Louise Marshall built real estate empire here – and shot her husband
It was 110 years ago this week that a 34-year-old woman arrived in Tucson, traveling alone on the Southern Pacific Railroad train from Denver.
She brought $5,000 from her parents – then a small fortune. In the ensuing century, that has grown into a large fortune responsible for much of the development west of the University of Arizona.
Dec. 30, 1898, Louise Foucar checked into a downtown hotel near the train station. She came to make history as the first person to attend UA as a graduate student after earning an undergraduate degree at another university.
But that’s not why Louise Foucar is remembered today. She also was put on trial in one of the most spectacular murder cases in Tucson history. And known today by her married name of Louise Marshall, she was one of the first and most successful real estate magnates in Tucson.
The day after she arrived, Foucar took her $5,000 to a bank.
Later, in a letter to a friend, Foucar recalled “the bankers did not know what to make of it – that a woman would have so much money made them a little suspicious that something was wrong.”
There was nothing wrong. It was the beginning of 58 years in Tucson for Foucar, whose life story is told in a new biography “Trial and Triumph: The life and accomplishments of Louise Foucar Marshall,” by Tucsonan Patricia Stephenson.
It didn’t take long after her 1898 arrival for Foucar to start having an impact. She earned her graduate degree, then became a teacher at UA. And she found vacant desert land nearby – which wasn’t difficult because the university was some distance from town.
In 1901, she paid $425 for 1.9 acres and started to build her home. Construction drew weekend crowds – largely because the home featured one of the first bathrooms in the city.
In the next few years, she continued to buy land and build homes to be rented to students and faculty members. Most were northwest of the present UA campus, and several still remain.
In the meantime, Foucar met Thomas Marshall – a man six years younger than she – who was enrolled in one of her Spanish classes. In his final year at UA, he took a maintenance job with Foucar. In 1904, they were married.
For the next several decades, Louise and Thomas Marshall bought and developed property. In the 1920s, they built University Square Stores at Main Gate on the northwest corner of Park Avenue and University Boulevard – Tucson’s first suburban shopping center and the underpinnings of the family’s real estate fortune.
But it was something that happened a decade later that established Louise Foucar Marshall’s place in Tucson history – and lore.
There were problems in the Marshall marriage. And Louise became convinced – with medical evidence backing her up – that her husband was poisoning her with arsenic.
Before dawn April 27, 1931, Louise shot Tom several times. He survived but was badly wounded. After a couple weeks of treatment in Tucson, he was taken by train to Los Angeles, where he died.
After a sensational trial, Louise was acquitted, with jurors deciding Tom died not because he was shot but because he received improper medical care in Los Angeles. Louise Marshall returned home, living in Tucson until she died in 1956 at age 92.
Today, Louise Marshall’s home – the house where she shot her husband – is gone. It stood near what is now the Harvill Building on the northern part of the UA campus.
But the money she brought with her when she came to Tucson still is having an effect. The charitable Marshall Foundation that she founded now has about $30 million in assets, based on the foundation’s 2007 tax return. It receives almost $3 million in income annually from renting commercial property west of the university.
The Marshall Foundation has become a major force among nonprofits, donating millions for UA scholarships and much more to various agencies.
And it started with $5,000 brought to Tucson by train 110 years ago this week.
Mark Kimble appears at 6:30 p.m. Fridays on “Arizona Illustrated” on KUAT-TV, Channel 6. He may be reached by e-mail at email@example.com or by phoning 573-4662.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Patricia Stephenson, author of “Trial and Triumph,” had close ties with the Marshall family. When Stephenson was born in 1928, her father had been property manager for the Marshall family for two years. The families remained close, and Stephenson said she considered Louise a third grandmother.
The $18 book is available at:
• Arizona Historical Society, 949 E. Second St.
• Clues Unlimited, 16 Broadway Village
• Arizona BookStore, 845 N. Park Ave.
(in the Louise Foucar Marshall Building)