01 November 2010

Divorce Action in Williams County, Ohio - Pifer


Clarissa Diantha Tucker Pifer v Michael Pifer

Violent Craftsman with Three Wives Was Buried Alone, No Divorce in Williams County, Ohio, 1869

By Pamela Pattison Lash (updated 2010)

Michael Pifer, born 2 Feb 1829, Richland Co, OH, was a saddle and harnessmaker by trade.  He was the son of John E. and Charlotte Harner Pifer of Germany and PA/MD, respectively.  Michael married Caroline Esther Sellen/Celler, parentage unknown, in Richland Co on 11/13 Sept 1849 (Marriages Book A p198A); the couple traveled west to West Unity, Brady Twp, Wms Co where Michael opened a harness shop.  They were enumerated in the 1850 Brady Twp federal census p3B, as Michael 21 OH, Caroline 20 PA, and several others in the household, Linda Fifield 7 OH, James Elliott 17 OH harnessmaker, and George Pifer 25 OH blacksmith, Catherine Pifer 25 OH, Nancy Pifer 3 OH, John Pifer 1 OH, and David Stoner 17 OH.  Caroline and Michael's children appear to be Elnora M, Somerton, and Albert Elwood.

The Pifers were again listed in the 1860 Brady Twp federal census p155a, as Michael 31 OH, Ardelia 26 OH, Sommerton 7 OH, Albert 5 OH, William 2 OH, Elnora 1 OH, Eugene Mattison 10 OH, and Frank Mattison 7 OH.  A new wife was evident in the household since Caroline Pifer (24 Apr 1830 PA-28 July 1856) had been laid to rest in the Rings Cemetery, and Michael had remarried on 17 Sept 1856, Wms Co (Marriages V2 p171) to Mrs. Ardelia Mattison, the widow of Nathan Matteson of Madison Twp. 

She brought to the marriage her children, Eugene (23 Jan 1850 OH-aft 1873) and Frank (12 Jan 1854 OH-aft 1870).  There was a probate record for Nathan Matteson on 17 Oct 1854 (#1335) when Ardelia was named the guardian for her sons.  The Matteson sons are found in the 1870 Brady Twp federal census as Eugene Madison 18 OH harnessmaker, living in the household of Henry Shawley, and Frank Matteson 17 OH living in the 1870 Millcreek Twp household of the John Coleman family.  Eugene and Olena Loveless became the parents of daughter Della, b. 14 Sept 1873, Wms Co (Births V1 p61).  Little Della was probably named after her grandmother, Ardelia Matteson Pifer.

This story becomes confusing when one checks the dates for inaccuracies.  Unless the tombstone reading for the death date of Caroline Pifer is inaccurate, the next child born, William H. Pifer (24 Sept 1856 - 15 Dec 1877, buried Rings Cemetery) would be born several months after Caroline's death or seven days after Ardelia Matteson became the second Mrs. Pifer.  William H was buried between Michael's two wives as Ardelia died on 28 July 1864.  His death is documented in Wms Co, OH (Deaths V1 p45) as 21Y 2M 22D and his tombstone reads "son of M and A.” Other children born to Michael and Ardelia were Elnora Isora, Genora, and Minnie May Pifer.

The Pifer family was enumerated in the 1870 Brady Twp federal census p6, as Michael 41 OH, Clara D. 41 NY, Summerton 18 OH, Elwood 16 OH, William 14 OH, Isora 12 OH, Genora 10 OH, and Minnie 8 OH.  By this time Michael had married a third time, this being the marriage to Clarissa Diantha Tucker, on 13 Dec 1863, Pioneer, Wms Co (Marriages V3 p339).  Here’s where the mystery of Clarissa’s past comes in the detailing.  If she was Clara Tucker, as the sources claim, then the following family is hers: Clarissa, b. 19 Aug 1828, NY, was the daughter of William and Phila or Tilla Tucker, natives of NY and VT, respectively.  The Tuckers were found in the 1850 NW Twp federal census p53B; William died on 28 Jan 1860 @54Y 1M 3D and was buried in the Columbia Cemetery.  His widow Phila or Tilla Hulbert Tucker plus their children Emma, William, and Theron were enumerated in the 1860 NW Twp federal census with Tilla as a seamstress.  The History of Williams County, Ohio, Goodspeed, 1882, p416, stated that a Mrs. Tucker was a milliner in Pioneer c1882; the Tuckers had the following children: Henry, Diantha, Saprona, Orpha, Surbetus, Martha, Emma, William, and Theron.  They traveled from Chautaqua Co, NY to Cuyahoga Co, OH before settling in Wms Co before 1850. 

