Then a couple of years ago, when I was exploring my new subscription to GenealogyBank, it occurred to me to try to find James and Dora Reed. First I found newspaper articles about the death of Dora's husband, James Phillips, in Olympia (not Seattle) in 1911.
Then I tried the Olympia newspapers from 1911 to 1920, and found that James Reed and Dora Curtis Phillips married in 1913, and the story of their messy divorce was splashed all over the newspapers in 1915 and 1916. Some of the reporting (see the article below) was really flowery and hard to believe that some reporter wasn't making it up.
James said, "She constantly nagged me and wanted me to get out of the house and leave, saying amongst other things that I was an old gray headed devil, that I had better get out and go back to Michigan..."
For her part, in the Thurston County Superior Court, Dora testified that "Defendant has been guilty of extreme cruelty against the Plaintiff in that he has at all times been extremely jealous....so jealous that he has not wanted friends of the Plaintiff to visit at the home, becoming angry when the Plaintiff spoke to and recognized friends on the street, has accused her of infidelity and unfaithfulness..."
I think that James' letters were used against him in court, because the divorce was granted and Dora was given the house and land that they had purchased together, leaving James with nothing but his tools, dependent on his son for help. In his letter to his brother-in-law in Tacoma, James wrote, "but I am 75 and don't expect to have to stay anywhere much longer." He lived to be 98.
All of this serves to emphasize how many records there are, in state and county and local archives, that are not online and perhaps never will be. The Washington Digital Archives is one of the best state archives websites in the country, but the marriage of James L. Reed and Dora Phillips is not recorded. If I hadn't gone to the Archives in person to search for the divorce records, I would never have found the letters and court papers telling the sad story of James and Dora.