Rhonda's View Rendezvous: Young woman jailed for entanglements

9:53 AM, Sep. 9, 2013  |  Comments
Rhonda Whetstone
Rhonda Whetstone
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Author's note: First of two parts.

Sometimes it is hard to know if I should write a story from the beginning, the end or the middle. This one was perhaps better written from the middle, but if you bear with me, we shall muddle through from the start. Sort of.

It was 1896, and Violet M. DeCamp was only 14 when she ran off to marry Louis LeVin, 15, in Chicago. A year later, LeVin deserted her, and she moved to Rhinelander, and then Grand Rapids just at the turn of the century.

Shortly after her arrival here, she married local man, George Payne, son of Thomas and Elizabeth Payne of Grand Rapids, after LeVin's sister told her the first marriage had been annulled, due to her age. It could have been annulled on other grounds too, such as desertion and the fact that a year after leaving Violet, then 16-year-old LeVin was sentenced to Waupun for 15 years for a crime against a little girl.

While seemingly happy with Payne, LeVin heard of the marriage while incarcerated and informed Violet by letter that she was not divorced from him. That did prove true, so Violet filed for divorce from her imprisoned first husband.

But, Violet, who was not getting along with her second husband, decided to leave Payne and her baby to go into hiding, pending her official divorce and the release of first husband LeVin from prison the following April.

This did not set well with Payne, who had been true-blue to Violet. He decided before he would see her return to LeVin, he would prosecute Violet for bigamy. A warrant was sworn out, and according to the Grand Rapids Tribune of Christmas Day, 1907, Sheriff Welch went to Janesville, where Violet had secured employment, and brought her back to Rapids two days before Christmas.

Taken before Justice Brown, she waived examination and was given a $200 bond and bound over for circuit court. Payne, although wanting her arrested for leaving him, could not stand the idea of his wife spending the holiday in jail, so he posted her bail. She was home in time to eat Christmas dinner with her husband and baby.

Violet spent the next four months with Payne. In late April 1908, her first husband, LeVin, was released from Waupun; he wasted no time heading to Grand Rapids. As soon as he arrived, Payne got wind of that fact and also heard that Violet was set to leave with LeVin, so he surrendered her to the sheriff until the date of trial.

Violet was brought for a hearing on a writ of habeas corpus, but through the efforts of her attorney, George Hambrecht, she was released. She then told people she was leaving immediately for California, where she would make her future home with her mother who resided there. The release was granted because Payne was not the proper party to institute the criminal action.

Violet got on a west-bound train with LeVin. Payne actually boarded the same train, thinking they might get off at Nekoosa, but they did not, so Payne got off at Babcock. He did not know the couple only went as far as Minnesota.

The Wisconsin Valley Leader stated: "It will be the saving of considerable expense to Wood County to have the case end as it did, and just as well for the morals of the community in which we are all supposed to be so vitally interested."

That may be, but Wisconsin had not heard the last of Violet DeCamp LeVin Payne or her husbands and their escapades.

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