The doorbell rang on a winter day in 1962 — months after the Minneapolis teenager gave birth and her husband ran off. On the front porch another young woman, accompanied by her father, stood cradling an infant.
They had one question: Where's Al? He had fathered the baby girl in her arms.
More than 55 years later, a story about a man who had children with at least eight wives and even more girlfriends across the country is gradually being unraveled.
With the help of DNA and online ancestry communities, his offspring are finding one another. Now the search is on to find yet another sibling — the baby brought to that Minneapolis doorstep years ago — most likely fathered by a man some knew as Allan Kain, others knew as Alton "Dub" Barron and his now-connected offspring wryly refer to as "Johnny Appleseed."
"You have to laugh because it's so incredible," said Connie Hoye, a daughter of Alton Barron who grew up in Minnesota and now lives in Missouri.
Hoye has so far discovered that she has six brothers and five sisters fathered by Barron.
And there are likely a lot more.
"He spent a lot of time in Idaho, Washington state, California, Indiana, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Texas," said Hoye, who has assumed the role of historian of the growing family tree. It also appears he married and fathered at least one child while working on an oil rig in Indonesia, she said.
"We know that he didn't go very long before impregnating somebody," she added.
The charismatic Texas native, born Alton William Barron, was a charmer who picked up women even more easily than he picked up jobs. He was 6 feet 4 with olive skin and blue eyes. His good looks combined with a southern drawl and gregarious personality to draw people in. Women opened their arms and their homes. When he was arrested in Louisiana for bigamy, even his jailers were taken by his affability.
"He was mesmerizing," said Bob Sexton, Barron's younger half-brother, who still lives in their hometown of Tyler, Texas. "The funny part is that I always figured I was the better-looking one," the 86-year-old said.
But some warned Barron that his penchant for women, especially married women, could spell trouble. " 'If you keep messing around,' " Sexton told him in the fall of 1979, " 'you're going to get killed.' "
A month later in Idaho, the 53-year-old Barron was shot dead by a girlfriend's estranged husband.
Decades later, the extent of his womanizing is being mapped by children who have connected through AncestryDNA and pieced together stories bolstered by birth certificates, memories, photos and news clippings. There's no doubt he was a cad, they say. Yet they're captivated by the stories that now link them.
"It's our own kind of bond," Hoye said.
An irresistible scoundrel
Hoye was 12 years old when she learned that a man named Allan Barron was her biological father. But she didn't find out who he really was until four decades later.
Hoye had logged into Ancestry.com and submitted her DNA in search of her ethnic heritage. Instead, she found a half-brother.
Eventually, a timeline of Barron's escapades emerged, with a dizzying list of women and the children he fathered, beginning in Tyler, Texas, where he abandoned his first wife in the 1940s.
"My mom was pregnant with me so she followed him to Des Moines," said Shelia Jenkins, who now lives near Dallas. Watching him leave a bar with a red-haired woman, her mother jumped in a cab and followed the Cadillac they were in. They were a long way out of town when the Cadillac ran out of gas.
"My mother borrowed a tire iron from the cabdriver and broke out all the windows in the Cadillac while they were in it," Jenkins said. "Then she got back in the cab and went back to town."
Growing up, her mom called him a scoundrel. Even so, she apparently was never "done with him" because DNA tests confirmed that the youngest of the three children she had after she remarried was Barron's.
"He had a line of B.S. a mile long," said Jenkins, one of the few offspring he visited off and on. "All the women just loved him.
"At one point, he had five wives in Louisiana," Jenkins said. That led to the bigamy charge, which listed only three wives because the other two had remarried and didn't want to testify, she explained.
When a story about the bigamy appeared in an Iowa newspaper, an ex-girlfriend sent a letter to Barron, offering him a place to stay. She and Barron already shared a son.
That son, Michael Banks, was 7 when Barron bounced back to Iowa. "That's how I got my baby brother," he said. Barron split before the baby was born, leaving Banks with few memories and some old photos that his mother kept.
Banks doesn't harbor anger. "I would have liked to have a more standard life of being raised by a mother and father — a 'Leave It To Beaver' kind of family," Banks said. "But my mother was such a great mother that I was probably better off without him."
Like his newfound relatives, Banks is fascinated with the stories and half-siblings they're finding. "We're kind of astonished every time we find another one," he said.
The discoveries, however, can open old wounds.
Dredging up the past likely brought back bad memories for Hoye's mother, Kathleen.
Kathleen was 16 and a waitress in her family's Wisconsin restaurant when she married Barron, who was using the Kain alias. He also lied about his age — he was 33, not 22, when he wooed her.
In the two years they were together, Kathleen and Allan Kain repeatedly pulled up stakes, moving from Wisconsin to Washington to California and then Minneapolis.
They abruptly left Wisconsin because he was arrested for having sex with a minor. The story he told Kathleen was that a teenage waitress had come on to him. When they suddenly left San Rafael, Calif., he merely said it was time to leave before trouble came. And there was the time he went to Iowa, telling Kathleen he was visiting his sister and her newborn. (It was a girlfriend and his baby.)
"Everything she thought she knew about him she later found out wasn't true," said Hoye, whose mother died earlier this year. Hoye hoped that she could offer her mom solace by showing her that other women had been duped.
Now Hoye is on a quest to identify the young mother who turned up on her mother's doorstep in February 1962. She had said she lived in Hopkins and was either a candy striper or nurse at Fairview Hospital in Minneapolis, where Hoye was born in April 1961.
Barron "probably met her at the hospital while my mom was having me," Hoye said.
"It's one more piece in the puzzle," she said. And it's intriguing, she added.
"We're caught up in his charm," Hoye said. "He has a spell on us just like … all the women he charmed."