Sunday, December 21, 2014

Divorce: Dealing with Visitation

English: An artificial Christmas tree.
School will be out shortly for Christmas break, and that means your ex gets custody. It certainly doesn't seem fair. You fight over homework, correct behavior, eating green beans, and he (she) gets to be Santa Claus.

Yes, he's the father, and we are grateful he loves his children. Still the loss of time with them over significant holidays burns like reflux from too much eggnog. Add, on top of that, the guilt from being resentful of not having our children all the time, and we have a recipe for depression.

However, we can take simple steps to overcome our pain. How? So glad you asked.

Drinking chocolate (not hot cocoa) at a cafe i...

  1. Move Christmas. Obviously, the world will not change it from December 25. Should they agree to that, the ex will have the kiddos during that season. However, you can create a new holiday. Choose one that has significance for you. The winter solstice is the darkest day of the year. Make that the time that you celebrate Christmas. Wrap presents, put them under the tree, do all the December 25 stuff on December 21 (or 20). Hate using solstice? Try the Feast of the Epiphany in January. We called it Little Christmas, and it is the Russian celebration. Christmas is not about the day. It's the family and the love and the remembrance of Christ's birth.
  2. Celebrate Christmas. Go to church, volunteer in a shelter or soup kitchen or a hospital. Maybe you can invite friends over who have no one to share this season with--empty-nesters whose kids live across the country or world. 
  3. Invite yourself. Do you have a good friend who celebrates with her family? If it isn't chaotic--ask if there's room for one more at the inn. I tend to be introverted and fear asking to be involved, but in my years as a teacher, I discovered from my students, by simple asking, 'Me, too?', an invitation is gladly extended.
  4. Movie night. Make the day special. Stay in PJs, drink more hot cocoa than you do all year, and stream every corny Christmas music Netflix offers. Make the day special to you.
  5. Adopt a child. This needs to be planned in advance. Does a special friend have a child or children you love? Become their grandma/pa, aunt/uncle, and dote on them all year. Christmas morning, after the family chaos has died down at their house and before they must leave for the real grandparents, stop by with gifts and coffee and homemade maple scones.
  6. Count your blessings. Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ. Read the Scriptures of his arrival--or Hebrews 10: 1-7 for a new perspective. Keep a journal for the year and record the way your children have blessed you. Re-read during this hiatus.
  7. Remember. This is only an interlude. Pretty soon the kids will return and you'll be wishing you could pawn them off on someone and get a break (knowing all along, you'd rather die--literally).
In divorce any holiday: Hanukkah, Easter, summer vacation can be hard. Be positive. Find alternatives, and you will survive.

What have you done that works for you?

Thursday, December 11, 2014


English: Thomas Nast's most famous drawing, &q...

Wiping the sleep from my eyes, I saw her squatting and looking eye to eye at the packaged item standing under the Christmas tree. It was four in the morning, and I had no idea how long she had been there.
            I was grateful for the toys and clothes Mother had bought for my children. She had set a few unwrapped items under the tree before retiring to bed, doing her bit to keep the fantasy of Santa alive for another year—a magnanimous gesture for one who so despised the myth.
             If it had not been for her, my children would have wondered if Santa cared about them. Divorced, unemployed, and with a scant amount of support money, what little allowance I received from the government barely paid for rent and food. Outside of crayons and coloring books, Christmas, as I hoped it would be, was out of the question.
            Mother understood my heartache. She herself had known many disappointing Christmases, and hoped to provide better for her own children; but, it was not until Christmas, 1948, that she first began to actually despise Santa. “Santa Claus is a cruel hoax for poor children.”
The years following World War II were difficult for returning vets. Jobs were scare and finding shelter for their families a daunting task. The only housing my parents could afford was in the south side of the city. They rented a cold-water flat, the euphemism given to apartments with no running hot water. Rats often found their way into the cleanest of these dwellings. The adaptive rodents would eat anything, even gnawing their way through aluminum garbage cans. They thrived in cold-water flats. Fearful that the rats would bite her children, Mother spent many sleepless nights vigilantly listening for any sounds that might indicate danger. 
A child of the depression and a wife of a war soldier, Mother was grateful for her surroundings, grateful that her family was all together under one roof even if money were scarce. My father’s factory paycheck paid the rent and bought food—leaving little for luxuries of any kind, especially events like Christmas. I was still a baby, unaware that there was a special day to be excited about. My brother, on the other hand, had been looking forward to Christmas and to Santa’s showering of presents for all good boys and girls.
At first, my brother was thrilled when he opened the holster gun set and cowboy hat under the tree. 

