"I am a Dodge" A Candid Interview With Frances Mealbach
"They sought to create a tightly entangled web that even to this day continues to hold strong with the lies that were used to weave it."
Let me first start by explaining how this article came about. My name is Sharon Stajda, my mother is Frances Mealbach. My mother came to me one day, and requested I write down her story. Why did my mother want her story told, and why did she feel her story would actually be an important story to tell? Mom's story is an adoption story, a story of deception. It's a story of a powerful family that sought through many decades to hide the circumstances of mom's birth, and biological parent's identity.
You will read of how shortly after mom's birth secret arrangements were made to place her in a tuberculosis sanitorium in the town of Niles Michigan, and then six months later of her returned to the Detroit area, and placed in the care of the "Manzer's". The Manzer's were the parents that raised mom, and the parent's she believed were her biological parents. The story thickens when her father dies, and his Last Will And Testament refers to her as "my adopted daughter". Mr. Manzer bequest her nothing but a box full of photo's. Photo's that meant little to her at the time she received them. However, would become an intricate part of her research. Mom felt betrayed, as well as curious, she wanted to know the circumstances that lead to her adoption, and the identity of her biological parents ? Her research would span twenty years, and ultimately an eight year court battle with a wealth powerful family. In the end mom wins, but her victory is hollow, and leaves her disappointed. Yet she truly felt her most important questions had been answered. In her mind and heart she knew she had confirmed the identity of her biological father, his name was John Francis Dodge ...
Let me take the opportunity to state, I was pleased that my mother had faith that I could write such an intricate lengthy depiction of her story. However, I am not a professional writer, and fully realized may not posses the proper skills to write such a story. I pondered her request, and decided I would just do my best. After all I was with her every step of the way, and knew the facts well. I also had all of files and documents we obtained from her court case. As I stated I am not a writer. However, I am a good daughter, and wanted to comply with my mother's wishes. I have tried to quote Mom as much as possible, in hopes of letting readers get to know mom on a more personal level.
Where to start ? I hope to share mom's intriguing story along with many personal family photo's, and pertinent documents she obtained after winning her eight year court case. You will view her birth certificate, and see how badly it was tampered with. You can read step by step how mom came to her ultimate belief that John Francis Dodge is her biological father.
The words adopted daughter leaped off the page and brought my mom to tears ...
My Dad Left So Many Clues
"The first inkling I had that my mother and father were not my biological parents, was the day my father's Last Will And Testament was read. When the attorney vocalized the words "adopted daughter" It felt as if my heart was glass, and had broken into a million pieces. Why had my parents kept this life altering secret from me? I felt this was perhaps the cruelest of all lies', that had ever been told to me. One can't imagine the sadness I felt.
After my father's funeral, a close cousin of my father, "Mrs.June Eschtruth," requested I accompany her to her place of business? There in her office safe she had a package my father had given her for safekeeping long before his death. He requested that the package be given to me only upon his death.
After opening the package, I found several documents, and photo's. Photographs, I had never seen before, most were of me as an infant. While looking at the photos I noticed one in particular, a picture of me with another baby, dressed in the identical clothes posed in a very fancy chair with a strand of pearls at both our necks. These were the only pictures I had ever seen of myself as a small baby. I always thought this odd, the Manzer's were the kind of parents that took yearly studio portraits of me throughout my childhood. Furthermore, included with the photos was a document, a birth registration from the year 1941. I was born in 1914, how could my birth be recorded some 27 years later? (I would later come to find out that my adoption had not been recorded until 1941, and that all records pertaining to my adoption were left unsigned by any legal authority.)
I already had children of my own! In addition, I was shocked to see my first name had been listed as "Frances", I was always referred to as Lucille? The name I had known, and gone by my entire life? The surname listed on the birth registration was that of Manzer. Why was the name Frances on my birth registration? I had never had a proper birth certificate, so this left me to wonder? It also made me realize, something was very wrong?
I felt betrayed, sad, and could not imagine why my father, the father I adored, waited until his death to make it known that I had been adopted, and that my real name was Frances? Furthermore, for what unknown reason could dad have had to wanted me to know these facts after his death? When he would not be physically available to help me understand why he had not been truthful about my birth? My father was an honest and God fearing man, it would not be in his character to lie.
There was never any doubt in my mind that my father loved me. He had been a good father, and always made me feel very special and loved. However, why was there such mystery surrounding my birth, and adoption? " What did my father hope to accomplish by leaving me these photo's?
