A Tale of Domestic Woe and Divorce in 1900

Divorce suits can often be ugly. The Pries divorce in 1900s Omaha, which included child theft and a faked death, was especially dramatic.

A review of the columns of bygone Nebraska newspapers turns up many convoluted stories of domestic woe and the resulting legal hassles of divorce. The Sunday State Journal of Lincoln on February 18, 1900, reported a “family row aired in public” in Douglas County District Court in Omaha. The divorce suit, involving Dr. Rudolph Pries and his wife, Ida Pries, had all the drama of a modern soap opera, including accusations of child stealing, a faked death, attempted shootings, and the theft of money, books, and office furniture.

In the Pries divorce suit, the wife alleges a marriage in Denver in 1882. She says that since that time two children have been born, Olga, fifteen, and Blanche, eleven years of age. As a side feature to the issues, she alleges that July 31 of last year the defendant informed her that he was going to Denver on a short visit and persuaded her to permit the girls to accompany him. After they left the house she followed them to the train and there ascertained that instead of going to Denver the doctor had bought tickets to Chicago. While at the station she says that she induced the older girl to return home, but the younger one refused.

The next time that Mrs. Pries heard from her husband, she says, was when she received a letter from Germany, in which he enclosed the picture of a corpse, at the same time telling her in the letter that the photograph was of Blanche, who had met her death in an accident.

Later on she says that she learned that the whole affair was a put up job and that instead of the girl being dead she is alive. Last fall the wife says that her husband returned, but did not bring the child with him. In addition to this, the wife alleges cruelty and neglect.

In answer to the charges, the doctor admits having gone to Germany and says that Blanche is now there attending a good school, where she is receiving the best of care and attention.

As a counterclaim, he says that for years he squandered his money upon his wife, giving her an excellent home and supplying her every financial demand. When he became hard up and could no longer support her in a queenly fashion, she turned against him and tried to estrange the children from him. Not being satisfied he says that upon several occasions she attempted to shoot him.

The climax, the doctor avers, was reached a few weeks ago when his wife broke into his office in his absence and rifled a trunk of $475 in gold and silver, returning later to cart away his books and furniture.

It can be hoped that both husband and wife enjoyed a happier life apart than together.

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