Frederick and May

Frederick Lyon Roach and Mary E. Roach were married three times, divorced 3 times – 2 finalized, and went through scandalous trials.  Here’s their story!

Freddie’s first marriage – Not to Mary

Frederick and Mary Roach

Frederick was married once before he and Mary started their marriage binge.  This story is somewhat confusing because both of Freddie’s wives went by the name May.  Freddie’s first wife was May Marguerite Magee, Freddie and May met in grammar school and became High School sweethearts.  Freddie was a high school athlete and May cheered him on.  A year after high school graduation they announced their engagement.  May and Frederick are married on January 26, 1897.  The ceremony was performed at 7:30 pm at the Church of Our Savior in Chicago.  The bride wore a gown of corded white silk, the bodice veiled tulle and cut décolleté, a tulle veil and carried bride’s roses.  The bridesmaids wore white silk covered with white tulle and the maid of honor wore pink silk covered with white tulle.  After the ceremony, a reception was held at the home of the bride’s parents. When the couple returns from their wedding trip to New York and Florida, they will be “at home” the first and third Thursdays in March.  The wedding was also attended by Emma Simpson’s mother, Eliza Spackman and her sister Mrs. Mott. 

John Roach, Freddie’s father, was the President of Union Traction company, later Chicago Railways Company which controlled all the street cars in the North and West side of Chicago.  He was instrumental in building Chicago’s El.  Because of this, Freddie and May were often written up in the Society columns of the Chicago papers. 

One example was a fancy-dress ball that May gave.  Quoting from the Inter Ocean Newspaper, “The fancy-dress ball has been planned by Mrs. Roach whose charms of person and manner delight her friends in equal proportion, in the form of a leave taking as she and her husband are going to Canada for a long stay.  It is hard to imagine a jollier or more brilliant goodbye.  The invitations have been limited to 100.  With artistic costuming that number should be quite enough… Fancy dress balls are rare.  I’m sure that this will be one to dream about.”

The Fancy-Dress Ball was held.  Only the elite were there. May dressed as a gypsy and Freddie as a cavalier of the Middle Ages.  Mary’s mother dressed as a Colonial Dame.  Many of the other costumes were described including women importing gorgeous silk robes from Japan, men dressing as women, along with plenty of nymphs, dairy maids, knights in armor, courtiers of the French court, and pink and white Dresden china shepherdesses.

All seemed well in the marriage until September 3, 1904. 

In a secret hearing 20 minutes after May Magee Roach had filed, she received a divorce from Freddie.  The grounds for the divorce were desertion, Mary Rutherford (May) was named as co-respondent. It was alleged that Freddie had met May at Miller’s Roadhouse on September 3, and that he was with her for many days. May had hired Private Detectives to prove the charges.  May is said to have received a substantial settlement and alimony even though the terms were not disclosed.  Their son John Millard Roach, age 6., was given into the custody of his grandfather, John M. Roach, Mary is to have visitation every other Saturday from 10:00 am – 5:00 pm.

Freddie and Mary – Marriage 1

Frederick Roach
May Roach Beautiful and Scandalous

From here on in, references to May will be about Mary Rutherford Roach, to avoid confusion!  May and Freddie are married in St. Joseph, MI on October 23, 1905, after an automobile trip there from Chicago.

Mary E. Roach sued Frederick Lyon Roach for divorce citing cruelty on September 28, 1906, less than a year from when they were first married.  Friends and family of the Roaches said that there was nothing to the charges.  Frederick said that the suit was a laugh. 

Mary Roach says that soon after her marriage to Freddie, he began to be abusive seeking to humiliate her especially in front of their friends.  She tells about the time that they were driving from Chicago to Crown Point, IN when he stopped the car and was going to make her get out and walk before friends travelling with them intervened, also that he had hit her a few days later when they were entertaining friends. 

The last straw occurred on a train trip from New York to Chicago in the train dining car where they were eating dinner with Mary’s mother.  Freddie became angry with the way that May was wearing her hair and hit her.  She screamed and several people came to help her.  She also asked for an injunction prohibiting Freddie from selling his real estate in Chicago and Florida and for disposing of any personal property. 

