Around March 1, 1842, Ann Devon left for Holmes county, Mississippi. For several decades she’d owned a home in Limestone county, Alabama and people around there knew her as an aging widow and the mother of several children. After the death of her first husband she took in boarders to make the ends meet.

Around 1832, one of those boarders happened to be a young man named Robert Brister. Based off the 1845 testimony of Henry Stanley, who claims to have known both of them for almost a decade by the time she left for Mississippi and that Ann Devon “partly raised the complainant,” it seems that young Brister may have been around fourteen or fifteen years old when he moved into her house.

On February 11, 1836, “taking advantage of her opportunities & of his frankness confidence & inexperience,” Ann Devon married her young boarder as soon as he turned eighteen. We don’t know how long their relationship lingered prior to the wedding but it would not be shocking to learn that the rechristened Ann Brister demanded various husbandly tasks from her former boarder when he was young.

Either way, it quickly fell apart. Ann Brister’s experience of running a boarding house, raising several children, and enjoying a previous level of subordinance from her new husband clashed with his youthful exuberance and expectations of married life. Several witnesses reported her using language “unbecoming of a wife towards her husband,” and Robert Brister himself complained that she exercised “tyrranous authority in every act of his life.”

She couldn’t convince the young Brister to leave and could no longer legally force him from their shared home; so she left for Mississippi. Apparently Robert attempted to communicate with her a few times through Henry Stanley. However, when presented with letters from him she apparently flew into a rage and claimed that she’d never live with him again, especially if it meant his death.

The court quickly issued a divorce.


Robert E. Brister v. Ann Brister, Book N, 370-375 (1845)

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