The Photo's Were Old And Worn
"My Father wanted me to have this photo, and went to great lengths to make sure I received it. It was kept under lock and key until his death." This photo initiated strong feelings, and haunted me. It was the first piece of a puzzle. A puzzle that I needed to complete. I looked at each and every photo dad left me over and over again. Noting every detail. My mom wore a fur coat, my buggy having a beautiful stain glass insets on each side. I had never seen such an elaborate buggy. A photo with dad and mom in a grand Dodge automobile. " These many photo seem flood me with memories of my early childhood.
Childhood Memories ..." I Remembered A Very Large Home On Boston Boulevard "
My Most Vivid Childhood Memory
"After discovering that my parents, were not my biological parents. I started to ruminate on childhood memories, names and faces, and events from my childhood that meant little to me until now. However, these old memories now seemed to have significant meaning. They now became very important clues. Clues that would ultimately answer many questions about my birth, and who my birth parents were.
One of my most vivid childhood memories was that of being taken to a grand Boston Boulevard home. I could vividly remember being picked up at our Detroit home by a red-haired woman that was in a large automobile. I remember walking up the winding walkway that lead us to the front porch, and after entering the home being taken up a large grand staircase to visit a woman in a beautiful bedroom. Inside this elegant bedroom was a woman lying in sleigh bed, it was clear this woman was in ill health. I noticed the beautiful rose bud wallpaper, and most of all the beautiful drapes that hung at the large windows. After a short visit with this lady, I was then taken back down the stairs to a room on the first level at the back of the home. This room was bright, with lots of windows, and had a pretty tiled floor. I was given cookies and milk, and soon after I had finished my treat, the red-haired woman came to fetch me, and drove me home.
When I returned home , I could talk nothing but those fancy pink drapes. The drapes left such a lasting impression on me. I told my father and mother about the beautiful rose colored drapes over and over again. A few days later, my father created those very draped out of rose colored crepe paper for my bedroom windows. Making my bedroom feel as grand as the woman that lived on the Boulevard."
(The memory of this home was one of mom's first clues that the Dodge family was somehow evolved in her past. She was able to point out ,and identify that lovely home she was taken to as a young child. Even though the address had changed, and it's now connected to a Catholic church, she was positive that this was the home she had been taken to. The home was built by John Dodge just after his marriage to Matilda. The home still has the beautiful tile floor as mom remembered it. When building Meadow Brook Hall Mrs. Matilda Dodge duplicated the room she shared with John Dodge at the Boston Boulevard home with its sleigh bed, rose bud wallpaper, and wonderful rose drapes. This room is not shown to the public due to a fire department law. However, through an appointment with the hall's curator, Mom was able to view the room sometime after her court case had been settled. It was astounding to walk into that room. Mom had perfect recall of the decor, right down to the rose bud wallpaper.)
Another very important memory of moms was that of a couple that frequently visited the Manzer home throughout her life with the Manzer's. The couples names were Frank and Viola Upton. "Frank Upton" was my dad's best friend, and belonged to our church. They were lovely people. I was shocked to find out that Mr. Upton was John Dodge's personal secretary, and a close friend of John Dodge until he died. My parents always regarded the Upton's as best of friends."
The Upton's became just another clue to moms mysterious past. In the very early part of our research mom spoke of the Viola Upton. We were able to visit and speak with her before her death. The conversation led us to the conclusion that Frank Upton may have had a large part in placing mom in the Manzer home. Mom felt "the Upton's would have known what wonderful parents the Manzer's would be. Could have John Dodge's personal secretary Frank Upton had arranged for mom to be placed in the Manzer's home? He certainly knew they would be good parents, knowing they were good Christians, and childless.
Mom asked Viola if she had any information in regard to John Dodge perhaps being her biological father. Viola responded by saying - " Lucille you had good parents, and I can not elaborate on your biological father. I made a promise to my husband, and would never consider breaking that promise."
Mom believe these mysterious childhood memories are what created a strong desire to research the circumstances of her birth. "I wanted to know the truth, just who are my biological parents and why did they give me away?"
A Sneak Peek At Adoption Records
"My first task was to try to obtain some information on my birth parents? I also wanted to make every effort to obtain a legal birth certificate? My sister-in-law "Miss Clara Mealbach" was acquainted with a clerk at the "Detroit City County Building", that worked in the adoption records department, were kept on file. "Clara" thought her friend could help us view my birth information''.
Clara's friend made it possible for me to view one page of my adoption documents. I was told to "be quick with my appraisal of the document". In a hurried fashion I looked at the document, I noticed the name "Emma Jane Nelson" listed as the birth mother, and that she had been born in Jackson Michigan. I noticed there was no name listed as birth father. I remember feeling elated to have found the name of my birth mother, Emma Jane Nelson. I now felt I had something to run with.
