Posts Tagged With: coal mining

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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Chatting With Charles Arthur Johnson – 1940 United States Census


Viola (Palmer) Johnson & Charles Arthur Johnson

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

Charles Johnson Family | 1940 Census

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

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

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

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

But we’ll get to all those.

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

Erma Johnson & Alpha Pi Sigma sisters of Dover

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

Home at 1244 Fourth St. NW (For Now)

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

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

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

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

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

The family rents its home for $23 a month.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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All the Way Back to Wales with the Merediths


Five Generations Meredith-Smith Family 1896

Five generations caught in 1896. Clockwise, from left: Telitha (Meredith) English; her nephew, my great-great-great grandfather, John W. Smith; his daughter, my great-great grandmother, Addie May (Smith) Fisher; her son, Clyde V. Fisher, brother of Zula (Fisher) Ley; and my fifth great-grandmother, Martha Jones Meredith.

From Wales, Via Ley-Fisher-Smith-Meredith | Ley Family History

Of all the elements in Genealogy that appeal to me, I’d guess the case-cracking, Eureka! moments are the ones that most drive the hooks in.

Tracking down clues — and assembling the stories — of ancestors long dead and mostly forgotten is akin to working at some unending, infinitely expansive puzzle. Call it a 9,999,999-piece; call it three dimensional, with clues every now and then slipping in and out of the visible dimensions.

There are the branches well-known and still flowering, the ones often most-closely related to your surname, or your parents’ families. You unearth some lost photo, or mine a record for a detail that reveals some unknown characteristic of their personality or turn in their life, and it’s a giddy sensation, man. You could almost reach out and touch them.

Whereas the forgotten seams in the family story, those shadowy tracts perhaps unspoken of in generations, the ones tragedy or the idle smothering of passing and passing time have barred all conversational ways into, the only way in is through that bottom-of-the-page footnote, or that distant child of a distant cousin of an exiled aunt — for example — these are the veins that enliven the whole landscape, those bare patches drifting like islands from the continent, far from those easy-to-assemble corner and border stretches of the puzzle.

And they glimmer in and out of focus. They beg, almost, to be forgotten. But like itches at the backs of your ears they occasionally beckon, and with the most earnest of prodding, give up their secrets.

When you work on your family tree for months, and then years, it’s a landscape with which you grow intimately familiar. You know the stunted branches. The dead-end roots. Then suddenly, the earth shifts and a new passageway reveals itself. Turns out the root runs deep. And you follow it.

Some of the dead ends we discussed in the blog this week are the branches that stretch beyond my great-great grandparents from Wales on the Weible side — Thomas W. Morgan and Janet Louise Rees (or Rhys or Reese). I’ve collected history book entries, marriage and census records, and obits from at least three newspapers. None make more than a passing mention of their emigration from Wales, or breathe a syllable of their parents’ names.

It’s a pity, since this family of favored grandmothers and cousins brings a welcome shot of Welsh into the ancestral blood. German is still the dominant strain, with the Leys, Foutzes (Pfoutses!), Zeiglers, Duerrs and even Palmers claiming origins there, and the Weibles a bit south in Switzerland. We know the Powells, and we guess the Johnsons are from off the continent, up merry old England way, but Wales brings a bit of color — of coast and mountains and singing in many vowels.

We need to find out more.

But while that Welsh clan of the family has failed to yield its secrets just yet, another of the “forgotten” branches has come through. And it’s on the Ley side, by way of my great-grandmother Mary Zula Lucrece (Fisher) Ley’s ancestors.

Blaenau Gwent, Nantyglo, Wales

Views of Blaenau Gwent, in the area of Nantyglo, Wales.

By the Mountains of Nantyglo, Wales

There wasn’t a lot I knew about my Fisher relatives, save for the name of my great-grandmother, who died in childbirth when my grandfather Robert Earl Ley Jr. was not yet 2.

The Fishers were closer to his generation, having raised him while my great-grandfather Ley recovered from the tragedy and remarried. A daughter of one of my great-grandmother’s brothers was even close chums with my eventual Grandma Erma (Johnson) Foutz, during their school days in New Philadelphia. But we learned more about the Fishers from census records and photographs shared from the Ancestry.com and Geni.com networks than any tales told around the literal campfire.

