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Judge Judy would have loved some of these cases

Published October 02. 2010 09:00AM

Had Judge Judy been around a century ago, she would have added some spicy commentary to a number of the domestic and family-related cases that emerged during the summer of 1910.

The Aug. 20 edition of the Tamaqua Courier carried a front page article involving a Schuylkill County woman who was arraigned for bigamy. Annie Smith, the headline stated, was "23 years old and good looking and admits she has a surplus of husbands."

The writer explained that before her husband, Henry Smith, a railroad brakeman, married Annie on July 1, 1909, she had been married three times. "Among the lot," the writer stated, "was a Chinaman, Lee Tum, of Philadelphia."

Annie remained indignant at her arraignment, stating that "she would marry three more if she cared to."

One of the craziest matrimonial mixup cases that summer was heard by Justice Joseph Benedict of New Philadelphia. The domestic case involved Peter Minas of Coal Dale whose wife's sister came "from across the sea" for a visit.

Peter and the sister-in-law formed such a strong connection that they "eloped" to Chicago. Unable to find work, however, he parted company with his sister-in-law and returned to Coal Dale.

He sought forgiveness from his wife and she informed him that a fortune teller advised her not to have anything to do with Peter. She rejected his persistent efforts to reconcile and finally told him to leave and never return. After he allegedly threatened harm to her life as well as his own, she sought to have him arrested.

After the warrant was served against Peter in New Philadelphia, his wife claimed she merely wanted protection.

Another strange case in Schuylkill County in late September made good fodder for the gossip columnists. It involved Mrs. Louisa Schultz, a widow, who sued Hartman Hoffman for breach of promise to marry. Louisa claimed that, despite Hoffman never calling her "dearie" or "honey" during their courtship, she still loved him.

When Louisa pressed Hoffman to keep his marriage promise, Louisa testified that he "sold his fine, big house and furniture and built a little one-story shanty."

The reason for his downsizing, she said, was "to cool her eagerness to become Mrs. Hoffman."

Hoffman said he would have kept his promise to marry, but heard that her former husband might still be somehow involved in her life.

The jury awarded her $28, far less than the $1,000 she had sought for damages in the case.

Shenandoah saw its share of spousal cases during the late summer of 1910.

One involved the support case involving William Snyder described as a wealthy businessman said to be worth $100,000.

His wife told the court "tales of abuse" while Snyder testified that his wife "was unfaithful and gets drunk." He also charged her with cashing checks and taking more money than the $40 a month in support he agreed to give her during "a previous difficulty."

Another Shenandoah man who captured headlines in late September 1910 was Max Goodman who sought to have his marriage to Edith Seigel annulled on the grounds that she was insane at the time of their marriage in Philadelphia in 1903.

Goodman claimed that "after living with Edith for several years he found her to be insane, and subsequently learned that she was insane at the time of the marriage."

She was reportedly treated by specialists and had been an inmate of the Frankfurt Asylum in Philadelphia, from which she was discharged as "incurably insane." She was then committed to the state asylum in Harrisburg where she remained.

Edith's mother, who was defending the case, wanted it dismissed by the local court for lack of jurisdiction. The case of Pitcairn vs. Pitcairn was cited in which Justice Potter of the Supreme Court stated that the Common Pleas courts of Pennsylvania "have no jurisdiction to annul a marriage on the grounds of insanity of one of the contracting parties at the time the marriage was consummated."

Judge Bechtel sustained the plea of no jurisdiction.

While many area domestic cases involved scandal and made for sensational headlines, at least they did not end in a loss of life like one in Indianapolis.

An innocent date between Sarah Porter, 20, and James Parnell ended with a stroll across a bridge. When Parnell tried to steal a kiss, Sarah rejected his advance. He became so angry at being spurned that he threw her over the railing into the canal, a distance of 20 feet.

Parnell quickly regained his senses and jumped into the canal to try to save her but it was too late. Her body was recovered several hours later and Parnell was arrested.

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