Ancestor of the Week: Aug. 16, 2010


Grace Foutz, daughter of Sherman, was barely known to relatives in Dover, even as she lived out her life a dozen miles to the south in Uhrichsville.

Grace (Foutz) Chaney

1890 – 1970

The family of Sherman Foutz — my great-grandfather Vance’s oldest brother — has long been a mystery for my own. As my grandmother and her sisters-in-law burrowed into genealogy in the late 1970s, their notes back and forth recorded the fragments of knowledge they had collected — and the gaps in between:

Of Rebecca Foutz, my great-great grandmother, Louise Foutz (wife to my grandpa’s brother, Carl) wrote: “Pop’s mother died after a stroke at the home of her son, Vance. She was born in Sherodsville (sic). Husband was Johnathan. Buried in Bowerston. She was a member of Grace Lutheran Church.”

These details were gathered entirely from the clipped obituary for Rebecca, likely found among my great-grandfather Vance’s things after his death in 1968. All they knew of my great-great grandfather (Vance and Sherman’s father) was a name: Johnathan, or Johnathon, or Jonathan. And about Vance’s siblings, at first, Erma Foutz, Louise Foutz and Doris (Foutz) Waddington could gather even less. There was a brother, Charles (who had died in 1918 at age 32, leaving a family of four young children behind — his obituary probably was also found among Vance’s things), and at least two sisters — Mrs. Sam Hathaway, of Bowerston, and Mrs. Thomas Moreland, of Carrollton. …

Also a brother Sherman that we know little about, and possibly another sister (Louise wrote Erma). … I went to Pop’s sister’s funeral when I was pregnant with Donna. A Frank Coleman used to visit often, and a niece that lived in Urichsville, and some red-haired nephews from Canton. Neither Doris or I remember names.

By March 1979, more pieces to the puzzle had been fitted. According to the family record my grandma was assembling, they had identified Sherman, Charles and Vance as sons of my great-great grandparents Johnathon and Rebecca Foutz, and daughters Lila, Ida and Rachel. Grandma also seemed fixed on a “George” Foutz being a brother of Vance’s and the rest, though Doris was convinced otherwise. In a letter to Don and Erma Foutz about that time, Doris writes to her brother and sister-in-law:

Another rainy Thursday like last week when we were in Ohio. I don’t have any information to help you for the family tree. I’m sure Sherman Moreland would be glad to supply you with dates & names & etc. His address is (deleted in this blog — COLT). I still think George Foutz was Dad’s cousin (therefore, not his brother – COLT). Don if you get time some day would you go over to the cemetery & cut those 2 evergreens down. They are half dead & split & an eyesore. Hope you get all your (pruning? planting?) done. Nice seeing you both. Write sometime?

The letter is interesting for a couple of reasons. First, that at least one of Johnathon’s descendants, granddaughter Doris, got it right: the missing child in their research was not George, but instead a John Cephas Foutz. Born 1878 in Bowerston, Ohio, he is listed among Johnathon and Rebecca’s children in the 1880 census (which, by then, also includes Sherman, Ida, Lila and Rachel among the household). He died in January 1899 in Bowerston at 21, and is likely the reason his mother, Rebecca, is listed in the 1900 and 1910 censuses as  having given birth to 7 children, 6 of whom are living.

Second, this letter confirms the family at least is aware of their Moreland relatives. Sherman Moreland, mentioned by name, is an ancestor of Carl Moreland and Dawn James, descendants of my great-grandfather Vance’s older sister, Ida. I’ve exchanged a lot of information and photos with Dawn in the past several months. She is at work transcribing Sherman Moreland’s diaries.

Also of significance in Great Aunt Doris’s letter is her request of my grandpa Don to attend to split and “half-dead” evergreens in the cemetery. She might be referring to evergreens in Dover Burial Park, where their parents, my great-grandparents, Vance and Laura Foutz, are buried (though their gravesite, as of 2010, is in the middle of section B, and nowhere near evergreen trees, live or dead). But could she be referring to Conotton Cemetery, where many 0f our Foutz ancestors, including Johnathon and Rebecca, were supposed to have been buried? My trek there in March 2010 turned up some distant aunts, uncles and cousins, but no direct ancestors. However, several stones were broken beyond recognition, and a whole section was covered in fallen evergreen limbs. Was this a task my grandfather, who was diagnosed with advanced-stage cancer around the time of this letter, and died in November 1980, ever had the chance to carry out?

