Part 6 – The Persecution of Mrs. Paige
There is an interesting slant to the newspaper stories published in Oshkosh versus the stories written from Davenport. The Oshkosh papers seemed to favor the cause of the Paige family and the Davenport paper seemed to favor the side of Mrs. Paige. The Quad City Times printed an article on Mrs. Paige’s persecution by the Oshkosh Northwestern paper on July 6, 1883. The Times gave voice to “Mrs. P.” by printing the story of her first marriage and her quest for a divorce from her former husband as told by Mary Paige herself. In her interview, Mary said that Mr. Paige was aware of the first husband and in fact aided her in obtaining her divorce. The Times essentially shamed the Oshkosh papers for printing slander and rumors and held Mrs. Paige in a very sympathetic light.
On July 9, 1883, a letter was printed in the Oshkosh Northwestern from “A Relative of Mrs. Simon B Paige” mailed from Brooklyn, New York. The letter explained the circumstance of Mrs. Paige’s first marriage and painted the Paige brothers in an unflattering light. The Appleton and Neenah, Wisconsin papers also began printing more articles in sympathy of Mrs. Paige’s and her legal battle with the Paige estate.
A month earlier, an article was published in the Appleton Crescent stating that Mrs. Paige intended to write a novel.
August of 1883 brought the large auction of the artwork brought back from Europe by Mr. Paige in the mid 1870’s. The sale was held in Oshkosh and was said to be one of the finest collections of artwork in the US at that time.
September brought more court drama. Mrs. Paige’s probate case was sent for trial. While the case was awaiting trial, Mrs. Paige was to be given her $100 a month widow’s allowance. On September 13, another letter appeared in the Oshkosh Northwestern from “A Relative of Mrs. Simon B Paige” again mailed from Brooklyn, New York. This letter gave details of Mrs. Paige’s side of the story regarding her divorce from her first husband. Enclosed with the letter were some newspaper clippings of some articles written for the Iowa and Missouri newspapers by Mrs. Paige when she was a school girl under the name “Minnie E Libbey.” The author of the letter also stated that Mrs. Paige had several letters from Mr. Paige “explaining many matters” that pertained to her situation at that time.
The end of September brought yet another interview by a reporter for the Chicago Tribune and reprinted in the Quad-City Times where Mrs. Paige gave details about her marriage to her first husband, William Fagin/Fagan. The interview ended with the reporter asking Mary how her novel was coming along. “Splendidly,” was her reply. She further said that a publisher in New York was already sent the first part and was expecting the work to sell well.
November 12, 1883 brought the case of Charles Reif and SB Paige back to court. The Northwestern reported that a settlement was attempted for $2500 by the defense, but that it was denied by Reif because the amount could not be paid in cash. By the next day, the parties had agreed to settle. The judgement was for $6000, which was the initial claim with interest. The actual amount paid would be based on the settlement of the estate and would end up being far less than the actual judgement.
Mary Paige remained active in the papers through the beginning of December as she sued for her half of the Davenport estate and her case went back and forth to court in Oshkosh over her widow’s allowance. In mid-December, however, the findings of the detective hired by the Paige brothers were published in a paper in Cincinnati and the story of Mary Paige’s former life went viral.
The story continues –Part 7
This story was put together after researching my husband’s great great grandfather Johann Karl Friedrich “Charles” Reif. The story can be found primarily in the Oshkosh Northwestern newspaper beginning on 3 December 1880 (although parts of the story were published in papers across the US and Canada) and continuing into the 1920s and beyond.