This series of posts is taken from research conducted on Villa Finale as we prepare the site’s transition from private residence to museum. It wasn’t until we looked closely at all the material that we realized how interesting some of the stories in the property’s past were. Part three told the very complicated story of Dillard Rucker Fant’s ownership of 401 King William. Fant had sold the property’s remaining vendor’s liens to real estate investor G. Bedell Moore in 1906 not long after a court’s decision saved his property from foreclosure — unfortunately Fant died in 1908 leaving his widow, Lucie Fant, to deal with the financial mess.
It may have been a no-brainer when Lucie Fant sold the property to Mrs. Eva T. Brough in 1908. Mrs. Brough, a widow and legal guardian of the estate of her four children, extended the property’s size by buying the adjoining lot from banker Fred C. Groos. We can only assume that Eva Brough was fully aware of the vendor’s liens owed on the propety by G. Bedell Moore. On an interesting side note, Moore died while on a visit to Santa Barbara, California in 1908 – the same year Fant died. Moore’s infant son, G. Bedell Moore Jr. became the heir of the estate valued at a quarter million dollars! In November 1909, the two-year-old G. Bedell Jr. was named as a defendant in a suit filed by none other than his mother, Elizabeth, in which she asked for equal distribution of her husband’s estate. Mrs. Moore not only won her case, because her son was too young to defend himself, she was also named legal guardian of G. Bedell Jr.’s share thereby giving her legal rights to the entire Moore estate.
In April 1910, the now wealthy Elizabeth Moore sold the vendor’s liens to 401’s new owner, Eva Brough. The move once again brought some ownership stability to the property. In fact, five years after Dillard Fant’s death, Eva – by then Mrs. Dwight E. Potter – legally cleared Fant’s name from any debts having to do with the property. In October 1913, nineteen-year-old Bruce Brough was legally added to the property’s deed after having the term “minor” removed from his name in court. During the Potter’s ownership, the house was renamed, “Norwood.” On October 26, 1917, the Potters transferred ownership of the property to the Bacon Investment Company with all of the transaction’s paperwork was drafted in New York. It would be an exchange that would once again return ownership chaos to 401 King William.
Just one month later, Bacon Investment and its president Martin Morales were sued by a man named J. H. Compton. According to Compton’s complaint he and Morales, acting as agent for his company Bacon Investment, had entered into a partnership in September 1917 that involved the listing of the Turner Hotel in Oklahoma for sale or exchange – the property was valued at $60,000 which is the equilvalent of just over $1,000,000 in modern U.S. dollars. Compton’s role was to either find a buyer who would purchase the hotel outright or who would exchange property in San Antonio of equal value. If successful in his role, Compton would be entitled to a commission that totaled $1,500 – that would be just over $25,000 today, quite a hefty commission! Who did Compton claim he found to meet his end of the bargain? Eva and D. E. Potter who had agreed to exhange their four King William lots for the Turner Hotel!
Compton had his day in court against Martin Morales and the Bacon Investment Company on October 14, 1919 but, just like the Polk family a few years earlier, the defendants never showed. The judge of course ruled in Compton’s favor. He was ordered to receive the $1,500 he was owed plus 6% annually from the date the suit was filed, but it didn’t stop there. Because Compton had filed a property affidavit plus bond for attachment – giving him a right to be compensated through the foreclosure and sale of 401 unless all damages were paid in full – the judge ordered a lien placed on the property as part of the judgement. Sheriff John Tobin hand-delivered Compton’s property affidavit to Martin Morales, just like he had in 1904 to Dillard Fant for the same property! Unlike 1904 however, Sheriff Tobin didn’t end up on the wrong side of a legal suit in 1919.
Compton’s judgment against Morales and Bacon Investment was fully satisfied in March 1921. All four of 401’s lots – then still 407 King William – had been sold to John H. Cunningham on October 1920. As part of the sale, Cunningham also became responsible for one promisory note of $10,000 made by Martin Morales when he put the land in Deed of Trust to Caroline and Jonathan Hazel in 1918, surely in a desperate effort to save the property from foreclosure. One wonders, would John and Elva Cunningham have agreed to the transaction if they had known of the property’s troubled past? We will never know, but with the purchase the Cunninghams sealed their fate and would forever be a part of this crazy story … stay tuned for the the fifth and final part!
— Sylvia Hohenshelt