Henry Cowell File: The Cowells and the Castros, A true California story….


Story from John Vonderlin

Email John (benloudman@sbcglobal.net)

Hi June,
With the Cowell/Purisima Coastal Trail set to open this Spring this juicy little story about one of the heirs of the Cowell Family seems timely. I have at least one sequel to this sad, but common story,**but am still looking for the end of the story. Will the cad Harry be forced to stand up to his responsibilities? Was Harry’s heart cut out and his body dragged through the streets of Santa Cruz? Whatever happened to the innocent love child? This is from the April 1, 1894 issue of “The Morning Call.”  Enjoy. John
Harry   Cowell   Sued   for
Breach   of   Promise   and   Heir-ship   of   Her   Child.
The   Plaintiff   Is   of   the   Old   Castro
Family,   and   the   Defendant   Is
Heir   to   Millions.
One   of   the   most   sensational   breach   of
promise   cases   ever   brought   to   trial   in   this
city   was   placed   on   the   calendar   of   the
United   States   Circuit   Court   yesterday.   It
will   be   tried   about   the   middle   of   May.
The   defendant   in   the   case,   Harry  S.
Cowell,   is   the   second   son   of   Henry:   C.
Cowell,   the   millionaire   lime-king of   Santa
Cruz.   Tbe   Cowells   are   in  the   lime   and
cement   business,   at   211   and   213   Drumm
street,   in   this   city,   and   reside ‘at   413   Hyde
street.  The   plaintiff:   is   Mary   Antonia   Castro
Majors,   and   she   is   a   granddaughter   of   the
old   Alcalde,   Rafael   Castro,   who   came   to
Santa   Cruz   with   the   Spanish,   priests;   a.
hundred   years   ago.   She   has   money   and
friends   and   a   strong   determination   and
will   fight   the   case   to   the   finish.   Her   law –
yers   are   confident   of   success   and   have
letters   written   by   Harry   Cuwell   that   will
cause   a   tremendous   sensation   when   pro –
duced   in   court.
The   woman   sues   to   recover   $50,000   for
breach   of   promise   and   will   contest   for   a
large   share   of   his   wealth,   which   she   de –
clares   belongs   to   their   child   and   his   heir.
Tbe   suit   was   originally   commenced   in
the   Superior   Court   of   Santa   Cruz.
The   woman   tells   a   strong   story   of   her
love   for   Cowell   and   of   his   desertion.   In
an   interview   yesterday   she   said   he
would   pay   dearly   for   the   humiliation   he
had   brought   upon   her,   “or,”   she   added,
“I   will   cut   his   heart   out   of   his   false   body
and   drag   it   through   the   streets   of   Santa
And   the   slender   bands   clutched   until
the   shapely   nails   cut   deep   into   the   brown
flesh.   Tbe   color   came and   went   in   the
Spanish   face,   while   the   flashing   black
eyes   boded   no   good   for   the   future   welfare
of   tbe   truant   Harry   Cowell.
It   is   almost   a   century   since   the   old   Al –
calde,   Rafael   Castro,   grandfather   of   Mary
Antonia   Castro   Majors,   came   to   the   city
of   Santa   Cruz   and   builded   him   a   home
and   reared   his   children   in   the   old   adobe
known   as   the   Cattro   mansion.   All   of   the
woodwork   and   heavy   timbers   in   the   man –
sion   were   brought   around   Cape   Horn,   and
are   to-day   in   a   perfect   state   of   preserva –
tion,   though   the   sparkling   eyed   senoritas
and   the   caballeros   are   long   since   dead,   and
their   descendants,   a   mere   handful,
crowded   to   the   farther   corners,   where   they
occupy   little   tramped-up   garden   spots   or
crevices   in   the   bills   with   just   enough   soil
to   live   upon.
Yet,   time   was,   when   the   Castro   brothers,
Rafael,   Joaquin,   and   Jose   Ignacio,   owned
thousands   upon   thousands   of   acres   of   the
