Madison Gates Purviance

The Divorce - Part 6

1901: Madison’s name rarely appears in the paper except in the hotel ads he had run since February 1899. Life seems quiet for Edna’s father.

But the social whirl continued for Louise and the girls in the first half of 1901. They appeared in news about the social and church events in town. Myrtle, who was finished with school, joined the fun by acting in a local play, enjoying social events and traveling. Edna was likely singing in Sunday church services and other events but was not otherwise noted as singing in public.

Northern Nevada Sunrise

With most of the hotel, cafe and bar leased to others to run, Madison’s and Louise’s responsibilities were the proper upkeep of the hotel property.

Not having the Workingmen’s Bar to run, Madison had more time on his hands to visit other bars in the area. Maybe Louise thought she was helping the situation by getting Madison out of managing the bar. If that were the case, she didn’t get the effect she had hoped. According to Louise, Madison’s drinking and gambling problem apparently grew worse toward the end of 1901.

Madison was drifting into a life of drinking, and for whatever reason, he ended up risking a lot and losing what he had held dear.

The marriage of Madison and Louise Purviance would not see many more months after the year 1901…

Madison Gates Purviance

Madison Gates Purviance
The first telling of the story of Edna Purviance’s father
Research by Linda Wada © - April 2004-2016

Part Six
The Divorce
Madison's last years in Lovelock

'people closest to the family would have seen'

There were not many signs of a problem in reading the newspaper reports in early 1901. The family was still active.

But the Purviances appeared to attended fewer community events, and family made fewer visits to the household.

The Lovelock Tribune reported stories of domestic problems within families of the area, but no stories appeared about the Purviance’s growing troubles. Lovelock was a small town, and people did respect the privacy of well-known families, and the Purviances were known by many people.

Close friends and family certainly knew things were not going well. It was during this time, Madison’s drinking and gambling increased. The problem apparently started after the wedlock, but was at its worst the last two years of marriage. During this same period, Madison’s involvement with the hotel was also at its weakest. Fewer guests to entertain, and no bar to run. Too much time on his hands.

The divorce papers also reported that hotel guests and the Purviance ladies were greatly disturbed by Madison’s behavior after his nights of heavy drinking and gambling.

Madison’s lack of concern with his gambling worried Louise a lot! The due date to pay off Lynip's loan was approaching, and she knew they no longer had the money to meet the deadline.

She had lost her very first marital home in Hailey, and I believe this still was strong in her memory. Losing a second home was not going to happen to her again! But her worry may have contributed to the first serious illness she had since moving to Lovelock.

Louise Purviance ill with typhoid fever
Lovelock Tribune - November 16, 1901

In mid-November 1901, Louise fell seriously ill with typhoid fever. The Purviance’s former lessee Jim Gates had died a year earlier from complications of the same illness. After singing at so many funerals of friends and family who died after such illnesses, Louise was fully aware of the seriousness of her situation.

Edna and Myrtle were both home at this critical time, but Bessie was not. Bessie had returned to college that fall, and was attending Mill Seminary a church college in San Rafael, California. She was studying her first love music, but she had another love who would cause quite a stir in Lovelock in days to come.

Bessie returned home to care for her mother soon after receiving word of the crisis. She arrived by train on November 19th.

Earlier that same month, Sidney Hill, son of well-known and wealthy Lovelock rancher Joseph Hill, took the train to visit *his mother, Mrs. Joseph Hill who was living at the Hill’s family home in Berkeley, California. She was there because Sidney’s sister Ethel had serious heart problems and was unable to live at the altitude of northern Nevada. Ethel’s weak heart required her to live at sea level.

Bessie and Sydney Hill marry
Bessie Purviance and Sidney Hill were well known and popular in Lovelock, so this married elopement was a surprise to the town.
Lovelock Tribune - December 14, 1901

Sidney returned a few days later from California reporting he had a pleasant visit with his mother. What Sidney didn’t disclose was that on November 11th, 1901, Sidney Hill and Bessie Purviance were quietly married in San Rafael.

