Author Helen Churchill Hungerford Candee, the daughter of Henry and Mary Churchill Hungerford, was born October 5, 1858, in Brooklyn, New York. Receiving her education in Connecticut public and private schools, she married Edward Candee, a prominent New York City businessman, on November 17, 1880. They had two children: Edith and Harry. A life filled with entertaining and travel masked a troubled marriage to an alcoholic, abusive husband. After an unsuccessful attempt for a divorce in New York in July 1895, Helen and her two children traveled to Guthrie, Oklahoma Territory, where divorce seekers could obtain a decree after establishing a ninety-day residency.
F. B. Lillie, the first registered territorial pharmacist, and his wife opened their Guthrie home to Helen Candee. While staying in Guthrie, Candee gathered ideas for her novel, An Oklahoma Romance (1901). Probably the first novel written about Oklahoma Territory, it tells the story of a land claim dispute, after the Land Run of 1889, between a young doctor and a politically established man. Several Guthrie citizens recognized themselves as characters in her novel. Candee also published articles in national magazines about the social and economic conditions in Oklahoma Territory as well as an article about the Kiowa-Comanche-Apache Opening in 1901.
Hiring Guthrie lawyer Henry Asp, Candee obtained her divorce in Judge Frank Dale's court in 1896. She returned to New York City, where she continued to write. Before her death on August 23, 1949, in York, Maine, she made several return trips to Guthrie, traveled to Europe and Asia, and survived the Titanic disaster.
SEE ALSO: LITERATURE AND WRITERS.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: New York Times, 14 June and 25 July 1895. Daniel F. Littlefield, Jr. and Lonnie E. Underhill, "Divorce Seeker's Paradise: Oklahoma Territory, 1890-1897," Arizona and the West 17 (Spring 1975). Glenda Riley, "Torn Asunder: Divorce in Early Oklahoma Territory," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 67 (Winter 1989-90). Linda D. Wilson, "Helen Churchill Candee: Author of An Oklahoma Romance," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 75 (Winter 1997-98).
Linda D. Wilson
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