finest   land   in   the   State   of   California.   But
the   greedy,   grasping   American   came,   and
the   story   was   soon   told   and   time’s   mantle
of   oblivion   clings   as   closely   about   the
early   history   of   the   Castro   family   as   does
the   old   English   ivy   around   the   crumbling
walls   of   the   Castro mansion.
It   was   here   that   Antonio   Castro,   father
of   Henry   Antonia   Castro   Majors,   was   born.
When   quite   a   young   man   he   went   to   San
Luis   Obispo.   where   he   married   Mary   Jack –
son,   an   English   heiress   of   good   family.
He   owned   a   large   dairy   and   other   valuable
property   in   San   Luis   Obispo.
After   the   birth   of   his   daughter,   Mary
Antonia,   he   returned   to   Santa   Cruz,   where
in   due   course   of   time   she   married   her
cousin,   Robert   Majors.   His   mother   was
Maria   de   Los   Auceles   Castro,   a   daughter
of   the   old   Alcalde   Rafael   Castro,   she   hav –
ing  married  Joseph   Majors,   a   brainy   En –
glishman who   for   some   price   long   since
forgotten;   bought of   the   old lndian   Chief
Cinote  a portion   of the   land   now   covered
by   the city of  Santa   Cruz,   Mission   Hill,
Logan Hills, Limekilns   and   the   bitumen
On a slight bluff of  land   a   mile   west   of
town  Mr. Majors   built   him   a   home
costing $40,000   Years   after   his   death   the
house with  all   it   contained   was   burned   to
the   ground.
Some fifty feet below  the   house,   on   a
beautiful   stream   of   water   known   as
‘Majors Creek, Joseph   Majors   built   a   grist –
vmill   costing $30,000. This   mill   ground   the
first   flour in the valley.
To-day   the   old   mill,   with   its   broken
wheel   and weather-beaten  boards,   stands
a grim monument to the sleeping past.
Just  in the shadow of  the   mill   is   a   little
old   whitewashed   shanty:   at   the   door   a
peach-tree   in   full bloom;   across   its   per –
fumed  limbs  are   a   half   dozen   strips   of
*’jerky”   drying   .in.   ilie’   sun.   Tied   to   the
eaves   of   the low-roofed house   is   a   string   of
crimson   peppers   reaching   nearly   to   the
ground.   Inside   is   Maria   de   Los   Angeles
Castro   Majors   her   only.   companions   are
her   aged relatives,  poverty,   a.   broken
guitar   and   memories  of   earlier   and   happier
At   the   death   of   Joseph   Majors,   Robert
his   son,   inherited   much   of:   his   father’s
valuable   property.   He   was   part   owner
and   manager   of   the   bitumen  mines,   and
lived   with   his   family   on   a   farm   adjoining
the   lime-kiln   property   of   the   millionaire
Some   four   years   ago   Bob   Majors,   as   he
was   familiarly   called   by   his   friends,
strolled   into   Jock   Merrill’s   saloon.   Here
he   met   several   friends,   among   them
Jimmy   Harris.   Some   sharp   words   passed
between   Majors   and   Harris,   who   had
always   been   the   best   of   friends.   Harris,
without   taking   his   pistol   from   his   pocket,
shot   Majors   three   times,   one   shot   passing
nearly   through   his   body, another   through
tbe   flesh   of   the   right   leg,   and   a   third
lodged   in   tbe   hipbone   of   the   left   leg.   This
shot   caused   his   death   eleven   mouths   there –
after. Majors,   who   was   known   to   be   the   best
shot   and   one   of   the   bravest   men   in   tbe
State,   turned   coolly   upon   Harris   and
quicker   than   a   flash   sent   six   bullets
through   his   heart.
Majors   was   taken   home,   and   during   his
long   illness   and   pathetic   death   his   brother
Odd   fellows   were   in   constant   attendance,
doing   all   in   their   power   to   alleviate   his

