26 September 2010

Divorce Action in Williams County, Ohio - Donaldson

Mary Ellen Brown Donaldson v Thomas L. Donaldson
An Irish Businessman and His Temper, Divorce in Williams County, OH – see Nicholas Brown
By Pamela Pattison Lash (updated 16 April 2012)

Thomas L. Donaldson, b June 1853, Ireland who immigrated to US c1871, parentage unknown, married Mary Ellen Brown, b. 1852, OH, on 22 April 1879, Wms Co (Marriages, V4, p628).  Mary E. was the daughter of Peter J. and Anna Mary Brown, of Bayern, Germany and PA, respectively.  The Browns were enumerated in the 1870 Pulaski Twp, Wms Co, OH federal census, p28, as Peter, a tailor, 47Y Bayern, Mary 39 PA, Ellen 20 OH, Charles 18 OH, Caroline 12 OH, and Cordelia 10 OH.  Thomas came to the US in 1871 and may have been married before as there is a marriage record in Wms Co (Marriages V4 p334) showing a Thomas Donaldson and Jane Monan married on 1 May 1874.  If this is our subject, nothing further is known of the bride.


Fountain City Argus (Bryan, OH), 13 Mar 1879 p3
Thomas L Donaldson has been appointed agent for this and Fulton County, for the sale of all kinds of machinery manufactured by the Mansfield Machine Works.  Mr. Donaldson will make a good agent and the above firm was lucky in securing his services.

The married Donaldsons were later listed in the 1880 Bryan, Pulaski Twp, Wms Co, OH federal census, p649, as Thomas L. 26 IR-EN-Wales, a salesman, and Mary 28 OH-BV-OH.  They became parents of son Charles Francis Donaldson, b. 2 Nov 1881.  From The History of Williams Co, OH, Goodspeed, 1882, p326, one learns that Thomas operated an agricultural implements company in Bryan as of 1882.

Mary Ellen Donaldson stated in the Williams Co, OH Civil and Criminal Court records (Journal 12 p155 - 30 Nov 1883, Roll 39 Box 127 case number 1174 p233 - 7 Mar 1884, Roll 40 case number 1309, Journal 13 p276 - 28 Nov 1885, Roll 42 case number 1526 - 18 July 1883) that on 26 Aug 1879 Thomas, a habitual drunk, was extremely cruel and threatened her using obscene language.  She fled to the home of her mother in Bryan and shortly after that Thomas begged her to return home which is what she eventually did.  On 31 Aug 1881 Thomas pointed a loaded revolver at her and threatened to fire.  On 3 Sept 1881 she was ill during her pregnancy and wrote a note to a local saloonkeeper asking him to put her husband on a "blacklist" and to refuse to sell him liquor.  Thomas was not happy with this and beat his pregnant wife.

After the baby was born Thomas struck her while she held her son and knocked them both to the floor, using vile language and making further threats.  By 17 July 1882 she'd been threatened with a chair and finally on 6 Sept 1882 he told her "he would get her out of the way", which she took to mean he would kill her.

Mary told the court that Thomas owned several pieces of real estate in Bryan and personal property valued at $2,000.  She begged the court for a restraining order to keep Thomas away from the baby and from selling his property.  She produced many witnesses including her mother and Thomas' former business partner, Robert Barnett, who stated that Thomas drank a lot and that caused Barnett to dissolve their partnership.  He felt Thomas was negligent and reckless in his business dealings.

Thomas called a host of witnesses himself on his countersuit, including his minister, WW Laiss.  Mary then countered by calling upon support from Mrs. Mary Laiss, David Miller, Eleanor Bonquain, John W. Smith, and Dr. L. Badger.  Thomas submitted depositions from local businessmen, Daniel Baxter and Oscar Eaton, who attested to his good character.  He had WB Milliken, a representative from the Fremont Harvester Company, manufacturer of reapers, tell the court that Thomas had begged Milliken to write Mary a letter urging her to return to their home and live with her husband.  Thomas, to his knowledge, did not drink and even if he did, he wouldn't do it again.

Finally Thomas informed the court that Mary was derelict in her duties and that on 6 Sept 1882 she stripped their home of all contents, took the child, and went to her mother's home.  He was not a habitual drunk and never cruel plus he denied that he was unfit for custody of his son.  Ultimately Mary received a divorce and custody of their son; in addition she was awarded $200 in alimony.

On 24 Jan 1884 Thomas married Lucinda Brown, daughter of Nicholas and Catherine Brown, in Wms Co (Marriages, V5 #781).  He was back in court on 28 Nov 1885 seeking child visitation, which he received.  This son, Charles, died in 1916 and was buried beside his Brown grandparents in Fountain Grove Cemetery, Bryan, OH.  Nothing further is known of his mother.

Thomas and Lucinda had two known children, Sevilla (8 Jan 1887 - 8 July 1887) and Nicholas Lenard (15 Jan 1888 - 21 Feb 1888).  In the 1900 Edgerton, St. Joseph Twp federal census Thomas, 44 IR traveling salesman and his wife Lucinda 42 OH, mother of two, both deceased, lived with Lucinda's sister Caroline Brown.  Thomas died in Wms Co on 3 Oct 1902 (Deaths, V3 p28).  He continued until his death to be a Bryan businessman; whether he also continued to have a fiery temper has yet to be determined.   For more information on Lucinda Brown Donaldson, see "The Puzzle of Nicholas Brown."

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