I suppose a good starting point would be the location of these rock formations as they exist today. "Whipp's Ledges" are part of the Hinckley Reservation of the Cleveland Metroparks. This is the same Hinckley that is world renowned for it's returning buzzards. Other than attempt to put in writing the exact location of this park, I think it is by far less ambiguous to just use Google Maps to find the place. If my photographs have inspired you to actually come and see, I suggest that you make a whole weekend out of the trip.
All of the information I have collected regarding the person whom these ledges are named after (Robert Whipp) was attained from the Hinckley and the Medina Historical Societies, especially the Historical Section of the Medina Public Library.
An initial statement concerning Robert Whipp: I about fell over when I started to dig into the long forgotten history of this person! In a nut-shell (I will expound on this later), there was an episode in this man's life that was the OJ Simpson trial 100 years removed (117 to be exact).
Robert Whipp was a Cattle Baron, in today's standards he was a multi millionaire … he died penniless, so much so that there were no funds for a headstone, not only that, the head stone under which he was buried (his first wife's ), a volunteer was sought to do the engraving. There is also one other very peculiar anomaly: the date of his death, there is no "day" just the month & year. Why ?? Read on and I will offer my supposition. If anyone would like to visit his grave, it is in Hinckley's local cemetery (the Maple Hill Cemetery), it's on the south side of Rt 303, about 1/2 mile west of the intersection of Ridge Rd (Rt 3) and Rt 303 . There is a mausoleum in that cemetery; the Whipp's final repose is about 10 'northeast of the northeast corner of that structure.
I need to make a slight digression. I will make several suppositions. If you are a History Buff, and declare after reading this "You can't prove that", I will readily admit … No I can't. My conclusions are based on circumstantial evidence and a gut hunch … and a plausible explanation.
After an appraisal of the salutary story of R. Whipp, one could reasonably suspect he was a dirty old man, however, let me quote verbatim from The History of Medina County.
"He never chewed or smoked nor was he regarded as a drinking man, and as for his word in dealing, nobody questioned it. He never loafed or gambled, and possessed the push and energy of four ordinary men"
"He never abused his hired help or treated his wife other than kindly"
"He was not given to profanity"
So … Who was Robert Whipp? He was born in England in 1824; in England he was a butcher. At the age of 15 in Yorkshire he inherited a sheep business from his father. The business was prosperous but almost wiped out by a sheep blight about 1845. Shortly thereafter he decided to sell all his holdings and move to Australia. In Liverpool, awaiting a ship to Australia, he met a group of men that convinced him to go to America instead. He came to New York, than to Cleveland, than to Brunswick Ohio where he worked as a farm hand for one Preston Hart. After only one month working for P. Hart, Whipp rented some land from him and commences raising his own flock of sheep.
Commence the Civil War, and all the gyrations of the costs of material to support the effort. There was a craze by entrepreneurs (R. Whipp) to acquire as much land as possible. One of the notable persons of the time was one Horace Waite, always referred to as "Deacon Waite". Evidently all of the farmers in the area became insolvent save one, Deacon Waite. He dies, survived by his wife Mehetible. Whipp marries "The Widow Waite". "Ittie" as Whipp referred to her, was substantially his senior. Herein is the point of conjecture … Did Robert Whipp marry her for the reason of absorbing her land? This question cannot be answered in the affirmative because they remain married for 30 years until her death in 1876 (or thereabout), and, he always spoke of her in endearing terms. The next supposition: the two never had any children of their own; they adopted a boy named Marvin Wilcox. Whatever happened to M. Wilcox is unknown because he dies "in young manhood".
In 1877 R. Whipp was worth $ 100,000, and had land holdings of 2000 acres. Do you suppose that anyone would be scheming-kniving enough to inveigle him out of his worldly positions? Why No! Whatever gave you an idea like that ?! (Ha-ha).