But in the above digression, you begin to understand the mystery that surrounded branches of the Foutz family for so long, and that lingers still. Maybe it stems from our unique position on the tree: my father (Fred) is the youngest son, of a third-youngest son (Don), of a youngest son (Vance), of an oldest son (Johnathan) of a youngest son (Gideon). Especially for the farming Foutzes, sometimes 15 or 20 years separated a family’s oldest and youngest siblings. Johnathon Foutz died before my great-grandfather reached his teens; my great-great grandmother Rebecca a year after my grandpa was born. It could be much of their history was lost without a direct connection to it.

My research in the last two years has begun to clear away that shroud, somewhat. But questions still linger. None more so than in the family of Johnathan and Rebecca’s oldest son, Sherman. By 1979, Grandma Foutz and her sisters-in-law had identified one of Sherman’s children — a daughter, Grace. She lived near to them for years — barely a dozen miles separated her adulthood residence in Uhrichsville and the homes of her Foutz cousins in Dover. She is probably the “niece who lived in Uhrichsville” Louise vaguely remembers visiting her father-in-law, Vance. The tragedy was, Grace had died almost a decade before she was ever confirmed as a relative — long before they ever had a chance to chat.

For an Ohio farm kid of the late 1800s, Sherman Foutz was well-educated, something he saw fit to continue with his own children.

Promising Lives, Unwound by Tragedy

In part one of the very first Foutz-Johnson newsletter, I detailed the short, successful life of my great-grandfather’s oldest brother, Sherman.

Sherman’s entry in a Berks County, Pennsylvania history book, which profiles several prominent turn-of-the-century residents, reports his birth in September, 1867 near Bowerston, Ohio, on the old Foutz homestead, where his parents, Rebecca and Jonathan, were also born.

Sherman was educated at the New Hagerstown Academy in nearby Carroll County, Ohio, and returned home to marry a Harrison County girl, Elizabeth Wilson, in 1887. He made important connections in the fire insurance business and quickly rose to prominence as an appointed clerk to the U.S. Treasury Department during the second term of President Grover Cleveland. Sherman was then appointed district supervisor for the Knights of the Maccabees, a fraternal organization rooted in the insurance business.

The 1900 census found Sherman as co-head of a busy household.  His Washington D.C. residence included not only wife Elizabeth, son Oscar and daughter Grace, but also his father and mother and two youngest brothers — Charles and Vance. Here’s the first mystery of Sherman’s family, even during this time of prominence: what was his immediate family doing with him, so far away from Ohio and the farm? The Berks County History reports that Jonathan died that year at a young 55. Was his father ill beforehand? And was that why the entire family lived for a time with Sherman?

In any case, by 1910, Rebecca has returned home to Ohio to live in Dover with her son, Vance, and his wife of almost three years, Laura. Sherman and his family now reside in Harrisburg, PA, at a prominent address downtown. The kids are prospering, too. None more so than daughter Grace. While the Berks County History only reports that older brother Oscar is “at home” (the census indicates his employment as a fireman for the railroad), Grace is given glowing reviews. After attending private girls’ school in Reading, she earns a teaching certificate at Irving College in Mechanicsburg (a Lutheran school for girls), class of 1910.

Another mystery of the Sherman Foutz family is found in the 1910 census. The household’s youngest member is a Ralph Foutz, listed as grandson to Sherman and Lizzie. He’s almost a year and a half old. Oscar is listed as married, and for two years. But there is no wife listed. And there’s a strange hash mark beside the notations of M and 2. A quirk of the census taker (other names on the page bear similar hash marks beside M)? Where is Ralph’s mother, and Oscar’s bride? (Grace, for the record, is listed as single.)

In subsequent years, the mystery surrounding Sherman Foutz and his descendants would only deepen.

The Unraveling of Prominence

In the spring of 1915, the fortunes of the Foutz family change quickly.

In January, Sherman contracts tuberculosis. He departs for Wheat Ridge, a Lutheran sanitarium in Denver, Colorado, for treatment. He dies April 15, 1915.

In Dover, while Sherman is away getting treatment, his young nephew, Karl Coleman, son of his sister Rachel Foutz Coleman, is visiting their youngest brother, Vance Foutz, in March 1915 when Karl also contracts tuberculosis and dies there. In May 1915, about a month after her oldest son dies, and two months after her grandson Karl’s death, Rebecca Foutz suffers a massive stroke and also passes away, in the early morning of May 25, in son Vance’s Dover home.

