I’ve been holding onto this one for several months, not sure how to tell the story. I guess I’m still in shock.
While in Montana last summer, reading old newspapers in a Butte library, I ran across an article I could barely believe. Under the headline “Twenty Years After,” the deck read, “James R. Boyce, Sr., Brings Suit for the Dissolution of His Marriage.” Scandalous, absolutely scandalous.
Boyce (1817-1898) was seeking a divorce from his second wife, Adalaide F. Jackson, a Philadelphia socialite. While you can find J.R. Boyce biographies in multiple sources, few mention his second marriage, which J.R. acknowledged in a graveside interview earlier this year.
Why the reaction? Well, for one, J.R. Boyce was a very religious
dude man. As we’ve blogged several times before, he was all about Christian values and “the sanctity of womankind.” Apparently those feelings didn’t apply to his second wife.
In a letter left behind for his grandchildren, J.R. waxed rhapsodic about his first wife, Maria, who “faithfully and conscientiously discharged her every duty as a wife and mother, deeply endowed with a sense of her obligations to God.”
J.R. married Adalaide on November 8, 1976, a year after his childhood sweetheart died. Adalaide had previously been married someone named Wiemann.
Within three years of marriage, Adalaide was history. She left her husband behind, probably in Omaha. Scandalous, as my grandmother Meanie used to say, absolutely scandalous. The article reads:
“Mr. Boyce complains that on October 15, 1879, his wife, disregarding the solemnity of her marriage vow, willfully and without cause deserted and abandoned him and has continued to live separate and apart from him without any sufficient cause or reason, against his will and without his consent.”
The move to Nebraska may have been the final straw. Late in their marriage the Boyces moved to Omaha, where J.R. established a new business. The 1880 U.S. Census, which was taken on June 1, 1880, lists J.R. living with his young wife A.F. Boyce, 18 years his junior, at 110 South 18th Street.
But according to Boyce’s law suite, Adalaide had already left him by June 1880. Maybe the cold winters got to Adalaide, though Philadelphia, where she presumably lived when she met Boyce, is no picnic in the wintertime. Maybe she decided that J.R. was too old for her. Perhaps she was homesick. I guess we’ll never know.
When he filed for dissolution of the marriage, J.R. had no idea where she was living, or he would have sent her the summons in the mail. “The present whereabouts of Mrs. Boyce are unknown, and she will be served with the summons by publication,” reads the May 21, 1896 Daily Inter Mountain. It’s amazing that the newspaper used to be used for such things.
Days later we visited J.R.’s grave site at the Benton Avenue Cemetery in Helena, where he was buried alongside his first wife, Maria. There was no mention of Adalaide the Apostate.