“Oh, boy! I’m a real cowboy, now!” He flitted about the house shooting bad men that lurked behind 

the couch and chair. Then he took his treasure outside. It was not long before he rushed back into the 

house, his countenance forever changed. “Have I been good, Mom?” my brother asked.
“Of course, you have,” Mother reassured him.
“Then why did Santa Claus only bring me two presents? Santa brought Danny ten presents and a new bike?”
My mother didn’t know how to answer his child spirit. How could she explain poverty to a four-year-old, an innocent who didn’t know he was poor? Mother took the fall for Santa.
“Well, honey,” she ventured to explain. “Moms and dads have to pay Santa for the presents. We didn’t have very much money to give him.” She watched helplessly as her child faced the brutal realities of social inequities for the first time in his life, knowing the experience would be repeated many times over.
Yes, I knew Mother understood the heartache I felt that Christmas.
My three-year old turned to look at me, eyes filled with tears. “For me?” she asked, not quite believing it might be true.
“Yes, honey. Santa brought it for you.”
I helped her remove the cellophane wrapping. She hugged the treasured gift so tightly, her little fingers turned white.
 “It’s just what I wanted! He remembered!”
 “Yes, he remembered.”
In my heart, I was grateful to a mother whose memory reached from her pain and gave comfort.

Linda Wood Rondeau is an award-winning author of many books. My favorites are It Really Is A Wonderful Life and The Other Side of Darkness. 
You can find her works on online venues wherever books are sold, and you won't regret reading any of them.
You can also contact Linda at

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Beauty of Single Parenting: By Angela Ruth Strong

My guest today is Angela Ruth Strong. She studied journalism at the Univeristy of Oregon. Strong released her debut romance novel the year after her divorce, which was difficult to say the least. She is in the middle of her Fun4Hire series for ages 8-12, a series that deals with divorce in Book 2--THE SNOWBALL FIGHT PROFESSIONAL. You can find out more about her, her incredible remarriage, and her books at

Before the divorce, my oldest daughter would walk into a room, look around, find a person she wanted to become friends with, and go befriend them. She was only eight at the time.
Shortly after the divorce, I took her to a new church, and she was afraid to go to Sunday school. She begged me not to leave her. In hopes that she would overcome her fear and realize how strong she really was, I told her I would be back for her after the service. She sat inside the door and cried.
I cried, too. And I don’t just mean a few tears. I mean I couldn’t go into to the service. I went and sat fully clothed on the toilet in the bathroom and sobbed my eyes out.
I hurt for her. Because she hadn’t only lost the security of family, she’d lost herself.
I told my counselor about the incident that week. I said, “I would have done anything to keep from her from the pain.”
He said, “Anything?”
I said, “Yes. Anything.”
He said, “That’s not healthy, Angela.”
And while I believe she deserved to have an unbroken home, I know now that I can’t shield her from life. I can’t fix all her problems. I can’t save her. That’s not my job. That’s God’s job.
My job is to be there for her. To love. To understand. To lead her to the One who has all the answers.
Five years after the divorce, she’s come a long way. She has some great friendships. She’s poured herself into dance. She’s involved in youth group. She was chosen first for the team of 8th graders to help 6th graders integrate into middle school. She loves to babysit. She makes things happen. I couldn’t be prouder.
But there are still days where I cry for her. Days where a boy at school tells every girl in the room she’s beautiful except for my daughter. Days where a couple of friends exclude her from an activity. Days where all her fears come out in a vicious attack on me. Days where she questions her worth all over again.
I still wish I could take that pain away. I would gladly sacrifice all my growth and the joy I’ve found through redemption so she could be a confident little girl again.
But then I have to remind myself that such feelings go back to my codependency issues. My enabling. My belief that doing the work for someone else is the same thing as loving them.
So I simply love.
I listen. I hug. I cry with her. I speak truth. And I use a little trick my counselor taught me to get her out of her funk. Are you ready?
  1. Validate. Always validate. Example: “I know it’s hard.”
  2. Encourage.  This is what they need to hear. What they want to believe but are afraid to. Example: “It will get better.”
  3. Redirect. Example: “Shall we go shopping for your new toe shoes this weekend?” OR “What kind of cookies should we bake for Christmas?”
Children deserve so much more than what we can give them as single parents, and until we accept that, we can’t be the parents they need.  No matter what your child/children are going through, forgive yourself for not being perfect and get the help you need to be present.

Neither she or I will ever be the same person we were before the divorce. But someday, when my daughter is teaching a Sunday school class of her own, she will know exactly how to help out any little girls crying by the door. And the world will be a more beautiful place because of it.

Have children dealing with divorce? Check out Angela's book.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Divorce: How to Recover (or Not)

Aivazovsky - Shipwreck
For me, being in a bad marriage is like being shipwrecked. I floated on the ocean, thirsty beyond endurance, but all that surrounded me was salt water. So when the marriage ended, I had the chance to drink my fill.

