A Rough Spot in a Marriage – and an Unexpected Ending

On September 29, 1881, Alice Virginia Furr married Edward Joseph Ward in Dayton. She was the daughter of Squire and Mary (Bruner) Furr. He was the son of Fenton and Mary (?) Ward. Although he lists his mother’s name as Mary Clemens in this marriage application, the 1842 La Salle County marriage of Fenting [sic] Ward lists his wife’s name as Mary Cofield. Further investigation is needed on this.

The marriage was performed in Ottawa by Charles F. W. O’Neill, Catholic Priest.

They had three children:

Mary Elizabeth, born April 28, 1883, in Dayton township; married Robert J. W. Briggs September 12, 1905, in Ottawa, Illinois; died September 24, 1948.

William Albert Ward, born April 25, 1885, in Dayton township; died August 4th, 1967, in Warm Springs, Montana. He never married.

Carrie E., born 6 May 1887, in Dayton township; married Oakley Wright Esmond December 23, 1908, in Dayton; died February 1981 in Ottawa.

After 12 years and four children, the marriage was in trouble, and in January 1893 Alice sued for divorce, as reported by the Free Trader –

Mrs. Alice V. Ward’s Case to be Tried Tomorrow Morning

The somewhat sensational divorce case of Mrs. Alice V. Ward, of Dayton, four miles northeast of Ottawa, against her husband, Edward J. Ward, will be placed on trial before Judge Blanchard and a jury at 9 o’clock tomorrow morning.

Mrs. Ward, who is the daughter of the late Justice Furr, alleges that she has been a true and dutiful wife to her husband, but that she is no longer able to bear his name because of his drunkenness and general worthlessness.1

But the next day we find the following:

CIRCUIT CIVIL CASES
The Ward divorce case, from Dayton, was not placed on trial this morning, as the defendant, Ward, withdrew his contest and allowed his wife to secure her divorce by default. Mayo & Widmer, attys.2

In 1893, divorce was available only for a very limited number of causes. Many divorces that told of cruelty or bad behavior could have been an agreement between two people who wanted to end the marriage, but had no legal grounds for divorce. The fact that Mr. Ward did not contest the action suggests that he was a willing partner to the divorce.

The divorce does appear to be amicable, as Edward and three of the children – Mary, William, and Carrie – are found in 1900, living with Alice’s mother and brothers. Alice has not been located in 1900. In 1910 both Alice and Edward are listed as divorced. In 1920 Edward claims to be a widower.

But that is not the end of the story. In 1921 the following appeared in The Free Trader:

DAYTON COUPLE ARE QUIETLY MARRIED

Miss Alice Ward and E. J. Ward, both of Dayton, were quietly married Saturday at high noon at the home of Rev. and Mrs. J. L. Vonckx at his home in this city.3

I don’t know if this time was happier. I hope so.

Note that this time they were married by a Protestant minister.

Edward died in Dayton on December 26, 1931. Alice died in Ottawa on June 24, 1935, at her daughter’s home. Both are buried in the Dayton Cemetery.


  1. The Ottawa Free Trader, 28 Jan 1893, p7, col 1
  2. ibid, 28 Jan 1893, p5, col 2
  3. ibid, 10 Oct 1921, p. 3, col. 4

Report from the adventurers

One of the best parts of having a public website is hearing from strangers who have landed here via Google. Recently, I got an email from someone who had found two documents in her deceased father’s estate that meant nothing to her or her family. She did not know why he had them, but she read them, got interested, and Googled the people mentioned. She sent me copies of the items – they are typed transcriptions of 2 letters from Jesse Green, on the trail to California in 1849, to his brother David at home in Dayton. These are not the original letters and why and where the transcripts were made is unknown. It is possible neither letter ever reached Dayton, as the family treasured the letters from Jesse and preserved them carefully, but neither of these two new letters appear in the family collection. Here is the first, written on the way to California. (The map is one I made for a program for the Dayton Cemetery Association.)

SELF ENVELOPE

Ham Iowa
Sept 6 1849                                  10 [cents postage]
Mr. David Green
Dayton
La Salle County
Illinois

25 Miles East of South Pass
June 28th 1849

Dear Brother – Wife & All
Here we are within 25 miles of the S. P. and have met with an express for the States and write a few lines whilst our train is going on. We have reached this point without any difficulty. All well with the exception of diarhea. I have had it badly but am perfectly over it. Wm. (or Mr.) Goodrich & Wiley are complaining some at this time of the same complaint.