With such a pertinent piece of information, I felt it was time to look at some City of Detroit Directories to see if I could locate where Emma Nelson had lived in the year I was born. My daughter's made the trip downtown to the Library, they found the name Emma Nelson in a 1914 Detroit City Directory. There was only one Emma Nelson in the City Directory listed, she lived and worked as a domestic in the home of "John Dodge", the address on Boston Boulevard, Detroit. This new information supplied a very large piece to our family puzzle. After all, we had now connected my birth mother to the home of John Dodge. It was the same Boston Boulevard home I had been taken to as a child". The home of John and Matilda Dodge."
(The memory of that home was a very vivid memory of moms, due to those rose crepe paper drapes that her dad had made for her bedroom windows. Nevertheless, another clue to the mystery, another clue that led us to that winding pathway of the Boston Boulevard home of John Dodge. The clues were starting to form a cohesive puzzle with pieces that included mysterious photos of mom as an infant, vivid memories of the home of John Dodge, Frank Upton personal secretary of John Dodge that had close ties with the Manzer's, and now Emma Nelson a maid that worked in the the Dodge's home.
One of the first and biggest clues that mom came across was the name Emma Nelson. When mom won the right to see her birth records, Emma Jane Nelson was listed on the birth certificate as her biological mother. See birth certificate below.
Time To Send Away For A Birth Certificate - Twins !
"My eldest daughter decided to send a request to the State Of Michigan Birth Records Department for my Birth Certificate. Giving what little information I had. My new name of Frances was used when filling out the request form, along with my maiden name " Manzer" being used as my last name on thee application. It was not mentioned that I was adopted.
A letter from the Michigan Birth Records arrived in about three weeks time. When I opened the letter I was shocked to find a Birth Certificate with the name''Frances Dodge''. The certificate indicated that Frances Dodge was born a twin? It was a birth certificate used for multiple births, the box which stated twin was clearly checked, and also checked was a box that stated one of two live births. I was flabbergasted , could this be true? Am I a twin, and are my biological parents John and Matilda Dodge?
I proceeded to sent the certificate back, fearing I had someone else birth record, and may have broken the law? To my surprise, the Birth Certificate was returned to me.This time with a letter stating in short, there had been no mistake. That it was ''not my sister's Birth Certificate", but my birth certificate?" I kept it, and have it to this day" in my files."
It Was Time To Hire An Attorney
Mom was determined to hire an Attorney ... "The Lawsuit Begins"
" After receiving this mysterious twin birth certificate, I knew it was time to find an Attorney. I wanted to get to the truth of my birth, and its surrounding mystery? With the full support of my family, I decided to approach the courts for answers, and file a lawsuit asking the court for permission to obtain any records that pertained to my birth, and adoption.
I never dreamed that anyone would protest my lawsuit .. Why would anyone protest my request to view my birth records, actually I didn't think anyone would care? I mean I couldn't imagine why anyone would object to me knowing who my biological parents were? However, there was an attorney at the hearing protesting that I be given the right to view my birth records. Shortly after I was contacted by attorney Mr. Frederick Buesser. Mr Buesser was the Guardian At Litem hired to handle John Dodge's Last Will And Testament. He requested an appointment, and I obliged. I was lead to believe I might be an "Unascertained Heir" of John Dodge. I then obtained attorney "James Cunningham" to represent my case. At each court hearing multiple attorney's representing the living Dodge grandchildren would be present. Each and everyone vehemently protest giving me the right to see my birth record. Again, the picture became very clear to me, the connection to the Dodge family once again was very evident.
The Dodge grandchildren were very opposed to me being given the right to view birth records. All fighting hard, to have the my case thrown out of court."
Mrs. Frances Mealbach with Phil Donahue
Many Came Forward To Help
"My story quickly came to the media's attention. This resulted in many people coming forward to help. It surprised me how many people contacted not only my attorney but my children, and I. Most willing to give legal depositions on what they knew about my birth. Many stating that they were under the impression that my birth was somewhat common knowledge back in the day. It was amazing to me that so many people knew so much, all this new information added fuel to the fire. I knew I had to uncover the truth, once and for all. I felt I had the right to know who my biological parents were. I was not looking for money, I was looking for the truth. Actually, after all of my research into this family, I truly felt I was the lucky one that got away ..."
There were so many people that contacted not only moms attorney, but directly contacted mom via the telephone. Many provide lengthy depositions under oath to what knowledge they had on the subject of her birth. One such person, Mrs. Mable Burgett. "Mabel" told of a point in her life when she was pregnant with her first child, and was taking a stroll through the streets of Hamtramck Michigan with her mother-in-law "Ida Burgett" . While passing a new stand Mable noted a headline on a newspaper that upset her. The headline read "Woman Gave Birth To Siamese Twins." Ida went on to stilled her daughter-in-laws fears by telling her that many years ago John Dodge and his wife Matilda gave birth to Siamese twins, and after the twins were separated the sickly twin was sent away. Naturally Mabel wanted to know where her mother-in-law heard the account of this odd twin birth. Ida confided that "Silas Burgett " her husband told her days after the birth occurred. Silas Burgett worked with John at his factory in Detroit, and was a hunting and fishing buddy of John and Horace Dodge.
