Ray’s Childhood, Part 2: The Real Story

This is the second in a series of three blog posts. You can go back to part one or skip to part three.

In our previous post in this series, we looked at new research by Charles C. Cage revealing Ray Bourbon’s real name and some basic facts about his family and where he grew up.  In this second post in the series,  we go into some of the details of Ray’s family background and some of the traumatic events of his childhood that may have influenced how Ray told his own story later in life.

I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to Charles for allowing me to access and use his research to prepare this series of posts.

Ray’s Grandparents, Christopher and Mary Jane Waddell

Later in life and in his autobiography, Ray claimed to have spent his childhood in Sierra Blanca, a small border town in Bowie, Texas, painting a detailed picture of his life on the family ranch.  While records prove this wasn’t true, the earliest documents we have of his family are from this area.

Ray Bourbon’s father was Frank (Thomas Frank) Waddell, born in 1855, just before the Civil War.  Frank was the oldest son of Christopher Maddison Waddell and Mary Jane (Willingham) Waddell.  Christopher and his brothers, Armistead C. And Thomas W., show up in tax rolls between 1846 and 1862 in Bowie County, Texas, the area where Ray claimed to have spent his childhood.

However, Christopher and his family, including Ray’s father, Frank, had moved away from Bowie County by 1860 and settled in Sevier County, Arkansas where he was a cotton planter on the Waddell Plantation.  The family shows up in the 1860 census of the area and records of land sales in Sevier County from the period. (1,2)  Christopher’s net worth at the time was listed as $16,000 in real estate and $55,000 in personal property – the “personal property” mainly consisted of 31 slaves. (3)

Christopher Waddell died suddenly on April 9, 1863.  His wife administered the estate and continued to run the plantation, negotiating claims agains the estate and running the farm, paying off the promissory notes and taking full ownership of the plantation on April 14, 1866.  The estate papers list the same children as the 1860 census, with the addition of two more children born after 1860. (4)

Ray’s Father, Frank Thomas Waddell

Ray’s Father, Frank Thomas Waddell, began farming around 1877 when he would have been about 21 years old.  Frank appears almost annually in the Little River County deed books and property tax rolls from 1877 to 1884 as a sharecropper, agreeing to sell cotton and corn he produced each year. (5)  Frank sold his interest in the Waddell plantation, and his brothers and sisters did as well as they came of age and got married.

Frank married Kate P. Waddell sometime during this period.  Although the Little River County, Arkansas marriage records between 1867 an 1880 were destroyed in a fire in 1882, Frank and Kate are mentioned as husband and wife on a deed selling their quarter interest in the Waddell plantation for $1,100. (6) Frank and Kate bore a son, Christopher, in August 1883. (7)

Ray mentioned Frank’s sister, Lou Hattie Waddell, in his autobiography.  Ray said she was a former school teacher and tutored him when he was growing up.  Lou married James Lewis White on December 4, 1878 and both Lou and her sister Fanny and her husband settled in McKinney in Collin County, Texas.  Lou’s husband was a successful banker in the town. (8)

The Murder of Frank’s Waddell’s Wife, Kate

A year after the birth of his son, Frank’s life would take a dramatic turn.  On October 29, 1884, his wife Kate was raped and murdered in their home. (9)  Charles Mitchell, an African-American or bi-racial man of about 44, was accused of the crime.  Newspapers throughout Arkansas and Texas, and even in Michigan, ran stories on the case.  According to the reports, Mitchell allegedly entered the Waddell home when Frank was away, raped Kate, and crushed her skull with a smoothing iron.

Article on the murder of Frank Waddell’s wife, Daily Arkansas Gazette October 31, 1884, p 1.

The newspapers sensationalized the crime, with one reporting that Kate was “was stabbed twice in the breast and her heart split open with a hatchet”.  Most of the articles stated that her unnamed six-year old son was at home during the intrusion and immediately fled to neighbors for help.  (10) (This may be hyperbole on the part of the newspapers, since Christoper was about a year old at the time.  Or it may indicate that Frank and Kate had another older son not yet documented.)