suffering   and   comfort   his   afflicted   family.;
At   bis   death   they   assumed   guardianship
over   the   widow   and   the   seven   orphaned
During   Bob   Majors’   long   illness   Henry
C.   Cowell   and   his   two   sons,   Ernest   and
Harry,   called   several   times   each   week   to
ask   about   his   welfare.
When   the   funeral   was   over   Harry
Cowell   still   contiuued   his   visits   to   the
widow—and   here   was   the   beginning   of   the
With   his   superior   business   judgment,
being   a   money-making   man   of   the   world,
he   advised   her   as   to   many   things,   sucb   as
the   building   of   fences,   roads   and   bridges,
and   various   ways   of   improving   the   rancho,
thereby   winning   her   confidence   and   friend –
ship,   and,   long   before   she   knew   it,   her
heart’s   affection   as   well.
Then   began   his   love-making   and   prom –
ises   of   marriage;   and   as   ‘he   never   made
any   secret   of   bis   preference   for  her   she
did   not   dream   of   doubting   bis   sincerity.
Together   they   walked   arm   in   arm   along
the   lane   leading   from   the   senior   Cowell’s
home   to   that   owned   by   Mrs,   Majors.
Together   they   drove   into   town   several
times   a   week;   In   fact,   they   were   seen   con –
tinually   in   each   others’   company,   and   the
public   had   grown   so   accustomed   to   seeing
them   thus   that   comments   were   seldom
passed   upon   the   subject.   She   says   he   had
said   to   her   many   times,   “I   love   you   and
will   make   you   my   wife   any   time   that   you
may   name,”   and   she,   happy   and   content
in   her   love   and   confidence   in   him,   waited
from   month   to   month   for   a   more   oppor –
tune   time.   Several   times   he   had   said:
“We   must   be   married   soon,   for   I   cannot
permit   people   to   say   unkind   things   of   the
moiher of   my   child.   l am   pleased   that   a
child   of   mine   should   be   the   first   heir   to   in –
herit   the   Cowell   millions,”   are   words   she
alleges   he   uttered.
He   even   insisted,   so   the   woman   declares,
on   bringing   a   minister   to   the   house   to   per –
form   the   marriage   ceremony.
But   a   young   son   of   Mrs.   Majors   had   been
brought home   a   short   time   before   with   a
badly   crushed   knee.   The   bouse   was   all   con –
fusion   and   disorder,   and   she   proposed   go –
ing   to   town   to   be   married.
Then   a   happy   thought   occurred   to   him.
He   had   received   a   letter   from   his   mother
and   sisters,   wbo   reside   in   an   elegant   home
at   413   Hyde   street,   in   this   city,   inviting
him   to   take   dinner   with   them.
The   fateful   to-morrow   being   Wednes –
day   he   said   he   would   go   to   the   city   and   re –
main   over   Thursday,   aud   on   Friday   morn –
ing’s   early   train   he   would   go   to   San   Jose,
where   she   should   meet   him   in   the   depot.
They   would   then   go   to   a   minister   and   be
From   there   they   would   go   to   Salinas   on
a   wedding   tour,   and   rpturn   to   Santa   Cruz
whenever   it   should   best   suit   them.   This
arrangement   being   perfectly   satisfactory
he   slipped   the   plain   gold   ring   from   her
finger   that   her   dead   husband   had   given
her   for   a   wedding   ring,   saying   he   would
take   it   as   a   measure   for   a   diamond   ring
which   be   would   put   on   her   fiuger   at   San
Then   after   repeatedly   cautioning   her
not   to   disappoint   him,   but   to   be   sure   and
meet   him   in   the   station   at   San   Jose   Fri –
day   morning,   he   took   his   departure,   and
from   that   day   to   this   Mary   Antonia   Castro
Majors   has   never   set   eyes   on   Harry   Cowell
