Juliann Geisz v Henry Geisz
Unfair Odds, Divorce in Williams County, Ohio, 1861
By Pamela Pattison Lash (updated 2010)
If a husband and his alleged mistress commit acts of extreme cruelty on his wife, will the divorce court grant a divorce or will this action be the word of two against one? This genealogical detailing handles such a case. Add to the mix the fact that the wife, an immigrant, did not speak much English. What's a lady to do? In this case she calls upon neighbors to help her.
Not much is currently known about this couple, but here is what has been pieced together. Juliana, parentage unknown, b.c. 1805, Germany, married on 1 Jan 1831, farmer Henry Geisz, Sr. The couple immigrated to the US and first appeared in the 1850 Florence Twp, Wms Co, OH federal census, p57B, as Henry Gire 44 DEU, Margaret Snidle 28 DEU, John Snidle 4 DEU, Henry Gire 18 DEU, John Gire 21 DEU, and Julia Gire 45 DEU. In March Term 1851 Henry of Hesse Damstadt was naturalized in Wms Co (Clerk of Courts, V4 p128). The family again was enumerated there in the 1860 federal census, p25, as Henry Gwire 54 HD, Julia Gwire 65 HD, Margaret Buck 36 HD, and John Snider 13 OH.
According to the Williams County, OH Civil and Criminal Court records (Journal 6 p131, 175 - 31 May 1861; Roll 15 case number 38 - Nov 1861), Juliana Geisz stated that her husband committed adultery at their home in Florence Twp with Margaret Burke on 10 Feb and 1 Mar 1861. Henry denied these allegations. Juliana further testified that on 11 Mar 1861 Henry and his lover, Margaret, had connived to acts of extreme cruelty when Margaret struck and beat Juliana who was compelled to leave her home in her old age on 13 Mar 1861. Henry had been cohabiting with Margaret in Juliana's home. She asked for alimony of $65.
Juliana called neighbors into court to testify to this abuse. Florence Twp neighbors Elijah Shaffer, Henry Gearhart, and Andrew Myer told the court that Juliana's version of the events was correct. A Catherine Geisz, unknown relationship, also affirmed her account. The court granted Juliana a divorce and reasonable alimony.
Roll 15 case number 37 of the proceedings showed another suit was happening at the same time between Henry Geisz Jr., and his father where the son wanted payment in land and cash. Presumably Junior was afraid his dad would waste his economic resources on Margaret Burke and there would not be anything left for the heirs of his estate. Junior claimed he had loaned his father money and had not been repaid. It would appear that Juliana and Henry Geisz, Sr., were the parents of Henry Jr., b. 1832, but the other male in the 1850 census, John Gire, was 21 making his birthdate c. 1829; therefore, if the census was correct and if Juliana told the court the correct marriage date, this John may not have been her son.
Juliana is not enumerated in the 1870 Florence Twp federal census, p22, but the rest of the family unit was as follows: Henry Guiss 64 BV, John Snider 24 OH, Catherine Snider 21 OH, Henry G. 2/12 OH, and Margaret Snider 47 BV. Speculation exists that the 1850 Margaret Snidle is Margaret Burke with son John Snidle and the 1860 Margaret Buck is Margaret Burke with son John Snider and grandson Henry G. Snider. Each of the three census records, 1850, 1860, and 1870, showed Henry Geisz and his mistress. At this point several questions need to be posed. Was Margaret related to either Henry Sr., or Juliana? Did she come to America with the couple?
Edon Cemetery, Florence Twp records show a Margaret Burke, w/o Henry Snider, died 29 Mar 1873 @50Y 3M 10D. Further along the burial row one finds Henry Geiss, 1806-19 July 1891 and further still one discovers the grave of John H. Snyder, a Civil War veteran of Co K 70th Reg. OVI, b. 12 July 1846, Stark Co, OH, s/o Henry and Margaret. This John died 19 Mar 1929; he married Catherine E. Riemenschneider, 13 Mar 1869. There was no marker found for Juliana; in fact nothing more is currently known of her after the divorce.