After a manhunt that lasted the next few days, Mitchell was arrested in Richmond, Arkansas on November 2, 1894.  A mob descended on the jail, determined to lynch Mitchell.  Mitchell claimed that Frank Waddell had hired him to commit the murder of Kate.  The newspapers conflict about what happened next. Some definitively state that Waddell was arrested and lynched along with Mitchell, while others are ambiguous about what happened to Frank. (11, 12)

Article on the lynching of Charles Mitchell, Daily Arkansas Gazette, November 4, 1884, p 2.

Even later historians were never able to clear up the matter.  But Charles, through his research on Ray and his family, finally determined that Frank Waddell did survive the incident.  

Frank and Elizabeth in Texarkana

Seven years after the death of his wife. Frank T. Waddell turns up again in surviving records.  On July 25, 1892, he purchased a lot in the town of Texarkana fro $100. (13) The following March, Waddell sold the lot and it was required that his wife give consent for the sale – Frank, had remarried to Elizabeth (Lizzie) around 1890, according to census records.  (14) Over the next 15 years, until 1908, they appear in thirty transactions in Bowie County, Texas deeds, buying and selling farmland and commercial properly. (15)

Elizabeth or “Lizzie”, according to Charles’s research, had the maiden name Wilhelm and was probably born in Kentucky.  Her death certificate notes that she was born on September 22, 1880 and was 49 years old, but earlier census records show she was likely born in 1866 and her parents were David Wilhelm and Martha Pistol. (16)

Frank and Elizabeth’s family is listed (as “Wardell”) in the 1900 Federal Census of Texarkana.  Frank’s profession at this time is listed as “mail carrier”.  Their son, Christopher, age 17, was listed as a “cabinet maker”.  Frank and his son are listed in the 1901 Texarkana city directory at 1407 Maple Street, the same address the family called home for the 1900 census. Christopher’s profession is listed as “fireman”, a designation used for railroad workers that tended fires on a locomotive.  (17) Newspaper records show that Frank worked also worked as a carpenter and farmer.  (18)

The Birth of Hallie Waddell, aka Ray Bourbon

On August 11, 1902, Frank and Elizabeth’s only son was born – Hallie Board Waddell, who we know as Ray Bourbon, also known as Hal Waddell, Hal Hughes, Richard Mann, and other names throughout his life.

A 1906 McKinney, Texas newspaper notes “Mrs. Frank Waddell of Texarkana is visiting her husband’s sisters Mesdames J.W. White and J. P. Nenney, and aunt Mrs. R.M. Board. She is accompanied by her little son Hallie Board Waddell.” (19). White and Nenney were Frank’s sisters, Fanny and Lou Hattie.  Mrs. R.M. Board was Frank’s aunt who had a daughter named Hallie Board born in 1872. (20) Ray was named after his cousin – Hallie Board.

Notice from the McKinney, Texas Democrat, April 5, 1906, p. 5
Notice from the McKinney, Texas Democrat, April 12, 1906, p 12.

In 1904 and 1906, Frank and Lizzie were living at 1523 Nolthenius Street and Frank’s profession in the Texarkana directory is listed as a farmer and then a real estate agent.

The Death of Christopher Waddell, Ray’s Brother

In 1906, when Ray’s brother Christopher, was about 23 years old and Ray was only four, tragedy again struck the family.  Charles outlines the terrible story.

“Around midnight on 7/8 Mar 1906, Christopher Waddell, known as “Kit”, was tending the boiler on passenger train no. 4 of the Kansas City Southern Railway as it headed north on the railroad’s southwest line leading into its hub of Shreveport when it collided head-on with southbound freight train no. 41 near Bon Ami Louisiana, a few miles south of present day DeRidder, Beauregard Parish, LA. (21)  He was trapped between the boiler head and engine tank, and “went down with the twisted steel and wreckage and was almost instantly killed by the escaping steam and blow from the fall.” The reports note that he was unmarried and “Though Kit Waddell’s headquarters were in Shreveport, his home was in Texarkana where relatives reside and where the remains of the unfortunate young man will be shipped”.(22). The accident was deemed to have been the fault of a negligent brakemen on the freight train.”

Charles C. Cage in his notes on Ray’s heritage
Article on the death of Christopher “Kit” Waddell, Natchez, Missippi Democrat, March 9, 1906, p8.

