Tumbled down the rabbit hole again. I was hunting for Walter Martin Braun when I happened upon Joseph G. Vermette, a Detroit, Michigan man who was either lucky or unlucky at love. It’s kind of hard to say.
I came across six marriages and another two marriage licenses for Joe, who is not even a shirttail relative but a fascinating story nonetheless. (One of his wives was previously married to Walter, who may or may not be the Walter Braun I’m looking for.) Long story short: If anybody says divorce rates are out of control today, they haven’t studied 1920s Detroit.
I got so completely entangled untangling the web of Joseph Vermette’s marriages and divorces that I started to wonder what more I could find about him. I searched his name on newspapers.com and — aha! — immediately found a clipping slugged “Joseph G. Vermette wife scandal.”
But here’s the twist: Joe wasn’t the scoundrel in this scandal.
Woman Bigamist Free and Happy Again
Detroit Free Press — Feb. 14, 1925
Mrs. Marie Miller, whose hobby is falling in love at first sight and whose sight is awfully good, pleaded guilty to bigamy before Judge Harry B. Keldan Friday and was placed on two years’ probation.
An equatorial warmth has clung to Mrs. Miller in her matrimonial runs. There have been three of them. They have been, for that matter, more 100 yard dashes than runs. While she was married to husband No. 2, she married husband No. 3.
Yet victory perched on her banner Friday. It was a scene to delight the feminine heart.
“I love her and wish she’d stay,” said husband No. 3—Joseph G. Vermette.
The only one of the husbandly triangle whose voice was missing from the paean was No. 1.
Husband No. 3 made some conditions, however. Krincke, a strange fellow who thought he had been wronged a bit by the fact that his wife married another man while she was married to him and for several months carried on a divided domesticity, told Judge Keldan he was going to lay down some stipulations, to wit:
That hereafter when she goes to dances, he will go with her, although he doesn’t dance.
That she must learn to drive the new Ford he bought for her.
That when Walter speaks, she must listen to him and quit falling in love at first sight.
Mrs. Miller agreed to these fierce conditions and Joe, husband No. 3 went home to 5146 Scotten avenue to live alone.
“And you don’t love Joe any more?” asked Judge Kelden.
“No, I don’t,” said Mrs. Miller.
“When did you stop loving him?”
“When my other husband came from Cleveland last night. I fell in love with him all over again.”
“She called me up only the other night and asked me if I still loved her after finding out she was married,” put in Mr. Vermette.
“And what did you say to that?” inquired the court.
It seemed that at the question Joseph had become touchingly prosy. He remembered a grand record he heard only a few nights previous.
“I told her,” he said. “You didn’t want me when I wanted you, so I’m somebody else’s now.”
Judge Kelvin was deeply moved.1
LOOKING FOR LOVE
On June 18, 1921, Joseph G. Vermette, 21, resident of Detroit, Mich., and Louise Rimke, 19, took out a marriage license. By my count, he wasn’t yet 18. The entry is crossed out and marked “no ceremony performed.” She eventually married at least twice.
On Nov. 4, 1922, Joseph took out a marriage license with Corinne Parke, 18. He’s listed as 21, but was probably 19. It doesn’t look like the marriage was completed. She married Robert B. Kent in 1929; he died in 1967.
Third time was the charm for Joseph, almost. He tied the knot on March 8, 1924 with Marie Miller. Too bad she was already married to Walter Krienke back in Cleveland [his surname was misspelled in the news articles]. After splitting her time between the two men for nearly a year, she returned home with Walter for Valentine’s Day 1925.234
Joseph didn’t waste much time getting over his first wife. On April 25, 1925, he married wife No. 2, Edna Thomas. The license says she’s 18 and he’s 21— this time it’s actually true. Two years later, he filed for divorce on the grounds of “extreme cruelty.” The divorce was granted Nov. 17, 1927. Edna went on to marry 3 more times; second hubby claimed she deserted.
But wait! Before filing for divorce against Edna, Joseph married Vera Schulte on June 4, 1927. The license says they’re both 24 and neither have been previously married. Well, that wasn’t exactly true. They’d both been married twice. Vera’s maiden name was Vera Jean Wearn; Schulte was her stepfather’s name. I believe she was once divorced (James H. Coyle) and once widowed (Walter Martin Braun) before marrying Joseph. She and Joseph were living together with her parents in Detroit in the 1930 census.
But somehow in the interim, on Aug. 15, 1928, Joe married 18-year-old Bernice Lotridge in Ann Arbor, Michigan, about 45 miles away. This time the marriage license says he’s 26 in the U.S. Navy born in Arkansas and has not been married before. I’d be inclined to believe this wasn’t the same guy, except that he consistently lists his parents as Joseph Vermette and Frances Freer. In the 1930 census, Bernice is 19 and single, renting a room and working as a waitress. She finally remarried in 1940.
On May 9, 1936, Joseph married Marie Gertrude Clawson. They each said they’d been married once before. In fact, she’d been divorced twice. His marriages are getting hard to count, but I believe she’s wife No. 5.
On April 15, 1944, Joseph married Lucille (Beaudreau) Brouett, a one-time divorcee 25 years his senior. They divorced Nov. 4, 1947, then remarried June 19, 1948. Lucille died March 19, 1967 in Graying, Michigan and Joseph died July 1 the same year. They’re buried together at Elmwood Cemetery in Graying, Michigan.
- “Woman Bigamist Free and Happy Again,” Detroit Free Press, 14 Feb 1925, p. 11, col. 2; digital image, newspapers.com (https://www.newspapers.com/clip/3439253/joseph-g-vermette-wife-scandal/?xid=637: accessed 31 Oct 2020).
- “Woman Admits Bigamy Charge,” Detroit Free Press, 12 Feb 1925, p. 5, col. 6; digital image, newspapers.com (https://www.newspapers.com/clip/62462390/woman-admits-bigamy-charge/: accessed 2 Nov 2020).
- “Meets Wife [with] Kiss, Warrant and Policeman,” The News-Palladium, Benton Harbor, Mich., 12 Feb 1925, p. 8, col. 6; digital image, newspapers.com (https://www.newspapers.com/clip/62386085/meets-wife-with-kiss-warrant-and/?xid=637: accessed 31 Oct 2020).
- “Woman Bigamist Goes Back to No. 2 to be his Valentine,” The Times Herald, Port Huron, Mich., 14 Feb 1925, p. 8, col. 7; digital image, newspapers.com https://www.newspapers.com/clip/62386194/woman-bigamist-goes-back-to-no-2-to-be/?xid=637: accessed 31 Oct 2020).