Niagara Falls

SIR HARRY OAKES

and his family legacies

 

a history

 

 

 

Harry and Eunice Oakes

Harry Oakes was born in Sangerville, Maine on December 23rd 1874. His parents were William Pitt Oakes, a lawyer/surveyor and Nancy (Lewis) Oakes, a teacher. Harry was one of two boys and two girls.

Harry was well educated. He attended Foxcroft Academy, Bowdoin College and Syracuse Medical School.

In 1896, when he was 22 years old, Harry heard of a gold rush in Klondike in the Yukon. Harry left medical school to take up the career of prospector.

Oakes traveled the world as a prospector. He visited Alaska, Philippines, Australia, New Zealand and California without much success.

In 1910, Oakes arrived in the Kirkland Lake region of Ontario where he had heard that gold was being discovered.

In 1912, Harry Oakes became a very rich man with the discovery of an iron ore mine near Kirkland Lake. This mine was developed by Mr. Oakes and three brothers, Tom Tough, George Tough and Jack Tough. This mine became known as the Tough- Oakes Mine which was rich with iron ore.

Harry Oakes continued to prospect by himself. In the latter part of 1912, Oakes discovered a gold mine known as Lake Shore Mines near Kirkland Lake. Lake Shore Mines became the second largest gold mine in North America. Oakes incorporated the mine in 1914.

In 1916, to finance Lake Shore Mines, Mr. Oakes sold his share of Tough - Oakes Mine for $200,000. In addition, he also sold 10˘ shares in order to generate money to develop the mine. Following the discovery of a large gold vein in the mine, the shares were worth in excess of $64.

By 1921, Harry Oakes was a multi-millionaire. 

In 1923, Harry went on a world cruise. While in Australia, he met Eunice MacIntyre. She was 26 years younger than 48 year old Harry. Following a whirlwind romance Harry married Eunice in Sydney, Australia on June 30th 1923.

Harry and Eunice returned to Kirkland Lake for a short time.

In 1924, Harry and Eunice moved to Niagara Falls. They settled in Niagara Falls because of its close proximity to Buffalo, New York.

Harry and Eunice had five children:

Nancy born in May 1924
Sydney born June 1927
Shirley Lewis born April 1929
William Pitt born September 1930
Harry Phillip born August 1932

All the children were born in Toronto, Ontario.

In 1928, Harry Oakes built a mansion for himself and his family on the top of Clark Hill over looking Dufferin Islands. The cost of this home exceeded $500,000. The home was formerly owned by Walter H. Schoellkopf Sr. (1882-1955). It was purchased in 1924. Mr. Oakes rebuilt this estate house to include thirty-five (35) rooms, seventeen (17) bathrooms and air conditioning throughout. The 20 acre estate included a swimming pool and a five hole golf course. Harry Oakes named his estate Oak Hall.

Harry Oakes was known as a very difficult man to work for. He was direct and abrasive at times. He was a driven man subject to sudden temper outbursts. It was a trait that he unfortunately learned from others during his early years in the prospecting business. On the other hand, Sir Harry Oakes was a tenacious, brilliant and generous man. Throughout his life he gave generously to the communities in which he and his family lived.  

Mr. Oakes and his family lived in Niagara Falls from 1924 until 1934 when they moved to the Bahamas.

Throughout the difficult years of the depression, Harry Oakes became a philanthropist. Mr. Oakes deliberately created many jobs for those without by restoring the original Portage Road. This section of Portage Road had been closed and re-routed to accommodate the building of the Canadian Southern Railroad.  The section of Portage Road that paralleled the existing railway tracks, located near the top of the moraine overlooking Niagara Falls and passing by the front of Loretto Academy, was rebuilt. This section of road became known again as Portage Road. The road located at the top of the moraine was named Oakes Drive in tribute to Harry Oakes.

Workers were paid two dollars for half a days work.

He was a supporter of local athletics.

In September of 1930, Mr. Oakes deeded 16 acres of farm land at the corner of Stanley Avenue and Morrison Street for an athletic field. This park was named Oakes Park and it opened for public use in 1931. As a condition for this transfer of parkland, Mr. Oakes insisted that city owned land at Poplar Park remain a playground.

