Wild Women Of The West: Ava Kurth


Boards, automotive parts, and motorboat engines blocked the main entrance of a majestic home in Ogden, Utah, known as the White Mansion. Every inch of the yard surrounding the house was crowded with engines, windshield, tools, and tires. The interior of the house was in the same condition. It was difficult for residents living near the magnificent estate to imagine how anyone could exist among the overwhelming clutter. The owner of the massive property, Frank E. White was a wealthy, eccentric businessman who collected anything having to do with motor vehicles. In 1920 he used his hobby to rid himself of a mail-order bride he regretted having married. 

According to the October 5, 1931, edition of the Ogden Standard Examiner, Frank White had been married multiple times after his first wife died giving birth to their first child. He married and divorced four women in quick succession after the tragedy creating quite the scandal in the process. Few spoke aloud about the frequency in which White was in and out of marriages. It wasn’t until his fifth trip down the aisle that neighbors gave him disapproving glances and whispered among themselves, “Another! What can the man be thinking of?”  

White met his fifth bride through the Pacific Matrimonial Bureau based out of San Francisco, California. Their wooing and cooing began by mail in the fall of 1930. Ava Kurth, a twenty-two-year-old woman from Providence, Rhode Island, married Frank White on November 10, 1930. For a while it seemed Ava and Frank were happy together. He was even considering reentering local politics. He had abandoned all but a few interests when his first wife passed away. It is reported that under Ava’s influence he even took his best Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes out of the mothballs and became for a brief period and approximation of the sartorial elegance which had been one of his outstanding characteristics when his first wife was alive. 

“Imagine their surprise and chagrin, then, when Mr. White bought several automobiles to add to the numerous automobiles he already owned, attired himself in his oldest rags, and started tinkering with the mechanics of the cars,” the report in the Ogden Standard Examiner read. “Within a few weeks he had completely dismantled the cars he had acquired and had scattered the parts about the front law of the White abode.”  

White’s interest in things mechanical continued to grow. Day after day wrecked decrepit disreputable looking automobiles of all kinds were driven or towed onto the estate, and White worked from dawn to dusk dismantling them. Ogden residents were aghast. Among the distinguished inhabitants of the area where White lived was the Governor of the state who drove down White’s street for the sole purpose of viewing the debacle. 

It became easy to see that all was not right between the distinguished junk-collector and his mail-order bride. Neighbors reported that White and Ava had wordy altercations with one another in their front yard in the middle of the day. They noticed that Ava began to go away for days at a time and that on those occasions White worked even more vigorously on the vehicles, carrying carburetors, radiators, windshields, tires, rims, and steering gears into the mansion, and returning empty handed. According to the same Ogden Standard Examiner article, “As soon as the grounds of the place were thoroughly littered with automobile parts, White turned his attention to nautical paraphernalia. He purchased items from estate sales and other collectors. Soon the two magnificent boathouses that sat on the property were filled to the eaves with dismantled parts.”  

People didn’t know that of the fifteen rooms in the White mansion, fourteen were piled to the ceiling with junk. People didn’t know that the kitchen alone remained clear of used iron, steel, and rubber. They did notice that Ava put in a permanent disappearance, and many said they did not blame her. They were not the slightest bit surprised when she filed for divorce. “Frank White admitted he did not really love Ava and wanted her to go,” the Examiner article continued. “So, he filled his fine home with junk to crowd her out. Ava told neighbors the house was not a fit place for anyone to live.”

White kept a small cot in the kitchen for himself and spent the last years of his life alone, satisfied with his lot.  

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