“I Do Not Propose To Sit Idly Down And Be Made To Suffer”: The Curious Case of the Two Mrs. Pigotts

AmonPigottDakotaGirlCoverg the volumes presented to the University of Pennsylvania Libraries by Caroline F. Schimmel as part of her Fiction Collection of Women in the American Wilderness is an inscribed copy of That Dakota Girl by Stella Gilman, a Western romance published in 1892 to tepid reviews: “The pony that always figures in stories of Western life is introduced in the initial chapter, and has its share to do with the love-making and various subordinate incidents. But the reader looks in vain for the genuine local coloring that is to be expected from the title” (Public Opinion 13 (1892): 487).  Gilman, a resident of Hudson, South Dakota, is a shadowy figure; in the biographical note to her only other book, A Gumbo Lily and Other Tales, she writes that she was born in Philadelphia and emigrated with her family to the West as a child in 1878. The Schimmel Fiction Collection copy of The Dakota Girl has a 19th-century gift inscription (“To Uncle Herbert, with The love of The Author. July 15. 1892.”) on the front free endpaper and a partially effaced autograph in a childish hand (“Mabel Lucy Pegott [sic]. 329 Chestnut, Philadelphia, Penna.”) in pencil on the verso of the back free endpaper.

PigottAutographsStella Gilman’s inscription to “Uncle Herbert” (above)
and Mabel Lucy Pigott’s autograph (below)

A little investigation discovers that Mabel Lucy Pigott, born in 1881, was the daughter of H. Herbert Pigott of 329 Chestnut Street in Philadelphia. Perhaps, I thought, an inquiry into Mr. Pigott’s family might shed some light on Stella Gilman’s antecedents. Sadly, it did not¹ — but it did uncover a tale of betrayal and bigamy in the Pigott family that culminated in a dog-sled chase through the lumber camps of British Columbia, a true-life romance as fascinating as any early twentieth-century fiction.

The Sportsman and the Horsewoman

The story begins with Henry Herbert Pigott, who was born in Philadelphia in 1857, the youngest child of William Pigott (ca. 1810-1862), an accountant who emigrated from Ireland with his wife Rebecca (b. ca. 1814) in 1833. Herbert, as he seems to have been called, received a bachelor of arts degree from Ursinus College in 1875 (and later served as president of the Ursinus College Alumni Association of Philadelphia) and a bachelor of laws from the University of Pennsylvania in 1879. Around 1881 he married Mabel Dexter Pratt (1859-1933), the daughter of physician J. Howell Pratt (ca. 1823-1866) and his wife Charlotte (ca. 1830-1860). Together, Herbert and Mabel had four daughters: Mabel Lucy, Ida (b. 1883), Elaine (b. 1888), and Muriel (b. 1890). Herbert established a successful law practice in Philadelphia with an office at 329 Chestnut Street and later in the Bullitt Building on South Fourth Street; he was also employed in various capacities by the Fidelity Insurance, Trust and Safe Deposit Company until 1898 or 1899. He was noted for his financial shrewdness, successfully investing in stocks and land, and often traveled to oversee his interests in the United States and abroad.

By all accounts the Pigotts were quite well-to-do, regularly featuring in Boyd’s Blue Book of elite Philadelphians. They moved from the city to the suburbs as their family grew: first to Secane in Delaware County and later across the river to Beverly in Burlington County, New Jersey. They also maintained a summer home in Brookline, Massachusetts, where Mabel was known as no great entertainer but “an enthusiastic horsewoman, whose stylish equipage was frequently seen on the boulevard” (“No Record of Pigott Divorce”). Herbert, too, seems to have been a keen sportsman: he chaired the athletic committee at Ursinus in the mid-1890s and played tennis (competing in the U.S. National Championships in 1892 and 1893) and golf (becoming a charter member of the Aronimink Golf Club in 1900). After the turn of the new century his health was (perhaps) in decline — Mabel told a reporter that “he had four painful operations performed on his nose and … fainted in his office, something that never occurred before” while his partner Adolph Eichholz thought him exhausted from overwork — and Herbert wound up his law partnership in apparent preparation for retirement (“H.H. Pigott Weds” 14). On February 1, 1901, he departed on what Mabel assumed was his usual spring business trip west. “On the morning he left he was in better spirits than for a long time past, and kissed us all a hearty good-by,” she explained later. “He expected to be absent for some time, he said, but intended rejoining us. I got a letter from him postmarked Altoona, and it contained the usual friendly greetings” (ibid.).

