Victoria Woodhull's Secret Marriage Revealed for the First Time in 150 Years
by Mary L. Shearer, a great-great-grand-stepdaughter of Colonel James H. Blood
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[Note: After the Civil War, James Harvey Blood was referred to as "Colonel" or "the Colonel" by friends and family and not as "James" so I refer to him in this article as "Colonel." He was promoted to Colonel during the war.]
"There was a double divorce; and in the court house at Dayton, Ohio, is the curious record of a marriage license issued to James H. Blood and Victoria Claflin, on July 14, 1866. If the marriage were performed, the minister made no return; the record does not show that they were legally married." (The Terrible Siren by Emanie Sachs, 1928, p. 46)
- "Since the divorce Dr. Woodhull had lost himself in alcoholism. He was impoverished and he was ill, and he begged Victoria for help....She did not think it unusual that her lover, Colonel Blood, remained under the same roof." (Square Pegs by Irving Wallace, 1957, p. 120)
"A marriage license was issued to James H. Blood and Victoria C. Woodhull in July, 1866. No record of a marriage was ever found later, which may or may not have meant that they were not legally married. Neither did Victoria take Colonel Blood's name. " (Mrs. Satan by Johanna Johnston, 1967, p. 39)
"Under questioning by Roxy's counsel, Blood revealed that he had married Victoria first in 1866, had obtained a divorce from her two years later, and that they soon had remarried." (Vicky by MM Marberry, 1967, p. 30 )
"Shortly after their return to St. Louis, James divorced his wife...But it satisfied both Vicky's and James's conviction that marriage must be open and free. They married and the following year filed secretly for divorce." (Free Woman by Marion Meade, 1976, p 31)
"Victoria Woodhull and James Blood eventually legalized their marriage--to a degree--after obtaining divorces from their spouses. On July 14, 1866, in Dayton, Ohio, they signed a document stating their 'intention' to marry. Victoria and Blood considered that sufficiently legal to call themselves man and wife, though she did not take his name." (Notorious Victoria by Mary Gabriel, 1998 p. 29)
"When they had made enough money they returned to St. Louis just long enough for Blood to obtain a divorce, give his wife all his possessions, and pay off his debt....
"Victoria Woodhull and James Harvey Blood were married in 1866, but they obtained a divorce two years later to protest the confinement of the marriage laws." (Other Powers by Barbara Goldsmith, 1998 p 107 & 139)
"In 1864, she obtained a divorce and entered into an open common-law marriage with Colonel James Blood..." (A to Z of American Women Leaders and Activists by Donna Langston, 2002, p. 255)
- "Victoria secured a divorce from Woodhull in St. Louis in 1866, but if she married her lover, 'Colonel' James Blood, no documentary evidence has been found." (Women in American Politics: History and Milestones by Doris Weatherford, 2012, Vol. I, p. 287 )
"Different stories are told of their civil marriage, or of whether there was one. Victoria and Blood both gave conflicting accounts of their marital status. Victoria said they were married in a Presbyterian ceremony on July 14, 1866, in Dayton, Ohio. They did file a marriage license before the ceremony, but the minister neglected to file a return, to register the marriage officially. Blood further confused the issue by stating that they were legally divorced two years later, in Chicago, and then 'remarried.' It is not known whether this was a legal act or whether they were endorsing their belief that true love needed no legal sanctions and that they simply considered themselves married. (The Scarlet Sisters by Myra MacPherson, 2014, p. 24-25)
Woodhull biographer Lois Beachy Underhill published excerpts from a detailed 1871 newspaper account of Col. Blood's court testimony about his marriage to Victoria. He testified that he married his first wife in Framingham, Massachusetts, they were divorced, and he married Victoria in 1866 in Chicago. He said he didn't know if Victoria was divorced when he married her, but that he and Victoria were later divorced in Chicago in 1868 and "continued to live together and were afterwards remarried." According to this testimony, Victoria and Colonel were married at least twice. Underhill added:
"Dr. Thomas one of the city's most outspoken abolitionists, was willing to oblige a Union officer and war hero who wanted to remarry. On Saturday, July 12, 1866, at the Phillips House Hotel, he joined Blood and Woodhull in marriage.
"After the ceremony there was some confusion about the formalities. The minister neglected to file a confirmation. Years later his daughter said that her father had simply forgotten and had left the papers in his pocket. The state of Missouri has no record of Blood's divorce before his July 12 marriage to Woodhull...
"Blood and Woodhull made many contradictory statements about their marriage--that they were later divorced, that they had remarried in Chicago (where the great fire of October 1871 destroyed all the city's civil records so no marriage of this period can be substantiated)....But they did go through the motions of a wedding ceremony in Dayton, and thereafter they lived as husband and wife....
