Husband Wanted to be a Cowboy, Divorce in Williams County, Ohio, 1885
His father died on 6 Feb 1884, Wms Co, OH (Deaths V2 p24). The father's will made no provision for him because he ran away from his family responsibilities to Ft. Concho, Texas, where he supposedly became a cowboy. Was this a romantic flight of fancy or a permanent escape from a loveless marriage? The reader must decide.
According to the 1850 Center
Twp, Wms Co, OH federal census p74B, Bentley Hannum 39 PA was listed with his
family, Nancy 34 OH, Robert 17 OH, Isavilla 10 OH, Sarah 7 OH, and Elizabeth 2
OH. In the 1870 Center Twp federal
census p24 the Hannum family was enumerated as Bentley 60 PA, Nancy 54 OH, Sarah
27 OH, Elizabeth 22 OH, John 17 OH, and Edith 12 OH.
The Hannum daughter, Phebe, was not listed in the 1850 census because she
wasn’t born yet; she wasn’t included in the 1870 census because she had
eloped to Michigan and married the future Texas cowboy.
From the 1860 NW Twp, Wms Co federal census, p12A, one finds the family
of immigrant William O'Mealey as William 50 Ireland, Sarah A 46 NY, William 18
NY, James 12 IN, Byron 11 NY, John 10 MI, Henry 7 MI, and Thomas 4 MI.
William O'Mealey's oldest son, William H., had married Phebe Hannum on 29
Aug 1869, Ransom, Hillsdale Co, MI. This
couple was enumerated in the 1870 NW Twp federal census, p23, as William 24 MI,
and Phebe 19 OH; closeby the husband's family, William 64 Ireland, Sallie 59 NY,
Harry 17 MI, and Charles 14 MI appeared in that census record.
According to the 1880 Melbern, Center Twp federal census, Phebe Jane
Omealey was listed as 29 OH with her daughter, Phebe J 6 KS; they resided with
her parents Benley Hannum 71 PA, Nancy 64 OH, and Isavelia Bentley 40 OH.
Clearly Phebe’s husband was missing.
Note that child Phebe J was born in Kansas, so the couple must have lived
there for a time and either Phebe returned to Wms Co with her daughter or the
O’Mealey couple returned and later William left the area.
According to the Williams County, Ohio Civil and Criminal Court records
(Journal 13 p218 - 2 July 1885; p251/258 - 25 Nov 1885; Roll 41 Box 139 case
number 1419 - 20 Jan 1885) Phebe O'Mealey appeared in court requesting a divorce
from willfully absent William H. The
couple had a daughter, Phebe Josephine, born 8 Sept 1873, for whom William gave
no support. Phebe, the wife, was
reduced to performing manual labor to put food on the table.
She knew that William had left for Ft. Concho, TX, but had not known
where he was for the last seven years. His
father had died recently and she wanted the court to compel the executor of his
estate, Richard Hathaway, to give her a part of the estate or $400.
Hathaway appeared to tell the court that Sally A. O'Mealey, the widow,
would receive all the real estate, valued at $3500 and the other children and
heirs would receive cash ranging from $100 - $1,000.
There would not be any money for errant son William H. according to the
The court decided to grant Phebe a divorce and to allow her $400 from the
estate. There appears to be no
objections to this on the part of the executor.
What makes this case unique is the fact that the newspaper listing for
six consecutive weeks, announcing Phebe's intention to divorce, was made in the Montpelier
Enterprise rather than one of the two
newspapers in Bryan, in which the majority of other divorce announcements are
In the 1900 Bryan Ward 1, Pulaski Twp, Wms Co, OH federal census p158,
Phebe O’Mealey is listed as born Nov 1850 (49) OH divorced with one child
living; she was included in the household of her father, Bentley Hannum, born
Feb 1810 (90) PA widower, and her sister Edith Kaiser/Keiser born Aug 1857 (42)
OH widow with her daughter Jean Kaiser born Oct 1888 (11) OH. Phebe’s mother
Nancy A (1816-1896) was buried in the Bryan Fountain Grove Cem; husband Bentley
(1810-1902) would join her and their daughter Elizabeth.
Whereabouts for Phebe or her daughter are not currently known.
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