Divorce is no small matter, particularly in 1835. In the United States, it wasn't until well into the twentieth century that divorce became somewhat less stigmatized, although divorces in general still favored men over women. Women were, throughout history, left to bear the brunt of social stigmatization over divorce and other matrimonial troubles. It was usually seen as a woman's duty to ensure the happiness of her household, and for rich women, the burden was especially high. More was a stake in a marriage between two wealthy families than was for more common families.
Exploring the intricacies of marriage in the 19th century would fill dozens of blog posts, so if you want to read more, check out this lecture, written by Hendrik A. Hartog of the University of Wisconsin Law School entitled Marital Exits and Marital Expectations in Nineteenth Century America.
While digging through the Clarke County deed books, we once again found some intrigue - record of the divorce in 1835 of John W Byrd and his young wife Mary F Page, the second daughter of Ann Meade Randolph Page of Annfied. Seeing written evidence of a divorce this early in the century is intriguing enough, but reading further, the questions grow.
Clarke County Deed Book a:111-113
Less than a month after John Brown's infamous raid on Harper's Ferry, Clarke County slave owner's worst nightmare was realized: evidence of a potential slave insurrection was discovered.
Melanie is the current archivist for the Clarke County Historical Association, in Berryville, Virginia. She is a graduate from Shepherd University, where she earned a degree in History.