Harry Oakes is best known for his contribution of Oakes Garden Theater to the Niagara Parks Commission. This is the property on the north-west corner of Clifton Hill and River Road where the former Clifton Hotel was situated before it was destroyed by fire on December 31st 1932. In exchange for this property, the Niagara Parks Commission gave Mr. Oakes two small sections of land which occupied the south side of present day Clifton Hill above the glacial moraine.

Oakes Garden Theatre was opened to the public on September 18th 1937.

In 1934, Harry Oakes was named the ninth member of the Niagara Parks Commission.

Harry Oakes and his family had lived in Niagara Falls for a ten year period extending from 1924 to 1934.

In 1934, Harry Oakes and his family moved to Nassau in the Bahamas in an attempt to escape the massive Canadian taxes that the ruling Conservative Government had levied against him. According to Harry, it was costing him $17,500 in taxes per day to live in Canada. The government wanted 85% of Oakes’ immense wealth in taxes and was taxing his mine so extensively that it amounted to as much as 25% of the gold mined at Lake Shore Mines.

Harry Oakes had become the richest man in Canada and one of the richest in the world. He was paying over $3 million dollars in taxes per year.

On June 8th 1939, Harry Oakes was granted the title of a baronet of the United Kingdom by King George VI in his list of birthday honours. Harry Oakes became known as Sir Harry Oakes. 

 

The Murder of Sir Harry Oakes

Shortly before midnight Wednesday July 7th 1943, Sir Harry Oakes was murdered at his Nassau estate in the Bahamas where he was living. He was 69 years old.

At the time of Sir Harry Oakes murder, his wife Eunice and their three sons were at the family residence in Bar Harbor, Maine. His eighteen year old newly married daughter: Nancy was spending the summer in Vermont while her husband Alfred Fouquereaux de Marigny remained in Nassau. Shirley was away as well. 

Marigny was thought by the family to be a gold-digger and was disliked by many family members.

Harry Oakes had been struck in the head with a triangular shaped object that had pierced his skull in four places. His body was then placed on a bed, soaked with gasoline and set ablaze. A severe storm ironically saved the Oakes estate home from being completed destroyed by the fire by putting it out before it could spread.

Harold Christie, a family friend was an overnight guest at the Oakes home on the night Sir Harry was killed. Mr. Christie had attended a dinner party the evening before and had spent the night at the Oakes estate. Christie remained throughout the following day. He had played tennis during following the afternoon and had spoken to Sir Harry throughout the day. According to Mr. Christie, they spoke together that evening before saying goodnight and going to bed at about 11:30 p.m. Mr. Christie discovered the lifeless and partially burned body of Sir Harry Oakes the next morning. Christie claimed not to have heard or seen anything.  He was not considered a suspect. There were unconfirmed reports that Mr. Christie and Alfred Fouquereaux de Marigny had been seen together in an automobile shortly before Sir Harry Oakes murder.

Alfred Fouquereaux de Marigny was questioned by police. He had been in the area of the estate that night and appeared to have singed hair on his arms.

The killing of Sir Harry Oakes presented the governor of the Bahamas, the Duke of Windsor, with a considerable problem. He believed that the local police lacked the expertise to investigate the crime and, it being wartime and thus difficult to bring detectives across the Atlantic from London, he turned instead to two US policemen he knew in the Miami force. It was to prove a fateful decision.
Within two days of their arrival, Captain Melchen and Captain Barker had arrested Oakes' son-in-law, 
Alfred Fouquereaux de Marigny , a tall, amusing Mauritian.

Following a police investigation, Alfred Fouquereaux de Marigny was charged with the murder of Sir Harry Oakes.

Alfred Fouquereaux de Marigny had admitted to being near Oakes's house on the night of the murder, was known to be on bad terms with the multimillionaire and was said to be short of money.Marigny denied any knowledge or responsibility of Sir Harry Oakes death. He however indicated that he was attending a party nearby and had driven a female companion home and in doing so had driven past the estate several times.

All of Nassau was convinced of his guilt. He was committed for trial, and a rope was ordered for his hanging.

At the subsequent trail, he was acquitted of the charge.

At trial, the primary piece of evidence against Alfred Fouquereaux de Marigny  was a fingerprint of his which Captain Barker claimed to have found on a screen near the bed where Oakes had been killed. Since de Marigny had not been to the house for many months, and prints deteriorated quickly in Nassau's humidity, this promised to be conclusive evidence against him.

