Mary (Halley) Archer vs. Thomas Archer

Gold Mines and Gambling Tables, Divorce in Williams County, OH, 1865


            Some women for whatever reason excuse the faults of their husbands.  Perhaps they don't want to admit to themselves or the world that they picked a lemon.  Perhaps love is blind.  These ladies may naively believe that tales told to them are the absolute truth, but after eleven years, one lady took stock of the situation and took action.  Such is the theme of this genealogical detailing.

            Mary Halley b.c. 1834, possibly Morgan Co, OH, daughter of William and Debra (Bond) Halley, appeared with her parents as a 16 year old in the 1850 Noble Co, OH federal census along with siblings Samuel, John, William F, Eliza Jane, and Lucy Malvina.   She married her Prince Charming in the form of Thomas Archer on 4 Sept 1851 in Noble Co, OH.  Thomas, possibly born 17 Aug 1830, Brookfield Twp, Morgan Co, OH, may have been the son of Michael Archer and his second wife, Jane Elliott, but this is only speculation at the moment; furthermore, one wonders if the Archer and Halley families were closely allied as they both came from the Morgan-Noble Co, OH area.

 In the 1860 Rochester, Enoch Twp, Noble Co, OH federal census, p440, Mary Archer 26 OH domestic and son William L. Archer 8 OH, were living next door to her brother Samuel Halley 25 carpenter and Mary Halley 18 domestic.  Mary's father, William Halley died on 29 Feb 1864, Noble Co, OH and she was mentioned in his will.  Mary may have joined her uncle Nathaniel Halley who lived in Milford Twp, Defiance Co, OH.  This would explain why she moved to this area.

Mary appeared before the Williams County, Ohio Civil and Criminal Court, in May 1865 (Journal 6 p485, Roll 17), and revealed an amazing story to the judge of her married life and her spouse, Thomas Archer.  It seems that for eleven years Thomas was guilty of gross neglect.  While they lived in Noble Co, OH Thomas decided to make his fortune in the gold mines of California, so he left Mary and their 15-month-old son, William Luther Archer, on 29 Dec 1853.  Thomas told Mary he would return to his family in two years time, but he made no provision for their financial support.  [As evidenced by the 1860 federal census Mary earned her living as a domestic servant and as a cherished daughter and sibling she received help from time to time from her family.] 

Once each year for six years from that departure date he informed Mary by letter that he would soon return.  After eleven years had passed and Mary, now living in Williams County, had not heard from him as to any disposition on his part to return.  At one point during the first six years Thomas promised to return and asked her to send him $100 by mail, which she did.  She later learned that Thomas had spent it all at the gambling tables in California.  The court granted her an immediate divorce and a legal notice to that effect was published in "The Bryan Democrat".

What took her so long one might ask?  What was the pressing issue that provoked her to finally take action?  The Ohio statue only required that one of the parties be willfully absent for three years before hearing a divorce complaint.  She waited more than three times the requirement. The answer is simple - love and stability.  Mary wanted to remarry and that's exactly what she did on 24 May 1865 in Wms Co (Marriages, V3 p442) when she became the wife of Canfield Phelps. Interestingly, Canfield Phelps was enumerated in the 1850 Noble Twp, Morgan Co, OH federal census, p16, as Canfield 40 CT millwright with wife Nancy 31 OH, and in the 1860 Center Twp, Noble Co, OH federal census p476, as Canfield 49 CT and Nancy 44 OH. He may have known Mary or her family before they married in Williams County.                     

 Together the Phelps had the following children: Almon B (b. 1867), Drayton Canfield  (13 Jul 1868, Edgerton -1927, m. Roxie Caroline Pearce, 14 Jan 1894, Ney, Defiance Co, OH), and Rebecca (b. 1871).  The family was enumerated in the 1870 St. Joseph Twp, Wms Co, OH federal census p17, as carpenter Canfield Phelps 58 CT, Mary 36 OH, Luther Archer 17 OH, and Phelps children Almon 3 OH and Drayton 2 OH. Canfield Phelps may have been from East Granby, Hartford Co, CT.  According to the 1880 Buffalo, Noble Co, OH federal census, p40C, there was a Luther Archer 27 OH with parents born in Ohio and a wife Lucetta; further research needs to be done to determine if this is the son of Thomas and Mary Archer.

On 5 Nov 1871 (Wms Co, OH Deaths, V1 p13), Canfield died @60Y 3M 29D and was buried in Maple Grove Cemetery, Edgerton, St. Joseph Twp.  He left a will that was probated on 29 Feb 1872 (#1489) bequeathing his widow and heirs, Almon, Drayton, and Rebecca, his land in Section 28, St. Joseph Twp, Wms Co, OH.

Mary married a third time on 2 Mar 1876, Wms Co, OH (Marriages, V4 p451) to John Battershell, a widower; the family was enumerated in the 1880 Milford Twp, Defiance Co, OH federal census p210C, as John 65 PA, Mary 46 OH, Alvah Phelps 13 OH, Drayton Phelps 11 OH, and Rebecca Phelps 9 OH.  By 1880 Mary's uncle, Nathaniel Halley and his family had moved to Iowa.  John Battershell was listed in the 1860 Milford Twp, Defiance Co federal census p403, as Jn. 44 PA, Catharine 40 PA, James 20 OH, Lucia 17 OH, William 11 OH, Finnell (f) 8 OH, James 73 PA, Elizabeth 45 PA, and Joseph 33 OH.  In the 1870 Milford Twp federal census p138, John 54 PA and wife Catharine 52 PA were enumerated with their children.

By the 1900 St. Joseph Twp, Wms Co, OH federal census p198, Mary Battershell was enumerated as widow, b May 1834 (66) OH, having all four children surviving.  Husband John Battershell died on 23 Dec 1893 @78Y from being kicked by a horse.

What happened to the gambling man, Thomas Archer?  If Thomas was the son of Michael Archer, he may have died on 5 May 1876 in California.  Records need to be searched to verify this. One of the Halley cousins, Levi, was definitely into gold mining as well. Family lore claims that Thomas Archer came back to Noble Co, Oh and remarried.  Whether Mary ever heard from him after the divorce or whether Thomas ever struck it lucky either in the gold fields or the gambling tables is not currently known.  What is known is that Mary Halley Archer Phelps Battershell enjoyed a full life despite her errant first husband, Thomas Archer.



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