History | Norfolk's First Divorce | Back

Source: page 7 article from 7 May 1931 Simcoe Reformer


One of the briefest sessions of the Supreme Court held here in years was that before the Honourable Mr. Justice McEvoy on Monday when court, after opening at one o'clock, adjourned a few minutes after two and His Lordship was able to depart. During his stay here he heard the divorce case of Hammond versus Hammond and granted a decree to become effective in six months' time.

There was another case up for trial, an action involving Windham people. However, E. W. Cross of Simcoe, appearing for one of the litigants, stated that owing to unforeseen circumstances it was impossible to proceed, and an adjournment requested was granted by His Lordship.

Those who attended the divorce hearing in the expectation of either witnessing or hearing anything unusual by virtue of it being the first of its kind in Norfolk, were surely disappointed. With the exception of the fact that no defense whatever was offered, the case was the same as any other civil action, and it required but 55 minutes to convince His Lordship that the desire of the plaintiff should be complied with.

Bertram Ambrose Hammond of Walsingham township was the plaintiff while his former wife, Margueretta Burke Hammond was co-defendant with Frank W. Thompson. The grounds of suit were that the defendant had deserted her husband without cause and had since misconducted herself with her co-defendant.

The first witness called was Frederick G. Haskett of St. Williams who testified that he had served the writ, affidavit, and statement of claim to the defendents, both of whom he has known for periods of time. "I went to their place on the townline, he said, "and asked them (the defendants) if they were married. They both said yes."

It was revealed that Thompson was generally known by the name Turner, a family of the latter name having adopted him while he was very young. His rightful name however, was Thompson.

Plaintiff's Story. Subsequently the plaintiff, Bertram Hammond, a young man, took the stand. He declared that he had married Marguerette Burke on 11 Nov 1914 at the village of Walsingham, the Rev. Ansley Woolley having been the clergyman, and the license having been procured from Charles Ross. Prior to her marriage to him, Mrs. Hammond had resided in St. Williams.

"After we were married we lived in South Walsingham," he related. "Then on 25 Aug 1916 she left me and went away. I have never seen her since that time until today in the courtroom. I had a letter from her from Buffalo in 1925 and she said that she wanted me to over and see her. I went, but did not see her."

"What happened to prevent you from doing this?" asked H. L. Osborne, counsel for the plaintiff.

Hammond then described how he had been served with a summons to defend himself in a divorce action instituated against him in the United States by his wife, just as he was boarding the ferry at Fort Erie. The summons, along with the final decree which was granted in a Buffalo court on the grounds of misconduct, were both produced as evidence by the plaintiff. The latter firmly denied that he was guilty of the charges alleged in the divorce writ of his wife.

Charles E. Ross of Walsingham admitted issuing the marriage license to Hammond, who was 30 at the time the ceremony was performed. 

Mrs. Annie Gilliland of St. Williams, an aunt of the defendant unhesitatingly declared that since Mrs. Hammond had obtained her divorce from the plaintiff and had subsequently married Thompson, the two had lived together as man and wife and had visited at her home.

A ripple of laugher ran through the courtroom as His Lordship interrupted Mr. Osborne who was questioning Mrs. Gilliland concerning a conversation Mrs. Gilliland between she and her niece at some time or other. "If divorces were granted on conversations between women," Justice McEvoy remarked, "we would be having them all the time."

Ernest S. Shaw of Brantford and William Shaw of Walsingham South gave evidence that Thompson and Margueretta Burke Hammond had cohabited during trips to Canada.

There was much interest evidenced when Mrs. Hammond took the stand for a few minutes. She did not deny the relationship between herself and Thompson (who was not present) but declared that she had divorced Hammond on the grounds of adultery and had married Thompson in Buffalo.

"What do you know about his misconduct, are you prepared to swear that he actually did misconduct himself?" asked His Lordship.


In summing up, Justice McEvoy remarked "I have no means of knowing why Mrs. Hammond left her husband in 1916 but he swears that she did leave him and go to Buffalo. There, she, by some means was able to persuade a court to divorce her from her husband living in Ontario. The summons was filed as an exhibit: a judgment was delivered and she alleged that her husband was guilty of adultery.

"She says here that she has no evidence of this, but that he was guilty. It has been abundantly proven that she has been living with Turner (Thompson) as his wife. Under these circumstances there is no doubt that she has committed adultery with Turner and, if what has been sworn to be true, her husband is entitled to a decree of divorce. The evidence satisfies me that proceedings have been complied with according to the law."

According to the finding delivered, the decree will become final after six months has elapsed at which time a judgment dissolving the marriage can be delivered.

Harold L. Osborne of Simcoe appearing for the plaintiff, conducted the entire case with considerable credit to himself, insomuch as it was unique in the legal practice of this county. 

 Copyright 2013-2016 John Cardiff