A Case of Divorce Featuring the Seamy Side of Life: Williams Co, OH, 1868

By Pamela Pattison Lash
This genealogical detailing features prostitution, suicide, adultery, and divorce from the seamy side of Williams Co, OH history. Family researchers should always be prepared to find unpleasant details about their ancestors. These people were real and true to their times. I am sure they had good intentions but their emotions obviously clouded their better judgement. Two couples and their children had their lives changed forever. I will first introduce the reader to these couples and the other principals in the story.

Jared Griswold was born in Connecticut c. 1819.  Some twenty years later on 5 Mar 1839, he purchased at least 320 acres of land at the Bronson, Michigan Land Office. On 18 Oct 1846 Jared voted in a special election in Bryan. On 13 Feb 1848, Wms Co, OH, he married Harriet A. Eggleston, minor daughter of deceased Nancy Eggleston.  Harriet was born in NY on 16 Aug 1831.  Jared, the groom, was 29 years old while Harriet was only 16.  On 15 Mar 1847 the young girl was given the following three guardians by the Wms Co. Common Pleas Court (Probate #175; Roll 7 case number 1 May 1847): William Stough, a carpenter; Reuben H. Gilson, a land agent; and George W. Durbin, a farmer.  It was stated in the court records that Harriet was to have these guardians until her 18th birthday and her relationship, if any, to these men has not been discovered to date.  She was, however, married presumably with the approval of these men.

            According to the 17 Sept 1850 federal census for Pulaski Twp, Wms Co, OH p90B, the Griswold household was enumerated as follows: Jared, the merchant, (31 CT), Harriet (18 NY), and Ellen (1 OH).  William Stough, one of the guardians, lived next door to the couple.  In April 1850 Isaac Swagger sued both Jared and John Griswold over a property dispute.  Isaac's case was on appeal or certiorari, which was eventually settled.  John Griswold (1830 CT-23 July 1860), possibly Jared's brother, was a Past Master of the Masonic Lodge.  In 1859 the partnership of Plummer and Griswold ran a merchandise business in Bryan. 

            By the 1860 federal census in Pulaski Twp, Wms Co, OH p52B, the household was listed as James, (39 CT), Harriet (27 OH), Henry (7 OH), George A. (4 OH), and Jane (2 OH).  The little girl, Ellen, had presumably died in infancy.  Note that Harriet's birthplace changed from NY to OH and will remain OH for the remaining census records concerning her, but on her death record her place of birth was listed as New York; also, Jared was listed as James and their youngest child, Jane, age 2 becomes Jared Jr., age 12 in the 1870 census mentioned later in the article.

            William H. Green, the son of William and Margaret (Frederick) Green, both natives of PA, was born in 1827, OH.  He married Ruth Ann Gaskill, daughter of Josiah Gaskill, on 25 May 1850, in New Lisbon, Columbiana Co, OH.  Ruth was born in 1824, OH, making her approximately three years older than the groom.  According to the federal census of 1850 in Elk Run, Columbiana Co, OH p208, William H. and his bride were living with his parents and siblings as follows: William Green (60 PA), Margaret (57 PA), Margaret (20 OH), Arabel (18 OH), William H. (23 OH), Ruth (27 OH), and Presley (14 OH).  William Green had married Margaret Frederick in Columbiana Co, OH, 25 Jan 1811.  Josiah Gaskill had married Mary Davis on 11 Feb 1828 there as well, thus making Mary the stepmother of Ruth.  This couple was listed in the 1850 Center Twp for that county as Josiah Gaskill (45 NJ) and Mary (44 MD).

Sometime between this census and the 1860 Pulaski Twp, Wms Co, OH federal census p36, the couple had moved here and was enumerated as follows: William, an engineer, (33 OH), Ruth (36 OH), Mary B. (8 OH), Ella A. (6 OH), and Dallas (2 OH).  William H. appeared to have real estate valued at $3500 and personal property of $150.  During the November 1860 Wms Co Common Pleas court records he was called to serve as a grand juror. Back in Columbiana Co, OH, William's sister, Margaretta had died on 30 June 1860 @ 30Y 7M 15D.

            By court records in Journal 7 p96, 162 from 5 Nov 1867-10 Mar 1868; Roll 19 case number 47 and 115, Ruth Green sued William Green for divorce.  She stated that William committed adultery with Harriet Griswold.  They "went to a hotel in Gorham Twp, Fulton Co, OH" and represented Harriet "as his wife and they occupied the same room".

            If that was not bad enough, Ruth further stated that on 29 Feb 1867 at the home of Samuel Burtsfield in Bryan, William committed adultery with Margaret Burtsfield, Samuel's wife.  William Green possessed the following goods and chattels: "one third of a livery stable consisting of 22 horses, buggies, and harnesses valued at $500 and seized in fee of real estate - Lot #264, Edgerton Add, Bryan, and the south 1/2 of the southwest quarter of Section 5 T6 N Range 3 E worth $5,000 and also notes and accounts valued at $1,000".  Ruth wanted the court to stop William from selling, disposing, and converting the proceeds into money and removing himself from Ruth's household with Harriet Griswold.

