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Messy Divorce

Do you have many divorces in your family research? Have you ever encountered a really messy divorce. While I do have some divorces in my tree, I don’t have many. As I go back in time, those mentions of divorce become less and less.

Thus, when I encountered the mention on a Find a Grave record of a child’s name being changed due to a divorce, I had to learn more.

Find a Grave, database and images, Find a Grave (www.findagrave.com : viewed online 23 March 2022), memorial for Alberta Rose Youngson Martin (1879-1912), Find a Grave Memorial no. #106665492, created by Zim, citing Allegheny Cemetery, Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania; accompanying photograph by Zim, Alberta Rose Youngson Martin.

Alberta’s obituary makes no mention of the surname Minnick but does mention a brother, John E. Youngson and a sister, Mrs. William H McKelvey.

Mrs. John E. Martin
Mrs. Alberta Youngson Martin died Thursday in her home at Perry, N.Y. She was the wife of Rev. John Edward Martin, pastor of the Methodist Episcopal Church of that place, and before her marriage had taught in the commercial department of the Pittsburgh High School. Her husband, one son, a brother, John E. Youngson, and a sister, Mrs. William H. McKelvey of Pittsburgh survive.

“Mrs. John E. Martin,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), 27 April 1912, page 6; digital image, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : viewed online 21 March 2022).

In like manner, her mother’s obituary does not use her married name, but identifies her as Mrs. Ella Youngson. Again a son, John G. and a daughter, Mrs. F. L. Porter, are mentioned

Youngson, Mrs. Ella — At Chautaqua, N.Y., on Saturday, August 2, 1924 at 9:15 a.m. Mrs. Ella Youngson formerly of Pittsburgh and recently of Washington, D.C. and Chautauqua, N.Y., mother of Mrs. F. L. Porter and John G. Youngson.
Funeral from the residence of her son, John G. Younson, 4113 Winidsor street, Squirrel Hill, on Monday, August 4, at 3 p.m. Friends of the family are respectfully invited to attend. Interment private later.

“Youngson, Mrs Ella,” Pittsburgh Daily Post (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), 3 August 1924, page 35; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : viewed online 21 March 2022).

An announcement of Alberta’s marriage identifies Alberta’s mother as Mrs. Ella Youngson and her siblings as John B. Youngson and Mrs. W. H. McKelvy

An unusually beautiful wedding was that of Miss Alberta Rose Youngson and the Rev. John Edward Martin of New York, which took place in the chapel of the Third Presbyterian church, with the pastor, the Rev. William L. McEwan officiating. Mrs. W. H. McKelvy, a sister of the bride, was her only attendant. John B. Youngson gave his sister away and Alfred Martin, a brother of the bridgegroom was the best man. After the ceremony a reception for the immediate relatives was held at the home of the bride’s mother, Mrs. Ella Youngson in Fifth avenue. Mr. and Mrs. Martin will reside in Tarrytown, N. Y., where he is religious secretary of the Young Men’s Christian association.

“Society,” Pittsburgh Weekly Gazette (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), 11 September 1904, page 24; digital image, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : viewed online 23 March 2022).

The above obituaries and wedding announcement make it appear that Youngson was Ella’s married name and not her maiden name. This would cause one to look for a Youngson as the father of Alberta, John and Margaret. However, Wilson Minnick’s obituary also identifies a son, John, and a daughter Mrs. Margaret McKelvey.

Wilson Minnick Goes to Reward

Aged Kewanee Man Dies at St. Francis Hospital at 8 o’clock Last Night

Came to Community Before Civil War

Funeral Service to Be Held at Residence and Church Sunday Afternoon

Wilson J Minnick, who came to Kewanee before the civil war, died last night at 8 o’clock at St. Francis hospital after a fortnight’s illness. His serious condition, due to internal hemorrhages, became such a few days ago that it was considered advisable to remove the patient tot he hospital.
Mr. Minnick was born in Pennsylvania August 21, 1844, so was nearly seventy years old at the time of his death. He came to Kewanee before the war and enlisted in the service as a private in Company H, 34th Illinois infantry. He was mustered out of service October 15, 1864, at Chicago.
Move to Iowa
Mr. Minnick in 1869 claimed as his bride Miss Ella Youngson of Kewanee Later they moved to Afton, Ia., where Mr. Minnick was engaged as a merchant for a number of years, subsequently moving to Pittsburgh, Pa., where the family resided until twenty years ago when they returned to make Kewanee their home. Mr. Minnick during the last years of his life took care of several churches in the city, more recently the Methodist church of which denomination he, was a member.
Funeral Sunday
He was very well known and was held in high regard as an upright and honorable citizen. To Mr. and Mrs. Minnick four children were born, two of whom are living, a son, John and Mrs Margaret McKelvey, a daughter, who with Mrs. Minnick and four sisters as follows, survive: Emma Mentzer of Yates City, Ia ; Ellen Frink of Shenandoah, Ia., Miss Lizzie Minnick of Kewanee, and Mrs. Susie Halterman of Clarinda, Ia.
The funeral service is to be held Sunday afternoon at 1 30 o’clock at the residence, 113 South Elm street, at 2 o’clock at the First Methodist church.

