Santa Cruz County History - People

Old Soldiers: Santa Cruz County Civil War Veterans
by Robert L. Nelson

DEY, THOMPSON (1836-1892)

Santa Cruz Sentinel (July 24, 1888)

Headstone of Thompson Dey
Thompson Dey
Evergreen Cemetery

DIED: DEY, Helen E Dey, daughter of Thompson and Mary F Day, aged 18 months.

Santa Cruz Sentinel (April 29, 1890)

Gardner Dey is doing good work in the upper plaza, which never looked so good as it does at present.

Santa Cruz Sentinel (June 11, 1892)

On Friday Judge McCann rendered a decision in the divorce suit of Mary E. Dey vs. Thompson Dey in favor of the plaintiff. The judge directs the community property be divided, that the defendant have the minor child, that defendant pay $100 for plaintiff's attorney fees and other costs.

Santa Cruz Daily Surf (June 18,1892)

Divorce and Death
Thompson Dey Decides to Dodge the Duties of Life
A Sad Suicide as the Sequel of a Sensational Divorce Suit

The public was startled yesterday, as they always are by a tragic death, by the news that Thompson Dey, a resident of St. Lawrence Street, had committed suicide by shooting himself with a pistol.

The Dey family came to Santa Cruz about five years ago from Oregon and purchased a house on St. Lawrence Street. They were members and attendants of the Baptist church, and for a time attracted but little attention from their neighbors, but for a year or more they have attained publicity by airing their domestic discords and grievances at every opportunity their troubles culminating in a divorce suit, a decree having been granted only two days ago.

Dey was a tall, taciturn appearing man fifty five years of age, a native of New York, who had lived in Oregon before coming to Santa Cruz, and there is an elder son residing in that State. The family here consisted of the wife and one young lady daughter who recently graduated from High School, and a younger son.

It is charitable to say, and probably true that Mrs. Dey is mentally unbalanced and that many of her alleged grievances are due to imaginary causes. Dey contested the divorce and yesterday when Mrs. Dey was preparing to take her effects and quit the home, he shaved, and washed, dressed himself in his "Sunday best," wrote a couple of letters and the stretching himself upon his bed put a pistol in his mouth and discharged it, causing instant death. His daughter, who was preparing dinner in the kitchen, did not hear the report of the pistol, but smelled the powder, and almost instinctively feeling that something was wrong ran to the home of J.F. Simpson on the opposite side of the street, and called for him to come. Dey was found as described, lying dead on the bed.

Mrs. Dey was just leaving the premises at the time and heard a noise, but did not suppose it was a pistol.

Following are the letters left by Mr. Dey.

Friday, June 17, 1892

My Dear Mary; You have ruined my life forever, I care not for property nor for dollars nor cents, but I love you with my whole heart; I can never give you up in this world, let what happen will; and I hope to meet you in a better world than this, where parting will be no more. I have done all that I could think of to try to get you reconciled, and you know not what I have suffered; I can stand it no longer, and all my love for you; I have prayed to God for you morning and night for a long time, and for our dear children, all of them. My heart is broken, and I ask you to take good care of Bennie, Maggie and Walter, I love them all. It is very hard for me to leave them in this wicked world, but I have got to do it; I would be glad to stay with you were it possible. All who have been instrumental in ruining and dividing up and disgracing our family will reap their just rewards when I am dead and gone. I hope you will see this in their true light. Good Bye,
From your own affection husband.....Thompson Dey.

My dear Children; I want you to be good and obedient to your mother and try to get along peaceably and agreeable when I am with you no more. I would like to stay and work for you, the rest of my life, but it is impossible for me to do it. Good Bye
Your Father.
Telegraph to my brother Robert and give me a decent burial.

A Coroner's jury was called and rendered a verdict of suicide in accordance with the facts stated above.

Santa Cruz Sentinel (June 19,1892)

Sentinel Jottings

R.P. Dey, brother of T. Dey, deceased, and wife , of Oakland, but whose place of business is 123 Market St. San Francisco are in town.

The late Thompson Dey was not a member of Wallace Post, having only made application to become a member recently. He was a veteran of the Civil War. There was a question Friday as to whether the judgment of the divorce would hold good, it having not been entered. The law was looked into, and it was ascertained that the fact of it not being entered would affect the validity of the divorce, but the claim for community property would have to be made against the estate. The deceased had charge of the upper plaza for some months last year. The funeral will take place today under the auspices of W.H.L. Wallace Post.

