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Harry Oakes

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Full Name  Harry Oakes
Name  Harry Oakes
Spouse(s)  Lady Eunice Oakes

Occupation  Gold mine owner
Nationality  American
Deposed date  1943
Harry Oakes Murder in paradise who really killed Sir Harry Oakes
Born  December 23, 1874 (1874-12-23) Sangerville, Maine
Alma mater  Bowdoin CollegeSyracuse University
Parent(s)  William Pitt Oakes, Edith Nancy Lewis
Died  July 7, 1943, Nassau, Bahamas
Residence  Oak Hall, Niagara Falls, Canada
Education  Syracuse University (1896–1898), Bowdoin College, Foxcroft Academy

Lake Shore Mines

Sir Harry Oakes, 1st Baronet of Nassau (23 December 1874 – 7 July 1943) was an American-born British Canadian gold mine owner, entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist. He earned his fortune in Canada and in the 1930s moved to the Bahamas for tax purposes, where he was murdered in 1943 in notorious circumstances. The cause of death and the details surrounding it have never been entirely determined, and have been the subject of several books and four films.


Harry Oakes image1findagravecomphotos250photos201019828

Harry oakes the early years

Early life

Harry Oakes ColdCase Sir Harry Oakes an Americanborn British goldmine

Oakes was born in Sangerville, Maine, one of five children of William Pitt Oakes and Edith Nancy Lewis. His father was a prosperous lawyer. He graduated from Foxcroft Academy and went on to Bowdoin College in 1896, and spent two years at the Syracuse University Medical School. One of his sisters, Gertrude Oakes, died in the 1935 sinking of the ocean liner SS Mohawk off the New Jersey coast.


In 1898, he left medical school before graduation and made his way to Alaska at the height of the Klondike Gold Rush in hopes of making his fortune as a prospector. For 15 years, he sought gold around the world from California to Australia.

Oakes arrived in Kirkland Lake in Northern Ontario, Canada on 19 June 1911. In 1912, he struck gold there. Oakes established Lake Shore Mine to develop his gold; 20 years later the mine was the most productive in the Western Hemisphere, and ultimately proved to be the second-largest gold mine in the Americas.

By 1920, Oakes was thought to be Canada's richest individual. His lavish lifestyle included a 1928 Hispano-Suiza H6B.

Moves to Bahamas, is knighted

Oakes became a British citizen, and for tax reasons lived in the Bahamas from 1935 until his death. He was invited to the British colony by Sir Harold Christie, a prominent Bahamian real estate developer and legislator, who became a close business associate and friend. Oakes was created a baronet in 1939 as a reward for his philanthropic endeavours in the Bahamas, Canada and Britain. He donated US $500,000 in two bequests to St George's Hospital in London and gave US $1 million to charities in the Bahamas. He became a member of the colony's House of Assembly.

Bahamian investments

Oakes soon proved to be a dynamic investor, entrepreneur and developer in the Bahamas. He had a major role in expanding the airport, Oakes Field, in the capital Nassau; bought the British Colonial Hilton Nassau; built a golf course and country club; and developed farming and new housing. All of this activity greatly stimulated the struggling economy in what had been a sleepy backwater, with only about 70,000 inhabitants in the early 1940s. This activity took place mainly on the principal island of New Providence; it was estimated that Oakes owned about one-third of that island by the early 1940s. Oakes had become the colony's wealthiest, most powerful, and most important resident by the early 1940s.

