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The Marriage and Divorce of James and Fannie

James McCall Patrick (3) seems to have had the bad luck in the family. His quarry businesses never did well. His mines, except for the Colonel Sellers, never made much money, and even the Colonel Sellers had problems (see Bowman vs Patrick). His marriage was unhappy and ended when his wife died young. His only child, a daughter, also died when she was very young. When he was in 60s, newspaper articles report that young hooligans attacked him with ice-balls and stones on two different occasions on the streets of Denver!

I had been aware for some time that James and his wife had had marital problems and that after his wife’s death, there had been a struggle for custody of their daughter. Then I started finding sensationalized newspaper articles about the problems and court case. Not having all the facts, I tried to piece together a storyline that seemed logical, if not sensible. But newspapers then, just as the media now, knew that sensation sells. One story even began with the editor admitting that he was putting the family drama together with the court case about the Colonel Sellers because together it would make a more exciting story. So my original story about their marriage and divorce was slightly off.

This is the tale of the marriage and divorce of James and Fannie A. C. McManus (not Frances, Fannie). As mentioned, much of the original information I had came from the many newspaper articles that reported on their contentious divorce and the custody battle for their daughter, Camille. Much of the information came from Fannie’s family and painted James in as bad a light as possible. James tried a few times to get his side told, but it never showed him in a very good light, either.

Then I found a newspaper article that printed the entire judge’s decision in the custody case for Camille. The decision laid out the facts presented during the 19 day trial that saw 176 witnesses and four days of arguments! It covered the marriage, separation, and arguments over who should have custody of Camille. I will rehash the marriage/divorce story here. The custody battle is another post.

The McManus Family

Fannie’s father, William McManus, had worked hard. The 1850 census shows him as a bricklayer in St. Louis. By 1860, he had moved his family to Davenport, IA and was a Master Bricklayer. The 1870 census shows him as a retired merchant back in St. Louis with $80,000 in real estate and $50,000 in personal property. Mr. McManus died in January 1875. So the family was well off, but they didn’t live in a large mansion nor did they have $1,000,000 as reported in some of the newspaper reports of the custody case.

Fannie had two sisters and a brother, Thomas. One sister, Eleanor was married, and the other, Maggie, lived with their mother, Camilla, in St. Louis.

There was a pre-nuptial agreement between James, Fannie, and her brother Thomas. The agreement gives Thomas control of Fannie’s property (property she had inherited from her father and any future property) and states that the property is to be for her sole use and benefit. James had always argued that Fannie’s family had tried to control her and her money, so I assumed that this pre-nup (or ante-nuptial as the judge called it) was Thomas’ idea. According testimony during the custody hearing, the idea actually came from Eliza Patrick. I am now assuming that was because Eliza was a suffragette and wanted Fannie to have her own property separate from her husband. Maybe Eliza also had a suspicion that James had bad luck and would need to have a wife with property.

The Wedding

James and Fannie wed on February 28, 1881 in St. Louis at her mother’s home. This was just one month after Will and Annie were married in Knoxville. Annie wore her wedding dress (brides often wore their wedding dresses for a year after their marriage).

The couple settled in Cleveland, TN, where James was involved in quarrying limestone. In 1883, their daughter, Camille, was born. One newspaper account, given by Thomas McManus, states she was born in Cleveland. However, I have found a birth record for a Camille Patrick born on the same date in Kingston, TN, just west of Knoxville. I haven’t seen the actual record, just says it exists.

Things Get Difficult

According to Thomas McManus, Fannie’s health started to deteriorate in 1884 and James moved his family to Denver. They didn’t actually arrive in Colorado until September 1885. First, they tried New Orleans for several months, hoping the warmer climate would help Fannie, but it didn’t. They went back to Cleveland for a few months, then to St. Louis before her doctors suggested moving to Colorado. Fannie was suffering from consumption (tuberculosis) and Colorado was famous for its clean, dry air.

In addition to Fannie’s failing health, James’ limestone business in Cleveland was suffering financial problems. Fannie mortgaged two houses she owned in St. Louis to loan James the money he needed. Failing health and failing finances probably lead to a lot of stress for the couple and the cracks in their marriage were showing by the time they moved to Denver.

