15 October 2010

Divorce Action in Williams County, Ohio - Kent (Edwin and Nathaniel)

Elizabeth Kent Kent v Nathaniel Kent
Irene Shaw Kent v Edwin S. Kent

Tumultuous Times in Old Bryan, Williams County, OH, No Divorce, 1869, 1872, and 1879 and Maybe Murder

By Pamela Pattison Lash (updated 13 July 2011)

As you, the reader, peruse the following detailing, ask yourself if it was possible for the husband to have murdered the wife?  He was dragged into court on numerous occasions and he may have had a further motive beside revenge – love.

Nathaniel Kent, b. July 1835, OH, was the son of Benjamin Kent, Jr., and Lucy Mankins.  The parents, both VA natives, were married on 19 July 1831 in Columbiana Co, OH.  They are found in the 1850 Pulaski Twp, Wms Co, OH federal census, p86, as Benjamin Kent 38 VA, Ancy 36 VA, Charlotte 17 OH, Nathaniel 15 OH, Angeline 14 OH, Alvina 12 OH, and Francis 7 OH.  Nathaniel's mother died and c. 1853 his father married Sarah Kearns.  In the Williams County, Ohio Civil and Criminal Court records (#484 - 2 Oct 1857) Nathaniel Kent was granted a $500 bail for breaking and entering the storeroom of Bryan merchant, David Stauffer, on 12 Aug 1857.  Kent was caught stealing watches, $10 in change, and other items.  He was taken to jail on 20 Aug 1857.  The record does not tell whether Nathaniel was found guilty.  There was another later incident from case number 2132 on 16 May 1879 concerning theft but when I consulted the packet where the case information should have been, I did not find any papers.

In the 1860 Bryan, Pulaski Twp federal census, p18A, one finds this family enumerated as Benjamin, Jr., 46 VA, Sarah 29 OH, Nathaniel 24 OH plasterer, Francis 16 OH, Mary 3 OH, BF (m) 2 OH, unnamed male 3/12 OH, and Caroline Down 18 OH inmate.  Nathaniel’s brother, Francis M. Kent, died in Kentucky c. 30 Oct 1862 as a Civil War soldier in the 3rd Ohio Volunteer Cavalry.  Nathaniel Kent joined Co K 68th Ohio Infrantry and served as a private on 27 Oct 1861.

Nathaniel married Elizabeth Kent on 27 Dec 1860, Amboy, Hillsdale Co, MI (Marriages, Book C p191) as Nathaniel G. Kint and Elizabeth Kint. On 15 May 1869 Elizabeth Kent appeared in the Williams County, Ohio Civil and Criminal Court (Roll 21 case number 17), requesting a divorce from her husband, stating that Nathaniel was a habitual drunk for the last three years.  Elizabeth said that Nathaniel was extremely cruel to her on 2 Mar 1869.  He had goods and chattel valued at $150 and was the owner in fee simple of real estate, Lot 60, Allen's Addition, Bryan.  He planned to sell this, convert the proceeds to cash for his own use, and remove from Ohio, leaving her destitute.  Elizabeth also bought real estate in Bryan from her own funds.  The court decided she was at fault in this domestic abuse case and awarded Nathaniel $100 in damages.  There was no divorce granted.  The couple was enumerated in the 1870 Bryan, Pulaski Twp, federal census, p178, as Nathaniel Kent 34 OH mason and Elizabeth 48 VA.

Again in 1870 Elizabeth appeared in court (Roll 24 case number 4) suing Samuel and Thomas Shorthill plus John Niederaur for giving Nathaniel intoxicating liquor.  Subsequently he got drunk and compelled her to leave their home.  She sought damages of $3,000.   No damages were awarded.

On 29 May 1872 (Journal 8 p41; Roll 26 case number 44), Elizabeth sued Nathaniel for a divorce using the same grounds, habitual drunkenness.  Here she stated that she paid for Lot #60, Allen's Addition, Bryan, and he was about to dispose of this property.  Again there was no divorce granted.

In June 1879 Elizabeth returned to court (Roll 34 case number 653) and said that Nathaniel neglected her.  On 10 May 1879 he was abusive, violent, drunk, and threatened to kill her.  She again wanted a divorce, money, and the assurance that he would not be able to sell her Bryan real estate.  No divorce was granted.

