John “Jack” Weddle, a long-ago Napan, gained notoriety as a result of his affections and afflictions. During the early 1900s the local newspapers reported on his numerous erratic acts and behavior.
For instance, an early 1903 Napa Daily Journal headline announced, “Weddle Would Wed—Amorous Swain Tries to Frighten a Young Lady Into Committing Matrimony.”
The story continued, “About 10 o’clock Tuesday evening a man drove up to Constable Allen, his horse steaming with sweat and himself breathless with excitement, and asked the officer to come at once to...save the Campbell family who were in danger of destruction at the hands of John Weddle.”
Upon Allen’s arrival, he found the Campbells alive but “much perturbed. The officer started into the room where they said Weddle was, to capture him, but fearful hands (of a family member) restrained him, (and pleaded) ‘Don’t venture into that room. He has a fit and might murder you.’ With disgust the officer said, ‘I’ll fetch him out of his fit,’ and walking into the room he shook Weddle up a little, as when he saw Allen, Weddle quickly recovered.”
Subsequently, Weddle was arrested and hauled off to jail.
The details continued, “Back of all this is a little romance. Weddle has been working for the Campbells for several months. Miss Hattie Potter, a niece of Mrs. Campbell and a music teacher, came out from New York some time ago for the benefit of her health. Weddle fell in love with the young lady and mistook her habitual kindly and lady-like manner as a reciprocation of the violent flame that burned in his own gizzard.”
A day earlier, Weddle had procured a marriage license while in Napa. But, when he returned to the ranch Potter was gone. He anxiously interrogated everyone about her absence until he was told she would be returning the next day.
Upon her return, Weddle promptly proposed to Potter. The Journal continued, “The lady was not willing. He coaxed and pleaded but to no avail.” The situation rapidly unraveled. “Then he threatened to murder the whole family, but decided to have a fit first.”
Mr. Campbell took advantage of Weddle’s fit and “summoned several of his neighbors and sent one for the officer,” wrote the Journal.
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That was not the first protective intervention by Allen. “While Weddle was in Napa for his marriage license...Constable Allen took a pistol away from him.” That action probably saved the Campbells’ and Potter’s lives.
In response to the ordeal, Potter left the next day to return home. A few days later, the Journal reported Potter’s aunt, Mrs. Addie C. Campbell, “swore to a complaint in Justice Palmer’s court Saturday charging John Weddle with disturbing the peace.”
Apparently, there were no other stronger charges available to the Campbell family. Weddle initially pleaded not guilty and demanded a jury trial. The Journal added, “Then he changed his mind, plead guilty and waived time for sentence. Justice Palmer imposed a sentence of 90 days (the maximum sentence allowed).”
Over time there were more Weddle escapades including a bizarre incident in early 1908. The Journal wrote, “Despondent over a regrettable and sad accident in his family which necessitated the holding of a Coroner’s inquest a few days ago, ‘Jack’ Weddle, a teamster well known about town...made an unsuccessful attempt to end his life downtown... Ever since the incident above referred to, which was not made public for the sake of Weddle and his wife, ‘Jack’ has been brooding over the occurrence, and drinking heavily.”
During that binge, Weddle “reeled into G. C. Gardner’s cigar store, and informed those present that he had taken a large quantity of morphine. He was hastily bundled into Godwin’s hack, and hurried...home. There it required several men to control him until the arrival of Dr. W. W. Rumsey, who...resorted to heroic treatment, and after several hours of hard work Weddle was reported out of danger.”
The Journal added, “The life-tired man was married about six months ago.”
A follow-up article reassessed Weddle and the incident: “...some of the local officers and Dr. Rumsey were of the opinion that Weddle did not attempt suicide, but was ‘faking.’ He is subject to fits at frequent intervals, and when in such spells feigns insanity. All agreed, however, that the self-claimed suicide was beastly drunk...(that) evening he was taken from his home by the officers and put to bed at (a local hotel to be monitored).”
As for his fate, may be in time another article will surface to reveal what became of the unpredictable and “life-tired” John “Jack” Weddle.