"The Case of the Abandoned Wife"


The original documents from which the following was transcribed are located at Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives, Public Records Division, 300 Coffeetree Road, Frankfort, Ky. The transcription includes only the petition for divorce and the judgement. Almost certainly, additional documents (summonses, depositions, Mr. Bernard's response to the petition, etc.) reside in the original file.

Italic indicates uncertain interpretation of a word or phrase; hash marks (//  //) indicate words (or parts thereof) marked out on the original documents..


Document # 1


Adair Circuit Court


Martha J. Bernard, Plff. }

Against    }       Petition in Equity

W.W. Bernard, Dft.         }


The plaintiff states that she and the defendant were lawfully married a little over three years ago and lived together as husband and wife until the [blank] day of May 1885 when the defendant left and abandoned her without any cause or fault upon her part and they have since lived separate and apart.

She states that they had each been married before. She was a widow//er// and he was a widower. //He was// The plff. is 60 years of age and the defendant is about 72 years of age. She states that while they lived together that she at all times demeaned herself as a dutiful wife. She states that ever since //their// shortly after their marriage that the defendant has behaved toward her in such a manner as to show a total wont of affection for her and has been getting worse all the time and for the //last// twelve months last past he has behaved toward her in such a cruel and inhuman manner as to indicate a settled aversion to her and to permanently destroy her peace and happiness and his conduct and threats at times have been such that she was afraid that he would kill her. He has often threatened to strike her and has broken up her dishes, and furniture, thrown fire about over the house and thrown the bedding and furniture on the fire and threatened to burn the house.

He has often threatened to take his own life and intimated at the same time that he would destroy the plff. She states that she can not live with in peace or in safety. She states that he has an outrageous temper that he does not in the least try to control. She states that she and the defendant have both resided in Adair County, Ky., for more than twelve months last past and are ow residents of Adair County and the cause of divorce herein occurred in Adair County, Ky., within less than five years last past.

She states that at the time of the marriage the defendant owned no property except one horse, one cow, a cooking stove and a bed. The said horse died and the cow has been sold. She states that the bed is worth only about $20 and the stove only worth about $5. Said articles are now in the plaintiff's possession. She states that at the time of the marriage //she o// she owned a life estate in 140 acres of land with dwelling on same, She also owned one horse which the defendant swapped for a mare. She also owned a cow and a yearling and ten head of sheep which sheep the defendant sold and he sold the yearling and converted the proceeds to his own use, he also sold of the increase of the mare -- a mule -- and converted the proceeds to his own use. While the plff and defendant lived together they lived on the said land in which she had a life estate and the dft. got the proceeds thereof. Since the separation the defendant took the crop raised on the farm in 1884 and converted the whole to his own use. Since the separation the defendant has made no provision for the plff and is threatening and attempting to take possession of the crop raised by a tenant on her land and to sell or dispose of the same. She now has of the property owned by her at the marriage and its increase a mare and colt, a cow and calf and a heifer and small amount of bedding and household and kitchen furniture and she states that the defendant is threatening and attempting to take possession of said property and sell and dispose of the same and unless prevented by injunction will do so and the plff. will lose her property and all chances to secure herself. She states that the defendant is wholly insolvent. She states that no former injunction has been asked for, refused or granted in this action.

Wherefore the plaintiff prays for judgment of divorce //[indecipherable word]// from the bonds of matrimony. She asked to be adjudged entitled to the property now in her possession and mentioned herein. She asks for an order of injunction against the defendant restraining and enjoining him from taking, selling or in any way interfering with the property now in the plaintiff's possession or the crop now growing on the said land. Finally, she prays for all proper relief.

/s/         Martha J. Bernard

by Montgomery & Jones, attys

//Sworn before me // The plaintiff Martha J. Bernard says that she believes the statements made in the foregoing petition are true.

/s/         Martha J. Bernard

Sworn before me by Martha J. Bernard this 27th day of August 1885.

/s/ Junius Hancock, C.A.C.C. [Clerk, Adair County Court]


The following injunction was granted in this cause & endorsed on the summons:


W.W. Bernard:

You are enjoined and restrained from taking possession of, selling, or in any way interfering with the following property. The growing crop of corn on the one hundred & forty acre tract of land in which the plff has a life estate, also the following personal pro-perty in plff's. possession, one cow and calf, one heifer, mare & colt, and also the household & kitchen furniture now in plff's. possession, August 27, 1885.

/s/         Junius Hancock, C.A.C.C.


Document # 2


Adair County Circuit Court Order Book No. __, September term, 10th day, 1885, pp. 432-433.


This day came the parties by their attorneys and this case was submitted to the Court for trial and judgment upon the pleadings proof and exhibits on file and the Court being sufficiently advised is adjudged that the plaintiff Martha J. Bernard be and she is now hereby divorced from the defendant W.W. Bernard and restored to all the rights, privileges, and immunities of an unmarried woman and it is further adjudged that the defendant pay the cost of this action. It is further adjudged that the plaintiff have as her own the following personal property: all the household and kitchen furniture except a cooking stove and a bed carried to her house by the defendant. She is also adjudged to have and keep the growing crop on the farm described in the petition,. also the mare and colt and cow and all the farming tools except the turning plow & one set of  gearing for the plow. The defendant is adjudged to have and keep as his own the stove and bed owned by him at the time of the marriage of the plaintiff and defendant, also the turning plow and set of plow gearing.  In regard to the yearling calf, by agreement of parties it is adjudged that it be disposed of as follows: the plaintiff and defendant are each entitled to one half thereof and a lien is hereby to T.C. Winfrey, attorney for the defendant, on the half adjudged to the defendant for a reasonable attorney fee for his services, and the plaintiff's attorneys Montgomery & Jones are entitled to a lien on the plaintiff's half for their fees. The plaintiff is to have the exclusive possession and control of the tract of land mentioned and described in her petition & this cause is stricken from the docket. 




Additonal information


Martha J. Blair, 55, appears in the 1880 Russell County KY census record as head of household and widowed. Also in the household is her 19-year-old son, Joel A. Blair.

            W.W. Bernard appears in the 1880 Adair County KY census, White Oak precinct, as Wm. H. Bernard, 66, head of household and married. His occupation is given as "farmer-preacher". Also in the household is his first wife,  Celelia, age 64, and a son, James K, age 35.

In Russell County KY Marriage Book 6, page 187, is this record: W.W. Bernard, 68, born Russell County, birth place(s) of his parents unknown, farmer & minister, a resident of Adair County, his second marriage, to Martha J. Blair, 56, born Casey County, birthplace(s) of her parents not given, her third marriage, were married 22 March 1882 at J.M. Blair's in Russell County in the presence of J.A. Calhoun and J.M. Blair. The bond was signed 22 March 1882, and the surety was James M. Blair. (J.M. / James M. Blair was Martha's stepson; his father, Morgan Blair, was Martha's second husband.)