Two Notes and Bottle of Poison: The Story of Robin and Frances

Learning Robin Adair Thompson died in such a painful self-induced way leaving a messy legacy left a pit in my stomach that I can feel every time I think about it. His story is so sad. His life is so unknown. His memory is swept away by time all we know about Robin Adair are from public records. No one alive remembers him. Born in an unknown place to unknown parents, he was adopted by David and Rosalie Thompson first seen in the 1910 census in Wilmar, MN. Two parents with the three children of the wife’s first marriage and three adopted sons are living with the Thompsons: Ellsworth, Major and Robin Adair. Robin was 4. We know little else about these three adopted boys. We have many theories, but thems are the facts, Ma’am.


Robin next pops up in a quickie wedding to Frances Hartland. This is where the letters start. The couple runs away first to Wyoming, where her dead mother’s family lived, and then to East Grand Forks, MN, where Frances grew up, and more of her mother’s family lived. From the letters it is clear there is a fight between Frances and her Dad, Nick Harland. She is asking his forgiveness.


After a few years living in Sandstone/Hinckley, Minnesota, they move to the big city, Minneapolis. From the letters we can see that Frances is lonely. She is a stay at home mom in a new city with no friends.


Much more must have happened. Discord. Because one doesn’t commit an act such as Robin Adair committed without pain. Discord. Perhaps a long history of malcontent or perhaps mental health issues. We can guess as an orphaned then adopted child, perhaps Robin Adair did not have a good childhood. Perhaps his early life foreshadowed his death. But this is all speculation.


From the Brainerd Daily August 5, 1929:



TWO NOTES AND BOTTLE OF POISON EXPLAIN GRIM TRAGEDY OF A DOUBLE SUICIDE IN MINNEAPOLIS Minneapolis, Aug. 5. (IU!) Two notes and a bottle containing poison were left today to explain the grim tragedy of a double suicide in a room of an apartment hotel here late yesterday, when a Minneapolis man and woman were found. One of the notes explained that death "was the only way since we cannot have each other.” The man, Robin Thompson, father of two children, and the woman, Mrs. Helen McGinis, met about five weeks ago when the two families moved into the same apartment building. The two were registered in the hotel under assumed names. 




Bismarck, North Dakota August 5, 1929:


PAIR IN MINNEAPOLIS DIES IN SUICIDE PACT Man Writes Note After Taking Poison Which Causes His Death in Apartment Minneapolis, Minn, Aug. 8. —(AP) —Believed to have entered into a suicide pact, Robin Thompson, 24, and Mrs. Helen McGinnis, about 20, both of Minneapolis, were found dead in an apartment yesterday. They had taken poison. A note written by Thompson, apparently after he had taken the poison, was claimed by his wife. He was the father of two children. Police are trying to locate Mrs. McGinnis' husband. "I hope you forget us as I know we will be happy and that's more than we could be if we lived and had not each other." "Thompson's note read. "I think I'm going. Goodbye." The couple registered at the apartment last Friday.




Imagine Frances position. Her husband had just killed himself with his lover because he could not be with the other woman. Humiliation, Anger, Grief, are just a few emotions she must have felt. To have this information in every newspaper must have been hard. Everyone she knew would know how he betrayed her. How devastated she must have felt. And not only that, He had a good job. How was she going to survive with two young children. She was thrown into the pit of fire by his actions. Grieving over her husband and his betrayal, but also having to quickly figure how she was going to take care of her children and feed her family with out the income of her husband. Her life was forever turned upside down. Robin Adair did not take his family in consideration when he killed himself, but she would have to put the pieces back together. And that was her purpose for the rest of her life. She worked as a servant, away from her children for over a year to put her life back together. By marrying Clarence White after Robin died brought her children back to her. She could create a family, the family that was taken from her so abruptly. With Clarence, we know how hard they struggled financially. The Great Depression affected her family greatly. Clarence had trouble finding work, like so many during that time. Their struggle ultimately brought about Frances’ death. She wanted a family and fought hard for one. Trying to create this perfect family, trying to forget what had happened to her. Creating a world where Robin never existed. From the letters, and family stories, we know her young son, Don, never knew that Clarence wasn’t his dad until Frances died and this family she created was shattered. Frances tried to leave her tragedy behind her. Trying to erase it by having Clarence adopt her children, and not telling them of their father. Frances told her father in the letter that she would tell them when they were older. But Frances wasn’t around then. She would never be able to tell them. Frances worked so hard to keep the family she created; fate would not let her keep it. The desperation of the depression is something I hope never to have to live through, but it must have been so very hard, not knowing where your next feel would come from and seeing your husband out of work much like most of the people around you. How could they afford another child? Her family was what she fought so hard to keep together; it must have been an agonizing time. The stress she must have felt over the decision she made. How could she make it work with another mouth to feed when she could barely get by now. I am sure it was not something she took lightly, but her decision sealed her fate. She died of sepsis on days after having an abortion. Her children were separated. Her two children with Robin Adair were taken by her father Nick, and her child with Clarence was raised by Clarence and his second wife. Frances fought with all her might to keep her family together, but sometimes as hard as you fight for something it just continues to be unattainable. You can try to push and pull but the universe has other plans.