"The most likely explanation for the marriages and remarriages was that one or both of the partners had not been legally free to marry at the time of their 'wedding' in Dayton--hence the unfinished marriage application. The truth may never be known. As already mentioned, the documents, conveniently went up in flames later in the year, on October 8, 1871, when the great fire of Chicago destroyed all the city records." (The Woman Who ran for President by Lois Beachy Underhill, 1995, p .38 & 136)
As you can see from the above quotes, the confusion as to whether or not the marriage in Dayton was legal stems primarily from the fact that the 1866 marriage return was never filed by the minister. Therefore it's believed the marriage wasn't legal. The unfiled marriage return is actually a red herring.
There are two forms of legal marriage, statutory and common law marriage. While today common law marriage is uncommon (currently less than a dozen states and the District of Columbia recognize it, with four additional states recognizing it if it occurred prior to a specific date) it was once recognized in nearly all the United States including Illinois, New York, and Ohio. Bea Berg of the Homer Historical Society once told me that some areas of Ohio were so remote that it could be weeks before a circuit preacher showed up in town to perform marriages, so couples would start living together until the minister came into town when they would be formally married.
"[I]n order to constitute a valid marriage, all that is necessary by the common law, " according to Vol. I, page 31 of the Cleveland Law Record published in 1856, "is, parties competent to contract, and an agreement to take effect immediately, whether followed by consummation or not, or in the future followed by subsequent cohabitation."
It wasn't "necessary to the validity of such marriage that it be solemnized by an officer or clergyman, & c." In the case described, the husband Alexander Duncan had a former wife in Ireland at the same time he had a common law wife in Ohio. The Irish wife died six months before her husband and after her death, the husband promised to marry the American wife. They continued to cohabitate, but no ceremony ever took place. The judge ruled that the American wife was his "lawful wife."
Common law marriage was once common unlike today. Victoria and Colonel didn't need to have a marriage certificate on file with the state to be legally married. The only questions that remain are:
- Were they "competent to contract?"
- What was the status of their previous marriages?
They were both well over the age of 21 and of sound mind when they married so were competent to contract depending on the status of their first marriages.
Here's an informational copy of the marriage license for Dr. Woodhull and Victoria Claflin which is now available online from Family Search:
The license gives his name as Chenning Woodhull and his bride's name as a mangled Victoria California Clufland or Clafland. [Note: Dr. Woodhull's death record says his first name is Channing. His obituary in Woodhull & Claflin's Weekly says Canning. I've seen his name in census records and city directories as both Canning and Channing. Because of these inconsistencies and the absence of a known birth record, I find it easier to refer to him as Dr. Woodhull.]
Here's an informational copy of the marriage record I obtained from microfilm in 2002 while researching at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. It shows the marriage occurred a day later (although the 20 does look like it could also be 26). The record is now available online at Family Search, too:
Besides the inconsistency in the spelling of the names on the license, what's surprising is that it says "said Victoria C _ is of the age of eighteen years...." The license brings up new questions: Was she really 18? If so, then she was born at least three years earlier than previously known and was therefore over the constitutionally mandated age of 35 when she ran for President in 1872. If not, did she tell Dr. Woodhull she was older than she was? Did Dr. Woodhull lie about her age to the clerk, or did he mistakenly think she was 18? Since she consistently claimed all her life to have been born in 1838, it seems most likely that either Dr. Woodhull didn't know at the time how old she was or he falsely claimed she was 18, although there seems to be no need to do that.
The Ohio marriage statutes in the 1850's stated on pages 2336-2337 "That male persons of the age of eighteen years, female persons of the age of four-teen years, not nearer of kin than first cousins, and not having a hus-band or wife living may be joined in marriage: Provided, always, That male persons under the age of twenty-one years, female persons under the age of eighteen years, shall first obtain the consent of their fathers respectively, or in case of the death or incapacity of their fathers, then of their mothers or guardians."
Could the reason he misstated her age be that she didn't have parental consent? Reports of Cases Argued and Determined in Ohio Courts of Record: Weekly Law Bulletin published in 1899, page 366:
"The consent of the parents is not essential to the validity of the marriage when it has been ratified by the parties after arriving at the age of consent. By the common law, if the parties themselves were of the age of consent there was wanted no other concurrence to make the marriage valid.
"The object of the statues of Ohio requiring the consent of the parents before the specified age is to prevent marriages by serious penalties for solemnizing them, but not to absolutely invalidate them after they have been solemnized without such consent 3 Marshall, Ky., 370; 1 Bishop, 293; 6 Halstead, 20; 6 Nevada, 63; Carmichael State, 12 OS., 553; Reeves, Domestic Relations, 196, 290; 5 O. L. J., 126."
Volume 2, page 90 of Kent's Commentaries of 1832 also cites Reeve's Domestic Relations listed above adding "the marriage, if made according to the common law, without observing any of those statute regulations, would still be a valid marriage." So even if Victoria didn't get parental consent, her marriage to Dr. Woodhull would still be a valid one if she were of the age of consent which was 14 at that time. Her first marriage was a valid one and would need to be dissolved before marrying the Colonel.
Here's a certified copy of the marriage certificate of James H. Blood and Mary A.C. Harrington which was obtained from the Town of Framingham and transcribed from the original record in 1999:
Mary was 19 and Colonel 21 when they married. His first marriage was a valid one and would also need to be dissolved before marrying Victoria.
