Photo postcards are my very favorite because they bring us face to face with the author most times.
Meet Mr. Harvey Milo Barngrover
He signed his name “Harvey M. Barngrover, School boy” on the back. It turns out this school boy was quite the guy!
He was born to a large family in Iowa in the Spring of 1864. He married Lucille Lisle in 1893 and it sounds like he spend the next 40 years regretting that decision passionately. Doesn’t she look like all warm and fuzzy in this picture? Yeah, I didn’t think so either.
This guy Harvey was extremely successful. He ran a large fruit farm in Southern California and had multiple ranches of his own as well, raising prized cattle. He was considered one of the top Farm and Ranch Industry men of Southern California during the turn of the century. He even has patents on multiple inventions that made fruit picking and canning way more efficient. Here are a few of his inventions.
He owned a 800 acre Veramount Cattle farm in the Indian Valley and the Slough House Ranch in Santa Clara. By all accounts, he was a really good guy and very well liked. He had one problem though. His wife. In 1919, after 24 years of marriage and one daughter later, Harvey had enough. He filed for divorce on grounds of “extreme cruelty by the defendant”. Harvey brought in 16 (!!) witnesses who all said that this chick was MEAN. She was constantly berating him, telling him he was a terrible businessman. (Remember this dude was uber successful.) She held on to the purse strings with an iron fist, and wouldn’t even buy enough food to properly feed her husband and daughter because she was so stingy. Harvey testified that he had not even had a comfortable chair to sit on in years because she would not allow him to purchase one even though they had more than enough money to do so. The family pastor even testified!
Harvey was granted a divorce and was probably just taking that sigh of relief when Ol’ Lucy struck again. She appealed the divorce!! I didn’t even know this was a thing!! The appeal was granted, but wait until you hear the slant she used in the second divorce proceedings. Due to the over 1,000 pages of testimony from the original trial, she couldn’t really deny that she “had developed a most peculiar case of nagging”. What she argued, was that Harvey should not be granted a divorce because it was nothing against him personally. In fact, as stated by the many witnesses, she was horrible to everyone!! Not only her husband, but her daughter, her “tradespeople”, friends and even acquaintances! She really couldn’t help this little character trait- her nagging grew out of her “ultra puralistic character” because she was an “earnest Christian”. I mean really. All I could think as I read the case files was poor, poor Harvey. This drug out quite some time. in 1925 and 1926 Lucy traveled to Honolulu for holidays (I guess she had money for that!) and was still listed as married. Maybe she was in denial? Either way, by 1930 she was living on her own and going by the title of divorcee. In August of 1930 Lucy passed away living in San Jose.
Harvey, being the enterprising man he was, took a second stab at love. In 1931 he traveled to Indiana and married a distant cousin who was 20+ years his junior and on her 5th marriage. Unfortunately, he didn’t have long with his new gal, as he died suddenly on September 11, 1933. His new wife auctioned off his property and remarried.
While not the most lucky in love, Harvey was extremely well loved and held in very high esteem by his friends and colleagues. Newspapers all over the area ran the story of his death and every one of them mentioned how missed he would be.
Vera, Harvey’s daughter, the one who was also supposedly “peculiarly nagged” by her mother, may not have had the most loving mother, but she did find a loving husband. She married Judge Phillip Charles Farman who has a pretty amazing story himself.
Charles was born in Napa in 1899 to Swedish immigrants. He served in World War 1, played rugby and became a linebacker for USC and then a judge. He went on to become two time Gold Medal winner in the 90 and older Senior Olympics, competing in Javelin and Discus throwing. When asked what his secret was, he said he simply outlived those he couldn’t out throw. Judge Farman was still walking a minimum of 3 miles per day up through his 95th year.
I absolutely love the adventures these postcards take me on when researching. Who would have known this “school boy” would have such an interesting story!