Harry Sherman Foutz | A New Find in PA Church Records
The family of my great-grandfather Vance Cleveland Foutz’s oldest brother Sherman S. Foutz has long held fascination for my family.
I’ll say “long held fascination,” because even though I’ve only been at this genealogy game for less than four years, among the possessions of Vance’s that were passed on to my grandfather, Don, and then on to my father, Fred, were clippings of his brother Sherman’s obituary and an old Knights of the Maccabees dinner invitation (shown above). Vance didn’t have so much as a shred of memento about the old Foutz farm in Harrison County — and never spoke of those origins — and descendants could only guess at his other family members. Sherman, he felt compelled to commemorate.
Sherman’s story is certainly noteworthy, and divulged in no fewer than a half dozen posts from this blog. The highlights:
* First of the farming Foutzes to attend college, back in the 1880s when that was quite something.
* Applied that background to establish his own fire insurance business.
* Bolstered by fraternal connections, particularly through the Knights of the Maccabees, Sherman expanded his business and earned an appointment to the Treasury Department in Washington D.C. during the Grover Cleveland presidential administration.
* First to leave Ohio in nearly 100 years, Sherman was soon joined by his parents, Colt’s second great-grandparents Jonathan and Rebecca. They appear with Sherman and his young family on the 1900 census in Washington D.C.
* At his appointment’s close — and following father Jonathan’s 1900 death — Sherman rose to further prominence as supervisor of Pennsylvania’s eastern district of Maccabees, growing their membership from 92 to more than several thousand over a few short years.
* The family made their home first in Reading, Pa., then later at a prominent downtown address in Harrisburg, the state capital.
But in 1915, Sherman’s life came to a tragic close as he succumbed to tuberculosis, despite a move to a Lutheran sanitorium in Wheat Ridge, Colo., in an attempt to restore his health.
He was buried back home in Bowerston, Ohio, in Longview Cemetery. His wife, Lizzie, outlived him by 30 years, maintaining a residence in Reading while raising at least one foster daughter, Catherine Rutt. Meanwhile, daughter Grace, also college educated, married shortly after Sherman’s death and returned to Ohio, where she taught school in Uhrichsville and lived a quiet, childless life no more than a dozen or so miles from my great-grandpa Vance, more a playmate than an uncle, since they were born a mere three years apart. And yet, my family knew nothing of Grace, or of Sherman’s family’s ends.
Of particular curiosity to me was what happened to his eldest child, Oscar. Oscar, records show, was active in the military as a young man, serving in the Pennsylvania National Guard. Berks County records — apparently easier to access than others in the state — revealed Oscar’s marriage on New Year’s Day, 1908, to Florence Hartman.
Census records reveal Oscar and Florence’s son, Ralph, living with his grandmother, Lizzie, in 1910 and 1920. But there is no Oscar reported in 1920. And Sherman’s 1915 obituary — as well as Grace’s obit in 1970 — make no mention of Oscar.
A curious incident reported in the Sept. 17, 1910 Gettysburg Times relates how a Private Oscar Foutz, along with three other companions, traveled to Allentown for a night of fun that August and upon meeting a William Crogan of Delaware County, beat him with a club and took his money. Oscar was convicted of highway robbery and sentenced to nine months in jail. The article predicted he “may be drummed out of service.”
How did Oscar’s conviction change the family’s fortunes? He doesn’t appear on another census, and I have not been able to locate Florence, either. Soon after, the family would suffer Sherman’s tragic death, and though I have attempted — and had some success at — tracing Ralph Foutz and his possible descendants in Pennsylvania and elsewhere over the decades that followed, the connection to our Foutzes seems long lost.
This year, however, some new light has been shed on Oscar’s young family. In addition to further substantiation of his marriage to Florence, I’ve located two baptisms in Pennsylvania church records on Ancestry.com.
The first — no surprise — is for a Ralph Francis Foutz, born Dec. 19, 1908 and baptized March 6, 1909 at Alsace Lutheran Church in Reading, Pa. to parents Oscar Foutz and Florence M. Hartman. “His mother” was listed as sponsor.
The second — a big surprise, actually, since (tragically) this name appears nowhere in records I have seen after this date — is for a Harry Sherman Foutz, born March 28, 1910 and baptized April 22, 1910, again at Alsace Lutheran in Reading, to parents Oscar Foutz and Florence Hartman. Again, his mother is listed as sponsor.
At first, this confirmation of Ralph’s birth and baptism — and the discovery of a new brother, Harry Sherman — is heartening.
This further ties what we know of our Ohio family to the Ralph F. Foutz who grew up and remained in Harrsiburg, Pa. until his death, in 1964, at about age 58. We know about that Ralph’s wife, Virginia Clara Henson, and I’ve begun to trace his descendants, both in Pennsylvania and the larger United States.
It’s good to think that descendants of such a prominent Foutz as Sherman S. live on.
But existing records do not indicate the survival of his grandson namesake. He doesn’t appear on the 1910 census — taken on April 22 — in the household of his grandparents, where both his father and older brother reside. I haven’t found any Harrisburg or Pennsylvania city directory records — as I have with Ralph — that indicate his survival into adulthood.
And what of Florence? She, too, does not appear in the 1910 census along with her husband (listed there as married) or eldest son.
For awhile, I wondered if she had died in childbirth with Ralph, and the census taker had made a mistake listing M for married. At least the 1910 birth and baptism of Harry Sherman nixes that. But where, then, is Florence?
An article in the July 10, 1911 edition of the Reading Eagle seems to support Florence’s continued health as well as Oscar’s reinstatement into the National Guard. The story reports the happy visitation of families to the National Guard camp in Reading. Among those listed is a Florence Foutz.
And so, we are still left wondering, now about three Foutz relatives. What became of Oscar, Florence and Harry Sherman? Perhaps an exhaustive search of the Reading and Harrisburg papers of the period will reveal their fates.