Posts Tagged With: cemetery

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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Categories: Foutz, Johnson, newsletter | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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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For the Record | Elizabeth Zeigler, 1928 Obit


Duerr Siblings 1903

Great-great Grandmother Elizabeth (Duerr) Zeigler — seated in the front row, second from right — and her siblings and siblings-in-law, at a family reunion, circa 1903. From left, front row: Margaret Stallecker Duerr, Mary Duerr Welsch, Anna Duerr Arnold, Elizabeth Duerr Zeigler, Susan Myers Duerr. Back: Michael Duerr, John Krantz (husband of Catherine Duerr) and Sam Duerr. Courtesy of Thomas Bitticker.

Elizabeth Duerr Zeigler, 1845-1928

From 87 years ago today, Great-Great Grandmother Elizabeth (Duerr) Zeigler passed away in the home of her daughter, Great-Grandmother Laura Foutz.

She was 83 and a native of Germany. Just where in Germany is pretty nailed down, and what’s more, that area lines up pretty neatly with her spouse, Jacob Zeigler’s, neck of Deutschland. But more interestingly, the place our Foutzes (over there, Pfoutses) are likely from, too.

How they all ended up in Tuscarawas County, Ohio, is a story that bears digging into.

But for now, record transcriptions report the Zeiglers (sometimes Ziegler) came from Hohenacker and the Duerrs came from Schlaitdorf. Both are towns near the southwestern German city of Stuttgart, in the Neckar River region. Pfoutses are said to have come from the lower Neckar River region in what is now Baden-Wuerttemberg.

Well, the trouble with certain German towns from the 18th and 19th centuries is that they were small then — some aren’t even in existence today. And, to complicate things further, sometimes there are more than one of them.

In the case of Hohenacker, birthplace of the Zeiglers, you can find the village in Bretzfeld, Waiblingen and Esslingen. Record transcriptions for the baptisms of Great-Great Grandfather J.J. Zeigler, in 1827, and sister Barbara, in 1810, show that they were born in Hohenacker, Waiblingen — which also happens to be the district that eventual wife Elizabeth Duerr and family called home, in Schlaitdorf. But family records claim these Zeiglers were born in Hohenacker, Esslingen.

Which is correct? Both villages are found near Stuttgart, both near that famed Neckar River which also produced the Pfoutses.

Baptismal records are probably the most authoritative when pinpointing our German ancestors. But I have seen more errors in transcription — and interpretation, such as family records that mutate Wuerttemberg into Wittenberg, which, as the German eagle flies, is aaaaaaall the way up in northeast Germany toward Berlin, but maybe our cute little relative researchers were thinking of the college in Ohio? — than I have seen dead-on accuracy.

So finding the actual records and eyeballing them is key. Until then, we have the swirling mists and a general geographic idea of where our Germanic roots got growing.

From the Jan. 23, 1928 edition of the New Philadelphia, Ohio Daily Times:

Mrs. Ziegler Dies Monday

DOVER TWP. RESIDENT 72 YEARS

Mrs. Elizabeth Ziegler, 83, widow of Jacob Ziegler, native of Germany, but a resident of Dover township since she was eleven years old, died at 10:20 p.m. yesterday at the home of her daughter, Mrs. Vance Foutz, 515 Race street, Dover, where she had made her home for the past six months.

Mrs. Ziegler, who became bedfast seven months ago tomorrow, died of a complication of diseases and infirmities of old age. Prior to her removal to Dover, Mrs. Zeigler had resided for twelve years with her son, David Ziegler, Russlin Hills, Dover township, four miles north of Dover. Mr. Ziegler died June 1, 1897.

Surviving are eight children: John, Zoarville; Mrs. Samuel Lengler, Parrall; Mrs. Edward Archinal, 515 West High street, this city; Jacob, David, Edward, all of Route 4, Dover; and Mrs. Foutz, at whose home she died; one brother, Samuel Duerr, Zoar; and a sister, Mrs. Constantine, Michigan.

Mrs. Ziegler was a member of St. Paul’s Evangelical church, Ruslin Hills.

Funeral services will be conducted at 9 a.m. Thursday at the Foutz home where she died, and at 10 a.m. at the St. Paul’s church. Rev. Paul Kaefer, Bolivar, will officiate. Burial will be made in the church cemetery by the Lewis Funeral Home, Dover, and Uhrichsville.

 

Zeigler Elizabeth Duerr grave Ruslin Hills Cemetery Dover Ohio

Great-great Grandmother Elizabeth (Duerr) Zeigler is buried in Ruslin Hills Cemetery north of Dover.