Now a second scenario must be looked at as well.  In the 1860 Madison Twp, federal census there was a Kelsy family enumerated on p203 as follows: Willard F 41 NY JP, Clarissa 44 NY, Almira Royce 61 NY, David Kelsey 25 NY and Clarissa 31 NY.  Upon Clarissa’s death in 1887 she was buried with the Kelsy family and Almira Royce in the Floral Grove Cem, Pioneer.  The burial records refer to her as Clarissa D. Kelsey Pifer.  Was she married to a Kelsy therefore she would be Clarissa Tucker Kelsey or was she married to a Tucker, thereby known as Clarissa Kelsey Tucker?  This needs to be investigated further.

By 1864 Michael owned property lots in West Unity and a portion of Section 31 in Brady Twp.  In 1867 he paid personal property tax in Brady Twp and by 1874 his Section 31 property was owned by HE and SF Pifer.

Clarissa D. Pifer, his third bride, appeared before the Williams County, Ohio Civil and Criminal Court (Journal 7 - Mar 1869; Roll 40 case number 1286 - 16 Dec 1868) and requested a divorce. Clarissa told the court that on 1 Nov 1865 Michael kicked her and threw her down 6-7 steps off the porch of their home.  She was unable to walk.  On 25 Aug 1867 he again assaulted her and dragged her by the hair out of the house.  On 2 Mar 1868 after assaulting her Michael refused her medical assistance while she was sick and disabled.  Someone alerted a physician and when the doctor came to the house Michael was insulting to the doctor.  On 29 June 1868 he beat her in his West Unity workshop so badly that she was unable to walk from the shop to their home.  She was carried by friends and neighbors to the home and confined there for two weeks.  On 15 Aug 1868 Michael assaulted her and by kicking her she suffered a sprained ankle and could not walk for three weeks.  On 25 Nov 1868 Michael chased her through the streets of West Unity with a butcher knife yelling, "I'll kill you."  That night he seized her by the hair and shoved her out of the house. 

Clarissa stated that Michael owned property in West Unity valued at $1,000 and had a great deal of personal property as well.  She feared he would try to dispose of this and leave her destitute.  The record showed that the case was dismissed which means no divorce for Clarissa.

The couple was enumerated in the 1870 as mentioned above and in the 1880 federal census p513C, as Michael 51 OH harness maker, Clarrie 51 NY, Genora 20 OH, Minnie May 18 OH, and Harvey Miller 19 OH harness maker/boarder. 

On 10 Nov 1881 Michael Pifer died at his home @52Y 9M 8D (Deaths V2 p12) and was buried in Floral Grove Cemetery, West Unity, Brady Twp.  On 22 May 1887 Clarissa Pifer died and was buried in Floral Grove Cemetery, Pioneer, Madison Twp.  Michael had three known wives, yet in death he was buried alone. If Clarissa's testimony as to Michael's character was accurate, one can see why Clarissa chose not to rest for eternity next to such a husband.

An interesting note on one of Michael's sons exists in the above-mentioned Goodspeed and in Stories of Fountain City, Van Gundy, 1975.  Elwood Pifer learned the harnessmaking business and continued it until 20 May 1882 when he decided to go into the hotel business and took over the Kenyon House in West Unity.  Three months later he purchased the McIntire House and ran that for a time.  At some point his wife, Mary Elizabeth Zigler, and baby lived in Manitoba, Canada and visited HH Miller and wife in West Unity (“Bryan Press”, 26 Sept 1895).  Elwood’s name was also linked with the fire bug panic of 1903-1907 period in both Williams and Fulton Cos.  Elwood spent a year in prison for this; he died on 17 June 1893 in Chadbourne, NC.

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