Posts Tagged With: Berks County

The Wayward Path of Oscar W. Foutz

514 buttonwood st reading pa

The street where Sherman Foutz and family closed out their Reading, Pa. days in 1909 bears no trace of their former home. Now, down the street on the right, there’s a parking lot.


Wandering Oscar Foutz Leaves Few Traces

It’s easy to paint great-great uncle Sherman Foutz’s son, Oscar, as the black sheep.

The historical record suggests so, with some mishaps, and maybe a bad marriage, the clear absences. But there are holes. There’s a lot we don’t know. And too much that censuses and official records and newspaper articles fail to reveal.

We can’t know, for instance, the personalities behind the official print. The balance of harmony that makes up a household, of love that sparks a relationship, ambition that fuels a career. We can’t clearly discern, 100 years later, the circumstances and darker impulses that move the players on and off the stage.

In the case of Oscar Foutz, then, I’ve assembled the most complete chronology I can. With the barest trace of analysis. With some lingering questions. Certainly without judgment.

Here’s what we know so far.

Born Dec. 17, 1888 to parents Sherman and Elizabeth Foutz, Oscar lived out his early boyhood in the old Foutz stomping grounds of Harrison County.

Sherman’s appointment, in the mid- to late-1890s, to the U.S. Treasury took the family to Washington D.C., where grandparents Jonathan and Rebecca Foutz would join them about 1899-1900. Their youngest children, John, Charles and Vance (Colt’s great-grandfather), all born within 5-10 years of Oscar and sister Grace, likely were more playmates in the new and strange city than proper uncles.

In 1902, Sherman accepted leadership of the Knights of the Maccabees of eastern Pennsylvania. The family moved to Reading, Pa., where Sherman set about growing the membership from just over 90 to more than 3,500 over the subsequent decade, and grew his fire insurance business as well.

Foutzes Well-Educated, Well-Heeled in Reading

Far from the farming life in eastern Ohio, Oscar and sister Grace enjoyed the privileges of a well-known, well-to-do family.

We know Grace attended private schools, and even college at 15; we assume Oscar was granted the same privilege. Both appear occasionally in social columns in Washington, Reading and Harrisburg, having played host or a part in Maccabees’ youth gatherings. Or, in the case of this 1903 Reading Times item, when Oscar was about 15, acting in a local production, “The Readingites.”

In October 1906, the Reading Times spotlighted 17-year-old Oscar Foutz for his role in alerting firemen to a blaze that broke out after 10 p.m. in a tailor’s business at 15 N. Sixth Street, just a few addresses down from father Sherman Foutz’s fire insurance business at 40 N. Sixth.

Foutz Oscar fire hero Reading Times 5 Oct 1906

By 1909, 20-year-old Oscar is employed as a clerk, according to the Reading city directory. The family moves to Harrisburg that year, and according to the census, Oscar finds work there as a fireman for the railroad.

In contrast to Grace’s intellectual pursuits, Oscar Foutz attracts newspaper ink for various sporting exploits, and his active role in the Pennsylvania National Guard.

An April 1909 article in the Reading Times reports Oscar’s second-prize finish in a pool contest at Penn Parlors.

An August 1910 piece in the Reading Eagle tells of a “a lively and amusing” boxing match between Oscar and another National Guard private to settle a “small dispute.” Oscar won.

In Harrisburg, an October 1911 Telegraph item lists Oscar among the members of the Hassler Athletic Club baseball team, which promised to have a stronger squad the next season.

It’s important to note that these are all the exploits of a newly-married man. Before the Foutzes leave Reading, Oscar marries Florence Hartman.

There may be nothing curious about the timing of their marriage license application, filed Jan. 1 1908 in Berks County. But by the time the two are married nearly 10 months later, Florence is far-along pregnant with their first son, Ralph. The wedding is reported in the Sept. 29, 1908 edition of the Reading Times.

Foutz Oscar marriage Reading Times Sep 29 1908

Son Ralph’s birth less than three months later, on Dec. 19, 1908, is recorded by Alsace Lutheran Church.

Sons Ralph, Harry & a Foutz House Divided

Oscar’s troubles seem to begin not long after second son, Harry Sherman, is born March 28, 1910.

