When El Toro founder and Los Angeles resident Dwight Whiting died on April 26, 1907, six months short of his 54th birthday, he left a widow, Emily; two sons, Dwight Anson, 15, and George, 11; and an estate that presumably would maintain a comfortable existence for his wife and sons for many, many years to come.
Emily herself had turned 44 in January. Unlike her late husband, however, whose had in proportion to his prosperity, Emily seemed to have tapped into some sort of Fountain of Youth. Still petite and stylish, the titian-haired Mrs. Whiting had been a fixture in Los Angeles society .
But now, suddenly bereft of her husband, Emily’s continued societal participation seemed uncertain.
A WOMAN OF INDEPENDENT MIEN
Emily and Dwight had been an excellent match, for in addition to their good looks, both were strong, determined, and ambitious.
And while Emily had very much played the role society expected of her—that of charming helpmate to her dynamo husband—she also possessed what some might call “gumption.” Reportedly the first woman in Los Angeles to drive a car, Emily continued, throughout her marriage, to demonstrate a certain independence.
This independence, it must be admitted, was undoubtedly buoyed by the sizeable inheritance she eventually received from who, unlike their daughter, had found life in El Toro the perfect fit.
Whatever the case, Emily had both the spirit and the financial means to be at the forefront of cutting-edge activity. Less than a year before she'd lose Dwight, for example, her name figures prominently in a June 3, 1906 Los Angeles Herald Examiner article headlined “Sales Active at Bay City.”
Once known as the rather prosaic Anaheim Landing, the area now was a posh new beachfront development. And so the Herald begins by stating that “A residence building boom is adding to the gayeties of construction at Bay City, where a new 1500-foot pier and a hotel and store building are approaching completion."
And at the top of a long list of prominent names contributing to that boom? Not Mr. Dwight Whiting, but "Mrs. Dwight Whiting, of Los Angeles, has let the contract for a handsome two-story cottage on First street . . . .”
MORE THAN SHE COULD CHEW?
Whatever their virtues, it is a well-known truism that attractiveness and the income to support a fairly sumptuous lifestyle aren’t always enough.
Loneliness also can figure into the equation, and at 44, Emily Whiting was too vibrant a personality to remain unmarried for very long. So much, in fact, that within a year of her widowhood she’d marry again. And two years later, after once again becoming a widow, marry once more.
That third time, however, would turn out to be something less than a charm.
As mentioned in previous editions of El Toro & Before, Herb Abrams of Mission Viejo Library’s Genealogy Collection has been invaluable in finding information for this column.
But I think he almost surpassed himself in locating the following article. It’s from the February 12, 1915 edition of the Los Angeles Times, and Herb sent it to me with the following comment: “I think you will find this very interesting.”
I certainly did, Herb! And here’s hoping El Toro & Before readers will as well.
THIRD MATCH BURNING LOW
Divorce Action Threatens in Gregory Perkins Home
Sister Admits That Society Woman Is To Sue
Brilliant Union’s 18 Months Old Now
Mrs. Ida White, sister of Gregory Perkins, Jr., third husband of Mrs. Emily Keating Barrow-ffrench Perkins, admitted yesterday that Mrs. Perkins, the wealthy social favorite, is about to bring action to divorce the prominent clubman and society leader. The contemplated action, it is understood, will be based on alleged temperamental incompatibility and cruelty.
Mrs. Perkins is at present with her oldest son, Dwight Whiting, in San Francisco where she expects to stay, until after her suit for divorce has been instituted. The husband is also out of the city, but is cognizant of the proposed legal action on the part of his wife. It is understood that he will not fight the granting of the decree.
Close friends of the family refused to discuss the alleged matrimonial differences which appear to have reached a point beyond reconciliation, other than to say that the proposed action is not a surprise. Mrs. White declined to go into the matter further than to say that her family knew the intentions of her brother’s wife with respect to the impending divorce proceedings.
BOTH IN SOCIETY
The contemplated legal separation is of more than ordinary interest owing to the prominence of the principals, both of whom are widely known in social circles. If members of their respective families have known for some months of the troubles which bid fair to culminate in the divorce court, the matter has been well kept. Certainly no hint of domestic infelicity has been permitted to reach the public hitherto. The social obligations of Mrs. Perkins have been met recently as always before in a manner that has gained her renown as a charming hostess.
The residence of the society woman at No. 627, St. Paul Avenue, has recently been the scene of several brilliant functions where the guests were made to feel that in this home contentment reigned supreme. The undercurrent of unhappiness which evidently stirred the domestic waters to their depths did not cause a ripple on the surface to enlighten the general public.
WIFE AND HEIRESS
The marriage of Mrs. Keating Whiting Barrow-ffrench to Gregory Perkins, Jr., June 5, 1911, caused a mild sensation in the social circles of the city. The charming widow was the daughter of ex-Judge Keating and wealthy in her own right. As the widow of Dwight Whiting, who died in 1907, she inherited $498,818. She married Eyre Barrow-ffrench in 1908 and was again left a widow in 1910. [Indecipherable] terms of his will written hurriedly in the Good Samaritan Hospital, Barrow-ffrench made his wife the sole legatee of his fortune. Her marriage to Perkins occurred within a year.
The ceremony was performed in the St. Paul’s Pro-Cathedral, Bishop J. H. Johnson and Dean William MacCormack officiating. The wedding was not public, George Whiting, youngest son of the bride, and Mrs. Ida White, sister of the groom, being the only witnesses. Gregory Perkins, Jr., at that time was supposedly to be a confirmed bachelor, being a member of the fashionable Bachelor’s Club, a society leader and real estate dealer. The bride was seven years older than the groom, Mrs. Keating Whiting Barrow-ffrench giving her age as 47, while Mr. Perkins was 40.