Give Me a Son or Else – Questionable Divorce in Williams County, Ohio c. 1866
By Pamela Pattison Lash (updated 22 February 2013)
King Henry VIII of England is only one of the many “famous” men who desperately sought male issue to perpetuate his lineage. In Henry’s case he divorced two of his six wives and beheaded another two with the hope that he would be the proud papa of a healthy son. This genealogical detailing while not dealing with any decapitation depicts a man in search of a son. Perhaps he needed a biology lesson as to who (the male) determines the gender of the child. This story follows two wives, seven daughters, and at last, the coveted son.
John S. Aller, the youngest child of John and Mary Christina (Kintner) Oller, was born 29 Nov 1830 in Carrollton, Carroll Co, OH. Father John, a native of Shephardstown, VA, moved his family from Washington Co, PA to Carroll Co c. 1818-1820 where he took up the occupation of farmer and died there on 11 Sept 1846. Note that he changed his surname to Aller and was the only one of his siblings to do so.
Son John married Sarah Ann Leah Harsh on 13 Dec 1853 as recorded in Carroll Co, OH Marriages 1850-1866, V2 p131. Rev. George Gaumer of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Carrollton and Kilgore performed the service. Another source, The Harsh Family Genealogy 1740-1987, Robert C. Harsh and Clara Hickox Harsh, 1987, p313 provides data on the bride. Sarah b.c.1836, pos Carrollton, Carroll Co, OH, was the youngest daughter of Elias Harsh’s second marriage to Sarah Summers, both Pennsylvania natives who also settled in Carroll Co, OH. Elias, the son of Revolutionary War soldier, John Heinrich Harsh, Jr., and Catherine Sonnedecker, died on 24 Dec 1856 and was buried in the Harsh Cemetery, Washington Twp, Carroll Co. There was also a Harsh Church close by. The Lutheran Church gained a minister in the form of Sarah’s youngest brother Franklin Elias Harsh who later preached at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Marion, OH until his death on 17 Oct 1869.
Sometime between March 1859 and 1860 the Aller family moved to Lukes Corners, Florence Twp, Wms Co, OH where John Aller had purchased an interest in the Andrew Sheline sawmill/gristmill about 1860. This family was enumerated in the 1860 federal census as the following: John Aller 29 OH engineer, Sarah 24 OH, Rebecca J. 5 OH, Mary E. 3 OH, and Sarah C 1 OH. The 1864 Wms Co Atlas shows John as property owner of Florence Twp of Sec 16 and 21. He paid personal property tax there in 1867.
Sarah appeared at the Williams County Civil and Criminal Court, according to Roll 17 (#111) and Journal 6 p550 on 9 March 1866 requesting a divorce and alimony from her husband, John Aller. She listed the names of their five daughters and specific dates of physical abuse, which forced her to leave home. These dates were important when one compares them to the birth of these last two daughters.
The first three girls were born in Carrollton, Carroll Co, OH with names and birth dates as follows: Rebecca Jane b. 26 Oct 1854, Mary Elizabeth b. 21 Aug 1856, and Sarah Catherine b. 6 Mar 1859. She testified that the abuse in Wms Co began on 15 Feb 1861 when John threw her against a wall in their house and held her head against the wall about the time when Sarah should have been pregnant if one follows the rule of a baby every two years. The fourth daughter, Olive Elvina, was born in Edon, Florence Twp on 25 Aug 1862. On 5 Sept 1862 John forced Sarah from her home after a severe beating when he struck her on the left shoulder and arm with a closed fist and she was unable to use her arm for several weeks. Fifth daughter Juliette was born in Edon on 13 July 1865 and on 18 July 1865 Sarah “was ill and John kicked her out of the home providing no food or support. He threatened to shoot her with his rifle and he used harsh, rough language against her.”
Sarah claimed that John had received property from her at the time of the marriage and she wanted it back because she needed alimony in order to live. Her father, Elias Harsh, had died in 1856 so perhaps he had settled this alleged property on Sarah at the time of her marriage or as a result of his estate. It is known that John signed off her inheritance. The journal entry stated that the court discontinued this case without prejudice to either party. This should be interpreted as “no divorce”. After the March 1866 case Sarah disappeared from records of this area – no death, obit, or cemetery inscription. However, Sarah Aller 33 b. OH, seamstress by occupation, was living in Ottawa Twp, Allen Co, OH, PO Lima with her youngest daughter Julie Etta age 5 in the 1870 federal census. Why she was living there is anyone's guess, but she did retain the married name of Aller.