The young family appears to live a divided existence. The 1910 census, taken that April in Harrisburg, finds Oscar, listed as married 2 years, and eldest son Ralph in the home of Sherman and Elizabeth.

Meanwhile, 60 miles to the east in Reading, Florence appears in the household of parents Francis and Kate, along with brother Lloyd and sister Hannah. She is listed as single. There is no trace of brand new infant Harry Sherman, though the census taker visited on April 21.

The names of Florence’s parents — and their address — match their wedding announcement of two years prior. And match names listed in Florence’s death announcement (many years later, which we’ll get to). So this is undoubtedly the family. Maybe there’s some fudging going on. Or three-weeks-old Harry Sherman is still in the hospital (though he’s scheduled for his christening the next day).

Curiously, a family of Wunders — Florence’s mother’s maiden name — boards with the Hartmans, and another Wunder family lives next door. In Milton’s house, the youngest child is named Harry (though listed as 4 months old — could they mean weeks?). In Daniel’s, the youngest is named Ralph, age 3 (older by one year than Florence’s son Ralph who is reportedly living in Harrisburg with his father’s parents). Both Milton and Daniel match names listed in Florence’s grandfather William Wunder’s 1902 obituary.

Not yet definitive evidence that the Hartmans passed off 19-year-old Florence as single and passed on her children to siblings. But interesting.

Back to Oscar. Later that year, in August 1910, Oscar would be arrested, tried and sentenced to nine months in prison for his part in clubbing and robbing a man while on leave with three other guardsmen from Reading’s fourth regiment. From the Reading Times, Sept. 16, 1910:

Foutz Oscar Convicted Robbery Reading Times 16 Sep 1910

Death of Sherman & Oscar a Gone Daddy

Oscar appears to later gain reinstatement to the National Guard and continue his family life.

A July 1911 article in the Reading Eagle reports a Florence Foutz visiting the guard camp at Mt. Gretna.

A July 1914 report in the Reading News-Times again lists Oscar as getting ready for that year’s camp at Mt. Gretna.

But by father Sherman Foutz’s death in April 1915, Oscar, not listed as a survivor in Sherman’s obituary, but included in the death announcement, reportedly lives in Arizona. Perhaps Oscar is there with the Guard?

The public record next finds Oscar Foutz in 1917, when a series of legal notices early that year summon him to Reading to face divorce from Florence, which is finalized May 19, 1917, according to the Harrisburg Evening News:

Foutz Oscar divorce final Harrisburg Evening News 19 May 1917

Over the next three decades, Oscar drops from sight. I’ve not found him on the censuses of 1920, 1930 or 1940, or in any vital documents. His mother Elizabeth Foutz’s December 1945 obituary mentions him as surviving, and living in Charlotte, N.C. Whereas, a 1969 Times-Reporter article on Grace Foutz’s “wonderful life” contends Oscar died in 1945. The piece probably meant Grace’s mother. But her obituary the following year definitely mentions a brother who “also preceded her in death.”

Census records and numerous newspaper articles indicate the absence of Oscar from the lives of sons Ralph and Harry. More on them in the next installment.

Meanwhile, mother Florence Hartman remarries, to a William F. Orner. Has another child, Raymond Carroll Orner, born Feb. 17, 1918 and baptized where her older sons were, Alsace Lutheran Church in Reading.

The record gets murky from here. The 1920 census shows, curiously, a Florence M. and Frank Orner living in Harrisburg, Dauphin County. In their household is a nearly two-year-old “Carrol L. Orner” — and also an 8-year-old Sherman (who, if it’s Harry Sherman Foutz, should be 10). We know that Ralph is listed in grandmother Lizzie Foutz’s household, so this may explain the whereabouts of both brothers (if not father Oscar).

The 1930 census lists a married Florence M. Orner, age 39 (the right age), living in Dauphin County and in the company of a 68-year-old Adaline Orner, albeit in the Pennsylvania State Lunatic Hospital. Hmmmmmm….

Florence’s obituary appears in the March 12, 1938 edition of the Reading Times, spelled “Oner.” Sherman, Ralph and Carrol are all listed as survivors, as well as “Catherine,” wife of Roy Rutt. Now, I have not found the origins of the adopted Catherine Foutz, later Mrs. John Roy Rutt, but I have also not detected Catherine in the home of Francis and Katie (Wunder) Hartman prior to her living with Elizabeth Foutz in 1920. So I think this is just a nod from Florence to her former sister-in-law. But… I’ll keep following the trail.

