03 May 2014

A Present From Pauline - Remember Her?

It's been about two years since I last wrote about  my "Problem With Pauline."  Finally another piece of the puzzle arrived in the mail recently from the Idaho State Archives.  You should really read my previous posts.
Parts one through nine can be read HERE.

A quick recap of my "Problem With Pauline" - This is a collateral relation of mine. Pauline's father and my 3rd great grandfather are brothers. As a rule, for each person in my database, I like to locate a census record for each year they should appear in one.  Mary Pauline Sheern married George Benton Sanford on 8 October 1875 in Osage Mission, Neosho County, Kansas.  So I look for this couple in the 1880 census.  I find Dr. George B. Sanford in Kansas City, Missouri.  He is a dentist and states that he is married but no wife appears with him. Same thing in 1900, 1910 and 1920.  George Sanford died in 1928.  A search for Pauline by herself was not successful.  So I put this line on hold.  A couple of years later I found Pauline in a Neosho County history book. It said that Mrs. Pauline Sanford had died in a fire in Boise, Idaho on 13 September 1917.  

A check of the newspaper found that a woman did indeed die in a fire on that date, but the woman was named Mrs. Helen Hunt.  Curious, so I sent for a copy of the death certificate.  While I was waiting I did some research on Mrs. Helen Hunt and found that she owned a "rooming house" called the Ada House.  She also purchased prime lots of real estate in downtown Boise near the State Capitol as well as lots in areas soon to be developed just outside of the city limits.  In total over $250,000 worth of property.  So let's think about this - a single woman who owns a rooming house has cash on hand to purchase that much real estate?  She also homesteaded property 8 miles outside of Boise and it was that home that burned to the ground with her in it.  The death certificate arrives and it named the deceased as: Pauline Helen Hunt Sanford.  So this woman used two different names but she is most certainly my Pauline.  The following excerpts from a court record - a petition for divorce - explains where she has been.

15 Feb 1907
In the District Court of the third Judicial District of the State of Idaho in and for the County of Ada

Mary Pauline Sanford, Plaintiff
George Benton Sanford, Defendant

Married at Osage Mission, Kansas 8 October 1875

Last 5 years [since 1902] she has been a resident of Idaho

Defendant has treated plaintiff in a cruel and inhumane manner and in particular as follows:

1. "That plaintiff has at all times since the said marriage,demeaned herself as became a true and faithful wife yet shortly after said marriage defendant began a course of systematic persecution towards plaintiff, calling her "vile and reprehensible names" and "repeatedly threatened to cut her heart out."

2.  "That defendant continuously treated plaintiff as a servant stating to her that she shall not have anything whatever to do with the control of the home except to work according to his instructions."

3.  "That defendant continuously said that plaintiff and her relatives were not "bred and educated up to his standard and station in life."  Additionally defendant said that plaintiff's relatives were "socially and intellectually inferior" to said defendant."

4. "That in 1878, about three years after their said union, the defendant, in their home in Kansas City, Missouri caught hold of the plaintiff by her throat and threw her down upon the floor and choked, bruised and maltreated plaintiff in a most cruel, angry, vicious, rude, revengeful and brutal manner."

She must have been indisposed for some time and not able to carry our her wifely and servant duties because he again flew into a rage.

5. "Defendant shortly thereafter threatened to shoot plaintiff and applied to her the most vile, threatening, disgusting and nauseating names and threatened to cut her ears off."

6.  "That in 1883, about eight years after said marriage, the defendant informed the plaintiff that he had been criminally intimate and was carrying a course of undue intimacy in Kansas City, Missouri with Mrs. Newman, a female of Kansas City and informed plaintiff the he, the defendant, was privileged and had the right to do as he pleased."

This must have been an on again off again kind of thing because she continued to stay with him until March 1896 when after a particularly brutal beating she finally left and went to Cripple Creek, Colorado.  A little digging revealed that her brother James was living there at the time.  A few months later - in October - George went to Cripple Creek and convinced her to come home.

7.  "That on arriving back in Kansas City, the defendant again resumed his cruel system of persecution and cruel treatment towards plaintiff.  He informed plaintiff that he was on intimate relations with a female in Kansas City named Mrs. George Bradbury and further informed plaintiff that by reason of this illicit intercourse with Mrs. George Bradbury she had sustained a miscarriage and that he, the defendant, was obliged to advance a considerable sum of money to Mrs. Bradbury by reason of criminal intimacy and course of conduct.  The defendant then informed plaintiff that Mrs. Bradbury would be living in their residence and he would continue his intimacy with Mrs. Bradbury and ordered plaintiff not to interfere."

That was the last straw for Pauline.  The complaint says that she then left the home for the final time. I am not sure where she was from 1896 to 1902 when she first appears in Boise, Idaho.  My guess is that she was at home with George in Kansas City but when the enumerator showed up at the door George says he is married but does not name Pauline as living there.  Another cruel way to demean her.   
To me, this is a vivid reminder that people from 130 years ago lived their lives and had experiences that really are no different than people today.  Each generation thinks that they have invented new ways of behaving badly when the truth is human behaviour never changes .


  1. What a great but sad story. Thank goodness women have more options to get out of bad situations today!

  2. What a great but sad story. Thank goodness women today have more options today.

  3. I think it is wonderful that you are bringing Pauline's story to light. Not only does it remind us of the plight of women and their limited rights of those times, but it honors a woman who obviously was a survivor.

    I always love hearing more about Pauline!

  4. Success! Love it that you finally found the rest of the story, Sheri. Sad to hear it turned out so badly for her at the end.

  5. Ah Jacqi but it isn't the end. I still want to know why she used 2 names. I still want to know where all the money came from that she used to purchase over $250,000 worth of property from 1905 to 1912. I still think the Ada House was more than just a rooming house. But isn't that the way it goes - finding answers only brings more questions!

  6. Looking forward to hearing more about Pauline's fascinating but sad life.