A Slow News Day?

[The Things You Read in the Paper]

 As more and more newspapers are digitized and made available via the World Wide Web, genealogists and historians are discovering a real treasure trove of information, previously almost inaccessible to most of us. In the days of small town newspapers (almost a thing of the past now), almost everybody "made the news" in one way or another. Births, deaths, marriages and divorces were obvious items of interest, but you occasionally got considerably more. Here's a story from a Midwest newspaper in the late 1880s. It's fascinating, because one wonders how it became "news," and why an editor (of what was a pretty respectable publication) chose to devote this much space to what was, in essence, "nobody's business."

 A jealous wife... is wroth with her husband who, she claims,

is devoting too much time to a widow.

  "The household of ___ is in a state of volcanic eruption. (He) is quite well known, being the owner of considerable property, and has reached the meridian of life. He and his wife have been married over twenty years, and have a grown son and a daughter of sixteen years. Until the past year peace reigned in their household. (Mr. ___) bears in his face the quiet, honest, respectable family man; Mrs. ____ looks like a good wife and a loving mother.

  "To look at her (husband) no  one would ever think of him as inclined to giddiness of any kind. He is short of stature and his face is not in the least handsome. Most of it is covered with long hair. That part which is not covered with long hair is decorated with stubble.

   "But Mrs. ___ has lost faith in her (husband). And it is all because of a widow who lives on the hill also. About four months ago Mr. ___ had a small shoe store in connection with his stock of feed. At the corner of Warsaw avenue and Wells pike lived Mrs. ____, a widow of thirty-five, with two children. She also kept a shoe store. Mr. ____ bought her out, and then retained her in the shop which he established at her old stand as clerk at fifteen dollars a month, she residing with the family who occupied the rear of the house.

   "About that time the neighbors noticed that (Mr. ___) began to 'spruce up' a good deal more than of old. Formerly he was decidedly slouchy. Now he began to shave oftener, to wear rather  better clothes, to comb his hair carefully, and to wear a collar and necktie. A further and more striking sign of dudism was that he pushed the necktie under his collar button, a large combination pearl and gold affair. These proceedings attracted the attention of Mrs. ___ and she called frequently at the shop to find out all about the saleslady.

   "When the inauguration at Washington came on Mr. ____, a very close-fisted man ordinarily, offered to take his daughter to see it. Mrs. _____ also found out that Mrs. _____ was going on the same train with her little girl, but offered no objection, and saw the little party of four depart with great equanimity.

   "But shortly after they arrived home again Mrs. _____ suddenly began to grow spurs. She manifested a bitter jealousy of Mrs. ____, and complained bitterly to her husband about her. But Mrs. _____ continued to stand behind the counter of her husband's shop. One day the two women had quite a bitter quarrel over the matter. Things settled down, however, Mrs.  ____ only bubbling over with wrath at intervals. But last week an event occurred which caused Mrs. _____ to become thoroughly mad.

   "Mrs. _____ received a postal card from her sister in Columbus O, asking her to come up and get a situation there. Mrs. _____ took advantage of the cheap rates to the Convention and went Wednesday afternoon. Early that afternoon Mr. ______ went into Pollock's barbershop and told the proprietor that he would probably go to Columbus to the Convention, asking him to so inform Mrs. _____ as he went by his house that evening. Mrs. ____ and Mr. _____ went to Columbus on the same train.

   "Returning Mrs. _____ took a train a few hours earlier. The little trip, which might have been perfectly harmless, and a mere coincidence, caused Mrs. ____' wrath over the former trip to burst forth with renewed fury. The few days just passed have been one long Gehenna to Mr. ____.

   "The people with whom Mrs. ____ lives say that she is a perfectly honest woman, trying to earn an honest living for her children. They state that they have repeatedly warned her against allowing her name to be associated with that of ____, but that she has not listened to their advice. Mrs. _____, when seen by a reporter last night, burst into a flow of tears and denounced the whole story as false in every particular. She accompanied the reporter to ____ house where Mrs. ____ sat on the front porch. The two women maintained a frigid silence at first, but finally exploded. Mrs. _____ insinuated, Mrs. _____ denounced, and Mrs. ____' son evidently regarded his mother as an aggrieved woman.

   "Mrs. ______ seems to  have incurred the hostility of most of her neighbors on the hill by keeping aloof from them. She has led  a singularly unfortunate life. He maiden name was ____, and many years ago she was the beautiful daughter of wealthy persons on Dayton street. She married ____, then a newspaper man in this city. By him she had two children. Her husband afterwards went into the shoe business in Dayton, O., and finally died several years ago. She had some money and lived on it for many years. Five years ago she became infatuated with a circus and general fakir named ______ whom she met as Mr. _____, a  wealthy man from Memphis, Tenn. He took $2000 of her money and established himself in business. He deliberately stole it from her and then she left him, having found out his true character. He was killed in midsummer four years ago by _____ in ______'s saloon on Central avenue, near Twelfth. He drew a knife on ______ in a quarrel over some women and the latter drew a pistol and shot him. He was acquitted on the charge of murder.

  "Mrs. ___ retook her first husband's name and has been endeavoring to support herself and her children ever since. She obtained $800 in money from ____ for her stock of shoes, and was getting the salary besides.

   "She is now a rather good-looking woman upon whose face care and sorrow have left some lines. But she is much younger than Mrs. ______. The people with whom she lived are quite warm in her defense. Mr. _____ was open also and denied the whole story. But his story and Mrs. _____ do not agree in many minor details.

   "Some of Mrs. _____ friends advised her to sue for divorce, but she has refused to do so. She is much attached to her husband but she stated last night that matters have come to that pass where concealment was no longer possible.

   "Mr. _____ stated that the only thing suspicious about their conduct in Washington was that in going along the street Mrs. _____ would act stubborn sometimes. Why this was suspicious he would not state, however, He also has alibis carefully prepared for every minute of his time in Columbus.

   "Day before yesterday and yesterday _____ was engaged in moving his stock of goods from his present store farther out. He will not longer keep a shoe shop, but is willing to sell. Mrs. ______ is looking for another situation.

   "So the platonic friendship between the hairy Adam and his widow clerk is at an end."

 *   *   *

POSTSCRIPT: I'm sure you will be pleased to know that Mr. and Mrs. _______ did not divorce, but lived together another eight (happy?) years before Mrs. _______ died. Then, the " short of stature," "not in the least handsome," and "decidedly slouchy" Mr. _____ married a woman 38 years younger than him. After a year, they separated, with her claiming "ill treatment" (that made the newspapers, too), but they reconciled, and lived together another twelve (happy?) years until Mr. ____ died. The second Mrs. _____ married again, and..... 

But that's another story.

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