Love Gone Wrong… Laurens County, SC

1884- 1885

Beginning in the fall of 1884 and extending into 1885, a case wound its way through the Court of Common Pleas in Laurens Court House:

Martha E Burdett Pltff  )
against                           ) Complaint for Breach of Marriage Promise
William H. Pool Deft     )

An article published in the Atlanta Constitution1 on August 23, 1884 provides some details on the origin of the lawsuit. Miss Burdett, “a comely young woman”, had given birth to a child and claimed that the father was William H. Pool who, she insisted, had “made a most positive promise of marriage” to her. Mr. Pool denied both being the father and having made any such promise,  and the lawsuit was filed.

The author of the Atlanta Constitution article expected the trial to “abound in lively points” with “many racy disclosures”. Unfortunately, Constitution readers were to be disappointed in that anticipation. In 1884 and once again in 1885, the case was “Continued on Def’ts motion”. Finally at the third Court session,

This case having been commenced on the 19th day of August 1884 and the Plaintiff having failed to bring the issues involved to trial, on motion of W. H. Martin defendant’s atty, it is ordered that the complaint be dismissed without costs, the plaintiff’s attorney consenting J. J. Norton, presiding judge.2

In the Constitution article, William H. Pool is described as being “a very popular young man, who has hitherto borne a good reputation”, and being “rich” would be able to afford the $10,000 damages Miss Burdett was seeking. If, however, the dockets of the Laurens Court of General Sessions for 1884 and 1885 are examined, one could conclude that William was most “popular” with creditors, a swarm of whom were bringing complaints against him. And the description as “rich” seems less apt, as the sheriff’s deputies consistently reported that they were unable to find any assets of Mr. Pool with which to satisfy the judgments.3

William Harvey Poole (1858- 1938) is my granduncle. Less than two years after this incident, he caused quite a stir in nearby Union, SC when he eloped with 14 year old Frances Graham, an incident described in “…in a buggy behind a fast horse…” Love and Marriage in Union County, SC .

I have not been able to positively identify Martha Eliza Burdett in any other Laurens County records. Depending upon what really happened between Mr. Pool and Ms. Burdett all those years ago, any descendants of Ms. Burdett taking one of today’s popular genealogy DNA tests may be in for a surprise.


1.  The Atlanta Constitution and ProQuest Historical newspapers assert copyright to this article, so it cannot be reproduced here. A legal copy was obtained on 4/29/2013 from, and quotations from that copy are used herein under the fair use doctrine of the U.S. copyright statute.

2.  The progress of the case is documented in Clerk of Court (Common Pleas) Common Pleas Journal 1881-1885 1885-1888 1889-1894, South Carolina Department of Archives and History film C46; 1884 p. 325, 1885 pgs. 131 and 343.

3.  The creditor’s suits are documented in Clerk of Court (Common Pleas) Common Pleas Journal 1881-1885 1885-1888 1889-1894, South Carolina Department of Archives and History film C46. The Rolls of some cases have survived and are contained in three unordered boxes of papers at the South Carolina Department of Archives and History, L30077 Court of Common Pleas (Laurens) Papers ca. 1800- 1900.