Before leaving Cleveland in 1884, James was involved in a “physical altercation” said to have started with a bet about the results of the elections that year. This incident was to dog him for several years. James always insisted that his brother-in-law, Thomas, was behind the efforts to arrest him and return him to Cleveland to face charges from this incident.

James and Fannie in Colorado

In September 1885, James took Fannie to live on a farm southwest of Denver. Newspaper articles said the farm was owned by James, but I think it was the farm owned by Annie and Will and was itself the centerpiece of litigation in 1909 when the father of Will’s second wife sued Annie’s son, William (5) Brownlow Patrick. But that’s another story. That the farm wasn’t owned by James could be supported by the fact that they decided to buy a cottage at a sanitarium retreat near the farm. The cottage needed some renovations to make Fannie happy, so on March 8, 1886, the family moved into a hotel in Cañon City. Fannie’s sister, Eleanor Wollcott was staying with them at the time and moved to Cañon City with them. They were later joined there by Fannie’s other sister, Maggie, and their mother.

On July 7, 1886, Fannie, her mother and sisters, baby Camille and her nurse left Cañon City and took a train back to St. Louis. Fannie had been asking to go back to St. Louis for some time, but James did not want to go. He was later accused of promising to move them to St. Louis, but then decided not to, which struck Fannie and her family as cruel. James was in Denver on that day because his brother-in-law, William Wollcott, had sent him a telegram asking to meet in Denver on business. Wollcott never showed and James returned to Cañon City to find his family had “disappeared.”


On August 23, 1886, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported:

“Fannie A. C. Patrick entered a suit late this afternoon for a decree of divorce from James M. Patrick, who was at one time on the roll of officials at the City Hall. The petition recites a long list of indignities and brutal treatment.”

In addition to promising to take Fannie back to St. Louis and reneging, another of the “indignities and brutal treatments” that James was supposed to have perpetrated was to fire off fireworks right outside Fannie’s hotel window while she was resting, which scared her and adversely affected her health.

James said he had found Camille and a friend of hers playing with some firecrackers in the Housekeeper’s room on a floor above Fannie’s room. He was going to throw the firecrackers out the window when he saw a couple friends below on the hotel’s porch. He decided to lower the lighted firecrackers down on a string to scare his friends. He claimed that Fannie’s room was not near where the firecrackers went off.

James did not follow his family to St. Louis because, he said later, he knew that Fannie did not have much longer to live and wanted to leave her in peace. He did send his brother, Edward, who was a young lawyer in St. Louis, to ask how Fannie was each day until Thomas McManus told him to stop bothering them.

Edward was also the one to tell James about the divorce and suggest he leave Denver to avoid being served the divorce papers. So James went to Wyoming under an assumed name. I don’t know how long he stayed there.

The Cleveland Matter

While all this family drama was going on, remember that little legal matter regarding the “physical altercation” in Cleveland? Well, James was indicted in Cleveland in 1885. The first try to “requisition” (extradite) him to Tennessee was refused by the governor of Colorado at the time, Benjamin Harrison Eaton.

For a second attempt, Cleveland authorities sent a detective, P. H. Lowe (police? article was not clear). In St. Louis, Lowe was referred to a detective, C. A. Hawley (probably a private detective) in Denver to help him find James.

After three days, they found James. A group of men including Mr. Lowe and James:

went around to the theaters, including the varieties, others of the party drinking, while Mr. Lowe smoked cigars. He finally, however, he alleges, at the earnest solicitation of his friends, took a drink of ginger ale and remembered nothing more until he was rudely awakened by an attendant of a variety theatre, who told him to get up, as they wanted to shut up.

Mr. Lowe, of course, did not have any money, his watch, nor his gun. He seems to have given up on his mission to take James back to Cleveland with him and just returned by himself. I found out about this because the Denver detective, Hawley, later filed a suit asking for $250 for his three days of work.

Fannie’s Death

Fannie’s health continued to decline and she died at her mother’s house in St. Louis on October 9, 1886. Many times before her death she had stated that she didn’t want James to raise their daughter, Camille. She wanted her sister, Mrs. Wollcott or her mother to raise Camille. As a result, on October 10, Mrs. McManus sent Camille to Des Moines, IA with a family friend.

James filed a lawsuit on October 12 to gain custody of his daughter, claiming that she had been kidnapped and he did not know where she was. The story of that lawsuit, the newspaper coverage, the final outcome will be covered in the next post.