 from their mother, Lula A. Matteson, notwithstanding their mother’s effort, just before her death, to cut them off with a dollar each in her will. Such is the outcome of a bitter legal contest between the father, as a natural guardian of the little heirs, and relatives of the mother, to whom the property of Mrs. Matteson was given by the terms of the so-called will, which ended yesterday in the surrogate court of New York City.

Mr. Matteson was granted a divorce from his wife last December 23, and allowed the custody of the five little ones by the District Supreme Court. Following this proceeding, Mr. Matteson voluntarily settled upon the mother of his children about $15,000. Shortly afterward, Mrs. Matteson moved to New York City and died their on March 22. According to the evidence adduced before the surrogate court, her last illness began on March 18. On the following day she wrote what was intended to operate as her last will, cutting off her offspring with $1 each, and giving the remainder of her estate, worth about $14,000, to her father, Edgar S. Van Norman, an employe [sic] in the Treasury Department; a brother, and a cousin. The paper was filed for probate, and was attacked by the filing of a caveat in behalf of the children.

Wild. There’s clearly a lot more to this story and I have to keep digging. I smell a scandal. Brace yourself.

An earlier Post article, the day after the divorce was granted, gets into the details of this troubled marriage.

Washington, Dec. 23.–The sum of $300,000 is the price set on the affections of his wife, Mrs. Lula A. Matteson, by William F. Matteson, a prominent real estate dealer of Washington.

Today he filed two suits of $150,000 each against Dr. John A. Stutz, a physician, and Louis F. Holden, an employe of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, for the alleged alienation of Mrs. Matteson’s affections. The papers in the suit were filed 10 minutes after Justice Gould, of the District Supreme Court, had granted Mr. Matteson an absolute divorce from his wife and given the five children into the custody of the father.

On April 20 last Mr. Matteson filed a petition for divorce, in which Dr. Stutz and Holden were named co-respondents. Both defendants are married, and each has several children. According to the petition filed today, it is alleged that Mrs. Matteson committed acts of infidelity with Dr. Stutz, who first became acquainted with Mrs. Matteson when he called at the house in a professional capacity, more than three years ago. It is alleged that on other occasions Dr. Stutz was at the Matteson home when neither Mrs. Matteson nor any members of the household were in need of his services.

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Oh boy. This can’t be good.

Dr. John Stutz family in the 1910 U.S. Census
Dr. John Stutz family in the 1910 U.S. Census

I’m sure Emma, his wife of 23 years, had a choice word or two about the situation in which he so foolishly placed himself. They lived together, with their son and daughter, at 1645 13th St. NW.

Holden, in his testimony at the trial of the divorce case today, said that at the time Mrs. Matteson drove the prize-winning car in the floral parade of the Chamber of Commerce in 1908, William F. Matteson invited him to ride home in Matteson’s car. Holden says they went to Matteson’s home, at 3435 Brown street, where he was ushered into the parlor by Mr. Matteson, who pulled a gun from his pocket and ordered Holden into the next room.

As he was practically compelled to do so, Holden says he complied with the order. Then Matteson pointed the gun at him again, with the words, “Go and stand over there. I have a matter to settle with you.” Holden then says the husband called Mrs. Matteson downstairs and pointing to Holden, asked if he was the man who had insulted her. Mrs. Matteson, he testified, tremblingly replied that he was. Holden then alleges that Matteson, pointing the revolver, ordered him to drop on his knees and apologize. Holden says he again complied with Matteson’s orders, being in fear of his life. Mrs. Matteson, it is said, pleaded with her husband not to kill the man before him, and, after apparently considering the question, Matteson felled him with the butt of the weapon.

Holy sh*t, this is crazy. This ranks up there as one of the craziest stories I have come across. I’m sure you’ll agree.

Holden was also married with three daughters and a son. He lived in Columbia Heights with his wife Mary and family at 1319 Monroe St. NW.

In the court reports of the Washington Post on February 18th, 1911, I came across the following results for the case.

Matteson vs. Stutz: demurrer of plaintiff to defendant’s second pleas to first and second counts of declaration overruled. Plaintiff’s attorneys, Wilson & Barksdale; defendant’s attorneys, H. P. Gatley and W. B. Penfield.

This was certainly the most drama-packed blog post thus far. I just wanted to do a little research on Cathedral Heights for GoDCer Samantha and it opened up a huge can of worms. One thing led to another which became progressively crazier.

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Enjoy daily

Ghosts of DC stories.