Divorce Suits, As They Were Back In 1869 


Author Unknown - 1902

One day last week, while Deputy Circuit Clerk Billy Kidd was rummaging among some timeworn and ancient papers in his office, he happened upon an interesting old document; interesting in itself, and interesting in the memories, which it revived. It was the record in a divorce suit filed in the common pleas court of McCracken County, way back in 1869.

Divorce suits are more common in these days than they were then; more's the pity. Surely the case of Branderberry versus Branderberry must have attracted attention, at that time; especially as the chief allegation made by the plaintiff, who happened to be the wife, was that the heartless husband had ceased to love her, because she was getting fat.

Moreover, ex-Lt. Gov. John Q. A. King, then a leading practitioner at the local bar, represented the injured lady, and the petition was written in his most flowery style. It must have been commented on, even in that day of high-flown periods, when the gray goose quill and the handy volume of poetic quotations had not given place to the typewriter and dry-as-dust legal phraseology.

It would be interesting to compare the record in the case of Branderberry versus Branderberry with the average record in the modern divorce suit.

The defendant was represented by Col. Q. Q. Quigley, who was then, as he is now, a prominent member of the Paducah bar. The answer, written by Col. Quigley for his client, was as original and unique in its way as the application of the plaintiff. The petition, which was filed August 21, 1869, follows:

McCracken Court of Common Pleas.
Regina Branderberry, plaintiff, versus J. D. Branderberry, defendant.
Petition in Equity.

The plaintiff, Regina Branderberry, with a sad heart and broken spirit, states and charges that upwards of 18 years ago, in the state of Louisiana, she intermarried with the defendant, J. D. Branderberry; when her person was lithe, fragile, and clastic, and her affections were pure and holy, and the union was sanctified with the ardent love of her innocent and guiltless heart.

Being of foreign birth, and but little versed in the transatlantic arts of coquetry, too often indulged in by the male sex, and often fatally to the peace and happiness of the gentler sex; she listened to the soft, mellow, pensive, persuasive language of the defendant, who was then in the prime and vigor of young manhood, with a handsome and attractive person and address, and being overcome with his seductive eloquence and enchanting protestations of ardent and perpetual affections.

If not adoration, she involuntarily gave him her hand, as an accompaniment to her young and confiding heart, which he had already won; and that union of heart and hand was devoted to the mutual happiness and unalloyed bliss of both parties, from which sprung a son, now nearly of age, the only offspring of their wedded affections.

For some years after the marriage, and for several years after the birth of their only child, all was peace, happiness, and domestic enjoyment; and so continued until the plaintiff began to grow obese, and the more she increased in flesh, the more the affections of the defendant were withdrawn from her, and the more he was inclined to neglect her and to consume her property.

They have been residing in McCracken County for about 12 or 15 years, and during the greater part of that time, the defendant has shown an utter disregard to all her wishes and sought to make her miserable and to permanently destroy her happiness; and she now states and charges that the defendant has habitually behaved toward her in such a cruel and inhuman manner, for not less than six months, as to indicate a settled aversion to her and to destroy, permanently, her peace and happiness.

She further states and charges that the defendant has wholly and entirely changed from what he was at first. His temper is now bitter and morose, and often indicates an ungovernable disposition; and she fears that in his paroxysm of rage, there is great danger to her life or bodily injury by remaining with him, nor does he try to control his temper, but studiously cultivates it, all the while.

The plaintiff discharges her duty to the best of her ability, as wife, and avoids any cause of provocations, seeks to conciliate and to revive his faded, lost affection, and having so long tried to revive and retain his love, and her efforts having proved abortive, she reluctantly, though firmly and calmly, appeals to the humane and enlightened chancellor to sever the galling chains that bind her to the defendant.

She again charges that her conduct, since her marriage, has been blameless and without reproach, and she has been true to her wedded affection that for years she has been borne along the stream of time, buoyed up and sustained by the thought that her husband loved her, devotedly loved her; and she sailed along, regardless of breakers and quicksands, tempests or dangers, with the pledge of love resting in her bosom, and so long as she remained, thus contented and happy, she could exclaim, like the brokenhearted Indian, as she stood over the grave of her lover.

But now, she is heartbroken, disconsolate, and sick; and she further states that all the property: real, personal, and mixed, belongs to her, and the defendant has nothing; that she has resided in Kentucky one year before the commencement of this action; that the cause of divorce occurred and existed in Kentucky; and that the cause of divorce occurred within five years past and next, before the commencement of this suit.

She prays that a divorce be granted her and that she be restored to all her rights and privileges as an unmarried woman, and that her property be deeded to her for all proper relief. Regina Branderberry, by King, Atty.

The answer, written by Col. Quigley, reads as follows:

The defendant, J. D. Branderberry, for answer to the plaintiff's petition, says that he admits the marriage with the plaintiff. He says that as to lack of harmony and mutual love and affection, charged by the plaintiff, he has only to say that it is a lamentable fact, and with due sense of the sanctity of marital and connubial relations, he declines to make any answer to the various charges of wrongs and injuries inflicted by the defendant on the plaintiff; neither does he deem it wise, prudent, or seeming that he should respond to the highly-wrought and mellow-tinted pictures drawn by the plaintiff of the character, degree, and intensity of her pure, young, and tender love for the defendant.

The court well-knows that the time for the cooing of doves is in the early spring, when nature, warming through the amorous kisses of the sun, feels the strange and blissful impartation of the unknown something, which makes the rivulet to sing, and the springing brook to utter strange and mysterious murmurs, which in their mystery gently guide the mind into the intoxicating paths of holy, pure intoxication; all of which is locked up and forever hushed by the frost of chilling contempt and the withdrawal of the blandishing smiles of the sun.

So, he may not now open up his disappointment and breathe his moanings to the court, but simply asks the court to act as the law and facts of the case require.

He states that he has, by honest labor, accumulated a large amount of personal property, consisting of stock and produce, which is upon the farm, which he conveyed to the plaintiff; although, in a great measure, paid for by the defendant.

He asks that in the prayer of the plaintiff that he be permitted to quietly take his personal property and seek for happiness in some other quarter of the ponderous globe. J. D. Branderberry.

It is interesting to note that the judge, in the following July, granted the decree, after that case had been transferred to the circuit docket.

The costs, incidentally, came to $16.80, including $4.70 for the clerk, E. B. Jones.