I met a man. He was sweet, handsome and fun to be with. We dated, and he fell in love and proposed. However, he was an alcoholic--functioning, but still addicted. I told him if he wanted me, he had to stop drinking. He chose the beer, and I ended the relationship.

With one divorce, I could count myself blameless. If a second marriage failed, I knew I, alone, would be to blame.

English: this picture was taken by me while ro...
Dying of thirst drives many a person to drink brackish water, or to sip from stagnant pools. Those alone will often accept any pitiful drop just so he or she is spared loneliness. Often that flings a person back into the same relationship he or she had before, and thus, fail again.

For me, I knew one thing: I was better alone. My daughter needed to understand a healthy self-respect. She didn't need to believe beer or pot or any other self-induced relaxer was essential for a good life. She needed stability found in good inter-personal relationships.

Shortly after I ended my relationship with the man who wanted to marry me, I came to the Lord. When loneliness overwhelmed me, I remembered my marriage, and my almost second marriage. I didn't want those. Alone I could live by my values, discover who I was and who God wanted me to be. I could be happy by myself.

As a Christian--first and foremost, I needed a man who shared my faith. Without that foundation, all else would fail. If he accepted my faith but did not share it, we would have friction at the roots of the relationship. Marriage is hard enough without starting on unequal footing.

Neil and Me
The Bible says we are not to be unequally yoked (2 Cor. 6:14). This does not imply leaving an unsaved spouse, but to not put yourself in a spiritual situation where you link your life with someone who does not share your most important values.

Beyond faith--don't be yoked with someone who doesn't share some of your fundamental interests. Both Neil and I love the country and art and travel. We're both family and faith oriented. Beyond that, our interests vary. Nevertheless, at our core, we are alike.

Marrying a man or a woman who doesn't share your essence will doom your marriage, and the end result will be worse that the beginning.

Are you newly divorced? Do you long for love and companionship? Don't rush into anything. Those who wait on the Lord will be rewarded by him, and their won't be any consequences for desperate decisions.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Biblical Divorce: Summary

In 1980, my first husband and I divorced. I had yet to find the Lord, but my spirit still grieved--not because I needed or desired to remain with this man, but because I knew I had broken my vow.

Through the years--I've studied the topic extensively. I did not want to stay single, nor did I want to grieve God. I asked ministers, and here are a few of the answers they gave. None resonated with me:

  1. Even if you weren't saved before you divorced, you still can never marry until that husband dies.
  2. By marrying someone else, you commit adultery. By committing adultery, you break your vows and thus the new marriage is okay.
  3. Did you ever pray about getting married? If not, then it wasn't sanctified by Jesus.
All these men, except the first, grappled with the idea that a lifetime of loneliness because of one sin grieved humans. Most ministers looked for mercy--yet some defined divorce as the unpardonable sin.

In my life, God gave me a Biblical justification. My ex-husband had been unfaithful. I did not get concrete confirmation until after we agreed to divorce. Without that certainty, I still could not have stayed with him. 

He never hit me, but he was emotionally abusive. He desired to control me and keep me from anyone that could take my complete loyalty away from him. And I say these things with the utmost humility and Godly love for this man. He fathered my daughter, one of the most beautiful people I have ever known. I've forgiven him, and I pray for him.

I do believe whom God has joined together, no man should part (Matt. 19:6).

However, marriage is more than a paper signed by two people--as is divorce. Many married couples still live together, have sex together, but have divorced the other in his or her heart. That, in itself, is divorce. If you're married--the husband is commanded to love his wife, and she must respect him. We cannot remain married and fail to do this. It is sin.

Through the years, I've come to see Biblical divorce as protection for the woman. A man could mary many women. If his wife was put out--she had nothing: no job, no alimony, no children because they stayed with the husband. If her family did not take her in, she, more than likely, had only prostitution to turn to.

If we look at the New Testament scriptures, virtually all of them talk about divorcing a wife (or at least primarily).

Deutsch: Christus und die Ehebrecherin, Alte P...
Deutsch: Christus und die Ehebrecherin, Alte Pinakothek, Raum 17, Inv.-Nr. 1217 DSCF4774.JPG (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Matt 5:31-32 "...whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality...whoever marries a woman who is divorced..." This section does not talk about the man.

Mark 10:10-12  talks about a man divorcing his wife and vice versa.

Luke 16:18  "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced from her husband commits adultery. "

Mark 10:2-12  vs 8 "He said to them, "Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.  9 And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery." 

Luke 16:18 again couches it only toward the woman.

In most of the above Scriptures, Jesus acknowledges divorce only for unfaithfulness--and usually of the woman toward the man.

I see two elements here. If a woman cheats, the man cannot know whose progeny he's supporting. He needs to be freed from that onerous obligation. 

