Johnson Siblings: Way Back When & Nearer to Now


Johnson siblings, 1979: Floyd, Lloyd, Bill, Erma, Nellie, Virginia, Leonard

A week or so ago my brother, Dan, was asking about my Grandma Erma Foutz’s childhood.

He was preparing a tribute for his fiancee, Laura’s, grandma on the occasion of her 80th birthday. With both of our grandmas gone — Erma in 2000, and Sue Ley in 2007 — Dan thought it would be nice to introduce Laura’s grandma to them, and share some stories about the influence they had on his life.

I never had a chance to write up something for Dan. On a pretty tight deadline, he pulled an all-nighter and put together a collection of memories he had of Grandma, which I’m sure made a very nice presentation. Maybe he can share some of that here, and you can add some memories of your own.

So I’ll just share some facts about Grandma and her large family, mostly as an excuse to publish a bunch of neat old photos I found during my week of document-diving at Mom and Dad’s.

Just the Ten of Us

For starters, Grandma was literally a coal miner’s daughter. The 1900 census first records 13-year-old Charles as working alongside his father, Clement, in the coal mine — I’m not sure which one. This is work Charles still did decades later, as noted in the 1920 census, when he is head of a growing family. By 1930, his census record reports his job as “extra help” at the steel mill. In his 1941 draft card for World War II, a 55-year-old Charles lists his trade as construction work, and his place of employment as “Route 8.” His 1962 obituary remembers him as a retired coal miner and steelworker.

The family moved frequently. Between 1920 and 1930, various records show the family at five different addresses in New Philadelphia, Ohio — 2 on East Avenue as well as homes on Fifth Street, Fourth Street and Second Street. Charles and wife Viola Mae (Palmer) Johnson’s home in late adulthood is at 448 Kelly St. NW, an address that first appears on the 1941 draft card, and where a widowed Charles is still living at the time of his death.

The family was large. Grandma often talked about having to share a bed with her two sisters. Records indicate 10 children who lived beyond infancy. My first Foutz-Johnson newsletter post detailed the tragic and untimely deaths of three Johnson brothers: Joseph, who drowned at age 9 in 1936; Carl, who drowned at age 18 in 1937; and Charles Jr., who died following a diving accident in 1939. These brothers were born in 1927, 1918 and 1922, respectively.

The remaining siblings, pictured above in 1979, are:

Leonard, Nellie & Virginia Johnson

Thomas Leonard (1912-2000)

He worked in construction and made his home in Phoenix, Arizona, from the 1950s on.

Virginia Mae (born 1914)

She married Ernie Knisely. The couple made their home in Ravenna, Ohio, where Ernie worked as a shipping & receiving clerk.

Virginia holds Charles Jr. Erma is in the background.

Nellie Irene (born 1916)

Married to DeLoyce Fitzgerald, who worked 39 years as a track foreman for Conrail. They lived in Uhrichsville, site of many summertime Johnson family reunions.

A 13-year-old Erma, c. 1933

Erma Maxine (1920-2000)

Grandma. Grew up in New Philadelphia and married crosstown football star Don Foutz of Dover. At the time of their engagement, she is shown as working in the offices of Greer Steel in Dover. She would eventually work as a secretary for Miller Studio. Following Grandpa Don’s death in 1980, she married longtime friend — and boss at Miller Studio — Max Miller. The couple traveled extensively and entertained many relatives and friends at their homes in Tucson, Arizona and New Phila.

Baby Erma in front; Leonard, Virginia & Carl in back.

William Dean (1924-1995)

Uncle Bill was an Army paratrooper in the Pacific during World War II. Married Jeanne Zurcher. He worked for the I-F Manufacturing Co. in New Philadelphia for 35 years. He enjoyed golf. I could be wrong, but I think this is the uncle who used to tell us, “See my finger? See my thumb? See my fist, you better run!” All in good fun, of course.

Fraternal twins Lloyd and Floyd Johnson, c. 1929

Lloyd George (1929-1982)

Floyd Clement (1929-1994)

Fraternal twins. Lloyd worked for Ridge Tool and Joy Manufacturing Company, and made his home in Dover, until moving to Las Vegas just six weeks before his death. He was married to Hester Armstrong and Rebecca Wingeier. Floyd served in the Air Force during the Korean War and received specialized schooling in Chicago. He was married to Julia Stechow. He died in Parma, Ohio.

