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Posted on August 12, 2021 at 1:53 PM by Melissa Dalton
The Probate records we hold cover a multitude of cases, be it estate, guardianships, trusts, name changes, and so forth. However, one we run across frequently in the early records are non-support cases. These cases usually indicate that one parent is not providing proper support to their children, and the reasons can vary greatly. This week, our blog follows one non-support case that took us down a rabbit hole we were not expecting…
The story begins in 1907 when two young people, Wilson W. Culp and Mary E. Hughes, both just twenty years old, decided to marry in Elkhart County, Indiana (Fig 1). By 1910, the young couple had two children, and were living with Mary’s parents in Indiana (Fig 2).
Fig 1. Marriage record of Wilson Culp and Mary Hughes, 1907 Elkhart County, Indiana (Ancestry.com)
Fig 2. 1910 Census with Culp/Hughes family outlined in red (Ancestry.com)
Around 1920, the Culp family had grown to seven children, and they had moved to Darke County, Ohio. Wilson had joined the ministry and was a pastor in Spring Valley (Fig 3). Things seemed to be going well for the family, but in 1922, that all changed.
Fig 3. 1920 Census with Culp family outlined in red (Ancestry.com)
Rumors swarmed that Culp was not such a holy man and preyed on the sympathy of others. In particular, he was fond of the girls and young women of his congregation. Esther Hughes was one of those girls, and Culp convinced the teen to run away with him and elope. They were caught and arrested in Michigan four weeks later and returned to Xenia for trial. Thomas J. Hughes, Esther’s father, was an attorney and wanted to prosecute Culp to the fullest extent of the law, including charging Culp under the Mann Act (a federal law that criminalized the transportation of any woman or girl for the purpose of prostitution or debauchery, or for any other immoral purpose). According to many sources, this Act was used frequently to prosecute in these types of cases (Fig 4).
Fig 4. Hughes to Prosecute Culp Under Mann Act, Xenia Daily Gazette, 17 Jul 1922 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)
Ultimately, Culp was not charged under the Mann Act, but was charged with abandonment by the Probate Court in Greene County, to which he pleaded guilty. As such, Culp was sentenced to one year in the Dayton Work House and fined $500, plus court costs of $137.50 (Fig 5). In July 1922, he was sent to the Work House, but just a two months later, Culp was discharged on habeas corpus.
Fig 5. Entry from Wilson Culp case, Box 550 Case 870 (Greene County Archives)
After his release, he was immediately charged with non-support by the Court and arrested once again. Culp pleaded not guilty to these charges, and was released from jail after paying his bond. The case was continued multiple times, but was last set for trial in November 1922. However, Culp agreed to support his family, as well as move back to Indiana, and therefore, the charges were dropped (Fig 6).
Fig 6. Will Not Push Charges Against Rev. W. W. Culp, Greenville Daily News, 23 Jan 1923 (Newspapers.com)
This is where we thought the story would end, but it does not. Culp’s transgressions continued, and we’ll tell you the rest of the story next week.
Until Next Time!
Greene County Archives
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