Personal life

On 30 June 1923, Oakes married Eunice Myrtle McIntyre in Sydney, Australia; they met aboard a cruise ship, and she was approximately half his age when they married. They eventually had five children:

  • Nancy Oakes (1925-2005), who in 1942 married Count Alfred de Marigny (1910–1998) at the age of 18. They separated in 1945 and divorced in 1949. She later had a longstanding relationship with British actor Richard Greene (1918–1985), with whom she had a daughter. In 1952, she married Baron Ernst Lyssardt von Hoyningen-Huene with whom she had one son before their divorce in 1956. Nancy's children are:
  • Baron Alexander V. "Sasha" Hoynengen-Huene (born 1955)
  • Patricia Luisa Oakes (born 1951), who married Franklin D. Roosevelt Jr. (1914–1988) in 1977 with whom she had one son before divorcing in 1981. Patricia later married Robert Leigh-Wood in 1984, with whom she had a daughter.
  • John Alexander Roosevelt (born 1977)
  • Shirley Leigh-Wood Oakes (born 1985)
  • Sir Sydney Oakes, 2nd Baronet of Nassau (1927–1966), who died in a car accident aged 39.
  • Sir Christopher Oakes, 3rd Baronet of Nassau (born 1949)
  • Shirley Oakes (born 1929), who was involved in a crash accident in 1981 that left her in a coma.
  • William Pitt Oakes (1930–1958), who died of an overdose aged 28.
  • Harry Philip Oakes (born 1932)
  • Oakes became interested in golf and, in the late 1920s, hired top golf course architect Stanley Thompson to build a nine-hole course for him, the "Sir Harry Oakes Private Course" in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Completed in 1929, the course is now the Oak Hall Par 3 public course.


    On 8 July 1943, Oakes was found murdered in his mansion, Westbourne, in Nassau. Aged 68, he had been battered to death, his corpse partially burned and strewn with feathers.

    Investigation and trial

    The Bahamas’ Governor, the Duke of Windsor (formerly King Edward VIII of the United Kingdom), who had become a close friend of Oakes during the previous three years, took charge of the investigation from the outset. The Duke first attempted to enforce press censorship, but this was unsuccessful. Oakes' vast wealth, fame and British title, combined with the ghastly nature of the crime, generated worldwide interest in the case. Etienne Dupuch, the colony's foremost newspaper publisher and a friend of Oakes ensured constant coverage of the case for the several months. The Duke believed that the local police lacked the expertise to investigate the crime, and since World War II was raging, making it difficult to bring detectives from Scotland Yard in London, which was what normally would have been done, the Duke turned to two American policemen he knew in the Miami force. The Bahamas was a British Crown Colony at the time, and there were British Security personnel stationed in wartime in New York City and Washington, D.C. who could potentially have travelled easily and quickly to Nassau for an investigation. Bringing in the Miami Captains Melchen and Barker (Melchen had earlier guarded the Duke in Miami) proved an unfortunate decision.

    The two American detectives were, in theory, called upon to assist Bahamian law enforcement, but to the dismay of the local police they completely took over the investigation. By evening on the second day of the investigation, 36 hours after Oakes' body was discovered, they had arrested Oakes' son-in-law, Count Alfred de Marigny. De Marigny had eloped with and married Oakes' daughter Nancy in New York City (where she was studying), without her parents' knowledge, two days after her 18th birthday, in 1942. Once she had reached age 18, Nancy no longer needed her parents' permission to wed. De Marigny, 14 years older, had met Nancy at the Nassau Yacht Club, where he was a prominent competitive sailor. The two had been dating for a couple of years before their marriage, without her parents apparently fully realizing the seriousness of their relationship. De Marigny was thought to have been on bad terms with Oakes, due to de Marigny's playboy manners and lack of a meaningful career, the fact that he had been married twice before for short periods to wealthy women, and that he had not asked Oakes' permission to marry Nancy. Oakes and de Marigny had quarrelled on several occasions, witnessed by other people.