Mabel in Florida on vacation saw mom's story in a newspaper. She immediately returned home, and contacted moms attorney. She was gracious enough to give a deposition. Mabel confided to mom that what her mother-in-law shared with her on that day so many years ago had haunted her. She so wondered what had happened to the twin that was hidden due to being sickly.
Another interesting account was given by Mrs. Mary Henneman," Mary" is Mr. Manzer's cousins June Eschtruth's daughter. June was Manzers cousin, the very cousin that gave mom the packet of photo's after Manzer's death. Mary gave an interesting deposition, she stated that her mother told her in her young adulthood that Lucille (mom) was adopted, and that her biological father's name was on an automobile. Mary claimed to be surprised so many years later to hear that mom had never been told of these facts. She added, "I thought her dad was most likely "Henry Ford".
There were so many wonderful people that came forward and provided mom and her attorney with accounts of what they felt would help mom show cause to see her birth records. Jean Pitrones book "Tangled Web" goes into great detailed accounts of interviews with people that sought to share their information and knowledge in regards to moms background and birth. From employees that worked with John Dodge at his plant, neighbors of the Manzer's, and farmers from the Rochester Michigan area where John Dodge had his farm. All sharing compelling accounts of the "Dodges" having twin daughters.
" I guess I was somewhat of a stumbling block to the "Dodge Grandchildren?"
"It was unfortunate that I was considered a stumbling block to the Dodge Grandchildren. They were due to receive their inheritance from the John Dodge trust fund. The matter of dispersing the grandchildren's funds came before the court, and to my surprise was settled with good speed. The trust fund was distributed to Dodge's grandchildren, and the Last Will And Testament had been settled, with attorney Buesser being discharged as Guardian At Litem. The final bequests from the John Dodge Trust had come to fruition. I felt the grandchildren would no longer have an interest in my plea to view my birth records". This was wishful thinking on my part ...
One might surmise that John Dodge's Last Will And Testament was carried out as he had wished. John Dodge's Last Will And Testament provided a trust, which stipulated that his biological children would enjoy yearly dividends, and per his wishes, after his last biological child died the trust fund would be divided among his grandchildren, completing his wishes.
My court case dragged on for eight long years,hearing after hearing. The Dodge grandchildren continued their many objections. Even going as far as to request that I have a DNA test done at the University Of Michigan Hospital, without a court order". My attorney objected that I comply with the request. At this time the courts did not accept DNA as evidence". Mr. Cunningham felt it would not be helpful to comply.
The New York Times - December 16, 1984
- AROUND THE NATION; Purported Dodge Heir Loses Bid on Estate
"A woman who says she may be a Siamese twin of one of John F. Dodge's daughters lost Friday in her effort to halt distribution of the automobile maker's $40 million fortune. Judge J. Robert Gragg of Wayne County Probate Court rejected the request
The Request for DNA - I complied to their request
The DNA Test
One of the attorney's representing one of the Dodge grandchildren, requested that I submit to DNA testing.
I suppose they felt this could once and for all ascertain if I were actually of the Dodge bloodline, and settle my paternity once and for all? I agreed to the testing against my attorneys advice, and complied with the request. I hoped perhaps that the Dodge grandchildren would perceive this gesture, as a gesture of good faith on my part. I also hoped, as I am sure they hoped the test would put an end to my lawsuit.
I was accompanied by my daughter Sharon, and Jean Pitrone to the University Of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor Michigan. Samples of my hair were taken along with a blood sample. The results were never brought up in court, and was not given the results upon request. I to this day have never been able to obtain the results.
The University Of Michigan hospital claiming the results were no longer on file that they had perhaps been misplaced? The hospital admits that a file folder was found. However, it was found to be empty. I still have the registration card I was given, and the document I signed giving permission to do collect blood and hair. I feel the results were never used in court or given to me due to the fact the test results were in my favor. Possible the results were conclusive evidence that I was the daughter of John Dodge. I could not possibly afford to request a DNA test be done on my behalf. Plus, I am not sure anyone in the Dodge family would cooperated with a donor sample from their side of the gene pool?"
The Court Proceedings Drag on For Eight Years
Mom at times was very weary over the long court battle. However, she didn't give up.
