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Column: When Wright went wrong, a memorable whipping

WORTHINGTON -- There was a bowling alley in Worthington in 1907. I can't tell where it was located -- 10th Street, or Second Avenue -- but then as now bowling was a popular pastime.

The name of the owner of the Worthington lanes was George Miller. The business appeared to thrive. George Miller was not involved directly in day to day operation. He hired a manager, Mr. Wright. (Every business should have Mr. Wright as manager.)

Despite his name, Mr. Wright had a problem with booze. He was too fond of liquor; at least Mrs. Wright judged he was too fond of liquor. She attended Monday evening meetings with her husband aimed at quenching the thirst for alcohol. A news report said they were "making brave efforts to walk the straight and narrow path." With close attention from his spouse, and given the difficulties in finding liquor at Worthington, Manager Wright was keeping his thirst contained.

All the Wrights' good efforts fell in a heap on a Friday evening in late January. The manager was at his work when owner Miller supplied him with a drink. And another drink. And another drink. Wright was going wrong.

It is necessary at this turn to recall that there was a cast iron fixture, a kind of cast iron tube, attached near the driver's seat of many horse-drawn carriages and buggies. The driver could slip the handle of a long whip into this fixture or tube. If the horses were not moving along with as much spirit as the driver wanted, they might feel the sting of a whip.

The record is not clear as to whether Wright went home or whether Mrs. Wright stopped by the bowling alley. It is clear that she went into a rage that many witnessed. Mrs. Wright grabbed a horse whip from its holder and went after George Miller. It seemed to make no difference how fast Miller ran, the aggrieved woman was close behind and urging him on with whip lashes. A published account says, "The incident created considerable excitement" and, "Mrs. Miller's course is unanimously commiserated."

If you should want to read this story firsthand, the edition of the Worthington Advance -- Jan. 25, 1907 -- can be found in the bound newspaper files that are preserved at the offices of the Daily Globe. The account also can be found on microfilm in the popular collection at the Nobles County Library, which has preserved files of every newspaper ever published in the Nobles County.

I am calling attention to the story because of where I found it -- the story of Mr. Wright and Mrs. Wright and the lashes laid on Mr. Miller is preserved in the Library of Congress at Washington, D.C. The account can be found on the Internet.

I do not know how the Library of Congress came to have century-old Worthington, Minn., newspapers in its files -- there is not a complete collection -- but researchers from all over the world can read the story of George Miller's horse whipping. It is preserved, to the extent possible, for all time.

Researchers can learn that, "Miss Cheney came home from Madelia on Monday," but they also will note there was a good deal of crime and punishment in Worthington of more than a century gone by.

Maurice Nelson was employed as chore boy at the Worthington Hotel. "It was one of the duties of the chore boy to take letters [posted at the hotel] to the night trains to mail them. Guests at the hotel as well as many local business people have been in the habit of mailing letters this way..."

"Young Nelson conceived the brilliant idea of going through the letters and taking out checks, drafts and money where the same was to be found."

Nelson guessed that Charlie Won, Worthington's Chinese launderer, would not know or question where the checks came from. He went to the laundry to cash a check for $2.

Charlie Won looked up the marshal. The marshal took Maurice Nelson into custody. Young Nelson could never have guessed he was destined for a kind of criminal immortality -- his story also is preserved to this day in the vast files of the U.S. Library of Congress.

Ray Crippen is a former editor of the Daily Globe. His column appears on Saturdays.