Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Robert Whipp

Whipp's Ledges of the Cleveland Metroparks near Hinckley.
Named for Robert Whipp.

Most Medinians, indeed, most residents of northeast Ohio, have at least heard of Whipps Ledges in the Hinckley Metroparks. Many have clambered over the rocks and ledges. Some more adventurous types have climbed the cliffs. But how many of them know the story of Robert Whipp for whom the Ledges are named?

Robert Whipp was born in Lancashire England around 1822. He came to Ohio around 1852. It is said that while in England, he lost a herd of cattle due to disease and that is why he came to America. He worked for someone for a few years, but soon he was on his own again.

Robert Whipp

In 1854 he married a widow, Mrs. Mehitable Waite in Medina County. In the 1860 Census, she is 12 years older than Robert. Apparently, the couple never had children. While Robert registered for the draft during the U.S. Civil War, there is no indication that he ever served. Robert was again dealing in cattle and investing in real estate.

By the 1870 Census, his real estate was valued at $47,900! His personal property $7,200. A wealthy man by the standards of the day.

On July 27th 1876, his wife, Mehitable died. Things went sour after that.

He had a housekeeper named Mrs. Spensley. She had a young widowed daughter, Rachel Kuder. She was just 24 years old, to Robert's 55. He asked her to marry him, but then stood her up at the altar. Twice. But as they used to say, Rachel was "in a delicate condition" and threatened to ruin him if he didn't do right by her. So on August 13, 1877 the couple were married.

From the start, they both knew that they had made a bad marriage. Rachel was confiding that she only married Robert for his money. Robert was threatening divorce.

You wouldn't think that things could get much worse, but they quickly did. In the early morning hours of 15 September, Robert awoke to the smell of chloroform in his bedroom. There were two men in the room and they quickly tried to put a rope around Robert's neck. From the voices, he recognized one of the men as his brother-in-law, Lonsdale Spensley. Robert fought them off and ran into the night to one of the neighbor's farms where the authorities were notified. Spensley was quickly arrested.

By October, indictments were handed down against Lonsdale Spensley, Rachel Whipp and Alfred Taylor for assault with intent to kill. The plan had been to chloroform Robert and then hang him by the neck with the rope, hoping to make it look like a suicide.

The trial started in January of 1878 and was quite sensational. Alfred Taylor asked for and was granted a separate trial from Rachel and Spensley. The trial last for 11 days. The jury decided they were guilty.

The judge sentenced them both, Rachel & her brother, Lonsdale, to seven years in the penitentiary.

Rachel pleaded with Whipp to visit her in jail before she left. He went to see her, asking if she understood that her current circumstances were all of her own doing, that he was not responsible for her being in jail. She ignored his questions and crying uncontrollably, she asked him to use his influence to make sure she didn't go to the pen. Robert replied there was nothing he could do now.

In February of 1878, while serving her time in the penitentiary, Rachel gave birth to a son, named Eddie.

Meantime, Robert filed for divorce in May of 1878 and it was granted in September of that year.

From these two articles we know that Rachel spent a little over one year in prison:

Medina County Gazette 3 January 1879 p. 2

Medina County Gazette 3 January 1879, p. 7

In the 1880 Census, Rachel is living with her mother in Granger Township with her young son, Edward Whipp.

In 1881, Rachel, now divorced and free from prison, married Alfred Taylor. Alfred had successfully petitioned for a change of venue to Lorain County. His case was thrown out by the Lorain Courts in November of 1878. Perhaps this information influenced the governor to pardon Rachel?

Robert Whipp continued to deal in cattle and be involved in small legal claims with his neighbors.

He died September 24, 1890 after years of sickness, dying blind, helpless, and cared for by his hired hand.

Robert had made out his will in August of 1878. It went into probate in October of 1890. The will makes no mention of Rachel's child that was born in February of 1878. But the probate record does list Eddie Taylor "otherwise known as Eddie Whipp" as his son!

(The Library's resources do not reveal the amount, if any, of Robert's estate young Eddie inherited.)

Ancestry Library Edition
History of Medina County and Ohio (1881) Baskin & Battey, pp. 616-617.
Medina County Gazette
-- 5 Jan. 1877 p. 8
-- 21 Sep. 1877 p. 1
-- 5 Oct. 1877 p. 5
--18 Jan. 1878 p. 1
-- 25 Jan 1878 p. 1
-- 1 Feb 1878 p. 4
-- 8 Feb. 1878 p. 2
-- 26 Apr. 1878 p. 4
-- 24 May 1878 p. 7
-- 3 Jun 1881 p. 3
-- 3 Oct. 1890 p. 1


Anonymous said...

Living very close to the Ledges, I found this particularly interesting. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I've spent much time hiking at the Ledges, so it was very interesting to learn about their namesake. How, I wonder, did they get named after him?

Anonymous said...

So interesting! I love it!

Anonymous said...

I think this is great, thanks for sharing!

MCDL Genealogy Team said...

The area where the Ledges are was Robert Whipp's land in the 1800's.

Anonymous said...

What a cool story! I love all of Hinckley park, but this is especially interesting!

Vallen Family said...

Rachel and Lonsdale Spensley were my 2nd great aunt and uncle. I gratefully appreciate you finding the pardoning articles. I've wanted to know for so long why Rachel had been pardoned. When you research the trial you find out that there was a big issue in the trial of Robert Whipp testifying against his own wife and it is cited in the Ohio law books as a case that addressed that issue. The Medina County Gazette printed a small pamphlet on the case that I recently got a copy from Kent State University rare books section. What is totally amazing is the concept of the chloroform. It was presented in the trial that it would have been difficult for the individuals to have obtained that anesthesia. After getting out of prison, Lonsdale Spensley became a veterinarian. I have a book he wrote 10 years after the trial of animal remedies and medicines. How handy it contains the receipt for making chloroform. The son that Rachel claims is Robert Whipps and who she uses to force a basic shotgun wedding, actually appeared to be the son of Alfred Taylor. After prison time, Rachel marries Alfred and they move to Champagne County in Ohio and successfully raise cattle.

MCDL Genealogy Team said...

I didn't include all the information that I found. Mrs. Spensley was circulating a petition to have her children pardoned by the governor. I haven't tracked it down. But it was reported that she threatened to "knock the block off" of one farmer who refused to sign the petition. And Rachel sent a basket of donations to the prison after her release. If you would like copies of the articles I found, send the request to me at I send them to you via email. - Kathy