Near the turn of the 20th century, the Southern Hotel, shown here, was located on Madera’s North B Street. With a plank sidewalk running in front, the frame structure sat east of Curtin’s Livery Stable.
Most of the time it was business as usual at the Southern Hotel, but once the proprietor, J.M. Hambleton, became the unknowing participant in one of the wildest scams attempted in Madera. Jack Barnes, one of the hotel guests, took off in the night without paying his bill. A few days later, Hambleton received a letter purporting to be from one J.J. Leary, who owned a hotel in Reno Nevada. Leary informed Hambleton that Barnes had committed suicide in his hotel. Unfortunately for Barnes, Hambleton recognized the handwriting on the letter to be that of the fugitive. He turned it over to the Madera Sheriff, who set out immediately to apprehend Barnes.