But this protects the woman. As I said earlier, the usual recourse for a divorced woman with no family was destitution--prostitution--misery. Jesus was protecting the woman from men who had the ability to divorce her because she gave him wrinkled clothes or burned the lentils.

The only other New Testament concession to divorce has been termed desertion. Yet, if you wish to be a legalist, it would only be desertion of an unbelieving spouse, not a believer. Read 1 Cor 7:10-16 carefully.

So where does that leave us if a woman is battered and bruised? Is brought to the edge of suicide because of emotional abuse? If a Christian man leaves her? What if she (or he) simply ruins the marriage and it ends? (read the blog that follows this for more information).

There is only one unpardonable sin, and that's not divorce (Matt. 12:31). We can find forgiveness--but don't be cavalier about it. Repentance only comes from God, and I wouldn't want to gamble that He'll knock sorrow into my thick skull.

So how do we prevent divorce? There are solutions. Leave any suggestions you may have or tune in next week. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Biblical Divorce: Abuse

עברית: חתונה יהודית.
עברית: חתונה יהודית. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Instone-Brewer, David. "What God Has Joined." Christianity Today. 5 October 2007. Web. 1 November 2014.

We've all met pious people--mostly women, but men included, who stay with an abusive spouse because the Bible only clearly states adultery or desertion as reasons for divorce. However, the question always arises, how can Jesus, who says if we say "raca" to a person, we are in danger of hell fire, say it is okay for a woman to stay with a man who regularly throws her down the stairs or calls her an "expletive" idiot?

He commands us to love just as He loves us with an undying love. When asked about the greatest commandment, He says all are contained in two sentences: to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself (Matt. 22:37-40). We are known as his disciples if we have love for one another (Jn. 13:35).

We do have to understand culture and elements that are understood within that society. Today, I'd have to define the word raca--whose root word comes from to spit, and it essentially means worthless or good for nothing . It was a term of severe contempt. In Jesus's day, no definition was needed.

My uncle called those he considered ignorant fools Cossacks. Uncle Al was Belorussian, and the Cossacks were brutal invaders of their territory. I once happily told a woman of Ukrainian descent that we were Belorussian. My mother was horrified. "Ukranians hate Bellorussians!," she whispered to me. "Don't tell her that." Who knew?

I taught Spanish. Not one student would use the word allegre for happy. The dictionary defined it as "gay", and no matter what I told them, they were sure that when they used that word, they were calling someone a homosexual.

So we do have to understand some context of Jesus's society. I was happy to come across David Instone-Brewer's article. Brewer is the senior research fellow in rabbinics and the New Testament at Tyndale House, Cambridge. His article shed some light on divorce in abusive situations.

A few decades before Jesus's time, the Hillelittes, a rabbinical group, invented a clause for divorce for any reason--the "any cause" divorce. The Shammaites, another group of rabbis, held to a strict, moral interpretation for divorce.

The Jews in Jesus's day who were divorce had the "any cause" divorce which had simply become known as divorce.

Thus, in Matt. 19:3, when the rabbis ask Jesus about divorce for any causes, they wanted him to agree to divorce because of a burnt meal or a wrinkled garment, for anything. The two groups were pitting Jesus against both groups.

Jesus defiantly disagreed with the Hillelittes and affirmed the Old Testament We cannot divorce for any whim. Marriage is sacred. However, he defended the Old Testament, a Biblical text the church still holds, as God's word. Ex. 21:10-11 allows divorce for neglect. Exodus says, according to Brewer, "...everyone, even a slave wife, had three rights within marriage--the rights to food, clothing, and love. If these were neglected, the wronged spouse had the right to seek freedom from that marriage."

Jesus did not condone a divorce for any little thing--but for neglect. Yest.

These three rights are the basis for the Jewish marriage vows, and have been found in marriage contracts discovered near the Dead Sea. They also form the basis for our own marriage vows--to love honor and obey.

I urge you to read Brewer's article. Longer than this blog, it clearly articulates what I've tried to summarize.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Biblical Divorce--Three Reasons: Adultery, Abandonment and Neglect

The Gutenberg Bible displayed by the United St...
The Gutenberg Bible displayed by the United States Library of Congress, demonstrating printed pages as a storage medium. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Divorce is not the unpardonable sin. Despite the fact that divorce can be forgiven and remarriage can ensue, it is never to be taken lightly. If you love your spouse, but are not "in love", if you are best friends with him or her, then you best work on your marriage. Marriage is not romance and tingling loins--marriage is a compact of mutual respect. It honors God.

Marriage has lost its sacred nature, and we, as followers of Christ, need to resurrect that component. However, the Bible gives us clear-cut examples when divorce can be "no-fault" (so to speak) to the innocent parties--Adultery and desertion AND neglect. 

