The Adolph Mystery, Part 2

Adolph Borreson was intriguing to me because Aunt Clara knew so little about him. I was convinced, in fact, when I began researching him, that he had remained single. How far from the truth that was! Not only did I have a hint that he was married to a certain Herbertine when he was about 20 years old, but I learned he left a widow, Florence (McDonald) at his death in 1972.

Now, more of the story.

Adolph’s marriage to Florence was the one that “took:” they were husband and wife for 24 years. Married June 5, 1948, they lived on Benton Street in Rockford, Illinois, for most of those 24 years. Seventeen of them Adolph was employed by the National Lock Company, his longest employer. In December 1961 his name even appears in a large newspaper ad for First National Bank: Adolph had won second prize in the bank’s 107th anniversary celebration – but the bank didn’t identify the prize.

He died on March 2, 1972, at Rockford Memorial Sanitarium after a brief illness. Two days later, he was buried in Scottish Cemetery of Willow Creek, Arygle, Illinois, with a service at a funeral home led by a Presbyterian minister.

A brief newspaper item opened the door to another question. In March 1946 Adolph was charged with drunkenness by Florence M. Borreson from whom he was separated. The item gave their marriage date as July 17, 1943, five years earlier than the date I have. Perhaps they were married in 1943, then divorced, and remarried?! Of course, the obituary indicated 24 years, which would support 1948, not 1943. The questions persist!

There is also the matter of Adolph’s military service. Again his obituary indicated that he had served in the Army in World War II and he held membership in the Veterans of Foreign Wars. This I have yet to verify.

My searches on, triggered by a couple items on, began getting results, very interesting results.

Adolph’s obituary mentioned only his marriage to Florence, although I knew of Herbertine when he was a young man, followed by a question of a woman named Nina in Winona. Suddenly, the name of Nina Books appears with him in online searches, and here’s the sum of them.

On December 12, 1924, Adolph married Nina Books near Mason City in Mason township, Cerro Gordo county, Iowa. Apparently, Adolph was a cafe bookkeeper in Rochester, Minnesota at the time, and Nina was living there and going to high school, even though Rochester was not her hometown. In the online marriage license I saw, she indicated she would be 19 years old at her next birthday, but I have discovered that she should have said 17 years. (Note: the license indicated this was Adolph’s second marriage.)

Within less that three years, the couple was living on West Third Street, and later East Fourth, in Winona, familiar territory to Adolph who was now employed at the Foot Schulte Company. It appears that Adolph and Nina lived in Winona for 15 years. During that time, Adolph worked at several companies, including Northern Engraving in La Crosse. Never had I seen census information on the couple; if I had, the next news would not have shocked me so.

On November 1, 1939, Nina was granted a default divorce from Adolph and awarded $12 a month support for custody of their four children from Adolph who was working for the WPA in La Crosse (just down river from Winona). Four children! I had no idea Adolph had any children. Nina married Frank Rossin of Winona two days after the divorce – in Decorah, Iowa, in the parsonage of a Lutheran minister.

What a turn this story had taken! His obituary mentioned nothing of previous marriages, surely nothing of children. I will return to Adolph’s “new” family later.

About this same time, I followed my inclination that Adolph’s first wife Herbertine, of whom I knew nothing, may have been from the Galesville area. Doing a search of Winona newspapers online, I learned, through a bit of trial and error, that Adolph had married Herbertine Dettinger on December 21, 1918. Both were 19 years old and, perhaps, had been high school classmates in Galesville.

It appears that Adolph and Herbertine farmed his grandfather Andreas’ place for a couple years, then moved to Winona where they lived and worked until July 1924, when the fate of their marriage was waiting to be settled in divorce court.

But what about Herbertina’s family? I learned that she was born in the town of Gale to William and Minnie Dettinger, farmers near Galesville. She was from a large family, one of thirteen children, and a twin to Georgiana.

The name Dettinger had my attention from my work as a pastor here in Holmen. In November 2002 (I looked it up), I had the funeral at Holmen Lutheran Church for a John Dettinger, a wonderful old gentleman, and I began wondering if there might be a connection to Herbertina. Imagine my surprise when I determined that John was Herbertine’s brother! I’d had the funeral for the brother of Adolph’s first wife! I had to sit down and think about that.

The man I thought had been single, had in fact been married three times. And he had children. How much we didn’t know! Come back again for something about Adolph’s family in Part 3.

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