“She Said She Had Always Wanted to Be a Whore”

The Unusual Divorce of W.P. and Kate Horton

This couple endured what could possibly be the shortest marriage in frontier Washington history—all because one person chased their lifelong dream.

Kate, a young, blushing bride, married W.P. Horton on September 21, 1861 in Walla Walla County in Washington Territory. W.P. promised “to be to her a good, kind, faithful, and affectionate husband,” and Kate “to make him a kind, faithful, and affectionate wife.” This is not how things turned out.

According to court testimony, the very day after the wedding, Kate Horton began “disregarding her duties and obligations as the wife,” and initiated a series of quarrels featuring abusive and insulting language towards her new husband.

According to Mr. Horton, his new wife only married him to get away from her mother. What she really wanted was to “go away and reside in a house of ill-fame." He tried to talk her out of this rash course of action, but Kate replied that "she had always wanted to be a whore and that she would be one.”

A few days later, Kate left for a dance hall and warned W.P. that he should not follow, presumably because she would be fulfilling her desire to become a prostitute.

On September 30th, nine days after the wedding, W.P. Horton made his way to the courthouse. Mrs. Horton was issued a summons, but court records show that she was not present at the time the case was heard. The divorce was granted that same day, which was very uncommon for cases of abandonment which normally required a year waiting period.

This was perhaps because of W.P. Horton's standing in the community. The next year, he was elected County Recorder and soon he was a Justice of the Peace himself, granting a divorce for Ned and Mary Clough in 1862. A few conclusions can be made about Mr. and Mrs. Horton’s divorce— it could have been granted quickly due to his influence and connections in Walla Walla County, the very short duration of their marriage, or additional knowledge that the presiding judge may have had.

This is not the last we heard of Mr. Horton. He remarried about a year after his divorce, had children, and continued on with his life, eventually ending up in Whitman County. Mrs. Horton is not mentioned again in either newspaper articles, marriage records, or court records, and she vanishes without a trace.