The Notorious Con-woman of Menominee, 1880s-1900s
Baroness van Eerde. She's been described as “a notorious con-woman” and spent her teen years - and later, some adult years - in Menominee, Michigan.
May Dugas was born in 1869 in Chicago (some say Wisconsin). By the time she was 11, the family was living in Muskegon, soon moving again to Menominee. The family had previously moved to a few different locations, presumably due to the shady dealings of May's father, Eugene.
When Eugene died in 1887, May went to Chicago where she found a job as a prostitute in Carrie Watson's, one of the top bordellos in Chicago and changed her name to “Long Pauline”. Among the male customers she 'handled', many of them were married men. This prompted an idea. She figured she could make some extra money by blackmailing these unfaithful husbands.....especially the rich ones. After a handful of these antics, she was brought to the attention of the police and Pinkerton detectives. As she fled around the globe, her name changed often; other aliases were Pauline Davidson, Pauline Townsend, Maude Jackson, and Mrs. Ernest Appleby.
Soon, she made her way to England. In 1895 and at 26 years old, May met and married the Baron Rudolph de Pallandt van Eerde in London; her name was now officially Baroness May “Marie” Dugas de Pallandt van Eerde. However, the couple split up in 1901, he died twelve years later, May inherited a great deal of dough, and she kept the title 'Baroness' throughout the rest of her life. May's illegal exploits and the chase between her and the Pinkertons inspired one Pinkerton to label her as “the most dangerous woman in the world”.
After May and the Baron separated, she moved back to Menominee and moved into a massive house at the corner of 7th and 14th streets (Menominee locals still refer to this place as “The Mystery House” due to tunnels, secrets panels, etc.).
And then came “The Menominee Trial”, where May was being sued by one of her best friends. It seems May had accepted – some say swindled - $375,000 from this woman. After a two-week trial, May was found guilty and had to pay the judgment. Many of her belongings were being sold off and creditors began hounding her as soon as she left Menominee for good.
She went back to England but returned to the United States and settled in a Manhattan hotel with her adopted son and husband, Edward Morrisey.
She died on March 10, 1937.
This brief synopsis is just a minor tip of the iceberg. There is SO much more to her story with twists, illegal escapades, jealous housewives, extravagant spending...it goes on and on...and you can read the entire tale HERE. See photos of her in the gallery below.
The Notorious Conwoman of Menominee
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