A Little “Peyton Place” (Part II)

MRIN00038 Clonch, AlexAfter William CLONCH’s death in 1863 his sons John William CLONCH (aka John William DOSS) and Alexander CLONCH (aka Alexander DOSS) continued the “tradition” that their parents and maternal grandmother began.

John W. Clonch (1840-1919) married Sarah Jane Foster in 1862. Alexander Clonch (1842-1910) married Mary Ellen Lemaster on 10 Nov 1863. Neither marriage lasted.

Now for the interesting part:

On 18 July 1864 Sarah J. Clonch, wife of John W. Clonch, sued by her next friend, John W. Foster, for divorce. Three years ago at the age of 21, she left her father’s house and married John Clonch. “Since that time [she] has been to him a constant, faithful and dutiful wife and has borne him two children to wit: William A. now two years old and an infant daughter three months old. Her husband on the other hand has been negligent and insufferably abusive and violent to her within the last two years frequently beating and choking her for no cause whatever on her part. He has left his house and home taking with him her oldest child and living in adultry with another woman… further alledges that he has been seen in bed with his own brother’s wife and has failed to furnish support to your oratrix and her child which she is oblige to labor for their entire support, or they would come to starvation. The only property owned by your oratrix and her husband is the household and kitchen furniture and one house the most of which your oratrix bought from her father”. Sarah called three witnesses to include John’s own sister and they told it like it was. They testified that John and Rebecca Lemaster spent the night together in each other’s arms while the light in the fireplace went out. Peter Dewitt testified that “I saw Rebecca Lemaster sitting in his lap mighty close together and he was hugging her, and this happened after dark.” Lavina Ann Patterson, John’s sister, testified that John and Mary Ellen Lemaster Clonch had been in bed together. Mary Ellen was married to John’s brother, Alexander Clonch. [Sep 1864 in the Circuit Court of Mason County, West Virginia]

“Now wasn’t that a little Peyton’s Place?” wrote Ralph Hays who should be credited for researching the divorce. About the time that John and Sarah got their divorce in 1864, Alexander and Mary Ellen called it quits but were not divorced until 1880. John and Mary Ellen, who were expecting their first child, “shacked up together” for over 30 years until 7 May 1895 when they finally got married – after 13 children were born. [Marriage Book 8, p 5, Item 15, Gallia County, Ohio]

In November 1865 Rebecca Lemaster had an illegitimate son Austin Richard Lemaster. His father was listed as unknown. Later this son went by the name Oscar R. Clonch. His death record shows that he was the son of Rebecca Lemaster and an unknown father. Family tradition is that Alexander Clonch had a son named Austin and it has been assumed that the child died young as no trace was found. Most likely Alexander acted as a father to Rebecca’s illegitimate child in early years and he took the Clonch surname.

The 1870 census listing has not been found for Alexander Clonch or Rebecca Lemaster nor has a marriage record been found for them. [I believe that no record will be found as Alexander was still married to Mary Ellen Lemaster and the marriage was legally dissolved in 1880.]

Alex’s daughter Emma Sidosa “Emily” was born in 1868 (no birth record found). The birth record of his son Joseph E. Clonch born in 1872 lists the mother as Rebecca Clonch and most likely the reason that it has been believed that the parents were married. No record of birth has been found for his daughter Barbara Elizabeth born in 1875.

The divorce of Alexander Clonch and Mary Ellen Clonch was found in Mason County, West Virginia Chancery Order Book March term 1880, p 274. The marriage was dissolved, Mary did not appear and she did not get her dower and had to pay costs. Alexander had at least three children (most likely all with Rebecca Lemaster as seen above) and Mary Ellen had eight children by John Clonch, Alexander’s brother, by the time their divorce was final.
[Source: Ralph Hayes, 17 May 2002, CLAUNCH-L Archives]

I suspect that Rebecca may have died before 1880 as no record has been found for her. Having such young children Alex may have seen it necessary to get a divorce from his estranged wife so that he could legally marry. He was seen as divorced in the 1880 census with his children Emily, Joe, and Barbara in his household. During the same year he married Tabitha Cooley. They were married 30 years and had nine children by the time Alex died in 1910.

Although John and Alexander did not get off to a good start with their first marriages, they remained with their second wives until parted by death.

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Author: Cathy Meder-Dempsey

As a military brat I've lived in Georgia, France, Idaho, West Virginia, Spain, South Carolina, Texas, and Luxembourg. Married 39 years with two grown children. When I’m not doing genealogy, I spend time riding my racing bike with my husband through the wonderful countryside in Luxembourg and surrounding countries.

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