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Nancy Jane Soesbe, the oldest of nine children of William and Angelina Buckner Soesbe, was born in Vigo county, Indiana, May 3, 1833. When she was nine her parents moved to Iowa, settling near Mechanicsville until she was eighteen years of age, afterwards moving to a farm near Fairview. As a young woman she taught school in a log school house between Fairview and Anamosa.

In 1853 she was married to John Wesley Waggoner. They had four children—Hilton, Alice, Albert and Angie. John Wesley Waggoner died April 23, 1862, leaving her a widow with four young children to raise and educate.

In October, 1865, she was married to Benjamin Harrison. To them were born two children—Ernest Wyant (1866) and Edith (1872). Mr. Harrison died July 2, 1876, leaving her again a widow.

On July 3, 1879, Nancy Soesbe married for a third time to William Philander Briggs. Their family is enumerated in the 1880 US census, consisting of her two children from her second marriage and three of his children from previous marriage(s). The sad end of this marriage is recounted below.

Divorce Petition

In the District Court, Jones County, Iowa
May term 1884 Nancy Briggs
W. P. Briggs Petition in Equity

The plaintiff represents to this Court

Par. 1st That plaintiff and defendant are both residents of Jones County Iowa and have resided in said ______ ever since the marriage of plaintiff and defendent as hereinafter stated.

Par. 2. That plaintiff and defendant were married in Fairview Township, Jones County, Iowa on the 3rd day of July AD1879.

Par. 3rd That ever since said marriage plaintiff has conducted herself towards said defendant as a loving and affectionate wife.

Par. 4th That the defendant disregarding his duties as a husband, has conducted himself towards plaintiff and has treated plaintiff in such a cruel and inhuman manner as to endanger the life and utterly destroy the peace and happiness of plaintiff. That about six months after said marriage of said parties, __ _____, December 1879 without any provocation on the part of plaintiff said defendant gave way to anger and passion and did swear at plaintiff and call her vile and obscene names. That said defendant did attempt to cut his own throat with a razor and with a knife. That plaintiff for fear of her life was compelled to lock herself up in a room and remain until released, that since said time defendant has failed nearly altogether to provide for his family, that plaintiff has been compelled to support herself and her family, that defendant has continued to give way to violent passions and anger since said date, Dec. 1879 at intervals and becoming more frequent until the present time, that now said defendant is almost continually doing all in his power to harass, annoy and injure plaintiff. That in the month of June 1883 said defendant held the lamp right close to plaintiff's face when plaintiff was in bed and rubbed his fist against plaintiff's face and nose at the time threatening violence to plaintiff using vile and obscene language, that plaintiff was compelled to flee from her house and seek safety. That defendant threatens plaintiff that he would report to the neighbors false statements as to what plaintiff has said about them for the purpose of making them angry with plaintiff, that deft. has done so and this has caused nearly all plaintiff neighbors to be unfriendly with plaintiff.
That defendant prevents plaintiff from attending religious services, that on the 6th day of April 1884, Deft. would not permit plaintiff to attend the funeral of a friend, that in the evening of April 6th defendant for the purpose of annoying plaintiff, the said day being the sabbath said defendant did continue to dance in the room and sing silly and vulgar songs and did use threatening and vulgar language, said defendant did call the daughter of plaintiff a "freckled whore." That because of the said threats and actions of defendant plaintiff has not been able to sleep but little for a week past and her health is affected thereby, that she will endanger her life to continue to live with said defendant.

Par. 5th That this application is not made out of any _____ or restraint but in sincerity and truth for the purposes set forth herein.

Par. 6th Wherefore plaintiff asks that she may be divorced from said defendant, that her name may be changed to her former name, Nancy Harrison, and that she may have such other and further relief as may be just and equitable in the premises.

Remley & Ercanbrack
Attys. for Pltff.

State of Iowa
Jones County

I, Nancy Briggs, being first sworn say that I am plaintiff in the above entitled claim, that I have heard the foregoing petition read and am acquainted with the facts and statements therein contained, and that the same are true as I verily believe.
(s) Nancy Briggs

Subscribed in my presence and sworn to by said Nancy Briggs before me this 12th day of April 1884.
H. M Remley, Notary Public for Jones County, Iowa

The divorce was granted. The 1885 Iowa census shows Nancy Briggs, divorced, still living on the farm she inherited from Benjamin Harrison with her children, Ernest and Edith. By 1895 she had resumed using the name Harrison and lived with Edith in Anamosa. She died February 5, 1904, and was buried at Riverside Cemetery under a large headstone inscribed "Mother."

William Briggs is listed in the 1885 Iowa census as "divorced." On December 28, 1889 he married a woman named Mary. Briggs became a resident of the Jones County Poor Farm on 6 February 1899, and there died 3 October 1900.

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