"The Court Proceedings Drag On And On All The Way To The Court Of Appeals. "My battle continued in for eight long years, and went on to set a precedence, and changed the laws on obtaining adoption records in the State of Michigan.
I could not list the many twist's and turns of the actual court hearings. I always felt added frustration after each hearing was over. It was hard to sit through these hearings, and be belittled, and degraded by the statements made by the opposing attorney's. "What rock has she climbed out from under." Stands out as one insult that was very cutting. My family, and I stood steadfast."
It's Over I Won !
"I Won ! - I would now have the opportunity to see my birth certificate, and adoption records."
The Birth Certificate - It Was In Bad Shape
February 20, 1990 the Michigan Court Of Appeals reversed the probate ruling that was preventing mom from seeing her adoption records, and her birth certificate. She finally had the right to see all records that pertained to her birth, and adoption. She had won!
"I Won! After eight years, and all of the work, and aggravation, I won!"
"I was finally going to be allowed to see all of my Adoption records, and my birth certificate. I will never forget the morning that I was getting myself ready to go up to the State Capitol in Lansing Michigan, I was going to see my birth certificate. The truth of my lineage, the answers to the whys of it? Why I was discarded, why was I not worthy of keeping, why was I kept from my only sister, a twin no less? Why had my beloved father forsaken me?
I was elated, overjoyed at the prospects of what the morning would bring! I arrived at the office on time. I was escorted into a room by two armed guards. I was also allowed to bring a specialist in handwriting, and ink analyst in with me to look at the document.
The birth certificate was under glass, and was in very bad condition. It had visible eraser marks all over it. The date of my birth erased, and another day, and year entered in its place. It was a mess. You could actually see other letters below what had been written over. (please look at the document, even a photo of the document shows the underwriting). The name of the mother listed the name as "Emma Jane Nelson", but you could see with the naked eye other letters under the name. It listed the name of a Doctor, that was at the birth, this name also had been visibly altered. My given name was filled in as "Remilda May Bornalive".
My birth name was also tampered with, I was devastated. I did find it a very interesting coincidence that the name Remilda was so closely related to the name Matilda, which was not only John Dodge's wife's name, but also their daughter France's middle name? I was able to obtain a copy of the document, which clearly shows all of its many discrepancies. The document was so sloppily altered that it would be impossible not to pick up all the alterations with the naked eye.
The expert report, stated "the ink was that of a ball point pen, and that it had been erased by a normal #2 pencil eraser in several areas. The erased areas could be seen with the naked eye. Other letters were visible under the recorded information, much of which one could see with the naked eye. The document had been most certainly tampered with." (Please see above document)
The Findings - My Adoption Certificate Was Fruitful. "My Name Is Frances"
My Adoption Record - "If I had been a foundling, an unwanted child of a house servant, why was there so much deception surrounding my birth, and adoption?"
"My adoption records proved to be more fruitful. Although it appeared that my adoption records had never actually been signed by any one of judicial authority, they did provide me with clues as to where I spent my first months of life.
The adoption records also confirmed that the same mother's name, "Emma Jane Nelson" was listed as my biological mother. The records also gave some further details on "Emma's" background, religion, and her physical appearance. They indicated that Emma was of dark complexion, dark hair, and short in stature, and of German descent. This seemed so opposite of my own appearance. I have been very blonde hair my entire life with a very light ivory skin.
It was my adoption records that held interesting information. It was stated that after my birth I was taken to Niles Michigan, and spent the six four months of my life in a Tuberculosis Sanatorium. It seemed odd that there was no medical information listed on my condition, and why I needed to be hospitalized in the first place? Although a neighbor of the Manzer's gave a deposition to the fact my illness was lung related, due to her witnessing my mother applying mustard packs to my chest as a daily treatment.( John Dodge suffered from Tuberculosis). Niles Michigan was the home of John Dodge as a boy, and he had many relatives living there the year of my birth to include his mother. It's curious that if I were a foundling I would be sent so far away from the Detroit area. Foundlings with health problems in 1914 were known to be sent to Eloise Sanatorium just outside Detroit. Today it takes about three and a half hours to drive to Niles. I was able to visit a Niles historian, and was shown photos of the little hospital I spent my first month in. It was an old victorian home.
The birth records also showed the name of the hospital that I was said to be born. The hospital listed on my adoption records listed "Woman's Hospital Of Detroit". Unfortunately, when following up on this information, the hospital provided documentation that there was never a child born to an "Emma Nelson" at Woman's Hospital Of Detroit. The hospital also claimed the physician listed as the physician of birth record, was not on staff at Woman's Hospital Of Detroit, and that they had no knowledge of this particular physician.
