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Affairs Hidden for 40 Years Come to Light


Posted By: Volunteer
Date: 9/5/2019 at 09:22:34

Leon Reporter, Leon, Iowa
Thursday, January l5, l903

'Affairs Hidden for 40 Years Come to Light in Court at Corydon This Week'

The name DENNISON seems to spell mystery. Three times lately has it been connected with family affairs of a most remarkable nature.

A woman living honorably and happily with a man for 34 years, only to discover after his death that he was never her husband because a former undivorced wife is living; a man, after reaching an age to become a husband and father, hearing for the first time that his supposed father and mother are parents only by adoption; -- such are the striking things that have come to pass in a home as respectable, as pleasant, as commonplace, as free apparently, from the dramatic and the romantic, as are 90 out of l00 homes which come under daily notice.

The parties to these remarkable circumstances are the late J.S. DENNISON of Lineville, Wayne County, formerly of Ringgold County; his supposed widow, MRS. HARRIET J. DENNISON, now of Mt. Ayr; their adopted son, OTTO DENNISON of Lineville, who recently decamped with $l500 belonging to his foster-father's estate; and MRS. NANCY DENNISON, the undivorced first wife, living at Viola, Ill.

The facts have been known for over a year to a few interested friends, and have been gradually leaking out. The general public disclosure was made this week in Judge Parrish's Court at Corydon, in a Grand Jury investigation of OTTO DENNISON and in the settlement of the J.S. DENNISON estate.

OTTO DENNISON's final report as administrator was to have been approved upon payment of the money due his foster-mother. His flight upset this arrangement. The attorney for his bondsmen succeeded in interesting the Illinois relatives in claiming a share and in that way brought MRS. J.H. DENNISON's attorneys, Miles & Steele, to a settlement by which the bondsmen were advantaged, but by which MRS. DENNISON's share in the small estate was brought down to less than $500.

When J.S. DENNISON died in June, l90l, his foster-son OTTO, then 28 years old, and who had been adopted during the time the DENNISONS lived in Ringgold County, was informed at MRS. DENNISON's request that he was only a foster-child. He was appointed administrator of the estate. All newspaper readers here know that on November 28 young DENNISON, taking nearly $l500 in cash which he should have delivered to MRS. H.J. DENNISON at Mt. Ayr, disappeared, leaving behind him his wife and two little children, besides property worth more than the cash he took. His indictment for embezzlement is expected at the hands of the Wayne County Grand Jury this week.

The more startling disclosure was slower in appearing. Shortly after J.S. DENNISON's death, letters came to him which were soon found to have been written by a perviously unknown daughter, MRS. M.E. BRITTON of Viola, Ill., who continued to write because she had not learned of her father's death. She was written to and replied that she had discovered her father's whereabouts in l880, had been corresponding with him for over 20 years, and had received occasional visits from him during that time. Her mother, however, had not seen MR. DENNISON, though she lives today in the same house from which MR. DENNISON left her almost 38 years ago.

It has been ascertained that MR. DENNISON was married to his first wife in l859. To this union two daughters were born, one dying about l880. MR. DENNISON served in the Union Army for three or four years, returning home in the spring of l863. In September of that year he left his wife and never returned to her. His second marriage was made within 50 miles of where his wife resided.

MRS. H.J. DENNISON came to this county almost 50 years ago, and has a host of Ringgold County relatives. She is the daughter of the late JOHN LESAN, a pioneer of the county, who was the father of GEORGE W. LESAN, D.M. LESAN, MISS CLARA LESAN, and the late JOHN A. LESAN. Before her marriage to MR. DENNISON, she was twice married. Her second husband, MINOR SMITH, was killed in l866 near Mt. Ayr by a lightning stroke. She met MR. DENNISON at her sister's home in Starke County, Ill., and was married to him in l867, lived in Poe Township until l876, and in Lineville from l876 until MR. DENNISON's death.

MR. DENNISON always owned to having been somewhat dissipated in his youth, but shortly after his second marriage he became a professing Christian. So far as the world could see he had a blameless life from that time, being circumspect in his behavior, honest in his dealings and marked in his devotion to his wife. In a humble way he was honored in church and local matters. It is supposed that he realized his great mistake, and thought he could best repair the past by a silent atonement. Whether that were the wisest course, who can tell? For over a third of a century he brought happiness to a good woman, yet with crushing force there comes to her in the days of her age and weakness a revelation which might shake her faith in the reality and sincerity of all human relations. When to this is added the cruel action of her foster-son in deserting her and in taking her money, the case is one to call for the deepest sympathy.

It should be stated in justice to MRS. BRITTON that so far as is known she never sought to use her knowledge to distress her father in his lifetime, or to make any trouble financial or otherwise, for MRS. H.J. DENNISON prior to the present term of court.


Leon Reporter, Leon, Iowa
March 5, l903

'More Complications in the Dennison Case.'

MRS. NANCY DENNISON, of Viola, Ill., the undivorced and alleged genuine widow of the late J.S. DENNISON, of this place, has commenced suit in the District Court of Wayne County to set aside the conveyance of the real estate, consisting of two houses and lots in the east part of Lineville, which were sold by order of the District Court by OTTO DENNISON then administrator of the estate of J.S. DENNISON, deceased, and who subsequently absconded with the money, part of which was obtained from the sale of the property. E.R. Belvel was the purchaser of the two properties, one of which he subsequently sold to Will Buffum and both he and Mr. Buffum are made defendants in the suit. It is alleged that the real estate was purchased by money belonging to MRS. HARRIET DENNISON, now of Mt. Ayr, the second widow of J.S. DENNISON, whom he married after abandoning his first wife in Illinois, who has received her portion, as dowry, being also a part of the proceeds of the sale of the real estate. The case presents some very complicated features and the process of untangling the maze and reaching a decision that will do justice to the parties involved will be watched with interest by the public.

George Mudgett received a letter last week from his brother, Morris, of Blythedale, Mo., stating that while on a B.C. R. & N. train between Waterloo, Iowa, and Minneapolis, Minn., Jan. l3th last, he saw and recognized OTTO DENNISON, the absconding administrator of the J.S. DENNISON estate. He states that DENNISON was very much excited and nervous, apparently knowing that he was recognized by Morris, and left the train at the first point where it stopped, which was at a small place in Southern Minnesota. Morris did not speak to DENNISON but he could not be mistaken in his identity, as he knew him well in Lineville and they attended school together when both were boys at this place.


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