What happened to Kate? – An Update

A few weeks ago I posted about a family brick wall in “What happened to Kate?“. Within the post I described the mystery surrounding her disappearance; it really was a case of ‘now you see me, now you don’t!’

Kate Bown, the daughter of Henry Pagett Bown and Ann Blakesley, married a Scottish tailor, James Davidson, on 25th October 1885 at St Matthew’s Church in Leicester.

The couple had 4 children; Wallace Henry, Stuart James, Maggie and Dorothy in the following 8 years. After this, Kate had appeared to simply disappear.  Family stories suggested that she had been committed to an asylum and locating her would always have been a challenge.

The latest development suggests this may not have been the case.

While perusing the Black Sheep Index, I came across 2 entries in the index for James Davidson, a tailor in Wolverhampton. I decided to check the British Newspaper Archive and came up trumps, several times.  The most informative article was one from The Dundee Courier dated 23rd March 1894, headlined “Sensational Charge of Bigamy”.  From the article I’ve managed to piece together a rather sketchy timeline.

  • James was born in Scotland around 1858*.  His early life is still a bit of a spider’s web that is still being untangled.
  • On 9th July 1878, James married Charlotte Joss.  The marriage took place in the home of her father, 14 Uphill Lane, Peterhead.  There were four children born to the marriage of James and Charlotte.*
  • At some time in 1882, James left Charlotte (and I’m assuming the four children) and moved to Worcester and later Leicester.*
  • 25th October 1885, and James “went through the ceremony of marriage” to our Kate.  There were four children to this marriage also.*
  • Roughly around 1888, the family moved to Staffordshire due to a number of debts.
  • In July 1893, a deed of separation was drawn up between James and Kate and the children were put into the charge of James.*
  • By October 1893 Kate knew that there was another wife.*
  • Finally, in March 1894, our Kate gave evidence when James was charged with Bigamy. *

In my previous post, I raised several questions, some of which I can now answer.

  1. Is it possible that Kate’s ‘madness’ could have actually been Puerperal Insanity?  I highly doubt it.  In March 1894, she gave evidence at her “husband’s” court hearing.
  2. On the subject of why James waited until 1934 to marry his ‘third’ wife, was it simply that James didn’t want to be a bigamist and waited until Kate died?  I would imagine that it was that he didn’t want to get charged with bigamy again and loved her enough to wait that long. I would also imagine it would have been his first wife who died.
  3. What happened to Kate? Why are there no records of her?  – This leads onto a whole new set of questions… Did she change her identity? Did she ever remarry?  Did she simply just disappear off the face of the earth?

While I feel as if I am getting closer to solving the mystery surrounding Kate, I am still so very far away.

*The Dundee Courier, 23rd March 1894, as published on www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk


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