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A Visit with Great Aunt Nellie | Repost


Colt Foutz Nellie Johnson Fitzgerald

Colt and his great aunt Nellie (Johnson) Fitzgerald at her home in March 2011.

Hugs & Hospitality in the Home of Nellie (Johnson) Fitzgerald

Great Aunt Nellie (Johnson) Fitzgerald passed away Nov. 19 at age 99. This post, from March 2011, recounts a visit.

I was once a quite enterprising reporter, so I should have known better.

Presented with the chance to spend an afternoon chatting with my Great Aunt Nellie, 94 years young as of last September, I fumbled around with my laptop, spent a good half hour busying my hands consuming trail bologna and deviled eggs and macaroni salad and the like, and utterly failed to pop open a notebook and record our winding conversation with anything more reliable than my own noggin.

Which will have to suffice.

We spent the day chatting in her home, site in the summertime of many a family gathering, afternoons filled with sunshine and pickup softball games and plenty of food and lemonade. There was snow on the ground this time, and a chill in the air. But the atmosphere inside was cozy.

Nellie still lives at home, with some assistance throughout the day, and frequent visits from her son, who lives just up the road a piece. She was also kept company, during our visit, by a former daughter-in-law (I think?) and a great-grandson. So the house was filled with conversation, and I found Nellie to be as delightfully frank, and sweet, and feisty, and fun as I remembered.

Johnson Leona Miller

My great-grandfather Charles Johnson’s first wife, Leona Miller, died shortly after they were married.

The Tragic Tale of Leona Miller Johnson

Nellie has some trouble getting around these days. She greeted us from her easy chair, and moved about the house with the aid of her “horse” — her walker.

We began our visit by flipping through old photos — everything I had stored up in my Family History Master folder on my computer. She confirmed some of the old relatives I was wondering about, including some beauties of my grandma Erma (Johnson) Foutz as a young teenager (see below), and chuckled at ones of herself shortly after her wedding to DeLoyce Fitzgerald and especially at one of her as a baby, posed with older sibs Leonard and Virginia.

“Oh,” she said (of the photo at the bottom of this post), “I forgot to wear my socks that day!”

Nellie’s house is decorated with scores of old photos and mementos. She was kind enough to have copies made for me of a portrait of my grandmother as a baby, and of my great-great grandparents Palmer (which I featured in yesterday’s post).

In her current bedroom hangs a very unique portrait — that of my great-grandfather (her father) Charles Johnson’s first wife.

Leona Miller and Charles married shortly after Valentine’s Day, 1907. She was 23; he was 20.

According to family lore, and retold by Nellie during our visit, Charles, a coal miner, came home one day, perhaps as early as the week they were married, and found Leona on her hands and knees, scarlet-faced, scrubbing the floor.

As he knelt down to tend to her, Leona collapsed. She died shortly after.

Charles returned to the home of his parents (as noted in the 1910 census), and wouldn’t remarry until 1911, when he wed a girl from nearby Dennison, my great-grandmother, Viola Palmer.

“When you think about it,” I knelt down to murmur in Nellie ear, “it’s a sad story, but without Leona dying, none of us would be here.”

“Oh,” Nellie said, the whisper of a grin on her face, “I don’t know.”

There’s not a lot we know about Leona beyond her fate and the image preserved above. According to the New Philadelphia cemeteries department, she is buried in the same plot as my great-great grandparents Clement and Anna Johnson, but I found no marker to indicate such during my stop at East Avenue/Evergreen the next day.

Erma Johnson Foutz

This picture of my grandma as a very young teenager was taken in 1933, when she was not yet 13. Scribbled on the back: “Camp Birch Creek, F-60, Dillon, Montana. C. 15-1 C.R.R.,” which we’ve determined was a WPA-era camp at which her brother Joe was spending the summer. Joe’s name was also written on this picture.

A Big Sister’s Take on a Boy’s Grandma

The part of me that deeply misses my grandma Erma since she passed away in 2000, and yearns to be able to visit her again, really felt fulfilled by seeing Aunt Nellie again.

I remember the time I’d seen her before, after the funeral of my grandma’s second husband, Max, hugging Nellie felt a lot like hugging grandma. And yeah, I miss that.

This time around, I was full of questions. Things I wished I had asked Grandma, growing up. Or had paid more attention to her answers.

