Friday, May 6, 2016

The Daughter Who Wasn't

William Peter Ternes came from a wealthy Detroit family of German descent. He worked with his brothers at Ternes Coal & Lumber, where he had been the treasurer since 1905. He was also a vice president of The Cooper Baking Co. In 1910 he eloped with Elsie Agnes Gerstner, who worked for the company as a bookkeeper.

Elsie Agnes Gerstner working at Ternes Coal & Lumber;
photograph courtesy of Randall Muir

William went on to found his own coal and lumber business and finally a real estate business before his death. He and Elsie had seven children before William Peter Ternes died of pulmonary edema at the age of 49 on 17 November 1926.[1]

Elsie married John Francis "Frank" Deacon, a widower with two children, on 27 June 1928. They had a daughter, Frances T. Deacon, the next year. When the 1930 census was enumerated the family lived at 722 Chicago Boulevard in Detroit, along with four servants. The house was valued at $50,000 and Frank and Elsie ran a real estate company together with Elsie acting as president.

Elsie (Gerstner) Ternes on the day of her wedding to Frank
Deacon. Left to right: Marian Ruth Ternes, Evelyn Ternes,
Elsie, and Joy Margaret Ternes; photograph courtesy of
Sally (Ternes de Reuter) Martinez

Fredrica Deacon, Daughter of Frank Deacon

Evelyn Ternes, Elsie's eldest child by William Peter Ternes, and Fredrica "Frieda" Deacon, daughter of Frank Deacon and his first wife, were good friends. A month after their parents married, they traveled to Europe together aboard the S/S Regina and returned aboard the S/S Arabia on 21 August 1928. At the same time the young women were in France, Frieda's future husband was also there. He departed Cherbourg aboard the S/S Pennland and arrived in New York on 6 August 1928 two weeks before the women.

Frieda and Frank married on 18 June 1929. Frank was a prominent attorney in Detroit. He died on 19 January 1933 after suffering for three days from uremia. Nearly a month after her husband's death, Frieda gave birth to their son, Frank J. Hester, Jr., on 10 February 1933. Frieda's mother-in-law apparently made several threats to take the boy away from Frieda.

Elsie (Gerstner) Ternes Deacon Dies

In 1932 Elsie, Frank Deacon's second wife, was diagnosed with breast cancer. After suffering for 18 months she died on 23 December 1933, leaving her new husband, six living children by her first marriage, and 4-year-old daughter, Frances Deacon. After her death, several people in the extended families, began trying to get Frank and Elsie's real estate business.

Move to California

To escape the business sharks and the mother-in-law who wanted to snatch her baby, Frieda (Deacon) Hester, and her father, Frank Deacon, moved to Santa Barbara, California, with their children, Frances Deacon and Frank Hester. Frank Deacon died there in 1936.

When the 1940 census was enumerated, Frieda owned a farm in Santa Barbara and lived there with two children, who were listed as Frances Hester, 10, and Frank Hester, 7. She married Adolph P. Kerr sometime before 1942. Frieda and Adolph remained in Santa Barbara until their deaths in 1975 and 1976, respectively.

The daughter, Frances Hester, was really Frieda's half-sister, Frances Deacon.

I discovered this story while trying to find Elsie's six living children in the 1940 census. I thought I figured out Frances Hester and Frances Deacon were the same person but couldn't prove it until I contacted another user who confirmed the details and provided the reasons why. Other portions of the story, came to me from descendants of Marian Ruth (Ternes) Muir.

[1]Elsie had their seventh child three months after William's death. One child, Ruth Marie Ternes (1914-1917), drowned at the family's summer place on Hickory Island.


  1. Great title! Kept me reading 'til the end. ~ Cathy

    1. I struggle with titles but every once in a great while, a good one comes to me.

  2. Your title did the same for me! Titles are tricky for me too.

    1. Great! Every once in a while the perfect title does occur to me. But they are few and far between.

  3. We just figured out this was our family and loved the information that you offered.