Posts Tagged With: census

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

Grace Foutz Feature Frames Life in Ohio


Sherman, Grace, and Rebecca Foutz; Rachel Caldwell 1910

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

Grace Foutz Chaney’s Happy, Distant Life

In this ongoing series, we’re taking a crack at solving some of the mysteries surrounding the family of Sherman Foutz, my great-grandfather Vance Foutz’s oldest brother.

A recent research binge on newspaperarchives.com blew open a couple doors I thought, given Pennsylvania’s reputation for white-knuckle-gripping its vital records, would probably stay shut fast.

An illuminating source, as ever, are the obituaries of relatives past. And just in case information is incomplete (or wrong) in the final record of our dearly departed — as was the case in Sherman Foutz’s 1915 obituary, the one clipped and saved for 100 years — it always pays to check the initial “extra” to readers of the day or so before — the death announcement.

If I could offer one genealogy lesson — though stories are the point of this blog — it’s that starting from the end of a life often yields the richest clues to an ancestor’s entire life. Obituaries done right, at least the way I was taught as a cub reporter at the Sandusky Register (egad, a decade and a half ago), serve up all the pertinent birth, marriage and death dates; spouses, children, parents, siblings, (living and dead); occupations, places lived, war record; and all the various memberships and associations that make up a life in brief.

A treasure trove, if you can get at it. And hoping, of course, the newspaper chronicling the lives of your loved ones hasn’t adopted the same abbreviated style as, say, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which hadn’t changed its basic name, died, funeral date and place format in the 98 years between my great-great grandfather Morgan’s death in 1897 and the death of his granddaughter in 1995.

But here I go burying the lead.

Fewer links ahead, promise, and a thorough peek into the life of Sherman’s daughter, Grace Foutz Chaney.

A Return Home to Ohio

The central tragedy for Sherman Foutz’s family was his early death, at 47, of tuberculosis in 1915. Following that, the first of our Foutzes to leave the farm in Harrison County, Ohio, attend college and work in the big cities of Washington D.C. and Reading and Harrisburg, Pa., essentially split up.

Eldest daughter Grace marries that December in a West Virginia county neighboring the one a lot of our other relatives seemed to elope to (probably a story in itself). She lives the rest of her life not with her mother, Elizabeth Foutz, or step-sister Catherine, back in Harrisburg, but with husband Fred Chaney in Uhrichsville, where she works as a school teacher.

They never have children. They never leave Uhrichsville. And they have an odd propensity for consistently lying about their ages. In fact, Grace’s gravestone is off by the same incorrect six years as most of the censuses, which made her, for a time, the same age as the six-years-younger Fred, and which was maybe their point in fibbing.

But never fear: Grace’s 1970 obituary finally gets her age right, and spills the details about a lot of her life. We learn Fred precedes her in death by 15 years. Older brother Oscar is also listed as deceased. Then there are the tantalizing hints of “several nieces and nephews” and that foster sister, Catherine Rutt, whom we haven’t found out a lot about yet.

The obit offered a lot of details. But at the time I discovered it among my great-grandfather’s things a few summers back, the usual parade of questions marched along:

  1. When did brother Oscar Foutz die? Preceded could mean a couple years earlier, or as far back as the 1910s, when he suddenly stops being counted among his mother’s residence, where one son, Ralph, resides. The other, Harry Sherman, as well as Oscar’s wife, Florence Hartman Foutz, are also lost to history (But more on them soon.)
  2. Why did Grace marry an Ohio man just eight months after her father’s death? Where and how did they meet?
  3. Why did Grace suddenly and emphatically live so far removed from her widowed mother, young foster sister and the remnants of her brother’s family in Pennsylvania?
  4. And, living as she did just a dozen miles south of her extended family (my own) in Dover, Ohio, did she maintain connections with the greater Foutz clan?

On this last point, the written record seems to suggest Grace knew about Vance Foutz’s family in Dover and kept up with my great-grandfather, her uncle in family relation, but really just three years her senior and one year Oscar’s, an accident of the 20-year span between bookend brothers Sherman and Vance. In fact, when preteen Vance, Oscar and Grace lived together in Washington D.C. about 1900 (family lore has recorded that Sherman got his youngest brothers John, Charley and Vance jobs in the postal department), they were likely more playmates than proper uncle and nephew and niece. That Vance’s and Grace’s birthdays were also close together (hers, Sept. 5, 1890; his, Sept. 7, 1887) could also have been a fun circumstantial bond.