 

Categories: Foutz, General Genealogy, Milestones | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Charles Johnson First Marriage Tragedy


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Life & Death of Leona Miller Johnson

 

The thing that fascinates — and at times, frustrates — me about good, honest, thorough genealogy is that it doesn’t take one interview with a relative, or a hectic week of research, but years, many of them, to continually deepen and fill in, untangle and add detail to the family record.

This sustained bit of exercise runs counter to my usual sprinter impulses, the hustling act of “getting ‘er done” after first encountering the vision of what it could be, what it should be, hot and inspiring.

Maybe not the way most people think about genealogy, but there we are.

When I first began digging into my grandma Erma Johnson Foutz’s side of the family in 2008, I’d encountered a bit of a legend about great-grandpa Charles Arthur Johnson’s first wife, who’d died the same year he married her.

A few years later, visiting with great aunt Nellie Johnson Fitzgerald in 2011, I put a face with the name, since Nellie had, of all relics, a portrait of her father’s first wife hanging in her bedroom, along with other actual blood relatives.

It was a sign that this tale had legs, but probably a beating, even anguished heart to it. Nellie related the story in this way:

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

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.

We didn’t know much more about Leona than that. But in the idle hours over Christmas break, nearly four years after hearing Nellie’s version of things, I turned up the printed record, researching on newspapers.com.

In the Monday, Feb. 18, 1907 edition of the New Philadelphia, Ohio Daily Times:

JOHNSON — MILLER

A quiet wedding occurred at the home of the United Brethren pastor, Rev. H. H. Davis, 146 East Front street, this city, Sunday evening, February 17 at 6 o’clock, the contracting parties being Miss Leona Miller and Charles Johnson, both of this place.

The bride is a daughter of Mrs. Mary Nixon formerly of Pennsylvania, who for the past seven or eight years has lived with Albert Kensler, corner of Fair and Seventh streets. The bride is a young woman highly spoken of and commanding the respect of a large circle of friends. Mr. Johnson is the son of  Clement Johnson living at 397 East avenue. He is an energetic young man and is employed by the Goshen Hill Coal Co. He is held in high esteem by all who know him. They will reside on East Avenue.

Just over three months later, the young couple were separated by death, according to the Wednesday, May 22, 1907 edition of the Times:

HOME EARLY BROKEN.

Leone (sic) Miller Johnson, 24 years of age, married to Charles Johnson only three months ago, died at 11 o’clock Wednesday forenoon of quick consumption following an attack of the measles. Mrs. Johnson was born in Belmont county. The funeral will be held from the residence on East avenue Friday afternoon at 1 o’clock followed by an interment in East Avenue cemetery.

As far back as 2010-11, I’d learned that a Leona Miller Johnson was supposed to be buried with Charles, great-grandmother Viola (Palmer) Johnson and sons Carl, Joseph and Charles Jr. in the family plot at East Avenue Cemetery in New Phila. But I could find no marker during trips back home.

Interestingly, though I have yet to confirm the significance of this, Charles and Viola named their first son Thomas Leonard, perhaps in homage to Charles’s first wife. Something, perhaps, we’ll uncover in the coming years.

 

Categories: Foutz, Johnson, Milestones, quickie post | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Addendum: Grace Foutz’s Fishy Birth Year


Chaney Grace Fred Longview

Grace Foutz Chaney and husband Fred are buried in Longview Cemetery near Bowerston, Ohio, near her parents Sherman and Elizabeth Foutz. The birth year etched into her stone to match her husband’s is incorrect.

The Facts on Grace Foutz’s Birth

Call this item a correction.

In yesterday’s post, which chronicled the teaching career of Grace Foutz Chaney, and her life, post-marriage, in Uhrichsville, Ohio, I recounted the strange inaccuracies in Grace’s birth year following her marriage to Fred Chaney in December 1915.

Censuses of 1920, 1930 and 1940 all get it wrong. Even her gravestone in Longview Cemetery near Bowerston botches the date.

Which leads me to believe the error was probably intentional. And since the fibbing starts after Grace becomes Mrs. Fred Chaney, maybe that’s got something to do with it.

But I was wrong when I wrote:

But never fear: Grace’s 1970 obituary finally gets her age right….

Actually, the Times-Reporter obit never mentions Grace’s birthdate or age at all. So I thought I’d lay out how we know the truth from the lies — even those etched in stone.