    When Nancy was informed of her father's death and her husband's arrest, she was in Miami on her way for the summer to study dance with Martha Graham at Bennington, Vermont. It was her great friend Merce Cunningham who gave her the bad news. She then traveled to Bar Harbor, Maine, the family's summer home, to join her mother, at her husband's request. But Nancy soon returned to Nassau and began to organize her husband's defence. She was convinced that de Marigny was innocent and stood by him when many others, including her family, believed him guilty. The young countess soon became a favourite with the press world wide for her auburn hair, deep-set eyes, fine figure and mild resemblance to Katharine Hepburn. The murder managed to knock the war off the front pages temporarily. Nancy spent heavily to hire a leading American private investigator, Raymond Schindler, to dig deeply into the case, and a prominent British-trained Bahamian lawyer, Godfrey W. Higgs, to defend her husband. They eventually found serious flaws in the prosecution's case.

    He was committed for trial, and a rope was ordered for his hanging. However, he was acquitted in a trial that lasted several weeks, after the detectives were suspected of fabricating evidence against him. The chief piece of evidence was a fingerprint of his, which Captain Barker claimed had been found on a Chinese screen in Oakes' bedroom where the body had been found. Later, it was discovered that the print had been lifted from the water glass that de Marigny had used during his questioning by the Miami Police captains and that de Marigny was being framed.

    Immediately after Oakes' funeral had been held in Bar Harbor, Maine, (the family's summer home), Captain Barker, visiting by invitation, told Nancy and Lady Eunice Oakes that he had already positively identified de Marigny's fingerprints on the Chinese screen, justifying de Marigny's status as the main suspect. Very detailed and thorough cross-examination at the trial, several months later, by de Marigny's lawyer showed that Barker had not in fact positively identified the single fingerprint as belonging to de Marigny until several days later than he had originally claimed - after he had returned to Miami - and that Barker had taken several dozen other fingerprints from Oakes' bedroom, many of which were still unprocessed weeks later. An American fingerprint expert witness, testifying for the defence, called into question the professionalism of the techniques used by Captain Barker in the investigation. The expert testified that the de Marigny print very likely could not have come from the Chinese screen, since none of the background pattern design from the screen appeared on the de Marigny print photograph, although other photos of fingerprints lifted from the screen showed this pattern. De Marigny testified that he had not visited Westbourne, Oakes' home and the murder site, for two years before Oakes' death, because of ongoing conflict with Oakes. Several of de Marigny's dinner party guests from the fateful night testified at the trial, and strengthened de Marigny's alibi that he was hosting the party, and later drove several guests to their homes, late at night, with a witness in the car, near the time when the murder was committed. The approximate time of the murder had been determined by two Bahamian medical examiners. Significantly, the Duke arranged to be away from the Bahamas while the murder trial was in progress so he was not available to be called as a witness.

    Oakes' murderer has never been found, and there were no court proceedings in the case after de Marigny's acquittal. The case received worldwide press coverage at the time, with photos of the beautiful and charming Nancy in court. It has been the subject of continuous interest, including several books and films.


    After the trial Nancy went with de Marigny to Cuba to stay with old friend Ernest Hemingway. De Marigny was deported to Cuba after a recommendation by the murder trial's jury, because of his supposedly unsavoury character and frequent advances towards young girls in the Bahamas. De Marigny and Nancy separated in 1945, and divorced in 1949. He moved to Canada in 1945 and served for a time in the Canadian Army, but was later deported from Canada. He married his fourth wife, settled in Central America, and died in 1998. De Marigny was a tall, handsome man, a charming and bright conversationalist and an accomplished competitive sailor who won many regattas, and he later wrote two books.

    Nancy had left Cuba by the late 1940s, and lived in Hollywood, California, where she had a long affair with 1950s Hollywood actor Richard Greene. She had a daughter, Patricia Oakes. She remained close friends with Greene until his death. In 1952 she married Baron Ernst Lyssardt von Hoyningen-Huene (adopted cousin of the artist George Hoyningen-Huene, the only son of Baron Barthold Theodor Hermann (Theodorovitch) von Hoyningen-Huene, a German nobleman who had estates in Estonia that were confiscated by the Soviets during World War II and was the German ambassador to Portugal during World War II,). They had a son, Baron Alexander von Hoyningen-Huene. The marriage lasted until 1956. Nancy died in 2005 and was survived by her two children and two grandchildren.

