Page 1 of 1

The Vernon Dossier - James and Nina Morey

Posted: November 13th, 2019, 12:13 am
by BossTweed

The truth about the Legend

Parts 4B and 4C

James Morey and Nina Morey

James Morey was Jeanne Verner’s maternal uncle. He was born circa 1874.

As a younger man, James had been jailed with his mother, Elizabeth Morey, over an issue of their pigs destroying a neighbor’s garden. As has been noted, James’ mother, by then Mrs. Hobby, had sought to have him evicted from the property she had lived in prior to marrying Mr. Hobby in 1902.

James Morey’s legal problems took a much more sinister turn in 1909, when he was arrested. Newspapers reported that James, an out of work 35-year-old chauffer, and Miss Catherine McAuley, an acquaintance of eight years, were found unconscious in Brooklyn. Catherine claimed that when she had gone to tell James her parents had forbidden her to see him, he had locked the door, pulled the shades, and telling her of his love, had apparently turned on the gas. He was charged with attempted murder and suicide. Up to six weeks prior to this incident James had been working for the New York Taxicab Company. He had been discharged.

This New York Tribune article of July 7 made sure to mention Elizabeth Morey’s notoriety and her claim to Coney Island. The article also stated: “The property [Mrs. Morey] left caused quarrels in the Morey family, and the Coney Island police court calendar has included many cases in which the son was arrayed against his two sisters, Mrs. Nina Hayes and Mrs. Elizabeth Pine …”

James will resurface before long when we discuss the last of the Coney Island lawsuits. At that time his wife, Catherine, will be with him. One can speculate that she was the same Catherine previously mentioned and that their marriage resolved the charge of attempted murder/suicide. But this can’t be said with assurance.

Nina Morey was the daughter of Elizabeth and John Garner Morey. Nina was Jeanne Verner’s mother.

The newspapers initially treated young Nina in a complementary manner. The August 22, 1889, Brooklyn Daily Eagle recounted a story of 13 year old Lena [sic] Morey, the “shapely, sprightly and skillful swimmer” daughter of well known Coney Island resident, Elizabeth Morey, having saved the life of 27 year old Mary McLaughlin. Mary, who was rudely described as “rather large,” had wandered out into deep water and, being unable to swim, nearly drowned. Nina sized up the situation and rescued Mary. She subsequently received compliments from various officials who had heard of her daring do. The rescued woman was described as twice Nina’s weight. The article misspelled Nina’s name and referred to her brother, Louis who has but one foot, yet can swim quite well. I can’t trace Louis to the family but he is mentioned in other articles. The only brother I am aware of is James. Miss. McLaughlin is described as a former servant of the family. Among the charges brought against Elizabeth Morey at various times was that she took in stray children and made them work excessively for their supper.

The most famous of Nina’s early exploits was driving a team of horses while hauling snow during a blizzard to “… make more money than any man could.” She and a stable boy assistant returned with $23.68 after working 24 hours straight. This was perhaps a month’s wages for her. Along with providing romantic prose, the February 7, 1898 Boston Globe provided a sketch of Nina standing dramatically in her rig while her assistant piles up another load of snow. Interestingly, the sketch of Nina shows a marked resemblance to her future daughter, Jeanne. Other papers created romanticized drawings of her feat as well.

In October of 1897 an incident was reported in Brooklyn Eagle of some interest. 19-year-old Peter Tobey was arrested for steeling a wagon and team from Miss Nina Morey. The property was recovered and Tobey and another boy were convicted. This is interesting because Vernon stated that his wife had met a Frank Toby (as Vernon spelled it), a former western lawman, as a child. Toby, according to the Professor, dealt Faro and made high quality gaffed gambling furniture for the trade. I’ve never found any trace of Toby either as a lawman or as a maker of gambling apparatus. There is, however, a famous furniture company in Chicago (where Vernon claimed to have met Toby) named the Tobey Furniture Company and one of its vice-presidents was Frank B. Tobey. So there was a Frank Tobey in Chicago who made furniture but presumably not for gambling concerns. Either the Professor somehow confused these names over the years or this is all mere coincidence. We’ll assume the latter.

Despite the early complimentary press, Nina, more than her siblings, would join her mother in arguments with authorities and neighbors and battles in court. In 1899 Nina was arrested for allowing her horses to roam on Ocean Parkway. I understand this to mean she allowed her animals to graze on a public parkway. The charge was dismissed after she promised to address the situation. The article makes note of Nina performing contract work with her two-horse truck. “She is a little woman and does all her contracting business without the help of any men,” noted one article. Elizabeth Morey had been described as 5’-7” with red hair, quite tall for her time. Nina and her daughter Jeanne were reportedly tiny women. On November 24, 1900, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported that after being fined for allowing a cow to roam onto another’s property, Nina, as her mother had done before her, opted for 5 days in jail rather than pay the $5 fine. The article refers to her as a “Girl Jehu,” referencing her notoriety as a “stagecoach” driver.

In January of 1901 six men were arrested on Nina’s claim that they knew something about a fire that had destroyed her building. Nina had the small structure built to hide a lookout charged with finding who had been stealing her lumber and timber. The article noted she’d had a number of people arrested in the past. The complaint was dismissed with a warning to the men.

In February of 1901 Nina and her mother, Elizabeth, appeared before a magistrate accused of threatening a former worker. The man had quit over what he claimed was unsuitable treatment and returned to pick up some clothes he’d left behind. Nina Morey stopped him, counter-claiming he could only have his clothes back if he returned the saw she now accused him of taking. He was told if he looked over the fence he would be shot. At this same time another case was decided in favor of a nearby wealthy resident, whom Elizabeth Morey had accused of larceny.