The most interesting document included in my adoption file was the "Certificate of Adoption". My given name was not that of "Remilda, the name on the birth certificate I was given", the name listed is "Frances Lucille Manzer". My adoption was not finalized until August 28,1941. I was 27 years old with children of my own! Why was my adoption held in "limbo" for so many years?
From the day I obtain my Record of Adoption document I have used my legal name Frances. My Certificate of Adoption In actuality the only document I received that had been signed by the court. This lead me to believe my name is Frances. I believe the certificate the state sent me all the many years ago showing me to be a twin one of two live births by the name of Frances is my rightful birth certificate. What ever went on behind the closed doors will remain a mystery.
My Biological Mother
"I truly believe I was born a twin, and that my biological father is automobile magnate, John Francis Dodge. I am not sure who my mother though?
I am sure you are wondering why I am unsure who my biological mother is? Sadly, my research has left me with three scenarios of who my mother may be.
The first scenario being a woman that was employed as a maid in the Boston Boulevard home of Matilda and John Dodge, her name, "Emma Jane Nelson". Emma's name was actually listed as the biological mother, on my true birth certificate, I mean to say, the birth certificate I obtained when my court case was concluded.
My second theory is Matilda Dodge, John's second wife. It's possible that Miilda gave birth to the twins, and for reasons unknown gave me up to adoption? This is only conjecture on my part. However, at the time of my birth, it was known, and documented that I was in ill health with a respiratory related health problem. Records show that I had been hospitalized for the first six months of my life in a Tuberculosis sanatorium. Shortly after my birth, for reasons unknown to me, I was sent to a hospital. Not a hospital in Detroit, the city I was born in, but a hospital in Niles Michigan. A hospital which was known for treating Tuberculosis. Niles is a small town on the west side of the state of Michigan, about one hundred and fifty miles from Detroit. I always thought it odd that I would have been sent to Nile's, the small town so far from the city of my birth? Through my research I found out that John Dodge was born, and grew up in Niles Michigan, and at the time of my birth, he actually still had several relatives living there. I guess my health problems could have been the reason the Dodge's decided to give me up for adoption? Perhaps to prevent the healthy twin from contracting this life threatening illness ? I guess it may have been suspected that I had Tuberculosis? It bears mentioning that John Dodge had a long history of Tuberculosis. Perhaps, Matilda may have well felt a need to protect her healthy baby from contracting such a disease?
The third, and last scenario would be Matilda's younger sister "Amelia Rausch". It was rumored that John Dodge had a "love affair" with his sister-in-law. It was well known that they shared adjoining bedrooms at his Meadow Brook farm. Another intriguing fact, Amelia who was known to be a vibrant city girl, moved out to John's farm "Meadow Brook" in 1914, the year I was born. Perhaps she was sent away to hide a pregnancy?
Do you have any information on Emma Jane Nelson - If so the Mealbach family request your help
Emma Jane Nelson
Emma Jane Nelson-Kimball of the Jackson-Detroit Area. The following is what's known about Emma's history.
1. Emma's parents were Alice and Andrew Nelson, they were both born in England, and after marrying moved to Canada in the late 1800's
2. In the 1910 Michigan census show Emma Jane Nelson living with her parents, Andrew and Alice in Jackson, MI. Emma would have been 14 at the time. The Nelson family lived at 207 Maple Avenue. Emma siblings are listed just below this article.
3. Emma Jane moved to Detroit, and worked in a home as a domestic servant in 1914.
4. In 1914 Emma's name was used on my mother's birth record, and adoption records along with her parents names, Andrew and Alice Nelson of Jackson Michigan.
5. In 1916 Emma married an Ethan Kimball of New York. At this point in time she becomes Emma Jane Kimball. I believe they remained in the Detroit area for the next few years.
UPDATE - Emma and Ethan Kimball divorced In March of 1921
6. Andrew Nelson, Emma's father, dies in 1916.
7. Emma's sister, Hazel, in 1919 Marries Carl Hammer of Jackson. She dies during childbirth a few years later.
8. In 1920 census Emma again shows up in the home of her parents in Jackson, MI. While Emma's husband Ethan shows up in Detroit, MI. Ethan's profession is listed at a Machinist. Emma is listed as working at a Factory in Jackson.
9. Family members remain traceable up into the 60's in Jackson, MI but none can be found today.
1920 is the last time I can find of Emma Jane Nelson.