“Wilson Minnick Goes to Reward,” Kewanee Daily Star-Courier (Kewanee, Illinois), 16 January 1914, page 1; Digital Images, Kewanee Public Library District (Advantage Preservation) (http://kewanee.advantage-preservation.com/ : viewed online 21 March 2022).

Thus, one would wonder whether this is two different families with very similar names or whether it is one family. Following up on the mention of a divorce on the Find a Grave page, I started looking for evidence of such a divorce in the newspapers. I expected to find a one or two sentence mention of the divorce. Instead I found articles spanning over six months detailing the marital conflict and ultimate divorce.

The first article, “Is Minnick Insane?” is about a court hearing that appeared in the 1 March 1890 edition of the Weekly Herald (Shenandoah, PA).

Is Minnick Insane?

Committed to an Asylum Under Strange Circumstances

Claims it is a Conspiracy

He Makes a Serious Charge against a Minister of Monongahela City

The Clergyman Says He Has not Been Guilty of Indiscretions — Prominent Citizen Asssert the Man Imprisoned is Not Crazy — The Doctors Say He Is Insane from Unwarranted Jealousy

Pittsburg, Pa., Feb. 27 — Mr. Wm. Minnick, a well-known resident of Braddock, Pa., has been committed to the Dixmont Asylum for Insane, under very peculiar circumstances.
Mr. Minnick had charged Rev. J. T. Reiley, a Methodist minister, of Monongahela City, with paying improper attentions to Mrs. Minnick during a period of six years. Minnick also accused his wife with receiving improper attentions from several other men and had addressed letters to certain individuals threatening to shoot them if their attentions to his wife did not cease at once.
Dr. Sandels, of Braddock, and Dr. McCord of South Pittsburg, signed the commitment of Minnick stating that Minnick was insane from unwarranted jealousy.
While on the train en route for Dixmont, Minnick vigorously resisted the officers in charge, protesting that he was not crazy, but was the victim of a conspiracy to get him out of the way.
Several prominent citizens of Braddock, neighbors of Minnick, were interviewed to-day, and agree that Minnick is not insane. Some of them openly charge Rev. Mr. Riley and others with indescreet actions with Mrs. Minnick.
Rev. Mr. Riley says that he has not been guilty of any indiscretion, that he had nothing to do with sending Minnick to Dixmont, and that he does not know whether he is insane, but he does know that he is unjustifiably jealous.
Rev Mr Eaton, of Braddock, states that Minnick engaged in prayer in his church last Sunday evening, and that his prayer was not that of an insane man. Squire Lewis, and others, of Braddock, are taking measures to have Mr. Minnick examined and, if possible removed from the asylum.
Braddock is all excitement over the event.

“Is Minnick Insane,” Weekly Herald (Shenandoah, Pennsylvania), 1 March 1890, page 4; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : viewed online 21 March 2022).

A later article discusses a judge’s ruling that William Minnick was placed in the Dixmont asylum under false pretentions.

They Took Snap Judgment
The Physicians Who sent Minnick to Dixmont Are Not Sustained