    Oakes' legacy

    Oakes' former home in Kirkland Lake, Ontario, is now the Museum of Northern History, dedicated to his life and to the region's mining history. Kirkland Lake is where he made his fortune as a prospector. He was inducted into the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame.

    The Oakes baronetcy of Nassau, was assumed by Oakes's son Sir Sydney Oakes (1927–1966). On his death, Sir Sydney's son Christopher (born 1949) inherited the title.

    Oakes Park

    During the Great Depression, Oakes donated a 16-acre (65,000 m2) land in what is now the central area of Niagara Falls, Ontario. He funded a make-work project and supplied tools to build a park at the location. Crews worked for $1 per day, switching every five days to permit as much employment as possible.

    Oakes Park was opened on August 31, 1931. It is a multi-use, municipally owned and operated recreational complex. The main facilities are a baseball stadium used by the Greater Niagara Baseball Association and other elite youth and senior baseball clubs, two smaller baseball fields for younger divisions, a soccer pitch, and athletics facilities including a 400-metre track. The main baseball diamond has outfield dimensions of 318-402-322 ft, and has a press box, electronic scoreboard, and clubhouses.

    Oakes Field

    A district in Nassau was named after Oakes, complete with a memorial. Foxcroft Academy, a private school in Dover-Foxcroft, Maine, has its football field named after Harry Oakes.

    Oakes Garden Theatre

    Designed as an amphitheatre, Oakes Garden Theatre was opened in September 1937. Oakes, a member of the Niagara Parks Commission, donated the land at the foot of Clifton Hill and Niagara Parkway to the commission in 1936. The property was the site of the Clifton Hotel, which had been destroyed by fire on December 31, 1932. The landscape architecture was done by Howard and Lorrie Dunington-Grubb, the building's architect was William Lyon Somerville with sculptures by Florence Wyle, Frances Loring and Elizabeth Wyn Wood.

    Oak Hall

    Oakes bought property just above Dufferin Islands from the estate of Walter H. Shoellkopf, on July 15, 1924. He constructed a 37-room Tudor- style mansion, where he and his wife lived from 1928 to 1935, known as Oak Hall. Oakes moved to the Bahamas afterward, due to what he felt was excessive taxation by the Canadian government - the Bahamas were virtually tax-free. Oakes' son, Sir Sydney Oakes, later occupied the residence. Since 1982, Oak Hall has been the headquarters for the Niagara Parks Commission.

    The Willows

    In 1938 Oakes and his family purchased a summer home called "The Willows" in Bar Harbor, Maine, designed by the firm of Andrews, Jacques and Rantoul in 1913. Lady Eunice Oakes gave it to Bowdoin College in 1958 and operated it as the Oakes Center, a conference center, till the early 1970s when it was sold. It is now an inn called The Atlantic Oceanside Hotel.

    Foxcroft Academy

    Oakes graduated from Foxcroft Academy in Dover-Foxcroft, Maine, founded in 1823, three years after statehood, one of the very few public high school "academies" left in Maine. The present campus is on the former Oakes farm on outer Main Street on the way to Sangerville, his birthplace. His siblings have contributed to Foxcroft Academy's endowment.

    Real estate investment in Florida

    After the disastrous Florida Hurricane of 1928 and the Great Depression, Oakes bought 2,600 acres (11 km2) of partially developed land in northern Palm Beach County, Florida, from Harry Seymour Kelsey, who lacked the finances to rebuild his shattered development. Oakes spent a great deal of money on development of this property, which was later bought by John D. MacArthur, who completed its development. It includes most of North Palm Beach, Lake Park, Palm Beach Gardens and Palm Beach Shores. Oakes' castle-like home in North Palm Beach became the clubhouse for the village country club.


    Harry Oakes Wikipedia