Let's just say it's History Day at Dastardly Dads. Lots of Archive stories today.
Sometimes you read a historical crime story, and it sounds like it could have taken place last week. Other times, the context is so foreign, it might as well have taken place on another planet.
In the mid-nineteenth century, no mothers had legal custodial rights to their own children, even if they were "free" and not slaves. And yet if this article is any indication, popular opinion--at least at times--could swing totally in the opposite direction. There seemed to be NO public sympathy with fathers who took children from their mothers. In this case, a father--identified only as DR. FARRAR--"abducted" his child from the mother (in reality, he had every legal right to take the child and do pretty much whatever he liked, short of killing him or her.) So I have no idea how this mother managed to have this father charged with kidnapping. We'll have to investigate this further.
Apart from the legal issues, I can't even fathom an event like this happening today: 3,000 people threatening to lynch this father after he was arrested? Unbelievable in today's world of total apathy.
From the New York Times, October 18, 1859
ARREST OF DR. FARRAR, AND RECOVERY OF THE CHILD.
A letter from Dover, N.H. to the Boston Traveller gives the particulars of the arrest of Dr. FARRAR, whose abduction of his child from the custody of its mother was mentioned in a telegram some days since. Dr. FARRAR was captured at North Yarmouth, Mass., with the child in his custody; Both were immediately taken back to Dover, where (says the Traveller's correspondent) some three thousand people had gathered around the depot, greeting the Doctor with cries of "Lynch him! Lynch him!" "Down with him!" "Kill him!" Shouts, cheers, and other demonstrations of excitement greeted the presence, and had not the child been with him, which he was careful to keep as protection, he would have been mobbed.
The mother, and her mother and other friends were waiting in a coach, and from the father at the command of the officer she received the child, amid the cheers of the crowd.
But lest you think this sort of thing was typical, take notice of the article directly below this one--which also appears directly below the article above in the original newspaper. Dad CHARLES TILESTON apparently thought it would it would be a lovely charitable act if he gave away his daughter (at only 15 months) to his wealthy widowed sister, who had no children of her own. Of course, the mother had no legal right to object. So when the mother "forcibly abducted" the child on her way to school, the aunt was able to go before the Supreme Court and request a writ of habeus corpus.
A MOTHER ABDUCTING HER CHILD FROM ITS GUARDIAN.
Another case is reported in the Boston papers, having occurred in that city on Thursday last. Mrs. FORD, of Fitchburgh, Mass., appeared before the Supreme Court, praying for a writ of habeas corpus to recover her niece, ELIZABETH B. TILESTON, who she adopted at fifteen months, but whom the child's mother has suddenly reclaimed by a forcible abduction. The Traveller of Saturday says: "We understand that Mrs. FORD, is is a wealthy widow lady, and has never had children of her own, is very much attached to the child, it having been given to her by its father, CHARLES TILESTON. She was in Boston on Thursday, and the little girl was on her way to or from school, when the mother and a companion, came up in a covered carriage, and seizing the child, drove rapidly away. The child has been seen in Boston and West Roxbury since.