Both Victoria and Colonel claimed to have divorced their previous spouses in Chicago which would've freed them to establish a common law marriage. With the destruction of court records in Chicago in 1871 from the Great Chicago Fire It seems impossible to determine whether either one divorced or not. Fortunately the fire didn't destroy all of the Chicago newspapers which reported court cases including divorces.
On July 10, 1866, the Chicago Tribune reported the divorce of Mary Blood and James H. Blood on page 3, column 2:
"Mary Ann Blood vs. James H. Blood. In chan-cery. Bill for divorce upon the ground of adultery. Hearing and decree."
The newspaper account proves the Bloods were indeed divorced prior to the marriage of Victoria Claflin and James H. Blood on July 14, 1866 in Dayton, Ohio. Here's a copy of the marriage license for that marriage obtained in 2002 from Probate Court Record Vol. G, page 518 from the County Record Center & Archives. (The original paper document no longer exists according to an official at Montgomery county):
Like the Woodhull-Clafland marriage record, this record wasn't available online when I originally obtained it. You can find it now on Family Search. Note the empty marriage return at the bottom of the page, and that she gives her name as Victoria Claflin and not Victoria Woodhull. If Victoria was divorced from Dr. Woodhull as she said, she and Colonel contracted a valid common-law-marriage on July 14, 1866. The fact that the marriage license was signed but the marriage certificate never returned is immaterial. Their common-law marriage was the reason for the need for a divorce. While there's common law marriage, there's no such thing as a common law divorce. Common law spouses have to divorce like everyone else.
For those who believe Victoria never divorced Dr. Woodhull, the 1876 divorce record isn't enough proof that Victoria was free to be married. But what of Col. Blood's claim that he and Victoria were remarried and divorced in Chicago? They really did get married more than once. He first married Victoria on July 10, 1865 in Hamilton county, Ohio. It was the second marriage for both of them. They kept this marriage secret while they were alive for a very good reason. Here's the certificate I obtained from microfilm of Volume B25 of the restored records of Hamilton County, Ohio marriages.
On this copy of the record, you can see the license for James H. Blood and Victoria Chaflin [sic] isn't sworn and subscribed, but has a filled out return for a marriage performed on July 10, 1865 by Rev. Joseph White. The reason the license isn't signed is that in 1884 the Hamilton County courthouse went up in flames. Hamilton County Probate Court volumes with the B prefix were reconstructed from records damaged by water and fire. The marriage took place in 1865 before Colonel had divorced his first wife in 1866 and so this marriage was void. The Colonel was in violation of the 1862 Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act for which he could be fined up to $500 and be jailed for up to 5 years. Ironically Justin Smith Morrill, the sponsor of the bill that made bigamy a federal offense, was the fourth cousin of Isabell Morrill Fogg who would later become Colonel's third wife.
It was the record of this marriage that Victoria's sister, Dr. Mary Sparr, held over Colonel Blood's head. She threatened to go to the authorities and put Colonel Blood in jail for bigamy as documented on page 82 of Myra MacPherson's "The Scarlet Sisters." The document has been unknown to historians for nearly 150 years. When MacPherson contacted me around 2009, I told her I had obtained "the other" marriage record, but didn't reveal details about it to her or the public because I wanted to publish my findings in a book. Now that the LDS has digitized this record and the other marriage records and put them online, I can no no longer keep them under wraps. Only one author, Arnold P. Powers in 2013, has published the July 10, 1865 date of marriage according to a search on Google Books. Since he also mistakenly wrote that Victoria Woodhull and Colonel Blood were the parents of Gertrude Blood who married Lord Colin Campbell that date was probably passed over by others as just another one of the author's mistakes.
Also kept hidden but in plain site is this tidbit from page 4, column 3 of the Chicago Tribune on Feb. 10, 1868 which has been missed by every author, biographer, and historian as far as I can tell:
"RECORDER'S COURT....Victoria C. Blood vs. James H. Blood. Bill for divorce on the ground of adultery, filed on the [?]th instant, and referred on a written appearance by defendant on the same day. The main witness in the case was Bernard [sic] Claflin, the father of com-plainant. The complainant in taking her decree asked, however, to retain her maiden name of Woodhull."
Turns out the great Chicago fire didn't destroy all the documentation of the divorce after all! Colonel was telling the truth when he said they were divorced in Chicago in 1868. All the claims that she had never been known as Victoria C. Blood are untrue. If Victoria and Colonel hadn't been legally married in 1866 what would be the reason for the 1868 Chicago divorce? She wasn't in the public eye then so there was no need to rehabilitate her image by proving with a divorce that she was truly married to a man who was alleged to be just her lover. The best explanation seems to be that she was divorced from Dr. Woodhull by the time she married Colonel in Dayton in 1866. Perhaps they were unaware at the time that the minister neglected to file the return, or they were aware that the laws regarding common law marriage meant the actual filing of the return was unnecessary to establish a valid marriage.