1. Adultery

Matt 19:8-9

8 Jesus replied, "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery." NIV

Most of the New Testament couches this with the man toward the woman. When a man is responsible for the well being of the wife and her offspring, he needs to know that the lineage she produces is his. That's obviously not the case today.

And Paul writes in Galations 3:28, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus."KJV

In a world where women can fend for themselves through their careers, she can seek the divorce. Remember, a woman in Bible times had no means of support. If her husband divorced her, she could do little and generally lived in poverty--often having to turn to prostitution in order to survive.

2. Desertion

1 Cor 7:15-16, "But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. NIV

God does not want us to be tied to a person who refuses to live with us, support us, and fulfill what God has joined together.

3. Neglect

I've seen abused women stay in a marriage because they believe only desertion and adultery qualifies as grounds for divorce. However, we must understand the culture of the day and what the people who initially heard Jesus, understood.

Jesus did not forbid divorce in cases of abuse. I recently read an interesting article by David Instone-Brewer in Christianity Today. Brewer is the senior research fellow in rabbinics and the New Testament at Tyndale House, Cambridge. His research definitively shows how Jesus never commanded a spouse to stay in a marriage if abuse and neglect abounded. Next week, I will distill his argument. However, I have included the link below so you can read the entire article.

Divorce involves humans--men and women of broken spirit. Christians serve a God who understands their needs and hears their pleas. If you have any testimony about your life as a divorced Christian, I'd love to hear from you.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

What Is Divorce?

"αθεοι" (atheoi), Greek for "th...
"αθεοι" (atheoi), Greek for "those without god", as it appears in the Epistle to the Ephesians on the third-century papyrus known as "Papyrus 46" (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
My ex-husband would leave me early in the evening so he could get into the bars before the cover charge went into effect. This, he said, was because we had so little money. Financed only with bravado, he'd shoot pool for drinks and come home drunk.

I was left with a child, no TV, poor radio reception, and a party line. My best friend was never home those evenings, so loneliness and lack of self-esteem flourished in my love-starved soul.

Neither of us were Christians, and I had never heard the admonition of Ephesians 5:25. " Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." I never knew a man, or a woman, could love a spouse so intensely. Imagine God's love for us: Jesus allowed himself to be whipped and mocked and crucified because he love us more than himself.

Because a man does not love a woman in this manner doesn't mean she should head for divorce court. But a sacrificial love is the life blood of a strong marriage. Like the lack of blood, without a love that prefers the other above yourself, the marriage will necrotize and die.

Ephesians goes on to say in verse twenty-eight, "In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself." It doesn't say to love yourself first. Love of self only comes with the love of your spouse.

In the same section of Ephesians, verse 22, women are simply admonished to "... submit to your husbands as to the Lord". Submission is a dirty word in our society, but its meaning is misunderstood. It does not mean to kowtow to every whim of your spouse. It does not mean your husband becomes a god you must adore. However, as we explore the definition of Biblical marriage and divorce, we will see how submission to a godly husband aids in the protection of and devotion to a wife.

Day 150: And that's that.
Day 150: And that's that. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Love, protection, respect, submission. These four elements lead to a strong marriage. Their absence is not a licence for divorce, but a steady absence of these elements will destroy a marriage. Partners may stay together because they believe divorce is unbiblical--however, divorce is more than legal papers dissolving the union.

Divorce is the absence of love, protection, respect and submission. You can still be married and yet be divorced.

What is marriage to you? What is your definition of divorce? Do you have questions you'd like to explore? Leave a comment.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Divorce: A Biblical Perspective

Once upon a time
I am divorced.

It is not the unpardonable sin, despite the theology of many churches. A sad example of how unforgiving many Christians can be about this issue is seen in the calling of a dear friend of mine.

"Sam" had been called into the ministry. With all of his being, he wanted to be a pastor. However, prior to his conversion, his first wife left him for another man. Close to suicide, Sam became a Christian and his sins were forgiven.

Apparently, all was forgiven but his divorce. He attended a neighborhood church with his new wife. There, he was flatly informed he could not preach or be involved in what they called ministry because of his pre-salvation divorce.

In a similar manner, one Baptist minisJesus Christ.
ter told me I could never remarry even though my divorce came before my acceptance of

And so I wonder. Had Sam or I murdered our cheating spouses and done our time, could we remarry? Could we minister? Is murder a more tolerable sin than ending up in an abusive relationship or with a philandering spouse and having the dignity to leave? Must divorced people be punished for all time for a sin not their own?

Even if a person destroys his or her own marriage and truly repents, should the punishment go on in perpetuity?

I, in no way, cavalierly endorse the end of a marriage. But marriage takes two people.

Then, we need to define divorce. When Michal scorned David, he never went in to her again--but never divorced her. Even in New Testament times, men could marry more than one woman, so could a Biblical divorce be the ending of support for the woman? Moses and the law allowed for it and accepted a remarriage. In those days, survival was nearly impossible for a single woman without a husband.

