Here’s where we come to the happy ending. Hope you’re still with me….
Gideon and Delilah (Jones) Pfouts
Death records can be fascinating sources of information. They can clue you into where a person lived, what he or she did, who they were married to, where they were born, the names of their parents, the people they were closest to — which were often the people with them when they died. But… they can leave you on a bit of a downer, when you don’t know much else. Perhaps that’s the door this effort opens up — to you, to fill in some of the blanks, share some of your memories, to work backward from the death record to a life’s middle, and all the attendant stories.
Census records, on the other hand, can be just as rich with detail, but seem to capture a happier snapshot, of life in the midst, of families alive and caught for the briefest of moments in the pages of history.
Fortunately for me, researching our history some 150 years later, great-great-great grandpa Gideon stood still long enough to be recorded by name in the censuses of 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900 and 1910. And wife Delilah was right by his side for most of it.
The couple first shows up on the census rolls in 1850, in Monroe Township, in the northwest corner of Harrison County, Ohio. Gideon is 29, and Delilah, 24. Their family is just getting started, with great-great grandpa Jonathan, 5, attending school for the first time in the last year. Tabitha, 2, is also among the household, and a lodger, John Hurless, helps Gideon with the farm, which is valued at $1,000.
In 1860, the family hasn’t moved. They’re still farming in Monroe Twp., though the post office is now located at Tappan. The farm’s value has increased to $2,425 real estate value, with Gideon’s personal property valued at $550. The family has also grown, with Jonathan and Tabitha, now 15 and 12, joined by John (10), David (7) and Nathaniel (4). John Hurless is still there, still farming alongside Gideon, and Jonathan has joined them.
By 1870 Jonathan has set up down the road a piece with his young bride, Rebecca Jane (Caldwell). He has land of his own, valued at $500, and Sherman, 2, and little Lila A. (10 months), mark the beginning of his family. Gideon and Delilah, meanwhile, have a house filled with even more kids: Tabitha (22), John (20), David (17), Nathaniel (14) and now Nelson, 8. All but the two youngest boys help on the farm, and only Gideon, Tabitha and John are listed as being able to read. (No one can write, according to the record.) The farm, if you’re keeping score, is now worth $4,000.
By 1880, Gideon and Delilah are in their late 50s, still farming, their postal address having changed from Tippecanoe to Bowerston in the last decade. Nathaniel and Nelson are now grown and working the farm. Brother John farms on neighboring land.
All but a few fragments of the 1890 federal census were lost to fire. But in 1900, life is remarkably consistent, at least where the record is concerned. Nelson still lives at home, now 37, still single and helping out on the farm. Gideon is not listed as retired, and one imagines him still working the fields at a hearty 78. Nathaniel and his wife Eliza seem to have taken over the neighboring farm, and though Jonathan and Rebecca have gone with Sherman to Washington, son John and his family and several daughters still reside in the county. One imagines a life surrounded with grandchildren, on land the family has farmed for more than half a century. Though the number the census taker records on the roll next to Gideon’s and Delilah’s names under “length of marriage” beats even that: 57 years, as of that January.
And there’s a lot one can’t assume about someone else’s working life, or the trials of a time in history, or the neighbors or lodgers or relatives who surround you. But I’d like to imagine that 57 is some indication of a ripe happiness. And a good way to close this series of installments.
We’ll talk sources, taking you back to Michael Pfouts, our first ancestor in the United States. And I’ll trace how the spelling of our name changed from Pfouts, to Fouts, to Foutz in a period of 40 or so years.
Remember, that you can find pictures and notes and the actual documents I’ve written about on Geni.com, where you can add your own memories, questions, thoughts, etc. Or comment here.
Until we hunker around the campfire again….