She, a Catholic, could not convert him to her belief

Posted by | December 30, 2015

From the 1927 divorce case filed by James R. Seawall against Dorothy Elizabeth Seawall in Knox County Fourth Circuit Court, Knoxville, TN:

“After their marriage, and in the year 1923, the defendant began to neglect him, and to absent herself from his home, and to spend the greater part of her time with her parents; that from December 1923 she has wholly separated herself from him and has lived with her parents.

“He respectfully avers that he has done all that he knows how to do to make her a loyal husband, and to properly provide for her and their children, but avers that she has not reciprocated, and that she has wholly separated herself from him, willfully and maliciously and without any just or reasonable cause, for two whole years and more, to wit four years next preceding the filing of this bill. And so complete has been the separation that this Complainant has not so much as seen the defendant since January 1924.

“Complainant would further show that he is a traveling salesman covering all the Southeastern part of the United States, and that as such he was sent to Knoxville more than two whole years ago next preceding the filing of this bill, and that he took up his bona fide residence at Knoxville on or about April 1, 1925. That he has since continually resided here, as his home, and that he is a bona fide citizen and resident of Knox County, TN.

“He would show that the separation herein complained of took place in the State of New York on or about December 30, 1923, and was wholly uncalled for, and inexcusable, and that it was without any just or reasonable cause. That the only cause which could have been assigned was a difference in religious affiliations, but this Complainant respectfully avers that the defendant knew his affiliations before their marriage, and that she, a Catholic, could not convert him to her belief, and therefore, and for no other cause, deserted him and his home.”

INTERROGATORY PROPOUNDED to Mrs. Lela Guerard by the Complainant in the above styled cause, and answered by the said witness under oath.

Q. Please state your name, age and residence?
A. Lela Seawall Guerard, 32, San Antonio, TX.

Q. Do you know whether, during the marriage relation, or during the time when Mr. Seawall and his wife were living together, the Complainant supported his wife as a husband should?
A. I saw a good bit of them for about two months after the marriage; at that time his wife and her family seemed very much attached to Mr. Seawall. She wrote me several times between that time and the time I heard of the separation; there was nothing in the letters to suggest that she was not happy with him; certainly no complaint of his conduct towards her.

Q. State fully, if you know, how Mrs. Seawell conducted herself with reference to properly keeping her home, remaining with her husband, preparing his meals, doing his mending and housework, and general work that is ordinarily done by a housewife for her husband?

A. So far as I knew up to the time I left there was no complaint; from the time that I came to Texas I only know of what happened by complaints he made about the way things were going. He complained in his letters about her frequent and repeated absences from the home and neglect of household duties.

Q. Did you know Mrs. Seawall’s parents?
A. Yes.

Q. What was their attitude toward the homelife of James R. Seawall and his wife? That is to say, did they at any time so interfere with the affairs of his home as to cause his wife to be less affectionate toward him? And did they, or either of them intermeddle in the affairs of his home so as to estrange his wife from him?
A. The attitude of Mrs. Seawell’s parents up to the time I came to Texas was very friendly; their attitude later I only know from his letters to me, and what he told me when I visited him about two years ago during the time he was separated from her; in those conversations he attributed his entire trouble to differences in religion and interference in their affairs by his wife’s mother and father.

Q. Was Seawall kind and good to his wife?
A. Judging from what I saw during the time I was with them, from his and her letters, and his talk of her with me, I would say that he was.

Q. Was there anything in his conduct toward her that would justify her in leaving him and going to her parents and remaining out of his home for days at a time, or weeks, and finally deserting him?
A. Nothing in the world that could be imagined from what I know of their affairs, or know of the parties.

Q. Have you been in frequent and continued correspondence with Mr. Seawall since he and his wife’s marriage and separation?
A. Yes; I am his sister.

Q. Do you know of any reason why these parties cannot get along and live happily together except what you have already stated?
A. None in the world; I verily believe that though she is an ardent Catholic and he a Protestant, that this obstacle could be overcome, but for the interference of her family. With those two situations I see no chance of happiness for them. She has evidently chosen her parents and their wishes in preference to those of her husband, and between him and her parents there is a gulf that can not be bridged.

Full document here, from collection of Tennessee Electronic Library/Volunteer Voices

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