Charles W. Waldron
The career of Henry Waldron was illustrious; those of his brothers William and Charles were respectable. But that of William’s son, Charles, named after his uncle, who was a Presbyterian minister, was an embarrassment. Nephew Charles W. (born in 1855), appeared to be on a respectable trajectory. At a young age he was engaged in banking. Before the age of 30 he had bought a controlling interest in the Second National Bank of Hillsdale. After voluntarily liquidating this bank Charles and Ezra L. Koon began another bank, called the Waldron Bank.
In 1888 Charles’s life began to unravel … in a big way. In a scandal that was so spectacular the The New York Times ran articles about it in three consecutive editions and then in an additional six newspapers over the next five months, Charles broke all the boundaries of decency for a man of his position. He sold most of his property, asking the buyer, Theodore H. Binchman of Detroit, not to make the sale public for a year (by which time Charles planned to be long gone). According to The New York Times, he “procured $45,000 in bonds and currency and gave the firm’s paper for all but $14,000 … “ in Chicago and took $100,000 from Detroit banks, again signing the firm’s name. He left his wife and became “unnecessarily intimate” with a married woman named Nellie Tidwell. He attempted to defraud F.W. Stock (of Stock’s Mill) of $10,000. In a grand finale, Charles eloped to Canada with Mrs. Bidwell, absconding with some of the Waldron’s bank’s funds and leaving Mr. Koon in the lurch.
“Waldron’s wife is heartbroken at his conduct,” reported The New York Times. Charles did show some shred of concern for his wife, Alice. He deeded two small houses and lots and “made other provisions for her” and their two children. The New York Times, on Aug. 28, 1888, reported, “Waldron’s friends are loth (sic.) to believe that he has recklessly thrown himself away. He has hitherto borne an unblemished reputation …. “
On Sept. 26, 1888, Nellie Tidwell was in Detroit with her husband, returning home to Quincy on the evening train. The next morning, however, the couple made a break for the Indiana state line after they got wind that officers from Hillsdale were on their way to make an arrest. The Bidwells didn’t make it. Both Nellie and her husband were apprehended.
Three days later it was discovered that Charles was in Europe … alone. A letter dated from Berlin, Germany to a business associate in Detroit explained that he had left Nellie Bidwell in Montreal after he tired of her, gave her $25,000 and took off. Charles explained in his letter that he had “family troubles which made him feel like going as far away as he could get from his surroundings,” a pretty obvious bid for sympathy that fell flat with both friends and his wife. He continued to explain that he would “return soon, prepared to pay every dollar he carried off, (which he claims was all raised in a legitimate way, on good security,) and have a quarter of a million dollars left.”
The lawyer for creditors of Charles, Henry T. Thurber, and Charles’s attorney, Col. John Atkinson, however, decided to trust, but verify. They went to London to meet with Charles. On Oct. 27, 1888 The New York Times reported that the two men “go to consult Mr. Waldron, who is vibrating between London and Pares, and who has made arrangements to meet them in London and see whether his badly-demoralized affairs and situaties (sic.) can be in any way improved, so as to admit his returning to this country.” On Nov. 17, 1888 it was reported that the two lawyers had “succeeded in effecting such a settlement with him (Waldron) that they will return with sufficient funds, obtained from Waldron, to liquidate all debts.”
All was not as well with Alice Waldron, though. Charles returned to the United States, but alternated between New York, Toledo and Windsor to block Alice from suing for alimony. She could sue for a simple divorce, but outside the state a summons mentioning alimony could not be served. Ezra Koon, clearly aggravated by Charles’s actions, suggested to Alice that she “sue for divorce, with $100,000 alimony. Instead she offered to live with Charles again if he would settle $100,000 on her.” In what clearly had become a negotiation, Charles offered her $50,000, reminding Alice that he had already given her $25,000. But Alice was playing hardball. She wouldn’t even grant him an interview until he first deposited $25,000 in her name.
Charles eventually was arrested in New York in April of 1889 and was jailed on a charge of “criminal intimacy” with Nellie Bidwell. In September Mrs. Waldron withdrew her suit. It’s at this point that the Fairhaven (Washington State) History website (Fairhavenhistory.com) picks up the story. Apparently Charles moved to Fairhaven, Washington in the fall of 1889, after being released from jail. The Fairhaven researchers report that Alice joined Charles there in 1900, bringing their daughter Grace Frances. Alice died in 1908 at age 49 and was buried in Hillsdale.
Continuing with the findings of the Fairhaven researchers, Charles reportedly remarried in 1921. His wife, Frances McDonald Waldron, was 21 years old and he took her to Europe for their honeymoon … a return to the scene of his earlier adventure kind of trip. In 1925 Frances and Charles had a daughter, who was also named Frances. Check out the Fairhaven website for an account of Charles’s life after Hillsdale.
Hillsdale County Historical Society