Frank filed suit against the Kansas City Southern railroad for $15,000 over the death of his son, claiming $15,000 in damages over the death of his son.  The suit claimed negligence on the part of a brakeman who “had been working 52 hours without sleep” and noted that Christopher “contributed $30 of his wages monthly to the father’s support”. (23)

The Death of Frank and the Marriage of Elizabeth

The 1907 Shreveport City Directory showed that Frank and Lizzie were operating a boarding house at 1801 Park Avenue. (24). Christopher has been living in the city and the lawsuit might have prompted them to move there, the home the Kansas City Southern Railway headquarters.

Two years later, as the lawsuit continued, Frank Waddell had a sudden illness and died a few days later on March 8, 1909.  The obituary noted that sad coincidence of Frank’s death three years to the day after the death of his son, Christopher.  The notice stated that Frank was the proprietor of the Parkview Hotel, he was survived by a wife and young son, and that the body would be taken to Texarkana for burial.  (25) Hallie (or, as we know him, Ray) would have been just six and a half years old.  (In his autobiography, Ray said he was eight years old when his father died.)

Frank Waddell’s obituary, Shreveport, Louisiana Journal, March 8, 1909, p 3.

Less than three months after Frank’s death, Elizabeth Waddell married Alfred “Ted” Cleveland Hughes on June 1, 1909. (26)  Hughes was a passenger engineer on the Kansas City Southern Railway, the same railroad that Hallie’s (Ray’s) brother worked for.  According to Charles’s research, Ted and Elizabeth appeared to keep a residence in both Shreveport, still managing the hotel there, and in Texarkana.  The 1910 Census lists them at 1224 Piner Avenue in Texarkana with both Ted and Lizzie listed as “Hotel Keeper”.  Ray is listed as “Hallie Hughes”, eight years old. (27). The 1920 Texarkana Census lists both Lizzie and Hal, age 18, at 707 South Oak Street; Lizzie’s profession is listed as “none” and Hal as “student”. (28)

Eight-year old Ray, listed as “Hallie Hughes”, along with his mother, Elizabeth, and step-father, Ted Hughes, in the 1910 Texarkana, Texas Federal Census records.
Ray, then 18 years old, listed as “Hal” in the 1920 Texarkana, Texas Federal Census with his mother records.

The Death of Elizabeth Waddell, Ray’s Mother

Elizabeth and Ted don’t turn up again in newspapers or official records for another ten years.  By that time, their son, Hallie, had moved to Los Angeles and was regularly working in silent films and in vaudeville, first as “Ramon Icarez” and then as “Ray Bourbon”.

Elizabeth moved to Los Angeles in mid-1929, probably to be with her son, and took up residence at 4428 Radium Street.  After living in the city for four months, Elizabeth was struck and killed when she walked directly into the path of an electric street car on October 9, 1929 at Mission Road and Huntington Drive.  Elizabeth was identified by her husband, Alfred Hughes. (29, 30). The obituary noted her remains were transferred back to Texarkana for interment. (31) Elizabeth’s husband, and Ray’s step-father, Alfred C. “Ted” Hughes, would remarry a few months later to Ollie Howard on December 10, 1930 in Hot Springs, Arkansas. (32)

Article on the death of Elizabeth Waddell-Hughes, Los Angeles Times, October 10, 1929, p 24.

In 1931, articles appeared in Texas papers reporting that Hal Waddell, a female impersonator working as “Rae Bourbon” at Hugo’s Lounge in Juarez, was to receive a million dollar inheritance, but would keep his job on stage.  (33)   Bourbon said the inheritance was coming from the settlement of his father’s estate and that his step-father, Alfred C. Hughes, of Hot Springs, Arkansas had been working with Ray’s lawyer to settle the estate. (34)  A few weeks later, newspapers reported that Ray said the inheritance story was a hoax, cooked up by his press agent.

The inheritance story will need further investigation into original estate and property documents relating to Frank and Elizabeth Waddell and any court records that might show a settlement Ray and his step-father received from Elizabeth’s death.

For the next few decades, Ray would obscure the story of his family and his early years in Texas, only dropping a few names and places for clues about the truth.  But why?

In the past post in this series, we will look at how Ray created his own past and how the stories evolved during the rest of Ray’s life.

Continue to part three
Go back to part one


1 – 1860 US Federal Census, Schedule 1 (Population), Arkansas, Sevier, Franklin, p. 33, lines 22-26. 

