On this date in 1918, Barney Weaver spent the last night of his life in Seal Beach.
Details vary slightly from newspaper article to article. According to the Santa Ana Register, Los Angeles policeman Barney Weaver and an attractive young woman purported to be his wife choose Seal Beach as the site of a suicide pact. Barney Weaver had been drafted and was to leave on August 22nd, and the two had decided to die together rather than be separated. Weaver placed his revolver against her head a number of times, but couldn’t force himself to pull the trigger. Finally, he put the revolver to his own head and fired, killing himself instantly. The woman’s name was not mentioned in the story
The Los Angeles Times story two days later added many details to the tale, but the article only deepened the mystery. According to Weaver’s relatives, he had received threatening letters from a woman and that the same woman had contacted the local draft board with information that resulted in his deferment due to dependents having been revoked.
The woman on the beach with Weaver that night was now identified as twenty-one year old Theresa Marie Forgeron, and the Times makes a strong implication that she was one writing the letters and contacting the draft board. She had lived with Weaver for three months, although she was alleged to be married to another man. The two had separated recently after an argument, and Forgeron told the police that Weaver had been jealous of her and had even struck her once.
The police investigation discovered that Weaver had been ordered to appear before the draft board and that Forgeron had appeared before the board. The board ordered that Weaver should marry Forgeron that day and return on the 22nd for a physical examination, after which he would most likely be shipped to Camp Lewis. The two left the board hearing in tears.
Their quarrel forgotten, Weaver and Forgeron hired an auto and drove to Seal Beach. A letter signed by Forgeron on the suicide scene stated that she was pregnant and could not live on the $30 that the army would pay Weaver. Reading between the lines, it seems likely that Mrs. Theresa Marie Forgeron would not have been eligible for any spousal benefits because she was already married to another man and had been “living in sin” with Barney Weaver those three months. This was not spelled out directly in the Times article, but the truth was that the two lovers could not marry as ordered by the draft board.
It’s possible that when the police questioned Forgeron that they received a fuller accounting of Weaver’s and her night in Seal Beach, but the Times says nothing in the story. Perhaps they had a last meal at Jewel Cafe or went dancing. Another mystery is why they choose Seal Beach. Did they have shared history there? Was it a romantic getaway that they had planned in happier times and this was their last chance to take it? There is so much of this story that exists only in the realm of speculation.
What is certain is that around 2 a.m. that night, Barney Weaver took his life on the sands of Seal Beach. Mabel Thomas, who had been near the scene, testified before Orange County Coroner Winbigler at the that she had heard a woman begging “Take me with you!” right before the shot. Four letters found in Weaver’s pocket described their suicide pact and Mrs. Theresa Marie Forgeron’s testimony lead the Coroner’s jury to rule Weaver’s death a suicide.
One of the letters ended: “I am going to take Dot with me. Please bury us together, even if you have to bury us in the potter’s field.”
There’s no one alive today who remembers Barney Weaver, and very few details about him survive. At the time of his death, he was nearing the end of his six month probationary period with the Los Angeles Police, but according to city directories and his draft registration card, his previous employment was as a conductor for Pacific Electric. It’s possible that he may have even worked on the red car trolleys traveling through Seal Beach. He was born on January 22nd, 1889 in Mansfield, Missouri. His draft card listed him as being of medium height and build with blue eyes and light hair. He had already served one and a half years of military service as a corporal for the Second Field Artillery. And in August 1919, facing an uncertain future as the father of a child with a woman still married to another man, Barney M. Weaver ended his life.
After the inquest on the 22nd, Undertaker Montell took Forgeron to her grandmother’s home in Los Angeles. Later, she left and wandered the streets until nighttime and then went to her mother’s house where the police found her and brought her in for questioning (which seems odd since the death had already been ruled a suicide.)
There is addendum to this sad affair that concerns Theresa Marie’s unnamed husband. In 1920, both the Los Angeles Times and the Santa Ana Register ran articles on a Willard W. Forgeron filing for divorce from his wife, Theresa Marie Forgeron. Willard had been a soldier in World War I when the suicide occurred and had only heard about it upon his return. He filed for divorce in 1919, but in August 1920 he was finally able to provide proof that his wife was the woman involved in the suicide pact by producing clippings of the Los Angeles Times story with the picture of his wife and providing testimony from Barney Weaver’s and Theresa Marie’s Forgeron’s landlady. Willard Forgeron got his divorce, later remarried, and died in 1964.
As for Theresa Marie Forgeron, she disappeared after August 22nd. She isn’t listed in the 1920, the 1930, or the 1940 census under the Forgeron last name or her mother’s last name. In fact, her mother and her grandmother don’t show up in any city directory or census. Using the addresses given in the Los Angeles Times story about the suicide and Google street views, I was able to explore her 1919 neighborhood on the web. Her grandmother’s apartment, her mother’s house, and the apartment she shared with Barney Weaver were only a few blocks away from each other, although the 10 Freeway passes over where her love nest with Barney once stood. It’s hard not to imagine young Theresa Marie wandering those streets, wondering how it all went wrong and blaming herself for the tragedy and scared about her impending motherhood. I hope it didn’t end for her there. I hope that she went somewhere else, somewhere far away and rebuilt her life under a new name and found peace and happiness.
– Michael Dobkins
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