A Drunken Doctor with No Patients, Divorce in Williams County, Ohio, 1883


Pamela Pattison Lash

            The physician conducted himself so badly that nobody had any confidence in him. He had no patients; therefore, he had no means of support. He married a Williams County native and proceeded to make her life and that of his two children a miserable existence due to his penchant for wine, women, and song.


Mary Ellen Foust, daughter of Benjamin Shoemaker and Priscilla Markle Foust, was born Feb 1858, in Wms Co, OH.  Her parents, natives of Berk Co, PA, came to this county in 1845, first settling in Jefferson Twp for the 1850 federal census (p27) and then moving to Bryan, Pulaski Twp in 1868.  The family was listed in the 1870 Bryan, Pulaski Twp federal census, p2, as BS Foust 46 PA, Priscilla 52 PA, Ella Jane 13 OH, Martha A 11 OH, and John A 19 OH.  The couple had seven children with one dying in the Civil War, two dying in infancy, and four surviving their parents' deaths.  Mr. Foust was a member of the coroner's jury who investigated the death of the little Schamp son who was killed by Mr. Tyler, the convicted murderer hung in the 1840's.

            Mary Ellen married Thomas Welker Fritch, an Ohio native, on 2 Mar 1876, Wms Co (Marriages V4 p452) and the couple had two known children, Ralph, b. 21 Feb 1877 IN, and Eva Belle, b. 11 Apr 1881, Pulaski Twp (Births V2 p33).  Mary Ellen Fritch stated to the Williams County Civil and Criminal Court (Journal 12 p133 - 28 Nov 1883; Roll 39 case number 1194 - 18 Aug 1883) that she wanted a divorce from husband Thomas.  She told a tale of being taken to live in Indiana, away from her friends and family where Thomas failed to provide her with sufficient food, clothing, or fuel.  The winters of 1876-1877 and 1879 were extremely cold.  What money Thomas had he spent on drink and women.  Mary Ellen stated that on 10 May 1879 in Fostoria, Seneca Co, OH, Thomas committed adultery with a Mrs. Folliot and from that day through Sept 1879 he was with other women there.  During the years of 1882 and 1883 he lived in Kendalville, IN and had relations with this Mrs. Folliot there as well.

            Mary Ellen called witness Will Jones, a 20-year-old man from Fostoria, to tell the court of Thomas' character.  Jones said he knew Thomas from Fostoria as an immoral physician who spent his money on whisky and prostitutes.  He knew Thomas was seeing Emma Folliatt, a known prostitute, in Aug 1880.  This evidence was enough for the court to grant the divorce.

            Ellen Fritch married William Hartle on 20 May 1886 in Williams Co (Marriages V5 #836) and at the time of her father's death on 26 July 1902 she and her husband lived in Ft. Wayne, IN.  The 1900 (p27), 1910 (p106), and 1920 (p217) federal census records for Ward 9, Fort Wayne, Allen Co, IN reveal the Hartles with a daughter Catherine L., b Dec 1890.  William (born Apr 1862 IN with OH native parents) was a salesman; sometime between 1900-1910 the couple had another child but the infant did not survive.  Ellenís son Ralph Fritch also lived in Ft. Wayne in 1900 as a coachman for a wealthy couple. The whereabouts of the unfaithful doctor Thomas is not currently known.


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