The couple was listed in the 1880 Bryan, Pulaski Twp federal census, p637, as plasterer Nathaniel 44 OH-VA-VA and wife Elizabeth 57 VA-VA-VA.  Since the Kent families involved here were originally from VA, one can speculate that they were related but todate no proof exists to this relationship.  Note there was apparently a 13-year difference in their ages, with Elizabeth being the senior.  On 17 Apr 1880 Nathaniel applied for a pension based on his Civil War service.

A newspaper account in the "Bryan Democrat", Mar 1886, gave an interesting account of Elizabeth's sudden death.  "Mrs. Kent, who has been confined to her rocking chair in their home on E. Bryan St., died under unusual circumstances on Sunday afternoon.  She observed the funeral of Simon Frazier passing the house, and spoke of it to her husband.  A short time later Fissell's hearse, containing the body of Potter, a suicide, passed the house.  She said, 'Why Nate, there's another one'.  A few minutes afterward Mr. Kent went to her for the purpose of helping her into a more comfortable position and found her dead."  Presumably the lady was buried in Fountain Grove Cemetery, Bryan, but there is no existing headstone or other information to support this.

When reading this account and knowing the tempestuous relationship between the two, one wonders if Elizabeth was given a little help with her death.  After all, she was not given any court assistance, and since the Kent family name was very prominent in the politics of this county and had economic and social status here, one might speculate that Nathaniel "got away with murder."  Also Elizabeth's obituary plainly stated "unusual circumstances in her demise."

What is learned next comes from the 1900 Bryan, Pulaski Twp federal census, p177B, with Nathaniel Kent, b. July 1835, OH, married 14 years to wife Irene, b July 1855 OH-VA-VA, with Kent children Gertie M. (Sept 1877, OH), Mary E. (6 Feb 1882, OH), Howard (4 Mar 1886, OH), and Pinkie (female, Aug 1890, OH).  They lived at 154 Enterprise Street, a different home from when Nathaniel was married to Elizabeth.

Nathaniel was "married" to Irene Shaw Kent Kent for 15 years according to the census, but they must have lived together shortly after his wife's death. 

The children's names and birthdates were included in this record which match up with the 1900 census info with the exception of daughter Olive, b. 20 Sept 1875, who was not living with Nathaniel and Irene Kent then, and daughter Gertie who according to the probate data was born 6 Dec 1878.  Olive was 16 at the time of the guardianship; there is a record for an Olive Kent marrying George W. Bostator, in Wms Co on 22 Mar 1894 (Marriages, V6 #1136).  Pinkie appears to be the issue of Nathaniel and Irene as the 1900 census listed the couple as having one child from the marriage.

Williams County Birth records (V1 p126) show a child born to ES Kent and Olive I. Shaw, named Burtie/Gertie, 6 Sept 1878, Bryan; another birth record (V2 p21) revealed a daughter Rosa born 1 Aug 1880, Pulaski Twp to ES Kent and Irena Shaw; a third birth record (V2 p33) listed daughter Flora Bell born 6 Feb 1881, Pulaski Twp, to ES Kent and Anna Shaw.  Further mudding the waters there is a fourth birth record (V2 p5) for Arlie D, born 13 Jan 1880, Jefferson Twp, child of Nathaniel Kent and Arminda Miser. There does not appear to be another Nathaniel in this county, so one can speculate that this was our subject; if that were the case, the child was born while Nathaniel was still married to Elizabeth.  According to the 1880 Pulaski Twp, Williams Co, OH federal census p627 one finds the Kent household enumerated as Edwin S Kent farmer 41 OH-VA-OH, Olive J wife 25 MI-MI-MI, Olive O 4 OH-OH-MI, and Gertie 1 OH-OH-MI.

Also in the civil records there exists a case where a Florence Jessie Kittredge came to court and stated that at the time of Dr. Thomas Kent's estate settlement on 10 Jan 1885, his widow Sarah Kittredge was willed Kent's house and lot in Bryan.  Upon her death Edwin S. Kent inherited this property and now that he was deceased the real estate fell to the minor heirs.  Since Nathaniel married Irene c.1887 and Edwin died in Jan 1891, it would appear that Irene must have divorced Edwin or lived in common law with Nathaniel. 