But what about people who stay married, live in the same house, but essentially have nothing to do with each other. Haven't they already divorced their spouses?

We do have explicit exceptions given in the New Testament, but the culture of the times would have understood some of the implicit issues.

Over the next few weeks, I'd like to explore divorce, remarriage, and most importantly, what does it mean to be a Christian couple?

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Fenians in Malone: Part 4

On May 27, 1870, five hundred additional Fenians reinforced the straggling,  poorly trained group at Leahy's farm in Trout River. They were well situated behind a ditch in a hops' field, had a stout barricade across the highway and woods and the river on
their flanks. Had they been well trained and well led, they could have withheld against any attack and had a successful raid on Canada.

Of course, that did not happen.

One thousand Canadian troops attacked. After a short, disorderly battle, the Fenians scattered. "They fired only a single full volley when the advance began" (Seaver 674). All these shots, and the few rounds that followed, all flew over the heads of the Canadian troops.
Only a few injuries resulted overall, so the Canadians were not much better prepared.

The fleeing Fenians escaped over the border, and the Canadian troops did not follow.

And the fleeing scene is something worthy of a Hollywood comedy. The Fenians swarmed Trout River, ran to Leahy's far and continued on back to Malone throwing away their armaments, or battering them away for food, as they scattered.

On May 28, back at the Fairgrounds, some officers tried to rally the troops for another attack. Hungry and tired, the refused. This appears to be good for them as one thousand US regulars arrived the next morning and would have suppressed the attack.

As a result of the battle, no Canadians were killed, Three or four Fenians were wounded, and one was taken prisoner. According to Seaver, the Fenians themselves were good fighters, but their leadership lacked talent.

Seaver, Fredrick. Historical Sketches of Franklin Countly. Albany: JP Lyons, 1918.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Fenian Uprising--Malone: Part 3

Fenian raids
Fenian raids (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Fenians arrived in Malone expecting to find arms awaiting them. Wrong. The US government had confiscated most of them along the border. Thus, unarmed, the Fenians thought it best to not attack Canada in 1866.

Border agents seized a trainload of arms in Watertown. The Fenians recaptured them. Once more, in DeKalb, all the arms were confiscatedm and the Fenians were unable to get them back.

General Meade approached Malone with one-thousand regulars. On June 3, 1866, he ordered the Fenians to disband. Many desertions followed and all who applied for  transportation home were given it. Thus, Malone became a peaceful village once more.

Over twenty-thousand prisoners were captured in Canada and sentenced to be hung. Most were commuted to life imprisonment.

For four years, not much happened as far as the Fenian revolution. In the early spring of 1870, a second movement began. This time, they forwarded their arms months ahead of time. These supplies were hidden in the barns of sympathetic farmers. Chateuagay, Fort Covington and Hoagansburg were principle hiding places. Arms were then hauled to Trout River.

Malone was chosen as a principle invasion point. They would rush a troop into Canada. There they would wait for reinforcements. The troops who assembled in Malone did not camp here as they had in 1866. Instead they hurried off to Trout River

On May 25, 1870, they marched into Canada from the farm of George Lahey, a half mile south form Trout River. The Canadians were warned by spies, but no Canadian troop reached Huntingdon until May 26, so the place was undefended.

The Fenians advanced about three miles, and staked out a position on the Donnelly farm. Here they levied the farmers for food, raided stores and, in general, acting like invading armies.

Because their reinforcements failed to come. The Fenians retreated back to Leahy's farm on May. 26.

Next week: the conclusion of the Fenians in Malone. Do any of you have information regarding these raids you'd like to share?

All work for this article taken from:
Seaver, Fredrick. Historical Sketches of Franklin County. Albany: JP Lyons, 1918.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Fenian Uprising, Malone: Part 2

Canadian Home-Guard defending against Fenians ...
Canadian Home-Guard defending against Fenians in 1870. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Canadians worried about an attack by the Fenians from the States. As early as November 1865, they placed troops at the borders and kept them on duty. In March they asked for 10,000 volunteers to guard the border and got 14,000. Eventually, they let their guard down and the volunteers returned home.

Then on June 2, 1866, reports came to Huntingdon that trains loaded with Fenians headed for Malone. The Canadians quickly re-assembled. Unfortunately, they had no firearms. Had the Fenians advanced at this point, they would have met no resistance and possibly have succeeded.

The Trout River Highway became heavily guarded and the Canadians placed at a fortification built to defend the road. Heavy rains turned that road into a quagmire and conditions persisted that would make advancement by the Fenians improbable.

Canadian farmers moved their families to their hunting cabins and some families moved in with American friends across the frontier.