Obituaries in this time are brief and, at times, incomplete if not inaccurate. But what can we infer from them? Sherman’s obit lists only his daughter, Grace, and wife, Elizabeth as survivors. Has Oscar passed away? What about his grandson, Ralph? Rebecca’s obituary reports that her husband preceded her in death 15 years prior, but goes into no further detail for children who have died. It does list Vance, Charles, Lila and Ida as four children surviving. We know of John’s and Sherman’s deaths — has Rachel also died at that point?

The details of how these deaths affected the Foutz survivors are not known. But the next public document that finds Grace records her marriage that December 28, 1915 in Wheeling, W. Va. The license, for which no other Foutzes appear as witnesses, records that Grace Foutz was born in “Barriston”, Ohio, probably an amalgam of Bowerston and Harrison County, and that her husband, Fred Chaney, was born in Phil. Roads, Ohio, and is now a resident of Cleveland. What brought them together? And so soon after her father’s death?

Subsequent censuses document the couple in Uhrichsville, Ohio — just west of Bowerston and south of Dover, and the place where Grace, according to her 1970 obituary, resides for many years. She teaches 17 years in the Feed Springs School, belongs to the Berea Nazarene Church, and is a member of many civic and women’s organizations in the Twin Cities (of Uhrichsville and Dennison).

But what is life like for them? And why don’t the Foutzes of my grandmother’s generation and beyond seem to have any knowledge of her?

Back in Pennsylvania, the record begins to further unravel. By 1920, Sherman’s widow, Lizzie, is running a boarding house in Harrisburg. Ralph, her grandson, is listed as a resident, along with a foster daughter, Catherine Rutt. (Who is named as a survivor 50 years later in Grace’s obituary, along with “several nieces and nephews”. Oscar is listed (as “a brother”) as having preceded her in death.) The census taker started to write in Grace’s name for the Harrisburg census, but it is scratched out. (Hmmm?)

Lizzie’s gravestone in Longview Cemetery, Bowerston, records her death year as 1945 — some 30 years after Sherman’s — but I haven’t located her on any subsequent census. Ralph Foutz shows up in the Harrisburg city directory throughout the 1940s; and Catherine’s residence is listed as Lititz, Pa. in Grace’s 1970 obituary. So, where are these Foutz descendants today? How did they fare following Sherman’s death?

As for Grace, Fred Chaney is shown to have passed away in 1955. They are buried together in Longview Cemetery, in a plot next to Sherman and Lizzie. According to Grace’s obituary and all available records, they don’t seem to have had any children. There’s another trait of the public record for Grace and Fred that stands out as all the more strange, for all that we don’t know about them. They never seem able to give their correct ages.

Grace’s birth certificate and the 1900 census in Washington D.C. record her birth month and year correctly — September 1890. And her age — 19 — also is correct in the summer 1910 census in Harrisburg. But her marriage certificate of December 1915 says she is 24 and Fred is 22, which assumes a birth year for Grace of 1891, and Fred of 1893 — not so big a difference. But if the 1920 Uhrichsville census is to be believed, Fred, at 24, and Grace, at 26, have only aged two years since their marriage five years prior. And the in the 1930 census, same location, same couple, Grace is 34, and Fred, 33. How has Grace managed to age only 10 years in 15 years of marriage? (And, by the way, the 1930 census records Fred’s “age at first marriage” as 19, and Grace’s as 20, pretty far off from their recorded ages in Wheeling).

So… all of the above could be attributed to transcription error. We certainly see it plenty of times in documents tracing our relatives’ lives. Or, there could be another Grace Foutz and Fred Chaney getting married, and living in Uhrichsville. But more likely, there’s just only so much detail a public record will yield. The rest is up to conversation, and shared association, to ferret out.

Unfortunately, in the case of Sherman Foutz and his descendants, the connection was broken at some point with the descendants in his extended family. But that’s not to say with some additional research, and a lot of luck, the path can’t be regained.

Sherman Foutz and, clockwise, daughter Grace Foutz, mother Rebecca Foutz, and grandmother Rachel Caldwell sit for a portrait about 1910.


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Categories: Foutz, quickie post | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “Ancestor of the Week: Aug. 16, 2010

  1. Pingback: Grace Foutz Feature Frames Life in Ohio | Whispering Across the Campfire

  2. Pingback: Did Oscar Foutz Outlive His Father? | Whispering Across the Campfire

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

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