In cross-examination, de Marigny's counsel, Godfrey Higgs, gradually broke apart the crown's case that his client had killed to get his hands on Nancy's vast inheritance. In particular, it transpired that the fingerprint produced in court had, claimed Captain Barker, been lifted clean off the screen by him so that no trace of the powdered original remained. Nor could he show convincingly where on the screen it might have been. This lent force to the defense suggestion that Captain Barker had framed de Marigny with a print of his taken from a glass.

Though de Marigny's alibi and witnesses also proved shaky, his wife Nancy did not. Braving a fever and the opprobrium of her mother (who believed de Marigny guilty), Nancy appeared in court to testify for on his behalf.

As the last person to be called, Nancy made a considerable impact on the jury (as had her well-chosen selection of dresses throughout the trial). With a finely honed sense of the dramatic, she appeared almost to faint while giving evidence, and later walked out during the crown attorney' statement, claiming she could not bear to hear "such filthy things" said against her husband.

Within two hours of being sent out, the jury returned their verdict - a sensational one that acquitted
Alfred Fouquereaux de Marigny by a majority. There were wild celebrations outside the courthouse, and he was chaired aloft by the largely black crowd.

The uproar that greeted the decision had drowned out a rider added by the all-white jury which recommended that Alfred Fouquereaux de Marigny and a friend, the Marquis de Visdelou, should be deported from the Bahamas. De Marigny had alienated the colony's officials and mercantile class with his contempt for their conventionality. Four days after his acquittal the governor's executive council approved his deportation.

Although debatable, the person responsible for his killing Sir Harry Oakes were never apprehended. His death remains a mystery.

The death of Sir Harry Oakes has been the subject of much speculation over the years. A number of books, a movie and a mini series were made about his life and unsolved murder. Many unsubstantiated theories have been penned about Oakes murder including a connection to organized crime. His mysterious death to this date still provokes much interest and debate. 

In 1946, the value of Sir Harry Oakes estate was 3,600,000 pounds sterling (an equivalent of $10,080,000 million dollars at the rate of exchange in 1954). This did not include the Lake Shore Gold Mine and any other real estate holdings.

Income from the Lake Shore Gold Mine from 1924 to 1943 after taxes amounted to $34,713,500 dollars.  

In 1949, Nancy had her marriage to Alfred Fouquereaux de Marigny annulled. 

By 1954, Nancy had married Baron Lyssard von Hoyningen-Huene of Germany. Nancy became a baroness. On February 18th 1955, Nancy gave birth to a son. Nancy later separated from him. Nancy had inherited 2/15th of her father Sir Harry Oakes' estate.

In 1954, the City required the land at Poplar Park for the site of the present Greater Niagara General Hospital. The Oakes family granted this request and withdrew the condition imposed for the acquisition of Oakes Park.

In 1959, the Niagara Parks Commission purchased this property. The Niagara Parks Commission administration offices and archives presently occupy this building.

On February 2nd 1956, Lake Shore Mines was sold by the Oakes Estate. Little Long Black Goldmine Limited of Toronto acquired controlling interest in the mine.  By the end of 1955, Lake Shore Mines had distributed approximately $110 million dollars in dividends. This mine had generated 15 million tons of ore and had produced $250 million dollars in gold. At the time of this purchase, the mine was expected to be productive for at least ten more years with an annual projection of $2,700,000 million dollars worth of gold.

 

 

LEGACIES

 

William Pitt Oakes

On August 27th 1958, William Pitt Oakes died on Saturday at the West Hills Sanatorium  in New York City. His physicians said the 27 year old died as a result of coronary thrombosis complicated by a liver ailment. Oakes was visiting New York City on business and was staying at the Westbury Hotel before falling ill and being taken to the Bronx nursing home. He died shortly after his arrival.

William Pitt Oakes lived in Nassau in the Bahamas with his wife, the former Eunice Bailey of London, England. He was the director of the Kamative Tin Mines Limited in Rhodesia and had interests in several oil drilling companies.

William was the best man at his younger brother - Harry Phillip Oakes wedding to 18 year old Christiane Botsch in 1957.

Shirley had become a lawyer and was living in New York City before returning home to Nassau.  