Have some information on "Emma Jane Nelson Kimball Please email me at email@example.com
Thank you for considering my request
Emma Jane Nelson in household of Andrew M Nelson, "United States Census, 1910"
Emma J Nelson in household of Andrew M Nelson, "United States Census, 1910"
name: Emma J Nelson
relationship to head of household: Daughter
residence: Bowne, Kent, Michigan
marital status listed as in 1910: Single
race : White
immigration year: 1897
father's birthplace: Canada
mother's birthplace: England
family number: 182
page number: 8
Household Gender Age Birthplace
self Andrew M Nelson M 60y Canada
wife Alice Nelson F 45y England
son Abel Nelson M 18y Michigan
dau Emma J Nelson F 13y Canada
dau Margaret E Nelson F 12y Michigan
dau Asa M Nelson F 10y Michigan
dau Rhoda F Nelson F 8y Michigan
son Gilbert D Nelson M 6y Michigan
son Leo J Nelson M 3y Michigan
Citing this Record
Emma Nelson Weds Ethan N. Kimball In Michigan . Date 30 May 1916
Ethan N Kimball, "Michigan, Marriages, 1868-1925"
groom's name: Ethan N Kimball
groom's age: 22 years
groom's birth date: 1894
groom's birthplace: New York
bride's name: Emma Nelson
bride's age: 19 years
bride's birth date: 1897
bride's birthplace: Canada
marriage date: 30 May 1916
marriage place: Detroit, Wayne, Michigan
groom's father: George N
groom's mother: Hattie
bride's father: Andrew
bride's mother: Alice
groom's marital status:
groom's previous wife:
bride's marital status:
bride's previous husband:
film number: 2342718
digital folder number: 4209963
image number: 185
reference number: v 6 p 329 rn 130266
Citing this Record
Thinking Back To My Childhood
"I loved my parents actually I had a blessed childhood, and a very deep love for my father and mother. My father was an exceptional man, a good man. My dad spent a lot of time with me, teaching me many wonderful things along the way. He made sure I had a good education, and knew all the wonders of nature. He always encouraged my artistic abilities. Some of my best childhood memories were of the wonderful times I spent with my dad, making paper dolls, fishing, vacation at the lake, and swinging at the back of the house on that old swing he built. He was a loving kind man. Together, he and my mother left me with strong morals, and good religious beliefs, and good skills to make my way through this life.
I have wonderful memories of my father and my mother. Although my mother was always somewhat distance, and seemed very concerned with teaching me to be a perfect lady. She was a very good woman, a woman that held a great belief in God. I know she loved me, even though she was not emotionally equipped to show it. Perhaps she was burdened with guilt? She may not have wanting to keep the secret of my adoption from me? This may be the reason she kept her love bottled up inside her much of the time.
As I stated my life was, and remains a mystery in many ways. I know in my heart, I am John Dodge's daughter. So many questions still haunt me, and remain unanswered? I still pray that one day my questions will be answered. The most important question, why did Dodges choose to abandon me, what were their motives?"
"I would Love To Share Some Of My Photos"
I loved my dad dearly...
"This is one of my most cherished photos. It's my Dad and I swinging on a swing he built. This swing sat at the back of my childhood home."
"Dad And Mother In Their First Car ?" - This is one of the photos, from the photo collection I received when Dad died.
The Manzer's First Car
"I would guess this was their first automobile? I get a kick out of Mother sitting in the driver's seat.. I never would have thought her to have a mischievous side to her personality."
"Photo Of Dad And Mother On The Belle Isle Bridge"
"This is a photo that was taken at the Belle Isle bridge in Detroit. If my memory serves me, the gentleman with my parents is Mr. Upton."
"Me playing with a ball..." - "This is one of the photos, from the photo collection I received when Dad died."
"This photo is curious to me? Note the basement windows in the background of this photo. They are rather high, and the home itself, looks to be large. Could this be the Boston Boulevard home of the Dodge's?
I know I was taken at least once to the Boston Boulevard home of the Dodge's. Could have I visited on more than one occasion?"
I always wondered Who's hat adorned my head as I played?"
"Dad With Unknown Man and Boy" - "This is one of the photos, from the photo collection I received when Dad died."
"This photo is a real mystery. The man at the right is my dad (Robert Manzer), the boy I can't identify. It's conjecture on my part, but I think this gentleman at the left could be John Dodge.
"Another Photo Me and Gentleman I do Not Actually Remember. - "This is one of the photos, from the photo collection I received when Dad died."
"Me and My Best Friend ..."
Frances enjoying Christmas with Grandson Eric, and his wife Liz At Sharon's home. Mom so loved Christmas
"Thank you for taking time to share my story, and thank you to my daughter "Sharon" for writing it.
"I am so pleased to have the opportunity to have my story on the Internet. With this form of technology, perhaps my story will be preserved, and maybe it will encourage others that were adopted to search for their biological parents. Hopefully, their journey will lead them to a clear truth.
I hold no animosity or ill will toward the Dodge grandchildren. I hope someday they will come to realize that I truly just wanted to know who my birth parents were. Actually, I hope they will come to realize I had the right to know the identity of biological parents, and the circumstances that surrounded my birth.