Rumors percolated around town for a month, before the Hills or Purviances acknowledged the marriage.

News of the marriage surprised people in Lovelock. Bessie and Sidney were already a very popular and respected couple in town. Yet having the marriage occur without an engagement or wedding announcement was not what townfolk had expected. Sidney and Bessie’s marriage surprised even their own families! Nevertheless, the newly married couple was warmly received.

The Tribune was the first to publish the story on December 14th, over a month after the marriage. On the same day The Argus newspaper published a more carefully worded and prepared article account of the marriage. It explained that the couple announced their engagement several months earlier, but because of bereavement in the Hill family the event was postponed.

And there is the possibility that Bessie wanted to escape the family problems at home. Living with Madison's ongoing problems could not have been easy for her or her sisters. Plus Bessie and Sidney were reported together as early as the summer of 1899, so their marriage was not a surprise, just how it came about.

Louise always wanted the best for her daughters, so maybe she was hoping Bessie would complete her schooling first, before settling in with a family. But Bessie and Sidney would start a family with their first child in August of 1902. His name was Sidney Morgan Hill.

The stress of her daughter's abrupt marriage may have been the event that triggered Louise's illness, but Louise had been under stress for too long a time.

Running the hotel property, paying the bills and dealing with Madison's increased drinking and gambling was draining her health. Their Lovelock property was their only source of income and Louise fretted about being able to keep it.

According to Louise’s divorce papers, Madison was of 'no help to her at all' during this most critical time. His drinking and gambling continued with no end in sight. Maybe for Madison the stress of the business and the rather public nature of their living environment were part of the problem. Whatever the reason, Madison was showing how little he cared.

The problem for Madison may have gone much deeper. He had given up control of ‘The Workingmen’s Bar’, a situation he enjoyed with his entertaining and talkative personality. He was realizing he would no longer have legal ownership of the home and business he had worked hard to create. The idea that Louise would become the property’s owner was perhaps becoming a bit too much for him.

Maybe Louise’s new Locklock friends and social life were not really Madison’s, and he realized their paths were separating. Louise had not changed during all the years I have researched her, but in the larger town of Lovelock, she was far more involved with the social life she loved than she had been in the previous towns Paradise and Hailey.

Madison had to know what was coming once the property loan was repaid. He had signed the agreement. Was he now thinking that he gave up too much?

Louise had much to think about too, as she spent Christmas recovering from her illness with her daughters at her side and a loan coming due by January 11, 1902.

Last Ladies Aid event mentioned in the Lovelock Tribune
Ladies' aid social event at Louise's Purviance dining room at the Workingmen Hotel. This was the last event I found in 1902 Louise held at the hotel. Lovelock Tribune - February 3, 1902

Strength in Time and Family
With the new year in 1902, the family life of the Purviances changed dramatically.

The Mask Ball was a quiet affair for the Purviances with only Myrtle listed as attending as the character Violeta.

The New Year brought new strength to Louise’s health, as she recovered from the illness aided by the loving care of her daughters. Typhoid fever did not claim Louise as it had Jim Gates. But mentally she had to be going through anguish as the January 11, 1902 loan date was coming due.

Benjamin F. Lynip was in town during New Year’s, but not for long. He decided not to officially apply for the postmaster’s job, after having been selected for the position for one term.

School teaching was Lynip’s first love, but making a good living at it was not easy. Benjamin was very interested in establishing a more secure future for himself. He decided to pursue his fortune in the sheep industry. Wool was bringing in good money in 1902. But his sheep business required travel to Utah and Idaho where the best grazing areas were located.

Lynip still had money tied up in the Purviance hotel loan and had to know about the family’s rocky situation. The last thing Benjamin wanted was to take over the only home Louise and the girls had in Lovelock. And with Louise so seriously ill in late 1901, doubly so. It is highly likely at least Benjamin and Louise visited during this serious time.