 

Sir Sydney Oakes

Sir Sydney Oakes was born in Toronto on June 9th 1927 while his parents were residing at Oak Hall in Niagara Falls. Sydney attended St. Andrews College in Aurora, Ontario. Further schooling took place at Cornwall in England.

In 1944, Sydney broke his wrist when his motorcycle collided with a car on Avenue Road in Toronto.

At the age of 17˝, Sydney joined the British Grenadier Guards and later served in the Royal Berkshire Regiment. Following World War II, he remained in Burma and India for a period of time.

Sir Sydney married the former Greta Hartmann of Copenhagen, Denmark on June 21st 1948. They had three children: Christopher (1949), Felicity (1952) and Virginia (1954).

Following the death of Sir Harry Oakes, his title of baronet was transferred to his eldest son – Sir Sydney Oakes. Each of the surviving sons and daughters inherited a fortune.

From 1952 to 1953, Sir Sydney Oakes and his family lived at Oak Hall. During this time he was a member of the Niagara Falls Rotary Club and was active in civic affairs. He and his wife Greta Lady Oakes operated a popular riding academy. Lady Oakes was an accomplished horse-woman. The academy was located on property which now forms part of the Oakland's Golf Course.

On Monday August 8th 1966, Sir Sydney Oakes was killed in Nassau, the Bahamas when the sports car he was driving failed to negotiate a highway curve and smashed into a utility pole. Sir Sydney had spent part of his childhood in Niagara Falls and later as an adult .

Sir Sydney Oakes was 39 years old. Nassau Police said that Sir Sydney was alone in his leaf green Sunbeam Alpine and was apparently heading from the exclusive Lyford Cay Club to the Nassau airport when his sports racing car went out of control and snapped off a light standard. The bulk of the pole smashed down on top of the car pinning Oakes inside. He was freed with difficulty but was dead on arrival to hospital. The impact was so forceful that license plate number of the car - 976 was pressed into the wooden pole.

Newsmen who met with Sir Sydney Oakes moments before the accident said he was driving then at cruising speed.

Sir Sydney Oakes was a well known sports car enthusiast and had raced another of his cars, a Sunbeam Tiger in Nassau's annual speed week last year. he was planning  again to do so this year in the December 3rd to December 12th event. Sir Sydney was one of the founding members of this event and was the first president of the Bahamas Automobile Club.

Sir Sydney's baronet title now passes to his eldest son, Christopher, age 17.

Sir Sydney Oakes and his wife Greta were divorced in 1956. The divorce was uncontested. Sir Sydney retained custody of his children.

Following his divorce, Sir Sydney was married a second time in 1961 to Nancy Hoyt. They had one son - William Pitt Oakes. He was named after Sir Sydney's brother who died in 1958.

Sir Sydney owned the largest bottling company in the Bahamas and was also involved in real estate.

Sir Sydney had two sisters: Nancy (Mrs. Tritton) of Mexico City and Shirley (Mrs. Alland Butler) of Nassau, the Bahamas.

At the time of his death, his mother Eunice Lady Oakes was traveling by train to Los Angeles and was to leave for Australia when the mid afternoon tragedy occurred.         

 

Nancy Oakes (von Hoyningen-Huene)

Nancy Oakes was born in Toronto, Ontario  Canada on  May 17th 1924. She was eldest of five children born to Eunice and Harry Oakes.

The whirlwind of publicity, gossip, mental torment and tragedy in which she found herself began on July 8th 1943, with the discovery of the body of her father, Sir Harry Oakes, in his beach front house outside Nassau, in the Bahamas.

In May of 1942 the previously twice divorced, Alfred Fouquereaux de Marigny  eloped with Nancy Oakes, 14 years his junior and were married (without previously informing her parents). Nancy was then 18 years old.

When her husband was arrested for the murder of her father, Nancy de Marigny was in Vermont.

She returned to Nassau and began to help to organize her husbands defense and to sustain his morale while he remained in prison awaiting trial. She gave evidence at his trail on his behalf which subsequently resulted in the acquittal of
her husband.

During this sensational trial, Nancy, with her auburn hair, deep-set eyes, fine figure and mild resemblance to Katharine Hepburn, soon became a favorite of the dozens of reporters sent to cover the case.

Newspapers in Europe and the USA vied to break fresh developments in the story, which provided exciting headlines for readers weary of the war.