The Announcement

Then, on Friday, February 8, the following announcement appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Pigott-Byram Marriage Announcement

The notice was placed by Herbert’s good friend, the architect Carl de Moll (1871-1958), who received it from the bizarrely punctilious groom by letter. It took another week for the story to fully break, at which point it was front-page news:

PigottScandalHeadline“H. H. Pigott Weds, So Friend Says” (Philadelphia Inquirer 15 February 1901)

Compounding the scandal was the identity of the second Mrs. Pigott, Charlotte Wheeler Byram (b. 1871): she was Herbert’s niece, the daughter of Mabel’s sister Emma Carpenter Pratt (1849-1877) and her husband J. Emory Byram (1842-1912), a colorful Philadelphia politician best known for his support of public bath houses. (He inaugurated the one built in his home district of Frankford in 1898 by swimming a lap in the pool in full evening dress.) Charlotte had attended the Girls’ Normal School in Philadelphia; according to her father, she was “of a studious nature, and has written a number of articles for several periodicals” (“H.H. Pigott Weds” 14). A 1904 feature in the St. Paul Globe (“Tropic and Arctic Chase”) quotes what it claims to be an example of her poetry:

Beneath a filmy lace of star-flowers wild
That gypsy earth her brown breast bears;
Her darkening, deep, piney pools entreat my love —
How can I, ardent one, escape her snares?
Her smile, a brilliant gleam of sun and sky, bewilders;
Her fragrant breath from heart o’ woods my being fires.
O, wondrous mistress, on thy brown breast I swooning fall,
Entranced, steeped in the fount of thy desires!

Charlotte left school in 1891 to wed Walter R. Garsed (b. 1867), son of cotton yarn manufacturer Joshua Garsed, a Frankford neighbor. This first marriage was short-lived, however: the two separated in 1893 and in 1895 Garsed sued for divorce on grounds of desertion, in which proceedings Charlotte was represented by her uncle Herbert. Garsed further sued Herbert for alienation of affections, but settled out of court for $5,000. Resuming her maiden name, Charlotte soon removed to Denver for her health, but not before (according to gossip from the Philadelphia Custom House’s mail room) Herbert had begun courting her with “handsomely bound autograph albums [filled] with endearing messages and accounts of his travels” to Bermuda and elsewhere (“Divorced, Says Pigott” 1). After several years of clandestine romance, Herbert finally stole away to Denver and espoused Charlotte on February 4, 1901, before a Baptist minister in a parlor “handsomely decorated with flowers” at the Windsor Hotel (“Left His Wife”). The couple then retired to the ranch of one of the witnesses, English emigré Henry L. Gilpin-Brown, for their honeymoon (ibid.).

The first reaction of Herbert’s Philadelphia connections was incredulity. “Personally, I do not believe that this marriage story is correct,” opined his partner Eichholz (“H.H. Pigott Weds” 14). Mabel declared the story a malicious libel, possibly the work of an unscrupulous business rival:

[Mr. Pigott] could not marry because he is my husband, because he thinks too much of me and our children to want to marry any one else, because he has never obtained a divorce from me and does not want one, our relations always being of the happiest nature. Our friends know this and have called and assured me there could be nothing in the report. It is only a scheme to injure my husband and to harm his family. (ibid.)

Charlotte’s father, however, was inclined to grant the news of her marriage more credence. Though he had not seen her for two years, he “had heard that she was to be married to Mr. Pigott, and later received from her the formal announcement of her marriage to him” and had “not the slightest doubt that Mr. Pigott would not marry again unless he had been legally separated from his wife” (ibid.).  Carl de Moll, when not refusing comment on the ground that “it was very much against his own wishes, as well as the wishes of Mr. Pigott and the young woman he had married that anything further than the bare announcement of the marriage be published,” went so far as to state that Mabel was aware that Herbert had sought a divorce, but “I don’t think she knew that Mr. Pigott was paying the young woman [i.e. Charlotte] any attentions at all” (“H.H. Pigott Weds” 1).