As I worked my way back from Zula’s mom, Addie May (Smith) Fisher, the trail grew suddenly and acutely cold. From Addie’s death certificate, I learned the names of her parents, John Smith and Mary Jane Neel. But how to narrow down all the John Smiths? In America, it’s as common a name as Morgan seems to be in Wales. And as I combed the clues in Mary Neel’s death record, I descended into a confusion of rhyming surnames — Lee Neel for her father, Mary Beal for her mother.

What the what?

But a little more intent digging, coupled with some on-site research, has pried the doors open again. And led down surprising pathways.

John Smith and Mary Neel, as mysterious as they may seem some 100 years after their passing, were buried together in East Avenue Cemetery in New Philadelphia, the bookending dates to their lives in Tuscarawas County helpfully and prominently supplied.

John, I found out from his 1915 death record, had been a county commissioner. Probably of Tuscarawas County. Perhaps even when he passed away that December, at a hospital in Cuyahoga Falls. He was merely visiting Summit County, according to the record, when he was stricken with typhoid fever and died of endocarditis at age 65.

John’s parents were listed as William Smith and Mary Meredith.

 

Meredith Farm Tusc Ohio

John and Margaret Meredith's farm in Goshen Twp., New Philadelphia, Ohio

Merediths 1830 Immigrants to Ohio

A great source that has been making the rounds on Ancestry.com lately is the Combination Atlas Map of Tuscarawas County, Ohio. Originally printed in 1875, it contains the usual biographical sketches of prominent families and a wealth of photos, government records and other goodies that actually stretch to about 1908, from what I’ve skimmed. Maps, too!

I’ll share more tidbits from it this week.

But on the Merediths, the book features a nice, fat entry. And what’s more — the picture immediately above, showing my great-great-great-great-great grandparents’ spread in Goshen Twp. (a scene not too different from the way the area looks today, and likely just down the road from where my great-great grandparents Fisher settled), and a remarkable five-generations picture that includes three of my direct ancestors.

Here’s the story, as excerpted from the Combination Atlas… .

The mountains of Nantaglow, Wales (actually Nantyglo — Colt), overlooked the homes of Richard and Jane Meredith, and of Roland and Catherine Jones. (These would be two sets of sixth great grandparents! — Colt.)

John Meredith, a son of the first family, born in 1803, and Martha Jones, a daughter of the second family, born October 31, 1810, were married October 31, 1830, and started for America. The voyage occupied three months and seven days. (Thus, my fifth-great grandparents Meredith come to America.)

Richard, their oldest child, was born August 8, 1831, in Licking County (Ohio — Colt). Their second child, Mary Ann, was born November 4, 1833, at the old Iron Furnace near Zoar (Tuscarawas County now — Colt), where the father was emloyed. Mary Ann married George Smith … . They were the parents of John W. Smith … (So, this paragraph mentions my fourth- and third-great grandparents.)

Telitha C., now Mrs. John English, the third child, was born there, September 8, 1835.

Six months later, John moved his family to Goshen (near New Philadelphia — Colt) and was successfully engaged there in farming and in shipping coal by the Ohio Canal to Cleveland until his death June 13, 1858.

Their other children were born: Roland J. on February 2, 1838; Almeda J. on August 19, 1841, now Mrs. William A. English; Elnora on February 2, 1844, married to John A. Wardell …; Martha L. on January 9, 1847, married to William R. Moore… of Albilene, Kansas; John William on August 29, 1849; and Christopher C. on March 29, 1852.

John W. Meredith lived with his mother at Goshen, and in 1871 took charge of the home farm until his purchase of his present farm of one hundred and twenty-four acres in 1883. His mother, to whom all the estate was willed for life, rented the homestead in 1891, and lived with her children till her death which occurred on May 12, 1898, at the home of Mrs. Elnora Wardell.

In the accompanying picture of Five Generations taken in 1896, this most worthy old gentlewoman is shown with her daughter, Telitha, with her grandson, John W. Smith and his daughter and her great granddaughter, May, who married William Fisher (my great-great grandparents — Colt), and with their son, Clyde V (Zula’s brother, my great-great uncle).

