Steve White

On this day 94 years ago, the Middlesboro Daily News of Middlesboro, Kentucky, told the interesting story of a local housepainter named Steve White.

Mr. White’s first name, it turns out, was not “Steve” (not that there’s anything wrong with that name, of course). And his last name wasn’t “White,” either. “Steve White” was really Gustave Salomez. White, or Salomez, had spent the previous twenty years working as a housepainter around town. And while he painted for folks, he often told of taking trips to far off places, but never revealed his true identity.

In the fall of 1925, Mr. Salomez had taken quite ill and he feared he was dying. He was sent to the hospital twice and during this time converted to Presbyterianism and joined the local church. And it was to the church that he confessed his true identity. He also told the church something else.

He had a sister in London and a brother in Canada and that he was heir to a very large estate in France.

The church appeared to not give this a great deal of attention, because as he grew worse, he was transferred to the county poorhouse, where he was cared for the following four months. During that time, though, some folks in Middlesboro decided to see if he might have been telling the truth and sought his family out. It turns out that he was correct, and that his relatives had been searching for him.

And he was indeed the heir to a French fortune belonging to his mother, one worth at the time $250,000, or $3,443,072.63 today, quite a tidy sum. Not only that, but one of his brothers had died leaving an additional $500,000 for Gustave, or nearly $7 million today, for a total of over $10,000,000 in 2018 dollars.

Gustave/Steve recovered from his illness and became quite the celebrity around town, although he was reported to be “disgusted with the fuss.”

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