202. The Burch Divorce Trial

Drawing of Mrs. Mary Burch
Mrs. Mary Burch
Naperville made national headlines during a scandalous divorce case in the spring of 1860. Local lawyers, including Robert Murray, participated in the month-long divorce trial of socialite Mary Burch, accused of adultery by her husband Isaac Burch, a prominent Chicago businessman. Mrs. Burch asked for the trial to be held in Naperville to discourage curious spectators. In the end, the jury found in favor of Mrs. Burch, and the townsfolk celebrated her victory with parties in the Pre-Emption House and other local hotels. The sensational divorce case attracted newspaper reporters from all over the country, who traveled eight miles from the nearest railroad station to the DuPage County courthouse in Naperville. A reporter from the Chicago Tribune described the scene: “The people of DuPage apparently do not give their courts very lively support, being most of them well-to-do farmers, who vote for Lincoln and have too much to do to take a hand in court dockets, other than as Jurors. The sessions of the court usually occupy less than a week. But ’Court day’ in the county means something, and to-day is ‘that same’ here, as witness the busy streets and the attendance of many of the substantial men of old DuPage, who having reaped a large harvest of cereals… now feel themselves entitled to a day off, a dinner at the tavern, and the usual freedoms of the day, for to-day the Court opens.”