Mary Ann McElvy Hudkins v James Henry Hudkins
An Observant Census Taker and a Callous Court, No Divorce,
Williams County, Ohio, 1874
By Pamela Pattison Lash (updated 20 October 2010)
It boggles the mind how callous a court and possibly a jury, comprised of men, could refuse to grant a divorce to an abused wife seeking basic needs such as food, shelter, and clothing. Throw into this situation many children, some too young to testify to the physical and mental abuse perpetuated by their father. Add to the mix the fear that tightly bound such a family as the one detailed here. Skeptics may feel that these abused women may be exaggerating their plight, but even an observant census taker can provide us a valuable clue to set our collective minds reeling about whether there was abuse.
James Henry Hudkins, Sr., parentage unknown, was born pos in Westmoreland Co, PA, 23 June 1810. A cooper by profession, James married Mary Ann McElvy, parentage unknown, in Westmoreland Co, PA, 23 Jan 1848. Mary Ann, also a PA native, was born on 12 May 1824. Together the Hudkins family moved to Pulaski Twp, Wms Co, OH sometime after the marriage and was enumerated in the 1850 federal census, p84B, as James 30 PA, Mary 26 PA, Sarah 1 OH, and George W. Meeks 6 OH, relationship unknown. This Meeks youngster may have been a relative, perhaps Mary's son from a prior marriage, but he does not appear with this family in any other census through 1880.
James, the father, was found in two probate cases as Ohio v. James H. Hudkins, 3 Mar 1879 (#2093) and much earlier in 10 Feb 1852 (#2382). Both cases deal with money owed to others and assault. By the 1860 federal census, Bryan, Pulaski Twp, p45A, and the 1870 federal census, p47-48, the Hudkins family had expanded. James and Mary were the parents of the following children: Sarah Ann (29 Jan 1849 OH - 6 Mar 1908; m. David Basil Athy, 15 May 1870, Wms Co [Marriages, V4 p116]); Lucinda (1851 OH - ?; m. John Metzker, 1 May 1870, Wms Co [Marriages, V4 p113]); Margaret (1853 OH -1892; m. Archibald Gusler); Mary (23 Apr 1855 OH - 20 Oct 1921; m. Orville A. Whitney, 17 Oct 1875, Wms Co [Marriages, V4 p426]); John W. (1858 OH - aft 1890; m. Jennie McCafferty, 26 June 1880, Wms Co [Marriages, V4 p692]); Abraham (1859 OH - 10 Oct 1938; m. Katy Zigler); George Washington (1861 OH - 23 July 1921; m. Mrs. Eva J. Sperling Christman/Chrisman, 5 Aug 1897, Wms Co [Marriages, V7 #390]); James Henry Jr., (1863 OH - 21 July 1923; m. Fannie Blessing, 5 Jan 1887, Wms Co [Marriages, V5 #926]), and William (1866 OH - aft 1880).
On 12 Mar 1874 Mary Ann Hudkins petitioned the Williams County, Ohio Civil and Criminal Court (Journal 8 p216; Roll 26 case number 9), requesting a divorce. Mary said that on 2 July 1873 husband James had been extremely cruel to her by choking, kicking, and chasing her with a large hack whip. She also cited him with gross neglect as she and her children had little food or clothing. She specifically mentioned sons William and James Jr., as being in need of these basics of life. James held property in Bryan and he was owed money by various men, such as William J. Bryan, who made a promissory note that had yet to be paid (Roll 26 case number 110). The court dismissed her petition and declared "no divorce."
Sometime between 1875-1880 the family moved to Noble Twp, Defiance Co, OH, where they were listed in the federal census, p126A, as James 60 PA, Mary Ann 56 PA, George 19 OH, and William 14 OH. The census taker noted on the census form that mother Mary Ann had a broken arm. Perhaps this was further abuse, perhaps not. In any event the couple remained married until Mary Ann died on 3 Nov 1896 @72Y 5M 22D. James died on 19 June 1897 @76Y 11M 26D and was buried beside his wife in the Bryan Fountain Grove Cemetery. Son John W. Hudkins sold his father's land in Pulaski Twp to his brother Abraham c. 16 Oct 1890.
The Last Will and Testament of James Hudkins, June 1897