Augusta Meinert stood firmly in the center of the makeshift courtroom, her eyes on the judge. At thirty-seven, she was still attractive, though the stubborn tilt to her chin said she didn’t often take “no” for an answer.
Judge Watts studied her. “You understand what divorce means?” He spoke slowly, as if unsure her English could withstand the strain of the concept.
Augusta’s chin went up. “I understand no longer the bastard takes the money I earn.” A ripple of suppressed laughter ran through the onlookers behind her. She turned and glared, and the men fell silent.
“You will be a marked woman,” Judge Watts warned. “This isn’t Germany.”
She frowned. “In Germany, he takes my money, and I can do nothing.” She smiled suddenly, her eyes twinkling. “It is why I like America.”
The Judge nodded and gaveled the rough wooden planks of the table before him. “The first divorce in Colfax County, New Mexico Territory, is hereby declared final,” he announced.
from Valley of the Eagles
NOTE: This tale, like most of the other stories in Valley of the Eagles, is based on an actual event. In this case, Augusta Meinert’s petition for divorce was the first heard in newly formed Colfax County in the Spring 1869 court session in Elizabethtown, New Mexico. For more details, see the footnote in the book.