Divorce 1883 Style

Bonds of Wedlock snip

Chicago Daily News June 9, 1883

We often think of our ancestors living in a “simpler time”.

But in many ways that simpler time was pretty similar to life today.

From page 1 of the June 9, 1883 issue of the Chicago Daily News;

“The Bonds of Wedlock.

Broken for a Large Number of Mismatched People To-Day.

The crowd of divorce seekers was so dense in Judge Gardner’s room to-day, that he was obliged to send them into Judge Jameson’s quarters, and call for them as they were needed. The first applicant was James Calcott, who wanted to be legally severed from his wife, Sarah. He was married in April, 1880, but could not remember just when and where, but it was from 41 West Adams street. They never lived together, and a few days after the ceremony his wife went to visit friends in Cincinnati. He had made every effort to induce her to live with him, but she would not. Charles Chambers, brother of the defendant, said he thought it was a case of love at first sight, followed by a hasty marriage, and that she had repented. She had written to her mother, who lives at 100 Quincy street, saying that she did not love James, and would never live with him. The decree was granted on the grounds of desertion.

Cora A. Mauer pleaded for a divorce from Simon Mauer, charging him with desertion and cruelty. They were married in Brooklyn, N. Y., in 1870, but have not lived together since April, 1873. She has a daughter 11 years of age. When the child was born Simon refused to furnish her food, clothing, or medical treatment, and, had it not been for sympathetic neighbors they would have starved. She was obliged to secrete food from him in order that herself and child might live. She supported him the few years they lived together. She is now a telegraph operator employed jointly by the Western Union and a private firm, having moved here from Brooklyn on April 3 of last year. Depositions from Julia Hamburger and others in Brooklyn were read establishing her case, and the decree was granted.

William Alfred Hermetage testified that he married his wife, Emily, in London, England, in the fall of 1873, and that they lived together five or six years, he always providing for her as well as his means would allow. They moved to America four years ago, when she immediately became dissatisfied with the country and her husband, cowhided him, stabbed him with the scissors, and otherwise abused him. They were living then in New Orleans. She deserted him there four years ago. Decree for desertion and cruelty granted.

Mrs. Wilhemine Marie Sophie Willemeit said she came to this country from Kershtal, Germany, where she married John Willemeit in April 1876. He deserted her two years later, after defrauding her father out of 300 marks by forgery. Her father had since offered to support them together, but the high-spirited husband claimed that “first came his honor and then his wife”. She had no idea where her husband is at present, but took her decree.

Desertion was pleaded as cause for divorce from John J. Swazy by his wife, Alice M. W. Swazy. They were married in Barrington, this state, in December, 1860, and had lived together until August, 1877. She last heard of him two years ago, when he said he was dissatisfied and didn’t propose to live with her any longer. Four children were born of the marriage – Henry A., 21; William M., 17; Laura, 15; and Alice, aged 9. Laura testified that she saw her father two years ago, when he said to her, “Good-by, for you will never see me again.” Decree granted.

Decidedly the most stylish and neatest appearing lady in the room was Mrs. Bertha Meissner, who sought a divorce from Otto Meissner, a furniture dealer near the corner of Carpenter and West Erie streets. Her gloves fitted flawlessly, while her silk plush waist enclosed a form of perfect symetry (sic). Her hat, dress, and decorative ribbons were all of the popular shade, crushed strawberry. She married Otto on Feb. 12, 1880, and lived with him a little over eleven months. He deserted her on Jan. 21, 1880 (sic), from 155 West Erie, since which time he has contributed nothing to her support, nor offered to return and live with her. When he left he said he had ceased to love her, and accused her of deeds she claims she was not guilty of. She took her decree.

Decrees were also granted George S. Mann from Delia L. Mann, for adultery; Kate Cary from Thomas J. Cary, for cruelty; John Adams (colored) from Alice Adams, for adultery; and Marcyanne Olszewski from Ignatz Olszewski, for desertion. This lady will also assume her maiden name of Marcyanne Prusakiewicz.”

4 thoughts on “Divorce 1883 Style

  1. Those stories are all painful, and complicated. Divorces in my own family, including mine, are as well. They include mental illness, adultery, failure to know the person well enough before marriage, the effects of poverty on relationships, cultural differences, and a host of other ills. Yet many marriages survive similar difficulties–occasionally because people learned from the same problems in an earlier marriage. Thanks for this post.


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