A few years after Grace died, later in the 1970s, Vance’s daughter-in-law, my great-aunt Louise Foutz, was trying to piece together family history with my grandparents and great-aunt Doris Foutz Waddington. Louise counted, among her father’s known siblings, a brother, Charles, 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). … 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 (sic.), and some red-haired nephews from Canton. Neither Doris or I remember names.

The red-haired nephews likely belonged to Charles Foutz, who died of pneumonia in 1918 at age 32, leaving a wife and four children behind. (More on them soon!) The niece is most likely Grace. An examination of great-grandpa Vance’s funeral guest register shows the shaky hand of 78-year-old Grace Chaney as present.

Pity, then, that no one from my grandparents’ generation remembers Sherman’s dynamic daughter. Fortunately, a newspaper article from the same Times-Reporter, a year before her death, tells more of Grace’s story.

Devoted teacher, never tested for teaching license

A January 25, 1969 feature entitled “Wonderful Life…” details Grace Foutz Chaney’s childhood and education, her marriage to Fred, her teaching career and the ways she lived out her days in Uhrichsville.

Read the whole article by clicking the thumbnail below.

Chaney Grace Foutz wonderful life Daily Reporter 25 Jan 1969

Grace Foutz Chaney’s life is detailed in a January 1969 Times-Reporter article.

Some highlights:

  • Born in Bowerston, by the first grade Grace Foutz attended school in Washington D.C., “where her father was connected with the printing department of the federal government.”
  • After the family’s move to Reading, Pa., she attended private girls’ school and, like her father, became active in the Knights of the Maccabees.
  • At 15, having just completed 8th grade, she took a “sub-Freshman” test and was granted admission to Irving College.
  • Though Grace never properly graduated high school, she spent 5 years at Irving, graduating with a “bachelor of science degree for teaching, Latin, English and problems in democracy.” She was also granted a teaching license in Pennsylvania.
  • Grace was granted a teaching certificate in Ohio (as well as 2 lifetime certificates for teaching grade and high schools) and taught for 40 years in Dennison, Tuscarawas, Harrison County, Conesville and Feed Springs. She never served as a substitute, only taught full-time.

The article also details some family highlights, even if the facts seem dubious or outright incorrect.

On brother Oscar, the article reports him as having died in 1945. An interesting — though perhaps false — match to mother Elizabeth’s death year.

As to husband Fred Chaney, the article reports Grace met him when she returned to Ohio for her grandmother’s funeral “in May 1916.” The death of Rebecca Foutz may, indeed, have been the occasion Grace and Fred met, but sources tell us Rebecca died in May 1915, same year as Sherman, and same year as Fred and Grace’s marriage that December.

The article shares Fred’s occupation as railroad conductor, and gets his death right, in September 1955 (coincidentally, on Vance’s birthday). And shares the location of their first shared, and later, Grace’s solitary residence in the Nicola Building at 3rd and Water streets.

Grace’s wonderful life, though illuminated in interesting ways, still is in many ways a mystery. But with some of the clues revealed there, we fill in a few more blanks. More answers to come.

nicola bldg 101 e third st uhrichsville oh

Grace Foutz Chaney made her home in the Nicola Building in Uhrichsville for more than 30 years.

Categories: Foutz, General Genealogy, newsletter | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Did Oscar Foutz Outlive His Father?


Foutz Sherman S

Sherman S. Foutz, oldest brother to Colt’s great-grandfather, Vance Foutz.

Surviving Foutz Son Lost to History

Genealogy — thorough, mystery-revealing genealogy, anyway — never unfolds in a straight chronology.

Our look into the latest revelations of the lives of my great-great uncle Sherman Foutz’s family continues this week with a bit of family history time travel. His elusive son Oscar Foutz is today’s focus.