On the first days of June, about 2,500 Fenians poured into Malone by train under the command of General M.J. Heffenan and Generals Murphy and O'Rielly--Civil War veterans. The bulk of the troops camped at the Fairgrounds on Main Street.

They were poorly provisioned and depended upon the locals for food and supplies. The troops were relatively ungoverned, so they had free access to the town. The residents, at times, feared their looting and rioting, but it never happened.

The only event that created a problem occured when William C. Sylvester, N.J. McGillivray and Dr. MacIntosh, all from Canada, came to see what was happening. By their dress, the Fenians assumed they were spies.

Hundreds of crazed Fenians convened by the Miller House, which  stood where the Flanagan stands today, in order to attack these three men. The commanding officers had little control over their troops. They tried to mingle with the mob in order to rescue the innocent victims.

One, Dr. MacIntosh, unhurt, hid under a lounge in the office of the lawyer William Cantwell. Sylvester's injuries weren't severe. Unfortunately, the same could not be said about McGillivray who was hidden in the attic of the south tower of the train station. Eventually, they secreted him to Pearl Street to the home of Colonel Seaver. He was badly injured. Here, his wounds were tended until the he and Sylvester could be secreted out of Malone. I assume MacIntosh escaped prior to these men.

That was the only Fenian attack in 1866.

Tune in next week for the next installment.

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Fenian Uprising in Malone: Part 1

The Fenians. Just who were they? And why were they here in Malone, NY? Glad you asked.

The Fenians lived in Ireland and their movement existed primarily in England and The United States. Simply put, they wanted Ireland completely independent from England. They believed the Great Famine that hit Ireland and the poor aid from England was essentially genocide.

Several leaders came to the United States during the mid-nineteenth century. By 1866, about 3,000 Fenians gathered at our fairgrounds to invade Canada.

Why in America? They believed, according to Seaver, that because England gave help to the South, our sensibilities would be wounded and we would be eager to help them overthrow British rule in Canada (669). In fact, many were--not just from Britain's help in the Civil War, but the War of 1812, and family remembrances of the War of Independence, as well as border disputes with Canada.

Our area contributed funds in the form of bonds that would be paid off when Ireland became independent (669).

On the June 2, 1866, warnings came to Huntingdon from Chateaugay that on Friday evening, trains  loaded with Fenians were headed to Malone. Unfortunately, the British troops had no arms at the moment, and had the Fenians advanced at that time, things may have turned out differently.

But what part did Malone play?

In 1870, the Fenians tried to invade Canada once more and General Meade again intervened and cut off their reinforcements.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Malone, NY: The Underground Railroad

The Underground Railroad started off as not an organized group. However, federal law inflicted heavy fines and/or imprisonment. In the South, it could mean death. As with any righteous protest system, such as the freedom rides and anti-segregation marches, the Underground Railroad gained momentum.
Neil exploring tunnel
Tunnel in basement of the Congregational Church

The Underground Railroad flourished between 1840-1860, and it did reach Franklin County and Malone--although not to the degree of some other routes. New York's primary routes were in the east, up to Rouses Point or across central New York to Syracuse. From there, slaves traveled to Oswego or Buffalo. Aside from New York City, many started their New York path to freedom via Elmira.

The First Congregational Church
home of tunnels used by runaway slaves
Most fled to Canada; however, a Negro colony was established in North Elba and Franklin by Gerrit Smith.

A less known route passed through Malone, NY. However, it is not known from where the escaping slaves came or to where they fled (644). Scholars have not defined Malone's route--we must therefore assume it was rarely used. We know, from Seaver's account and from the tunnels in Malone's First Congregational Church, it did exist in this village.

According to Seaver, "A former Malone resident whose memory extended back to 1845 state...many of the negroes (sic) to whom Gerrit Smith deeded homes in the town of Franklin reached their properties via Malone, having come here by way of Plattsburgh or Ogdensburg (644).

Two former slaves made their homes in Malone. Two of which were Henry Jones and his first wife, both members of St. Mark's Episcopal Church. She refused to live in the wilderness. She insisted her grant gave her the old Miller House, where the Flanagan now stands, and ordered him out of the house (644).

Seaver, Frederick: Historical Sketches of Franklin County. Albany: JP Lyons, 1918.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Malone: The Civil War

civil_war_cannon_smoke (Photo credit: Tom Gill.)

Little changed in Malone until the Civil War. At this time, the people became a little less puritanical and a little less amenable to censor from the clergy. Yet their amusements were puritanical by today's standards: debating societies, bell ringers, concerts, bowling, dances, circuses and minstrel shows.

Once the war arrived, changes came that no one had anticipated. Prices skyrocketed, and many people had to pinch their pennies. Yet, others seized upon the times and prospered. During this period, many grand houses were built, and all but the poorest dressed better.

