Life: the Long & Short of it

Foutz-Johnson Genealogy Newsletter

No. 1

What do we know of a life once it’s ended? And the person who lived it isn’t around anymore to tell tales?

The more years pass, the details that made a life what it was pass into legend. Or more likely, mystery.

As I traced the branches of my father’s family tree, I started to wonder: who are these people? Beyond their birth and death dates, the places they lived, what are their stories?

Here’s a brief look at seven lives — five of which ended tragically; two of which were remarkable in their longevity, and I’m assuming, all the happier for it.


Sherman was the oldest brother of my great-grandfather, Vance Cleveland Foutz. And thus, an uncle to my grandpa, Don Foutz — though I doubt Grandpa ever got the chance to know him.

Sherman was born in 1867, like the rest of the Foutzes in his day, to a farm in Harrison County, near Bowerston. His dad, Jonathan, was a farmer. Jonathan’s dad Gideon — more on him later — was a farmer. Gideon’s dad Michael, first of this line to emigrate from Germany, started the whole clan down that road. Sherman set out to be something more.

After making his way through the Harrison County school system, Sherman was educated at the New Hagerstown Academy. He sold fire insurance, and made important connections through membership in societies such as The Knights of the Maccabees, the Knights of Pythias, the Knights of Malta and the American Woodmen. In the late 1800s, he was appointed to a clerkship in the United States Treasury Department under President Grover Cleveland. He dragged much of his family to Washington D.C. with him: his wife, Elizabeth, and their young children, Oscar and Grace; his parents, Jonathan and Rebecca; even his youngest brothers, Charles and a 13-year-old Vance. They were all there to cheer him on.

Or was there something of necessity in his father’s family accompanying him?

1900 Census records indicate the entire brood living together in Washington D.C. But by the end of that year, Sherman’s father Jonathan would be dead. He was just 55. Sherman’s life was also destined to end tragically young.

Family documents report that he died in a Denver sanitarium. Was he mad? Did he flee D.C. and Ohio, too, following his father’s untimely death? No. 1910 Census reports show his family living prosperously in downtown Harrisburg. But five years later, Sherman contracted tuberculosis. Wheatridge was a site established in 1905 by the Evangelical Lutheran Church to minister to those suffering from the disease. Sherman made the trip in January 1915, hoping for a cure, and was dead by April. He was just 47. His wife, Lizzie, would outlive him by 30 years.

According to a History of Berks County, PA, where Sherman was supervising deputy for the Maccabees, he was “very popular… well known and highly esteemed for his many sterling traits of character.” Though not immune, sadly, to life’s tragic turns.

This installment continues in “Long & Short of It (Part 2).”

Categories: Foutz, Johnson, newsletter | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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6 thoughts on “Life: the Long & Short of it

  1. Pingback: What are the ‘holy grails’ of Genealogy? | Whispering Across the Campfire

  2. Pingback: Sherman Foutz: Contrasting Obits Still Yield Clues | Whispering Across the Campfire

  3. Pingback: Lizzie Foutz’s Lonely Life | Whispering Across the Campfire

  4. Pingback: Sherman Foutz Wants Your Fire Insurance Business | Whispering Across the Campfire

  5. Pingback: Jonathan Foutz Family – Sherman Foutz & Descendants « Whispering Across the Campfire

  6. Pingback: Face to face with Sherman Foutz « Whispering Across the Campfire

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