Divorcé or Bigamist?

Herbert did in fact claim to have divorced Mabel in Boston with a decree finalized on February 1; the ground was infidelity, and an American diplomat whom the Piggots had met during a trip to Switzerland was named as correspondent. Mabel, confronted with this intelligence by a reporter, was aghast:

Of all the cruel features that have crept out, though, none were so bad as those in the telegram you have in your hand, wherein my husband charges me with not being true to him, and says that he got the alleged divorce because of my misconduct with a member of the consular service. Never before did I know that Mr. Pigott questioned my loyalty to him, and never before did he mention this gentleman to me except in the most respectful manner. The charge is the most maliciously cruel of all the events that have happened since my husband’s departure. (“Divorced, Says Pigott” 14)

The Inquirer‘s staff swiftly discovered, however, that no court in Boston had issued the Pigotts a divorce. Challenged by telephone, Herbert insisted that he had the decree in hand, but when asked to name the clerk who had signed it, he became evasive, declared that his private affairs were not for public consumption, and hung up when pressed further (“Picott [sic] Honeymoon”).

I cannot help but wonder what H. Herbert Pigott, a successful businessman and experienced lawyer, was thinking when he concocted this scheme. Bigamy and serial marriage were not uncommon in late nineteenth-century America, of course. Divorce was an expensive and, in some states, a near-impossible proposition, as Beverly Schwartzberg notes (574). It was often easier for one partner (usually but not inevitably the husband) simply to walk away from an unhappy union. With public record-keeping localized and identity heavily dependent on self-declaration, a new life, with perhaps a new name and a new spouse, might be no more than a train ride away. “The United States was not only a nation of immigrants, but a nation of migrants,” writes Schwartzberg.

Studies of nineteenth-century economic mobility have amply demonstrated the omnipresenece of geographical mobility … Desertion and extralegal remarriage were not new behaviors; their presence has been noted in colonial America, early modern Europe, and countless other societies. But in the late nineteenth century new social spaces and economic niches for unmarried men and women, whether in cities or growing communities, and accessible means of transportation made such beahviors even more possible and less traceable. (584)

But Herbert and Charlotte made no attempt to disappear, separately or together. Instead, they simply behaved as if everything about their union were legal and aboveboard. Their marriage license “stated that both are residents of Denver, and that the bridegroom had previously been married, but had been divorced Feb. 1, 1901, at Boston, Mass. The bride was described as having also been married before, but had been divorced from her husband at Philadelphia on the ground of desertion” (“Left His Wife”). They notified Charlotte’s father of their intentions and published an announcement in the Philadelphia papers. The forged divorce decree, indicting Mabel for adultery, implies that Herbert wished to preserve his own reputation; the whole plot appears designed to allow him to open a new chapter in his old life rather than rewrite his history completely. I can only speculate that he must have judged Mabel willing to accept a private settlement rather than pursue a public scandal, as he himself had done when sued by Walter Garsed. To contest the existence of their “divorce” would be to drag her name as well as his own through the mud. But if he did think so, Herbert had mistaken his woman. “I am forced to acknowledge that the H.H. Pigott who married Mrs. Garsed in Denver, Colorado, must be my husband,” Mabel told the Inquirer “without weeping or outward nervousness … her eyes flashing.” She continued ominously:

As I understand the law, a man has neither the right to get a divorce without giving his wife due notice of his intentions nor the power to marry a second time without having obtained a divorce. I think my husband will be brought back to Philadelphia very shortly to explain matters … As yet I have taken no steps in this matter, but I do not propose to sit idly down and be made to suffer. (“Divorced, Says Pigott” 14)

Evasions and Pursuits

The brouhaha seems to have caught Herbert flat-footed. When contacted by a reporter and told that his “divorce” and remarriage were being discussed at length in the Philadelphia papers, he fainted. But Charlotte, like Mabel, was made of sterner stuff. She seized the telephone and offered a vigorous defense of herself and her new husband, correcting a mistaken report of her age at her first nuptials (“I was 19 or 20 years old … not a silly girl of 16”), insisting that she and Herbert were free to marry, and doubling down on the accusation of Mabel’s infidelity (though the Inquirer prudently redacted the name of the first Mrs. Pigott’s supposed lover):

