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Her Husband Wanted to be a Cowboy, Divorce in Williams County, Ohio, 1885

By

Pamela Pattison Lash

            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 father's will.

            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 found. 

            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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