The Curious Case of Charles Reif and SB Paige

Part 5 – The End of Mr. Paige

from the Oshkosh Northwestern, Oshkosh, WI 12 March 1884, Monday, page 4

After the announcement of the marriage of Simon Bailey Paige to Mary Elizabeth Fagin in New York on January 9, 1883, the newspapers in Oshkosh were largely silent on the subject. The afternoon of March 12 would change all that. The Northwestern’s headline boldly announced the suicide of SB Paige in his room at the Kimball House in Davenport, Iowa, where he lived with his new wife. It was said that he was in fine spirits the previous morning at breakfast and his wife left him about 10am to go to church. When she arrived back from church at noon she found Mr. Paige deceased in his bed, a bullet wound to the temple and a revolver in his hand.

News of the death was wired to the Paige family in Oshkosh and the brothers CC Paige and JA Paige boarded the next train to Davenport. The reaction of friends and family was one of shock. Everyone seemed to agree that Mr. Paige did not appear to be a man on the verge of suicide. The Paige brothers immediately felt that something was off with the suicide scenario even though the coroner recorded the death as such in his inquiry. None of his relation could recall that Mr. Paige had ever owned a revolver. There was a report that Mr. Paige had complained about chest pain on and off for several years and that he was concerned because his father died of a heart ailment. The autopsy found that Mr. Paige’s heart was of normal size and appeared healthy.

from The Oshkosh Northwestern, Oshkosh, WI
12 Marsh 1883, Monday, page 1

Another curious point was that no one in the Kimball House heard the shot even though the room across the hall was occupied all morning. A witness on the scene shortly after Mrs. Paige began screaming for help stated that Mr. Paige had removed his jacket and draped it over a chair. He was fully dressed with a bedspread pulled up to his chest. He was lying on his left side with a towel around his head but with his face showing. It appeared that he placed the revolver to his right temple under the towel and fired. His right hand fell across his chest still holding the gun and the wound was hidden under the towel. He had also left a brief note to his wife apologizing and requesting to be buried by the Knights Templar. Mrs. Paige was unable to attend the funeral on 15 March 1883 in Oshkosh because she was “in critical condition over the nervous shock”.

Once the funeral had been conducted, the Paige brothers and their attorneys went about the business of settling the estate of Simon Bailey Paige. The day after the funeral, the Northwestern wrote that JA Paige was sure that SB Paige had left no will. The estate included holdings in Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota and would have to be settled in each state. He further stated that the personal property of Mr. Paige was fairly small and that most of his assets were tied up in the business he ran with his brother.

The same day, an interview with Mrs. Paige’s mother, Elizabeth Libbey, was published in the Quad-City Times in Davenport, Iowa. In the interview, Mrs. Libbey strongly defended her daughter and her marriage to Mr. Paige. She disputed the accusations about her daughter’s character and the insinuations that her daughter married Mr. Paige under false pretense. Mrs. Libbey also intimated that there was fighting by Mr. Paige’s relatives over his property since his death.

In response, JA Paige replied in the Northwestern that the family had no such fight going on, but that Mrs. Paige had immediately received a telegram from her family in New York after word reached them about the suicide advising her not to sign any documents and to obtain legal counsel.

The rest of March had few stories of the Paige brothers working to get their business affairs in order after the death of Simon B Paige. JA Paige spent several weeks in Davenport working on the estate holdings in Iowa, while Mrs. Paige visited Oshkosh to see about her husband’s estate matters there.

from Oshkosh Northwestern, Oshkosh, WI 27 June 1883, Wednesday, page 4

On April 9, the case of Charles Reif was put against the Paige estate. On May 25, Mrs. Paige first visited the grave of her husband. June 12 brought the decision of the probate court in Oshkosh that Mrs. Paige was awarded $100 a month to continue for no longer than 1 year as her widow’s allowance. Her initial request of $200 a month was denied on the grounds that she had already received $1100 from Mr. Paige’s estate in Iowa as her allowance there. June 26th brought an appeal of that order by CC Paige as administrator of Mr. Paige’s estate. On July 1, news was leaked that the appeal was to be on the grounds that Mrs. Paige was still married to her first husband at the time of her marriage to Mr. Paige and July 2 brought a rumor that a detective had been hired to dig into Mrs. Paige’s past.

from the Quad-City Times, Davenport, IA
1 July 1883, Sunday, page 1

If Mrs. Paige could be proved to be guilty of adultery, she would lose any claim to Simon Bailey Paige’s estate.

The story continues –Part 6

The story begins – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

This story was put together after researching my husband’s great great grandfather Johann Karl Friedrich “Charles” Reif. The story can be found primarily in the Oshkosh Northwestern newspaper beginning on 3 December 1880 (although parts of the story were published in papers across the US and Canada) and continuing into the 1920s and beyond.

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