Barbados History: Bajan handyman turned axe-murderer – Julian Carlton massacred seven at Frank Lloyd Wright home in 1914

Barbados Axe Murder Wright Architect

“Julian Carlton said he was from Barbados and he had good credentials, having worked previously for a prominent Chicago caterer. There was not much more known about him.”

Mass murderer said to be from Barbados… but was he?

September 15, 2014 will mark the 100th anniversary of the mass-murder of seven at ‘Taliesin’, the Wisconsin estate home of famed Welsh/American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The murderer, Julian Carlton, and his wife Gertrude had always been reported as being from Barbados, but later accounts say the couple was ‘reportedly’ or ‘said to be’ from Barbados – indicating some doubt. It might be that the doubt originates only from the hundred years since the crime, but could it be that Julian and Gertrude Carlton only said they were from Barbados?

Can any of our readers confirm or deny that the Carltons were from Barbados? Julian Carlton was said to be 30 years old at the time of the murders, making him born around 1884.

Could it be that Julian and Gertrude Carlton only said they were from Barbados?

Frank Lloyd Wright Murder click photo for large

‘God’s judgement’ or a mentally ill man gone berserk?

In 1914 many folks said that the murders were God’s judgement upon Frank Lloyd Wright and his mistress for their open adultery. Pretty mistress Mamah Borthwick Cheney was the younger wife of one of the architect’s clients when they started a torid affair in 1903. Frank Lloyd Wright left his wife of 20 years and six children for the delights of Mrs. Cheney and scandalised Wisconsin when he built an estate for her that the newspapers of the time dubbed the “Bungalow of Love”.

“At lunchtime, Mamah and her children settled into a dining area. Carlton served them soup, then, as they lifted their spoons to their mouths, he came up behind Mamah and split her skull with a hatchet.

He quickly did away with her son in the same way. Martha ran, but the killer soon caught her and delivered four powerful blows to her delicate skull.”

Julian Carlton set fire to the home and axed others who tried to escape. He was found after swallowing acid and died in jail of starvation seven weeks after the murders. Carlton never disclosed his motivation for his crimes.

But was he a Bajan?

Further Reading

New York Daily News: Cook massacres seven at Wisconsin home Frank Lloyd Wright built for his mistress

BBC: Mystery of the murders at Taliesin

Murderpedia: The murders at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin

Wikipedia: Taliesin Studio Attack and Fire

Book: Death in a Prairie House, Frank Lloyd Wright and the Taliesin Murders

6 Comments

Filed under Barbados, Crime & Law, History

6 responses to “Barbados History: Bajan handyman turned axe-murderer – Julian Carlton massacred seven at Frank Lloyd Wright home in 1914

  1. Fine Flying Fish

    Thank you BFP. That was a very interesting piece of history with a Barbados connection.

    Carlton is a common enough name for Bajans, and Gertrude was popular 100 years ago. Other than that, I don’t know if the murderer was a Bajan or not!

  2. Stephen Small-Warner

    Hey Stephen, You can make the movie of the century with this!

  3. John

    Can any of our readers confirm or deny that the Carltons were from Barbados? Julian Carlton was said to be 30 years old at the time of the murders, making him born around 1884.
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Familysearch.org does not seem to have a record for Julian Carlton which may not mean anything.

    Ellisisland.org has a Julia Carlton who is listed as Irish and the wife of Wilson Carlton. By coincidence, her age in 1922 when she entered the US was 40, ie, she was born in 1882!!

    If a birth date of 1882 is used for the 425 Carlton’s coming to the US and only the ones coming before 1914 are inspected, then the number entering the US is reduced to 9.

    Only one of those 9 is listed as coming from Barbados. His name is Fitzgerald Carlton who entered the US in 1904. The Original Ship’s Manifest seems to be the wrong one so I can’t get any further.

    No record for Fitzgerald Carlton in Barbados on familysearch.org.

    Here is an interesting one. The 1940 US Census has a Gertrude Carlton listed as the wife of John F. Carlton and she was 58, ie born in 1882!!

    A nice puzzle in the making!!

  4. Markdavid

    Barbados is a Land filled with so called God loving people that would kill for one inch of land today even if they were going to die tomorrow. Follow: gittenswilliam@twitter

  5. Markdavid

    Barbados: Friendly Hall woman threatened to F*****G cut off neighbor’s head and put it in a bucket on 31 March 2014 Police were informed of unprovoked incident.

  6. Anonymous

    Couldn’t find any evidence when I looked a few years ago.