In the backwoods of Ontario, a blacksmith named Fred LaRose was working on the new railroad when his pickaxe struck a rock. It broke off “a piece as big as my hand, with little sharp points all over it,” and a shiny vein running through its middle. He showed the rock to the owner of a nearby hotel.
“Some kind of damn metal,” they decided, and sent it away to be tested.
It was Cyril’s professor, W.G. Miller, who received the sample, and a lab report confirmed his suspicions. The rock contained silver. Lots of it. The race was on!
It was already October, and a Canadian winter would soon set in, making travel impossible. Professor Miller rushed to the site along with two assistants. One of them was Cyril Knight.
Soon after Freddie went to live at the asylum, and while his sister Muriel was living in the U.S. with the first of her many husbands, Cyril Knight was still living at home with his two younger sisters and their parents. The whole family was busy with music lessons, sports and studying, and their father’s schedule was crammed with teaching, writing, committee-work, travel and science experiments.
“I have oiled the thing on the roof,” Cyril wrote to him, “but you didn’t tell me how to make out the report.”
Cyril was a third-year geology student. He was also the captain of the Queen’s University hockey team, which had recently won the American intercollegiate championship. But in August 1903, just as the team was looking ahead to an exciting new season, something extraordinary happened to Cyril.
Fishing may-or-may-not have been Muriel’s favourite hobby, but she certainly excelled at catching husbands. She married once more, sometime after 1941, and was widowed again late in her own life.
On August 6, 1959, Muriel died in Queen’s, New York. Her body was returned to Kingston, and she was buried in Cataraqui Cemetery near her parents and daughter.
Not long before her death, she had filled out a Social Security claim form in the U.S. As brash as ever, Muriel recorded her birth date as 1895. With a stroke of the pen, she declared herself to be fifteen years younger than she really was.
Coming up next on Storydello: the equally-amazing (but very different) adventures of Muriel’s younger brother Cyril. Please stay tuned….
IMAGE: Detail of Muriel Knight Spencer Stadler, from photo “A.J. Cornelis [i.e., Cornelius], Mrs. Emil Auerbach, Mrs. A. Lincoln Stadler, E. Auerbach,” Bain Collection, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division (http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/ggb2005019621/ : accessed 10 November 2013).
Within the space of three years, Muriel had lost both of her parents and her husband. But she never seemed to give up. In 1940, just two years after Lincoln’s death, she married again. Her new husband was a famous clothing designer with outlets in New York, London and Paris.
It didn’t last long. Soon the newspaper reported, “Nine months of married life with 80-year-old Amos Sulka was enough for Muriel Knight Stadler Sulka… She won a divorce at Reno, Nevada on grounds of cruelty late yesterday and was home for lunch today. She flew East on a United Airlines sleeper after a whirlwind trip to the city of broken romances.”
She told the reporter she would travel to Canada in a few days to do some fishing…”my favourite hobby.”
Muriel and her husband joined the rich and famous in places like Bermuda, France, Lake George and Palm Beach.
In 1925 they visited Kingston to attend her daughter’s wedding, but they were soon off again. Six months before the stock market crash of 1929, they were in Florida at the “Whoopee Ball, the Big Event of the Week” kicked off by a dinner hosted by Mrs. William Randolph Hearst.
Unlike many, Muriel and Lincoln seem to have weathered the Great Depression reasonably well, and in September 1936 they celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary.
But two years later, on the beach at the Forest Hills Surf Club at Atlantic Beach, Muriel’s husband had a heart attack. He died before medical help could reach him.
Muriel’s new husband was A. Lincoln Stadler. He was the president of the Merchant Tailors Association in New York–the man who announced the new fashion trends in the newspaper each year. He and Muriel lived a life of glamour and travel.
In 1915, just three years after her first hotel failed, Muriel opened another: the Monmouth Beach Inn on the Jersey Shore. That summer, there were parties around the pool, dances and water sports and contests. “Prizes and trophies were presented by Mrs. Muriel Spencer Stadler to the winners.”
In 1906 there were thirteen divorces in Canada. Muriel’s was one of them. But it would take more than a little social stigma to hold back this determined young woman.
After her divorce, she bought a resort in New Jersey called the Hollywood Hotel. There were already two mortgages on the property. Muriel took out six more and re-married (a rich husband, this time!) She borrowed money from him to keep the hotel going.
It didn’t work. Within a year, she was declaring bankruptcy. But even that didn’t slow her down for long. Muriel was irrepressible.