Following her husbands exile from the Bahamas, Nancy de Marigny followed him into exile with their first stop being the Cuban home of his friend Ernest Hemingway.

The marriage of Nancy and Alfred Fouquereaux de Marigny had begun to tarnish even before her father's murder. They separated in 1945 and were divorced in 1949, with Nancy insisting on an annulment.

In 1952, she married Baron Ernst von Hoyningen-Huene, but they were divorced in 1956.

Six years later she married Patrick Tritton and moved to Mexico, though when that union was also dissolved she reverted to the von Hoyningen name and style.

Reckless, selfish and not a little vindictive, Nancy consoled herself in an old age increasingly blighted by frailty and blindness.

Sometimes she hinted darkly that family advisers had been behind her father's murder, but since she drank more rum than was good for her, and could perhaps no longer distinguish between the truth and what she thought she remembered, such asides were of dubious value.

Died January 16th 2005 at the age of 80 years. She is survived by a son and a daughter.
 

 

Eunice Lady Oakes

On June 9th 1981, Eunice Lady Oakes died at the age of 87. She is survived by her son Harry Phillip Oakes and two daughters: Nancy Tritton of London, England and Shirley Butler of Nassau, in the Bahamas.  Lady Oakes was predeceased by her husband Sir Harry Oakes and sons: Sir Sydney Oakes and William Pitt Oakes. She was the principal owner of the Welland Securities Company (which is today known as HOCO)

 

Harry Phillip Oakes

In 1961, at the age of 28 years, Harry was working at the accounting firm of Crawford, Smith and Swallow located on Queen Street in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Harry, a family friend of Laurence Crawford for many years, was working eight hours a day for approximately $30 per week. After work, Harry would go home to #3 Robinson Street and work on his correspondence course in accounting from Queens University.

Harry didn’t need the money because he had inherited part of the family fortune and was a multi-millionaire.

Once a medical student, Harry was forced to drop out because of the responsibilities of his vast estate holding which included many properties, mines and businesses throughout the world. With the corporation registered in the Bahamas, Harry often was required to travel there on business trips. For relaxation, he and his family would retreat to the Oakes estate in Nassau.

Harry was well educated. He attended Valley Forge Military Academy, Stamford University, McGill University and the University of Toronto.

He has traveled the world with his mother and father.

In 1951, he and a friend spent three months motoring through the wilds of southern Africa armed with a gun and a camera. He stopped briefly in Rhodesia to buy a tin mine. Ten year later, Harry indicated the mine was just started to pay off.

Since the death of his father, Harry and his mother Eunice Lady Oakes receive hundreds of letters from all types of people in all walks of life seeking money. Most according to Harry are crank letters.

Harry and his mother became the principals of the Welland Securities Company. Harry owned and operated the Park Motor Hotel located on Clifton Hill. The Fallsway Hotel on Clifton Hill was purchased by Welland Securities in 1960. 

Harry enjoys photography, water skiing and flying. Harry had a private pilots license.

In 1957, Harry Phillip Oakes was married in Toronto, Ontario to Christiane Botsch of Hamburg, Germany. Christiane was the blonde daughter of a meat packer from Hamburg, Germany. Harry and Christiane met while they were attending extension classes at the University of Toronto. Here Harry was studying business while Christiane was studying English and anthropology.

Harry and Christiane had four children; three sons: Harry Newell Oakes born in December of 1958,  Phillip G. Oakes was born in September of 1961 and Michael Lewis Oakes was born in July of 1966;  and one daughter: Bianca Eunice born in 1964.

Harry Phillip Oakes remains the patriarch of the family and the as a partial benefactor of his father's fortune. Harry continues to manage and operate the vast Oakes Estate holdings.

The sons of Harry Phillip Oakes - Harry Newell Oakes and Phillip G. Oakes, (the grandchildren of Sir Harry Oakes) have taken over much of the families day to day business operations and to this day continue to manage the Niagara Falls and other Oakes holdings under the name of HOCO Enterprises (formerly Welland Securities). It is today one of the largest owners of real estate property in Niagara Falls. "HOCO" is the acronym for the Sir Harry Oakes Company.

Bianca attended Emma Willard School for Girls in Troy, New York from which she graduated in 1982. She is currently residing in the USA.

 

 

 

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Date last updated: February 13, 2012

 

 

 

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