Three Women Take Revenge Against Special Policeman

this is a whip
this is a whip

This likely was a scene of great amusement for any who were able to witness it. This is an article from August 9th, 1894 in the Washington Post.

Three irate women with horse whips and a yelling special policeman gave plenty of amusement last Friday to a number of people who stood outside of a grocery store on Twenty-sixth, between F and G streets northtwest [sic], George Cunningham is the name of the special officer, and he is employed by the storekeepers around “Foggy Bottom” to watch their places of business.

He was supposed to have been the author of some derogatory reports against the character of Harriet Payne, a white woman who lives on Water street, in Georgetown. The report reached the ears of the woman, and she traced it to the special officer. The woman took into her confidence her two sisters and started out for revenge. They secured three heavy horsewhips, and on Friday night by strategy got the watchman to enter the grocery store. Once inside the front door was locked and the key taken away. Seeing the determined look on the faces of the females the special suspicioned that something was wrong and attempted to escape. This was the signal for the women, and all three started in to lash the man. Over his head and across his back the blows rained down on the unfortunate watchman. There was no escape from the blows, and not until the women were exhausted did they cease from their labors. The door was then opened and the watchman allowed to go, and he immediately vanished, leaving behind his hat.

The affair has been kept very quiet, the police not knowing anything of it. Further results are expected in the matter, and an assault case is likely to grow out of it.

That 1890s rent-a-cop will surely mind his mouth the next time. A couple of days later, this article was published in the Post.

Mrs. Harriet Payne, who keeps a store on Water street, Georgetown, denies most emphatically that she has had any trouble with Special Officer George Cunningham, as reported on Thursday. She says if there was a cow-hiding affair, as rumor has it, she was in no manner connected with it; in fact, she has no acquaintance with Cunningham. Mrs. Payne requests this statement to set herself right.

Seems fishy. Either Harriet is covering up, or some Washington Post fact checker didn’t do their job. Either way, this is an amusing story to share with the GoDC community.

About Tom

Tom founded Ghosts of DC on January 4th, 2012 as a blog to uncover the lost and untold history of Washington, D.C. He has lived in the city for over a decade and loves exploring every corner of the District.

Check Also

Plat of the tracts of land called "Mill Seat," "Philadelphia," and "Frogland," from the original patents as located in Georgetown D.C. / B.D. Carpenter, surveyor.

Know These Georgetown Neighborhoods? Frogland, Philadelphia, and Mill Seat

Do you know any of these old Georgetown neighborhoods? Here is an old map of …

  • Interesting that the story needed to point out that this was a “white woman.” As if it’s impossible to impugn the character of a woman of color . . .

  • SheilaG

    My Great Grandmother lived neat Water street, where Payne lived. My G-Grandmother lived on 31st and as far as I can tell, the houses are gone all but a few, unless there is one at 1024 31st street but it looks like a huge new building is there. They moved a few doors down a few years later but I can’t read what the address is on the document so I will have to visit the place to see. This story is not unlike many of the family stories of the people who lived in that area back then. They didn’t take much off of people in those days, and you knew not to mess with anyone or you would regret it. Looks like the old family stories are right, paybacks were pretty hard back then.