New Answers to Foutz Genealogy Questions | Part Three
The search for clues about my great-great grandfather Jonathan Foutz’s young death, and what befell his family immediately afterward, has for three years been a mostly frustrating slog through old microfilm and crumbling courthouse records.
We’ve hit upon some solid leads, some tantalizing possibilities — but have been left with more questions than answers.
Until this week, when the rediscovery of writings decades old by a grandson of Jonathan nearly 20 years in his own grave has shed new light on the Foutz family more than 100 years ago.
In a post concluding a series on the siblings and parents of my great-grandfather Vance Cleveland Foutz, I posed seven remaining riddles about these Foutz ancestors that scores of records, official and private, had been unable to solve. Chief among these questions — how did great-great grandpa Jonathan Foutz die? And what became of the family afterward?
The journal of Sherman Earl Moreland (third child of Vance’s sister, Ida) — and the work of his great-granddaughter Dawn James to describe 340+ handwritten pages — has finally meant a break in this case.
Shedding Light on a Life — and Death
From a genealogical perspective, the lives of Jonathan’s parents — my great-great-great grandparents, Gideon and Delilah Pfouts — were relatively easy to trace, by comparison.
Gideon and Delilah were blessed with unique names in the family tree. They lived into ripe old age — 77 for Delilah; 89 for Gideon — and stayed put, farming the same land in Monroe Township, Harrison County, Ohio recorded on censuses from 1850 through 1910. Upon his passing, Gideon deeds the land and buildings to youngest sons Nathaniel and Nelson.
Jonathan began his life on the same course as his father, but found himself in quite different circumstances than clans of Foutzes back home.
He was born in May 1845, the oldest of six. He learned the farming trade and by 1865 he was married to Rebecca Caldwell, who as family legend has it was also born on the old Foutz homestead, and apprenticed to an uncle of the same name (as well as an aunt, Elizabeth, and uncle John and his wife Margaret) on a farm in the southeast corner of the township.
Son Sherman was born in 1867, and followed by Lila, Rachel, Ida, John and Charles, with the family brood complete some 20 years later, and with Jonathan 42 and Rebecca 40, with Vance.
And life might have continued as it had for Foutzes in the county the last 75 years, with all growing old and leaning into plows, if not for the precociousness of Sherman.
Unique among Foutzes of the era, Sherman completes a college education at the New Hagerstown Academy and, fortified by fraternal connections made in the Knights of the Maccabees, secures a presidential appointment to the U.S. Treasury department in the 1890s.
The last public record of Jonathan, the 1900 Federal Census, shows him, Rebecca, and their remaining dependents Charles and Vance (Lila, Rachel and Ida were already married) living in the same household alongside Sherman, daughter-in-law Elizabeth and grandchildren Oscar and Grace in a bustling neighborhood of Washington D.C.
And here our questions begin clamoring for resolution. Because an early 20th-century history of Berks County, Pa. reports, in a biographical sketch of a relocated Sherman, the death of Jonathan in September 1900.
The shortness of his life doesn’t gibe with Foutzes of his era. Not when grandfather Michael, first ancestor off the boat from Germany, left the world at 83. And youngest son Vance would go on to notch 80 years.
And so, what was the story? Was Jonathan already ill when the family relocated to Washington? Was the move one of necessity — perhaps the mark of an insolvent or forfeited farm, or to receive care beyond the abilities of country doctors?
And what fate finally befell my great-great grandfather, and of his family, immediately afterward? The next time a widowed Rebecca appears in the public record, it is in the home of my great-grandfather and his young family in 1910, in a town — Dover, Ohio — three future generations of Foutzes would call home. What brought them there?
All of the census records failed to yield further clues. The 1890 document was lost in a fire, and fails to reveal a bridge between Harrison County and our nation’s capital.
Newspapers of August through October, 1900 — microfilmed and electronically scanned — bear no trace of an account of Jonathan’s suffering or passing, even though his family was prominently followed, both at home and in greater D.C.
Cemeteries, canvassed on two occasions, in spring 2010 and 2011, failed to give up a final resting place. And the official caretakers — libraries, the gracious ladies of the historical society, the creaking volumes of the courthouse — yielded marriage certificates for Gideon and Jonathan, wills of Michael and Gideon, but nothing further.
Lucky for all, then, that for the last year, distant cousin Dawn James has been tirelessly transcribing her great-grandfather Sherman Earl Moreland’s memoirs. These four handwritten notebooks provide an important record of Sherman’s 99-year window on the world — and a vital link to what life was like for our ancestors.
Modern-Day Revelations from the Pen of Sherman Moreland
Sherman was born in October, 1893, in one of the log cabins belonging to his grandfather Jonathan Pfouts, according to family legend.
He was the third child — and second son — of Ida Foutz Moreland, Jonathan’s youngest daughter. His grandfather, Thomas, was a four-time mayor of nearby Bowerston. His father, Thomas, worked as a railroad foreman and fireman in a pottery business, among other ventures. But Sherman would follow three generations of Foutzes into farming.
His writings adopt a narrative style, and tell of boyhood plunges into a Bowerston creek (under the watchful eye of the sheriff’s wife), visits to “Grandmaw Foutz’s” farm, where he raced along the hills with his not-much-older uncles, and the stories told him by his elders.
About 1900, Sherman would have been all of seven years old. Still, his memory places his grandfather’s family in Washington not because of any ill health, but because of Sherman securing a new opportunity for the previously Harrison-County-bound (the paragraph breaks are mine):
Prior to this time Grandpaw and Grandmaw Foutz had moved to Brightwood, Maryland. Uncle Sherman Foutz had got them a place there to live. He got John, Charley, and Vance jobs in the postal department.
Not long afterwards they moved back to the Old Log house. Their former home where I was born. Grandpaw had set out a fine young orchard. Grafted and budded young trees and plants. My job was to tag along after him. And hold his pruning knife while he worked on the young plants. He always promised me the knife. And after he died, later Grandmaw Foutz gave the knife to me. I believe Lloyd has that large black handled knife.
The tool that was used to split out boards, shakes, and pickets. Gideon Foutz brought with him from across the Allegheny Mountains the same tool that was used to build the four log cabins on the original 160 acre farm. When Grandpaw would be splitting out pickets with the tool I would pick the pick off the ground and pile them. A few years ago when I was visiting the old homestead I found the old tool at Gideon’s old log cabin. I brought it home with me. Later I gave the tool to my son Sherman Jr. He still possesses the tool. I would estimate it to be over 150 years old.
What a thing to be able to see that tool today! Should it still exist, and be in possession of the Morelands, it would be more than 200 years old, and responsible for forging the shelter in which branches of our family were nurtured and grown.
Sherman goes on to share the fate of an uncle and his beloved “Grandpaw”:
Soon after they returned from Maryland Uncle John got down sick with pneumonia that developed into quick consumption (tuberculosis, same disease that would kill his brother, Sherman, and nephew Karl Coleman, son of sister Rachel, both in 1915 — Colt). And died a young man (in 1899, at 21 — Colt). Grandpaw soon after died with bright disease.
And there it is, the ailment that ended Jonathan’s life. At the time, “Bright’s Disease” described a variety of kidney ailments doctors in the 19th century were only beginning to classify. According to various online definitions, Jonathan likely suffered from inflammation of the kidneys and protein (albumin) in his urine. The illness may have been brought on by exposure to wet and cold conditions, accidental consumption of turpentine, or developed from yellow fever, typhoid, malaria and other ailments.
Thus, Jonathan departed this world in September, 1900. What became of his family next remained a mystery until Sherman’s writings lifted the clouds. I’ll share that story in tomorrow’s post.