The Prisoner Released by the Court

Sensational Developments of the Habeas Corpus Hearing

Mr. Youngson and the Newspapers

William Minnick is no longer an inmate of the Dixmont insane asylum. The developments of the hearing yesterday in habeas corpus proceedings were of a highly sensational character. Judge White was on the bench. When court opened Mrs. Minnich, her brother Mr. J. B. Youngson, Miss Minnick and Mr. Minnick were all in the room. Rev. T. N. Boyle, the present pastor of the M.E. church in Braddock, and Rev. J. T. Riley, the former pastor, were also there. Messrs. Yost and Price were attorneys for Mr Minnick, Clarence Burleigh for Mrs. Minnick, and George Shiras III, for the hospital authorities.
In opening Judge While said that Mrs. Minnick’s attorneys were bound to prove what was alleged in the physician’s certificate on which Mr. Minnick had been committed. Mrs. Minick was placed on the stand. She said they had lived as man and wife until within a month or two. She was acquainted with Mr. Minnick’s family; he has a sister who is insane; his grandmother died insane, and he has a cousin who is insane. Her husband had been jealous of her before the birth of her daughter Maggie; he more than once accused her of infedelity. She said he had threatened once a week to kill his family and had threated to kill Rev. Riley.. He sold books, but she supported the family, being ticket agent at a railroad station.
Mrs. Minnick’s story
Mrs. Minnick denied that her daughter Maggie had carried letters or messages to Mr. Riley. She had written some letters; some were letters of friendship. when away from home she had never misled her husband as to her whereabouts.
Maggie Minnick testified that her father had told her almost daily that he would kill her mother. She had seen him strike her mother. For the last six months letters had been coming that her father had written to other men. They were outrageous, and when her brother Johnnie would ask his father about them they would quarrel. The night the letter sent to Dr. Dean was returned her father had thrown her across the room. When Dr. Dean came to the house and asked why the letter was sent her father refused to talk about it.
Dr. Dean and Dr. McKelvey told of their experience with Mr. Minnick and his letters. Dr. Dean had thought Minnick insane for five or six years and Dr. McKelvey looked on him as insane on the subject of his wife.
Thinks Him Insane
Dr. Sandels, who had signed the commitment certificate, was placed on the stand. He said he had been called to Minnick’s house and had waited there until Dr. McCord came. They examined the letters written by Minnick and then talked to him. He had thought for eight years that Minnick was on the verge of insanity. From the letters he thought he was a monomaniac. He defined the latter as periodical insanity and insane on one subject. The witness was examined at length. His conclusions were based on the letters and the talk he had with Minnick; they talked about 10 minutes
Dr. J. P. McCord said he had gone to Braddock with J. B. Youngson, who had explained the case. He was introduced to Mr. Minnick, who after a few words walked to a window. Dr. Sandels talked to Minnick about the weather and Braddock improvements. Mr. Minnick had glaring eyes, and would not look anybody in the eye. Witness thought him a monomaniac on the subject of marital infidelity. He came to this conclusion from what he had been told and the letters he read. He said he had not taken hearsay evidence. Judge White conducted the examination of this witness. He spoke on the responsibilities of physicians, and said that he did not wish to reflect on those in this case, but it was proper for a physician to be very careful.
Dr. Hutchinson, superintendent of Dixmont hospital, said Minnick had been Mr. Minnick became greatly excited when witness had talked to him about the case The letters were further evidence of insanity. Dr James G. Graham, resident physician at Dixmount, also thought Minnick insane. After he left the stand Judge White said the letter to Dr. Beebe written by Minnick, in which he threatened to kill Beebe, was an answer to one from Dr. Beebe to Mrs. Minnick as was justifiable.
An Outburst of Applause
There was an outburst of applause at this, and the judge ordered that if this was repeated the offenders should be ejected Mr. Minnick took the stand. He gave an account of the visits of the doctors. They were there eight or ten minutes. He didn’t know what they wanted and didn’t ask as his wife would have told him it was none of his business. On Monday he went to work in Hazelwood. He was induced to go to town by a man named Drum, was arrested and taken to Dixmont. He resisted arrest until he saw the papers.
To Judge White Mr Minnick said he had not constantly accused his wife of infedelity, for at times she had been faithful. He respected Dr. McKelvey. He might be mistaken in Dr. Dean’s case. He had been willing to separate, but thought it better to live together and avoid a scandal. They had lived in the same house, but not as man and wife. He had not threatened to kill his wife; he had said he was tempted to kill her.
“Christ was tempted, but he did not yield,” said the witness.
He denied that he told Dr. Hutchinson he had gotten a hatchet to kill his wife. He said for two years he had had no bed, but slept on the kitchen floor. He had always given his wife money, and gave her $5 on Saturday before he was sent to Dixmont. In conclusion Mr Minnick denied that he was insane or that several members of his family are. Mrs. Minnich had started those reports. He had one sister affected. He wanted to call some witnesses, but Judge White said it was unnecessary.
Judge White Calls the Turn
His honor said that he had heard enough testimony. The act of assembly allowed the commitment on a certificate of two physicians, and maybe the proceedings could be carried on without the party knowing anything about it as in this case.
The two doctors met at the house and made up their minds from letters shown them, and after only a few minutes ordinary conversation with him. On Friday the certificate of insanity was signed, and on Monday Mr. Minnick was induced to come to the city and was taken to Dixmont. Not a friend or citizen of Braddock, outside the family knew anything about it. If the law is administered that way it might do a great deal of wrong. On the stand the doctors did not say he was insane, but was monomaniac, and they determined that from letters. During the conversation with him he was only restless and agitated That was exceedingly slight evidence of insanity. The doctors made the certificate on what they heard, not on personal examination. Upon the testimony of Mr. Minnick the proceedings were a gross outrage of his rights
Minnick a Free Man
Continuing, the judge said he thought Mr. and Mrs. Minnick ought not to try to live together. There were sufficient grounds for divorce. The evidence did not justify sending Mr. Minnick to Dixmount, and he would be allowed to go free.
When he had finished speaking Mr. Youngson, the brother of Mrs. Minnick asked permission to speak. It was granted, and he proceeded with an explanation. He said that until a month or so ago he did not know of the unhappy relations between his sister and her husband. When he learned of it he went there and tried to bring about a reconciliation. He could not do so, and became convinced that Mr. Minnick was unfit to be at large. He consulted physicians as to the course to pursue to send him to an asylum, and learning what was necessary did it. Mrs. Minnick did not know about the proceedings until shortly before the visit of the doctor. He was entirely responsible for sending Minnick to Dixmont . As to the charges of criminal conduct against Mrs. Minnick, they were untrue. Mr. Riley had been a good friend to the family and had advanced Mrs. Minnick money to educate her daughter. Since she has been agent for the railroad, she has repaid hm $200.
Don’t Like the Newspapers
Judge White interrupted Mr. Youngson, saying that he was willing to hear what he had to say bearing on the case, although he did not see what good it would do, as he had decided the matter, unless it was for the benefit of the newspapers.
Mr. Youngson replied that it was not for the newspapers. “They are infernal _” he began, but checked himself. He added that he did not think Mr. Minnick should be free, and that he would do his wife bodily harm.
When he had finished, Mrs. Minnick, in an agitated manner, exclaimed:
“Judge White, I want protection from that man!”
She was quieted by her daughter, and the court room was soon emptied and Mr. Minnick free.