In any case, even if Victoria hadn't divorced Dr. Woodhull, he died in April 1872. Victoria and Colonel continued to present themselves as husband and wife, so they would be common law spouses after the doctor's death just as in the case of Alexander Duncan. Victoria and Colonel divorced the second time in 1876, with her father Buckman Claflin once again as a witness to the adultery. She left for England the following year and eventually married John Biddulph Martin of the Martin's Bank on Lombard Street. Here's a certified copy of their marriage record:
They were married October 31, 1883 at the South Kensington Presbyterian Church, Emperor's Gate, Kensington, Middlesex, England. She gave her name as "Victoria Claflin Blood formerly Woodhull 'widow.'" Most likely because of the lack of social acceptance for divorced ladies at the time, she did it to cover up the fact that she was thrice divorced from two men. Fortunately for her the divorce records in Chicago had burnt up, the Blood divorce account in the Chicago Tribune was buried in dusty old archives, the record of her 1865 marriage was damaged and nearly destroyed from an 1884 fire and had to be restored, and the divorce records in New York were sealed for 100 years.
Because adultery was the only ground for divorce in the state of New York (all the way up to 1966 by the way), alleging adultery was the only way she could secure her divorce from the Colonel. She tried to keep the 1876 divorce as quiet as possible, but there were still some reports in the news like this one from the front page of the Sep. 19, 1876 Washington (DC) National Republican:
In the only edition of a new newspaper she created, Woodhall [sic] and Claflin's Journal, she published on January 29, 1881 an extract from her divorce record that included the following:
"Now, on motion of H.J. Smith, Esq., attorney for plaintiff, it is hereby ordered that the said report of said referee be confirmed, and the said report hereby is confirmed accordingly, and it is further ordered and adjudged that the marriage between the plaintiff, Victoria C.W. Blood, and the defendant, James H. Blood, be dissolved, and the said marriage is hereby dissolved ac-cordingly, and the parties are, and each of them is, freed from the obligations thereof, and it shall be lawful for the plaintiff, Victoria C.W. Blood, to marry again in the same manner as though the defendant were actually dead, but it shall not be lawful for the defendant, James H. Blood, to marry again until the plaintiff is actually dead. Filed October 6, 1876."
Because Colonel Blood was forbidden by the state of New York from marrying again as the guilty party in a divorce, he couldn't legally marry my great-great-grandmother Isabella Morrill Fogg (AKA Isabell) in the state of New York. They presumably hopped a ferry to Jersey City, New Jersey where they got married on August 18,1885 after years of knowing one another. Here's a certified copy of their marriage certificate obtained from the DAR Library by my mother's first cousin Lillian Fogg Lee:
Both James H. Blood and Isabella Morrill claimed to be marrying for the second time. While that's true for Isabell, it's clearly not true for Colonel. Even his pension application mentions both Mary Ann Clapp Harrington and Isabell Morrill Fogg but completely neglects to mention his second wife Victoria Claflin Woodhull. He probably didn't want to bring up that can of worms as it could've exposed he was once a bigamist. His marriage to Isabell Blood was recognized as legal by the federal government as my Nanna Blood collected his Civil War veteran's pension.
On Colonel's and Nanna's marriage certificate in the field "Last name" it says:
"divorce alleged for adultery"
"Name by former husband Fogg"
I'm not sure why the mention of adultery is there unless it's referring to the Colonel. My third cousin Kathryn Fogg obtained a copy of the divorce record for Isabell and her first husband Nathan Fogg, our great-great-grandfather. The cause of the divorce wasn't adultery. Isabell was the one who filed for divorce and it was decreed on Sep. 27, 1881 in Maine. By the time of her divorce, she was already well acquainted with Colonel Blood as he was a business partner of her sons Frank and Irving Fogg.
Here's a summary of the Woodhull-Blood marriages and divorces:
- Nov. 20, 1853
Chenning Woodhull and Victoria C. Clafland are married in Cleveland, Cuyahoga, Ohio.
- Oct. 2, 1855
James H. Blood and Mary A.C. Harrington marry in Framingham, Middlesex, Massachusetts.
- Between 1863 and 1866 (most likely 1864 or 1865)
Victoria Claflin Woodhull is believed to have divorced Dr. Woodhull in Chicago, Illinois. Divorce records were destroyed in Chicago fire of 1871. No newspaper account of the divorce has been found yet.
- July 10, 1865
James H. Blood and Victoria Chaflin marry in Hamilton County, Ohio. The marriage record would later be restored from a record damaged and nearly destroyed by a courthouse fire in 1884. In 1865 he's still married to his previous wife. Victoria's sister Dr. Mary Sparr uses this information in an attempt to get thousands of dollars or she will turn him into authorities on the charge of bigamy.
- July 9, 1866
Mary Ann Blood divorces James H. Blood in the Chicago Recorder's Court for the cause of adultery as reported the following day in the Chicago Tribune.
- July 14, 1866
James H. Blood and Victoria Claflin apply for a marriage license in Dayton, Montgomery, Ohio where Victoria always claimed she married Colonel. The original record has been destroyed by Montgomery County. Only a microfilm copy of the bound volume remains. The marriage is a common law one, not statutory because the minister forgot to file the return.