Florence is buried in the same Epler’s Church Cemetery as her parents and several siblings. Incidentally, she dies at the same age as Oscar’s father.

Hartman Florence obit Reading Times 3.12.1938

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A New Grandson for Sherman Foutz (c. 1910)

Sherman S. Foutz

Second Great-Uncle Sherman S. Foutz

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

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.

Foutz Ralph F Woodlawn Memorial Gardens Harrisburg Pa

We think we know the resting place of one of Sherman and Lizzie Foutz's grandsons. Ralph F. Foutz, born 1908 and died 1964, is buried in Woodlawn Memorial Gardens in Harrisburg, Pa. This is his half of his shared headstone with wife Virginia Clara (Henson) Foutz.

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Jonathan Foutz Family – Sherman Foutz & Descendants

Sherman S. Foutz

Sherman S. Foutz

Sherman Foutz | A Tragic Life & Mysterious Descendants

Let’s see, where were we? Ah, yes. In October, in the middle of a multi-part series on my grandfather’s high school football stardom, I started another: about my great-great grandfather, Jonathan Foutz – his family and descendants.

The first post ran on Oct. 18. In it, you can read about Jonathan Foutz‘s birth, marriage and first fifty years or so in Harrison County, Ohio. He carried on with the family livelihood, farming, and raised a mess of kids before moving the youngest of them, along with wife Rebecca, to Washington D.C. with his oldest son, Sherman. In 1900, he died. Whether in Washington, or back in Ohio, and of what we don’t know.

The second post ran a day later, Oct. 19, and told of my great-great grandmother Rebecca Caldwell Foutz‘s birth, childhood and the years after her husband died, up until her own death in 1915. She was a resident of Dover, Ohio by then. Which is where my great-grandfather, Vance Cleveland Foutz, and three succeeding generations of his family called home.

But we’ll get to Vance eventually.

For now, we pick up the thread with the oldest child of Jonathan Foutz and Rebecca Caldwell Foutz. The whole lineup, remember, comprised Sherman, Lila, Rachel, Ida, John, Charles and Vance.

A Promising Life, Cut Short

Sherman has received a lot of ink in this blog’s short history.

The very first post detailed Sherman Foutz’s life and death.

A post last summer shared a picture of Sherman, as well as the obituary detailing his death from tuberculosis in 1915.

Gradually, we worked around to Sherman’s widow, Elizabeth (Wilson) Foutz and the mysterious fates of her children, Grace and Oscar, as well as the presence of a grandson and foster daughter.

The story of Sherman Foutz is so captivating because of its early promise, ultimate tragedy, and our severed connections to his descendants, distant in time and geography. Sherman was born, like other Foutzes in his generation, on the farm — probably at his granddad Gideon’s, on Sept. 3, 1867. He married a local girl, Elizabeth Wilson, and married young — he was 19 and she 21 when they were wed Aug. 11, 1887.

But Sherman went on to carve out a life of prominence none of his farming kin could match. He was probably the first of my ancestors to receive college-level training; in his case, the New Hagerstown Academy, in nearby Carroll County. He made a name for himself as a fire insurance salesman, and made important connections through the Knights of the Maccabees and other fraternal organizations.

Sherman rose to prominence with his appointment as a clerk to the U.S. Treasury Department during the second term of President Grover Cleveland. He was barely in his 30s. Following his father’s death in 1900, Sherman moved his wife and two children, Oscar and Grace, to Berks County, Pennsylvania, where he assumed ever greater duties with the Maccabees, rising to supervisor for Pennsylvania’s eastern district, growing its membership from 92 to several thousand.

The family lived at a prominent address blocks from the river in downtown Harrisburg. Daughter Grace was sent to the tony all-girls’ Irving College, in Mechanicsburg. And every visit Sherman made to Ohio in those days was accompanied by news reports of his homecoming. But that prominence was destined to be derailed by tragedy, leaving mysteries in its wake.

Were the Kids All Right?