Their daughters are as follows: Rebecca Jane 26 Oct 1854-21 Mar 1939; bur Edon Cem m1 Samuel Day, 8 Oct 1872 (V4 p241), m2 Lyman Baxter, 22 Mar 1891 (V6 #414), m3 John Kennedy Bechtol, 14 June 1914 (She was his fifth wife; Bechtol he had committed one of his wives to an institution in Toledo, OH); Mary Elizabeth, 21 Aug 1856-2 Sept 1926, Bowling Green, Licking Co, OH; m. John W. Griffith, 29 Nov 1879 (V4 p657); Sarah Catherine 6 Mar 1859-24 Apr 1938, Wichita, KS; m. Edward Newton Salander, 27 July 1886 in Wichita; Olive Elvina 25 Aug 1862-1 Feb 1912, bur Edon Cem; m. George W. Hart (V5 #67); Julia Etta, 13 Jul 1865-25 Aug 1884, Wichita, KS; m George Willis Salander, 1 Jan 1884, Wms Co (V5 #434).
In the 1870 Florence Twp, Wms Co, OH census p21 John Aller is a dry goods merchant in Edon at 39 OH, Hester S. 35 OH, a millinery and dressmaker, Rebecca J 15 OH, Mary E. 13 OH, Sarah C 11 OH, Olive E. 8 OH, Edward N. Salander 12 IN, Geo Willis Salander 9 IN, and Ester E. Aller 1 OH. The new mother of the Aller family was Mrs. Esther Scoles (Barker) Salander, widow of John Salander (d. 25 Sept 1866) and daughter of English native Reverend Edward Barker and second wife Mrs. Rebecca Oram Salander Barker. There is the possibility that Esther was the adopted daughter of Rev. Edward Barker and a true daughter of a Mr. Scoles, but that has yet to be confirmed. Esther, a milliner, was born in Amity, Knox Co, OH on 16 Aug 1835, and first married John Salander in Dekalb Co, IN on 7 Oct 1855. John Salander, son of Christian Daniel Salander and Mary Foursht/First, was born on 3 November 1831, pos. Middleton Twp, Cumberland Co, PA. The Sallander family was enumerated in the 1860 Smith Twp, DeKalb Co, IN federal census p34, as Daniel 55 Pa, Mary 56 PA, David 18 OH, Clarissa 16 OH, Catharine Foursht 84 PA, John Sallander 29 PA, Hester 24 OH, Edward G 5 IN, Joseph Craig 23 OH, and Samuel Craig 56 PA.
John Salander died at the age of 35 from blood poisoning resulting from a scratch on his arm while husking corn in Illinois. Esther married John Aller on 22 Sept 1868, Barker's Chapel, Smithfield Twp, Dekalb Co, IN. bringing along her two sons, George Willis b.27 Feb 1861 and Edward Newton b. 13 Dec 1858, both born in Smithfield, Dekalb Co, IN, from Waterloo, Indiana to join the Aller daughters. Esther's father officiated at her second marriage.
The youngest daughter Juliette was not listed with them as she was enumerated with her mother, but she reappears in the 1880 Florence Twp census p557 as shown: John 49 OH, E. S. 44 OH, Sarah C. 21 OH, Olive E. 18 OH, Julie E. 14 OH, Margaret J. 8 OH, John L. 6 OH, and Kate Estrich 20 OH servant. Interestingly, daughter Mary Elizabeth Aller Griffith and husband John Griffith kept boarders according to the 1880 federal census of Norton, Muskegon Co, MI, with one of those living in that household as Sarah Aller, sister to Mary Elizabeth; this means Sarah Catherine Aller was enumerated twice in two different geographical locations in 1880.
By this census and other records one learns that John and second wife Esther had three children, Esther Emma 27 June 1869-15 July 1870 @1Y15D; Margaret Susannah “Maggie” 1 June 1872-26 Dec 1955, single, and John Leonidas 14 Sept 1873-23 Dec 1960, Camden, MI; bur Edon; m. Elsie Jane Fiser, 26 Mar 1896 (V7 #109).
A book about this Aller family entitled The History of the Fiser Aller Family by Lucille Aller-Reas, 1977, includes an enlightening excerpt about this family. “She (Esther) tried to satisfy his (John S.) desire for a son to carry on his name, but after more girls she was ready to give up in despair. When their third child was about to be born, she became depressed and was all packed and ready to move out. She said it would be impossible to live with John S. Aller if he became the father of an eighth daughter.” It was lucky for Esther that the child was a son. Perhaps this was precisely why Sarah, the first wife, was not so lucky, as she was the mother of five daughters and no living son.
The Aller household was listed in the 1900 Edon, Florence Twp federal census, living on Indiana Street, as John 69 OH, married 48 years, Esther 64 OH, daughter Maggie S. 27 OH single. Note the number of years married would make their marriage taking place in 1852, which we know is incorrect. I was unable to find Aller in the 1910 census, but by the 1920 Florence Twp census he was 84 years old living with daughter Margaret R 47, a milliner.