In 1908, Nina accused her sister, Mrs. Elizabeth Pine of assaulting her with a sledgehammer. The Brooklyn Eagle article of August 1 notes that subsequent to the death of the mother, Nina and James had disputed the ownership of the sawmill where the assault had allegedly occurred. By this juncture, both sisters had married yet disputes continued between siblings over the ownership of various properties left by the mother. The mother herself had claimed ownership to various holdings, which ultimately went to the Hobby heirs. If I follow the article correctly, the mill was shown to be the property of Nina’s sister, Mrs. Elizabeth Pine, rather than Nina or James, as they claimed.

The whole family seems to have been extremely litigious and while Elizabeth Morey Hobby’s disputes with powerful politicians may have contributed to their woes, there are just too many instances unrelated to Tammany Hall to attribute everything to political ill will. Clearly, as a family, they took internal disputes to court repeatedly, had their own individual issues, and seemed to blame almost everyone they came into contact with for one crime or another. Daughter Elizabeth Pine had moved from the immediate area. She seems to have been the most stable of the lot.

Nina’s husband and Jeanne’s father was George Hayes. Mr. Hayes was 10 years Nina’s senior. The 1905 census lists George as a bookmaker and Nina as homebody. Vernon stated that Jeanne’s mother, Nina, had entered into a bitter divorce when Jeanne was 12 and that they fought over her custody. That would have been around 1915. Whatever the result, Jeanne apparently went to live with her aunt Elizabeth. A recent biography of Vernon claimed that shortly after Jeanne went to live with her aunt, her mother had died. This is contradicted by the following funeral notice, which appeared in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle on January 5, 1937:

HAYES – On January 3, at the residence of her sister, 186 Prospect Place, NINA M. HAYES, wife of the late George Hayes; mother of Mrs. David Verner and sister of Mrs. Horace R. Pine. Funeral Wednesday morning. Interment Holy Cross Cemtery [sic].

Both Mother, Elizabeth, and daughter, Nina, turned to daughter and sister Elizabeth Pine in their final hours. Mother-in-law Nina died well after Vernon was on the scene, married, and with children. Their interaction, if any, is at present unknown. There is obviously a story to be found as to where Nina was between leaving Jeanne with her sister circa 1915 and dying in the sister’s house almost a quarter of a century later. Nor do we know the fate of the bookmaker father.

Like James and other family members, Nina was a participant in the suit claiming the family owned Coney Island. It’s quite a story.

Re: The Vernon Dossier - James and Nina Morey

Posted: November 13th, 2019, 9:01 am
by Bob Farmer
I'm of two minds on this. First, it's interesting. Second, it's irrelevant. As to the latter point, I'd rather spend time studying Vernon's magic and learning from it. Knowledge of his relatives or where he bought his socks doesn't help in that pursuit, it just wastes time. This reminds me of fanboys who have to know everything about their favorite band. My attitude has always been: who cares, listen to the music, that's what's important.

Re: The Vernon Dossier - James and Nina Morey

Posted: November 13th, 2019, 11:10 am
by performer
History is always interesting. That is why I read the biography of Vernon by David Ben. I am curious however as to how our poster knows all this stuff. It is so incredibly thorough I feel that there is something going on that we don't know.

Perhaps he could tell us who Erdnase really was. I bet if anyone could he could!

Re: The Vernon Dossier - James and Nina Morey

Posted: November 13th, 2019, 2:53 pm
by BossTweed

I agree with you completely. I'd much rather Vernon be viewed only through his magic. I don't blame you at all for feeling as you do. Unfortunately I find myself growing old and the possessor of knowledge that contradicts much of what has been written about Vernon. These things are, by and large, of little import yet I feel they contribute to the context of his life. I continue to see the same misinformation given again and again. I'm not maligning anyone's motives here, I'm sure everyone acts with the best of intentions and puts forward what they believe to be accurate. Most of it may be. Unfortunately, since Vernon's death his private life has been negatively characterized by some or at least by more than did it openly when he was alive. I think this is a result of human nature and a natural tendency to tear heroes down. All I can do is lay out what I believe to be the accurate facts. If people aren't interested in the context of Vernon's performance at the Rainbow Grill versus the Rainbow Room, that's fine. I've sort of gone out of my way to write my information in a historical corner of the Genii Forum where only those interested can find it. Hopefully, this is a place where they could sift through what I have to say. I sincerely agree that we should leave Vernon's personal life alone. But since that hasn't been the case, I hope that we can all benefit from starting with the most accurate information we can find.

I'm also hopeful that more information on such people as Frank Toby will come forward. My assessment of Vernon is that while he may embellish stories or present them from his own point of view, he doesn't make things up out of whole cloth. On the other hand if there was a five times elected sheriff of Dodge City named Frank Toby who made exquisite gambling furniture and was an expert Faro dealer as Vernon said, it seems likely he would have turned up in my research. I even obtained a long list of western lawmen that the author had sought to make complete. Mr. Toby is not on the list. Still, I don't think Vernon made this person up and hopefully someone will eventually determine if that is the correct name or Vernon confused it with the Tobey Furniture Company or some other explanation.

Anyway, Bob, thanks for the comment. I'm not kidding when I say I agree with you. I've made the same point to others although perhaps in a more charitable tone. Practicing the Black Pass will make you a happier person. I guess you won't be reading about the claim to Coney Island made by Jeanne Verner's family. I agree it matters only for context but then again, it is an interesting story.

Boss Tweed

Re: The Vernon Dossier - James and Nina Morey

Posted: November 13th, 2019, 4:03 pm
by performer
I agree. I think it is important to get accurate historical facts when possible. As for Vernon's private life I was once startled by Hubert Lambert of Dublin, Ireland who knew Vernon well snorting with ill concealed disdain, "Vernon?----He was a bum!" And Lambert was supposed to be his friend!