A Short, Squalid Tale

This stray article was in a February 19, 1913 edition of The Times and Democrat, an Orangeburg, South Carolina daily paper. According to the article, Mr. J.A. Brown was seeking a divorce from his wife Lizzie for cruelty and desertion. The Browns were residents of DeKalb County, Georgia, where they lived on a 27-acre farm owned by Mrs. Brown.

He provided just one example of the cruelty to which his wife subjected him. Lizzie Brown had apparently become infuriated one evening and decided to punish her husband for his real or perceived offenses. She retrieved a long board which was enhanced with a large nail.

“Brown recites that the nail protruded through the board, and when he was struck by the board, the nail penetrated the flesh to the bone of his thigh. He adds that if he had not held his wife until he could get a chance to get away he believes he would have been more seriously injured.”


The couple married in 1908 and lived together until August 1911, when the spanking occurred. Mr. Brown hinted the domestic abuse incident was not unprecedented. “He claims she made married life impossible by a violent temper, and that she would fly into a frenzy without cause, and would curse and abuse him.” After the spanking, he told the court, Lizzie abandoned him.

I wonder what happened to this couple. There was more to this story, of that I am confident. I couldn’t find a follow-up article, but I doubt Mr. J.A. Brown’s troubles were over. Even though his wife had abandoned him, it sounded like the property where they lived belonged to her. Moreover, the publicity this story received would have made his life very difficult. Besides Orangeburg, the story ran in Knoxville, Chattanooga, Atlanta, and Greenville (SC). In a very masculine society, as the south was in the 1910s, you can bet Mr. Brown was never allowed to put this incident entirely behind him.


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