So, This is 40


Weible Robert Elks Lodge

The dates on my great-grandfather R.O. Weible’s Elks leader portrait probably peg his age accurately — 39 in 1931, right on the cusp of 40.

Family Men at 40: A Rogue’s Gallery

I’ll say this for investing a little time in genealogy as a hobby: the presents you can create for family sure beat the silk off gifting another tie or purse.

As much as genealogy plays into my passions for research and writing, my bouts of document diving and image archiving have generated a few keepsake Christmas and birthday and anniversary and just-because gifts commemorating loved ones lost and living.

What fun would it be, after all, not to share?

Blogging about my Grandpa Foutz’s special 1931 football season led first to a Christmas book collecting both his source scrapbook and my blogs about his exploits, and later to a project to create an authentic reproduction of his 1931 jersey, as well as his actual game-worn uniform.

Before that, I’d taken a first crack at a frame-worthy family tree poster for my parents’ 35th anniversary. Then, a few years ago for my own 10th anniversary, I’d included my wife’s side back to the great-greats in an even bigger piece that hangs in our dining room at home — a record I’ve got to update, anyway, since we added a third little grape to our own family vine, oh, three years or so ago.

I’ve gladly cut my cousins into a trove of photos and newspaper clips I’ve stockpiled for their own efforts at milestone-marking.

And speaking of milestones, some of the less-sleuthworthy but more generically blogworthy posts in this space have focused on monthly birthdays and anniversaries of our ancestors.

This blog site and the notion of Whispering Across the Campfire, of course, is a means of sharing, too — releasing the newfound mysteries and facts so we can revel at them together, or send a beacon to relatives yet unknown in order to make sense of a particularly gnarly nugget.

You can bet I get a lot out of that, too.

So genealogical generosity, evidence indicates, is mostly a zero-sum game. You get what you give.

Well, today, I found my thoughts turning to… myself. Specifically, at about 12:12 a.m., the clock having ticked to a milestone of my own. I found myself, newly 40, pondering… a variety of sleep-evading thoughts, mostly on family. For instance:

  • my inlaws, in their 60s; when we’d first met, sharing beers at a festival tent in Columbus, Ohio, they were barely 50. Is it possible so much time has racked up, and so quickly?
  • my youngest son, turned 3 just 3 days before; when I’m 50 he’ll be 13, still house-bound to us for another 5 years, but also likely to leap in an eyeblink.
  • my oldest, almost 10, will be out of the house by then; his brother, Ben, on the verge of leaving.
  • my own parents, at 40, contending with a 16-year-old me. Seems so recent, but actually….
  • the things I’d hoped for, some lost, some attained — were they me? Another me? Someone else?
  • and the memories which still seem close enough to step into; events and people at 12 and 20 and 9 and 30, how long do we hold them, and for what end?

All right. So at least I’m old enough to know the antidote — a trusty book, kept bedside. Reshuffling my thoughts in the rhythm of narrative. Finding rest.

Mostly, in that interval, I thought of family. And the lessons we grope at — however profound, however fleeting — of the things they’d done, and the ways they’d lived. What it says about us, about all this: there is always someone who came before, always stories to be written after.

Ahem. Well.

OK, so I eventually found sleep. And woke up today with a little nugget of an idea for a milestone blog of sorts. Not about me, really. But a visual reminder of some of the ragged thoughts bumping around in my middle-aged brain.

A few years ago, when my parents turned 60, I put together a little slideshow compiling photos and facts of their own parents and grandparents and great-grandparents: what they looked like and the way they lived in the years they turned 60. A little parallel time capsule, of sorts.

So today I find myself thinking about the men in my family. A few of whom I’m told I resemble. (That’s generous, in some instances, plainly tragic in others. But ah well. Our faces are just the facades we present to the outside.) Without over-narrating, then (having done that already), a slideshow. Of Foutzes and Leys and Weibles, etc., at or around when they turned 40.

Of course, 40 is relative. (Accidental pun, hahaha. Relative.) What would it mean, without a little juxtaposition? So, I’ve thrown that in, too.

Prost! Skol! Cheers!

So this is 40? A Slideshow

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Erma Johnson, Don Foutz Wed in Early AM Ceremony


 

 

Don Foutz Erma Johnson

Don & Erma Foutz, on their wedding day.

 

Details Bring Life to Foutz-Johnson Wedding

Awhile back, I shared the newspaper account of the 1942 bridge card game at which my grandparents, Don and Erma Foutz, announced their engagement and pending early-morning May wedding.

The article from our hometown Dover, Ohio Daily Reporter shared some great details of my grandparents at the time, including their employment, and paired with the engagement card that was in my parents’ possession, was a neat window on who they were as a newly-wedded couple.

