First some Genealogy:
Betridge Scantland was born on August 4, 1813 in Jackson County, Tennessee.
Betridge was the daughter of William Scantland (b.1778, d. 1850) and Rachel Rogers (b. apt. 1778, d. 1835.)
Rachel’s father was Clayton Rogers (b. 1750 d. 1837) who received the land in Jackson County, Tennessee, for his service in the Revolutionary War.
Rachel Rogers, Betridge’s mother, was Clayton’s oldest daughter. By 1830, Clayton had no surviving sons to inherit this home tract of land, therefore it ended up in Rachel’s and her husband’s possession.
Rachel Rogers married William Scantland. They had three sons and a daughter:
Clayton Scanland (b. 1811, d. 1841)
Betridge (b. 1813 d. 1889)
John (b. 1815, d. 1879)
Benjamin (b. 1817, d. 1896.)
The two younger sons, John and Benjamin, had themselves well established in Texas before the Civil War. Betridge, and her older brother, Clayton (Scantland,) had split the family home tract into two pieces long before then.
Now, here's the story:
Betridge Scantland’s inheritance was known as ‘dower land,’ indicating that her claim on the property would fall into her husband’s control, which it did, when she married Nelson Sadler (b. 1809, d.1864) in September of 1830.
In those days nearly every Tennessean was a farmer, therefore property was a most valuable commodity, as it was in much of the country. Land is the engine that drove “Westward Expansion.” Traditionally, a man’s farm went to his first born son. Later sons had to fend for themselves, and rarely did a woman own land. Nelson wasn’t a first born son, so he needed farmland, and Betridge held a dower’s claim to a fine farm along the Cumberland River.
By 1840 it appears Nelson was farming this tract of land. Betridge and Nelson were already raising a family, including their first child, a son, William Scantland Sadler, my great-great-great grandfather. They continued to have a healthy assortment of sons and daughters, and by all accounts they were a happy family. In 1851, Betridge gave birth to her last child, a son named Garrett, who lived only a year, and it appears Garrett's death devastated the family.
Nelson was drinking hard and having affairs by 1854. He became an abusive drunk, had no interest in the farm, and spent a lot of time at the courthouse in Gainesboro ‘lawyering' (in lawsuits,) meaning bringing claims against various family members, neighbors and friends for perceived slights and wrongs. Betridge and her son, William, and the older children in the family, worked hard to keep the farm afloat.
Sometime before 1857 Nelson infected Betridge with gonorrhea, and, at her wit’s end, she filed for divorce, asking the court for half of her dower farm.
Like Betridge, Nelson had come from a fine, well-respected Jackson County family. His father, Henry Sadler (b. 1775, d. 1859), was one of the founders of the area. Nelson had connections. And when Betridge’s divorce was granted in 1857, she received half the property as requested, but the poorest half of the land. She could secure no redress in the Jackson County courts, because, like I said, Nelson had connections, and more important, he was a man.
But that didn’t stop Betridge. After being infected and humiliated by Nelson, opening herself up and the family to public shame in an effort to secure a divorce, and being wronged by the local courts, she petitioned the Tennessee Supreme Court, in Nashville, to adjudicate the matter.
The Tennessee Supreme Court listened to Betridge’s case, and she won. Finally, she was awarded the finer, farmable piece of the property, and even some alimony.
Sixty-two years would need to pass before Betridge’s daughters and granddaughters would be given the right to vote. That number constitutes my entire lifetime.
There are generations of women who fought for their rights like Betridge. Standing against injustice, fighting not only for themselves but for their children and even future generations. Us. Let’s not ever forget their sacrifices.
Lee Souleles genealogy research, including family interviews.
Jackson County, Tennessee Chancery Court Records.
State of Tennessee Archives.