On September 30, 1906 to prove her seriousness about the divorce, May locked Freddie out of their home.  Freddie was giving a chicken dinner for a party of friends at a hotel in Chicago.  He returned to his home to change into evening clothes and found the doors barred.  He stood in the pouring rain for over 2 hours. He stood singing and pleading for May or her mother to let him in to get some dry clothes.  All his begging fell on deaf ears.  So, Freddie showed up to the dinner in clothing which if one of his employees had worn would have been cause for instant dismissal.  He whined to his guests that he had over 2 dozen suits and all the accessories found in the chiffonier of a millionaire!  He went home the following day and still was not allowed to go in the mansion.

But, three weeks later on October 20, 1906, May drops the divorce suit and reconciles with Freddie.

Freddie and Mae Roach - The Second Round

Divorce – Again

April 26, 1908 Freddie sues for divorce.  May counter sues charging habitual drunkenness. 

This time Freddie locks May out of the house.  Furious, in a Midnight Raid, May broke into Frederick’s house and stole $2,500 in household goods.  Justice Julius Timke presided over the case. 

At the end of the trial, May addressed Justice Timke, “Say, judge, can’t you give me my dogs?”

 “Don’t worry about your dogs, I’ll see that they’re turned over to you.”, responded Freddie’s attorney Thomas Symmes.  May had two Boston Terriers, Bridget and Terry. 

“Oh, thank you ever so much”, gushed May. 

Then her attorney, John Wayman, attached Justice Timke in a speech lasting over 30 minutes. accusing Justice Timke of his so-called illegal interference with Mary when she tried to have her property removed from her husband’s house.  “You were the dupe were you not, of these men? You were a convenient sort of fall guy.  You now say that you have no jurisdiction in this case.  Didn’t you know it they?”  Timke said nothing.

On July 9. 1908 May is awarded her divorce due to habitual drunkenness.  She was awarded all her personal property, furniture, and pictures from their joint home, along with her dogs.  Freddie tells the reporters as he leaves the trial that he is going to remarry his first wife May Magee. 

Freddie and May Marriage #2

On July 25, 1910, May and Freddie are re-married.  May had travelled to San Francisco to visit friends.  She sent Freddie a telegraph asking him to come immediately that she was ill to the point of death.  Freddie told his friends that he was going West, he felt that a change of climate might improve his health.  So, he boarded his private railroad car and headed to San Francisco.  When he arrived, he found May to be in excellent health.  They reconciled and were remarried by Reverend E.L. Gunby in the parsonage of the Central Methodist Episcopal Church, this followed the unsuccessful attempt to be married the previous night at 11:00.

May tells the press, “We have had our little trials, but they all seem mere trifles now.  A couple can be happily married only after they have looked deep into each other’s hearts.  One has to pick out the best that is in the other and overlook the faults.  I am glad that have found each other and can in faith say that there will be no more thorns strewn on our path.”

Well, at least for 5 months…

December 5, 1910, Freddie publishes in the Chicago Examiner that he would not be responsible for any debts other than his own and headed to Florida.  This was at the time that May was in San Francisco visiting her mother.  Apparently at some point the pair were reunited. 

Divorce #3 – May and the 14 Lovers

March 21, 1912, Freddie sues May for divorce due to infidelity. 

Deputy Sherriff John E. Olis waits for 27 hours outside of May’s home to serve her with divorce papers.  “I had an awful wait, Olis said woefully, “and only a ham sandwich to break my long fast.  Two detectives hired by John M. Roach her father in law, tracked her to the Edelweiss and to Buxbaum’s.  She had been away from home since Sunday, and I didn’t dare stir for fear she would make for home suddenly.  We thought she was in a taxi, but she hopped out of the car and then I served her.  She laughed kind of queerly when she found out who I was and only said ‘This isn’t the first time in my experience, my friend.'”

May was interviewed by the Chicago Tribune after the divorce was filed and said. “My gas is turned off, my husband has not given me any money in three months, my telephone has been taken out, and my credit at the grocery store has been stopped.  My maid who has been with me for five years has not been paid but refuses to leave me.  I am sustaining myself by pawning my diamonds.  I have instructed my attorney to file a cross bill tomorrow, I will charge abandonment, nonsupport, and infidelity.  I will name a girl in another city.” 

