Friday, June 29, 2018

Divorce in the Family ~ 52 Ancestors #26

I am participating in this year's 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks writing challenge from Amy Johnson Crow. Each week has an optional writing prompt and this week's writing prompt is Black Sheep.

Not that divorce makes a person a black sheep of the family (if that were so, this branch might have a dozen or more black sheep), but this great uncle of mine married and divorced twice and it made the papers.

James McAlpin Pyle was born in 1884 in New York as the oldest of six children of James Tolman Pyle and Frances Adelaide McAlpin. (They gave all six of their children the middle name McAlpin.) He married Miss Anita Merle-Smith on April 29, 1912.

The following wedding announcement was in the April 30, 1912, issue of The New York Times:

(Mourning in the bridegroom's family referred to the death of his father, James Tolman Pyle less than two months prior.)

James and Anita lived in New Jersey and were enumerated in the 1915 New Jersey State Census and the 1920 U.S. Federal Census with their two daughters, Sara, born September 10, 1913 (in 1915 and 1920), and Anne, born September 28, 1915 (in 1920).

However, the November 23, 1929, Central New Jersey Home News reported that Mrs. Anita Merle-Smith Pyle had requested a divorce from her husband, James McAlpin Pyle of Norodon [sic: Noroton], Connecticut, on the grounds of desertion. He had apparently deserted his family on September 6, 1927.

(Interestingly, James was found twice in the 1930 U.S. census, once listed with his wife and daughters in Bedminster, New Jersey, and also listed with his sister and brother-in-law in Noroton, Connecticut.)

The article misstates their wedding date, which was April 29, 1912.


James married Anita Wray McNeill on November 9, 1934, and the wedding was reported in The Courier News (of Bridgewater, New Jersey), in its November 10, 1934, issue. The notice also reports that his first wife had already remarried. (I haven't yet found that wedding announcement, but it appears that they married in the spring or summer 1930; I found a notice that they had returned from a honeymoon trip in August 1930. Now it makes sense that she filed for divorce in November 1929.)

I don't know much about their life together except that they lived in Charlottesville, Virginia, in the 1940s. I have not found the family in the 1940 U.S. census nor found James McAlpin Pyle in the World War II Draft Cards.

Ancestry's Florida, Divorce Index, 1927-2001 lists James McAlpin Pyle and Alice Pyle as having obtained a divorce in 1943 in Brevard County (Vol. 237, Cert. 13387). They had one daughter, Prudence Adelaide Pyle, born in March 1936.

James McAlpin Pyle died on January 24, 1954, in Providence, Rhode Island, and was buried in Monhegan Cemetery, Monhegan, Maine (FindAGrave memorial). His first wife, Anita (Merle-Smith) Pyle Knight, died in January 1971 (FindAGrave Memorial). His second wife, Alice Wray (McNeill) Pyle Chester (who also remarried) died in August 1991.


  1. Very interesting to progress through this man's married lives via newspaper articles. Especially intriguing to see that in the final article, the groom's ex-wife's new husband's name is mentioned! She doesn't have a first name, but the doc is named in full. LOL

    1. Marian, as you probably know, I love newspaper research. And Dr. Augustus S. Knight was well known in northern New Jersey at that time. Thanks for the comment!

    2. So much fun to read your blogs! My mother, Anne, remembered being on Mac Pyle’s sailboat with her sister and mother and upon sailing into the Monhegan Harbor, Mac announced this was where he wanted to spend his summers/live the rest of his life. Story is my grandmother left him at that point and settled in her family’s summer place in Keene Valley, NY. Mac’s mother and other relatives summered in Seal Harbor, ME and led a much more formal life. The very large, ornate Victorian Pyle house in SH was bought by the Rockefeller family ( a McA relative married into the family??) and it was eventually torn down and a new house built. Nelson and Happy Rockefeller lived there until...? Anita’s sister, Dorothy, and her husband, David H McA Pyle ( yes, two sisters married two brothers - they grew up next door to each other!),and now descendants, lived in the ‘cottage’ next door.

      Mac is buried on Monhegan Island as is Prue, I think. Anne is also buried on Monhegan Island, ME
      Dr Knight (“Docky”) is buried in Marblehead MA along with his extensive family. Anita is buried in KV. Enough for now!! Thanks, Elizabeth, for unleashing the memories!!

    3. Cousin Harriet - you are a wealth of information! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Mac had served in WWI cavalry, stationed in Plattsburgh NY and was probably considered ‘too okd’ To be in WWII.

  3. Isn't it amazing what was shared in newspapers? I guess it was the Facebook of it's day :-)