(Roughly clockwise): Jeanne, Virginia, Bill, Nellie, Rebecca, Ernie, Lloyd, Erma, DeLoyce



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Categories: Foutz, Johnson, quickie post | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

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11 thoughts on “Johnson Siblings: Way Back When & Nearer to Now

  1. Pingback: Erma Foutz Adjusts to 1966 Switchboard Upgrade | Whispering Across the Campfire

  2. Pingback: Chatting With Charles Arthur Johnson – 1940 United States Census « Whispering Across the Campfire

  3. Nathan Johnson

    Hello Colt,
    My brother Steve forwarded this to me. This is wonderful to see. I have so many phenomenal memories of family reunions when I was a kid. Many were at a cabin that Aunt Virginia and Uncle Ernie had at Atwood lake. I think we spent every 4th of July there for many years.
    My father went through a video taping phase for a while, he actually was a bit obnoxious with it. I have a video of your grandma’s birthday party thrown by Max. If you want a copy of it I can send it to you.

  4. Pingback: Catching up with History « Whispering Across the Campfire

  5. So saddened to hear of the death of my grandma’s oldest sister, Virginia Knisely, a week ago. Aunt Virginia was 95.

  6. Sara Fitzgerald

    More on family connections. Ernie was the son of James M. Knisley married to Rosa Hass. A brother was Robert W. Knisley who married Anna Mae Severn daughter of Carrie Mae Johnson and Douthittt Severn. Carrie was sister of Charles, son of Clement and Anna (Burkey) Johnson. So the Knisley boys married Johnson cousins. Give me more of these puzzles and I will never clean my house. Sara

  7. Sara Fitzgerald

    Colt As I look at these pictures I started thinking of more tidbits about the Johnson bunch. You mentioned that Bill was a paratrooper during WW II worth passing on is that he can be consisdered a hero. His unit the 11th, the was involved in the Los Banos rescue and liberation of 2147 Allied and civilian pow’s on 23 Feb 1945. A couple of years ago the History Channel ran a program on the rescue and I had met a woman at the local Veterans Park who was among those rescued. I remember how proud Bill was of what he had done.

  8. Whitney Foutz

    Colt, I love the picture of Grandma as a thirteen-year-old.

    There’s something so familiar about that photo to me although I’ve never seen it before… like she was my friend when I was also thirteen?

    • Ah, yes. This makes sense that the picture should look familiar. Maybe because there’s a strong family resemblance? There’s another pretty cool one from the same time period that is obviously the same girl. This pic threw us off because this was written on the back of it:

      “Camp Birch Creek, F-60, Dillon, Montana. C. 15-1 C.R.R.”

      Also has Joe written in cursive on it, and the number 3.

      Didn’t seem that Grandma would have ever traveled to a camp in Montana as a girl. But Sara Fitzgerald seemed to think it referred to the WPA or CCC camp that Leonard or Charles Jr. were assigned to during the depression. Little brother Joe was too young to have gone to camp during the Depression (He died in 1936).

  9. Thanks for the correction, Sara. Typo on my part. Was working off of the correct info on Geni, and the fingers had a mind of their own.

    Another interesting tidbit about spouses and the streets on which the Johnsons lived: the 1920 census shows the family living at 137 East (High) Avenue, in Phila, and down the block there’s a George and Winnette Kniseley with a son, Daniel. Uncle Ernie’s parents were James and Rosa, and that’s all I know. But I wonder if there’s a family connection. It’s interesting to me to see how people met. For instance, I didn’t know my grandma worked at Greer Steel until I read her engagement announcement. Grandpa Foutz was working someplace different, but there were certainly family connections before and after to the steel mill in Dover.

  10. Sara Fitzgerald

    Colt, Neat pictures. I remember all these people with fondness. One correction; Floyd’s wife was Julia May (Judy) Stechow. Her parents lived up the street on Kelly. Their son Nathian came to my brothers wedding last year. The first I had seen him in years. He looks just like Floyd. Sara

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