Nellie confirmed the many addresses in New Phila her family called home over a period of 25 years. These moves were logged in war records, censuses, and the certificates recording three of her brothers’ untimely deaths.

I also wanted to hear about how my grandmother and grandfather met, if she could fill me in. I’d read in the article detailing their marriage announcement that grandma was a secretary in the offices of the steel mill, where my great-grandfather Foutz and two of his sons worked from way back. But my grandpa only joined the mill later on, after he’d spent years as a sales agent for the local Ford dealership.

So, how, I wondered, did a girl from New Phila end up mixing with a boy from crosstown Dover, and one some seven years her senior at that?

“Oh, your grandma got around pretty good in those days,” Nellie quipped.

“Oh, your grandma was beautiful,” one of her visitors gushed. “And a very nice lady.”

How can an enterprising reporter hold up, in the face of comments both sly and complimentary?

Palmer homestead Scio Ohio

Another view of the old Palmer homestead in Scio, Ohio as it appeared in March 2011.

Tracing the Tree Back — Johnson & Palmer Roots

Nellie was keenly interested in some of the stops on my genealogy tour, asking about the state of the Palmer homestead, where her mother grew up and generations of the family farmed before that.

She was more interested, though, in how my parents were doing, and my wife and kids. “They should come and see me,” she said. And who could argue?

The visit ended much too soon. And I felt, not for the first time, that I’d already crammed way too much into three short days. And felt the weight, in leaving, of not knowing how soon my path would wind back her way again.

But in the work of honoring our ancestors, there are still volumes rich with information to mine.

Nellie had shared with her daughter, Sara (who in turn helps spread the word and get the family tree in order on Geni.com and Ancestry.com), the tale of her grandfather, Thomas Johnson, a Civil War mule skinner who died on a march through Mississippi in 1864. And there is limited info to go on past that, but a definite location to dig into — Guernsey County, where the Johnsons seemed to have first set up shop in Ohio.

Other connections of the family to the great conflict between the states include that of Anna (Burkey) Johnson’s father, Joseph Burkey, a soldier in Company B of the 126th regiment of the Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Military records indicate he served from May 1864 through June 1865. I’ve visited his grave and snapped a picture there, but I’d love to hunt down a photo, and more info on his time in the war.

Meanwhile, Sara has traced the Palmer connection back through Harrison County farmfields and beyond, to the Balmers of 16th century Germany. A good, yawning gap of time to gape at, and wonder at all the ancestors — and their stories — in between.

Erma Foutz Miller Nellie Johnson Fitzgerald

Colt’s Grandma Erma and her older sister Nellie at his high school graduation, in 1994.

Johnson Leonard Virginia Nellie

A pic of the oldest Johnson kids — Leonard, Nellie and Virginia — about 1916.

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In Good Countenance #12: Minnie (Hammersley) Ley


Irma Haines Chris Wiand Minnie Ley

Minnie (Hammersley) Ley: Vintage Visages

Greetings, family and familiars, on what would have been Grandpa Robert Earl Ley Jr.’s 97th birthday.

Been awhile, but the genealogy train keeps on chugging, with certain dedicated, extended relatives at the controls, making an unexpected stop every now and again. This is a dispatch from Mac and Brad Wilcox, distant cousins through the far-flung Ley line, and proprietors of the site Kin Connection.

Today’s treat? We finally get to pin down — or rather, gaze upon — a great-great-grandmother who remained the only ancestor of that generation for whom I hadn’t discovered a photo. And now we can see her for ourselves. Meet Great-Great-Grandma Minnie Eillene (Hammersley) Ley!

As Mac related in a recent email:

My brother Brad and I have about 3,000 photos and hundreds of documents done so far. Perhaps we are half-way.

We came across the attached photos yesterday that were in a  scrapbook maintained by my great aunt, Mary Ellen Wing (1891-1972).  She was responsible for saving many of the photos and documents that we are all now enjoying.  Mary, who wrote the identifications on these photos,  was the youngest child of Adeline Sperling, who in turn was the youngest child of Abraham and Catherine Sperling.

Unfortunately, neither photo was dated, but we have some educated guesses as to the details.