As in the rest of the United States, many men were called to arms, but their was little price fixing or rationing. However, hundreds of soldiers were quartered here for weeks or for months--our main, inescapable reminder of the war.

In 1864 and 1865, people feared Confederate attack from Canada as had been seen in St. Albans, Vermont. War meetings abounded and bounties encouraged enlistment. Malone was the headquarters for the draft for both Franklin and St. Lawrence Counties. S.C.F. Thorndike presided as provost marshal (56).

In 1863, seventy-five men were drafted. Some paid fees of $300 to get out of the draft, others left for war and some fled to Canada. Although the Civil War was the costliest war in American history in regards to human life, not much of it disrupted northern New York--certainly not as much as the two world wars had.

Next week, the Fenian uprising.

Seaver, Fredrick. Historical Sketches of Franklin County. Albany: JP Lyons, Co, 1918.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Malone County Fair: It's origins

On August 25, 1851, Malone formed its first agricultural society. It was too late in the year to have a fair, so the first Malone County Fair was held the following year, in October, and ran only two days.

About seven acres of land was leased from William Andrus (of which Andrus Street--aka the River Road) for five years. His remuneration? Fence the land and remove the stone. . In 1856, the fairgrounds was enlarged to ten acres, and a contract was issued for $1,000 to buy the land. by the time Seaver wrote his history, the grounds had been enlarged to about twenty-five acres.
The first fair had no race track, but a race track measuring one-third of a mile was constructed for 1853The purse for this track was twenty dollars with special events consisting of Indian foot races, which I believe are our contemporary relay races, and lacrosse.

I suppose in the honor of community spirit, the railroad carried competitors stock for free, but would not be held liable for any damages. Of course, they eventually began charging.

In 1862, Malone held no county fair because of the war, but aside from that year, it had been in existence ever since 1852. However, in 1863, they numbered the fair as though one ran the previous years. So the number of fairs equals one less.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Malone Railroad: A Few Oddities

Ogdensburg-Lake Champlain Railroad Station
Just as Malone craves the "Rooftop Highway" to free it from its economic isolation, in the nineteenth century, the county wanted a railroad. It became the single greatest force for economic growth and prosperity in Malone.

The Ogdensburg-Lake Champlain Railroads began construction in 1848 and 1850 saw the first passenger trains which ran in an east-west direction. This railroad ran through the twin, brick turrets of Community Bank on Elm Street. This made Malone an economic hub. Previously, commerce centered in Fort Covington (formerly French Mills) because of the St. Lawrence River.

In 1892 we got the Adirondack and St. Lawrence Railroads which ran north-south. It's station is now Dr. Weisman's office near Raymond Street.

The farmers prospered because these railroads opened up markets around the state. Because of them, dairying became popular.

Some interesting facts about our railroads--according to Fredrick Seaver, pg. 50:

  1. Conductors did not need to collect fees from extremely poor or disabled people.
  2. Baggage that weighed over eighty pounds was charged a fee.
  3. No work was done in any of the stations on the sabbath.
  4. As late as 1885, when other railroad lines offered excursions to the Thousand Islands or Lake Champlain on Sunday, the Ogdensburg-Lake Champlain lines refused.

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Monday, May 19, 2014

Malone & Chateaugay: The War of 1812, Part 2

Fort Covington, Franklin County, New York, USA
Fort Covington, Franklin County, New York, USA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Everyone in the Malone and Chateaugay area has used the Old Military Turnpike. Did you know it got its start in the War of 1812?

After the capture of General Tilden in the French Mills (Fort Covington area--seen to the left), the next "significant" battle took place in Chateaugay.

Chateaugay River
Chateaugay River (Photo credit: NapaneeGal)
Late in the summer of 1813, the United States thought it would be a good idea to capture Montreal. According to Fredrick Seaver, it could have been accomplished had the United States had some competent generals.

From September 26-October 4, 1813, General Hampton's men worked improving the road from Plattsburgh to Chateaugay--our old military turnpike. Ostensibly, we could get goods, but some people believed it would be needed for a hasty retreat. The latter proved more likely.

On October 21, Hampton, whose troops had been camping on the Chateaugay river NW of the village, followed the river north for twenty miles.

Here he came into contact with the enemy which numbered only about nine hundred.

The Canadian army, under the command of deSalaberry, ran away when the American forces came into view. DeSalaberry grabbed his bugler by his collar and wouldn't let him flee. He then made every buglar space himself in the woods. Together they sounded the alarm. The Indians fighting with the Canadians let out war whoops.

Hamilton's troops, who far outnumbered the Canadians, descended into chaos. One troop got lost. Others fired at each other. Eventually they retreated to their camp in Chateaugay.

Hamilton's officers figured, had their boos been competent and sober, they would have won Montreal and possible all of Canada.

Good thing we didn't succeed. How else would we have gotten our poutine, eh?
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