One member of my family described him as “one of the nicest guys you’d ever meet”.
Other family members, the ones with memories of Harry Tolf’s earlier life, told a different story.
As a genealogist I try to keep all the stories in mind. And look for documentation to prove or disprove them.
Harry Wilhelm Tolf was born in Batavia, Kane, Illinois 07 Apr 1884 to Swedish immigrants Augusta Sophia (nee Landstrom) and Peter August Tolf. The oldest of three children, he attended Batavia schools, graduating from high school in that same far west suburb of Chicago.
Working with his hands in more automated machine shops than those of his blacksmith foreman father, Harry may have been instrumental in the family’s move from Batavia to Chicago.
In 1908 24 year old Harry eloped to St. Joseph, Berrien, Michigan with 19 year old Julia Christine Thompson.
Followed by very ugly divorce proceedings. Harry became violent on more than one occasion. He even had Julia comitted to an insane asylum.
A judge finalized their divorce in 1922 giving Harry and his well-to-do parents custody of the couple’s three children.
Then Harry married Judith T. Peterson.
There were rumors that Harry and Judith had been seeing each other before Harry’s divorce.
Not something easily proven by a genealogist.
Although I did find it curious, disturbing even, when I realized Harry’s father and Judith Peterson’s father were friends from way back in Batavia. They posed together in this picture.
And I started to wonder how long Harry and Judith had been in each other’s lives. And why Harry married Julia in the first place.
Of course I’m thankful that Harry and Julia were married.
One of their three children was my maternal grandmother.