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DAKOTA DATEBOOK: UnValentine’s Day

by Jayme L. Job

February 14, 2018 — A Fargo woman had a busy Valentine’s Day in 1899, when she was divorced and remarried in order to avoid polyandry charges. 

The woman’s story began seventeen years earlier, when she married Enoch Arden, in Wisconsin. However, the man deserted her shortly after the birth of their first child. A few years later, the woman ran into Arden’s mother and was told of his death in Florida. Thinking herself a widow, the woman remarried. The couple moved to Fargo, following business interests, and had two more children.

In 1899, she received a letter from her first husband, stating not only that he was alive, but that he would tell everyone she had committed polyandry if she and her husband did not pay him off. Refusing to be blackmailed, the couple appealed to Judge Pollock in Fargo, who granted the woman a divorce from Arden and a hasty remarriage.

“Dakota Datebook” is a radio series from Prairie Public in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota and with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council. See all the Dakota Datebooks at prairiepublic.org.

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