The 1805 Cabarrus Divorce of Mary Eisenhauer and Her Misanthropic Husband

21 Nov 2014

In 1805, in order to get a divorce, one had to apply to the North Carolina State Legislature. Because of communication difficulties of the period, petitions were sent to the General Assembly with local representatives. The following petition (including spelling and grammar), was written by Mary Eisenhauer and submitted to the state legislature.

To the Honourable the General Assembly of the State of North Carolina! Gentlemen!

With grief and reluctance I am necessitated to represent to Your honourable body, that my rude, lazy and misantropic husband, NICHOLAS EISENHAUER, has droven me off from my own home about 20 years ago without the least subsistence after he had made away with all we had, and ever since hath abandoned me for good and all; save one time he returned and tried to persuade or force from me to the sale of a tract 200 acres of land, which my father, MICHAEL MEYERS, bestowed to me and entailed for the sole benefit of me and my children; and as I neither would nor would consent to it, he left me again under hundreds of bitter and cruel curses, and I truly have suffered since many times, although by the help of my children and God’s blessings I acquired a little again, which I am in constant fear my said husband might take from me and waste it also. To give you a full idea of his nasty character, I will only address here a single passage that happened with him since he abandoned me. 

He got in an intimate understanding with a licentious widow, some neighbors mistrusting them watched and catched them in fornication; took him out of the house, tarred and feathered him and exposed him in that figure to the public execration. 

In this my sad situation I take my refuge to your protection and implore your gracious assistance to grant and secure to myself all such small acquisitions I have saved since my husband left me and what perhaps hereafter I may acquire yet, which I forever will acknowledge with the sincerest thanks and remain with the highest respect. 

The honourable the General Assembly’s most humble and submissive
Mary Eisenhauer
Cabarrus County, November the 12th 1805

German immigrant, John (Johan) “Nicholas” Eisenhauer (1749-c.1805), was the son of Peter Eisenhauer and Elizabeth Graff. He came with other members of the family to North Carolina in the late 1760s and early 1770s. In 1773, Nicholas married Mary Myers, the daughter of Rowan County Revolutionalry War soldier, Michael Myers.

Historic Daniel Isenhour house in Gold Hill. Source: North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office.

Nicholas and Mary settled on a 200-acre tract on little Dutch Buffalo Creek inherited from Mary’s father, in the community surrounding Grace Lower Stone Reformed Church. The property was later inherited by their grandson, cabinetmaker Daniel Isenhour. Daniel Isenhour’s 1843 house and farm, located on Mt. Olive Road in Gold Hill, were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2000 and are considered important in the social history of Cabarrus County for exemplifying the traditional lifeway of the rural craftsman who practiced his skilled trade while also farming.

Nicholas disappeared about 1802. It is thought he may have been killed by Indians. Mary Eisenhauer’s petition to the legislature for divorce on the grounds of cruelty, abandonment and adultery, was approved in December 1805. Mary lived on the family property until her death on 9 August 1832 and was buried in the family cemetery in Mount Pleasant. Family lore says that she had a tree planted in the plot next to hers so Nicholas would never be buried by her.

Courtesy of the Eastern Cabarrus Historical SocietyThe National Register of Historic Places and