- About Feb. 8, 1868
Victoria C. Blood divorces James H. Blood in the Chicago Recorder's Court for the cause of adultery as reported in the Chicago Tribune, Feb. 10, 1868. She asks to go back to the name Woodhull.
- Sep. 18, 1876
- Victoria Claflin Woodhull Blood divorces James H. Blood in Brooklyn, New York at a special session of the Supreme Court as reported in multiple newspapers. Dissolution order filed with the court on October 6, 1876 according to Victoria's own account in Woodhall [sic] and Claflin's Journal, January 29, 1881.
- Oct. 31, 1883
Victoria Claflin Woodhull marries John Biddulph Martin in South Kensington Presbyterian Church, Emperor's Gate, Kensington, Middlesex, England.
- Aug. 18, 1885
James Harvey Blood marries divorcee Isabella Morrill (formerly Fogg) in Jersey City, Hudson, New Jersey.
Bartels & James: Lady Tennessee Claflin Cook's First Marriage
Very little has been written about Tennessee's first marriage which she said lasted only a few weeks. Here's some of what the "definitive" biography of Victoria Woodhull, The Terrible Siren, has to say about Tennessee's first husband:
"About 1866 they turned up in Chicago with spirit manifestations and magnetic doctoring for sale; on Wabash Avenue, and afterwards on Harrison Street.
"There, too, the neighbors complained of the family rows, and suspected their magnetic doctoring; so Vic-toria took Hebern, Tennessee, and Tennessee's first husband, John Bartels, whom she had married in Chicago, on a tour through Arkansas, Missouri, Kan-sas and Tennessee...."
"Tennessee kept her marriage secret because it would hurt business, and the attentions she received from other men irritated Bartels." (The Terrible Siren, 1928, p. 39)
"Victoria never took Colonel Blood's name. Tennessee never had called herself Bartels, either; when she married him, her name was a trademark too valuable to lose. Of course, both marriages were a little vague, but it may have been Victoria's faith in her future fame that influenced her to keep the name which sounded best." (The Terrible Siren, 1928, p. 51)
Later writers called him John Bortel, spelling the last name the same as it appeared on one of her marriage records to Sir Francis Cook. Her first husband's full name was actually John James Bortle, known as James or Jim for short. In the early twentieth century a newspaper interview quotes Tennessee as saying, "Lawyer Asay had my marriage annuled [sic], and then as a double protection for me advised my father to procure a divorce for me, which he did. I was married to Mr. Bortle in '60 or '61. The records of my marriage and of my divorce were destroyed in the Chicago fire."
If she divorced in Chicago, the records of divorce did go up in flames along with any copy of the marriage record that she may have supplied to the court in 1861. However, the original marriage record survived. Emanie Sachs was wrong that Tennessee married in Chicago and was wrong that it was about 1866. He was long gone from the family by then. She even got his name wrong. Tennessee got married in what is today considered part of Chicagoland, but it wasn't in the city or even in Cook County. She married in Sycamore, DeKalb, Illinois on Sep. 30, 1861. None of the Woodhull biographers have discovered this marriage record. The reason others may have not found the record is that her name is indexed as T.C. Clofin. Her husband is indexed as James Bartle. As far as I can tell, the last person to mention the existence of this marriage record was a newspaper reporter in 1911 who said that Lady Tennessee Cook was married in Sycamore and provided details from the DeKalb county records. You can purchase a copy yourself from DeKalb County using the information from Cyberdriveillinois.
In the late 1880's and early 1890's, Tennessee was dogged by rumors that she was a bigamist. It was claimed she had never divorced her first husband. There were rumors that she had married George Collis in St. Louis and John A. Green in New York. Other rumors said that Inspector Thomas Byrnes had one of her marriage records locked up in his safe, but it's doubtful the rumors were true. As of yet, I haven't been able to find any marriage records for Tennessee other than for the two men she said she married.
The recently widowed millionaire merchant Francis Cook married Tennessee Celeste Claflin for the first time on Oct. 1, 1885 in Kensington, Middlesex England. I obtained a certified copy of the marriage record on Apr. 26, 2006. Tennessee was listed as a "spinster" and her age was given as 33 instead of 39. Tennessee would turn 40 later in the month. Five months after they were married, he received an English title. He became Sir Francis Cook, 1st Baronet.