My divorce was perfectly open and legal and has not been questioned. This woman, however, seems to be annoyed about my husband’s divorce. Well, that was legal and open, too. He was divorced in Boston, February 1, and one of the grounds charged against the defendant was infidelity. ****** was named as the guilty party. We came here to be free from annoyance and intended to stay a week longer. We will leave for Mexico as soon as it suits our convenience and stay there at least a year. We will get as far from civilization as possible and let this affair blow over. (“Divorced, Says Pigott” 14)

Herbert, recovering, had little to add to Charlotte’s statement, taking the position that his divorce was perfectly in order and the world had no business inquiring into his personal life: “I deny as strongly as I can all attacks upon my wife’s character, and any other statements that affect my own honor. But I will not be drawn into any newspaper controversy over a purely private matter, with which the public can have no interest” (ibid.). A few days later he instructed both his servants and the local telephone operator to tell callers that the Pigotts were not at home and installed “a bristling bulldog” at his front door to see off reporters (“Picott [sic] Honeymoon”).

But the public continued to be interested. The story was reported from Buffalo to Cincinnati as well as in the New York tabloids. Mabel, meanwhile, ceased granting interviews herself; instead, she had her attorneys prepare warrants for the arrest of her husband and his second wife. Herbert and Charlotte were finally detained in late July, after they had left the Denver area for Manhattan, Colorado. “I have been keeping trace of his movements for a long time, and the arrest does not surprise me in the least,” Mabel told the Inquirer. “My charges against my husband consist of bigamy, perjury and marital infidelity. His companion is charged with having alienated his affections from myself. At present only criminal charges will be preferred against the couple. What further action I shall take in the case, I am not now prepared to state” (“Mrs. H.H. Pigott Will Prosecute”). She denied that her interests were financial or that she had been thrown on the charity of her neighbors by her husband’s defection: “My affairs are in excellent shape, and when I go to Denver I will be fully prepared to prove every charge I have preferred against Mr. Pigott” (ibid.) Her rationale for the prosecutions was simple justice: “I have entertained no motives of revenge in causing the arrest of the man who deserted me. I am simply doing what anybody else would do under the circumstances” (ibid.). (The New York Herald quotes stronger language: “I want to see them both punished … [a]nd to that end I will do everything I can. Justice in this case must be done. I have sufficient evidence to convict Mr. Pigott on charges of bigamy, perjury and infidelity. The woman who is with him will also be punished according to her deserts” [“H.H. Pigott Held”].)

Herbert and Charlotte claimed persecution and continued to assert the legitimacy of their marriage, but Herbert was predictably convicted of bigamy in the presence of Mabel and one of their daughters and sentenced to five months in jail. According to later reports he was arrested again the following March on the same charge and prosecuted in Denver; this time he was fined $1,000 in lieu of two years’ imprisonment. In May 1902 Mabel sued Charlotte for alienation of affections and the Denver district court entered a judgment of $50,000 against the second Mrs. Pigott. (The judgment was reversed in 1906 on a technicality [Colorado Reports 78 (1906): 71].) Despite ample grounds, however, Mabel never herself sought a divorce from Herbert, a fact which was read variously as evidence of a scruple — “As she was a Roman Catholic she said she would not seek for divorce, but would do all in her power to have him and her niece punished,” reported The New York Herald in 1904, ignoring Mabel’s longstanding membership in the Episcopal Church (“Trailed Man and Woman Into Wilds”) — or the “fury … of a woman scorned,” as The New York World tiredly expressed it (“Elopers Run Down By Wife”). She pursued her husband throughout the west for another two years, this time in order to prosecute him for perjury.

Into the Wilderness

For their part, Herbert and Charlotte remained true to one another, trusting to friends to warn them when Mabel’s agents began to close in. They eluded service of the warrant for perjury until early in 1904, when they were tracked down in Princeton, British Columbia by Robert Schultz of Denver, whose romantic (if slightly incoherent) account of the chase was published in the St. Paul Globe on 14 February of that year.