But there were — of course — some questions. For instance, cool on them for getting married at Grace Lutheran Church in Dover, where my dad and his brothers were confirmed, and where Grandma worshipped until her death in 2000. But why were they married at 6:45 a.m.?

And was the picture above, which my wife and I featured prominently with those of our other grandparents at our wedding some 60 years later, really from that day, May 9? Could it have been, since Grandma is pictured in a suit, not a gown? And if no gown, was the rest of the ceremony more traditional, or matter-of-fact, hence the unusual time?

Well, we don’t get all the details served up, the way we might in a conversation with them, could we ask. I say might, since memory and company have a way of shading some things, hiding others. But the official record, this time from the crosstown New Philadelphia Daily Times, fills in a lot of blanks. And helps confirm some cool pictures we have from that day as, yes, being genuine wedding-day shots.

Of course, some errors in the account needed some extra research to untangle. See editor’s notes in the excerpt below.

Early Morning Wedding ‘A Pretty Affair’

From Saturday, May 9, 1942:

Spring and early morning combined to make the wedding of Miss Erma Johnson of this city and Mr. Donald Foutz of Dover a pretty affair today. Miss Johnson is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. C. A. Johnson of New Philadelphia and Mr. Foutz’ parents are Mr. and Mrs. Vance Foutz of Dover.

The two exchanged marriage vows this morning at seven o’clock in Emmanuel Lutheran Church (INCORRECT — Emmanuel was in Phila, but Pastor Ebert presided at Grace Lutheran Church in Dover) in Dover where two large white baskets of Madonna lilies and Star of Bethlehem were grouped at the altar. The Rev. Paul F. Ebert, pastor of the church, officiated for the ceremony, which was performed with Miss Margery Taylor of this city as maid of honor and Mr. Dale Andreas of Dover, best man.

At six-forty-five o’clock, Miss Maxine Renner of Sugarcreek played a recital of organ numbers as a prelude to the marriage service and included in her selections “Ava Maria,” by Schubert; “The Rosary,” by Nevin, and “O Promise Me,” by de Koven. During the ceremony, Miss Renner played “I Love You Truly,” by Bond, and used “The Bridal Chorus,” from Lohengrin as the processional with Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March” as the recessional.

With her smartly tailored brown and beige shepherd checked suit, the bride used dark brown accessories. At the shoulder she had a brown-throated white orchid.

Miss Taylor’s becoming ensemble consisted of a beige suit with aqua and brown accessories. Her shoulder arrangement was of Johanna Hill roses. Miss Renner had a Briarcliff rose corsage.

After the ceremony, members of the bridal party were served breakfast at the Johnson home.

Mr. Foutz and his bride left for a short wedding trip and when they return, will reside for the time being in the Metz Apartments (by the location of Goshen Dairy in Phila today), this city.

 Mrs. Foutz was graduated in 1939 from New Philadelphia high school and is employed in the offices of Greer Steel Company in Dover. She is a member of Mu Chapter, Alpha Pi Sigma Sorority, of Dover.

Mr. Foutz is a graduate of Dover high school, class of 1931 (incorrect – that was his final year of terrorizing Phila on the football field; he graduated in 1932), and is an employee of the Fred P. Potschner Garage in Dover.

Foutz Don wedding 1942

Don Foutz, probably on the day of his wedding, May 1942.

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Zula Ley: Little-Known Fact #4


Ley Zula Robert Jr. 1918

A 1918 portrait shows my great-grandmother, Mary Zula Lucrece (Fisher) Ley, and her newborn son, my grandfather Robert Earl Ley Jr.

Tragic Death Tied to Flu Epidemic

When I started this blog, it was to share what’s most interesting to me about genealogy — the way the lives and personalities of our ancestors come to life in the stories we uncover.

At times those stories are tragic. Perhaps none more so than the story of my great-grandmother, Zula (Fisher) Ley.

Posts in the last weeks have shared snippets of her young life — acclaim for her acting in a senior play, notching a finalist finish in a national beauty contest, sneaking off to Wellsburg, W. Va. to marry Great-Grandpa Earl Ley.

These and other portraits show Zula as vital, intelligent, beautiful.

But her life is defined for her descendants by its tragic end, subject of the second post ever in this blog. It was front-page news in neighboring Dover: how the young wife, 24, of a prominent dentist passed away of influenza and pneumonia late on a Sunday night at home in New Philadelphia, Ohio.

An account in the hometown Daily Times, however, also ties Zula’s death to a sudden epidemic that winter.

The Feb. 2, 1920 edition, front page, broadcasts in bold headlines: FLU EPIDEMIC CLAIMS THREE; RED CROSS TAKES UP BATTLE. Whole Families are Reported Ill. Relief is Sought. Three Persons Die Over Weekend.

While influenza is fast enveloping New Philadelphia in a grip that claimed three fatalities Sunday and Monday the Red Cross is preparing to combat the epidemic with nurses.

