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Sunday, 14 January, 2001, 13:02 GMT
Mystery of the murders at Taliesin
The scene of devastation at Taliesin
The scene of devastation at Taliesin the day after the murders
A brutal multiple murder involving the lover of probably the most famous Welsh-American of all, the pioneering architect Frank Lloyd Wright, is to be the subject of a new book.

American journalist Ron McCrea and Professor William Drennan of the University of Wisconsin have been researching the seven savage killings at Taliesin, the hillside home of Frank Lloyd Wright, in 1914.

Frank Lloyd Wright was born in 1867 in Wisconsin, to a family of Welsh descent. He became America's most famous and influential architect and was a leading figure in world architecture until his death in 1959.

He gave the name Taliesin - after the Welsh bard - to the house he built in 1911 near his childhood home in the valley where his mother's Lloyd Jones family - originally from Llandysul - had lived for generations.

Frank Lloyd Wright, Welsh America's most famous son
Frank Lloyd Wright, Welsh America's most famous son
Taliesin was a showpiece of Wright's design principles.

However, it was also the focus of scandal because he built it as the home for himself and the woman for whom he had left his wife and six children, Martha "Mamah" Borthwick.

And three years later, on 15 September, 1914, it became the scene of the biggest single incident of mass-murder in Wisconsin history.

Ron McCrea said that on that day, "all hell broke loose" at Taliesin when one of Wright's servants unleashed an attack that claimed eight lives (including the attacker's), left the world-famous architectural treasure in rubble, and devastated Wright, who was then 47 years old.

The attacker was 30-year-old Julian Carlton, an estate worker originally from Barbados.

Mamah Borthwick, Frank Lloyd Wright's lover
Mamah Borthwick, Frank Lloyd Wright's lover
While Wright was away in Chicago, Carlton bolted the doors and windows of the dining room where Mamah Borthwick, her two children, and six other people were eating, poured buckets of petrol under the doors and torched the building.

He then used an axe to attack those who jumped out of the windows to escape the flames.

Only two people survived. Borthwick, and her children, Martha, nine, and John, 12, died..

The other victims were: Ernest Weston, 13, the son of carpenter William Weston; Milwaukee draughtsman Emil Brodelle, 26; handyman David Lindblom, 38; and Taliesin foreman Thomas Brunker, 68.

Weston and draughtsman Herbert Fritz survived and raised the alarm.

Scores of farmers arrived to help. Wright's relative, the Unitarian preacher Jenkin Lloyd Jones, Iowa County Sheriff John T. Williams and Sauk County Undersheriff George Peck set up a posse to hunt for Carleton.

Julian Carlton
Julian Carlton killed seven people, and himself
He was quickly found hiding near the burned-out building. He had swallowed acid.

He was nearly lynched on the spot, but the sheriff and posse, pursued by three carloads of men with guns, got him to the Dodgeville jail.

He died from starvation seven weeks later, despite medical attention. He made two court appearances but never stood trial, and his motive for the attack was never explained, although there are various theories.

'Devastating scene of horror'

Wright arrived home on the night of Aug. 15, with Edwin Cheney, the divorced husband of Mamah Borthwick and the father of her two dead children.

This axe was the murder weapon
This axe was the murder weapon
Wright described it in his autobiography as a "devastating scene of horror.''

Mamah was buried in the cemetery of the nearby Unity Chapel, which Wright had helped design for Jenkin Lloyd Jones.

"I wanted to fill the grave myself,'' he said.

Ron McCrea says that shortly afterwards, Wright published an open letter in the local newspaper to thank the community for its support - but also to defend Borthwick and to show he was not about to be driven out.

He promised to rebuild Taliesin in her memory.

He kept his word and rebuilt the house, which was his home until his death and which is now a monument to his life and work.

The restored Taliesin as it is today
The restored Taliesin as it is today
"No evidence of a rational intention or motive, including a conspiracy, has ever come to light," said Ron McCrea, who is City Editor of the Capital Times and who is himself of partly Welsh descent.

He has been researching the Taliesin murders for several years, and is now working on a book which will provide the first full modern account of the incident.

He hopes his research, and that of Professor Drennan, will shed new light on the tragedy which hit the Welsh settlement in Wisconsin, and which devastated the life of Welsh America's most famous son.

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