A further search of later divorce records proved that Irene Kent sued Edward S. Kent for divorce according to Journal 14 p39 - 1 Dec 1886 and Roll 44 case number 1678 for 9 Oct 1886 and also the divorce action of Irene Kent v Edward S. Kent was listed in Journal 15 p36 – June 1889 case number 1678; this must have been for the second filing with the judgment of a continuance. The couple was married in March 1873, at Bronson, MI. She charged him with gross neglect and being a habitual drunk for the last five years; she had to live on the charity of others for support.  She called a large number of people to support her claims, including Mrs. Peter M. Shaw, and Elizabeth Kent Mankins.  She received temporary custody of the younger children but the oldest daughter, Olivia Kent, was placed in the home of Mary Jane Kline.  The names of the children and their birthdates were included in this record as Olive (10 on 20 Sept 1886), Gertie M (7 on 5 Mar 1886), Mary E (4 on 6 Feb 1886), and Howard (b. 4 Mar 1886). 

ET Binns was the trustee of an account set up for the children on the basis of Edwin's father's will.  The trust contained $1200.  Irene quoted parts of the will as follows: "to Martin L. Ransom and heirs to receive w 1/2 of se 1/4 of Sec 23 T6 R3E and Lot 17 Dobbs First in Bryan in trust for rents, profits, etc, to support and maintain the family of my son Edward Summerton if after ten years my son is temperate and sober and a steady man abstaining from intoxicating liquor then Ransom may convey in fee simple the property to Edward; upon his death the property shall go to his wife and children".  The property was valued at $7500.  Ransom refused the trust and no one else has taken it.  Irene wanted the money for the children".

Edward charged in a crossfiling that Irene was guilty of adultery and listed dates ranging from 15 May 1886 through 1 Oct 1886.  With whom was she having an affair?  Edwin Kent charged the third party as none other than Nathaniel G. Kent.  They were together in Edwin's home, Nathaniel's home, hotels in Montpelier and Butler, IN, and private homes in Defiance.  Edwin stated that Irene's youngest child was not his. [Compare this time frame with the death of Nathaniel's wife Elizabeth, the birth of Howard, and the dates Edward chose to state in court.] He wanted custody of the other children, stating that she was unfit to have children.  She kept them out of school and did not properly care for them. Irene later in June 1887 stated that her children Olivia, Gertie, Mary E, and Howard, were entitled to a part of the estate of their grandfather, Dr. Thomas Kent.  On 3 Aug 1887 the Kent estate was sold and Irene received $100 from the proceeds.  She asked for more money on 15 Dec 1887 and continued to appear in court as of 1889 wanting a divorce and alimony. 

Irene, the former wife of Edwin S. Kent, sometimes referred to as Edward Kent, may be the same person who earlier in a Williams County, Ohio Civil and Criminal Court record (#2020 - 2 July 1878) was brought to court on charges of assault and battery with intent to kill Samantha Raynor.  John and Louisa Ebaugh, Mrs. Ester Newman, Bridgett Leavy, Mrs. Abe Grass, and Mero Rainey all appeared in court testifying against Irene.  The court requested a $100 appearance bond with both Irene and ES Kent paying this.  Later on 20 Nov 1879 James Leavy appeared in court fearing that Irene would kill his child, Margaret A. Leavy.  Once again Irene posted a bond.  In both cases the charges appear to have been dismissed. 

"Bryan Press" newspaper article, 17 Apr 1902, p5, announced the death of Nathaniel G. Kent who for sometime had been living in Toledo, Lucas Co, OH, where he died.   His body was brought back here and buried in an unmarked grave in Fountain Grove Cemetery.  The further particulars of Irene and the children are not currently known; however in 1910 Siloam Springs, Benton Co, AR p42, a family was recorded as Howard W. Kent 30 OH married 8 years with 3 children/2 surviving, wife Martha L 27 AR, and children Irene R 6 AR, and Howard E 6/12 AR.  The birthdate for this Howard is not consistent with Irene’s Howard, but the names are intriguing.

1 comment:

Frances Van Scoy said...

Simon Frazier/Frazer, son of Paul Frazier and Jane Kirkpatrick, married 15 February 1842 in Richland County, Ohio, Rebecca Cooper, daughter of Jacob Cooper and Lydia Oakley and sister of my great(2)-grandmother Lucy Ann (Cooper) (Marvin) Tuttle. Rebecca (Cooper) Frazier later married _____ Brown.

Frances Van Scoy, FrancesVanScoy@aol.com