The major players: There was in Granger or Hinckley Center (not clear) an English family on friendly terms with Whipp. Hanna Spensley of this family was hired to be Whipp's housekeeper. She has a daughter Rachael (a young widow) and son Lonsdale Spensley. Rachel has a boyfriend (lover) "Taylor". (The details of the identity of Rachel's boyfriend are not clear)
The plot is hatched; Hanna Spensley approaches Whipp with the proposition that young Rachel "make him a happy home". Never mind that Whipp is 30 years her senior. Shortly thereafter Rachel and Whipp are "seeing each other". She becomes "in a delicate condition", (this a quote from the Medina Gazette) a 19th century euphemism for pregnant. Here is my next supposition: Even though Whipp & Rachel are having an affair, there is probable cause to suspect that Whipp might not be the father of her unborn child. The father might have been Taylor (The "History of Medina County" does state that Taylor was the father, but, what happened to Taylor and the child I will come back to).
In defense of Robert Whipp, it must be noted that he never thought that marring Rachel was a good idea. To Wit: Twice a date for the wedding was set and twice Robert Whipp leaves her at the alter. A third ceremony is scheduled; Rachel threatens to shoot Whipp on sight if he didn't show! The two were married at the American House Hotel in Medina Ohio on August 13, 1877. She was 22 (one source says 24) and he was 54.
Very shortly thereafter Rachel turns into a super bitch. Quoting from the Medina Gazette, who quote from court testimony, "… they constantly had violent arguments, and Rachael called her husband a mean old devil. It was intimated Whipp was a man bordering on insanity. field hands, and talked of a divorce within three weeks of the nuptials ".
The plot thickens. Even though Rachel denied everything, Rachel concocts a scheme to have her brother Lon and her boyfriend Taylor kill Whipp and make it look like a suicide. The suicide idea does seem plausible (if they got away with … which they didn't) because Whipp more than once had lamented to his neighbors that if the economy continued its down turn, he would commit suicide. Rachel buys a rope from one John Brongers, a local merchant. She said that she needed a strong rope with which she would hang cream and butter in the well … the rope was ½ inch in diameter.
The plan is to chloroform Whipp, than hang him! (It never was ascertained where they got the chloroform). On the night of September 15, 1877 the two attempt the murder, they fail. Keep in mind that Robert Whipp was not the average man, he was over 6 'tall and 250 lbs … he fights them off!
I will greatly condense the details of what happened next. Lonsdale Spensley, Taylor and Rachel were arrested. Prior to the arrest Rachel flees to a neighborbor's house, than to her mother, than returns home on September 17th. From the Medina Gazette "Her husband unceremoniously toted out of the house and set her in the middle of the road".
Mrs. Whipp, Lon Spensley and "Taylor" are charged with assault with intent to kill. I will now come back to "Taylor". He demands a separate trail, under the law the court is bound to grant his request. In the history of this incident he is only referred to as "Taylor", this is because Whipp could not positively identify him as one of his two assailants. Ultimately he never goes to trial … his exact identity vanished under the sands of time.
The trial began January 14, 1878, and lasted 11 days. Lonsdale Spensley and Rachel H Whipp were found guilty and sentenced to 7 years hard labor. Both Rachel and Lonsdale serve only one year of their sentence. Rachel and Taylor get married and move to somewhere in southern Ohio and also vanish in the sands of time.
For the next 12 years there is almost nothing mentioned about the once mighty cattle baron Robert Whipp. His final abode was on one of his land holdings, the "Kline Farm" on Hinckley Ridge. Now I will return to the afore mentioned anomaly of the date of his death. This is also one of my conjectures, why just "September 1890"? Could it be that he was so disliked because of his increasing debts, that a) he became a hermit and b) nobody wanted to see him anyway? Until c) Somebody was walking by his house and wondered … "What's that stink ?!"
And so ends the saga of the person who's name is indelibly attached to the Ledges of Hinckley Ridge. One endnote: I have named one of my pictures "Inscription on Whipp's Ledges". I suspect but can't prove there was a connection to the name on the inscription, (William Sargeant) and Robert Whipp.