Chatting With Charles Arthur Johnson – 1940 United States Census


Viola (Palmer) Johnson & Charles Arthur Johnson

Great-grandparents Viola Mae (Palmer) and Charles Arthur Johnson, pose for a photograph, probably in the 1950s at their home in New Philadelphia.

Charles Johnson Family | 1940 Census

Probably the neatest thing about catching up with our families through the 1940 federal census has been getting a sense of the folks who called Dover and New Philadelphia, Ohio home 72 years ago.

Because I’ve been researching my family’s history on and off (but mostly on) going on four years now, there were names of uncles and aunts and cousins and eventual in-laws I recognized as I flipped past street after street before eventually treading on my ancestors’ doorsteps.

This was particularly the case in New Phila, where my grandma Erma Maxine (Johnson) Foutz Miller’s family were frequent movers. Charles and Viola (Palmer) Johnson — and their 10 children — called no fewer than six addresses home between 1920 and 1941. Thus, I found myself doing more than a little searching through the 1940 census, which in the few weeks since its public release has yet to be fully indexed.

So there are far more census stories to tell, of the whereabouts of Ley brothers both store-owning and working as common laborers; of Grandma Foutz’s second husband, apprenticing, pre-World-War-II, in the store that would come to employ both Grandma and my dad; of Fisher great-grand-uncles and soon-to-be-inlaws Wayne Waddington (to Doris Foutz) and Ernie Knisely (to Virginia Johnson).

But we’ll get to all those.

For now, we join the continuing saga of Great-Grandpa Charles Arthur Johnson and Great-Grandma Viola Mae (Palmer) Johnson, whose home-hopping existence probably says much about the vagaries of mining employment in the early 20th century Tuscarawas County, but also speaks to the industrious spirit of that pair, that they were able to raise ten children — through tight times and tragedy and onward to successful adulthood.

Erma Johnson & Alpha Pi Sigma sisters of Dover

Girls from the Mu Chapter, Dover, Ohio, of Alpha Pi Sigma sorority, clowning around, c. 1940s. Erma Johnson is far right.

Home at 1244 Fourth St. NW (For Now)

This blog’s second-ever post, almost two years ago today, told of three Johnson brothers lost to water-related accidents within three years.

At the time of the 1940 census, sixth-born Charles Johnson Jr. had only passed away just eight months before.

The household, as of April 1940, consisted of Charles, Viola, daughters Virginia (25) and my grandma Erma (19), and sons Bill (15), Lloyd and Floyd (both 11 – they were twins).

I haven’t accounted for oldest son Leonard yet (he would have been about 28), but daughter Nellie (23) had married DeLoyce Fitzgerald the previous summer.

This family of seven, then, got by with four of its adult members working. As Great-Grandpa Charles told the census-taker:

The family rents its home for $23 a month.

The boys are all in grade school, whereas Erma and Virginia have both completed four years of high school.

Charles discontinued his education after the sixth grade; Viola left school after grade 8.

Charles has continued in the profession he adopted as far back as the 1900 census — when at 13 he worked alongside father Clement in the coal mine. (Clement’s still around by the way; he lives on East High Avenue in town and will pass away in 1947.)

But Charles’s hours have been cut recently, it seems. He worked only 8 hours during the sample week census-takers surveyed in March, and worked just 20 weeks all of 1939 as a coal-miner. (Perhaps one reason he shifts to construction work (at Route 8) by 1942, when he dutifully reports to the World War II draft board at age 55.)

To help support the family, Viola works 16 hours a week performing janitorial duties at a furniture store. Neither Charles or Viola report their income for 1939 to the census bureau.

Great Aunt Virginia has begun her career as a nurse. She works 48 hours weekly — including all 52 in 1939 — for which she earns about $950 annually.

Erma also pitches in, waitressing at a hotel restaurant for 40 hours a week, earning $200. She worked that job for 20 weeks in 1939.

As for the family’s future, we know they make it all right. Virginia would marry the boy from across town, Ernest Knisely; and in 1942, Erma would marry Don Foutz, of Dover. Uncle Bill would serve in World War II, save lives and return home safely. By 1942, Charles has moved the family to 448 Kelly St. NW, where he and Viola will reside the rest of their lives.

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Categories: Foutz, Johnson, quickie post | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Chatting With Charles Arthur Johnson – 1940 United States Census

  1. Whew, the census records (and the related post about the drownings) sure indicate that these were difficult years–yet, you did a wonderful job of conveying that things worked out eventually in spite of the rough times.

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