We divided our Company about two weeks since on account of the scarcity of grass for so large a train. We have ten of the wagons of the original Company together now. We find grass our only hindrance but have kept our cattle in good condition thus far and hope we have passed over the greatest scarcity. We have gained some on the crowd ahead of us – the first Ox teams are from 3 to 4 days ahead of us and number about 500 and probably 1000 mule teams but what the large number behind us are to do for feed the lord only knows, for 3 or 4 days past we have seen large numbers of oxen dead, that was killed by the sabulous or alkaline water. We have been very cautious about keeping our cattle from those places and have not lost any since we started. Our wagons are standing it well and nothing to complain of, but we are getting along much better that could possible be expected. We had been calculating to celebrate the 4th on South Pass but will pass by before that time and of course will not stop in this crowd. There is frequently 200 wagons in sight of the same encampment. Health generally on the route good – no cholera nor any fatal sickness. We have not heard from home since we left. If you have not already written us at San Francisco do so immediately as it is the only place we can get them. I hope you have escaped the cholera and all are well. I have not time to write more, be not uneasy if you hear of great suffering on the route as I think we are safe. O that I could hear from you all and especially Byron.
As ever in haste
Jesse Green1

Note that, although the letter was written when the company was within 25 miles of South Pass, the letter was actually mailed from Iowa. The emigrants would take every opportunity to give a letter to someone headed east, for them to mail when they reached a post office.


  1. From a typed transcription of the letter, found in the estate of G. Stanley Smith.

News of Dayton – September 1900

 

DAYTON

The dance given by the Woodmen on Friday evening last for the benefit of one of their members, was well attended, and about $26 was realized.

Nelson Plumb, of Streator, was a visitor here on Tuesday.

The youngest child of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Clodt is very sick at this writing.

The older mill is doing a good business, and everything is lively around there.

A farewell party was given Mr. and Mrs. Miles Masters on Saturday night last, about fifty guests being present from Dayton, Wedron and Ottawa. Refreshments were served after which the host and hostess were presented with a very fine oil painting.

Mrs. H. S. Ladd, who has been visiting Mr. and Mrs. A. W. Ladd returned to her home on Wednesday at Rising City, Neb.

Miss Brennan, who has been a guest of Mr. and Mrs. McBrearty for some time, returned to Chicago Wednesday.

Miss Carrie Ward, while visiting Luther Furr and wife, of Brookfield, met with a painful, but not serious, accident on Friday last. While riding a horse a plank in the bridge broke throwing both horse and rider. Miss Ward at first thought nothing serious of the accident, and did not complain for a day or two, but finally called on Dr. Pettit, who informed her that her shoulder was dislocated, and advised her to go to the hospital at once, where she was given chloroform and the injury reset. She is resting easy at this writing.

Two new members were initiated in the Woodmen lodge last evening.

The brick mill is shut down for a few days undergoing repairs.

Mrs. James O’Meara is quite sick. Dr. Butterfield is in attendance.

Mrs. Jackson Channel is ill at her home.

Lyle Green has just finished putting up 100 tons of silo for winter use.

The grave yard is being mowed and put in shape.

We are so busy making cider it is hard for me to do justice to our Dayton items.

Daytonian.1


  1. The (Ottawa) Republican-Times, September 20, 1900, p. 4, cols. 4-5

An Early Dayton Wedding, but just WHEN did it take place?

MARRIED – On the 4th of March last, at Dayton, Illinois, by W. L. Dunavan, Esq. Mr. William Lewis to Miss Eliza Ann D. Holdman, all of this county.

The above announcement appeared in the Free Trader on April 24, 1841. The date given for the marriage is more than a month previous, but perhaps the word didn’t reach the newspaper in a timely fashion.

However, the actual request for a marriage license was filed on April 3rd, 1841 in the county clerk’s office, as shown below. The newspaper, apparently, was off by a month.

To make matters worse, Wm. L. Dunavan, Justice of the Peace who performed the ceremony, says that he married them on May 4th. However, he recorded the said marriage on April 17th, 1841.

Both documents agree that the marriage was performed on the 4th day of the month. They just can’t agree on which month – the newspaper says March and the JP says May. In fact, based on the date of application (April 3) and the date of registration of the JP’s return (April 17), the marriage must have been performed on April 4.

MORAL: Be careful: any record can have errors. 


  1. The Illinois Free Trader, April 24, 1841, p 3, col 3