She then further stated that Freddie’s suit was a result of May threatening to file for abandonment.  “Immediately afterward, he was taken to Florida by his father and mother.  He came back two weeks ago last Sunday and came to our apartments in a taxicab. He brought a large box of roses for me and said that he wanted to talk things over.  I excused myself, went to a telephone, and called my attorney.  He had officers from Municipal Court sent out with the warrant which they served on Mr. Roach. “

The trial was scheduled to begin May 1. 

The Maid and the Chauffeur

While May and Freddie lived at the Plaza Hotel in 1909, May took a liking to the hotel maid, Agnes Oberg.  When the Roaches moved out of the hotel to their own house, May asked Agnes to go with them and be her personal maid.  May asked Agnes to be a witness for her and “swear that she had never seen any men visiting Mrs. Roach”.  Agnes refused.  May thought that Agnes was too modest to testify. 

May’s face turned white when Attorney Weymouth Kirkland, Freddie’s attorney called Agnes as the first witness.  It occurred to May that as soon as she had left the apartment that morning, Agnes got on the phone and talked to Freddie.  As Agnes began naming names and incidents, May fainted.  Dr. William Krohn, who was in the courtroom, administered first aid and sent May home in a taxi. 

Under testimony Agnes agreed that she was getting revenge for not having been paid in three months.  Agnes testimony also showed that Freddie cut off May’s support in February when he left the house and that May had been surviving on contributions made by men friends.  Agnes testified that she had been promised a trip to California and a bungalow to stick with May. 

Agnes named 14 men, tactfully called affinities in the trial,  that had visited May at the apartment.  Some had spent the night she testified, and some had given May money.  Many of the men Agnes talked about were under assumed names.  “Mrs. Roach told me”, she testified “That Waterfall was a good fellow, but had no money.  At 2 o’clock one morning I was summoned to Mrs. Roach’s room to rub Dave Henry’s breast with antiphlogistine.  They both laughed and said I would make a good nurse. 

Mr. Hyman tore a $10 bill in halves.  I saw him give Mrs. Roach one of the pieces, and when he departed after breakfast Mrs. Roach had both pieces.  Hyman gave me $2 but Mrs. Roach later took it away from me.  When Mr. Roach returned on one occasion, I refused to let him in on orders from Mrs. Roach. I refused because the Frenchman was in the house and I wanted to give him a chance to escape. “

Harry Jackson, the chauffeur, was set to testify.  Brady objected since May was not in court, feeling ill after the testimony of Agnes the day before. 

Kirkland’s response was “She might as well come and face it.  If that testimony yesterday made her sick, I have some more for today that will make her sicker”. 

Jackson testified to the automobile trip from Louisville to Chicago where May picked up 5 “affinities” in relays.  He stated that he had driven the Roaches from West Baden, IN to Louisville, KY in May, 1911.  He then stated that Mrs. Roach left Louisville suddenly with Tim Murphy.  Jackson drove them to a hotel in Madison, IN where they checked in. 

Kirkland then produced a photograph of containing the signature of Tim Murphy as” J.P. Ross and wife and driver”.

Jackson stated, “From Madison we went to Columbus, OH and next to Indianapolis, IN.  Mrs. Roach with Mr. Murphy and a Dr. Hill, whom they met in Indianapolis and spent more than an hour in a house there, where Mrs. Roach smoked with the others.  Mr. Murphy stopped with Mrs. Roach at the Denison Hotel in Indianapolis. 

When I was leaving Indianapolis with Mrs. Roach, Murphy, handed her a check and said ‘If you need any money on the way to Chicago, use this.’  I drove her alone to Lafayette, IN and to Remington, IN , and finally to Crown Pointe, IN.  At Crown Pointe, we picked up a doctor whom Mrs. Roach knew, and he rode with us to Chicago when we arrived on May 27.  I heard Mrs. Roach tell the doctor at the 12th Street Station, of the South Side elevated that she was afraid to go to the New Southern hotel so early in the morning.  It was then about 3:00 o’clock. ” He testified that during the road trip that she smoked, drank, and visited notorious resorts with her escorts.

May and Freddie Testify

May Roach

May look pale and was holding a bottle of smelling salts in her hand as she retook the stand.  Kirkland then handed her two letters that she had written to Dave Henry.  Kirkland then read the letters to the jury. 

The first one: “Dear Dave:  I am running short on meal ticket:  please, send me one.” 

The second: “If I don’t get a settlement or some money, it will be back to the laundry for me.  May.” 

