Legal Documents from the Burch Divorce Case
An Illinois divorce case made national headlines in early 1860. Isaac Howe Burch, a prominent Chicago banker and real estate investor, sued his wife Mary Weld Turner Burch on the grounds of adultery. Mrs. Burch asked for the trial to be held in Naperville to prevent Cook County judges from being swayed by her influential husband. Mary Burch’s uncle, the industrialist and New York congressman Erastus Corning, supported his niece.
During the month-long trial, Isaac Burch accused his popular society hostess wife of committing infidelity with former Michigan congressman David Stuart and others. Mary Burch claimed her husband was “enamored with a fascinatress” staying as a guest in their family home, and that he indulged in extreme cruelties, including extorting a false confession from her. In the end, the jury found in favor of Mary Burch. She successfully sued Isaac Burch for divorce in 1863.