On September 5, 1922, Sarah Winchester died at the age of 82 from a congestive heart failure. Her sudden death was a shock for her family members and friends as she was not known to be suffering from any pre-existing heart conditions, or has any inherited heart diseases.
Who Was Sarah Winchester?
Sarah Winchester, born Sarah Lockwood Pardee in 1839 in New Haven, Connecticut, is best known for her association with the Winchester Mystery House. Educated and musically inclined, she grew up in a family with progressive ideas on religion, abolition, suffrage, and animal rights.
In 1862, during the American Civil War, Sarah married William Wirt Winchester, the heir to the Winchester Repeating Arms Company.
Sarah became a wealthy heiress after the deaths of her husband in 1881 and her mother-in-law in 1898, gaining significant control over the Winchester Repeating Arms Company stock.
In 1886, she purchased a property in the Santa Clara Valley, which she named Llanada Villa, later known as the Winchester Mystery House. This house became famous for its continuous, seemingly unstructured construction and design, with Sarah personally overseeing the project without a master plan.
Post-1896, Sarah added numerous stories to the house, incorporating innovative features like state-of-the-art plumbing and electrical systems, and an intricate irrigation system for an indoor garden. Despite local rumors and speculation about her being haunted or mentally unstable, Sarah focused on her construction project, keeping many tradespeople employed for years.
Sarah also participated extensively in philanthropy, supporting various social causes and making significant donations to the tubercular ward in New Haven, which opened in 1918 as the William Wirt Winchester Hospital. However, her focus was still on building the Winchester Mystery House.
Winchester’s health deteriorated over the years, with rheumatoid arthritis limiting her mobility. In 1922, she passed away unexpectedly from heart failure.
Where is Sarah Winchester Buried?
Sarah Winchester’s death was quiet and unexpected, for her small circle of family members and friends did not expect her to suffer and die in such a way. That said, her death have impacted thousands of lives who were blessed by her charitable act
Days after her death, a memorial service was held in Palo Alto, California. She was then laid to rest at Alta Mesa Cemetery. Years later, the remains of Sarah Winchester was transferred to Evergreen Cemetery at New Haven, Connecticut where she was buried next to her husband William and their infant child Annie Pardee Winchester.
William died on March 7, 1881 (aged 43) from tuberculosis while his six-week old child Annie passed away from marasmus, a severe form of malnutrition.
What Happened to the Winchester House?
After Sarah death, her will was executed where a massive fortune was donated to local charities and public facilities such as schools and hospitals. What remains (excluding the house) was bequeathe to her niece Marion Isabel Merriman (renamed to Marriot after her marriage) and personal secretary.
Marion is a close family member of Sarah Winchester and they had lived together with for over a decade. Marion acted as her secretary during her stay and assisted Sarah Winchester with the construction of the mansion. Marion took possession of most of the inheritance and sold it in a private auction. It was said that a team of six trucks took over six weeks to remove the items sold by Marion.
As the Winchester house (formerly known as Llanada Villa) was excluded from the will, it was sold in a public auction for a price of $135,000. The house was later leased to John and Mayme Brown, who eventually bought the house and converted it into a museum. Since then, the house has become a popular tourist attraction in San Jose, with many visiting the house in hopes of catching a glimpse of the spirit of Sarah Winchester.
Today, Winchester House is owned by Winchester Investments LLC, which is a private company held by the descendants of John and Mayme Brown.
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What is Sarah Winchester’s Net Worth Today?
After the death of her husband William in 1881, Sarah Winchester received an inheritance of $20 million (equivalent to $540 million in 2023) as well as a 50% stake in the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. With her stake in the company, she received $1000 a day in royalties, which equates to a daily earning of over $30,000.
However, Sarah Winchester spent most of her inheritance towards the renovation of the Winchester House as well as making donations towards local charities. When she died, she was estimated to have an approximate net worth of only $2.9 million, or $47 million in today’s value.