Mary E. Neff opened an envelope to find a defaced photograph of her estranged husband, William E. Neff, with an eye gouged out, an ear scratched off, a rodent scrawled on his forehead, and a button attached to his ear dangling from a piece of string. The couple were in the midst of a divorce, and Mary, assuming that William had sent it, wrote to him that the purpose of the photo “is dark and mysterious to me, and I am at a loss to know the meaning, whether it is jest, insult, ridicule, or what.”
William E. Neff and Mary E. Munsey were married on 13 April 1899 and lived together as man and wife for a mere four months. By 1902, William was seeking a divorce on grounds of desertion, but it was unclear who deserted whom. William claimed that Mary refused to return home with him after a visit to her parents’ home on the evening of 13 August 1899. Mary argued that William would not agree to treat her right and just up and abandoned her.
In an attempt to make some sense out of their accusations neighbors and family members were deposed. Mary was accused of shouting that she “did not intend to raise any kids by the baldhead scoundrel” as she strode about a neighbor’s house brandishing a yardstick. … read more »
Among the character witnesses called in the divorce case of Minerva Alice Nulton and John M. Nulton included John’s widowed sister, Annie Sloat, a dry-goods merchant. In addition to her testimony concerning what she believed to be the bad character of her sister-in-law, Annie entered several items into evidence including this picture and poem that she believed Minerva had sent to her. Based on the statements the two women made about each other in this case, the poem aptly sums up the feelings between Minerva and Annie.
The case of Minerva Alice Nulton v. John N. Nulton, 1900, is part of the Frederick County Chancery Court Collection. An early accession of Frederick County chancery causes, 1745-1926, was processed in the 1990s and is available on microfilm. Additional Frederick County chancery causes , 1866-1923 (Accession 42505), were transferred to the LVA and are presently being processed. This portion will be digitally reformatted as the budget permits.
-Sam Walters, Local Records Archivist… read more »
The latest images from the Augusta County Chancery Causes are now available on the Chancery Records Index. This latest addition of Augusta County chancery causes covering the time period from 1896 through 1902 joins the 1867-1895 causes already available online. Following are a few suits of interest found in this latest addition.
In 1898, Betty E. Arey proclaimed that a cemetery would not be built in her backyard when she and her husband brought suit against the Town of Waynesboro in R. E. Arey and wife vs. Town of Waynesboro etc., 1898-004. The Areys attempted to halt the construction of a cemetery behind their property and brought as evidence a plat showing the proximity of graves to their house, garden, and well.
In her bill for divorce, Annie B. Black wrote that she was persuaded to elope by John B. Black who later “willfully deserted and abandoned her at the youthful age of thirteen” after having only been married for two months. In Annie B. Black vs. John B. Black, 1900-054, Annie Black claimed that her husband obtained their marriage license without her presence and falsely represented her as being twenty when she was actually not yet thirteen at the time of their marriage.
In Frank H. Bailey vs. Nannie C. Bailey, 1902-004, the Baileys argue over who abandoned whom when … read more »
In 1896, Virginia Anderson, nicknamed Jennie, filed for divorce from her husband, Epps G. Anderson, in the Scott County Circuit Court. He was in his seventies, she in her fifties, and both had grown children from previous marriages. Like many other divorce cases, Virginia and Epps accused each other of a variety of shortcomings including abuse, abandonment, property mismanagement, and infidelity. Having come across cases like this before, I was not expecting it when half way through his deposition Epps stated that “after July the 4, 1896 there had been a knocking spirit down at Doc. Kyle’s. Jennie said she would go down there …when she came back said she heard it and seen it act and it knocked on her… and she said before she started she was going to bring it up here and run me off or scare me.” Epps went on to describe a two-hour episode occurring in the night, with chairs being knocked to the floor, doors blowing open, ghostly footsteps, and a spirit that answered questions by knocking on the walls.
Epps’ daughter, Mollie Edens, also testified in the divorce case and described an encounter with the entity in which Virginia asked the spirit if it was the good spirit or the evil one and told it to “knock three licks if the evil spirit, then [it] knocked three. … read more »
The Library of Virginia is pleased to announce that digital images for Franklin County chancery causes, 1787-1912, are now available on the Chancery Records Index. Digital images are available for the years 1787-1912. The complete index covers the years 1787-1929, and original records 1913-1929 are available at The Library of Virginia. Additional post-1913 records are available at the Franklin County Circuit Court Clerk’s Office. Following are a few suits of interest found in this collection.
Franklin County chancery cause 1873-050 includes a detailed report on the division of slaves (image# 10-12), including the ages of the slaves. There are suits such as 1836-009 and 1885-027 that involve Franklin County native son and Confederate General, Jubal A. Early, who practiced law in Franklin County before and after the Civil War. Chancery cause 1867-005 is a sad but scandalous divorce suit between James C. Smith and Lucy F. Smith. James Smith returned home from fighting in the Civil War only to learn that his wife had been unfaithful while he was away (image# 2-3). The suit includes depositions given by Mrs. Smith’s paramours describing their secret getaways. Chancery cause 1870-006 gives details on the many difficulties women encountered while managing estates. The plaintiff, Nancy B. Ferguson, entrusted the defendant, her nephew Thomas B. Ferguson, with running the day to day affairs of her estate which included numerous … read more »
Additional Prince Edward County chancery causes are now available on the Chancery Records Index. These additions span the years 1754 through 1883. Combined with the previously released images for Prince Edward County, the locality’s chancery causes have been digitized for the years 1754 through 1913.
Chancery cases are especially useful when researching local history, genealogical information, and land or estate divisions. They are a valuable source of local, state, social, and legal history and serve as a primary source for understanding a locality’s history. Chancery causes often contain correspondence; property lists, including slaves; lists of heirs; and vital statistics, along with many other records. Some of the more common types of chancery causes involve divisions of the estate of a person who died intestate (without a will); divorces; settlements of dissolved business partnerships; and resolutions of land disputes.
Here are a few of the cases you will find in the newly updated Prince Edward County chancery collection. To see more suits, go to the EAD guide and choose “Selected Suits of Interest” on the menu at the left.
1755-001- Bridget Braithwaite by etc. v. Edward Braithwaite. The wife sued for separate maintenance. Her husband abandoned her and was cohabiting with Joanna Sinclair, “a woman of ill fame and reputation” in the same parish and county. Bridget Braithwaite and her small children “are likely to … read more »
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… read more »