Like life, in which we age in a progression of days and weeks and years, but bounce back and forth in our memories, the time-travel leaps of an active, living mind, genealogy doesn’t reveal its deeper secrets by merely starting at birth and ticking off milestones until death, burial, fill-in-the-blank on the tree.

You often have to start at the end of a life to understand the relative you’re researching, the places they’ve lived, the things they’ve done, the people they’ve loved. Obituaries are — usually — rich troves of the essentials you need to merely confirm that who you’re trying to get to know is, in fact, the family member you’re looking for: birth date, parents, hometown, occupation, spouse, surviving children and siblings, those who preceded them in death.

Filling in the blanks, and ticking off those necessary confirmations, means flipping back and forward through multiple sources to reveal a life lived long after it has ended: birth certificates, census records, draft cards, marriage certificates, gravestones, newspaper clippings.

Often, if you can’t start at the end of a life, you lose the threads which connect you, through history, to its beginning, not to mention its meaningful middle.

For a long time, I’d assumed Oscar Foutz, nephew of my great-grandfather Vance Foutz, had died even before his father, Sherman, succumbed to tuberculosis in 1915 at a too-young 47.

The main reason? Sherman’s yellowed obituary from that April, which my great-grandfather still possessed when he died some 53 years later, lists only his wife and daughter, Grace, as survivors.

Sherman Foutz obit

Whereabouts of Wife and Sons Murky

Adding to Oscar’s challenge as genealogical cipher, are the odd notations in censuses — and his eventual, utter absence from these records.

Jump back 5 years from Sherman’s death. The 1910 census spotlights the family in its Harrisburg prominence.

Living at 1908 N. Third St., the household is headed by a 23-years-married Sherman and wife Elizabeth. Oscar, 21, has worked the entire year as a railroad fireman. Grace, 19, is out of school, but not employed.

And there, a bit of the cryptic: A 1-year-old grandson, Ralph, is also among the household. And Oscar is listed as married two years. But his wife is not living with the Sherman Foutz family.

At first, this led me to wonder if Ralph’s mother — Oscar’s wife — may have died young, perhaps in childbirth. Though, if that were the case, why would Oscar be listed as married two years and not widowed?

Over the last few years, I filled in some of the gaps, discovering Oscar’s marriage to Florence Hartman in September 1908 (after applying for marriage Jan. 1 that year — Ralph was born Dec. 19); discovering the birth of a second son, Harry Sherman, in March 1910; Florence’s visiting Oscar at a National Guard camp in July 1911.

But if finding Florence missing from Oscar and Ralph’s home two years into marriage is puzzling in 1910, by 1920 both parents — and Harry Sherman, for that matter — have vanished from the usually helpful census map.

Son Oscar a Solider, then a Ghost

Skipping five years after Sherman’s death, the 1920 census finds 11-year-old Ralph Foutz living in the care of his grandmother, Sherman’s widow, Elizabeth.

A foster daughter, 14-year-old Catherine, is also listed, and Grace is listed, but then crossed out. Further research turned up Grace’s marriage 8 months after Sherman’s death to Fred Chaney, in what looks like a West Virginia elopement since no family is listed. The couple turn up in Uhrichsville, Ohio, near Sherman and Elizabeth’s birthplace, in the 1920 census. So why is Grace mistakenly entered (and first reported) in the Harrisburg household?

More and more curious.

The family by 1920 has changed addresses, living now at 59 North Tenth St., where they host two boarders and Elizabeth works as a cook for the Elks Home. Harry Sherman is not listed; nor is Oscar; nor is Florence.

What happened to Ralph’s family? With Sherman’s death such a tragic, distracting shadow in my research, I wondered if a September 1910 Gettysburg Times articleindicated trouble for the family.

The article 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.

Now, Florence would visit him in National Guard camp the next year, indicating, it seems, Oscar’s reinstatement and the family’s continued unity. Though where was she in 1920? Where was son Harry Sherman? And what became of Oscar Foutz?

Did Oscar succumb to tuberculosis like his father? One of Sherman’s (and my great-grandfather Vance’s) nephews, Karl Coleman, also dies of tuberculosis a month prior to Sherman back in Ohio (in the home of Vance). Did Florence and the baby die of it as well?