Lynip was a smart and caring man. The January 11, 1902 due date came and went without Lynip assuming ownership of ‘The Workingmen’s Hotel and Bar’. Lynip’s contract clearly stated he could have, but he didn't. Instead for the time being, the Purviances continued to live at the hotel and Lynip moved on to his sheepherding.

Mrs. M.G. Purviance goes to Winnemucca

Louise and Edna both went to Winnemuccca and would not return until mid-May during Viola's illness.
Lovelock Tribune - February 4th, 1899

Viola Piper
Lovelock Tribune - May 24, 1902

Life toward the end…

By February, Louise, with the help of her loving daughters, was well enough again to host her first church benefit of the year for the Ladies Aid Society. The successful money raising event was held between 4 - 10 p.m. in the dining room of the hotel. This would be the last and only time such an event was mentioned for Louise in the Lovelock Tribune or in The Argus newspapers for the entire year.

The next mention of Louise appeared in March of 1902. Edna and her mother boarded a train to Winnemucca for a visit with Louise’s sister Mrs. Julia Brown.

According to the papers, Louise and Edna were gone for nearly two months. This was the very first time I read about Louise leaving Lovelock for such an extended trip anywhere, since she moved to Lovelock. During that time the only mention of Madison was in the ads for the hotel.

'Louise and Edna were gone for nearly two months visiting the Brown family'

In May of 1902, a tragic event brought all of the family and friends back together from across the vast county.

Edna’s older cousin, Viola Piper, daughter of Lester and Bessie Piper, the owners of Piper’s Hardware Store, suddenly came down with Brain Fever, a very serious disease for that day. She died after a few days from the illness. Her family and friends were left in shock.

The funeral was attended by Viola’s schoolmates and many of the townfolk. Family and friends arrived, making the solemn trip by train and buggy. Viola was a very popular child, and I’m sure Edna missed her older singing cousin dearly.

Maybe the death reminded Louise and Madison about their own girl, Ida Purviance, dying years earlier in Paradise, and maybe they tried to make a go of their marriage again. Louise remained with Madison in Lovelock for the summer of 1902.

But this would be their last summer as husband and wife….

The Event
In the spring of 1902, James B. Carmichael subleased the management of The Workingmen’s Bar to his cousins Bangs and Springer. (Carmichael's former partner George Young had retired in September 1901.) Carmichael had lots of cousins now, including the Purviances, through the marriage of Bessie Purviance and Sidney Hill.

During his time managing the bar, J.B. finally saved enough money to take a dream journey back to his homeland in Scotland. He took with him his aunt Mrs. Nellie Richardson who lived in Wadsworth, Nevada. While on his journey, Carmichael met ‘a lovely lass’ in London and quickly married her.

The marriage was a surprise to his whole family in Scotland and Nevada. But while Carmichael was just starting his married life, he would return home in September of 1902 to see the marriage of his cousins Louise and Madison coming apart…

On October 2, 1902, Madison returned to the Workingmen’s Hotel in a drunken state and a fight ensued in front of Edna and hotel guests. Madison accused Louise of being unfaithful, a claim Louise totally denied!

The fight escalated into an argument about the money Madison was squandering on gambling and drinking. Finally, Madison 'assaulted and bruised' Louise to the point that she called the Constable for protection.

(Divorce court records claim that Madison came home drunk nearly five nights a week, during the last two years of the marriage. This would coincide with the period when he no longer had control of 'The Workingmen's Bar'.)

The violent and ugly conflict Edna witnessed between her parents had to leave scars on Edna for life. She was just three weeks short of her seventh birthday.

Louise was rightfully worried about her Lovelock home and her children, the centers of her life.

Louise's time for thinking was over, this 'gentile English lady' was now going to act! And with the help of well-placed family members, she felt it was time to do so...

The Divorce

The very next morning, Louise and Edna boarded the train for Winnemucca. At the same time, Bessie Purviance Hill was abruptly called to California, where her mother-in-law Mrs. Joseph Hill had fallen seriously ill. Myrtle Purviance left for Wadsworth to stay with Mrs. Richardson, J.B. Carmichael’s aunt.

