If you read this column regularly, you know how much I enjoy perusing the pages and pages of newspapers at Newspapers.com (as well as Chronicling America). So often when I’m researching a perfectly serious subject I run across the most amusing items. It also boggles my mind when I hear people say they don’t find history interesting, since I often find it downright funny, and in the case of this story, a good mystery.
This clipping, from the January 1, 1929 issue of the Montana Standard, was just too interesting and amusing – what was up with “Militant Mable [sic]”?!?
I’m not entirely sure when the “horsewhipping” actually took place, because a slightly different version of the story had appeared in two other newspapers on December 24, 1928 (Altoona Tribune and Oshkosh Daily Northwestern).
It appeared that perhaps the former Mrs. A.G. Whittington (now calling herself Mable – actually should be Mabel – Hilliard, probably her maiden name) had a bone to pick with her ex-husband. First of all, I wanted to know who A.G. Whittington, possible scoundrel, was — and of course, his full name. A quick search revealed quite a bit about one A.G. Whittington . . . . and then I kept searching. . . and started scratching my head.
I Love a Good Mystery
Granted, there was more than likely more than one A.G. Whittington in the world at that time, but initial clues seemed to point to a man by the name of Arthur G. Whittington, a prominent railroad executive who resided in Houston. This A.G. Whittington was ambushed as he was boarding a train . . . hmm.
A Google search found A.G. Whittington mentioned in several publications regarding his work with various railroad companies. A further search at Newspapers.com confirmed the same. After a search of census records, things started looking a little murky, however. In 1900 Arthur was married to Lula Mae, neè Cantrell and they had three sons: Marcus, Arthur Jr. and Harmon. They lived in Fort Worth and Arthur was employed as a freight agent.
By 1910 Arthur had moved up the career ladder, employed as a railroad superintendent, and living in McLennan County, Texas. By 1915, Arthur had been promoted to Vice President and General Manager of the I. & G. N. Railway and was living in Houston, according to Arthur Jr.’s obituary. Tragically, Arthur Jr. had drowned in Austin while attending the University of Texas.
Arthur and a friend left the school and planned to spend the night fishing at a nearby creek. Apparently it was raining and the creek had suddenly flooded the area. Arthur’s friend was able to reach a safe place, but Arthur, not an expert swimmer, drowned on April 22. The story appeared in the April 30, 1915 issue of the Cisco Round-Up (Cisco, Texas), and as of that date his body had not been found.
The article also stated that Arthur, Sr. resided in Houston and Mrs. Whittington resided in Cisco – Cisco and Houston are about 280 miles apart. Does this mean A.G. and Lula Mae were separated or divorced? Maybe not, because in 1920 Arthur and Lula Mae were living in Houston with their youngest son Harmon. Arthur was a railroad general manager, so perhaps because of his work they lived in separate residences at times.
More digging seemed in order when a perusal of city directories revealed an “Arthur G Whittington and Mabel D Whittington” in Dallas AND Houston in 1925 … again with the hmmm. Then it got more curious – in the Houston directory just a few lines below there is a listing for Mrs. Lula M. Whittington at 905 Kipling but no Arthur; Arthur G. and Mabel D. lived at 1602 Hussion, about two to three miles from Lula.
In the 1926 Houston directory, same thing, plus Lula’s son Harmon lived in Houston with his wife Corrine and still no Arthur G. with Lula. In 1927 Arthur G and Mabel D were again listed in the Dallas city directory, but at a different address than the one for 1925 when they appeared in two separate city directories.
No city directory records could be located for 1928, but in 1929 Arthur G and Lula M Whittington were living together in Houston AND also an Arthur, sans Mabel. Arthur G. and Lula M. appeared again in the 1932 Houston directory, along with the other Arthur (still no Mabel). As you can see there all kinds of possibilities as to which A.G. Whittington took the horsewhipping from “Militant Mabel”.
I’ve wavered back and forth several times. The most curious aspect is definitely the year 1925 when there were two entries in two separate major Texas city directories AND the fact that in the Dallas directory there was a Mrs. Lula M Whittington, sans Arthur. Is this all coincidental? Did A.G. Whittington live a double life as a philanderer or bigamist – I mean what better reason to raise the hackles of the former Mrs. A.G. Whittington, aka Mable [sic] Hilliard in December of 1928.
Arthur G., the railroad executive, died in 1953 in Houston and Lula’s name, although she was still living (she died in 1963) and Arthur was married, is not on his death certificate. Their son Harmon was the informant listed on the certificate. Lula and Arthur were also buried in different cemeteries in Houston.
The only Arthur listed in the Houston directory after 1929 was Arthur G. and Lula M. I never located any divorce records at Ancestry.com or elsewhere, so alas the mystery is unsolved, but the story possibilities are endless. At the very least, this points out the irrefutable fact that ancestral and historical research is a challenge, but I love it anyway!
I hope if any Whittington or Cantrell family member happens to see this article and knows the true story, I beg you please, please let me know what happened! Until then, feel free to spin your own tale in the reply/comments section below… I’d love to hear your theories!
Have a GREAT day . . . someday it will be HISTORY!