Vollie Belle's Marriage to and Divorce from James Hurd Cruise

Co-Authors: Becky Hitchcock Harris and Wayne Haston

I have learned that there is a lot of information “out there” (be it factual or inaccurate lore) about Vollie Belle Haston’s life and tragic death.  I’d love to hear anything you have heard or know about Vollie Belle’s life or her death.  WayneH37@aol.com

James Hurd Cruise

James Hurd Cruise was born on April 24 of 1912 in Doyle, Tennessee.  His father, Robert L. Cruise, died on January 8, 1914, before James Hurd was two years old.  In 1930, at age 18 James Hurd was living with his uncle, Luther B. Hurd, on College Alley in Spencer.  There were 11 people living in Luther Hurd’s house #69.  Four were nieces and nephews who might have been boarding there in order to attend school.  At the same time, Vollie Belle Haston (age 15) was living four house numbers away with her parents on Mansion Street in Spencer.

In my 3rd year 1931 I met a red-headed boy from Palmer, Tenn.  He was of nice family, sort of handsome, and by far the smartest boy in class – Ray Hatfield was his name.  Came to Burritt with aspirations as a lawyer.  We were sweethearts until he left school.  He wrote faithfully and we both had too much independence so we drifted apart.  In the fourth year 1932, I met Billie Taft who was one of my teachers brothers. He was in first year of college at that time.  We were very good friends but he never seemed to care so so much for me until I started dating the boy that was to be my future husband.  Immediately forgot Billie and fell desperately in love with James Hurd Cruise, so I thought.  What could a child of 16 know of love and marriage and the way of life?  In June 1932 I graduated Jim gave me a beautiful watch.  

All that summer vacation he [Ray Hatfield] gave me a brush. So in Sept, the 17th to be exact I eloped with him [James Hurd Cruise] to Albany, Ky and was married by Judge Ferguson. 

The Watch that James Cruise Gave Vollie Belle Haston for Graduation

Look carefully at the face-side of the watch. 
There are two observations that we will make in a later article about what you can see there.

Marriage to James Hurd Cruise - September 17, 1932

September 17, 1932 - James Hurd Cruise Marriage to Vollie Belle Haston (Clinton County, KY)

At the time of the (below) 1933-34 photo, Vollie Belle would have been married to Jim Cruise and in college at Burritt.

1933-34 Burritt College Basketball Team

My parents were heartbroken for they had plans of a college career for their only child. Besides that they were very much opposed to him for they could see his worthlessness. He was the best athlete in our school, the best debater, and the Prince Charming an handsomenesses. For four years all was well although he did not want to work very much. In the mean time I had gone to college and was able to teach in elementary school, so was he. We taught our first school together at Welchland School. 

From a Story Written in 1984 by Daisy Cook Rhinehart, Vollie Belle's Co-teacher at Welchland in Van Buren County.
More About the Welchland Teaching Experience as Per Daisy Cook Rhinehart

After her teaching experience at the Haston School on Cane Creek.

From page 215 of The History of Van Buren County, TN by Landon Daryle Medley

Then the second year I [Vollie Belle] taught alone [without her husband] at the same place. Then our trouble began. He being alone most of the time, decided to have a fling at romance again. He secured a job as recreation leader which was right down his alley (as the old saying goes) since he loved to play tennis. The only hitch was the recreation partner leader a beautiful brunette. Truthfully, diary I don’t know how far that friendship went but it must have gone too far. She told my friends that he wanted her to run away with him. Her name was Rachel _____, a divorcee already at that time. She made her boast that she could get any woman’s’ husband. Well she or someone started his unfaithfulness. I went through hell and back in 1936-37. I wanted so much to make a success of my marriage to have a home and later children. He left and went to Ky to his parents.

They [his parents] were partly to blame for our separation not meaning to, however, they gave him too much money without his having to work for it but so did my Dad as to that matter. When Dad took a survey of what he had done for him and what he’d cost, it went into the hundreds – $500.00 in a car. And ——- I this day the checks he gave on my own bank account. And he probably took his girlfriends out with the money. I bail to even think of it today. As I said he went to Ky to work. For weeks I didn’t hear from him and then he wanted a divorce. What agony I went through! After the shock I went back to school in a few months for I had almost had a nervous collapse and had to quit teaching. I entered Middle Tenn State Teachers College, at Murfreesboro, Tenn. I finally wore off the first paints in my heart. In the meantime Jim had gone to Detroit and secured employment. He then begged me to come back to him. Because my parents asked me to give him a chance I went back to him but without confidence. I stayed two months he wasn’t even true to me while I was there. His boyfriend, Walter Powers and Dot and Bill Denney later told me how he dated other girls. They were afraid I might divorce him if I knew. In Nov. 1937 I came home never to return to him I knew he went to the Detroit Bus Depot to see me off with tears in his eyes.

Oh the deceit of men!!

Middle Tennessee State Teachers College - Spring 1937

I’ve done some digging into our legacy files and documents regarding information for Vollie Belle Cruise, and I do find that we had a student by that name here for one quarter in the Spring of 1937.  She appears to have just taken classes that one term after transferring to MTSTC from another school, so that pin is not associated with completing a program.  I’ve gone back into our old catalogs and whatnot to find information about that pin, but so far I’m not able to locate anything.  You may have more luck finding out information about the pin from the Gore Research Center here on campus.  Thanks, and good luck with your research!

Tyler Henson, Ed.D.; Assistant Vice Provost of Registration and Students Records & University Registrar, MTSU Registrar’s OfficeShe

Divorce from James Hurd Cruise - October 31, 1938

On October 1, 1938, this same James H. Cruise married Maxine Arnett in Paintsville, Kentucky.  That was in the coal-mining area of eastern Kentucky, more than 250 miles from Spencer, Tennessee.  According to his marriage license, Jim Cruise was an engineer, perhaps involved in the coal mining industry.

Strangely, on October 1, 1938, James H. Cruise indicated on his marriage bond that he was “Single,” instead of “Widowed” or “Divorced.”  In fact he was neither–he was still married to Vollie Belle!

In 1938, his lawyer wrote and asked me to sign divorce papers so he might obtain a divorcee. I consulted my lawyer, Clarence Haston, and decided to be sure it was lawful I should obtain a Tenn. divorce. Also I wanted my maiden name. I got my divorce in Oct and ceased to be known as Mrs. Jas.H. Cruise.

As per Chapter 38 of the Tennessee Public Act of 1931, Circuit Court sessions for Van Buren County, TN occurred on the “first Monday after the fourth Monday in October and April.”  Thus, in 1938, the Circuit Court session would have been held on Monday, October 31, 1938 – a Happy Halloween for Vollie Belle.

Apparently, from October 1 to October 31, 1938, James Hurd Cruise was married to two women at the same time.  If so, he was a one-month bigamist!   Bigamy in Kentucky (where James Hurd Cruise married Maxine Arnett) currently is a Class D felony, punishable by one to five years in prison.

I wonder if Vollie Belle ever knew that her husband was already married to another woman before she received a request for a divorce.

Van Buren County, TN Circuit Court Minutes – Roll 3, Volume H, Page 379 – Courtesy of Tennessee State Library and Archives 

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