2 – Little River Co. Arkansas Deed Book A, p. 215-217.

3 – 1860 US Federal Census, Schedule 2 (Slave), Arkansas, Sevier, Franklin, p. 11, lines A:37-40 and B:1-27.

4 – Sevier Co. Arkansas Probate Book 8, pp. 296-573 passim, Book 9, pp. 295-568 passim, and Book 10, pp. 18-240 passim; Little River County Arkansas Probate Book A, pp. 147-198, passim; also, Little River County Arkansas Deed Book A, ibid.

5 – Little River County Arkansas Deed Book F, p. 49 & 422; Book G, p. 55; & Book L, pp. 28 & 457.

6 – Little River County Arkansas Deed Book G, pp. 185-186.

7 – 1900 US Federal Census, Schedule 1 (Population), Texas, Bowie, Texarkana, SD1 ED4 p. 17, lines 16-18.

8 – Collin County Texas Marriage Book  4, p. 366.

9 – Daily (Little Rock) Arkansas Gazette, October 31, 31 1884, p. 1 and November 1, 1884, p. 3.

10 – Dallas (Texas) Daily Herald, October 31, 1884, p. 5; Arkadelphia (Arkansas) Southern Standard, November 8, 1884, p. 1 and November 15, 1884, p. 4; Batesville (Arkansas) Guard, November 12, 1884, p. 1.

11 – Daily (Little Rock) Arkansas Gazette, November 4, 1884, p. 2.

12 – https://encyclopediaofarkansas.net/entries/charles-mitchell-8513/ (retrieved March 23, 2021)

13 – Bowie County Texas Deed Book 9, p. 296.

14 – Bowie Co. Texas Deed Book 10, p. 489, 1900 US Federal Census, Schedule 1 (Population), Texas, Bowie, Texarkana, SD1 ED4 p. 17, lines 16-18.

15 – Bowie County Texas Deed Index, pp. 584-586.

16 – 1870 US Federal Census, Schedule 1 (Population), Kentucky, Barren, Glasgow Junction, p. 19. lines 18-24.

17 – 1900 US Federal Census, Schedule 1 (Population), Texas, Bowie, Texarkana, SD1 ED4 p. 17, lines 16-18.

18 – (Little Rock) Arkansas Democrat, June 16, 1902, p. 8.

19 – McKinney (Texas) Democrat, April 5, 1906, p. 5, McKinney (Texas) Democrat, April 12, 1906, p 12.

20 – Collin Co. TX Death Certificates 1965, #69655

21- Shreveport (Louisiana) Journal, March 8, 1906, p. 1.

22 – Shreveport (Louisiana) Times, March 9, 1906, p. 6; see also McKinney (Texas) Courier, March 10, 1906, p. 1: “Mesdames J.L. White and J.P. Nenney received news yesterday of the scalding death of their nephew, Kit Waddel [sic], in a head end collision near Bon Ami, La. . . . He was a son of Frank Waddel [sic], who has visited his sisters here.”

23 – Shreveport (Louisiana) Times, January 25, 1907, p. 8.

24 – Shreveport City Directory, 1907, p. 460.

25 – Shreveport (Louisiana) Journal, March 8, 1909, p. 3; Shreveport (Louisiana) Caucasian, March 9, 1909, p. 1; Shreveport (Louisiana) Times, March 9, 1909, p. 10; Daily (Little Rock) Arkansas Gazette, March 12, 1909, p. 9.

26 – Shreveport (Louisiana) Journal, June 1, 1909, p. 5

27 – 1910 US Federal Census, Schedule 1 (Population), Texas, Bowie, Texarkana, SD1 ED6. p. 6B, lines 61-63.

28 – 1920 US Federal Census, Schedule 1 (Population), Texas, Bowie, Texarkana, SD1 ED3. p. 1B, lines 35-36

29 – Los Angeles Times, October 10, 1929, p. 24.

30 – Los Angeles County CA Death Certificates, 1929, no. 10874.

31 – Los Angeles Times, October 15 1929, p. 24 and November 21, 1929, p. 22

32 – Garland County Arkansas Marriage Book 34, p. 351

33 – El Paso (Texas) Times, July 27 1931, pp. 1 & 3

34 – El Paso (Texas) Herald-Post, August 12, 1931, p. 1.

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