Friday, September 24, 2010

What happened to Rachel (Morley) Whittle?

I've exhausted my English and Australian resources in this research saga about Alexander and Rachel (Morley) Whittle, so we'll try to figure out what happened to Alexander and Rachel Whittle in California.  In the first post in this series, I Found Rachel in the 1852 California Census   I found Rachel "Wadle" and three children in San Francisco in the 1852 California State Census on 

I did not find Alexander Whittle in the 1852 California State census, and wondered if he died on the trip from Australia to California, or if he died after he got to California but before Rachel and the children arrived, or if he died after they arrived. 

What happened to Rachel (Morley) Whittle?  If you've been following my research trail, you know that she was born in England, married Alexander Whittle in 1840, migrated to Australia in 1841, had seven children (including my wife's great-grandmother, Jane (Whittle) McKnew), owned a pub in Sydney with her husband, and was in San Francisco in the 1852 census.

I could not find her as Rachel Whittle in the 1860 or 1870 U.S. census records. 

I turned instead to the newspapers to see if I could find more information about Rachel, and perhaps some indication of her death.  I started with the California Digital Newspaper Collection site ( and searched for "Rachel Whittle".  Here are the results:

The above article reads:

"Robbery -- Thomas O'Brien, John Foster and Thomas Spencer were charged with having robbed Rachel Whittle of a pistol, a dress, and a petticoat.  By the evidence of the woman herself, it appeared that after she had gone to bed and was asleep, James O'Brien came into her room and got into her bed, and she was awakened by his trying to take a diamond ring off her finger.  She got out of bed and ran into the bar-room.  O'Brien followed her.  She went to the door and screamed, when the police came in and found O'Brien concealed upstairs.  She then missed her dress and petticoat.  The dress contained $54 in the pocket.  The house was searched, and the dress was found under the head of Spencer, and the petticoat in O'Brien's room, they being lodgers in the house.  The parties were all sent to the Court of Sessions on a charge of grand larceny with the bail fixed at $1500 each."

A search using "Whittle" found:

2)  Daily Alta California, Volume 2, Number 363, 10 December 1851

This article reads:

"Court of Sessions -- Before Judges Campbell, Corbett and Shepheard.
People vs. John Foster -- Defendant was charged with grand larceny, in having stolen a ring and $202 in money from Rachael Whittle while she was asleep in her bed.  Foster was a boarder in the house.  Defendant was found not guilty, and Spencer and O'Brien, jointly indicted with Foster, were acquitted."

I searched on "Alex* Whittle" and found this item:

This article from 1870 reads:

If Mrs. Alexander Whittle, who left Sydney, N.S. Wales, on or about August 1850, and who, it is believed, was afterwards married to Mr. Thomas Spencer, will call at the Post Office, San Francisco, she will find a letter from an old friend, addressed, 'Mrs. Alex. Whittle.'"

She married Thomas Spencer?  Really?  The guy who had her dress under his head?  Does this mean that Alexander Whittle was dead?  Or did she know?

A search for "Rachel Spencer" turned up a whole month's worth of advertisements asking about her whereabouts:

4)  Sacramento Daily Union, Volume 15, Number 2229, 19 May 1858

This 1858 advertisement reads (it ran every day in May 1858):

"WANTED -- Information of the whereabouts of Mrs. Rachel Spencer, who may hear of something to her advantage by applying, without loss of time, to H. Olmerd, Bernard street, between Mason and Jones, San Francisco."

Two search results using "Rachel Spencer":

5)  Sacramento Daily Union, Volume 17, Number 2549, 28 May 1859

This 1859 article from Sacramento reads:

"Rachel Spencer, charged with using obscene and vulgar language on the public street, was adjudged guilty and will be sentenced today.  The defendant was extremely obstreperous (probably on account of inebriation) during the examination of the case, disregarding the frequent warning of the Court, and finally compelling the Court to order that she be committed till 10 o'clock this morning for contempt.  Upon the motion of her counsel and his waiving her presence and promising to remove her to another room, the order was rescinded and the trial proceeded, with the above result."

6)  Sacramento Daily Union, Volume 19, Number 2829, 20 April 1860

This 1860 court notice in Sacramento reads:

"DISTURBING THE PEACE -- Lafayette Andrews, while under the influence of frequent potations, visited the residence of Mrs. Rachel Spencer alias Mrs. Trask, yesterday, and created a disturbance.  He was subsequently arrested by officer Grant, on a warrant issued by Justice Foote, on complaint of the above named Rachel Spencer."

So I've found her as late as 1860 in Sacramento.  And there is another name in the last article - Trask! 

That's all I've found on Rachel (Morley) (Whittle) Spencer so far, but stay tuned.  I now have another lead! 

We still have to figure out what happened to Alexander Whittle.

During the search for Rachel and Alexander in the newspapers, I've also checked the San Francisco Chronicle on, the newspaper collection, the Early American Newspaper collection available on the site, and the Chronicling America site at the Library of Congress.  I have not checked GenealogyBank because I don't have a subscription.


Bokesliden said...

Hi Randy,

I have been reading your blog with great interest for the past year, keep up the good work!

I have a subscription to Genealogybank and thought that I should see if I could lend a hand.

When searching in Genealogybank I found an article about the death of an Alexander Whittle in 1853.

It was published in the Daily Placer Times and Transcript on 10th May 1853 and reads:
"A man by the name of Alexander Whittle, aged about thirtyfive, committed suicide in Calaveras last week. Cause, an absconding wife and liquor."

Do you think this could be the right one?

Best regards,

Magnus Persson
Lund, Sweden

Bokesliden said...

I also found the matrimony notice for Rachel Whittle and Thomas Spencer in Alta California on 1st March 1854. It reads:
“In Trinty Church, by the Rector, on the 19th instant, Thomas Spencer, to Mrs. Rachel Whittle, both of San Francisco.”

I guess that this means that Alexander was dead before that date and it does fit with what I posted in my previous comment.