Mayor E. N. Fair Monday as chairman of the influenza committee of the Red Cross was seeking a nurse for a family where help could not be obtained to take care of the ill.

Whole families are ill with the epidemic, and many patients were reported on the verge of death, Monday.

Young Wife Dies

Mrs. Mary Zula Ley, 24, wife of Dr. Robert E. Ley, Dover dentist, succumbed to influenza-pneumonia at 11:30 p.m. Sunday following ten days’ illness.

The death of Mrs Ley which occurred at the residence on West High street, caused widespread sorrow.

The husband and one son, Robert Earl, aged 16 months, survive.

Years later, with more information known about our family history, it is believed the hereditary presence of Factor V Leiden, which causes abnormal clotting of the blood, particularly in veins, may have contributed to Zula’s death.

Reported in neither paper was the stillborn death of her infant daughter, also named Mary on a separate death certificate.

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Zula Ley: Little-Known Fact #3


Robert Earl Ley Sr. and Son

A very young Robert Earl Ley Jr. and his father, Robert Sr.

Secret Wedding for Zula Fisher & Earl Ley?

There are certain major checkboxes in the Genealogy-by-numbers game. Birth and death are the bookends. And, if a particular branch should bear fruit, marriage the node not-quite-in-between.

Know those dates and you’ve got the basic sketch of a life’s trajectory. But what’s behind a date? Pair it with a location and you start to have a story.

We’re born where our parents’ lives began to blossom, sometimes in the stomping grounds of previous generations, often in a new place, with new possibilities.

We pass away at the terminus of a hopefully long journey, the many bends and dips and peaks along the way often not documented as boldly, yet significant in their bearing on life’s course.

The place we’re married, now, that can be a waypoint with ties to our youth, the places where parents raised us; or to the place where we fell in love, got our starts; or even someplace random or dreamy in its romance, significant unto itself.

And of course the stories get deeper beyond mere dates and places. It’s more than mere rite of passage. A party, a reunion — and union — of relatives (some sober, some significantly less so), a crossing of a particular threshold, an adult declaration of commitment.

Yeah, I bet there’s a lot of stories tucked in there.

In my research, dutifully documenting these dates of significance for relatives on various branches of the tree, for those in Ohio in the early decades of the 20th century a particular place dots biographical records enough it begins to coalesce into an arrow pointing to … West Virginia. Specifically, Ohio and Brooke counties.

Today, we’ll take a look at Wellsburg, W. Va., county seat of Brooke, and an occasion in summer, 1917.

Wellsburg, ‘Gretna Green’ to Ohio, Pennsylvania Elopements

The official record reads that Robert Earl Ley and Zula Lucrece Fisher were married June 27, 1917. The place, with a little more digging, is Wellsburg, W. Va.

But the newspaper announcement of their marriage — and the timing some six months later — reveals a bit more.

From the New Philadelphia, Ohio, Daily Times, Dec. 19, 1917:

Wedding Announcement

Mr. and Mrs. J. W. Fisher announces the marriage of their daughter, Mary Zula Lucrece Fisher to Liet. Dr. Robert Earl Ley, son of former County Treasurer Charles Ley and Mrs Ley of East avenue. The marriage took place at Wellsburg, W. Va. June 27, 1917.

Dr. and Mrs. Ley wil spend their Christmas vacation in the East, after visiting relatives and college friends of Dr. Ley’s in Cleveland. They will be the honored guests at several social events while in Cleveland.

Mrs. Ley is a graduate of the New Philadelphia high school in the class of 1932. During the past two years has been teaching in the Dover schools.

Dr. Ley, is a graduate of Western Reserve Dental college and for the past year and half has been practicing in Dover.

Both Dr. and Mrs. Ley have a host of friends and relatives in New Philadelphia and Dover, and the announcement of their wedding will come as a surprise.

“The announcement of their wedding will come as a surprise,” OK! And to their friends in two cities at that. OK!

Also significant in the timing is that it’s not just six months after their nuptials, it’s just about nine months exactly before the birth of their son, my grandpa, Robert Earl Jr., Sept. 30, 1918.

Interesting, eh?

I am sure there are some stories in those intervals of six and nine months, respectively. The story of Wellsburg, though, is documented in a number of places.

Wellsburg served as a famous “Gretna Green” in the U.S. for its fortuitous lack of a waiting period before marriage. Thousands of couples each year crossed from Ohio and Pennsylvania to wed. As surrounding communities enacted longer waiting periods before couples could tie the knot, the flood increased — more than 4,000 couples were married before Christmas Day in 1933; the annual tide swelled to 10,000 by 1936. In 1937, the county responded to pressure from parents in Pittsburgh, among other municipalities, and toughened its laws.

So, Great-Grandma and -Grandpa were products of the time. But as it turns out, there’s another twist to this story.

