Divorce 1848 style!

My 4x great grandparents Oren Briggs (also spelled Orren, Orrin or Orin) and Susan Bowder have got an unusual and mysterious past. Their marriage was her second and at least his third marriage! She was 25 and he was 51 years old.

The following took place in Belvidere, Boone County, Illinois in 1848.

  • May 16: Sarah Ann Briggs files for divorce 
against husband Oren
  • May 17: Oren’s civil lawsuit settled
  • May 18: Susan’s divorce to John Tittle granted
  • May 20: Oren’s divorce granted
  • May 24: Oren and Susan get married

Busy week!

Bill for Divorce
Susan Tittle
vs.
John Tittle

This cause having been this day brought on to be heard upon the bill of complaints filed therein taken as [illegible] by the said defendants. And upon the report of D. H. Whitney, a special master of this Court for that purpose appointed from which it appears that all the material facts charges in said bill are true, and that the defendant has been guilty of willfully [illegible] and absenting himself from the said complainant Susan Tittle, his wife, without any reasonable cause for the [illegible] best two years next [illegible] the filing said Bill of complaints. On motion of Allen G. Fuller of Council of said complainant it is adjudged and decreed and this Court by virtue of the power and authority therein vested, and in pursuance of the statute in such case made and provided doth adjudge and decree that the marriage between the said complainant Susan Tittle and the said defendant John Tittle will be dissolved, and the same is hereby dissolved accordingly. And the said parties and each of them is free from obligation thereof. And it is from then adjudged and decreed that each of the said parties are hereby restored to their respective rights and that it shall be lawful for each of them to marry again as if the said marriage between them had never taken place.

I only have the above in my possession as a bitmap file, but I intend to do further research to see if the earlier bills are available.

Bill for Divorce
Sarah Ann Briggs
vs
Orren Briggs

This cause having this day been [illegible] heard upon the bill and amended bill. Amend to Bill and said amended bill. And upon the report of Francis Marie Esq a special master in Chancery for that purpose only appointed from which it appears that all the material facts charged in said Bill and amended bill are true. And that the said defendant was at the time of his intermarriage with the said complainant to wit on our about the fifth day of August A.D. 1847 physically incapable of entering into the marriage state by reason of impotency which is confirmed incurable. And that the existence of such impotency was unknown to said complainant and known to said defendant at the time of said marriage. On motion of Allen G. Fuller of Council of said complainant, it is [illegible] and decreed. And this Court by virtue of the power and authority therein resting and in [illegible] in the case made and provided and ruler and practice of this Court doth adjudge and decree that the marriage between the said complainant Sarah Ann Briggs and said defendant Orren Briggs be dissolved and the same is hereby dissolved accordingly. And the said parties are, and each of them is free from the obligations thereof. And it is further adjudged and decreed that the said parties are hereby restored to all their respective original rights as though the marriage had never taken place.

Without an actual crystal ball, it’s difficult to know what events took place leaded up to both divorces. Reading between the lines, one could imagine that John Tittle did go away, perhaps to go west with the Gold Rush. Young Susan was lonely. Oren was kind to her. Do I dare suggest they had an affair?

Speculating further, perhaps Oren’s wife Sarah found out, but was willing to agree to a divorce on one condition…declare Oren was impotent!

It was unlikely he was actually impotent, because Oren had a son named Ralph from an earlier marriage and he had two girls with Susan named Mary and Lida.

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