Today I want to share a very funny little story that appeared in the Kentucky Post-Star in March 1908, when City Hall workers in Covington, Kentucky were confronted with a most unusual scene.
Mr. Daniel Murphy hurried into the building and saw his wife Annie standing in the lobby with William Marshall, a soldier from the Fourth Regiment. He walked up to them, extended his hand to Marshall and turned to his wife of four years and wished her great happiness with her husband.
How did this crazy circumstance ever come about?
As a young girl in 1897, Annie Casey married William Marshall. Soon afterward, his regiment was ordered to Texas, then Cuba, then the Philippines. For a while, letters arrived regularly. Then they ceased. Annie, believing her husband was dead, mourned him… and then she met Daniel Murphy, and married him. For four years, they lived an ordinary life. All that changed the day Annie Murphy and her sister, Mrs. John Baldwin, went to watch a parade in Campbell County.
As they stood on the street watching the floats go by, Annie saw a familiar face in a regiment of soldiers who were marching in the parade. It was none other than William Marshall! “She waited for [Marshall] and told him what had happened. He had believed her dead.” Would you like to be a fly on the wall to hear that conversation?
Annie hurried home and told Murphy of her discovery. “He agreed that she should return to Marshall, and she met him [Marshall] at the Bohemia Concert Hall to arrange the reunion.” Though Murphy wasn’t present, Annie apparently invited her sister along and two friends, Anna Toker and Edward Warden.
The Kentucky Post-Star does not speculate on any of this, but let’s pause and ask ourselves a few questions. First, do we believe Marshall that he was dutifully writing letters to his wife that just never arrived? How can that be? One or two, maybe, but every letter he wrote to her just never arrived? And he didn’t think to write to anyone they knew to ask about her? He was back in Kentucky, too but was apparently completely incurious about his wife’s fate–or at least, that’s what his failure to seek her out would suggest.
Annie, meanwhile, goes home and informs her husband that she had not, in fact, been a widow when she married him; furthermore, now that she had seen her former husband briefly at a parade, she planned to leave their four-year marriage and go off with William Marshall. It seems trivial by comparison, but it’s also strange that she brought other people to her reunion with Marshall.
And what about Daniel Murphy being in agreement with her decision? Of course we can’t know, but something tells me this news was not entirely unwelcome to Murphy. Regardless of whether he saw Annie’s defection as a disaster or a deliverance, Murphy’s generosity in giving up his wife was promptly rewarded.
On the same day the reunion took place, William Marshall, Annie Marshall (as she was again calling herself), her sister Mrs. Baldwin, Anna Toker, and Edward Warden were congregated in a flat, presumably celebrating. Somehow or other, matters escalated and Annie’s sister struck Edward Warden with a hammer, killing him. Annie was arrested as a witness and she and William Marshall were charged with loitering.
Daniel Murphy made a point to come to the Police Court a few days later where the Marshalls were to appear and offered his hearty congratulations to William Marshall on getting his wife back.
In a sign the gods approved of this beautiful love affair, the charges against the Marshalls were dismissed by the police court. We can surmise it was a happy day for all, with the probable exception of William Marshall.
Thanks to a question posed by Old Spirituals reader Judy McNeel in the comments, there is a Part 2 to this story!