September 5, 2016

Amelia Spoering - A Strong Woman for Her Day

Last summer, I wrote a post about a newspaper clipping I found in the Van Wert Daily Bulletin dated December 16, 1920.  It involved Anna Spoering and a lawsuit against a runaway suitor, only the paper had the name wrong...it was AMELIA Spoering, as I found out this week at the courthouse.  Amelia was my grandmother, Ida Spoering's, younger sister.

The newspaper article read as follows:
 "A breach of promise suit for $8,000 was filed in Common Pleas Court at Napoleon by Anna Spoering against Theodore Drewes.  The plaintiff asserts that Drewes promised to marry her in the last week of September, that she was willing and ready to enter into a marriage contract with him, that the wedding day had been decided upon and all necessary preparations made by the plaintiff."

 
 I requested the court papers from the Henry County Common Pleas court and was excited to look at them this week.

The journal entry stated that on or about May 25, 1920, Theodore Drewes promised to marry Amelia and they set the date for the last week in September, 1920.
So Amelia planned the wedding, but when the time came near, Theodore "wantonly neglected, failed and refused to marry the plaintiff."


 
Unfortunately, Theodore, being a persuasive fellow, seduced and "carnally knew the said plaintiff and got her with his child."  Amelia wanted $8000 in damages and signed her petition to the court on December 9, 1920.

So a summons was issued for Theodore in Henry County and Sheriff J. H. Spencer, after a diligent search, determined that Theodore had left the county and he could not ascertain his location.  So, the lawman "left the summons in a conspicuous place" at Theodore's home on December 20.  It was noted that Theodore left the county specifically to avoid the summons, so an affidavit was filed to place an attachment on his property, 60 acres of land worth $18,000 in Section 34 of Monroe Township.

That, I'm sure, did not make Theodore happy and the prospect that a notice telling of this case would be in the paper was also not acceptable to him, so he had his attorney, Mr. Donovan, file a motion to quash the publication of the notices.  Obviously, the judge was not inclined to do that since the defendant had skipped town, so the notices were placed in the paper for six consecutive weeks.  To have this situation made public must have been embarrassing for Amelia, too, but she needed some support for her unborn child and so she had the notices put in the Northwest-News. (Formal child support laws did not go into effect in the U.S. until 1950.)
On March 19, 1921, the case was heard in the court of Common Pleas.  A jury trial was waived, so a judge decided the outcome of the case.  At this point, the defendant's whereabouts was still not known, so only the plaintiff, Amelia, appeared at the trial.
The judge's decision :
"It is therefore considered by the court that the plaintiff, Amelia Spoering, recover from the defendant, Theodore Drewes, the said sum of $2500 and her costs herein expended."  That would have been $29.56 of court costs.

So she did not get all she asked for, but she did get something and, in 1921, she had a son to whom she gave the Spoering surname.

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