Reading tea leaves, 100 years distant, is an imprecise business. Death, an easy explanation, can distract. And incomplete records fail to illuminate, and instead lead astray.

In my research this winter, suddenly, an open door. Oscar lived.

Obituaries are often preceded by shorter death announcements. The same was true of Sherman Foutz’s death, only recently discovered. As reported in the Tuesday, April 6, 1915 edition of the Harrisburg Times, Oscar is not only listed as a survivor, but living, by then in Arizona!

What do we know of Oscar — and the rest of Sherman Foutz’s family and descendants — in the years that follow? More to come….

Foutz Sherman S death announce Harrisburg Telegraph April 1915

Son Oscar Foutz is listed as a survivor — and living in Arizona — in Sherman Foutz’s 1915 death announcement.

Categories: Foutz, General Genealogy, newsletter | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Dover, New Phila Foutzes Connected by Football, Genes


Foutz Don Earl

Don Foutz, left, and H. Earl Foutz reminisce in 1974 about the pass Don of Dover threw that Earl of Phila hauled in for an interception and 85-yard return for a touchdown that won the 1929 rivalry game.

Foutz-to-Foutz Pass a Familial Feat

In the yellowed newspaper clipping, Don Foutz wears a turtleneck and a smirk. He looks less formal than the man in the suit and tie standing next to him, a guy also named Foutz, but also less than thrilled to be reliving a shared moment on the football fields of their youth.

Maybe because the moment happened to be one of the few that didn’t go a teenage Don Foutz’s way, particularly against rival New Philadelphia.

Maybe, too, because aside from a fabled pass that went the wrong way for Dover’s Tornadoes (and the right for Phila’s Quakers), the two men appeared to share little else.

Well, a shared name, in Foutz. But as the article says, the two men “are not related.”

It’s what they thought that November day in 1929; it’s what they believed 45 Novembers later on the eve of another annual rivalry football game.

So I guess it’s OK that my first post here in seven months is so long in coming since it will undo more than 100 years of missed conceptions and forgotten connections. Because the article’s wrong. The Dover and New Phila Foutzes are related.

Don Foutz’s Errant Pass Gives Earl Foutz Glory

A series of Tornadoes Time Warp posts in 2010 thoroughly documented Don Foutz’s football glory days from 1929-31. Among his exploits against hated rival New Philadelphia:

  • Scoring on an early run and throwing a 4th-quarter TD pass in a 13-7 Dover victory in 1930
  • Piling up a school-record 220 rushing yards (it would stand for 64 years) and 2 TDs in a 27-6 Dover victory in 1931

Grandpa was a fixture in print that senior season, as Dover notched a best-ever 10-1 record and #5 state ranking, an opener for a stretch of football and basketball dominance under Coach Hermann Rearick and grandpa’s successor at halfback, Doc Kelker, that briefly made Dover Ohio’s city of champions.

But his legend faded quickly and he settled into the daily routine, raising three kids and working for a Ford dealership before following his father and two older brothers into the steel mill.

Occasionally, the Dover Daily Reporter would catch up with the old Crimson Flash, as in a 1961 article about son Donn’s rushing exploits for Dover. The 1974 article, however, focused on a rare miscue — a year before Don Foutz played the hero against New Philadelphia, he sealed Dover’s fate with an interception to opposing player Earl Foutz. Read all about it by clicking the thumbnails below.

Don Foutz 1929 interceptionEarl Foutz intercepts Don Foutz

In addition to sharing details of the 1929 contest as a preview to the rivalry’s 70th installment, the article states: “that game marked the first time Don and Earl — who are not related — ever met.” While I don’t dispute the truth of the football covered in the article, I thought I’d dig a little more deeply into the genealogy.

Sharing a Common Great-Great Grandfather

Earl and his brother, Dick Foutz, were well-known around Dover and Phila, and to my family, as the operators of Foutz Appliances on Tuscarawas Avenue in New Philadelphia. I even remember as a kid asking about the cross-town Foutzes, but being told we weren’t related.

As it turns out, grandpa Don was third cousin to Earl and his brothers Dick and Lloyd. The connection goes back to where our Foutz — originally, Pfouts — ancestors started in Ohio, a couple dozen miles east near Bowerston.