Fresh from his Scottish travels, Carmichael resumed management of The Workingmen’s Bar, and looked after things while Louise was out of town. According to court documents, Springer and Bangs left the management, and the changeover happened so quickly the newspaper ads were not changed until several weeks later.

According to reports, Madison remained at the hotel for most of October, while Louise’s sister Julia Davey Brown hosted Louise and Edna in Winnemucca. Louise filed for divorce in Winnemucca in mid-October. Louise and Edna apparently stayed until December while the divorce was proceeding.

Divorce in 1902 was not an easy thing for a woman to accomplish. The act was frowned upon in society circles at that time. A woman was to make a marriage work, no matter what!

Louise certainly had tried. She was always remembered for her dedication to her family, her kind, gentle manner and her generosity in helping others.

To achieve this divorce, this gentle lady drew strength and help from her family and the best legal team in northern Nevada.

'Bonnifield Family first settled Humboldt in 1863'

The Bonnifield family were longtime residents in Humboldt County, and law was the family business. Louise’s lawyer was M.S. Bonnifield and the judge for the case was Samuel J. Bonnifield, Jr!

Samuel J. Bonnifield Jr’s sister was Bessie’s mother-in-law, Mrs. Joseph (Bonnifield) Hill. Mrs. Hill's sudden illness was what called Bessie to California, and the situation turned for the worse. Hill died shortly after they arrived at her home in October 1902, making it a painfully sad fall for all families involved.

Meanwhile, Madison hired his own Lovelock lawyer Bert Hood, but Hood’s involvement in the case didn’t last very long. A couple of weeks after the divorce was filed, Madison severed all ties to The Workingmen’s Hotel. His heart was not into the battle.

Maybe he had his fill of the fights and the turmoil in Lovelock. With Louise about to make a claim for the hotel, Madison had little left to hold onto.

And maybe, he felt in the long run, it would be better for his girls not to hurt them and their futures in Lovelock. Even in Madison’s darkest moments, he seemed to show love for his daughters.

All the Purviance ladies leave Lovelock

Myrtle left for Wadsworth, Bessie to California, and Louise to Winnemucca.
Lovelock Tribune - October 4, 1902

Bonnifieid settle in Humboldt County in 1863

Part of the article on the funeral of Sidney Hill's mother, Mrs. Joseph Bonnifield Hill. S.J. Bonnifield Jr. is listed as brother to Mrs. Joseph Bonnifield Hill. Funeral was held at the Hill 's Family home in Berkley. Sidney's sister, Ethel Hill, died just a few months earlier. Louise’s lawyer was M.S Bonnifield (McKaskia Steans Bonnifield) according to found records in Nevada. He was also a well-known judge in Humboldt County.
Lovelock Tribune - October 11, 1902

Madison severs all ties to the Workingmen's Hotel

M.G.'s severed his ties to his Lovelock home and business The Workingmen's Hotel
Lovelock Tribune - November 8, 1902

As far as the accusations of Louise being unfaithful, no evidence was ever brought forward by Madison, even though Louise’s statements say he accused her of infidelity repeatedly during the last two years of the marriage. Louise did spend a lot of time with her social affairs in Lovelock and she did get to know many different men in the process.

'accusations of Louise being unfaithful, according to Louise's divorce papers'

But was she fooling around as Madison accused, and with whom?

The document just said ‘men’, and mentioned no one specifically. Madison had his chance to prove it, with the stakes so high in losing his home, business and family, one would think he could have brought evidence forward, but he never did.

Perhaps his suspicions were more about what he imagined, than what was really happening. In a state of mind muddled by drinking, even an innocent conversation between Louise and another man could have seemed like evidence of infidelity.

In reading about these two people, I believe there was a growing abyss between them with what they wanted in a relationship and with whom they wanted to socialize.

Louise was moving toward more educated and sophisticated friends, while Madison remained with his more working class friends. And there is plenty of evidence that Louise would do anything that would benefit her daughters. They were the center of her life.