Because of the bigamy rumors, Sir Francis Cook took the extra step of marrying Tennessee a second time to counter anyone who would question the validity of their marriage. They married on January 9, 1889 at the Register Office in Kensington, Middlesex, England. Here's a certified copy of the second marriage certificate obtained from the General Record Office on May 2, 2006. The condition of the second record was so poor that the GRO transcribed it. The size of the certificate was too large for my flatbed scanner, so I had to scan the certificate in two images and stitch them together for viewing on the internet. That's the reason for the vertical line through the Application Number. The second marriage entry attempts to correct the previous record but ends up introducing some additional errors of its own--Tennesse instead of Tennessee and Bortel instead of Bortle--although it's possible those errors could be in transcription. Although her father had been a small-town lawyer, some would object to her using the British word "Barrister" for his occupation. The certificate corrected her marital status. She was "the Divorced wife of James Bortel previously Claflin, Spinster." Instead of listing her age and possibly getting it wrong, they listed it as "full age" for which there couldn't be any disagreement. Instead of saying that they were married in the "the Parish Church," they provided the name of the church, "St. Mary Abbotts Kensington." Her niece Carrie, who was born in 1861 to Enos Miles and Margaret Ann Claflin, was a witness along with her other niece Zula, daughter of Victoria Claflin Woodhull Martin.
Butcher Knives and Brothels: The Divorce of Margaret Ann Claflin Miles
Barbara Goldsmith's 1998 biography Other Powers has this shocking thing to say about Victoria and Tennessee's eldest sister Margaret Ann:
"In 1848, after Buck's flight from Homer, he rejoined his family in nearby Mount Gilead, Ohio. The Claflins moved in with Vickie's older sister Margaret Ann, who had married Enos Miles, the town druggist....As for Margaret Ann, she had never been exposed to proper middle-class living and was not about to change her ways. Her marriage ended soon after her family arrived, when Enos caught his wife in a local hotel room with a man. The usually mild-mannered druggist pursued Margaret Ann down Mount Gilead's main street brandishing a butcher knife." (Other Powers, 1998, p 50)
No source is provided in her extensive notes for this story, but part of it appears to come from The Terrible Siren:
"When Margaret Ann married Enos Miles of Hewitt, and Miles' drugstore in Mt. Gilead, he was the reputable son of a prominent family. Margaret Ann had babies with flattering regularity, but Roxy, Vicky, Tennie, Hebern and little Utica lived with him most of the time and their brawls never stopped. Enos wasn't used to a tempestuous life and it upset him. A few years after he bought the American House, (a hotel then new and the pride of the town) he rapped at a neighbor's house before dawn, with a butcher knife in his hand. 'I'm looking for Mag,' he said hoarsely. Of course he never harmed her, but such an outraged Puritan had to make a gesture. He went blind later, and the Miles moved to Mansfield where they were divorced." (The Terrible Siren, 1928, p. 21)
According to Goldsmith's account, it can be inferred that Enos Miles divorced Margaret Ann for adultery in Ohio by the early 1850's. From Sach's account, it plainly says they were divorced in Mansfield after he went blind. Neither is correct except that Enos did eventually move to Mansfield and the divorce did occur after he went blind. The cause of the Miles divorce wasn't the alleged adultery of Margaret Ann. The cause was cruelty and Margaret Ann was the plaintiff not the defendant. She divorced her husband in Chicago, Illinois. While I can't say whether or not Enos went after Margaret Ann with a butcher knife, it's highly unlikely that it happened just before their divorce if it happened. Enos was permanently blinded before 1866. His $50,000 lawsuit made national news and his divorce was recorded in local newspapers.
On page 7 of the June 24, 1867 issue of the Chicago Republican, appeared the following:
Margaret A. Miles vs. Enos Miles. Bill For di-vorce. Master's report filed and confirmed, and de-cree of divorce entered on the grounds of extreme and repeated cruelty."
Their marriage ended shortly before their 23rd wedding anniversary on July 4, 1867. Of course, you may wonder how I can be sure it's the same Margaret A. and Enos Miles. Chicago is a large city. In the 1867 Chicago City directory "B. Claflin" and "M.A. Miles" (calling herself a widow, a common action of separated and divorced women of that era) are both listed at "365 Wabash av."
That's the same address Victoria Woodhull and Tennessee Claflin used in several advertisements, one of which is shown below. Goldsmith says their address was 265 Wabash and that an ad was published in the Chicago Mail (which incidentally didn't exist in 1867). She would also have you believe the Wabash Avenue house was a brothel:
"Meanwhile, the Claflin family in the Wabash Avenue house in Chicago were up to their old tricks amid an atmosphere of illicit sex and blackmail. Young women, many of whom were servant girls, came to have their fortunes told. Some stayed late and along with the four unattached Claflin girls--Tennessee, Margaret Ann, Polly and Utica--entertained men." (Other Powers, 1998, p 107-108)
Again that paragraph is not sourced amongst her extensive notes in the book. Let's see if the four Claflin girls truly were "unattached" from late 1866 to early 1868 during the time they lived on Wabash, although not continuously. (By September 1868 Victoria and Tennessee were at 17 Great Jones Street in New York City.)
Below is a newspaper ad from the Chicago Tribune which shows Tennessee was at 365 Wabash Avenue on December 1, 1866. (See page 4, column 4.) Tennessee had been divorced for around 5 years and would remain single, but Margaret Ann was still married to Enos Miles on this date.