 

John & Addie Fisher Family, New Philadelphia, OH

Great-great Grandparents John and Addie Fisher are front, center. Great-grandma Zula is front, left. Sister Alverna is front, right. In the back are brothers Byron, Clyde and Oscar.

Fisher Sisters Tie Knot on Same Day?

June 27, 1917 was a Wednesday. Wellsburg was a little over an hour away — 65 miles — down present-day 250E and 22E toward Pittsburgh.

Did 23-year-old dentist Earl and 21-year-old teacher Zula sneak off on a weekday alone to get hitched? As it turns out, probably they did not.

Although I could find no newspaper announcing the wedding of Zula’s younger sister, then 19-year-old Alverna, and 21-year-old Olin Abbuhl, family records on Ancestry.com all reported the same marriage day for the siblings. Curious. And could be wrong.

But diving for the actual records reveals this: at the top of page 238 in the Brooke County wedding registry you’ll see Earl and Zula; at the bottom of page 241 you’ll find Olin and Alverna. Although they recorded Earl’s age as a year older than he really was, only the inaccuracy for Alverna bears any legal implications. At 19, she fell two years short of the age requirements — though there was no checking. So the license records her age as 21.

The lack of a wedding announcement for Olin and Alverna — even their obituaries in 1962 and 1977 do not report their wedding date — leaves several possibilities. Were both sisters wed in secret? Were Olin and Alverna wed officially, with Earl and Zula deciding in the moment to also tie the knot? Not likely, due to Alverna’s (actual) age.

We don’t know the exact details now. But the facts of date and place certainly tell an interesting story.

 

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Zula Ley: Little-Known Fact #2


Ley Zula Robert Jr. 1918

A 1918 portrait shows my great-grandmother, Mary Zula Lucrece (Fisher) Ley, and her newborn son, my grandfather Robert Earl Ley Jr.

Zula Fisher, Aspiring Film Actress

One of the most striking portraits in my family’s collection is that of my great-grandmother, Zula Lucrece (Fisher) Ley, holding her infant son, my grandpa, Robert Earl Ley, Jr.

The portrait is made more poignant, certainly, by knowing the rest of their story.

How Zula, at 24, would die of influenza while pregnant with her second child, a daughter. And grandpa grew up for a time in the care of Zula’s parents, John William and Addie May, before rejoining his father and stepmother’s household years later.

Zula’s beauty and youth are all the more touching and tragic, knowing more details of her character.

A New Philadelphia Daily Times story from when she was 20 captures her foray into national beauty contests designed to screen test potential movie stars.

Zula Fisher Cracks 1916’s Top 100

From the front page, Tuesday, May 9, 1916:

The beauty and brains contest, a nation wide enterprise, which, under the guidance of the World-Equitable Motion Picture Corporation, has been running for he past eight months in the Photoplay Magazine, is drawing to a close. Lillian Russell, one of the judges, has made the first selection.

Miss Zula Fisher of New Philadelphia, one of the original candidates, was selected by Miss Russell and is one of the hundred who will enter the final elimination. The elimination is now going forward to select the eleven successful candidates.

Miss Zula Fisher, when the contest originated, was prevalied upon to send her photograph with the result that when the eight thousand likenesses were gone over she was selected as one of the hundred most likely film subjects by Lillian Russell. The contest called for an equal amount of brains and beauty. It was essential for the candidate to write a letter in her own hand-writing, stating her reasons for desiring to become a film actress. The applicants, or candidates were then grouped as to the section of the country in which they lived and two candidates from five different sections will finally be chosen. Lillian Russell, Sophie Irene Loeb, a noted New York society writer, William A. Brady, the famous theatrical manager, are the judges. There will be ten winning candidates from the United States and one from Canada.

The eleven successful young ladies will be taken to New York, a month will be devoted to teaching them the value of various dramatic angles, and then those who show proper interest and sufficient ability, will become permanent members of the World and Equitable stock companies, and at goodly salaries appear in films.

Lectures, theatre parties, studio lessons and a number of events are carded for the successful candidates and it is very likely that Miss Fisher, will be one of the successful entrants.

Pretty neat, eh? Considering the obvious beauty of subsequent generations of Ley girls (and presumably, Fisher girls, too), and a connection to a certain modeling aunt of mine, Heather Ley, Zula’s youngest granddaughter.

Would have been nice — awesome, even — to lay eyes on her contest photo, or her entry write-up. Alas.

A quick search of Photoplay magazines from the period reveals what we (probably) already knew: Zula didn’t make the cut. Seems the contest was done and dusted as early as February that year, but the magazine and film corp kept the public in suspense. How might life have changed for Zula — and us, her descendants — had her film dreams played out?

Thursday, another fun fact — and mystery — from her life a year or so later.

Fisher Zula Beauty Brains Photoplay Excerpt 1916

 

 

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