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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Mother-in-Law and Other Villains

George is wounded and indignant and not going to take it anymore. Below is a letter to his mother-in-law Philena Hodges.  At this point, Ella has run off with a man named John Chambers and is living with him in Pennsylvania and the differences are irreconcilable.


No. 1
Philena Hodges you may think strange that I should write to you it is of no motive thinking you a friend to me for I think you far from it and I don’t think you are a friend to Ella either you probley mistrust what I am about to doe and if you have got any respect for Ella you will confer a favor to Ella by giving me hur postoffice adres for if she ever expects to get a bill from me she will have to have an understanding with me before she can get one for I don’t want to take any unfare means with hur if she will come where I am I will tell hur what I will doe and what I am agoing to doe you may set you mind at rest in one respect and that is I am not trying to get hur to come back to live with me for she made one big mistake when she and you alowed that man John Chambers to come to you house to see hur and pas him of to your neigbours as Pain for it would have been better to gave his right name for all partys concerned you onley helped my side of the case the way you done and hurt Ella.

I wanted to talk with hur when she was up here I would have told hur what I would ave done in regard to hur geting a bill in pensylvania and that she could not get one with out my going in that state for if she had come and talked with me she would have felt better at the present time than she does now for I gues you all thought you had an easy victim to deal with but some times I know more than I will tell till the right time comes now if she wants a bill I will bee fare with hur if she will bee fare with me in geting a bill from hur and that was what I wanted to alk with hur for. 

That wa very cuning devise that she got up to ger me in Pensylvania but I don’t bight at aney such bait.  now if she want an understanding with me I will guarent not to have aney papers served on hur or cause aney to bee served on hur with in 2 weeks after we have our talk so if she wants to go back to Pa she can.

Now it makes no difference to me whether she talks with me or not I doe it for hur one good and for the respect for our children for it would be better for hur if we could come to some kind of agreement so that I could get a bill of Divorse from hur and she get one in Pa. for it would be better for hur than living the life she is now you can write tot hur and have hur write to me and let me know whether she want to talk it over or not or tell me hur postoffice adress and I will  write to hur but if I have a talk with hur it had got to bee this month for I am a going through with this no matter what the coast is but am willing to doe the fare thing but I have got the longest end of the roap and going to keep it don’t think for a minute that I am going to give it awayr for I am not.  I would have told her to Magregors but I thought what was every bodys busnes was nobodys busnes and would have told her if I could have seen hur alone. 

I will never talk with hur in Pensylvania til we have a better under standing for she has told me to meny falshoods to trust hur and I don’t know whether she would bee fare with me or not but I will never lie to hur nor will I put up aney job on hur what I doe I will let law take its corse and no jobery now if she dont want aney understanding with me it will no difference to me in my geting a bill from hur all the difference it makes it may cost me a little more and when I comment the suit with hur I will have no talk with hur it has got to bee before the suit is comenced or never for I would never try to help heur after it is now you doe as you are aminato and Ella to think of it and see what is the best way.


No good information is offered as to Ella's maternal instinct.  She abandoned her husband and her four boys.  She will not get them back.  What an incredibly horrible price to pay to get out of a marriage you were ill-suited to.  Does she mind?  Does she miss them?  It just seems selfish from this point of view 130 years later.  And the reason I say that about her is because George stays close with his boys and his letters don't suggest he was malicious.  I have these papers because he and his son Alvah remained close until the end.

While the emotional outpouring in George's letter suggests that divorce is a fait accomplis, something odd is found in the 1900 Census and in the obituary of their son Mark in 1899.  First of all, Mark's obit says he is survived by his parents Mr. and Mrs. George Burns.  More revealing is the census reports George as being married for 24 years--the length his marriage would have been at that time if he was still with Ella.  Ella is living in Jamestown with John Chambers.  She calls herself Ella Chambers and claims to be married for 9 years or since 1891.  It is definitely her because it says she is the mother of 4 children with 3 living.  So which is it?  Did they get divorced or not?  I don't think they did.  I think George did hold the long end of the "Roap" and I think he let her swing from it.  Ella declared herself married about 6 or 7 years after she deserted her family.  Well, wouldn't that make her common-law?  She certainly felt she could say it on the Census.  She and John had no children of their own.

Hold the presses.  It seems that Alvah going through his own divorce from Clara Ticknor in 1910 is living with his mother and step-father in Jamestown. So there was contact, perhaps that death of two siblings made Alvah connect with his mother again.  And, oddly enough, both George Burns and John Chambers claim to be widowed by 1920.  Talk about living in your own world.


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