Marital Problems

Neither men nor women were afraid to advertize their marital difficulties in the early 1800’s–some even went to the extent of putting their complaints in rhyme.

National Advocate, July 8, 1814

“ELOPED, yesterday at 1 o’clock from my bed and board, my wife LOCKEY–she is almost 27 years of age, tall and slender shape, fair complexion, black hair, and wants her front teeth.  It is supposed she went in company with a man by the name of Philip Osi, a native of France, about 35 or 40 years old, 5 feet 8 or 9 inches high, well made, short brown hair, speaks bad English, by profession a fencing master and barber; they took from me considerable property in cash and clothing.  Award of Twenty Dollars will be paid to any person that will give information of them that the property may be recovered.  CHARLES M’CARTHY, No. 204 Water-street.”

From The Union, Washington, Ky., August 27, 1814

“Mr. Rannells [the editor], you will confer a favour on one of your readers by giving the following lines a place in your paper.

Mr. N.—H.  Sir,  you will please to consider all covenants entered into between you and myself as null and void, to all intents and purposes, as your most shameful conduct in deserting your State on account of your country’s call for Militia, has rendered you truely odious even to my memory.  However as another draft is soon expected I need not have given myself the trouble of giving you this notice, as there is no danger of your return.

To think sir, of giving my hand to a man that can smell powder from–Kentucky to Canada so perceptibly, will in no way suit the inclination of my mind, I therefore bid you a final adieu.   ELIZA”

From the Cincinnati Western Spy, August 21, 1813


Having seen in the spy of the 14th inst. a malignant notice to the public not to harbor me, &c.  I am compelled to notice that publication in this way, in order to justify my conduct in leaving to himself one of the most abandoned men of the human family.  I will state, that a few months ago, I had the misfortune to form an acquaintance with Robert Flemming, with whose character I was but too little acquainted, and unfortunately and too precipitately, formed a connection with him, ever to be regretted.  Although he has deceived me, I must say, when any person becomes acquainted with the disposition and turn of that man’s mind, they will find he is a savage in disguise; alike devoid of good sense, manners, decency, breeding, and honesty–yet this man has been countenanced even at the tables of decent people, until his late barbarity to me and my children.  I believe I could have lived with him even after (but I too late) discovered the unfortunate contract I had made; but finally, and to the disgrace of all white men, I discovered in a manner not to be mistaken, his brutal connection with his Negroe Wench, and that not unfrequently!!  This was beyond all endurance; with such a man I could not, nor cannot live–I asked of him my own property, and furniture which I brought with me, and with difficulty I got the greater part, and have nothing of his thank God!  I therefore forewarn all persons from harboring or trusting him on my account, neither will I be accountable for his conduct in any way.  It is said he is wealthy, but the means by which he obtained his Eagles remains to be told.  Let those who purchase any thing from him take care!  I look with contempt on the piece he got written on me, the allusion of intemperance is false, and to those who are acquainted with me he dare not tell such a tale:  neither has Major Murray had any improper agency in this affair, but stands above the reach of such a man as Robert Flemming has proved himself to be, and all the favor I ask of said Flemming is, that he will ask none of me.

Late ELIZABETH M’CULLOUGH.  Mount Pleasant, August 17, 1813

From New York Evening Post, December 26, 1815


“Run away from Patric McDallogh.”

“Whereas my wife, Mrs. Bridget McDallogh, is again walked away with herself and left me with five small children and her poor blind mother, and left nobody else to take care of house and home, and I hear, has taken up with Tim Guigan, the lame fiddler, the same that was put in the stocks last Easter, for stealing Barney Dooly’s game cock–This is to give notice that I will not pay for bite or sup on her account to man or mortal, and that she had better never show the marks of her ten toes near my house again.


  1. S.–Tim had better keep out of my sight.”

From the Raleigh, N. C. Star, as reprinted by the New York Evening Post, May 16, 1817

“Williamsborough, N. C. April 15, 1817

Mr. Samuel Lockhart:

My dear husband–You have left me, your dutiful and affectionate wife, and taken to your bosom Mrs. Elizabeth Atkins, of Petersburgh, Va. a woman less virtuous, less affectionate, less industrious, and less economical than myself.–When your reason has power to exercise itself, which I expect will succeed that glow of fascinated amour with which you have forsaken me, I hope you  will return to your lawful wife.–Your lavish presents to your harlot, Mrs. Atkins, and neglect of business by your attention to her, have incurred debts, that will exhaust all the property  you  have left behind.–But when I took you first, you were pennyless and I made you rich; you were comfortless and I made you happy.–Repent and Return–That kind Providence which fostered our first exertions, I pray may continue, and we may be restored to happiness and plenty.—Your loving and dutiful wife,               SALLY LOCKHART.

  1. B. I have not any money to pay to editors for publishing the above letter; but those of the United States (for I know not to which of the states my husband has gone) who will give it several insertions, shall have the prayers of a distressed woman to that throne of grace from which all rewards flow.


From the National Advocate, May 12, 1818, reprinting the Bellefonte Patriot.


Whereas my husband Benjamin has advertised me as having left his bed and board–but as he has no bed nor board (he having made over his property to his children with a view of starving me) he has now left me, to shift for myself the second time.  This is, therefore, to forewarn all persons from harboring him, until he provides for my maintenance, and gives security for that and his good behavior.

To all good people who want him descripted,
To running away he has long been addicted,
He deserted his country, being scared at a ball,
And run home the greatest hero of all.
For such service as this he obtained a pension,
How well he deserved it I need not mention.
But one thing for all I needs must acknowledge,
He’s the worst husband God ever made to my knowledge.

Susanna Carson.  Clearfield county.  January 28, 1818

About the Author

Mary Bowden is a researcher working at the Texas Collections Deposit Library at the University of Texas. A little-known but invaluable treasure of U.S. history and the history of American journalism is archived in the collection of bound United States’ Newspapers at the University of Texas at Austin. The collection began more than a century ago and has been stored in recent years in the Texas Collections Deposit Library on the campus of the University of Texas. The sizeable archive is currently in the early stages of being digitized before being moved to a more climate-controlled environment at the J.J. Pickle Research Campus of the University, on the north side of Austin.

Mary Bowden