Her definitive birth day and year we find via Ancestry.com in the Ohio Births and Christenings Index of 1821 to 1962. The actual film is not viewable online at Ancestry or FamilySearch.org, but here’s a screenshot of the index entry:

Foutz Grace birth Sep 1890

The censuses of 1900 and 1910, first in Sherman and Elizabeth Foutz’s home in Washington D.C., then Harrisburg, Pa., report Grace’s age as 9, then 19. Because the census-takers visited the Foutz homes in June 1900 and April 1910, respectively, the age is right and matches her birth year of 1890.

Then the official record gets fishy.

Erroneous Records Retain Grace Foutz’s Youth

Grace Foutz marries Fred Chaney on Dec. 18, 1915 in Wheeling, W. Va. This is all corroborated and matched up to the Grace we know in the 1969 Times-Reporter article on her life — which, nonetheless, is off by one year for her grandmother Rebecca Foutz’s death (she met Fred after traveling to Ohio for the funeral) and her marriage later that year.

Their marriage document begins the wackiness, listing Grace’s age as 24 (she turned 25 in September 1915) and Fred’s as 22 (he is just 19).

The 1920 federal census finds the couple in Uhrichsville, Ohio. Taken in February, before either of their birthdays that year, Fred is listed as 24, the age he will in fact turn in that July, while Grace is reported to be 26. She is really 29, and will turn 30 in September.

In 1930’s census, taken in April that year in Uhrichsville, Fred is 33 (correct) and Grace is listed as 34, meaning she has somehow aged just 10 years since her marriage 15 years prior. She is really 39. The record also list’s Fred’s age at first marriage as 19 (correct!), but Grace’s as 20, which doesn’t even match the incorrect age recorded in their marriage license. But at least we’re being consistent in being consistently off.

1940 — Uhrichsville. Another April, ten years later. Fred, 43. Right! Grace, 44. NOT! She’s 49 and will be 50 that September.

Fred’s obituary in September 1955 does get his age right at death, at 59. And his side of their memorial in Longview Cemetery is correct.

But Grace’s obit fails to mention her age or birth date. Maybe because, with no survivors nearby (and my great-grandfather Vance having passed away two years prior), there may be few family members to supply the correct information.

But her death record in Ohio gets it right. Well, at least her age. Here’s another screenshot from an Ancestry.com transcription of the actual record. My guess is that the death date — March 27, 1970 — and her (correct) age, 79, appeared on the record. The transcriber then did the math backwards and got 1891 for the birth year, when we know — don’t we fellow genealogy heads? — that Grace’s birthday in September makes 1890 the matching date.

Chaney Grace Foutz death Mar 1970

And that’s how we know several documents for decades got Grace’s age wrong. My guess is that since Fred died 15 years prior, the gravestone had the birth year of her fancy — one matching Fred’s — etched on her side, with the death year waiting.

But Wait — Are Grace and Fred Related?

Let’s train our thoughts on the original departure from reliable fact. Why would Grace lie about her age at the time of marriage? True, Fred, at 19, seems a bit younger. But not all that unusual for the time.

Could he have been her student? Seems unlikely, since her profile in 1969 claims she met Fred in Harrison County on the occasion of her grandmother’s death in May 1915. Still, the article got other facts wrong.

Consider, for a moment, that the article may have got the circumstances right. And consider what’s left out. Grace’s father Sherman died in April 1915, and a cousin, Carl Coleman, in March, both of tuberculosis. All were buried in Harrison County. Perhaps the Foutzes — widow Elizabeth and kids Oscar and Grace — spent extensive time that year home in Harrison County.

If that’s the case, Grace’s and Fred’s abbreviated courtship of seven months, and marriage away from Ohio and Pennsylvania, could make sense.

But also consider the circumstances under which they met. Harrison County farming life in the 1800s was tightly knit. The same families who farmed together are buried together, and the names adorn the mailboxes today. Still, who is most likely to be attending the same funerals, particularly three months in a row? Family.

Fred Chaney’s mother’s maiden name, Wilson, is the same as Grace’s mother’s. Some preliminary poking around Ancestry trees and census records shows one of Elizabeth’s older brothers, William, born some 24 years before her, has a name (and birth and death dates, allegedly) that match a William Wilson who married an Ellen Dixon. They were parents of a Mary Wilson who matches the birth year of the Mary Wilson from Harrison County who married Emerson Chaney, Fred’s father.

So, could Fred Chaney’s grandpa, William Wilson, be Grace’s mom’s brother? Making William Grace’s uncle, and Mary — Fred’s mom — Grace’s cousin.

It could explain why they never had children, or acted wacky about their ages. But it does deepen the mystery.

Categories: Foutz, General Genealogy, newsletter | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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