Than Fiction Is Real Life.
Romantic Story of Separation and Reunion.
After Twenty-Eight Years, Walter Henley, of Nashville, Finds His Wife.
Dover, Ky., March 16. Twenty-eight years ago last September Miss Josie Hamilton, an orphan, making her home with a maiden aunt living in Huntington, W. Va., was a passenger on an Ohio steamer from Cincinnati to that city. The second clerk on the boat was a young man named Walter P. Henley, whose home was in Pittsburg, and who will be remembered by river men of to-day as one of the handsomest and most popular clerks on the river. Young Henley became terribly smitten with the charms of Miss Hamilton, then a beautiful and vivacious young girl of 19 summers. The attraction was mutual, and it seemed to be a case of love at first sight with them both.
Before the boat had reached the young lady’s destination, Mr. Henley had engaged himself to marry the young lady, and the wedding was set for the following May. The first year of their wedding life was one of extreme happiness, the young bride continuing to reside with her aunt in Huntington, and making frequent round trips on the boat with her husband.
In the second year of their marriage, Mrs. Henley persuaded her husband to leave the river and open out a grocery store in Huntington. All went well for about a year, when Mr. Henley, who had acquired the habit of strong drink, indulged to such an extent that liquor became his master. As
THE HABIT GREW
Upon him he became cross and overbearing in his manner toward his wife, and frequent domestic quarrels were the result.
One day he indulged in an unusually violent quarrel with his wife, and in a fit of rage said he would leave the house and never return. He was as good as his word, and that night sold his store for a mere song and took passage on a down steamer for Cincinnati. From there he soon departed for the West. The heart-broken young wife, with the care of a bright, little baby boy, was left almost penniless by the deserting husband, and, to make matters worse, her aunt had died but a few months previous. She would not go to her husband’s people, as they had been opposed to their son’s marriage. Neither would she write to them. Instead she decided to go to an uncle, a Mr. Jackson, who was a prosperous farmer, living a few miles back of Covington, and who gave his niece and her babe a generous welcome.
With this kind relative Mrs. Henley and her little boy took up their permanent abode, and when Mr. Jackson, in 1882, sold his Kenton County farm and purchased 200 acres of fine land about 20 miles south of this place she came with him to the new home. In the meantime the deserted wife had never heard a word from or about her husband, and did not even know whether he was still living.
Six years ago the son, Charley T. Henley, then a bright and industrious young man of 22, and who had just received a business education at the Smith College, at Lexington, went to Chattanooga, Tenn., where he was given a position in the real estate office a married son of Mr. Jackson, who had located in that city some 15 years ago. Now comes the strangest and most
ROMANTIC PART OF THE STORY.
And which reads more like fiction than an actual occurrence in real life.
Last January Mrs. Henley went to Chattanooga on a visit to her son. About a week after her arrival there, she was sitting in the office one afternoon chatting with her son and Mr. Jackson, when in stepped a well-dressed and portly gentleman with the air of an all-round business man. The stranger gave only a hurried glance at the lady present and introduced himself to Mr. Jackson as W. P. Henley, real estate agent, Nashville, Tenn.
It afterward developed that he had called to consult Mr. Jackson in regard to some Chattanooga property. At the sound of the gentleman’s name, Mrs. Henley, who had been keenly eyeing the visitor, gave a scream and fell to the floor in a dead faint. All three gentlemen went to her assistance, and the long absent husband, for such he proved to be, immediately recognized his wife and also his son, now that the mist was clearing away, as young Henley bore a striking resemblance to his father.
By the administering of proper restoratives Mr. Henley was soon brought to a state of consciousness, and then the husband, who appeared overjoyed at the strange and unexpected meeting, stated that the one hope of his life in recent years was now realized. He then told the
STORY OF HIS WANDERINGS
Since his desertion of his wife in Huntington. After sobering up in Cincinnati and coming to his senses he regretted what he had done, but his money was about all gone and he was ashamed to go back to Huntington.
On a sudden impulse he resolved to go out West and when he made a stake to send for his wife. At the same time he made a solemn pledge to himself never to drink another drop of liquor, and that pledge he had faithfully kept. He made money rapidly out West, and was soon in a splendid shape financially. And yet he could never hear anything from or about his wife and child.