An enduring question about my Foutz ancestors is why death came for my great-great grandfather Jonathan so young, at 55, when his own father and grandfather — and many others in the family, had lived to 89 and 83, respectively. But Sherman was fated to greet death even younger. He contracted tuberculosis at 47, and even though he had the means to seek a cure at a Denver, Colo. sanitarium, he died that spring.

What happened to Sherman’s family? Son Oscar, born Dec. 17, 1888, was not listed as a survivor. And the 1910 census and at least one news report hint at some trouble for Sherman’s oldest. The September 17, 1910 edition of The Gettysburg Times reported that Oscar W. Foutz, of Harrisburg, after receiving his pay as a soldier in the National Guard, went to Allentown with three other men for a night on the town. While making the rounds, a man named William Croghan crossed their paths, was hit with a club and relieved of his valuables. One of the men in Oscar’s party plead guilty and was sentenced to 2 years. Oscar also confessed and got nine months in prison.

By 1910, according to the federal census, Oscar was also a father. Berks County records his marriage on Jan. 1, 1908 to either Florence Hartman or Annie Schollenberger. But the Sherman and Elizabeth Foutz household shows only Oscar and a grandson, Ralph, born in 1908. Ralph turns up again in a widowed Lizzie’s household in 1920 — but with no father or mother.

What became of Oscar? Did he ever serve his prison sentence? Did he pass away before his father? And how long did his apparently shotgun marriage last? Did it end with divorce? Or abandonment? Or perhaps, the death of Annie or Florence? (And which one was it — Annie or Florence?)

By 1920, Ralph Foutz isn’t the only youngster benefiting from Lizzie Foutz’s care. A foster-daughter, Catherine, is listed in the 1920 and 1930 censuses, which show Sherman’s widow working as a cook for the Elks Home and running a boardinghouse, at two addresses a far remove from their old residence. How did the Sherman Foutz family come to know Catherine? And when did they adopt her?

The 1920 census lists Catherine’s birth year as about 1906; the 1930 census about 1910. Survivors listed in Grace’s 1970 obituary include Catherine as a foster sister, with a married (or maiden?) name of Rutt, as well as several “nieces and nephews”. The obit lists Catherine’s residence as Lititz, Pa., and I’ve found a July 1985 death record for a Catherine Rutt, born Jan. 12, 1906 and living in Reading, Pa. But as for her husband, or any surviving children, I’ve come up empty.

However, we do have clues about what might have become of Sherman’s grandson, Ralph. He appears in several city directories in Harrisburg throughout the 1930s and 1940s. And in a bit of a leap forward, the Sept. 10, 1987 obituary of Virginia Clara (Henson) Foutz, appearing in The Harrisburg Patriot-News, lists her as the widow of Ralph F. Foutz, a former resident of Harrisburg, and a former employee of the L. Wohl Children’s Dress Factory. (In the 1930 census, Ralph’s foster sister, Catherine, is employed as a dress stitcher.) Their children include Agnes, Arthur, Catherine, Charles, Frances, Nicholas and… Grace, as well as 31 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren, at the time of Virginia’s death.

Could abandoned Ralph have gone on to produce so many descendants? It’s a happy thought. But unconfirmed happiness, since Pennsylvania enforces a virtual lock-down on vital records available to the public.

As for Grace, she appears to have lived a long, but childless, life not 12 miles from where her father was born. By December of the year Sherman dies, she has eloped in West Virginia with Fred R. Chaney, a man who may be her age or several years her junior, as their marriage certificate and several censuses and even their gravestones in Longview Cemetery (where Sherman and Lizzie are also buried) fail to agree.

According to her 1970 obituary, Grace (born two days after her father’s birthday, Sept. 5, 1890) dies just six months shy of her 80th birthday. 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).

Sadly, aside from letters between my grandma Erma Foutz and her sisters-in-law, which mention a niece of Vance’s from Uhrichsville “visiting often”, memory of those visits has now faded — if it remains in living memory at all. And evidence of Sherman Foutz’s living descendants is uncertain, at best.

Sherman, Grace, and Rebecca Foutz; Rachel Caldwell 1910

In 1910, clockwise from left, Sherman Foutz, daughter Grace Foutz, mother Rebecca Foutz and grandmother Rachel Caldwell pose in happier times.

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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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