or   the   plain   gold   ring.
Thanksgiving   morning   Mrs.   Majors   came
to   town   and   saw   Senator   Burk   and   L.   F.
Smith,   as   well   as   many   other   friends,   and
told   them   she   was   on   her   way   to   San   Jose,
where   she   would   be   married   to   Harry
Cowell   on   the   following   day.   They   all
congratulated   her   upon   her   apparent   good
Being   short   of   money   she   went   to   Char –
lie   Clark,   the   jeweler,   and   got   £30,   telling
him   for   what   purpose   she   wanted   the
money.   All   of   these   witnesses   hare   been
subpenaed   to   testify   at   the   trial.
In   San   Jose   she   remained   over   night   at
the   St.   Charles   Hotel.   In   the   morning   she
went   to   the   station,   and   there,   in   the   cold
cheerless   waiting-room,   she   sat   all   day,
eagerly   scanning   the   face   of   each   new –
comer,   searching   in   vain   for   the   bride –
groom   that   never   came.
When   the   last   train   of   cars   in   the   even –
ing   pulled   out   for   Santa   Cruz   she   came
in   me,   cold,   lonely   nnd   deserted,   with
heart   and   brain   filled   with   strange   fore –
bodings   of   evil,   yet   never   for   a   moment
doubting   him.   She   kept   saying   over   and
over   to   herself,   “There   has   been   some   mis –
take,   something   dreadful   has   happened   to
On   reaching   Santa   Cruz   she   drove   out   to
the   senior   Cowell’s   place,   feeling   sure   that
some   massage   was   awaiting   her   there.
The   house   was   dark   and   the   sleepy   ser –
vants   declared   that   none   of   the   family
was   at   borne   and   that   there   was   no   mes –
saee   for   her.
Then,   for   the   first   time.   It   slowly   dawned
ucon   her   that   she   had   been   duped   and   de –
ceived   and   made   the   shame   and   laughing –
stock   of   the   community   in   which   she
lived,   and   her   fury   had   no   bounds,   and
well   it   was   for   faithless   Harry   Cowell   that
he   was   not   within   reach   of   those   slender
cruel   hands   that   night.
When   sufficiently   recovered   from   the
first   shock   of   mortification   and   disappoint –
ment   Mrs.   Majors   came   to   town   and   by
ber   attorney.   Senator   Bart   Burk,   filed   a
complaint   in   the   Superior   Court   of   the
county   of   Santa   Cruz,   charging   Harry
Cowell   with   breach   of   promise   of   mar –
riaee   and   asking   for   $50,000   damages.
•   After   having   resided   in   the   State   of
Washington   for   two   years   Cowell   returned
to   Santa   Cruz.   The   papers   in   the   case
were   immediately   served   upon   him,   and
lie   by   his   attorney,   £.   S.   Pillsbury,   filed
an   order   transferring   the   cause   from   the
Superior   Court   of   the   county   of   Santa
Cruz   to   the   Circuit   Court   In   this   city,   after
which   be   returned   to   the   State   of   Wash –
Miss   Cowell,   a   sister   of   the   defendant,
was   seen   at   the   family   residence   at   413
Hyde   street,   yesterday,   but   refused   to   dis.
cuss   the   case.   She   was   the   only   member
of   the   family   at   home   except   her   invalid
mother,   tier   father   and   brother,   she   said,
were   both   out   of   the   city.
“I   know   nothing   of   my   brother’s   affairs,
and   the   case   of   which   you   speak   has   never
been   mentioned   to   me.”   she   said.   “Mv
father   will   probably   return   In   a   few   days.”
When   asked   when   her   brother   would
return.   Miss   Cowell   said:
“I   don’t   know,   but   we   expeot   them   both
very   soon.”
Mr.   Pillsbury,   who   represents   young
Cowell,   Is   also   out   of   town.


**Please read the sequel below.


About June Morrall

1947 - 2010
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