14 September 2010

Divorce Action in Williams County, Ohio - Bligh/Bly


John Bligh/Bly v Diadema Green Bligh/Bly
The Lady's Reputation Was Tarnished, Divorce in Williams County, Ohio, 1869
By Pamela Pattison Lash (updated 2010)

A husband, fed up with his wife's philandering, was forced to air some dirty laundry in order to rid himself of this woman, but the neighborhood where they lived in St. Joseph Twp, Wms Co, OH, would not be the same nor would his family.  The wife countered in court with a catalogue of physical abuse and a defense of her honor.

John Bligh, an Irishman, was born c. 1819, and immigrated to the US sometime before 25 Mar 1841 when he married Diadema "Amy" Green in Wms Co (Marriages, V1 p51).  The couple was enumerated in the 1850 St. Joseph Twp federal census, p76B, as John Bligh 31 IR, Diadema 28 OH, Jeremiah 7 OH, Ira 5 OH, John 3 OH, George 2 OH, and Michael 6/12 OH.  According to the 1860 St. Joseph Twp federal census p118a, the Bly family was listed as John 42 IR, Diodemia 38 OH, Jeremiah 17 OH, Ira 15 OH, John 14 OH, George 12 OH, Michael 10 OH, Thomas 8 OH, Mary 6 OH, Homer 4 OH, Martha 2 OH, and Stephen D 3/12 OH.

Diadema was born c. 1822, the daughter of Thomas and Mary Willson Green, the second family to settle in Milford Twp (now Defiance Co, OH) in 1835.  Thomas died there on 7 June 1845 @46Y and his wife died on 8 June 1853 @52Y; he was a native of Virginia while his wife was from Hagerstown, MD.

John and Amy became the parents of the following children: Jeremiah, Ira, John, George, Michael, Thomas, Mary, Homer, Martha, Stephen A., and Ellen.  According to the Williams County Civil and Criminal Court Records (Journal 7 p216, 240, 255 – 4 Nov 1868; Roll 20 case number 55 - Mar 1869), John came to court with a large number of witnesses and a list of dates intended to show that his wife was unfaithful on many occasions with some of his neighbors and that at least two of the Bligh children were not his.  He petitioned for a divorce.

John stated that daughter Mary (b. 1853) belonged to Joel Smith and son Stephen (b. 1860) was the issue of Levi Wilder.  John listed the names and ages of the children and even called some of the older boys such as Ira and John to testify against their mother.  He further said that in the fall of 1868 Amy committed adultery with railroad watchman Edward Butt and for the last three years she had also committed adultery with neighbor William Foster.  All these third parties were neighbors of the Bly family.

Amy appeared in court with a list of dates when John physically abused her.  According to her John was habitually rude, had a petulant manner, and used obscene language in the earshot of her and the children.  She said on 14 May 1868 he violently assaulted, beat, and kicked her.  On 15 June 1868 she was pushed out of her home; there was a repeat of this abuse on 25 July 1868.  According to Weekly Bryan Democrat, 14 May 1868 p2 John Bligh served notice of the following: Whereas my wife and children having left my house without my consent, this is to warn the public against harboring or treating them or either of them on my account as I will pay no debts of their contracting. This notice was written by John Bligh of Edgerton on 11 May 1868.

Before the court Amy declared that she was "chaste, moral, and acted in a becoming manner."  She hoped the court would see that John was unfit to have custody of the minor children, Mary, Homer, Martha, Stephen, and Ellen.  Finally Amy stated that in 1843 John took $140, which was hers, and used the money for himself.  She wanted the marriage to be dissolved, custody of the children, and reasonable alimony as John owned 80 acres of land and could well afford the money.  The court did not see fit to grant her wishes on custody but did grant John the divorce and awarded Amy $40 in alimony. (The Bryan Democrat, 26 Nov 1868 p3)

By the 1870 St. Joseph Twp federal census, p20, John Bligh was listed as John 54 Ireland, Michael 19 OH, Mary 16 OH, Homer 14 OH, Martha 12 OH, Stephen D 10 OH, and Ella 8 OH. Note that most of these children were the minors mentioned in the court case. His next-door neighbors were Joel Smith (since 1850), William Foster, and Levi Wilder, the men he accused in court. In the 1870 Milford Twp, Defiance Co, OH federal census p132, Diadema Bly was head of household as Diadema 48 OH, Ira 25 OH, John 23 OH, and George 22 OH.  Note that Ira and John bore witness against their mother in the divorce case, but must have been forgiven by her as they lived with her at this time. 

By 1880 both Diadema and John Bly lived separately in Noble Co, IN; Diadema Bly was listed in Cromwell, Sparta Twp p426 as Diadema 58 OH divorced, a boarder in the house of Rufus Smith 39 OH baker, Mary A 33 OH, Margaret 15 OH, and Willard 8 OH.  John Bly was enumerated in Ligonier p415, as John 62 Ireland, single.  Diadema Geen Bly died on 21 Feb 1900 @78Y 22D and was buried in the Valley Cem, Sparta Twp, Noble Co, IN. Nothing further is known of ex-husband, John Bly.

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