During the month of October and November, Louise and Madison worked through their lawyers to settle the ownership of the hotel property. Because the hotel loan was not paid off, Lynip still owned the papers on the property. And B.F. Lynip was probably the most relieved to finally to come to some conclusion on this important matter.

B.F. Lynip was a friend of the Purviance family. In reading about him, taking over Louise and her daughters’ only home would have been the last thing on his mind. But Lynip was neither a cold-hearted man nor a fool. Money and property were important, but not that important. Of all the people in town, Lynip could have been the best person imaginable to have given the Purviances a loan.

It is highly likely Louise and Lynip had long discussions about what was going on at the Purviance’s home. Lynips did not press for ownership of the property out of concern for them and he was content to let the situation work out on its own.

But Lynip was still a businessman and wanted to get the business of the hotel settled!

Lynip was no fool and Louise was no beggar. To help raise the money, Louise mortgaged off all three lots of the hotel property to her neighbor and Piper’s family friend, Lorranzo Zunini and his family. The mortgage raised $1350. She was still short of cash, so after this deal, she sold lot 2 of the Singer Hotel property to Zunini for $250. This lot basically had no buildings and would never be owned by Louise again. With this and other money she gathered, she was able to pay Madison $600 for his interest in the hotel and Lynips $1033, the balance due on the loan.

At last, this part of the deal was settled. Lynip got back to his business affairs and Louise was left with a new stack of paper to shuttle and people to pay.

Possibly Madison thought that Louise would never actually divorce him. She was always mentioned as gentle in nature. Louise, however, with the help of key people made it through the divorce and the financial problems. Bessie’s marriage to Sidney Hill proved to be a very helpful, as relatives included a lawyer to represent her, and a highly respected judge that was related to the family! Louise’s close family ties also gave her a place to stay and people to contact to raise the money needed to settle the hotel loan.

Maybe the ‘all in the family’ affair proved too much for Madison to endure. He never appeared at any of the court hearings on the matter held October through December in Winnemucca. The only legal acknowledgement from Madison through his lawyer was a statement that Louise’s complaint lacked facts to justify the divorce action.

Since this statement was only legal thing Madison had on file about the divorce, then he hadn’t attempted to prove his accusations of Louise’s infidelity. If he really believed Louise had been unfaithful, this was the time to prove it, and Madison didn’t even try.

Miss Eliza Purviance divorce
Eliza W. Purviance was Louise Purviance.
Lovelock Tribune - December 13, 1902

When the divorce was final on December 6, 1902, Louise was the only one at the courthouse. The judge took note of this and Louise easily won all property, the business and custody of seven-year old Edna and 17-year old Myrtle. She had a brand new mortgage to worry about, but she was now in total control of her own life.

The divorce was mentioned in the Tribune on December 13, 1902. Louise was named as Miss Eliza W. Purviance, but anyone reading the paper and knowing the parties involved knew actually who Eliza was.

The name ‘The Workingmen’s Hotel and Bar’ was never entered into the Humboldt County records. All the divorce papers and mortgages on this matter read only, ‘The Singer Hotel Property’.

Madison’s name continued to appear in the newspapers for the rest of December of 1902 in the same ads he had run since the first day he took over The Singer Hotel.

On December 27, 1902, the man who once made things disappear in his dining room at ‘The Workingmen’s Hotel’ made himself disappear.

Madison’s time had reached an end in the ‘liveliest town he had stuck'. Some names die hard, like that of the Singer Hotel, but what about Madison Gates Purviance? Would his name live on?

(* 04/01/04 - I have received new information on Sidney Hill's mother that will be research and reported later.)

Life Beyond the Divorce - Part 7

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All other content Copyright 2003-2016 - Edna Purviance, Research Collection
including photos and newspaper articles from public and private collections.
Linda Wada, WadaWorks, All Rights Reserved

Special thanks to the official county offices and libraries from Humboldt, Perishing and Butte County.

Letter from Edna to Chaplin - David Robinson's book Chaplin: His Life and Art