January 17, 1909
A tale of two cities -- Sheffield, England and Sheffield, Mo. -- with the variation of the marriage of an old man and a young woman, was told in its second chapter yesterday in Justice Michael Ross's court. There are to be succeeding chapters, too, for the bride and a young man are now in the county jail, sent there on complaint of the husband.
It was December 23 that Benjamin Sellers, only 74, and Emma Vaughn, 18, were married in Independence by Justice L. P. Anderson. Two days later there appeared in The Journal an article about the couple and interview from Sellers, telling how happy he was. But romance has now made a hotel fire exit.
Maybe it should have been said at the beginning of this story that it is a tale of three cities. For, after the expression of happiness from the groom, a dark cloud in the shape of Wakeeney, Kas., appeared on the matrimonial horizon. It was to Wakeeney that the couple took their bridal trip shortly after Christmas.
"They had serenaded us at 527 East Fifth street, where we have been living, when we were married," said Mrs. Sellers yesterday, "but in Wakeeney -- why, there were tin cans in the bed and the noise outside the hotel was awful."
Anyway, Mrs. Sellers came back from Wakeeney feeling anything but cheerful. She said yesterday that she had been sick in bed most of the time since.
It was yesterday afternoon that Sellers went to the court of Justice Ross and swore out a complaint on which his wife and Leonard C. Coker, a lather 19 years of age, whose home is at 3239 East Sixth street, were arrested. Coker had been staying at the Sellers home, 527 East Fifth, for about a week. He says he boarded there.
"It has broken me all up," said Sellers, telling his story in the justice's court. "Why, I travelled with General Tom Thumb, first in Sheffield, England, where I passed show bills, and later until I rose to be his valet. For nearly sixteen years I was with him. The beginning was in 1857.
"After I left that employment, I went to farm in Illinois and later moved to Wakeeney, Kas., where I have property that yields me about $40 a month. That has furnished my living since I came to Kansas City three years ago.
"June 18 a young man brought this girl to my home. She said she was homeless, so I took her in and cared for her. After at time she disappeared and then returned. Always she kept insisting I should marry her, and at last, in December, I consented. She said then, 'Marry me or I will leave you."
"She had not been at my house a week before I missed some rings and jewelry, and she told me she had not taken them. For a time she went under the name of Evelyn LaRue, but her real name was Emma Vaughn."
This is what Mrs. Sellers had to say:
"Why, 'grandpa' -- that's what I always call him -- forced me to marry him. You see, it was this way: A young man named Lester Blume took me to grandpa's house, and told me to take some rings that were there. I did it, and 'grandpa' kept threatening to do things if I did not marry him.
"Coker? I was engaged to him when I was 16. Then I lost track of him for a long time. He came to the house last Thursday after we had been at the roller skating rink, and he's been there since. But so have two of my girl friends, who have been caring for me while I was sick. Have we a large house? Three rooms.
"Yes, papa is a Baptist preacher in Sheffield. He's not preaching at present, he's painting houses."
Both Mrs. Sellers and Coker denied the charge made against them. Sellers has three sons and a daughter living in Wakeeney. His first wife, whom he married when he was 32, died three years ago. Since then he has been in Kansas City. He says he is determined to prosecute.