Julia Ann Bell Bohner v George W. Bohner
He Poisoned the Minds of Their Children, Divorce in Williams County, Ohio, 1879
By Pamela Pattison Lash (updated 2010)
Modern psychologists believe that when a couple does not get along, the parents need to be careful what they say about each other in the presence of the children, The youngsters need to feel secure and not believe they had something to do with the divorce. Back in the 1870's that wisdom was not always followed and one can only imagine the emotional scars the innocent had inflicted upon them by the callous and vindictive utterances of a selfish parent. This genealogical detailing concerns such a father who even bribed his children to spy on their mother.
George W. Bohner, b. 22 Feb 1834, Richland Co, OH, was one of ten children of Pennsylvania natives Jacob H. and Susannah Geaselman Bohner. The family moved to Brady Twp, Wms Co, OH c. June 1835 and established deep roots in the West Unity area. Father Jacob Bohner built the Bohner Tavern also called the Half-Way House and was locally noted as the strongest man in the county due to his broad shoulders and being over six feet height. He was never sick until a bout of dropsy caused his death on 25 April 1881. Wife Susannah had been blind for many years and died on 5 Feb 1883. They were both buried in the Floral Grove Cemetery in West Unity.
George married Julia Ann Bell, b Jan. 1845, Kendall, Kendall Co, IL, daughter of Royal and Amanda Judd Bell. Amanda was listed in the 1860 Amboy, Lee Co, IL federal census, p45; the couple was married on 26 Aug 1867, Aubrey, Lee Co, IL. The couple was listed in the 1870 West Unity, Brady Twp federal census, p7, as George W. 35 OH, Julia A. 25 IL, Lillie A. 2 OH, and Mandara 7/12 OH.
Julia Bohner appeared in the Williams County Civil and Criminal Court (Journal 9 p290 - July 1877, 1 Sept 1877, 30 Nov 1877; Roll 29 case number 7 - Nov 1877) requesting a divorce from George. In many cases if the wife truly desired a divorce she would have to file multiple times to get the court's attention. This was one of those instances.
Julia named her five children and supplied birthdates for each as follows: Lillie Belle, 5 Sept 1868; Nellie Amanda, 5 Dec 1869; Florence Mabel, 20 Jan 1873; Perry Oliver, 14 May 1875; and Susan Maud, 23 Oct 1876. She charged George with extreme cruelty and told the court of his behavior with regard to the children. Julia stated that two weeks after the marriage the honeymoon was over. George became coarse, slanderous, and insanely jealous. He accused her of infidelity with many virtuous citizens of Williams County and with several relatives of George by blood and marriage, even with her own father. The physical violence she endured had grown more frequent with each year of marriage. On 1 Sept 1875 he attempted to choke her; eight days later he tried to poison the minds of her children by telling foul stories to the little girls. He even bribed the girls with money to watch her movements and report back to him. George told the girls that he was not their father, but that his father, Jacob Bohner, was their true dad and George encouraged the girls to tell this story to others.
Julia stated in court that she was suffering from heart palpitations and had been grossly neglected for the past three years. The final straw for her court appearance was the fact that George had taken the children and she wanted custody of them. Julia further desired a reasonable financial settlement as George was seized in fee simple of real estate valued at $6,000 plus he owned livestock and numerous household goods. Delos S. Thomas held claims on the real estate as George had recently mortgaged the lot. The testimony of her daughters Lillie and Nellie plus that of Jacob Bohner, Sr., George Moore, and Dr. Finch verified Julia's story.
She made an application for alimony and the court initially told George to pay her $75, but later after the next filing the court instructed George to pay Julia $200; furthermore, the court told him there would be a lien placed on his property and if he did not pay Julia this alimony, and the property on Sec 6 T7N R4E in Brady Twp would be sold. The Bohner children were given into the custody of their mother and Julia was finally granted a divorce.
At some point after this divorce and before the 1900 Bradshaw, York Co, Nebraska federal census, George left the state and moved to Bradshaw where he died on 21 May 1907. According to that 1900 census he was widowed for 19 years and followed the profession of druggist. Son Perry Oliver Bohner served as a constable in West Unity, before 1934.
What became of Julia and the girls? In the 1900 Casper, Natrona Co, Wyoming federal census, p300B, Julia as mother-in-law lived with head of house Archibald Wallace, his wife Mable F, their children, and her single daughter Maud. By the 1910 federal census for W. Casper, Natrona Co, WY, Julia was 62, a widow with five children, two surviving, and living with son-in-law Archibald Wallace, his new wife, their children, and her widowed daughter Maud Phelz. Her daughter Florence Maud had died between 1900 - 1908. The census records do not reveal Julia Bohner in 1920 for that area; she either died or moved to another location. Lillie and Nellie died sometime between the divorce of 1877 and the 1910 census. Much research still needs to be done to detail their lives.