In my last post, I described how with my cousin Conrad’s help I had been able to track down Gertrude Cone Metz/Raymond Blumann/Smith Keller up to 1920 when she had been married to or at least living with George W. Keller as well as her son George Metz (named as George Elwood Keller on the 1920 census) and their daughter “Florence,” who Conrad and I decided was actually Ida Jane Keller, the daughter of Gertrude and George W. Keller born in 1905.
I also noted that by 1925 it appeared that Gertrude and her third “husband” George W. Keller were separated as George W. was living with his parents and with his daughter Ida, who had married Eugene Merker in 1921 but from whom she must have been separated by 1925. Ida and Eugene’s daughter was also living with the Kellers in 1925.
But where were Gertrude and her son George Metz in the 1920s? Conrad found a series of newspaper articles revealing that his father George B. Metz had disappeared for some time in September 1923. The story ran in multiple newspapers throughout the United States as police all over the country were searching for the missing “G.B. Metz.” 1 The New York Times began its coverage on its front page on September 13, 1923, describing how George B. Metz had been hired by H. A. Ross of the Pittsburgh Lamp, Brass and Glass Company two weeks earlier to be their Colorado representative. Ross had received that day a letter from Metz mailed from Denver in which he acknowledged receipt of an expense check, but Ross had also been notified by the Denver police that same morning that Metz had disappeared.2
This same article also reported comments made by Russell B. Cressman, a friend and former co-worker of George Metz at the Gleason-Tiebout Company in New York, manufacturers of electrical appliances, where Metz had worked for seven years, or since about 1916. Cressman described Metz as having “an equable, quiet disposition and was very well liked by his business associates.” According to Cressman, Metz was a bachelor and lived with his mother, Mrs. G.A. Kellar [sic] at 2020 Honeywell Avenue in the Bronx, the same place that Gertrude and her son George and daughter “Florence” had been living with George W. Keller on the 1920 census. Cressman could not provide an explanation for Metz’s disappearance nor could his mother, when asked. According to the article, George’s mother had left for Denver when she heard of his disappearance.3
The paper also reported that George had a girlfriend in New York named Margaret A. Wiquest and that another friend, Eugene O’Donnell, estimated that George had a fortune worth about $50,000-$60,000 as well as a $75,000 life insurance policy.4
According to this and several other articles, the maid found a note in George’s hotel room in Denver, where he had been staying for two weeks. According to the Ogden (Utah) Standard Examiner of September 12, 1923 (p. 2) and many other newspapers, that note read as follows:
I am going on a dangerous mission tonight. If anything should happen that I do not return please forward the personal papers you will find in the small drawer to R.B. Cressman, 200 Fifth Avenue, New York City.
(Signed) G. B. Metz
Personal effects to Mrs. G.A. Keller, 2020 Honeywell avenue, New York City. Catalogue to Pittsburg Lamp, Brass and Glass company. Car to Saunders. [The car was a rental car.]
Detectives then proceeded to examine a will that George Metz had prepared on September 4, 1923, obviously either right before or right after departing New York for Denver. According to another New York Times article dated September 13, 1923,5 the will named Russell B. Cressman as the administrator and left one-third of the estate to Margaret A. Wiquest, his “dearest pal and sweetheart,” unless she was married at the time of George’s death; in that case she was to receive only $500. All of George’s personal belongings were bequeathed to his uncle Frank E. Cone, his jewelry was left to his “stepfather G.W. Kellar,” $1000 was left to his sister, Ida J. Merker, and another $1000 to a trust fund for the education of Ida’s daughter.
The police had two possible theories for George’s disappearance—foul play or suicide. By the next day the New York Times was reporting that the Denver police had developed a third theory—that George was suffering from a temporary mental illness. The Denver police also found a clue that George was on his way to Los Angeles.6
The article is most interesting for what it reports “that bears out the theory of mental aberration.”7
One clue was a letter which Metz wrote to his mother in which he said: “I am losing my mind. Have faith in me.”
The police also learned, they said, that Metz’s father, Joseph Metz, disappeared in a similar fashion nearly 25 years ago, just before the son was born, and took his elder son Elwood with him. Nothing ever was heard of them, the police say.[^8]
That was a confirmation of much of what I had suspected: Paul Metz/Joseph Raymond (called Joseph Metz here) was the father of George Metz, and he had disappeared shortly before George was born, taking Elwood with him.