The excerpt goes on to tell of John W. Meredith’s life and service to the county.

Now that these major pieces of the puzzle have clicked into place, I’m eager to find out more about John Smith’s job as county commissioner. I had heard of an ancestor of Addie’s or John William Fisher’s (I believe) who was sheriff of New Phila (or Dover?).

But John’s position is important, since, if he was county commissioner (back then, there may have been only one, compared to today’s three?), he would have served at the same time my great-great grandfather Charles Henry Ley was county treasurer. Could this be how John Smith’s granddaughter, Zula, met Charles Ley’s son, Robert?

Either way, the family puzzle gets ever more colorful the more these forgotten pieces find their way home.

Smith John Mary East Ave top

The grave of John W. Smith and Mary Jane Neel, in East Avenue Cemetery, New Philadelphia. Mary Jane's father, Lee Neel, was buried in the adjacent plot.

Categories: Ley, newsletter | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

How the Foutzes Came to Dover, Ohio | Foutz Family History


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.

New Answers to Foutz Genealogy Questions | Part Four

Yesterday, I shared an excerpt from the journal of Sherman Earl Moreland, a first cousin twice removed. More clearly, he’s the third child of my great-grandfather Vance Foutz’s sister, Ida, and his written remembrance of his 99 years has proven a vital key to understanding what befell our ancestors 100 and more years ago.

For starters, Sherman’s memoirs — faithfully transcribed by great-granddaughter Dawn James — have answered the riddle of how my great-great (and Dawn’s great-great-great) grandfather, Jonathan Foutz, died.

Public documents failed to disclose the why and what-after of Jonathan and wife Rebecca’s late 1800s move from Harrison County, Ohio — where two previous generations of Foutzes had settled into farming life following patriarch Michael Pfouts’s emigration from Wuerttemburg, Germany — to Washington D.C.

Jonathan’s death in September 1900, as reported in a biographical sketch of eldest son, Sherman Foutz — led in-the-dark descendants to wonder: was he already ill when he moved wife Rebecca and youngest sons Charles and Vance into Sherman’s budding household? Had the farm been lost, due to poor health or financial straits? Was his illness chronic or sudden?

Sherman Moreland’s journal at least gives the impression the move was voluntary, a product of uncle Sherman Foutz’s fruitful appointment to a U.S. Treasury Post. Uncles John, Charles and Vance had been secured jobs by their big brother, and later in the 1890s  the family returned home to the farm south of Bowerston, Ohio, so the place was apparently secure. Enough so that Sherman Moreland remembers Jonathan continuing to work it, with his young grandson trailing behind, knife in hand, ready to help wherever he might be directed.

So, it’s likely that Jonathan’s illness was sudden Much in the way second son John succumbed to tuberculosis at age 21 in 1899. Just a year and a half later, Jonathan would fall ill with Bright’s Disease — a classification doctors of the day gave to kidney inflammation. He was dead, at 55, in September 1900.

But what became of the family next? How did they come to land in Dover, Ohio in 1910 — where my grandfather, Donald Dale Foutz, and my father, Frederick Charles Foutz were born (not to mention several generations on my mother’s side), and I was raised and graduated high school? How could two youngest sons — Charles at 15, and Vance at 13 — hope to support their widowed mother?

Moreland Sherman Earl 1893-1993

Sherman Earl Moreland, 1893-1993

A Wandering Life — with Family Reconvening

The path of the Foutzes from 1900 through 1910, when the federal census records my great-great grandmother Rebecca in the household of youngest son (my great-grandfather) Vance, is rendered, in part, by the pen of Sherman Earl Moreland, then growing from a 7-year-old into a late teenage factory laborer alongside his father, Thomas.

In his first 17 years, Sherman’s family has moved from south of Bowerston, where he was born in the log cabin of Grandpaw Jonathan and grandfather Thomas Sr. served as four-time mayor; to railroad town Dennison, where Ida acquires a lot in town for the then-relatively-princely sum of $1,000 (maybe due to an inheritance after Thomas Sr.’s death; but why was the lot acquired in her name?); to a farming life outside Carrollton.

