In 1913, Mary Ella Gray stated in a deposition that she moved to her parents’ home in Fredericksburg after her husband James “continuously abused me, and was very profane to me and often told me that he bore for me no affection whatever, and I could pull up and leave whenever I got ready.” Court documents show that, prior to reaching this point, happier times were evident in their marriage.
Like so many other Spotsylvania County chancery causes, Mary Ella Gray vs. James Oliver B. Gray, 1913, appeared to be a fairly routine divorce case; however, the marriage certificate was not so ordinary.
The couple was married in the District of Columbia on 1 November 1902. The certificate is a noteworthy document, illustrative and colorful. It cites a Bible verse, Ruth 4:13, describing the marriage of Ruth to Boaz, and features an illustration of Ruth gleaning barley in Boaz’s field. The document was published by Jennings and Dye of Cincinnati, Ohio, printed in Germany.
Divorces were granted through county chancery courts. The marriage certificate was included in the cause, possibly as an exhibit. The Spotsylvania County Chancery Causes Collection contains about 40 cubic feet of records and covers the years circa 1811-1925. It is currently closed for processing and will be digitized.
-Joanne Porter, Local Records Archivist