Posts Tagged With: Dauphin County

The Wayward Path of Oscar W. Foutz

514 buttonwood st reading pa

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


Wandering Oscar Foutz Leaves Few Traces

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

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

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

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

Here’s what we know so far.

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

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

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

Foutzes Well-Educated, Well-Heeled in Reading

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

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

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

Foutz Oscar fire hero Reading Times 5 Oct 1906

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Foutz Oscar marriage Reading Times Sep 29 1908

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

Sons Ralph, Harry & a Foutz House Divided

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Foutz Oscar Convicted Robbery Reading Times 16 Sep 1910

Death of Sherman & Oscar a Gone Daddy

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

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

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

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

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

Foutz Oscar divorce final Harrisburg Evening News 19 May 1917

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hartman Florence obit Reading Times 3.12.1938

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

In Good Countenance #9 – Ralph Foutz

Foutz Ralph Virginia

Virginia (Henson) Foutz and Ralph Francis Foutz, in an undated photo.

Ralph & Virginia Foutz | Deepening the Sherman Foutz Connection

Enough digital ink has been spilled in this blog on Sherman S. Foutz, oldest brother to my great-grandfather Vance Cleveland Foutz, that I’ll spare you the extended recap and cut to the news at hand.

The last breakthrough I blogged about was the discovery, through Pennsylvania church records on, of baptismal logs listing Ralph Francis Foutz and Harry Sherman Foutz as sons to Oscar W. Foutz and Florence Hartman Foutz.

Those documents firmed up a lot of information, including:

  • reaffirming Oscar and Florence as a couple and parents
  • confirming their residency in Reading, Pa. in the first decade of the 20th century
  • confirming their church affiliation, like most Foutzes, as Lutheran
  • confirming birth dates for Ralph and Harry
  • revealing the young couple had a second son, Harry, a problematic revelation, since neither he, nor parents Oscar and Florence, appear in any records I’ve uncovered since the time of patriarch Sherman Foutz’s death from tuberculosis in 1915

That was always the core mystery behind these Foutzes. Sherman was beloved as first-born, prominent, successful son of Jonathan and Rebecca Foutz, and certainly admired by his youngest sibling, my great-grandfather Vance, as evidenced by the clippings and photos that remained in his possession and were eventually passed down to my father, Fred. But his early death seemed to cut off the rest of that family from my own.

Oh, it seemed as if Sherman’s daughter, Grace, would show up from time to time, as evidenced by my great-aunt Doris (Foutz) Waddington’s memories, and Grace’s surprising signature in Vance’s 1968 funeral registry (Grace herself was just two years from death). But Grace (Foutz) Chaney died childless. Her 1970 obituary mentions a foster-sister, Catherine Rutt, of Lititz, Pa., and several nieces and nephews — what became of them? What became of her brother, Oscar, who isn’t mentioned in her 1970 obituary, and his own children and descendants?

Tracking Down Ralph Foutz

The pieces started to fill in, where Ralph Foutz is concerned, in connections I made through several Harrisburg, Pa. city directory entries of the 1930s and 1940s. Same name, same city as where he grew up in the care of grandma Lizzie Foutz (Sherman’s wife), according to the 1910 and 1920 censuses. Seems a likely connection.

Next, the 1987 Harrisburg Patriot-News obituary for Virginia Henson Foutz names Ralph F. Foutz as her husband, preceding her in death. The obit mentions Virginia as retired from the L. Wohl Children’s Dress Factory. In Lizzie Foutz’s 1930 census entry, foster daughter Catherine is listed as a dress-stitcher. Same employer? Again, a possible connection.

Through the website — ridiculously named, but deeper and deeper by day in its breadth: I cannot overstate how helpful this is as a primary source — I located entries for Ralph and Virginia Foutz in Woodlawn Memorial Gardens (named in Virginia’s obit) in Dauphin County. I submitted a photo request — another helpful feature of FindAGrave — and a man named Karl Fox was kind enough to photograph these relatives’ final resting places. From those photos, I could confirm birth and death years. Incalculably helpful.

So from the information in the obituary, backed up by the confirmation from documents listed above, I was able to start branching out in my search for what happened to Oscar and his descendants. This led me to connect with third cousins once removed Henry Foutz, Kathy Allen and Sandi (don’t know your last name yet, dear).

As often happens — it’s true of me, too, of course — Henry, Kathy and Sandi were curious about their family’s origins as well, and beginning to coax info from parents and aunts and uncles, Ralph’s and Virginia’s kids, Nick Sr., Charles, Catherine, Arthur, Grace, Agnes and Frances. I shared the info I had, on our connection through Sherman, Oscar and Ralph, as well as the Foutz/Pfouts family story all the way back to Michael and Wuerttemberg, Germany.

Kathy and Sandi kindly shared the photo of their grandparents that is featured in this blog. (BIG THANKS!)

As for their Foutzes, Henry was been instrumental in putting together a big Pennsylvania Foutz reunion the last few years. From the photos he’s shared on Facebook, looks like it was a lot of fun. Maybe we can see that expand to include Ohio and other far-flung Foutzes?

As for filling in the details on Ralph, Oscar and the rest, what we still don’t know:

  • What happened to Lizzie Foutz (Sherman’s wife) after the 1930 census? We know she dies in 1945 and is buried with Sherman in Longview Cemetery near Bowerston, Ohio. What was she doing in 1940? She wasn’t living with Ralph or foster daughter Catherine? Where then?
  • What happened to Catherine (Foutz) Rutt, husband John Roy Rutt and their descendants?
  • What became of Ralph’s parents, Oscar and Florence, and his brother, Harry Sherman Foutz? Again, the last record I have of them is from a 1911 Reading Eagle article reporting Florence’s visit to Oscar at National Guard Camp Thomas Potter Jr. in Mt. Gretna.

I’m looking forward to working with newfound extend family to discover these stories together.

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

Jonathan Foutz Family – Sherman Foutz & Descendants

Sherman S. Foutz

Sherman S. Foutz

Sherman Foutz | A Tragic Life & Mysterious Descendants

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

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

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

But we’ll get to Vance eventually.

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

A Promising Life, Cut Short

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Were the Kids All Right?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

According to her 1970 obituary, Grace (born two days after her father’s birthday, Sept. 5, 1890) dies just six months shy of her 80th birthday. She teaches 17 years in the Feed Springs School, belongs to the Berea Nazarene Church, and is a member of many civic and women’s organizations in the Twin Cities (of Uhrichsville and Dennison).

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

Sherman, Grace, and Rebecca Foutz; Rachel Caldwell 1910

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

Categories: Foutz, newsletter | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

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