Santa Cruz Sentinel (July 6, 1892)

The Dey Matter

Ed. Sentinel:- I would thank you for sufficient space to make a few statements of facts relative to the death of my father, Thompson Dey, and the causes that led thereto. It is with extreme reluctance that I desire to do this, and only for the reason that several articles have appeared recently by parties (well known to those conversant with this trouble), which are basely false and do great injustice to my mother. The affidavits published in a recent issue of my sister and brother, were obtained through the connivance of those entrusted to make out a defense, and my sister and brother have said, and will say now, they were requested to do so, and paid no particular attention to the contents or the statements made therein. These affidavits were not admitted during the trial, neither did the defense place my sister on the witness stand, well knowing that she would not testify to any such matter as that set forth in the affidavits. Neither would Judge McCann have rendered a decision as he did, had he not been convinced by the evidence that my father was in the wrong. This alone should satisfy and answer all doubt. My father is the author of his own misfortune, and the sad and tragic ending of his life was caused by no one else save himself. He has, through his insane jealousy broken up our family and caused the shedding of many a bitter tear, but he is dead, and we can only now forgive him. This trouble is not of short duration, but has existed for 20 years and through his ungovernable jealousy of my mother he has made her life miserable and not worth the living, as well as kept peace and happiness a stranger to our home- if such it may be called. As to the efforts made for a settlement of their troubles, it was only the effort of a man who desired to pose as perfect himself and ask continuation of a relation in life that was worse than death to my mother. Although often shown the error of his ways and the fearful maelstrom into which he was surely drifting if he did not change his course, he still persisted, and the prophecy has been too truly fulfilled, and when he was proven to be in the wrong, it so worked upon him (being of a weak nature mentally) after he had used all available means to make out his protestations of innocence, that he sought death in this manner to relieve his self conscious guilt and secure the sympathy of those left behind. I, as a son, say he was the guilty one, but now freely forgive him. Walter C. Dey Portland Ore. June 26th 1892.

Santa Cruz Sentinel (November 11, 1909)

DIED: DEY- In Oakland, Nov. 8th Mary Ellen Dey, mother of W.C. and Benjamin Dey of Portland Ore. and Mrs. L.E. McQueston of Santa Cruz, a native of Ill., aged 60 years, 10 months and 1 day.

Santa Cruz Sentinel (December [?] 1929)

Ben Dey, General Council for the SP January 1930. His home was on Highland Avenue, now the residence of C.D. Hinkle which was erected by his parents.

He graduated from the Mission Hill and then from the high school. He attended Stanford University, for which he graduated and where he took the law course.

Evergreen Notes

His daughter, Margaret Bell Dey married the son of Charlotte McQueston and Luther E. McQuesten, who is buried with his mother, Charlotte in Lot 66 in Evergreen, the Blackburn Plot. Charlotte McQuesten was the sister of Harriet Blackburn, wife of Judge William Blackburn.

Margaret Bell Dey McQuesten is to be buried beside her sister near the GAR plot (the mortuary is holding the ashes as Mrs. Barton has been to ill to take care of arrangements).

Interview with Helen Barton, granddaughter, by Renie Leaman (1974)

Thompson Dey was born on October 9, 1836 in New York State. His father, according to an article in the Pardeevile Wisc. paper dated 2/22/40, "was Benjamin Dey, born on the banks of Seneca Lake N.Y. on February 27, 1807." His mother was Margaret Thompson Sinclair. The family traveled in a covered wagon to Adrian, Michigan in 1842. In 1844 they moved to Wyocema Wis. where they homesteaded and built a house. In the early 1850's Thompson became interested in milling, but when the Civil War began he enlisted in the 11th Missouri Volunteer Cavalry in St. Louis.

Following the Civil War he returned to Wisconsin where he married Mary Ellen Lamphier. During the years the family relocated a number of times and had five children:

  1. Walter Chester Dey born Feb 24, 1869 in Wisconsin or Minnesota
  2. Margaret Bell Dey born Aug 9, 1871 in Houston Minnesota, who was the mother of Helen Barton (Information provider), and whose ashes were scattered near the GAR Plot.
  3. Benjamin Clifford Dey, born Dec. 29, 1880 in Oregon City, Ore. He later became head of the SP Railroads Board of Directors.
  4. Mary Ellen Dey who died at age two in 1889-1890
  5. Helen E Dey born in Oregon who died at 18 months in 1888.

Thompson Dey was a farmer and miller on the Willamette River in Oregon. He came to Santa Cruz for the "boom" in 1888 or 1889. His house was the third up on Highland. When the boom fell through shortly after he arrived, he became groundskeeper of the park at the Mission (now Holy Cross Plaza).

Editor's Note: The dates above are listed in the family Bible.

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