One photo is labeled “Irma- Uncle Chris -Minnie Ley”.  I am reasonably sure that the picture includes Christian Wiand (1844-1934), center; Minnie Eileen Hammersley Ley (1965-1929), at right; and Irma Haines Ley (1900-1945), daughter of Minnie Ley, at left.

I suspect this was taken in the back yard of the Wiand home at the corner of Main and High in Port Washington. The foliage indicates summer, probably mid-1920’s.

The other photo is labeled “Earl + sons + Uncle Chris”.  This photo also includes Christian Wiand and clearly was taken in the front yard of the Wiand house, since the house across the street, at the right edge of the photo, is still there, looking at Google maps.

I presume “Earl” is Robert Earl Ley (1883-1959), at left.  Robert Earl Ley Jr (1918-2008) is holding the baby, and Richard Earl Ley (1927-1933) is next to Christian Wiand. This photo looks like it was taken in spring before the trees leafed out.

One guess as to the baby, which I think is a girl, is Mary Ellen Ley (1931-2011),  daughter of Lester Ley and Daisy Nan Shively. Perhaps this was before/after her Christening, maybe in the Spring of 1932. Perhaps you can confirm this or set me right.

Earl Ley and Sons, Christian Wiand

Filling in the Family Foliage

I don’t know about you, but whenever I hear of a trove of forgotten photos, I burn to see what — more importantly, who — is in there.

Mac and brothers, remember, shared the goods on fourth great-grandparents Abraham and Catherine Sperling, as well as the crucial details and a breathtaking glimpse of third Great-Grandmother Hattie (Sperling) Hammersley Wiand. Two crucial discoveries there were the cause of death for Great-Great-Great Grandfather James Hammersley, taken during a tragic accident while working on the Erie Canal; and the story of her second husband, Christian Wiand, a successful Port Washington hardware merchant who grew into more than just a stepfather/stepgrandfather to later generations of Leys. He was truly a member of the family.

These and other photos reveal those gatherings in a way that invites you to step in.

For the first time — for me, anyway — we meet my great-grandfather Earl Ley’s sister, Irma (Ley) Haines, arm in arm with her mother and step-grandfather.

We again visit what I feel Mac has accurately pegged as the front yard of Chris’s place in Port Washington, though the criscrossing sidewalks and hard bricked corner of the place at first suggested to me a church. But maybe that’s the suggestion of the christening playing on my imagination.

I can’t say for certain, though the dates seem to line up right. My first inkling is that Grandpa Robert Earl Ley Jr., youthful in the above photo, could even have been holding his brother Dickie. For that to have been the case, though, we’d be looking at a photo from September 1927 (88 years ago!), and grandpa would be just 9. He looks older to me….

The only other photo I’ve seen of Dickie is the portrait below. So, if Mac is correct, this is another glimpse of father and sons, as well as a young relative. If the occasion is, indeed, Mary Ellen Ley’s christening in 1931 (I didn’t even have Mary Ellen in my working tree), then grandpa would be about 12-13, and Dickie around 4, which seems to fit the little boy in the photo.

So, still some gaps to fill in. But we’ve bridged a crucial gap missing from the collection of ancestral faces on our tree. Hello, dear Great-Great Grandmother Minnie Ley.

Ley Richard c. 1930

Richard “Dickie” Ley aboard a bicycle, early 1930s.

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Postcards from Port Washington | Ley Family History


Curtis Wiand Wall Safe Hardware Store Port Washington Ohio

Wallsafe from Curtis Wiand’s Port Washington, Ohio hardware store.

 

Port Washington Detritus: Family Artifacts Online

“Port Washington enjoys the enviable distinction of being one of the prettiest and most picturesque villages in the state….”

So begins a newspaper advertorial of June 1901, taken from the pages of the Uhrichsville, Ohio News Democrat, describing the home of our Ley ancestors. Maybe the description doesn’t jibe with the quaint, cloistered cluster of homes and stores we know more than a century later, lightyears after the town’s peak as bustling canal port. But consider it a record of what life was like for our great-great-great-grandparents and their families then.

With commendable zeal, her citizens have realized the beauty of the town’s delightful situation and have made neat improvements, commensurate with its natural facilities.

The town strikingly resembles in appearance the much admired villas of northern Georgia whose attractiveness is well known to northern tourists.

