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Celebrating History: An update on Havre spouse-swapping

 


By Emily Mayer

A couple of weeks ago I had included a bizarre article about wife swapping. The parties involved refused to speak to local newspapers, but the mother of one of the women thought it appropriate to speak to the St. Paul Dispatch. A copy of that article was printed in the July 21, 1917 issue of The Havre Plaindealer:

ST. PAUL PAPER AIRS TURCOTTE-JORDON CASE

Underneath a double-column half-tone showing the women in the case draped artistically over the shoulders of their new husbands, and each woman resting a hand upon the shoulder of her former husband, the St. Paul Dispatch in its special mail edition for Thursday morning carried the following story concerning a recent wife-swapping event pulled off in Havre.

“Well, you see my daughter liked the man who lived next door. His wife liked my daughter’s husband. So the couples were divorced and re-married according to their newer loves, all being strictly legal, and without the slightest ill feeling.”

This was the description of a Montana wife trade, consummated recently at Havre, with out accompaniment of gun play, fisticuffs or harsh words, as related Wednesday by Mrs. H. V. Pace, 636 Hall Avenue, mother of Mrs. Sigrid Jordon, who before her divorce was Mrs. F. W. Turcotte, and before her marriage, Miss Sigrid Olson, a native of St. Paul and graduate of Franklin school.

The wife trade involving a double divorce, double wedding, and an exchange of children was consummated on June 29 at Boulder Hot Springs, Mont. Following divorces granted a short time before.

Havre acquaintances saw Mr. and Mrs. F. W. Turcotte and Mr. and Mrs. Henry Jordon leave on an auto trip. When they came back, their names were still Mr. and Mrs. Turcotte and Mr. and Mrs. Jordon, but the former Mrs. Turcotte had become Mrs. Jordon and the former Mrs. Jordon had become Mrs. Turcotte.

Mrs. Pace explains that ‘the two couples stood up together at the ceremony and the friendliest relations exist between them. Now they are living again as neighbors in all good fellowship. The marriage ceremony following so soon after the divorce is possible because Montana statutes do not prescribe a time limit in which divorced persons cannot remarry.’

In the Turcotte family there were two children, Vernon, 5, and Irene, 4 years old. In the Jordon family there were also two children, Amelia, 6 and Woodrow, 3 years old. This angle of the wife trade was satisfactory settled by the new Mrs. Jordon taking the two girls, Amelia and Irene, and Mrs. Jeanne Turcotte taking the two boys, Vernon and Woodrow.

The new Mrs. Jordon’s father was Erick Olson, St. Paul justice of the peace, who died fifteen years ago. Her mother afterwards married H. V. Pace. The daughter is expected to come to St. Paul this summer for a visit. She will bring with her her own tow children to see their grandmother.

The mother of the former Mrs. Turcotte may be entirely correct when she states that “the marriage ceremony following so soon after the divorce is possible because Montana statutes do no prescribe a time limit in which divorced persons cannot marry,” but in section 146 of an old Montana code there is set forth the following: “When a divorce is granted…the innocent party can not marry until after the expiration of two years, and the guilty party can not marry until after the expiration of three years from the entry of the judgment of divorce … .”

The grounds for divorce, as claimed by the people in this unusual and questionable case, may, when learned, throw further light upon the matter. In the meanwhile, minor children are subject to control of people who may not be morally qualified to guide them.

One hundred years ago, a reason had to be given in order for divorce to be granted by the court. While not an every day occurrence, divorce in Montana and in Havre was not unheard of. I’ve been reading the old Havre newspapers for quite some time now — about 20 years or so — and the two most common reasons were abandonment — and yes, women did abandon their husbands and families, not just men — and abuse and neglect. Irreconcilable differences was not an option back then as it is today.

In the July 21 Society column, we find this entry:

Orpheum Party.

Mrs. Tom Hulfish, who has been a Havre visitor for some time, was honored on Thursday evening when Mrs. O. G. Skylstead and Mrs. J. C. Benson entertained a number of friends at the Orpheum Theatre.

After witnessing the performance the ladies were conveyed to the Skylstead home where a dainty lunch was served by the hostess. The guests included Mrs. Tom Hulfish, Mrs. C. B. Wilson, Mrs. G. A. Hulfish, Mrs. C. F. Morris, Mrs. George Hulfish, Mrs. H. W. Stringfellow, Mrs. Raymond Hulfish and Mrs. W. C. Lange.

The Skylstead home today is Holland & Bonine Funeral Parlor.

The big news in the July 28, 1917 issue of The Havre Plaindealer is a list of men who enlisted in the armed forces and the roster of who would be called up first, second, etc. The farmers’ picnic at Fort Assinniboine was a big success, with the local Red Cross chapter serving refreshments to participants. In the Society column was this entry:

Exodus from City.

The extreme heat of the past few months has put a quietus upon practically all social affairs in the city, and all who can are hiking to the national parks or the mountains south of Havre to escape the sweltering rays that Old Sol is now lavishing on the city.

Among local people sojourning in the mountains are Mr. and Mrs. A. J. Brodrick and family, Mrs. And Mrs. Jas. Carnal and children, Mr. and Mrs. Chas Risser, and many others.

The cooling mountain breezes form sharp contrast to and are a great relief from the hot blasts now governing the city.

Not this year, folks — it’s hot all over!

 

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