On a March Sunday in 1901, the McNab Oil Company’s excursion to the sand hills adjoining Newell Creek brought out a crowd of curious spectators. “The rain was coming down in torrents,” reported the Sentinel, "but the showers did not prevent the excited visitors from going over the grounds and viewing everything there. They climbed the hills, and saw the sand impregnated with oil, until it was spotted with black stains.” R. C. McPherson congratulated his sponsors “on the certainty of striking oil at that point.” Afterwards, potential investors were treated to a feast. Complemented by bottles of Ben Lomond Grey Riesling of the vintage of ’87 “Oysters, chickens and turkeys made a speedy disappearance,” said the Sentinel.
Hopes were high as the derrick and machinery were put in place. Several weeks later, on another wet morning, a party of investors was on hand as “Mrs. H. F. Anderson, grasping a bottle of wine, walked towards the huge drill and — christened the bit with the best wishes for the prosperity of the McNab Oil Co.”
A few days later, H. Francis Anderson let it be known that the drillers, after penetrating 120 feet “had some oil.” McNab stock soon tripled from its original asking price of 25 cents. The thousand foot mark was passed in July but no gusher appeared. As summer lapsed into fall, worried company directors were reassured by their expert, who convinced them to dig the hole a few hundred feet deeper. “A well that is worth boring is worth boring deep,” agreed the Sentinel. “Many a well has been abandoned above a lake of oil.” Finally, in April 1902, after taking another new well down 800 feet, the McNab Oil Company gave up, abandoning their machinery at the site of the well.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Anderson, accompanied by a sister, had sailed off on a visit to England. Although she did enjoy an audience with the Prince of Wales, she ended her vacation early when her requests for funds were ignored. Her husband met her at the dock in New York. Returning to The Highlands, she found the estate much reduced—the fancy carriages and all but two of their eleven horses had been sold to meet expenses. Still hounded by creditors, Anderson insisted on selling some of her jewelry and Mrs. Anderson reluctantly agreed. When she learned that he had mortgaged The Highlands without her permission, their arguments intensified.
Whispers of a pending divorce spread. In October, as her lawyers prepared the necessary papers, H. Francis Anderson sprung a surprise, alleging that Beatrice Maude had threatened to kill him. She denied the charges and asked for $1000 a month in alimony and $5000 for her attorneys.
Details of the November hearing received prominent play in the newspapers. Dressed elegantly in black, Mrs. Anderson spent most of a day on the witness stand. Her dramatic testimony was enlivened by Shakespearian quotations. In turn, Mr. Anderson told the court that his riches were imaginary—that “the wealth in which he has been supposed to be rolling is now largely mythical.” He claimed that his remaining assets, including The Highlands and his shares in the Rowardennan had been pledged to creditors, leaving him a total income of $150 per month. Much of his money, he admitted, had been spent on oil and mining stocks.
Superior Court Judge Smith weighed matters carefully before rendering his decision, one that pleased neither side. “The plaintiff is not in a good financial condition, and that the defendant is in possession of about as much money and property. It is the duty of the husband, however, to support his wife and two minor children, and therefore she will be allowed the sum of $150 per month.”
Shortly afterward, Mrs. Anderson fell ill. Much to the relief of her friends, she rebounded after New Year. Both parties worked to achieve an amicable settlement. During the final week of January, the couple visited the county recorder’s office to sign papers securing a deal. Mr. Anderson’s attorney transferred the 43 acre tract “known as The Highlands,” back to his client, who immediately “gifted” it to Beatrice Maude as a homestead.
Within days, Mrs. Anderson suffered an alarming relapse. Her doctor advised her to check into a San Francisco hospital, so, accompanied by her husband, children, and two trained nurses, she boarded a train on January 30. According to the Chronicle, she lapsed into unconsciousness after leaving San Jose and expired on the train, but the S. F. Call told of fatal convulsions on the ferry, crossing San FranciscoBay. The best guess at her age was 27.
When it was discovered that his wife had left no will, H. F. Anderson became executor of her estate, consisting of title to The Highlands and at least $4000 worth of jewelry. That season, he took personal charge of the Rowardennan and, at the end of August, in “a modest church ceremony,” married one of the summer guests. The new Mrs. Anderson—Ida May Sargent of Sargent’s Station—happened to be a wealthy heiress.