George Whittell Jr. was married three times, this is one of the few things I can truly verify. However, finding out more about his first wife has been very difficult, as it was a tumultuous and strange affair.
From newspapers and other sources that vary in reliability, the following is what I could sketch out about Florence:
She was born in De Pere Wisc., in June of 1878. She was the daughter of a poor fisherman and worked as a waitress for two years before moving to New York. This is according to an article from the Minneapolis Journal in 1903 (during the marriage struggle with Whittell).
Her marriage to Whittell was not her first. When she was about 18 years old, she married Homer Hayes Selby (b.1876) in Chicago on October 13, 1899. This record can be found in the Cook County clerk’s office. However, take a look at the announcement in The Journal News and notice her name. Another reason we cannot take what we read in the newspapers for certain:
Homer eventually went from prize-fighting to theater management and we find Florence and Homer living in New York for the 1900 census. You will also see that Rose and Mary Boyere, Florence’s sisters, are living with them.
Rose was 19 with no occupation listed and Mary was 18 and listed as an actress. Most likely she worked at the theater that Homer was listed as managing. An interesting piece of information is that Florence was noted as being born in English Canada, her sisters are noted as born in Indiana. Another oddity is that it states that Mary and Rose’s parents were from Indiana, but “Canada Eng” is noted for Florence’s parents. Was this a typo on the part of the census taker? 1898 is listed as the year of naturalization for Florence.
We know that it would be only two years later that Florence would be entangled with the Whittell family. While I have not found evidence of the divorce from Homer, it seems that it did not take long for Homer to find a new wife, that being Rose Boyere. They are listed as married in subsequent censuses and a few articles make mention of this as the Whittell fiasco played out.
So how did George Whittell Jr. and Florence meet? That I am not sure of…but their marriage, or contract, or whatever you would like to call it played out in court for longer than their courtship…more to follow!