Monday, February 28, 2011

Mystery Monday - Joseph P. Myers


Joseph P. Myers was born 19 June 1883 to Dorance D. and Mary Matilda Pratte Myers of Dubuque, Iowa.  Dorance ran a successful family business as a wholesale manufacturer of cigars and tobacco products at least through the years 1910 through the 1920s. 

Joseph served in World War I as a First LT in the 133rd Infantry. In 1921, he married Marie Spahn, and they had two daughters, Ann M. Myers and Jeanne A. Myers.  In 1930 he was president of an automobile company.  Joseph P. Myers died 10 June 1949 and is buried in Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Dubuque, IA.

Joseph’s life seems rather routine, until you trace him through the years 1904 through 1909 when his life becomes pretty bizarre. In 1904 Joseph was a student, possibly at Cornell University, living in Tompkins County, New York.  That same year he married Lena Stanley of Trumansburg, NY, just a few miles northwest.  The marriage took place, however, in a town on the east side of the lake with the minister’s family as witnesses, which might indicate that none of Lena’s family were in attendance. The 1905 New York census shows Lena Stanley Myers living at home with her parents; in February 1906, a son was born to Lena. This baby was given up for adoption.

In late August 1906, Lena Stanley Myers filed for an annulment of her marriage to Joseph Myers. By this time Lena had moved to Madison County, NY where her married sister lived, but the annulment papers were filed in Tioga County.  Lena stated in the official annulment document that the marriage had never been consummated, she and Joseph had never lived together, and she had had no contact with Joseph until the trial in the fall of 1906. Lena stated that as soon as they were married, Joseph confessed he suffered from a serious communicable disease, and consequently they never lived together.  For the annulment proceedings in September 1906 Joseph traveled from St. Paul, MN where he was living at the time, to Tioga County.  He swore that everything Lena said was true and he paid all court costs.  There was no mention of a baby in these proceedings.

Since the baby was adopted, its birth certificate is sealed forever. Even if it could be revealed, Lena might not have given the father’s name.  The adoption papers for this child, however, show the baby’s name as that of the foster parents, even before the adoption took place.

By 1910 Joseph was in Dubuque, IA, living in the family home that was occupied by his unmarried siblings.   

It seems that with each piece of information we find on Joseph’s life, another question presents itself. We continue to work on this conundrum, and the questions we would love to find the answers to are:
-       Was Lena and Joseph’s marriage contrived? If so, why? Or, was it she brought back home by an overbearing father?
-       Who was the father of Lena’s child? Is it Joseph, the foster father, or ?
-       Was perjury committed with their annulment document?

This is one of the most interesting and challenging cases we have ever worked on, and we continue to work on solving the mystery of Lena Stanley and Joseph P. Myers.

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