The family’s journey takes them through the corners of three Ohio counties — Harrison, Tuscarawas and Carroll — but it is to other points that Sherman’s heart returns in his memoirs, as he takes up the winding course of his extended family following the death of grandfather Jonathan (paragraph breaks are my own):

Grandmaw, Charlie, and Vance then moved to her father’s old home about three miles from Sherrodsville (Robert Caldwell had died in 1890, but mother Rachel would live to 1918, dying at 91 — Colt).  The old Caldwell farm.

Her brother, John Caldwell, lived just across the road.  Another brother George just a short distance away.  Also another sister that married Maxwell Belnap at Sherrodsville.  A sister that married a man named Bartolmia.  Another that married Lonzo Easterdy.  Still another sister I can’t recall her name, she had a boyfriend by the name of Swinehart.

Charley and Vance although quite young secured jobs at the coal shafts.  To help support their widowed mother.  Sherrodsville at that time was quite a boom town.  Wild and rough, seventeen saloons.

They later moved to Phillipsburg, a company owned mining town.  On the banks of the big McGuire Creek.  East of Sherrodsville. (In the 1930s, the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District would dam the creek, forming Leesville Lake and swallowing the site of the old town — Colt) Phillip Beamer’s wife was formerly a member of the Moreland clan.  Grandmaw Foutz lived there for some time.

Then they moved to Canal Dover.  Charley in the mean time married Rose Whilte.  Her folks also lived in Phillipsburgh.  The Whites were natives of West Virginia.  The whole White family also moved to Canal Dover.  The old man rigged up a wagon which he would park on street corners selling popcorn, candy, and what nots.

Uncle Bill and Aunt Rachel Coleman had moved from Levetsville (really, Leavittsville, another town closeby — Colt), to Phillipsburgh.  Uncle Bill, a stationary engineer, worked in one of the several large coal mines.  At that place.  Later the Colemans moved to Canal dover.

It was when these folks lived in Dover that we visited there.  I saw the first and only canal boat in my life on the canal.  The boat was pulled by a mule.  The mule travelled along a toe path beside the canal.  Uncle Bill was employed on the new river bridge that was under construction at that time.  We on that trip attended the first county fair in our lives.  The county fair at Dover.  Also about this time mother took us older children to Ringling Bro. Big Tent show at Urichsville.  We went by train.  And really had a wonderful time.

It’s a cheering thing to read of Sherman’s fond remembrance of this times, since the 1910s would turn dark for the Foutz clan.

In 1915 alone, first Rachel’s son Karl, and then Uncle Sherman Foutz would succumb to the ravages of tuberculosis. “Grandmaw” Rebecca would suffer a stroke and die in May, 1915.

Ida, in 1911, was struck with typhoid fever and suffered as a result of it for many year after, likely succumbing in 1917 from complications due to the flu, as that epidemic began to sweep the country.

In 1918, Charles, by then moved to neighboring New Philadelphia and father of four, would die of pneumonia at just 32. Rosa would remarry and move her clan to Canton.

By the 1920s, just Vance and sister Lila remained. Vance would outlive his sister (who passed away in 1936, at 66), by another 32 years. And the families grew distant, with branches in my father’s and my own generation enough removed to be ignorant entirely of our farming roots in Harrison County, and our German patriarch, Michael.

But Vance was perhaps not so distant as his new life, working the steel mills in then-booming Dover, might suggest. His 1968 funeral registry, kept these many years, first by my grandfather, Don, then by his widow, Erma, and now in the possession of my father, Fred, records the names of these stalwarts, from the old Pfouts/Foutz circle, as in attendance that September day, and signing:

Besse M. Coleman (Ida’s oldest child — Colt)

Mr. and Mrs. Roy V. Moreland (another child of Ida)

S. E. Moreland (known to you and me as… )

Sherman Moreland & Family (who sent flowers)

Stay tuned for more from Sherman E. and that precocious great-granddaughter of his — and about the turn-of-the-century Foutzes.


			
Categories: Foutz, quickie post | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Visit with Great Aunt Nellie | Palmer-Johnson Wrap-up


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

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.

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

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