According to well-documented research, Michael Pfouts — Don’s and Earl’s second great-grandfather — emigrated from the lower Neckar River region of Wuertemberg, Germany in 1787. He first settled in Washington County, Maryland, where he probably farmed with other German immigrants. He married a woman named Catharine in Maryland in 1799, and over the next 26 years they had 8 children — about half in Maryland and, beginning with Jacob in 1811, the rest in Harrison County, Ohio.

The early Pfoutses owned several parcels of land throughout Monroe and North townships, on which they farmed for the better part of 150 years. Gideon Pfouts, my third-great-grandfather (grandpa Don’s great-grandfather), farmed 80 acres along what is now Grundy Ridge and Mill Hill roads south of Bowerston. John, a brother more than a decade Gideon’s senior, farmed an area in the southeast corner of Monroe Township with siblings Jonathan and Elizabeth Pfouts. Although his homesteading siblings would never marry, John wed relatively late in life, marrying Irish immigrant Margaret Sprowls in 1850, when he was 43 and she was 27.

John and Margaret Pfouts are Earl’s great-grandparents. They’d have four children. Their second, born July 3, 1854 on the farm, was named Andrew J. Pfouts. That’s Earl’s grandpa. I dipped into the spreadsheet I started keeping in 2010 to track all the many (related) Foutzes (Pfoutses) from census to census in 19th century Harrison County. There, in 1860, was five-year-old Andrew in the home of John and Margaret Pfouts.

Earl and brother Richard would take over the store their father, James Howard Foutz, began on Tuscarawas Avenue in New Phila in 1920. (A talented brother, Lloyd, would perform as a musician around the country before dying young in 1961.) The connection between our families is confirmed by J. Howard Foutz’s 1901 marriage certificate to Effie Leggett of Carroll County. The certificate names Andrew J. Foutz and Mary Ayers of Harrison County as Howard’s parents. A 20-year-old James H. Fouts appears in their household in the 1900 census, the only one between his 1880 birth and 1910, 1920, 1930 and 1940 censuses documenting his married life with Effie and the kids in New Philadelphia.

Meanwhile, Gideon would marry Delilah Jones in 1843. Together, they’d raise six children. Their oldest, Jonathan Foutz, would marry Rebecca Caldwell and have seven children of their own. Their very youngest, born in 1887 in Bowerston, was Vance Cleveland Foutz, my grandpa Don Foutz’s dad.

The final resting places of our Foutz cousins mirror our own clan’s trek from the farms of Harrison to the city life of Tuscarawas county. John and Margaret Pfouts are buried with Michael and the rest of the original Pfoutses in Conotton Cemetery, while Andrew and Mary Pfouts are buried in Grandview Cemetery near Scio.

James Howard Foutz is buried, with Effie and infant daughter Mary, in East Avenue Cemetery, New Philadelphia. Son H. Earl and wife Isabel Marie Foutz are buried at Maple Grove Cemetery in Dover.

Earl outgained Dover by a crucial 85 yards in that 1929 contest; he outlived my grandfather by 13 years. I wonder what they’d chat about, today, if they’d lived to see the roots of their family history reconnected.

foutz andrew grave grandview harrison oh

Foutz James Howard grave 1941

Categories: Foutz, newsletter | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Aunt Jennie Fisher’s Witchy Encounter


Fisher Walters Family Early 1900s

The sons and daughters of Sarah Ann (Walters) Fisher gather for a portrait with their mother in the early 1900s. Front: Sarah M, John William, Sarah Ann (Walters), Mary Jane “Jennie”, Henry. Back: Emma, Ellsworth, Della, Barclay, Lily, George, Clara Alice, James.

Hauntings in Stone Creek | Mary Jane Fisher

Today’s dispatch comes courtesy of the alert eyes of Ancestry.com connection — and relative somewhere back through all those Leys and Weibles — Judy Schrock, who last month spotted an article in my old hometown paper about an alleged haunting nearly a century and a half ago.

At the heart of this tale of witches: a 9-year-old third-great aunt, Mary Jane Fisher, sister to my great-great-grandfather John William Fisher.

