Prior to 1849, divorces were granted in Kentucky either through an act of the legislature or through circuit court. After 1849, only circuit courts granted divorces. The filing and conclusion of the case will be mentioned in the circuit court order books, but the particulars of the case can be found in case bundles. Most counties have transferred their circuit court case bundles to the Department for Libraries and Archives in Frankfort, Kentucky. To order a divorce case bundle, fill out a request form here: Request Form
Details of the private lives of a man and woman usually go untold unless they file for divorce. This was the case of James W. Champion who filed for divorce from his wife, Margaret, on 11 July 1865 in Crittenden County, Kentucky. The following information has been abstracted from circuit court bundle #123 at KDLA.
The parties married in 1863 in Crittenden County while he was in the Federal service as a soldier. They lived together about two months when the “defendant became forgetful of her marriage vows and became too familiar in her conduct ...” Champion stated her behavior was unacceptable for a married woman.
Giving a deposition for the plaintiff was Emanuel Barnes, age 20, who stated he had known James W. Champion all his life. In the summer of 1863, he enlisted in the 48th KY Regt. and was connected to that regiment some 3-4 months. After his discharge, he lived in Crittenden County. He stated the defendant, Margaret Champion, lived with her father at Walker’s old furnace while her husband was in the army. He also stated that Margaret acted improperly while her husband was in the army.
William Champion, age 26, stated he had known the plaintiff all his life and the defendant about three years. He stated that James W. Champion was informed of his wife’s improper conduct a few days after his return from the army and they immediately separated.
Further testimony as to Margaret’s behavior was given by Sarah Barnes, age 33 and who lived eight miles west of Marion. Sarah also testified that Margaret acted improperly for a married lady.
In each deposition, it was stated that Margaret was in the company of another man who was not a family member.
What the divorce file does not tell you is that Margaret’s maiden name was Kimsey and she married J.W. Champion 25 August 1863 in Crittenden County. After the divorce was granted, Margaret disappeared from Crittenden County. Her father, Wm. F. Kimsey, moved to Osage County, Kansas and perhaps Margaret went with him. J.W. Champion married Martha J. Gilliland 3 October 1866. They appear on the 1870 Crittenden County census.