03 October 2010

Divorce Action in Williams County, Ohio - Foreman and Houser

Melvina G. Parker Foreman v William J. Foreman
Joseph Houser v Susan Houser
Alimony Is Not Allowed for a Third Party,
Divorces in Williams County, Ohio, 1869 and 1875

By Pamela Pattison Lash (updated 2010)

At times with divorce cases one finds crossfiling where the spouses sue each other for a variety of reasons.  In this detailing one spouse sued the other, obtained a divorce, and then was sued later by the ex-spouse because a third party was enjoying alimony payments.

William J. Foreman, born in 1842 Clarksfield Twp, Huron Co, OH, son of John W and Emmaliza/Emmeline Robinson Foreman, married Melvina G. Parker in Norwich Twp, Huron Co, OH on 16 Sept 1861 but the date when checked was 16 Sept 1862 (V1 p356).  They became the parents of son Willis Malcos, b 2 Nov 1862 or 1863 [smudge marks on original record].  At some point before 1869 the family moved to Wms Co.  Mrs. Melvina Foreman appeared before the Williams County, Ohio Civil and Criminal Court (Journal 7 p357 - 4 Nov 1869; Roll 21 case number 44) requesting a divorce citing the fact that on 24 Feb 1866 her husband abandoned her and moved to Perrysburg, Wood Co, OH, taking their son with him.  She wanted reasonable alimony and a divorce.  The court allowed this divorce on 4 Nov 1869.  William J. Foreman died on 15 Oct 1906 in Norwalk, Huron Co, OH.

Melvina Parker, born in Dec 1843 OH, married widower Dr. John Townsend on 21 Dec 1869, Wms Co (Marriages, V4 p90).  Dr. Townsend was first married to Fanny L. (21 Apr 1834 - 24 Dec 1866, buried Maple Grove Cemetery, Edgerton, St. Joseph Twp).  John and Fanny had two known daughters, Florence G. (5 Nov 1855 OH - 27 Sept 1872) and Adelaide (1860 IN - aft 1880).  Dr. and Mrs. Townsend were enumerated in the 1870 St. Joseph Twp federal census, p38, as John 37 NY physician, Malvina 25 OH, Florence 14 OH, Adelaide 10 IN, and James Johnson 14 IN, relationship unknown.

Williams County, Ohio Civil and Criminal Court record (Journal 8 p200 – 10 Mar 1874) showed that William Foreman sued both Townsends stating that Melvina was his former wife and the Townsends should not collect alimony from him as his obligation to her stopped when she remarried.  The Townsends appealed the decision but were denied the alimony payments.  It would appear that on 5 Feb 1870 (Wms Co, Probate #1351), John Townsend owed $300 to the State of Ohio along with a Jefferson Brown.  The state collected its money.

Wms Co, OH Births, V1 p57, reveals the birth of a daughter, Mary Frances Townsend, 7 Nov 1874, Edgerton, to the couple.  On 14 Jan 1875 Melvina Townsend's name is listed in the Bryan newspapers as a resident of Edgerton and a delinquent taxpayer. In the 1880 Holgate, Henry Co, OH federal census p192, the Townsend family was enumerated as physician John 46 NY-NY-NY, wife Malvina J 36 OH-NY-VT, and daughters Adda M 21 OH (later married Calvin Davis) and Frances M 6 OH. In the 1900 Pleasant Twp, Henry Co, OH federal census Melvina Townsend is a widow and listed as 56 OH-NY-VT with two children, Esther 16 OH and Parker 12; Melvina was the mother of seven children with two surviving.  By the 1905 Wisconsin State Census for Clinton, Rock Co, WI, Melvina was listed as 60 OH, a lecturer, with children Esther and Parker J Townsend. The term lecturer is cleared up by consulting the 1910 Battle Creek, Calhoun Co, MI federal census p1 as Parker Townsend was listed as head of household with his mother Malvina 64 OH organizer of the WCTU. Interestingly, another divorce case ties into this family.

From Williams County, Ohio Civil and Criminal Court records (Journal 8 p430 - 16 Nov 1875; p546 – 22 May 1876; Roll 28 case number 43), Joseph Houser, son of Nathan and Mary Selix Houser, born in 1842 and a resident of Ohio for the last 30 years, stated that he had married Susan, parentage and particulars unknown, on 17 Oct 1862, Camden, Hillsdale Co, MI.  A check of marriage records there did not yield any confirmation of that event.  Before 1860 Joseph’s father had died, his mother remarried a Mr. Chilcote, and they lived in Milford Twp, Defiance Co, OH.

Joseph said that he and his wife were the parents of four children, Martha J (b1864), William (b1866), Ella A (b1868), and Louisa (b1870).  The court learned that between 6 Aug 1873 - 15 Nov 1874 at the Houser home in Edgerton, Susan committed adultery with Dr. John Townsend.  Joseph Houser filed his petition for divorce on 6 Sept 1875, naming Townsend and stated that his wife had left him and moved to Alma, Gratiot Co, MI.  Joseph wanted custody of the children.  He called witnesses Amos Fields and Lorinda Hopkins to confirm his allegations.  "The Bryan Press”, Sept 1875, ran a legal notice naming John Townsend and Houser's wife, Susan as guilty parties in this action. The court granted the divorce.  Perhaps Dr. Townsend also left town, either with or without Susan Houser, leaving wife Melvina to face creditors or he stayed here, but in any event he and Melvina had moved to Henry Co before federal census was taken. There is a stone near Fanny Townsend's burial plot that is inscribed J. Townsend, died 187*. 

According to the Bryan Press, 7 August 1879, Joseph Houser, using strips of muslin, hung himself to a rod at the county jail in early August 1879.  He had been incarcerated for 18 days on a charge of forgery.  He was 40 years old, had a wife, and four children.  The coroner declared Joseph was insane.  His remains were taken to Edgerton for burial.

In the 1880 Arcada, Gratiot Co, MI federal census p436 Susan Houser was enumerated as Susan Hart, wife of Thomas Hart; Susan was born in Ohio c1846, had married within the year to Thomas Hart 35 Canada, and had daughter Christena 1 MI; the Houser stepchildren, William H, Ella, and Louisa, were also living in that household.

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