Petition #20486105


Jane Elizabeth Martha Mackall seeks a divorce from her husband Brooke Mackall. She states that since the birth of her youngest child in 1857, her husband "began to exhibit evidence in some strange consistencies of conduct, of alienation from her, which have since developed themselves into an almost insane hate." At times, he has deprived the petitioner and nine of her ten children of sufficient funds, food, and shelter. In April 1859, Jane Mackall went to Pennsylvania, where she owned property, to obtain money for her children. She states that she left her infant in the care of her eldest daughter, fearing to leave the infant in the care of the nurse, "a young mulatto woman belonging to the defendant." The defendant, according to Mackall, refused to allow the eldest daughter to sleep in the small flat with her brothers and sisters unless she left the infant with him. When she refused to do so, he directed two of his young male "negro servants" to sleep in the chamber with his daughter. The petitioner avers that her husband was in the habit of beating the children and poisoned her and her children by putting rat poison on their food. In addition, Mackall states that her husband attempted to sell a house servant who was very close to the petitioner and her children. When he was unable to obtain a purchaser, he returned to the house with the slave. Jane Mackall hid the slave in her chambers for several months. She states that when the defendant found the slave, he locked her in his chamber and then sold her to a slave trader. Mackall requests a divorce, alimony, and custody of her children.

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Citation information

Repository: National Archives, Washington, D. C.