Bad Neighbor Frank

Frank Barber was not a good son, husband or father. He also failed as a farmer, and to top it off, he was a dangerous neighbor.

In 1897, Frank was married to Katherine “Kittie” Chase, and they had a son, Ernest. In 1906, in the first sign of trouble to make the newspapers, Kittie tried to rent out their front rooms to make a few extra dollars.

By 1910, Kittie and her son were gone for good and Frank was living with his mother, Samantha, on West Genesee Street, in “a small dwelling house” on six acres of land. Frank had sold off his cow (“due to calve on May 1st”) and 20 swarms of bees, and although his property was worth quite a bit, it was apparently in a sad state and it was said the village should either condemn or buy it. The following year, Samantha Barber attempted to rent “The whole or part of my house.”

In 1912, Kittie made her separation from Frank legal. The Syracuse Herald noted:

“Mrs. Kittie Barber was granted a separation from her husband, Frank Barber, it being shown conclusively that he had failed to support his wife and child, with much testimony to the effect that he spent the greater portion of his time in a state of intoxication. The Barbers formerly resided in Skaneateles, and one witness testified that Barber had said he would ‘rot in the penitentiary’ before he would support his wife. Another said that the only time Barber was sober was just before he got up in the morning.”

Not exactly the kind of character references for which you would look to your friends. Two years later, Frank added new luster to his reputation:

“Frank Barber of West Genesee St. was taken to the county penitentiary today by Policeman Edwards, to serve a 60-day sentence pronounced by Justice Glen. Yesterday Barber shot one of a pair of pet rabbits owned by Miss Beatrice Vandergrift of Syracuse, a summer guest at the home of Mr. and Mrs. R.W. Vogt on Griffin St. and, when remonstrated with, threatened to shoot her. He was arrested and confined in the lockup over night, before being arraigned before Justice Glen this morning.”

In 1921, Frank was still living with his mother, and the authorities were stepping in.

“After Frank R. Barber of Skaneateles, the son, had been colorfully painted in open court Friday as a derelict on the sea of life, County Judge William L. Barnum ordered Inheritance Tax Clerk Charles R. Milford Jr. as commissioner, to impanel a sheriff’s jury and to inquire into the mental competency of Mrs. Samantha Barber of Skaneateles, who resides with her son, and whose declining years, it was claimed, has rendered her unable to handle her own affairs.”

The following year, Samantha Barber died, leaving an estate of $4,500, divided between Frank and his sister, Mrs. Dora Horle. For Frank, the money didn’t last. By 1930, he was an inmate in the Cayuga County Almshouse in Sennett, where he died in 1934, his life a cautionary tale to others.

* * *

Sources: “Grand Field Day for Divorces; Eight Hapless Couples Put Asunder,” Syracuse Herald, February 14, 1912; “Threatened Girl with Gun,” Skaneateles Free Press, June 12, 1914; “Jury to Determine Skaneateles Woman’s Mental Competency,” Syracuse Journal, January 1921

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