Welcome to John T. Cullen's Coronado Mystery main website


John T. Cullen's two books about the ghost at the Hotel del Coronado, and the 1892 crime that created her legend.Lottiepedia

Tom Morgan

Thomas Morgan (c1861-after 1900). As always, we may trust the redoubtable official historian(s) at the Hotel del Coronado and its Heritage Department, who have compiled a biographical sketch of what little is known (and not known) about Tom Morgan. Here is an official press release from the Hotel del Coronado, which mentions Kate's husband Tom Morgan.

Kate's Husband Tom Morgan. A surprising result of my own research independently turned up—that there is no conclusive evidence linking him with the activities of Kate Morgan, Lizzie Wyllie, or John Longfield in San Diego or Coronado during November 1892. My own conclusion soon became that Tom and Kate Morgan parted company, for unknown but guessable reasons, some time before her attempted blackmail attempt on John Spreckels in 1892. What we know for sure is that Thomas Morgan was born in Illinois, perhaps in 1861 to Marsena and Paulina Morgan, who moved to Iowa. Tom and Kate, both from solid rural families around Fremont County, Iowa, married on December 30, 1885. Kate Farmer was about 18 or 19, and Tom about 25. The couple had one child, a boy named Thomas, who died two days after his birth on 31 October 1886. Kate had no surviving siblings. Her marriage with Tom produced no surviving children. My result is that Kate Morgan at some point before 1892 ran out on Tom, who remained in Iowa and quietly lived his life into the early 1900s.

G. L. Allen. As the hotel's research indicates, Tom Morgan's mother Paulina Austin Morgan, died in 1869, after which Tom's father, Marsena, a widow named Emily Allen, who brought three stepchildren from a previous marriage. One of these children was George L. Allen. When Mrs. Lottie A. Bernard (fictitious name of Lizzie Wyllie, or the Beautiful Stranger as a sensationalist news article called her) was forced by hotel chief clerk Gomer to prove she had the financing to pay her bills, Lottie asked Gomer to check with a bank in Fremont County, Iowa. She told Gomer a G. L. Allen was keeping money on account there, to cover her bills at the Hotel del Coronado. Remember, while the telephone was as yet not a wide-spread invention, and there was no long distance service over thousands of miles, people could communicate almost instantaneously by telegraph. It was the telegraph that made her death a national sensation in the Yellow Press, with new stories (some true, some glamorized fiction) breathlessly being sent across the country from Coronado and San Diego almost hourly. While Tom's stepbrother George Allen thus figures in the story in 1892, there is no mention of Tom Morgan. If Kate were still in touch with her husband, why did he not accompany her or provide the $25 she needed to cover her bills (a few hundred dollars in modern money)?   TOP

John Longfield. John Longfield is listed as a foreman in a city directory of Detroit from 1890. He was Lizzie's (and her sister May's) foreman at the factory where they met in Detroit (Binn Hammond bookbindery). Lizzie was pregnant by John Longfield, a 'cad' and 'bounder', who had a wife and three children. By Victorian standards, Lizzie was forever 'ruined,' and John, also touched by scandal, left Detroit with Lizzie for unspecified reasons. He appears in the narrative after the Beautiful Stranger's death, offering an incongruous cover story (that Lizzie supposedly never wanted to see her family again, which does not hold water) and lived in Canada. John Longfield stayed with Lizzie and Kate during their trip to San Diego, on Kate's errand to blackmail John Spreckels and thus solve all of their problems. Thus, the man directly in the picture was not Tom Morgan, but John Longfield. There is good reason to think that the man Lizzie saw on the train during the 'Missing Day' was John Longfield, with whom she pleaded desperately but who rejected her. The reason he stayed in the Southern California area, instead of returning to Detroit, had to be because he had fallen into Kate Morgan's hypnotic grip. Again, this suggests Kate's husband Tom was no longer in the picture.   TOP

Later Life of Tom Morgan. We can pretty much eliminate Tom Morgan from the picture in 1892, and focus on three accomplices in the blackmail scheme: Kate Morgan, the leader of the pack; Lizzie Wyllie, the desperate young 'ruined' (pregnant) beauty from Detroit who registered at the hotel as Mrs. Lottie A. Bernard as bait in the blackmail scheme; and John Longfield, Lizzie's lover, Kate's bumbling assistant, and by now probably Kate Morgan's lover as well. A modern-era individual claims to be distantly related to the late Tom Morgan. This man says that Morgan was for many years a rural letter carrier and church deacon in Iowa, who remarried and had at least one daughter by his second (and far more stable) wife. This man's claims and expostulations about the larger 1892 crime are spurious to the point of deliberate distortions, for an agenda that is unclear to anyone including himself, but his claims about Tom Morgan should be taken seriously. In my independently analyzed results, Tom Morgan does not matter in the true story.   TOP

Tom Morgan in Legend. According to the legends about the so-called Kate Morgan story, Tom Morgan was a very bad man. In some threads of myth, he is said to have been a gambler who cardsharped (modern term: sharked) gullible men on the Transcontinental Railroad system. The late Allan May, in his spurious book of 1978, even had Tom Morgan be a murderer. These same legends have Kate Morgan being Tom's assistant, who lures men on these trains to a private coach in the rear, where Tom gets them drunk while Kate seduces them. After the man falls asleep with his bottle, Tom and Kate skip out with his money at the next station. These stories are, in themselves, implausible, because the Transcontinental Railroad network (of many separate companies, but often capitalized as if it had been one entity) was heavily policed. Detectives would be working the trains, looking for known cardsharps and other criminals to arrest. The sleeping cars and public lounges of these luxurious trains were meant for businessmen and families, not for low-life criminals. It is unlikely that such a scheme would have succeeded for long in the tiny world of these closed trains chugging across the nation (hence, the armed detectives with wanted posters, opening the adventure in Lethal Journey). Another thread suggests (because we know, from Dr. Mertzmann's statements, that the dead woman had been pregnant) that Tom's wife and assistant tired of their life of crime, wanted to settle down, and got pregnant to force the issue. According to some embellishments, Tom banished her, and she killed herself from grief while waiting for him at the hotel. But she was not waiting for Tom at the hotel, but one Dr. Anderson and his wife, code names for John Longfield and Kate Morgan as Lizzie's shadows during her stay at the hotel. Another legend has Tom actually being the murderer. None of this is likely true. It is the stuff of legend, and I have sprinkled it into my noir thriller Lethal Journey. I also use this general thread, with disclaimers, in the fictionalized dramatization in Part VI of Dead Move. It has been my belief, independently achieved as early as 2008 when I first completed my research, that none of these legends are true, but that both Kate and Tom Morgan were counter-framed by the Spreckels Machine to deflect attention from both John Spreckels and the pregnant, ruined Lizzie Wyllie.   TOP