My great grandfather, Jacob Johnson, ran foul of the law in colonial South Australia when he failed to formally divorce his first wife Ellen Sandery before marrying my great grandmother Emily Porter. The poor blighter served several months imprisonment, with hard labour, at Gladstone Goal for his crime. The case was widely reported in local newspapers:
South Australian Chronicle and Weekly Mail – Saturday 8 May 1880
MY WIFE Ellen having left her home without any just cause, and without my consent, I hereby give notice that I will NOT be RESPONSIBLE for any DEBTS contracted by her in nay name after this date. Dated at Quorn this first day of May, 1880. His JACOB + JOHNSON. Mark. Witness— Jas. Mansom, J.P.
The South Australian Advertiser – Monday 26 February 1883
QUORN, February 24.
Some excitement was caused here this morning when it became known that Miss Emily Porter had charged Jacob Johnson with committing bigamy by marrying her, he having a wife living. The case was heard before Mr. George A. Solomon and resulted in Johnson being committed for trial, bail being allowed and obtained. Mr. Mellor conducted the prosecution, and Mr. Williams defended.
South Australian Register – Monday 26 February 1883
A man named Jacob Johnson was brought before Mr. G. A. Solomon, J.P., today, on a charge of bigamy, and was committed for trial. Johnson is in the employ of the Adelaide Milling Company here.
South Australian Weekly Chronicle – Saturday 24 March 1883
BIGAMY. Jacob Johnson pleaded guilty to a charge of bigamy in marrying Emily Porter, of Quorn, while his wife was alive. His Honor considered the offence was the result of gross ignorance and carelessness rather than of downright wickedness, and sentenced the prisoner to 6 months’ imprisonment with hard labor.
South Australian Register – Wednesday 9 April 1884
SUPREME COURT-MATRIMONIAL CAUSES JURISDICTION.
Tuesday, April 8. [Before His Honor Justice Boucant] PETITION FOR DIVORCE. JOHNSON V. JOHNSON AND WILLIAMS.
This was a petition for a divorce laid by the husband against the wife on the ground of her adultery with the co-respondent. The Attorney-General represented the petitioner and Mr. Beresford watched the case on behalf of the respondent who, with the co-respondent, did not appear. The petition set out that the petitioner was married to the respondent on June 8, 1875. They had two children, and lived together till April, 1880, when the respondent left her husband and committed adultery with the co-respondent, with whom she had lived as man and wife. The Attorney-General having briefly opened the case, called Sarah Stodhart, who stated that in September last she found the respondent living with the co- respondent at Norwood, by whom she had several children. The respondent told her that she went by the name of Mrs. Williams, and nobody knew that she was not married to the co-respondent Jacob Johnson, the petitioner, said he lived at Quorn. He was married to the respondent at Pirie-street Wesleyan Church, Adelaide, on the 8th June, 1875, and they Jived together until 1880 — first at Two Wells, and then at Quorn. They had two children. The respondent left him in April, 1880, and did so because he complained of her extravagance, and of the irregular hours she kept. She went to Adelaide, and would not return to him. About Christmas, 1881, he found her residing with Williams, and she admitted that she had committed adultery with him, and that he was the father of a child she had with her. The Attorney-General produced certificates of the birth of children of which the respondent and co-respondent were the parents; and Mr. Beresford having no statement to make, His Honor at once granted a decree nisi for the dissolution of the marriage.