Polly (more commonly known as Dr. Mary Sparr) was long separated from her first husband Ross Burns, but she had been married to her second husband Dr. Benjamin F. Sparr since Dec. 13, 1860. She remained married to him until he died on June 7, 1871 so she was married the entire time her relatives lived on Wabash. Utica was married to her second husband Thomas H.B. Brooker in Chicago on November 28, 1866. They eventually separated on an unknown date, but he appeared as publisher of Woodhull & Claflin's Weekly in October 1870, so it's safe to assume they were still married in 1867. Victoria, of course, was still married to Colonel Blood until their first divorce in February 1868. Of the four Claflin girls that Goldsmith says were unattached, only one was unattached for the entire time they were on Wabash. That one was Tennessee. If the Wabash house were a brothel, four husbands of the Claflin sisters would have to have been agreeable to renting out their wives in a household that may have contained at least three sets of children.
- Margaret Ann--Page 255 of Wight, Charles Henry. Genealogy of the Claflin family: being a record of Robert Mackclothlan, of Wenham, Mass. and of his descendants, 1661-1898. New York:Press of William Green, 1903.
- Mary (AKA Polly)--"Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2013," index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XZXY-T7X : accessed 5 June 2015), Benjamin F. Sparr and Mary Burns, 13 Dec 1860; citing Hamilton, Ohio, United States, reference p304 cn607; county courthouses, Ohio; FHL microfilm 344,481
- Utica (AKA Utie)--Chicago Tribune, Dec. 1, 1866, page 4, column 5.
Goldsmith also would have you believe that Buck Claflin may have run a house of prostitution in a hotel at Ottawa, Illinois:
"The Fox River House overflowed with Claflins. After ten years of marriage, Victoria had divorced Canning Woodhull and returned to her family with her two children....Margaret Ann, divorced from Enos Miles, was there with her four children....
"In the summer of 1863, there were several complaints that the extra rooms at the Fox River House were being used for assignations and that Buck's daughters were prostitutes. The charges were never proved." (Other Powers, 1998, p. 80-81)
I've already demonstrated that Margaret Ann wasn't divorced from Enos Miles by 1863 unless she had done what Victoria had done and married and divorced her husband more than once. Here's an ad from the Ottawa Free Trader, Feb. 27, 1864, page 2, column 5, that shows he was managing the Fox River House in Ottawa which was where the Claflins supposedly had their house of prostitution:
Fox River House,
WITH large and convenient Stabling and Sheds, near the Aqueduct, in Ottawa, IL. This House and premises has been recently fitted up and newly furnished by Mr. ENOS MILES, who has had many years of experience in Hotel keeping, would be glad to receive a liberal share of the public patronage
Social, Wedding and Cotillion Parties accommodated on short notice The Hall on fourth floor is 28 by 60 ft.
Ottawa, Feb. 27, 1864
Apparently the man who was so jealous of his wife's infidelity that he attacked her with a knife has no problem running a hotel where his wife and her sisters work as prostitutes in the same building as his four surviving children, including a two-year-old daughter. Instead of divorcing his wayward wife for adultery, he waits over three years for her to divorce him for cruelty instead. Does that honestly make any sense? (See my $200 reward for the "Cult of Love" ad on the home page of this web site.)
In 1876 Victoria Woodhull reportedly was suffering from depression because of false allegations of prostitution. I'm sure Goldsmith wouldn't like it if she and her sister were accused of prostitution with the majority of sources being uncited except for a non-existent ad in the Ottawa Free Trader, an allegedly libelous newspaper (the Chicago Mail edited by Joseph R. Dunlop) and an allegedly libelous pamphlet (the Joseph Treat pamphlet). Goldsmith quoted the Treat pamphlet in her book, attributing a quote to sister Utica that had been attributed to another sister Mrs. Sparr: "Tennie has had ten men visit her in one night and after each, I've bathed her, given her a new night-robe, and perfumed her for the next..." Goldsmith doesn't tell her readers that Joseph Treat was arrested for criminal libel for the very pamphlet from which she takes that quote.
New York Tribune, August 8, 1876, page 8:
"Dr. Joseph Treat, author of a pamphlet attacking Mrs. Victoria C. Woodhull, Miss Claflin, James H. Blood, and others, was arrested last evening in Broadway on a warrant charging him with publishing a grossly obscene libel. The prisoner was locked up in the Mercer Street Police Station and will have a hearing this morning in the Washington Place Police Court."
