Monday, August 1, 2011

Jumping to Conclusions





Newspaper Headlines Read:
Arrested for lewd behavior, 10/23/1908
Case of lewd and lascivious behavior heard in court, 10/30/1908

This is what I had found on a library website in regards to my great grandmother, Mary Catherine Wilber. The incident took place after her divorce from my great grandfather, Carl Zachariah Pierce.  (See story:  Rainbows and Flowers vs. Black Clouds and Weeds)

What was I to think?  Even the word prostitution was used.  I thought, perhaps she got caught in an uncompromising position with the man she was to marry next, Gilbert King.  Could I even imagine something sinister? 

I went to the library and nervously looked through the reels of microfiche to find the article where Mary was arrested for prostitution and lewd behavior.  It certainly didn't look good for my great grandmother.  It turned out that she was not the only one arrested.  Her sisters, Maud, and Nellie were also taken into custody, with handcuffs no less binding their hands.

The incident took place in her sister Abbie's house located right across the street from where their mother, lived.   A neighbor complained of issues over the last several months of men and women coming and going from the house.  Evidently she reported that the house was of ill repute.  Could this be true?  I wondered.
 
I went to the next article seven days later to read the report on the hearing.  Abbie was the only one not able to attend because she was sick.  Other neighbors were called in to testify and they reported that there was no problem, never had been.  This one particular woman, perhaps a nosey neighbor, jumped to the wrong conclusions as she accused the girls of wrong doing.  The case was dismissed.  How humiliating this must have been for my great grandmother and her sisters.

Abbie's sisters and friends would constantly come and go to visit Abbie, tending to her needs by preparing meals, helping with her children and keeping her company in an attempt to cheer her up during her illness.  Naturally, the girl's husbands or in Mary Catherine's case, the man she was dating, Gilbert King would come and go as well. She married King six months later on April 23, 1909.

My aunt who also lived in the neighborhood informed me that Abbie, whom she called Aunt Pet died of cancer. She further told me that her mother, Mary Ann, (my grandmother and daughter to Mary Catherine) would go over to Abbie's home every day wearing gloves to take care of her prior to her death.  (See story: Heartbreaking Misfortunes)

I certainly was happy to have Mary Catherine's name cleared.   The more I learn about her and how courageous she was, the more I like her.   

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