1858: Why did Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee leave her marriage?

Sepia Saturday 492: First in a new series on why my third great-grandmother Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee may have left her marriage in 1858.

Major personal crossroads are reached by a winding path extending back for years. Deciding how to move forward draws from the deep well of an individual’s life experience —  even when the choice of which path to take is spurred by an immediate event.

Such was the situation I believe my third great-grandmother Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee faced when, at 46, she left her husband — my third great-grandfather Zebulon Blakeslee — on 1 Nov. 1858, never to return.

Two previous series have examined the Blakeslees’ separation — and their ultimate divorce in 1866. Yet I have found no record giving Hannah’s motivation for taking the path she chose.

So this new series will endeavor to circumstantially answer the remaining mystery: Why did Hannah leave? And what better place to begin than with Hannah’s personal history.

1882: Going into the World by Evert Jan Boks (1838-1914). The decision by my third great-grandmother Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee to leave her husband in 1858 cannot have been easy. Yet apparently once she had made the tough choice, she never looked back. Image: mimimatthews.com

Hannah’s childhood

Hannah was born on 8 Feb. 1812, most likely in Conklin, Broome Co., N.Y.  She was the  fourth of six children — with three older siblings (brother Isaac and sisters Catherine and Rachel) and two younger (sister Lydia and brother Asher).

Her parents were my fourth great-grandparents — Waples Hance (1760-1843) from Shrewsbury, Monmouth Co., N.J., and his second wife Rachel Chapman (1784-1837) of the Conklin area.

Waples settled in Conklin circa 1788. However, allegedly due to a land dispute he moved just across the border into Pennsylvania — where from 1815 his farm, home and livestock appear on the tax rolls of Lawsville in Susquehanna County’s Liberty Township.

Hannah was three when her family moved to Lawsville —  where her father continued paying taxes until his death in 1843.

Image by 12019 on Pixabay
A New York Farm. The small, rural hamlet of Lawsville, Susquehanna Co., Penna., became Hannah’s childhood home — with her immediate world a sparsely populated agricultural expanse punctuated by forested hills straddling the New York-Pennsylvania border south of Binghamton, N.Y.

Thus small, rural Lawsville became Hannah’s childhood home — with her immediate world a sparsely populated agricultural expanse punctuated by forested hills straddling the New York-Pennsylvania border south of Binghamton, N.Y.

Early marriage and motherhood

Not surprising in these circumstances that Hannah married at age 16 — younger than the average marriage age of 20-22 for nineteenth century women — and chose a man who, like her father, was from elsewhere.

My third great-grandfather Zebulon Blakeslee was born in Connecticut in 1807. In his divorce petition he stated that he and Hannah married on 19 Nov. 1828. He was 21 at the time — five years Hannah’s senior.

What were her hopes for marriage to Zebulon? A solid partnership with a good provider? A stable, hardworking father for her children? Or a chance to leave Lawsville and see a bit of the world? There is no way to know without direct testimony from Hannah.

Suffice to say that by the time of the 1830 U.S. Census1Hannah and Zebulon were living in Lawsville a few houses down from her parents . And on 7 Dec. 1830, at age 18, Hannah gave birth to their first daughter Rhoda Ann Blakeslee.2

Up next: Hannah’s early married life with Zebulon. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.

© 2019 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Please like and share:

Series Summary: The 1866 divorce of Zebulon and Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee

Sepia Saturday 491: A recap of the series on the 1866 divorce of my third great-grandparents — what the court records reveal.

The surprise discovery that a my paternal third great-grandparents Zebulon and Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee were divorced in Pennsylvania in 1866 led me on a quest for the records of their divorce case.

https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/66b6f080-a7ca-0136-2f49-0d2629ed7326
Divorce the lesser evil (1900). Original caption: The Church  – Stop this awful immorality! Justice – You are wrong! Divorce is rather an aid to morality. Statistics prove that countries where divorces are granted are more moral than countries that forbid them! Source: NYPL Digital Collections

After a Genealogy Road Trip to the Susquehanna County seat in Montrose, Penna., I worked with courthouse staff to locate and obtain copies of my ancestors’ divorce papers — research that was well worth the effort!

The court records gave surprising details about my third great-grandparents’ separation and eventual divorce, and also raised new questions about why Hannah left Zebulon in 1858 — to be explored in future posts.

For now, here’s a recap of what the court records revealed about my Blakeslee ancestors’ nineteenth century divorce.

Divorce law, petition and subpoenas

Depositions and new questions

Divorce decree

Dec. 1865: Divorce subpoena addressed to Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee. In the 1800s, divorces were common enough in Susquehanna County, Penna., to justify printing fill-in-the-blank subpoena forms. However, Hannah lived beyond the court’s jurisdiction and did not respond to hers. Photo: Molly Charboneau

One mystery remains…

Many thanks to the readers of Molly’s Canopy for following along throughout this Blakeslee series and the previous one, and posting insightful comments.

