There are not many townhouses for sale in Hoboken; so when a property of that type comes on the market, the first thing I do is a cursory search hoping for extraordinary information that might make a good story. In the past I have found a few interesting stories involving patent holders, scientists and - at times - lawyers. In this case I came across the history of a lawyer who had been involved in a suit with a matrimonial institute, curiosity got the best of me and I had to investigate further.
THE LAWYER - ALONZO LETTS
The lawyer, Alonzo Letts, was born in New Jersey to a family of ice dealers in 1876. By 1897 the family had moved into 1210 Garden Street. By the time Alonzo began attending law school at NYU, his father, William, had left the ice business to become a clerk in the Hoboken District Court. In 1898, at the beginning of his career, Alonzo married Mary Christine Koch of New York, and for a short while they made their home with his parents at 1210 Garden Street.
Not only was 1898 the beginning of his own marriage, but a year later he signed a marriage document as one of the witnesses to a strange Hoboken marriage between individuals who claimed to be related to an ex-Secretary of War and an ex-Secretary of State. It is unknown how the press became interested in the wedding, but oddly the names of the two love-birds were kept secret until the certificate was filed. Once the press descended on the Hoboken Board of Health, the record revealed the names of Millicent Locke and Henry James Thayer. While the names were not particularly noteworthy, neither existed at the Trenton addresses shown on the certificate. As a matter of fact, the addresses didn’t exist either. No one in the neighborhood had heard of them. This odd couple was not to be the last strange marriage Letts was involved with.
By 1902, having a few years of lawyering under his belt, Letts got involved in another cupid situation. Joseph W. Albers, a maker of “shine” diamonds and precious stones, had recently located to 233 Bloomfield in Hoboken - the same town as Letts. Albers probably had never heard of Letts, but it wouldn’t be long before he would. Prior to his relocation to New Jersey, Joseph Albers had decided to enroll in the Chicago Matrimonial Institute. He was out to seek a wife, but not just your typical everyday run-of-the-mill wife; he wanted a wealthy wife and was willing to pay – at least initially. The fee was $5.00 for males and free to wealthy single women to enroll in what the president of the company called, “the only reliable concern of its kind in Chicago.” Albers paid thirty cents for each interview, of which he had 15, before he landed, what Chicago’s Morning Telegraph newspaper called, a woman who was “game for a sudden marriage” and the Thompson publisher’s law journal, Law Notes, called “a prize in the shape of Mrs. Albers.” The Chicago Matrimonial Institute claimed the woman was worth $15,000 and Joseph Albers was required to pay 2% of that as a finders’ fee according to his contract. Albers and his "prize" tied the knot, but in an attempt to avoid paying the fee to the institute in Chicago, made their escape to New Jersey shortly after. Lawyer Alonzo Letts was contracted by the institute to retrieve the $300 finders' fee and file suit when Albers refused to pay. Apparently Albers’ attractive blonde wife, as well as prosecuting attorney Letts, both refused to discuss the case with the papers and the outcome was never reported, but one thing we know for sure is that once again, Letts had found himself in the middle of a strange cupid case.
Though there is much more to the story of 1210 Garden Street, Alonzo Letts made for an interesting introduction. Now on the market, contact Francesco Mazzaferro of Coldwell Banker for further information on buying this property.
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