May then testified that she and Freddie had been separated and he had followed her to the West Coast, San Francisco, specifically where they were remarried.  She then stated that 5 days after their re-marriage Freddie had started drinking again and continued to this day in that condition. 

May’s testimony during cross-examination continued.  She denied all charges of misconduct that her husband’s witnesses had brought up. 

In reply to one of Kirkland’s questions she responded, “Mr. Roach was nearly always pickled.  Every time he got drunk, he walloped me.” 

When asked about the testimony of the Chauffeur that she was drinking whiskey and syrup on the trip with Murphy to Indianapolis she responded, “I had a cold, that was why I drank it.” 

She also testified that while in Louisville, she won $150 on the races from a tip that she received from a man named Shure.  She further testified that she and her husband’s annual expenses were about $20,000.00 which in today’s money would be about $550,000.00. 

May was then dismissed while Freddie and his friend the kidnapper Pat Crowe were called to the stand.  Freddie was the first to take the stand and was visibly nervous.  Kirkland questioned him for a few minutes and then Brady took over the cross-examination.

Brady’s first question was whether or not his wife had told him about the “famous automobile trip” she had taken from Louisville to Chicago. 

“Yes, in a way” Freddie asked her slowly. 

“Did you ask her about it?”


“Did she not tell you?”


“Then you knew that your wife had left Louisville in an automobile with Tim Murphy on a trip to Chicago, and yet you lived with her afterwards?”

“I knew something about it.” 

He was then asked if he had dined with Dr. Ellison in Louisville. To which he replied that he had not because wine was to be served.  After several questions to test Freddie’s memory about dates and times of events he was allowed to leave the chair.

May was then recalled to the stand again to resume her cross-examination by Kirkland. 

“Was Waterfall ever in your room when you were in bed?” 


“Was he not in the room when the doctor examined you?”

“No, he stood in the doorway, the doctor only examined my throat.” 



The Kidnapper

Patrick Crowe witness in Roach Divorce 3

Patrick Crow was a handsome man with a square jaw and fine features except for a crooked nose that he had from being hit.  He carried himself with an erect posture and dressed well.  He was the stereotypic romantic criminal.

His problems with the Cudahy family began in South Omaha when Crowe at the age of 17 opened a Butcher Shop.  Cudahy opened a Butcher Shop near by that underpriced Crowe’s shop and drove it out of business.  He told all his friends that he would make Cudahy pay someday.  Crowe then went to work for the Cudahy Butcher Shop and was fired for stealing. 

He decided to open a new Butcher Shop in a different part of Omaha.  He took $750 and headed to Chicago to buy equipment.  He stopped at Swede Annie’s for some adult entertainment and woke up hung over with no money.  He stole from the brothel and the patrons to make up for it.  He was arrested, after a gun fight with the police, while he was in the process of pawning the jewelry he had stolen and was tried and convicted to six years in Joliet Prison.  He wrote a letter to the governor and was pardoned and released after 17 months.  This is just one of the more colorful examples of his life of crime.  He was known as both a train robber and a bank robber.  He also went under the alias of Frank Roberts. 

Pat Crowe was famous or rather infamous for the Cudahy kidnapping.  December 18, 1900, Pat Crowe kidnapped 16-year-old Eddie Cudahy.  Eddie’s father Edward Sr., was the wealthy owner of the Cudahy Packing Company in Omaha, NE.  Edward Sr.  Cudahy closed his plant and soon 7,000 people were searching for Eddie. 

At 9:00 am he received a phone call asking him to search his front yard, where his coachman found the ransom note.  Mr. Cudahy: We have kidnapped your child and demand $25,000 ($750,000.00 on today’s money) for his safe return. If you give us the money he will return as safe as when you last saw him, but if you refuse, we will put acid in his eyes and blind him… Get the money all in gold, 5, 10 and 20 (dollar) pieces… Get in your buggy alone on the night of December 19 at 7 o’clock p.m. Follow the paved road toward Fremont. When you come to a lantern…by the side of the road, place the money by the lantern and immediately turn your horse around and return home. Cudahy, you are up against it, and there is only one way out – give up the coin. Money, we want and money we will get. If you don’t give up…you can lead your boy blind the rest of your days.