If you are new to Molly’s Canopy, you may also want to check out the prequel to the Blakeslees’ divorce proceedings in The Odd 1860 Separation of Zebulon and Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee.

One mystery remains: Why did Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee leave her marriage in 1858, never to return? Some thoughts on this in the next post. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.

© 2019 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Please like and share:

1866: Zebulon Blakeslee receives his divorce decree

Sepia Saturday 490: Eighth in a series on the 1866 divorce of my third great-grandparents Zebulon and Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee — what the court records reveal.

After my third great-grandfather Zebulon Blakeslee petitioned for divorce in 1865 — and subpoenas were issued and witnesses deposed — the Susquehanna County, Penna., Court of Common Pleas finally issued his divorce decree on 16 Aug. 1866.

Calling the Friday Calendar (circa 1901-1910). Courts were a male-dominated affair in the nineteenth century. So is it any wonder that my third great-grandmother Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee moved out of the range of subpoena power when she left my third great-grandfather Zebulon Blakeslee? His petition for divorce on grounds of desertion was granted on 16 Aug. 1866 in Montrose, Susquehanna Co., Penna. Photo: NYPL Digital Collections

Zebulon contended that my third great-grandmother Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee deserted him in 1858 — and that she had not returned after an absence of seven years.

Meanwhile, according to court documents Hannah was living outside the court’s jurisdiction (likely in New York State where she resided in 1860) — and she did not receive/respond to subpoenas asking for her side of the story.

The Blakeslee divorce is finalized

Three witnesses — James E. Whitney, Jehiel W. Snow and Cordelia Snow — supported Zebulon’s version of events. After reviewing their testimony, the court issued the following decision summing up the case and granting my third great-grandfather the divorce he sought.

Decree in the case of Zebulon Blakeslee vs. Hannah Blakeslee – Libel for Divorce

December 14th 1865 on filing the petition of Libellant praying for the reasons therein set forth he may be divorced from the nuptialities and bonds of matrimony entered into with the defendant and from application of A.O. Warren Atty. for Libellant, the Hon. C.F. Read Judge of Chambers directed a Subpoena of Divorce to issue to the defendant [Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee] returnable to January term 1866 wherein a Subpoena issued accordingly and duly stamped according to law returned non est inventus3and from Jany 16th 1866 also sub to April term 1866 returned non est inventus2, and now to wit April 9th 1866, court direct the Sheriff to make Proclamation in this case and appoint R. Kenyon J. Commissioner to take depositions in this case.

August 16th 1866 on motion of Libellant’s attorney and on reading of depositions the court upon due consideration of the [premises?]3do order, [sentence?]4and decree a divorce and separation from the nuptial tie and bonds of matrimony entered into between the said Zebulon Blakeslee and the said Hannah Blakeslee and that all the rights and duties accruing to either of the said parties at any time heretofore in pursuance of said marriage shall cease and determines as fully and to all intents and purposes as though the said Zebulon Blakeslee and the said Hannah Blakeslee had never been married. Cert. copy.

As if they had never been married

Amazing that 37 years of marriage was ended by a decree consisting of two extremely long sentences — the court determining “as fully and to all intents and purposes as though the said Zebulon Blakeslee and the said Hannah Blakeslee had never been married.”

But there you have it. As of 16 Aug. 1866 my third great-grandparents — Zebulon, 59, and Hannah, 54 — were legally entitled to move on with their lives.

http://panewsarchive.psu.edu/lccn/sn84026112/1866-08-28/ed-1/seq-3/#city=Montrose&rows=20&proxtext=Zebulon+Blakeslee&searchType=basic&sequence=0&index=0&words=Blakeslee+Zebulon&page=1
Montrose Democrat, 28 Aug. 1866, p. 3. Source: panewsarchive.psu.edu

The Montrose Democrat included the Blakeslees’ divorce decree in a column on court proceedings in its 28 Aug. 1866 issue (above) — which is how I learned of it.

As a country store owner who served the public, Zebulon  may not have been totally pleased with the publicity — even though he initiated the divorce.

Because by 1870 he had relocated within Susquehanna County, Penna., from Brookdale in Liberty Twp. — where he lived for much of his first marriage — to Fairdale in Jessup Twp., where he married his second wife Sarah Ann Sherman.

And Hannah? She remained single and lived the rest of her life in New York State — avoiding social stigma by portraying herself as Zebulon’s widow.

Thus ends the story of the Blakeslees’ divorce case. Yet one mystery remains: Why did Hannah leave Zebulon, never to return? Some theories on this will begin after the next post.

Up next, Series summary: The 1866 divorce of Zebulon and Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.

© 2019 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Please like and share:

Growing family trees one leaf at a time