Mystery Monday: The Brides of Emiel Zietzke

Sometimes you think you know a person… especially if that person is your father.

I’ve been researching the paternal line of one of my clients.  He thought he knew his father, Emiel Zietzke, pretty well—it was his grandfather, Wilhelm Zietzke, who was the main object of his curiosity.  But his father’s life has turned out to have some unexpected twists and turns that my client didn’t know about!

Emiel August Zietzke (1885-1956) was born in Bozeman, Montana.  In his young adulthood, he helped his father Wilhelm run his confectionary store there.  Emiel first married in 1911 at age 25, to Florence Henrietta Saunders.  They homesteaded in the Wilsall, Montana area and had three children (all now deceased).  But the marriage wasn’t a very long one; Flora died in 1924.

The years went by…  Emiel remarried in 1938, after his three children were grown.  His new wife was Lila DesRosier, whom he married when he was 53 and she was 31.  They soon had two children—one died many years ago in a car accident, and the other is my client.  The marriage certificate said that Emiel was a widower, but that was only partially true.  What my client never knew was that his father had at least two more marriages between Florence and Lila, between 1924 and 1938, both apparently ending in divorce.

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The mystery is, who were those two wives, and what went wrong?  And—were there more?

I first discovered Ida Mason Benson when added some new Washington marriage records to their collections last fall.  And there it was—a marriage in Spokane, Washington in 1930 between Emiel A. Zietzke of Bozeman, Montana and Ida Benson.  A little more digging told me that Ida was a widow whose maiden name was Mason; her first husband was William C. Benson, and she had a son by that marriage named Albert.  Emiel and Ida must not have been married long, as a number of Montana newspaper clippings show her reverting back to the last name “Benson” by the 1950s.  My questions:  When and why did Emiel and Ida split up?  What happened to their marriage?

Then a few weeks ago, after subscribing to, I stumbled upon this clipping, from the Montana Standard, September 5, 1929:

Emiel Zietzke Divorce - Montana Standard, 9-5-1929

Yet another marriage!  So Emiel wasn’t a widower very long after his first wife Flora died.  Some more digging produced a marriage certificate that told me that Emiel married Margaret Dell in Green River, Sweetwater, Wyoming in 1925.  The article said that she left him after only two months, but a divorce wasn’t granted until 1929.  My questions:  Who was Margaret Dell?  How did Emiel meet her?  And what happened to their marriage?

Let’s reconstruct this roster of brides:

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  • Florence Saunders:  1911-1924
  • Margaret Dell:  1925-1929
  • Ida Mason Benson:  1930-??
  • Lila DesRosier:  1938-1956, when Emiel died.

That leaves one more question unanswered:  Ida went back to the name “Benson” in the early 1930s.  Did Emiel marry again, between then and 1938?   Wouldn’t I like to know!

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