Twins Born to Couple but Wife Refused to Live with Husband, Divorce in 

Williams County, Ohio, 1883

Pamela Pattison Lash


           One of the grounds for divorce is when a spouse is willfully absent for three years or more.  Most of the divorces here deal with the husband's absence but this case is just the reverse.  Although the reader may use his/her imagination as to the reason for this refusal to cohabitate, the records bear out the fact that the couple did not reconcile.

           Joshua Y. Knight, b c1845, OH, the son of James and Harriet Knight, was a Wms Co native son from NW Twp.  His father James, a professional hunter, came to this county c. Sept 1838, possibly from Holmes Co, OH, and with his sons later built a rude log cabin near Nettle Lake.  McClain's Hills of Home related that James, a native of PA and his wife Harriet of MD were parents to Thomas, Phillip, Samuel, James Havens, Joshua, Ellen, and Susan.  The family was not enumerated in the 1840 NW Twp federal census but they did appear in 1850,p51B, as James Knight 54 PA, Harriet 47 MD, Samuel 20 OH, Havens 15 OH, Elen 11OH, Joshua 5 OH, Thomas 27 OH, and wife Angeline 18 NJ.

           Joshua has not been found in the 1860 NW Twp federal census, but was listed in 1867 as a personal property taxpayer.  He was enumerated in the 1870 NW Twp federal census, p6, with his parents and older brother Thomas.  Joshua married Nancy Collins in Hillsdale Co, MI on 30 Nov 1873 (Lib E p139).  Nancy, b 13 Sept 1838, Lycoming Co, PA, was the daughter of William and Mariah Collins, both PA natives.  Her parents were also residents of NW Twp and were buried in the Nettle Lake Cemetery as William Collins (1801-27Sept 1876) and Mariah Collins (1811-1890).  They appear to have traveled here from Delaware Co, OH.  Nancy also had a brother Jesse L.(1836-1912). 

           The Knights became parents to the following children: Thomas (18 Apr 1874 - 21 Apr1874) and a set of fraternal twins, John Wesley (30 Oct 1875 - 9 July 1954, Ann Arbor, MI) and Ellen Cora (30 Oct 1875 -?; m William Welch).

           One day after the twins were born Nancy refused to live and cohabitant with Joshua.  This is borne out by the1880 NW Twp, p437A, with Joshua 35 OH farm laborer living again with his older brother Thomas and their mother Harriet who suffered from palsy.  In the same township, p436D, one finds Mariah Collins 69 PA as head of household with Nancy Knight 41 PA and her four-year-old twins, John and Cory.

           According to the Williams County, OH Civil and Criminal Court records (Journal 12 p67 -22 May 1883, Roll 39 case number 1115 - 24 Feb 1883), Joshua brought a suit for divorce.  By this time the twins were six years old and his mother had died, 24 June 1880.  When he applied for the divorce he was unable to write so he made his mark on the court documents. He stated the facts of the abandonment and the court granted him a divorce.  Nancy who preferred to be known as Nancy Collins lived on a small lot at Nettle Lake until her death on 3 Mar1905, Hillsdale Co, MI, and was buried beside her parents.  Her son John, a bachelor, continued to live there for most of his life. After 1883 the father Joshua disappeared.  What happened to him and daughter Cora has not been currently determined.


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