Well-kept lawns, smooth-shaven as a priest, spacious streets, an artistic arrangement of shade trees, some attention to floriculture and landscape gardening — all attest the love of the beautiful in the towns-people.

Environed by an excellent farming country, the business interests of the town have largely kept pace with its needs, but not to that extreme limit which excludes sociability and cleverness, which are distinguished features of the place –qualities which are better appreciated by those who have witnessed amid the incessant hum of machinery and dust of unceasing toil, the hopeless surrender of domestic pleasures to the all absorbing whirl of business.

Properly speaking, Port Washington presents a just mean between the extremes of these towns which are as dead as John T. Brush’s classification rules and those which are oblivious to all save insatiable greed for lucre.

The recent census shows the town’s population to be about 600. …

Trippy, right? And all a well-typed online search away to the curious and family-minded of 2015.

In the past few days, our latest newsletter installments have (re?)introduced us to our Sperling and Hammersley ancestors, neighbors and family to the Leys in bygone days of Port Washington.

For the pictures most recently shared of Abraham and Catherine Sperling, and Great-great-great Grandmother Harriet (Sperling) Hammersley Wiand, mother of Minnie (Hammersley) Ley (wife to Charles Ley), we have fellow genealogy sleuths at Kin-Connection to thank. They mined the best source of all — family records, photos, documents and memories.

But some of the additional ways we’ve filled in the blanks the last week — about the tragic death of Third-Great-Grandpa James Hammersley, and the remarriage of Hattie to hardware merchant Curtis Wiand — came from one of the central tenets of my original genealogy dare in summer 2008: that to dig up generations worth of stories on your ancestors, in today’s information-in-an-instant age, you need only a curious mind, tireless fingers and a hardy internet connection.

What a wealth of stuff there is online.

To conclude our series on the Port Washington Sperlings, Hammersleys, Wiands and Leys, here’s a few more tidbits a broad bandwidth away.

 

Town Life in Port Washington, Ohio, c. 1900

Hattie’s second husband, Christian Wiand, and their descendants through Curtis V. Wiand, kept up for many decades the hardware store in Port Washington he established shortly after their marriage. The above safe from that store — amazingly – was offered at auction three years back (2012) in South Dakota and sold for $50.

Similar to the ruby glass once gifted to Lizzie Foutz, there are countless family trinkets circulating out there. Kinda makes you want to watch the auction circuit, eh?

Christian’s family had first established themselves in Carroll County, Ohio, before residing in Clay Township, where he and Hattie were eventually married. A nice paragraph on the family can be found — through the wonder of Google Books search — eminently accessible, online.

Wiand Henry bio History of Tusc Co

 

Through free and paid archives, newspaper records paint a vivid portrait of the day. The gushing advertorial that begins this post actually appeared in different guises through a number of editions in the years around the turn of the 19th to 20th centuries.

Rolling back a couple years, we find a Port Washington where Great-great-great Grandfather Augustus Ley’s dry goods store also thrives. Unfortunately — and serving as a lesson of online research — the scanned copies available in newspapers.com as well as ancestry.com have the same big blot in the bottom corner of page 11 of the Nov. 30 1899 edition, marring what is undoubtedly a description of Ley’s store, leaving us to decipher:

… & Co. are located on…

…are. They are good

… (ca)rry a full line of the

…. (goo)ds, groceries, etc.

… have a fine trade and pay the highest prices for produce, etc.

… F.H. Powell’s (undoubtedly related to us through Hattie Powell, Augustus’s wife — yes, another Hattie) general store is in the storeroom formerly occupied by A. Ley. He is a hustling young merchant and is doing a thriving business. He also has a millinery department in connection with his store.

But elsewhere on the page, we check in with Christian Wiand, c. 1899:

C. Wiand, the hardware merchant, keeps a complete line of hardware, tinware, cutlery, stoves, etc. He also has a nice lot of buggies and wagons on hand and carries a good line of cigars in connection. He is located on the Public Square.

By 1901, Augustus Ley has died, but his descendants are continuing their profitable trade along with their Wiand neighbors, as related in the June 11, 1901 edition of The News Democrat:

C. Wiand conducts the hardware store and has a very complete stock. Mr. Wiand is a gentleman of genial manner, apt business qualities and is thoroughly conversant with the public policies of the day. His son, Curtiss, who is employed with him, is a pleasing business man, held in high regard by all who know him.