PigottStPaulGlobe“Tropic and Arctic Chase”
St. Paul Globe 11 February 1904; image courtesy Chronicling America)

According to him, the Pigotts left Denver for Mexico, traveling incognito “in the poorest manner possible, to avoid discovery. At one time Pigott believed the detectives were close upon them. Then Miss Byram put on men’s clothing and they rode many weary miles on a flat open car. Upon coming to a city they would take little 8 by 10 fire-trap rooms in cheap boarding houses and hotels, often climbing down fire-escapes to avoid anyone who might be watching at the door” (“Tropic and Arctic Chase”). At some point they returned from Mexico to the United States, however, and Schultz picked up their trail again in Spokane, Washington. He tracked them through the lumber camps of British Columbia by dog sled, gradually gaining on his quarry, though they eluded him for some days in the wild winter landscape:

[W]e crossed a barren plain, and in the afternoon arrived at the foot of a considerable hill, which we ascended, and below saw the winding of a tributary to the Columbia river, while a little to the left was a small camp among the trees along the stream.

I was disappointed at this camp to find that the couple had in some way eluded us, and the following day we retraced our steps.

We were not long, however, in picking up the thread. Here and there we could see where Pigott’s sled, bearing a double load, had broken through the crust.

Once a half-breed pointed excitedly towards a dark speck on a distant swell, and then urged the panting dogs to greater speed. But I was only disappointed again. We did not overtake them until we came to a place called Princeton, far up in the wilds.

Even there they knew they were not safe and were about to go, God knows how much further.

When I found their cabin, I did not stand on ceremony, but walked in with a gun in my hand. I really did not think Pigott dangerous, but after a chase like that, there was no telling what any man might do.

On the edge of a bed discussing their plans for further flight sat the couple. Half of their goods were packed, the rest scattered around.

Pigott never moved a muscle, but said to me rather sadly: “Well, you have caught me at last, but I led you a good, long chase.”

“How did you know I wanted you?” I asked.

“Oh, I heard you had left Denver headed this way,” says he, cool as a cucumber.

The woman looked at me as if she would strike me dead, and at the same time she looked as if she worshiped him, as I believe she does. (ibid.)

Schultz, unimpressed by Pigott, was full of praise for Charlotte’s endurance and devotion:

She was game, let me tell you; had sacrificed all her ready money and pawned all her jewels and some of her clothes … On the way through British Columbia her fingers and toes and ears were nipped by the frost and must have pained a lot, but she didn’t say a word about them … When funds became low and it was not possible to convert bonds into money, Miss Byram parted with all her remaining jewels and finery, retaining nothing save the very clothes upon her back. (ibid.)

The couple was not without means at this time, however; all reports noted that Herbert was found in possession of $500,000 in securities. That tidbit seems to have assured even wider circulation (from Washington, D.C., to Pullman, Washington) of Herbert’s detention by Schultz than accounts of the original scandal, with some outlets, such as The Washington Times (“Lawyer Captured”) and The New York Times (“Fugitive Lawyer Captured”) asserting that Herbert was being sought for embezzlement. Once it was established that this was not the case, interest in the matter waned abruptly — and so thoroughly that I have been unable to find any record of the outcome of Mabel’s attempt to charge Herbert with perjury.

She had, at this point, been resident in Denver for about two years and was briefly a partner with Mrs. Ella Halsted in Halsted & Co., a hosiery concern, according to the Ballenger & Richards Denver City Directory. By 1906 three of her daughters, Ida, Elaine and Muriel, are also listed as Denver residents, the latter two working at George M. Harris’s curio shop. Unfortunately Ida contracted typhoid that summer, leading to the final appearance of the Pigott family saga (as far as I can tell) in the American press. On August 13 The Washington Times reported that Herbert was on his way to Denver in response to news of Ida’s death, and it was hoped that husband and wife might end their estrangement beside her coffin, since Ida “had labored for years to effect a reconcilation between her parents” (“Death Of a Daughter”).