All the "why's" haunt me. Adoption laws prevent the most human right, the right to know whom one's biological parents are, and perhaps why they decided to put their child up for adoption ."
My Mom Passed Away - January 1, 2009
It's with a sad heart that I report my mom passed away On January 1, 2009. She died peacefully in her sleep, with her family at bedside. Her daughter "Brenda" stated "Mom had a glowing smile on her face, and let out a happy sounding sigh. She appeared to look as she had as a young woman. She had such a peaceful passing."
In October 2008 mom confided in me she knew her time was near. She seemed to look forward to death, perhaps at the prospect of reuniting with her sons, and husband as well as her many other loved ones.
In life she had so many unanswered questions in regard to her birth. Hopefully in death all her questions have finally been answered?
A True Lady
May she rest in peace" Frances spent her last years living a peaceful life in Mt. Dora Florida in a lovely home next to her daughter Brenda.
"Mom held out hope that someday all her questions would be answered, she also was a realist, and truly felt in her heart that the secret of her birth would stay just that, a secret ...
It's a sad fact that my mother was denied her birth right. However, due to her courageous long fight in the Michigan courts', she set a precedent, she made it possible for other adoptee's to have their questions answered."
"Frances Mealbach's " Life Was Indeed A TANGLED WEB
Pick up the book "Tangled Web" It's a book you will not be able to put down.
Author and friend "Jean Maddern Pitrone" wrote a wonderful book about mother's life story. Mrs. Pitrone took good care to compare the different lifestyles and events of mother's life, to that of her "alleged twin sister Francis Dodge". Careful detail is given to present the factual evidence of moms court case, along with compelling interviews and photos. Tangled Web won Mrs. Pitrone the SAH Award Awards of Distinction in 1990.
Author Jean Pitrone is well-known for her compelling autobiography, "The Dodges The Auto Family Fortune And Misfortune". Facts gathered from this book were immensely helpful with moms quest to prove her court claim, and win the right to view her Adoption records, and Birth Certificate
"I truly cherish my friendship with "Jean", she has been a good friend to me, and we have had some wonderful times together. Jean's book includes details of my life, and my quest to see my birth records. It's my hope that the book will be a tool to get my story to the public. Perhaps there may be someone that reads Tangled Web that can help me answer my many unanswered questions."
Note. Mrs.Mealbach will not receive any form of monetary benefit from a sales of Tangled Web. She relinquished all rights to monetary gains derived from book sales of her own accord.
To find a copy of Tangled Web, please check out Amazon used books. I have provided a link below
Tangled Web - on Amazon
Would you like to read more on Mrs. Mealbach's story? Consider purchasing the book "Tangled Web".... Amazon has several used copies.
The very first Unsolved Mysteries featured Frances Mealbach's story...
The unassuming documentary series, "Unsolved Mysteries" was one of the most popular reality programs of the late 1960s-1980s and the inspiration for dozens of network, and syndicated imitators. It all began with a single special on the night of January 20, 1987. Host Raymond Burr narrated four real-life mysteries. The show started out with the story of 72-year-old Francs Mealbach a Detroit woman, who claimed to be a possible Siamese twin and daughter of John Dodge auto barren. "Mealbach" believed she was separated at birth from a twin, and put up for adoption. Mealbach, and her two daughters actually portraying themselves in the feature made it all the more interesting. The filmmakers take you carefully back to a time gone by. The first Scene starting at a party where Mrs. Mealbachs daughter Brenda Eiler's, is handed a book by the party's host. In seconds Brenda discovers photo's that showed uncanny resemblances to not only her mother, but several of her siblings as well.
Further scenes go on to take one back in time, with a visits to the John Dodge home on the prestigious Boston Boulevard, where Mrs. Mealbach had memories of being taken as a small child. "Matilda Dodges" 100 room mansion Meadow Brook Hall, the home Matilda built after John's death, and where she raised Frances, Mrs. Mealbachs Twin. The closing scene takes you to the spooky Dodge Mausoleum, with Mrs. Mealbach pondering the whys of it all? Mrs. Mealbach's poignant story kicked off the successful long running series "Unsolved Mysteries," Which even today, reruns are still viewed, and enjoyed all over the world.'
Do you have any information that would help the Mealbach family get any closer to the truth about Mrs. Mealbach's lineage ? If so please drop me a line at ....
I hope you will take time to sign my Guestbook. I realize that my mother's story is an unusual story, and I know it might invoke many different opinions. I published this article to tell my mother's story, and express her true beliefs. I have very strong feelings on the subject, and do not intend to open any form of debate on my mom's beliefs. My mother has passed on, and hopefully she now knows the truth ...