At 7:00 on the night of the 19th, Cudahy alone arrived at the lantern, which was located near the Little Papio Creek. He left the money along with a note in reply to the captors. He returned to the Cudahy mansion at 9:30 pm. Eddie Jr. returned home at 1:00 am, unharmed. 

Cudahy placed a $25,000.00 reward for the capture of Crowe and the city of Omaha doubled it.  Crowe led the police and the Pinkerton Detective Agency on a five-year pursuit.  During this time Crowe was reported to have been seen all over the United States and the world. Thousands of Wanted Posters were sent out. In 1905 Crowe was arrested in Butte, Montana.  Crowe went on trial for Grand Larceny as there were no laws on the books for kidnapping of anyone over the age of 10.  On St. Patrick’s Day, 1906, after seventeen hours of deliberation, Crowe was found not guilty.

This crime became famous for a variety of reasons.  There were no laws on the books at that time dealing with kidnapping of people over the age of 10.  Immediately, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, and Illinois passed new laws against kidnapping including the death penalty.  The whole country also debated as to whether Cudahy senior should have paid the ransom, it was felt that it would encourage more kidnappings. 

Pat then took up the Burlesque circuit lecturing about his life of crime.  While that proved entertaining to the crowds for a little bit, the crowds soon thinned, and Crowe took to the bottle. 

Judge McDonald dismissed the cross bill filed by Mary Roach against Freddie.  That left the issue as to whether Mary was guilty of the misconduct with other men alleged by Freddie.  Mary took the stand and gave a description of a trip that Freddie took Danvers, Illinois with Pat Crowe for a drink cure.  According to Mary the two were drunk most of the time. 

Pat Crowe, the renowned kidnapper was called to the stand.  The court room had to be quieted from the laughter when he announced his profession as a magazine writer.  Crowe admitted that he had been on the joy ride to Danvers and Peoria and was quickly dismissed. 

The Finale

Closing arguments were very brief because the attorney’s wanted the jury to deliberate.  Kirkland summing up the evidence against May said that May had had improper relations with 14 “affinities” that were named in the divorce petition, but that that was only a partial list.  Brady countered that the case was strictly about money and that John Roach was the one behind the whole divorce action.

As the jury was sent to deliberate, May met with the press.   She told them that she and her mother would be penniless if the jury allowed her divorce with no alimony.  She also said that she had not received a cent from anyone in six months.  May also said she felt that her husband had little chance to win the trial and if did she would feel like she had been “kangarooed”.  The question that the jury was deliberating was whether May had been guilty of misconduct as charged by Freddie.

The jury delivered a sealed verdict after five hours of deliberation.  The jury members had purposely misled the press by telling them that they would tell the verdict if their names were kept out of the press.  They told the reporters that May was guilty.  But the jury exonerates May on charges of Immorality. 

 “It really was a surprise to all of us”. stated James Brady, May’s attorney. 

Judge McDonald then allowed for a new trial to begin May, 18, 1912. And in a surprise move, Judge McDonald voids the jury’s decision that May was not guilty.  His basis for the decision was the chauffeur’s testimony of the road trip from Louisville to Chicago.

On June 23, 1912 Freddie is awarded the divorce from May and owes her no alimony. 

All is well that ends well… 

That is until 8 months later.  On February 7, 1913 Freddie and May marry for the third time.  Their divorce was not even final as they had to wait a year to remarry. 

Everything is quiet for less than a year.  On February 1, 1914 Freddie dies in St. Joseph hospital in Bloomington, In from kidney failure.  Freddie had been in the hospital for six weeks.  May was not there with him although his mother was. 

May continues her marriage addiction and marries Robert “Bertie” Shaw on July 27, 1914, almost six months after Freddie died.  Bertie and May Roach were married in Goshen, IN because he had only been divorced from his previous wife Bessie for seven months.  Persons divorced in Illinois need to wait 12 months to remarry so Bertie and May travelled around the world and planned to renew their vows when they returned.  I could find no mention that they ever were remarried.

However, On October 15, 1919 May did marry Lieutenant W.S. Dunderdale at the La Salle Hotel. And once again, she divorced him August 10, 1924 for beating her and knocking her unconscious with a beer glass.  She was awarded $15.00 a week alimony.

That’s the last that I can find on May.  I’m sure she enjoyed men, booze and their money during the rest of her life.