            Ruth was granted alimony and custody of the minor child, Ella A. Green.  The youngest daughter of this couple, Laura L. (15 Aug 1860-17 Aug 1863) had died. Six months after the divorce, William H. Green's father, William, died in Columbiana Co, OH, on 20 Sept 1868 @79Y 2D.  He was an army veteran and was buried beside his daughter, Margaretta, in Lisbon Cemetery.

            The exact time frame of the establishment of Harriet Griswold's "house of ill fame", aka house of prostitution, is not known, but a Bryan Press newspaper account of May 1868 gives the modern reader a sneak peak into the goings on of this establishment.  "Lucy Jones, an inmate of the Griswold house of ill fame, violently assaulted former deputy sheriff W. E. Calendar with a rawhide whip Tuesday at the northwest corner of the square, causing considerable flutter.  Mr. Calendar had testified in court that Lucy made immodest exhibitions of her person.  When she attacked him with a whip, he was carrying the machinery of a Little Giant sewing machine in his hand, and struck her over the head with it, felling her to the sidewalk.  No arrests."

            Jared and Harriet Griswold remained married until Jared committed suicide at his home on 16 June 1869, with the Wms Co. Court certifying that "Dr. A. Snyder made a postmortem examination by dissecting and making a chemical analysis of the contents of the stomach on the body of Jared Griswold and was paid $35 for his services"; he also had a probate listing for his estate in Wms Co (#595).

            The Bryan Democrat newspaper account of 17 June 1869 stated, "Jared took arsenic.  For years he had been troubled with too many friends by his wife's side (in bed) and in order to relieve his overcrowded bed of its portion of its pressure he took cold poison".  George Hart, the county corner, filed papers with Dr. Snyder's findings.  Jared Griswold was buried in the Old Pulaski Cemetery; he died at the age of 49.

            In July 1869 according to the Bryan Press, "the house of Madam Griswold was completely gutted by a mob a few nights ago.  If she opens another crib, we will be strongly tempted to give the names of those males who cry aloud her names on street corners, but, after dark, keep the grass worn between her gate and doorway".

            On 9 Dec 1869, Wms Co, OH, William H. Green married Harriet Eggleston Griswold (Marriage V4 p89).  The 1870 federal census for Pulaski Twp, Wms Co, OH p10, detailed on 26 Aug 1870 the Green household as follows: William, a livery stable keeper (42 OH), Harriet (38 OH), Dallas (13 OH), and Griswold children, George (15 OH), Jared (12 OH), and Sophie (10 OH).  Note that Harriet must have been pregnant with Sophie when the 1860 census was taken.  The oldest Griswold son, Henry, was not listed nor was the oldest Green child, Mary Belle, as she had married David Poast, a railroad laborer, 6 May 1870, Wms Co, OH. 

            According to the federal census of 1870 New Lisbon, Columbiana Co, OH p55, Ruth Ann Green and daughter Ella, had returned home to her parents' household as follows: Josiah Gaskill a shoe shop worker (69 NJ), Mary (67 MD), Ruth (47 OH), and Ella (16 OH).  Ruth had real estate valued at $1500.  No one could blame Ruth for wanting to put some distance between herself and her former husband and his new wife. Ruth's father, Josiah, died on 14 Feb 1877 @83Y 2M 11D and was buried in Lisbon Cemetery.  The Bryan Press, 25 Oct 1877, ran a marriage announcement for William M. Mayhew of Bryan to Miss Ella Green of New Lisbon, OH, on 18 Oct 1877, at the residence of the bride's mother.

            Harriet Eggleston Griswold Green died of consumption on 7 Apr 1878 in Bridgewater Twp, Wms Co, OH.  No obituary or tombstone inscription has been located to date to mark her passing, so we do not know what kind of life she led after her marriage to William H. Green who had disappeared from Bryan.  The 1867 personal property tax payers list showed William having real estate in Pulaski Twp.  The 1864 Williams Co, OH Atlas listed him as owning property in Section 5 of Pulaski Twp and Center Twp, but his name is not found in the 1874 Wms Co, OH Atlas.

The Bryan Press on 31 Jan 1884 gave a real estate transfer of Ruth and Ella Green who sold property, Lot #264, Edgerton and Trevitt's Add, Bryan, to Eliza J. Doughton for $817.  Apparently the ladies finally washed their hands of the property but certainly not the unpleasant memories of their connection to this county.  Ruth's stepmother, Mary, died on 31 Mar 1886 and was buried beside her husband.  On 29 May 1888 at the age of 94Y 3M 5D William Green's mother, Margaret, died and was also buried beside her husband, thus making both sets of parents of the divorced couple lying in repose in the same cemetery.



If anyone knows more about this family, please contact the author of this account. If anyone would like the specific references used to compile this story, also contact the author 
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.