The widow saw the deputy sheriff coming with an eviction notice and tried to bar the door.
"I won't have them putting their hands on my things," she cried. In fact she added from behind a barricade, "I'm holding the fort. Where are the Indians?"
To no avail. In came the deputy and the moving men and out went her belongings.
However, the widow evicted here yesterday won't be out in the cold for long.
She is Louise Vanderbilt, 63-year-old widow of George Vanderbilt, who was the grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt, the man who built railroads. She is heiress to one of America's great fortunes.
Her eviction was the culmination of a rent dispute that began last year when Mailands, a mansion where Mrs. Vanderbilt was renting two adjoining apartments, changed hands.
The new landlord, Harry B. Casey, decided the $950 monthly rent Mrs. Vanderbilt had been paying was not enough. He increased it by more than 300 percent.
Mrs. Vanderbilt was outraged and refused to pay the increase. She was so outraged that she joined ranks with the Newport Tenants Association, a group of low-income families protesting rent increases in some of this historic city's more modest housing.
Casey tried to evict her and a series of court battles that are still unresolved ensued.
Last month, however, Mrs. Vanderbilt's bank in New York City failed to send Casey a rent check for one of the apartments. It was the first time the rent was late in nine years, Mrs. Vanderbilt said yesterday.
Casey went to court and got an eviction order for that one apartment last week.
Over the weekend, last-ditch negotiations failed. Casey offered to sell Mrs. Vanderbilt both apartments for $305,000, but that was more than $50,000 higher than he had paid for the entire building.
So, at 8:30 a.m. yesterday deputy sheriff Donald Donnelly arrived at Mailands along with moving men hired by Casey.
Mrs. Vanderbilt told the deputy she had her own moving company coming in the afternoon.
That sounded reasonable to Donnelly because the sheriffs usually allow tenants five days or more to move after receiving eviction notices. The deputy left.
Casey, however, told Donnelly that the afternoon wasn't good enough. He wanted Mrs. Vanderbilt out immediately. Donnelly had to listen. Casey is the Newport County sheriff.
Mailands is just down the street from The Breakers, the most elaborate, the grandest, the most opulent of the Newport mansions during the resort's golden age when it was the playground of millionaires. The Breakers was built by Cornelius Vanderbilt who also built the Vanderbilt fortune.
Today Newport remains at the center of high society although on a somewhat less ostenatious scale. Many of the 50- to 100-room "cottages," including The Breakers, now are museums.
Mrs. Vanderbilt is said to be no particularly active in social affairs. She is considered rather, "just one of the rich ladies in Bellevue."
When Casey returned to Mailands, the front door had been locked. He broke a window in the door, reached in and unlocked it.
After he had climbed the stairs to Mrs. Vanderbilt's second-floor apartment, he found she had put an iron bar across the door.
"Stand back because I am going to break the door down," the deputy sheriff said.
Mrs. Vanderbilt replied that he had better not because she was standing right behind the dorr and wasn't going to move.
Moments later, her lawyer, Matthew Faeber, arrived and at his urging she let the sheriff in at 10:30 a.m.
"This just kills me," Mrs. Vanderbilt said as the movers began packing her belongings. "This is a holdup and nothing else. Think of the poor people with children who go through this and have no place to go."
Mrs. Vanderbilt and Faeber kept insisting that Casey wait until the moving firm the heiress hired arrived. Casey refused.
It's standard procedure for him to evict tenants without allowing them to hire their own movers, Casey said. Besides, he added, he didn't believe Mrs. Vanderbilt had movers coming.
Faeber went to superior court where Judge Thomas Needham ordered that Mrs. Vanderbilt be given the rest of the day to move by herself.
By 2 p.m., her movers had arrived and began moving some of her things into the adjoining department. The rest, including wicker living-room furniture, was carried to a moving van and was to be trucked to a house Mrs. Vanderbilt recently purchased in the city.
As for the other apartment in the Mailands, Mrs. Vanderbilt and Casey still have another day in court. CAPTION: Pictures 1 and 2, Louise Vanderbilt, right, and the windowpane broken by authorities; UPI photos