Thriller Thursday: A Texas Kidnapping!

A teacher on the run. A bounty hunter in pursuit. Can two enemies learn to trust each other before they both lose what they hold most dear?

Houston station and car from Galveston-Houston Interurban Railroad, 1915. Courtesy of Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries.

Houston station and car from Galveston-Houston Interurban Railroad, 1915. Courtesy of Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries.

Karen Witemeyer is one of my favorite authors, and after reading the sneak peak of A Worthy Pursuit included with her recent novella, Love on the Mend, I was so excited for the rest. If you want to know what I thought of it, you can check out my review here (and over on Pinterest, my kitty weighs in, too. Pun intended.)

Now, don’t think “inspirational historical romance” means this story is light or frothy. This book confronted my ill-formed assumptions about 1890s Texas. I had an idea that it was a dangerous and lawless time and place. There’s plenty of action and danger in this novel, but the characters are very specific about their choices to live within or without the confines of the law. (It is sometimes a razor-wire edge, mind you!) With this in mind, I wondered what I could learn from the Austin Weekly Stateman archives at the Library of Congress Chronicling America site.

And wouldn’t you know, I happened across a news story very similar to the set-up of A Worthy Pursuit, featuring a mother who kidnapped her child from an Austin school! Two updates appeared on the same page–

The Austin Weekly Statesman, March 25, 1897, Page 5.


Mrs. Tillie Sweeny of Galveston yesterday forenoon, in a closed carriage, drove out to St. Edward’s college, and persuading her boy, Morreau, aged 15 years, to get into the carriage with her, she drove rapidly back to town, and she and her son took the noon train for Houston.

The story as told is about as follows:

Mrs. Sweeny is the divorced wife of Mr. Tom Sweeny of Galveston, who at one time was a prominent ship broker and is still prominent and popular in business circles in the Island City, where he has a host of friends.

In his case for divorce the court gave him custody of his two boys and gave the mother custody of their only daughter.

A short time ago Mr. Sweeny brought his eldest boy to Austin and placed him in St. Edward’s college, a prominent and excellent school for boys and young men.

A few days ago the divorced wife and mother of the boy reached Austin, and, it is said, she has been endeavoring to get her son to leave the school and go with her, but up to yesterday morning he has steadily refused to comply with her wishes.

Yesterday morning, however, as stated, she succeeded in getting him off, and a short time after he was missed from the college and grounds.

It seems the little fellow had divulged the mission of his mother to Father Kline, president of the college, and other teachers, and as soon as he was missed it was correctly concluded he had gone off with his mother, who, under the decision of the court at Galveston, has no legal control over him. The officials of the college hurried to town, hoping to intercept the boy but they were a little too late, the train for Houston, having on board Mrs. Sweeny and her son, having pulled out.

Under the law it appeared to be a clean cut case of kidnapping, and a complaint was made against Mrs. Sweeny and a warrant issued for her arrest.

It was placed in the hands of Sheriff White, who at once telephoned to Sheriff Teague of Washington county to watch for the train from Austin and arrest and hold Mrs. Sweeny and her boy.

Sheriff Teague did his duty and ‘phoned back that he had the two in custody, and Sheriff White left for Brenham last night on the 8 o’clock train, and if Mrs. Sweeny is unable to give bond there he will bring her to Austin today.

And the update (misspellings from the original)–


Mrs. Sweeny Brought in From Brenham and Bound Over to the Grand Jury.

Mrs. Tillie Sweeny of Galveston, against whom a charge of kidnaping was made, Thursday, as mentioned in yesterday’s Statesman, was brought in from Brenham yesterday morning by Sheriff White. Her brother, J. S. Brown, a prominent business man of Galveston, and the kidnaped boy accompanied her.

On reaching the city Mrs. Sweeny promptly gave bond, Representative Harris of Galveston going on it, and Mr. J. S. Brown promptly returned the boy to St. Edward’s college, and so far as that institution is concerned the matter between them and Mrs. Sweeny is at an end and the law will take its course.

Through her attorneys, Robertson & Hogg, last afternoon, she waived examination in Justice Johnson’s court and was bound over to the grand jury in the sum of $500, which, of course, was promptly given.

Mrs. Sweeny is wealthy and prominent in society in Galveston, where she is highly connected and very popular. She has some acquaintances and warm friends in Austin.

Mr. J. S. Brown and Mrs. Sweeny left for Galveston last night.

Unfortunately, the case of the Sweeny kidnapping leaves imagining us the heartbreak and division of a story with no winners. I love historical stories, but between these two, it’s no contest. I much prefer Karen Witemeyer’s romantic and inspirational tale!

A Worthy Pursuit is available on Kindle, other eReaders, and in print.

A Worthy Pursuit by Karen Witemeyer

A Worthy Pursuit by Karen Witemeyer

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes; my opinions are my own!

PS… Speaking of fiction for genealogy-lovers, here are 7 great novels for genealogists!

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