San Francisco Examiner

Woman Once Phone Operator, Then Millionaire's Wife, Is Victim of Fate's Pendulum


Uncle of Child by First Husband Demands Custody; Charges Fraud in Adoption Proceeding

The pendulum of fate has swung back for Mrs. Marie Eleanor Mansfield Hanbury Banta.
A few years ago, in it's upward movement the pendulum carried her from a telephone switchboard in a tannery town to the head of a millionaires household, and married relationship to England's proudest aristocracy. Now in it's downward sweep, it has pulled her back to a humble station in society; and on the way have left fortune, husband and child.
The secret divorce filed against her in Martinez last week by W.H.Banta, which became a matter of public knowledge yesterday, may not be the last chapter in the story of her losses before the bar of justice, for there is pending before the Superior Judge James M. Troutt a petition to vacate the order for adoption by William H. Banta in the case other son by her first marriage.
The action was brought by John MacKenzie Hanbury, brother of her
first husband, who was named guardian of David MacKenzie Hanbury Jr. the child, by the High court of Justice in England, Chancery Division. If he is successful, it will mean that the boy will go to England to be reared, where most of his large estate is now held in trust. 
Banta's divorce suit raises a novel question in law, which attorneys say is without guiding precedent. It is the question of whether granting of the divorce will sever all legal relationship between Mrs. Banta and her son by her first husband David Theophilius Hanbury.
Judge Troutt issued an order February 10, 1915, by which William H. Banta adopted the Hanbury boy. Mrs. Banta gave her consent. On the subject of adoption, Section 229 of the civil code says:
The parents of an adopted child are from the time of the adoption relieved of all parental duties towards and responsibilities for, the child so adopted, and have no right over it.
By this order, say legal authorities, Mrs. Banta is no longer a parent of her son in the eyes of the law, and Banta would be his heir, should young Hanbury die.
But if the Uncle in England should be successful in his attempt to set aside the order of adoption, Mrs. Banta would be restored thereby to her full rights as sole surviving parent to the boy.
At present the boy's only property in this country is a fourth interest in island no. 2, in Napa county. His mother once owned the remainder of the island,
January 8, 1917
which she obtained by deed and will from Hanbury, but since he died, October 25, 1910, she fell so deeply into debt that her entire estate was sold out less than a year ago to satisfy creditors.
So now Mrs. Banta stands on the threshold of divorce court, stripped of her son by her first husband and the wealth he left her, debating of whether to fight for custody of her son by the second marriage. And over in Marin county the courts are trying to determine whether a certain little girl, Maria Mansfield, of an age between those of the two boys, is the daughter of Mrs. Banta. 
John MacKenzie Hanbury is represented in this action in the San Francisco court by T.E.K. Cormac, counselor for the British Consul, and District attorney C.M. Fickert. The attorney for the Bantas in this action is Frank J. Golden.
The petition on file cites that David T. Hanbury was a British subject, temporarily residing in California; that the British courts adjudged Mrs. Banta an unfit person to be the guardian of the heir and appointed the uncle in her stead.
It alleges "that the order of adoption was obtained by imposition and fraud practiced on said Superior Court." Other allegations attack the moral character of Banta and his wife, recite that she has "wasted and dissipated" all her property, and charge that the adoption proceedings "were instituted in an endeavor to get control of the property and estate of said minor and to use the same for the benefit and pleasures of dissipation" of Banta and his wife.
A general Denial of the allegations by attorney is on file.
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