The Aftermath

Perhaps Ida’s labors did bear fruit in death. In September 1906 Mabel failed to contest Charlotte’s appeal to have the judgment against her for alienation of affections reversed, and in 1908 she immigrated to Canada, where Herbert had already resided for several years. In 1916 a census of Manitoba records them living as husband and wife in Winnipeg, right next door to daughter Muriel, married since 1913 to barrister Russell Aubrey Carman (1878-1962), two blocks away from daughter Elaine, married since 1910 to publisher James Selby Henderson (b. 1878), and four blocks from daughter Mabel, married since 1912 to insurance executive Gwilym Ioan Aproberts (1886-1955). Herbert returned to business with the same success that attended his endeavors in Philadelphia: by the time he was enumerated in the 1921 Canadian census he was earning a very comfortable $8,000 a year as a credit manager. He also became the first president of the Canadian Credit Men’s Association, lectured on credit and collections at the University of Manitoba, and published several pamphlets on business topics. He continued to play golf and tennis, serving as president of the Norwood Golf Club and the Winnipeg Lawn Tennis Club. According to his obituary in The Winnipeg Evening Tribune (“First President of Credit Men Dies in Florida”), he left Canada in 1923 to try his hand at fruit farming in California, then moved to Florida to take up real estate development (possibly unwisely, since the Florida land boom was collapsing at that point), before passing away in St. Petersburg on August 10, 1927. Mabel survived him by almost six years, dying in Belleville, Ontario, on June 29, 1933.  Over two decades and more than a thousand miles from the epicenter of Herbert’s midlife crisis, the Piggots had finally outdistanced the scandal that wrecked their Pennsylvania home.

And Charlotte? Apart her successful appeal of Mabel’s suit against her, I have found almost no trace of her career after that wild dog-sled chase. The Water Ways Photograph Database of the Larimer County Digitization Initiative, however, contains several photographs of a woman identified as “Charlotte Garsed” in Fort Collins, Colorado, dated circa 1910.  They depict her as cheerful and confident, well-dressed and stylishly coiffed. In one, she peruses sheet music at a piano; in another, she plays a mandolin.

In both, she wears a ring on the third finger of her left hand.


¹Herbert’s only recorded siblings are his brothers, William Kidd Pigott (ca. 1835-1874), Charles J. Pigott (ca. 1841-1864), and Hugh T. Pigott (ca. 1849-1895). His wife Mabel has five recorded siblings (two of whom died in infancy): Emma Carpenter Pratt (later Byram; 1849-1877), George Freeman Pratt (1851-1882), Charlotte F. Pratt (1853-1857), Ida S. Pratt (b. 1856) and J. Howell Pratt (1858-1859).  Ida is perhaps the best candidate for a connection to Stella Gilman (always assuming that “uncle” is a term of relationship rather than affection), but I can discover nothing of her after 1870, when the U.S. census of that year records her attending school with Mabel in West Chester, Pennsylvania, under the tutelage of Miss Palmerah Evans.

UPDATE: My thanks to Andrea Gottschalk of the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts, who discovered the connection between “the author” and her Uncle Herbert! Stella Gilman was born Stella Lucille Pigott in 1868 in Philadelphia. Her father was H. Herbert Pigott’s elder brother William, a clerk in the Frankford Arsenal, and her mother was Isabella Catherine Miller (1843-1890), a Maryland native. (The Pigotts also had a son, William [1869-1944]). After her husband’s death in 1874, Isabella married Frazier Gilman, himself a widower with two children, Joanna May (b. 1875) and John Frazier Gilman (1877-1927). Frazier and Isabella removed to his home in the Dakota Territory in 1878; there they had two more children, Preston Nathaniel (ca. 1881-1943) and Isabella Gilman (later Gann; 1883-1976).