Books & Pamphlets
Austin, S., ed., John C.W. Bailey's Chicago City Directory; Volume X, for 1867-8. Chicago: John C.W. Bailey Publisher, 1867
Bishop, J. P. Attorney and Counselor at Law, The Cleveland Law Record: Devoted Principally to the Report of Leading Cases in the Several Courts in Ohio and Other States, and Especially to Those in the District Court of Cuyahoga County, O., Volume I-No. I, Cleveland: Harris, Fairbanks & Co. Herald Office, 1856
Curwen, Maskell E. ed., of the Cincinnati Bar; one of the Professors of Law in the Cincinnati College, The public statutes at large of the state of Ohio: from the close of Chase's Statutes, February 1833 to the present time....And a supplement containing all laws passed prior to February 1833 which are now in force, Volume III, Cincinnati: Published by the Author, 1854
Gabriel, Mary, Notorious Victoria The Life of Victoria Woodhull Uncensored, Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 1998
Goldsmith, Barbara, Other Powers: The Age of Suffrage, Spiritualism, and the Scandalous Victoria, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1998
Johnston, Johanna, Mrs. Satan: The Incredible Saga of Victoria C. Woodhull, New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1967
Kent, James, Commentaries on American Law, Vol. II, Second Edition, New York: O. Halsted, 1832
Langston, Donna, A to Z of American Women Leaders and Activists, New York: Facts on File, Inc., 2002
Marberry, M.M., Vicky A Biography of Victoria C. Woodhull, New York: Funk & Wagnalls A Division of Reader's Digest Books, 1967
MacPherson, Myra, The Scarlet Sisters: Sex, Suffrage, and Scandal in the Gilded Age, New York: Twelve, 2014
Meade, Marion, Free Woman The Life and Times of Victoria Woodhull, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1976
Ohio Decisions Series of Ohio Case Law Books (reprint), Reports of Cases Argued and Determined in Ohio Courts of Record: Weekly Law Bulletin, Volumes 10-17, Norwalk, Ohio: The American Publishers Co. 1899
Sachs, Emanie, The Terrible Siren: Victoria Woodhull 1838-1927, New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1928
Treat, Joseph, M.D., Beecher, Tilton, Woodhull, the Creation of Society: All Four of Them Exposed, and If Possible Reformed, and Forgiven, in Dr. Treat's Celebrated Letter to Victoria Woodhull New York: Published by the author 1874
Underhill, Lois Beachy, The Woman Who Ran for President of the United States, Bridgehampton, NY: Bridge Works Publishing Co., 1995
Wallace, Irving, The Square Pegs: Some Americans Who Dared to Be Different, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1957
Weatherford, Doris, Women in American Politics: History and Milestones, Volume 1, Los Angeles: Sage CQ Press, 2012
Wight, Charles Henry. Genealogy of the Claflin family: being a record of Robert Mackclothlan, of Wenham, Mass. and of his descendants, 1661-1898. New York: Press of William Green, 1903
Newspapers & Magazines
Chicago Republican, June 24, 1867, page 7
Chicago Tribune, July 10, 1866, page 3, column 2
Chicago Tribune, December 1, 1866, page 4, columns 4 and 5
Chicago Tribune, Feb. 10, 1868, page 4, column 3
Genealogical Magazine: A Journal of Family History, Heraldry, and Pedigrees. Volume VII, May, 1903-1904 London: Elliot Stock, 52, Paternoster Row, E.C., 1904
New York Tribune, August 8, 1876, page 8
Ottawa Free Trader, Feb. 27, 1864, page 2
Washington (DC) National Republican, Sep. 19, 1876, p. 1
Woodhall and Claflin's Journal, January 29, 1881 (from a reprint)
Marriage license of Chenning Woodhull and Victoria California Clafland
"Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2013," index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-267-11603-63222-47?cc=1614804 : accessed 6 June 2015), Cuyahoga > Marriage license applications 1853-1854 > image 228 of 288; county courthouses, Ohio.
Marriage record of Chenning Woodhull and Victoria C. Clafland
"Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2013," index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1-17962-14094-44?cc=1614804 : accessed 6 June 2015), Cuyahoga > Marriage records 1849-1854 vol 5 > image 273 of 334; county courthouses, Ohio.
Certified copy of Certificate of Marriage for James H. Blood and Mary A.C. Harrington obtained from the Town of Framingham, MA on July 7, 1999
Marriage license of James H. Blood and Victoria Claflin
"Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2013," index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1-18083-79555-30?cc=1614804 : accessed 6 June 2015), Montgomery > Marriage records 1864-1866 vol G > image 284 of 317; county courthouses, Ohio.
General Register Office certified copy of an entry of marriage for John Biddulph Martin and Victoria Claflin Blood formerly Woodhull, application number COL289207, MXC570842, obtained Apr. 27, 2006
Photostat of Certified copy of the State of New Jersey Marriage Return of James H. Blood and Isabella Morrill obtained by Lillian Fogg Lee, from the private family collection of Mary L. Shearer
Marriage record of James Bortle and Miss T.C. Claflin in DeKalb county, Illinois, obtained from Cyberdriveillinois.com
Certified copy of an entry of marriage for Francis Cook and Tennessee Celeste Claflin, General Register Office application number COL289207, MXC57037, obtained Apr. 27, 2006
Certified copy of an entry of marriage for Francis Cook and Tennessee Celeste Cook formerly Bortel, previously Claflin, General Register Office application number COL289207, MB 546107, obtained May 2, 2006
Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2013," index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XZXY-T7X : accessed 5 June 2015), Benjamin F. Sparr and Mary Burns, 13 Dec 1860; citing Hamilton, Ohio, United States, reference p304 cn607; county courthouses, Ohio; FHL microfilm 344,481
Death certificate of Benjamin F. Sparr, certificate 88987, as posted on findagrave.com
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