He wrote to friends in Huntington, and they could only reply that she had left that city, but did not know where she had gone. He had drifted to the booming city of Wichita on the top wave of excitement, and by judicious investments and timely sales made quite a fortune in real estate. He had moved to Nashville three years ago and entered the real estate business, and in the meantime hand almost given up all hope of ever finding any trace of his wife and child. A complete reconciliation took place between the long separated husband and wife, and they are now living happily together in Nashville. Mr. Henley has taken in a partner in the real estate business and the firm name now reads Walter P. Henley & Son. Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 17 March 1894: p. 9
Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Perhaps Mrs Daffodil is too censorious but anyone clever enough to make a fortune by judicious investments and timely sales, ought to have had the wit to hire a Pinkerton operative with some of that fortune to locate his wife and child, who, for aught he knew, were dead in a ditch somewhere.
One wonders if this was a species of “urban legend” common in the papers of the past. Here is another, similar story of a happy, improbable coincidence, albeit with a shipwreck, rather than liquor, as the agent of separation
A late issue of the Vallejo (Cal.) Chronicle says: ‘One of those strange episodes in human life which makes us sometimes wonder at “the eternal fitness of things.” occurred last night at the Vallejo junction. The tide being low on the arrival of the Contra Costa passengers for Vallejo were compelled to make quite a descent from the wharf to the boat, and the ladies required the assistance of the gentlemen present. A Mr. G., a grain speculator, was doing the agreeable in this respect, and one of the last ladies to descend was overburdened with a few bundles, which he took charge of, and accompanied the lady to the cabin, where they sat and engaged in conversation. The subject finally touched upon the nativity of each, when it was found they were both from the same town in Kentucky. This fact made each more communicative, when he inquired her name, which was given as Mrs. G. Immediately the gentleman grew pale and excited, and asked:
“You had a daughter, did you not?”
“I did “she responded. “Pray, how did you know that?”
“Is that daughter living?”
“She is, and at present on a visit to friends at Vallejo, where I am now going.”
“Merciful heavens!” he gasped. “My child!”
“Sir,” said the lady, rising; “what do you mean?”
“Mean?” he crazily replied. “Mean? Why, I mean that that daughter is my own child and you are my wife!”
Almost overpowered at this confession she plied him with questions, to every it one of which he returned a correct answer, when she was convinced that the man was really her husband, from whom she had been separated twenty years. It seems the twain were married at Paris, Ky., in 1858, and thirteen months afterward he went to Liverpool on business. The vessel on which he took passage was wrecked, and all on board were supposed to have perished.
The news coming to the young wife’s ears, she was utterly prostrated and was ordered to California by her physicians. Arriving here she took up her residence in Los Angeles. The husband was picked up from the wreck by a fishing smack and taken to some remote foreign port, where he was thrown upon a bed of sickness, which lasted some fifteen months. In the meantime he had written repeatedly to his wife, but received no answer. In his despair he concluded to risk a journey across the Atlantic. Feeble as he was he shipped before the mast on a sailing vessel, and in due time arrived in New York. From there he wrote three times to his wife, but received no answer.
Almost frenzied at the thought that she might be dead, and being without funds and no friends, he “faced” his fare clear to Kentucky, and shortly after arrived at Paris. Inquiries throughout the town assured him that his wife had disappeared a year or so before, no one knew whither. Some said she had gone in search of her husband, others that she might be dead, and others that she had gone to California. He sought the old family physician, but he had left the town some time before. Mr. G. then went to work at Louisville and made enough to bring him to California a year after his arrival in Kentucky. He searched everywhere for his absent wife, but without success, and finally gave her up as dead, and she also had mourned for his death. Neither, however, had married again, and last evening on board the Contra Costa was the first intimation either had that the other was in existence.
The now happy couple arrived here last night, and to the surprise of the friends of the lady she introduced her husband, from whom she had been separated twenty years. But imagine his unutterable surprise and joy when the mother led into the parlor a beautiful young lady, his own daughter, whom he had not seen since she was a babe. Father, mother and child will leave tomorrow for San Francisco, where Mr. G., who is now a comparatively wealthy man, has his business, and where they will hereafter reside.
The Abbeville [SC] Press and Banner 4 February 1880: p. 1
Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes
You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.