Newspaper Accounts Tell “Interesting” Story

While researching one of my Bemis relatives recently, I happened upon a series of newspaper articles that help fill in those gaps between birth, marriage, and death. Mary (Hughes) Culp’s first husband was Wilson Culp. She later married George Bemis. Upon initial inquiry concerning George Bemis, it was apparent that his new wife Mary had been married before, as there were several Culp children living in the household in 1930. Little did I know more about the story until I found these newspaper articles telling “the rest of the story.”


“To Trace Fleeing Parson and Girl He Eloped With by Radio; To Give Reward,”
Daily Clinton (Indiana), 12 July 1922, p. 1, col. 6.
  Spring Valley, O., July 12 — An attempt will be made by radio throughout the United States and Canada to locate Rev. Wilson Culp, Methodist “circuit rider” of this place, and Miss Esther Hughes, with whom he eloped several weeks ago. The father of the girl will bear half the cost of the hunt, Green County the other, and a cup is to be awarded by the county in case the man is found. George McKay, radio operator at Xenia, will broadcast the message.
“Pastor Forgives Wife After He Elopes With Another,”
Rockford (Illinois) Republic, 18 July 1922, p. 1, col. 6-7.
  Xenia, O., July 18. — Rev. Walter Wilson Culp, former supply pastor of the Spring Valley Methodist Episcopal church, brought back from Port Huron, Mich., last night to answer to a charge of desertion, is to appear before Judge J. Carl Marshall to be arraigned.
  “I think I could love my wife better now than ever before,” said the father of nine who deserted them and the wife of his youth to seek pleasure and peace in the arms of Miss Esther Hughes, 18, pretty music teacher. “She looks better to me today than she has for years.”
  The deserted wife and her nine children, including the twins of seven months, were among those who stood on the station platform and saw husband and father brought back to face the law. Mrs. Culp waved to her husband. In response he raised a manacled hand, and smiled back at her and the children. No words were exchanged. None was permitted.
  Arriving there, he was willing to discuss his troubles.
  “My wife wasn’t a Christian,” Culp asserted. “When she was angry she would curse and no Christian can do that. I pleaded with her and prayed for her but to no avail. She made us leave, but I am willing to forgive her,” he declared magnanimously.
  Culp hotly denied charges made by T. J. Hughes, father of the girl with whom he forsook home and family, that he had ever had an affair with another girl.
  “I think I ought to be given a chance,” he contended. “I am willing to give Esther up. I have given her up.”
  When Culp pleaded guilty to abandoning his family in probate court, he was sentenced to one year in the Dayton workhouse and fined $500.
  “Oh, God forgive me,” were his last words as he was taken back to jail.
“Culp in Workhouse, Has Truck Patch Job,”
Waterloo (Iowa) Evening Courier, 19 July 1922, p. 1, col. 5.
  Dayton, O., July 19.–Walter Wilson Culp, Spring Valley parson who took a flyer into the realms of love with Miss Esther Hughes, today began his sentence in the Dayton work house of one year for abandoning his wife and nine children. He also was fined $500 and costs.
  Culp will be put to work in the truck patch. He says he expected to go straight and do what he can for the moral well-being of those around and about him.
“Local Pick-Ups,”
Wakarusa (Indiana) Herald, 26 July 1923, p. 5, col. 6.
   Born to Mr. and Mrs. Wilson Culp of Mishawaka, Friday, twin babies. The one baby died and the funeral services were held at 3 o’clock Tuesday, Rev. H. E. Miller officiating. Burial at North Union.
“Report Culp Has Returned To His Home,”
Oil City (Pennsylvania) Derrick, 07 April 1925, p. 1, col. 6.
Wife Denies Former Minister Husband’s Return, But Others Say He Has
  South Bend, Ind., April 6 — Reports that Wilson W. Culp, former Mennonite and Methodist minister had returned to his home here following an elopement with his sister-in-law, Mrs. Dorothy Culp, led police to begin an investigation tonight. Culp’s elopement with the 19-year-old choir leader of the Spring Valley, Ohio, Methodist Episcopal church, was a sensation two years ago.
  Mrs. Culp, mother of 10 children born to her and the former paster, denied that he had returned, but neighbors familiar with Culp insisted they had seen him about his home today.
  William L. Miller, St. Joseph county probation officer, confirmed late Saturday that Culp had left his home and that the wife of his brother, Clio Clup was also missing from her home at Nappanee, Ind.
“Former Pastor Deserter Again,”
Steubenville (Ohio) Herald Star, 16 July 1925, p. 14, col. 8.
Wilson Culp Is Still Most Ardent Lover; Joins Sister-in-Law Again
  South Bend, Ind., July 16. — A.P. — Wilson Culp, former Ohio pastor, still is a most ardent lover.
  The pastor who has twice deserted his wife and nine children, only to be forgiven each time, has again left his family and is believed by his wife to have left home with Mrs. Dorothy Culp, a sister in law, of Napanee, Ind., who disappeared at the same time as did Mr. Culp.
  It is the second time the pair have deserted their respective households in favor of each other. Last spring they cast their lots together only to break up when Mrs. Wilson Culp obtained a warrant charging non-support. When the latter refused to prosecute, each returned to their homes begging forgiveness. Their requests were granted and each promised not to do it again. However they are believed to have broken their promise and Mrs. Wilson Culp believes they have fled to Mexico.
  On previous occasions when Mr. Culp was in charge of a church in Ohio, he is said to have ran off with a choir singer only to be returned and sentenced to an Ohio workhouse on a charge of non-support. A similar charge is now pending as the result of a warrant obtained yesterday by Mrs. Wilson Culp.
“Pulpitless Pastor Can Marry Again,”
Lethbridge (Canada) Herald, 14 November 1925, p. 1, col. 2.
  South Bend, Ind., Nov. 14. — Rev. Wilson Culp, pulpitless pastor, who twice deserted his wife and ten children to elope with Mrs. Dorothy Culp, his sister-in-law, is free to marry again, his wife having secured a final decree of divorce here.
“Eloping Minister Weds Sister-in-Law,”
Evening Independent (Massillon, Ohio), 24 December 1927, p. 1, col. 5.
  Chicago, Dec. 24, (/P)–Issuance here for a marriage license to Dorothy Culp, 24, and Wilson Culp, 49, has recalled the case of Wilson Culp, a minister who in 1925, eloped three times within a few months with his brother’s wife, Dorothy, in South Bend, Ind.
  Culp was forgiven twice by his wife for the sake of their nine children, but the third time she sought a divorce, naming Dorothy Culp.