The newspaper also noted that Ida Keller Merker had confirmed these facts, although her report muddies the waters a bit:8
Mrs. Merker confirmed the statement that their father, Joseph Metz, had disappeared with an elder son, Elwood, twenty-five years ago. This had been while the family was living somewhere on the Boston Road in the Bronx, and the pair had never been heard from.
Of course, this can’t be completely right; Paul/Joseph Metz was not Ida’s father. Ida J. Keller was born five years after her half-brother George, and Paul/Joseph Metz could not have been her father if he disappeared five years before she was born. And on the 1900 census, Gertrude was living with Elwood not on Boston Road in the Bronx, but in Ho-ho-kus, New Jersey, and Paul was not in the household. But the important point from my perspective is that this confirmed that Paul Metz had disappeared and taken his son Elwood with him in 1900.
According to the article, George’s girlfriend Margaret A. Wiquest was “taken by surprise at the report of Metz’s mental condition. In their one-year acquaintance, she said, Metz had never shown sign of aberration. He had always been of a cheerful disposition and his last letters had all been in a cheerful key, she added.”9
Fortunately, this story has a happy ending. George was found a month later in Los Angeles, suffering from memory loss:
George apparently returned to New York, but perhaps not to Margaret A. Wiquest. On September 11, 1925, George Metz married Eunice Marian Brown in the Bronx.10 Conrad generously shared these stunning photographs of his parents:
In 1928, they were living in my old hometown, White Plains, New York, where George was working as a “brkman,” or a brakeman.11 According to Conrad, his maternal grandfather, John Brown, was a conductor on the Putnam Division of the New York Central Railroad and helped his son-in-law George get a job with the railroad when George had had difficulty obtaining employment after his disappearance in 1923. Being a brakeman was a dangerous job, as described on this website:
To apply the brakes, the brakeman would turn a large brake control wheel located atop each freight car of the train. Every brakeman carried a thick brake “club” to help give them leverage in turning the wheel. This meant that they would have to run along the top of the railway cars and leap from one to another in order to apply or release the brakes on each car. Generally, the rear brakeman, or flagman as he was also known, would advance from the end of the train whilst the head brakeman or the conductor would advance from the engine to apply the brakes on each car, one by one. On a moving train, especially in bad weather, the application of brakes was a risky proposition, at best. Worse still, a stuck brake wheel might suddenly free up and throw the brakeman off balance. All too often this would result in the brakeman falling between the cars to his death. Riding in the open, frequently exposed to the bitter cold of winter, the brakeman’s job was fraught with danger.
Conrad told me that his father George himself suffered a broken leg on the job.
In 1930 George, Marian and their son Richard were living in Westwood, New Jersey, and George was once again in the electrical products business, now as a sales manager for the an electrical company. Conrad was born a couple of years later.
But what about Paul Metz and Elwood Metz? Where had they gone? Who were they now? And would they ever reappear? More on that in my next post, the final chapter in the story of Paul Metz and his sons.
- E.g., “Note Left by Missing Man,” The Ogden (Utah) Standard-Examiner, 12 Sep 1923, Wed, Page 2; “Goes on ‘Danger Mission’ And Has Not Come Back,” The (Wilmington, Delaware) Morning News, 13 Sep 1923, Thu, Page 1; “Missing Pittsburgh Salesman Is Found,” New Castle (Pennsylvania) Herald, 12 Oct 1923, Fri, Page 20. ↩
- The New York Times, September 13, 1923, p. 1. ↩
- Ibid. ↩
- Ibid. ↩
- “Missing Man Left Will, Fearing Death,” The New York Times, September 13, p.1. ↩
- “Metz in California, Denver Police Think,” The New York Times, September 14, 1923, p. 22. ↩
- Ibid. ↩
- Ibid. ↩
- Ibid. ↩
- The New York City (Bronx) Marriage Index, Certificate Number 5272 (could be 5273), found at https://archive.org/details/NYC_Marriage_Index_Bronx_1925 ↩
- White Plains city directory, 1928, Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 ↩