Born in Waterville, Maine, in 1847, Frazier Gilman was the son of the extremely wealthy Maine and New York merchant and leather mogul Nathaniel Gilman (1775-1859) and his second wife Joanna (née Boyd; b. 1804). Nathaniel’s numerous offspring filed dueling probate claims with regard to his estate and proceeded to sue and countersue each other for decades. When Frazier’s half-brother, George Francis Gilman (1826-1901), cofounder of The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company (later known as the grocery chain A&P), died without leaving a will, his siblings and half-siblings promptly began another round of suits over his estate. Frazier was prominent in all of these proceedings, both on his own account and on behalf of his sister Anna King Gilman, who was declared incompetent in 1901 and committed to an asylum. (For more on the litigious Gilmans, I recommend Marc Levinson’s The Great A&P and the Struggle for Small Business in America [New York: Hill and Wang, 2011].) Though he poor-mouthed his circumstances to the papers, Frazier was one of the founding fathers of Eden, South Dakota, in 1868; later he ranched near Hudson, South Dakota, and was notable for breeding fast horses. He dealt in livestock in Georgia and owned a farm in Towns County, near the state’s northern border, as well as speculating in mines. After Isabella’s death, he seems to have turned the Hudson ranch over to his son John and moved the rest of his family back East, dividing his time between his farm in Georgia (where, according to Stella, he conducted “lumbering and mining experiments”) and “the Brooklyn residence built by his father” (Constance Le Neve Gilman Ames, The Story of the Gilmans and a Gilman Genealogy of the Descendants of Edward Gilman of Hingham, England, 1550-1950 [Yakima, Wash., 1950], 135). The final move of his peripatetic career was to Norwalk, Connecticut, around 1918, and it was there that he died in 1931.

Although initially Stella retained the surname Pigott, by the time she attended Bennett Seminary in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in the mid-1880s she was identifying herself as Stella Gilman. She graduated from Bennett in 1888, the valedictorian of her class, and published her first book, That Dakota Girl, in 1892. A collection of short stories, A Gumbo Lily, and Other Tales, followed in 1901. She was fond of her stepfather Frazier, characterizing him as “a colorful, handsome figure, extensively travelled and well read” to a Gilman family genealogist (Ames 135-136). She kept house for him after the death of her mother, and lived in Norwalk with her widowed half-sister Isabella until her own death in 1949.

Works Cited

“Death Of a Daughter May Reconcile Couple.” Washington Times 13 August 1906: 6.

“Divorced, Says Pigott; Bigamist, Says His Wife.” Philadelphia Inquirer 16 February 1901: 1, 14.

“Elopers Run Down By Wife.” New York World 15 January 1904: 4.

“First President of Credit Men Dies in Florida.” Winnipeg Evening Tribune 12 August 1927: 6.

“Fugitive Lawyer Captured.” New York Times 15 January 1904: 1.

“H.H. Pigott Held With Second Wife.” New York Herald 27 July 1901: 3.

“H.H. Pigott Weds, So Friend Says.” Philadelphia Inquirer 15 February 1901: 1, 14.

“Lawyer Captured After Long Chase.” Washington Times 15 January 1904: 9.

“Left His Wife and Married His Niece.” Buffalo Evening News 16 February 1901: 1.

“Mrs. H.H. Pigott Will Prosecute.” Philadelphia Inquirer 27 July 1901: 2.

“No Record of Pigott Divorce.” Philadelphia Inquirer 17 February 1901: 1st sec., 7.

“Picott [sic] Honeymoon On a Lone Ranch.” Philadelphia Inquirer 18 February 1901: 9.

Schwartzberg, Beverly. “‘Lots of Them Did That’: Desertion, Bigamy, and Marital Fluidity in Late-Nineteenth-Century America.” Journal of Social History 37.3 (Spring 2004): 573-600.

“Trailed Man and Woman Into Wilds.” New York Herald 15 January 1904: 4.

“Tropic and Arctic Chase After Bigamist Elopers Who Were At Last Caught By Snow Sleds.” St. Paul Globe 11 February 1904: 3rd sec., 34.

Liz Broadwell has a doctorate in English literature from the University of Pennsylvania and catalogs rare books in the Special Collections Processing Center.

2 thoughts on ““I Do Not Propose To Sit Idly Down And Be Made To Suffer”: The Curious Case of the Two Mrs. Pigotts

  1. Dear Liz Broadwell: I am a descendant (great-granddaughter) of H. H. Pigott, and I am so glad that you put together this wonderful research. I’m afraid that, instead of any shame, I find it somewhat exhilarating to find a scoundrel in my family tree. My father, who died in 2002, did speak of his grandfather having been a “womanizer,” in a tone of voice that made clear nothing more detailed would be discussed.
    Thank you,
    Alison apRoberts (my father Robert Pigott apRoberts was the son of Mabel Lucy Pigott, daughter of H.H. Pigott)

    • As the descendant of a man accused of treason by Benedict Arnold, I completely understand your exhilaration. 🙂

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