“They Took Snap Judgment,” Pittsburgh Daily Post (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), 6 March 1890, page 3; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : viewed online 21 March 2022).

The divorce proceedings are chronicled in August 1890 newspapers. In one hearing, it is stated that the husband’s name is Wilson J. Minnick and not William J.

Finished the Testimony

Another Step in the Divorce Proceedings against W. J. Minnick

The taking of testimony was concluded yesterday in the divorce suit of Elvira Minnick against her husband William J. Minnick, whose vindication from the charge of insanity by Judge White in open court some time ago created so much attention. The testimony was filed in the afternoon. It was learned that the testimony was of very ordinary order. The affiant, it is understood, simply charged her husband with abusing her. The proceedings were of an ex-parte order. In her papers Mrs. Minnick calls her husband William J. Minnick but in the latter’s reply to the charges he declares that his name is not William J. but Wilson J. Minnick.

“Finished the Testimony,” Pittsburgh Daily Post (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), 13 August 1890, page 5; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : viewed online 21 March 2022).

Beaten Before Her Children

Serious Charges in a Divorce Suit Against the Family Head

The testimony taken in the divorce case of Mrs. Elvira Minnick against W. J. Minnick, of Braddock, has been filed by J. F. Lazear Esq., the Commissioner. Mr. Minnick did not appear at any of the hearings, and not testimony was taken on his behalf, nor was mention made of the lunacy proceedings in which the family figured in court. Mrs. Minnick testified that they were married in Illinois in November, 1869, and moved to Pittsburg several years later. She said that her husband had beaten her outrageously ever since their marriage.
They separated in February last. Her daughter, Margaret, age 20 years, her son John G. Minnick, aged 16 years and Archibald Dawson, aged 16 years, who lived with the family, corroborated her testimony. The daughter said that her father abused her mother as far back as she could remember. She frequently had to interfere to save her mother.

“Beaten Before Her Children,” Pittsburgh Dispatch (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), 19 August 1890, page 3; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : viewed online 21 March 2022).

Then in September, 1890, a divorce decree is published in the Pittsburgh Press.

Decrees in Divorce
In the court of common please No. 2 the following decrees in divorce were granted:
Elvira Minnick vs. Wm. J. Minnick

“Decrees in Divorce,” The Pittsburgh Press (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), 6 September 1890, page 2; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : viewed online 21 March 2022).

These articles covering the insanity hearing and divorce support Wilson J Minnick being the husband of Ella Youngson and father of her children.

2 thoughts on “Messy Divorce

  1. So glad Minnick did not end up killing his wife. Very scary! There are divorces in my family but none I’ve found have been this sensational.

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