Born Feb. 22, 1861, “Jennie,” as she was called, was the third child and oldest daughter of my great-great-great-grandparents, George and Sarah (Walters) Fisher. (A daughter, Barbara, born in 1860, died in infancy.)

The family called 104 acres of farmland just outside of New Philadelphia in Stone Creek home. George’s father, Henry Fisher, first settled in the area about 1818, according to The History of Tuscarawas County, published in 1884. Through proceeds from day labor, Henry slowly built his savings and eventually acquired 166 acres.

The Fishers were well-connected — and intermarried — with several prominent early farming families south of New Philadelphia, including the Crites (Elizabeth Crites, daughter of Revolutionary War soldier, Jacob, was Henry’s bride) and Walters clans. George married Sarah Ann Walters, whose parents, Abraham and Mary Walters, maintained their nearly-200-acre homestead just south of their own.

In addition to helping raise a large family of 13 children, George served the community as school director. So when in March 1870 The Ohio Democrat reported the first inklings of their daughter Jennie’s encounters with “strange persons and things that other persons who are present do not see,” the rumors were not dismissed out of hand. “Reliable men from the neighborhood say the story is not without foundation,” the paper noted.

Bewitching Mystery for Jennie & Fisher Family

Jon Baker of the New Philadelphia, Ohio Times-Reporter recounted the Democrat dispatches of March 18 and April 1, 1870 in an article published Feb. 18, 2013, some 143 years later. Baker quoted the first report (which, unfortunately, was missing from the Ancestry.com database):

We have strange rumors from Stone Creek. … Windows are broken, when apparently no one is there to break them. A person riding a white horse (Death on a pale horse) has been seen. Sometimes a dog, invisible to vulgar eyes, is seen by this fortunate little seer.

… Some pious people say the little girl is ‘bewitched,’ others that the house is ‘haunted,’ and some more silly still, assert that spirits have ‘a finger  in the pie.’  Of course, the latter explanation finds but few believers.

The mystery got further treatment in the Ohio Democrat of April 1, 1870Baker recounts the tale of Jennie being slapped by an unseen hand while dining at her grandparents’ house, and of joining her grandpa Abraham Walters in chasing a witch nearly 300 yards (50 or 60 rods in the original — thanks, Google, for confirming Baker’s handy calculation) across their farmland.

Her grandfather, Mr. Abraham Walters, heard the sound of the blow on the little girl’s face and saw her motion, but could see no one else.  It was a palpable and decided slap in the face given with considerable force, sufficient to throw the little girl from her seat.

…  During the chase (of the witch), (Abraham Walters) saw a mark on a fence that looked like someone had crossed it.  When they got back to the house, the ‘witch’ was standing near the bake oven.  Mr. Walters did not see anything, but the little girl insists that she saw a woman.

The Democrat concluded its report by inviting clergy of the area to assemble on the grounds and investigate the claims, with an eye toward ridding the grounds of the troubled spirits, possibly through the effort of prayer or by channeling the spirit into a peaceful resting place, “such as a hearth stone.”

According to Baker, the Democrat never followed up on the story.

Marries a Walters, Moves to Van Wert

What became of Aunt Jennie Fisher, in the years after her childhood encounters?

The record remains silent on any ghostly activity. But the Democrat reported her marriage Dec.13, 1883 to William H. Walters. No word on whether this Walters was a relation to her mother’s family. But the article notes William came from Van Wert, Ohio, where the couple makes their home for the next six decades.

Oddly, the same census records that confirms their residency in Van Wert also shows a Mary J. and William Walters living there together, with an infant son, as early as 1880, some three years before the Democrat reported their union. But then, the 1900 census seems to peg their marriage year as 1877 (the document reports 23 years of marriage, which would mean they wed as teenagers), while the 1910 census corrects the record to 26 years, or very likely the late 1883 date reported in the Democrat.

The couple live out their days in Van Wert, raising five children (six, if that early census is to be believed). William passes away first, in 1836, while Jennie (Fisher) Walters lives to the ripe age of 83. She dies Jan. 6, 1944 and is buried with her husband in Van Wert.

Walters Woodland Union Cemetery Van Wert Ohio

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