Esther Barker Salander Aller died 6 Nov 1917, Wms Co, OH (Death Certif. #74322) and was buried in Edon Cemetery. She was both a stepmother and mother-in-law to John and Sarah Harsh Aller’s daughters, Julie Etta and Sarah Catherine. Julie Etta and husband George Willis Salander moved to Wichita to be close to her sister and his brother, but tragedy struck when she became pregnant with their first child and Julie contracted typhoid fever. Both she and her baby died and were buried in Highland Cemetery, the oldest cemetery in Wichita. Years later her sister Sarah Catherine Aller Salander would be buried next to her sister.
Esther's sons, Edward Newton and George Willis Salander, died on 18 Feb 1946, Wichita, KS, and 5 Jan 1927, Chicago, Cook Co, IL, respectively. Edward and Sarah C. Salander were listed in the 1920 Wichita, Sedgwick Co, KS federal census, and p181, as sixty-year-olds plus daughter Myrtle S 30 and her son Earl C. 3 2/12. After his first wife's death, George Willis Salander married Ida Viola Brewer, on December 1, 1890 at the Walnut Street Methodist Church in Jackson Co., Missouri (marriage license #4670). George Willis was found in both the 1900 and 1910 federal censuses for Jackson, Missouri, PO Kansas City. In both he was listed with wife Ida, b. Dec 1872 OH, and sons, Riley C. (b. Aug 1891) and Willis L (b. Sept 1893) both born in Missouri. By 1920 George was a salesman for a rubber tire company, residing in a boarding house as George 58 IN. He is buried in Memorial Park Cemetery in Kansas City, Missouri with Ida.
John S. Aller’s obit (“Bryan Democrat”, 10 Feb 1925) states he died in Edon on 2 Feb 1925 @95Y and was laid to rest beside wife Esther. John made a will on 10 June 1912 listing his heirs and the will was probated on 14 Feb 1925 (#7562) showing extensive property lots in Edon. Daughter Olive’s heirs were to inherit her share; those being named were Alma Farrier of Hillsdale, MI, Wilbur Hart of Detroit, MI, and Nellie Gearhart of Edon, OH. His other heirs were Rebecca Jane Bechtol of Edon, OH, Sarah Catherine Salander of Witchita, KS, Margaret Susan Aller of Edon, OH, John Leondas Aller of Edon, OH, and widow, Esther S. Aller, a milliner in Edon, OH, who was to retain Lot #32 in Edon, but John outlived Esther as well as several of his daughters.
John was a sawmiller, a drugstore owner, and a justice of the peace. He was a charter member of the Edon Lodge. In 1868-1877 John was a partner with George Ball in a mercantile business and an owner of a drugstore in 1877, which was later sold to T. S. Carlin. John's nephew, John Milton Toner, son of James and Elizabeth Aller Toner moved from Missouri to Edon to live with his uncle c. 1870. This nephew would later become three times Mayor of Edon.
The possibility exists that the Aller girls became fond of their new stepmother, Esther. For example, it is known that oldest stepdaughter Rebecca, widow of Samuel Day by 1880, was listed as a milliner just like stepmother Esther, so perhaps Rebecca learned this trade from Esther and worked for her to support her three children by Samuel Day. In Esther's millinery shop she had a pet dalmation that would sit in her window for hours, modeling her hats. Also, if mother Sarah was a seamstress as indicated in the 1870 Allen Co, OH census, the girls may have learned sewing skills from her as well.
What happened to Sarah Harsh Aller? An interesting record exists in the 1880 Washington, Carroll Co, OH census p184D: Sarah Aller 42 OH, resident of the infirmary institution there, with marital status as single. A family story from Harriett Aller Storaker correspondence states that John wanted a son and all he had were daughters from his first wife, Sarah Harsh Aller, so he committed Sarah to an insane asylum and then divorced her. Also from The History of the Fiser Aller Family, p9 it states that "Sarah Ann Harsh Aller was divorced by John S. Aller. The divorce petition was filed 31 Dec 1865 after having her committed and became final the March term of court in 1866." The above-mentioned Harsh Family Genealogy also states that the couple was divorced in 1867. To date no such divorce in Wms Co has been uncovered but all the known facts lead to the above-mentioned story as being the likely scenario.
Records for the Carroll Co, OH Infirmary have been consulted to no avail. Sarah Harsh Aller's mother, Sarah Summers Harsh, age 80, was living in Harrison, Carroll Co, OH with her son Enoch Harsh, his wife Catherine Helfrich Harsh, and his nine children in the 1880 federal census. She died on 13 May 1882 @82Y 2M 7D and was buried in the Harsh Cemetery in Carrollton, Washington Twp, Carroll Co, OH. An obituary or probate for the mother may enlighten us as to the fate of the daughter, Sarah Harsh Aller.