Lewis Ley (son of Augustus), the gentlemanly traveling representative of Dies, Fertig & Co., is a resident of this place. Mr. Ley’s father, recently deceased, was a pioneer business man here, and all of the family are held in high esteem.

Flipping forward through the archival pages, to April 26, 1906 in The Daily Times of New Philadelphia, we read of the devastating San Francisco earthquake, and how relief efforts have hit home:

All of those who wish to show their sympathy to the people of San Francisco who are in need can place their money in the little tin box at Christian Wiand’s hardware store.

News accounts of the day are filed with notes on who’s coming, who’s going, who’s visiting whom, sometimes reprinted from previous editions. And that holds true in 1930, same as ever, when the Oct. 30 edition of The Daily Times records a 1920 visit of Christian Wiand and wife to their daughter, Minnie, in New Philadelphia. By then, sadly, both mother and daughter have passed away. But print marches on.

Some of the advertorials on Port Washington and other ancestral stomping grounds would close with train tables, departure and arrival times and the rates to get you across a country that, from these descriptions, is bright and full of life and beckons to us through time. If only it were as simple as punching a ticket and climbing aboard….

Port Washington, Ohio street scene c. 1870s

Port Washington, Ohio street scene, circa 1870s. Courtesy of Chuck Schneider, a descendant of the carriage shop owner.

 

 

 

 

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For the Record: Hattie Wiand 1922 Obit


Harriet (Sperling) Hammersley Wiand

Great-Great-Great-Grandmother Harriet (Sperling) Hammersley Wiand

Harriet (Sperling) Hammersley Wiand: 1843-1922

Rounding out a week of Ley genealogy posts, we again return to the Sperlings and Hammersleys, ancestors of Great-Great Grandmother Minnie (Hammersley) Ley.

Thanks to the generous genius genealogists at Kin-Connection.com, we’ve managed to get our first glimpse of the “vintage visages” we’ve been missing from our family record. Namely, fourth-great-grandparents Abraham and Catherine Sperling, and today, their third daughter, my great-great-great-grandmother, Harriet “Hattie” Hammersley Wiand.

Harriet was fourth of Abraham and Catherine’s 10 children. Some were born in New Jersey, where Abraham and Catherine met and lived before moving to Ohio, probably around 1838. We think their second child, daughter Anna, was born in Port Washington, and The History of Tuscarawas County, 1884, credits the family as being among the first to settle in the Ohio town about 10 miles south of where I grew up.

Harriet married fellow Port Washington resident James Hammersley on March 29, 1863. He was a Civil War soldier and son of Andrew Hammersley and Catherine Stocker. Now… it has been close to 7 years since I have fully examined the foliage on this section of the tree, but in 2008 I had petty reliably — if quickly, in a competitive frenzy with my wife’s cousin — traced the Stockers back to my 10th great-grandfather in 1600’s Switzerland. At the time, I may have even thought Catherine Stocker’s mother, Mary Ann Stophlet, was born in 1895 in Gnadenhutten — about as early Ohio as you can get, and Moravian to the core.

Now, it seems more likely that Mary Ann Stophlet and Christian Stocker met and married in Northampton, Penna., as this excerpt on their son, Christian, from Tuscarawas County biographical sketches relates:

CAPE CHRISTIAN STOCKER, farmer. P. O. Lock 17, was born in Salem Township December 13, 1817. son of Christian and Mary (Stophlet) Stocker, who emigrated from Northampton County. Penn., to Salem Township, this county, in 1816. Christian was there raised on a farm. and received his education in the common schools. He was married, in 1840, to Harriet Houghtling, of Bradford County, Penn. She was born June 9, 1822. They have not been blessed with children, but have raised three boys and three girls, four of where are now married. The two now living at the home of Mr. Stocker are the children of one of the girls be raised. Mr. and Mrs. Stocker were formerly members of a Regular Baptist congregation, until that organization perished, and Mrs. Stocker is at present a member of the Moravian Church. Mr. Stocker has resided in Clay Township since 1841. He has held various township offices, and for sixteen years, from 1851 to 1867. was a captain on the Ohio Canal.

