… and Colt can show you where it was.
In the first Foutz-Johnson newsletter, I shared some of the info I dug up on my great-great-great grandfather, Gideon Pfouts.
Gideon, remember, was father to Jonathan Pfoutz and grandfather to Vance Cleveland Foutz. In just those three generations, we can trace the changing of our family surname. Gideon and all his brothers and sisters were listed as Pfouts on family patriarch Michael Pfouts’s 1851 will. Michael, Gideon’s father (and my great-great-great-great grandfather!), was the first of our family to come over from Germany. Michael made the move from Maryland to Harrison County in the early 1800’s, according to the United States patent for his farmland, which also has his name spelled Pfouts. And the family farmed in Harrison County for almost a century. It is through census records that we see Jonathan adopting Pfoutz. By the time Jonathan moved to Washington D.C. to be with oldest son Sherman in the late 1890s, the family was using Foutz, which is what Vance and wife Laura used as they got settled in Dover, Ohio by the 1910 census. (Gideon, incidentally, bore the spelling “Fouts” on his 1911 death certificate.)
But more on all that later.
The handy thing about having an ancestor like Gideon stay in one place for so long is that we can get a fix on where he lived and what things were like there. Gideon is named in 6 census docs for Monroe Township in Harrison County. Each lists him as a farmer – or retired farmer. But where was that farm? And what sits on that land today? After all, the world has changed radically in the last 150 years. The pace of life in rural east-central Ohio may be languid compared to, say, New York or Chicago, but the geography? Tappan Lake didn’t even exist in the 1850s. It was man-made, in the 1930s. Who’s to say our ancestral farm of the 1800s isn’t underwater today?
Well, me. After a bit of research. And a little luck.
A view of Harrison County in 1875
One thing I did as I researched our genealogy, even as I mined gold in official documents, was to keep trying Google searches around various terms related to our ancestors. I searched names, places, dates, cemeteries, etc. One search led me to a web site maintained by the descendants of Thomas Smith, who kept a journal of his life in Harrison County from 1872 – 1875. There is one mention in the diary of Foutz — something about paying $1 for a load of “cole” from “Foutses bank”. More valuable to me were the links to other historical research sites. This led me to an exceptionally detailed map of Harrison County in 1875 at Historic Map Works.
Back when Gideon’s father, Michael, was getting started in Ohio, the United States government was staking its financial future on western settlers. They sent teams of surveyors to map and plat the country, the better to sell these parcels and fill the government’s empty coffers. There is information on how this worked, and what families paid in the Historical Collections of Harrison County. You can download the WHOLE DOCUMENT — which includes marriage, will, land, cemetery and other records — at Google Books. Ah, technology!
What I found, from Michael’s land patent and his listing in the Historical Collections, were the range, township and plat numbers of the oldest Foutz ancestor’s farm. Trouble is, by 1875 and the making of the detailed map above, Michael was long dead, and his estate settled among many children. Who’s to say Gideon, among the youngest kids, even got the farm? And you try interpreting, on that 1875 map, just where Range 6 and Township 13 are, not to mention Section 20.
Well, after — yawn — more — yawn — research into platting and zoning than I care to revisit, I did get a sense for where the townships and ranges were, and why the sections are where they are. But by 1875 Gideon wasn’t farming Michael’s land. He was located in Section 25, on 80 acres very clearly labeled G.P.Fouts.
Now, what’s interesting here is that the roads are so clear in the 1875 map. The roads of today still follow the old rail line to Pittsburgh, even though the rail line’s importance has diminished inestimably in the 135 years since. In other words, the roads today were built upon the old trails. Here’s a closer look at that 1875 map with Gideon’s land:
But how do we match up that view with the land today? When I looked at a satellite view of Monroe Township with Google Maps, the roads, thrillingly, seemed to follow recognizable shapes to the hand-drawn 1875 map. But I’m a trained journalist. I’m skeptical. How do I get definitive evidence? The answer was a service from EarthPoint that draws the township and plat lines — same today as they were in 1875 — on Google Earth. What I saw, when I zoomed into section 25 in Township 13, Range 6 — otherwise known as Monroe Township in Harrison County — was simply stunning.
When you zoom in, you can clearly still see THE ORIGINAL OUTLINE OF THE FARM FROM THE 1800s. The roads match up. Geographical features like the creek running across the northwest corner match up. You can even see disturbed earth on the 2010 image where the farm buildings in 1875 where noted. Absolutely incredible.
Do you know the way to Gideon’s, hey?
Yes. When I started matching up the platted Google Earth image with Google Maps, I found a dummy address — meaning, this is not the address of any home out there right now, though you can clearly see residences on the satellite image — that is a good way to find the place. That ended up being 89500 Mill Hill Road, Bowerston, OH.
When you type it in on Google Maps, you get the same stunning image — the outline of the Foutz (or Pfouts) family farm from 135 years ago. And a way to get there. From Dover, you’d take Route 250 East. Before you get to Tappan, just before the railroad underpass, you turn left on Patterson Road (151). Before Bowerston, you turn right on County Highway 44 — Grundy Ridge Road. The old farm stands northeast of the intersection of Grundy Ridge Road and Mill Hill Road. You turn left on Mill Hill Road (Twp Highway 215). There’s a residence immediately to your left after making the turn, but the older farm buildings would have been located farther up Mill Hill Road on your left. There seem to be drives and other land formations up there that are hard to identify from the satellite image.
A word of caution before taking a tour
Clearly, from the images above, people live along this road today. And probably the land has been subdivided a few times. Still, it’s interesting that the old land boundaries are still so visible. Also interesting is that there are living Foutzes in the Bowerston area, both evidenced by online phone/address records (which indicate some really old folks) and from the fresh flowers at Foutz graves I saw during a March visit home.
By my next newsletter post, I hope to detail as much of the Foutz history in this area and their descendants, which requires tracing the lives of siblings and cousins, etc. etc. This can take time. And that’s why I think it would be better to show some prudence before tromping around the old farmstead or scaring the wits out of any distant cousins who may — or may not, and probably not — live around there. I think going in equipped with knowledge of our common ancestors, with a sincere desire to discover our roots and any other evidence that survives, will be better received once I do additional digging.
But for now — ain’t it cool? As always, see more on geni.com. See you next time we get the fire good and stoked.