"I Can't Find My Husband. He's Been Missing for 13 Years"
 Divorce, Williams County, Ohio


Pamela Pattison Lash

    He's missing but not forgotten. One wonders why an errant husband could abandon a wife for 13 years and then the wife decides to sue for divorce. The law only required a three-year absence. Perhaps another man had entered the scene? Perhaps the wife wants closure? Perhaps the husband, even though missing, had property that must be secured? This genealogical detailing deals with such a situation.


Joseph Cooper, parentage unknown, (possibly mother Nancy b. 1786, Delaware), was born c.1820, OH, and married Elizabeth Pool, 2 Jan 1845, Wms Co, OH (V1 p79) in Center Twp.  Elizabeth, the daughter of Bannister and Mary "Polly" Gregg Pool, was born 25 Oct 1825, Canton, Stark Co, OH.  Her parents and some of her siblings are found in the 1840 Center Twp, Wms Co, OH federal census p233 and later in the same twp for the 1850 census, p68A as Bannister Pool 66 VA, Mary 47 PA, William 18 OH, Sarah 15 OH, Martha 11 OH, Ira 6 OH, and Nancy 5 OH.  Bannister, a War of 1812 Veteran, b. 19 Dec 1782, VA, married Mary Gregg, b. 31 Dec 1802, Franklin Twp, Adams Co, PA, on 5 June 1819, at Mary's birthplace.  They later moved to Canton, Stark Co, OH bef 1827 and again to Summit Co, OH bef 1831; eventually the Pools settled in Wms Co c. 1836.

            The Coopers were not found in the 1850 or 1860 federal censuses of Wms Co, but in the 1860 Coloma, Hager Twp, Berrien Co, MI federal census, p30 there is a Joseph Cooper, brickmaker 35 NY, Elizabeth 24 OH, and Willie 4 MI listed.  The fact that three or four of the children were born in Michigan supports this find, but if this is the couple, where are the other children that would be older than four-year old Willie? Please note that the ages of the couple do not conform to other censuses and that Joseph was listed as a New Yorker, not an Ohioan. More census work needs to be done on this issue. During the Civil War years Joseph Cooper served as a soldier in Co F 38th Infantry Regiment, OH, to which he enlisted on 17 Aug 1861 and received a disability discharge on 6 Jan 1865 in Savannah, GA. 

            Joseph and Elizabeth Cooper are found in the 1870 St. Joseph Twp, Wms Co, OH federal census p31 as Joseph 50 OH carpenter, Elizabeth 44 OH, Jane Haskins 24 OH, John Cooper 12 OH, Amelia 19 MI, William Haskins 3 OH, and Nettie Haskins 2 OH.  Another son, Jerome, 16 OH, was working for the nearby Newman family as a farm laborer.

            In the 1880 St. Joseph Twp census p16 Elizabeth is 54 OH-VA-OH, as head of house, along with Jerome 26 OH, John 22 OH, and Gertrude Cooper 8 OH-OH-MI, a granddaughter.  According to the Williams County Civil and Criminal Court Records (Journal 13 p411 - 11 Mar 1886; Roll 43 Box 143 case number1603), Elizabeth Cooper came to court requesting a divorce.  She stated that for 13 years her husband Joseph was absent and she could not find him; his last known post office address was Edgerton, OH.  She said she had been a resident here for the last 15 years, which would put her here c. 1870 in time for the 1870 census.

            Joseph and Elizabeth Cooper had the following nine children: Calista Jane (8 Jan 1846, near Edgerton, Wms Co, OH - 22 Apr 1915, Ashley, Steuben Co, IN; m 30 Apr 1865, James Daniel Haskins, V3 p428, Wms Co); Francis M. b. MI - 9 June 1864, Chattanooga, TN, CW casualty; William b. MI - bef 1910; Amelia (Feb 1851 MI - aft 1915 pos DeKalb Co, IN, m 19 Dec 1880, Milton A. Bowman, V4 p728, Wms Co, OH); Joseph Jerome (31 Aug 1854 OH - 7 Aug 1909); John (1858 OH - c 1941); George W. (27 Nov 1860 - 28 Oct 1864); Alfred P. (1 Feb 1867 - 27 Aug 1869); and a deceased infant daughter.  The court granted Elizabeth her divorce on 11 Mar 1886 and several days later on 27 Mar 1886, she married William M. Boughan in Bryan, Wms Co, OH (Marriage V5 #811).  Her second husband died in Aug 1891 and after his death Elizabeth filed for a CW widow's pension due to William's enlistment as a captain in Co C 63rd Infantry Regiment, IL.

            The twist to this story refers the reader back to errant first husband, Joseph Cooper who also applied for a CW pension on 21 May 1880 in which he stated that he was divorced from wife Elizabeth but he didn't have a copy of the divorce decree.  There was a very good reason for the missing papers; there was no divorce until 1886.  This in itself is relevant to the story, but there is more.  Within his pension application Joseph included information of his second marriage on 9 Jan 1876, Old Mission, Peninsula Twp, Grand Traverse Co, MI, to Mary Ann Warning, a native of Germany and the daughter of Fritz Warning, and the couple had several children.

            Joseph never told his wife, Mary Ann, that he was not legally married to her.  Joseph died in Old Mission on 28 Apr 1899; after his death, wife Mary Ann applied for a widow's pension and learned the truth of Joseph's omissions.  Carole Gregory, a descendant of Cooper's oldest daughter, Calista Jane Cooper Haskins, supplied the information concerning this twist. 

Anna Cooper and sons were listed in the 1900 Traverse City, Grand Traverse Co, MI federal census as Anna b. Jan 1861, German immigrant to US in 1866, 39, widow with 4 of her 6 children living; Eddie b. May 1883, 17, MI-OH-Germany; Albert b. Nov 1887, 12, MI-OH-Germany; Robert b. Dec 1889, 10, MI-OH-Germany.  Anna was a laborer who rented her dwelling.  In the 1910 Peninsula Twp, Grand Traverse Co, MI federal census, p157, Albert Cooper was a general laborer for a Eugene Wait.  He was 22 MI-US-Germany and single.  More census work needs to be done to determine what happened to Anna and her children.

Elizabeth Poole Cooper Boughan spent the rest of her days with daughter Amelia Bowman in Steuben Co, IN.  She was enumerated in the 1900 Butler, First Ward, Wilmington Twp, DeKalb Co, IN federal census p105, as Elizabeth Boughan 75 OH with 5 of her 9 children living.  She was born in OH with father of VA and mother of PA.  Along with her son-in-law and daughter, Milton and Amelia Bowman, she resided with her deaf granddaughter, Gertrude Cooper, b. Aug 1872, OH-IN-MI. In the 1910 Union Twp, DeKalb Co, IN federal census Elizabeth "Bought" 84 OH with 3 of her 9 children living resided with the Bowmans.  Gertrude Cooper was also living in the household. Elizabeth died on 3 Apr 1911 @ 85Y 5M 8D, at Auburn, Steuben Co, IN; she was buried in Maple Grove Cemetery, Edgerton, OH as "Elizabeth Cooper".  Closeby rests her father Bannister Pool (d. 10 Sept 1869) and mother Mary (d. 21 Oct 1884).  Elizabeth's obituary in the Edgerton Earth, 14 Apr 1911, p2 c5, stated that she was here in Wms Co by the age of 11 (1839) and that at age 18 she joined the Methodist Episcopal Church to which she faithfully attended the rest of her life until sickness took her.  There was no mention of a divorce. 

    If you have any further information on this couple, please contact the author 

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