Scoby’s Divorce and Battle for Child Custody

divorceAlthough there were significantly fewer divorces in the early nineteenth century than there are today, they nevertheless did exist.  One of the earliest divorces on record in Monroe County is that of James and Ruth Scoby.

On August 24, 1824, the Monroe County sheriff was commanded to bring several witnesses to court to testify on behalf of James Scoby and his petition against Ruth.  The witnesses included Samuel R. Cavin, George Hardesty, George Johnston and James Edwards.

According to an index of divorces available at the genealogy library in the Monroe County History Center, James was granted the divorce on March 7, 1825.  The couple had one child together, an infant daughter named Eunice.  Ruth was apparently given custody.

Following the divorce, James married again on October 3, 1826.  His second wife was Rhoda Polly. Sometime thereafter, he brought Eunice to his home and refused to give her back to Ruth.

Understandably, Ruth was upset.  She protested that she had rightful custody of Eunice and asked the court to intervene on her behalf.  On August 8, 1827, the judge ordered the sheriff to bring James and Eunice to court so that James might explain, if he could, why he refused to return Eunice.

There is little more information than this in the circuit court file for James Scoby vs. Ruth Scoby.  (See Circuit Court Records Box 5 at the Genealogy Library, Monroe County History Center, Bloomington, Indiana.)

Post by Randi Richardson.

James Noah Parks: A Biographical Sketch and the Dissolution of a Marriage

Divorce is ugly no matter how one looks at it.  And it was especially ugly before the no-fault laws when spouses were pressured to write the nastiest things imaginable about each other in order for their petition to be taken seriously by the court.

Many petitions for divorces filed in Monroe County are buried among civil court cases archived at the Monroe County History Center in Bloomington Indiana.  There is no particular index to them, although some of the earliest ones may be found in an index to all civil court records (1818-1875) available online at http://monroehistory.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/courtrecordsindex18181875.pdf.

Typically, the divorce petition and related documents can be quite rich providing the researcher with previously unknown information.  This is especially the case when a couple cross files.  It is, however, important to keep in mind that the information may also be embellished or biased.

In February 1884, James Noah Parks sued his wife, Dulsena (Briscoe) Parks for a divorce in Monroe County.

James was born in October 1849 to William and Mary Jane (Woods) Parks, natives of Indiana and Tennessee, respectively.  William appeared in Monroe County in 1850 but disappeared from the picture sometime between 1850 and 1860.  The exact reason for his absence is not known.  Afterward Mary Jane took James and went to live with her parents, Jacob and Matilda Woods, in Bean Blossom Township, Monroe County.

In 1864, when James was nearly 15, Mary Jane married again.  Her second husband was Jacob Daggy.

Although some step-parents are reluctant to take on the responsibility of another man’s child, this did not appear to be the mindset of Jacob Daggy.  In 1870, when James was 20 years old, he was residing with his mother and stepfather in Bean Blossom Twp.  The household also included Mary Jane’s parents and Jacob Daggy’s son, Charles, by a previous marriage.

The following year, on April 13, 1871, James married Dulsena Briscoe in Monroe County, and in 1880 they were still living at home with James’ mother and stepfather and Mary Janes parents.  Apparently their living situation was not altogether unpleasant because they continued to reside together until April 15, 1883, when they went their separate ways.  James alleged that he was a loving and affectionate husband at all times while Dulsena neglected him and tried to damage his reputation by saying he was running around with another woman.  Finally, in February 1884, James filed for divorce.

When the petition was first heard before the court in February it was dismissed.  Wilson decided that the cruel treatment James described “didn’t amount to much.”  The petition was later refiled and a divorce was granted to James on September 21, 1885.

Perhaps James had some clue that Dulsena was not exactly true to her marital vows.  Or maybe Dulsena was just tired of living with her inlaws.  At any rate, three days after her divorce from James she married Frank Moore.

James, on the other hand, did not remarry.  Ever.  He seemed quite content to remain where he was.  In 1900 he was still living with his mother and stepfather.  The following year, however, his mother passed away, and his stepfather died in 1908.  Both were buried in Chambersville Cemetery in Owen County.  Then James went to live with the family of his stepbrother, Charles and was still living there in 1910.

On March 28, 1918, at the age of 63, James died of chronic nephritis.  He died without a will because he had no assets.  He died without an heir because he was never a father.  Today he lies at rest in Chambersville not far from those he loved, from the people that sheltered him his entire life.

Sources:

  1. Monroe County federal population census records: 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900 and 1910.
  2. Monroe County death records online at Ancestry for Noah Parks and Mary Jane Daggy.
  3. Monroe County marriage record indices.
  4. Monroe County Civil Court records, James N. Parks vs. Dulsena Parks, Box 475, Monroe County History Center, Bloomington, Indiana.
  5. Bloomington (IN) Saturday Courier, February 23, 1884, p. 1.

 

Blog post by Randi Richardson