Nov. 22, 1907
Weeping and heavily bandaged from where her drunk, enraged husband had shot her in the head, Ellen Larkin, 38, rose from her hospital bed, staggered to a nearby room and threw herself into the arms of her injured spouse. She covered him with kisses, vowing that she still loved him, and promised that he could come home as soon as he recovered from shooting himself and being nearly beaten to death with a baseball bat by their oldest son.
According to The Times, Jefferson B. Larkin, 45, a sometime teamster, horse player and “remittance man,” had returned to Los Angeles after spending four months in San Francisco while John, 16, the oldest of the Larkins’ four children, supported the family. As Larkin got thoroughly drunk, someone told him that his wife had been unfaithful, so he went to a pawnshop and bought a cheap revolver.
Larkin went in the backdoor of the home at 417 S. Colyton and found his wife in the kitchen with their four children: John, Isabelle, 10; Effie, 6; and Helen, 14 months. “He accused his wife of every vile thing he could lay his tongue to,” The Times said.
Larkin fired and missed, then shot his wife in the head as she leaped to grab the gun, with the bullet entering her scalp above the left ear and coming out the skin at the back of her head. Before he could fire again, John returned from taking his younger siblings to safety and struck his father in the head with a baseball bat with all his strength, then continued hitting him on the shoulders and in the chest.
Staggering to the door, Larkin walked to 7th Street, where he shot himself twice, then wandered to a rooming house, rented a room for $1 and called a doctor. He was expected to survive.
“I am not sorry that I hit him,” John said. “He intended to shoot mother again, but I hit him just in time to daze him. I hardly knew what I had done until after it was all over. I hope he don’t die now that mamma is not hurt.”
At the hospital, Larkin said: “I heard that she intended to get a divorce from me and I came to Los Angeles yesterday to settle matters. I decided to kill her and myself, too. I knew if I did this my mother and father who are in New York would take care of the children.”
Ellen left her husband’s hospital room after they vowed eternal love and affection, The Times said. Meanwhile, John went to the police station to swear out a complaint against his father. “I want to know when he leaves the hospital so that he won’t have a chance to get away from me,” he said. “I’ll put him where he belongs.”
There’s no further record of this case. However, The Times reported next year that a penniless youth named John Larkin had made the trip from Los Angeles to Patterson, N.J., to visit his grandparents. He started out riding on top of a passenger train, but was thrown off in San Bernardino, then snuck a ride on a train to Salt Lake City, where he earned dinner by washing dishes in a restaurant.
Arrested in Ogden, Utah, he served a 10-day sentence as water boy for the chain gang, caught an express train to Cheyenne, Wyo., worked his way to Chicago and then Cleveland. He finally snuck a ride on a train to New York, begged a ticket on the ferry and rode to Patterson on the trucks of the Erie Railroad’s dining car. He was 13.
Mark Twain defines “remittance man” in “Following the Equator.”
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