Whatever James’ family origins, the Hammersleys and Stockers and Sperlings were well established and well acquainted in their Ohio hamlet. Hattie and James had three children together. Henry, born 1864, died that year; Minnie, born 1865; and Myra Bell, born 1869. Tragically, James would not live to see his youngest child’s second year. Historical records indicate he died at 27 in Cleveland, Ohio.

The cause of James’s death had been a mystery (to me, anyway) since I first started recording this branch of the tree in 2008. But some sleuthing this weekend has turned up a tragic report from the Fremont, Ohio Weekly Journal of July 2, 1869:

Capt. James Hammersley, of the canal boat Mazeppa, after a hard days work loading his boat at Cleveland, on last Friday, lay down upon a beam on the lock to rest, fell asleep, and soon after rolled off into the canal, his head striking against some stones in the fall. He was supposed to have been killed by these injuries, as he did not rise to the surface. His body was subsequently recovered, and a frightful cut found near the right temple, as well as several smaller cuts on the right side of his face. He belonged at Port Washington, Tuscarawas County, and leaves a wife and two children.

MariaHattieAnnWilliamRiley1898

Hammersley siblings Maria, Hattie and Anna, with Anna’s husband, William Riley, circa 1898.

Hattie Hammersley Remarries

A widowed mother of two at 25, Hattie didn’t look far or long to find love again.

In November 1871 she married Christian Wiand, a native of Carroll County, Ohio, then living in Uhrichsville. The couple returned to Port Washington, making their home at the north corner of Main and High streets.

Christian ran a hardware store for more than 50 years, eventually passing the business on to his son with Hattie, Curtis Wiand, who would follow the husband of his half-sister, (my great-great-grandmother Minnie (Hammersley) Ley), into politics, serving as Tuscarawas County Commissioner to Charles Ley’s county treasurer role (though much later).

Hattie passed away in 1922 at age 78, just 7 years before her daughter, Minnie, died at a young 62 following a fall and fractured hip. Chris would outlive her by 12 years, dying in 1934 at age 89.

Read Hattie’s full obituary here.

Below, check out a picture of Hattie and Chris’s house in Port Washington as it appeared in 1880, and how it appears today, via Google maps. Thanks again to Mac Wilcox and his family at Kin-Connection for the fine pics.

Wiand Residence, Port Washington, 1880

Wiand Residence, Port Washington, 1880

Wiand House, Port Washington, 2013

Wiand House, Port Washington, 2013

Hattie Sperling Hammersley, second from right, and her siblings.

Hattie Sperling Hammersley, second from right, and her siblings.

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In Good Countenance #11, Catherine Sperling


Fourth-great-grandmother Catherine (Voorhees) Sperling

Fourth-great-grandmother Catherine (Voorhees) Sperling

Catherine (Voorhees) Sperling

The other day, we caught a rare glimpse of Great-great-great-great Grandfather Abraham Sperling, thanks to some distant relatives who’ve shared their research on Kin-Connection.com.

Today we meet the other (better?) half of this 19th-Century Port Washington, Ohio power couple, wife Catherine Sperling.

Catherine Voorhees married Abraham Sperling back in New Brunswick, NJ, where she bore their first of 10 children, eldest daughter Maria, in 1834. But by 1838 they were settled in Port Washington, Ohio, where they were among the first to call the eventual Ohio-Erie Canal hotspot home.

They are parents to Third Great-Grandmother Hattie Hammersley — whose obituary I’ll share tomorrow — and grandparents to Minnie Eillene (Hammersley) Ley, wife of Charles Ley.

Abraham led a bustling life, working as cobbler, butcher, auctioneer and serving as soldier during the Civil War, but he succumbed to death in his mid-60’s. The May 11, 1876 edition of The Ohio Democrat reports in its Port Washington dispatch: “The death record in our community for the last week has been quite unusual. … Mr. Abraham Sperling, after a long siege of suffering, died of dropsy on last Wednesday evening.”

Catherine outlived Abraham by 17 years. She ran the household in Port Washington as late as 1880, according to the federal census, and is still listed as a resident there in the pensioner record of 1890, three years before her death.

Abraham and Catherine are buried in the old section of Union Cemetery, Port Washington.

Sperling Abraham Catherine Old Union Port Washington

Fourth great-grandparents Abraham and Catherine Sperling are buried in Old Union Cemetery, Port Washington, Ohio.

 

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