Elise’s Divorce Lawyers

“And now on this (21st) twenty-first day of November 1874, comes the complainant by Jussen and Anderson, her solicitors…”

Anton Bidenharn did not respond to this Chicago newspaper posting

The statement above was transcribed from my 2nd great-grandmother’s divorce papers. It made me wonder:

  • Why would a 20-something German-speaking French woman from Ohio seek a divorce in Chicago?
  • How did Elise Biedenharn (nee Schmitt) choose these particular lawyers?

I started with the 1871 Chicago City Directory at ChicagoAncestors and clicked on “J”. Mr. Jussen appears on page 572:

“Jussen, Edmund, lawyer, 14 Lombard blk. r. 855 N. LaSalle, w 19 m 3 f 6 t 9, b Germany” which means Mr. Jussen’s office is at 14 Lombard and he lives on LaSalle Street which is in the 9th Ward. There are three males and 6 females at that residence; a total of nine people. And Mr. Jussen was born in Germany. So Elizabeth and this attorney (presumably) spoke the same language.

And Edmond Jussen’s partner? There were lots of Andersons in the 1871 Chicago city directory , but the one on page 50 stands out among the rest: “Anderson, H. H. lawyer, 82 LaSalle, r 291 Ontario, b Ohio“.  Ah, Mr. Anderson is from Ohio, just like Elise!

The birthplaces of these men may have had something to do with Elise choosing them to represent her. But why would a woman from Ohio seek a divorce in Chicago?

The answer appeared further in the divorce papers, on a page dated August of 1874, “Elise Biedenharn, of the City of Chicago, County and State aforesaid, respectfully represents that she has been and is now a resident of the said County of Cook for more than one whole year last past”.

Elise’s sister Anna-Marie (Schmitt) Plum lived in Chicago at this time and it appears the two woman were close. I’m supposing that Elise stayed with her sister and brother-in-law while she sought a divorce from Anton.

It appears that she may have become close to another person in the neighborhood as well. After her divorce was granted Elise married Chicago resident Jacob Mueller, the man who would become my 2nd great-grandfather.

2 thoughts on “Elise’s Divorce Lawyers

  1. Some great tracking down of clues in this post. My first thought on reading the newspaper notice was how brave (and perhaps how desperate?) Elise was to ‘go public’ with her divorce.


    • Hi Andrew – thanks for reading and for sharing your thoughts! I believe Elise was very brave. Leaving her husband and striking out on her own in 1873 must have been difficult. I’m so glad she did – for her sake, and of course for those of us who descend from her 2nd marriage.

      The public piece would have been required by law. I imagine it was unpleasant for Elise, but Anton had to be notified of the upcoming court hearing and Elise didn’t know where he was. Posting such a notice in the newspaper is a method still used today.


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