Breach of Promice








Breach of Promise and a Bigger Problem  for Fearnley and Stevenson, 1882

by Pamela Pattison Lash


            Lois Fearnley, the daughter of Joseph and Elsie (Mack) Fearnley, was born in Amboy, Hillsdale Co, MI, c1858. Joseph Fearnley had died and his widow, Elsie, married a second time.  Her husband, John T. Joy was married to a Sarah M., who died on 16 Oct 1862 @49Y 3D and was buried in the Floral Grove Cemetery, Pioneer, Madison Twp, Williams Co, OH (Madison Twp, Williams Co, OH Cemeteries, WCGS, 1996, p45).  Also buried beside her are John T. Joy, died 13 Mar 1899 @84Y 9M 17D and his second wife, Elsie, 1832-1915.  Mrs. Elsie Joy later married Thomas Reader, 1 Apr 1900,Williams Co, OH (Marriages, V8 p120). Williams County Probate #840, 30 April 1864, shows that Amelia, Lois, and Lucy Fearnley were underage minors whose father had died and the girls were given guardians. In the Madison Twp federal census records for 1870 and 1880 Lois Fearnley, a dressmaker, was enumerated with her mother, sisters, and stepfather, John T. Joy.  In the 1880 listing there was a neighbor, William Stevenson, enumerated as William Stevenson, 24 oar finisher b-place - OH; father's b-place - Scotland; mother's b-place - PA

From the Williams Co, OH Civil and Criminal Court Records (Journal 11 p458, 20 June 1882; Roll 38 [#1006], 20 April 1882, one learns that Lois Fearnley was suing William Stevenson for $6,000 in a breach of promise to marry suit.  Lois said that on 8 May 1881 William Stevenson promised to marry her on 11 May 1881, which he later refused to do.  Lois received another promise on 1 June 1881.  Subsequently from 25 Sept 1881 to 26 Jan 1882 she had been waiting for a marriage to take place.  In Apr 1882 she feared that William was about to convert and dispose of his real property and leave the area; William held the mortgage on a farm occupied by Charles Close in Madison Twp, Williams Co, OH. 

The bigger problem for Lois was that there was a child involved. Williams County, Ohio Births, V2 p31 show a birth in Pioneer, Madison Twp, Williams Co, OH of an unnamed male, 5 Feb 1882 (Glenn Wood Fearnley) to Lois E. Fearnley and William J. Stevenson. This record was used in court to strengthen Lois' claim.

William responded in court that Frank E. Loomis, a resident of Stillwater, Minnesota, was his material witness.  William claimed on 31 Aug 1881, Lois and Frank went to Toledo where they slept together as husband and wife; they were there until 2 Sept 1881 when Lois returned to Pioneer and Loomis left for Minnesota.  William claimed he never promised to marry Lois. Note that William was probably trying to show the court that Lois had relationships with other(s) and this child could be some one else's other than himself. There were many other witnesses called for both sides and this microfilm record is quite lengthy. 

The case occupied the attention of the court and jury for a week.  Lois' attorneys were Pratt and Bentley and Smith and Strayer while William retained the services of Emery and Boothman and JR Tyler of Perrysburg, Wood Co, OH.  The jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff, Lois, and assessed her damages at $100.  Promptly after this decision a motion for a new trial was made by the defendant, William, but was later withdrawn and the judgment was rendered on the verdict.  William refused to pay any amount of money to her.  The record does not show if he ever did or whether he served time in jail.

A weekly newspaper, "The Bryan Democrat", 10 Dec 1882, p5, stated, "there probably has not been a more hotly contested trial in a case of this nature at any session of the Court in this county."  Note that a judgment of $100 was a far cry from Lois' original suit for $6,000.

Lois later married William Shellhart in Williams Co, OH on 3 Oct 1893 (Williams Co, OH Marriages, V6 #1032).  William was the son of Christian Shellhart and Elizabeth Cook, who are found in the 1850 Weller Twp, Richland Co, OH federal census p267. William was a Civil War veteran of the Civil War in Co G 68th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. 

According to the Williams Co, OH Probate, #5967, William SHELLHART, late of Madison Twp left a will in which his wife, Lois, was name the executor, along with the following children, named within: daughter Sophia FERRIS of Pioneer, OH; daughter Eda REPP of Pioneer, OH; and, son Jessie O. SHELLHART of Bryan, OH.  Jessie was to have been the executor but his name was crossed out and Lois' substituted.  Jessie received the tools of his father while the others received a part interest in the residence and land. William Shellhart was buried in Floral Grove Cemetery, Pioneer, Madison Twp, Williams Co, OH (Madison Twp Cemeteries, (1841-28 MAR 1914).  His first wife, Ruth A.Wallace, daughter of Noah and Sophia Bowser Wallace, is buried beside him (1842-12 Feb 1892, Williams Co, OH Deaths, V2 p64).  They were married in Williams Co, OH on 22 Aug 1861 (Williams Co, OH Marriages, V3 p189). Lois later died and was interred at Birchardsville, PA.

In the 1894 Williams Co, OH Atlas, p33, William Stevenson owned 100 acres of land in the NW and SW 1/3rd of Section 11N in Madison Twp.  According to the three other atlases for this county dated 1864, 1874 and 1904, this same piece of land was owned by John Cox (1864, unnumbered page), John Cox (1874, P52), and RB Cleveland (1904 p3), all reprinted as Williams Co, OH 1874, 1894 Atlases, 1904 Plat Book, and 1864 Wall Map Combined, WCGS, 1983.  From this same volume William is listed as the owner of a NW part containing 131.50 acres in Section 29 of Madison Twp.  This property was formerly owned by the heirs of DF Eggleston (1864, unnumbered page), Daniel Eggleston (1874, P52), and Isaac GRANT (1894, p33).

William Stevenson, who apparently never married, was buried in the Floral Grove Cemetery, Pioneer, Madison Twp, Williams Co, OH, as W.J. Stevenson, 1856 - 10 Aug 1906. (Madison Twp, Williams Co, OH Cemeteries, WCGS, 1996, p70).  His death was recorded in the Williams Co, OH Deaths, V3 p106.


Statement of Copyright              

Information posted on this site is copyrighted by the Williams County Genealogical Society.  As a non-profit organization, funds are generated through memberships and sales of materials published by the Society.
  Please respect our rights.